Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category.
You folks can disagree with me about .
A while back I went to a party in the suburbs of New York and needed a ride back to my hotel in the city. A friend of a friend offered to give me a ride. It turned out he was driving a Tesla Model X (SUV). In the same way that you can't go 3 minutes with a Vegan without getting a diatribe on the virtues of veganism, for some distance in the ride we heard a paean to Elon Musk and Tesla. This guy had really drunk the Kool-Aid. Before my wife started kicking my ankle, I expressed a few of the reservations I had about the company and Musk, and the driver got really defensive. So much so he set out to prove Tesla's superiority. So he drove us the rest of the way k彩平台登陆 (mostly) with his hands off the wheel through the freeways around Manhattan. It scared the cr*p out of me, because I knew that while the AP could drive impressive distances and navigate on its own, it was only 99% reliable. And since it makes hundreds of decisions every trip, those are not great odds.
What worried me is that he insisted on using the AP almost as a test of religious faith. There is this weird dichotomy where all the Tesla literature that is actually reviewed by their lawyers and the DOT tell you never to take your hands off the wheel, but Musk goes on 60 Minutes bragging and doing exactly that (almost hitting another car) and verbally the company constantly brags on its AP capability.
This is crazy. You only have to look at Boeing and the 737MAX experience to understand that even a very careful and experienced company like Boeing can screw up the software-hardware interaction The 737MAX worked most of the time, just like the Tesla AP, but in Boeing's case you don't see consumers arguing that this makes it OK -- you see the DOJ initiating criminal investigations. Tesla is a much less experienced and far less careful and organized company than is Boeing. Despite Musk's bluster, , but they are the only major self-driving provider who are actively encouraging their customers to use it outside of a carefully controlled test environment. Everyone who actually understands AI believes Musk is totally full of sh*t when he talks about AI, particularly the much-hyped "shadow mode."
Interestingly, that latter reaction is the same one I hear from nearly everyone who hears Musk discuss something they actually know about. My moment came listening to Musk talk about the hyperloop, which is truly a crazy, unfeasible, uneconomic joke. As I wrote before:
Elon Musk is not the smartest guy in the world. He is clearly a genius at marketing and brand building. He has a creative mind -- I have said before he would have been fabulous at coming up with each issue's cover story for Popular Mechanics. A mile-long freight blimp! Trains that run in underground vacuum tubes! A colony on Mars! But he suffers, I think, from the same lack of self-awareness many people develop when they are expert or successful in one thing -- they assume they will automatically be equally as brilliant and successful in other things. Musk creates fanciful ideas that are exciting and might work technically, but will never ever pencil out as profitable business (e.g. Boring company, Hyperloop).
I watched the Ant-man and the Wasp the other night and listening to Musk is a lot like Marvel movie physics -- both use recognizable terms (if you had a drinking game in this last Ant-man movie that took a shot when they said "quantum" you would be dead now) that sound good to laymen but make no sense to people who actually understand the topic. There may have been some excuse to lionize Musk's brilliance a year or five years ago, but how can anyone think this guy is anything but a knucklehead with an overcharged ego after the Boring k彩平台登陆 fiasco?
Anyway, don't rely on this guy's reputation. If you like what you see in the Tesla showroom (if there are any left), then by all means by the car. But do not turn on the auto-pilot. Please. A loss of even one of you readers could... reduce my blog visitation by whole number percentage points.
seem to fit the available facts -- Boeing called the problem as the wrong software response to an erroneous instrumentation input, clearly the angle of attack sensor. It also fits my experience from my 3 years doing failure analysis in a refinery that most engineering failures are nuanced and results from multiple causes. In short, a software fix was made to compensate for a basic design issue; and this fix could do the wrong thing when a sensor went bad, which it often does; and when airlines skimped on a redundant sensor and crew training, these shortcomings could be fatal.
In a serious and worrying article on the Chinese government inserting tiny chips into high-end video processing servers in order to hack into 3rd party systems,
Elemental servers sold for as much as $100,000 each, at profit margins of as high as 70 percent, according to a former adviser to the company. Two of Elemental’s biggest early clients were the Mormon church, which used the technology to beam sermons to congregations around the world, and the adult film industry, which did not.
I love that.
The whole article is well worth a read. I am not one to fall for anti-Chinak彩平台登陆 paranoia but if I was an electronics or computing company, I would be seriously reevaluating my sourcing practices right about now.
