Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

CES 2011

Monday, January 10th, 2011

A long time friend of mine saw my Google chat status and said you’re still going to CES?! No, well, ok, yes. I haven’t been to CES in 11 years, but decided this was the year I would return to see their first Sports & Fitness Tech conference and to do a write up of my favorite existing and future fitness tech from CES.

I haven’t been to Vegas in a long time. I think the last time I went it was to see Justin Timberlake in late 2007. That was fun. This was also fun, but much less debauchery. I had a really nice dinner with an old co-worker, drank a very conservative amount of alcohol, placed a $20 bet on red in roulette (and won :) and otherwise spent the time working. Which, oddly enough, was a nice change of pace for Vegas.

I guess it’s been long enough that CES was exciting again for me. I didn’t see the entire floor in all the halls, but it was mostly 3D TVs and cameras, wireless home systems, some touchless user interfaces (all still somewhat rough and imperfect), electric vehicles, health & fitness & mommy tech, and iPod/Pad/Touch accessories out the wazoo. I saw one session for software that lets you touchlessly control your computer using a regular webcam, but the guy was showing a video of it instead of demo-ing it live (it’s not very convincing if you don’t demo it live).

Audi's e-tron at CES 2011
Audi’s e-tron at CES 2011

I saw a couple of the glasses-less 3D tvs and they’re cool, but they have such a limited range of view — you have to stand right in front of it in the center in order for it to work and it’s still imperfect. The GE smart home wasn’t as smart as I wanted it to be, but was interesting from an energy efficiency standpoint. With a little communication module for your energy efficient appliances, you could see, for example, how much each load of laundry costs you in real time. The smart meters utility companies are starting to install signal when prices are at the peak, low, or midrange so your washer won’t run unless it gets the signal that it’s the cheapest rate, and if that rate changes mid-load, it’ll adjust itself to save you money. You can override this of course if you desperately need to wash something. And your city needs to have upgraded to the new smart meters in order to use this technology, but seeing the hard data like that all day long could really change your habits.

The thing I was most excited about was Omek, a gesture recognition engine that is faster than the Kinect and versatile. It’s vendor agnostic and hardware agnostic. With any 3D camera and their engine + SDK, you could develop killer gesture recognition apps. They’re working on a fitting app so home shoppers can virtually try on clothes. I’m so excited about that. My short little ass’ll have an easier time finding clothes that’ll fit :)

Migrating to WordPress

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

I moved this website to the Amazon cloud and haven’t updated it since. I had to install WordPress (which is insanely easy), but then I had to fix sendmail so that I could get my admin password (which I promptly forgot), which led to gmail blocking my IP address because of too much spam (I have all my mail forwarded to gmail, but spamming? wtf?!) so then I had to reconfigure sendmail. This stuff used to be easy and fun and now I’d rather scratch my eyes out. In fact, I’m seriously considering going old school — I could continue hand editing blog entries with Blosxom. But it’d eat away at me that I was using unsupported and outdated software. I’m still working on the migration. I’m having a hell of a time getting things laid out correctly. I never mastered CSS.

Why twitter?

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I saw this video today and it cracks me up because it makes you realize how stupid your tweets are.

I don’t know why I tweet except that it’s faster than blogging and I can make inane comments about…well, inane bs I wouldn’t bother to put on my blog. When I read other people feeds, I find myself often thinking to myself, I must stop following this person because I find him/her incredibly uninteresting, but never follow through with the unfollowing. My favorite tweeters are those who a) use whole sentences and express complete thoughts. Each tweet is short, yes, but I don’t want to read something no matter how short that doesn’t freaking make any sense about anything! And I like tweeters who b) are funny, and c) don’t tweet too often. Not every single tweet is interesting, but as long as the good ones are really good, I can overlook the lame ones. I really need to stop following about 80 of the 90 or so people I follow.

