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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘computers

[LINK] “The Gadget Apocalypse Is Upon Us”

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Yesterday’s issue of The New York Times featured an article by Farhad Manjoo prophesying the end of the “gadget”, non-smartphone devices capable of doing anything from tracking fitness to filming underwater scenes. Smartphone technology has displaced it.

What happened to gadgets? It’s a fascinating story about tech progress, international manufacturing and shifting consumer preferences, and it all ends in a sad punch line: Great gadget companies are now having a harder time than ever getting off the ground. The gadget age is over — and even if that’s a kind of progress, because software now fills many of our needs, the great gadget apocalypse is bound to make the tech world, and your life, a little less fun.

Things were never easy for gadgets. The lives of gadgets have always been nasty, brutish and short. One year a gadget would be the Must Have of the Year, and the next year it would be old news. But that was the cycle, and it was fine, because there would always be another gadget.

Then things got even worse. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the Thing That Does Everything emerged from Cupertino, Calif. That was almost 10 years ago now. You know what I’m talking about: the iPhone. We knew the Thing was going to be big, but we didn’t know it would be this big. When the Thing threatened to eat up all the gadgets, nobody thought it would really happen. We still had hope that some gadgets would stick around.

And for a while, they did. For a while, it even looked as if we would have a gadget renaissance. “Gadgets are back,” said The Verge. People created websites where customers would pay to get gadgets that hadn’t even been made yet. They called it Kickstarter. You want a gadget? Pay for someone to make it! What a world.

People started making gadgets that you could wear. They started making gadgets for your house, gadgets to control your heating and cooling, gadgets to help you sleep. Imagine that! A gadget, for when you weren’t even awake. What a world. There were even gadgets that would make other gadgets. And that’s not even getting to the gadgets that could fly!

But now the companies making flying gadgets are crashing back to earth. Look at 3D Robotics, the company founded by Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired, which ripped through $100 million to start a consumer drone company that ended up not selling many drones.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm

[LINK] “Still don’t own a smartwatch? You’re not alone”

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CBC News’ Matthew Braga reports on the slow uptake of smartwatch technology. What is the point of owning one, coming to think of it?

This time last year, tech companies were busy hyping what they hoped to be the next big thing in consumer tech.

Apple had just unveiled the Apple Watch. Samsung was promoting the Gear S2. LG, Lenovo and Huawei, amongst others, had partnered with Google to launch new smartwatches of their own, powered by software called Android Wear.

But today, it’s clear that smartwatches haven’t caught on with consumers quite as fast as tech companies had hoped.

So far, “there’s not a great use case for a smartwatch,” said Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst with market intelligence firm IDC, who studies mobile technology. “A lot of what these devices can do, they’re essentially just mimicking the phone.”

The challenges have taken a toll on some of the competitors. Pebble, an early entrant to the smartwatch game, announced this week the sale of its software assets to the fitness tech company Fitbit, which has been working on a smartwatch of its own. Pebble said the company would be dissolved.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 9, 2016 at 4:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The story behind the first computer in Canada”

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Spacing Toronto’s Chris Bateman tells a fascinating story. It’s difficult of me to imagine a time when these devices were so very new.

In 1949, a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Toronto began building a machine no-one in Canada, and few in the world, had ever seen before.

The University of Toronto Electronic Computer Mark I—UTEC for short—was to become the first and only functional computer in the country, but first it had to be constructed entirely from scratch and many of its core components invented.

“It will be able to read figures, write them down, and come up with the correct answer to a poser in calculus,” the Globe and Mail told its readers of the fantastic machine being planned by the university.

“It will be able to compute income taxes; to tell the trend of business at an electrified glance; to play a passable game of chess, and maybe even to forecast weather months in advance. Any of these operations will be done in less than a second.”

In the late 1940s, practically all major scientific and mathematical number crunching was conducted by the human mind with assistance from mechanical calculators.

The invention of even the most basic electronic computer (by today’s standards) promised to open the door to a new world of discovery and innovation. Calculations that would previously have taken years could be done in hours or minutes.

“The computer is actually an aid to, not a substitute for, the human brain,” the Globe and Mail reassured. “It will only be as good as the men who operate it, and will be able to do only what it is told to do.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Bad Astronomy notes a new census of galaxies finding that there are two trillion in the universe.
  • blogTO reports on a new twin condo tower proposed for downtown Toronto.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on findings suggesting Earth barely escaped a third snowball period.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that no one wants to stay in Trump’s new Washington D.C. hotel.
  • Language Hat notes the effort to revive the language of the Miami.
  • Language Log notes pervasive censorship in China.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money dissects the idea of “locker room talk”.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at Thailand.
  • The NYRB Daily considers the Bob Dylan Nobel prize.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Jason Davis interviews the makers of the revamped Antares cargo rocket.
  • Towleroad features a guest essay by Hillary Clinton’s honorary gay nephew.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Orin Kerr looks at the future directions of computer crime law in the United States.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi notes that the GOP doomed itself.
  • Window on Eurasia considers the problem of melting permafrost in the Russian North.
  • Arnold Zwicky engages with an article on gay/straight friendships.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Astrobeat U>notes the vulnerability of Florida’s Space Coast to Hurricane Matthews.
  • D-Brief notes that the Voyager probes are the most distant US government-owned computers still in service.
  • Dangerous Minds shares high-heeled tentacle shoes.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that a President Trump would enable anything the Congressional Republicans wanted.
  • The LRB Blog notes Vancouver’s fentanyl crisis.
  • The NYR Daily reports on the lives of dissidents harassed by extralegal detentions.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer maps the recent Columbian referendum and finds that areas beset by FARC actually voted for the peace plan.
  • Gay porn star and sometime political radical Colby Kelly, Towleroad noted, is going to vote for Trump in order to push forward the revolution.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at religious developments in the former Soviet Union.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Beyond the Beyond’s notes the imminent end of Moore’s law.
  • Centauri Dreams imagines what a stellified gas giant might look like.
  • D-Brief notes Ceres’ lack of large craters and looks at how New Zealand is declaring war on invasive fauna.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at Venus analog Gliese 832d.
  • Joe. My. God. notes intensifying scrutiny of Trump’s Russian links.
  • Language Log looks at the portmanteaux used in the Japanese language.
  • The LRB Blog notes Erdogan’s many voices.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that slow economic growth will not undermine the Chinese system.
  • Steve Munro looks at the effects of construction on the 501 Queen.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the final landing site of the Rosetta probe.
  • pollotenchegg maps wages across Ukraine.
  • Savage Minds reports how war can fragment families, looking to Ukraine.
  • Transit Toroto notes GO Transit’s adding of new double-decker buses.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the thesis that Trump is a consequence of the breakdown of traditional political parties.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Daghestan’s restriction of movement of “potential” criminals.
  • The Yorkshire Ranter searches for a statistical link between austerity and Brexit.

[BLOG] Some social sciences links

  • Language Log considers the ideologies of digital scholarship.
  • Peter Rukavina considers what it means for archival purposes that Prince Edward Island used WordStar 2000.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog remaps the country by population and examines opinions in the European Parliament towards Russia.
  • Savage Minds considers what it means to be a participant-observer in as an ethnographer in the Ukrainian war.
  • Understanding Society’s Daniel Little looks at the sociology of accident analysis.