General

Chromecast SDK: Introduction

Chromecast SDK: Getting Started

With the Chromecast’s open SDK i thought it would be good to look into it. There are 2 components;

  1. The Caster application. This application sends the video to the receiver. Google has changed how the new SDK works slightly from what you may see on Youtube or Netflix today. For instance, this SDK requires that the Chromecast device be selected from the Chrome Extension. You cannot list out the Chromecast devices on your own and allow for selection. This i think makes no sense, it detracts from the experience personally.
  2. The Receiver. You may not need this at all. The default receiver is what you see when the Chromecast is plugged in. You will only need to create a new one if A) you are playing DRM video or B) you want a very custom receiver experience. The code i have written uses the default receiver.

Developing a Caster

I found that the API was pretty easy to work with but there were things missing like Chrome extension detection. Without this the code flips out on say, Safari. I am providing a API wrapper i wrote to help make things easier. Please expand it and modify it.

chromecast wrapper JS

This is how to use it:

     // Instantiate the Object
     var chromecast = new Chromecast();

     // The Object will trigger a callback when everything is set up and a extension is available. (works, Safari, Opera, IE, Ect)
     $(chromecast).on('chromecast_availablity', function(event, payload){
if(payload.status == "available"){
          // chromecast.loadMedia('');
        }
      });

      // Load a video, this video works and is Big Buck Bunny...
      chromecast.loadMedia('http://commondatastorage.googleapis.com/gtv-videos-bucket/big_buck_bunny_1080p.mp4');

      // Issue playback commands to it
      chromecast.play();
      chromecast.pause();
      chromecast.stop();
      chromecast.seek();

Findings

  • There was not a lot of clear documentation.
  • Lack of self awareness. If you linked to the google cast js from Safari it blew up.
  • Rigid implementation, we should be able to iterate through the available players.

Developing a Receiver

First off, you need to start with a developer account at Google to register devices and create a new application. Go here, Google Development Center. Early warning, Google will charge you $5.00 for this privilege.  After signing in you will need to register a new app and a new device.

  1. Create a new App. Pick if you would like to create the receiver (the app the chromecast knows about) or use a pre made one that you can style.
  2. Have your Chromcast Device serial number handy. It is a 12 digit alphanumeric combo on the underside of the device. Warning: They made it nearly impossible to read. Grey text on black 2pt font and they crammed the letters together)

Since i have not built a receiver i will digress to Google here.

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First_Step_Device___The_Worlds_Most_Advanced_Hearing_Aid_AlternativeFirst_Step_Device_and_Inbox__67_messages__1_unread_
General

My new site launched

I have been quiet for a little while due to my work on a new site. When you start to learn how many people have a hearing issue it is sad. There are also so many children that cannot afford and help. I have put together a site that help people get a low cost, occasional use hearing device. The engineering on this device is amazing, it includes many of the technology you would expect in a high end hearing aid. We cal this a FSD or a First Step Device. It’s purpose is to help people that need a little hearing support but are not ready to make the expensive jump to a hearing aid. These devices work well, fit comfortable and look great, they look better than most Bluetooth ear sets people are used to wearing.

To deal with the issue of many children not being able to afford a hearing solution, we will donate a hearing aid to a non-profit that benefits kids for every 2 FSD’s we sell. I really believe in this plan and hope you will to. Its time for businesses to pay back to their respective communities.

Please check out: http://www.firststepdevice.com

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Completed Pandora Pi
Engineering, General, Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi: Project 1 – Pandora Streamer

Overview – What is it

Using a Raspberry Pi you can create a pretty cool stand alone Pandora Streamer. Its a pretty easy project to put together and will only take an evening. Even though this project is basic from a Electrical Engineering standpoint you will learn the basics of GPIO, Python, BASH and basic Circuts. The best part is you can totally use this project on a daily basis. This version also will allow you to use the device as a Airplay reciever when you are not using Pandora.

I do not just want to show you what i did but show you where i went wrong and how i got the correct answers so you will feel confident trying this stuff yourself. This project cost me about $50 – $75 USD and was a blast.

I originally found this project on Instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Pandoras-Box-An-Internet-Radio-player-made-with/?ALLSTEPS). I started with this but re-wrote most of the code. I also changed the circuts to remove components that were unnessicary.

