About Michael

I created this site to help showcase the mobile application community in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.

What am I thankful for as 2017 comes to an end

I had originally thought about writing a post for Thanksgiving, about all the things that I am thankful for, but realized I just didn’t have the time. I have decided to write a bit later and think thru the last year and all the things I am thankful for, and all the things I am looking forward to, in the world of tech.

1) The many waves of technological advancement. I’ve been a big fan of tech since I was able to take a computer class when I was in the fifth grade. I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of students that got to take college classes in fifth grade. I still remember all three classes I took, one was Egyptian history, one was aeronautics (and flight) and the last was computers. Now this was in the mid-1970s and a computers class meant cards, green screens and green bar paper. Seeing the various transitions in computing over the years has been fantastic. Transitioning from mainframes to PCs, from PCs to the Web, from Web to Mobile, and now to wearables and sensors. Each of these waves have been made possible by distruptive innovation. And we are living thru one right now. The rate and pace of computing power increase, the ubiquity of communication/connectivity, and the enablement of voice and AR as means of interacting with computing devices, is bringing many new challenges to policy, privacy and profitability. Companies are having to think about new business models, governments are having to work thru security and privacy policy, and individuals need to re-assert the rights to their own data (think of all the issues uncovered by Equifax’s news this year).

2) Backlash driving political engagement. I have long considered myself a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Right now there’s not a single political party that matches that world view. We have the right that claims fiscal conservatism but their policies drive high deficiets and do not address the basic requirements of governing, i.e. providing an environment that promotes all of the citizens of the country. On the left they claim progressive, but they have alienated a large swath of the population, which is actually driving much more backsliding of many of the social policies that have been fought for over the years. An educated and informed citizen is a bedrock of our country and both parties have actively driven wedge issues as a means of playing to their base. If we are to continue for another 250 years, heck another 50 years, we need to get back to a much more centrist set of policies. Seeing a resurgence of political engagement on both sides of all issues, will hopeful drive us to compromise and compassion, instead of the current policy of “my way or the highway”!

3) Music. I love music, and this year I had the opportunity to perform in a world premier opera, participate in a long weekend of incredible music and hear new music on an almost daily basis through online technology. I have been signing since I was a small child and the opportunity to continue to sing as an adult has been a highlight for me. Singing brings me joy, relaxation, excitement and positive feedback when I get to do it in front of an audience of strangers.

I hope that next year, will see more cool and exciting technology, an increase of political engagement that drives us towards compassion and compromise, and many more songs.

Why the N@zi’s would love DRM

While the title may seem like click bate, I really believe this is true. I’ve been thinking about how many people have gotten rid of their libraries (Music, Videos, Games, etc,) for the convenience of streaming content. All you have to do is start the latest app and you now have access to most of the music you like, most of the movies you want to watch, and most of the books you may want to read. It’s so easy and it only costs $10 per month per service.
As you may know, if you follow my blog, I had to rebuild my NAS of my Video collection. Not a problem, I own the Blu-ray and DVDs for the movies and TV shows, so I just fired up handbrake and MakeMKV to start rebuilding. As I was going thru them, some of the Blu-Ray’s were combo packs with the digital downloads. Of course the codes are no longer valid.
In the mean time Disney just partnered with a bunch of other companies and released their new Movies Anywhere app and platform, and if you connect some of your other accounts you get free movies. Now why would they do this? I believe they do it so they can get visibility to those accounts and ultimately allow them to gain additional data about you and your viewing habits.
All of this is still OK, better customer knowledge means better targeted ads, etc.
However, with any digital media that you don’t own, the provider can disable the content. Imagine if the book burning parties of the 1930’s could have been done with a push of a button. Wiping out years of knowledge and content in seconds – amazing German efficiency. And now, let’s look at all the data that can be seen and used to correlate “incorrect” thoughts of behaviors. So something that was OK this year, becomes incorrect next year. We can know identify and target that content and delete it.

