I’m not ashamed to admit that when it comes to technology I can be fiercely loyal and it takes a lot to make me change brand preferences.
Intel is an example. Although I loved and used an Apple Macintosh, initially the combination of their operating system and their processor wasn’t compatible with the large library of software I used for work and at home. In the fullness of time—like after the introduction of PowerPoint and PageMaker, and other mainstream applications for Windows, I got rid of my Mac and went back to Intel-based machines. Going back to Windows was made more difficult because I was a senior editor at MacWeek, and the lone Windows users in a newsroom of Macintosh fanatics. But I went back to Intel and Windows very quickly. I’ve never looked back and over the years even Apple has switched to Intel processors.
New paradigms force me to examine my preferences and I may have found my moment of inertia two weeks ago when I had the opportunity to use two VR headsets driven by Samsung smart phones. Although I’m a big fan of Samsung’s Android phones, I was kicked beyond my tipping point by the power and versatility of their Qualcomm processors, core and other logic.
The way to win brand loyalty in the consumer market is by demonstrating reliability and current as well as future versatility. And Qualcomm has a proven record of doing ‘zackly that in mobile computing. This San Diego company is notoriously tight lipped about future products but the scent of more powerful multicore SnapDrgaon processors, faster Wi-Fi, higher resolution screen displays, and next generation wireless communications chipsets are as ever present in the mobile computing community here as the smell of citrus blossoms on evening breezes.
Qualcomm sits in the catbird’s seat of mobile computing today and by extension it is well positioned to be a leader in virtual reality. And one look at this company’s financials suggests it has the resources to fund the R&D and outright technology acquisitions it needs to build a solid empire in the VR kingdom. For the quarter just ended, this San Diego Company reported it had more than $30 billion in cash and cash equivalents on hand.
In the looming battle for VR headsets, I’m betting that the winning companies will be in several camps: headset makers who use commonly available cell phones to provide an untethered experience, infrastructure software suppliers who license technologies that reduce the time to market for suppliers of content authoring software, plus makers of peripheral devices that let users virtually manipulate objects on displays.
While I’m bullish on Qualcomm, I don’t think Intel can be counted out, yet. It has the capabilities to develop technologies equivalent to Qualcomm’s and it has a venture investment fund it’s willing to use to acquire and foster technologies for all categories of mobile computing
I am willing to live in a bifurcated world. One of which (Intel and Windows) gives me access to legacy applications, the other which drops me in on a swelling technology wave. It’s the new world of Qualcomm and Google/Android I think holds the most promise.
And it’s just this sort of promise that makes me think about changing my brand preferences.
My current cell phone is two years old and is due to be replaced soon. I absolutely will swap it out for a Snapdragon phone running Google’s Android, which is economically feasible for me while reducing the cost of playing with virtual reality.—Jim Forbes on 15 March, 2016.
Acer’s C910 chromebook s a sight for my aging eyes.. For the last three weeks , I've been slipping in and out of California Studies classes, coffeeshops and university libraries putting this addition to my book bag through its paces.
The C910 has one of the best display screens i’ve yet seen on any 15-inch screen chromebook.
The C910 isn’t dainty, it weighs 4.85 pounds, has a 2.2 Ghz dual core Intel processor, only 4GB of RAM, but includes a 32 GB SSD drive
This new Chromebook is well built, measuring 15.1 x 10.1 x 1.0 inches and hits the scales at 4.85 pounds.. Don’t think for a second that this notebook is “Rubenesque.” After toting it around Southern California for a week it's become a welcome replacement for the 13-inch chromebook I’ve used for the last year.
The size and weight of Acer’s C910 could be off putting to users of lighter Chromebooks. But charge this portable, fire it up and you may come around to its heft and overall performance.
I wanted to review this portable for a simple reason: My eyesight isn’t that of an eagle-eyed 20 year old, and its 15.6 inch widescreen makes using this for extended periods in dimly lit spaces keeps eye strain at bay.
Acer’s C910 is driven by an Intel i5 5200U processor and Intel 5500HD graphics chip, plus a 32GB SSD. It’s quick to boot up and its graphics performance is robust enough for the types of graphics files engneering anda rt student use as part of their regular coursework.
I really like the 15.6-inch screen because it has enough real estate to open and size a Google docs document on one part of the screen so that I can take notes on a graphics images diplayed on another part off the screen.
Like many new Chromebooks, Acer’ C910 has good external connectivity. In Addition to requisite USB 2.0 sockets, an SD card slot and an HDMI connector. it also has a rock solid 802.11AC WIFi and dual band Mimo antenna.
