This Site & Me
I'm a technologist, mobile specialist, experienced software developer, author, public speaker & an SAP employee. My thoughts, ideas, rants, comments & most of the code you'll find here are my own. Feel free to use any of this, but be sure to identify the source.
Topics You'll Find Here
This site contains content on a bunch of different topics including Mobile, Mobile Development, IBM Lotus Domino and other topics that strike my fancy. I've written a couple of mobile development books, so mobile and mobile development tend to dominate.
- Category: Miscellaneous
- Published on Friday, 18 January 2013 15:09
I was reading an article recently on Popular Science about an algorithm that can stitch together mobile phone video footage of the same event into a single, synchronized, multi-angle film. Here’s the description from the article:
"As we upload more and more videos to the Internet—one hour of new video every second to YouTube alone—experts are finding new ways to mine them. A team led by Igor Curcio of Nokia’s Research Center, for example, has developed an algorithm that stitches concertgoers’ cellphone footage into a single, synchronized multi-angle film. The concept is relatively simple: the audio track serves as a guide to sync up the footage, and the software chooses the best shots. Curcio has no real business model yet—photography is prohibited at most concerts—but giving people the ability to identify and coherently connect common elements in multiple videos is nonetheless a step toward something significant."
As I read this article, I thought it was pretty cool. I don’t imagine it’s a very complicated algorithm, assuming that you know the videos are all from the same location (many photos and videos have timestamp and even potentially longitude and latitude information stored with the file), aligning the video streams along the sound track then selecting (whether manually or automatically) the ‘best’ image/angle to use for a particular time slice shouldn’t be that hard. I imagine that with this technology we’ll start to see some VERY interesting videos produced from all sorts of crowd events.
I saw an automobile commercial a while back where the manufacturer had hundreds of folks line up along a car’s route and film the car with their smartphone cameras as it goes by – then stitched the video segments into a short video. Movement along a path with multiple angles I imagine looks pretty cool.
Imagine someone arranging this for a concert or even a theatrical presentation – if you can get 10, 20 or 100 people to hold their smartphones up for the entire performance or scene you’ll have a modern, cool format to present the show to others. You could use videos from folks further away from the stage for transitionary segments or slower moving parts of the production or song then ‘zoom in’ to closer cameras for the important stuff. I’d love to see this done more – I bet some innovative folks can do some pretty interesting stuff with this technology.
Now, I’m not a paranoid person (although just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you), but the next important part of the article really scared me:
"For instance, the drones that patrol the U.S.-Mexican border and the security cameras in cities already record more footage than human observers can possibly examine. If an agency could rely on a computer to track individuals, groups and events on its own, agents could use intelligence far more—well, intelligibly."
We’re hearing more and more about law enforcement organizations using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to identify criminals from event images and social media posts. That the technology described in this article could be used for tracking people through a city really scares me. When you think about it though, they don’t need any special algorithms to do this today. Many governments already have the facial recognition software they need and multiple camera angles to pull from to create sophisticated videos from crime scenes. Cameras are everywhere, put there using the paranoia generated by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. Assuming someone could coordinate the timestamp of multiple videos (clocks on video recorders are set manually today right? Enabling them to be set via atomic clock would make this easier), we’re not far away from being able to see everyone in a crowd from multiple angles after a terrorist event or serious crime.
The good news is that this technology will make it easier to catch criminals and terrorists. The bad news is that these cameras are everywhere and there is very little to keep governments (or even criminals) from watching your every move. For any Rush fans out there – this is exactly what’s described in Red Barchetta.
- Category: Miscellaneous
- Published on Thursday, 27 December 2012 13:56
I just got a telemarketing call from an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. I was sitting in my office and a call came in from a number I didn’t recognize. When I answered, there was a long pause, so I knew someone was telemarketing me. After a while, I usually say something smart-allecky like ‘hello? You called me?” and hang-up if the pause lasts too long.
In this case, a very steady, professional and rich voice clicked in and said “Hello, may I please speak with John?” Still in smart-alecky mode I said “You got him, what do you need?” There was a long pause and the exact same voice said the exact same thing: “Hello, may I please speak with John.” I told the system in a smart-alecky way that they’d gotten me, but the system clearly couldn’t handle my smart-aleckiness, got confused and eventually hung up on me.
I’m used to getting telemarketing calls where there’s a pause while they connect you to an agent once the system has determined that an actual human has answered the phone. I usually hang up before the agent can say anything. In this case, the number being called is listed in the US National Do Not Call Registry, so there never should have been a call anyway. Ugh.
What’s interesting about this though is that the newer systems apparently have this IVR in front, either to do triage like make sure the target is on the phone before connecting the call to an agent or to handle the call completely. Surprising though that the IVR wasn’t able to handle the call. What’s the point? I answered and said that they’d reached John – how horrible is the system if it can’t even handle that little bit of conversation.
- Category: Miscellaneous
- Published on Thursday, 20 December 2012 21:32
Saw this in an email tonight from Network Solutions. Since when is hosting not cloud-based?
- Category: Miscellaneous
- Published on Monday, 10 December 2012 17:31
I’m a huge fan of Lands’ End (yes, that’s a typo – it’s their typo, not mine) and have been a customer for a very long time. Everyone’s on the Internet now, so you can buy things, check status of orders and even return stuff without ever having to fill out a form or even call a customer service person.
Why is it then that Lands’ End won’t give you an easy way to track your order?
I got an email from them for an order I placed (shhhhh, it’s a gift for my Wife) that included the track order button shown in the figure below:
Figure 1 – Lands’ End Shipped Order Confirmation Email
Being interested in knowing where said order was, I clicked said Track Order button and was presented with the following page:
Figure 2 – Lands’ End Track Order Page
Help me understand why they’re prompting me to enter my order number? They already know what my order number is – they’re the ones who sent me the email listing the order number (which I’ve blurred out in Figure 1. They even know what country I’m interested in as well as the zip code.
It’s the Internet age; we’re all surrounded by this amazing software that automates so many things we had to do by hand many years ago. In this case, Lands’ End knows who I am, knows all sorts of information about my order and they’re politely giving me a way to check the status of my order’s delivery by sending me that email. They’ve apparently chosen to ignore all of that information and force me to enter in information that we both know that they already know.
When I receive an order status email from Amazon for example, the link they provide takes me immediately to my order status page which lists the status of all of my orders. They make me login first, before showing me the information, but at no time to they ask me to enter information that they already know (except for my password – which I don’t want them entering for me).
It’s simply an example of someone not paying attention to how a piece of software functionality is actually going to be used. In this case, when I get to the order status page, I don’t have the order number. I could login and get it, or I could switch back to my email client to get it, but either way, the ‘track order by number’ page they provide me provides me with no value by itself, I need information from another source. That being the case, then what’s the point of even showing me that page?