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Ok, Glass… Hack Portal … Geek Cred Restored, Good Work

Ok, Glass…

This box is 100% paper. So use it to write a letter to your Grandma. Or at least, please, recycle it. All of it.

That's what it says on the side of the box my Google Glass came in. Perhaps it says something about the demographic Google is targeting for their Explorer program.

Google Glass is a pair of glasses you can wear with a little screen above your line of site you can use to communicate online. It connects with your cellphone, with BlueTooth and Wifi. It has a camera you can take pictures with and a speaker you can listen to things with. It takes voice commands and you can send additional commands by touching the side of the Google Glass.

The Explorer program is for about 8,000 people that responded on social media; Twitter or Google+ about what they would do with Google Glass. Back in February, I tweeted,

#ifihadglass I'd look to improve #healthequity using augmented reality for Public Health and #fqhc

They liked the quote and invited me to join the Glass Explorer program. I told people at work and they were very excited. They kept asking me when I would get Google Glass. I waited and waited. Finally, on June 5th, I got a message from Google:

Your Glass is now ready! Please purchase within 14 days. Follow this link to pay and schedule your pickup:

Yesterday, I joined two of my coworkers in New York to pick up Google Glass.

Hack Portal
I caught the train from Milford, CT. Before I got on the train, I stopped to capture some enemy portals in the game, Ingress. Ingress is an augmented reality game for cellphones developed by a NianticLabs at Google. As you walk around an area, you see an overlay of game pieces on you cellphone. There are portals which are controlled by two different teams, the resistance, sometimes called Smurfs, since their color is blue, and the enlightened, sometimes called frogs since their color is green. If you destroy an enemy portal and capture it for your team, you gain points. Your level in the game is based on the number of points you've accumulated. I was about 90,000 points away from reaching Level 8, the highest level currently possible in the game. I gained about 30,000 points in Milford waiting for the train.

There are many Ingress portals in New York City, and everyone said I should easily be able to gain the remaining 60,000 points there. Yet I didn't have a lot of time. Along the way, I captured a few portals and then visited my brother, who was already Level 8. He gave me some items for the game that would help me reach Level 8.

I met with my co-workers and we discussed how we would use Google Glass in health care. This is a discussion just getting going. We sat down for my Google Glass fitting. My account was set up for Google Glass, connecting it with features on my cellphone. We tested out various features and details about Glass were explained. It was all very exciting.

To activate Google glass, you tap the side of the glass, or glance upwards. Then, to send a command, you start with, "Ok, Glass…" You then tell Glass the command you want. Take a picture. Record a video. You can also send messages, call people, look things up in Google, get directions, and join a Google Hangout. There was not an option to "Hack Portal".

On my way to the train station, I captured a few more portals. Down to 30,000 points needed to achieve Level 8. I could have easily reached level 8 if my battery hadn't died on my cellphone. It appears as if the battery also died on my Google Glass. On the train, I plugged both of the devices in to recharge and had a good discussion with people sitting next to me on the train about Google Glass.

With Glass partly charged, I tried to power it up, but I get a blank screen. I'll get back to that later.

I arrived in Milford and found that all the portals I had captured in the morning had been recaptured by the opposing team during the day. This was actually fortunate for me. My phone was now about half recharged, and there were plenty of portals to try and recapture. Using some of the items my brother gave me, I quickly gained the remaining 30,000 points and reached Level 8, even though members of the opposing team appears to be actively trying to stop me from capturing their portals.

Geek Cred Restored

The past year has been a challenge for me. I ran for State Representative. I often tell people that I didn't get elected, but I won. I won by talking with people about issues like education and health care, about the failures of test based education and about the inequities in our health care system. I did my fellowship in the Connecticut Health Foundation's Health Leadership Fellows Program. I mourned the death of my mother, and through all of it tried go be a good husband, father, and employee.

At the same time, I have been trying to spend more time writing, improving my craft. Yet with all of this, I've spent less time on more geeky pursuits. My old linux based Nokia N900 cellphone is on its last legs. I played a little bit with Raspberry Pi, but not a lot more.

When you capture a portal in Ingress, the game voice says, "Portal Captured, Good Work". Even though can't hack a portal with Glass, the combination of getting Google Glass and reaching Level 8 in Ingress, perhaps, restores a little geek cred.

