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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rest in Peace, my Floppy Friends

Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, August 26, 2011
4:16 pm

After many years of gathering dust on a shelf in my office, my erstwhile floppy disk friends, containing a veritable cornucopia of hopelessly outdated software and useless data, must go.  I felt an intense inner tug-of-war between my tendencies towards compulsive hoarding (or disposophobia) and my more rational desire for a clean office.  My desire for cleanliness, plus some coaching from my decidedly anti-disposophobia wife, won out, and I carried the floppy disk stash out to the garbage.

Farewell, dear floppy disk.  How many years it will be before my CDs and DVDs join you in the dustbin of history?

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Happy Discovery: Weather in Google Maps

Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, August 18, 2011
10:39 am

A Lifehacker tweet caught my eye this morning:

From the ‘why wasn’t this part of it before?’ files: weather in Google Maps lifehac.kr/rntesc

What a great addition to Google Maps! For one who travels frequently as I do, the weather overlay on Google Maps is a godsend. Many times during my career, I have showed up somewhere ill-equipped for the weather and had to buy a coat or sweatshirt to survive. Now, if I can only remember to look at Google Maps, I will be much better prepared.

I wonder when it will show up on my iPhone app?

By the way, do you want to visit us in Mesa, AZ? Maybe in November.

 

However, although the temperature outside is verifiably toasty, my wonderfully air conditioned office registers a mere 78 degrees!

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Happy Discovery – Fluid Apps

Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
3:27 am

Yesterday, I got tired enough of Tweetdeck intermittently hanging while I tried to check my Twitter feeds that I started checking for an alternative.  I use the Hootsuite app on my iPad, so I checked to see if Hootsuite has a dedicated Mac client.  It doesn’t, favoring a browser-only user interface for Mac and PC.  However, in the search, I stumbled across a blog post by David Chan, outlining how to use Fluid to set Hootsuite up as an dock-able application.  Fluid “lets you create a Real Mac App (or “Fluid App”) out of any website or web application, effectively turning your favorite web apps into OS X desktop apps.”  It essentially dedicates a separate browser instance to each website.

So, I “Fluidized” Hootsuite and liked it so well that I did the same thing to the WordPress Dashboard, where I am writing this post.  I like the capability to have these “apps” in the Mac dock, and really like the ability to use Command-Tab to cycle between them like the rest of my apps. Who knows what my next Fluid App will be!

 

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Affinity for Obsolete Old Things

Humor, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, July 22, 2011
4:16 pm

All our married kids have at least 1 HDTV system in their homes – one son has four!  But their “stuck-in-the-dark-ages” dad still has the same old reliable Sony flat screen 36″ set that was state-of-the-art back in 1997.  I can really identify with Earl Pickles.

And yes, Opal, I may also be an obsolete old thing.

But seriously, when we break down and buy a new HDTV system later this year, what on earth should we do with the Trinitron?  Give it to Earl?

By the way, the ghostly image in the screen is not me bowing in obeisance to the TV Gods.  I am just taking a photo for this blog.

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My Brain on Google

Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, July 15, 2011
5:01 am

I was intrigued by the recent article in IEEE Spectrum entitled “The Web is Your New Memory.”  The author, Erica Westly, observes:

The idea that the Internet has become a sort of “hive mind” is certainly not new, but researchers are still figuring out how the hive mind affects how our own minds work. A study published in today’s Science suggests that the Internet has changed how we remember facts. The study shows that the Web has become a sort of external hard drive for factual information. So instead of remembering specific details, such as who directed the film Casablanca (Michael Curtiz), we remember the name of the website where we can look up that information (IMDb).

That suits me just fine.  I really admire my son who has a near-photographic memory, with an uncanny ability to remember a wide variety of facts and figures.  I once worked for a fellow who could name and discuss every person who had ever coached or starred on any NCAA or NFL team, with the fluency of how a mother discusses her children.