Here’s a really short list of my favorites (btw, you can view my inane feed at http://twitter.com/sfkat) in no particular order:

  • @Steve_Buscemi: he is usually quite hilarious
  • @yahoo: don’t care about most of their tweets but the “Spiking in search” ones are interesting (wonder if Google does this, too?)
  • @trent_reznor: the only famous person I follow simply because he’s Trent Reznor (I follow other famous people but usually not for long because believe it or not, famous people can be boring — or at least their tweets are). His tweets are actually usually pretty funny and he’s a tech geek too so bonus sexy points.
  • @PenelopeTrunk: she’s funny and writes well formatted tweets (i.e complete sentences and thoughts). Plus she’s a little neurotic and I like her.
  • @dooce: same as Penelope Trunk: she’s funny and writes well. Plus she’s pregnant and bitchy and I like her for it.

Wow, I can only come up with a list of five. I need to follow some new people. But there are a variety of reasons I follow people. I know them (e.g co-workers and friends), they’re local, tweet news, or are industry related (tech geek news/people), etc. So no, not every person I follow makes me laugh but they’re interesting for other reasons.

Google indexes itself really, really fast

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I was writing a blog entry on my health blog last night and I use Blogger for it, and blogger.com is a Google property. I posted the article, then made a couple of tweaks to it, then wanted to re-fact check something — the glycemic load of cantaloupe. I googled it and the blog entry I had just written came up as the first result. It had been about 5-10 minutes since I first published the entry and pushed it live. That was all the time it took for Google to crawl and index it. Holy cow. I wonder how long it takes this website to get added to the index…

Hmm…I just checked and last night’s blog entry is already in the index. Not bad…I’m totally impressed: Google search for the last blog entry.

Technology is all about love and hate

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

G1: I spend more time on the toilet because I read twitter on my G1. I used to read it on my blackberry, but the G1’s twidroid app is a far better user experience than the blackberry’s browser. And I can reply to tweets.

I wish the touch screen wasn’t so goddamn slow. Sometimes I have to hold my finger down on a button to ensure it gets pushed. I also wish you could see the numbers you punched when you’re on a call.

Twitter: I love twitter because they limit their messages to 140 characters so I’m constantly up to date (who wouldn’t be if they went to the toilet as much as I did?). But seriously, because the posts are short, you can skim past the ones that aren’t that interesting, stay on top of the lives of other people, and see what the current internet buzz is about.

I wish it would thread messages and replies — it’s awkward to see @ replies that have no context to them. It looks like when you @ reply to a particular message they pass the message id so maybe they plan to add this in the future?

Google Reader: I wish the UI was a little nicer, but now that I’ve been using it for a little while, it’s hard to give up because of the social networking part of it. I like sharing news items with other people and I like reading other peoples’ shared news items. In fact, I probably read more shared items than I do feeds I’m actually subscribed to.

One downside is that I have so many feeds, it’s literally impossible for me to stay on top of all of them. I skim a lot of news — if it doesn’t catch my interest immediately, I scan the headline and move on. I suppose that’s always been true, but now I just have a lot more stuff I’m not reading but feel like I should.

The UI problems are mostly about the terrible scrolling. It’s jumpy and unevenly slow then fast so sometimes I have no idea how many news items it’s scrolled past and have to constantly scroll back up.

Kindle: Got a Kindle for my birthday/xmas (but with the back orders, it only arrived recently). Such a beautiful, slim little device! I love that I can carry around multiple books with this little thing.

But why the hell doesn’t it have a back light?! It’s an electronic book for god’s sake. I had been looking forward to reading in the dark. And, at least with PDFs, it destroys the page layout — not having more visual chapter/story separation is weird. And I feel like I should be allowed to upload my own files to the damn thing without having Amazon charge me for each attachment I have to send myself to get data to the device. Lame.

My brush with Picasa Web

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I really want to love this product, I do. They finally released Picasa for the Mac which I’ve been waiting for forever. My girlfriend uses Picasa for the lovely photo collages on her blog. And she uses it to edit the photos and pretty do everything she needs to with them. But then she uploads them to Flickr.

Tonight I tried to edit my German Boy photos and thought I’d create a collage. I ended up deciding to skip the collage, and just export the photos. Well, for some odd reason, the flickr uploader tool doesn’t recognize the jpg files that were exported from Picasa. So I uploaded them to my picasaweb album. Except they don’t have multiple sizes for photos like flickr does. The UI isn’t as intuitive, and just doesn’t look as nice as flickr. I like that all the thumbnails are the same size and make a nice even grid on Flickr. I like that it shows you the most recently uploaded photos on the home page. I like the navigation options on the right hand side when you’re looking at a photo. I like that you can add notes to specific parts of photos on Flickr. And flickr is still way more popular than picasaweb. I’m sorry; it’s true.

