Archive for February, 2010

Full details of the Microsoft Photo360 contest

In a nutshell, this contest is for students to create “synths” (3D-visual mapping) of places of interest within Singapore. I’ve been a day-one fan of the potential of Microsoft’s PhotoSynth project from their Live Labs department. This is the perfect opportunity to flex my composition muscle, clock some field-work & deploy the final output via an up-to-date technology! Talk about synergy of my ideals! Alas, it was not to be, as I’m afraid my peers are not so free & passionate to embark on such a crazy journey (quite literally, in terms of foot-work) & the organizers require a team of 3 students. I doubt they will allow me to just submit the names of 3 friends yet accomplish my submission on individual effort, as there is a workshop which I suppose they will actually wanna secure our attendance! Arghz!

Nonetheless, I’ve some great ideas about what my potential submission will be structured upon, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the magic of PhotoSynth, I strongly encourage you to view these videoes otherwise my idea will be quite lost on you:

Basically my idea is to scale Mount Faber & exploit its position as a natural vantage point to really deliver on the 3-dimensional aspect of a “synth”. The various landscape I capture along the gradual altitude-ascent will add to the richness of the end-result. I intend to go 1 full round & span from daybreak to evening, whereby I will reflect 2 aspects of Singapore, dawn & dusk.

Imagine walking up the winding road alongside a hill; albeit slowly taking photos

This way, as the visitor pans through my “synth”, he will experience how the urban landscape transform across a temporal scale. Naturally, I can easily geotag my photos using GeoSetter. It goes without saying I’ve to explicitly introduce a slight pause/interval between shots to improve the accuracy of the geo-tagging as well as lock the exposure & white balance across neighbouring frames so as not to have light grey clouds one moment & cream white clouds the next, etc. I may also have to wait for vehicles & humans to clear my frame.

See how the exposure of the sky is all messed up in this panoramic stitch?

Other ideas I have include snapping the shots on a moving vehicle, ala Google StreetView, maybe using a bicycle or  even a luge. The fine-tuned quality I desire will imply loads of time invested on my part (cant rush this & expect lots of iterations). Too bad I can’t form my team; I wonder if they will allow me to simply attend the workshop & use the software for personal enjoyment.

Imagine touring this in 3D. The transformation of Singapore's urban cityscape from VARIOUS graduated altitudes of Mount Faber. Across the span of a day, you observe the hustle 'n' bustle of the morning vigor transcend into the skyscraper star-scape of the night-life beyond your horizons. From the comfort of your computer, you establish a presence as if you are walking the trail yourself...


UPDATE: this-just-inMicrosoft has finally unveiled their latest revision of the Windows Mobile platform. The name has been revised toWindows Phone 7” to encourage the masses to throw all their perception of the Windows Mobile platform out of the “Windows” (pun intended), i.e. like how they are trying now to make everyone forget Vista ever existed. Well, I like it, after watching the promotional video. It appears Microsoft has quite a few latent potential that they didn’t “want to” dish out at Apple. First, they do have an adequate “AppStore”: it is the Xbox Live Marketplace. Secondly, the music interface of their latest Zune HD device, is a refreshing & stylish UI as compared to any other iPod. So when they take these 2 features, throw in the capacitive touch-screen & high-res requirement (WVGA as a minimum) for device manufacturers, what we have here, is a very serious contender for the choice of my next smartphone. I like the fact they actually am convinced their customers have the ability to multi-task. Not everyone of us like an interface that is too dumbed down, i.e. I will take live updating panels over (disruptive) push notifications any day. Oh, did I mention the extremely pleasing Zune interface/transition for navigating around the device? Previously there was only the iPhone 4G (yes, I’m still waiting for a breakthrough in WWDC, June | they better gimme a proper “One more thing…” then, after what they pulled in Jan) & the Google Nexus Two (ala Motorola Shadow). I was about to replace my dying iPod Touch with a Zune HD (which many didn’t know, has a lot of potential due to its Tegra chip & I was already eyeing because its raw industrial metal design topped off with Gorilla glass from Corning {same used on HTC HD2} is serious appeal) & embark on the media player + phone combi again, but now, there is actually a 3rd platform to look forward to, in the horizon. Maybe I will breakaway from iTunes after all my effort to master it.

