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My Kitchen Just Crashed

It started with devices such as Nest, the connected thermostat, and Withings, the connect scale. As more and more devices hook into our home network, the opportunity to have them talk to each other begets scenarios that harken back to the Connected Home visions from the 90s. Remember the internet-enabled refrigerator? Samsung now makes one.

All this reminded me of this piece about the Connected Home that was floating around on usenet way back in the day. It’s enjoyable to read as a lens into the mid-90s and what they thought of the future. It also reminds us of how far we’ve come. Thanks to Google Groups’ archive I was able to dig up the original which unfortunately was never signed. Enjoy.

The Diary of a Digital Homeowner:

Nov 28, 1997:
Moved in to my new digitally-maxed out Hermosa Beach house at last. Finally, we live in the smartest house in the neighborhood. Everything’s networked.  The cable TV is connected to our phone, which is connected to my personal computer, which is connected to the power lines, all the appliances and the security system.  Everything runs off a universal remote with the friendliest interface I’ve ever used. Programming is a snap.  I’m like, totally wired.

Nov 30:
Hot Stuff!  Programmed my VCR from the office, turned up the thermostat and switched on the lights with the car phone, remotely tweaked the oven a few degrees for my pizza. Everything nice & cozy when I arrived. Maybe I should get the universal remote surgically attached.

Dec 1:
Had to call the SmartHouse people today about bandwidth problems.  The TV drops to about 2 frames/second when I’m talking on the phone.  They insist it’s a problem with the cable company’s compression algorithms. How do they expect me to order things from the Home Shopping Channel?

Dec 3:
Got my first SmartHouse invoice today and was unpleasantly surprised. I suspect the cleaning woman of reading Usenet from the washing machine interface when I’m not here.  She must be downloading one hell of a lot of GIFs from the binary groups, because packet charges were through the roof on the invoice.

Dec 8:
Yesterday, the kitchen CRASHED.  Freak event.  As I opened the refrigerator door, the light bulb blew. Immediately, everything else electrical shut down — lights, microwave, coffee maker — everything. Carefully unplugged and replugged all the appliances. Nothing.

Call the cable company (but not from the kitchen phone).  They refer me to the utility.  The utility insists that the problem is in the software.  So the software company runs some remote telediagnostics via my house processor.  Their expert system claims it has to be the utility’s fault.  I don’t care, I just want my kitchen back.  More phone calls; more remote diag’s.

Turns out the problem was “unanticipated failure mode”:  The network had never seen a refrigerator bulb failure while the door was open. So the fuzzy logic interpreted the burnout as a power surge and shut down the entire kitchen.  But because sensor memory confirmed that there hadn’t actually been a power surge, the kitchen logic sequence was confused and it couldn’t do a standard restart.  The utility guy swears this was the first time this has ever happened.  Rebooting the kitchen took over an hour.

Dec 7:
The police are not happy.  Our house keeps calling them for help.  We discover that whenever we play the TV or stereo above 25 decibels, it creates patterns of micro-vibrations that get amplified when they hit the window.  When these vibrations mix with a gust of wind, the security sensors are actuated, and the police computer concludes that someone is trying to break in. Go figure.

Another glitch:  Whenever the basement is in self-diagnostic mode, the universal remote won’t let me change the channels on my TV.  That means I actually have to get up off the couch and change the channels by hand.  The software and the utility people say this flaw will be fixed in the next upgrade — SmartHouse 2.1. But it’s not ready yet.

Finally, I’m starting to suspect that the microwave is secretly tuning into the cable system to watch Bay Watch.  The unit is completely inoperable during that same hour.  I guess I can live with that. At least the blender is not tuning in to old I Love Lucy episodes.

Dec 9:
I just bought the new Microsoft Home.  Took 93 gigabytes of storage, but it will be worth it, I think. The house should be much easier to use and should really do everything.  I had to sign a second mortgage over to Microsoft, but I don’t mind:  I don’t really own my house now–it’s really the bank. Let them deal with Microsoft.

Dec 10:
I’m beginning to have doubts about Microsoft House. I keep getting an hourglass symbol showing up when I want to run the dishwasher.

