Entries related to technology.

Dear 16 Year Old Me

Recently, a friend posted the question on Facebook, "If you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at 16.. what would you say?"

People posted all kinds of stuff about enjoying concerts, not taking themselves too seriously, etc. My first reaction was, "It wouldn't matter, I wouldn't have listened". This was followed by thinking about what I would have thought 36 years ago if some guy came up to me and said he was from the future. I also always come back to the idea of show, don't tell. With that, here are some guesses about what might of happened:

Journal Entry, November 20, 1975: I was hanging out at the Student Union today, eating some french fries when this weird guy came up to me. He looked a little bit like me, just a bit heavier, balding and with a grey beard. A bit like a cross between me, Santa Claus and my Uncle Bud or Uncle Roger. At first I though he was someone who worked at the college and was going to tell me and other townies to leave the student union. Then I thought, maybe he's a professor. When he started talking I thought, maybe he was a professor that had gotten into some cult and lost his tenure. Hard to tell.

He said he was me, from the twenty first century and started talking about the importance of education, especially computers, telephones and cameras, but also not to take myself to seriously. I thought maybe he was going to hand me a tract or ask for a donation, so I finished up my fries quickly and headed down to Spring Street.

Journal entry, November 27, 1975: I was hanging out at the student union again. This time, I was down in the basement at the radio station. I was reading the news coming off the teletype and the strange guy showed up again. He started talking about how people would have their own news wires on small telephones that they carried around with them. He showed me this small thing. He said it was one of those telephones. On it was a screen called Twitter. It had lots of short messages on it, but very few of them actually seemed to be newsworthy. I shrugged and headed over to the rathskeller. There was a good folk music duo playing. Not many people were hanging out, but it was a good show. Between sets the strange guy showed up again. He talked about how in the twenty first century, people would watch shows like this on their telephone. He showed me a thing called YouTube. It was like a small color tv on his telephone. The music he showed me was pretty good. Then he started talking about how people would be able to make their own television shows, and he showed me something really stupid with a talking orange.

I don't know. The future he's talking about seems about as mindless as the seventies.

Internet Avatar

Hardware, Software, Pixels, Sound. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when marketers from the Pixel Nation tried to take over the Internet.

My daughters love the show, Avatar the Last Air Bender, and are eagerly awaiting the The Legend of Korra. Through the fan site, my eldest and youngest daughters watched the first two episodes. Afterwards, I told Fiona that she needed to work on her pixel bending. Later, I talked more about it, and it occurred to me that following the four elements of Avatar, there were four elements of the internet and video games.

Hardware, Software, Pixels, Sound. A good internet experience, or video game experience, is likely to be based on most, if not all of these elements. As I thought more about it, it seemed that each of these have long histories.

The Hardware Benders, are the craftsmen and artisans of ages ago. They were the blacksmiths, shoeing horses, later, creating sculptures, moved over to gear heads, ham radio operators, and folks building computers in their garages.

Then, there are the Software Benders. These are the writers, the poets, the bards. They've gone from creating experiences with words in ancient languages to using new languages like Java or C++.

The pixel benders are the painters, from the caves of France to the post-impressionists, and on through photography, videography and animation.

And of course, the sound benders are the musicians from their didgeridoos to their digital synthesizers. The internet experience and the video game experience brings together all of this.

Perhaps this provides a useful way to help get youth to work on their pixel bending and sound bending.

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Digging into Empire Avenue Data.

A while ago, I wrote about programs that I had created using the Empire Avenue API to extract portfolio information. Originally, I wrote about using it for my own portfolio, but you can also get limited information about other people's portfolios.

So, I started pulling down the portfolios of the people that I own stock in to do some expanded analysis. Given the limits of the Empire Ave API, I can only pull down around half a dozen large portfolios per hour. Nonetheless, I kept it running for an extended period until I had pulled down around 450 different portfolios. I then loaded the data in MySQL and started crunching some numbers.

From these 450 different portfolios, I came up with approximate 30,000 different tickers. 38 different tickers appeared in over two thirds of all the portfolios I analyzed. 134 showed up in half of the portfolios, and 360 showed up in at least a third of the portfolios. Nearly 10,000 showed up in only one portfolio.

Not surprisingly, as a general rule, the 38 tickers were highly active players that are on various leader boards. It seems as if by using this data, it should be possible to recognize people that cluster into certain groups and acts as connectors between these groups. However, I have yet to find nice ways of coming up with these groupings.