"Good Work."
My mother was born in 1931. The youngest of seven children. Her mother was born in 1897, 116 years ago. I was the next to the youngest of my siblings, so my grandmother was 62 when I was born. My father's mother had died of cancer before I was born, so I never got to meet her.

My earliest memories of my grandmother are from when she and her husband lived in a small house in central Massachusetts. She would have been in her late sixties or early seventies. My grandfather would have been in the living room, watching a ball game on a small old black and white TV. He would offer us candies. My grandmother would be in the kitchen with her daughters, preparing the food for the family gathering. I would be running around with my siblings and cousins. With the exception of my younger sister, everyone would be older, perhaps much older.

My mother's mother died on flag day, June 14th, 1977. Yesterday was flag day, the thirty sixth anniversary of my grandmother's death. She died before cellphones, the internet or digital photography became ubiquitous. So, I won't be writing a letter to her on the box that my Google Glass came in. All of this is from a much different world. Yet what remains the same is the importance of being connected with one another, through pictures and videos shared via Google Glass, through getting together with people who have a shared interest in a game, whether it be golf, tennis, or Ingress.

Ingress, Field Trip and Glass

In one of the Google+ communities for Ingress players, a friend linked to the article, Deep inside Ingress, the Google-made game that's paving the way for Glass with the comment, "We're not sure how to make money on this."

I don't know who the 'we' he was referring to was. Google? His own business? I started to write a reply in the Google+ community, but it started growing so I decided to turn it into a blog post.

I'm not sure how much Google is looking at this in terms of being an immediate money maker, and a few different things come to mind. First, many technology pundits thought Google was nuts to pay as much as they did for YouTube when they bought it for $1.65 billion. Reports are that in 2012, YouTube had $3.6 billion in revenue.

Google seems to take a long view. They are well known for their twenty percent time. Google employees are allowed to spend twenty percent of their time working on projects that aren't necessarily in the in the employee's job description.

I don't know if Niantic Labs grew out of twenty percent time. I don't know how much Google has a long term plan for Ingress, Field Trip, Glass, etc., but I find all of them fascinating. Let's start off with Ingress. People have noted that there are many Duane Reade's as portals in Ingress. Did Duane Reade pay to have all these portals? Will other companies pay to have their locations host Ingress portals?

Yet Ingress is much more than portals at locations. There is a complicated multimedia backstory. There are YouTube videos, ebooks, and more. Will it lead to a best selling book? A feature length movie? An art exhibit? Will it change the way we relate to media? I must admit, I haven't followed the storyline that closely, but the implications for the future of media are fascinating.

People have linked Ingres to Glass. I expect to pick up my Google Glass next Friday. I had to pay for the Glass with my Google Wallet. Most of the discussions about Glass are taking place in Google+. It is a good way of getting people to use more Google products. The possibilities of Google Glass seem endless and I'll be exploring these more, both in my personal blog and my work blog.

This leads me to Field Trip. I just downloaded Field Trip and at first glance, it looks really interesting. As I've thought about Google Glass, I've been thinking about something along the lines of Field Trip, with a few specific tweaks. For example, I'd love to see a geocoded wiki which could be accessed through an app like Field Trip. Anyone could leave tips about places, links to other information, a sort of friendly twenty first century version of hobo code. Of course, I'd also like to see specialized databases, such as one that provides census data, FBI data, or health data about communities a person is traveling through.

So, how do individuals, not working for Google make money off of this? Well, there are a few different things that come to mind. It used to be that if you wanted to do business with someone, you would grab a bag of golf clubs and walk with that person around a golf course. One day, I got a call from a friend of my brother who is a financial planner. There was family business to discuss. He, my brother and I are all Ingress players, and that's how my brother and he met. Forget the golf clubs, grab a cellphone, maybe a spare battery pack, and head to the nearest collection of portals.

For me, I always try to stay on top of what is emerging. Somethings don't make it. Others do. Will Ingress, Field Trip and/or Glass make it? I can't tell, but I find them all very compelling. So, I'll keep exploring them. Perhaps enhancing my reputation as an early adopter, perhaps leading to opportunities to work with developing something else new and interesting. That may be a little vague, but may fit with Google's strategy.

