Crowd-Funding Campaigns

Every few days, someone messages me on a new and great crowd funding campaign.

Generally, this comes in the form of sharing a video – a video that makes many grandiose promises if I only donate a few bucks to the cause.  As a few of these campaigns have raised crazy amounts of cash, it seems that they are becoming more popular. Throw a coin at any “Make” fair, and see what I mean.

Now, this may be common sense, but I’d like to share my general way of looking at these crowd-funding campaigns in the hope that I won’t have to deal with people finding me a “Kill-Joy” when the next “big thing” comes along.

Questions I ask when seeing a campaign

What’s in it for me?

If I donate money to your cause, am I preordering a product, or buying a t-shirt that says “I liked it before it was cool”?

Pinonccio – $49 donation gets me a prototype

While kickstarter won’t run them, other crowd funding  sites will host “get a t-shirt” with donation campaigns. If you donate to these, you’ll get a t-shirt, but don’t plan on that t-shirt being anything more than a statement that you can easily be separated from you money.

Why hasn’t this been done before and how is it different?

Let’s say I run across a campaign for creating a garden time-lapse camera system. All I get until the $250 is a thank you and a t-shirt.

At this point, the campaign has satisfied the “something in it for me” angle. There is a real product, and I’m at least somewhat interested. But, is that product out there already?

A quick search on amazon shows me that producers of garden cameras do exist. And, a few of them are substantially cheaper than the $250 this campaign will cost me for one. Does this product provide something new? I may simply not like the company that provides the competing product. Maybe that company hasn’t listened to customer feedback. Perhaps there is a specialized feature I want. Or, maybe I’m just feeling generous.

If the product hasn’t been done – why not? Is there something fundamentally flawed with the idea? It’s possible that this particular product fits a very small niche, and that the only way  of seeing it released is a crowd funded campaign. Or, maybe this product has no real hope for success as the design itself has serious flaws.

Does the group have the expertise to pull the product off?

So, now we have agreed that they have enough of a “hook” for me to bite. At this point, the question becomes, can they make it happen?

Let’s say the campaign is for a desktop Fusion power generator, suitable for fitting into my flying car.

Does the group include a physicist? If not, do they have a good one on standby? If not, would anyone in the group have any way of knowing a good physicist? If not, has the group provided any evidence that they can solve the whole “fusion” part of the problem?

Is there any evidence suggesting that other companies have looked into this problem? Are there solutions out on the market now?

If the group lacks the expertise to build the idea, what are they bringing to the table?

Building a product takes more than having a bad comb over and the ability to shout “your fired”. If the group is going to pay to have the actual development done, have they shown a reasonable budget and plan for doing so?

In the case of a desktop Fusion generator, the evidence would need to be overwhelming before I’d even consider a donation. In fact, I’m not sure anything would convince me it wasn’t a scam. Extremely innovative products tend to have large money backing quickly. Large enough that crowd funding wouldn’t be talked about.

Returning to the Garden Camera, I’d probably look for a meaningful prototype, a good product manager with a gardening background, or simply some good engineers. The technology is known, and I wouldn’t need to worry about development of specialized high technology.

Are they over promising?

If I see a video of something so truly beyond the state of the art to be amazing, the question becomes, how is it real?

If a video advertises some whizz bang Artificial Intelligence, is there research that shows something is possible. For anything computerized, just imagine that instead of the ideal computer shown in the video – it’s your cell phone. How would your cell phone do at the tasks shown? If they are doing similar tasks with significantly better ability – how are they accomplishing it?

Or, are they just lying?

Very talented people are working on lots of the ‘space age’ devices we want to see. Every day. If those devices don’t exist yet, it may be for a reason. Just remember the ‘pet robots’ in the 90s. Yeah, they are cool, but they weren’t R2D2.

Does the group have a valid business plan? Do I care if they vanish?

Let’s say that I really hate the companies producing the garden cameras, and want to donate to this new garden camera company. Does this group demonstrate that my donation will help create a sustainable competitor?

