Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

2nd Annual Crystal Ball Gazing and Pundit Toss

It’s that time again – actually I’m really really late – for the 2nd Annual Crystal Ball Gazing and Pundit Toss – 2013 edition.

First – lets have the results from last year’s prognostication:

  1. 2012 doomsday – never happened.  I got that one right.
  2. SOPA-PIPA – again never happened.  I got that one wrong (thought it would pass).  That being said – congress is trying to resurrect that one again – pretty much verbatim.
  3. PC still here – but not as vibrant.  I got that basically correct.  You weren’t able to walk into Best Buy and get a high-end gaming system anymore (e.g. like I did in 2011) – and what remained was geared towards your casual users.  However, hobbyists still had options of getting some major gear through online resellers (Newegg and the like).
  4. Cloud computing – it was all the rage throughout 2012, and was the catalyst for various products and services.  However people did see some problems as their data became unavailable during network infrastructure failures – as I predicted.
  5. NASA manned space program – Kaput!  The Russians provided 4 Soyuz missions to the international space station, while the Chinese had one mission that docked with their orbiting laboratory/space station Tiangong-1.  Meanwhile unmanned flights continue unabated – with the USA #3 behind Russia and China.

My personal prediction results:

  1. CPU Cycle Pwnage – NOT!  I never did get that AMD system I wanted.  In the meantime, I did get a shiny new Nexus 7 tablet (the idea being to build software for it) – but then had it, and several other of my electronics stolen from a locked vehicle…  Given replacement costs for various things – repairs to the vehicle and other financial issues – my plans were pretty much dead in the water.  I got this one way wrong.
  2. Uber Blogger – NOT!  While I started off on a solid footing – life/work seemed to suck the time out of my dedication to blogging – and I fell well short of the 52 blog entries desired (only managed to do 8 entries).  Fail Whale!
  3. Doomsday Weight Loss Plan – goal: 100 lbs lost.  Accomplishment: GAINED 5 lbs (after losing a solid 10).  Again, I did not stick with it.
  4. Balance – goal: spend more time in meditation, doing outdoorsy stuff with family, and doing recording….no, no and no.  FAIL.

With that – I had a terrible year predicting my own behavior – but did fairly well predicting the outcome of the larger events.  As a result, I’m going to be a bit more conservative for 2013:

My personal Predictions/Goals for 2013:

  1. Computer and network: going to at least get the ‘hanger queen’ Intel i7 back online with new parts – and set it up to do development as a virtual machine host.  I will also complete building and installing my firewall – that will not only provide better security – but will also handle the buffer bloat problem, and improve my overall network performance.
  2. Development: going to make major progress on my open source project on my personal time.  Given my new job, I don’t expect to be able to announce and release/coordinate by the end of the year – but I anticipate being able to some time next year.
  3. Recording: going to start a voice blog/show on some theme I have as yet to lock down…  Shooting for one show a month for 2013.
  4. Weight loss – I will be active on a daily basis – and will have consistent wieght loss all year (won’t say how much – but will say it will be continuous).
  5. Blogging – I am shooting for writing at least one blog entry a month for 2013.  I did 8 last year – so 12 is a good round number.

Now for the big predictions for 2013:

  1. PC sales will continue to plummet – and hard core gaming will start to be threatened.  Distributors will start to report the unavailability of PC specific resources (motherboards, chipsets, peripherals) – and advancements in the technology of PC CPUs and other core components will stagnate as all efforts focus on tablets and phone form factors.
  2. Linux will go through a ‘dark age’ during 2013 – but this will set the stage for a ‘renaissance’ in 2014 that gives users more of what they want.  On a parallel note: hard core PC gaming will continue to improve under Linux as Windows falls by the wayside, but total numbers of hard core gamers will drop as consoles and casual gaming gains ground.
  3. SOPA – Round 2 – will raise the hackles of freedom loving people – and there will be another ground swell against it.  If passed, in concert with the already modified ‘no jail breaking’ rule from the librarian of the Library of Congress (under DMCA provisions) – the network will be less open to innovation using existing devices.  However, as we all know, the internet has the property of routing around log jams, and this will be no different.  I expect these rulings to impact business interests more than open source in the long run – and will provide opportunities for Kick-starter projects to fill gaps left by proprietary solutions.  We’ll see…
  4. With the death of Aaron Swartz and the backlash of Anonymous – we are already seeing an uptick in zero-day exploitation.  I expect that to continue throughout the year to make 2013 a critical year for network and systems security.

