While Microsoft decided to make their presence at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas their last, and Apple chose not to exhibit at CES this year, that didn’t mean thousands of others stayed away. CES 2012 was not complete without technological newness. Here’s five newbie-gadgets that I thought were noteworthy:
Mobile computing, at least the kind that has keyboards, has progressed over just the last 5 years from notebooks [laptops] to netbooks to ultrabooks. After Intel revealed last year that it was putting new processing chips inside these ultrabooks, made them 4/5 of an inch thick, combined elements of netbooks, tablets and notebooks, and priced them around $1000—give or take a few hundred, depending on the features—companies like Dell, Samsung, and HP began showing off the new machines at CES 2012.
Inspired by Apple’s MacBook Air—whether these thinner, lighter machines will sell, never mind work—as good as the other types of mobile computers that are around, remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if by next year a unique enough market for ultrabooks establishes itself.
No way would you pay $79 for an ice cream sandwich that can be had for a fraction of that price at your favorite convenience store. But you could pay that much, perhaps slightly more, for a tablet that uses Google’s new Ice Cream Sandwich [code name for Android 4.0] operating system.
Chinese firm Ainovo showed off their Novo7 Paladin tablet to Engadget’s Brian Heater at the CES, and while there’s nothing high-end, in terms of video display or the lack of a camera or GPS, he wrote that it’s good for casual gaming and watching YouTube videos.
Ainovo’s website says theirs is the first tablet to make use of the Ice Cream Sandwich OS. It list-prices the Novo7 Paladin at $89, and the Basic [with the front and back cameras] at $99, and has not yet made available their Swordsman and Legend tablets. With a 7-inch screen, built in WiFi and 3G networking, the battery power for their tablets can last anywhere from 6 hours, if you’re playing a game, to 25 hours if you’re listening to music, to as much as 300 hours if on standby. Storage is 1 GB internally, but can be up to 4 with an external drive, though there has been talk of expanding that to 8.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Ainovo were to develop a tablet that takes advantage of 4G wireless.
Democratic Congressmember, Zoe Lofgren, represents a constituency in central California that includes parts of San Jose and the Silicon Valley. In late October 2011, after some of her colleagues in the US House of Representatives, led by Congressmember and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith of Texas, introduced a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act [SOPA], Ms. Lofgren declared her opposition to the proposals as “the end of the Internet as we know it.”
SOPA, sometimes known as E-PARASITE [Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation], is the House’s equivalent of the Senate’s PROTECT-IP [Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property] bill, in that both are meant to put a stop to websites that carry content that infringes on copyrights, combined with Senate Bill 978, which would criminalize online streaming even of people who sing others’ songs on YouTube. Whatever kind of anti-online piracy legislation gets passed, there is the thinking that it could do more harm than whatever good may come of it. How so? Let us count some of the ways:
Under the proposals, any copyright holder can get a court order to shut down a website that posts any infringing material without giving the accused website an opportunity to challenge such a shutdown in court. On top of that, the owner of such a website could even be denied Internet access…again, without due process.
Prof. Mark Lemley of Stanford told the public radio program “Marketplace” that if you so much as put up a link to a website that carries the infringed copyright material, you’ll end up just as guilty of “facilitating infringement” as the website that infringes copyright. Even Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube could be all but put out of business as a result.
David Sohn of the Center for Democracy & Technology commented that under SOPA, “a central issue is that the bill’s definitions of bad websites are vague and broad.” So much so that the Future of Music Coalition commented that even legitimate sites, both within and outside of the US, could be held for violations of SOPA, thus making the Internet “too wide for comfort.” On top of that, copyright owners, by filing a court order against an infringing website, don’t have to go to court and explain their actions, which adds to there being no opportunity at justice for the accused.
During a video advertising summit meeting held in New York during the first week of June 2011, representatives from Comcast/NBC, TimeWarner’s Turner, and Disney’s ESPN, predicted that TV “everywhere” was imminent, and that by 2013, three-fourths of TV content would be available online and on mobile devices.
The representatives are already aware of the impact that Netflix is making, but they also think that broadband caps could be what would hold it back, to say nothing of trying to clear the rights for much of that content.