There are two very noteworthy pluses to the fit and finish of this Chromebook; It's pebbled plastic case which helps keep it clutched safely in your hand, And I like its rounded edges, because they don’t snag on my inside seams of my raggedy ass book bag.
Overall, after totting this Chromebook around for three weeks, I’ve come to believe it’s built like a tank and should hold up to years of service moving easily from any bag to any work surface without worrying about mechanical wear and tear.
The battery life in my real world tests has consistently been more than 7.5 hours, even when I’ve been on Youtube listening to music videos real loud.
I believe this Chromebook is well suited for anyone whose interests encompass graphics intensive applications such as engineering and/or science, or the arts. It’s 15.6 inch, 1920 by 1280 pixel, screen was the prescription I needed to cure eyestrain associated with my use of chromebooks equipped with 12 and 13 inch screens.
Acer Chromebook 15 C910-54M1 has a suggested retail price of $499.
The price of this notebook is in line with other top of the line chromebooks , but its basic performance and rock solid construction make it a safe buy, outweighing concerns about its carry weight.--Jim Forbes on 1 May 2016.
I believe in guilty pleasures and have reached the point in my life where I’m not above a little “whim clicking*” on Amazon or jumping on my fanciful three-wheeled scooter to blow the garden dirt from my cutoffs and go putt putting out to any of the three farm stands that are within 15 miles of my house here in avocado-infested Escondido.
I have a long history with motor cycles going ack to 1964 when I bought my first bike, a sporty Honda 50cc. Since then I’ve owned a succession of bikes that I’ve used to break writer’s blocks or enjoy a gorgeous Spring evenings by riding to the nearest fishing hole.
My current bike is very different than anything I’ve owned or ridden before. It’s an upmarket Vespa called a Piaggio MP3 400. I love it a lot but don’t use it enough to keep the battery fully charged.
I went out for a putt putt east to the next town this evening, thinking 60 minutes at 4,000 RPM would bring my battery up enough so tt would start on Tuesday, when I have an appointment at the VA in Oceanside CA to be get a new pair of glasses.
Tonight’s trip was a blast. Although my bike is technically a scooter, it has a 400cc,four-stroke, engine that’s strong enough to haul my butt up and over the mountain road to Valley Center. Before leaving, I threw my cloth market bag into my bike’s storage compartment, anticipating buying some locally grown strawberries and oranges for the larder.
I may have gone slightly overboard at the farm store. I forked over $3.50 for two oranges, a large container of strawberries, and splurged another buck on two plump cherimoyas.
It all fit nicely in my cloth Trader Joes reusable bag which I sportily hung from the curved bag hook on the bike.
There’s never a shortage of weekend warriors headed home from the casinos in Valley Center on Harleys. After being passed by a herd thundering up the hill towards home, I twisted up more power and tucked into the end of the procession.
At the first stop light on my way home, a guy on a really nice new Harley looked over and laughed. When the light changed, I throttled up, the front wheesl lifted, and I smiled.
Another beautiful day, another putt putt on my fanciful Italian Motor scooter--jim forbes 25 April 2016.
*”Whim Clicking” is a phrase popularized by Dr Andy Sobieski DDS, MS Industrial Arts BS science an Education. Dr Andy is the funniest person I know.
Anyone tracking emerging virtual/augmented reality technologies last week may have seen this category’s first real Simpsons “D’Oh“ moment when a senior Microsoft HoloLens marketing maven admitted that in the rush to push sexy entertainment titles and other content opportunities the world’s most well-known PC software supplier may have been initially blinded to the value of the commercial market for VR software.
Microsoft’s observation points out one of the most glaring errors in the VR market: although entertainment software and content libraries may be sexy, they don’t pay the bills like commercial software does.
There is and has always been a bifurcation in the design philosophies that shape entertainment and commercial software. The former most often taxes the capabilities of hardware, whereas the latter is designed to run on industry standard hardware configurations.
Since the advent of Window 3.1, Microsoft has pushed the boundaries of existing hardware, going so far at one point to introduce and support a hardware accelerator card that improved the performance of 8086-based desktops.
There are two other companies whose past strategies can be used to examine how to launch new technologies such as virtual reality. The most important of these is Apple Computer, which pundits believe is still a long way away from a VR announcement. The other company is Sony which is using its PlayStation platform and a new headset to leap into VR/AR.
Both companies have been able to separate past and current products through the use of intensely loyal brand advocates.
My major criticisms of VR and AR is this: its advocates aren’t getting down in the weeds and talking about the increased costs of accessing and implementing the technologies, and the actual market for VR and AR content could be adversely effected by the cost of hardware.
