Hoylen's Weblog

Wed, 19 May 2010

Colour TV myths

Tempted to buy a new fancy flat-screen TV? Don't be.

Read the Goodbye CRT article that was published in IEEE Spectrum. The article was written back in 2006, but its description of the pros and cons of plasma and LCD is still very good. As you would expect from IEEE, it gets the technical details right and without marketing bias. Read through the article and you will learn why the classical Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) is still the best quality picture for your money.

If you still want to get a new TV, then ignore the specifications the manufacturers publish. The Display Myths Shattered: How Monitor Companies Cook Their Specs article tells us they are all grossly exaggerated and really don't indicate how good the display is for actually watching videos.

As for me, I'm sticking with my CRT!

Update: the surface conduction electron emitter display (SED) technology, described in the 2006 IEEE Spectrun article, is dead. In August 2010, the commercial development of SED was shut down.

Sun, 04 Apr 2010

Telecommuting productivity

Telecommuting is often portrayed as the great innovation and if only unenlightened companies and managers would permit more of it the world would be a better place. However, something is lost: tacit knowledge and productivity decreases.

Andy "Sandy" Pentland gave an interesting talk on the Reality Mining for Companies, or, How Social Networks Network Best at the 2009 O'Reilly Media Where 2.0 Conference. Technology now allows us to measure social interactions much better than before -- where are the people and what they are doing -- and the results are surprising. Instead of speculating whether reorganising a seating plan improves productivity, we can now measure it.

Although technology can give us the same access to explicit knowledge, the decrease in tacit knowledge (which is usually not measured) has a large negative impact on productivity. For example, face to face contact, having coffee and lunch with colleagues significantly improves productivity.

I'll remember that when I have coffee and lunch with my colleagues tomorrow. I do great things at work, and I credit that to the great people who work with me.

The above link has a video of the talk, but an audio only version is also available from IT Conversations.

Fri, 02 Apr 2010

Reality becoming a game?

IEEE Spectrum has an article about a presentation that they called The most disturbing presentation of the year. Games designer Jesse Schell describes at DICE 2010 a future where everything we do is motivated by getting game points--we'll be living in one big game.

Although he describes the future, I think parts of that future are already here today. Think frequent flyer miles and loyalty points. As with any technology, this can be used for good or for evil.

View a short 10 minute video clip of the presentation--especially for the twist at the end. Or watch the entire 28 minute video presentation.

Then again, isn't life already motivated by potential rewards? It is just that in real life the rewards are not as obvious or measurable as simple game points. Some rewards come many years after our actions. Some rewards come from persistence and dedication. Some rewards don't make sense to other people. If you think of your current life as a game, what game points do you value?

Thu, 01 Apr 2010

DIY passport photos

I'm getting my passport renewed, but why should I pay for a simple instant photo when I can take my own with a better quality camera?

It is easy to take a digial photo and to crop and scale it to the right size. The application form says the photos must be 45mm high and 35mm wide, and the head between 32-36mm tall. Printing to a 4x6 inch photo at 300dpi requires an image that is 1200x1800 pixels in size. The passport photos will be 540 pixels high and 420 pixels wide--you can get eight photos onto one print. The head will have to be between 384 and 432 pixels tall. That was simple mathematics.

The difficult part was the things that they don't tell you:

  • The head height measures just the face and does not include hair.
  • They wanted it on gloss paper instead of matt.

So I had to do it three times before I got it right!

They are very particular about the size of the face. If you are doing it, I suggest including some 10% larger and 10% smaller pictures on the print.

Still, doing it this way I have a much nicer looking photo and paid a small fraction of the price for it... just don't count the time and effort it took!

Sun, 07 Feb 2010

Khan Academy

Here's an example of someone making good use of this new media.

Salman Khan has created thousands of short videos to teach students everything from simple mathematics through to university science. Students around the world can watch these videos for free at the Khan Academy. Students can study the topics at their own pace, and repeat a topic until they understand it before moving on.

There is a podcast interview with Sal Khan on IT Conversations, where he discusses how the academy began and the successes it has achieved.

This is an example of where the Internet is used for good. To be a student in the Internet age poses many distractions and dangers, but it also brings many wonderful opportunities for learning.

Fri, 01 Jan 2010

Hello World!

The start of the new year. A good time to update my Web site and to start this blog.

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