Computing

This is a “quick” recap of my thoughts.

My 1st 3D modeling machine was a Quadra 800

What has been up with me some may wonder. Well, a lot. I moved, decided to pivot & am restarting my career. Oh course whenever you do that, you get a ton of recruiters emailing you with jobs from your old profession, that are no longer suitable to you. Thanks to life events, I can’t work the long hours demanded, and besides that — despite my deceptively younger looks — I’m not a spring chicken anymore. Along with that, I realized that I can’t do repairs of small devices anymore. This is somewhat sad. But considering that my iFixit kit has paid itself off at least 10 times over the years, it’s not that bad of an outcome. Another change is my outlook. Before April of this month, my view on life was that I had to clear my plate of everything put in front of me or let it pile up. However looking at my reading list, there are literally over 100 articles I simply bookmarked after the synopsis or intro that I never got back to. Add to that the countless languages (markup or compiled) I’ve looked at learning and we see a truly daunting list. I’ve decided that things will get my attention as they always have: as needed. The one thing I am putting on my plate over and over until I learn it is 3D. This follows my 2 decade old foray into 3D when I bought some, now defunct, program to run on my Quadra 800. It took hours to ray trace a simple render test. However now it is for modeling objects for 3D printing. While you will never hear me call myself a 3D artist, it is one skill I know I can pickup again. My skills are in a constant state of flux. Last year I spent recuperating from yet another person who overestimated their stopping distance and ended up plowing into my car and injuring me. The more things change…

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Clanning Concept Art

For the unwashed, Clan Lord by Delta Tao Software is an archaic, sorely out-of-date Multi-player Online Role-playing Game  (MORPG) that has been running since the late 90s. The single world (server) and small population make it feel like a small town, thus all of the current players have the same goal (job). Thus, like any small group with common goals, it is a bit like a company: You have your people in it who are on the ball because they work well in teams and independently, those that only work in teams because they need direction, those that lead group of people in a direction, those that specialize in a subset of knowledge about the terrain (market or technology) all of whom trade their time and risk profit (experience) to advance, and finally those that just show up to have fun. These flyby ‘fun’ people are equivalent to the people who just show up for a paycheck. In the game, one seemingly minor mistake can lead to the death of the entire group.  This necessitates departing (experience and time loss) which is a bit like working on a project  and having it fail miserable because Joe Paycheck didn’t know or care that you shouldn’t have done X.

Considering the parallels I noticed about the in game group and the group of people you work with  day-to-day, I have found several commonalities that I have taken from work to game and from game to work that have helped me navigate real life teamwork, leadership and relationships.

(Original Circa 2012; Minor Update: 20170502)

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Audio 66’s BTS: My new favorite headset

Audio 66’s BTS: My new favorite headset

I am almost never satisfied with a majority of electronics because I’m the type of user that pushes them to their limit. I know what technology is capable of, so I tend to try to leverage it to suit my needs. One of my “needs” is to have a lightweight hassles-free headset. I wanted wireless so I don’t have to deal with getting tangled in cables, and plugging and unplugging it. I want one that can run all day (or a few days) on a single charge. And I want the sound to be good for casual listening—not that over-compressed first or even second generation wireless audio.

Bluetooth headsets have been out for a while. But they’ve been historically overpriced for what you get. IMO, they should be no more than $20 above the fidelity level of a wired headset. So, with Sony’s $100 MDR7 series the “standard” of a good price:fidelity balance, I figure a “sports*” headset like this should be no more than $50. When I found Noisehush NS400, it was exactly what I wanted, & only $35. I was very happy with the audio quality for the price and the sports band (where the band goes behind your neck) is the perfect balance of non-intrusive & convenient — meaning you can put them on and take them off in 2 seconds. But once I got used to them, I found one more “need.” I wanted to be able to connect to my phone, my computer and iPad simultaneously. Until the Bluetooth spec update that added “multipoint,” this desire was wishful thinking. With a street price of $50, Audio 66’s Bluetooth Sport is the first device to meet all my needs, including multipoint.

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When I read Pat Cadigan’s Synners back in the early 90s I thought about what technological advances would be needed to get there. I understood basic electronics, having taken it in high school, and had been using computers since a 12″ CRT, cassette drive, analog coupler & 4K were a big deal & cost over $1000. So, I had a fairly good idea, except not knowing how we would achieve the flexible TFT screens considering they were encased in glass, and a lot of problems with power & complexity. I also read Sterling, Gibson, Rucker & Stephenson which also influenced my thinking about technical (and social) advances (regressions).

