Tag Archive for Software

Software I’ve been playing with — vagrant, photozone, linux perf tools, cuda, etc

  • I think I will end up loving Vagrant. I shift my work across a lot of machines and being able to bring my entire dev environment with me seems like a great thing. Really this is the way I’d like all my apps to work. In case you are not clear why Vagrant is good, here is a snippet from their site:

If you’re a developer, Vagrant will isolate dependencies and their configuration within a single disposable, consistent environment, without sacrificing any of the tools you’re used to working with (editors, browsers, debuggers, etc.). Once you or someone else creates a single Vagrantfile, you just need to vagrant up and everything is installed and configured for you to work. Other members of your team create their development environments from the same configuration, so whether you’re working on Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows, all your team members are running code in the same environment, against the same dependencies, all configured the same way. Say goodbye to “works on my machine” bugs.

Software (mostly) on my to-play-with list — Circuitlab, Paintcode, Pressgram, Tabular, …

  • CircuitLab — worth watching. Today it is kind of a toy, but if this could grow, say, into a tool that would let me design and emulate SOC-based systems, and then outsource the parts supply, circuit board mfr, and even assembly of them, well that could be cool.
  • PaintCode — if I was doing iOS/osx app development, this seems like a must have. Laying out visuals and then creating all the boilerplate framework is tedious and boring.
  • Pressgram — Love this idea. Never understand why people gift content to other branded services, this lets people own and control their own content.
  • Some Ecards Store — I’d like to buy a bunch of the coffee mugs and stock our office with them.
  • Tabular — I don’t have enough time (or, to be honest, enough skill) to engage in my secret desire to compose music, but if I did…
  • 2 factor Apple ID auth — purportedly you can turn this on but it has been a failure for me, apple claims i set some security question answers that i have never seen before, and now I am locked out of my account after too many tries. Awesome.
  • WindowsRT jailbreak tool — something to do with my stupid surface machine

Software I’m dorking around with, waiting for the Seahawks kickoff

* Great list of tools from Patrick Rhone at “MinimalMac”:http://minimalmac.com/post/38230590462/some-tools-that-made-my-computing-life-better-in-2012. Installed doublepane right away.
* “Infoxicate”:infoxicate.com seems like it could be IFTTT only really useful. Tho seems to be just a concept so far.
* Powerpoint is so dull. I love “Haiku Deck”:http://www.haikudeck.com. And “Timeline”:http://www.beedocs.com seems interesting. Both seem to really highlight the story and emotions of a story, unlike powerpoint which creates seas of dot points.
* I want an “Eve Alpha”:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ciseco/eve-alpha-raspberry-pi-wireless-development-hardwa. Not sure why.
* I should have followed @randfish’s guidance and made some “minted photo calendars”:http://www.minted.com/photo-calendars this year.
* If someone starts challenging your database knowledge, whip “this chart”:http://gigaom.com/cloud/confused-by-the-glut-of-new-databases-heres-a-map-for-you/ out. And hit them with it.
* “Tinybasic for raspberrypi”:http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/2277. Historically this was an important inflection point.

Programmable behavior everywhere, in everything.

“A nice article”:http://radar.oreilly.com/2012/11/to-eat-or-be-eaten.html from @mikeloukides that extends on the “software is eating the world” idea, and talks about how the world is eating software. Programmable behaviour is getting stuffed into everything, and the trend is just going to accelerate.

I’ve got a pile of computers on my desk right now — Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, Beaglebones. They just keep getting cheaper. And faster. And lower power. And re-imagined in new form factors — go look at the number of Arduino variants you can buy. And I’ve got a pile of super cheap sensors on my desk — cameras, audio, pressure, temperature, humidity, IR, you name it. Computing and sensing is getting so cheap, it is going to be embedded everywhere — and not just in the obvious places, but in objects made of “fabric or paper or wood”:http://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=3794, or in “plastics”:http://www.3ders.org//articles/20121122-printing-electronic-sensors-using-low-cost-3d-printers.html. This last one is really fascinating, combining 3d prototyping and electronic behavior, I can’t wait to play around with this.

And the world is getting more capability to build these devices. Prototyping with 3d printers. Funding bootstrapping by Kickstarter and its ilk (for example “circuits.io”:http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2012/11/28/circuits-io-kickstarter-like-electronics-funding-raspberry_pi-robotic-shield-on-launch/). Easy sourcing via services like “Maker’s Row”:http://makersrow.com.

