Cool Tech Wander Project

People are living life through digital devices; it is an interesting problem. Not that it isn’t one that was predicted many years ago by some analysts. The rise of the camera’s on cellular phones, and tablets changed not only the what, but also the how and when of digital pictures.

Still, if you were wandering around with an iPad or Android Tablet in front of your face instead of experiencing live what is happening and then pulling out the camera on occasion to snap memories, we need to talk.

I watched a family the other day near the Washington Monument, they were walking, talking and all staring at their cellular phones. They walked into the four people I was standing near at the intersection. If they hadn’t hit us, they would have been in the street.

It was the passing of my father, that launched our family history project. In part to capture all the many slides dad had taken, to share those images, but also to capture, scan and place into digital safekeeping all the memories our family has created over the years. In the end 148,000 or so digital pictures and 200 hours of video footage. I attempt to take a lot of digital pictures of family events and such like that there, but still, I do not spend the entire event with the camera in front of me. 

Why, would you do that with a phone or tablet when you can buy a wearable camera built to do just that, to take pictures at whatever interval you want (even continuous if you so desire). It seems a little confusing to me I guess.

Not that I am advocating the other side of this problem. If you are doing something extreme, having a Go-Pro attached to you is acceptable. If you are walking around and have a Go-Pro camera on your head, that isn’t cool. Plus, no matter what the concept of a selfie drone following you, also not cool

I think that is the growing explosion of augmented reality gear and games. Yes, they are cool, but sometimes you just have to enjoy butterflies. Sometimes you need to marvel at how a honey bee can fly based on wing structure, size and lift. Sometimes a flower is not something you capture for later but something you look at now.

Truly I am just as guilty of the mad rush to digital as anyone. I probably pushed some people over the years to start family history projects and share the pictures of the past. For that, I apologize, I knew not then what I was doing. Take the pictures, by all means, share the pictures but not via an always-on selfie drone.

Plus when walking in a big city, don’t make it easy for pickpockets. If you are staring at your device screen, they are considering how much money is in your wallet or purse.

The automation, of automation for automations sake…

Yesterday we mowed the lawn. I think about buying one of the automated mowers every single year, I haven’t as of yet, but I may still. We had a Roomba for a long time (nearly three years) but found that automated vacuums struggle with dog hair. The vacuums inability to do anything other than push clumps of dog hair on the floor once it’s tiny “bag” was full made us turn it off and stop using it. I guess we may someday return to the concept but for now, it is a branch we have cut off!

Automation is an interesting problem, in part because technology evolves quickly and in part because automation isn’t a standard that has exact expectations. In the enterprise automation world, we can consider Chef, Puppet or any of the other automation products. In the home automation world, you can consider any one of some standards starting from the control system to the very protocol you are using. The sad thing is the skills don’t translate from one to the other.

Then consider the even broader automation potential of your cellular phone, drone and other things like Kindle and iPod. Kindle has the interesting Whispernet that allows you to sync between various devices where you are in a specific book. The same can be used for Audible books, Dish, Direct, and other TV providers do the same within your home for a show you are watching (that you can resume in another room where you left off). But none of these things are truly automated.

Imagine the house of tomorrow, you get up during the commercial of a soccer match, and the TV channel follows you to the kitchen screen. Or you are listening to music in your car, arrive at home, and the music continues on your home speakers. I called this continuation and talked about it enough that several friends commented that they got it and that I should stop!

But the problem is that automation isn’t easy, and there aren’t standards that allow us to say do it this way, every time. One of the devices that I find interesting right now is the Microsoft Hololens. It is a device that moves easily between AR/VR production and consumption. Where it excels is as an interactive device. There are some other devices in the space, but for the most part, they focus on the growing consumption market.

The problem remains automation that spans everything. Not just automating the things we know about, about adding the ability to quickly automate things that are unknown. The concept of a single box in your house that would allow you to automate everything is interesting. Risky, in that if the box isn’t updated it becomes the easy way for a hacker to walk into your house. Powerful in that you simply change devices and point them at the automation hub. When you alarm rings in the am (or pm for those that work at night) your house will notify you of the housekeeping issues that require human attention. Change the mower’s bag, change the vacuum bag or empty both. 

This box would, of course, would also connect your alarm clock, your phone your life. If there is nothing on your weekend calendar, the alarm clock shuts off and lets you sleep in. What calms you the most as you sleep? If you are like me, it depends, understands the concept of moods and help me sleep by changing the environment around me.

Automation of automation that is the next step in the success of smart whatever. If we are going to call things smart XYZ, they better actually be smart.

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automation dreamer

Of the trees and streams in the forest and building your organizational GovOps Tree…

Traditionally in the IT world, we break things into three distinct buckets, creation, management and security. Where creation is the process whereby our company or our agency delivers the essential components of what it needs to deliver. Management represents the two sides people and technology operations and management and finally, security which is well, security.