What you will need
  1. Raspberry Pi (sparkfun, Element14, adafruit)
  2. Breadboard
  3. PI Cobbler
  4. LCD Screen
  5. Buttons
  6. Resistors (10k and 1k)

Optional

Lets get started

Step 1 – Get the Raspberry Pi Prepped

A. Flash the Raspberry Pi’s SD Card with the latest version of Raspbian Weezy. First, download the latest OS. Second, put it on the SD Card.

B. Next, Stop the OS from writing to the UART, which we will need to drive the LCD:

In LXTerminal:

sudo nano /boot/cmdline.txt

And change:

dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=ttyAMA0,115200 kgdboc=ttyAMA0,115200 console=tty1 $

to:

dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=tty1 $

Next:

sudo nano /etc/inittab

And change:

#Spawn a getty on Raspberry Pi serial line
T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

to:

#Spawn a getty on Raspberry Pi serial line
#T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

Reboot the Pi

C. Adding Serial Communication to Python, This lets us talk to the LCD:

In LXTerminal:

sudo apt-get install python-serial

D. Enhancing BASH’s GPIO Capabilities, This lets BASH talk to GPIO. This is because we only launch the Python files if we detect HIGH on GPIO pin 22 or we know buttons are connected:

In LXTerminal:

sudo apt-get install git-core
git clone git://drogon.net/wiringPi
cd wiringPi
git pull origin
./build

Go Wireless (optional)

If you choose to go wireless (much cleaner) plug the WIFI adapter into one of the USB ports. Log into the Pi using a keyboard/mouse and HDMI connection. You want to be using the actual Linux GUI not SSH. On the desktop use the “WiFi Config” tool to set up the connection to your wireless network. I was not successful setting it up on my network using just ssh.

Step 2 – Install Pianobar

Pianobar is a command line interface for Pandora. It is super lightweight and will work well with Python.

A. Download and Install

sudo apt-get install pianobar

Accept all of the prompts to install. Type “Pianobar” at the prompt after installation to see it run. It will ask for your email and password but we will automate that in a minute. After starting it will ask which station to play. Select your favorite. After selecting it you will see a 18 digit code in parenthesis next to the station name, copy this we will need it for the config file. Type “?” after it starts to see a list of commands.

B. Set up a config file for Pianobar

If you have been logged into the Pi as the user “Pi” then Pianobar has installed into “/home/pi/.config/pianobar”. Under the Pianobar folder is a config folder, we will put a config file in there that will allow the app to auto-signin. Download the config file below.

Pianobar Config File

In the User section replace user = [Your Email], password = [Your Password] with your credentials. Also, replace autostart_station = [Favorite Station ID] with the ID of the station you want the device to tune to first. Enter the 18 digit code you copied from the last step.

Step 3 – Set Up FIFO

What i learned: In this section i tried creating the FIFO file as a standard one, not using the mkfifo command. I spent a long time trying to figure out where i went wrong.

FIFO is a file that allows communication between Pianobar and our Python scripts. Basically Pianobar is always looking at this file for changes and will treat the text in the file as user input. The config file we added points Pianobar to the folder for FIFO.

fifo = /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

This folder does not exist yet so create it with:

mkfifo /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

To test that everything is working correctly, restart Pianobar. In another terminal window, enter:

echo ‘n’ >> /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

You should be able to fully control Pianobar this way. Once you full understand this concept then the Python scripts will make more sense.

Step 4 – Connect the LCD

What I learned: The original circuit called for a 3.3v voltage regulator connected to the 5v bar.  I realized this was not needed since the LCD i used could use direct 3.3v from the Raspberry PI. That circuit got simple at that point with only a 1k resistor between Tx and Rx.

A. Connect Power

Connect the 5V on the LCD to the 3.3V rail (5V label on this exact model of LCD is a misprint, it is actually 3.3V)

Connect GND to the Ground Rail.

B. Connect Tx

Connect Rx from the LCD to Tx on the Pi using a 1K resistor (Brown, Black, Red, Silver/Gold) in between.

Connection Diagram

Edit: In this Diagram GND should be connected to the GND rail not SDA, sorry.

LCD_Hookup

Step 5 – Connect your Buttons

What I learned: The original circuit had the switch wired to where the 1k and 10k resistors meet. I found that this would not always work as desired but the diagram below works well.

