Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year ... New Gadgets

As everyone begins their Nostradamus impersonations, I figured I'd throw my hat into the ring.

Cable vs 3rd Party Services.  Sadly enough there are many people who believe they can't get basic network channels without cable (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, CW).  As more and more people realize that you can and Net Neutrality rules assist in keeping Netflix & Hulu alive.  There will be much more of a rock'em sock'em fight next year.

The CD/DVD drive gets put on final notice.  It had to come sooner or later.  It took 25 years before VHS died and now its looking like only 10 years for CD/DVD to die.  You will probably see more companies using USB sticks to distribute software when you can't get access to the web.

Verizon iPhone.  Ok, two things need to happen before this is even remotely possible
- VZW starts using SIM cards (currently on their 4G network)
- VZW agrees to not having control over the phone at all (one reason they lost the contract in the first place)

Tablets, tablets, tablets
So they aren't new, but leave it to Apple to polish up a turd of an industry and make a killing.  BlackBerry, Samsung and a few others are working hard to bring their iPad-killers to market.  Kudo's to Samsung for actually getting theirs out the door.  We have yet to see one that can truly go touch-screen to touch-screen with the iPad, but companies are coming close.  For 2011 expect to see more tablets than you ever wanted to see.

3D.  I have never been a fan of 3D.  I had my first 3D IMAX experience and it was ok.  I think the industry is realizing that home-based 3D is probably not going to cut it.  I've ran across several 3D televisions and the experience is not there, unless you've spent 10 grand for stadium seating in your  mini-mansion.  TVs will be thinner, bigger, and have more web-capability built in (a la Google).  3D will be an option (as some manufactures have done) that is seldom used.

Robots!!  We've seen some pretty crazy things with robots this year.  It will only get better next year.  There are more and more "consumer ready" robots, either as toys or vacuum cleaners.  We should start to see more in every day work settings.

Gesture based control of EVERYTHING.  Thank you Microsoft for finally putting something fantastic out into the world.  The MS Kinect which has been hacked, rehacked, and deep-fried (figuratively) to bring us some amazing control over a myriad of things from robots to Netflix.  Minority Report has finally arrived.  All the hacks are in alpha or beta stages now, but expect real usable software next year.

CoarseSmart, BlackBoard, and a host of other educational platforms will begin taking off as more students are walking around with tablets instead of books.  Keep an eye out on companies like Inkling that are providing more social connections in the learning process.  The big publishers need to be concerned with the ever increasing avenues available to students to obtain books.

That's it.  Of course non of this could be realized by the end of 2011 and we could face 2012 right where we are now.   What does your crystal ball say?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tivo ... A 'Walled Garden' that is dying on the vine, maybe..

Tivo has become one of those words like Xerox... It is representative of digital video recording.  Since 1999 we have been indulgent in what is called "time-shifted" viewing of content.  I can record shows that occur at set times during the day and then watch them when I get ready to and even skip through commercials.  The setup requires a box and a monthly subscription (usually $10 - $12) per month.  This box is in addition to any cable or satellite boxes you may already have.  Tivo has options for using Cable Cards as well.

Over the years Tivo has attempted to pull more folks into it's services (games, weather, etc).  Recently it has added the option of including Netflix and  What Tivo has failed to do is engage in the "place-shifting" evolution of content consumption that is occurring.  I don't always want to sit in front of my television to watch video (that I've recorded).  I may be in front of a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone and want to catch up on the last two episodes of Family Guy.  You could go and purchase another box (SlingBox) to add to your collection and power consumption, but why hasn't Tivo stepped into the second decade of the 21st century by offering apps across several platforms for viewing or at least open up their software for others to develop good solutions.

Tivo does have API's available for accessing their DVR, but at best, people have made remote control apps for their boxes.  There is no good solution for pulling content and re-encoding for the other platforms.   There is desktop software (Roxio, Tivo Desktop) that will allow you to manually do some work, but that is additional $$ and it's a very manual process.

