Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can Google+ work for me?

I should start this with saying that I've only been reading about Google+. I do not currently have access to it.

I'm a heavy Google user.  I use many of their products. I like the integration and I like how their tools work for the most part (Google Docs is still a bit clunky).  So I'd be a prime candidate for Google+, their new social network, right?

Well the problem is that I don't have that many friends/associates that are using Google products that much.  A few sure, but it makes me wonder how is Google going to get people to migrate from Facebook and/or Twitter?  I don't use Facebook but I know only a few of the people I know who use Facebook will check out Google+, much less put any serious thought into switching.  I say switch because, how many people are going to maintain both?  Twitter and Facebook are different enough that they can have some cross over customers, but will Google+ have that?  Would people put up with three social networks?

It's way too early to say but Google will have to pull out some big guns to draw users away from Facebook and Twitter, or have some really awesome technology that allows it to live side by side with them.  I'm not saying it can't be done or won't happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime I anxiously await my invite so I can evaluate it for myself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thought Exercise: Multi-Dimensional Being

I had an interesting thought while pondering one of the many oddities of String Theory or M Theory. The particular topic I was thinking about is the idea that there are more dimensions to our universe than we can perceive. We are four dimensional beings (length, width, height, time). But theoretically the universe has 10 or more dimensions.

If a sphere is seen from only two dimensions we see a circle. It's size dependent on where the slice is taken. If we couldn't perceive the third dimension there would be a great deal of information about that sphere we'd completely miss out on.

So imagine for a moment how much we may be missing out on if there are 10 or more dimensions. We ponder life and death. What our role in the world is. Is there more? Is there a greater purpose. Is there a God? What if by exploring those other dimensions we could answer those questions?

What if all humans are connected in those dimensions? An invisible thread that ties us all together as one being. What if all life if is tied together like that?  What if all we are, are the arm hairs of a multi-dimensional being. We are just too primitive to see beyond our limits.  But we glimpse the greater. This is telepathy, magic, and God. It's the greater part of us that we have faith is there but have no way of knowing.

I have no proof of any of this, but science is opening doors that we didn't even know existed that long ago. Ignorance may be bliss but knowledge is awesome.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Web Browsers in the Enterprise

When Mozilla said, "Enterprise has never been--and I'll argue, shouldn't be--a focus of ours" I was shocked that they publicly stated that, but not surprised that is their stance.

Internet Explorer (IE) is easily the defacto web browser in the business and likely will be for some time.  Microsoft owns that space pretty handily.  Yes, there are those small companies that have migrated successfully to Firefox or Chrome or others, but they are the exception, not the rule.  We are talking Enterprise.  These are the companies with thousands of employees with many custom or customized internal applications.  These applications don't get updated quickly. It can take months or even years to upgrade to new versions.  Even patches have to be rigorously tested and QAed before being rolled out.  Especially if those apps are mission critical.

For Mozilla to say that Firefox isn't designed with the Enterprise in mind gives them the ability to remain flexible and aggressive with their development strategies.  Enterprise's need and are large enough typically to demand long term development cycles, so they can plan accordingly.  Sometimes Enterprise-time and Internet-time are not compatible.  For Mozilla to focus on Internet-time is probably wise from their development strategy, but I think it can be easily argued that perhaps they shouldn't have made the statement they did.

Enterprise IT not only wants to keep things standardized but often NEEDS to.  When you are supporting thousands of PCs, supporting multiple web browsers, with multiple versions, with different plug-ins would be a nightmare.  Supporting IE, especially a single version, simplifies support.  Errors and bugs can be managed. Application customizations can be handled.  From the IT perspective, the more everyone's PCs are the same, the easier it is to support them and deploy fixes/patches equally throughout the enterprise.

Even IE isn't immune from being rolled out slowly.  My company is currently on IE8, which is probably better than some companies, but IE9 just came out and we are not compatible with it yet.  Patches are coming to fix that, but this is something that Enterprises have to deal with. When it's one browser, it can be managed. When it's multiple browsers, it becomes a lot less manageable, especially when they have radically different release time frames.

Mozilla just began a more aggressive release schedule. Chrome has always been very aggressive.  Enterprise IT departments can't keep up, so they standardize on one (normally IE).

Standardization is a word that could change this, in time.  For a long time Internet Explorer, because of it's market dominance, included a lot of Microsoft-only code that rendered websites a very particular way or included scripting/tools that were unique to Internet Explorer.  Because of the dominance of IE Enterprise software companies and the Enterprises themselves coded their applications for Internet Explorer.  A lot of that code still exists.  Enterprises don't just change things because the Internet says it's obsolete. There has to be a business case for making the change.  In the case of our company, the software we use has an external customer component.  IT can dictate what we use internally, but they cannot control the customer, so we have to keep on top of these changes as best we can.  IE isn't always the browser of choice any more.

IE has lost the dominance it once had in the market, as a whole.  It's still very important, but it no longer commands 90% of the market.  Microsoft has since started making Internet Explorer much more standards (web standards) compliant.  As has it's competition, Mozilla and Google.  They are all trying to one-up one another in becoming the most HTML5 compliant as possible.  The HTML rendering engines, for the most part, are what make the various browsers behave differently when rendering a web page.

