109 posts • joined 9 Jul 2009
So... where's the list?
This article has a certain amount of stating the obvious, and could have been written at any time over the last couple of years. How about actually comparing some of the current kit available to buy/build?
Re: For kids - gyro stabilised small quadcopters
Agreed. We have a Hubsan X4 - it's cheap, it records acceptable video, it's easy to fly and it's a good introduction to all the things you have to consider when owning a drone: maintenance, repairs, batteries, planning flights and so on.
Story arcs and episodes
I like PC, like the one-liners and the darker approach.
What doesn't work so well for me is the harsh line between story arc and episodic format. Moffat seems to have fallen into the rhythm of one-concept per episode (too often borrowed from a film), which gives little time to explore an idea before they have to leap to a quick conclusion (*cough* shooting a spaceship with a gold arrow). The heavy handed teasers that something else is going on do not constitute a story arc, so much as build to a series end that cannot possibly satisfy once you've got past the "so that's what it meant" discovery.
A little more continuity between episodes would help, as would one or two properly identifiable baddies that the doctor can bash up against rather than simply not understand before producing a rabbit from his hat. At the moment, it's like watching a pin-ball machine: individual events are exciting, but the lack of any flow makes it a bit exhausting.
If analysis leads to actions
There are some companies who use big data systems solely so they can tell their clients that their services need big data systems. Equally some use the technology because if their employees thought they were working in yet another low-end service shed, they'd go and find somewhere more CV positive to work.
On the other hand, you can find yourself working on a project where the company behaviour is sufficiently well characterised (MVT et. al.) and the product sufficiently data-led (e.g. large volume online sales) that you can plot a straight line between insight and action, and then close the loop with feedback on sales uplift. At that time, yes you can realise value. If you are unable to identify what you are going to change as a result of the vague insights you hope you might get, or if you are unable to measure the difference between your approaches, then big data (however you define it) is not going to pay its way.
Not sure about the price but..
How many companies have tried to build a persistent online world that builds communities and has interest outside of the hardcore gaming community? How many companies successfully support 100m users? Clearly there is service knowledge and technical understanding that is of value to any company wanting to scale online environments. Add in a large user-base and it makes some sense.
From another perspective, this sort of success isn't something you can produce to order. Notch was lucky to hit the right combination of elements and skilled enough to respond to the early community to fine tune the recipe. Having got there, Minecraft has successfully seen off many imitators. At the same time it's been clear for a while that Notch himself has been far less comfortable managing the expectations of a global audience, so his exit is understandable.
My understanding is that a lot of the costs for Mojang are in maintaining a global server infrastructure, so you could imagine that being brought under Microsoft's wing could result in savings and hence more easily reached profits.
Re: Next please
Crunch - why not Cascading or Pig? The point is, there are a lot of options in this space right now, most of which are moving/already run on the new execution engines. I'm glad you feel you can call the 'winner' on this, but from where I'm sitting we're back in the era of fighting over which text editor to use. It all generates plenty of work for the 'serious' end of the industry (yeah, and our production cluster is bigger than yours), but jumping from framework to framework to keep up with the latest trends is not ultimately productive.
It's fairly clear that we can see beyond Map/Reduce to more sophisticated distributed processing. There are quite a few contenders for the next generation platform and it looks like this is yet another.
However, I don't think we're there yet. Most options are about reducing the pain of M/R when you've got iterative jobs and more complex work flows, but a lot of arguably unnecessary pain remains. At some point I'd expect a generic way to describe such work flows to emerge and to become the de-facto standard. For now, none of the proposals are so compelling that developers are stopping coming up with proposal n+1.
Gotta love physicists
To paraphrase: "A positive result will mean we come out of this experiment knowing less than we started!"
Working out we're holograms from within the hologram is cool. When it gets interesting is when we work out a way to do something about it.
Re: the hyperlapse
I think that's a gross misunderstanding of MS's technique - unlike digital image stabilization techniques where you move successive images around to minimise 'shake', MS are generating 3D geometry along the entire path of the movie and using it to back fill missing segments.
