I am currently fascinated with Peridotite. This is the stuff of the mantle, manifested in amazing nodules…

Looking at these rock nodules from the outside, it is often hard to guess at the wonders hidden inside.. many of mine looked like a simple lump of basalt.

In reality they were a basalt shell that was formed as a bubble in a vulcanic explosion that brought bits of mantle up inside of the bubble and trapped the crystals as the bubble cooled and hardened.

The shell in many cases for the nodules I have is fairly thin, and sometimes the inner crystals are visible in small amounts.. perhaps this is what led the original collector to pick them up in the first place..

But the real fun is in smashing the nodules open and letting the crystals inside come tumbling out. In some cases, the crystals are glued together with basalt or other stone.. but in many cases cracking them open creates a waterfall of crystals. I smashed enough the other day to get about a quart of crystals which I will sort and use in future jewelry pieces– either embedded in resin or cast metal. If you would like to enjoy watching them being smashed, check out this video I made of the process of smashing a few.. there is still a lot of work to do for the crystals to be usable, but this was fun.

When you can laugh at yourself? very sexy

1. Nathan Fillion is sexy
2. Serenity is great story telling
3. A sexy actor poking fun at his previous image? Makes we want to do all sorts of illicit pleasurable things for him…

I twittered the Hulu link earlier, but apparently outside the US can not view… so Here is a transcription attempt. It just wouldn’t fit in 140 chars.

It is the Halloween episode of Castle, where Mr. Fillion plays an eccentric mystery writer. Camera zooms in on him strapping on pistols, zooms on his crotch and a swoosh of his Serenity coat as he rounds a corner and pretends to take something in his gun sight. His daughter, sitting on a couch looks at him in mock amusement. He is in full out Serenity garb.

Daughter: Hey
Castle: Hey
Castle: I was… I was just trying on my Halloween costume
Daughter: what exactly are you supposed to be?
Castle: Space Cowboy
Daughter: OK, A there are no cows in space. Second, didn’t you wear that like 5 years ago?
Castle: So?
Daughter: So, don’t you think you should move on?
Castle: I like it ( slightly pouty)

I Laughed out loud.

The Death of Apple TV?

Say it right and you are listening to the first nail in the coffin of AppleTV and iTunes Movies.

As a Roku owner, I just got a very interesting email in my inbox, telling me that Amazon Video on Demand is coming soon to the Roku. The content of it is also covered on Roku’s FAQ site. So now, not only can I watch HD Netflix movies but soon I will be able to sit on my couch and order and play content from Amazon Video on Demand. I like the Amazon downloadable video content selections, the only real thing that has kept me from making good use of it is that it requires a special player on my PC. If you have not checked out the Amazon content range, spend few minutes browsing through their digital movies and TV episodes. They also have a lot of free content available every week.

Even better, Roku informs us that they have opened up their platform and we will see other content providers and channels on the Roku throughout 2009. From their email: “Amazon is just the start. More announcements of new things to watch and enjoy on your Roku player are in the pipeline for 2009.” The worst part? We have to wait a few more weeks for the Amazon rollout.

The possibilities have me excited. YouTube? Hulu? Joost? Who is your favorite content provider? What would you lke to see pop up on your Roku box this year?

Depending on how this content rolls out, I could easily imagine downloading my IPTV service to a lower level. No wonder Cable and DSL providers are dreaming of bandwidth caps.

12 seconds of excitement

It has been a while since a new interactive web tool actually got me buzzed up. I see lots of potential in lots of new tools, but not all of them have applicability to my life directly, other than geek curiosity. Vlogging in some form or another is something that has been teasing at me for more than a year, but I have not been able to find a solution that is easy and portable enough to make it a winner. Qik had an initial attraction, but I do not own a Nokia phone, so it will not work for me. I can not even sign up for an account with Qik without the right phone. uStream has some interesting potential, but again I can not easily upload things from my Treo. I love what ustream is doing with the broadcast of longer events, of bringing events that would have been otherwise unavailable to the masses live across the web. I have watched LOTS of events on uStream, and participate in live chat.. but I have not used it for broadcasting yet. Both of these missed the boat for cases where I want to share something, but have no connectivity at the moment I am recording ( often the case inside a school building, for example)