However, I have always been one who was better at remembering how to look up stuff, rather than remember the details.  I’m much better at carefully crafting an analysis report or creating a presentation focused on resolving a specific customer problem than with impressing folks at dinner with quick recall of esoteric facts.  For me, cyberspace has indeed been a blessing for my way of thinking – a vast expansion to my short- and long-term memory.  I keep my to do lists on line, I take almost all my notes on line, I study and annotate scriptures on line … the list goes on and on.  In a way, this blog is as much an extension to my memory as anything.  I often refer to back issues when researching subjects of interest.

So, Erica, I think you are spot on.  But I take a bit of exception to Gary Small, whom you quote:

My guess is that you would see this effect in older subjects. The younger people may have grown up with this technology, but the digital immigrants are catching up.

I’m an old guy, many years removed from college.  But I prefer to think the young folks are catching up with me. After all, I started college before floppy disks were invented … and my online storage has been expanding ever since.

 

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Happy 100th Birthday, IBM!

Business, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, June 16, 2011
7:34 pm

It was 100 years ago today that the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation was incorporated through a merger of four companies: the Tabulating Machine Company, the International Time Recording Company, the Computing Scale Corporation, and the Bundy Manufacturing Company.  It’s name was later changed to International Business Machines Corporation.  Today we salute IBM for its innovation and endurance, its ability to remake itself time after time, and for leading the way to the era of modern computing which we now enjoy.

I highly recommend that you read the ZDNet Article, “IBM at 100: 15 inflection points in history” and step through the accompanying photo gallery, “IBM: 100 years of THINKing big.

IBM

I love old photos of the big panels with so many flashing lights.  And that guy probably knows what each of those lights means!

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Internet of Things: For Real

General, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
6:01 pm

TendrilLast month, I created a series of posts (one, two, three) about the Internet of Things.  I turns out that one of my colleagues who inspired that series of blog posts is now employed by Tendril, a company that is involved in this Internet of Things business for real.

According to their press release footer:

Tendril is a leading energy platform company that is helping to drive the large-scale deployment of the Smart Grid through the development of forward-thinking solutions as well as its work to establish industry protocols. The Tendril platform provides an open standards-based, scalable and secure end-to-end solution for the Energy Internet – the network for existing and upcoming Smart Grid technologies. With applications, products and services enabled by the platform, Tendril creates a dialogue and marketplace between energy providers, consumers and the energy ecosystem.

The Smart Grid concept will certainly be involved in attaching lots of devices to the Internet. For one intriguing project, Tendril has teamed with Whirlpool to focus on the roll-out of smart home appliances in the US. For example,

For a refrigerator to actively manage its energy consumption, it must be able to quickly, reliably and seamlessly communicate with the electric utility company. … In this case, the refrigerator will automatically move its defrost cycle to a non-peak time without impacting the performance of the appliance.

I like the idea of having smart appliances coordinate with the electric utility to save energy and reduce my energy bill. It will be great to see what companies like Tendril will do to productively contribute to the Internet of Things.

 

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Source Doc: The Information Needs Of Communities

Social Media, Source Doc, Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, June 13, 2011
5:08 pm

Federal Communications CommissionOn June 9th, the Federal Communications Commission issued  an interesting document, “The Information Needs of Communities – The Changing Media Landscape In A Broadband Age,” authored by Steven Waldman and The Working Group On Information Needs Of Communities.  (A two-page summary of the document is available here.)

The document introduction states:

In culmination of its work over the last year, the FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities delivered a report on June 9, 2011 addressing the rapidly changing media landscape in a broadband age. In 2009, a bipartisan Knight Commission found that while the broadband age is enabling an information and communications renaissance, local communities in particular are being unevenly served with critical information about local issues.

Soon after the Knight Commission delivered its findings, the FCC initiated a staff-level working group to identify crosscurrent and trend, and make recommendations on how the information needs of communities can be met in a broadband world.

