Worldview: Science and Technology: Galaxy Fold: Samsung’s $2000 missed chance

I’ve been watching the coming of the now revealed Galaxy Fold for some time now, and while I am cautiously impressed with the technology the are releasing, I also think Samsung–and really almost all device manufacturers–have missed the point.

Samsung had an opportunity with the Galaxy Fold to change the rules about mobile devices by no longer catering to the luxury flagship notion of innovation. I get Samsung had costs associate with its product, but the fact is that, at $2000 or more a device, it’s already a loss leader in almost every sort of way, so why not take a risk and get the device into the hands of the kinds of people most likely to use and prove the technology and least likely to be able to afford $2000 to pay for it.

What kind of people am I taking about? Well, mostly the creative kind: writers, artists, photographers, and producers of various types who can honestly use a tablet in their pockets and would help Samsung realize the investment they’ve made in the long run. Instead, the device will get consigned to the dustbin of interesting but unrealized gadgets in the same way as Microsoft’s early slate PCs and Googles Glass.

I think the company that will prove this technology will be the one that takes more than just a risk on the tech. They need to take a risk on users too, and there’s yet to be one willing to do so.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: Galaxy Fold: Samsung’s $2000 missed chance

I’ve been watching the coming of the now revealed Galaxy Fold for some time now, and while I am cautiously impressed with the technology the are releasing, I also think Samsung–and really almost all device manufacturers–have missed the point.

Samsung had an opportunity with the Galaxy Fold to change the rules about mobile devices by no longer catering to the luxury flagship notion of innovation. I get Samsung had costs associate with its product, but the fact is that, at $2000 or more a device, it’s already a loss leader in almost every sort of way, so why not take a risk and get the device into the hands of the kinds of people most likely to use and prove the technology and least likely to be able to afford $2000 to pay for it.

What kind of people am I taking about? Well, mostly the creative kind: writers, artists, photographers, and producers of various types who can honestly use a tablet in their pockets and would help Samsung realize the investment they’ve made in the long run. Instead, the device will get consigned to the dustbin of interesting but unrealized gadgets in the same way as Microsoft’s early slate PCs and Googles Glass.

I think the company that will prove this technology will be the one that takes more than just a risk on the tech. They need to take a risk on users too, and there’s yet to be one willing to do so.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: A first look at Kindle Unlimited

I recently took the bait and started the 30-day trial of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. I can sum up my initial opinion in one word: disappointed.

The specs for the service look impressive at first blush: 600,000 ebook titles available for $10 a month on any Kindle enabled device you use. The problem is that 595,000 of those titles are books most people will never read for a variety of reasons.

I grant that fact is little different from a library. Most of us pay for libraries whether or not we use them, and many of us haven’t set foot in a library in years. The difference is that Kindle Unlimited is a voluntary library filled with books I don’t want. Why would I pay for that.

My disappointment stems from the fact that I’ve looked for dozens of books I want to read, but none of them are available under Unlimited. I don’t blame the publishers or authors for that fact. They deserve to get paid for their work. Rather, I blame Amazon for rushing the service before it had enough deals to make the service more universally worth it.

Don’t get me wrong. Kindle Unlimited has promise. It could very easily develop into the very kind of “Netflix for books” Amazon has tried to sell it as. Unfortunately, right now, it’s more like a used video store filled with second-tier titles nobody wants to watch a second time. If Amazon wants to make money off this premise, it’s going to have to try a lot harder.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: ICANN what?!?

There has been a lot of chatter in recent days since the Obama administration announced it plans to transition the control of ICANN away from US control, and most of it has been highly predictable.

I’m not sure I believe that the US stewardship of control over the web has been good enough to lament its passing, nor am I convinced that some other control of it will somehow herald the end of the web as we know it.

However, I am convinced of something related: handing off control of the web to someone other than the US government will inevitably force the web itself to evolve.