If not, will I care that I’ve purchased a one-off product? In a year, how much will I care if the product breaks?

Perhaps I’m happy that I’ll get my garden camera and can worry about the same problem again later, if need be. That’s a perfectly good answer, but one I should be aware of.

Responding to a Campaign

I’ll generally ignore campaigns that I come across, unless either poked or prodded about it directly.

If so, I’ll walk through these questions until I hit a reason not to donate, and if I hit that reason, I’ll try to let whoever know why I’m not. If the campaign has gone “viral” and I think other people might donate, I might be more proactive about criticism. And, it’s also possible that I’ll share a campaign I’d want to see succeed.

If you share a campaign video, remember – you are sharing a request for money. Requesting money, in my book, removes much of your ability to complain when someone tells you where to go. Manipulative videos may insist that criticism is fighting against a greater good.

We enjoy the right to ask the public for money. In return, the public may criticize that request. Don’t like it? Build the product first using traditional means. And remember, if you are sharing a funding request, then realize the social dynamic of seeking contributions.

Saying Yes can be a Bad Thing

I watched closely as the Diaspora project got going. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it was one of the first kickstarter campaigns to go viral. Earning $200,000+ in very little time.

Any experienced engineer watching would have smelled trouble. The grand yet completely undefined scope of the project. The lack of real requirements. The lack of any experienced or skilled developers. The poor choices of technology, showing blatant ignorance of the current challenges of competitors trying to do the exact same thing.

In the end, the group of students working this project put themselves through some very rough times. It’s impossible to say what might have happened if the product just fizzled out. And indeed, the tragedies associated with the project, may have happened anyway. Windfall earnings does weird things to a group and to friends. Still, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the eventual suicide of one of the initial members. I don’t think the success of the funding campaign can be directly blamed, but it definitely didn’t help.

Kickstarter does a lot of work to prefilter applicants and campaigns, and even there, people have found a real “bit” in terms of taxes and fees eating into the cash intended for development of a product.

A lot of campaigns fail, but that doesn’t mean the dream has to die. And many campaigns, on their second try, find and fix the errors with the first.

TL;DR

  1. Try to apply some common sense before sending random people on the internet your money.
  2. Asking someone for money gives them a right to ask why and determine if you deserve it.
  3. Giving someone money isn’t always helpful.

There’s a lot of cool kick starter projects out there. Fin and I have sent money to a few. We’ve gotten some cool stuff in return. Do your search before. And if somethings viral?

My experience with viral campaigns is that they are rotten. The cool ones I’ve found and funded tend to be more niche oriented. Though, sometimes, lots of people get onboard for a reason.

— Fate

Fate Plays IT…

Things have been a little bit dead around here. Mostly because Fin and I have been hugely distracted from other activities. My main PC was knocked out by a thunderstorm a few months back. Not long after, Fin’s mom lost her computer as well.

Apparently, 2014 wasn’t a good year for the SuburbanReject family’s electronics.

Hardware

Fin and I discussed things, and decided on building a new PC.

Parts Picture

 

At this point, I’ve FINALLY finished building / rebuilding / installing / reinstalling and tweaking the system. This was the first PC build I’ve done in a long while. I stopped using custom built PCs roughly 4 years ago, when I decided I had better things to do with my time. Not sure why, but my nerd took over again and I wanted to tweak and customize. For the nerds out there, PCPartsPicker is a fairly cool site that does a good job with organizing a build and finding good prices. I easily saved $200-300 off the retail costs of all these parts over the course of the build through a combination of careful shopping and using that site. I’ve posted the gory details / nerd porn over in a review and write-up at the same site.

Software, Software, Software

Given the death and rebuild of two computers, it seemed like a good team to evaluate software choices and find new / better solutions based on my previous tried and true solutions.

Backup Solutions

CrashPlan

I played with multiple different backup software solutions. Previously, my go-to has always been a simple clonezilla image of the post-install computer, and then attempting to burn regular DVD backups.