Virgin Galactic is testing their new rocket and it is pretty spectacular. I have said before but I will repeat it, what could be cooler than living in an age where private billionaires are competing at space travel (Musk, Branson, Bezos, Allen, etc.)? I have always thought that Virgin's approach of using fixed-wing aircraft to get as much height as possible followed by a rocket launch from that altitude made the most sense from an efficiency standpoint. Unfortunately, I am not sure you can get really large payloads or escape Earth's gravity with this approach. Anyway, enjoy:
A while back I wrote that automobile dashboard design in modern cars sucks. I drive many different cars as I am frequently renting cars on the road and I concluded:
If car designers are getting rid of physical buttons in favor of multilayered menu systems because it saves them a bunch of money, fine. Bad trade-off in my mind, but there is at least a reason. But if they are getting rid of physical buttons because they think that modern users prefer navigating multiple screens to access commonly used functionality, this is simply insane. No one can top me for pure technophilia, but technical wizardry should not come at the expense of reduced usability.
No one listens to me but they do listen to Consumer Reports, and that magazine
"Another major factor that compromised the Model 3’s road-test score was its controls. This car places almost all its controls and displays on a center touch screen, with no gauges on the dash, and few buttons inside the car. This layout forces drivers to take multiple steps to accomplish simple tasks. Our testers found that everything from adjusting the mirrors to changing the direction of the airflow from the air-conditioning vents required using the touch screen."
Postscript: This is not really the point of this post, but how is this even possible in a small car like the Model 3?
"The Tesla’s stopping distance of 152 feet from 60 mph was far worse than any contemporary car we’ve tested and about 7 feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup," reads the review based on tests on different Model 3s.
The Electric Vehicle Mileage Fraud, Updated: Tesla Model 3 Energy Costs Higher than A Prius, Despite Crazy-High eMPG Rating
Nearly 8 years ago (can it be so long?) I wrote a series of articles about what I called the . Rather than adopt sensible rules for giving electric vehicles an equivalent mpg rating, they used a horrible unscientific methodology that inflated the metric by a factor of three (in part by ignoring the second law of thermodynamics). . I am not omniscient so I don't know people's true motivations but one is suspicious that the Obama administration wanted to promote electric vehicles and put their thumb on the scale of this metric (especially since the EPA in the Clinton Administration has already crafted a much better methodology). To be fair, smart people screw this up all the time -- even Eric Schmidt screwed it up.
Take for example the Tesla model 3, which has been awarded an eye-popping eMPG of between 120 and 131. Multiplying these figures by .365 (as described in my linked article) gets us the true comparative figure of 44 to 48. This means that in terms of total energy consumption in the system, the Tesla is likely better than most gasoline-powered vehicles sold but less energy efficient than top hybrids (the Prius is listed as 53-58 mpg). At the end of the day, electric cars feel cheaper to fuel in part because they are efficient, but perhaps more because there is no little dial with rotating dollar numbers on the electric cables one attaches to charge them (also, there are still places where one can skim electricity for charging without paying).
Basically, I have been a voice in the wilderness on this, but I just saw this note on the Tesla Model 3 and its operating costs from
there are attractive and spacious hatchbacks yielding at least 55 MPG for under $25,000, without taxpayer funding needed. Just to be conservative and give the opposite side of the argument the benefit of the doubt, I’ll refer to these as 50 MPG cars, even though they perform a little better. Rounding down is sufficient for this exercise, as you will see below....
To find out [the price to charge a Tesla], you can go to Tesla’s Supercharger price list, which is available online: .
As you can see in the table above, the average is close to the $0.24 per kWh mark. So how far does that $0.24 take you?
The Tesla Model 3 is rated at 26 kWh per 100 miles according to the U.S. Department of Energy: .
In other words, almost four miles per kWh. It’s close enough that we can round it up to four miles, just to give Tesla some margin in its favor. That squares with the general rule of thumb in the EV world: A smaller energy-efficient EV will yield around 4 miles per kWh, whereas a larger EV will yield around 3 miles per kWh.
That means that at $0.24 per kWh, the Tesla Model 3 costs $0.06 per mile to drive.
How does that compare to the gasoline cars? At 50 MPG and today’s nationwide average gasoline price of $2.65, that’s $0.05 per mile. In other words, it’s cheaper to drive the gasoline car than the Tesla Model 3.
This result that the Tesla is slightly more expensive to fuel than the top hybrids is exactly what we would expect IF the EPA used the correct methodology for its eMPG. However, if you depended on the EPA's current eMPG ratings, this would come as an enormous shock to you.
Electric vehicles have other issues, the main one being limited range combined with long refueling times. But there are some reasons to make the switch even if they are not more efficient.
- They are really fun to drive. Quiet and incredibly zippy.
- From a macro perspective, they are the easiest approach to shifting fuel. It may be easier to deploy natural gas to cars via electricity, and certainly EV's are the only way to deploy wind or solar to transportation.
The has an article today about digital dashboards in cars, focusing on how software glitches are making cares undriveable, the motoring version of the blue screen of death. I have no particular comment on the reliability issue, but the article reminds me that for a while I have wanted to post a rant about modern car electronics.
