Dennis L Hitzeman's world of science and technology
 
 

October

Posted at October 30, 2019 by

Yeah, I know… I’m a broken record…

But we can see the future of the pocket computer in a variety of new devices starting to come onto the market that transcend the phone moniker in favor of becoming pocket computing devices. Of all the ones announced so far, I’m most interested in the potential of the recently announced Microsoft Duo, a dual-screen, folding device running Android and designed to be carried in your pocket.

If the Duo lives up to its promise, it will be the first true “phablet”, a pocket device with the power of a table but that can be carried everywhere. Further, because it’s plugged into an existing ecosystem of apps, it could be able to do all of the things you can already do with your so-called phone, but with the focus on computing rather than talking.

I am convinced devices like the Duo are the future of pocket computers. This future means unleashing these devices from the legacy of the phone-based past and focusing on them as productivity tools and information devices.

Granted, this is early technology in this transition, so it may take a few generations before it reaches its prime, but the fact is the Duo and devices like it represent how many of us are already using our current phones. With these devices unleased, we could see more progress in our relationship with the information revolution.

DLH

 
 

September

Posted at September 11, 2019 by

In my last post, I talked about my complaint that the computers we carry in our pockets are still being designed as if their primary purpose was to be a phone. To me, one of the main reasons this is a complaint at all is that they are designed to go obsolete after a time.

The fact is that most smartphones are still very capable computing devices when they get replaced. Yet, because they are designed imagining their primary purpose is to be a phone, they are also designed to be locked to a manufacturer, locked to a carrier, and locked to an operating system. As a result, when they cease to fulfill the requirements of any one of those considerations, they’re unable to do much more.

Yes, it is possible to “upgrade” some modern smartphones with newer versions of the operating system they’re locked to, and some few can be upgraded beyond that, but almost always only if you’re a technical expert willing to mess with some very technical stuff and possibly destroy the device.

The first and best thing smartphone manufacturers, carriers, and OS makers could do is end their tyranny over deprecated devices. Providing a way to repurpose these devices after they no longer able to meet other requirements would extend their lives and allow them to perform untold numbers of other tasks.

The best driving purpose behind such a repurposing would be to end the scourge of e-waste that otherwise still useful but deprecated devices represent. We could keep millions of smartphones from becoming waste simply by giving them a way to do something else.

Yes, that means that some may take new smartphones and do exactly that. So what? We don’t do this to any other computing device, so why do we do it with smartphones?

It’s a simple solution that could unlock all sorts of potential we haven’t even imagined yet. The question is not whether we should, but when we will.

DLH

 
 

July

Posted at July 27, 2019 by

So, here’s the thing… I know most of us think of that digital leash we carry as being a “phone”, and I guess, in some way, because of how it was manufactured, it is in some way a phone. Except, really, it’s not.

I know some people still talk on it, but if you look at the vast majority of what most people do with that thing we call a phone, the fact is it’s really a pocket computer hamstrung by the fact we keep thinking of it as a phone.

We need to stop that.

I know it’s a radical transformation in thinking, but we have these incredibly capable devices, connected to the entire world in multiple ways, yet we insist on continuing to think of it mostly as a more sophisticated version of the thing we had hanging on the wall in the 80s.

It’s not.

In fact, it is so much more than just a phone that calling it that refers to the function that is almost an afterthought compared to all the things it can do. It’s a camera. It’s a GPS. It’s a wireless messaging device. It’s a word processor, game console. video conferencing device, shopping portal…

In fact, it’s a computer. One you carry in your pocket.

If we stopped thinking of this device as a phone and started thinking of it as a computer, I suspect the way the technology would develop would be freed from the fetters of when it was only a phone and become a companion, or maybe even a replacement, for the thing sitting on our desktop or in our backpack; a device geared toward connecting us to the world and allowing us to create in ways we can only imagine right now.

Can we do that? Because I’m ready for it? Are you?

DLH

 
 

June

Posted at June 27, 2019 by

As much as many pan the notion, I believe we have entered the Age of the Screen. If you’re the observant type, you’ll notice screens are everywhere. There are multiples in our houses, and not just TVs. How many of us own more than one computer, tablet, and smartphone? I know I’m guilty, and likely so are you. And that doesn’t even include the screens at work, school, the restaurant, and just about everywhere else we look.