So rather than aligning images, they're creating a completely artificial camera path and using images and computed geometry to render that path. I'm not aware of F/OSS doing that, and maybe you need to take that chip off your shoulder?
We're desperate for good Hadoop engineers, with solid Java, web services and Nosql experience..
Foolishly we were looking at people who'd been in the industry for a few years, when we should be interviewing 6 year olds.
If they did that in the UK, pranksters would have put it on the Eurostar by now and be partying with it in Ibiza within the week.
Just got a Wii U
Our boy has just had his birthday and we got him a Wii U to replace an aging Wii. With Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8, he's delighted. It's a nice system and the fact that there are few games doesn't matter to him because the few that do exist are outstanding and games he plays for years (literally, he restarted Mario Galaxy recently and played it through, missing nothing).
Nintendo have never played well with third parties (Rare were the one exception and they played a clever political game to get in there), so they've always been more dependent on their own titles. It makes the consoles look more limited compared to Playstation and XBox, but doesn't hurt the owner if they're happy with the Nintendo 'style'.
As a techie, of course I'd love a system that gives photorealistic graphics, real online environments and so on, but as a Dad I play casually and cannot see the point of investing in the Xbox or Playstation ecosystems when the vast majority of games are just cannon fodder and very expensive for the limited time I can put into them. We bought the Wii U knowing there were enough games to 'last until Christmas' and the upcoming releases look like they'll go far beyond that. I enjoy dipping into Mario and if I want something more 'sophisticated', it'll go on my PC.
Good article, Smart meters overhyped
We've had smart meters in our energy-efficient home for five years now. As has been pointed out, usage goes like this:
1. Install meter
2. Gasp at how much power appliance X uses
3. Get used to it and do nothing, as we need appliance X and a replacement costs hundreds
The really hungry appliances are easily matched by 'background' kit (lights, things on charge, fridge, broadband) any one of which costs a lot of money to make a relatively small cost change.
For homes where it would be possible to make a bigger saving (e.g. electric hot water), there is often a reason why the expensive option is there (no gas, family can't afford boiler replacement etc.), so a meter isn't actually going to make a difference either. Of course consumer education is a good thing and some will make the switch, but you could achieve the same thing with a TV campaign explaining how expensive it is to heat your home via different routes.
I heartily applaud an MP who has considered these issues and realises that Smart Meters are an expensive commitment in a rapidly evolving field - but the question then is: What should we be doing? I quite like the Smart home hub (e.g. OpenDCU) idea where instead of putting in a closed bit of kit, we support an adaptable smart home infrastructure and standards that allow many to use it in interesting ways. Much like France introducing Minitel it could have a much bigger effect than just measuring our energy bills.
As an app and web developer I can say that no, existing web standards are not good enough to be able to give up native code. That's not to say that a lot of standard press-and-select apps wouldn't happily exist online, but the hoops you have to jump through to provide a slick, reliable and immersive experience are quite nasty. Sometimes even apparently simple UIs require that many threads run in close synchronization in the background to ensure everything turns up exactly where and when the user expects them to.
Of course the other issue is one of revenue. If it takes me X weeks to code up a half way decent experience, how do I put it on the web and pay my bills? Ad revenue is a miserable compensation and including adverts only serves to interrupt the user's enjoyment. Paid apps at least connect the idea of some value back to the work you've put in.
On the whole though, the current eco-system and platforms are tending towards lowest-common-denominator experiences. It's painful to develop for the web, and just not worth putting months of work into apps that have shelf-lives measured in weeks. Users bemoan paying for something, even if it provides many hours of entertainment or use and there are no discovery mechanisms for genuinely different experiences.
Regardless, the current crop of browsers do not provide a platform for delivering meaningfully better tools and entertainment to the user.
Clearly a character, and for magazines such as Your Sinclair that informed my young life, I couldn't be more grateful. The fact that there was so much more to him makes him all the more wonderful, and all the more of a pity to see him gone.
Re: Precisely why Oculus was never a $2Bn business
Strangely, I find myself disagreeing. It's true you can strap a phone to your head for pennies, but I suspect it demonstrates (as per the review here) just how much virtual 3D sucks, even with modern mobile graphics hardware driving it.