Tivo = Television As A Service  (TaaS) ??  Yes, that's where Tivo should head.  Hulu doesn't cut it because available content is controlled by the networks and is delayed.  Tivo should be a good layer on top of existing television by including "place-shifting" and "social capabilities".  Liking a show in Tivo should integrate into Facebook and Twitter.  I should be able to take up to 10 seconds of a show and post with comments or send to my friends saying "OMG ... so funny, take a look".

Tivo won't last munch longer if the only thing you can do is sit on the couch to use it...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get it when you want it ... Get rid of cable, create your own "On Demand"

So we cut the cord in our household 2 years ago and went cable-less. But why? With all the amazing shows that you can watch and ensure you are caught up around the water cooler, why would anyone not have cable?

Let's do some numbers ....

Digital Premier = $110
HD = $8
DVR = $15.00

Cable = $133 ... $130 for good measure

Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes ... 7hrs for rounding's sake.

Let's use 30 days for a month ... so 210 hours of television. Assume each 1hr block represents a show.

So you are paying $0.62 per show, which is great if you really sit down and watch 7 hours of television every day for 30 days.

Let's put some brackets around this ... let's just say I can only watch TV for 3hrs a night and because of a busy weekend schedule, I don't watch on the weekends.

Let's use 4 weeks for a month ... so 60 hours of television a month.

Now you are paying $2.16 per show. That's pretty expensive considering I'm probably watching commercials in about half of those shows I'm watching. That was a loosing proposition for me.

If we were to strip away everything and start from scratch ...

Over The Air HD (ABC, NBC, CBS, WB) = $0.00
Tivo HD DVR = $10.00 per month ($200 up front for the box)
Netflix 1 DVD At A Time + Instant Watch ($8.99) + Blu-Ray ($4) = $13
Apple TV (just because you want a little extra) = $0.99 cents to rent a TV show, $4.99 to rent a movie in HD
($99 up front for the box)

Alternative Setup = $26 bucks a month ... plus any shows I may watch, round to $30 for shows or a movie here and there.

What are you missing. SPORTS ... Sports have been the one thing that has kept many folks from cutting the cord.
Live streaming of just about every game that ESPN covers.

Now how do you get that on your 100" reach through and grab someones popcorn HD screen? There are several computers that do HD straight to the back of your TV.

What else are you missing ... sitting in your living room and watching any fresh episodes of BIG cable shows like True Blood or The Big C. You get them later (on netflix or Apple TV). Stars did something different with their show Spartacus where they had it available immediately on Netflix the week it aired. More than likely cable networks will do this more often.

One could argue that to do the alternate you have to have good internet

= $60 if you are starting from scratch
= $20 if you already have it and are dropping cable television

So your savings could range from $40 (no internet at all) to $80 (had cable before and dropping it now)

Either way it's cold hard cash back in your pocket every month. A good way to be thrifty, no?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Unlikely metaphor: Computers, Cooking and the lie of Price

Just about everyone has one these days. Starbucks and local coffee's houses have their livelihood through scores of people hanging out with their laptops sipping their coffee's with uber long names. What is the right one for you? Not sure. Hopefully this will help you be more informed.

SO ... remember these commercials?

Processor ... Think of it like the cook in the kitchen. Some cooks are slow and some are fast at processing information. The other piece is something called the "bus speed". Think of it like the servers at a restaurant. If the servers are slow and the cook is fast; well, we know how that meal usually ends. A fast processor and a fast bus are important.

Memory ... Bytes. kilo, mega, giga. RAM (Random Access Memory). If process and servers are as to cooks and servers then memory is as to ?? Kitchen space. Although it's called Random Access Memory, it's purpose is far from random. If you don't have enough kitchen space, you can only take so much out at a time to prepare a meal. The meal takes longer to prepare. If you have the chef's kitchen with 4 islands, then meal prep is a little faster.

