A pilot’s prerogative.

Buzzing around SFO Terminal 3

End of the Creative Strategies course yesterday and flying out today.

Upon takeoff the pilot of my Skywest United flight throttled back and levelled off at about 5000 ft.

Then we flew up the bay, slowly, and banking to view all the landmarks.

This could have been a mere coincidence between other craft in the air and instructions of the departure controller.

But it seemed too perfect. The confluence of beautiful sunny San Francisco morning, a perfect viewing altitude, and a pilot who didn’t race for altitude and then flip over to autopilot.

What a way to end the trip.

I think I’ve bought my last desktop computer

A couple of years ago, I was all into and enjoyed building desktop computers, picking out the right video card, selecting the best motherboard and generally digging deep into the innards of my future computing platform. And designing the perfect ‘office’ computing environment with short cable runs, ample power for my accessories and lots of desktop space. Yes it was complex and involved and detailed, but it was a hobby — building computers.

These days, I’m not so concerned about it. What I need to do on a computer hasn’t changed, but the computing industry has matured, my needs are now becoming much more mainstream, and the significant differences between one component and another aren’t quite so significant any more.

Put another way, what I have been doing and want to do on a computer, is now much more in demand by everyday consumers. And the hardware, is becoming much more homogeneous. They’ve caught up. Welcome to the future.

Honey, I shrunk the CPU
Moore’s Law has also caught up, to the point where the hardware is smaller, lighter, faster, and cheaper to make. On today’s hardware you can have full audio and video editing studios in the software that runs your phone. You can remotely pilot vehicles with your phone or mobile computing device, and you can easily communicate with anyone on the planet using any number of mobile technologies.

Any of the modern notebook computers have all that stuff in a very tiny package.

Home file sharing
It used to be that you had files on one computer, and you shared them with the other. Both computers had to be on to share the files. Now, with ubiquitous WiFi and home network storage appliances (basically network-aware hard drives) in your household, any computer or compatible device can access any document, video, mp3, at any time. No need to have a big Master Server.

Printing
The same goes for network-aware printers. Most manufacturers have WiFi models available that know how to play nice with your home network environment. Again, no need for a computer directly connected to a printer.

Storage
I mentioned home network storage above, but these days storage devices are dirt cheap. So much so that it’s become possible for commercial business to be built up around the concept of offering you free online storage of your documents, photos, music, whatever…for free.

And they won’t only store your files, they’ll give you free access to applications and tools to create and edit your stuff. Again, I no longer have a need for a huge drive attached to a big desktop box — all this stuff is in the cloud.

One caveat
There’s only two real reason that I can think of for needing a dedicated desktop computer these days; high-quality media creation, and gaming.

If you’re into music making, video editing, photography, art, design, anything that needs you to move masses of pixels or gigs of data around, the architecture of a desktop computer box is more suited to that than many of the notebook computers on the market. And you’re likely using the computer in a professional setting as a photographer, composer and the like.

Gaming also is a hardware resource hog, and falls into that category as many of the same computing tasks in media creation are also necessary in game creation and playing. Of course, there are exceptions — I’ve seen some very powerful (and pretty) gaming laptops.

Interesting, but not enough
But gaming isn’t enough for me to build my desktop around it, any more. Console gaming systems have edged in with comparable graphics and gameplay, on much bigger screens than could fit on my desktop.

So it looks like my next new system, likely in a year or two, won’t be a power-sucking behemoth that sits under my desk. Rather, it’ll be something small, light, can connect to desktop monitors, mice & keyboards, and the home net, yet is still portable. And I think the same holds true for most of you too. Yes, welcome to the future 🙂
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Did Apple just kill a small part of the music industry?

Garage.jpg

 

Ever since the iPhone and iPod Touch caught the attention of developers of developers with an interest in music, there have been music apps in the iTunes App store.

With yesterday’s announcement of Garage Band for iPad these smaller niche developers could be challenged by the vast development resources Apple can bring to bear.

Garage Band iPad
Digging into the details, iPad Garage Band really looks like a great all-in-one package with a good selection of instruments, instrument enhancements (Smart Instruments), Plug-ins, Synthisizers, and Digital Audio Workstation components (Amps & Effects), as well as multi-track editing and recording.

Wow, there’s a lot there for $4.99. Seriously. I’ll be getting it.

What’s out there now
Taking a quick look at some of the leading music creation and instrumentation apps in the store, you’d exceed that level by just buying one app, in many cases.

Recording

Sequencers

Instruments / Synths

 

You see the challenge?
For consumers and software developers, once again, Apple has redefined an industry, but perhaps not in a good way. Or did they just make a statement that the existing apps are way too overpriced? Time will tell.

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Offline Life.

The title of this post refers to something that is kinda alien to me. Yet, it shouldn’t be. For the last 20 years or so, my life has been online, in one form or another. Yes, I’m a digital nomad, living in a digital world, confused by those who insist on staying offline.