The Oculus seems to be showing that there's a bunch of 'other stuff' that has to be solved to get properly immersive VR to work - display refresh rates, latency and lag, accurate position sensing, robust optics and so on. Much of that is just not worth integrating in a phone on the off-chance you'll strap it to your head, and some of it is no doubt patentable. The many failed attempts at virtual 3d over the years seem to show that 'good enough' is not good enough because we're highly sensitive to artificial reality being not quite right.
It's not clear to me whether Oculus are even going to solve this. They're iterating over the hardware and the experience is 'getting better' with each iteration. That suggests that it's not quite there yet. I don't see this becoming commodity hardware any time soon - and that lag has historically been enough for new entrants to move in to dominate a market (eg. Sony with the Playstation, Apple with the iPhone)
Unfortunately in the race to compete with Apple, I doubt Google are going to do a thing about the clone app issue - despite the fact it's clearly easily automatable.
That a third party is identifying 'odd' Google store placements and ratings is depressing. Surely the 'giant of search and metrics' should be capable of curating their own collection? As an app developer that sees a well rated and successful app out-placed by competitors who last updated their offerings two years ago, this is very frustrating. Google make it very, very difficult to compete on quality of service and user experience.
Oh dear, name fail.
It's an old (urban legend?) that BT found it got consistently better microphones out of the charcoal supplied by one specific charcoal burner in Cornwall. They spent a lot of time analysing the type of wood, how he burned it, how it was granulated to try to work out why his charcoal was better than any other. They could find no difference in the materials or process and the guy was particularly unhelpful. In the end they sent someone to spy on him to see what he was doing. It turned out he held a grudge against BT and would routinely pee on the charcoal sacks before they were sent off to the company.
"You are now leaving the FUTURE"
My favourite sign heading north from Cambridge, sadly now lost to an idiot named Dave who is apparently big.
You must know how important it is in space to know exactly where your towel is?
To some extent, the manufacturers have brought this on themselves. Many of them have treated the smartphone market as an exercise in throwing boxes over the wall and forgetting about them - slow updates to already out of date OS installs, very flakey 'own brand' apps that are poor relations to the sort of thing you see on iPhones and modern, stock Android and so on. This doesn't have to be the end of Samsung - they already want to differentiate themselves on user experience - but it will clear out some of the low end players who damage the reputation of the platform. That's going to happen anyway as the smartphone market matures.
It might also help if they apply the same logic to the App market and discard some of the dross that still turns up when you search for something useful. The Silver brand might be a smart way to step away from that legacy shovelware without admitting that the Play Store (just like iTunes) plays host to a vast number of shoddy rip-off apps.
With Google playing to the budget market with the excellent Moto-G, I don't think the consumer is going to loose out really.
..now I've got the Tetris music going round my head.
Re: This is clearly a techie site
Given that Amazon are going to be offering games, it's very relevant - OK it's not going to replace a PS4, but might give Nintendo a few sleepless nights.
It seems unfair to lambast a site with such lofty goals, but having watched it develop at a snails' pace it's hard to feel that there is much going on behind the facade. If this were a startup I'd expect to see rapid evolution and a focus on responding to it's own user's requests. Instead, the site has made minor changes and there have been no significant alterations to the current model of interaction which is gaining such poor traction.
In short, I'd expect a lot more to be done with the money, and to see iteration (or indeed pivoting) to take full advantage of the global media coverage. The impression it leaves is that not only has Cole 'conned' the Tax-payer, but the Impossible team have 'conned' her into supporting a badly managed project.
For a site that aims to encourage social interaction, it's notable how opaque the whole process is. We don't know the who, the how or why this money is being spent.
It's very noticeable that installing an app for free, or costing pennies seems to grant the installer the right to slag off the developer, berate them for not adding features and get angry (properly angry) when it doesn't behave exactly as expected. It's even worse if the installer thinks that the developer is (gasp!) making money from it.