Since Comcast is both an owner of cable-phone-broadband systems, as well as a content provider through its ownership of NBC, USA, Syfy, MSNBC, CNBC, Versus, Golf Channel, Weather Channel, Bravo, Oxygen and a few other channels, it can be argued that the idea of “TV everywhere” advocated by Comcast, among others, could clash with their own idea of capping their subscribers’ use of broadband.
Gamification. It has become one the top buzz words in tech advertising. Every agency that makes websites or apps for non-gaming products have started looking at the advantages and disadvantages of this new concept.
Yes, for those outside of gaming, this concept of gamification is BRAND new. The idea of game concepts in a serious business doesn’t seem to be a normal leap. First, let’s examine the concept of gamification.
Definition: Gamification is the integration of game theory or concept to non-gaming environments to increase engagement, loyalty, and entertainment values. Simply, engage users in a better way. This can be applied to any industry from health and fitness to education and transportation.
How to apply this to your needs. First a basic understanding of your customers is key. People want to feel accomplished and recognized. Then they like to share within their social circles. Games are the epitome of the Risk/ Reward system. To apply these to your business will most likely yield great results. So let’s take imaginary company X and apply this:
In one of my previous blogs, I wrote about school being out and virtual school being in. The latest twist on this idea could come from someone you never thought would involve himself in education, but this person has what he thinks is a good reason why.
Say what you want about media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, but at a Paris forum of Internet entrepreneurs and European policymakers, the 20th Century-Fox / Wall Street Journal / Sky News owner said that education was “the last holdout from the digital revolution,” and that “today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age.” That’s the 19th century he was just referencing.
Mr. Murdoch also told this forum, the e-G8 conference, attended by everyone from Google head Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to President Sarkozy of France, that throwing money at the problem doesn’t work, and challenged the assembled to “bring to our schools the same creative force that makes businesses competitive and nations thrive.”
Given that this is the same Rupert Murdoch who’s had his hands in everything over the years from those naked “Page 3 Girls” in his daily Sun tabloid in London to such “wild” TV cartoon shows as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” to the “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel, who knew that he would go into the education business? And to help him out in this cause, he hired a former New York City schools chancellor named Joel Klein.
Even while he was running the schools in New York City, then-Chancellor Klein supervised a pilot project in the Chinatown neighborhood back in 2009 called “School of One,” which implies the kind of online individualized instruction that Mr. Murdoch has been pushing for, in a variation on that “Victorian age” model of an adult giving lessons to a group of young students who learn at different levels.
It’s not enough that Kindles are being introduced in schools to replace printed textbooks. Now there are some schools that are, on are planning on, going deeper than Kindles, with iPads in the classroom.
In South St. Paul, Minnesota, over $600,000 will be spent during the next 3 years to purchase iPads for 600 of the city’s 3200 students, plus 280 more for staff and school district board members. South St. Paul superintendent Dave Webb told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his town is one that “cares about students and wants the best technology available for them.”
By joining other school districts from several states in purchasing these iPads, South St. Paul is spending $538 for each one. Not bad, considering that’s about how much an iPad2 might cost.
In the Charleston, SC area, students at two elementary schools will be getting iPads after a test run involving several classrooms at one of the schools was considered a success. Teacher Amy Winsted of Drayton Hall Elementary told WCSC-TV 5 in Charleston that iPad usage has “made a huge difference in learning. The kids’ test grades have gotten much better.”
Plans are for iPads, like Kindles, to be used in place of printed texts, with the eventual goal of making sure every student in the Charleston County School District gets an iPad.
Back in 1972, legendary rock star Alice Cooper recorded a song that has since become an anthem for the end of the school year. “School’s Out” contained in its lyrics an old childhood rhyme in which the end of school meant no more pencils, books, or teachers’ dirty looks.
A couple of decades after, Lewis J. Perelman, who served as a strategic consultant to industry on matters of technology, published a book entitled, interestingly enough, “School’s Out: Hyperlearning, the New Technology, and the End of Education.” He also wrote a lengthy guest column based on that book for the debut issue of Wired magazine in early 1993. What Perelman touched on in both his book and his Wired column about how “hyperlearning” would replace a 19th-century based “worker-factory” model of education that, he wrote for Wired, has “as much utility in today’s modern economy of advanced information technology as the Conestoga wagon or the blacksmith shop,” is beginning to come true in the early 2010’s.