Dec 12:
This is a nightmare.  There’s a virus in the house.  My personal computer caught it while browsing on the public access network.  I come home and the living room is a sauna, the bedroom windows are covered with ice, the refrigerator has defrosted, the washing machine has flooded the basement, the garage door is cycling up and down and the TV is stuck on the home shopping channel.  Throughout the house, lights flicker like stroboscopes until they explode from the strain. Broken glass is everywhere. Of course, the security sensors detect nothing.

I look at a message slowly throbbing on my personal computer screen: WELCOME TO HomeWrecker!!! NOW THE FUN BEGINS …  (Be it ever so humble, there’s no virus like the HomeWrecker…).

Dec 18:
They think they’ve digitally disinfected the house, but the place is a shambles.  Pipes have burst and we’re not completely sure we’ve got the part of the virus that attacks toilets. Nevertheless, the Exorcists (as the anti-virus SWAT team members like to call themselves) are confident the worst is over. “HomeWrecker is pretty bad” one of them tells me, “but consider yourself lucky you didn’t get PolterGeist.  That one is really evil.”

Dec 19:
Apparently, our house isn’t insured for viruses.  “Fires and mudslides, yes,” says the claims adjuster. “Viruses, no.” My agreement with the SmartHouse people explicitly states that all claims and warranties are null and void if any appliance or computer in my house networks in any way, shape or form with a non-certified online service.  Everybody’s very, very, sorry, but they can’t be expected to anticipate every virus that might be created.

We call our lawyer.  He laughs.  He’s excited!

Dec 21:
I get a call from a SmartHouse sales rep.  As a special holiday offer, we get the free opportunity to become a beta site for the company’s new SmartHouse 2.1 upgrade.  He says I’ll be able to meet the programmers personally.  “Sure,” I tell him.

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Current Events

Google Glass and Time Travel

google-glass-patent

A lot has been written about how Google Glass will be great for those that put on a pair. Immediate access to the world’s most powerful database, push alerts from your closest friends, a voice UI so you can look up directions without having to look down at your phone, a  camera that lets you take a photo and share a moment, all without leaving that moment.

While these are all powerful use cases that are bound to transform how we interact with the world around us, I’m more excited for the capability of Google Glass to annotate the physical world as we travel through it for those that come after us, especially those that can re-experience that world, as we saw it, in context. Imagine being able to take a photo of Notre Dame in Paris today, on a trip with your family and saving those photos with all the GPS data so the photo has a place, on a map, in time. Add a community and you have a series of photos of a place, all taken from different perspectives. This, of course, is flickr’s world map – announced in 2004 under the tagline, “eyes of the world.”

flickr-world-map

 

While a picture is worth 1,000 words, what if you could add more context. What if you could add more text to your photo? Tell a story that shared how this photo, in this place, was important to you? This is Findery.com, a place where people leave notes for each other in space and time. As described in their FAQ,

Findery is made of notes. A note can be a story, advice, jokes, diatribes, information, memories, facts, advertisements, love letters, grocery lists and manifestos. The content of a note is only limited by your imagination. A note can be shared with the world, one to many people, one to one, or only with yourself.

findery

 

Findery and the Flickr Map are compelling maps experiences but imagine how powerful they could be if you could experience them in situ. The mobile versions of Flickr and Google+ get at this with a Nearby feature. This sort allows you to browse photos that are nearby to your GPS location. I’ve used it a few times but rarely is it compelling. Even if the photos are only a block away, they lose their connective tissue.

While Google Glass is interesting as an information capture device, the possibility of a viewing device that can potentially line up photos that are taken at the same place is something that really excites me. Once you have a head’s up display connected to a vast library of GPS-tagged photos you can enable clever overlays that show you not only the space around you but also that same space through time.

Check out OldSF – it’s a completely voluntary effort where two folks came together and took the time to put a bunch of photos from the San Francisco Public Library on to a map so you can browse through them. One of the founders of OldSF blogged about the thrill of overlaying one photos from the past and fading to the present (and back again) where you can basically time travel in real life. It’s a genre called, Now and Then photography most recently cataloged in the site, Dear Photograph

Imagine being able to pull up photos from your past, your father’s past, or your grandparent’s past. Ask Google Glass for directions to the nearest pinned memory and then bring it up in your glasses and be able to see that moment, captured in time, while standing on the very spot the photographer stood. Add voice annotation, capture some audio. It’s that moment that puts goosebumps on my arms. It’s that moment, reliving history, your personal history, that makes me excited to try out Google Glass someday.

notre-damePhoto from Tom

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House of Cards

Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

Just finished all 13 hours of the first season of the latest Netflix series, House of Cards. While I didn’t binge view as some of my colleagues did in the name of journalism, I did find myself staying up later than normal to watch “just one more episode” of this dark cousin to West Wing.