Kyte looked like it was going to be a lot of fun, but I had to be at the computer to upload and make channels. But now I have 12 seconds. The thing I am most intrigued about with 12 seconds is that I can take video I recorded on my treo and email it in as an attachment, and it is auto shared. I can think of all kinds of potential for this one… vacation video sharing (our family vacation starts this Saturday), event clips (Gencon is around the corner), party bits and clips… all kinds of scrapbook type sharing on top of the daily conversation and discussion that people may be doing. Since my Video Camera and my Treo both use SD cards, it even means I can record with my digital video cam and then email from the treo later. My mind is starting to get a bit excited on this one– who said my Treo is extinct and I need to move on?

Looks like for the next month I am going to be hammering this service hard, please check it out, comment, give feedback and let me know if it works for you. I will do more reviews here as the month progresses. As a bonus, I also have a few invitations left, so if you are interested in trying out 12 seconds yourself comment here and let me know.

Streaming Conferences

This week I have been making heavy use of streaming video to virtually visit several different conferences. Both SAPPhire 2008 and JavaOne2008 have been streaming ( and recording for playback) portions of their conferences. This also led to my lament that the third conference I wished I could participate in (a PMI conference in Chicago) was NOT streaming any of it. For a handful of reasons I could not travel this week, but if I had been able to- I would have been making a choice between these conferences, rather than staying here and participating in more than one of them.

I am no newbie to online video. My fiance currently lives an hour away (for another 2.5 weeks) and we frequently use online video to communicate. My parents are on the east coast, about a 12 hour drive away from their grand kids- we use online video to supplement phone calls and visits to stay connected. I participate in chats, watch Qik and UStream shows and even occasionally talk to complete strangers with online video chat. I have participated in live video Concert Events ( Deep Rock Drive, Live Earth, AT&T BlueRoom, etc) But almost all of what I have use online video for has been either for intimate personal use, or TV type viewing of a concert or event. Using it for a learning situation is a little different. Following is my list of changes that would make the perfect tool from my viewing experience thus far:

1) Dual Camera options. In most cases, I would like to have two screens viewable at all times- one closeup of the slides being shown, the other of the speaker. Trying to read the slides behind the speaker is a headache. Having the cameraman decide when to switch back and forth is really annoying. If having them both as live video in my browser window is problematic. Give me the slide deck on the web page and let me page through it without leaving the page or losing the video also playing.

2) Close Captioning. Truth? We really need this in every video tool.. personal, corporate or otherwise. The Hard of Hearing/Deaf community want to video as well. But even for a good hearing person like myself, close captioning would be great when listening to presentations from people around the world. ( actually.. if you could perfect this.. you could sell it to colleges who could use it live with TAs who can not speak the language well…..)

3. Resize. Most of the current tools have an “in page” fixed window size or “full screen” modes. Let me just say this: use the pop-out feature on Hulu, resize your window a few times and you will understand what I want.

It is true that if someone could perfect the tools, there are times that I would pay to have video access to a conference. I said this on Twitter and immediately started discussion. Let me be very clear. NOTHING beats attending a conference in person. 90 percent of what you get from a conference, you get from the networking. From bumping into people, meeting new people and getting a chance to have live face to face discussions. This is invaluable and can never be replaced. But the truth is that budgets are limited, I can get every trip I want approved.. some years none at all. I could potentially sell online access when I can not sell travel to my management. I do not want, nor do I envision video conferencing replacing the real conference gathering- but it is a great potential supplement- if it were done right and added complete value, not frustration.

Who’s answering the phone

I was so glad to see someone do this twist on the Hillary campaign ad. It was the first thing that popped into my mind when I heard about the ad. I am to the point of almost ready to give up on having anyone worthwhile to vote for this year. Sadness.

