Category Archives: Blog

Don’t Hack Me, Bro

I am pretty good with passwords and security on my computers. I have been using 1Password for years to generate and store complex passwords, I completely clone my drive every two weeks and store it in a fireproof safe, and so on.

Then my wife told me of an article on Wired.com, about how author Matt Honan got severely hacked. His iPhone, MacBook and iPad were accessed, and the contents of them all were completely erased. Everyting was trashed, and now completely gone. Continue reading Don’t Hack Me, Bro

Whoa, Lytro

The newest fascination with gadgets does not come from Apple. No, this one is even cooler, it is the Lytro camera. No disrespect to Apple and the iProduct line. They are still, and will always be insanely great. But every now and then a groundbreaking, game-changing product (and tech) comes along. This is one of them. Seldom have I slapped my credit card down faster for a 60-day pre-order. Sure, a Fiskar would be cool -if I had a spare $100k laying around- but even then, it is still just a car.

The Lytro is a light field camera, and you can change the focus on the images after they are taken. It is hard to wrap your head around, but instead of capturing an image to a 2d plane, it captures 11 millions rays of light. This is the ‘field’. I liken it to a photographic net, capturing not a slice of light, but a volume, a full mass, like an open parachute. All that data includes depth of field that can be manipulated afterwards.

The cool factor of the science & technology is one big bucket to wrap your head around, the other one is taking pictures with it. Until very recently, the entire bulk of design was oriented around the flat, 2D expression of our world. On screen or on paper, it has always been one dimension shy. That includes photography. The advent of 3D is now in vogue, first in graphics, and then in film. Though the pictures taken with the Lytro are still viewed as flat images (though this will soon change, wink wink), they are interactive. To be able to change the focus on an image takes it into another realm. Lytro calls them living pictures. And once you get the hange of it, you can tell stories in new and novel ways.

For a photographer, that means thinking of composition with that missing dimension, depth. It takes some getting used to. I am still getting the hang of the thing, and finding myself looking at everything with new eyes. No more macro mode, just get up close and go for it.

Updates are coming from the company on a regular basis. This is a good thing, a very good thing.

Dancing With Wolfram Alpha

Courtesty of Stephen Wolfram’s AMA thread on Reddit, TIL (Today I Learned) about Tones.Wolfram.com. It will take some tinkering to get the tones just right, but this is fun and useful. Original clips, ringtones, and other music can be generated. It still has a synthesizer sound (it is MIDI), but that can be lessened by playing with some of the many controls like Instrumentation and Pitch Mapping. But if a little synthy is the sound you are going for, it is ready to rock (or country, or classical) and create cool tunes.

Getting Started With a Cloud Server

We’ve used a few cloud server solutions but have found that the Rackspace offering has been the best bang for the buck. It is extremely easy to get up and running.

The Linux OS choices are typically the most flexible (availability and open source). But unless you are a daily linux server administrator there are a couple things you should know to get your cloud server setup properly and securely:

Continue reading Getting Started With a Cloud Server

Don’t Write Off Windows Phone Just Yet

First off I have a disclaimer…we developed an app on the Windows Phone platform and not on iPone or Android. With that said, I’m writing this post from my MacBook Pro. I’ve been a longtime fan and user of Apple products and have always kind of been a Microsoft basher. I’ve had 2 iPhones, I have an iPad and an iMac. I love Apple! I just don’t love the iPhone as much anymore.

We started developing our app (YomoMedia, a news reader) back in 2007 for Windows Mobile. This was right before the iPhone came out. I actually remember having a Yomo meeting in Palo Alto as the line was forming outside the Apple store the night before the initial iPhone release. We walked down there to take it all in. Robert Scoble and his son were the first or second in a line that stretched at least a 1/2 mile around the block and back down Lytton St. I had no idea how big the iPhone would be but I also ended up buying one and yes, it was a game changer. It was obviously way different than anything out there. That was almost 5 years ago.

Fast forward…when Microsoft announced that they would be completely revamping their mobile platform, we had a decision to make. We could stay with them and completely re-think and re-write the app for Windows Phone, or we could jump ship and create one for the iPhone or Android. You might be wondering why we didn’t create an app for all three. We’re a small company and this is a side project albeit one that has taken up incredible amounts of time over the years. As our app was popular on Windows Mobile, we were invited by Microsoft to be one of the Showcase Partners which allowed us access to some of their engineers, seminars and hardware. At first glance, we liked what we saw and definitely saw potential.

When the first WP7 phones came out, I immediately rushed out and got a Samsung Focus which I still have. I can honestly say it is the best phone I have ever had. It makes an iPhone feel old and stodgy. It’s fluid, responsive and the Metro interface is a homerun visually. A common complaint is that there aren’t enough apps in the Marketplace to which I say, check again. There are plenty of apps and more and more being added every day. The Mango release has taken it one step further and the phone is tightly integrated with all my social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)

For Christmas, I bought my wife a new Samsung Focus S and as I was showing her how to do a few things on it, my 12 year old son (who has an iPhone 3G) looked over and said, “Dad, why didn’t you get me one of those?” I was a little surprised but he obviously saw a cool factor in it.

Now, if you look at a lot of the reports over the past year about mobile marketshare, it’s all about iOS and Android. I think that’s going to change. Microsoft, Nokia and AT&T are rumored to be launching a $100-200 million campaign to promote the new “Ace” phone (depending on who you talk to). And then there’s this from AllThingsD.com,

Morgan Stanley expects shipments of Nokia’s new Windows Phones to hit 37 million units in 2012, and 64 million units in 2013. Add to this Morgan Stanley’s estimates for HTC’s Windows Phone handsets, and you get shipments of 43 million this year and 74 million the next. And that’s just those two OEMs alone. There are a few others for which the research house doesn’t provide estimates. Samsung, for example.

The bottom line is, I wouldn’t write off Windows Phone just yet. 2012 will be an interesting year.

What If The Internet Was Gone?

Where Would We Find Cat Pictures?

The major TV news outlets do not cover the raging debate about SOPA and PIPA legislation currently being debated in Congress. Perhaps because the major news outlets are owned by media companies in favor of the laws, or perhaps because Internet stories are just too techy and boring. These laws (one for the House and one for the Senate, yay!) purport to protect copyright holders, but they are terribly bad for business and innovation on the Internet.

As Congress debates protecting something or other from someone or other on the intertubes, they seem all too happy to be downloading tons of illegally pirated content all the while (Even porn? why, yes!). When tech leaders are firing with both barrels at how bad this legislation is for business, and when almost 10% of active Senator’s campaign costs were paid by lobbyists for these bills, it prompts some tech companies to consider dramatic action.

Time Magazine openly wonders if Google, Facebook and Twitter were to go offline, on purpose, to protest these laws. You might think, ‘So What?’. But judging by the howls of protest just when Facebook moves a link around, if it were to intentionally go dark it would get some attention. And if Google were to do the same, the outcry would not just be from disgruntled friends missing out on stories of last night’s party antics, or cute cat pictures, or recipes, the roar would be from Fortune 500 companies, and from literally millions of people and businesses who make a living on the internet. Whether directly from advertising, or from the online commerce that is driven by Google Search, the humble looking site is a multi-billion dollar economic juggernaut.

If you think that is not likely, think again. Popular social news site Reddit.com is planning to do just that. On January 18th, Reddit will shutter their site on purpose, and in its place they will be posting information about this legislation, to spur its users to action. You may not know about this site (it is not as mainstream as Digg.com), but it has a very vocal audience. The political theater around this legislation may be routine for Washington, but legions of Internet geeks are awakening as sleeping tigers.

Cat picture