Specifically, my issue is with the user interface, and that user interface sucks. I have a 2007 model car and am in no hurry to replace it in large part because I cannot find a car with a user interface for the sound and climate systems that I can tolerate. I will illustrate this with a look at my wife's car, a Mercedes that is a couple of years old. Her radio still has 10 preset buttons (actual physical buttons, thank god for small favors) but for them to work, her radio has to be in radio preset channel mode. So let's say it is there and I get in the car and want to listen to Sirius channel 80 (ESPN). That is not one of her presents, I have to get out of preset mode and get into satellite radio mode. To do that I have to hit the back button, then with this dial thing I have to bump the dial up to get the top menu, turn the dial to get audio options, click the dial to select audio options, then turn the dial again to select satellite radio (vs. other choices like FM or AM) and then click the dial to select. Now I am in satellite radio mode and I can twirl the dial to go up and down the stations. I have to do similar contortions navigating layers of menus to get into navigation mode or pull up a map. All while I am trying to drive.
Compare this to my 2007 car. If I am in some other radio mode, I jam the physical button marked "sat" and I am in satellite radio mode. No layers of menus to navigate. I can hit the FM or AM buttons to immediately reach those. If I want the map, I hit the physical button marked "map" or the button marked "nav". No navigating through layers of windows while I am trying to drive. Some of the rental cars I get are even worse. They have integrated systems that cover not just the sound system and navigation system but the climate control. It is incredibly irritating and distracting to have to try to navigate layers of menus just to change the fan speed on the A/C. My wife and I have had whole trips where we never discovered how to do certain things in the car because we couldn't figure out the obtuse interface.
So this is what I don't understand. If car designers are getting rid of physical buttons in favor of multilayered menu systems because it saves them a bunch of money, fine. Bad trade-off in my mind, but there is at least a reason. But if they are getting rid of physical buttons because they think that modern users prefer navigating multiple screens to access commonly used functionality, this is simply insane. No one can top me for pure technophilia, but technical wizardry should not come at the expense of reduced usability.
Postscript: And don't tell me "well, you can use voice commands." The voice interface in my wife's Mercedes is still unreliable and results in her yelling at it a lot. And while they have a lot of upside, most voice interfaces still have the same problem that Alexa has, which is that you have to memorize a syntax for each command. You can't say natural language, "Alexa I need lights" or "turn the lights on Alexa" it has to be "Alexa, bedroom lights on." Sort of the verbal equivalent of WordPerfect, where users had to memorize what cntl-alt-shift-R does.
I continue to marvel at the nearly 100% positive press Elon Musk gets for his Hyperloop project. For those who do not know, that is his concept for a high speed transportation system that can achieve high speeds in part because it is in a vacuum sealed tube. and a picture of a prototype below:
So here is the story so far: We know that the main barrier to high speed rail projects is that they are astonishingly expensive to build and maintain given the high cost of the right-of-way acquisition and building track to the very high standards necessary to support safe high speeds. See for example California high speed rail, which is following some sort of crazed Moore's law where the cost estimate doubles every 18 months.
So we are going to fix the cost problem by ... requiring that the "track" be a perfectly smooth sealed pressure vessel under vacuum that is hundreds of miles long? What about this approach isn't likely an order of magnitude more expensive than rail? The prototype above which allows only one way travel cost about a billion dollars per mile to build. And with a lot less functionality, as current prototypes envision 10-20 person sleds, one step beyond even the worst airline middle seat in terms of likely claustrophobia, and less than half the capacity of a bus. It would take 15-20 of these sleds just to move the passengers from a typical aircraft. Not to mention the fact that there is no easy way to do switching and a return trip requires a second parallel track. All to reach speeds perhaps 20% higher than air travel.
Sure, I can be wrong. For example, if the hyperloop handled grades better than a train, that would reduce costs somewhat. But why does no one seem to ask obvious questions like this? It's like Musk exudes some sort of skepticism dampening field around him (look at Tesla: the company is fraught with issues and the stock price was falling until Musk did one of his hand-waving presentation specials at SXSW and the stock goes back up 30 points). But if you read carefully, most of the hyperloop progress in the article linked is for getting handouts from government (something Musk excels at) including money for scoping studies of lines that will never exist and money for new buildings and workshops.
I have been a k彩平台登陆 theater hobbyist for years, though with projection TV's rather than LCD panel TV's. However, from what I know, . TV's have historically been set up to look good in very bright showrooms under fluorescent lighting, but this is not how you likely watch the TV at k彩平台登陆. In fact, the best thing you can do to improve the look of your picture for cinematic content actually has nothing to do with the TV -- darken your viewing room. They key to a really good picture is in the dark areas of the picture, not the bright areas. Tricks to up the contrast and brightness of the TV can kill the detail in the dark areas. The only way to really see what is there is to watch in a dark room.