In one of my previous blogs about how one high school in my home area started replacing hard-copy printed textbooks with the same on electronic Kindle readers, I also mentioned about “virtual schools” that are being tried in practically every state in the US. Some are private, while others are public, but the purpose is the same—to provide students from kindergarten to senior year of high school with an online alternative to on-campus education, particularly when it comes to subjects that aren’t available on campus because certain schools can’t afford to bring in teachers who specialize in those subjects.
Will Sony PlayStation Network get back up off the mat?
It has been six days and Sony PlayStation Network is still down. Initially, the outage as reported by IDG, Sony said the outage was caused by an external intrusion, but for five days Sony had yet to provide details.
As a gamer, I found that troubling. I could imagine the service being down for a day, but at that point, since there wasn’t any news on what was happening—the frustration was mounting.
Then Tuesday night of day five, Sony announced that PlayStation Network has been hacked into and revealed that information of PSN user accounts was accessed during the intrusion—names, addresses, birth dates, passwords, security questions and answers.
There is no way of telling the effects to the user base Sony will incure at this time, but if all things being equal, they have a long, hard uphill battle to face. The real question is how this will change the perception that Sony can compete with Xbox in the network space.
PlayStation users have been vocal on Twitter and Facebook, perhaps Sony will have to appease the angry villagers some way.
Nintendo has begun its trek to the second generation of Wii. This year, we can only imagine that they hope to grab the hearts of gamers worldwide again. Nintendo this week announced that it will have playable versions of the next Wii console at E3 2011. The gaming show will help Nintendo showcase the console, that still remains nameless but codenamed ‘Project Café’. The scheduled release of the product is in 2012. The details are sparse. Okay, there are no details except that they said it will be next generation. The news came on the back of Nintendo’s fiscal results, which were dismal. The company reported a 66% decline in profits.
So the speculation is rampant around the net. Some say the controller is completely new, while others speculate that the hardware is more sophisticated, including blu-ray DVD and HD capabilities. But so far the tight-lipped Nintendo isn’t saying anything!
So for me, I think it is wise to wait and see it at E3.
Yesterday, O’Reilly Media researchers, Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden released an article exposing a hidden file that records every movement of an iPhone. All iPhones store location data in a file called consolidated.db. Warden released an OS X application to show users the significance of their discovery. The application shows each user where they have been since last July. Not only is the data stored on your phone but also your computer.
This database of your locations is stored on your iPhone as well as in any of the automatic backups that are made when you sync it with iTunes.
This isn’t the first time we have heard of the file. In fact in February 2011, Sean Morrissey and Alex Levinson previewed Lantern 2.0 at a Cyber Crimes Conference in Washington DC. Lantern 2.0 however is a commercial forensics product that retails from $600-700. And before that, Alex Levinson began work on the vulenerabilities of iPhone and iPad. Check that out by clicking here.
Mixing Drums is most definitely one of the biggest challenges for a mixing engineer. In today’s world of home and project studios—not being able to record acoustic drums a lot of times, combined with the need to have a current sound—this is even more of a challenge.
Here is an approach that works for me and might work for you as well:
First, to note, drums played by a great drummer—sampled or not—will always sound better, so the first step is to try and find a great drummer for your project—it’s more than half the battle won.
Being a drummer myself I tend to play on most recording sessions that I end up mixing and since I can’t record acoustic drums in my project studio due to noise concerns, I invested in a Roland V-Drum Set because it’s the closest to a real drum set in regards to feel, but drum pads and even a keyboard can do the trick as well.
Ok, let’s get started: The overall philosophy here is to treat sampled drums just like acoustic drums—that means you need to get a bit creative.
Do not over quantize, the better the performer the less you should need and the more life-like it will feel, only correct what is absolutely needed, otherwise you will get a drum machine sound.
I record every instrument through a quality preamp, maybe a bit of EQ and some compression. If you don’t have enough pre’s, solo the instruments and record them separately—bass drum, snare, toms, etc.
Stay mono, at least for the snare, hi-hat, and bass drum. Toms and cymbals can be done in stereo, but you will have more room to play in mono when it comes to panning.
Game makers around the world have been trying to entertain us for years. At current the Games industry is somewhere around a $50 billion worldwide industry. Certainly the largest of the entertainment industries. But how are they made? We are familiar with movies and music but so often no one addresses the game development process. We are here to show a high level view of what goes on behind the doors of a game studio.
