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Microsoft really is watching us all from above and even has a new way of doing so, thanks to this week's release of the UltraCam Falcon, a camera dedicated to aerial photography. The UltraCam comes from an Austrian Microsoft outpost that Redmond says “brings more than two decades of photogrammetry expertise to Microsoft’s Bing …

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Anonymous Coward

Makes note to check camouflage on the shark pens

Such is the life of a super villain these days.

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Re: Makes note to check camouflage on the shark pens

you might need to double check, if this is what you can get commercially, imagine what's been in secret military spy satellites all these years...

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Joke

Re: Makes note to check camouflage on the shark pens

You'll need to add just the right amount of hat-grade aluminium foil too; the radar sats used by the same crew who sell sat images to Google will see straight through your run-of-the-mill stuff and you'll end up with a tax demand for an unauthorized swimmingpool. Although thinking about it, that does mean free sharkfood when the tax man calls...

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Stop

Re: Makes note to check camouflage on the shark pens

"you might need to double check, if this is what you can get commercially, imagine what's been in secret military spy satellites all these years..."

Synthetic Aperture RADAR, of course. Cameras are for chumps.

Why else do you think NRO are giving away all those obsolete Hubble-sized mirrors?

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Devil

Alan Parsons Project sums it up....

I am the eye in the sky

Looking at you

I can read your mind

I am the maker of rules

Dealing with fools

I can cheat you blind

And I don't need to see any more

To know that I can read your mind, I can read your mind...

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and Apple?

Owning such a company isn't something we would not associate with Microsoft generally, but that they do, and they use the technology for their mapping application does bring into contrast the differing attitudes of our big technical companies.

IBM famously runs leading edge research, and even boasts the odd Nobel prize. Google isn't so focussed, but isn't adverse to bleeding edge and oddball efforts, including hardware, and spends pretty big. Microsoft spends pretty big, although seems to have an inbuilt ability to ignore most home-grown good stuff (rather like Xerox). Which leaves us with Apple. A point that rankles with this self confessed fanboi (and owner of many an iProduct.) Apple underspend on research, spending much less than the industry average, and vastly under the levels of the preceding companies. One might guess why they have been manifestly unable to get their heads around new - previously non-core product technologies - like maps.

Microsoft and Apple are well known for buying in technology, MS more than anyone. Which works fine if it is software, and the technology is thus of the same flavour as your core capabilities. But it takes something more if you are building a major new capability. This is what is worrying about Apple's Maps. Until we see the same sort of innovation as we see with Google and MS - actually doing research and pushing the edge in more than just software - we are not going to see a product capable of competing.

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Re: and Apple? - how about an edit botton????

"Owning such a company isn't something we would not associate" just ignore the word "not"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and Apple? - how about an edit botton????

It would have to be disabled after any replies have been added. Otherwise it could be abused in all kinds of interesting ways.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and Apple? - how about an edit botton????

And the word 'botton"

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Re: and Apple? - how about an edit botton????

The usual mechanism is to disable edits as soon as anyone replies to the post, or after a short timeout. It isn't as if this is a new problem or hasn't been solved many times before.

bUtton that was.

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Trollface

Re: and Apple?

You're rather overlooking Apple's valuable research into 'edge termination blended geometry,' before which mobile telephone users risked injury and discomfort due to sharp protrusions at the extremities of their devices.

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Re: and Apple?

Apple however excel at timing. As William Gibson wrote: "the Future is here, it's just not widely distributed." In between a new technology being released and being widely uptaken, comes the Apple. They have a history of this. Look at the iPod. Were there other MP3 players out there? Yes. They were just starting to take off when Apple came in with a really polished version with a great interface and swept up. They did it again with smartphones. Lots of players starting to bring out all the right pieces for smartphone technology, lots of devices starting to appear that had the right features. Then Apple took most of the good bits, stitched them together more seamlessly than anyone else had and marketed the Hell out of it - iPhone. A really good device that wasn't ground-breaking technologically, but hit at just the right time and was more polished than anyone else's efforts. Ultrabooks - the technology reached the right point for really thin, really light laptops and wham - Apple shot in with those really skinny Macbooks.