Exploring Images from Flickr through Empire Avenue to Instagram, Streamzoo and Gimp

People have often told me, I need more images on my blog. Images get people to stop and look, and, if you're lucky, read a little bit. Yet, mostly, I haven't gotten around to it. You see, I love words. I love text. Putting words together has always been easy.

I typically tell people I'm not really a visual sort of person. Yet that's not exactly right. I was in the photography club in junior high school. I had an early fifties vintage Exacta SLR. I would roll my own canisters of black and white film, shoot roll after roll, and then spend hours in the darkroom developing the film and making prints.

Morgan at Amanda's Wedding
I learned some of the tricks back then of over exposing, under exposing, burning in clouds, and so on, but while ability to craft words made it over to the Internet, my photography never has. Now, recently developments online are causing me to consider ramping up my digital image making.

One thing that has gotten me thinking about this is Pinterest. People 'pin' articles on their boards at Pintrest, and this seems to be very image driven. Perhaps, if I want to keep building audience here, I need to have more images with my stories to encourage more pinning.

Then, there is a discussion going on over at Empire Avenue. People have found that being active in photo sharing sites can really boost your performance on Empire Avenue. A key focus has been on InstraGram. The problem with InstaGram is that it is limited to iPhone users. So, some people have become more active on Flickr.

One person who has some very interesting images on Flickr is Liz Strauss. I commented that it looked like one of her photographs had been put through and Edward Hopper filter and another through a Soviet Realism filter. It made me think about different filters for different famous painting styles. Can I create a Chiaroscuro filter? How about a Pointillism filter? Perhaps something emulating Picasso's blue period? Maybe I could even create some sort of palimpsest.

InstaGram, Hipstamatic, and the Flickr app for Android have some sort of filters like that, and another site I recently discovered thanks to a friend on Empire Avenue, StreamZoo, has a bunch of interesting filters. Unfortunately, StreamZoo does not seem to have an easy way of posting to Flickr. I couldn't even find a way to do it with IFTTT. So, I'm mostly cross posting my StreamZoo pictures to .

Beyond this, sites like InstaGram have their set of filters you can apply. With something like StreamZoo, you can really do an awful lot, but what if I want to create my own filters?

I've always been an open source sort of guy, so I started looking around for articles that talk about how to do some of this via Gimp. A good starting point is Create Instagram Style Photo Effects with GIMP or Photoshop.

I read through that and started experimenting. It took me a little while to get comfortable with layers, and color curves, but slowly it started to take shape. There is a lot more that can be explored, as well as how to relate this to semiotics. So, who else is doing interesting thing with modifying images? Got any suggestions?

Social TV

One of the topics that people have been kicking around for Podcamp Western Mass is 'Social TV'. It probably means a bunch of different things to different people, so I'm going to hit on a few different topics.

First, there are the video streaming devices. These days, there are more and more Internet enabled video devices. We currently use Roku, which streams Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and a lot of other 'channels'. It is a relatively inexpensive device that has worked nicely for us. On top of that, we can still use it with our old analog non-HD TV.

A friend of mine has spoken highly of the Western Digital TV. I haven't played with this, so I can't comment, but it looks fairly similar to the Roku. Another older device is Boxee, which I also haven't tried, but I've read a bit about. Of course, everyone is watching Apple TV and Google TV closely to see how they do, and now, there is talk of Ubuntu TV.

Ubuntu is a version of the open source Linux operating system. Ubuntu TV sounds particularly interesting to a geek like me, but I don't think it is available yet.

Then, there are all the Blu-Ray DVD players and HDTV sets that come internet enabled. In some cases, Google TV is incorporated into Blu-Ray players.

With that, you then get into the 'channels'. More and more of what we watch online is from Netflix streaming. Then there is Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and more and more players entering the market everyday.

There are also all the other things out there. Smaller channels available on some of the streaming devices. Roku has private channels, as well as a developers environment. This even allows for connecting other devices like the Plex media player, which you can run on a Mac, or MythTV, an open source DVR, although apparently the MythTV to Roku connection requires a bit of hacking.

Finally, there are the sites enabling social interaction. Some of this may be done on Twitter, other interactions on sites like GetGlue, and new site I'm starting to look at called, which looks interesting, but so far has been pretty buggy.

I should note, with all of this, that I actually watch very little television. I like to watch videos on YouTube from time to time and have always wanted to find good sources for obscure movies and foreign television, but so far, nothing has really captured my attention.

So, what are you doing for social tv?

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