Posts Tagged‘interesting’

How Colour Works and Other Interesting Stuff With Light.

Ever since my red-wine induced inspiration struck some months ago I’ve been on a bit of a period of rediscovering my love for all things photographic including the science behind it. I’m not terribly good with high concepts of these sorts of things and found that I work much better if I understand everything from a fundamental level. Whilst this might lead me into some rather esoteric areas of science (Scheimpflug principle, anyone?) I do find that the understanding that I glean from them helps me understand a whole host of things that seemed like a mystery to me before.

Of course browsing Wikipedia for hours is not everyone’s fancy so today instead I give you a video done by the Vsauce guy from YouTube on how colour works:

If that wasn’t enough then check out the amazing properties of calcite crystals which exhibit some really intriguing behaviour:


Move, Kinect and Wii: Not in my Living Room, Please.

On a technical level I’m in love with motion controllers. They represent quite a few innovations that until just recently were out of the reach of the every day consumer. The release of the Wii put cheap, relatively accurate motion detection in the hands of hackers all over the world and saw the technology spread to many other sectors. Whilst I haven’t given any love to Microsoft’s Kinect the possibility of being able to do your own in home motion capture with the camera that powers it is a pretty cool prospect and I know it won’t be long before the hackers get their hands on similar tech and start wowing us with the applications. We already know my stance on the Playstation Move, with its oodles of technology packed into a hand sized magic wand.

Still if you walk into my living room that’s adorned with consoles, computers and all kinds of gadgets and gizmos the only evidence you’ll find of me having any interest in this area is a single Wiimote controller hidden away in a drawer with no console in sight. I only have the controller as my previous house mate was the one who bought the Wii and stubbornly refused to buy any more controllers for it. Wanting to actually play some games I forked out the $100 to get one but later ended up co-opting it for all sorts of nefarious purposes, using it to play World of Warcraft and a semi-successful attempt at using head tracking in EVE online. After we parted ways though I hadn’t had any compelling reasons to buy a Wii console save for maybe Trauma Center which I was only ever able to locate twice but never made the jump to purchase.

It’s not like I’m above buying an entire console for a single game either, I bought a Xbox 360 just for the chance to play Mass Effect the day it came out. More it’s that nearly every game on the Wii that I’ve wanted to play has either had a cross platform release or has been nothing more than a passing curiosity. I’d even told myself at one point that when they brought the black version of the Wii out I’d purchase one (it would match my PS3 and new Xbox 360 if I got one) but even after that happened I still couldn’t pony up the cash to get one, it just felt like a waste of money.

It could be that I really haven’t been giving my consoles a whole lot of love lately. The last two console games I played were Red Dead Redemption and Alan Wake, both engaging games but since then my attention has almost entirely been captured by Starcraft 2. I must admit I was intrigued by the prospect of replaying through Heavy Rain using the Move controller but other than that I don’t think there’s any other games out there that make use of motion controllers that I’d actually find appealing. In fact looking over the catalogue they all look to be aimed at a certain demographic: those who are traditionally non-gamers.

This really shouldn’t come as a surprise as that’s the exact strategy Nintendo had when they first released the Wii, focusing more on the non-gamer crowd and heavily promoting the social aspect of it. As the Kinect and Move are both reactions to the Wii’s success it follows that their target demographic is identical as well. For the long time gamers like myself this hasn’t really endeared the motion controllers to us as the games really aren’t designed for us. Sure there are some notable exceptions but for the most part those who identify themselves as gamers probably won’t be investing too much in these new fangled exercise inducing devices. That doesn’t mean they won’t be successful however.

There is the chance that these motion controllers will make their way into my living room by virtue of integration with other products. I’ve been eyeing off one of the newer Xbox 360 for a while now as it’s quite a looker and has the benefit of not sounding like a jet engine when it’s loading a game. My natural engineering curiosity will probably see a move controller work its way into my living sometime in the future as well but until someone demos some cool hack that I just have to try it will be a while before that comes to pass. The Wii will more than likely stay on the back burner for a long time to come but there’s always the chance of a Mass Effect event happening that overrides the more frugal parts of my brain.

Cloud Computing: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SaaS.

A few years ago someone had the bright notion to sell Software as a Service (SaaS) instead of a product. Built off the idea of things like Google Docs it seemed like a great way to get software into an organisation without having to convince them to outlay thousands of dollars on hardware or licenses. Couple that with its synergy with other buzz words of the time (thank you Service Oriented Architecture) it seemed like a great idea. Having your applications and data available over the Internet greatly increased its portability, and was a viable solution for some companies to provide collaboration solutions to their remote workers.

However, it never really took off into large scale enterprises. Primarily this was due to privacy concerns as many companies could not trust the SaaS providers to keep their data safe and secure. Additionally, with many SaaS clients you had to have a stable Internet connection, otherwise your data was completely unavailable to you. A lot of providers then tried to shift the focus away from completely online solutions and then moved part of the infrastructure in house for the clients, attempting to alleviate the issues people had raised.

Then, for a couple of quiet blissful years no one really talked about SaaS any more. That was until someone found a new buzzword for it: Cloud Computing.

Behold the almighty cloud of the Internet. We can put all your services on here and provide you with infinitely scalable and customizable solutions! We’ve taken the ideals of SaaS and translated them onto your infrastructure (IaaS) and platforms (PaaS) to create the mighty Cloud!

In essence there’s just a bit more abstraction in the terms of implementation, but Cloud Computing is just SaaS reborn.

Cloud computing takes the idea that if we abstract all the layers of delivering a service to an end user they can then take advantage of huge amounts of infrastructure without the huge initial investment. The idea works well with things that experience high peak loads but low baselines, say a website that gets slashdotted. The cloud would be able to detect that there’s a sudden surge and provision more resources on the fly, something that all high traffic sites like the sound of. Additionally the cloud allows for users to be agnostic in their decisions about infrastructure, since cloud applications are designed to run on an abstracted layer that resides above the underlying hardware and software.

It’s the concept of “We do all the hard work for you so you don’t have to worry about X” where X is the IT problem du jour.

Don’t get me wrong though, Cloud Computing has quite a lot of uses and the added additional abstraction at the platform and infrastructure area make it a lot easier for developers and engineers to design solutions for the end users. It also gets everyone out of that mindset of “I have this nail, so I need this hammer” when in fact they should be asking “What’s the best way to secure this board to my house?”.

There are some pretty good applications coming out based on the Cloud idea. One, which made waves at this years GDC, was OnLive:

This is what the cloud is all about. You no longer have to worry about what hardware you’re running on and you have hundreds of games at your fingertips. Unfortunately it suffers from the same problems as other cloud services in that its scope is somewhat limited by the few issues that plague it and they’re planning to monetise it straight away. I’m sure there will be some kind of trial period where everyone can have a go but if they provided some ad supported free version of this it would be a huge hit instantly. Trying to charge people right off the bat will slow adoption, but it would help to keep the debt collectors at bay.

Overall Cloud Computing looks like a great idea and it is getting a lot more traction then its predecessor SaaS did. I think at the time that SaaS came out people still didn’t trust these new fangled Web 2.0 apps enough to give their corporate data to them. After many years of Facebook, Youtube and Google Docs we’ve started to come to grips with what the web can provide, and so have the business execs.

Just remember that it’s still SaaS at heart. 🙂