Category Archives: consumer

Samsung Galaxy Note is not too big.

Just got the Note. The AT&T model differs from the prior European model, I believe. Previously I had an iPhone, probably could even be the original one. I think my iPhone was using cogs and gears, so slow. If I opened the map and started entering an address, by the time the screen would respond to the first character, I would stumble upon my destination or get there by stopping at every gas station along the way. Well, anyway.

Most reviews of the new Note carry on about the size. Yes, it is larger but not by that much. In fact, like monitors and flat screen TVs, its the trim (bevel) that makes them look larger. The Samsung Note’s screen size is just about right. If Apple came out with a five and a half inch smart phone all the pundits would be drooling and everyone buying; let’s see how cool this would look in the cafe!

If I put the phone in my shirt pocket only about half an inch sticks out at the top, and that part is the trim where the camera and AT&T logo are located. Highly nerdy looking, btw. It is not very pocketable. They could have made the Note even better by minimizing the top and bottom bevels.

So, since it is a cross between a phone and a pad, where and how do you carry the dam thing? Is it squinting into tiny little screens or “hey baby, I’m happy to see you in a square kind of way!”.

As to the phone’s worth? [After using it a few days? Great!]

Screen:
Of course, the screen is great. A Netflix movie looks awesome. But, what noob would really watch many movies on a phone; what about cinematography, sound, and all that? Better for shorter stuff like Youtube videos. At least, currently, for my tastes.

Stylus:
Meah. I tried it once, it did not keep up with my strokes. Perhaps, there is a setting for it. I will probably use it if I can adjust that. I think the old Palm Pilot’s pen kept up with the strokes, so a dual-core 1.5GHz system should do better. [update: Tried it a few times. I selected the eraser. If you stroke too fast, the eraser circle disappears. Come on, really?]. I read somewhere that this lag is due to the Note’s processor having to do it all; until Android 4.0 the graphics chip is not really used to its fullest. Don’t know if that is true.

Apps and OS:
It works and looks pretty much like a Galaxy SII Skyrocket. I think they changed a few things and the Skyrocket seems a little smoother and less error prone. Like the soft keys, volume rocker, and sleep switch are just too sensitive on the Note. Maybe it will take getting used to the new form factor so that the hands don’t trigger unwanted actions.

Active Apps app
I was testing the Navigator GPS app that has voice prompting and all that. Then I had to leave on an errand to a different location. The app just kept telling me “turn here, turn here you idiot; your going the wrong way!” Very annoying. I couldn’t stop it.

So, I clicked on the app for active apps, the navigator did not show in the list, huh? Its speaking, knows where I should be going, not where I want to go. So I just dragged the top of the home screen down (nice Android feature) to list the app, opened it, got to its menu, and exited it. In the meantime I almost went off the highway. Yea, don’t drink or mobile while driving, especially with a Note that needs two hands, and a Padma Mayurasana to manipulate. Maybe these things should except an overriding voice input: “shut up!”. Not you honey, this thing that is always so happy to see you.

Update
Feb 21, 2012:
Headphone does not mute speaker volume?
Was using the Note at work today. Had the headphones on. People looked at me like I’m a nut. Turns out the Note was ringing all over the place. I thought my tinkering with the ringtones was just in my earphones. What is up with that? I don’t remember if the iPhone automatically muted the speaker when the headphone was connected. In both, of course, the music, like Pandora was still going through the headphone. Someone told me I first have to reduce the volume so that the ringer is off, then plug in the headphone. Seems convoluted. [that did not work. If you mute the ringer, then only the media volume is working.]

When I Receive A Call, The Ringtone Is Not Heard Through The Hands Free Headset. Is There A Setting To Turn It On?

There are no configurable options or settings available to turn on the ability to hear the ringtones through the headset, they are heard through the handset itself, only. This is a matter of safety, as the decibel level for a normal call is much lower than that of a ringtone. Due to the decibel level of a ringtone being much louder than the human voice, the ringtones are not audible through the headset to protect against possible hearing loss.

That sounds like a lame excuse. If the handset can detect that a headphone plug was inserted or removed it can reduce the ringer volume to a subset of the media volume. Or should, but what do I know?
Blanking of the screen:
The “normal” settings for blanking don’t stop the screen from blanking so quickly. Turns out that is a setting in the custom power saving mode. Maybe it is elsewhere and I missed it.