You will be using the following 6 GPIO pins (SDA, SLC, 4, 17, 27, 22) for input. You need to build a circuit for each

A. Build the button Circuit

Power > 10k > 1K. The 1K splits to the GPIO pin (its the D1 – LED in the diagram) and the Switch witch goes to ground.

B. Repeat for all buttons.

Repeat for (SDA, SLC, 4, 17, 27, 22)

Step 6 – Add the Scripts to connect everything

A. Download the scripts

cd /home/pi/.config/pianobar
git clone git://github.com/shaungehring/Pandora-Pi.git
cd Pandora-Pi
git pull origin
cd ..
cp -r /home/pi/.config/pianobar/Pandora-Pi/scripts/ .
sudo chmod -R 777 /home/pi/.config/pianobar/Pandora-Pi/scripts/

View the README.md for an explanation of the files.

B. Have the scripts autostart with Pianobar

sudo nano /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart

Now add two lines to the end:

pianobar
bash /home/pi/.config/scripts/PandorasBox.sh

Step 7 – Add Airplay support (optional)

Credit To: http://trouch.com/2012/08/03/airpi-airplay-audio-with-raspberry/

This is cool because the Pi will become another audio Airplay device on your network and will show as available for all your IOS devices.

A. Become ROOT

pi@raspberrypi:~$ sudo su
root@raspberrypi:cd /home/pi

B. Update Aptitude (Apt-Get)

root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude update
root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude upgrade

C. Install Depedencies

root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude install git libao-dev libssl-dev libcrypt-openssl-rsa-perl libio-socket-inet6-perl libwww-perl avahi-utils

D. Download & Compile

root@raspberrypi:~# git clone https://github.com/albertz/shairport.git shairport root@raspberrypi:~# cd shairport
root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# make

Test that it worked by running:

Replace [AirPi] with what you want it to be called.

root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# ./shairport.pl -a [AirPi]

You should see it on your network and be able to play audio over it from a IOS device.

E. Make a Daemon that will Autostart

root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# make install
root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# cp shairport.init.sample /etc/init.d/shairport root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# cd /etc/init.d
root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# chmod a+x shairport
root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# update-rc.d shairport defaults

Edit the Shairport file with the Name you want it to use.

root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# nano shairport

Modify the DAEMON_ARGS line to look like, (change AirPi to what you want to name it):

DAEMON_ARGS=”-w $PIDFILE -a AirPi”

D. Start Service

root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# ./shairport start

Step 8 – Make a case!!!

Personally i used a old blank CD spindle case that i had lying around. If you have access to a hackerspace i am working on a acrylic case but the design files are not complete.

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Engineering, General

Programming 101

I have had a lot of people ask me about how to get started programming. One guy said it best while waiting for the elevator one day, he looked at me and said: “You know we get paid way too much for what we do, when are they going to learn that”. The rest of the world is catching on and the technology field is hot right now. I would break the Tech scene into four groups:

  1. Programmers/Engineers (people who make applications and services)
  2. Analysts/Network Engineers (people who maintain computers/networks/servers)
  3. Quality (people who test and make sure everything is as designed and bug free)
  4. Business (people who tell everyone else what to do.

We are going to focus on number 1. One benefit we have today is the amount of knowledge out there for free. This stuff was nonexistent when i was starting out. Right now a kid in high school with an interest in programming could have a solid career by 20 years old with no college. Let’s look at some resources to get started.

 

Popular Languages

Learning Resources

Paid

Free

More Updates To Come. This is a LIVING post!

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Quirky Process
General

Lets all make great products

Have you ever seen a product on TV and said “Hey, i thought of that 2 years ago”. Many of us have what i call couch inspiration. Each day presents us with challenges that we each come up with creative solutions for. There is probably though only 5% of us that actually chase that idea and invest the time/money to produce that product. Wouldn’t it be great if we could pass off the idea, invest a little effort online and still get paid?

Welcome to QuirkyQuirky is a social product development company that works on one premise. The customer knows best. Here is how it works.