It’s for these reasons I think we’re about to see hardware makers announce, launch and actively market hardware aimed specifically at VR and AR; and headset makers will be forced to bundle content to gain traction. Of the two technologies, VR may have the lowest entry price and could see the first major wins with commercial software running in real estate “viewing centers” where prospective home buyers can use VR to “walk through” multiple properties.
Although there’s no shortage of commercial and educational applications where VR will be in wide spread use, there is a catch in the recipe for success. The catch : there may be more opportunity than there is specialized talent needed to edit and code new content.
I never ever thought I’d write this but now may be the perfect time to be a film school or animation student. Oh Dear! –Jim Forbes 9 March, 2016.
The coming stampede towards virtual and augmented reality applications will be a greater rush than the previous tectonic shift from character-based to graphics based applications. But unlike that earlier shift which mixed innovation and remediation, the move to VR is going to force content providers to look far and wide for new talent, including recent graduates of learn by doing film schools nationwide.
It would be easy to look back at the computer games market as an isolated, similar model. But that doesn’t scale here.
There’s likely to be as much demand for VR and AR educational and training applications as there are entertainment apps. But the economics of those two segments eclipse entertainment content, plus therer is an implied refresher revenue stream that’s absent in the entertainment model. And smart investors are much more likely to put their money into companies and technologies that play in a large markets.
But where will the talent needed to develop applications and content come from?
The answer is obvious: film schools nationwide plus lower level educational institutions that already teach the basics need to produce VR and AR content. Obviously students who understand the mechanics of developing stories and the basics of filmmaking are likely to be at the breaking curl of the first wave of professionals who will be hired to develop VR and AR content.
PBS and cable television stations that produce original content such as WGBH, KCET, KPBS and KTEH, Nat Geo TV, and the Discovery networks are also potential reservoirs VR and AR talent.
I’ve lived through enough revolutions to understand that new technology often needs pushing and that corporate product evangelists can supply that force. Apple’s original Mac marketing manager, Mike Murray, gets kudos for pushing hardware into the hands of developers in an effort to foster innovative applications for the Macs graphical interface.
I sincerely hope that companies like Facebook Samsung, HTC, and most of all Microsoft, seed not only developers but also four year universities and community colleges. There’s a lot coming and I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon.—Jim Forbes on 13 March, 2016
Chinese personal electronics maker HTC this week began taking orders for its $799 Vive virtual Reality headset, booking orders for more than 15,000 units in less than 10 minutes.
HTC’s VIVE’s orders brought in more than $11 million in revenue, according to published reports.
The massive rush to buy the $699 HTC virtual reality headset in being interpreted by some of VR’s proponents as solid proof that Virtual Reality is the next big thing,
What’s missing so far are reports and estimates of who is buying the new technology. In previous technological gold rushes, in addition to early adopters many first purchasers have been to hardware and software developers plus technical marketing and other specialists performing competitive analyses.
More VR systems will appear before the end of this summer, including Oculus Rift’s (Facebook) first product and perhaps Avegant’s Glyph personal theater. Further down the road Google is expected to introduce its second VR/personal theater product, which according to published reports that have appeared over the last several weeks, is now under development.
Microsoft is also in the mix at the high-end with its $3,000 HoloLens, which is expected to begin shipping at the end of March.
AS s products begin to appear, acquisition and system hardware overhead could become issues. Secondarily, standalone systems could become more popular than headsets and other display technologies that require a tethered cable between a headset and hardware.
I believe virtual and augmented reality devices will ignite a Gold Rush in wearable computing, but I’ve lived through enough technological revolutions to know there will be big losers and winners in the race to easily mined riches. Like the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century, some of the real fortunes will be made by technology companies that mine the miners. And from that category I believe we’ll see huge advances in Interface, usability, gesture control and other technologies. I’m not going to be among the first purchasers of any high end VR system. I have a kid headed back to college. But eventual I’ll buy a system, and when I do, I’m hoping for immersive historical content. That will be me, huddled in my fluffy jacket in a corner of my office looking at an inside view of the Donnor Party as I snack on some Barbecue ribs in North San Diego County.—Jim Forbes on 2 March, 2016
Based on things I’ve written recently, it would be easy to think i’m dismissive of virtual reality in general. It would also be incorrect.
Immersive technology can be transformative, but the rush to embrace VR and AR shouldn’t be made blindly.
But that’s what’s happening throughout technology as the press races to try and get lengths ahead of the curve.
On paper the $500 million acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook is being used as a harbinger of all things VR and AR to come.
