I Wish I Was At CES

Between the reading tweets and news coverage I’ve become disappointed I’m not at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas is nearby. CES has all the toys.

Technology is constantly changing. The big deal at this show is how much processing power can be put in how small a space, like Intel’s Edison Development Board.

It’s the same size as an SD card, commonly used in point and shoot cameras. It has a two core processor, with WiFi and Bluetooth already integrated.

Intel says, wear Edison. Here’s their suggestion for a baby monitor.

Start with a computer that really is the size of an SD card.
Attach it to a regular onesie and sensors that monitor the baby’s temperature, breathing, and motion.
Then, set the Intel Edison board to trigger actions on other connected devices, like this automatic bottle warmer or this coffee cup.
Each one of these has the Intel Edison board inside, communicating with the others to deliver amazing solutions to age-old problems.

Helicopter parents, your prayers have been answered.

This baby surveillance system is just a demo. It’s a taste of what the device can do so other developers create more products using it.

There’s lot of talk of 4k video at CES. It’s a new, higher standard for video. 4k video is sharper and more lifelike than HDTV.

I’ve seen 4k. Spectacular. The improvement is immediately noticeable.

Unfortunately, in 2014 having 4k capability is like having a car that can do 160 mph. So? Where can you use it?

Cable, satellite and Internet delivered video are all compressed mercilessly before we see it at home. Modern TVs are capable of much better images than what we see. I’d rather get less compressed HDTV (and hold onto my current hardware) than compressed 4k.

Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! spoke today. Her arrival has been widely applauded among the Technorati. Whether Yahoo! becomes a bigger player, as they once were, is another story. Their stock’s doing well.

1,700 were at the Hilton to see her. Katie Couric talked about her involvement with Yahoo News. David Pogue’s Yahoo! tech site was shown off.

It’s still more smoke than substance. They seem to be moving in the right direction. It’s a company full of smart people who should be able to figure things out.

This is the nerd prom. I need to attend. Maybe next year?

Let The (Fantasy) Games Begin

My tight end, Jimmy Grand, got me 8.80 points. I have no idea who he is. Until I chose him I’d never heard of him.

I’m in a fantasy football league with some guys from work. The season began tonight. I’m in way over my head. Who cares? Fantasy football is a math nerd’s delight!

Our league is hosted on Yahoo!. I’ve played there before. Each year the software gets a little slicker; a little more insightful.

My tight end, Jimmy Grand&#185, got me 8.80 points. I have no idea who he is. Until I chose him I’d never heard of him.

Way to go tonight, Jimmy.

I look at fantasy football the way I look at weather forecasting or poker. It’s a mathematical puzzle where you’re given a subset of the info you need for a learned decision. Even if you go with the odds sometimes you’ll get burned. An 80% chance doesn’t come true 20% of the time!

My one wild card is Kevin Kolb. He used to play for the Eagles so I’ve seen him excel as a backup. There’s no guarantee he’ll perform like that now that he has a lucrative multiyear contract. If he sucks, I’m screwed.

Football is overloaded with stats. Which are meaningful? Which are superfluous? I’ll let you know early next year.

It’s not really important to know who Jimmy Grand is.

&#185 – Just to show what a doof I am, I’ll leave the typo in! It’s Jimmy Graham.

Google Reveals What “How To” Info We Want

Because of Google’s methods popularity and/or importance are finally accurately quantified. It seems so wrong to take emotional concepts like important and popular and make them the output of a series of mathematical equations, but that’s exactly what happens!

In 1999’s Bowfinger Steve Martin knew how importance was defined.

“See that FedEx truck? Every day it delivers important papers to people all over the world. And one day, it is going to stop here, and a man is going to walk up and casually toss a couple of FedExes on my desk. And at that moment, we – and by we, I mean me – will be important. “

The paradigm has shifted. Our new arbiter is Google&#185.