Exciting times. I got involved with personal computers because I was excited about bringing computing power to everyone. This next wave of bringing computing power into everything seems even more exciting.

Trying to get set up a Raspberry Pi dev environment on OSX

I’ve been trying to get a Raspberry Pi dev environment set up on OSX. I’d like to have a cross compiler, a full linux build, an emulator all operational.

There is a pretty clear outline at “RPIforum from earlier this summer”:http://www.rpiforum.net/forum/tutorials/article/16-a-raspberry-pi-emulated-environment-on-osx-lion/. I’ve had partial success:

* Install Xcode and Xcode command line tools. No problem, I had these around anyway
* Install “homebrew”:http://mxcl.github.com/homebrew/. A package manager for OSX, a good thing to have. Installing this is what finally “broke my existing flawed OSX install”:http://theludwigs.com/2012/09/beware-the-osx-migration-assistant/ and drove me to reinstall OSX. But installed super cleanly once I had a fresh OSX
* Install the dependencies for ARM toolchain: brew install mpfr gmp libmpc libelf texinfo. There is a known error with mpfr compilation, so reinstall that with flags “per homewbrew wiki”:https://github.com/mxcl/homebrew/issues/15061.
* Then install the Arm tools. BTW, you can’t just copy and past the script from the RPI forum page because of the damn smart quotes — echo “export PATH=$HOME/rpi/arm-cs-tools/bin:$PATH” » ~/.bash_profile will utterly fail
* Then compile kernel. This step is unfortunately failing late in the process, I think at the linking stage. Still digging into. I have tried an alternative recipe at “the elinux site”:elinux.org/RPi_Kernel_Compilation, it fails as well, in both cases unhappy with the vmlinux file.
* Then install the qemu emulator. the rpi forum recipe is missing a dash, should be a double dash in front of the use-gcc flag i believe. works fine with that change

So I feel close. Just need to dig into the kernel compile problem. Here are the details, I need to study the make file to figure out exactly where this occurs:

==> make ARCH=arm CROSS_COMPILE=~/rpi/arm-cs-tools/bin/arm-none-eabi- -k > compile.txt
size: file: arch/arm/boot/compressed/../../../../vmlinux is not an object file
size: file: arch/arm/boot/compressed/../../../../vmlinux is not an object file
size: file: arch/arm/boot/compressed/../../../../vmlinux is not an object file
size: file: arch/arm/boot/compressed/../../../../vmlinux is not an object file
arch/arm/boot/compressed/vmlinux.lds:77: undefined symbol `__OBJC' referenced in expression
make[2]: *** [arch/arm/boot/compressed/vmlinux] Error 1
make[1]: *** [arch/arm/boot/compressed/vmlinux] Error 2
make[1]: Target `arch/arm/boot/zImage' not remade because of errors.
make: *** [zImage] Error 2
make: Target `_all' not remade because of errors.

Stuff I’ve been dorking around with — Halloween, SBCs, IPFire, Cliplet, TFA

* Halloween is soon, and “MonsterGuts”:http://monsterguts.com/index.php always has great props and prop controllers if you just want to buy something and get it working right away. Their thunder and lighting controllers are great, I’ve used for years. I don’t know if I am doing any Halloween display this year but I do love all the stuff up here. But sometimes you just want to build your own effects from the ground up, so…
* “Raspberry Pi”:http://www.raspberrypi.org/. A $25 linx SBC, very cool. But you can’t get one of the damn things, they are as rare as hen’s teeth. So I’ve been reading, but not actually playing with one. So in the meantime
* “Arduino”:http://www.arduino.cc/. You can get these by the bushel, and there are a ton of accessories — sensors, actuators, add on boards, you name it. “Adafruit”:http://adafruit.com/ and “Sparkfun”:http://www.sparkfun.com/ both have all kinds of addons and kits. I could spend thousands here. The LED and EL lighting products are kind of amazing.
* Atom motherboards. You can’t find a Raspberry Pi and the Arduino is too underpowered? Well there are a ton of Atom motherboards with great prices, case or caseless, etc. I’m building a couple different appliances.
* Starting to play with “KVM”:http://www.linux-kvm.org/page/Main_Page a little too, some of the Atom motherboards support. No strong reason, just to learn.
* “IPFire”:http://www.ipfire.org/. One of my boxes is running IPFire so I can monitor and control net traffic at a finegrained level. “pfsense”:http://www.pfsense.org/ is another way to go but I found it be much more finicky to install (probably due to BSD roots).
* “Cinemagraphs using the MSFT Cliplet tool”:http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/projects/cliplets/. These are kind of fun. Opens your eyes to the future of photo taking and photo postprocessing. Increasingly I think our cameras will just capture a continuous high res data stream and then smart software will extract the interesting views.
* I’ve gone 2 factor authentication nuts, turning it on everywhere I can. It does make stuff a little more painful to use but probably worth it. Facebook does seem a little confused, I can’t get it to remember machines I’ve used, and so it keeps asking me to name new machines so it can remember them. I have 37 login machines on facebook now, :(