Expectations for this system are way out of line with the reality of today’s markets.
To begin with, its price and computing overhead— a significant adder-- to gain access to or use the technology is way out of line with all but a few marketing models
Secondarily, I’m concerned by the practicality of any VR headset requiring a cord back to a host computer. The market trend is to cut, not introduce, more cords. To eliminate cords, issues with power needed to project and display VR images have to be addressed. Some of the new products under development are being designed to be used cordless.
There are also potential product liability issues in this nascent market: Could the projection system used in headsets damage a young person’s vision ? The same holds true for onboard headset audio. Some Audio equipment manufacturers already warn of auditory damage caused by exposure to loud music.
I suspect auditory and ocular warnings could be a part of the emerging VR landscape.
It’s not hard to imagine the negative effects of black box warnings on the sales of VR systems.
In the last week, unsourced stories have appeared claiming Google was workingon and would launch a VR headset. If it’s true, Google’s multi product family – which would begin with Cardboard as its “get acquainted” technology and scale up, could become the norm for this new technology.
In such a world it’s difficult for me to imagine a $400 jacked up headset surviving in open market competition, and it doesn’t matter what company name or logo is on the device.
Looking out at the future of virtual and augmented reality the big wins could go to infrastructure software suppliers that let movie and other studios quickly adapt existing content for a new media outlets.
But there’s a big hairy fly in that ointment too: Almost no technology companies have any real experience dealing with the professionals (i.e. Directors, screen writers, executive producers and studio execs) who control entertainment industry intellectual property
Dealing with a venture capitalist is a walk in the park when compared to dealing with hypersensitive and super controlling entertainment execs who license, movie content, story lines, screen presentation and other Intellectual property elements in the entertainment industry.
“Take your marks, speed, sound, action!” a new revolution is about to begin. --jim Forbes on 17 February, 2016.
Virtual Reality has become an important part of the personal kit of our military as thy load out their personal possessions prior to forward deployment in conflict zones.
As a veteran who deployed to a combat zone a long time ago, it’s hard not to imagine the written or memorized matrix of personal items that go overseas with ground troops:
Extra tooth brushes and rags for cleaning your assigned weapon? Check.
Nonstandard gun lube and rifle cleaning supplies? Check
Laptop computer loaded with Skype? Check.
Ear buds? Check.
Extra cans of your favorite dip or snuff (just in case the nearest PX doesn’t have it)? Check
Large screen GSM cell phone? Check.
32 GB micro SD cards loaded with entertainment content? Check.
Google cardboard head set dissembled into its flat components? Check.
VR shooter games? Check?
Leather Goddesses of Phobos on an extra SD card? Check.
Extra $10, $20 or $5 dollar bills (poker money) hidden securely in your ditty bag? Check.
All of this is to make the point that basic VR doesn’t need to be costly. And for the first time ever, enlisted war fighters are among the first group of users to adopt new computer technology. The force that’s driving adoption is Google $25 Cardboard headset and free or inexpensive VR software that can be down loaded from Google’s PlayStore.
The example above is being overlooked by most VR hardware suppliers and touts who think people will stampede to buy multi-hundred dollar VR headsets. For VR to take off it has to be inexpensive enough to conform to a wide scale, mass market model. Once a consumer becomes a true believer, they're more likely to become a buyer of multi hundred headsets, or computers configured for VR.
there are other, equally important infrastructure plays that need to appear in VR. Most importantly is software that lets any studio building VR titles, to adapt existing content for VR, has to appear.
It’s not Sandhill venture capitalists looking for a niche that will drive this. It’s Hollywood movie, music and animation studios who will make it happen. You don’t need to be an Oscar winner to understand that the studios can lock up competitive technologies now by investing in startups that play to the VR content development market.
There is a VR example of being too early to market. That demographic market is Japan, where Sony launched its VR headset more than two years ago. To date, the headset has not been widely adopted, although it is beloved by up-market gaming enthusiasts.
In VR there are some critical questions that still need to be answered:
Who is the target market for these systems?
How sensitive is the target market to pricing, and what software needs to be bundled with VR headsets to push them into the mainstream?
And finally what kind of baseline performance will be required in hardware that powers VR headsets?
If basic questions such as these are not answered, in a collapsing bubble investment environment, some players in the VR space risk suffering the fate of Momenta Inc in the earliest days of pen computing, or any of the legions of digital photo frame and USB radio startups.
I’m hopeful VR does take off. You can bet that the next smartphone I buy will be a model that’s positioned for VR. The promised technology was important enough today that it was a factor in my buying a top of the product line new Microsoft Surface Book two months ago.