Apple do fund innovation. The Thunderbolt interface is impressive and whilst they didn't develop it, ultimately the cost was bourne by them because they licenced it. But generally, Apple haven't suffered too much by reaping what others sow. Apple take what others do and make it a little bit nicer (for most people's tastes, anyway). Apple might have had a rare misstep with their maps, but they really had no choice on that and all they really need is more and better data in it - the program is okay, I've heard. Apple maps as a joke on echo chambers like the Reg forums will persist long after the product itself reaches parity with Google and Bing maps (they'll have longer to go to catch Nokia, mind you). But aside from that, they've done really well without massive R&D into brand new technologies (they put it into refining existing).

I think they're about to get leap-frogged semi-badly by the WP8 UI and Android is going to continue battering them in terms of sales, even if not image. But they'll be back. When the timing's right. ;)

...Hey, I jut noticed! Didn't their used to be a icon of Steve Jobs with a halo? Was it removed now that it would be in bad taste?

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Re: and Apple?

The R&D fringes of MS have become borderline cool. There's a lot of junk - they had a whole division devoted to libraries and digital publishing which was canned in short order - but between Kinect and its likely descendants, this mapping tech, and a few other hardware projects there's potential for a new not-stupid MS which is more interesting and shiny than the Gates Windows/Office MSZilla of the 90s.

As for Apple - a genius marketing company no longer run by a genius marketer.

iOS 7 had better cream the world or it's going to be the start of an accelerating decline into HP and Yahoo! territory.

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Childcatcher

Re: and Apple?

"Apple might have had a rare misstep with their maps..."

No, Apple has made plenty of missteps in the past (the QuickTake, their handling of support for licensed Mac clone makers, et cetera). We tend to forget these in contrast to their arguably great successes - they were unmemorable, after all. Their MP3 player, phone and tablet lines have been the cash cow that MS enjoyed with Office and Windows. Like MS, they can coast on that success, but if they do not continue to build on what they have done or to refine what others have, they will have the same problems that MS faces now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and Apple?

Many companies "buy in" technology, IBM for instance have made over 100 purchases of companies for their software division since 1995. To characteristic these as exclusively buying technology that can't be developed in-house is not entirely fair. Many companies are partnered with and supported while products are being developed as they are more nimble and can react faster than large behemoths like IBM, MS, HP, etc. Once the products are sufficiently developed and before hostile take-overs happen the smaller company is bought up by the larger.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and Apple?

@TheOtherHobbes - You do know that Gates is still chairman of MS? I would find it extremely unlikely that he doesn't have quite a big say in what happens there.

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3.3 TB?

So, assuming a full day's surveying is conducted, and you do capture 3.3 TB worth of data, presumably your mission base will need a reasonable data link to shift the data if you're conducting daily surveys. Presumably gigabit quality links. Or sneakernet.

Id love to know how they go about shifting data from the aircraft to the ground station to the cloud.

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Joke

Re: 3.3 TB?

Shifting the data is easy. You skip the ground station and just open the window, you are already in the cloud layer

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Re: 3.3 TB?

Why would you care?

It's not a question of just throwing those TIFF's into a website and hey presto, no matter what this article might state. There's an awful lot of processing, correlation, removing duff/duplicate data, censoring, resolution reduction, lining up, etc.

What will happen is you'll do a day in the air and then it'll take the guys back at the offices a few weeks to smarten that data up for production - so driving the whole thing up there and plugging it in won't be a chore and it'll only take a day or so to copy on a fast network / datacenter local net. You wouldn't bother to try to send it over the airwaves, it's just a waste.

And if you're an operation on the scale of megapixel-images of the entire country, you'll have a datacenter to host them, and you'll have multiple cameras, and multiple storage units and you'll do, say, a month stint in the air with the pilot, changing the storage each day for one of, say, 7 storage units - and copy each completed one off over the next week to your real storage where over the next 6 months your people will spruce it up and eventually publish only about 50% of it (given the amount of unusable footage while the plane turns, isn't lined up, is at too steep an angle, duplicates parts of existing strips, etc.).