All games are produced by a team of very smart and talented people:
There can be more people involved, but this is the basic crew. Now that we have the team in place, let’s make a game!
Part 1: Game Design Basics
I have been asked several times on how games are made. What are the processes and activities that go into a game? Well to start, games can be very simple or very complex, but there are some overarching rules that most game designers use. Games are made of a set of simple rules that allow the player to advance through the game, but sometimes these rules become complex for the designer. Without getting into too much detail I will go over a few things to keep in mind.
First off, games are not puzzles. They are experiences that take players through an interactive journey. Games are different in that they change with the decisions of the player. Puzzles never change.
Not long ago Las Vegas wasn’t part of the technology innovation. In fact, the basic premise of Vegas has kept it simple in a way—gambling, drinking, and showgirls. The nightlife is unrivaled and the entertainment is unforgettable. “Vegas means comedy, tragedy, happiness, and sadness all at the same time.” —Artie Lange. Artie has it right! Vegas is everything to everyone. But would you ever say Vegas was a technology hub?
Not until recently did I find myself in awe of some of the technology advancements going on in Sin City. I stay at the same room on the strip, great views and superb staff at the Paris/Bally’s, but then I hit the smokey casino floor, the waitresses clad in skimpy dresses, music was loud, and the craps table had a gang around it screaming and clapping. The sounds of slots and people from around the world engaging in all their vices. I found myself at a Pai Gow table. I play poker. I enjoy poker. The cards, the drinks, the felt tables where cards float across as if on a cushion of air, and that is when I noticed. There in the middle of this table, I couldn’t believe it, a small touch-screen LCD panel the dealer keeps tapping. As I watch for the next few hands—it hits me—that screen is a display of all the hands around the table. Wait, wait wait. I have been going to Vegas for years, but I have never seen anything like this. How did it know? If players had problems setting their Pai Gow hand the dealer would simple push the according seat number on the LCD and it would say how to play with best odds and correctly.
So I inquired with the Pit Boss and he explained to me that automatic shufflers not only shuffle, but continuously monitor the cards in the deck. It knows when cards are missing, what card is missing and which players have which cards. It knows everything on that table!
Gaming has always made me happy. But now, I have proof that I NEED to play. Last year, relatively unknown game designer, Jane McGonigal gave a speech at TED that began a movement by which a new term, and industry would evolve. Jane postulated that playing games, makes us better people. And now, she is launching a book that describes in detail that theory. To be honest, this is something I already knew being an avid gamer, but what makes her “studies” more poignant is the fact that we are starting to believe the science behind Gamification.
Jane said some, at the time, outrageous thing like: “If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week, by the end of the next decade.”
Last week, hot news off the press was abuzz with acquisitions. Mostly business growing and expanding. The regular boring drab that keeps us business people questioning strategic decisions. But something caught my eye. GameStop buys Impluse and Spawn Labs. Normally I wouldn’t give much thought to mergers and acquisitions of a retailer, but I thought this one might be worth further investigation. You see, when I was young I loved going to video game arcades and record stores. I watched as Tower Records dominated the industry and it was always a treat when I could walk into the one on Sunset Blvd. I went to Egghead Software and eventually GameStop. But as with all things digital, Brick and Mortar stores are no longer needed. It has been no surprise that the GameStop stores are seeing a decline. But the move last week, just may keep them in business.
Impulse and Spawn Labs have made names for themselves by supplying games to consumers digitally. Spawn Labs, although still testing the technology, says it will be able to deliver games on demand to any computer with an internet connection. Impulse, as subsidiary of Stardock Systems, has been creating systems that have been delivering games digitally for over 10 years. This kind of experience is exactly what GameStop needs to stay in the distribution game.
I love to hear the latest rumors about the newest technology to hit our favorite-to-hate company: Apple. I have written before about the latest iPad, and now we are beginning to speculate about the newest iPhone. First, if any of the photos are true, which I am certain they are not, then the phone looks great. Not to say that Apple won’t make it a great looking product, but knowing how secretive they are with their products I am pretty certain no one in the public has seen this thing. But as rumors go, let’s spread them some more!
The iPhone 5 is reported to have a new screen, NFC (Near Field Communications chip), and the A5 processor.
