Once again Twitter has made a liar out of me again… Maybe I should do it all the time it seems to make me post. Might be the fact that the pressure is being taken off. Or the fact I have a flight in over 6 hours and I am back in a cafe relaxing. Words flow easier of course.
My mind grapes
Lessons learnt or more so lesson I haven’t forgotten yet. Being in China again definitely brings back memories but that is personal reflect, no room in this blog for that. The thing I have taken from this trip is maybe a few realisations. I apologise in advance, this post might be more personal than usual but I think I should share this experience.
I recently did a month long trip studying at a Chinese university. It was a bit of learning about Chinese language and culture as well as doing research. The research was in Computer Science/Software Engineering, I was basically a guinea pig for their study. I spent many weeks wearing an apparatus (See right) to collect experimental data about the differences between the way native English speakers say vowels in English as compared to when they speak Chinese. It was a difficult few weeks but I think it taught me a lot. It reinforced my dislike of doing experiments, doing Psychology studies first taught me this. I do however understand it is important and I am sure the data will be used wisely.
Basically we were recording Ultrasound, video of my face and audio. Which would then be integrated and a model would be built for where your lips and tongue should be while you are speaking a language. It would basically aid people learning new languages. So imagine you are learning an alphabet of a new language so this program would give you immediate feedback based on your lips and tongues position. So as you can see to the left, my lovely tongue has an outline where the computer program will suggest where your tongue should be (Something I added in MS Paint) but this is the basic idea. I think it is quite cool, might make learning language on your own (With a video or something) a lot easier to master pronunciation. Immediate feedback to the brain is quite powerful in fact, it is called biofeedback.
Lessons learnt? Not quite sure, I learnt more about China than I did the research. That is not to say I didn’t learn anything. I learnt a bit of technical language but not enough, I cannot explain basic programming ideas in Chinese and have to rely on English. This is something I want to improve definitely but the whole Computer Science research part interested me a lot. Working with Chinese people? I also learnt something about it however due to the short time and nature I did not have much time to exercise this. The idea of coming to China and working is definitely attractive.
But once again I have strayed from “Lessons learnt”, I am not too sure yet. Maybe more appropriate to say lessons not yet forgotten. I think I learnt more about research (Which should help me with my upcoming thesis) and a more professional way to communicate in Chinese around the tech field. This is something I regret not taking advantage of last time I was in China interning. That is it for me today but I will leave with one last thing.
好好学习，天天向上 – Good good study, day day up (Chinglish).
Me – taken by Lawrence Liu
My tongue ultrasound – taken by Lawrence Liu
So I lied… As you may have seen on my frontpage and one my WordPress.com sidebar I now have a Twitter feed and on it I said there would be no post this week. Alas, here one is! After reading an article on Tech Republic and then going to my lab in China for a day, I had inspiration. So I am writing this at 3:30 in the morning after waking up and just needing to write. Feel free to subscribe to my Twitter (@DormeoES).
Thoughts scribbled on
I recently read this article about the power of rough sketching, I totally concur with the article but I feel that rough sketching is not only a trick of designers. I use the same technique when I am designing an UI, due to the fact I just can’t picture something and just build it. However I think that programmers also use this technique to design applications.
When the solution to your problem and the code you need to build it is a 1000+ lines away sometimes it is best to sit and draw out a solution. Whether it be as formal as UML diagrams or as casual just scribbles on a piece of paper, I have found it very useful just to get a few ideas flowing or to get past a tricky algorithm. In fact when I am in front of a computer coding it is rare to see me without a notepad with writing all over it, trying to flesh out an idea. I am not sure if everyone is like that and I do find that as I get more experienced the simpler things don’t need it as much (A little bit obvious I guess).
Although I can write on a computer, I still feel paper is somewhat better when I write my to-do lists or write down ideas. I always have this warm feeling writing down stuff on paper and sketching out ideas. Maybe I just find it easier to visualise stuff on the paper than in my head. I am curious though, are other programmers like this? I think the whiteboard is very important to many programmers for bringing their ideas out.