Minimum requirements for manufacturers who wish to deploy Windows Phone 7 devices

This is the newer, rumoured mock-up

Talking about the next iPhone, I saw this mock-up of the rumoured 4G from the interweb. There was another mock-up that has been floating around for ages but this newer one takes the cake. Gloss black surfaces & curvatures always a favourite with the masses. I think with the introduction of the crazy Magic Mouse & the touch-capable bezel of the Palm Pre, a full touch-sensitive body enclosure isn’t that far-fetched. I just haven’t thought of what purpose it serves, but give us an API & we will give you a function. Actually, with regards to that glowing Apple logo, I’ve an idea. They could actually use it as a flash for the integrated camera! Either that method, or if they wanna prove their hardware muscle, Apple could actually built a ring of LED flash around the “rim” of the original camera. Both seems to be very expensive way to implement a flash, but hey, its Apple (but since they never say anything; as of now it’s my idea). The 2nd idea will look something like this (Avengers fan will find this extremely familiar):

Either you recognize this immediately, or you don't

Observe how rich the visual design is. Final level at bottom-right

& since we are still on the topic of the iPhone, recently I’m playing 2 new games on my iPod Touch, Dark Nebula & Plant vs Zombies. Installed Dark Nebula because it was announced to be free & I enjoyed the game so much I would have gladly pay for it (& upcoming episodes). Unlike typical Labyrinth games, although one still uses the accelerometer to navigate an item throughout a maze, the environment in Dark Nebula is extremely well thought-out, challenging & innovative. Interaction with the environment is accompanied by a wonderful background music which I enjoyed via the speakers of my mini-compo. The things I really like (I mean, in addition to the basics which it covered pretty well): 1. wonderful background music, 2. intelligent way to give huge amount of depth to the gameplay via the graphics & how some obstacles “bounce” your item, 3. last level’s design is just crazily-cool.

Plant vs Zombies was just heavily recommended in the forums, so I spent the USD$2.99 for it. From PopCap (the same company that supplied Bejeweled 2 on Yahoo! Games), it’s a tower defense genre with a twist. You are not trying to navigate your enemies around a maze that you make out of weapons, but rather your enemies (they are zombies, btw) will come attacking as collective wave & you use various plants to destroy them. The things I really like: 1. extremely vivid graphics, 2. huge variety of plants (your arsenal) as well as huge variety of zombies (your enemies), 3. any game with Michael Jackson in it, is cool.

Thriller night...

Medusa being a captive of her reflection in an iPhone

Also watched “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” on Valentine’s Day. My other options was “Valentine’s Day” (the movie) & I refuse to pay to watch a film with no special effects in the cinemas. On the other hand, PJNTLT was lacklustre as well. Execution of the plot was very kid-oriented with the lame moments inserted here & there. The only consolation I obtained was my ability to name every single of the Greek gods, i.e. who is the father of who, who is the mother of who, who hate who and why, etc. But I tink it annoys my companion to no end. Like that time I watch the 1st Transformers & ID all the aircraft along with their military roles. However, all these Greek Mythology is simply gearing me up for “Clash of the Titans“, which much to my delight, is available in 3D!

Nice to get gd books from the library

Also covered one & a half book recently. “Daemon” by Daniel Suarez & “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo. I finished the former within 3 days because I couldn’t put it down. It’s the 1st novel by Mr. Daniel (who is an IT consultant) & for those who read it & is disappointed by the ending, erm…there’s a part 2, titled “Freedom“, just fyi. I’m simply happy because I am able to relate to how the various ploys by the antagonist were executed by existing technologies. Technologies like non-lethal directional restrain (I read up a lot of it when researching on riot control) as well as house keys that unlocks using a crystal with a specific resonant frequency. The storyline isn’t that far-fetched, but I will encourage anyone that loves technology in general to read it. Think of something very cool, multiply that by infinity & you will have the storyline for “Daemon”. If you are still not convinced, remember the automatic killer motorcycles in “Terminator: Salvation”? Now imagine a full fleet with blades. Imagine that they can now distinguish between heat source that stays still (small fire) & heat source that has exponential movement towards a perimeter (human trying to tip-toe then breaking into a run for a pre-defined exit). This scenario is in “Daemon” & it’s not even the coolest feature in the “grand-scheme of its plot”.

The 2nd book on presentation is so-so; pretty much most of the concepts are common sense but guess I’ll finish it anyway. Most of the principles being preached are very useful for introducing new consumer products & maybe less useful for say, presenting corporate performance in front of your board. Nonetheless, I’m glad to loan both books for free from the library (negligible reservation fees).

