top What People Want From Smart Homes
The reason I don't own Nest or any other "learning" gear is two fold. First, I don't want any third party to know my settings and be able to deduce when I'm home. Second - and more importantly - I don't want my devices to "think" for me.
I keep a very irregular schedule that is the polar opposite of my wife. I work nights, she works days. My work nights vary wildly (I'm a contractor), hers do not (minus holidays or professional development days). Any "learning" a thermostat does in our household will be wrong.
For this purpose, I homebrewed a thermostat. I have an Omnistat with serial control, and I wrote a Raspberry Pi interface to talk to it. I then wrote an Android app to interface to the Raspberry Pi, so I can control the thermostat from inside the home or outside.
Why did I go to all of that trouble? Because there is no product on the market that fits my two criteria - no outside party data collecting, and no "thinking".
Seriously, why is this so hard? I understand the want to make things simple for the non-techies out there... but why in the world can't you offer me the option to strip everything away and use the thermostat in the simplest manner possible?
I'm having the same problem with lighting control right now. I would like a GPI contact closure to turn on/off an LED light dimmer, but never inhibit its ability to be turned on locally. You may say "Z-Wave!" or any of the other RF controls out there. The problem is that none of these meet my criteria for dimmable LED lighting: the fact that I hate software dimmers, and the ability to turn on/off a light to the set dim point without being able to inhibit the light from being turned on locally. All I want is a physical dimming slider and an on/off switch - not a software dimmer that gradually fades the output up and down and that you have to stare at LEDs to set once the unit is on. If I can't hit the switch and have an instant on with 100% certainty at what dimming level the light will pop on at, I don't want it.
My next house project will be a low voltage relay to grab the sunrise/sunset times, and turn my exterior LV lights on at sunset + 30min, and off at sunrise - 30min. Nothing outside of a photosensor does that now, and it doesn't do it reliably (think cloudy days, snow cover, etc). So I will homebrew it. And be happy.
Give me total control of my devices, with no "thinking" whatsoever. That's all I want in home automation. No one is doing that right now, and it frustrates me to no end.
top Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant
Now if we can just add language to somehow apply this to apps...
A commercial entity being allowed to download all of the info out of my smart phone makes me no less comfortable than the government doing it. Especially when it's through a trojan horse such as Candy Crush or Angry Birds.
This is the only reason I root my Android. If reasonable restrictions were in place, I wouldn't need to. But until the advertising giant and information harvester that writes the OS has a change of heart, I will continue to restrict said access through any means necessary.
top Are US Hybrid Sales Peaking Already?
1) I need a car that will do 80 consecutive miles without a charge.
2) I need a car that can go 300 or 400 miles - in whatever manner.
That means one of three things:
1) A rapid charge after 80 miles (sub 15 minutes)
2) One of those sweet-looking NASCAR-esque battery swaps that Tesla does, or 3) A hybrid
It also has to hit a reasonable price point to make it comparable to an efficient gasoline burner, i.e. sub-$45,000.
Less than 80 consecutive miles and my initial purchase cost is no longer offset by the fuel savings. Less than a 400-mile trip and I have to own a second car for business trips. Both of these are show-stoppers for me, and anyone else who has any sort of reasonable daily work commute.
If Tesla can achieve their goal of making a car for $35,000 - I'm in. If I can get a plug-in hybrid with a battery pack that will go 80 miles, I'm in. Until then, I'm stuck with high-MPG gas burners - which for the time being are still more cost efficient over their life span.
Though ideologically, even at a higher price point, I'd be more than happy to stop purchasing gas, even at a higher overall cost. I'm just waiting for someone to make a practical vehicle that will let me do just that.
top Ask Slashdot: Experiences With Free To Air Satellite TV?
As someone who puts those shows up in the air, I'll tell you it all depends on what you're looking for.
If you're looking for sports backhauls, you'll most likely be disappointed. Almost every professional sports venue in the country uses fiber as a backhaul, not satellite. The only places that use birds are places that do small numbers of broadcasts infrequently (think college campuses). And even then, a lot of networks have policies that require them to use BISS encryption. So unless you're friends with someone in the uplink world (because yes, they do share downlink info and BISS codes with each other so they can watch live events while on the road) you'll find the content to be sparse.