Loosing my last PC, I discovered that:

  • I don’t make backups nearly as often as I thought
  • Backups are worthless if you lose them

Currently, somewhere within 3 different family houses, there is a DVD binder with years worth of pictures and digital archives. This DVD binder is missing. I’ve been working through multiple old hard drives, saving off backups, and looking for new/old files and trying to restore my previous archive of my digital life.

At the same time, I’ve bought-in to the idea of backing up to the cloud. After looking at multiple vendors, I’ve landed on CrashPlan. It’s got a couple cool things going for it: cloud storage at a decent price and the ability to backup to personal cloud / other computers. The only real gripe I have is that they don’t really give a good method for whole-PC backup / restore. For that, I’ll keep using Clonezilla and burning to BlueRay BDR.

Anti-Virus

With Windows 8.1, I’ve been a little bit irritated at Microsoft’s Security Essentials package. Not to mention, there’s a lot of knowledgeable people advising against using just that. While I’m generally careful with browsing, I do leave a bit open to the internet (for remote access), and like the idea of at least a basic antivirus program.

After some experimentation and playing with trial software, I landed on BitDefender. There software gets good reviews for detecting malware and the system load is minimal compare to major free  antivirus programs.

I purchased the solution from Herman Street and saved a bit of cash. Transaction was smooth / easy.

Data Recovery

I’m not sure what sad circumstances caused it, but I’ve never seen a data drive quiet as toasted as I received from Fin’s Mom. At first, it appeared to be a lost cause. While physically fine, I’ve not seen the data on a drive so well and truly shredded before. After creating a mirror, I ran the volume through multiple data recovery tools, both free and commercial. Usually, testdisk can work some serious magic.

In the end, after trying multiple system recovery tools, including: Recover My Files, Restorer Ultimate, Recuva, and others I can’t remember, I found *one* just *one* that didn’t resort to raw signature based recovery: Stellar Phoenix.

Stellar’s software works for data recovery. While the UI looks like it’s designed by a two year old, the option selection sucks, and the whole thing feels *clunky*, it managed to process and restore gigs of lost family photos, tax records, and more. And that’s *without* going to the effort of raw data recover where you sort through endless files named Image0001.jpg, Image0002.jpg, many of which are browser thumbnails or mis-matched data.

So, if you have managed to toast a drive without killing the hardware, give it a shot.

Back to your regularly scheduled program…

I don’t make any promises on posting while Fin and I are working an extra job, but… at least I’ve got our computer situation sorted out this week. Next week? Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed nothing new dies.

 

 

 

Maker Faire KC 2014

Since Fin was out of town, I took the opportunity to Geek-it-up at the Maker Faire Kansas City, and grabbed Blazed to explore.

The Make people threw a fairly decent party, both inside and outside Union Station. A solid mix of people were present. I spotted everyone there from dirty hippies to Glassholes.

We caught the “Coke and Mentos” guys doing a demo.

(Video is recording from another fair / year / someone else, but the presentation was similar).

We saw people building boats from trash.

There were people showing off plants:

IMG_20140628_152742

 

And electric cars:

IMG_20140628_153955

And Tesla Coils playing music:

IMG_20140628_164135

 

Inside, there were people trying to sell stuff. Some really cool local businesses, some big businesses, and a lot of kick starter and artish projects. Microsoft gave a moderately creepy demo of the X-Box One and the capabilities of the new Kinect.

I’d recommend a visit for all the nerds and non-nerds out there next year.

Dropping Google and Facebook

I've had multiple debates with coworkers on the value of the "cloud" and placing your data in the trust of others.  While I care about privacy, my views are shaded by a distinct pragmatism.  I know many willing to share pretty much everything on Facebook and Google, and others that go so far as to host their own physical email servers and domains.

Looking at current "cloud" data providers, Google was an attractive choice for a few major reasons.  First, all of their services HAD (very important past-tense) the feel of playing along well with others. Google pushed HTML5 and open video codecs, and federated chat servers with others.  And then, you could pay for an ad free experience, which I did.  Facebook has ALWAYS had a rather F-you attitude toward privacy and personal details.  Not to mention, obvious commercial interests and a need to monetize users.