If he's been making $50,000 a day, that is a LOT of messages from people who feel they are entitled to a triple-A experience tailored to their exact playing style.
> Kind of makes one realize how little a single user is worth.
Or, to put it another way, how little users value a good experience.
" The quinones are dissolved in water, which prevents them from catching fire..."
Woah there! I was all for this vegetable-based storage plot, right up until they dropped the bombshell that it might be a.. well, bombshell. Catching FIRE?! It all sounded so safe, environmentally friendly and (um) wet. Not firey death. Not from rhubarb.
I'm off to get a fire extinguisher for our garden. Just in case.
I admire your commitment, but sadly you're in the minority. My observation is that
1) Most people prefer free to paying up front for an unknown experience
2) The deluge of low quality apps has lowered people's perceptions of the value of apps to near zero.
In other words, most people expect to be given disposable or poor experiences, so they just don't pay. In essence the market has moved away from paying up front for the developer's effort, to paying (by in game purchases etc.) for each additional hour of entertainment/use. The end users have been shunted over to a model where they only have to pay for stuff that they actually use - but then they get hammered. It's a vicious cycle - developers produce dross, app purchasers don't pay. Perhaps the biggest issue is not which party is most to blame, but that the app stores do very little to help higher quality apps rise to the surface. I know apps that have been broken for the last year and yet still get shown as first results in searches because they had a massive following on some early version of Android.
I'd love to be the developer that breaks the mould, spends a year creating a AAA experience and then charges 10 quid for it, but as I'm not EA or Rockstar, I can't.
Re: So, Why did he go to an arts quango to fund his pre-iPhone multitouch?
The issue is that Nesta and similar schemes like the TSB are presented as means by which the government supports innovation, particularly in technology. Unlike VC money, they do not require the innovator to hand over some part of their ownership. From that description, they sound ideal, and I've been sucked into various projects that got involved with them for exactly those reasons.
The reality is that they are run by people who are quite distant from what we'd recognise as technological innovation. Despite the headline title, they're run by people who have not experienced the cut and thrust of modern engineering - i.e. civil servants and arts graduates. This is not obvious from the glossy brochures and the 'pitch' you get from officers involved in the schemes, and it's that disconnect that the article highlights.
With a daughter (and a son) I'm keen to get engaged with science and engineering, I'm all for products that interest and excite children. I can understand the drive behind the original advert, but the further this saga goes on, the more I feel manipulated. Finding the product is poorly reviewed makes it worse - don't tell me that they've painted some tat pink and sold it to me on the back of 'enpowerment'.
Personal recent experience with government 'support' for innovation has been anything but good - wooly targets, big headline figures and a protracted series of hoops to jump through. The end result is that the opportunity for chance success is eliminated, replaced by the job of fitting to a lumberingly slow process which offers marginal financial support to small businesses.
That said, I'm not sure how you make it better. It should be faster, more flexible and not afraid of failure. In that respect the startup scene shows a lot of possibility - and it's here that the government should be able to outpace commerce by removing (or at least reducing) the cold hard financial requirements in favour of enabling people to 'take a punt' on new technology. The TSB funding is not enabling - it supports businesses that can prove they are capable of standing alone, and in return demands they fit the unique pace of government entities.
Given how the Register produces fascinating 'history of computing' articles, the fuzziness around the development of the first ARM processor, and what exactly Acorn did is a bit disappointing.
As is the lack of technical detail of how exactly Apple surprised ARM with their implementation. If someone tells you that they were surprised by something, wouldn't you ask what and why?
Re: Missing the point
If you're building thousands of devices, the same device is available as a solder on module and I imagine the company can sell you a private bit of cloud that you can operate yourself. They've solved the integration and configuration issues that you would otherwise have to deal with if you buy one of those other SoCs.
The fact that we're still seeing different offerings like this suggests to me that none of the other products have created the universal solution to IoT devices. To claim this is less valid when all of it's competitors fall down in various ways is somewhat mean spirited.
Re: Missing the point
Except (as I understand it) your zigbee module (that offers no real cost savings or simpler integration than this unit) needs a separate base station and further integration. If I want to control a zigbee unit from my android phone, how much extra kit do I need to buy and configure?