As more people are embracing mobile tech or simply getting their kids to hook them up with web access (hi Mom!), it’s becoming more rare to encounter someone who doesn’t live part of their life online.

I’m a bad example, perhaps a bit extreme toward the online end, but for me, I get a majority of my TV, radio, music, movies and gaming through the Internet. I call up road maps, check daily weather, pay my bills, pay my taxes, schedule haircuts, order new books and hardware through it. Yes, I’m part of the web.  So much so that when it’s missing, it’s noticeable.

Yet, there is a significant portion of humanity that manages to get by without a daily/hourly connection to the Matrix. And, for the life of me, I can’t fathom how this is possible!

I’m aware that some folk are not into the online lifestyle, but frankly I don’t get it. II don’t understand why people are insisting on paying their bills in person at the bank. Nor do I understand why folk are still tied to landline telephone contracts, when VOIP phone systems and cellular technology allow much greater freedom.

To be clear, I’m not a GenX GenY or Millenium. I was born in the sixties, learned stuff in the seventies, and frankly try to forget the eighties. Yet, I’m comfortable with this tech. It’s so freakin’ enabling I can’t see why more aren’t using it to enable them to do awesome things!

I just received an invite to go photograph an occurrence of the Aurora Borealis via Twitter. My work, yes my employment, is online. Earlier this evening I checked in with my Mom to make sure her new computer’s working fine, and took control of her system to verify it was working fine. Currently, I’m listening to a favourite celtic singer through an online music service.

How can this not make sense? What am I missing? Enlighten me :smileyhappy:



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


If it’s everywhere, is it special?

4553i114AB80206EE34C5Once upon a time, not too long ago, in the latter part of the last century – say the 60’s and 70’s, consuming media was clumsy and cumbersome. It seemed that you had to make a special appointment with your hardware to listen to the latest band or show some friends your latest photos. You had one device for each media, and sharing and consuming media was not something you did every day, on a whim, or easily. You had to have a special place to consume your media. And you had to set aside special time for it.

Radio was ‘the’ medium that gave you instant gratification back in the day. Everyone had one, or two, and had a favourite station or music program. The catch was, a station could only broadcast one thing at a time. So if you weren’t into old-time polka music, you had to find another station to listen to, from a handful, perhaps. We all had favourite stations and programs.

Portable music was your little transistor radio. AM. The Sony Walkman wouldn’t be developed for a few years yet. Apple was a record label that the Beatles recorded with. The computer company didn’t exist yet either. There really wasn’t a concept of a personal music player.

In most homes, the ‘living room’ had all the majority of media devices; a hi-fi (record player), a TV, and that was it. Perhaps the hi-fi had an 8-track player or cassette. Home movies and photos were presented theatre-style – projected on a big screen (after reconfiguring the room and setting up said projector and screen). Eventually consumer-grade videotape systems were introduced, but still the problem of scheduling your media consumption existed.

Many of you likely remember such things, maybe even you’ve used them or owned them, but I’m guessing that a fair number of readers here wouldn’t know how to change the stylus in a turntable, nor the difference between Chromium Dioxide and Ferric Oxide audio tape. Such were (competitor) of technology, back in the day.

Fast-forwarding to today you easily see the how lifestyle technology has changed the way we share and consume media:

  • Movies on demand can be ordered instantly and delivered to any room in the house with today’s high bandwidth HD PVRs and routers
  • Photos are rarely stored in physical books. Rather they’re on computer hard drives, or better yet, on commercial photo sharing services (like flickr and Picassa) where they’re easily available, secure and regularly backed up.
  • The same for music, though today you really don’t need to store it. Rather than playback from a physical media device (LP, 45, CD etc) you can simply grab your computer and surf to one of the many online music stores. Or if you simply want to sample, it’s easy to use one of the streaming services like GrooveShark or Blip.fm.

Once some big-brained hackers somewhere realized that our media can be converted into bits and bytes, things changed. Those bits and bytes can be stored, moved, shared, delivered over this series of tubes called the Internet. That music, movie, whatever is now portable, and it doesn’t really care about format. I can play an mp3 on my computer, network-enabled blu-ray player, iPod, iPad, eBook reader, Phone, etc… you get the picture.

So now, we’re much more efficient at consuming and sharing our media when and where we want. There are many inexpensive technology tools that enable this, but are we better off?

Some days, I miss the excitement of bringing home a new album of music, putting it on the turntable and sharing the music with anyone in the house. That used to be something special. There was a little ritual associated with opening the album, cleaning the disc, and dropping the needle in the groove.

Somehow, opening a CD and sliding it into a player, or pressing ‘buy’ on an online music store just doesn’t have that same special sense of ritual, that sense that ‘we’re going to listen to music now, this is important, so sit down and pay attention’. Some days, consuming media just doesn’t seem as special as it once was.

I wonder what’s replaced it….I’ve not found it yet.



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.