Christopher Taylor's editorials on Science, Technology, Salsa dancing and more
Thursday, November 11, 2004
For those of you who have any doubt, digital convergence has finally
arrived. We have known for years that it was bound to arrive, but we
didn't quite know when or in what form it would take. However, we now
know the form and it is the cell phone.
This week, I bought the Audiovox SMT 5600
smartphone. It is a truly kick ass device with the ability to sync to
Outlook over Bluetooth, surf the web and stream or play MP3 or Windows
media content. This device does everything that we've been waiting for
in a device.
The only barriers to make it a remarkable media experience are
bandwidth, storage and battery life. However, these are relatively
predictable problems, which is to say that we can forcast their steady
improvement. The wireless carriers have schedules for the deployment of
higher and higher capacity data services in their international
networks. Batteries will continue to improve, but more importantly,
semiconductors will continue to require less and less power to operate.
And finally, storage has typically marched along at a pace that has far
On the subject of storage, the current batch of portable audio devices
range from 5GB of storage in the small form factor devices (i.e. the iPod mini
and the Rio Carbon
) to 40GB in the larger devices (i.e. the iPod
The SMT 5600 comes with only 32MB of storage, but also has a miniSD
slot. Currently, the largest miniSD card I could find was 1GB [Flash Memory Store
That's certainly nothing to sneeze at. But, you can be sure that the
capacity of these cards will quickly grow to the 10's of Gigabytes
It's been a long time in coming, but it is finally here. The SMT 5600
is a sweet phone and I would highly recommend it. That said, there will
be some really incredible devices coming out in the next few years, so
keep your eyes open. The future in devices is bright. 12:25:14 PM
Friday, November 05, 2004
BitTorrent is gaining more and more mindshare on the Internet. It is a great tool and I've been using it for a long time, but I had no idea how pervasive it had become.
Several sites are pointing out that BitTorrent accounts for 35% of all traffic on the Internet. Actually that data is several months old from a study conducted by CacheLogic between January through June 2004, and the current percentage may be higher. The more interesting stat in the study is that around 60% of all network traffic is peer-to-peer related. The percentage of overall network traffic P2P represents on a regional basis ranges from 55% in Europe to 80% in Asia. As more and more legal file distribution shifts from http and ftp to BitTorrent, those numbers may get even higher [ArsTechnica].
That is simply amazing. Of course, I should probably be upset by these trends. Afterall, the business I am in is dependant upon the legal distribution of media. But, I just love the idea of P2P technology. What I tell people all the time is that P2P and illegal music and media sharing is part of the ecosystem that we live in. Some efforts to fight it will be somewhat effective. But more effective is to build something better. 4:47:08 PM
Friday, October 22, 2004
People all over the Internet are getting their undies all in a bunch over Google Desktop [Slashdot]. The concerns are a knee jerk reaction and wholly expected. This isn't to say that they are without merit; I don't get the impression that Google has looked at all of the security concerns. However, the claims are clearly exaggerated. The thing to keep in mind is that people get nervous about all new technologies and this one is no exception.
I installed Google Desktop on my work desktop about a week ago and I have already benefited. Of course, my work life revolves around MS Office documents and Outlook these days. The Temporary Internet Files search is also convenient and a lot easier way to find a page that you've searched recently than the IE history feature is. And, let's face it; Windows and Outlook search suck in the extreme. Now, instead of tediously setting up complex search criteria and waiting for the damn computer to sequentially analyze every document on my computer or in by Inbox, I just type my string in the Google Toolbar. (Oh yeah... That's another Google application and they work together very nicely.) The results show up in IE in less than a second and you're off. It's just like using Google to search the Net, but it is searching an index of your local system.
I had some minor concerns when I first hear about Google Desktop, but I knew the potential benefits immediately. And it didn't come as a surprise either. After all, there have been rumors and talk that Google was developing something along these lines for months, maybe years. My main concern was that, after indexing my documents, the system would push the index up to the Google cloud. This turns out not to be the case, which was enough for me to start using it.
A Microsoft friend of mine did bring up some interesting points about certain security implications of Google's implementation. I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that a few big security holes exist in the product. They'll be found and fixed. The key for me is that I have a tool that I can use now.
One thing that I think most people haven't figure out yet is that this type of search capability is a transforming technology. It stands to completely change the way people work with their computer and with the files stored on it.