There is lots of press about the negatives of “screen time,” and to be sure, unmanaged, it is a negative, but I posit that our problem with screen time and all these ubiquitous, big screens is that we haven’t figured out how to use them yet. We’re in an era where technology is developing faster than we understand its impact, and it shows.

Follow me here: one of the main arguments against screen time is that it is addictive and changes brain development, especially in children. The fact that is true is undeniable, yet it also glosses over a particular set of facts: both the addiction and the development are manageable if we don’t stop doing the things we did before the screens. Screens are a modern addition to a long history that changes how humans behave, and what is lacking is management.

I find this subject particularly fascinating because so much of what I do right now involves screens. I create art on them. I write on them. I communicate on them. I interact on them. In those ways, screens are incredibly beneficial for me in a variety of ways. Where the screens fail me is when I use them to sate my sometimes overwhelming boredom by almost ritualistic use of the screen as brain candy. That failure is fixable. It’s a simple matter of doing other things. It’s a matter of discipline.

For me, the beauty of the screens is that they work the way my brain does. I get not everyone feels that way. But the fact is screens are here to stay, so we should start learning how to manage them for the best use possible. And that management is possible. We just have to do it.

–DLH

 
 

February

Posted at February 21, 2019 by

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

 
 

May

Posted at May 17, 2017 by

Yeah, so, iPad Pro. For those who know me, feel free to gasp. Now that we have that out of the way, here’s my first impression of it.

I bought the 265Gb WiFi version of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard and Pencil as a compromise drawing slate solution. I’ve used Wacom drawing slates in the past and find I have a hard time drawing on one surface while looking at another, and I can’t afford Wacom’s Windows 10 drawing tablets just yet. Further, whether Windows users like it or not, Windows is not yet a superior platform for freehand drawing without compromises and significant investments in software and learning time.

Hence the iPad Pro. For the money, it has the best mix of capability, software, and frankly, ease of use of any platform out there. If I was going to spend this kind of money, I wanted a platform that worked out of the box with minimal fuss. So far, the iPad Pro delivers on those counts.

The device is solid and, to my surprise, heavier than I expected. That’s likely mostly the result of the battery, which gives me hope that it will last a while, even using the Bluetooth to use the Pencil. The screen is fabulous. Hands down, it’s the best resolution I’ve ever seen on a mobile device, so proper credit to Apple for that. The WiFi and Bluetooth worked as expected and with none of the onetime fuss over connecting to networks Apple had back when I was using their products regularly, so that is definitely a plus.

As a regular Android and Windows user, I found the idiosyncrasies of iOS to be just odd. I’ve used many Apple products in the past, so I know they can get a little narrow minded about their design philosophy, but things like limiting which screen widgets can appear on seem plain silly to me. Granted, I haven’t used it enough to identify if some of the other complaints about the operating system are warranted for me, but those kinds of limitations will guarantee this will be a specific purpose device for me.

App-wise, I love the diversity but hate the App Store. The store design seems to be intended to make things impossible to find unless you already know exactly what you are looking for. And, while yes I am spoiled because of the Play Store, the cost of actually useful apps is a little breathtaking.

My primary use for this tablet will be, for the time being, drawing and photo editing, neither of which I have done much of yet, but what I have played around with so far has been nice. I will report back on that later.

Overall, I am pleased with the iPad Pro. It does exactly what I expected it to do, if not exactly how I wish it would do it. As a first impression, Apple has made a good one.

First Look: iPad Pro review: 4.5 out of 5

DLH

 
 

March

Posted at March 31, 2017 by

If you know me, then you know that I am a big fan of all things Elon Musk, but especially his spectacular endeavors at SpaceX. I have long believed that the commercial exploitation of space–as opposed to its continued government monopoly–is the future of human space travel, and I believe Elon Musk represents the bleeding edge of that reality.

What has amused me for some time about Musk’s and SpaceX’s endeavors is the number of detractors and naysayers he attracts. There are a host of smart people determined to be the first who says it can’t be done and be right, yet time after time, Musk and crew prove them wrong, if not exactly on anyone’s timetable.

