Round Screen

Fourteen years ago, I was doing some freelance work for Ericsson Corp. They asked me to come up with new concepts for phones, and I did a bunch of sketches of different form factors and crazy things like writing pen phones. One of the concepts had a round screen—I was going for an amorphous shape. They liked the concept overall, but I was told that they couldn’t do a round screen, so I would have to square it off.

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I was reminded of it when I saw the Android Wear video, and realized that there are a number of devices (e.g., Nest) that now use round screens. I wonder how they would have responded if I had suggested that the screens on the phone were touch sensitive. 

Five monitors. Three, sir!

You can never have too much screen real estate. While I was a graduate student, back in 1997, I ordered a second video card for my PowerMac 9600. At the time, it was an expensive investment for me, but it allowed me to plug in both my 16” Sony Trinitron display, and the old 12” Apple display that I had left over from the LCII I had as a college freshman. It sounds like an insignificant thing now, but let me tell you, when working in Macromedia Director, the ability to put the score on the 16” and have the stage on the 12” was a big deal! Windows wasn’t even capable of extending its desktop to multiple monitors. From that point, there was no turning back. I eventually got a 17” Apple Studio Display and then a second. I used those two matching CRTs for years. Eventually, they wore out, and I replaced them with Apple’s 20” LCD Cinema Displays. I’ve been using them for many years now.

I got myself a 27” iMac for Christmas. It’s a beautiful thing. The display is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s enormous. And it just happens to have two Thunderbolt ports on the back. You might guess where this is going. I purchased two adapters, and I now have the two 20-inchers straddling the iMac. Perhaps it is a bit decadent, but I’m loving it. You can never have too much screen real estate.

It is Time

My Verizon Triple Play 2-year contract has expired, and I’m cutting the cord. My plan is to retain a subscription to their Fios internet service with as high a bit rate as I’m willing to pay for while dropping the television and landline phone services. Instead, I’ll be hooking up antennas to pick up local HD channels and subscribing to Netflix, which I’ll play through my Apple TV. I’ll also consider Hulu Plus, but that won’t likely be necessary. Between Netflix and iTunes, I expect to have everything covered.

As part of this move, I’ll be replacing the old CRT in my bedroom with an HD LCD that I’ll get a good deal on this Friday. I’ll likely also purchase a second AppleTV to attach to it.

The biggest question is what hoops Verizon will make me jump through. I know they’ll charge more for the internet service without it being bundled, but it surely can’t be an outrageous increase. Of course, while their website provides many ways to renew or upgrade my service, it doesn’t provide any information on downgrading. And since I already have service, I can’t get pricing on internet service alone.

We’ve already explained what we’re planning to the girls, and they seem to be on board. As soon as we’re back from our holiday visits, we’re diving in.

EASy come, EASy go

Dave Malouf made a perspicacious observation in his recent blog post about the Emergency Announcement System (EAS) and its first national test.

EAS has a huge flaw. It requires being attached to a radio or TV. However, a growing critical mass of people are never on a major broadcast system and thus EAS will never get its very important message to a core unit of the population.

He’s right. Case in point, I had no knowledge of said test until I read Dave’s post, nearly two weeks after the test had been conducted. I never watch live TV. The few shows that I do watch, I record on my DVR and view when I have the time, often weeks later. Nor do I listen to the radio on a regular basis. When I’m at home, I play music from my iTunes library. When I’m in the car, or doing chores, I listen to podcasts, audio books, or music on my iPhone. I occasionally have the radio on in the car when I’m chauffeuring my kids around town. I get my news from RSS feeds, podcasts, and Twitter.

I think Dave’s suggestion for expanding the EAS to contemporary, digital media channels, such as SMS, is important. And while his suggestions for pushing messages to platforms like set top boxes and gaming consoles isn’t a bad idea, an easier first step would be to harness social media, getting the word out on Twitter, Facebook, and so forth. As is typical, the government is lagging behind the technology, designing solutions for where the puck is (or was), rather than where it will be.

Haywire

It’s a little disturbing when I’m reminded just how dependent I am on technology and how little I actually know about it. A couple nights ago, we had a short, but heavy, storm with strong winds. A tree fell over and took down some power lines, leaving our house without power for several hours. Apparently, the electricity went off and on several times before staying off. I know that isn’t particularly good for electronics, but this is the first time I’ve seen evidence of the fact.

The power was back on when I got home from a meeting at the church, but I noticed that it was rather warm, and the air conditioner wasn’t running. I checked the thermostat to find every indicator on the LCD display lit. The unit was unresponsive. I checked the manual and the website. I disconnected the unit from the wall and plugged it back in. I was beginning to believe it was fried and decided to send email to Honeywell’s customer support, as their phone support was closed. Long story short, after the thermostat sat on my desk for awhile, I plugged it back in, and it worked fine.

Then, when I went up to my bedroom, I noticed my digital alarm clock wasn’t displaying the time properly. I pressed the button that should switch modes to allow me to set it, but all it did was beep at me. None of the buttons worked. I tried removing the backup batteries, thinking they might be dead. I finally unplugged it from the wall, waited a minute, and then plugged it back it. It came back on and worked fine.

Then, a couple days later, I tried to print a document to my wireless color laser printer. After awhile, I realized that nothing had printed. In fact, the printer hadn’t awakened from sleep. My Mac reported that it couldn’t connect to the printer. I tried turning the printer off and back on to no avail. Finally, I figured out that I had to re-setup the wireless connection—something I haven’t had to do since I first took it out of the box.

These all turned out to be minor problems that were solvable in a matter of minutes, but it makes me think about all of the various devices and systems I rely on that, once you get past the user interface and intended behaviors, I have very little knowledge of. When the robot revolution comes, I’m going to be in trouble.