Because of Google’s methods popularity and/or importance are finally accurately quantified. It seems so wrong to take emotional concepts like important and popular and make them the output of a series of mathematical equations, but that’s exactly what happens!

google-on-how-to.jpgMy ‘aha’ moment came earlier this evening. I was trying to learn how to scoop data from an online database and massage it to produce a webpage. Actually what I wanted to do was unimportant because I only got as far as typing in “how to.”

Google was now working ahead of me, anticipating what I might type next. It unfurled a list of the most popular “how to” questions.

  • how to tie a tie.
  • how to kiss
  • how to get pregnant
  • how to lose weight fast
  • how to cook a turkey
  • how to solve a rubix cube
  • how to make a website
  • how to download youtube videos
  • how to write a resume
  • how to lose weight

I am surprised tying a tie has reached this level. Look a the competition it’s knocked off. Maybe I’m jaded because I tie one every day (Double Windsor knot), but I didn’t think there was this level of demand.

Considering “how to lose weight” appears in two different forms (normal and panicky) it probably belongs higher on the list.

Cooking a turkey and solving a rubix are both surprising entries, but just barely.

I’m not sure what’s more surprising–that there’s nothing truly weird or that the list is really so pedestrian.

Is this all we really want to know “how to” do? Can’t we get a little more creative?

&#185 – I know Google is the authority because if you enter “Geoff,” I’m the sixth result. On Bing I didn’t show up in the first six pages of results. Yahoo! doesn’t list me through ten pages.

Who’s Spying On You? Nearly Everyone!

Hey Verizon and Yahoo!, saying you’ll be ridiculed and publicly shamed isn’t going to make me less interested. It’s not something I want my government hiding behind either.

Here’s another one of those stories that’s smoldering in the geekosphere but ready to light up like a Roman candle. A Freedom of Information request was sent to the US Justice Department by an Indiana University grad student looking for some insight into what info our government gets from our Internet service providers.

Before the DOJ could answer the ISPs chimed in. They were not happy.

From Wired: “Verizon and Yahoo intervened and filed an objection on grounds that, among other things, they would be ridiculed and publicly shamed were their surveillance price sheets made public.”

Hey Verizon and Yahoo!, saying you’ll be ridiculed and publicly shamed isn’t going to make me less interested. It’s not something I want my government hiding behind either.

I am very uncomfortable if the people I entrust with my email or to provide my Internet access give away my secrets, often without a warrant. This is just plain wrong on a variety of levels.

And don’t think these are isolated incidents. You will be shocked by how often this happens!

From “slight paranoia“: “Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009.”

Like I said, this is smoldering now, but not for long.

Understanding More About New Media By Using It

A few years ago I had a conversation with a co-worker about the implications of Internet in cars. “Another distraction,” she said, thinking of the Internet only in the ways we’d already seen it used. She doesn’t feel that way anymore.

Thumbnail image for apple-iphone-3g.jpg“This American Life” the hard-to-describe (their description) NPR show is playing as I type this entry. It’s not on the radio. It’s not from a podcast. It’s playing on my iPhone.

Because the iPhone is part phone/part computer I can use the computer part to swoop onto the Internet and stream the show. And now the Internet is in my pocket, not just my house or where I work. This show–any show can follow me anywhere!

This is a concept I’d long understood. It didn’t have the impact it does when you’re holding a working example in your hand!

A few years ago I had a conversation with a co-worker about the implications of Internet in cars. “Another distraction,” she said, thinking of the Internet only in the ways we’d already seen it used. She doesn’t feel that way anymore.

The Internet will soon be everywhere we are. Think atmosphere. The Internet will be as ubiquitous as the atmosphere.

On my way to work I listen to NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” It’s on a network of low powered stations none of which provides a dependable signal on my route. I have two buttons set so I can switch frequencies as one or the other gets ratty.

Starting later today I will try replacing those stations with what I expect to be crystal clear reception via my phone.

