4 videos about technology

This is a fun way to look at the concept of lag. What we have here is an Oculus Rift, headphones, a webcam and a Raspberry Pi all put together to increase the lag from a third of a second to 3 seconds. It’s actually an advert for a Swedish fiber ISP selling fast connectivity, but that is easy to forgive as the message is well delivered and amusing. Its not about virtual reality at all, but it does nonetheless bring home how important latency is in the VR experience.

 

Ok, so this next video is VR as VR, as in it doesn’t show the Oculus interacting with the real world. Still great though. Its early days for the Rift but this is a good start, a taster if you will.

 

This video combines a few different development memes from the computing world. The internet of things, interface development, home automation, office automation, projection. It also shows some of the development directions that I discussed in my recent post about mobile. Its a table, 3 lights, a wall and a computer than can hear and see. Very interesting.

 

Finally a small change of direction. This is a group of kids reacting to Walkmans. There is lots in here and it is a joy to watch (particularly the one kid smarter than the others who seems to know his own mind, most are appalled at the observation that a Walkman cost $200, he calmly observed that an iPad costs $700). Perhaps the biggest take out is that the paradigm of mechanical, not computational, functionality is just beyond them. They poke the buttons gently, as you would with a touchscreen, there is no concept of opening the device, no expectation that another item is required (the cassette itself), or even headphones, and horror that a cassette might only hold 16 songs! There is some succour here for the older among us, if you have ever been confused by a new technology, or watched a parent in a similar situation, then this video will have some ringing similarities. Clearly, misunderstanding technology goes both ways.


Gravitational waves – Andrei Linde and Inflation

You might recall a gentle excitement reported in the news last month about a huge breakthrough in physics. The discovery being reported was the confirmation of primordial gravitational waves, which to be fair, may not mean much to you or anyone else not involved in cutting edge cosmology and physics. Even if you have little interest in the detail of the discovery and its implications I implore you to at least watch the first video below. It is the moment that Andrei Linde is surprised with the news that such waves have been confirmed. Linde was the physicist who initially proposed the idea of  inflation (the huge expansion that the universe went through in the tiniest fraction of a second after the big bang) which is now confirmed by the discovery of these waves. Even if you dislike physics, watching a man and his wife receive confirmation of their life’s work is a genuine joy.

 

If that has whetted your appetite to understand what the fuss is all about then this video from Veritasium does a good job of explaining the discovery and why is is so fundamental to our understanding of the big bang and subsequently the universe.

 

 


Speaking Truth to Power

Quinn Norton is a name that hovered on the edge of my consciousness for a chunk of time. She dated Aaron Swartz for 3 years and in the resultant furore after his death her name was a part of that story as it became clear that prosecutors had put pressure on her to offer testimony against him, something she did not do.

At this year’s Chaos Communication Congress she spoke on the topic “No Neutral Ground in a Burning World” with Eleanor Saitta which gave an historical perspective on governmental surveillance and how technology is impacting this need for legibility.

 

 

Then finally I found this piece, “A Day of Speaking Truth to Power, Visiting the ODNI”. The ODNI is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, spook central, a scary place for anyone let alone a journalist with a reputation for speaking ill of the intelligence community (IC). It’s a great read for so many reasons. It paints a picture of the IC that is both confirming and revelatory and it also surfaces a number of interesting ideas, that could have been brought up in a completely different context, but found their way into this conversation instead.

When I read longer form essays I often take one quote, sometimes two, and send them to my email for recycling into a post (credited of course) or to remind myself to dig deeper into a topic, or just to add a highlight to a particular piece, to make it standout against everything else I am reading.

With this essay I sent myself 9 different quotes, I’ve listed 5 of them below. Please read all of it though, it’s fascinating.

 

It was clear to me part of this mess we’re in arose from the IC feeling that if everyone was giving away their privacy, then what they, the Good Guys, did with it could not be that big of a deal.

 

I said the end of antibiotics and the rise of diseases like resistant tuberculosis would mean that tech would end at our skin, and we’d be limited in our access to public assembly. It was probably the darkest thing I said all day, and one of my table mates said (not unkindly) “I don’t like your future.”

 

I realized that one of the problems is that being at the top of the heap, which the security services definitely are, makes the future an abomination and terror. There is no possible great change where the top doesn’t lose, even if it’s just control, rather than position. The future can only be worse than the present, and a future without fear is a future to fear.

 

They were mostly pleasant and thoughtful people, and they listened as best they could. One told me I made her feel like Cheney, “And I’m not used to feeling like Cheney.”

 

When we learn to live online we will want to be full humans again. When, as one of the outside experts put it, the Eternal September is over, we will learn once again to mind our own fucking business, and we will expect others to, as well.

 

That last quote is something we are going to visit again and again over the next 20, 30 or 50 years (it will likely be a hard slog). The truth is that being online is such a young concept and we haven’t a clue yet, what it means in human terms, social terms, societal terms. In the same way that we expect privacy at a coffee table in a public coffee shop, even though it is possible for someone to listen to our conversation, we will find a social code developing that covers the digital in ways we will find reminiscent of the analogue.