I told you once was not enough

Early this week, in preparation for the upcoming announcement of iTunes movie rentals, I rented a movie from Amazon through Amazon unbox. I wanted to play with the competition a little before I tested iTunes, and I am becoming more and more enamored of the Amazon mp3 store, so I wanted to see how their movie download process worked before iTunes woo’d me. ( more technical stuff after I get some sleep…)

The prices on both services are the same, and the terms are the standard, stupid watch it once within a 24 hour period some time in the next 30 days that all downloadable rentals are doing. This is the major reason I will not be doing this very often. Once is never enough in our family. I could not stand the thought of spending 3.99 to see a movie once on my computer screen ( yes, I AM cheap), so I found one of the movies on sale. It was .99 to rent at the time. Less than a bottle of pop- I can drop that without blinking. It was Waitress, a movie I had never heard of- but had the bonus that it starred Nathan Fillian.
It turned out to be a slightly sappy but wonderfully romantic, OMG almost made me cry and got me hot and bothered movie. I watched it tonight, because sleep was eluding me. It will go immediately on my Netflix queue.
Why would I put it on my Netflix queue?

1) I have two teen-aged daughters, and once you get beyond the fact that the two main characters are having an affair, this movie is about real love, and not settling. It is about how that moment of birth is transforming. It is about taking care of yourself and the ones you love. It is about having faith in yourself. It is about being able to start fresh, even if you made some mistakes and having life still turn out wonderful. It is exactly the kinds of things I want them to learn. I want them to see this movie. With Xandra’s schedule, it is unlikely they will be able to see it at the same time. That is at least 2 more viewings next week. And then I want it here next weekend, so I can watch it again while Ogre is here and the kids are gone. It is incredibly romantic in a million unlikely ways, and well, it made me feel like this- I want to share that with the one I love.

So, this unlikely, movie that was just part of a small technology experiment cemented my belief that the draconic playback limitations of Rented VoD embedded in every major player will prevent this from ever taking off and being a huge success in the middle class family market. Kids will not learn this from their parents, the model does not hold for how kids watch movies. Teens will not pay the cost very often- they do not have that much money. The single, well employed folks who live alone and watch a movie once and return it will be the largest market. That is certainly enough to make some money, but it is not even close to what it would take to replace a Netflix or a BlockBuster.
Now I need to convince my body to sleep…

Who’s a llama?

I am supposed to be writing serious things.
Solution Architecture Documents ( yes, that is SAD, I did NOT name it) are waiting for my formalization.
An Essay on the advantages of simulation for small and mid sized manufacturers, with serious quotes from the Under Secretary of State.
Instead? Here is what is stuck in my brain:

Serious now.

llama, llama, llama, llama, duck. ( truck? jack?)
Maybe sleep instead?

What is your favorite Dr. Who Mashup?

video viewing up… are we really surprised?

The online world is all a-twitter today as people work through this recent Pew Internet& American Life Survey report. The BBC first reported that “Online video sharing sites are reaping the benefits of the ongoing writers’ strike in the US.” in this article. That led TechCrunch to write an article that quoted the BBC article and recently released Nielsen Online numbers that show “According to Nielsen’s figures, YouTube’s audience was up 18% in the two months after the strike started and Crackle doubled its audience from 1.2 million users to 2.4 million users”.

Now, I have no doubt that these numbers are correct. Gods know I watch more and more video online every day ( no it is NOT all NSFW, thank you). But to attribute this so strongly and immediately to the writer’s strike is yet another example of people’s misunderstanding of co-incidental events. Before I even link the two, I want to see the trends from last year. What was the growth pattern over the months of the year in 2006? After all, the Pew report very strongly shows that teens and young adults are some of the biggest consumers of video, and the November/December time frame includes long holidays, end of semester breaks, etc.. They certainly have significantly more time on their hands to cruise the net than other times when classes are in session. (yes, I do know that there are some folks who watch YouTube on laptops in lecture halls..).

Then, I want to see the numbers on a graph with a matched time pattern for other events. Hulu released in early November. YouTube released a new interface somewhere in that time frame and made it easier to subscribe. Joost did a serious push for viewers and was running strong promos in October. Presidential candidates started getting serious on YouTube, electoral coverage is live on YouTube and getting promo’d in the mainstream press more and more.