Check back with me at the beginning of 2014 to see how it all turns out.

Google Nexus 7 and a Brave New World

So the fates threw another curve ball my way, and made the magic smoke come out of my SO’s game machine.  As luck would have it (for her) my recent Windows 7 game machine – and more recently a 64 Bit Debian Linux development machine – was identical in make and model, and quickly drafted as a replacement.  After extracting the hard drive, and a 122 mm fan from the hanger-queen – and retrofitting said parts into my old machine – she was back up and running her favorite games on a machine that had much better airflow(overheating had killed the the motherboard).  Love knows no bounds.

Unfortunately for me, this yet again put a kink in my previous new-year’s plans.  Then Google happened.  More precisely the Nexus 7 happened, and this happening which I was not cognizant of in my normal ‘antennae up’ manner – was fortunate in that its timing provided me the leverage needed to modify my plans from doing the sort of development I expected, to presenting an alternative.  So I bought one – the $250 model – that I quickly encased in a faux leather magnetic covering – a la SD Tabletwear Smart  Case for the Nexus 7 – and preceded to learn the ins-and-outs of.  I also managed to get a few books on Android development…and the rest, as they say, is history.   Or more accurately, ‘history in the making’.

In comparison to the iPAD, the Nexus 7 (built by ASUS) is much smaller and lighter than the iPAD.  Reading and using the device is a breeze – easy on the hands and arms in comparison to the iPAD over long periods of time.  The one drawback – 16GB of storage compared to 64GB on the iPAD – is made up by the snappy graphics processing of the integrated NVIDIA CPU/GPU sporting a Quad core CPU and 12 core GPU – and the fact that I found an old iPOD Nano laying around [daughter’s present, 5th generation circa 2009 – never opened – her loss] that I copied my music over to (I can actually walk around now, and listen to my music without having to lug the iPAD around).  The Nexus 7 is dedicated to running apps/games – and I really like the interface that it uses with the Android 4.1 Jellybean OS.

Comparing the two OS’s/interfaces, I would say there are some things better done by Apple, and some better done by Google.  For example, I like the way Apple handles process control – clear and absolute.   Shutting down applications on Android is somewhat labyrinthine  (until you figure out that you can use the settings widget to create a desktop shortcut to the apps control) always leaves me with an uneasy feeling – the question in my mind, ‘did that application really shut down?’  As I later learned, this is a feature of the Android development and runtime system: resources can be defined for an application – and will be run as requested by the app…hence the mysterious application services that mysteriously seem to appear in the process list.  From this perspective, I can see that it isn’t necessarily Android, as much as undisciplined developers.  My own efforts to create applications for Android will test this theory – so more to follow on that on future blogs.  Android does get some things interestingly right – such as interprocess communication, and the layering of applications and interface components such that you can clearly back out of something and return to what you were doing before without necessarily having to jump around so much (the ‘back’ button).

Overall – for my purposes, the Nexus 7 is the perfect form factor and functionality.  I do like the iPAD – but (there is always a but, isn’t there?) I think it is really geared for people who are into media and media creation.  You can’t do development on the iPAD (aside from some sand-boxed interpreters that are very limited – without access to the underlying resources), and external native development for distribution is limited and requires a $99 fee (at the time of this writing).  On the other hand, native applications on the Nexus 7 can be developed and distributed freely – and not only can you develop externally to the device, you can download the AIDE (Android Integrated Development Environment) and do development on the device itself.  Add a bluetooth keyboard, and you have the next best thing to a laptop.

Now remember: your mileage may vary.  Others might argue that the small screen size, the lack of storage space, and wifi-only networking are deal killers.  I don’t have issue with any of that – my old eyes are getting to the point where I have to wear glasses anyway to read any screen smaller than 17″ LCD, I moved the largest part of my stored items – the music – over to a more appropriate/mobile iPOD device, and I have a smartphone which already has mobile telephone data network capability for the rare times I really need it.

Don’t feel bad for my old iPAD – it will live on as a media device associated with my living room TV system (there is an app for that).  And if I get an Apple TV device – it might even have even more life breathed into it as a video streaming device as well.

Would Steve Jobs approve my choices?  Probably not – but time marches on – and I am nothing if not pragmatic, in a Bruce Lee sort of way.  To Steve’s credit, the vision to create this tablet/smartphone ecosystem allowed the Nexus 7 to exist – he made his mark through the company he lead and the products he championed – and the world is better for it imho.

It is certainly a brave new computing world for all of us.