Lately, I've been feeling an increasing level of stress over the sheer reliance I have on these data providers, and their blatant disregard for my privacy.  It will more than likely be a long process, but I've come to the decision that I want my PERSONAL life to be under more of my own control.  I say "dropping google", but "placing softly behind" might be more appropriate.   I'm still, for example, using my google apps subscription currently.

The first step in dropping the G was moving to my own self-hosted blog site. So far, so good. 🙂

Big Brother is watching…..and waiting for you to invite him into your home.

So here is your horrifying thought for today:  Your own government could very quickly have a video and audio surveillance device readily accessible in your house.  But that isn't the scariest part.  You ready for it?  YOU will be the one PAYING to put it there, by your own choice.

 

Don't believe me?  Let's consider some things that have been happening recently: 

 

1. The NSA's massive Utah Data mining center – A 1 million square foot facility, capable of storing yottabytes of data, gleaned from every type of communication device we use.  Also consider the fact that every piece of communication passes through a wire at some point, even your cell phone, so literally EVERYTHING is accessible at some junction point. Even if you encrypt your transmission with the highest level of encryption available today, that doesn't matter in the long run.  If they can't crack it now, they will store it and crack it when they have the ability to in the near future.


2. PRISM – Since 2007 (but more realistically since the Patriot act was first passed in 2001), the NSA has been using your own internet providers, popular sites, and makers of the worlds most used devices to provide direct access of all their products and services to the government.  Since the news broke recently, all the companies on the list of PRISM partners have come out stating, in some form or another, that they are not giving direct or backdoor access to the government, and that they are only responding to court orders as required by law.  I call bullshit, for a couple basic reasons:

A. We've already been lied to, and then when they were caught in the lie, they tried to assure us that it wasn't as bad as we are making it out to be, specifically with federal wiretapping.  We were all told that it was ONLY calls originating from foreign countries or placed to foreign countries, and that the surveillance was extremely limited in nature.  Fast forward to this week, and we find out that was complete bullshit, and that they have been monitoring ALL calls, including ones that are ENTIRELY domestic, for years.  Verizon has been handing over data for years already:  "While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively."  This program has been going on since as far back as October of 2001, in some form or another. 

B. All the companies on the PRISM list don't want a mass exodus from their services.  Why wouldn't they lie, to retain users?  And furthermore, even if they aren't just lying to retain users, it doesn't matter, as they are under a federal gag order from FISA anyway, so even if the wanted to talk about it, the can't!

 

3.  The Ace in the Hole:  The Xbox One – A few things on this to get started;  To operate, the device must call home once every 24 hours (NOTE: this is to be able to play games.  MS has stated that you will not need to connect to watch live TV or DVD's. Who cares, I can already do that without an Xbox).  The Kinect MUST be connected for the system to operate.  Unless you unplug the entire thing, the Xbox One is always on in a low power state.

 

So let's put all this nifty information together into one cohesive thought:  The NSA is building a massive data retention center using, at least in part, the information it is gathering from it's partners listed in the PRISM project.  The very first company to sign on to the PRISM project was Microsoft.  The NSA data center will be completed in October, roughly around the same time that the new Xbox One will be hitting stores.  Do you honestly believe that if they are already tapping your phone, email, web searches, Facebook, and all your other internet communications, that the NSA won't want to get their greedy little claws where they couldn't go before?  Inside your house, directly into your living room?  Into the Xbox One and Kinect, that can record a live video and audio stream?  Talk about fleshing out the whole picture….

 

And the best part is…you are going to pay THEM for the privilege.

Are You Writing Anonymously? Well, Maybe.

I’ve pondered running another blog with a more direct relation to my real name. This other blog would cover strictly professional / technical matters. Valuing privacy, not many bloggers write under real names. Over the years, I’ve written under many different pseudonyms on various forums and social media sites. Anyone seriously research me online would find this blog, but could they identify this blog from writing excerpts? How easily could someone associate my new technology blog to crazy political rants here?