Watching TV on the iPad

I pay a large amount to Comcast/Xfinity each month to view nearly their entire lineup (ex non-English channels) at our home. And because we pay for a Time-Warner Cable sub as a gift for a family member, I also have access to a TWC account. A lot of dollars per month.

I’d like to watch all this content on my iPad when I am in a room with no tv or when I am out of the house, and I don’t feel like that is an unreasonable expectation given the dollars I spend.

So how do I watch on the iPad? Well as a start I downloaded as many of the branded apps for various channels and distributors as I could find.

* Xfinity TV app. Sounds great but is not useful. Basically a super duper remote control if I am in a room with a Xfinity branded settop box. Doesn’t let me see video, doesn’t do anything if I am out of the room. And since I am mostly a TiVo house, basically not much utility here. I had hoped/expected that Xfinity would give me an iPad app that basically acted as a dvr+tv, and would let me see all my streaming xfinity content. I was wrong.
* TiVo iPad app. Looks nice and for some things — remotely managing my scheduled recordings — it is fine. But for watching video? It blows. Apparently I need to have my TiVo and iPad on the same wifi network, and none of my tivos are on wifi, so I can’t watch video.
* Showtime app. Performs a distributor validation, only works on AT&T Uverse and Verizon networks. Seriously? I am paying a ton for Showtime access and you guys are going to squabble with Comcast and deny me this service?
* HBO Go. A reasonable app. Works on Comcast and works anywhere as near as I can tell, I can watch shows anywhere. So this is great but if the world we end up in is 57 separate apps, one per channel, each with their own UI and login, that will kind of suck. Imagine if your tv had no single guide but per-channel guides which each worked differently, and then different remotes for each channel. Barf.
* NBC. A decent experience. Seems to have all their recent shows, no crazy access control. Yes you have to watch ads but that is ok with me, I have to watch ads on TV too.
* WatchESPN — nice when it works, but only on TWC, Verizon, Brighthouse. Another case of distributors squabbling and screwing users.
* btn2go. no comcast. More distributor squabbling
* CBS sports. Claims to have live seasonal NCAAFB and NCAABB content. We will see.

So — I get very little of my content; I am prevented from getting a lot of choices due to squabbling between various members of the distribution chain; when I do get content, it is spewed across many different apps with all kinds of different UIs, guides, control interfaces, etc.

The whole set of players is really underdelivering to me. Is it any wonder people just seek out torrents?

Saturday morning software tools roundup

Stuff I recently saw which intrigued…

* “GeometricTools”:http://geometrictools.com (via @donpark) — great repository of code snippets for math and geo operations.
* “How to find freely usable photos on the net”:http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505143_162-57399598/how-to-find-photos-you-can-legally-use-anywhere/ — excellent tips, I’d been using Wikimedia Commons as well (thanks @ellegold)
* “The Lean Startup Bundle”:http://www.appsumo.com/lean2012/?gid=WzYsIDM2MCwgIjIwMTIwMzI5MTE1NCIsICJ0dyIsICJib3RkZXRhaWwiLCBudWxsLCAiZWtpIl0= OK I hope to gosh I would never need all these things but some good ideas in here
* Step by step diffeq solutions in “WolframAlpha”:http://blog.wolframalpha.com/2012/01/30/step-by-step-differential-equation-solutions-in-wolframalpha/. What a resource.
* Charlie Kindel articulates “why I need to flip to Powershell”:http://ceklog.kindel.com/2012/03/25/update-coping-with-the-oss-command-line-on-windows/ on my Windows box. He also makes a strong case for switching to “Sublime Text 2″:http://www.sublimetext.com/2

Yes the retina display iPad is beautiful, but the software is starting to feel dated

OK I am completely conflating issues in this post but that accurately reflects my state of mind.

Like everyone else has said, the new screen is beautiful, the pad does run a little hot, the extra weight and thickness is a little noticeable, blah blah blah. Nothing new to add here. For me, the greatest impact is on the readability of text in retina-enabled apps, it really is easier n the eye. And kind of bizarrely, the few iPhone apps I use on the iPad now look really nice when blown up to full screen, they no longer look clunky.

