Thursday, October 13, 2005

TV, meet Internet..

I've been giving this some thought, lately, as have a great deal other people. It could be that great minds think alike, but personally I believe it to be more like the next logical step..

One of the most interesting market places, for vendors of PC hardware to conquer and dominate, is the TV/HiFi sphere of the modern living room. As a content delivery platform the classic multimedia have several inherent qualities. The one that probably sits best with potential investors, is that there are several established means to generate revenue from content delivery to TVs and HiFi music systems, the customers are accustomed to spend good money on this platform, and to pay a reasonable premium for superior quality.. Either fact can easily be taken advantage of,-and expanded upon by new hardware/content solutions made possible in by new technology popularized in this domain.

Traditional video rentals, livingroom TV programming, and music collections represent brand new markets to take sizeable chunks of. This also represents a demographic that have lower usage of the internet, as opposed to users of emerging multimedia delivery through regular consumer PC's.

The hardware implementations have to be simple to operate, and provide visible advantages over traditional solutions, and have the more powerful technology it relies on be as invisible as possible. A bit unusual design philosophy for the PC industry, but deep technical insight into quatitative differences of different specs will be less important, and ease-of-use and design of both hardware, and software interfaces will be even more important.

Digital Video Recorders on the market are a good leap in the right direction, but still, this is still mostly enhancements to existing use of television - programming. The ability to choose how to, and when to view TV content at one's own will, empowers the consumer, and have caused grief among excisting broadcasting players, as it directly threatens to erode the TV advertizing market.

The corporate upside of these emerging possibilities, will be new ways to get content for the TV/HiFi. One possibility will be users building up libraries of content for their own enjoyment, with an obvious market of private multimedia servers placed in the private network. This scenario screams for actual working implementations of copy protection, but a wild guess on my part will be that this IS a wanted feature by many, as people tend to like the ability to do whatever they please with stuff they have saved.

The logic that consumers can pay for access is easy, or rental of physical media is an established in the minds of people. Expiring rights to use of non-physical digital content is NOT an established way to do business, so pay-per-view solutions WILL have problems gaining support, as long as the technology supports storing of streamed media. And content provision platforms that don't support the 'save' feature will face serious problems if any competition still have this offer.

Microsoft is well into this with their XP Mediacenter Edition. Along with the CCD-revolution (digital video, and digital photography is dirt cheap, and very nearly the standard way to ) they have got some of the most obvious ideas of integrating presentation of private video and pictures, devcent ability to manipulate, view, and store digital media, but also the idea of distributing the content over local network by browsing, and viewing withMedia Center Extenders.

This is not exactly news, as early versions have been arond since at least 2004, but with more functionality built in, by every version. Seeing as Microsoft have made available Media Center Extender addons for both XBoxes, these devices will fast reach a mature and very competitive level. Within a couple of years I expect a incredibly sleek cabinet, like an extremely slim DVD-player, intuitively administered with a handy remote, whose main goal is to stream and output decent-quality multimedia to both TV, and HiFi equipment.

Whatever possibilities the playback hardware will bring, there WILL be a rising demand for quicker consumer internet access wich could make fiber directly to the consumers more competitive over plain old telephone wiring. Another educated guess, is that demand for home networking and storage capacity will be quite strong for a long time to come.

This will be a 'new' mainstream market and tight and effective integration with hardware and content solutions will make the digital media package easy to accept as a whole. Exactly who comes out on top is difficult to say for sure, but good old Microsoft HAVE a lot of able equipment as of now, and have probably learned a couple of lessons in other battlefields wich will be put to good use in the fight for the home theatre.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Nifty stuff

I just found out that Jef isn't among us anymore. But also that he used to one helluva guy.

He has this enormous list of achievements that just goes on and on, and really make me feel like there should be MORE healthy, productive time to the disposition of some people. Anyways, I'll be checking out the nifty tool Archy he was developing until the very end.

It kinda promises a lot more of what I really need. Zen calm and a problem-free environment to punch out ideas, and be creative in. Less pont and click, more straight-on keyboard-punching, and standarized rules for quick handling. Oh yes. And the notion that it should be IMPOSSIBLE for the computer to 'lose' some of your work. Ever. I just observe that blogger seems to have implemented a feature that promises NOT to loose work-in-progress, wich is a HUGE improvement over regular web interfaces (see earlier post '>:( .

Oh. And this must be the best concept ever: Theory of the week! it's just a little bit dead there, but the information is still good; Brook's law: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later". That's a notion I can second, and a very counter-intuitive, yet very logical phenomenon.

It also explains software projects tendency to fail disastrously when they first fail. Great fun!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Solid state, baby, solid state!

Oh joy, oh joy! One of the more interesting piece of news I've the storage industry lately (not counting yet-to-come miracle technologies) is from [] the next step (it's really more like a giant leap) in digital storage.

Anandtech have done a little review on Gigabyte's i-Ram, and I remain absolutely thrilled.. i-Ra isn't in itself very revolutionary, but more like a sign of things to come.

iRam is at its current version a PCI-card with 4 RAM-slots free to plug in whatever you want of ram. The exacts of this is not important, what is, is that once booted, the storage capacity of the ram will be detected as an unformatted harddrive by the BIOS. It will be free to install exactly what you want, and will for all practical purposes behave exactly like one. Except it's blindingly fast. It's so fast it should max your PCI bus, continuously, and handle multiple multiple requests well due to NO MOVING PARTS, larger than electron-size). And silent.

In short it will be just as RAM is, it just works, and usually finishes it's tasks before you notices it has even started. It will be a lot slower than regular ram, since the PCI bus is the limiting factor, and the units produced this far, have had non-optimized chip layouts.