  1. Sign up for an account
  2. Post a new idea, this can be just a description or even a drawing of your idea. Ideas cost $10 to post. This weeds out spamming (Coupon Code: BBRUSH) will get you one free idea posting.
  3. Quirky takes over with its process.
  4. Other participators vote on your idea, if its popular it moves on.
  5. Other participators vote on Name, Tagline, Tweaks to the product to make it better.
  6. After all the steps are completed Quirky produces to product and puts it in their store, they also sell the product in retail stores.
  7. As the inventor you get a cut of each transaction. As a participator you gt a share of influence of each product. If a product you influenced sells you get paid.


This premise is simple but works. Products people really want get produced and people get paid to contribute. Will it make you rich, No. Will you make some money for very little work, Yes. Product creators are averaging 6-10K for their product. Influencers can make steady money about 3-6 months after they start influencing. The more you contribute the more you can make.

Check out some of the cool products that have come out of this process.

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General

Been Awhile

It has been a long time without any posts. Having a baby and changing positions will do that to you. I hope to get back into the swing of things and start updating this again. If anyone is still listening, thanks.

BTW, i know i m late to the game but i started a Rails project… Very cool. If you are new to the programming game check out some Railscasts.

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2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering, General

The iPad isn’t for you!

If you are reading this post then i am going to go out on a limb and say the iPad isn’t for you! Why not? Because you are probably technically savvy. See, for you the iPad just does not do enough, sure you can get email and browse the web but what if you want to torrent the latest TV show Blu-Ray disc transcode it and output it to 1080i on your TV. If it cant do that it must be worthless. For you, having an iPad is only going to leave you frustrated because you want more out of it.

We have to remember that computer savvy people make up a extremely small percentage of actual computer users 0.02% – 0.05%. The best way i heard it explained was a comparison of video game consoles. Lets compare.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 258 million

Sony PS3

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 138 million

Nintendo Wii

Developed for: Families, Casual Gamers

Total sold to date: 275 million

The Wii is the iPad and the Netbooks/Laptops are the Xbox/PS3. That is why Apple keeps emphasizing that this is a new vertical. Apple is targeting a whole new group of individuals. This goes back to Apples methodology of targeting particular sub-markets first. The iPad is the light computer for the MASS market. Now, because you are tech savvy and you probably to tech support for your entire circle of friends and family let me put this scenario together. Your 75 year old gram wants to dip her toe in the technology pool. She wants to check out the “Internets” that she has heard about and start sending email. Between a iPad, Laptop and a Netbook what is the easiest platform for her to get started on? With a Laptop or Netbook you are going to get 2 calls a week. “Jonny, i clicked something and now my screen is blank”. “Jonny, i moves the mouse and now i don’t see it”. Instead of critiquing the new iPad you should be applauding it. For $499 you family can get a computer that does everything THEY need it to do and you won’t get 10 calls a week to fix things.

So, Apple will probably sell well in this market but they will also do well in the tech savvy early adopter market. Sure it does not do everything i wish it would but it will replace my 8.5 x 11 notepad. So lets not hate on the iPad. I think we will all be surprised on how well it does.

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Business, Cable, General

Would you pay for Hulu?

If you can see this blog then you probably know what Hulu is. For those that do not it is basically free tv on the internet. There has been controversy back and forth on Hulu with most people loving the service. I like Hulu and have enjoyed shows/movies on it mostly because of three reasons;

  1. Because it’s FREE
  2. It’s on demand
  3. It’s FREE

Well for all of you enjoying Hulu or one of it’s many partners, this announcement was made 10.21.2009:

“I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value,” Carey said. “Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.” – Chase Carey – News Corp. Deputy Chairman

I am curious what they are trying to say exactly. Are they saying people only find TV programming valuable if they pay for it? Maybe they are saying that Advertisers don’t think it’s valuable enough unless people are paying. What is a meaningful subscription model? Let’s see what you think with the below poll, what would you spend for monthly Hulu service?

How Much Would You Pay For Hulu?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

 

Some facts on Hulu:

Despite more than 40 million unique visitors and 500 million free online streamed videos, Hulu continues to lose about $33 million annually. It shares ad revenues with content owners. Still, Hulu’s three broadcast network owners lose an estimated $920 in ad revenues for every 1,000 viewers who substitute the PC for the TV – Analyst Laura Martin.

If Hulu does go to a subscription model it better well come with a box i can hook up to my TV. If i am paying monthly then i want a traditional viewing experience. The one think i don’t think they are getting is that people use Hulu because it is easy. More importantly it’s easier than torrenting a movie or show. As soon as you start charging then torrenting seems easier to some. If they are concerned about the value of the content then make better content don’t charge to imply value. If ad revenue is an issue there must be a better way of engaging the audience while keeping the content free to the user.