3 Movies I want to see

This is top of the list and is subtitled too. A Chinese film, Trap Street looks at issues of governmental surveillance and the ‘smaller’ day to day things that can happen under the conditions of a modern surveillance society. Its made in and about China but presumably has resonance for us all considering the context of Snowden’s revelations. This particular clip shows how the surveillance function is pervasive and executed for all sorts of reasons, good and bad, by the government and by the population too. I love the idea of a personal map populated by the spatial and time locked events in a life, both grand and essential, even while I can be horrified at the privacy issues it raises.

 

I think this is more about showcasing progress in the science and art of film making and VFX but I really hope they make it into a fully realised and full length feature. Its a short trailer but full of dramatic potential.

 

Errol Morris, the acclaimed director of the Fog of War here turns his documentary making skills onto the controversial figure of Donald Rumsfeld. The film is made with full access to Rumsfeld himself who talks through his version of history (adviser to 4 presidents) via the exploration of memos he had written as world events played out around him.


Buying a TV (channeling Joyce Grenfell)

Right kids. Me and your Mum have decided it’s time to buy a new TV. Exciting eh.

Yes, yes, it’ll be a good one, we’ve decided to get a good one. It might not be the biggest, it still has to fit in the corner, but it will be a good one, lots better than the one we’ve got now.

OK, but you know there are some decisions we have to make, right. We’re going to have to decide which channels we want.

Well, yes it would be nice if we could get them all, but different TV’s show different channels don’t they, you know that.

Why? Well that’s just the way it is.

What? Well yes we could just give them more money, you’d have thought so wouldn’t you, but actually we can’t. They don’t operate like that.

That doesn’t make sense? No, I guess it doesn’t does it.

Aren’t they trying to make money? Well yes they are. That’s why…. that’s why…

Look, you see, the TV people, they have deals with the people who make the programs, and the people who make the programs, well, they only want you to watch their programs on certain types of TV.

That doesn’t make sense either? …….No I guess it doesn’t does it.

Well yes, you would have thought that the people who make the programs want as many people as possible to watch.

Yes, if it was available on all the TV’s then more people could watch it. That’s true.

Look kids, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. We just can’t get all the channels, it’s not possible, they won’t sell it to us like that. We’re going to have to choose which ones we want.

No, it doesn’t make sense. I agree.

Sorry, what was that, I didn’t hear you?

Please stop mumbling, say that again.

Adults are stupid. Ah…ok

 

CONTEXT: Please imagine this conversation happening anytime from 1980 up until 2003 (…or so). The link below describes the real situation as it occurs in today’s world (a very good read), and a Youtube clip to identify Joyce Grenfell for those who have never heard of her.

I still don’t want to be a part of your fucking ecosystem

 

 


Cars, Cars, Washing Machines and Paxman

I can’t even start to understand how much time this must have taken. Really nice idea though.

Another video that must have taken some time to make. I can understand how this would have been easier to commit to, there’s a love of model racing cars in everyone (ok, mostly men). A nice juxtaposition with the stickbomb meme. This is good video content marketing. Not really suitable for a TV ad but 2.5 million views on Youtube is pretty good.

This film from the clever folks at Berg explores how we can make even the more mundane of modern appliances sharper and more intelligent by the, relatively, simple application of basic modern tech and a fresh angle on connectivity. Washing machines.

Finally, for no other reason than that it is TV gold and I recently stumbled across it, Paxman grilling Michael Howard and insisting (unsuccessfully) on getting an answer to his question. I imagine that on the day Howard thought he had won the exchange, but the permanence of modern media really leaves him with a legacy as the poster boy for politicians who refuse to answer questions.


Videos – music videos

 I don’t want to throw away any sacred things. What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.  –  Kurt Vonnegut

That’s from Vonnegut’s book “Breakfast of Champions” which was published in 1973. I’ve always liked the quote and although I never felt the need to question it, as it just felt true to me, I was delighted when I watched this video with Bobby McFerrin and I was reminded of Vonnegut’s opinion.

Music is essentially about connection, anyone who has stood in a room listening to a band or a soloist who manages to get ‘there’ (whatever and wherever there is), knows this. Whether you are with 50 or 50,000 other people it is unfathomable that the experience could have been superior if you were on your own.

This video, at a conference on neurology goes someway to demonstrating the visceral human connectivity that is music. This is a delight, the sort of thing to watch if you need a quick lift.

 

Second up is a video from Primus who I am mostly aware of as the guys who wrote and sing the theme song from Southpark. The song called “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” is good, but I really love the video. For some reason, and its rare for me, the video makes this what it is.

 

Finally an example of the craft that is Stevie Ray Vaughan, and in this clip, more particularly the craft of a great roadie. He loses a string, but if you couldn’t see what happened you wouldn’t know.