I enjoyed reading the statement by FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps that accompanied the document’s release; here are a few excerpts:

Let’s begin with a basic truth: the future of our country’s media is an issue that goes to the heart of our democracy. A well-informed electorate is the premise and prerequisite of functioning self-government. To make this compact work, it is imperative that the FCC play a vital role in helping to ensure that all Americans have access to diverse and competing news and information that provide the grist for democracy’s churning mill.

The Digital Age holds amazing promise for expanding the scope of our democratic discourse. The Staff Report recognizes this and the present Commission has focused tremendous energy on both broadband deployment and adoption. But let’s recognize up-front that building a new town-square paved with broadband bricks and stacked with good news and information is not going to happen on auto-pilot.

An open Internet is not the entire solution for robust Twenty-first century journalism. It’s tougher than that, and I, for one, don’t believe we’ll get there absent some positive public policy solutions. We have never had successful dissemination of news and information in this country without some encouraging public policy guidance, going back to the earliest days of the young republic when Washington, Madison and Jefferson saw to it that newspaper were financially able to reach readers all across the fledgling young republic.

These issues mean a lot to me because I believe they mean a lot to our country. I have been outspoken about them–and sometimes blunt, I know. I intend to keep speaking out on them in the months and, if needed, the years ahead. This nation faces  stark and threatening challenges to the leadership that brought us and the world successfully through so many dire threats in the century just past. Now we confront fundamental new uncertainties about the revival of our economy, where new jobs will come from, how we will prosper in a hyper-competitive global arena, how to support the kind of education that our kids and grandkids will need to thrive–indeed to survive–in this difficult time, how to open the doors of opportunity to every American, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives.We’ve got a lot to get on top of as a country and if we don’t have the facts, don’t have the information, and don’t have the news about what’s going on in the neighborhood and the town and the nation and world around us, our future will be vastly diminished. That’s why so much rides on the future of what we are talking about today.

I think these are valuable objectives, but it isn’t clear where this document will lead.  One author commented, “FCC Report on Media Offers Strong Diagnosis, Weak Prescriptions.”

I personally feel sensitive to this changing landscape.   I love the innovation of the USA Today and Wall Street Journal iPad apps, but I still enjoy reading the local paper-based newspaper over breakfast.  But my favorite local newspaper went out of business a couple of years ago, and the surviving newspaper is steadily shrinking in size.  This local newspaper’s online presence falls far short of the USA Today/WSJ readability model.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

To start with, I think I’ll transfer the whole 465-page report to my iPad and read it there.

PS.  I think the FCC has an ugly logo.  That’s all.

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Dilbert: Men vs. the Entertainment Value of a Smartphone

Humor, Social Media, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
10:47 am

Poor Dilbert. His social skills just don’t measure up to the smartphone!

Dilbert and Smartphones

On a more serious note, is this so far removed from reality? Is the entertainment value of smartphones and related apps getting in the way of real human relationships?

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Internet of Things: WiFi Connected Light Bulbs

Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, May 21, 2011
7:49 pm

The concept of the Internet of Things is my  fascination de jour.  Today, I was pleased to read an intriguing Fast Company article entitled, “Wi-Fi-Connected Lightbulbs, Coming To Smart Homes In 2012.”   It appears that WiFi enabled home lighting is closer that I thought, from Netherlands-based company NXP:

Why on Earth would you want a lightbulb with an IP address? It’s not obvious until you realize we’re not talking regular incandescent bulbs here. The tech will go into advanced compact fluorescent units as well as LED light bulbs, both clean low-power replacements for Edison’s aging invention. These lights already incorporate a few chunks of silicon in their bases to help control them, and it’s this tiny circuit board that enables all sorts of new things–adding NXP’s tiny Wi-Fi system to the board is relatively easy and cheap. And then you can turn your lights on and off from a computer hooked up to your home’s wireless grid.


I’ve always thought it would be cool to control all the lights in my house from a single point.  The fact that next year I could do that without rewiring my house  – and do the controlling from my mobile phone or other Internet-connected device – is pretty cool!

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