My cousin once told me to “quit pushing my corporate products on [him]” when I teased him about Google Maps. I’m not a pusher, I’m really not. I love good products. I love open source software, and free software most of all, but I’m all about good, useful products. I pay for the unlimited uploads and sets and collections for my upgraded Flickr account, but it’s worth it. I push the products we make that I think are good and Google Maps is definitely one of them — I couldn’t live or get anywhere without my Google Maps. Picasa, though, is a whole ‘nother story.

Let me upgrade you

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

I purposely stopped blogging here because I thought I was going to start a couple of new blogging projects. Except I just kept thinking about them and didn’t end up starting either one.

So I’m back here now and contemplating upgrades. This blog software is ancient and needs a lot of hand holding to do simple things like updating the side nav. I can never remember which side nav file to edit. And I have to manually run the perl script everytime I add a new entry (I could set up a cron job but that might take me 30 seconds). I have to touch a file if I edit it to maintain the original timestamp. I can’t turn on commenting or any of the other bells and whistles up to date, modern blogs have without installing and configuring additional software. I feel like I’m a decade behind.

I’ve always been a do-it-myself kind of girl. Use the software I have the most control over, write my own apps. But these days, I find it’s foolish to try to do everything yourself. What you want is to be able to pull data from all your multiple sources and get it in one place. The other thing that I’m slowly starting to enjoy is the social aspect of sites like flickr.com and goodreads.com — you can share books with your friends and browse other people’s neat photos, make comments on, make new friends, join communities of like minded folks.

I know, I know, online communities were all the new thing like 10 years ago or more, and I have a bunch of profiles that prove I was aware of this long ago, but I clung to the old notion that my data, my content, had to be hosted only on a server I owned for a very long time. It took me forever to get on flickr because I was torn about this — my files on someone else’s server? It used to make me uncomfortable. Now, I appreciate and understand the value of these services. The only thing I’m concerned about now is migrating content over from one app to another. I moved all of my book reviews to goodreads, but that was easy because I only had 5 or 6 of them here. What about all my photo albums that aren’t in flickr? Or all these blog entries when I move to blogger? I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.

E-Gold

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Damn…E-Gold charged with money laundering. They’ve been investigating it for some time now, but the indictment is in with a nice doomsday quote from the FBI. I wonder what this means for the future of anonymous money, though I’m fairly certain that at some point, there will be no such thing as anonymous money. Every financial transaction will leave some sort of trace back to you.

I Google; you Google

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

My blog is a funny thing to me. I’ve been working on/thinking about this anonymity post for over two weeks now for my blog and still haven’t completed it. I’ve been thinking about giving up this blog cause it’s so damn personal. And so tied to my real name. Online forum profiles are an interesting phenomena because you can know so much about someone by his/her posts, and never know his/her real name, or anything else about that person he/she doesn’t want you to know.

Someone I don’t know very well told me today that he’d googled me and found out way more about me than he would’ve guessed. Whether he meant guessed he could’ve found out, or guessed about me, I’m not really sure. This always makes me feel embarassed. Which is ironic because I put all out here for the world to see, so can I really be surprised people find it? And can I be so public and embarassed at the same time? Yes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally flattered whenever anyone googles me. I, myself, google everyone. Anyone I have the teeniest, tiniest interest in. People who give interesting talks, people I meet randomly, people at work, friends, family, people I used to know, people with interesting profiles — anyone and everyone. Though I’ve been wondering lately, is that normal? I got the feeling once that someone thought it was weird, and I remember thinking it was weird that person thought it was weird. Doesn’t everyone use google in this way?

miniPod

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

i had to pick up a nano tonight so i could return the ex’s loaner ipod (mine needs a new harddrive) so i was on the apple website and saw the iphone. i’ve been wrapped up in my own little head the last couple of days thinking girly thoughts so i’ve missed most of the buzz on it. i whipped around to my cubemate and asked in a flurry, do you want to go to the apple store with me tonight to look at the iphone?! he gave me a quizzical look and said, is it going to be there? they don’t come out until june. d’oh!

if you haven’t seen it, where’ve you been these last couple of days?! perhaps like me, you were wistfully thinking of something else :) but oh my god, it is so freakin’ beautiful.