Good reviews on youtube:

Further Reading

  1. On Wikipedia
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note Top Tips Collection
  3. Download Android app, give away your body, mind and soul?
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note page
  5. Samsung Galaxy Note: Unboxing, size comparison to Galaxy S II

  6. The Samsung Galaxy Note Vs Galaxy S II Vs Pockets Showdown / “Pocketability” demo!
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Pedestrian route production patent

Interesting patent issued to Microsoft, “Pedestrian route production“.

This could be seen as application of the general ‘agent’ concepts I wrote about in one of my prior blog posts on Software Agents, “Synergistic Social Agent Network Cloud“.

Further Reading

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News Literacy Project teaches how to sort fact from fiction

Just saw this on a TV news show. Boy is this needed! You’d be surprised what people take for real news today.

The News Literacy Project (NLP) is an innovative national educational program that mobilizes seasoned journalists to help middle school and high school students sort fact from fiction in the digital age.

The project teaches students critical-thinking skills that will enable them to be smarter and …
Learn More

The only negative I can see is that if people really start questioning the “news” and scrutinizing the bombardment of political-social-economic morass being spewed, there may be a revolution. Minimally we wouldn’t even vote in elections; after all what criteria distinguishes one bozo from another, the shiny nose quotient? (Just lame attempt at humor, maybe).

Further Reading
News Literacy Project


Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme) from “Empire Jazz”

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Un-uninstallable software

Imagine if you bought a vacuum cleaner, it broke, but you couldn’t throw it out. It became bad hardware, malware, ruining your life, sneaking around, tripping you on stairs, eating your food, and checking out your spouse.

Software that you can’t uninstall is just as bad. Why don’t reviews deal with this aspect of any software?

I don’t know how bad it is in Linux and Mac world, but just from my own experience, it is almost a given in the Windows world. You either live with old stuff you don’t use (and could even be taking up CPU and storage bandwidth) or you attempt to follow arcane procedures dealing with the Registry and advanced Yogic postures while rebooting hundreds of times.

Maybe we should reverse charge the vendors and yes even open source organizations a fee for using our systems as backup installations. Is un-uninstallable software malware, criminal?

This is mostly a payware issue. For example, I have some trial software that is uninstallable, like Acronis backup thing. But, this is not just a payware thing. I once installed the JDK 1.6.0.23 on a system. The install folder got wiped accidentally, but now it won’t reinstall, even after going through the Registry to clean out old references. Can you imagine the “normal” user, the ones who use the DVD tray for a cup-holder, what they go through?

Further Reading
Faustian descent into backup hell: A play in two acts

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Are lottery odds incorrect, and your chances drastically worse?

A simple application of elementary probability shows that lottery odds as reported by the operators are incorrect.

Note: I have delayed posting this for a while since the results I come up with seem incorrect. Hopefully someone can respond and tell me where the problem lies.

Solved?

If I follow the logic expressed at What are the odds of hitting the same number twice on a roulette table? and apply it to the lottery situation then the lottery is computed correctly by the lottery operators. The critical aspect is that the first selection’s probability doesn’t matter to the person taking the risk. The second part of the cited page gives the odds for a specific number being picked twice. I think that case applies to an external observer to a particular lottery game instance. Huh?

About a year ago while speaking with my brother Robert on the phone he casually mentioned a joke he made. He said lotteries are so funny since the winning number has to be picked twice in order to win. First by the lottery company and then by the player. We both laughed.

But, then later I did a double take, huh? That is true, you have to pick the number set, and then a few days later, the lottery company will also pick a set. If the sets match then you win. Ok, that makes sense. But, if seen this way, the probability value they give for winning couldn’t be correct. Could it? They only give the odds of picking any set, not the winning set. It has to be much harder to win, thus, the probability much lower.

How to compute the Probability?
In probability theory there are rules for combination of events. If the events in an “experiment” are independent, you just multiply the probability values of each: P(A and B) = P(A intersection B) = P(A)P(B).