Typically, we all tend to organize files and emails that we care about in hierarchical folder structures. Why do we do this? Because we want to find them later to either modify or use. However, if you have the ability to immediately jump to a file by simply typing in a couple of words in a search box, the hierarchies we so painstakingly maintain become almost more work than they are worth.
Hierarchies are still useful, but it is no also useful to abstain from organizing some of your emails and files. Instead, you can just dump a lot of your less important items in a folder somewhere with no organization whatsoever. Then, when you say to yourself, "didn't I have a file that talked about XYZ?" all you have to do is search for it and it pops right up! No waiting twenty minutes for Windows to find it or time spent looking through folder after nested folder because you forgot which one you saved it under.
As always, we'll see how things shape up over time. But, one thing is for sure, I have a search that indexes my local documents and I'm never going back to the old way. 8:16:31 PM
Monday, August 23, 2004
The TiVo brought you "time shifting" and now Sling Media brings you "place shifting"
The idea is simple: hook up the little $200 box to your TiVo or your cable box and connect it to your home internet. Then, when you're out and about, just pull up the client software on your PDA or laptop. SlingBox's software will detect the quality and throughput of your connection and shoot you our a recompressed, digital stream of whatever analog signal you could be watching at home. It would even work on cellphones, they say, if the bandwidth were there (and it will be Real Soon Now) [Gizmodo].
This is a very intriguing concept. This needs to all be integrated into a single home device that stores all of your media, including audio, video and pictures, and allows you to navigate and view them anywhere. As soon as someone comes up with that device and makes it easy to use, I will buy it. 7:50:44 PM
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
For those of us who were wondering what the heck it is that Andrea was doing to that guy in that photo [Seattle Times], I asked her and this is my version of what she told me.
Apparently, when Indians speak English, they often times don't produce the puffs of air that American or other English speakers will make for letters such as 'p'. To help them make the sound properly, one technique is to put a piece of paper in front of the speaker to give them a visual indication of how much of a puff they made when saying certain words.
I looked this up on Google and found that this is called "aspiration":
Aspiration Is the sound pronounced with an accompanying puff of air? Place your hand in front of your mouth. (Pretend you're hiding a yawn.) Say "pit". Say "bit". See the difference? If you're a native speaker of English you sure will, because in English, the voiceless stops (of which /p/ is one) are always aspirated when they're the initial consonant. Say "pit" again, then say "spit". See the difference? You're more likely to spit on your listeners when saying pit than spit, because the s before p in spit makes the p unaspirated. Why don't we aspirate the /b/ in bit? Mainly because it's a voiced consonant, meaning the vocal cords vibrate, and to do so they must close - which means they can't let through that puff of air that follows the /p/! It's not impossible to aspirate a voiced consonant, though. Sanskrit (and proto-Indo-European) had aspirated voiced stops: bh, dh, etc., as in "Mahabharata" (great book, by the way...) [Fictional Linguistics].
I guess she wasn't punching the guy afterall... 3:36:44 PM
This is kinda cool. Some people came to our offices a couple of weeks ago and filmed some footage that is being featured on the Windows Media website [footage
]. 3:23:08 PM
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Interested in knowing the schedule for various soccer events and leagues around the world? This site compiles a number of them into one place so you can see what's going on at a glance [Summers Restaurant
]. 10:57:16 AM
Monday, August 16, 2004
Some of the guys at work were very curious about Andrea's "training" techniques. Some in-depth research uncovered the following image exposing the truth.
Last year, Andrea was interviewed by the Seattle Times in her role working for Microsoft in Bangalore, India. They finally printed the article [Microsoft's call-center business in India gets an American accent]. The question we're all asking is; why is she sticking that paper so close to that guy's face?
The responses that people have to outsourcing are varied and driven greatly by emotional responses to the subject. The perception is that outsourcing is going to result in jobs lost in the US. The protectionist reaction is to say that outsourcing is bad and that we should protect ourselves. What I see is that this response is typical of people's reaction to most technological changes. Outsourcing is, in reality, driven by technological changes. The ability to travel and to communicate over distances has made outsourcing a feasible alternative over requiring all work to be done locally.
Will it result in jobs being lost in the US? Almost definitely. Is that a bad thing? It depends on how you look at it. If the jobs are not replaced, then it will be a bad thing. History has shown a trend where technological shifts cause temporary dispacement and rearragement of employment opportunities, but in the long run new jobs are created. A more important question, to my way of thinking is; will the jobs that are created as a result of outsourcing be comparable to the jobs that were sent overseas? That is a hard question to ask and I guess only time will tell. 11:06:31 AM