To me, that outcome is the best and most exciting thing to come along since the web itself. Since the first time I browsed to a web page in the summer of 1992, my main complaint is that the web, as currently construed, has settled into a constant rehashing of what has already been done. I think a lot of that rehashing is the result of how the web has been managed and controlled.

Now, I don’t think for a moment that this evolution will be clean or pretty, but just like the telco deregulation of the 8os, this deregulation is necessary for the technology and its uses to continue to develop and grow.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: Why’d you have to go an make things so complicated?

It turns out that I am in the market to buy a second PC for our household and businesses. We’ve tried for just about a year to function with one PC and various mobile devices, and we’ve found that there’s just enough overlap between our need to use the PC that sometimes it gets annoying. Add to that annoyance the fact that our PC right now is an all-in-one and I actually need a machine I can use elsewhere, and suddenly we need a second machine.

Enter the world of buying a computer in 2014.

It seems like it should be so simple. Once upon a time, it was. Most people didn’t have a lot of real choices. So, you picked a price point and a company and hoped for the best. If you were really savvy, you built a machine yourself. But in the end, they were mostly the same thing: riffs on processor types and memory and whatnot.

Not so today. Today, it’s sometimes difficult to even know what everyone means by a PC. To some people, a PC is not a Mac. To others, a PC is not a desktop. To still others, a PC is not a tablet or smartphone.

Even the machines themselves are kind of confused. There are machines the size of my all-in-one you can use as a tablet, sort of. There are laptops that detach from their keyboards. There are machines that fold in half. There are machines that run both Windows and Android.

How’s a guy to choose?

Ultimately, the same way he always did: by deciding what he wants that machine to do and picking the best set of features that can do it. Now, it’s just a matter of picking from a larger set of variables.

And it’s complicated.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: It’s impossible, eh?

So, Amazon engaged in an amazing bit of free advertising Sunday night when it announced its research initiative, Prime Air, on 60 Minutes. From the moment the piece aired, sectors of the internet have been abuzz with the news.

But what has amused me the most has been the response of the technology media, led by the likes of Wired. If these writers are to be believed, if man was meant to receive packages by air, God would have given bicycle messengers wings.

Certainly, I’m being sarcastic, but I wonder if these writers really look around themselves at the age we actually live in very often . There is a very good chance you are reading this post on a device you pulled from your pocket that contains more processing power than the entire Apollo 13 mission–spacecraft and ground stations combined–that functions as a phone, network access device, and computer and was produced just 137 years after the phone was invented, 40 years after the cell phone was invented, and 21 years after the smartphone was invented.

That’s a course of development 40 times faster than it took to get from the wheel to the car.

My point here is that history is replete with examples of  people, especially the so-called well informed, declaring that something is impossible because it is different or outside the mold of what we consider normal or beyond our current technological means. It’s actually quite amusing how often the march of progress has proven such Luddites wrong.

Now, I am not saying that Amazon will succeed, or that drone delivery is the thing of the future, but I am saying that the idea is now there and that someone is going to figure out how to make some version of it–maybe even a version we haven’t imagined yet–work. And when they do, we can look back at these prognostications and laugh like we do at the early 19th century writers who said people would not be able to breath if they went faster than twenty miles per hour.

DLH

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Worldview: The strange reality of getting what you want

I’ve wanted a library, lab, and studio since I knew what those three things were. In fact, one of my earliest verifiable geek memories comes from when I was about seven and I discovered a chemistry set in the Sears toy catalog. To this day, I remember being heartbroken for about thirty minutes when I got the, “You’ll shoot your eye out,” response to asking for one.

Thirty-three years later, I find myself in the enviable position of now having a library, lab, and studio. And, just like that, I have to figure out what to do with them.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I find it easy to dream. I think about things all the time, from the small and inconsequential to the massive and grandiose. So, it has been easy for me to daydream about what it would be like to have places to do things I’ve always wanted to do.

Now I have them, and it’s like my mind is blank.