There’s been some significant research on analyzing text to match writing patterns. The general idea is that every person has unique linguistic patterns and turns of phrase. Fin can pick out my writing (or her sisters) almost immediately.

At some point, I read about some researchers using compression to identify authors of text excerpts. Compression algorithms create new encoding schemes based on pattern recognition. In theory, we can recognize an author’s style by seeing which piece of writing results in the best compression. Does it work?

The idea seems too simple to work – at least with any meaningful accuracy. Still, finding it fascinating, I decided to run an experiment. Searching my google reader, I found 2 blogs covering similar topics to mine, and a third wildly different blog covering technical posts. Scouring these blogs, I worked at creating a text collection for each author. Excerpts were selected based on covering similar subject matter.

My ‘test’ subjects included a blog post written 3 years ago by myself, a work email sent roughly 3 weeks ago, and a collection of Google+ posts over the past few months. In addition, I grabbed 2 posts from the selected blogs. The work email and technical blog use extremely similar terminology throughout. In theory, the compression technique should fail in this case – picking up technology idioms instead of language usage.

To form a baseline, an unrelated text excerpt is added to each text collection. The collection is compressed using “Zip” and the final size recorded. After forming the baseline, I replace the additional text with each excerpt to identify.

Running the tests, I expected the results to be poor at a minimum. I’d purposefully selected difficult scenarios for the test, hoping to prod it into failure. In the end, all 5 tests resulted in a correct identification of the author. I’d suspected a few to hit on chance, but not a 100% positive identification rate. For those curious, my work email scored first with my personal blog here, and second with the technical blog.

The strongest match? Identifying the social media posts.

I’d guess that increasing the number of authors would decrease the positive ID rate. Still, we could improve that situation by adding to the baseline and test data sets. Obviously, a short test using a common sentence( eg: I’m hungry ) won’t work well. Conspiracy theory thought: isn’t social media providing an ever growing baseline data set?

The idea of social media building the strongest matches has interesting implications for this technique and author identification in general. While we write on social media with our real names, are we working against our interest in remaining anonymous elsewhere? In any security scenario, the weakest element tends to be the humans running the show. While we research technologies such as “Tor” for privacy and protection of political dissidents – the very published speech points right back at the author. Could a child’s grammar school paper condemn them as an adult?

In general, the take away here is that writing on social media, or blogs, or English papers can be used to identify people in other contexts. Could I write this post and publish it truly anonymously?

Not as much as I’d like to think.

— Fate

The State of Linux (Hint: Still Not Good)

I try to avoid talking tech on here. I get most of that out of my system during my day job. Yet, my recent foray into running Linux again has me needing to vent. Roughly a year ago, I switched over to Windows 7 for the sake of “it just works”. Now, a strong desire to continue on some of my hobby projects, as well as web and server-side scripting development has led me to reinstalling Linux. I tried the “linux in a vm” for a bit. Sadly, the performance just kinda sucked. A second linux partition is a lot cheaper than a kvm switch and new computer.

Who the hell took over development in the Linux world? When I left Gnome, KDE and friends were getting more usable and awesome by the day. Now, it’s like someone took a look at the user interface hall of shame, noted all the worst ideas, and puked them out onto a desktop. One would think with all the backing and developer support, the basic menu items would all be tested and work relatively well. Nope, I see random apps with text overflowing (leaving critical portions unaccessible in non-resizable windows), random installation failures when installing “gold” packages, and what appears to be a 5th rewrite of device management where I _STILL_ can’t easily browse detected hardware. Somehow, developers have managed to wade 10 years in the same shallow waters while Microsoft and Apple got their shit together and made some decent stuff.