The main feature, is that the built-in battery, will keep the iRam powered and retain data, even if the unit is unplugged for up to 16 hours (more than enough to be useful). So

The current size/price ratio is horrible, and the maximum capacity is way too small for REAL fun, but consider this; a stationary PC with fanless powersupply, extra large CPU heatsink and fanless graphics card. Add in one iRam with 4 Gb capacity for OS and temporary caching of files for playback, and use a Gigabit NIC to fetch files for playback. What you'll be left with is a mediacenter PC that makes LESS noise than your refrigerator, or even the home stereo at max volume, and nothing playing.

The only way to tell if it's on, is to check the LED's, or observe infrared heat emission. It's sooo sweet I can't even begin to explain all the nuances of GOOD this means. But if this gets some time to become more usable, and the price/capacity ratios come down, and the performance of all 'silent' components are ok, then home mediacentre solutions with solid state clients and media content servers (sooner or later super-broadband providers' serverparks can do this job), will become really popular combo.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Digital nostalgia, where will we be in 100 years?

As I just happen to have enjoyed a little less tech-influenced style of living, I haven't used my old fulltower PC in about a year. As i visited my parents this weekend I stumbled across an 'old' hard drive (it's not that it's antique or anything, it just hadn't been powered on for about a year, and had 111Gb of my stuff inside). I went through some of the contents (120Gb is a LOT of bits). Wham! Instant nostalgia! I hit pictures, music and software that were at least one year, and more often than not, much older than that.. It brought back memories, and made me go through lots of things that happened earler when i used the disk the most, and even 5 year(plus) old music that touched some emotional nerve.

It made me think, that hard drives, and other digital storage media are like the diaries and photo-albums of the digital age. It follows that with this new role (it isn't exactly new.. as all digital activity, have been kind of a memory box for whoever were working with particular types of sotware..).

It also follows that this role is a new, and maybe even more demanding challenge for the computer. "Family Critical Computing" is the new trendy word. This is a tough nut for home computers, since most of the basic relability of this system depends on the harddrive to run error-free.

It is also interesting to think about what might be ariund in 100, or maybe 5 years from now.. *sighs*... good old summer music, what i really need, is for it to "stay forever young".. I'll put my money on regular backup routines and open formats.

For future "Family Critical" purposes, I'll consider using some off-site storage where I can buy space at reasonable rates. For now Gmail will do.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Moore: exponential growth of Goodness!

Moore's law.

It's a concept that I like very much. It gets more and more.. interesting, the more I think about it. It' widely known, but gets much less hype than it really deserves.
Think about this; you might equal the effects of mr Newton's law of gravity with Moore's law.. To push a slightly ambitious analogy, just consider only one difference between these; the medium they affect.. Gravity affects anything that has mass and is a force that accelerates objects with mass toward each other..

The most notable effect of this law is that if you let go of your cup of coffee it will most likely, depending on your location, accelerate toward the gravitational center of the earth.

Moore's law is not a law of nature, it is more a close relationship between the fundamental production process of transistor-based technology, the development of these methods, and economical laws of supply and demand, that have, in a so remarkably linear way, scaled down the size of transistors so they shrink about 50% in size every 18 months. This is not a simple predictable development that can go on forever (and should really be named 'Moore's tendency' to be more correct)

The immediate effect this has is to continuously affect the size, price, and the raw material cost per-transistor in micro-chips. This translates nicely into the daily life so that anything that can be done with a transistor-based chip, WILL be done with a transistror. And every 18 months these chips WILL be smaller, more powerfull and less hungry for electricity and in general better suited for whatever purpose you can put them to. With the increasing computational- , and micromanaging power disponible on a global scale, this will be a force that accellerates the flow of information, and speed up the automation of machines, and virtually every other process that can be controlled or enchanced by microchips.

This could be percieved as 'nothing unusual', given that this development is an everyday phenomenon, just like gravity it's nothing much to get worked up about, it's just there, right? The coffe cup hits the floor, and new line of computers hits the store every season time and time again. Right?


Even though these two phenomenons are very difficult to compare, there is one difference. Both forces can be said to accelerate something, either matter, or 'human technolgical development'. But the most striking difference is that the acceleration caused by gravity is very abruptly ended when the gravitational objects finally impacts into each other, (or, if we're talking the inter-planetary level here, enters an orbit of some kind). But, Moore's law, if it holds true, and microchips continue to develop and increase in efficency, the acceleration of human development, will NOT stop, until the Moore constant is declining. There are many, many arcicles which discuss the future of the Moore constant, the rate of increase or decrease, or (not unlikely) be completely obsoleted, by a new fundamental computational paradigm change. Who knows..

But for the mental excercise, just consider the possibility that Moore's law might predict the future, for as long as the next 100 years (not very likely, but still)..

The effect would undoubtly be that everything you ever imagined, that involved microchips, will be reality, and very quickly, become yesterday's news. Everything chip-controlled will become increasingly small, until the very barriers imposed by fundamental physics rules will protest, and then things will become more and more complex, still pushing the rules of the physical playground. Just imagine something being as small as you can imagine, and then you will probably be in the right neighborhood, but still a tad too big.

When thinking along these lines of miniaturization, a new and exiting development will also take place, moved by the same economy/technology push and pull as the computer advances are governed by: the next obvious step will be to integrate the advances in computational and ultra small technology with the most complex mechanism yet known to humanity, man himself...

Try this. Imagine the Darwinean evolutionary theory of the journey from mokey to man mixed with the consequences of Moore's law..... done thinking?

I wanna be a cyborg.