The language barrier
As I am overseas at the moment doing research I have encountered a situation where me and a colleague have trouble communicating about programming. Through a mix of broken English and broken Chinese and a notebook (And Google Translate) we were able communicate. I found it somewhat useful to sketch out some ideas to try and to try and convey them. Definitely not the most effective way of communicating but it was effective.
So do you physically write down things when you are working on a problem? I know I do and I think it helps me a lot. My two notepads are my brain storming pads and I don’t think I would be very effective without them.
Notebook page – Brendon Body
Three notebooks – Brendon Body
Still doing research in China, haven’t had much time to practice my Chinese outside of day to day. In the future I might post some more information about the kind of research I have been doing. I have picked up a few technical words but not too many. I think I have not used this chance to experience the university life or increased my software skills, alas I have two weeks remaining. Things get crazy very quick and I don’t have time to post on time, my apologies.
Today what I am talking about is integrating, although the idea is not new I think the current way phones, the net and computers integrate is becoming more and more seamless.
Phones are becoming “smarter and smarter” and ever more integrated into peoples life. I am flirting with being cliche here but it is true. So naturally many of the tasks that used to be reserved for computers are now being shifted to tablets or phones. Myself I don’t read as many emails on my computer anymore (Unless I am at one when I receive an email), usually I just read it on my phone unless it requires me to interact or it is a particularly long email.
The bridge between them is also shrinking with the cloud, you can do many tasks on a computer or a phone and have instant access to them regardless of what platform you use. Across my desktop, laptop, mobile phone and lab computers, I use Dropbox or Google Drive and keep them integrated and I find it really useful. My favourite feature is if I take a photo on my mobile phone, it automatically gets synced to my dropbox account. I can effectively take a photo and see on my computer a few seconds later that I have a new file.
This is just a start to how the cloud can integrate your products. I think the integration takes a lot of the fuss work out of managing multiple platforms. For example in the past I would access Dropbox across Android, Windows and Linux with no fuss. But it still is only for my data..
But the problem is that your platform will change every time but what if we could keep it as one…
One platform to rule them all
Windows 8 is trying to integrate the computer, tablet and phone market, kudos to them if they can pull it off. I am not quick to adopt new technology and don’t see a need to even migrate to Windows 8 even though I have legal access to it. I just don’t see myself needing to integrate my experience more than just using the cloud, I do however like the idea of fluid integration between multiple products.
Possibly the king of integration and maybe pure coolness (In a nerdy way) is this Padfone from Asus. Which physically integrates a phone and a tablet then that tablet into a netbook, the latter is similar to the Asus Transformer. This has an edge over many other products that integrate (however is not released) as it gives you a fluid experience on one platform. For me, when I travelling a lot I would have found this very useful.
The product that most inspired this post, was seeing this computer being controlled by an Android phone. The premise is quite cool and cheap enough to play with, however I don’t own a TV. Basically it is a Linux distribution that can run on a Mini PC (MK802) which is then controlled by an Android phone using Droidmote. It’s not quite integration but these kind of projects can build up into or inspire similar things. It would be cool if your data from your phone just moved into the mini PC, wouldn’t it? For example say you were watching a TV show on your phone and you get home and with a press of a button, your TV just starts playing it.
Death of the PC
It has been predicted for a while but will it really come? Even Bill Gates admits the home PC is declining in popularity, which explains Microsofts big push with tablets and phones. They feel a little left behind. This article has an interesting about how smart phones and laptops are taking over the PC market. I think I notice it myself that I use my phone as much as I can while I am on the go and jump into using my PC when I get the chance. I have quite a good desktop PC but I am now somewhat regretting buying it, I probably should have opted for an ultrabook or a Macbook Pro and just docked it into my monitor and keyboard combo. I regret it now but at that stage I did not realise how much using my notebook everywhere would be so helpful (I’m a recently converted laptop user).