Myopic developers and “UI designers” continue to piss all over the basic idioms “lusers” know, and ignore power users that want things simple. I’d be better with /etc being a mass of binary blobs with FUNCTIONING UIs, as opposed to randomly generated shell fragments with half-assed GUIs attempting to gather the pieces, happily trouncing changes I’d like to make in a sea of “GENERATED FILE DO NOT EDIT” comments. Then, we have the fun of a default theme that leaves me simultaneously straining my eyes to read anything at all and finding random windows with obnoxious huge text overflowing their overly tight boundaries.

Given the number of developers being paid to develop this shit, it’s shocking the complete advancement from high school and college students doing all the real work in the mid to late 90s. After being paid to do linux kernel development work for the day job, I know there’s some advancement going on under the hood. I also know that when writing a driver, 95% of your time is spent tracking random “fixes” in a source control system that makes IRS tax forms look user friendly.

So far, Linux Mint is proving at least moderately usable compared to the travesty that is Ubuntu and Unity. I’m looking for an alternative to Gnome3 currently – waiting for KDE and XFCE to install. If neither of those don’t work out – I’ve got some old backups of a fvwm95 configuration and a Debian stable download going.

Linux needs FUNCTION, not wiggly windows with drop shadows and a full OpenGL rendered spinning cube for a mouse cursor. I use my computer for work, not masturbating to graphics algorithms.

— Fate

Dear Time Warner Cable,

Fuck you.

Yes, you read that right.

For the 3rd year now, winter has brought me flaky internet connection. I go to browse the interwebs. The modem dies. I call the support line. As directed, I unplug it and plug it back in. The support line recommends a service technician come out and take a look. The connection comes back online (sometimes minutes before the service technician arrives). The service tech comes around, looks around, and says they can’t find a problem. Occasionally, they’ll make an appointment for a line technician to come out, replace parts, or say they’ll “monitor things”. This Wednesday, I’ll have my third appointment in 3 weeks. So far this year, I’ve only lost 1/2 vacation day. I’m actually coming out ahead of last year at this point.

I could switch my business to another company and you wouldn’t even notice. Fin’s refused to switch over to DSL for a long time now, but we’ll likely have AT&T out here shortly if this continues much longer. Bad customer service and high prices? Annoying yes. Forcing me into business with the Death Star? Unforgivable.

I’m not a fan of governmental regulation, but your complete disregard of customer service makes even the most anarchist weirdo want to call up his rep and scream “there should be a law”. Even from an “evil capitalist” standpoint, your actions don’t make sense. A rough calculation would indicate that it’d take around 6 months to get back the past 3 weeks of phone calls, service appointments, and “line techs”. From a corporate perspective, you’d be better off giving me AT&T’s number directly at this point, versus having ANOTHER guy come and say he doesn’t see anything wrong.

I’m forced to assume you either have employed the most perverse sadists of all time or have an ingrained institutionalized incompetence so truly awesome as to necessitate an academic study. I’m not sure which destroys my hope in humanity more.

If I took a deep look into your company, I’d probably discover many decent technical people floating around in a cesspool of mediocrity. Sure, they might have ideas that’d save you money. Simple things, like tracking an ongoing issue to insure it stops. Perhaps skipping the 3rd technician after each one indicated there was a line issue and sending a line person out. Maybe giving front-line support the ability to start crediting bills when an on-going issue is happening. Realizing that an ongoing issue might be easiest to solve by sending someone out while the problem is actually happening! No doubt the decent people are your company have brought these ideas up. And, I’m sure you have shot each of these ideas down as “costing too much” or being “difficult to implement”.

Karma’s a bitch when companies start finding customer centric solutions “too difficult to implement”. Ask AT&T about regulation. Ask Sprint about customer attrition. Ask Blockbuster about bankruptcy.

Now, please remove your head from out of your ass, and start figuring out how to have some customer service. I don’t need you for TV service anymore – not between the great number of online services and cable alternatives in existence. AT&T will work just as well for NetFlix as your sorry ass.

Edit: While attempting to submit this post, I lost my connection. Again.

iPad – Revolutionary? Or Evolutionary?