The hardest thing to do at first is to get the color temperature correct. Thankfully, most TV's today generally have a color temperature setting that is correct (20 years ago one had to have a technician do a manual re-calibration). The right color temperature is around 6500K but TV's and computer monitors often ship with color temperatures boosted way up above 9000K, well up into the blue range because this makes the TV appear brighter in a TV showroom (at higher temperatures a neutral grey will look bluer, at lower temperatures it will look redder). Unfortunately, your eyes are used to looking at high temperature monitors and TVs and so when you first change to the correct setting things may look to red. Live with it a while.
There are two problems with electric vehicles. Neither are unsolvable in the long-term, but neither are probably going to get solved in the next 5 years.
- Energy Density. 15 gallons of gasoline weighs 90 pounds and takes up 2 cubic feet. This will carry a 40 mpg car 600 miles. The Tesla Model S 85kwh battery pack weighs 1200 pounds and will carry the car 265 miles (from the cells themselves occupy about 4 cubic feet if packed perfectly but in the whole pack looks much larger). We can see that even with what Musk claims is twice the energy density of other batteries, the Tesla gets 0.22 miles per pound of fuel/battery while the regular car can get 6.7. That is a difference in energy density of 30x. Some of this is compensated for by heavy and bulky things the electric car does not need (e.g. coolant system) but it is still a major problem in car design.
- Charge Time. In my mind this is perhaps the single barrier that could, if solved, make electric cars ubiquitous. People complain about electric car range, but really EV range is not that much shorter than the range of traditional cars on a tank of gas. The problem is that it is MUCH faster to refill a tank of gas than it is to refill a battery with a full charge. Traditionally it takes all night to charge an electric car, but 2 minutes at the pump to "charge" a gasoline engine. The fastest current charging claim is Tesla's, which claims that the they have built on many US interstate routes sites will charge 170 miles of range in 30 minutes, or 5.7 miles per minute. A traditional car (the same one used in point 1) can add 600 miles of range in 2 minutes, or 300 miles per minute, or 52 times faster than the electric car. This is the real reason EV range is an issue for folks.
Interestingly, (which failed in its first foray in to electric cars) claims to have a solid state battery technology that gets at both these issues, particularly #2
“Fisker’s solid-state batteries will feature three-dimensional electrodes with 2.5 times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries. Fisker claims that this technology will enable ranges of more than 500 miles on a single charge and charging times as low as one minute—faster than filling up a gas tank.”
Forget all the other issues. If they can really deliver on the last part, we will all be driving electric vehicles in 20 years. However, having seen versions of this same article for literally 30 years about someone or other's promised breakthrough in battery technology that never really lived up to the hype, I will wait and see.
On reading this article about during testing, I thought to myself that rockets sure seem to blow up a lot, even with 60 years of experience. If I had had to guess, I probably would have guessed 10-20% of the launches fail.
But it turns out that this is an exaggeration, probably due to I have discussed before. One problem with the data is that I would define failure rate from a customer point of view -- did my payload survive and was it inserted into the right orbit where it can do what I want it to do. A lot of the data on failure rates uses other bases. , in 2016, the failure rate by my definition would be 3 out of 86 launches, or 3.5% (that site reports a failure rate of 2 out ob 85, but do not count the pre-launch explosion of a SpaceX rocket that destroyed the payload). has answers to the failure rate question in the 6-8% range for unmanned rockets over the history, with a bit of a trend downwards recently. Apparently the failure rate on manned launches is much lower.
I guess my reaction is that the failure rate is lower than I would have guessed, but I think my perception that it had not improved a lot over 50 years may be correct. I don't have the data but my sense is that air travel experienced a much faster rate of improvement in catastrophic failure rates, though the engineering calculus between manned (most air travel) and unmanned (most rockets) travel may be different. Certainly if it cost $100 million per rocket to reduce the failure rate by a percent or two, it might not make financial sense if there are no people on it.
My last phone was a Droid Turbo (or some variant of that). It was a tank (and btw the battery was so large it would last a week). It was also butt-ugly, but you could drop that thing from an airplane and it would probably keep working. I never bothered with a case.
My new phone is a Galaxy S8. It is probably, looks-wise, the acme of phone design right now and the polar opposite in attractiveness from the Droid Turbo. But it is literally almost all glass. The front is glass. The back is glass. The sides, dues to the curved bezel, are mostly glass. If you drop this thing you are going to hit -- wait for it -- glass. I was changing cases on it and dropped it from a height of no more than three feet and both the front and back glass shattered. So you MUST put this expensive phone in a relatively bulky case. You can have a slim case that may or may not protect the screen and sort of retains some of the feel of the curved bezel or a bulky case that probably will protect the phone but makes the entire phone design moot.