Further details are on this High School wiki page:

Multiplying probabilities

Probabilities are multiplied together whenever an event occurs in multiple “stages” or “steps.” For example, consider rolling a single die twice; the probability of rolling a 6 both times is calculated by multiplying the probabilities for the individual steps involved. Intuitively, the first step is simply the first roll, and the second step is the second roll. Therefore, the final probability for rolling a 6 twice is as follows:

P(rolling a 6 twice) = P(rolling a 6 the first time) X P(rolling a 6 the second time) = 1/6 X 1/6 = 1/36 approx 2.8%

Similarly, note that the multiplication of probabilities is often associated with the use of the word “and” — whenever we say that some event E is equivalent to all of the events X, Y, and Z occurring, we use multiplication to combine their probabilities (if they are independent).

More info on this wikipedia entry: Probability, Mathematical treatment

Does this apply to the lotteries, like Powerball? There are two events, though separated by days. The consumer, player, picks a set, then later the operator picks there own set. And, they are independent, neither event is dependent on the other. So, the problem, to me, is interpreting the “experiment”. I contend that the whole game, which takes place over a few days is one thing, an experiment, and so the multiplication rule applies.

Rolling a 195,249,054 sided Spherical polyhedron
Another way of relating them is to use two die rolls. But now instead of a die with six faces we use N faces, where N is the total number of possible number sets we could pick in a lottery game. This “die” is really a form of Spherical polyhedron. Lets say N is 195,249,054 possible unique numbers, which correspond to each possible set. So when we roll two dice the total probability would be (1/195,249,054 X 1/195,249,054). Remember, these are “normal” die, just having a ginormous number of faces.

The above is not even mentioned in the Lottery math references, for example, this Wikipedia entry, Lottery mathematics. So some conceptual misunderstanding on my part is very likely.

Example
Lets take an actual example, the Powerball lottery states on their “Powerball – Prizes and Odds” page that to win the Grand Prize the odds are: 1 in 195,249,054. This is derived by application of math stuff to determine the combinations of the five white balls (1-59) and a red ball (1-39).

If we apply the multiplication rule the actual probability of winning is:

1 in 38,122,193,087,894,916

That’s 1 in 38 quadrillion. Big difference!
In scientific notation: 3.8122193087894916 x 1016

What is the Expected Value now?

Error?
This analysis couldn’t be correct. First, the number is too large, there are too many winners. Second, I have never heard of anything like this. Surely if this were the case it would be news. So where is the mistake?

I think it has something to do with the “same set of numbers”. Then its not just a simple multiplication of probability? If I find out, I’ll update this post.

So what?
You should not be paying the “idiot tax”. True, but when the prize reaches 100 million I bet there are some math professors out there buying a ticket too. Further, it is an interesting math subject.

Updates
This article analyzes the occurrence of a lottery draw that duplicated the same numbers and argues that my kind of instinctive analysis above is incorrect. Adventures in Probability. So, perhaps, the way to look at this issue is to compute the probability of the same winning combination being picked twice in a row? What the article says that it is 3.8 X10^16 but this has to be multiplied by the amount of combinations, so:
(1/((3.8 x 10^16) * 195,249,054))*195249054 = 1/195249054. That same as what the lottery provider quotes!

I don’t get it yet. Then why is the two dice example where each die has ‘N’ faces not calculated in the same way?

Further Reading

Off Topic

Appendix
Groovy program to print the product:

x = new Long('195249054');
printf('%,d',(x * x));
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Wrap rage?

So many rages these days. Wrap rage? aren’t scissors the answer?

Nature is so wise, putting incisors in Humans, not for meat eating, but for their future creation of product packaging!

Man gets jailed for attack!

Man gets jail time for attacking his neighbor. He plead innocent; was only trying to open the dam blister package with a scissor; it slipped and stabbed his neighbor, who was standing there giggling and pontificating on the demise of society.

Jury decided that he was really mad at the pontification, not at the package. Asked Judge if they could visit the victim so that they could attack him too; they are sick of all these downers.

Yeah, I made it up. But, these packages are a PITA.

Its not just clamshell or hard plastic packaging. They are just too tight and have no dangling or extension to rip, cut, or undo.

One day I got a box of water crackers. They were tightly packaged, not even a piece at the end with the jagged edge that you could simply rip. Even a knife could not pry the ends open. No wonder primates are taking their time evolving.

Further reading
Wrap Rage

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Contextual State Transfer

My TV just connected to the internet, now it wants me to “close”. This is a good example of a user interface not tracking user context.