If you're looking for TV networks, look at it this way. If there's any value to the network (i.e. if it's on anything but the base tier of your cable or satellite operator), it's encrypted. Because why would they give away for free what they're getting $1.60/subscriber to sell? You'll find some foreign networks and stuff you most likely don't care about, but that's about it. If you know the timing you might find syndicated shows being fed to your local TV stations (think Ellen or Judge Judy) or something mildly useful like that, but even more of those shows are now being BISS encrypted. The only reason more syndicated shows don't encrypt is because they get sick of having to pay to re-feed shows because of inept downlink ops.
The holy grail for FTA is finding "wild feeds" - temporary uplinks from site to a network (think breaking news). You can find some serious hilarity here sometimes. But the feeds come and go in a matter of quarter hours, so they're tougher to find.
The feeds are out there, but there's not a lot of FTA ones in North America. Further complicating things is the myriad of encoding specs (bitrate, constellation, FEC, encoder model, etc etc etc). It ends up being a total crapshoot trying to find things. So I guess what I'm saying is it depends on what you're looking for. If you're doing this as a hobby to see what you can find, it can be a lot of fun and even rewarding at times. If you're looking to replace cable, you're going to wish you'd spent your money on a Roku or a Slingbox at your friend's house instead.
top A Year After Ban On Loud TV Commercials: Has It Worked?
I'm an audio mixer for several of the national and regional networks. I deal almost exclusively in live sports, and I can tell you we are monitored to a ridiculous degree. We have averaging meters in our trucks (measured in LKFS), and the TOC monitors the show AND commercials (in DB on a 3s average). The TOC logs the averages with timecode and video thumbnails (for reference) and saves them, as they are the only defense they have against CALM complaints. The TOC is quick to notify us during the show if we're too loud or too quiet and the averaging is out of compliance.
The problem is, no one at home is smart enough to know the difference between a national spot, a local spot, and a spot that your cable provider inserts. So the complaint becomes "Fox Sports played a loud commercial!!1!!!1!!!one!!!" when the culprit is actually the Comcast head-end in Gary, Indiana.
Between the meters, the logging, and the constant monitoring, broadcast is jumping through a lot of hoops to be CALM compliant. But the networks don't have end-to-end control of their signal, and the end user is at the mercy of their local cable headend. Almost all of the problems you experience happen there. I can't tell you how many times we find a surround downmix where the announcers are almost inaudible, because a cable operator (and sometimes even a satellite provider) is doing an improper downmix, and the 4.1 channels are blowing out the center on the stereo feed. The networks try to QC as much as they can - most of the network offices have receivers for every cable and satellite (and FiOS, AT&T, etc) service they can get their hands on, and constantly monitor as many of them as they can - trying to find and fix the problems proactively rather than wait for the vague and usually inaccurate complaints to roll in from the FCC.
top 4K Ultra HD Likely To Repeat the Failure of 3D Television
A little OT, but: They'd be useful for allowing the producers to zoom way in on replays without having to lose resolution downstream. You'd only need the high bandwidth between the camera and the production booth/truck. Or do they already do this and that's what you're talking about?
That's what the existing 4K X-MO cameras are doing - recording everything at high framerate and then zooming in. At Olympics, they would mount one over the pool, and then zoom in to whatever lanes were of interest, in full HD resolution, still in super slow-mo. For football, they have the camera shoot wide as an "All-22", and then they can zoom into anything in the play that was of interest. It's a great idea, it's like having an iso of everyone all the time. The zooming software was clunky, but that gets polished over time.
top 4K Ultra HD Likely To Repeat the Failure of 3D Television
4K is a perfect medium for film. Film is already large format. Every aspect of production ground-up is based around large format, and since it's not live or real-time, you can take more time to ensure quality compression. All you need is a bluray spec and an HDMI/Component spec, and you're good to go.