That’s not entirely fair. I know what I want to do, but how do I pick? Seriously, there’s only one of me, only twenty-four hours in a day, and I have a wife and a farm. How do I decide what to do with these new-found assets in such a way that the rest of my life doesn’t come crashing down?

I’m thankful I can even write about having such a problem, but it still seems daunting for the moment. I’d better get back to the lab. Time’s a’wasting.

DLH

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Worldview: Crowdfunding and risk

I’m a big fan of crowdfunding, that idea put forward by websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allows people with ideas to connect with groups of people interested in their idea to help fund it. I’ve helped fund a few ideas myself.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about crowdfunding initiatives that have failed and the various amounts of ire felt by the people who helped fund those initiatives. Most of these articles leave me shaking my head.

What it seems that most people who engage in crowdfunding fail to realize is that it is simply another form of venture capitalism, one with usually lower dollar amounts and with the risk distributed among far more people. Venture capitalists will tell you that such initiatives are fraught with risk and that many, if not most, of them fail at their initial premise even if they eventually go on to succeed.

Crowdfunding is not some kind of magic elixir for success for ideas the Man won’t fund. Instead, it is venture capitalism for the masses, a mechanism to bring ideas forward that would not otherwise have a chance for all sorts of other reasons, usually profit margin.

In realizing that crowdfunding is venture capitalism, crowdfunders should realize there is going to be risk. A lot of it. Not a small number of projects are going to fail. Even after they are funded. Sometimes even after the product has been produced. There will be all kinds of reasons for these failures. They can’t be helped. They can’t be stopped.

And none of these things should stop dedicated crowdfunders from continuing to crowdfund. I know, for me, realization of this risk has made be a particularly discerning funder. I watch a lot of projects for a long time before I commit, and there have been more than a few successful projects I decided not to invest in because I was not sure. There have been some projects that I have invested in only to have them fail. That’s how the system works.

But, beneath all of those ideas, is the critical idea that makes crowdfunding worth it: giving life to ideas that might not otherwise succeed even though they are worthwhile simply because they will never make enough money to become a larger venture. Crowdfunding bypasses the court of the big venture capitalists and gives the little guys a chance.

Risk and all, that’s a venture worth supporting.

DLH

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Worldview: The science of do as I say

For whatever reason, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about science recently, especially as it applies to getting kids interested in science and keeping them interested.

One of the points I keep coming back to in this thinking is how often science is sold to kids in a very narrow and limited view of the universe. This view seems to say that science is this small set of things and that anything that lies outside that set is not real science.

What I see in this view is teaching a worldview to kids that does not mesh with what scientists, especially physicists and biologists, are revealing to all of us about the universe. Even as scientific inquiry reveals the universe to be more complex and more bizarre than we imagined, the worldview sold to kids seems to be becoming narrower and more boring.

What I would love to see happening in the scientific world is encouraging kids to explore their environments free of preconceptions. Sure, teach them what we think we already know, but be sure to emphasize we only know it until new or better evidence comes along. We should teach kids to find the flaws in what we think we know instead of proclaiming we already know it.

After all, isn’t that what the scientific world demands of other ways of thinking? That should be a demand that cuts both ways.

DLH

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Worldview: Stop CISPA

STOP_CISPA_cybersecurity_lockdown_gridWhile most of us were focused on the unfolding events in Boston, the House of Representatives passed a bill whose language would allow government regulators and corporations to, among other things, collect data on your internet usage and determine what kind of content you can and cannot access on the internet. The bill, as currently contrived, is a broad assault on the Bill of Rights, attacking the 4th as well as the 1st, 9th, and 10th amendments. The internet should be free because, without that freedom, the innovation, exchange of information, and entrepreneurship that has defined the last two decades will come to a halt. If you are reading this post on Facebook, you have benefited from the free internet. Contact your Senators today and demand they vote against CISPA.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/04/us-house-representatives-shamefully-passes-cispa-internet-freedom-advocates

http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

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