With all the web browsers moving towards HTML5, could we finally get to a point where it wouldn't matter which web browser you used?  I think we are a few years, at best, for that happening.  Outside the Enterprise I believe this reality is much closer, but in the Enterprise it simply takes businesses a lot longer to migrate to the cutting edge technology.  Their focus is on their customers, not on their internal staff.  There are still lots of companies running Windows XP.  Internet Explorer 9 won't run on Windows XP, so those companies will have to do major, and expensive, upgrades before they can change their web browsers. Most will wait until they absolutely HAVE to. It's just the nature of the Enterprise.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What was ABC News thinking: Rich Kid Fashion Story

This morning I watched an ABC News report about kids fashion clothes.  I found this obscene. Not because the kids were dressed sexually or anything, though it was very bizarre to see such young kids strutting up and down the cat-walk.

No, my issue with this is, that at a time when so many people are struggling to find jobs and put food on the table much less buy clothes for their kids, the wealthy are buying $500+ per item clothes for their kids. Not just expensive, but designer clothes.

I'm sure this has been going on since always, but to put it on the morning news, as if it's really news?  It's just rubbing our faces in the fact that we aren't as rich as them.  They even had a poor mother on there saying how she had to buy her kids clothes at a thrift store, as I know my parents had to do for my siblings and I when we were kids.

Is ABC trying to incite a riot against the rich? Did they think it was cute?  Were they catering to their wealthy viewers?  Maybe they are just out of touch with what the rest of the country goes through sitting in NYC?

I don't hold it against the Bourgeoisie for being wealthy. I wish I was wealthy enough to not have to stress about bills, putting food on the table, etc.  However, when they gloat or rub it in the faces of the rest of us, it's not just rude, it's obscene.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What If...Microsoft killed off gaming on the PC

This is an unlikely scenario but one that is kinda fun to think about.  First, PC gaming might as well be called Windows Gaming.  Sure there are Mac and Linux games out there, but the primary market is Windows users.  Second, Microsoft created DirectX and it's competitors, specifically OpenGL, while not dead really have never done as well as DirectX.  Third, Microsoft seems to be pushing Windows 8 in to the HTML5, web scripting world. It's unlikely that the power language support will be removed, but for the sake of this thought experiment, lets assume that Windows 8 doesn't play games as well as past versions.

In all three of those situations there are weaknesses, but lets assume the worst case scenarios.

Microsoft own Xbox.  They own Windows.  What if a business decision was made to make Windows more of a web based OS, focusing on what a majority of computers are doing these days, email, web, social networking.  Microsoft could argue that removing the power to do gaming on the PC would drive more business to the Xbox market because those power gamers would want the better gaming experience.  DirectX would still be developed, but just for the Xbox.

One argument is that the Xbox is basically a computer already so why limit the development environment to just Xbox?  Because PCs are loosing relevance.  Outside the business a PC is mostly used for web related items.  Yes, there are power users and there will always be a niche for them, but the average home PC user has limited need.  Outside of gaming, I use Chrome and iTunes primarily, occasionally opening up Word, Excel, or Photoshop.  Since I don't usually do power image editing, I can say that I could probably do most of my work with HTML5 apps, that in theory would work great on Windows 8.  The gaming is what keeps me using a big powerful PC.  Microsoft hasn't yet convinced me to buy an Xbox 360 and migrate. So what if they pushed me?

Sure I could stay on Windows 7 for years, just as so many have stuck with Windows XP.  But if Microsoft is no longer supporting gaming on Windows, the game publishers would quickly stop developing games for those older platforms.  I'd guess within a year most marque gaming titles would be on consoles exclusively.  So to play that cool new game I'd have no choice but to buy a console.

Those power users are what could keep things from going this way.  Graphics card makers and premium PC makers would certainly have some incentive to keep the PC gaming market going.  There are also going to be those users who don't want to give up the power they currently have.  Would the market perhaps shift to Linux?  Maybe, but we've seen time and time again projects that are in the Windows world not being able to migrate to Linux. I doubt it's technical. Business reasons have to be getting in the way. Those business reasons aren't going to just disappear.  Is the power user/PC gamer market large enough to move to a new OS platform?

PC games are still the best looking and most powerful.  There are still certain types of games that don't translate well to consoles.  But the writing has been on the wall for a long time; PC gaming is dying.  That could either mean that it's just like the doom-sayers who keep predicting the world will end and it never does.  Or, the end could really just be right around the corner and we are simply in denial.

I for one will keep gaming on the PC until I can't any longer.  The current console wiz-bang features still aren't compelling enough to make me fly into their arms.  I've right on as the average gamer.  So what can Microsoft do to make me move to the Xbox, except kill PC gaming.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Cloud Music Services

Now that Apple has joined Google and Amazon with it's "cloud" music service, I feel it's time to ask a question that has been bugging me since this all started, "Why?"

I'm sure there are some people that will find this solution perfect for them, but why?