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Business, Cable, General

Jericho, Neilsen and the Future

Folks, something interesting happened the other day. Last Friday CBS announced that Jericho was going to be canceled, again! I happen to be a fan of the show in a time when the majority of TV is considered garbage in my mind. Most of you may recall what happened last time the canceled Jericho, the viewing community responded by sending boxes upon boxes of nuts to the studio. This action prompted CBS to bring the show back for a second season and see how the ratings do. This time around they averaged 6.8 million viewers.

6.8 million viewers seems great but isn’t to the TV community. Let’s look at what popular ratings are, wow, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (13.3 mill), SAMANTHA WHO? (9.6 mill), AMERICAN IDOL-TUESDAY (18.8 mill). In fact the 6.8 million Jericho viewers are just behind CRIMINAL MINDS, it just wasn’t enough.

This brings me to the real reason for this post. Neilsen is an archaic system. We use a sample group of 5k people to determine what 99 million homes are watching. With the vast technology we have at our disposal the best we can do is attach a little black box to someones cable line to determine what people like? In just that last few years we have developed Personal Video Recorders (DVR, PVR, Tivo), web streaming shows (cbs.com, hulu.com) and downloadable content (iTunes). Neilsen does no take into consideration any of these sources, in fact when CBS reinstated Jericho they asked people NOT to DVR/Tivo the show because they would not get accurate ratings. According to Tivo’s website Jericho was in the Top 25 most recorded shows (week ending in 3.25.2008). I would not be surprised if the total viewers on these three other mediums were well over another 1.5 – 2.5 million.

If i were Neilsen i would be looking at how i could roll new viewing methods into my ratings calculations.

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Apple iPhone, SDK released

First the information you really want to know;

  • iPhone update 2.0  and public SDK will be released in June.
  • iPhone Beta SDK released today for $99.
  • iFund by KPCB VC worth $100,000,000 to be invested into the iPhone dev community.

Now on to the more nitty gritty details.

  • Exchange Support; Email, Cal, Directory
  • Cisco IPsec VPN
  • Cocoa Touch is how to build iPhone applications
  • With the SDK you can debug your plugged in iPhone
  • iPhone simulator also in the SDK
  • Ability to program against OpenGL, 3D
  • EA built a version of Will Wrights SPORE
  • Sega creating real 3D console games for iPhone
  • Aol IM client for the phone (ability to use bonjour for connections, imagine meeting people on the train around you)
  • Access to the iPhones Database SQLite
  • Applications delivered and updated over WiFi or Edge using the AppStore provided by Apple.

I will have more details later… See you soon.

Message to Steve Jobs:

Dear Steve,

Did you wake up one morning and while having your morning Starbucks mocha choca lata yaya decide that it was the perfect day to crumble the once powerful enterprise mobile communication solution known as Rim/Blackberry. If this was how your decision was made then my hat is off to you. Well played Jobs, well played.

Sincerely,

Shaun Gehring

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Apple iTv, is it for me?

When you look at an Apple product you realize that Apple has though, thought again an then maybe over though the product. With the iTv they have taken something that most of us already have in our home and improved upon it. On Demand content.

Vs

We all love having On Demand content in a world of “I want this and i want it now”. Our cable and satellite providers have given us and continue to give us the largest amount of content at one time but for a price. In the world today with our busy schedules sure having 700+ channels is great but how much of that and our dollars are wasted. To combat that is the infamous “A la cart” cable, great idea, not for the cable companies though. A la cart would allow you to only purchase the channels you really want to watch, that means less money for the cable providers.

What has apple done? Now we have this iTv that without a PC you can buy/rent tv shows and movies (we don’t even need to get into youtube and flickr). So now you have basically a set top “cable” style box. Right now we can rent movies for about the same price as VOD/EOD and buy tv shows for $0.99. But, you know that Apple has something up their sleeve. Think about what apple could do with a mere software update! Let’s play “What If”!