To the point, tho, the iPad hardware continues to improve and I find myself using the iPad more and more.

However iOS is starting to feel dated. The iPad is delivering a Windows 3.x shell experience — a big beautiful screen and all it shows is a sea of spaced icons. And when you tap them, you get full screen apps, it is actually like earlier versions of Windows.

This works fine if you are basically just launching full screen games, videos, and books all day, which is admittedly the greatest part of iPad use for most people. But i actually have to do some real work in my life, I need to accomplish things. I need a tablet that is a little more productive. Right now if i want to work on a project, I have to navigate a sea of apps, and all the project details are spread around in a million places — I’ve got notes in Evernote and docs in Dropbox and Keynote/iCloud and relevant emails in Mail and todo lists in several places. It is not a great experience dealing with all this — hop into mail or evernote to see what I should be working on (and navigate the folder/tag hierarchies in those as necessary), then hop over somewhere else to work on a doc, meanwhile fighting off distractions from other incoming mail or whatever. My projects and my tasks take a distinct backseat to the app hierarchy and that seems wrong. I’d like to have a screen per project — slide over to my screen with all the things i am working on with respect to a portfolio company, and i could see the docs i need to work on, my todo list, upcoming meeting dates, and the latest email thread, and i could send notes and work on docs right there. or slide over to my maker project at home and work on that. or to home remodel project screen where i can see the plan docs, the latest email, the upcoming schedule and discussion items, etc.

I also want all my data to sync everywhere. If I have a project I am working on, I should be able to go to a folder on my desktop machine and see all the related files. And these should all be available on my work machine, my home machine, wherever. Right now I have content stored in Evernote and synced across all my machines, in Dropbox and synced across all my machines, in iCloud synced across all my machines. If I want to get all the content and files for a project, well good luck. None of these storage solutions are really working the way I want to work. Evernote does a nice job keeping everything ordered by folder and project, and has a nice UI, but it is work to get content in and out of evernote and into other apps. Dropbox has the very natural folder-on-the-desktop model which makes it super easy to use with a million apps, but my Dropbox folder is now chaos with all kinds of random stuff intermixed, apps creating their own confusing folder hierarchies (Byline I am looking at you), and it is just chaos. iCloud also keeps stuff stored by app, not by project, and is just further fracturing my storage.

So to summarize, I want a very project-centric experience, with transparent and complete syncing of project files and contents across all machines, and I want all my apps to work with the same project contents. I could use a web product like “OneHub”:www.onehub.com (an Ignition investment) and they have a good ipad app, and this may be the way to go, I am seriously considering. Box.net is too expensive, Basecamp doesn’t have an iPad app. All these solutions have a lot of great collaboration support but that is secondary for me — I just want to keep my own life in order and get my own stuff done. The iPad and current cloud storage solutions aren’t really helping me to focus, keep things ordered, and get things done.

Win 8 first impressions — bold move by MSFT, not sure what it does for me

I’m playing with Windows 8. If you are going to go down this path, some “tips to get started”:http://www.edbott.com/weblog/2012/03/where-is-the-windows-8-consumer-preview-product-key/.

I’ve had lots of troubles installing. The “same error repeatedly writing the OS to my disk”:http://theludwigs.com/2012/03/3-failed-attempts-to-install-win8-preview-and-i-am-giving-up/, tho judging by lack of internet hits on the error code, this is unique to me. The error went away for a while but came back. My machine is rock solid under Win7, has never given me a moment’s problem, but something about the hardware is making win8 install unhappy. I reformatted my hard disk, and then replaced it with a brand new one; updated my bios; tried install off of USB and DVD media; downloaded multiple install images; tried a virtual HD instead of a physical disk; ran a thorough memtest; and it still failed. I finally moved to a VirtualBox VM install and this worked, but it really limits the experience. Some MSFT guys are trying to help me, but no solutions yet.

Maybe an upgrade install would have worked better, but I am sure not going to try that at this point.