Here is my issue. I have about 18GB of music or roughly 3300 songs. Of those songs I probably only listen to about 20-25% (about 6GB) of them on a regular basis. And that is when I'm not listening to podcasts or streaming music from Last.FM.

I have a nice HTC EVO 4G with 8GB of physical memory. I don't use all of that for music because I need some room for other things but I can get most if not all of the songs I listen to regularly on that device. Since it's also my phone I carry it with me pretty much every where I go, so my favorite tunes are always a finger touch away.

Storing all that music in the cloud, regardless of who is providing it, requires at least some uploading and fees. Not just fees to the music service but ISP fees. Lots of ISP services, be it wired or wireless are now putting in data caps. Using these services you will be eating into those data limits. Wouldn't you want to save that for video or other online services?

One argument I've heard for these services is that all your music will be backed up. You don't have to worry about your hard drive crashing and all your music being lost. I'm all for data backups, but you should have been doing that long before these services came around. Having 18GB of music, some purchased online, some ripped from CDs, some from who knows where, I wouldn't be happy if my hard drive died, but I do periodic backups, I feel my music is relatively safe. If a catastrophe were to occur where my backup was destroyed because I didnt backup to the cloud...well lets just say I'd have more important things to worry about at that point than my music collection.

OK so for me I see, increased Internet data usage and fees. I see no benefit other than backup, but I already do that at no cost. All the music I want is available already on my phone, either streaming or stored locally.

So again I ask, "Why would anyone use these services?" Is the marketing just that good or am I missing something?

My Camera Comparison: Early Conclusion

I've decided to forgo any further testing of my cameras at this time. While it still shocks me that an 11 year old camera is taking better pictures than the more modern ones, it simply is. The Olympus isn't great with color, but that can be corrected, if necessary, in Photoshop easily enough.

I'll be taking the Olympus AND the HTC EVO (for various reasons) on our trip to San Diego Comic Con. I'll use the Olympus for those shots that I may want to print or are a bit more artsy. The EVO will be my general purpose camera for those more candid shots and times when I don't want to be hauling around a larger camera. I'll have the EVO with me anyway, so why not use it. Plus it's image capacity is MUCH greater than the Olympus.

Additionally the EVO has a Blogger app and Twitter, making the sharing of images much quicker and easier. With the Olympus I'll have to either take a laptop with me (not happening) or use the hotel computer to download the images and post them (slow and UGH).

Some day I may get a good DSLR that finally puts my trusty ol' Olympus to bed finally, but right now the 11 year old 2.1 MP camera is still besting the younger cameras in this household.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My Camera Comparison: Part 2 - Well Lit Exterior

In part one of my comparison I took pictures in a not so well lit interior. This time I was outside with good overhead sun, veiled by light clouds, so bright, but not too bright.

The Results

Before getting into the details, as you can see from the images below. Color was the main differentiating factor. Detail was very similar for all three, again despite the differences in mega-pixels.

The HTC EVO 4G has exagerated colors, on the artwork but the grass in the background is slightly muted. Other images with strong red colors blew out badly too, resulting in lack of focus.
Noise was again a problem for the EVO.

The Kodak seemed to have the most accurate color but lost some detail, especially on the cheek. The Kodaks noise levels seemed to be the lowest of the three as well.

The Olympus did well on detail and noise. Again the 2.1 mega-pixel limit didnt seem to hinder the camera. The color was way off though.

The winner, by just a hair was the Kodak Easy Share C533 in this test. Most cameras are going to do reasonably well in these conditions and I really would have been fairly happy with any of these images. The HTC EVO 4G was probably at the bottom of the pile...again.

My Camera Comparison: Part 1 - Interior No Flash

This is the first of a few tests that I'll be making with our three digital cameras that we currently own. The goal is to decide if it's worth taking older dedicated cameras on an upcoming trip or to simply use the cameras built into our phones.

The three cameras in question are:
Of course this isn't all about image quality. I'll be comparing the other pros/cons in a later post.

This comparison was a simple cereal bar that was sitting on my desk. There was some indirect light coming from the window but both the Olympus and Kodak cameras wanted to use their flashes. I turned them off.

After cropping the images to focus on the same point, I resized the two smaller images up to the largest (from the EVO). Despite nearly doubling the resolution of the Olympus image, it still looked great.

The Results

The EVO had by far the most noise. So much so that despite it's mega-pixel advantage much of the detail was lost. The color accuracy is good.

The Kodak camera had a difficult time focusing in the lower light. This camera has difficulty focusing in optimal conditions. The label is a bit more readable than the EVO but not by much.

The Olympus was able to focus, even in the lower light and all the detail is clear and legible, even with only 2.1 mega-pixels. The color is off, but it's clean. The noise levels are low and what noise there is seems to be mono-chromatic minimizing it's effects.

(click image for full resolution and detail)

The winner is clearly the Olympus. Under these circumstances mega-pixels don't mean anything. The Kodak and HTC just don't have the optics for lower light images.

I have more testing to do before I crown the Olympus a winner, but it's interesting so far that an 11 year old camera is standing up to what is quickly becoming the standard fare for most casual camera users.