Anticipating Glass

There are times when I don't write a blog post because the idea is still formulating in my mind. There are times when I don't write a blog post because I just don't have time or am too tired. Then, there are times when I have a great blog post, or perhaps a few different ones, that I have to wait to write and post them because of other timing issues.

Today, I received a direct message on Twitter that basically wrote a blog post for me for my job. At the same it sets up potential interesting personal blog posts about Ingress, the arts, and traveling to New York. Friends who have been following closely probably know the background to these pending blog posts, but the posts will have to wait until the right time.

Until a couple final details fall into place, hopefully tomorrow, the blog posts will have to wait, no matter how hard it is for me and for others.


A month and a half ago, my brother invited me to play the game Ingress. It is an augmented reality game played on Android smartphones. The smartphone becomes a 'scanner' searching for "exotic matter", the energy in the game, and portals. All of this is tied to physical locations and the GPS on the smartphone is an important component.

There are two factions in the game, The Enlightened and The Resistance. Each faction tries to capture portals belonging to the other side, and from there, establish links between portals. These portals can be linked together in fields. Besides attacking and linking portals, you can also "hack" portals, to gain game pieces. As with many games, you gain experience and go up in levels.

In the six weeks that I've been playing, I've made it up to level seven, out of eight levels. I've captured many portals, created fields, destroyed fields, and gotten to meet some interesting people.

Over this time, my style of play has changed as I've become more experienced, gained more items and gotten to know people.

Beyond this, there is a whole complicated backstory, with information in YouTube videos, Google+ pages, and at various gatherings. The game is still in closed beta, but invites are becoming easier to get.

From the geeky side, it is a fun game, merging a virtual world with the physical world. There is plenty of strategy to explore. Yet the creative side is perhaps more interesting. As with other virtual games, the players are participating in an unfolding story. I haven't followed this story that closely yet, and I'm curious about to what extent the game play effects the way the story unfolds are takes shape.

As I have more time, I'll continue to level up, visit new portals, get to know the community better and perhaps start following the storyline more closely. It is a strange new world that I find fascinating.

#pcwm G33k Speak Recap

Like PodCamp WesternMass #4, perhaps the session that I got the most out of was one of the least attended sessions. This year, it was "G33k Speak". Perhaps there were only three of us that self identified as "G33k"s. Perhaps there were too many other good sessions going on at the same time.

So, three of us sat around and talked about technology we were really excited about. I spoke a little bit about Google Glass and Raspberry Pi. Tom Galanis talked about software. He currently teaches high school technology and wanted to get people's views on different languages. Which do you like more, Java, Javascript, C++, C#, Python, Ruby, Perl, or something else? How do you get people excited about programming.

I talked about how I've always told my children they were free to play any computer game that they could write. They started off with Logo and Scratch. In many ways, I think of Scratch as drag and drop logo. Of course I mentioned Scratch on Raspbery Pi.

Tom mentioned a site that is on my list to explore, Snap! Build Your Own Blocks 4.0. Essentially, it hosted scratch. I've played with this a little bit and may be recommending it to more people as a good way to get started with Scratch.

Another site that Tom mentioned as Construct 2.

Construct 2 is a powerful ground breaking HTML5 game creator designed specifically for 2D games. It allows anyone to build games — no coding required!

I started programming computers over forty years ago, and I like coding. I try to get others to like programming. I like working at the command line and writing my programs with a text editor. I'm not a big fan of integrated development environments or IDEs. At a later point in the discussion, we talked about the lack of good IDEs for HTML5, but as best as I can tell from first glance, that is exactly what Construct 2 is.

One review talked about Construct 2 nicely connecting with kongregate. I prefer to write games than to play games, but kongregate appears to be a good place for sharing games. I'll continue to keep an eye on how HTML5 and development environments for it evolve.

We talked briefly about databases. Generally, I use MySQL. Tom, or the other person in the session (I forget who it was), mentioned MariaDB. I've started reading about MariaDB and I will try to find some time to experiment with it. Some day. When I'm not as swamped with everything else in my life. As an aside, I started looking at installing MariaDB on Raspberry Pi, but I'll save that for another day.

There was also a brief discussion about Mir as a replacement for XWindows. Again, interesting to think about in terms of Raspberry Pi, but I'll save that for another day.

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