So, impressions? Impressions:

* Despite my install troubles the product basically feels solid. Seems like quality won’t prevent MSFT from shipping.
* My multi-monitor setup seems kind of ideal. Monitor 1 is a new Dell ST2220t 21.5 inch touch screen LCD which is great for playing with the Metro interface, and then my existing 27″ monitor. This lets me run Metro on the touch screen and classic Windows on the 27″.
* As with any new version of windows, it feels a little like MSFT moved stuff around just for the sake of moving stuff around. The “fins and chrome” strategy. Maybe(?) I am getting old, but this all just kind of makes me cranky. The number of articles on the net explaining just how to shut down Win8 is kind of telling.
* Metro at one level is basically a replacement for the start menu and task bar. It is an odd experience on a big screen. 27″ of minimalist primary color blocks doesn’t seem very helpful. Even on a 21.5″ it seems wrong. I can’t say I love it. And as mentioned above, it seems different for different’s sake.
* then you have the metro apps. they are fine and if I could get 5-6 on the screen at once it might be cool. but again on a big screen they seem kind of strange and wasteful. I really don’t need a weather applet blown up to 27″.
* And then the combo of Metro and classic Windows in one system is just kind of jarring and inexplicable. Which IE version do I use and why? Which version of Evernote?

Some reviewers love it — “for instance the Chicago Sun-Times”:http://www.suntimes.com/technology/ihnatko/10992191-452/windows-8-and-metro-show-true-multiplatform-os-promise.html. Others not so much — “The Guardian”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2012/mar/05/windows-8-desktop-experience. I’m kind of more towards the Guardian view.

Overall, MSFT is being pretty bold here. Win8 is certainly pushing a new UI and you have to give credit for MSFT for trying out something new. It is probably a great UI on smaller form factors, and that might be the right device for MSFT to prioritize, given user trends and MSFT’s weakness to date on those devices. But it feels like an odd fit for larger screens and for existing Windows users, and so there is some risk in selling it to that user base. I understand why the risk makes sense for Microsoft, they have to create some momentum and innovation on mobile devices. I’m not sure why it makes sense for me, I don’t see a reason to be obviously happier with Win8 than I am with Win7.

I like Udacity but I am dropping out.

So I’m 2 weeks into my first “Udacity”:www.udacity.com and I’m impressed with the quality of the courseware. The instructor is engaging, the videos are good, the pacing of video and interactive content keeps you engaged, the instruction is derived in bite size pieces which really works.

All that said, I am abandoning the course. It is targeted at too junior a level and the pacing is too slow. This is going to be a general problem for online instruction — the students are going to have varied backgrounds, it will be hard to target materials. And grading a course puts a huge constraint on overall course pacing which is what is driving me out. I’d like to fly ahead on the material but that is not the way the course works.

Still a great and valuable first effort.

Great visit to Tier3 this week

I had the chance to meet “Jared Wray”:http://www.jaredwray.com/ at “Tier3″:http://tier3.com/ (one of our portfolio investments) on Friday and I was incredibly energized by the meeting. Jared is a star and Tier3 has a huge future.

I’m not generally an enterprise IT guy. I’ve worn an IT hat at times, but always for small businesses or small offices. I’ve done some enterprise app development, but eons ago. I’ve worked on software teams that have sold into enterprises and have spent time working on features to support enterprises, so I have some sense of their issues, but I am no expert. So take my views with a grain of salt.

With that caveat — wow have these guys done a terrific job creating a relevant cloud offering for enterprises. It seems super easy to roll apps out to their service because Tier3 supports a huge range of enterprise software with preconfigured orchestration blueprints for setting it all up; they support enterprise security requirements, they understand and provide great monitoring, they provide enterprise SLAs, all while delivering the great cloud attributes like elasticity. And with their new “service provider partners”:http://blog.tier3.com/index.php/2012/02/federated-cloud-release-tier-3-cfn-services, there are going to be a ton of hosting options in locations that work for enterprises, to serve the need to “hug your servers”.

It seems like a no brainer for people to try and adopt Tier3:

* If you are in enterprise IT and want to move some of your apps to the cloud, this seems like the way to go. Or at least consider. And with great “no-cost self service activation”:https://www.tier3.com/Activate/, there is really no reason not to try.
* If you are a startup targeting the enterprise, Tier3 provides an environment giving you access to the computing environment of the enterprise. Again free to sign up and a pay as you go model, so why not try?
* If you are a service provider and want to provide enterprise grade services for your enterprise customers, a great set of services available for adoption.

We (Ignition) really have to step up and help Tier3 get the word out about what they are doing. They are already growing at a great clip but we can and should help them do more. They need great people in sales, marketing, and product development. And they need trials from customers and feedback.

Very exciting, great to be working with these guys.