My point is that companies seem to be designing phones for how good they look and feel in the Verizon store**, rather than how they will actually look bundled up in a large case in real life. Once you provide reasonable life-protection for the S8, all its expensive design features are covered up.
One thing I have learned during this experience is that the vast majority of the millennials who rate cell phones on review sites like Engadget are wildly over-influenced by aesthetics. For example they all seem to downgrade phones that have larger bezels and metal rather than glass packaging, irregardless of reliability. I am still looking for a site that publishes a good list of drop test results and ratings. I don't think I will buy another phone without seeing these results (I was considering a pixel 2 until I saw is horrible drop results). I would also like to see someone who grades phone aesthetics in the sort of cases we are all going to put on them. Honestly if I had time I would probably start my own review site focused on real-world use, emphasizing characteristics like reliability, repair costs, drop test results, and battery life.
** For a long, long, long time, TV manufacturers ruined TV pictures so they would look better in a store. Every TV you could buy, at least in the pre-LCD era, had super-high color temperatures shifted way up into the blues. The colors looked like crap in a dark room watching a movie, but the picture appeared brighter in the TV showroom. Back in the day, one of the first things one would do with a good TV if one was a movie snob was to get the TV color calibrated or look for a TV that had a color temperature setting.
First, I want to congratulate @apple for introducing a $1000 phone with features like wireless charging and an edge-to-edge screen that my last two or three android phones have already had. Perhaps the most, or only, interesting new feature is the facial recognition. Apple is abandoning fingerprint scanning in favor of facial recognition to unlock the phone.
I mention the law enforcement angle in the title because it has been a bone of contention how far law enforcement can go to make someone unlock their phone. Clearly, when unlocking was PIN only, one only had to declare they forgot and no one could really disprove that. With fingerprint scanning, it has been a point that is still in the courts (I believe) as to whether LE can force someone to unlock the phone with their finger. Now, however, all they will have to do is hold the phone up to the suspect's face. This less invasive unlocking technique is probably an everyday hassle reduction, but will make the phone incrementally less secure from snooping.
Morbid postscript: I wonder if this works on a corpse? Is there a heat sensor of some sort, or are the kids going to be saying "let's get the eyes on dad's body open so we can get his phone unlocked".
I have seen companies advertising this sort of , but I had never seen it in the wild. Had this glass in my hotel this weekend. Really cool. If they can perfect glass that goes full dark or opaque with a switch, I have a ton of windows I would like to replace (sorry for the small image, playing with Google's new Motion Stills app to make gif's, but it does not seem to have a save to disk function so I had to text it to myself and this was all the resolution I got).
I first saw this over the summer in Bruges. If I had to name one place in Europe where I expected to be bored, but was in fact fascinated, it was the lace museum in Bruges. They had a lot of examples of super-fine lace, as well as a history and examples of how it is made. The best part was that upstairs, they had women actually doing hand lace projects that you could go watch. I did not get a video of it but here are a few examples from the web that give the basic idea. Here is hand-making of lace:
and here is an insane machine for making it automatically
The super-fine hand-made lace in the museum in Bruges was unlike anything I have ever seen. An order of magnitude finer than even the best lace you have likely seen.
I have no idea how much costs, so I am not advocating it as currently making financial sense. But I have long argued that we will know solar is the energy source of the future when they start rolling out solar cells in large sheets like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia.
Solar Roadways' dreams of sunlight-gathering paths are one step closer to taking shape. Missouri's Department of Transportation is aiming to install a test version of the startup's solar road tiles in a sidewalk at the Historic Route 66 Welcomek彩平台登陆 Center in Conway. Okay, it won't be on Route 66 just yet, but that's not the point -- the goal is to see whether or not the technology is viable enough that it could safely be used on regular streets. You should see it in action toward the end of the year.
The tiles will be familiar if you've followed Solar Roadways before. Each one combines a solar cell with LED lighting, a heating element and tempered glass that's strong enough to support the weight of a semi-trailer truck. If successful, the panels will feed the electrical grid (ideally paying for themselves) and make the roads safer by both lighting the way as well as keeping the roads free of rain and snow. They should be easier to repair than asphalt, too, since you don't need to take out whole patches of road to fix small cracks....
As the Transportation Department's Tom Blair observes, it would be odd to push self-driving cars in the state's Road to Tomorrow initiative when the streets aren't as smart as the vehicles using them.