The Fallacy of Shareholder Value

We are 30 years into the business cycle of Shareholder value. And over those thirty years we’ve seen a major shift in how businesses behave. The idea of Shareholder value was popularized by Jack Welsh. The basic idea can be netted out to the idea that if you take care of the Shareholder, by increasing the value of the stock, all the rest of a businesses priorities will be aligned to grow the business, keeping customers and employees happy too. While there are many articles available now, as to why this is not necessarily true.

To start with let’s focus on what value is to the shareholder. Shareholders are people who buy stock low, in order to sell it high. That’s the value, they get “profit” from their share purchases. The company does not get any value from the shareholders. Companies only get the value from their stock, when they offer new shares to the market. Those shares get sold, and the company get’s an infusion of cash. The difference between the original prices the company can offer it at, and the price that the seller gets is not captured by the company, but by the seller of the stock who bought it from the company. So at the very simplest, Stock is only valuable to a company when it issues new shares. But, since publicly traded companies have officers (AKA executives) the biggest value to the company is as a way of compensating executives, who receive stock as part of the compensation packages (usually at a lower price than it is available on the public market at time of issuance). In this regard, executives are shareholders of the company, and they receive move value if the price of them stock grows quickly from the time of issuance and when they can sell it. Companies that “grow” quickly, will provide a lot of value to the shareholder.

Employees, on the whole, want a stable work environment that allows them to utilize their skills, grow new ones, and have a rewarding career that reduces the amount of stress in their personal lives. Seeing your work being used in the market is rewarding, and knowing that you have the time to improve your products or services leveraging your abilities. Being recognized for your contribution is extremely important for many employees, and sharing the reward of the company’s success provides a powerful incentive to rank and file employees. For many years, employees could achieve this by getting stock from the company in a manner similar to the executive team. This helps employees, align their priorities to those of the executive team. But does it align with the customer?

But what about the value to customers. Let’s try and see how this is helpful. Customers what high value products and services at a low price. Maximizing the value of the investments in those products and services. They also want to buy things that have long life, again to maximize their investments. This means they want stable companies, that support their products over time. If customers perceive ongoing value, they will continue to buy those goods and services. If the product or service is complex to implement and use, then stability in use, without a lot of complex upgrades and changes, may be more valuable, then lots of feature upgrades. Feature complete (or good enough) products and services are therefore more important than change and growth.

So if we look at these competing priorities, it seems to me that focusing on Shareholder value, while powerful for rewarding executives and investors, does it benefit employees, and ultimately customers? Customers are critical in the life of a company. I would say, without customers there is no value for businesses. Customers, can be other companies, individual, and governments but ultimately the provide the revenue that drives all aspects of value. If you keep customers happy and engaged, then your company should make an appropriate revenue, allowing you to pay your employees and executives appropriately. What about the Shareholders? Well they make their money in speculation in the post initial offering, I say: don’t worry about them. Don’t measure yourself on their profits, that’s a separate business.

NAS and Media Maintenance

I have a problem, I like to own my media. Yes, I know in this age of streaming music, streaming video, and streaming games, why would anyone want to own their media.

First off, if you watch the changing landscape of services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Apple, etc. The various media services are constantly adding and removing content. Everyone is trying to figure out how to eek out as much “Value” (AKA – money) from every piece of content. Most of the money doesn’t go to the creators, but is siphoned away by producers, distributors, lawyers, and agents. And, if you have any network issues, you Chan’s necessarily get access to specific content.

Years ago, I started converting a ton of old media, LPs, Cassettes, and VHS tapes, to digital and storing them on my NAS. I also made DVD and CDs from those newly digitized files.

So as I started dealing with reorganizing my terra-bytes of media content, I ended up finding multiple copies of content across my NAS drive. I used a few tools – including Gemini 2 to find and clean this up. Imagine my surprise when I re-established my media library and discovered that I had accidentally deleted full copies of my movies library.

So for the next few months, I will be re-ripping my newly created DVDs from old shows I was in and other content.