First, the iPhone 5 has a purported larger screen. While the form factor for the phone is similar to the iPhone 4, they say the increase in screen size is significant. Some pictures have emerged showing this could be another big step for Apple. Edge-to-Edge screen!
The screen will use the same technology as the iPhone 4 and will remain the best in the business.
Second, the NFC chip will be a new feature for the phone. Near Field Communications chips in simple terms will allow users to complete contact-less payments. Think about going into Starbucks and buying your coffee with your phone. The ability to complete purchases with your phone brings us one step closer to removing all those pesky cards in our wallets. To be fair, the iPhone is not the first to do this, but with all the recent talk surrounding NFC, it’s clear Apple doesn’t want to be left out of the loop.
And lastly, and probably most importantly, the iPhone 5 will come with a new processor. The A5 processor, which was recently launched with the iPad 2, is incredibly powerful. Speed is the key here. The A5 processor is a dual core processor. For us this means a few things: Better apps, better battery, and speed. As if the phone wasn’t fast enough, the new A5 processor will turn your device into a very powerful computing device.
Safe to say the next generation of the iPhone will not disappoint. It will be a major step in technology advancement and we will benefit from the speed.
I am an iPad user. I use it daily. But is it for the average person that isn’t “geeked out”? I have nothing against the iPad, but I have some concerns of its value for the average person. So let’s explore, and this goes even for the geeks like me.
First, here are the official specs for iPad 2:
- 1GHz dual-core A5 CPU
- 512MB RAM
- 16GB, 32GB, 64GB storage options
- Front & Rear Cameras, front is VGA, rear is 720p
- 9.7″ LED display with 1024×768 screen resolution at 132 pixels per inch
- GPU said to be 9x faster (questionable)
- Video output supports up to 1080p
- Runs iOS 4.3
- 10 hour battery life
- White & Black color options
- 3G models are AT&T and Verizon compatible
- 1.3 lbs
- Thinner build
As much as I love being indoors playing on some computing device, there are times when I want to be out playing in the sun. I am fortunate that I live in Southern California. I spend weekends exploring the many things to do from Ventura to San Diego. But something caught my eye recently. Geocaching.
What is this thing might you ask? Let me tell you.
Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, or other navigational techniques, to hunt hide-and-seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” anywhere in the world. Simply: It’s a treasure hunting game that requires some sort of GPS. Think pirate maps where “X” marks the spot, but then add technology.
Geocaching is more similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embed into stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 1, 2000, because the improved accuracy of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.
When the school term started in August 2010, Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Florida USA, embarked on a new approach to that old scholastic standby known as the textbook.
You remember textbooks? They were those big, clunky, printed things you had to lug around from class to class 5 or 6 times each day, and you weren’t supposed to write on, or otherwise mess, with them. Then, when the day was done, you either had to store the books in a locker and hope no one broke in and stole them. Or, perhaps, you took one or more of those books home with you if you had to do some homework.
But the new approach that Clearwater High took was one that was never tried before, at least not on-campus, and that was giving each student an e-reader; specifically, a Kindle. This “Kindle-ization” at Clearwater High not only made it easier on the students as far as carrying books around, but it also made it easier on the school itself because of the savings in costs versus buying hard-copy textbooks.
I have played Mafia Wars, Farmville, Cityville, and Cartown. I don’t think I would describe myself as a social gamer, but in some respect I think I always have been. I am now rethinking my gaming habits. Like most of you in the gaming community, I have a set genre of games that I prefer playing. To be honest, I am a first-person shooter type gamer. I haven’t taken the leap into MMO’s as a type of social gaming, but as I have stated before I think I have always been a social gamer. I enjoy racing friends on my Xbox 360, as well as fighting off bands of zombies. But mostly, I enjoy doing it with my friends. But as we “hardcore” gamers move into the new world of gaming, are we really doing something we haven’t been doing for years? Yes. But, not because it is social. Rather, it is because of the types of games we play.
About four years ago I was walking the massive aisles at E3 when it donned on me, I am willing to play just about any game as long as it is fun. I have been drawn to the more realistic shooters and adventure games because of the way they look, the complexity of the games, and the stories. But is that what makes me a gamer? I don’t always need to play complex games that are rendered with some artistic beauty that stuns even the novice gamer. No, I need to play something fun.