Marcelo articulates the case for an online IDE

“The Future of Software Development Will Be Online”:http://blog.calbucci.com/2012/02/future-of-software-development-will-be.html — very nice articulation from Marcelo on the need for a browser-based IDE.

Tho I think calling it “browser-based” kind of confuses the issue. Do I really want my IDE to be in a browser, or my spreadsheet or presentation package to be in a browser? I’m not really in love with my browser UI, but that is not the point. For me, the #1 feature I need for productivity apps these days is ubiquitous availability. I need to use them at work, at home, on the road, from my iPad, my phone, my Mac, my PC, wherever. I will give up a lot of features to get ubiquitous availability. And I get to move the backup burden to someone else — my machines all become stateless, I can replace them tomorrow and become instantly productive. This is all super goodness.

And from the comments, “cloud9″:http://c9.io/ looks like the cloud IDE to try — looks awesome.

41megapixel camera! Where does it end — gigapixel cameras? Terapixel?

So, a “41 megapixel camera phone from Nokia”:http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Nokia-808-PureView-41-megapixel-Camera-Phone,news-14288.html, pretty amazing. The improvement in camera phones over the last 5 years has been amazing. Moore’s law has driven the cost of camera chipsets into the ground, and their performance has continued to increase. Just like the earlier digital camera wave destroyed the film/processing/prints business, now the smartphone+software combo is destroying the digital point-and-shoot camera market. Moore’s law is a powerful force.

Higher-end cameras are being transformed as well. DSLRs are under assault by the new breed of mirrorless camera bodies. Sensors are getting good enough as are the LED/LCD viewfinders, permitting a shift to these new smaller platforms. This shift will take a little longer because of people’s investments in lenses, but it is underway.

Both of these shifts are about software and silicon, driven by Moore’s Law, eating away the mechanics of the camera. I suspect that we are in for even more dramatic changes, Moore’s Law is still hard at work. There are still a lot of mechanical parts in these cameras, and a lot of error-prone human involvement in composing, aiming, and timing image capture. As the cost of processing and memory continue to drop, how else might be picture-taking be transformed?

* The Lytro (supposed to arrive this month) is attacking some of the lens mechanism via silicon. Rather than having a complex mechanism to direct just the photons you want to the capture surface, the Lytro captures a broader set of photons and does all the focusing post-capture. It is early days but we seem to be heading for cameras that capture all the incident photons (frequency, phase, angle of incidence) and let you assemble the photo you want later.
* Photo timing still requires a lot of human involvement, and is a source of many lost photos for exposure reasons and mistiming of the photo. This seems to be great opportunity area — the camera could use the shutter button as a hint, continually grab an image stream, save the couple seconds around the hint, and use software to find the best one. The realities of battery life may be the limiting factor here.
* Cameras can also take a hint from computers. Rather than making bigger and faster processors, we’ve moved to 4-core and 8-core and beyond. At the whole system level, we get better graphics performance by using SLI or other techniques to do use multiple GPUs. Rather than having bigger and bigger sensors, it seems likely that cameras will move to multiple sensors. Bonded together to create one image, or spread around the camera body. Why? Well this could be used for 3d cameras — Fuji has some commercial 3D cameras, and there are a lot of “research efforts”:http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010ITEIS.130.1561N. Or to create HDR cameras — cameras that capture multiple exposure images at once. Or crazy “spider eye-inspired 3d and focus”:http://www.petapixel.com/2012/01/27/jumping-spiders-eyes-may-inspire-new-camera-technologies/.
* Maybe cameras can eliminate the whole sighting and composition step, you could just kind of point your camera in the broad direction you want and snap. Maybe the camera can have sensors on all sides, you could just kind of wave your camera cube around. We are headed for a point where sensors are basically free, so I’d expect a lot of innovation in placement and number of them.

So if a future camera is taking kaboodles of images in all directions all the time because sensors and local memory and processing power is free, what will be the constraining factors in taking and using pictures? Well battery life and bandwidth will still be realities. And software. We will need software that can deal with an explosion of photo and video content. I have a lot of photos today, 50K or so, it is a management struggle. What if I have 500K? 5M? What if a business has billions of photos, billions of minutes of video? How do people find their way thru the flood to find the best pictures, to stitch together pictures and videos from different sources into a coherent whole? What post-processing takes place to clean up the pictures, fix up composition, correct errors, etc? And how do you search across everyone’s gigantic photo streams to find the photos you really want to see? Investing in “big data for pictures/video” should be a durable investment thesis.