This fact brings to mind an idea from American history fraught with peril and controversy, and that idea is Manifest Destiny. I’m not referring to the part where people believed it was the white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon right to own North America, but rather the part where so many people risked their time, fortunes, and lives to do things so many people said could not be done. We forget that Manifest Destiny had many, many detractors, yet those pioneers and prospectors proved them all wrong.

I see Musk and SpaceX in much the same light. He said he would build a reusable rocket, lots of people said he couldn’t, and he proved them wrong. He said he would build the first commercial crew capsule, lots of people said he didn’t know how, and he’s proving them wrong. He says he’s going to send people to the Moon and Mars, and well, you get the picture.

In the end, I think Musk represents what’s right with the American spirit. He’s the kind of man, a naturalized citizen with an idea, who helped make America the nation that it is and who will shape the nation it will yet be. We need more Musks, not less, the critics be damned.

Spaceward, ho!

DLH

 
 

July

Posted at July 17, 2015 by

2015-07-17 15.09.08If you’re at all like me, you have a lot of old technology lying about. One of the most common forms of that old tech is in the form of old cellphones, which means for me, smartphones. One of the solutions I have employed for upcycling these phones is to use them as streaming media jukeboxes. For newer phones, this solution requires nothing more than a factory reset.

UPDATE: In the five hours since I originally posted this, I have since swapped the Galaxy Note 2 for an old Droid 2 Global that does just as well and has a desktop dock, freeing the Note 2 for other projects. /UPDATE

Originally, I had an old Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (affiliate) plugged in by the audio jack to a Lepal LP-2020A+ Digital Audio Amplifier (affiliate) driving a Dayton Audio B652 6-1/2-Inch 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker Pair (affiliate). Since then, I have swapped the Note 2 out for a Droid 2 doing the same work.

I reset the phone to its factory settings then installed the various music services I use (Pandora, Google, Amazon). Now, I have a dedicated music device separate from my PC.

Do you have other uses for old smartphones? Mention them in the comments.

DLH

 
 

July

Posted at July 8, 2015 by

If you read the kinds of news feeds and websites I do, you can’t help but have come away with the breathless, panicky sense that the cyber world is collapsing in on itself as the result of what has been, so far, three unrelated technical glitches involving United Airlines, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Wall Street Journal.

While it may yet prove that some or all of these were attacks and that those attacks may have somehow been linked, it’s important to remember that nearly all of the rest of the unimaginable amalgam we call the internet is still working just fine. Attempts to label the glitches that have occurred miss the point that, even with the most widespread attacks that have so far occurred, most of the internet kept right on as it always had.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t all be vigilant, because we should, or that we should accept the explanations the various victims have put out that these aren’t attacks, because half the time they don’t even know they’ve been attacked until someone else points out they have, but rather to say that attacks on the internet are more like two armies trying to play capture the flag in a dismal swamp than cyber-themed nuclear holocaust.

It may yet turn out these were attacks, and the attacks may yet get worse, but more than likely, even if they do, it won’t be the end of things, and if it turns out to be, there will be no doubt it is.

DLH

 
 

June

Posted at June 16, 2015 by

There are those who will see the latest LastPass hack as a vindication of their view that online password managers are a disaster waiting to happen. Frankly, despite some of the hyperbolic headlines,  I believe the concept is still sound.

Here’s why:

First, it’s nearly impossible for any particular user to manage his internet presence without a password manager simply because reusing usernames and passwords becomes more inevitable if you’re generating them any other way than a manager, and reuse of easily remembered passwords is a far greater vulnerability. LastPass has a good reputation for fixing its mistakes and continuing to work hard to safeguard user data, so in the rub, a service like LastPass is still the way to go.

Second, the way LastPass protects the most important asset we entrust to them–usernames and passwords to other sites–is still fundamentally sound. Even if hackers manage to break the encryption on any individual set of user data, that likely does not give them access to everyone’s data.

Third, like most reputable web services, LastPass allows for additional safeguards like multifactor authentication to help further increase security. Using LastPass at the highest security setting is still the safest bet over the same username and password over and over.

Granted, the damage could still be more severe that LastPass currently knows, but my view right now is that it is not and the service is still safe. If it proves to be otherwise, we’ll have to dig into alternatives.

DLH

 
 
 
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