As we move away from the traditional positions of enterprise architecture and the broad EA frameworks towards the world of DevOps, the reality of GovOps becomes more and more prevalent. Organizations that successfully transition are those that have a clear path. The reality of clear paths is that you have to start from a known location, (the point of known return) and you have to be able to adapt to the environment as you progress towards a goal. You may, in fact not achieve your original destination. The adaptation of targets is critical in the successful transition. That makes the legal (governance) and management (operations) aspects of both your organization and your journey dangerous.

Enter the concept of GovOps and the enterprise capabilities detailed in the development of a GovOps Tree. The better the roots of your tree, the better you can withstand a wind storm. The better your leaf canopy, the more sunshine you can harvest. I think back to the concept of Shel Silverstein’s book “The Giving Tree,” where the tree gives up everything to help the boy. It is critical that as organizations progress into this brave new cloud world, they don’t give up their “point of known return.”

The shortest distance between any two distinct points is a straight line. Effectively making it nearly impossible for anyone or any organization to reach their goal in the least possible time, why? There are no straight lines in reality. A straight line would be a huge miss. You would end up taking your organization to a place that wasn’t what you thought it was before you got there.

The operations phrases of today, Continuous monitoring, evergreen infrastructure and always-up-to-date patching are codified for many organizations. Some adhere to the standards published by NIST, others by the European Union’s requirements and others by the US Federal FedRAMP program. All of these are standards for the information and IT services provided to users.

How to achieve those goals is both the application of governance and the reality of operations. Or, as I have been calling it the reality of GovOps! I learned many years ago it is not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.

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Creator GovOps

The difference between AR/VR producers and consumers.

What is the reality of virtual reality? When you reverse Virtual Reality, Reality Virtual it suddenly changes the meaning and intent. As we wander further and further down the VR/AR path, there are many interesting things starting to happen. VR or Virtual Reality is the creation of a virtual environment and the insertion of a person into that environment. AR or augmented reality leaves you, in reality, you are in but adds to that reality with addition components or considerations. VR today is great for games and will continue to expand in that space. AR, however, is something that ultimately is going to be a game changer for some professions.

The impact of augmented reality devices will be highest in every profession where expertise occurs over time. The AR addition would allow a master technician to share their expertise with ten people at the same time using AR broadcasts. Imagine if the best of the best at any company could help ten people get just that much better. The result is a significant improvement in time spent, the cost of solution and customer satisfaction. Surgeons could leverage the expertise of doctors that have performed the operation 100 times but are in another city or country. That expert could see what the first doctor is seeing, and guide them through the surgery.

The initial market problem today is the reality of the headsets released. There are some VR/AR headsets released that require a PC or gaming system so that the content can be consumed as Virtual Reality. There are fewer Augmented reality systems available today, but that will continue to evolve in the next two-three years. The interesting devices are the ones that offer the ability to provide local processing.

There was a flurry of headset announcements made in the past six to eight months. The long awaited Oculus Rift finally shipped. Sony shipped their VR headset. Microsoft announced two VR headsets would be shipping this fall. They, MSFT, are already shipping the Hololens but it is an important distinction to note that Hololens is a creation system for VR and AR content. The headsets announced consumption headsets.

The reality of all of these things is the rise of virtual worlds. The impact for Doctors and other medical professionals is going to be huge. Just from the Doctor being able to connect to a system employ, say first responders, and being visually aware of what is wrong and quickly see what will be needed when that patient arrives. Or security professionals being able to create multiple easily viewed windows with a headset displaying around them. The VR future, coupled with the AR possibilities will make a lot of interesting changes around us.

It is an important distinction between the concept of creation systems and consumption systems. It is one that is going to continue to evolve as we go forward. 

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futurist

Fix my printer, please!

I think over the past 10-12 years I have always done a spring technology purge. Looking at the things I don’t use as often as I used to and purged them. I did a mini-purge this year in February, but for the most part, haven’t finished the process yet. That said I am going to start listing stuff I am not using on eBay starting next week. In part because the only way I can purge is to start, in part because there are things no longer used that I can get rid of now.

If, First Off (I have to stop using both of those as openers) we consider the changes they are numerous. There was once a time when we had one printer for one computer. Not quite that bad but pretty close. Of course (another thing I have to stop using) we also only had dot-matrix printers. I do not miss the days of dot-matrix. The printer weighed more than a laser does today, and took 2-3 or even four times longer to print a page. 

Did I mention it wasn’t laser? The quality of images was at best questionable. The rise of Inkjet printers was a game changer for most of us. We suddenly could print clear images on photo paper, in COLOR! My ImageWriter joined my MacSE30 as something I used to own!

Those changes like any other were fairly quick and were not that long ago (25 or so years ago). They do however point out the differences in people now, versus then. Please note: What comes next is not me bashing my kids, it is simply a statement. The other day one of my kids tried to print something, and it failed. Their immediate response, get dad. My wife does the same thing; I think that has to do with reliance on someone that has expertise. But I wonder I talk to people all the time that aren’t young (and aren’t old) who cannot or won’t do the simple and easy troubleshooting tasks to solve a problem.

