Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Musings on an iPhone camera

I'm in the Fairmont in San Jose (quite a nice hotel, btw), giving a talk at the Nvidia GPU summit in two days, and the sunset from my window was breathtaking. One of those beautiful warm autumn days in California, cloudless from pleasant gentle gusts of wind, the horizon aglow with peach and orange and crimson, broken in places by silouettes of the interposing buildings.

I used to think I'd never use a camera phone, but I turned out to be wrong.  I always have it at hand, and it's just too conveinent.  I whipped out my trusty little iPhone and took a picture. What my eye saw in the sunset was not at all what the iPhone captured. Comparing the two was a pretty striking difference--the color reproduction was completely off and the contrast messed up. Didn't even look like the same skyline. I knew that it would take a real camera with all the corresponding f-stops, exposures, lenses, color filters, etc. to make it look like what I saw, and I had a real appreciation at that moment for photographers and the art of photography. Most people think it's just pointing and shooting, but there's much more in capturing what the eye sees.  (I've attached the crappy picture that my iPhone took.)

Is there a point to this post? Not really. Unless you're one of the people who makes camera phones. Don't stop working on making point & click capture what the eye sees. I'm sure it's a terrifically difficult problem. Maybe I'll learn someday about digital photography and the hundreds of compromises in incorporating a sophisticated camera into a phone so I can appreciate the work that already has gone into it. But right now they're still far from perfect.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day Trip to ESC Boston

Tuesday (Sept. 22, 2009) I made a trip to ESC Boston for a speaking engagement--out and back on the same day.  I gave a presentation titled "Creating Dynamic User Interfaces with Adobe Flash."  The basic topic was explaining how you can create a solid embedded system with Flash despite being originally designed for the web environment.

Given the economic climate, the show floor was pretty well populated. I took a tour around the booths, talking to interesting companies and meeting with partners. Nobody I recognized. Not like I know everyone in the industry, but seeing nobody I recognized was a little unusual. It were more auto-focused, I'm sure I would have seen some familar faces.

Around two dozen people attended my talk, which is pretty good for this type of venue.  A lot of questions and feedback afterwards--people coming up to ask post-talk questions are always a good sign.  I think that in general it kept the audience's interest, except for one poor guy who was audibly snoring during one part.  Hey buddy, I don't blame you, since I got up at 4:30am to catch my plane--catch some winks while you can ;-)

Most of the questions were certainly focused around people grasping two concepts.  Using Adobe Flash in embedded, and using an RTOS for Adobe instead of Windows.  Many people didn't realize that Flash could be used in an embedded environment, so this was an interesting development for them.  Certainly expands the choices in HMI (Human Machine Interface) creation.  Those that were already using Flash pretty much thought Microsoft was the only deployment option.  One in particular was asking about Silverlight (Microsoft's direct Flash competitior) and whether or not Microsoft's would continue support of Adobe, to which I could only reply "that's certainly a decision left to Microsoft."  That person was very interested in the possibility of picking up a more stable OS environment for their Flash-based application, and clearly was concerned about the long-term support that Microsoft would be offering.

I can never be absolutely never certain when I give a talk whether or not anyone is listening or not.  Thankfully this time, I'm pretty sure they were.  It made the whole trip worthwhile.  (And if you read my last blog entry, you'll be happy to know that I got my demo up with hours to spare for show-time!  Thanks goes to Ben VandenBelt for his support.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lessons for the Travelled Speaker

I think it's an indicator that you've given a sufficient number of public speaking engagements when you're not stressed at all going in.  I'm presenting a session at ESC Boston this afternoon (Sept. 22, 2009).  Calm as a cucumber.  However, I will fess up.  I decided to let wisdom prevail and do a quick run-through on the plane of the presentation and to ensure my demo works.    This is one of those times when you realize why run-throughs are needed.  Presentation?  Piece of cake.  Demo?  Not so much.

I had my laptop scraped a month ago by our IS department because of a networking problem they couldn't resolve, no matter how many driver files they replaced.  They decided a brand-new install of Windows XP might be the trick to stop my machine from giving the Blue Screen of Death once a day.  Thankfully, it seemed to have cured the problem.  However, I've been discovering piece-by-piece all the software I hadn't re-installed along the way.  VMWare workstation was one of those.  I had installed the VMWare Player, but not the Workstation.  As it turns out, the VMWare image I needed to run for my demo wasn't able to run on the Player.  Ironic, because I had been using the VMWare Player on a bunch of other images just yesterday and it worked flawlessly.  Could be why I had fallen into complacency about testing out my demo.

I'm currently staring at a copy dialog for installing VMWare workstation over our corporate VPN through the conference center WiFi.  I started at "168 minutes remaining", but thankfully while writing this blog I'm now down to "134 minutes".  If there's any chance that you're attending my session about Creating Dynamic User Interfaces with Adobe Flash, don't worry at all--I've got plenty of time before I talk.  Way more than 134 minutes.

Similar to a backup strategy where you only realize you should have made a backup only after something catastrophic happens, I've got another axiom.  No matter how many times you've presented or demoed, it always pays to double-check and do a dry run.  Thankfully, I did!

I'll post on the ESC Boston presentation after this afternoon...

Friday, September 18, 2009

DSO is the worst marketing term ever invented

Of course I'm biased: I work for QNX, and DSO is a Wind River term.  Please take that information as a full disclosure up front.

But come on now--really.  "Device Software Optimization?"  This acronym, which has been around for forever now, is Wind River's TLA that they love to trot out at any opportunity.  I've asked a lot of people what it means (WRS employees included), and nobody has a consistent answer.  Even reading Wind's marketing copy doesn't illuminate.  Why?  Because it means nothing.

Device Software Optimization means to optimize the software to the device?  Where I'm from, that's called "writing software".  How many engineers don't do DSO, even if they don't have the faintest clue what that means, or don't use any WRS products?  Exactly my point--all of them.

Maybe someone reading this post will be able to finally once and for all be able to explain DSO to me and lift the fog.  Please do.  I remain open to the possibility that I shouldn't hate this term.

Use of the English Language

English sentences are crafted to communicate thoughts, dreams, ideas, emotions, desires--the full range of human expression.  Words are powerful.  The right words can begin a relationship, and the wrong ones can sour one.  Words can be as mundane as a technical conversation, as inspirational as a charasmatic speech, as meaningful as a lover's poetry.

I consider myself a decent writer, but I have grown a phenomenal amount learning about the subtleties of communication from the people I work closely with in Marcoms.  I'm going to dedicate my very first post to my Marcoms friends.  I have the greatest respect for their profession and their ability to craft the raw clay that I create into a work of art.  I understand how the massive redlines and honing they do improves the final product.  Although the work they often do is "invisible," our organization would be fraught with communication breakdowns without them.  I do not invest my ego in my specific words; I wouldn't have it any other way.

And to them I apologize in advance.  I can guarantee that my posts, my taglines, my thoughts, my ideas, all will be as raw as the first drafts they receive--full of split infinitives, ambiguous subjects, overused adjectives, unclear tense, mixed voice, dangling particples, non-parallel constructions, ending prepositions, and abused punctuation.  But it is mine--every word of it.  So, please read and enjoy.  Hopefully I'll have something worthwhile to say that you'll want to listen to.  But ya ain't correctin' my English.