Don't get me wrong, ZigBee, RasPi and all the others have specific niches - and it seems to me that this has it's own useful niche too. All the posters attacking it because it isn't one of those other bits of technology make no sense to me.
Missing the point
I think a few of the commentards are missing the point here.
Ignoring the 'I can hack anything' market (which is small, but noisy), this is aimed at the 'deliver something to the consumer' market which is much more boring but far larger in scale. If I, as a manufacturer of light fittings, wanted to make a light fitting that I could control from a mobile, I'd want a module that does all the boring stuff for me, leaving me to do the last step (switch the light on). I'd want it in a tiny form factor and available as a solder-down module that I can just fit into my light fittings.
Arduino, RaspPi and so on don't do that. They're large and designed for hobbyists - general purpose hacking devices. That's great, but they're the most expensive option when it comes to integrating with a bit of consumer kit that just needs to perform simple functions and be controlled over the 'net.
I'm not sure if this is the 'right' answer, but it's a lot better than being told to hack around with a Pi just to perform the most basic of activities.
Re: Do you need a degree to...
I'm sorry, but good grief, your idea of computer science sounds terrifyingly like the typical gormless middle manager who's convinced he doesn't need to understand the technical details because he's got a firm hand on the budget.
To be honest, the thing that would most invigorate the entire industry is returning the focus to getting actual value from the work we're doing. Creating something. A real result rather than the hyped up nonsense of improved social media penetration and merry-go-round startups who's only existence seems to be to insert themselves in the middle of a perfectly functional value chain to no good end.
We can create and transform industries with the work we do. We can discover new science and help people live longer, healthier lives. We can deliver outstanding entertainment and we can improve every one of the human senses. We can teach. We can save lives and predict deaths. We can create delightful experiences. We can aid discovery and remember for you. Yet all of these things get lost in the mire of big data projects with no discernible outcome or over-hyped startups with paper-thin business models that boil down to selling more adverts. If you ask people today what computers do for them, they'll tell you Google and Amazon - not for the feats of engineering that uphold those companies, but for the experience of being sold stuff at every point of interaction with a machine. If you want people to be excited about computers, we need to start being excited ourselves, and to throw off the hype around businesses who's only value is coincidental to the actual technology and function being created.
Doctors and lawyers get a good rap because people can see what they do. Make people well, prosecute the guilty, protect the innocent. Computer scientists have lost their identity to telephone sanitisers and snake oil salesmen. Real outcomes excite people, not vague nonsense.
The same applies to kids. They want to see outcomes. In our day, getting an LED flashing was still relatively novel - and a sufficiently big step that moving on to a fully working robot seemed only another small step away. The excitement and imagined possibilities drew us in and we learnt around them. These days, getting a RasPi to light an LED or launch a website is utterly mundane and children are left asking where they can go next. The things that excite them (high quality games, Facebook et. al) seem just as far away as they were when they didn't know how to get a linux partition to boot. The challenge to educators is to get children to a platform where they can achieve things that involve them before having to understand decades worth of technological advancement.
That's the problem with left wing readers - they get confused between economic arguments and moral/social ones. You can have a 'right wing' view on the world and still believe granny should get her hip - but you don't start mixing it up with some made up economic benefit.
Try re-reading the article again without the knee jerk reaction. Just because his politics are different to yours doesn't make the discussion moot. And, again, the article (as I read it) doesn't argue against national health care.
Seriously, why do people think they have some monopoly on caring? This is the biggest fraud perpetrated in modern politics - that somehow any given political group has the unique ability to care about old ladies and children. This comment will be downvoted, of course, but it doesn't stop me wanting to see my dear old mum with a knee replacement, or my kids getting a good education.
Agreed. Teabags only need a quick swill round or the tannins overwhelm the taste.
At the risk of loosing any tea tasting credentials, I've fond memories of tea served by a rather lovely flatmate who would add a generous slug of brandy to a mix of earl grey and assam. Most evenings would end up with us around the kitchen table setting the world to rights.