That said, I am going to today, share the quick and easy steps for solving printing problems. They are simple, easy and if you do those three steps (in the order listed) if you call tech support they will be able to help you, faster!

1. Unplug the printer from the computer and then plug it back in. If it is a wireless connect (non-USB), then turn the Wi-Fi off on your computer and turn it back on.

2. Turn the computer off or more correctly restart the computer.

3. Turn the printer off and then back on again.

Those three simple steps take care of 90% of your printing problems and make it a lot easier if you do have to ask for help. The really funny thing is, I learned these steps all those years ago with my first ImageWriter. They still work today for whatever printer you are using. Be it Inkjet, Inkjet Plotter, Laser, Color Laser or even if you still have an operating Dot-Matrix. Three steps to rule them all!

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Fix my printer!

Of consumption and creation VR/AR headsets!

One of the things that are really interesting right now is the explosion of VR headsets and the lack of understanding people have in relation to the what and how of those headsets. There are two distinct types of headsets and you need really clear in your understanding.

The first set or type is the consumer type. Now, this doesn’t mean that it is a sit in your local retail store and go on 1/2 price sale on black Friday consumer. Rather, this is a headset designed for people that are consuming VR content. The new headsets coming from Acer and other’s designed to work with the new version of Windows 10, Oculus Rift and the Sony PlayStation headsets are examples of this. In this case, you have to have a PlayStation 4, or a PC devoted to the VR headset.

HoloMeNow the other side is the reality of VR and AR production. That is where the Hololens from Microsoft fits. Hololens operates independently of a computer. It is, in fact, a computer you wear as a headset. I wear mine often during conference calls to look things up and find information.

All of this should not be confused with the other side of VR/AR content production the ever-increasing number of cameras prepared for VR and AR. There are a number of solutions in this space as well that should be considered as they also offer functionality. The new Acer headset and the PlayStation Headsets are consumers of VR devices. The many VR/AR cameras are producers, with the Hololens actually allowing you to span the consumer and production line with one device.

Of the many cameras, you are bound more to software than camera functionality. Personally, my current favorite is the Bubl. It continues to have the best mix of hardware and software. Now, one that is intriguing but is not a camera, is the Structure Sensor. I chased after 3d scanning for a long time. The Structure Scanner and its new Canvas software package is without a doubt an interesting mix of creation and production toolset.

If you see any of the interesting Redfin commercials on television they show an even more advanced three-dimensional space scanning of a home. Those cameras cost upwards of 25,000 US dollars so I won’t spend any time on their output. 

All of this resulting in two things. The broad concept of content to be shared, consumed and ultimately a growing VR market.

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am I hear or am I virtual?

What lies ahead, phone learning!

I have talked, in the past about my quest to replace the circular slide rule my father gave me in 1975. In part because I loved the things I could do with that slide rule but also because it came from my father. There are times when I consider both what was, and what I chased and I wonder if, in fact, I was heading the right direction.

First, off the initial direction I took in the phone world was the PocketPC. That involved a lot of extra stuff, in the dawn of cell phones. There was a time when GPS, Camera, and maps were add-on features you had to purchase. There was a time when storage was not abundant. You ended up adding a sleeve to your device so you could add additional storage. Back in the days before Micro-SD cards. Back in the days when the memory card cost a lot of money!

So what was complex and sleeve based became integrated? In 2007 the iPhone changed the market. Yes, there are more Android phones now, but the market was changed by that launch not only of the phone but of iTunes. The concept of 20 dollar mobile applications was dead. Yes, there are still applications that cost 20 bucks, but for the most part, applications moved to the 99 cent range and everything changed forever.

Then the smart watches started to appear. First the wonderful Pebble (I still miss both the company and the product). Suddenly you could interact with a phone in your purse or pocket on your wrist. From the Samsung Gear to the iWatch the market continues to evolve. In fact, there is a product CMRA that is shipping later this year that will allow you to actually use your watch as a camera, as well as an on the fly video conferencing system.

What was the functionality of the slide rule, long ago replaced. Long ago found, and expanded. I do still miss my father, but the slide rule quest itself is over. I no longer seek to replace the functionality of a device that was before the before.

I am instead looking over the horizon. I am looking now past the UV camera, the infra-red camera and even beyond the car phone and other connections we don’t even think about anymore to the concept of what is the phone of tomorrow? In part a more durable screen (I dropped my phone on Saturday, the screen shattered). Over the horizon, there are many interesting potential options for phones. I think for me the biggest is the ability to connect to and create services within the phone itself. Such as I see a television in front of me, should I use that as a screen. Or you have a camera connected to me, via wi-fi should I use it for pictures instead of my less quality integrated camera? The phone intelligently understanding that there are features and functions available outside of it. Taking the cloud concept of machine learning to the phone, so the phone begins to learn its environment, the capabilities and also what the user needs.

The future phone, phone learning!

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The phone futurist…