Broadcast is an uphill battle, because there are bottlenecks at every point along the transmission line. 4K cameras need SMPTE fiber, and most facilities are still only wired for copper triax. The switcher upgrade isn't a huge technical problem, but digital replay is - since the bandwidth is going up orders of magnitude(1). The UHD (4K) SDI video transport spec isn't even finalized yet, but it's looking to be between 6-12Gb/s, 4-8x current HD bandwidth. Most fiber transmission lines are still only 270M/s, not even enough to fit a full HD signal at 1.5Gb/s (and most cheap networks only use 40-80Mb/s on their backhauls for cost reasons)... and you're basically ruling out satellite, since pushing that much data saturates a good portion of the bird AND leaves you even more susceptible to issues from bad weather. Then once you get it to your cable provider, most HD channels they push out are between 3-12Mb/s, meaning a 4K channel - even if it takes up the space of 4 or 5 HD channels - will have the life squeezed out of it by the time it reaches the end-user. And considering broadcasters still can't even squeeze 1080p out of OTA, there's little chance you'll see a major network adopt it.
My guess is that film will be the deciding factor as to if 4K lives or dies as a spec. If enough people see the quality improvement (read: if enough people buy new 65"+ TVs or projectors) then broadcast will make a concerted effort to fill the content void. If everyone shrugs off 4K because they're watching it on their cheap 46" 720p flatscreens, it will dissolve just as quickly as 3D. But 4K has one major advantage over 3D... the end-user isn't required to wear those stupid polarizing glasses. That in itself may give the format life where 3D failed miserably.
(1) There are some highly specialized 4K X-MO cameras out there (SNF/MNF have experimented with it, there was also a few working rigs at the Olympics) - but the rigs required to run them are pretty insane... it requires bonding 8-16 fibers to transfer the data, and trays of hard drives to store only 20-30 seconds of replay data at 240fps. They're neat "toys", just not very practical.
top Google Demands Microsoft Pull YouTube App For WP8
Wow. So Microsoft is mad because someone else won't give them details on a closed API?
What a difference a decade makes. How's it feel, Microsoft?
about a year and a half ago
top Why US Mileage Ratings Are So Inaccurate
Agreed. I own a 2008 car, which was re-stickered with the new EPA estimates before it was sold to me. The EPA estimate was 35mpg. In a combination of 60/40 freeway to city, I get a dashboard estimated 35mpg, and an actual number damn close to 35mpg (34.5 the last time I bothered to do the math). I've measured that freeway driving alone (65-75mph) gets me around 36.5mpg.
But realize the number changes significantly if you have your heat or A/C on. Usually colder temps and cranking the heat averages about 31.5mpg, and if I use my remote start on cold mornings all of that fast idling gets me closer to 29mpg at the end of a tank.
So most likely the problem is that people aren't comparing apples to apples. Montana in the winter or Texas in the summer will get you worse mpg than Tennessee in the spring. And that's BEFORE you take driving habits, acceleration patterns, and fuel type (ethanol blends lessen your MPG) into account.
about a year and a half ago
top Got a Cell Phone Booster? FCC Says You Have To Turn It Off
You could always install a passive repeater - two antennas and a wire connecting them. They're not illegal, and they pass signal out of faraday cages effectively. Make the outside antenna a directional one and point it in the general direction of your nearest tower, and you shouldn't have any issues.
top Got a Cell Phone Booster? FCC Says You Have To Turn It Off
Easily. A directional antenna and a spectrum analyzer. They do it.
They just don't care if you're not interfering with their regular service operations.
top Got a Cell Phone Booster? FCC Says You Have To Turn It Off
...and I'll give you a perfect example of what they're trying to fight. I work in a stadium, in an area covered by 15-20 different "cell towers" (real towers, DAS, COWs, etc). The TV production crew works in one or more 53' aluminum expando trailers. Depending on how they're grounded, a lot of them make pretty impressive Faraday Cages - meaning cell phone and radio services are terrible inside them. Some of the TV truck engineers have installed active cell repeaters to help combat this, but of course forget if they have them turned on or not.
A TV truck came to town during an NFL game, they happened to be a truck whose engineers I'm close friends with and I happen to be aware that they run a repeater. During the game I hear reports of cell network issues. I'm walking through a service area only to find a guy with a spectrum analyzer waiving a directional antenna around the halls. I ask him what he's doing, and he says that six cell towers have been completely shut down due to some interference and it's making cell phone communication nearly impossible. (There is a baseball park next door. This can easily lead to tragedy when you have 100,000+ cell phones on the same street corner and no way to call out due to interference and capacity bottlenecks.)