Like most posts, I don’t seem to have a clear argument nor a clear prediction. Maybe it is because I usually don’t have any strong opinions in regard to things?
What I think I was trying to say in this post is that integration of our devices and the changing landscape of technology is happening before our eyes. Smart phones are getting more integrated into our work lives so naturally we want the transition to our other technology to be seamless. I think it should be a goal of mine to move my devices into somewhat seamless transition. With the use of the cloud and SVN/GIT it is quite easy for me to stay independent of location/OS/computer etc. but apps don’t follow you (Excluding Portable Apps). One thing to look out for is Cloud9 IDE which is an IDE on the cloud which might change things. At the moment I feel that my phone and my computer could become more and more connected to the point that they are a ubiquitous experience. Maybe I should make an app?
Train conductor – Brendon Body
Dropbox phone sync – Brendon Body
Asus Padfone – from Hexus.net.
So I have been travelling around China a bit and doing a lot of thinking. Mainly about where my future should head. A lot of deep introspective thoughts but this is not a blog about me so I won’t bore you guys with such things.
What I have been thinking about is whether being able to have your phone jail broken/rooted may be an intended design. It gives the device an extra level of interaction and encourages hobbyists.
So just think about if jail braking your phone, what if those flaws were left on the phone on purpose? No more “What if?”‘s, don’t want it to become too cliché being that it is the title. Of course the idea of leaving exploits in a product sounds bad and unsafe, look at the Hot Coffee Mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It was obviously not intended and if it was… it was done in poor taste and was of course going to blow up in their face.
To an extend the modding community around a game or product brings an extra level of usability and even attracts some people. Look at for example Counterstrike which just started out as a mod for Half Life. The modding community for it becomes somewhat of a counter-culture, until a big company gobbles it up.
I also listened to a podcast many many many years ago where it talked about piracy of software for big companies is not a bad thing. If their software is being widely pirated it means they are on the right track, this article goes more into it. Not quite the same but it is unauthorised use but still benefiting the company. I am not saying I condone piracy nor do I think that companies deliberately do it but it is definitely an interesting way to look at it. The word photoshop is basically a verb in English now and somewhat becomes free advertising for them. How good is that?
Why would anyone want to do that? Well you are making a market segment. In the case of products like Photoshop it is in a sense free advertising. I think I have seen it in a few movies and TV shows where they shamelessly use the word photoshop to mean edit photos. It is similar to Kleenex being a brand but also meaning tissues, the word and usage of it advertises itself. But that is merely a result of widespread usage. As in the article before it talks about how people will download it for free because someone said it was the best and so the effect cascades.
This is probably not an intended marketing strategy but still effective. Catch 22 is, the software needs to be good to begin with and is by no means necessary a sure fire way to make money.
Another example is say jailbroken iPhones, you are opening up a second hand sales market or just a modders paradise. Same could be said about game consoles but in a sense the companies sometimes lose money on console sales and make up for it with games.
I will grant you, this is not the most well put together argument nor is it particularly strong. I am avoiding trying to sound too paranoid by implicating companies. I do however think th at there is more than meets the eye to piracy. The exposure a product gets from piracy may help it get more and more exposure amongst students and when it comes time for those students to get jobs they might prefer software X and their company buys it. Or the flaws in a product open it to modders and homebrewers to extend the usage and attract more customers. After the kindle Fire was rooted and run like a normal tablet, I think a lot of people were attracted. In conclusion, there is more than meets the eye so “What if?”.
No images today.
Due to need for a bit more freedom, I have decided to migrate my WordPress.com blog to a privately hosted WordPress.org blog. Here is the new Dormeo Ergo Sum. A new post was just released please enjoy. Don’t forget to email subscribe to my new location.
Thank you for reading – Brendon
So these past days I have been re-teaching myself PHP and learning Joomla to build a website for work. Outside of that I still have assignments and exams that I have neglected to study. So busy busy busy!