I’m not clear how it all plays out, but I feel pretty certain that Moore’s law will insure that the way we take and use pictures will be dramatically different in 20 years. A gigapixel camera might be nice but I suspect the silicon and software will be used not to just crank up resolution, but to address the other steps in taking pictures — composition, timing, exposure, aiming, post-processing, finding, sharing, etc.

MSFT’s biggest miss — another facet of MSFT’s stagnation

“Microsoft’s biggest miss”:http://minimalmac.com/post/17758177061/microsofts-biggest-miss is a nice discussion of another issue for the company, the slippage in relevance of Office.

I can’t speak to the whole market, but my document composition has moved almost entirely to vehicles like Evernote, Dropbox-hosted apps, Google Docs, and draft emails because the absolute #1 feature I need is document availability from everywhere — work machine, home machine, iPad, phone, kiosk, etc. No other document composition feature even comes close for me, I’m happy to use simple Markdown syntax for formatting. Office has started to embrace this issue but it is a little too late, I’ve kind of moved on.

The individual Office apps are still great apps. And it is still hard to not have Office on a machine with all the inbound Excel and PPT files, so I am still an Office buyer. But it feels like this kind of buying behaviour will collapse at some point — the viewers in Mac Mail for instance aren’t terrible.

The day you stop learning is the day you start dying

My grandfather once told me “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” I’ve had a lifelong commitment to education and I am still learning every day. There is so much going on in education, the choices are broader every day, with so many efforts to increase access and lower costs. Some things I’ve been learning about:

* played around this weekend with Apple’s new ibook publisher — Tons of coverage of the event announcing this week, see for instance http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/19/apple-textbook-event/. The goal is noble — allow millions of people to create textbooks, targeting the iPad of course, and dramatically cut the price of textbooks, and the carrying weight of textbooks. The tool works although it is a little buggy yet. I made a first textbook — basically i poured all the portfolio company summaries from the ignition partners website into a textbook format (a tool that would automatically pour CMS content into a textbook would be handy). These textbooks are really just another form of app for the iPad with a dev tool that is substantially friendlier to use than Xcode. If you can author a powerpoint presentation, you can author a textbook. There is nothing super revolutionary about the resultant products but this is a good step towards electronic textbooks.
* signed up for a course at udacity.com — We believe university-level education can be both high quality and low cost. Using the economics of the Internet, we’ve connected some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth. Know Labs was founded by three roboticists who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online for very low cost. A few weeks later, over 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in our first class, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” The class was twice profiled by the New York Times and also by other news media. Now we’re a growing team of educators and engineers, on a mission to change the future of education.
* thinking about taking a course at “Digipen”:https://www.digipen.edu/ as well. They’ve done great work, the team for Portal came out of Digipen.
* at Wolf’s advice, learning about the “Dalton research group at the UW”:http://depts.washington.edu/eooptic/. A traditional university setting but exciting content.

My brain’s a little tired but excited about the opportunities!

Recent software trials — Trello, PicScatter, Tivo iPad

* “Trello”:www.trello.com. I really want to like this, the simple notecard interface is nice. But a little too structured for me, I’d prefer basically free form notes and less database-y feel. And I need an iPad/iPhone app, an iPad version of this could be awesome. Maybe I just really want a little better organization tools in Evernote, I don’t use the Evernote folders and tags much, I don’t really understand when to use tags and when to use folders.
* “Picscatter”:http://picscatter.com/. Great way to create a Facebook timeline header picture.
* The Tivo iPad app seems to work very well. Way easier to use than the onscreen guide and tivo remote. I’ve also used the xfinity/comcast app which is not surprisingly a little clunkier. It is sad how marginalized Tivo has become tho, they really overplayed their hand. Tivo doesn’t seem to have created a win/win partnership opportunity with cable/satellite providers and so they have all created and pushed their own crappy DVRs. I am sure Apple has learned from their iPhone experience and Tivo’s missteps, I would expect Apple to create upside opportunity for their partners and to have much greater success than Tivo.

COD 1st day sales exceed $400M

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare sets first day sales record”:http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2011/11/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-3-sets-first-day-sales-record/1. What stunning numbers. I don’t think “Skyrim”:http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gamehunters/post/2011/11/review-the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim-a-magnificent-odyssey/1 will do the same but a huge week for online entertainment. There is clearly huge demand for great entertainment content, pretty much insatiable demand. And why not, these games give hours and hours of entertainment, the per-hour price is super low.

