Microsoft Flight

I was curious about Microsoft Flight, since it was released today. It’s not really a simulator like Microsoft Fight Simulator was. It’s really just an arcade style game but of higher production quality. The graphics are not bad, it runs smoothly, however there’s not much to keep you playing with it. 30 minutes in and already bored. I personally don’t find it entertaining or challenging.

X-Plane 10 on the other hand is mindbogglingly complicated and I suspect I will never even get “OK” at it, much less good.

It’s a shame Microsoft didn’t just spin off or sell the MSFS product to someone. I bet it could have done fine on it’s own. It seemed to have a pretty dedicated community around it.

Pizza Addicts: NYC Coal Ovens

A great piece over at slice about some old coal ovens. The pizza addict in me is very interested. Some great background:

Coal ovens come in several formats, but the oldest are the cavernous mason-built bread ovens from the turn of last century. These beasts are so massive that they were either built out into a building’s back yard or into the foundation itself, extending beyond the building’s footprint. When a bakery went out of business, it was much easier (and cheaper) to slap a wall in front of the oven than doing any kind of demolition. This means that old bakery ovens are very likely still in place, just waiting to be discovered. Here’s a quick rundown of five dormant coal-burning ovens in New York.

Coal ovens do make for awesome pizza. Though they are apparently very demanding to operate. New York Daily News also notes that they aren’t actually banned like the myth states. I can’t imagine retrofitting a NYC building to add one though. I’d imagine it would be expensive if it wasn’t already part of the structure. Not to mention depending on coal deliveries.

On Boot To Gecko

Always bet on JavaScript, always bet on the web. This is really the reason Boot to Gecko is so interesting. Microsoft is now learning this the hard way. If Apple isn’t careful they too will learn this the hard way.

There’s been a lot of talk today about Telefónica’s involvement, but it’s worth noting the Mozilla blog announcement also mentions Deutsche Telekom Innovation Labs will join the Boot to Gecko project with dedicated development resources. That’s a pretty big deal.

The ability to run on lower end hardware which is cheaper to produce in quantity will make a huge difference. Tech in general tends to focus on North America, Europe, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Australia in terms of target market. They do this because they are wealthy countries reasonably free markets, similar taste, and trade agreements make it favorable.

This however has a huge downside. Overall this is excluding a huge chunk of the world. China alone is about 1.3 billion people (CIA estimate 2012) with a GNI of $7,570 (compared to $47,120 for the US). As large as Brazil is (~192.3 million), it’s only half of the 385.7 million in South America.

Take a look at the map in terms of GNI:
World by GNI PPP Per Capita

Now compare that to population density. Pay close attention to Asia, South Asia and Western Africa:
Population Density

Who’s dominated this market to date? For most of the time it’s been Symbian since phones that run that slim OS have been rather cost effective. More recently it’s becoming Android now that older hardware exists that can be produced cheaply. Notice in the graph below where Android’s growth is coming from. Many would like you to think it’s only Apple and Android out there. That’s hardly where Android is growing users from. It’s market-share from Symbian.

Mobile Market Share

That Apple iOS dip is likely the drop-off prior to the iPhone 4S shipping rather than Android. It was only released in October after iPhone 4 sales stalled in anticipation. You see a similar dip in 2008. 2009 is likely offset by the iPad’s success.

Of course an OS that runs fast on slower ARM hardware will run blazing fast on more expensive state of the art hardware. So everyone really benefits from being lean and fast.

This is about bringing the mobile internet to billions of people. It’s a big deal.

Hat Tip to Wikipedia for the maps and graph

Google Glasses For True In Your Face Advertising

Google Glasses or Google Goggles will likely suffer the same limitation that despite its success hinder the iPad: Bandwidth. Unlike an iPad however which is a great couch surfing device, and very usable offline, the glasses are really best suited for outdoors use where augmented reality and real-time cloud data could make use of such an interface.

People don’t mind adopting strange new UI’s when they work well. The iPhone is a great example of that. A tiny touch screen display works well. Uses had no problem adapting to it. I don’t think glasses are anything different. If it’s intuitive and works well, uses will be fine with that.

Supplying them with data however is another story. WiFi is hardly abundant in most of the US. Much of it is paid, or only available with a cellular data plan for the device. Cellular data service is still very expensive. I don’t think there is any bluetooth profile outside of PAN (tethering) that would work and be acceptable to cellular providers. So piggybacking off of your cell phones data plan is unlikely.

Google could go the Kindle route and make connectivity free with purchase of the device, then largely lock it down to Google services. Since Google uses advertising they would be able to subsidize that expense.

The other issue is power, I wonder if Google is able to cram enough battery into a small enough package to make this all workable.

I’d like to try it. I hope it succeeds. However looking at the big picture there is a fundamental issues. Of course there are privacy issues as well, but that’s another topic.

GPS Spoofing Not Far Off

Today’s disturbing technical news goes to…

“So far no credible high profile attack has been recorded but we are seeing evidence of basic spoofing, likely carried out by rogue individuals or small groups,” Humphreys explains. “Whilst the leap to more advanced, untraceable spoofing is large, so are the rewards. It’s therefore guaranteed that criminals are looking at this. All it takes is one person to put one together and publish it online and we have a major problem.”

Iran claims to have already done this to bring down a drone intact. There’s no public confirmation or evidence to prove if this is actually what happened or not.

The reality is messing up people’s phone or car navigation is relatively benign mayhem at best. Disrupting military systems, aircraft, financial systems is a much larger concern.

Indispensable Tools

Beyond the screwdriver, knife, scissors, everyone has one or two things in their toolbox that keeps saving the day, or at least greatly simplifying things. Mine lately has been one of these SATA/IDE to USB cables [NewEgg, Amazon].

Perfect for quickly moving data between hard drives/computers. No need to open/close enclosures which aren’t meant to be opened 100 times. No need to open up your computer, or keep a HD dock on your desk. Just plug in and go. Only the most power-hungry (mostly older IDE) drives are occasionally problematic.

They seem to almost all be based on the JMicron JM20337 chip so the only difference between brands is likely the bundled power supply and quality of plastic. My advice is get whatever is on sale.

For those of us who deal with hardware fairly often, these things are pretty awesome, and totally underrated. It saves a lot of time/effort.

DNA Sequencing Via USB

Meet the MinION, a low cost ($900) USB DNA sequencer. Per New Scientist:

The UK firm Oxford Nanopore built the device, called MinION, and claims it can sequence simple genomes – like those of some viruses and bacteria – in a matter of seconds. More complex genomes would take longer, but MinION could also be useful for obtaining quick results in sequencing DNA from cells in a biopsy to look for cancer, for example, or to determine the genetic identity of bone fragments at an archaeological dig.

There is another one by Ion Torrent that’s desktop sized.

There’s competition in the world of desktop DNA sequencing. The future is here.