Hard Drive ... ok folks, stay with me. We've got cooks, servers, kitchen space, and now ... Refrigerators. Yes for long term storage of information you have hard drives. Just like a fridge, the bigger the better. You also want to be concerned about how fast information can be pulled from the hard drive. you have RPM (like your car) speeds, but some hard drives don't have any moving parts (solid state). Best thing to do is ask about the data transfer rates. If the person attempting to sell you a computer gives you a blank gaze. Walk away immediately.

Graphics / Audio ... you don't hear much about this piece, but it's like the restaurant ambiance. This can easily go under the radar as the differentiator in price for most computer buyers. On a daily basis you are interacting with one of 4 forms of media (1) text, (2) images, (3) video, (4) audio. And we all know if the place isn't friendly or too messy or down right boring, then you probably won't come back.

Most folks are writing papers, emails, or novels and for this, all of the above can be purchased mid-range and you will never have buyers remorse.

Audiophiles will know that it's either Dolby 5.xx or it's poor. Yes computers can output Dolby. Just ask if yours will.

For images and video, you can't shirk your duties on buying a computer that can handle it. This is usually the price differentiator on laptops. If you plan on airbrushing your favorite photo of yourself before you post it to Facebook, creating a movie from all those clips you took over the summer, playing World of Warcraft, or watching Netflix Streaming you don't want to have a cheap graphics card. If the person in the store can't explain to you why a graphics card is important, speak to their manager before they cause another person to have buyers remorse.

So that is the meat and potatoes .... but you have to have some other sides, right
Wireless ... if it's not included, you are living back in 1995. Make sure it's N ... it's that speed thing again.
Bluetooth ... again ... 1995
Webcam ... ok ... living in 2001 if it's not integrated

Operating System. We won't cover this here. Such a touchy touchy subject and people have their preferences, just like with their food.

If you are like me and are skeptical of the hype when you see the above commercials, you should do a side by side comparison of machines. What you will find is that the lie of price is a good one. If you were to go on HPs, Apples, or Dells website and customize a laptop you will find that creating comparable configurations that price becomes pretty much the same. So now that you are armed with this information and are probably starving from my food references, head to the mall. Grab some mall food and be a smart shopper about your laptop.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our love affair with media ...

The dusty 45s, the milk crate of LPs, the rack of CDs, VHS, and DVDs, the shoebox of pictures, and the shelf of books. For the last 50 or so years we have had a clear (mostly) relationship with the media we consume. The human culture bought and owned "copy's" of media. Aside from TV, the library was the only real model we have of "renting" media (books) to consume an then give back. Television was completely free given commercials were shown same for radio an music. Along came cable TV and paying for video content you didn't own but could watch. This model still had the "watch by schedule" model. Along came the video store and then suddenly I could rent video's and then give them back. Fast forward 20yrs and along comes subscription services that allow me to listen to what I wanted vs what what was being pushed. Move forward another 10 years and now I have music, movies, books, And TV I can buy, rent, subscribe and see over and over all digitally. So now we are faced with our own personal style of media consumption. Media companies would prefer a 1 size fits all: buy 1 per device you plan on consuming your media on. Some consumers would like. The " buy once consume anywhere" (BOCA) model. Add to this the buy vs rent vs unlimited subscription payment model and you have confounded most companies on how they will deliver media content. The "watch by schedule" model isn't valid anymore. With netflix, hulu, and iTunes I will watch when I want. If I am a media company how do I manage a release schedule for programming? As a publisher, which writer do I back when some who is self publishing is more popular?

Media creators / content owners are at a crossroads of figuring out a mesh of delivery and payment models that will only get more complex as technology evolves ad our desires change for how we consume media. Will they survive for much longer? As long ad they own the majority of the consumed content.... Yes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iOS device

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MobilePay ... what Paypal wishes it had been?


Just might have the secret sauce to move is into the 21st century. From paper, to plastic, to SmartPhones.

Let's give some context.

Paypal was started up many many moons ago (2000) as a financial services company by Elon Musk ( Paypal allows you to pay through the service without every having to reveal you r payment sources and only using your email address. Paypal recently introduced the ability to "bump" a payment to anyone. This is great for online transactions, but there is no support for 'brick & mortar' stores.