You honestly think you'd pay for one of these things, strap it to an aircraft, fly around for 8 hours, and then sit on the group trying to beam Terabytes home over the local pub wireless or something?

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Boffin

Re: 3.3 TB?

I suspect that a clever combination of two existing technologies is used for the transfer - the bandwidth achieved can be astonishing!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_Tape-Open

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transit_van

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Re: 3.3 TB?

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a 40ft container full of microsd cards hurtling down the highway. --- Andrew S. Tanenbaum (paraphrased)

You can fit 40 billion microsd cards into a 40ft container; Given that a microsd card can store a day's worth of recordings, that is probably more capacity than you'll ever need.

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Re: 3.3 TB?

"Given that a microsd card can store a day's worth of recordings,"

3GB = 10^9 Bytes, 3TB = 10^12 Bytes, so that would be 1,300 3GB Micro SD cards, which would still fit in the container, but to be honest you could probably manage with a cardboard box strapped to the luggage carrier on your bicycle.

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Re: 3.3 TB?

A friend involved in marine seismology said that when they had to upload data, he called in a helicopter.

Even in the middle of the North Sea in midwinter, it was still cheaper - and quicker - than satellite links. They just unplugged the storage unit, dropped it in the chopper, and carried the replacement down below.

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Pint

Re: 3.3 TB?

"trying to beam Terabytes home over the local pub wireless or something?"

That might take a while. Better get another round in.

When choosing a strategy, take all potential benefits into account.

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Facepalm

Oops

For some reason, I thought they had actually strapped a camera to an actual falcon!

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Linux

Re: Oops

I actually know a man who has a falcon* with a head-cam. It might not be 260 mega-pixel, but the images are breath taking.

*Actually it might be a Harris Hawk, but it's close enough right?

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Thumb Up

I'd love

one of these on my telescope. I bet it could take some marvellous deep field shots....

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Re: I'd love

they're probably shit when used in low light levels.

Also remember your physics - resolution is limited by the size of the mirror - there's no point in a thousand pixels for one photon.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Unhappy

The whole concept is off-putting

I don't have any great concern about the technology MS is using or how they deploy it - for this application. What immediately turns me off this article is the use of the word 'Bing'.

Come on you chaps out there with the highly developed sense of, well, something: what possible justification can there be for the use of this utterly inane word here in quasi-literate UK? What possible connection does it have to IT? In fact. to anything?

It looks like crap; it reads like crap; it feels like crap; it must be crap - yes?

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Pint

Re: The whole concept is off-putting

The word 'Bing' will forever remind me of that annoying character from 'Friends'.

Never used MS Bing. Never will.

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Re: The whole concept is off-putting

"Never used MS Bing. Never will."

Good to know. Next time you criticize it, we'll know that you're basing your opinion on a foundation of zero experience.

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TRT
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Coat

Re: The whole concept is off-putting

Ah yes. The same reason you never use a C handler as well, yes?

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FAIL

Re: The whole concept is off-putting

BING Is Not Google

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Re: The whole concept is off-putting

Good to know. Next time you criticize it, we'll know that you're basing your opinion on a foundation of zero experience.

Ok then h4rm0ny - sell it to me. What am I missing?

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Anonymous Coward

Being what now?

"...The new camera sits between the other two and is being spruiked as an upgrade..."

Spruiked? —Has anyone seen my Babel Fish? It seems to have fallen out

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Re: Being what now?

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/spruik

Spruik (Verb) - To promote a thing or idea to another person.

I'd got the gist from context, but I had to go looking for a proper definition.

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Paris Hilton

Apple saved money

They just used VGA res cameras....

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Trollface

But seriously...

...surely no-one will ever need more than 16 bit VGA?

How much are these beasts? And can I mount it on a real falcon?

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