MySpace

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

myspace came up in conversation last night, which was funny because i’d been meaning to blog about it after my weekend love affair with it. it’s fascinating how 1990s a lot of the profiles are — giant images, gaudy backgrounds, blinking multi-colored text, music playing in the background, text you can’t read over the loud background images/colors, and endless profiles that match this description. i thought we’d left the 90s. i thought that web sites had grown up and matured. but i’m thinking now that this is most peoples’ sense of aesthetics. they think this looks good. or they’re so excited about what they can do, that they don’t care it doesn’t look good — it flashes and is colorful and pretty cause i made it, yay!

it’s really cute.

so i was trying to explain how i was forced into a myspace account. i’ve got a friendster account, an orkut account, i think even a tribe account. i’m linkedin, on classmates.com, and i yelp and i barf — not to mention i’m on match.com and personals.yahoo.com (both with hidden profiles because i keep telling myself i’m not quite ready to date yet :) how many profiles can one person maintain?

so someone signed up with my email address, i started getting her myspace emails, got tired of it, deleted her account. she or someone else signed up immediately with my email address again, and this time i just updated the password and took over the account. filled out a minimal profile, no pic. then added a lame pic, then recently some decent pics, and voila! i have a myspace account! and last weekend i started really poking around on the site — looking at profiles, reading all my old email and responding to people, researching groups, etc. for a second i thought to myself, josh has a myspace account, am i supposed to ask him to be my friend?, then immediately wiped that thought from my mind — what 13, soon to be 14 year old boy would want to have his mom listed as a friend?! that is so gross.

so anyway — i got a nice date out of it and met some interesting people. you can’t fight the tide of popularity. but fuck, you can laugh at what it brings.

Pink

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

I’ve been dying to do a pink layout and here it is. I started playing with it on Saturday, hammered out this layout last night, and got it up today (yay me!). The album layout hasn’t been updated yet, but I am glad to be rid of that drab grey at least here for now.

I’m starting to get excited about development again. Ed was telling me about the Google Web Toolkit last night and I was genuinely interested in it. Not only interested, but had an intense desire to go find out more about it and to play with it.

At work, I’ve got an interesting new project to start on, and I didn’t think I’d be excited at work again, but I am. I’m looking forward to sitting down and designing a new app and writing some code.

That said, I have to admit how stupid I am with CSS. I know I’m not supposed to use tables anymore, but I’ve used them for so long I can’t live without them. Setting up CSS to use two or three columns? Forget it. All that relative and absolute positioning fucks me up. Nothing ever ends up quite where I want it. I’m a sucky designer, too. I have to look at about 50 sites to gather enough ideas and tidbits in my head to try to make my own thing. And when I do, I’m not sure if it’s actually well designed — I just like the way it looks or the colors I’ve picked. For example, I know my new header is rather large and for no good reason other than I originally wanted to put three photographs at the top. But you can only make photographs so tiny. I put that other stuff in there just because it fit — not because it made especial sense to put it there. At least big headers seem to be all the rage now so I’m not too ashamed of it.

I swear I’m much better at coding than I am at CSS. Really.

My photo album is a star!

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Someone blogged about my album application! Someone completely random — and by that I mean someone I don’t know (as in not a friend giving me a plug). I only found out about it because someone else emailed me asking if they could download it. Which made me feel both really good and semi-guilty. This was always one of those projects I wanted to complete and make open source so other people could use it, but of course, I just started using in when it was done enough and never did get around to finishing it. Ah well…it’s nice that someone still liked it :)

Micropod

Monday, March 21st, 2005

i picked up one of those ipod shuffles this weekend for the gym. and i think i hate it. i haven’t even taken it to the gym yet, but i hate it. it’s slow as molasses in updating (i’m pretty sure i’m using a usb 2.0 port, but i’m going to check the hardware specs tomorrow). and the switch on the back to toggle power/no shuffle/shuffle feels like it’s made of rice paper. i guess i’ll need to fuck around with it, but as a consumer product it’s pretty hard to recover from immediate and intense dislike only minutes after you’ve been unpackaged.