Now we have a solution for 'brick & mortar' stores, that solution is MobilePay. Combining the intermediary of Paypal with GPS, you select the store you plan on paying and make the payment. It's transmitted through to the merchant and to your bank. This process eliminates the need for any additional hardware. This allows existing smartphone hardware to become a digital wallet.

MobilePay has the potential to start new revolution in digital financial transactions. Hopefully merchants will see this as a significant opportunity and advantage over waiting for future hardware.

I want my MobilePay!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Monsters - available on iTunes before theater release for $10.99

Movie delivery keeps getting interesting. "Monsters" ( slated for a limited October release in the US was released to VOD on September 24th.

Short critique on the movie (no spoilers). The movie was great except for the end. The acting was standard faire for a mid-sized budget film. The creatures were very interesting.

The most interesting part of the whole setup is that the movie was available for $10.99 to watch on iTunes before release to theaters. I have always asked why don't they do this. iTunes really did something interesting when they did (1) Bubble which was released at the same time as the movie and when they did (2) Purple Violets which was released only to iTunes. I never saw Bubble but Purple Violets was great. I think producers are looking for more ways to make money off of movies and VOD prerelease to iTunes / Netflix will be the two venues to make this happen. I paid $10.99 for a movie I thought was "OK". Instead of $12 sitting at the theater. Some movies you still need to have the theater experience. Would 1 would pay $12 to go see it in the theater now? Probably not. But if they had done some pre-release movie "clip" thing for Avatar or something like that we definitely would go see the full movie on the big screen. The only ones complaining about this would be the movie theaters themselves. Movie theaters in America are a stable of our culture. They are going to have to reinvent themselves if they really want to stay relevant in the age of "instant everywhere" movies. Granted as I mentioned the theater experience (for 2D movies) can't be beat by even the best home system, some are spending the money to get it pretty close.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

3Don't ... 3D is just not ready for prime time

I know that a lot of folks love 3D. I am just not one of those folks. I've seen several moves with and without 3D (specifically Avatar) and I can certainly say that 3D is just not ready yet. Not that the visual piece is not stunning, it is. The issue stems from the glasses themselves. There is a slight reflection in the bottom of the glasses that is very distracting. During fast motion images become blurred. Lastly, there is a depth of color in 2D that is flat out missing in 3D.

You go to the movies to be engrossed in the experience, to suspend your disbelief. The glasses have a reflection of the screen in the corners that is basically the movie playing in the corner of your eye. It's bad enough that people distract you with flashing cell phones and ipods but to have the entire movie playing in front of you and your periphery is not the way you want to spend two hours.

"Why are you so M* f* blurry" ... I'm not sure what causes this, but while watching Avatar I noticed that when things became very fast paced, you almost could not focus on anything. All of the images on the screen began to blur. Seeing Avatar in 2D, there were no issues with the fast paced action. Might be the way 3D is filmed that just can't handle scenes like that.

Color ... Avatar was an amazingly rich environment with more colors than you can shake a crayola box at. 3D made Avatar seem muted, washed out. In 2D you could see every little floating seed and fleck of burning tree.

It's not just the big screen that is lackluster. 3D televisions leave a lot to be desired also. 3D was big in the 50s and has attempted to make a strong come back. Watching television with extra equipment is not something that most people handle the extra equipment. The technology has to get to a point where you don't need the additional accoutrements.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

iHealth ... What's taking so long?

So back in March of 2009 Johnson and Johnson wowed everyone with the potential for monitoring your diabetes through your iPhone. Skip ahead a year and there is still no hardware from anyone that can do PMH (Personal Mobile Health). Don't get me wrong, I am an Apple evangelist through and through, but I will say that the "Made For iOS" process is cumbersome at best and only if you are a company of a certain size. Not to mention the FDA hurdles and hoops one must jump through.

Some good potentials that could really help things take off

iGlucose Meter

Seems like a solid enough product, can easily stow in a pocket / purse. And already has an app. Where's the social networking aspect?