*sigh*

Why Digital Downloads Suck

I’ve always had issues with DRM, as I like to own my content. 

Years ago, I went thru and converted a bunch of my old music collection (Casette Tapes and LPs) to MP3s so I could put them in my digital music library.  There were many albums that, over the years, I have replaced by buying the CDs, and those I ripped from CD to put in my digital library.  

Recently there are new albums coming out from artists I really like, and as such, I like to buy the LPs (I like the sound better, when I have time to sit down, and just listen to the LPs),… but I make sure that the ones I am buying include a digital download. I don’t mind paying extra (I also buy the triple formatted blueray’s for most of the movies I want in my collection).  

Here’s where the process breaks down…. Many of the LPs and the Blueray’s have a limited time that the downloads are available!  So if you buy an album that you didn’t catch in the store when it was first released, or you put Bluerays and DVDs on your wishlist for others to get things around birthdays and holidays, sometimes you end up paying for the extra-digital download and then finding out that they are no longer available.  

Big fail!  If you are going to offer digital downloads, you should make them available for as long as you (the distributor) are in business.   Otherwise, don’t complain when I use the analog hole, to rip an LP or a blueray to put it in my digital library.

“Collectivity” – I coined a new word today

One of the really cool things about language is you can create new words, that have meaning.  Today I was on a call about the Internet of Things, and we were discussing connectivity.  That layer of the stack that allows you to send data from a device to the cloud or a data store.  As businesses area always trying to “move up the stack” they talk about going from being a pipe to ultimately providing high value business analytics.  Well to me, the word “Collectivity” is the desire to go from connectivity to collecting the data required for the high value analytics.

What do you think?

WWDC 2017 Keynote – My Raw Notes

I had the idea to do my yearly write up of all the things I saw watching the WWDC keynote.. instead this year, I thought it would be cool to just post my raw notes.. see how I am thinking while watching the keynote.. Let me know what you think:
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WWDC 2017 – Keynote Notes
Cool shot of the mixer showing all the speakers to come
Why do all camera guys look the same, black pants, t-shirt, frumpy hair?
Silent mode announcement at 1:03pm
Crowds are all waving at what appears to be drone video flying around the inside of the auditorium.
Ok 1:05pm starting to play music with lyrics must be the key for everyone to sit down

Start time 1:08PM

Funny video on unplugging the App Store…

16M registered developers, 5300 in the room

Platforms tvOS, WatchOS, macOS, iOS

No updates – too much to talk about, other than apple is doing great
6 announcements –