Try using this interface for high-spd repetitive input

H was impressed with the submission that got awarded “Best team” for the current CS2103 module; I wasn’t. Granted, a calculator with its input mechanisms designed in the form of a tag cloud “looks” extremely innovative, but I suppose high-speed repetitive input is almost impossible via this interface. For those who are touch-typists, you will know that even shifting the keyboard arrangement very slightly will mess up your typing speed & accuracy. In my point of view, any interface that prioritise beauty over its core functionalities, deserves a penalty in the respective grading criteria. Unless that submission was for “make a calculator for piece-meal input but must look very chio“, then I nothing to say lah. But even if I got something to say, I’m also not the fellow grading CS2103 students…but if I were feeling mean, I would simply request that team to perform 5 sets of any calculations in quick succession. Then try it on a typical calculator…

ISIS again? Wanna spend $ build more reading rooms lah...waste $ man

On the topic of things that are defunct in my school, remember the trash information system revamp they implemented recently, ISIS? Well, not only did they delay the access of school results last year, this time around it screwed up the relay of living allowance to those who are on tuition fee loans. I mean, why spend money, time & human resources to implement something new that clearly has no new added value to replace a system that has been tried and tested for years without problems? Clearly my school has a sense of “purpose & logic” that is beyond my grasp?

Set of Camelion AlwaysReady LSD batteries

Just ordered my set of Camelion batteries. I’m sure by now, the consumer are familiar with Low Self-Discharge batteries courtesy of Sanyo’s aggressive promotion of their EneloopWell, these Camelion AlwaysReady batteries are LSD yet they have the highest capacity I found, 2300mAh! series. However, the difference between these & “typical” rechargeable batteries are the capacity: LSD AA usually max out at 2000mAh while “normal” rechargeable AA can go as high as 2900mAh. However, they usually lose the majority of this 2900mAh by the end of a week or two. Some fellow is selling this brand in Clubsnap forums, but he is promoting the outdated charger (I verified the difference between the various chargers with him via PM) via the advertisement thread. I dug around his main online store site & managed to secured a bundle for the more up-to-date charger (at a cheaper price to boot!). I can understand his rationale, i.e. most likely he’s trying to gain publicity in ClubSnap forum to clear the stock of the old chargers…well, I’m not the type to disrupt anybody’s plan, as long I know which is the one to buy for me.

Check out the capacity of this LSD battery!

Progress is steadfast...

Unbeknownst to many, I’ve already begun the indefinite revamping of my music library. Started on 4 Feb, till today (19 Feb), I’ve processed 20.95GB (~68%) of my disorganized/unprocessed old library. In other words, over the course of 15 days (intermittent), I’ve gone through 4497 files (2254 folders). Though this may seem like leaps & bounds over my projected progress to the undiscerning eye, personally, I know better. It’s gonna be a terrible uphill journey as the pool gets smaller & smaller as:

  • the original file & folder count contains a large amount of iPod Touch apps, some podcasts, 2 deep folders-worth of album artwork created by iTunes previously. Removing this “crud” = zero processing time; more of inspecting & deleting. For the remaining collection, which are really songs, progress will be capped at a slower rate.
  • most of the albums I process earlier are of the “1-folder-1-album” nature, there is a huge quantity of remaining songs that belong to distinct albums. Which means I have to find/tag their individual album art 1 by 1, instead of tagging 1 full folder at one shot.
  • I’m beginning to encounter more & more “problem” albums, i.e. those that Winamp refuse to recognize chinese-character-titles for, those that belong to the same collection but Winamp tagged as different albums, those that I can’t find any album art for, etc…These I put off into a folder for later rounds of reviewing.
  • As the library grows, I have to spend more time differentiating between accidental duplicates & “real” duplicates from my additions.
  • There are really some songs that Winamp’s Auto-tag cannot identify correctly. Manual override always require way more time & effort than automatic means, but even though I ignore the validity of disc & track numbers, at the very least title & artist I require perfection.

This is always very inspiring…

Nonetheless, everytime I feel weary, I just need to engage the “Grid-Album” view on my iTunes & I’ll have some inspiration to pursue this endeavour. Anyway, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Started watching Steve Job’s keynote, launching the Apple iPad. My commentaries as follows:

  • the way the audience applauded just for his presence, is starting to creep me out
  • “a truly magical & revolutionary product” – erm…not only evolutionary wor; he implied a “game-changer”, paradigm-shift
  • Of course, since this is not a shareholder meeting, for some reason, he just have to flash some sales figures
  • Now, he (they) realize the Microsoft-bashing has gotten old, he’s looking for new competitors to bash, namely Nokia (& also Sony as well as Samsung). Is this company’s philosophy based on intentionally demeaning/mocking fellow competitors?
  • “Those devices have to be far better at doing some key tasks…better than laptops, better than smartphones. What kind of tasks?” – this is so gonna return & bite him in the arse.
  • Browsing the web. Doing email. Enjoying & sharing photographs” – translate into no-flash, typing with one finger
  • He bashes netbooks, by saying they aren’t better at anything. He actually manages to bash a product category. The way he says it, either hasn’t use the latest netbook with Ion, or he better have something way superior to announce
  • &…we have the name. Won’t go into the name, I believe it has been mocked to the death by the Internet. Not only did he managed to convince me the company is oblivious to the industry (“We challenged our engineers…to put in a SD card slot.”), he convinces me the corporate team is oblivious to social norms & naming conventions
  • “It’s a dream to type on it”…until one actually tries to type a sentence on it.
  • 1st laughs: the ridiculous bezel width, weird aspect ratio (almost everything is 16:9 or 16:10 nowadays, well, except this device) & that funny iPhone/iPod Touch-sized “lock-bar” (totally no modifications!). I’m not saying he should extend it across the entire width, but come up with something new to unlock the device lah!
  • Awkward & blatant indifference of all the “flash-missing” icons scattered across his selection of demonstration websites…I kinda feel sad for him…
  • You have to place the device on your (slanted) lap to type with both hands.
  • I’m positive the photo app UI got “major inspiration” from BumpTop. The slide show transition, “Origami” is very lovely though.
  • Kinda notice he is not looking at the audience AT ALL while demo-ing the interaction. I dun like this.
  • Didn’t mean to be rude, but he called “Up” awesome because it’s a Pixar creation right? However, when he ends the Movie app demo, the final scene resembles the default WinXP wallpaper?
  • He says the A4 chip screams? Hmm…perhaps as loud as a SnapDragon then? Really live in their own world man…latest Bluetooth is BT 3.0 lehz
  • Try achieving 10 hours with Flash capability lor…don’t mock the battery life of other hardware when they need to deliver flash (flash is CPU-, not graphic chip-intensive)
  • Wait? did I hear wrong, “So that’s a little bit of an overview of the iPod hardware.” – 29min41seconds into the keynote…
  • & why are they claiming the auto-2X maximise window a remarkable feature for iPhone apps to run on the iPad? Have they seen for themselves how ridiculous native iPhone apps were to run at their default resolution on the iPad screen? If it’s such an extraordinary feature, why dun they try releasing iPad without this 2X feature? To me, this feature is more of an “necessary evil” than an extra feature.
  • I realized when Scott Forstall watch the game trailer video of ESPN’s “Snocross”, he did NOT use the 2X feature? Is it because 2X is unable to scale actual video content (non-codebase-driven; unlike actual game code) to fill up iPad’s screen?
  • I wonder if “Shake-to-Undo” is implemented on the iPad? Probably someone will accidentally smash theirs…sooner or later
  • Scott Forstall is clearly trying too hard – 50min54sec into the keynote.
  • Okay, this one I have to give it to them: iWorks looks great, not amazing, but great on the iPad. However,…
  • They had better ensure it multi-task (actually I tink these apps would, since they are published by Apple). Because productivity suite are quite cumbersome if say, one cannot copy a chart from the spreadsheet program to a word processor
  • I’ve a feeling they are really using the relatively cheap data plans to push the sales of the iPad, but shouldn’t a great product sell itself?
  • “It’s phenomenal; the whole Internet in your hand” sans Flash?
  • & I remember Apples fanboy criticising the various versions of Windows being released, while the iPad comes in 6 versions…wonder what they gotta say about that? & I still can’t get over the choice of micro-sim in something with so much space.
  • This is the 1st thing I watched Steve Jobs reading verbatim the sentences (yes, sentences) from his slide – 1hr31min15sec

After-thoughts: I feel that if they could somehow unify all the publishers in the academic market to publish textbooks via this “iBook store” & encourage local institutions to webcast/podcast the lectures to this platform, then it will be fantastic. But because publishers will always fear each of them can’t secure the biggest slice of the pie & well,some of the local lecturers’ had better not had their lectures publicized, the iPad will have a huge setback in securing the local academic institution. On the other hand, it could be the launchpad for electronic boardgames (I think this has massive potential given the multi-touch capability and size of the IPS screen).

In addition, I was severely underwhelmed by what Apple delivered, after months of speculation, given this slightly sub-par performance where the presenters have difficulty selling the magic of their device & the actual feature-set of what it attempts to kill (the netbook category), I would rather have a super-handy 3.5″ display device to enjoy anywhere & need not worrying about finding a stress-free environment for it beyond my pockets.

Anyway, after watching the keynote, here’s my reaction:

That pretty much sums it up for me. Especially the middle row.