RFIDs in passports

Friday, October 22nd, 2004

Good god…the State Department is planning on putting RFIDs in passports. Note to self: must get valid passport before spring…

Predicting your fast food order

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

I love this! A bunch of CMU guys got together and formed a company called HyperActive Technologies (their crappy flash site doesn’t work in FireFox on the Mac) and they’ve created a product called HyperActive Bob that predicts fast food orders based on the cars driving into the lot. Bigger cars, more food and a tendency towards kids meals, chicken nuggets and french fries; smaller cars means more hamburgers. The initial trial was at a McDonald’s in Chippewa, Pennsylvania, but they’ve got them in 7 McDonald’s and a Burger King and a Taco Bell in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida now.

Advanced Interfaces, also of Pennsylvania, has a similar, but more advanced technology. It records images of people entering a restaurant and makes inferences based on gender and age. Women like salads, men like meat. You get the idea.

All this, of course, immediately makes me think about the privacy implications
of all these cameras on rooftops and doorways. My guess is that they’re not storing these recorded images indefinitely, just long enough to make the calculations and update cook orders. But what’s to say they won’t? Advanced Interfaces has a video mining service for customers to send in hours and hours of recorded video tape for analysis. So, hypothetically, you could be recorded on videotape entering your favorite retail shop or restaurant, and then that footage could get sent to AI. A human being isn’t watching all that video. A human might not ever see any of that video footage, but eventually widely available imaging technology could be sophisticated enough to be able to make out who you are. In any given geographical area, someone somewhere — human or computer, could piece together your entire daily, weekly, monthly schedule. It’s a hypothetical, but certainly not a far fetched one.

A part of me finds this creepy, and a part of me is fascinated by the marketing aspect of all this information. And how easily you can predict behavior and influence it.

Burn your own Green Day CDs

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Now this is clever: blank CDs with Green Day album covers. So you can burn Green Day CDs on appropriately labeled CDs. 7.99 for 4. This is something I would totally buy into. I’ve got a huge stack of CDs with no labels except what I’ve penned in — I burn everything I purchase on iTunes. And I miss the artwork of buying CDs in person (and the cases). I like that they’re doing something especially for file-sharing fans. And they get to make a little extra money to boot.

Secure Flight, CAPPS II’s replacement, moving into test phase

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has issued a legal order to “compel” airlines to provide passenger data to test Secure Flight, its new passenger screening system. Lots of quotes from the privacy officers at TSA, including one from Lisa Dean, ex-EFF’er. But the TSA hasn’t been all that forthcoming with details, and what about the EU Data Protection Directive? How are they going to sort that out? The Practical Nomad has better, more in-depth blog entries about Secure Flight.

Carnivorous robots

Monday, September 20th, 2004

I was just reading about EcoBot II, the fly eating robot. It’s got 8 microbial fuel cells that flies get sucked into. The chitin exoskeleton gets broken down into glucose, the bacteria break up the glucose and generate electrons to power EcoBot II with electricity. On a full stomach (8 flies — one in each fuel cell), it can go for 5 full days. But it takes 12 minutes to generate enough electricity for it to walk one 2cm step. That’s 5 steps and hour, 120 steps a day, 600 steps in 5 days. It’s probably not getting too far on a full stomach. But imagine if you could go for 5 days on a single meal..

The predecessor to EcoBot II was SlugBot, which hunted for slugs using its imaging systems. But its methane-based system took too long to power up. And EcoBot II draws its food to itself by reaking of sewage. Saves itself all that hunting and gathering time.

Anonymous phone calls…for the stalker in all of us

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

In other news…interesting company that launched a new service to anonymize phone calls by fucking with caller id, and three days later, the owner decides to try to sell it off because of threats by hackers. Star38 launch; Star38 calls it quits.

May be a great service for debt collectors, but imagine what it can do for stalkers. Want to terrorize your neighbor annonymously? Crank call that ex? Star38, baby.