This has so much stupid in it, I don't even know where to start. First, solar roads are a terrible idea. Even if they can be made to sort of work, the cost per KwH has to be higher than for solar panels in a more traditional installations -- the panels are more expensive because they have to be hardened for traffic, and their production will be lower due to dirt and shade and the fact that they can't be angled to the optimal pitch to catch the most sun. Plus, because the whole road has to be blocked (creating traffic snafus) just to fix one panel, it is far more likely that dead panels will just be left in place rather than replaced.
And who in their right mind would ever accept the statement that the solar panel roads would be cheaper to fix than a roadway? What agency anywhere takes out whole patches of road to fix small cracks? Square foot for square foot a solar road would be orders of magnitude harder to fix than just patching a pothole somewhere.
I love the line about "ideally" paying for themselves. I am sure this is their ideal, but what is the reality? I will bet anyone a million dollars that if all installation and maintenance costs are included, these will not come close to paying for themselves. The first rule of alternate energy in any news article is to give the installation cost or the energy output, but never both, so actual return on investment can't be calculated. If they give neither, as in this case, it really sucks.
And finally, what is not to love about the last paragraph, which says effectively that roads should be as smart as the cars that drive on them. I have toyed with the idea of creating a whole new blog category on things people say that get millennials excited but make absolutely no sense. This would be a good example. Embedding solar panels in a road when just about any other flat surface anywhere would be a better place to put them is not "smart", it is painfully stupid. A smart road might embed guide wires or some other technology to aid self-driving cars, but nothing like this.
Google's parent Alphabet is abandoning support for Revlov's Smart k彩平台登陆 Hub (which they bought a while back). In and of itself this part of an irritating strategy (pursued enthusiastically both by Alphabet and Apple) of identifying edgy new devices with enthusiastic user bases, buying them, and then shutting them down. I was a SageTV fan and user back in the day until Google bought it and shut it down (as a potential competitor to GoogleTV and its other streaming products). The bright side is that this pushed me to XBMC/KODI, which is better. The dark side is that I am sure Google could easily write those guys a check and then they will be gone too.
Anyway, after SageTV was shut down by Google, I could still use the hardware and software, it just did not get improved or updated or supported any more. But increasingly new electronic products are requiring some sort of cloud integration or online account activation. To work, the product actually has to check in with the manufacturer's servers.
Alphabet-owned company Nest is going to pull the plug on the Revolv smart k彩平台登陆 hub and app on May 15, rendering the hardware unusable next month.
Just to be clear on how much of a big deal this is, the company isn't only out to stop support but to really disable the device and turn the hub into a $300 teardrop-shaped brick. How much does a pitchfork go for nowadays?
...Needless to say, existing users are outraged by the development, and they have very good reason to be so."When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence? Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your k彩平台登陆 and pull the plug on your Nest products," Arlo Gilbert, CEO of Televero and formerly proud owner of a Revolv hub, , emphasizing that "Google is intentionally bricking hardware that he owns."
Video game enthusiasts have worried about this for years, and have started to encounter this problem, as the new most-favored copyright protection scheme is to require an online account and an account-check each time the game is run. They try to say the online component is adding value, and they do a few things like leader boards and achievements, but the primary rational is copy protection. Personally I find this generally easier to work with than other types of copy protection that have been tried (I really like Steam, for example) but what happens when the login servers are shut down?
This sort of reminds me, oddly enough, of cemeteries. There used to be a problem where private cemetery owners would sell out the cemetery, fill it up, and move on. But then the cemetery itself would fall apart. It's not like the owners are still around to pay association dues like condo owners do. Once people figured out that problem, they quickly began demanding that cemeteries have a plan for long-term maintenance, with assets in trust or some such thing. Perhaps the hardware and software industry will do the same thing. I could see a non-profit trust getting set up by the major players to which manufacturers pay dues in exchange for having the trust take over their servers after a product is abandoned.
Verizon's decision to stop subsidizing smartphone purchases in exchange for 2-year contract lock-ins is going to be a big change in the industry. It will be interesting to see what happens to handset prices. A while back someone I know had a Verizon iphone that they lost. They were talking about going out and buying a new one to replace it. I said, "uggh, an $800 hit." They looked at me like I was crazy. They said they had paid something like $300 for it. I pointed out that that was likely with a 2-year contract lock-in, and that a replacement would go full price which can run over $800 depending on which version they had.
They did not believe me. In fact they were almost indignant that I would suggest such a thing. And went running off the the Verizon store with every confidence an ik彩平台登陆Phone 6 plus could be purchased for $200-$300.
This situation has obtained for a decade. It will be interesting to see what happens to ik彩平台登陆Phone sales when customers are exposed to something closer to the true price. Since most ik彩平台登陆Phones without contract go for more (substantially more in fact) than the laptops I am buying my employees, I can't help but think that ik彩平台登陆Phone revenues will suffer. (Of course, the result could be everyone who wants a new ik彩平台登陆Phone switching to AT&T from Verizon -- it is not at all clear Verizon's new no-subsidy rates are low enough to be a better net deal than the old rates+subsidy).