Polar Hearrate Monitor / Nike+

Is it me or are Nike and Polar missing the boat on this? Heart Rate is the best way to measure calorie burn, yet for some reason, we've yet to see a good product. This product only works with the iPod / iPod Touch.

Withings WiFi Scale
Fantastic ... but where is the social aspect? The integration with other health monitoring tools.

Since Healthcare is such a hot topic, why truly allow people to take their health into their hands and provide more holistic approaches to personal monitoring & diagnostics. It's not just about running. It's about the various exercises that get you to your goal "health" and keep you there.

Maybe one day all this will be seamlessly integrated with those electronic health records we've been promised for the past 3yrs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Perez Hilton vs. A Tree In Brussels (Twitter Mix)

So if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it still make a sound? Well, when it tweets and updates it's Facebook page, you will know.

The boys and girls in Brussels have given a 100 year old tree a voice in the social media age. And this bad boy tweets and has more friends than you on Facebook.

Why write about this? The technology is somewhat pedestrian; however, the implications are far reaching. I now have a institutionalized way of monitoring various situations. What if the ocean floor near the Deep Water Horizon was outfitted with something like this? Not to mention you could set up something similar for home and boom ... you have an instantly updating system (just don't let it get hacked). Either way. I am sure we will see more of these 'Talking" object situations as the sensor packages get smaller and smaller. A dog collar that tweets its location? Fantastic!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great Gaming Coup ... to come

Recently Apple announced that they would be refreshing their "hobby", the Apple TV, for the third time ( This refresh brings along with it a revamp of what was called "AirTunes". Now called "AirPlay", Apple couches the new technology as being able to push video and audio not only to the Apple TV 3, but to any other product which would have the "AirPlay" technology built in. If some fancy round-about testing is accurate ( then Apple has just scored a significant coup in the gaming world. Suddenly any ATV becomes a $100 conduit for playing Epic Citadel right on your flat screen. With the compass, accelerometer, gyroscope combo in the handset, one suddenly has a "wii" like remote as well. This opens up a whole new level of game-play.

If a television manufacturer is smart, they will build AirPlay directly into their televisions. Not sure if this eliminates the need for an Apple TV at that point, but it could certainly make the gaming terrain much more interesting. Now all we need is a good MMOG for iOS.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In love with Cylons

I have always had a fascination with robots. Not sure if it's the anthropomorphic features we give them or just that some day soon I know I may have one for a boss. I remember the episode of Star Trek TNG where Data and Picard had to legally battle over what it meant to be sentient and to have rights. Check out the video below of HRP-4. This is Caprica level efforts in Japan (why aren't we this far along in the US?)

Everything fails

So I tried to setup BlogPress on my iPad so that I could be Mr. Mobile Blogger if the 23rd Century. Despite the clear warnings from the reviews that it often doesn't work, I figured maybe I would have some magically different iPad that my app wouldn't crash. Well, no magic. The app crashes. You have to love when technology fails in the moment of dire need. The dropped call(s). The blue screen of death. The spinning hour-glass that time forgot. And my favorite. The jumpy-ghosty-pixilated TV screen. We all know the intent is for technology to somehow simplify our every day experiences, but I wonder if you could measure stress level vs the amount of information interruptions people experience a day. Think things might have increased over the last couple of decades?

The Deck Is Stac'd!!

Science, Technology and Culture. This little space in the land of 1's and 0's is MHO (my humble opinion) about how these three topics intersect and feed off of each other. I am not an IT person but I have written a few iOS apps. I am not a PhD, but I do have an engineering background. You could call it "Futurism" or amateur anthropology.

You can also follow me on twitter!

The Deck is Stac'd

Alright people. I have decided to start a blog called "Stac The Deck". STAC stands for Science Technology And Culture. I'm usually reading about how these three things feed off each other. I couldn't develop a web page to save my life, but i have written a few iOS apps. I am not an anthropologist, but I do have an engineering background.

I will share MHO on things i come across in the news or hear on the street. I've been told I have a keen eye for technology, so here we go! Enjoy!

- the deck is stac'd