    1. tvOS – 50 partners, Amazon is coming to Apple TV
    2. watchOS – Kevin Lynch –
      1. Watch faces –
        1. Siri powered watch face, what you need by dynamic time of day. (Including 3rd party apps)
        2. Kalido scope face
        3. Toy story faces
      2. Activities
        1. More personalized smarter coaching and monthly challenges
        2. Workout app – new UI, Pool swim will auto sense the sets that you are doing, and pace and stroke type. High intensity interval training too. Multiple workouts in a row to add multiple things, like swim, bike, etc. In door at the gym enabling two way data exchange with GYM equipment using NFC connection.
      3. Music
          Redesigning music app – auto sync to the watch – new music and mixes, so that you can listen.
      4. Demo
        1. Vertical scroll thru the dock
        2. New news app on Apple Watch.
        3. Play list auto starts with workout, swipe left to control music.
      5. Flashlight and safety light in control center
      6. Apps running the background increased… and native core bluetooth on the watch. (Dexcom sensor for real time glucose monitoring, swim monitors, etc.). Upgrade across ALL watches in the fall.
    3. macOS – the heart and sole of Apple. High Sierra
      1. 1. Safari update – faster
        1. 1. Autoplay blocking!!!! YEAH!!
        2. 2. Faster Java
        3. Privacy – Intelligent tracking prevention… identify trackers, segregate cross site scripting ads
      2. Mail –
        1. Search improvements using spotlight to do top hits
        2. Split view in full screen to do mail compose
        3. 35% less disk space usage
      3. Photos
        1. All imports in chronological order
        2. Face improvements and synced across your devices
        3. Editing enhancements: curves, selective color, punch out to other tool sync back to your photo library like Pixelmater or photoshop
        4. Printed books added to third parities are now opened up
      4. File system updates: (HFS is 30 years old)
        1. APFS is coming to macOS as new default.
      5. Video: h264 current standard
        1. 1. New standards h265 40% better compression
        2. Metal 2. Another 10x improvements
          1. Using metal 2 for machine learning
          2. Metal for external graphics – so you can add an external graphics card from your Mac
        3. Pro content creation
          1. Metal for VR to high-sierra
          2. Final cut will allow you to edit spherical video
          3. Multiple VR platforms to Mac
      6. all systems that are 2010 and newer
    4. Hardware MAC
      1. New iMacs
        1. Upto 64 GB storage
        2. Fusion on all 27inch
        3. 2TB SSD on 27 inch
        4. 2 USB-C adapter
        5. Graphics –
          1. Adding discrete graphics on all 4k graphics
          2. Using Raedon with 3X performance
          3. ILM demo of new iMac. Showed Unreal editor in VR, WOW…
          4. 90 frames per second rendering on an iMac
        6. Starting at $1799 for 5k 27inch
      2. New MacBook Pro updates
        1. Going to Kabyt Lake
        2. Faster SSDs to Mabbooks
        3. Better graphics to MacBook Pro base
        4. Lowered
      3. End of the year target at the new upgradable MacPro (built kinda like. iMac)
        1. Thicker… called the iMac Pro
        2. CPU – 8 Core – Xeon processor
        3. CPU – and a 10 core Xeon processor
        4. Up to 18 core Xeon Processor
        5. Radeon Vega Graphics architecture – up to 16 GB VRAM ( 11 Teraflops single precision)
        6. 128GB ECC Memory
        7. 4TB of 3GB/secon SSD
        8. 4 TB3, 10GB ethernet
        9. Drives up to 44 Million Pixels
        10. Starts at $4999 (kinda pricey) available in Dec.
    5. 5. iOS – 86% of devices are on iOS 10, vs. Android 7 – 7% adoption
      1. Messages –
        1. Redesigned app drawer
        2. Messages in iCloud – all conversations will be synchronized
      2. ApplePay
        1. Person to person payments – send and receive money
        2. Also available on Apple Watch
      3. Siri –
        1. 21 languages – available more than any assistant
        2. Improved the voice using deep learning
        3. Added translation (very cool)
        4. English, Chinese, French German and Italian
      4. Improvements to Siri Kit
        1. Task management
        2. Better predictive technologies
        3. Using on device learning, and some auto responses
        4. Learning gets synced across all your devices, readable only by you and your devices.
      5. Camera improvements using HVEC – less storage, better compression and replacing JPEG with HEIF (new compression)
        1. Low light photographs and stabilization, exposing depth api to developers.
      6. Photos Apps
        1. Better Machine learning to improve the process for Memories
      7. Demo
      8. Control center redesign
        1. Added 3D Touch for more features
        2. All fits on one screen now
        3. Unification of the notifications
        4. Long exposure option in photos… very cool
        5. Apple Pay accessible in messages
      9. Maps
        1. Detailed floor plans of Malls, place cards, directories, and by floor adding 100s each month
        2. Same for Airports
        3. Speed limit and lane guidance
        4. Bring Car Play capabilities too – called do not disturb while driving.
      10. Homekit
        1. Airplay 2 protocol.. multi-room audio in iOS
        2. Apple TV and third party api for audio
      11. Apple Music
        1. Added your friend’s music
        2. With profiles, etc.
        3. Developer API for music now
      12. App Store Updates
        1. 500 million weekly visitors to App Store. 180 Billion apps downloaded to date.
        2. Phased releases you can decided how to rollout over time
        3. Brand new design to App Store
        4. New Today view
        5. New Games View
        6. New in app purchases can be featured
        7. Live demo
      13. Metal 2 and HVEC coming to iOS
        1. Machine learning –
          1. New APIs –
            1. Vision API – face tracking / landmarks
            2. NLP – Tokenization and named entity recognition
        2. Augmented Reality –
          1. AR Kit — demo.. Very very cool
          2. Fast and stable motion tracking / plane identification / ambient light rendering and scale identification
          3. Wingnut AR – demo of new app. Using unreal engine 4.
        3. QR support from lock screen
    6. iPad – time to talk about iPad Pro
      1. Currently two models 12.9 and 9.7, New iPad Pro – 10.5 inch display
        1. Japanese JIS keyboard
        2. 120 hz refresh . Dynamically adjust reset rate based on content, allows improved battery life
        3. 20ms latency for Apple Pencil
        4. A10X – 6-core CPU and 12-Core GPU, 40% faster graphics performance
      2. Finally iOS for iPad updates!!
        1. More items in the dock
        2. Multitasking and drag an app from the doc
        3. App switcher with DRAG AND DROP!!
        4. Keyboard flicking to get to 2ndary things
        5. New App – FILES….
          1. Get access to the file system on iPad
          2. Including third party storage options