I use Verizon because my business operates in the boondocks and Verizon is almost always the last carrier standing when I drive out to our locations. I wonder if Verizon will now be allowing unlocked phones? I presume this will be the case -- T-Mobile is the other company that ended phone subsidies and I moved my unlocked Nexus to them.
By the way, the current T-Mobile $50 a month plan allows unlimited data and text when roaming in 120 countries, and $0.20 a minute international calls from any of these countries. This is even better than you can do with the old method of buying an international sim card and switching when you land. No other US carrier is even in the ballpark. You have to pay Verizon $20 a month or so to get them to reduce international roaming text costs to 50 cents each with some paltry amount of data. For international travelers, there is no other choice even close to T-Mobile among US carriers.
RRRRR, I Don't Want Another Device I Have to Remember to Charge -- In Praise of the Removable Double A Battery
After years and years of happy service, my Logitech MX Anywhere mouse finally gave up the ghost. So I bought a new one, though I purchased the new thinking it would be new and improved.
Wrong! At least for me. The old mouse used a single AA battery that lasted months and months. By keeping 1 extra AA battery in my backpack, I was able to make sure my mouse would always work. Now, though, the new MX 2 mouse has a built in battery that has to be charged with a charging cable. And if it runs down (which is always possible since there is no charge indicator)? Then you have to plug it in with a cable to recharge, and the mouse does not work while charging. Basically, if you were planning to work in your hotel room that night, you are out of luck.
Already, I have to remember to plug in my cell phone, my iPod, my iPad, my TV remote, my Jabra earphone, etc. I don't want to have to charge something else!!
A plug-in rechargeable battery is NOT necesarily better than using a couple of double A's. I have the same problem with my k彩平台登陆 theater remote (also Logitech). My old versions used to use replaceable batteries, so I could just leave it on the coffee table. The new remote require a charger. But I have no outlets within 10 feet of my coffee table, so now I have to keep the remote in the kitchen, one room over. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I took this picture in La Jolla this weekend -- it is of a house with a very narrow driveway that has a turntable to help the car get in and out of the garage facing the right way.
I thought it was amazing, but my wife immediately began saying things like "well, I think you could easily get the car in and out without it by... blah blah." I told her you don't have a turntable because it is necessary, you have it because it is awesome. Didn't she watch the Batman series growing up? It's a freaking turntable for your car! What further justification is needed?
In my review of my Droid Turbo, I mentioned in passing that I was frustrated by how slippery a lot of cell phones were. I was in the Verizon store the other day killing time while they fixed something on my kids' phone, so I tried holding a bunch.
The slipperiest by far were the HTC One M8 and the LG G3. Both, probably not coincidentally, get high marks for being attractive due to their metal or faux metal backs, but the same backs make them like a wet bar of soap to hold. You can put a no slip case on them of course, but then if you are going to put them in a case, why buy a phone that is promoted in large part on its looks?
My Droid Turbo is OK, with no slip surface around the edges but a very slick back, at least the nylon back one I have.
The Galaxy S5 is better than average. Its back gets a lot of grief for being ugly, but it will not slide around in the hand and is comfortable to hold.
Until this week, the no-slip champion for me was the Moto X with the bamboo case (it is real wood veneer, not some plastic fake thing). It looks good to my eye and it is very grippy in the hand.
But there is a new champion. I tried the (again, real football leather). This thing is not going to slide out of your hand (unless maybe if you are Jay Cutler). The looks are ... different, but I could get used to it. k彩平台登陆Phones for me are a convenience item, not a fashion item. The Moto X's only problems are a small battery and a camera that is a bit weak. Which is why I bought the Droid Turbo, which is a very similar phone but with a bigger battery. Just wish they had all the cool Moto Maker options the Moto X has.
I am extremely happy with my Droid Turbo phone on Verizon. A few notes for those thinking about buying a phone:
Why Android over ik彩平台登陆Phone
- I have been an ik彩平台登陆Phone guy through 2 generations of phones, and still love my iPad. But I am exhausted with iCloud and Apple proprietary calendar and mail. I don't use those tools, I use Gmail and other Google tools, and I got exhausted constantly farting with setup issues. Things I had to use IFTTT to do on the ik彩平台登陆Phone happen automatically on Android. And don't even get me started on duplicate photos in the ik彩平台登陆Phone/iCloud world. Drives me crazy.