Is this technology the end of terrestrial radio as we know it? Commercial AM and FM are already in sad shape. How much more will it take to bankrupt the heavily leveraged companies that dominate station ownership today?

It’s not just radio. I’ve got bad news for me. I watched a fantasy football TV show produced by Yahoo! before making my roster moves today, The quality was excellent on my iPhone.

Will we compete with or embrace this technology? Is the inherent business structure of a TV station capable of even playing in this game? Who knows? It’s early.

The iPhone is such a game changer the real impact is difficult to grasp. And the iPhone is just the gateway drug–a proof of concept, if you will.

There are quantum leaps to come with fatter pipes and more robust devices for consumers. Eleven years ago there was no Google. What will there be eleven years from now?

Radio was worried it would be killed off by TV. Movies too. They thought TV was their death knell. They survived. In fact until recently they both thrived.

Will today’s media shift be similar, allowing older providers to adapt while adding new outlets, or is this new technology so radically different and more powerful that old school outfits just don’t stand a chance?

Rupert Murdoch From Both Sides Of His Mouth

Murdoch blames the search engines, but the truth is the entire business model for advertiser supported information is broken.

My friend Farrell forwarded an article from Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News:

Rupert Murdoch has warned internet search engines the time has come for them to pay for news content.

The News Corp chief executive said sites such as Google and Yahoo, which take content from a range of sources, would soon be charged for the service.

This is totally within Murdoch’s right and if he wants to put his content behind a paywall he should. The New York Times used to do this with much of their exclusive content, like columnists, but later relented.

If taken at his word, Murdoch could implement a change to cut off search engines now.

To stop search engines from indexing your site you simply add a tiny text file to the root directory. It’s beyond simple and can be totally accomplished with one line of code. The Journal, or any news site, could do that in a few minutes.

Not only is that not what Murdoch’s doing–he is doing the opposite!

If you go to the Wall Street Journal site you’ll find many (not all) stories run for a few paragraphs and then stop with “…” Here’s an example I found in a link from the Journal’s home page:

As of July, nearly 90% of U.S. households paid for television either from cable, satellite or phone companies rather …

It’s obvious the story continues, but it only continues for subscribers.

However, if you enter that same sentence fragment into Google you get a link to the full Journal story!

As of July, nearly 90% of U.S. households paid for television either from cable, satellite or phone companies rather than getting it free from broadcast stations, according to Nielsen.

The Google link and the direct link from WSJ’s home page produce the same URL link. I believe WSJ’s website is configured to deliver the full content when the referrer is Google or Yahoo!, etc.&#185

The URL for the Sky News story I quoted at the beginning of this post is optimized to make it more visible to search engines. Many of the story’s key words are embedded in it: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/News-Corp-Chief-Executive-Rupert-Murdoch-Tells-World-Media-Summit-Search-Engines-Must-Pay-For-News/Article/200910215402865?lpos=Business_First_Buisness_Article_Teaser_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_15402865_News_Corp_Chief_Executive_Rupert_Murdoch_Tells_World_Media_Summit_Search_Engines_Must_Pay_For_News_.

The Journal and Sky probably do this because search engines drive traffic to their sites. Without the search engines wsj.com and sky.com would see a lot fewer hits. They are making money from those hits–though certainly not as much as they want nor probably not enough to survive in their current business model.

Murdoch blames the search engines, but the truth is the entire business model for advertiser supported information is broken. The type of journalism the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other ‘classic’ news sources provide is dependent on selling high cost advertising.

Unfortunately, the same eyeball on the net is worth a lot less than in the paper or on TV. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The Internet has opened up the supply so there’s nearly an infinite number of places to run your ad.

Murdoch will grouse and yell and flail like the bully he’s always been–but he’s screwed and he knows it. He’s not in that boat alone. Mass media as we know it is terribly ill.

&#185 – My research on this is less than voluminous. How they do it isn’t as important as the fact they do it.