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And then life took over and I missed the rest of the keynote.

A week since MoogFest 2017

It’s been a week since MoogFest, and I’ve started to reflect on the experience. I’ve not seen any published numbers, but it certainly seemed much smaller than 2016’s MoogFest.  A report in the local paper said that 2016 was over 10,000 people with 65% or more being from out of town.  This year, in the sessions I was in, I would expect that the number coming in would be less than 7,000 (I guess we will hear some time closer to next year).

The number of technical sessions during the day seemed to be significantly smaller than 2016, but I was able to go to all the ones I wanted to, but one.  The one I couldn’t go to was completely full by the time I registered for sessions, it was a session on VR.  Well, I’ve played with Occulus in the past, so perhaps I didn’t miss anything.

There were three sessions that I really like a lot:

The first was from a professor at Ga. Tech, who teaches a class on musical instrument design. New Instruments, interfaces and Robotic Musicians – Was presented by Dr. Timothy Hsu and a PhD student – Mike Winters.  The talked about various instruments that people designed, and the contest that students compete in – http://guthman.gatech.edu/2017-winners .  The Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, has some really interesting designs by students and others.  I found the Rib-Cage instrument to be very cool.  Go check out the videos – Here.
The second session was from a Professor at Duke University – Brain-Machine Interfaces: From Basic Science to Neurological Rehabilitation – (Miguel A. L. Nicolelis, MD, PhD).  This session was inspirational and amazing!  During the 2014 World Cup, Dr. Nicolelis and a team of 100’s of scientists from around the globe worked together, in 18 months, to build an exoskelleton and train 9 quadriplegics to walk out on the field during the opening ceremonies and have one of them kick a soccer ball.  While this in itself was amazing, the part that was truly inspirational was the results of what happened after the World Cup.  Many people who are defined as permently quadriplegic due to a severed spinal cord, actually have 5-20% of the cord still in tact.  What Dr. Nicolelis and his team discovered was that after the training of the World Cup, many of the subjects actually started feeling below their defined injury.  Not only that, but some are even walking now!  Evidently the brain can be retrained to start controlling the limbs with the very limited spinal cord, after the injury (and without the exoskeleton).  While they are still doing research, this is very promising technology, and by training people with VR and other techniques that used during the World Cup work they can help people regain some control, and live a much more normal life.

The final session was really a set of sessions by a group of scientists who are all working with CERN and the LHC.  Dr. Steve Goldfarb, Dr. Kate Shaw, and Dr. Mark Kruse.  This group of experimental physicists talked about the Large Hadron Collider and physics across a multitude of sessions.  Sunday ended with a pub crawl at FullSteam brewery and an open Q&A session.  Had a great time talking physics with them.  Go follow their work on twitter at ICTP-News