Apparently Netflix dropped $100 million to produce two 13 episode seasons. The result is a Season One that plays as a 13 hour movie about the dark, evil underbelly of Washington politics. Given such resources and space the characters are wonderfully developed and, if like most, you watch the series over a short span of time, you come to know them as an extension of your reality. The depth and detail of House of Cards makes the typical 2 hour feature film feel like a rough character sketch.

The series was shot with digital RED cameras which allowed them to shoot takes continually without stopping the camera.

Obviously, shooting digitally helps, [House of Cards was shot using the RED camera] because I never had to cut. I could say, ‘Go back out and come in again,’ and it’s amazing the pace you get. It’s a Frank Capra trick from way back. Because he could only print so many takes, he used to say, ‘Keep it rolling, go out and come in.’ What he found was people were more energized, and it gave this effervescence, and I ended up having to do that.

But the most interesting thing is that Netflix decided to release all 13 hours of the first season in one go. At first I was skeptical. Traditional television leaves you with cliff hangers that bring you back each week for what they used to call appointment television. Netflix knows a thing or two about “binge viewing” and based on their data, felt they could generate more buzz if they released everything at once. I agree. The coverage has been fantastic for Netflix and I’m sure it’s driven a spike in membership. Indeed, they are watching data on viewers to inform their next original series.

Further Reading

House of Cards’ Forth Wall –  Exploring the lead character’s asides to the camera.

Playing with a New Deck – details about how multiple director’s filmed the series and were given freedoms not normally extended to directors of television series.

House of Cards coverage on GigaOM & paidContent

 

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Current Events

Where is the Microsoft Surface theme song?

For the launch of Windows95, Microsoft licensed Start Me Up from the Rolling Stones as a way to kick off the biggest software upgrade in the company’s history and forever brand Mick Jagger’s crooning with a key feature of Win95.

Now we have the Surface. Where’s the theme song?

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Current Events

More about coffee

george clooney-nespresso

More writing about the value of handmade coffee (vs. those automated Nespresso capsule machines) to follow on my earlier post about Specialty Coffee.

It is not that handmade is always best, of course. Much technology is itself a testimony to human creativity and ingenuity. Apple has got very rich through supplying technology that is beautifully designed by humans who are as gifted as the best artisans. There is plenty that we should happily allow to be mechanised, for the obvious benefits that brings. But there is plenty else we will continue to prefer to be handmade, because what matters is not just the result, but the process by which you get there. Humans are imperfect, and so a world of perfection that denies the human element can never be truly perfect after all.

– from Coffee Artisans

* More George Clooney endorsements over on my Celebrity Endorsements gallery

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Current Events

Online Advertising is just TV?

Here’s the plan: Publishers, take every banner ad off of your site. Not just the ones you stuffed at the bottom on the page that nobody sees anyway. Remove each and every single one. Replace those small, ugly boxes with a full-screen, 30-second video interstitial to be displayed on every third page viewed per customer session. Sell the value of that video ad to marketers based on the quality of your content and the strength of your audience. Now, repeat after me: The ads do not need to have a click through to the advertiser’s website. The ad can be skipped by your reader/viewer after 10 seconds of play time.

Here’s how to fix digital advertising

Is it really that simple? Doesn’t this just make every website into a triple digit, late-night cable TV channel?

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Current Events

Specialty Coffee around the World

sf-barrista

The New York Times has a piece about the San Francisco coffee scene, specifically the barista training upstairs from the local temple of the perfect cup, Sightglass.

While the West Coast style of brewing is making it’s way to Japan in places like Shibuya, Japan has it’s own professional brewing method which they take very seriously. It’s called siphoning.

japanese-siphonist

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Current Events

Struggling is a given and struggling can be good

Japanese Students

Nice post over on my dad’s blog about the difference between learning in Japan and learning in America,

When that one boy as applauded for struggling to learn, the teacher gave the lesson that anyone struggling to learn deserves to be applauded. The lesson was that struggling is a chance to show that you have what it takes emotionally to overcome the problem by having the strength to persist through that struggle. Simply put, struggling is a given and struggling can be good.

At school in Tokyo