What if Apple finds a way to get as many content rights as Hulu and they start to add some commercials to the content and charge $0.00 for Tv Shows!!! What effect could this have on the Cable industry? Instead of paying $40 – $100 a month for Tv you pay $0.00. Unless you are a Tv-holic don’t you only care about the major shows, so you might miss a Mtv reality nightmare or two but maybe this will force more production houses to supply their content via digital means.

Consumer: Wants Tv/Movies when they want them for the lowest cost.

Show Producers: Wants the most amount of advertising dollars for the show.

So, What could iTv Be?

  • Free Tv Shows (saved indefinitely – ads updated)
  • Movies bought and rented
  • Flickr, Youtube, Trailers, Video Phone???

If Apples wants to they are gaining the ability to rock the cable world as we know it. They have gained the trust of the mass consumer electronic market and are gaining market share at a record pace. Will they do it? Are they already working on it? Call me a Apple prophet if you will but only time will tell.

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General, Workplace Humor

Does your heart rule your mind? GTR (not the Nissan variety)

I usually pride myself on being versed in the ways of the melodic arts, especially the sweet 80′s hair band genre. We have all heard those sweet anthems “To Be With You – Mr. Big”, “Cherry Pie – Warrant”, “Round and Round – RATT”, “Whole Hearted – Extreme”, “Crackling Rosie – Neil Diamond”. One band thou has eluded me untill just the other day, GTR, no it does not stand for Gun’s THEN Roses…

GTR takes the slightly less known members of other well known progressive rock bands and throws them into a melodic blender with some blond hair dye a few bandannas and a ace melting solo. GTR has band members from Genesis, Yes and Asia. You would think that it would be difficult to mix the desires of three separate guitar players and there personal forms of rock, how do you fit it all together? You jam three separate styles back to back in a five min long song…

Three different styles you say… Listen for these in the video below.

(0:00) – Average rock out neck wrenching jam.
(3:20) – What, am i in Egypt because i think a Pharaoh just walked in.
(3:37) – I believe this is what King Arthur listened to at the round table, soothing minstrel music.

Maybe i should give you a moment to recover… Get up, get a drink if you must. How have you never heard of them? Where did they come from? Where are they now? Some questions can never be answer and some should never be.

You will be accredited 20 Gehring bucks if you noticed the timpani drums being played. Now i have heard of Rock bands playing with Symphonies such as the Metallica S&M tour,  but a rock band with these two freakishly huge timpani drums only played during what i have dubbed “Pharaoh’s Entrance”. Touché GTR, Well played.

What amazed me most was this as of this post you cannot touch a used GTR cd for less than $30 USD. Wow that is lasting value, hind sight being 20/20 i would have invested my money in GTR cd’s and forgotton that Enron stock.

More Links:

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

The great Chumby debate!

For those of you that havn’t seen it you can find a chumby here Chumby

The lowdown

  • Wi-fi connectivity • access to the free Chumby Network • 3.5″ LCD color touchscreen • two external USB 2.0 full-speed ports • 350 MHz ARM processor • 64 MB SDRAM • 64 MB NAND flash ROM • stereo 2W speakers • headphone output • squeeze sensor • accelerometer (motion sensor) • leather casing • AC adapter included
  • The dimensions are: 5 1/2″ wide, 4 1/4″ tall, 3 1/4″ deep at the base, and 2 1/4″ deep at the top. Here’s the chumby next to a regular size coffee cup.
  • Plug it in, connect to your wireless network, and use your computer to choose a playlist of “widgets” (the bite-sized applications that run on a chumby)
  • Because it’s always on, the chumby must be plugged in to an AC outlet.
  • The chumby costs $179.95.

The Functionality

Widgets, Screens and Power cables, Ohhhh my! So they are marketing a Widget panel. That’s cool so you can take your widgets with you right? Wrong! it has to be plugged in at all times because it NEVER goes into sleep mode. Not like the pesky iPhone or Nintendo DS. So as long as you are near WiFi and an outlet you will always have weather and email, unlike your laptop. On there website one of the selling points is that it can hook op to your iPod and be a boombox, ony one problem, the songs shuffle and you cannot choose what to play.

The Look

It’s beautiful…. I mean i look at it and see a Lexus Headrest with a LCD mounted in it, don’t you.chumby with mug
It looks so soft you probably want to hold it while you watching Tv on the couch (i hope there is an AC outlet close). The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhones.