Recent gear I’ve been trying

* “PlugBug”:http://twelvesouth.com/products/plugbug/. Ordered two.
* “iZON”:http://steminnovation.com/section/iZON/24/. Sleek look, nice looking software, but some bugginess. When it all gets ironed out will be a fabulous product.
* “Orchestra”:orchestra.com. Nice todo list with voice input (might be rendered irrelevant by Siri but I’m not 4s yet). Thanks “chris”:http://twitter.com/#!/chrisfhoward
* “Batch”:batch.com. An Ignition investment. Nice photo sharing tool.
* “Exoplanet”:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/exoplanet/id327702034?mt=8. If you don’t love this, you have to turn in your nerd merit badge.
* “Drawtop”:http://thedrawtop.com/shop. Haven’t ordered yet but the simplicity of converting an unused flat surface into a whiteboard is so appealing.
* “Stepping into photos”:http://www.petapixel.com/2011/09/12/stepping-into-historical-photos-with-3d-camera-mapping/. No software to buy here, but I would buy in a second if there was something reasonably priced that would let me do this.
* “Lost Crates”:https://lostcrates.com/. Love the idea. Not sure it would work well in practice.
* “Voxatron”:humblebundle.com. What a nice looking indie game. Doesn’t quite suck me in the way Minecraft or Darwinia did, but excellent.
* “Findings”:https://findings.com/jhludwig. Thanks @crashdev, this should be just part of the Kindle experience.

A Monte Carlo Simulation of the Big10 Race

November is shaping up to be quite the race in the Big10, I have to say, the addition of divisions and a championship game have created a great new dynamic (and makes me rethink my objection to a playoff, hmmm.)

Many sites have written about all the permutations of possible teams in the championship game, and the surprising fact that OSU is not out of it, and in fact has a very good shot at making the game. Being a bit of a nerd, I decided to play around with a “Monte Carlo simulation”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monte_Carlo_method of the race to the championship game.

I wrote a little C program that does any arbitrary number of iterations of the rest of the season and examines the results to determine the championship game participants. The outcome of each game is determined randomly — a random number is selected from 0-1 and used as an index against the a priori probability (as made up by me) that each team would win the game. I.E., if you believe Northwestern has a 70% chance of beating Minnesota, then any random number from 0 to .7 implies a Northwestern win. I used the c rand function with a time-based seeding on each run, please no complaints about the quality of my random numbers, I am just simulating football games for gosh sakes. I toyed around with the a priori probabilities a little to see how sensitive the outcomes were. And then at the end of the season, I apply all the tiebreakers if necessary to see what teams represent the divisions in the title game. I ran the simulation 1000 times, and a few runs of 10,000 trials just for yuks. The 1000 run simulation

So — the Legends division. Not surprisingly, due to the weakness of their remaining schedule, MSU is the title game rep ~2/3rds of the time. Nebraska about ~1/3, and Michigan picks up a smattering (1%) of appearances. Since Michigan has already lost to MSU, if they ever end up tied in the standings, MSU always takes the spot. Michigan needs MSU and Nebraska to both falter (and can control the Nebraska since they have yet to play) and also needs to beat OSU, Illinois, Iowa. A tough road. This weekend’s play won’t shake things up much, the most interesting game is the Michigan-Iowa game, I would have picked Iowa a week ago but losing to Minnesota has shaken my faith in the F(erentz) Troop. The Nov 12th weekend will be more entertaining — MSU@Iowa, Michigan@Illinois, Nebraska@PSU. And then Nebraska@Michigan Nov 19th. It seems unlikely that Michigan will still be in the hunt by the time of the Ohio State game.

The Leaders division is far more interesting. PSU has the inside track, no surprise being up 2 games on everyone else at this point. They take the title game spot 30-60% of the time, depending on how you view the likelihood of them winning their remaining games. If you think they are a slight favorite in all their remaining games, then 60%. If you think they are a modest underdog, then 30%. OSU has a surprisingly good shot, 20-25%, depending on how you rate their odds against Michigan and PSU, and because they are in a good tiebreaker position having beaten Wisconsin. Wisconsin picks up the pieces and has the weakest chance due to the OSU loss. The Nov 5th weekend will likely teach us nothing as PSU has a bye, OSU has Indiana, Wisconsin has Purdue. The Nov 12th Nebraska@PSU game is one to watch, and then Nov 19th with Wisconsin@Illinois and PSU@OSU is a defining weekend. There is a very real chance that on the final weekend, all 3 teams need a win to make it to the game — OSU is at Michigan and PSU is at Wisconsin, so that should be a great day.