As I quickly skim the news as of late, I see that Google and Oracle have started to face off. Two big guns facing off with a lawsuit which seemed inevitable after Oracle bought out the faltering Sun Microsystems. Possibly the biggest technology lawsuit since the US government’s Microsoft Anti-Trust lawsuit in 1998. Maybe its just I am becoming more aware of the way business’s act or big computer companies are using litigation more often or at least on a bigger scale. Apple is using any company that seems to touch Android as a proxy to fight Google, with mixed results. In my home country Australia, our consumer watch dog (ACCC) managed to win a court case against Apple for their New Ipad saying it supports 4g, which it cannot in Australia. The one that stuck out in my mind was Apple suing for the use of “Slide to Unlock”. I think this photo below sums up my opinion of the matter, I am not an Apple fan nor critic but I think this patent was a little ridiculous.
Things are getting crazy!
The results of these court cases as I see it will set precedence for court cases to come. Can you patent an idea? Can you patent code? Do the courts have enough education to understand the problems faced by software patents? On the one hand you could look at some code as a cooking recipe (Both essentially are algorithms), can you patent a recipe? Yes you can. But can you sue someone for infringing on your “recipe”? If you happen to share most of the ingredients? Or if you use said recipe and distribute it?
Oracle is suing Google because Oracle believes Google has used parts of Java suite for building its’ widely popular Android Operating System. Although the case is more complex, this is one part that I have been following. If Oracle wins then Google could be liable to pay them one billion dollars in damages and stop them from distributing Android or require for every Android device sold royalties be paid to Oracle. This would undermine the idea of Android being Open Source, so as you can imagine, this is a big deal. Hypothetically if either ruling is successful, this could mean a lot of different things for software companies.
So how did this start? Well as you might be familiar with, Sun Microsystems is responsible for developing the Java language and distributing it until recently. In 2009 Oracle acquired Sun so many of the products that Sun Microsystems build to be open source or open source friendly are now maintained is now under Oracles unfriendly to open source control. This can be chracterised by the Open Office and Libre Office “fork” and fear of MySQL’s future (A direct competitor to another one of Oracle’s products).
Although many of the recent cases have been targeted at patent infringements, the one between Google and Oracle is about copyright violation of the Java language. Oracle is claiming that by using Java’s API (Application Programming Interface), Google is in violation.
For those of you who do not know what an API is, I will quickly explain. To make programmers lives easier often companies will release API’s, so in the case of the old WinAPI. Instead of needing to write a program ground the ground up to use a GUI window, you can simply call an API and supply some variables and you can easily make a window. That is only a simple example, API’s in essence abstract many ugly parts of a system and makes our lives easier. It helps one application communicate with another very easily e.g. You can use the Google Maps API to interact with Google Maps within your website.
Google is not denying that it used Java API’s for Android but believes that when using a programming language the owner of the programming language does not have the right to copyright things made with that language. Google also asked Sun Microsystems at the time of development whether they could use it, however it was merely a verbal yes and they have now have backflipped on the issue. Whereas Oracle feels it should have a piece of the pie. Basically you can look it as Oracle is trying to copyright an idea, whereas at the moment only the expression of an idea can be copyrighted. For example imagine if you could copyright the idea of a word processor, there would be no way for competition.
If Oracle wins this case, any software that uses Java could be at risk. However I do think it is quite suspicious that Oracle had tried to buy RIM (Research in Motion – Creators of the Blackberry) but were unsuccessful.
So in conclusion (or so they say), I think it is dangerous for the idea that the idea of the Java API to be copyrightable. It is dangerous to let companies to have that power and sad that the lone developer will be at a big disadvantage to use API’s (even if they are Open source). Whilst Google went about it the wrong way and should have used different means to ensure things like this would not happen. Oracles’ intentions are quite transparent and is the same as many companies (Google included) to buy smaller companies and build a arsenal of patents and sue other companies. Netscape, once a deadly foe to Microsoft’s recently got gobbled up by Microsoft, a very funny premise for those who know about the old Browser Wars. This case will definitely be one to watch as it unfolds.