And so, Mike Edelhart and Chris Shipley, we're once again on he barricades of another revolution.
But for now, Google is in the driver’s seats and some of it strongest supporters are young enlisted guys with Google cardboard headsets on their noggins, playing games and VR content in tents in and neart conflict zones. This post is for technically savvy terminal lance corporals preparing kits prior to deployment. I was once a /x\ too.—jim forbes, east of Camp Pendleton, CA on February 2,2016.
Sailing into my lustrous years, and looking back at the receding shoreline of my home town in Southern California I’m struck by the images of my youth.
Foremost among these area a series of homes and other structures built using material that was at hand on parcels, or in the nearby vacant fields of an ancient watercourse scoured by the San Gabriel River in Azusa, California.
My mother came to Azusa in 1918. All my life, I’ve been fortunate to see the growth of my home town through her eyes. Azusa wasn’t really laid out until about 1899 and aside from the occasional live oak that used gnarly roots to sustain itself in the mostly sandy alluvial soil, the only abundant local building material was river stone, smoothed round by countless eons of tumbling in the San Gabriel Riverbed.
Watching me dig a garden and build a mound of stones to use as a garden edging in the mid 1950’s, my grandfather quipped “Nice crop of Azusa potatoes, boy.”
It was a very nice three by four foot mound too.
I have never forgotten how many stones I pulled out of the ground for that first garden but it took me about five years—after I had newspaper delivery route, ton pay close attention to the eight or nine stone houses in Azusa, I pedaled past on my three mile wide daily herald Examiner paper route .
Back then, the homes seemed distinctive and ageless. Many of the stone homes I admired as a kid, are still standing and have passed through several generations of Azusa families.
I’ve always been curious about those homes—all but one of which are north of highway 66, and many others near the first site of Azusa’s Saint Francis catholic church.
Curiosity is a good trait in a reporter and I started chipping into the stories of those stone homes while writing for daily newspaper in West Covina, CA. I didn’t take me long to discover that the homes were built by immigrant Italian stone workers working on several dams on the San Gabriel river in Azusa Canyon. Azusa has a temperate climate, although it’s subject to blast furnace heat waves in the early fall. In addition to being free and commonly available, river stone homes are cool when outside temps skyrocket into triple digits, and can be easily heated with a simple fireplace in the winter.
There are two great example of stone construction homes in and near Azusa. The first is a home in the 500 block of West Third Street, just west of the southbound Vernon Avenue on the 210 Freeway—which is conveniently near the home my father built for his family.
The prettiest example; however is an Old Catholic church in Irwindale, which was built by its parishioners using river stone. See the below.
I suppose Azusa’s stone homes would be classified as bungalows—most are less than 1,000 SF. But, because of the effort and individualistic spirit that went into their construction, I think of them as vanguards of the build your home for your family craftsman movement that swept Los Angeles Country prior to World War II.
Many of Azusa’s stone built houses today are surrounded by chain link fencing with sugary fragment honey suckle twining through the fence. Not surprisingly, many of the homes are protected by Chihuahuas who rest on front porches, keeping an unblinking eye on the coming and goings nearby.
Currently there is a preservation movement sweeping Southern California. I sincerely hope that my home town’s stone homes would be included if the movement ever swept east of the San Gabriel River.
I’ve always been proud to be an Azusa boy descended from two families that settled there within 25 years of the town’s founding. And in my mind’s eye, I can picture myself sitting on the front porch of a stone house somewhere east of highway 39 and north of the tracks--Chihuahua by my side. Jim Forbes on January 24, 2016.
The two-in-one hybrid portable computer market is blossoming as manufacturers adapt to market requirements and growing demand for portables in this category.
Some signs of how serious manufacturers are about hybrids can be seen by looking over the expanding offerings from established makers like Dell, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, Toshiba and others.
Lenovo, HP, and Dell are examples. All three portable makers each now offer an even half dozen two-in-one hybrids across their product lines.
There appear to be several forces shaping many of the new two-in-one hybrids. The first is low carry weight. That’s’ followed by long battery life, support of high resolution 2 to 14-inch wide screens, and thin and light systems that ship standard with 128GB or larger Solid State Drives.
There are two primary types of hybrid notebooks; machines that, when the screen is folder over the back. or front of a system case turn it into a tablet computer; And, portables with detachable tablet screens.
Overall. Fold over hybrids have better battery life than detachable screen two-in-one hybrid portables
By years end, notebook makers will likely offer even more wider hybrid product lines and introduce less expensive systems in an effort to lock down larger pieces of the burgeoning market.—jim Forbes on 01/15/2016