When I use the TV to connect to the web the final screen is:

Internet Content Connection Status
——————————————–
The internet content is ready

/———-
| Close |
———–/
——————————————–

It took me a few nanoseconds to understand and know what to do: it is just a continue box. Other people, I won’t say who, were stumped. “Close” what, the internet connection I was just trying to establish, case to the DVD cabinet? The fix in this case is to use the word ‘continue’ instead of ‘close’.

A lot of software is like this. Sometimes it is just a language or cultural thing. Most of the time it is the software not tracking the user’s contextual state. What is the users goal, and how does the user think they are currently related to that goal.

Here is another example, I just committed some files into a version control system. What my intent is now is just to exit the graphical app, I did the commit, or did I? Now I am faced with three buttons, ‘commit’, ‘undo’, ‘cancel’. What if I hit commit again? What does ‘cancel’ do? Isn’t that just like undo? It turns out that I really did commit, and ‘cancel’ is the exit button.

There are multiple flows in an application. The internal software control and data flows, and the external flows. The most important flow is the user flow, what the user embodies in their experience, culture, dexterity, and intelligence. Perhaps what is needed is a CxST (Contextual State Transfer) approach.

The user is using a Contextual Prediction Engine, the human brain. Apps, are glorified Finite State Machines. Perhaps modern “AI” can bridge that gap automatically?

Great systems track the contextual state of the user.

Related

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Synergistic Social Agent Network Cloud

Summary

Multi-agent systems embedded in the social cloud offer more value then ‘Apps’.

Key words: agents, multi-agent, dynamic networks, social networks, Recommender system, cloud, cloud agent

Synergistic Mobile Agent Social Net MindMap
Synergistic Mobile Agent Social Cloud Mind Map (click for larger view)

Updates

2014-10-28: I see Google is doing a new “Physical Web” effort”. Intro is here.

Background

Mobile apps have not been very gratifying. Testing an app last year gave some clarity to what I felt to be a problem with the current App ecosystem. And, this is not just a mobile issue, but also for traditional computing platforms. I have been thinking of this subject for years. This is just, finally, a very simple and pragmatic example.

Scenario

Last year I downloaded an app that locates the cheapest gas based on my current location. Whether cheap gas should be used in one’s car is not the point here. The app could have been one for finding the best licensed massage therapist or bookstore. The point, is this using mobile computing to its full potential?

What if the cheap gas station is located in an area where crime is very high? Should I risk a carjacking just to save 3 cents? What if I’m about to run out of gas now, is the cheapest gas too far away? We can get even more complicated of course. What if I have to be at an appointment, shouldn’t the cheap criteria be augmented with route info; the cheapest gas is the one easiest to get to on my way to or from my appointment.

In short, the current app is one-dimensional. Real life is multidimensional and the human brain easily makes decisions within this mostly analog fuzzy chaos. If an app cannot make decisions or recommendations in that same world, it collapses the dimensions, it is a dumbing down.

Solution

How can the app be made more dimensional? AGENTS. The app should really be an Agent that cooperates with other agents to fulfill a need, in this case finding cheaper gas. Thus, it should talk to other autonomous agents, such as:

  • calendar
  • law enforcement to grade destination
  • vehicle network for fuel requirements
  • traffic
  • mapper
  • GPS
  • weather
  • retail for
    • quality
    • complaints
    • hours of operation
    • costs
  • Social Net
  • Politics
  • Financial
  • map routing, and so forth.

It should also be informed by human agents in a trusted relationship with the user. What we then have is An Ad Hoc Dynamic Network of Social Agent Recommenders (AhDyNoSAR).

The Mind Map Diagram shown previously gives a contextual view of this idea.

Let’s look at another example. Someone is walking in neighborhood that has a few restaurants. The embedded Agent notes that the last time the person ate was a few hours ago (based on shopping venue, Calendar, etc.). The shop’s agents are contacted and a decision processing workspace is created. Is the person currently viable, do they have cash or credit available? Each store will check inventory and accounting ratios, does it need to offer a discount or promotion to this person? More agents mobilize to assert their criteria. What are the person’s tastes, dietary restrictions and allergies, past intake (who wants pizza twice in one day?), and other multidimensional agents in a problem space hierarchy are evoked.

