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 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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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Tool finder

Somebody needs to invent a system that allows people like me to find the tools I constantly misplace on the farm. No, really.

We have 185 acres. Even if I limit myself to the area of our farm buildings, we’re talking 5 to 7 acres. It’s really, really easy to lose tools, even big tools, by simply putting them down and forgetting where they got put.

For example, I spent most of my day before writing this post looking for my lost Sawzall. One would think a red tool the size of a large ham would be easy to find. Not so, as it turns out, when one has to search through at least three different buildings and half a dozen projects in various states of completion.

So, what I need is a system that would somehow catalog where all my tools are in some kind of a central database. Even if it just covered buildings, such a system would cover 90 percent of my tools. And, if it had a way for me to wander around the farm and find tools I left elsewhere, that would be swell too.

DLH

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Science and Technology: Why the Apple verdict represents the worst of innovation

I’ve been thinking for a while now about why the recent patent verdict in favor of Apple irritates me so much. It’s not that I don’t think intellectual property should be protected, because I think it should. It’s not that I don’t think Apple should not be able to profit from the things it invents, because I think it should. It’s not even that I don’t think Samsung used technology Apple patented, because I think it did.

No, it’s none of those things.

Instead, it’s that Apple has decided that the drive for profit is an excuse to use its patents and the US courts to destroy its opponents. What Apple–and Oracle and Sun and Microsoft and Google and others–want to do is to create fiat monopolies using laws designed to protect innovators to prevent others from further innovation based on their ideas.

For example, in the Apple case, the phones Apple wants banned from sale in the US represent a tiny fraction of overall smartphone sales and some models are no longer even sold it the US. What Apple really wanted was the billion dollar settlement–it asked for $2.5 billion in damages–so as to wound Samsung’s ability to continue to do business.

By taking down competitors using patent lawsuits, Apple seeks to own all of the market share. Apple doesn’t want competitors and  seems willing to do whatever it takes to destroy them.

What makes this desired destruction so egregious is that most of the patents Apple sought to enforce cover technology and ideas Apple didn’t actually invent. It just patented them first. And now, it uses those patents as weapons.

What suffers from this onslaught is any kind of innovation. If Apple can own hand gestures and screen symbols–things that are essentially ideas, not technology–then how can anyone invent new ideas that will surely come from what Apple already owns without risking the bloody tip of Apple’s patent spear?

What this patent war ignores is that the history of human innovation is the history of sharing technology and ideas to make things better and to benefit everyone. If historical inventors had followed the same path Apple followed, the bow, the shoulder harness, concrete, the sail, and the car would have all been the proprietary property of their inventors and available only from them for exorbitant fees.

Historically, we humans realized this kind of idea was ludicrous. Up until the 18th century, when the rampant wealth of the industrial revolution drove us all mad, we forced the sharing of ideas, even going so far as to go to war to get them. Now, apparently, we’re willing to sit back and let the robber barons of the tech industry dictate to us, and we all suffer because of it.

If Apple wants to prove it does not intend what I suggest, then it can solve the problem in a simple way: open source all of its patents for non-commercial use. I will even grant that it has the right to collect fees if someone creates something new based on its patents, but it should not have the right to own ideas.

Apple, we’re waiting.

DLH

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Worldview: Science and Technology: Curiosity

In case you missed it, the Mars Science Laboratory, dubbed “Curiosity” by its builders, landed safely on Mars last night. Trust me, even if you don’t care, it’s a really big deal, and an important step for NASA after shutting down the Space Shuttle program.

What’s more, compared to a lot of things the government spends money on, Curiosity was cheap and produces a measurable good result in terms of raw science, development of technology, and inspiration.

We should do more of this stuff.

DLH

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