Since then there’s been many advances that move us closer to what was a pure fantasy. Miniaturization of components and SoCs as small as your pinky nail were easily predictable. Tuning audio for a room in seconds was foreseeable, and a lot of ideas I could see coming to shape right on time or even before. This digital world lives in a trans-dimensional plane that can express all possible dimensions by its nature of having no dimensions—what I think of as the “all in none” paradox that got this universe started in the first place. So, aside from imagination of what to program into it, what sort of media people would consume, the only limit was physical. New materials and chemical processes are making the fundamental plane on which our interconnected digital world more flexible and more fantastic. For a very LONG time the race has been to offer flexible displays. This year the first mass market flexible display came out. But still the device it is embedded in, is not. Once someone puts 2 & 2 together at Apple or Google, there will be a product that does to the smartphone what the tablet did to the desktop & laptop.

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Practice, Practice, Practice

When I am consulting with a client, and navigating on my machine they are absolutely stunned at the speed of me using just the GUI. I have to remind them: I’ve been using GUIs for 30 years — starting from the very first Macintosh, and using various OSes since then (from BeOS to X-windows and back again). Given my use “cross-training” and approximately 40,000+ hours (conservatively) of using practically every type of app, I’d think I would be an expert at efficiently navigating almost any app. As a side effect, I have also gotten very good at spotting good and bad UI. If I don’t know how to do something: I usually know the magic words and the search terms to use. If even I cannot find info quickly, then something about either your apps and/or your documentation is lacking.

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I don’t remember writing this, I just know it was ~8 years ago. I was cleaning up my system today and found it in an old log folder. (I tend to keep detailed notes of my problem solving process with code snippets, so I can retrace steps if I forget why I did things a certain way or how I solved them.) The politeness and care in the message made me smile. If that code is still out there, I would be surprised [edited to remove a stray link].

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The commercially available GUI is now over 30 years old. We all know that what was once a paradigm altering way that communications engineers, researchers & computer scientists could interact with their machine has firmly cemented itself in the landscape of interfaces, as the mice and trackpads that came with it. Initially the GUI was called a novelty that would quickly wear out its welcome by companies that have since staked everything on their misunderstanding of how a GUI should act. Now that a more common use paradigm is direct touch. The conventions useful & familiar with the desktop metaphor have been replaced by a graphic icon collection to open an app suited to the task. Again people who’s thinking is still bound by conventions of prior use paradigms that either work poorly or not at all without alteration to fit into new paradigms is hobbling the efficiency of their user base. The base-line of porting UI to a tocuh UI has been accomplished: where it was a double click to open, it is just one tap; where it was a menu bar window, it is now a navbar & bottom “tab/panel/view.”

However, Before this current paradigm shift happened, the GUI had already been mutating between versions & various OS platforms until new conventions were tried & failed or took root. Often multiple ways to interact are allowed in most desktop OSes, & between platforms some interactions are preferred, while other are simply cumbersome. Somewhere along the way the fundamentals of UI design were forgotten & exchanged for the slickest looking UI and usability took a backseat to aesthetics because the people who placed aesthtics fist didn’t realize that aesthetics and usability are tied together.  Thus the interactions needed to perform an advanced task became unnecessarily cumbersome, and furthered the knowledge gap between the novice and the competent.

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If I chose a current AppleWatch

Waiting for the DT Camera version…

Investors are being fed news of some massive Apple Watch sales decrease since its release. Oddly the overall percentage of the market of people that use the iPhones (iPhone 5 & up) that work with the Watch that actually bought the Watch is inline with historic sales trends of other accessory technology. Most technology accessories, from bluetooth headphones to keyboards to eye wear face significantly lower sales numbers. At the current Apple Watch price point, the percentage is actually abnormally high given inexpensive accessories run under $100 and might get 4% adoption (this translates to something you can observe: less than 1 in 20 people that own a tablet have a bluetooth keyboard.) Whereas Apple Watch owners are almost equal to that within a 2 month launch for a device that starts at $350. While only 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have an iPhone, of those, the number that have or plan to get an Apple Watch are 1 in 10, conservatively.

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The Included watch band with special modifications

The Shine after 5 months. You can’t even see extra security I added from the front while wearing the Shine (scuff not included)

First off, full disclosure: Misfit gave me a Shine — not for review — but as thanks for spotting and letting them know about a minor error on one of their pages on the day they announced a related product. So, given that it was free, it was something I was grateful to receive, and established the goodwill of the people at Misfit. The thing is, I’m not exactly the type that monitors and logs everything I do. In fact, given my physical limitations (mentioned before), I can’t often follow a workout regimen to stay in shape anymore. However, I am naturally curious, and after almost 6 months using the Shine, I have been able to use it as a way to monitor my daily activity and adjust how much I eat. This review examines what is an almost perfect product at this price point from the PoV of someone that isn’t interested in (or can’t afford) the current smartwatch offerings. On this level, the Shine succeeds to offer a simple way to monitor daily sleep and wake activity. Read on to see how it accomplishes this.

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