I have one in my loft, which has only been switched on a couple of times. I have a feeling the keyboard membrane has suffered in the mean time - when it was last tried out, half a row of keys didn't respond.
One day I'll find the time to have a proper play with it.
I don't think that's the case. The vast majority of consumers use tablets for casual browsing and gaming and are happy to cut down on their demands to fit a form factor and user experience that is more convenient and instantly to hand.
Gamers and pro-sumers are more likely to get their speed-fix by getting a new Playstation or XBox this Christmas, and there are some bargain retina-display laptops around in the wake of Intel's Ultrabook push.
The bottom line is there are very few apps demanding enough to warrant a high-end processor and display. I've never heard anyone complaining "My tablet isn't powerful enough" - expectations have been managed, and so price becomes a factor. Bargain Android tablets should do well, and the big boost to the ecosystem will help the high end devices sell as the platform is seen as increasingly ubiquitous.
Re: Dyson have a point.
Name names, which is this mythical super-efficient hoo.. dy.. vacuum cleaner? Enquiring minds have nothing better to do during their lunch break.
There still seems to be many cases of "if we build it, they will come" - mining any data that comes to hand in the hope that some third party will see value in it.
The bottom line has to be that a company has to be willing and able to take some clear action in response to big data insights. Knowing more about your business/customers does not in itself unlock value.
On the other hand, I've seen clients add 8 figure sums to their annual turnover by incorporating simple insights to their interactions. If a company can make that connection, from insight to action then it can see good returns on big data.
Storm is a useful framework, but Nathan Marz seems to have been overwhelmed by the demands of a wider community - documentation is poor, features unexplained and integration with the rest of the enterprise spotty.
If moving under the Apache banner can address these issues, Storm offers some unique capabilities.
The complete data centre example is perhaps a bit misleading. When you're running with continuous/one touch deploy, speed matters. Being able to rapidly deploy or revert a configuration, preferably without absorbing all the time of your dev-ops guys becomes very valuable.
Tablet friendly apps still uncommon
We have a Nexus 10 (and got my folks an Ainol for christmas - it's the gift that keeps on giving). Though games scale to the bigger screens, I've noticed that there are still a lot of apps that either stick in portrait mode, or waste all that screen real-estate. I got so frustrated with one set of apps that I ended up writing my own (no name, no pack drill).
There's a lot of apps in the store that are getting long in the tooth, or haven't been updated in months, if not years. That's frustrating when you spent a fair amount on what is a very good quality platform.
Every client I've ever worked for has used one or both of the phrases "We handle a huge amount of data" and "I bet you've never seen it this bad". Almost without exception they're processing a very normal amount of data, sometimes in very inefficient ways. The science behind MapReduce is far more important than that specific technology - often there are equally useful techniques that are better suited to a client's needs, however much they might want to install Hadoop etc.
Re: Speaking of Kickstarter
Virtually all funding graphs on Kickstarter follow the same curve - all the activity comes at the start and end of the funding period, when people are feeling vitalised. That big spike at the beginning is reasonably indicative of the likelihood that a project is funded successfully.
Surely it's a question of degree? Even then, China's economy doesn't seem to be suffering too badly given their relatively extreme position.
Reasons for failure
I'm not sure how much the failure of the original company was down to a lack of interest in large screens, and how much was down to spending far too long polishing the damn things and not getting them out the door. Every time they surfaced, they seemed to be adding yet another high end feature to the device (to justify the cost of the tech?), rather than just getting an e-reader in the shops.
It was fairly clear to anyone paying attention to the business that e-readers would not be high end devices, and that there would be a 'race to the bottom' that was only being delayed by the strangle-hold that the handful of e-ink manufacturers had (have) on supply. On the surface Plastic Logic's technology would have been a good fit - surely it's cheaper if you can print the majority of your device?
There is probably still some room in the market for a larger screen, keeping pretty much the same physical format as existing readers but reducing the bezel. Regardless, a product on the shelf sells much better than one only demonstrated to journalists. Their failure was in not delivering.
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