I believe that there are a myriad of reasons that online video viewing is up… but that the writer’s strike is actually one on the smallest. The BBC article sounded more like it was written to make the writers on strike look strong, than by someone who atually watches video online.

What about you? Have you purposely turned to the web for video to fill a hole in your TV viewing habits??

ISPs to play big brother ?

Engadget reports that AT&T is talking with the MPAA and the RIAA about implementing network level solutions to filter pirated materials. This is a very parental position, where it has become a matter of “if you can not control your own behavior, we are going to control it for you”. Studies continue to show that the majority of traffic on the internet is P2P( with some numbers as surprisingly high as 80%), and the majority of that is video. As far as I am concerned, video has the majority of the share merely because the files are so much larger. There is no good data ( nor a good way to get it) to tell if the number of music or video files is larger. Number of files would give you a better measure of the incidence of file sharing in each format. But governments, large companies and the RIAA and MPAA look at those numbers and say to themselves “there is no way that is all legal….” and are thus motivated to go after the offenders. Here is where we get into murky ground in my opinion video is split between TV and movies, with often equal splits between the two.

In my mind, Movies are easy. If you buy a movie, you should have the right to copy it to a digital format and watch it in your own home on whatever platform you want. But this in no way gives you the right to share that digital copy for use anywhere other than on your equipment. That is, you are not allowed to then give copies of that movie to your friends, neighbors or strangers on the street- no matter what the format or media you share it in. The only way you are allowed to share is if you lend them your originally purchased disc. It never ceases to amaze me that people who are very loudly supporting the writers strike also think they should have the right to give away copies of movies. Is the irony of this not obvious to everyone else?

TV is trickier. Not trickier according to the written law, of course- trickier in figuring out what the real solution should be. To understand the culture of what is acceptable and how we got here, you have to go back to VHS. The industries had complete meltdowns when home recording equipment was first released on the market, and predicted the end of all time. This end did not, as we see, come. But what happened was the birth of time/place shifting. People started recording the shows they love and watching them later. After some debate, it was determined that recording shows for your own individual usage was completely legal. But then you were at work ( or school) and talking to someone about the big episode that just aired and your cube mate says “dang, I missed that episode”.
“well, didn’t you tape it”
“no, I have not figured out how to work the programming on that yet, and I was not at home”
What is your response?
“well, I taped it- you can watch it and then return the tape to me”.

Returning the tape in those days was important- they were not cheap. Technically, this was illegal. But should it be? Most people would answer no. Their gut tells them this is fair use. What was the difference if they came to your house and watched it with you or if they took it to their house, watched it and then gave it back? There was not much the industry could do to intervene in this sort of activity, so although it was technically illegal it was ignored.

I would contend that that TV portion of P2P is mostly this sort of behavior. Those who know how ( or who have the equipment to) recording TV shows and sharing them. Is it illegal, Yes. Should it be- probably not. The only reason that the industry is pushing for this to be controlled is that they are convinced that if people could not download, they would buy more TV shows on DVD. I contend this is not true. It does not lose them cable subscribers, because 99% of the ISPs out there who provide cable internet require you to subscribe to digital cable TV in order to receive cable internet. if you do not have high bandwidth connections, you are not going to be downloading video files- it is just too painful. The other reason for file sharing of TV shows is unavailability through normal broadcast. Our water cooler has gotten very large. It is not just folks who live in the same neighborhood- it is a global water cooler. And when people are discussing tv shows they watched last night, they want they same things everyone else is talking about. If your teammate at work now happens to be in another country ( mine are), and you are discussing tv, the whole “here, borrow my copy” issue comes up again. Only this time the copy is not a video tape, it is bits and bytes on a hard drive. Be certain, it is not just folks in other places wanting current US shows.. the folks in the US are busy downloading shows from BBC and India and China and….
If the TV portion of video sharing ( about half, give or take some depending on the region) were considered legal, how do we tackle the other half?

Why do people illegally distribute copies of movies? I can come up with a list of reasons why people might download them.. but what is the motivation for uploading them? Have you ever uploaded or illegally shared a movie you own? What was your reason/motivation?

There is a lot of discussion on this still to be had… but I need to bolt to work. Comment and let me know what you think.