After all agents complete their reckonings and the spontaneous net reaches a stable resonance, the person’s intimate personal soft computing agents make a decision. It turns out that the person is currently following their spiritual observance and is fasting today. This result is sent into the local agent milieu and starts a new search for resonance, so no food, how about some clothing or reading material? Again a new recommendation graph is created, religious and political leanings are queried, clothing and accessory rules are fired, ah, that is a very old turban, here are some suggestions.

Unfortunately, the person has now walked into a new map space, a neighborhood park. Now new agents awake: social engagement, entertainment, sexual, defensive.

Interface

It would be so gross if the information that this new cloud offers is shown as ads. A better approach is that this information space is entered as a virtual world, using technologies like that of Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The consumer becomes an Avatar moving through Recommendation Space, a superimposed view on current locality based environments. Instead of or in addition to other consumers, the other characters are the various agents most visible recommendation goal.

Antagonistic

Unlike Apps an Agent should always be considered adversarial. That is, even when an agent provides a benefit, it also can allow intentionally or via weaknesses a loss of security and privacy since it must negotiate information with other agents. Thus, though current or future standards may be used, they must be in virtual application spaces that use encrypted anonymous data. This will be just as virus and other malware, an ongoing battle.

Collaboration

It would not be optimal to require a download of an agent to each user’s location or device. Instead, agents will exist in the cloud as a multi-agent system. A user will have a private cloud virtual machine and address space for agent storage and recommendation space. To handle disconnected use, an agent will have a mobile agent shadow. It will provide simple assistance and will punt decisions and actions it cannot handle until connection to the cloud is established.

Monetization

With Apps, the app provider may require purchase or try to enforce lock-in or an advertising monopoly. This can also be accomplished by centralizing the App marketplace. This may not work directly with Agents. Agents may not even provide an obvious visible function. For example, an agent may just contribute parking meter locations and status to other agents that use a map agent.

In the real world eventually someone has to pay the piper. So too will the development and use of agents must be rewarded. Some options are:

  • Advertising:
    An agent can contribute to an advertising stream that ultimately reaches the consumer facing user interface device.
  • Agent micropayments:
    Agents will negotiate among their collaborators to maintain a balance of payments, an agent of agents, and this payment is satisfied by the user or the user’s fee structure that the network provider maintains.
  • Purchase:
    The consumer will purchase agents. If the fidelity and number of agents is adequate the quality of service is greater.
  • Other.

Dangers

Security

Of course, the internet is currently wide open and thus this opens up predation to another level if Agent “sandboxes” are porous, if personal data is not secure.

Privacy

The present cavalier attitudes regarding personal privacy exhibited by the large Internet service providers is a big warning sign that giving agents access to even more information would be just another data mining delicacy ripe for exploitation.

Future

And now for an even more far out scenario. In a classic Science Fiction novel, before a character dies, a copy of their knowledge is captured. This intelligence is then available for implantation into someone as an “Aspect”, an agent that can add its unique expertise and judgment to the human host. That is a more radical direct means for accomplishing something that the social networking may evolve into, a means to collect knowledge and translate that into a ubiquitous intelligence.

Conclusion

Presented was a critique of conventional app centric mobile computing and a suggestion that Agent technology can provide a more realistic computing environment. The term Agent was not defined here. Perhaps the difference with an App is just intent or where the output is ingested. The experts are still debating Agent technology and its applications.

Updates

Acknowledgments

Further Reading

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GPS Embedded Into Eyeglasses

Sure you can put stuff into eyeglasses, however why not put it into smartphones and use eyeglasses as an optional output device?

Wherein Japan Stuffs a GPS System Into a Pair of Eyeglasses – Techland – TIME.com.  In this project a GPS system is embedded into a pair of eyeglasses.  Awesome!

But, if you take a smartphone like an iPhone which already has a map and GPS system, you can also, using Bluetooth for example, drive the eyeglass LED to provide directional signals for walking or riding things like bicycles.

Not only that, if you really do need more info, the system can detect whether you are really moving or not and then allow you to trigger the Head-Up-Display (HUD) output.  Thus, you then have access to a full map and its associated social location-aware applications.

I’m sure this is not a new idea, its in Science Fiction novels and computer games. It is probably also found in hundreds of patents around this “meme” (?).  Anyway, my brain read the article and flashed the ‘real’ solution.

All rights reserved 🙂

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