Saving the best for last

More amazing than the device itself is the company that produces it. They will defend the product to the ends of the earth, here are some quotes the Chumby senior team;

the chumby is always in a state of continuous improvement — that’s the real innovation here — and it challenges the point-in-time judgment model (”Am I glad I bought this product or not?” “Was it worth the money?” “Here’s what’s good and what’s bad about this product!”) With Chumby, you’re buying into an “open development vector.” Huh? How in Hell does someone review or pass judgment on that? There’s the rub.

Anyone who got one of our early alpha prototypes, and complains that it was very limited, ummmm, didn’t we mention at the time that it was *alpha* hardware? — should be judged on what works, not on what doesn’t work, i.e., it was an early “proof of concept,” not a finished product. And, by that standard, people who understood what this stage means *loved” it.

Carping about the limitations of a free prototype seems ungrateful at best. But…whatever…wait until all the teenagers in your neighborhood have one, check it out, and then let us all know what you think.

Don’t want to belabor this, and sorry if I’m grumpy and “un-PR” about the topic, but the prototypes were expensive for a start-up and were offered with the very specific and stated quid pro quo that people who took them o requested them needed to be willing to do something of value for us in return — hack it, write widgets for it, play with it and blog about it, provide *informed* feedback after some reasonable expereice with it, whatever.

My Thoughts

Chumby is trying to compete in a niche market, they are a very small San Diego startup. Microsoft has tried the same thing with there SideShow devices at a $80 price and still hasn’t been able to make it work. I love the line that said “wait until all the teenagers on your street have one”, well, on my street everyone has iPhones, the funny thing is they have a battery, there always connected to the internet, they play video, they have widgets and ooh yea, i almost forgot, IT’S A PHONE!!!

Links

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Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Industry Software Shift

I started out programming with VB and ASP. Over the years i need to expand my skills to Java, PHP, Etc… The marketplace for a long time seemed to be embracing Open Source with “Open” arms. Over the last few weeks though i have heard of multiple large companies shifting to or even back to Microsoft for their solutions. Some that i know of have even gone as far as getting rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Sun servers. What is sparking this? Microsoft had not announced or released a new “Messiah” of business suites.

Well, my humble opinion is that my “VB/ASP” generation of developers is now moving into those once coveted VP and CTO positions and they want to got back to what they are comfortable with. If this truly is the case, what will happen when generation AJAX takes the helm?

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General, Workplace Humor

Where do they come from?

Sometimes I believe that companies scour the sewers of human depravity to fill their lower ranks. To keep myself from going on another interoffice safari I periodically walk the call center area of our fine establishment to clear my head. Today I noticed someone quite odd.

Now step back with me for a quick minute. When you have a call center you do have the distinct advantage of keeping your employees hidden from view, shielded behind miles of copper telephone cable lost in a veritable maze of cubicles. They strip your identity and assign you a number, as if your name wasn’t good enough. These employees are nothing more than another coppertop, another 9 volts powering its self-contained capitalistic machine.

With this being said does that validate our hiring methods. Do we feel the need to just hire anyone to keep our cost down? Why brings me to this tangent?

Yesterday on my walk I noticed an older gentleman. His entire job every day is customer interaction. Imagine him as our company’s personal ambassador to YOUR home. Now picture him if you will.

He’s older, 60-65. Salt & Pepper hair combed over to mask the top of his head, which can only be described as a personal solar panel. His hair is long enough to touch halfway down his shoulders, and looks to be practically dripping with an amalgamation of Bril Cream & Olive Oil. Powder blue turtleneck under a sports jacket, you know the kind with the fake suede elbow patches. The ones designed to convince you friends that your more sophisticated than you really are, like they are going to believe that you actually ride horses and go on fox hunts during the weekends. His eyes actually mildly point in separate directions when relaxed. You never really know if he’s looking at you or just over your shoulders. Both of them at the same time! His beard is constantly in the 1.75-day’s unshaved stage. Finally the “coup de gra”. The first thing you notice about him. The reason you can find him in any maze of cubicles. Why I can trail him down any hallway and always be just out of sight. Around his neck hangs dangling, gaudy, platinum, shiny, oversized, replica of Jesus. That’s right, in complete anguish with full crown of thorns.

This is why companies have call centers. Shielding these people from view. Think about it. What would you do if he showed up at your door to discuss your next bill?

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