- If on your desktop you live in the Apple world, buy an ik彩平台登陆Phone. If you, like me, use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google drive and other such tools, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to switch to Android. Google drive is woven into the operating system at many points. And even better than on the desktop, Android is great at working with and recognizing multiple google accounts without signing in and out. For example, in the photo viewer, you can view all your photos together from all your accounts.
- The one downside is I don't use Google hangouts and Google+, and those are woven in as well. I had to replace the text messaging app with something else (I use Chomp) but that is the great thing about Android - things that are fixed in iOS are customizable in Android (it is also the bad part of Android if you don't want to mess with that -- I would never put my wife on Android, for example).
- As a downside, all the variation in phones and customizations mean that you are not guaranteed to get Android updates when they come out. It depends on your carrier and phone manufacturer.
- The ability to load up all my music for free (even FLAC files which they automatically convert online to high quality MP3) and stream it to my phone is way better than Apple's capability.
- I think that most of the feature and OS leadership in the last 18 months has really be grabbed by Android. Except for the fingerprint capability on the ik彩平台登陆Phone, everything in the ik彩平台登陆Phone 6 and iOS 8 was just catch up with Android.
The Good about the Turbo
- Honking big battery. Yes, it makes it a bit heavier and bulkier, but it is way lighter and less bulky than, say, and ik彩平台登陆Phone with a mophie battery case. I never even come close to running out, even when I use it travelling as a GPS in the car for several hours. You don't realize how much your interaction with your phone is influenced by battery life until you don't have to worry about it. I can even leave the screen on bright all day
- Wireless charging. Awesome. The mini-USB connector sucks vs. the ik彩平台登陆Phone connector because it is not reversible so it is much harder to insert. All that goes away with wireless charging. Love it.
- Fast charging. You can use the fast charger to blast a ton of life back into the phone in just 15 minutes.
- Near stock Android. I like this over the glossy custom overlays Samsung and Sony and every other company apply. I did replace the front end with the Google Now front end, which is nearly identical but it has Google now cards on the leftmost screen, which I have come to enjoy. Fun travelling in particular when it pops up photo sites or destinations near me. Its news suggestions are tied into my browser history and are pretty spot on.
- Near stock Android also pays another benefit - you will get Android updates much faster. All Motorola phones (given Google's ownership) are early on the list of phones that will get Android Lollipop upgrades.
Things that are fine
- The camera is fine. Focuses relatively fast, takes decent pictures, but not as good as you might expect from the specs. But competitive with other phones.
- The screen is supposed to be a selling point, with its above HD resolution, but almost never can I tell a difference. At some point, the eye just cannot see more pixel density. It has some tradeoffs in that the higher pixel density can lead fonts on some websites to be almost unreadable (no one has really programmed for this high of a pixel density yet). Also, the higher pixel count requires more power, which reduces some of the advantage of the larger battery
- The screen is AMOLED, like the Samsung Galaxy phones. It is a love it or hate it thing. The colors on AMOLED tend to be oversaturated. Ironically, I can live with that. I am SUPREMELY fussy about the colors on my TV's and in particular on my movie projection system, but I don't care so much on the phone. Certainly it makes the desktop bright and attractive
Things that are a negative for many reviewers but don't bother me
- "Its ugly". That is the #1 review comment. Shrug. I think it is fine. Sure, the Moto X with the bamboo back is awesome looking. But I am deeply into functionality here. The curved back feels nice in the hand.
- There is only a single speaker. I have come to understand that millennials are fine listening to music on crappy tinny speakers. I would never listen to music on laptop speakers, and especially not on a cell phone speaker. I only use the cell phone speaker for occasional speakerphone calls. And it is fine for that.
Things that do bother me
- I wish it had a memory card slot. I have 64MB which is likely enough, particularly since I have all my music loaded up online with Google play music and I can just stream it most of the time. But I would feel better with an expansion slot
- I wish it was water resistant like the Galaxy S5. Wireless charging makes this even more doable since you can plug up the USB port.
- I wish it had ik彩平台登陆Phone's awesome fingerprint scanner
- Why do they have to design $800 electronic devices that break when dropped to be so slippery? The edges are finished in some kind of rubbery stuff that is very grippy. I wish they had done the back in the same stuff. That fake nylon webbing stuff on mine is slick, though not wet-bar-of-soap slick like, say, the HTC One M8.
If one considers the penetration of digital film-making to be the inverse of this chart, I can't remember any technological transformation that occurred this fast.
Incredibly, this likely understates the speed at which traditional film has been replaced, since some of these Kodak numbers likely include a bump from the exit of their rival Fuji from the film manufacturing business.
I will confess that I was among those who feared this transition, worrying that digital recordings would lose some of the special visual qualities of film. What I failed to understand, and most people fail to understand in such technical transitions, was that whatever was lost (and it was less than I feared) is more than made up for in new capabilities in the new medium.