Archive for September, 2012

Newspapers are now emulating the web

September 25th, 2012
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ThinkTech Hawaii

USA Today, owned by Gannett, former owner of the Honolulu Advertiser, has had a "makeover." Its hope is to "reinvigorate the brand" and “reinvent a news business.”

They want to be a news company rather than a newspaper. They want to combine and share news resources among their 82 newspapers and 23 TV stations. They want to build a single national news desk for all media. They want to mix video and print on their website and get their reporters to carry cameras.

USA Today has the second highest circulation in the country, behind the Wall Street Journal, but its ad revenues are nevertheless falling so this is a good time for a facelift. Some say the brand should have been refreshed a decade ago.

The new look comes from the web, heretofore unconventional for the print press. It includes reader comments from Facebook and Twitter, has more color and graphics and looks more like a website running on an iPad. The writing seems to be in shorter bursts, like website writing.

What does this mean? Will it work for Gannett? Will it show other newspaper owners a new way? Will it save money, improve revenues and help them stay in business? We’ll see. For now the jury is out.

Sure it’s a capitulation to mobile apps. The very same people USA Today is trying to appeal to may have already committed to news on mobile devices, and maybe the makeover is simply too late.

If it works, maybe it will offer a model that will extend the life of print papers. But in the long term, the direction seems obvious, sorry to say, even for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

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Exploring the new Galaxy with Sam Sung

September 12th, 2012
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ThinkTech Hawaii

The Sam Sung Galaxy SIII is a fabulous smartphone. I don’t care what Apple says about it. We are lucky to be alive in these days of rocket ship consumer technology, and those of us with the Galaxy SIII are particularly lucky, and happy.

You can get this phone in dark blue or white (I prefer the blue, but some people will certainly like the white). It’s light and thin, has a slightly larger screen, with one physical home button and two LED buttons that show through below the screen. Its on-off button is on the top right side and the volume buttons are at the left.

You can get it with 16GB or 32GB inside and then you can put in a fingernail chip for additional memory, so 16GB inside is ample for those of us who don’t tank up on downloaded movies.

The Ice Cream operating system is much smarter and cooler than the one that came on my previous phone, the Motorola Bionic. It’s faster, more intuitive, and well fun. One of my bugaboos with the Bionic was that if you tilted the phone just a little it would go landscape when you didn’t want that. Ice Cream is much better on that.

The home page design and customization and the color scheme, graphics and aesthetics of Ice Cream are in fact better in general. The speakerphone is great, the email is faster and better. The sounds are really cute. The keyboard and swipe function is easier and faster. The camera is much better than the one on the Bionic.

In short, this takes Android a giant step further, and confirms that despite the relative simplicity of the iPhone 4S, Android is the one for me. And I’m finding that the Android apps have been upgraded and the ones I’ve been using, especially my favorite Speak-Write (for dictation), are much more polished.

Verizon is my carrier, and the reason is they don’t drop calls. With my previous carrier, I was dropping calls several times a day. Since I switched (back) to Verizon, I haven’t dropped a single call. There’s a great comfort in that.

Beyond that, Verizon, and particularly the store in Commerce Tower on Keeaumoku at Kapiolani is a picture of efficiency and attentiveness. Actually, I always have good experiences there, and I did again this week when I bought my new phone. Hooray, Verizon.

Sure, smartphones are expensive but that expense is moderated by the fact that (a) the technology is incredible if not miraculous these days, (b) you are empowered to do so much of your life and business on them, and (c) their functionality takes you so much further and allows you do to so many things you couldn’t do before. Empowerment soon becomes dependency.

As you invest more of yourself into a phone like this, it gets a little scary thinking about what would happen to you if you lost the phone. But if you play it right you can backup your contacts and calendar data to the cloud and not have to worry about it. The trick is making sure the data in your apps is also backed up into the cloud

Who would have thought 20 years ago we’d all have picket size phones with us everywhere we went. Who would have thought 10 years ago that we’d have smartphones that did email and calendar too. Who would have thought 5 years ago that they’d be anywhere as powerful and pleasing as these are.

For me, the Galaxy SIII and Ice Cream are state of the art in what could be the most ubiquitous and helpful technology of all, your best friend and personal assistant, pushing the envelope, and it’s where I want to be at least for the duration of my new contract. Take that, Apple.

I’m not saying that Apple is a slacker. I think we’re all going to be impressed with the iPhone 5, which is just coming out now. It also looks like a beauty, with lots of new innovation. See http://www.apple.com/iphone/#video and you’ll be impressed, as I was.

Ah, but if only the contracts were shorter. So much disruptive technology. Who knows where these devices will go in the next year. We’re already way beyond Dick Tracy.

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Robotic cars can help our traffic

September 5th, 2012
By



ThinkTech Hawaii

My article about Robotics appeared in the Business Section this past Tuesday. Two email responses to that article are interesting, one from writer Tom Brandt and the other from an old friend Ray Tsuchiyama.

Tom Brandt reminded me that cars are also a great place for robot development. He said that if the ongoing development of self-driving vehicles as not yet been factories into local planning and debate about rail and other traffic solutions, the time may have come. According to the current issue of The Economist, he says:

"Since the 1990s, some cars have used radar to monitor surrounding vehicles and computers to break or accelerate automatically (aka "adaptive" cruise control,) and self-parking models have also been developed. General Motors, Ford, and BMW are also developing cars that steer themselves by following lane markers. Since at least 2007, DARPA - the research arm of the US. Dept. of Defense - has sponsored annual robotic car contests. Two years ago, Audi sent a self-driving vehicle up Pike's Peak at about the same speed as the average driver. Last year, BMW sent a self-driving car at highway speeds from Munich to Nuremberg.

"This year, the state of Nevada issued its first self-driving vehicle licenses to Internet giant Google, which has already racked up half a million kilometers on both test tracks and public roads. (California is considering similar legislation.) Self-driving vehicles are already being used in industry, and two experts quoted by the Economist predict they will be available to the public in eight to ten years. In addition to reducing accidents due to human error, driverless cars could potentially coordinate routes and travel in close formation, thereby increasing road capacity, reducing congestion, and saving fuel."

This is very exciting, and supports my proposition that Hawaii is well qualified to develop robot technology. We are certainly (and regrettably) well acquainted with traffic and our highways could serve as a perfect laboratory for robot cars as a solution to traffic. Right on, Tom. Let’s do it! Our traffic is not just the impediment it seems to be; it's also an opportunity.

Regrets I didn’t cover the DARPA robotic car challenge programs in my article. Robotic cars have got to be a huge thing for the future. These are discussed at length in a youTube.com movie of a talk by Rodney Brooks of Rethink Robots and it’s worth taking a look at it. It’s on rethinkrobots.com.

The other response of interest was a note from my old friend and tech guru Ray Tsuchiyama. He sent me a link to an article he wrote for Forbes last year about robotics. It had some of the same references as my article, but it concluded that nothing much was going to happen in the near term and that it will be decades before we find a people’s robot in the stores, but that the R&D that had to be done in the meantime would be fascinating.

Here’s the link:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/raytsuchiyama/2011/01/01/reflections-on-personal-robots-backwards-and-forwards/

It's a great article, actually an essay. Worth reading, for sure.

I still think Hawaii needs to capitalize on all the knowledge it has, or at least its children have, about robotics and that it should take affirmative steps to incentivize more than just high school competitions – it should take the steps, and spend the money, to incentivize a robotics INDUSTRY. That’s what we need, and we aren’t going to get it by accident.

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