No, it isn’t a marketing graphic for the Apple iPad. It is the cover of a 1992 manual for the GO Pen Computer. Lately, there’s been a lot of media hype over how Apple is changing the face of computing as we know it. The cover article in Time Magazine (Inside Steve’s Pad) kinda took me over the edge. Et tu, Time? Not that I’m all that surprised, Time is definitely staffed by “unabashed Apple fans”.

Really, I like the idea of Tablet computers, E-Readers, and so on. I wouldn’t mind owning a Kindle, though I don’t like the idea of not “owning” my books and the fact that the technology allows Amazon to remotely delete items I purchased . I refuse to purchase books like that. The idea of ownership of things is important to me. As much of a “liberal” as I may be, property is something that I greatly value. Which is why I don’t plan on purchasing an iPad. I also won’t begrudge those that do, after all, it looks like a very well done device. Still, Apple tightly controls what I can and can’t do with it. That however, is not the point of this post.

The point is about those in the media insisting this device will “change computers”. Apple is great at marketing their originality, but when it comes down to it, the reality is far different. Let’s take a stroll down history.

1987 – NestorWriter handwriting system is introduced for IBM Compatible computers, it features a tablet and hand writing recognition software

1989 – GridPad tablet computer is the first ever Tablet computer to be released.


1992 – The GO tablet computer was released (pictured above), later followed by the GO based AT&T EO 440.

In the ’93 and ’94 time frame, there was a lot of interest in tablet based computing. Even Microsoft got on the scene with releases of Pen extensions for Windows. Fast forward to about 8 years ago, when Microsoft again attempted to bring back Tablet computing. Dan Bricklin, co-creator of VisiCalc, wrote a rather significant essay on tablet computing as Microsoft made the push for the concept. (For reference, VisiCalc is one of the single historic and revolutionary apps in computing history.)

When these tablet computers came out, I remember having some rather extensive discussions about utilizing them for various teaching and academic purposes. Working at a community college, multiple people felt these could be extremely useful tools for presentations, paperwork reduction, etc… The word “revolutionary” was used then too. I wasn’t as impressed as a then complete Micro$oft hater (as I’d spell it), and Free Software advocate. (Or, as I’d say now, a college student not yet jaded to the business place.)

Revolutionary annoyed me then too. Mostly because I’d had a lot of fun with the Apple Newton a few years before that.

(Photo Credit)

At the time, my thought was OMG Ev1l Micro$oft steals idea from Apple l33t engineers.

After working in the industry for a bit, talking to people beyond the shaded ivory towers of academia, and feeling a few hard knocks, I was a lot more receptive when tablet computers began making a new appearance.

Slightly before the Kindle was released, I visited a bookstore for my standard movie + fiction books run, and discovered an E-reader on display. Working in the industry on consumer devices, I get to see and hear a lot of opinions about technology from a creator’s perspective. I knew seeing that device, there were more in the wind.

At certain points, evolution hits a tipping point were people can look at something and say “wow, that’s it”. Apple wasn’t the first to launch a “tablet device”. But, more importantly, the oncoming numerous Tablet devices we’ll be seeing aren’t cloning or ripping off Apple’s invention. Like Apple, they’re standing on the shoulders of a great many devices and ideas from the past.

All this to make a couple points. The iPad isn’t going to bankrupt Amazon or kill the Nook. It’s not going to change the way everyone uses computers overnight. What will it do? Move a cool technology that’s finally ready for prime time into a more mainstream audience.

And that is why the iPad is awesome.

The Fear Continues

On Friday, the science project of an 11 year old resulted in the evacuation of a middle school. A 2 liter bottle with “wires sticking out”? It must be a bomb! Hackaday (a nerd blog) has a great editorial on the misgivings of people seeing home made electronics.

Sadly, these responses don’t seem limited to just electronics anymore. Any number of backyard projects insight an odd mix of fear and anger – line drying of clothes, making your own soap or laundry detergent, home construction projects / DIY jobs, backyard gardens, the list goes on.

At what point did we as a society decide that it must be purchased at the store to be acceptable?

Sad, so very sad.