I asked the engineer if he knew when the interference started, he said about 8am Saturday. He said it went away for a while, but then started up again at about 6am on game day. This is the exact schedule the TV trucks were powered up. I tell him to hang on, go to the truck engineers, and ask them if their repeater is on. I tell them to pull it, walk back in to the engineer, and ask how the towers are doing. He says everything seems to be fine now, and asks me what the issue was. I tell him it's taken care of, and walk away.
One cell repeater, left on accidentally in a densely populated area, effectively shut down communications at two major sporting events. They seem like a great idea, but they amplify so much noise at such a high power that they blow regular cell users who can't reach the repeater out of the water. I've seen it happen, and I'm glad the FCC is doing something about it.
top 5000 fps Camera Reveals the Physics of Baseball
The math is way more complicated than that. No 100mph pitch is ever 100mph when the ball hits the glove. The initial velocity is 100mph, but due to wind resistance and other forces it can slow 12mph easily before it reaches the mound, 60ft after its initial release. This is why before MLB's Pitchtrax system different radar guns always gave different readings - they would pick up the ball at different points on its journey and thus at different speeds (leaving out the variable of calibration). You can actually get some really amazing raw pitch data using MLB's "Gameday" webpage during games. It will show you release velocity, velocity at contact, and a lot of other cool pieces of info (inches of break, etc).
10k FPS is impractical from every standpoint... data storage, image quality, lighting, and most importantly - playback. It would take 166 seconds at 59.97fps to play back a single second of video. We're lucky if we get 25 seconds between pitches to show a replay, not including the time to cue the clip up, the replay wipe in and out, etc. It might be cool to look at and analyze at some point down the road, or for the "wow" factor for the camera company and the mod company, but for a broadcast it seems pointless. Not that it's the first piece of pointless technology I've ever seen forced on us......
However, I do work baseball, do live in Detroit, and will be working the World Series games here (3, 4, 5). I'm going to seek out some additional info directly from the guys who run it this weekend.
top 5000 fps Camera Reveals the Physics of Baseball
They may use a camera that can run up to 5,000fps, but that's not the frame rate that was being shot.
There is no reasonable way to shoot high frame rates at night in the lighting conditions that exist in ballparks. Remember that stadium lights only actually project light 60 times per second, and not all of them fire at the exact same time (different power phases, feeds from different transformers and substations, etc). So while in sunlight you can shoot at 5,000fps (though no one does because it's impractical with the limited amount of time you have between pitches to show a replay), in large-scale HID (et al) lighting environments you can't shoot much more than 600-1000fps and still achieve a reasonable image quality. (Note that a referenced article in TFA says they shot at 3,000fps, but I still have major doubts that the captured clips or even the original clip which aired on television was actually shot at 3k FPS.)
And it's not just the frequency of the light, it's the amount. Zoom lenses lower the light that hits camera CCDs SIGNIFICANTLY. We experiment with high-speed cameras at long distances (center field pitch follow) quite regularly, and the result is incredibly underwhelming in anything other than direct sunlight. Though I will say, watching the movement and flight pattern of the pitch at high framerate in daylight is pretty spectacular.
Here (pdf) is an interesting whitepaper written by Grass Valley about the development of their super slow motion cameras, and the difficulties involved (flicker control, data rate, SNR, etc). The interesting reading begins on page 2. Note that this is NOT the camera used in the clips, the camera referenced is only doing 180fps - but you can extrapolate the complications presented in shooting 3000fps in HID lighting. (Side note: The referenced camera is the industry standard for smooth slow motion replay at 180fps. Ever notice that really smooth low-endzone NFL replay angle, or that definitive mid-1st MLB replay angle of the throw to first beating the runner? That's this camera.)
And in case you were wondering, the actual camera they used is
here, though it was modified by a third party company to run at a higher frame rate.
top 100GbE To Slash the Cost of Producing Live Television
HDSDI uncompressed video is 1.5Gb/s. That is the standard for moving uncompressed video around inside a TV truck, whether 720p or 1080i. It rises to 3Gb/s if you're doing multiple phases of video (3D video, super slo-mo, etc). Within that 1.5Gb/s is still more than enough headroom to embed multiple datastreams and channels of audio (8 stereo pairs is the norm, some streams do up to 16). So I fail to see why 100Gb/s is necessary to transmit uncompressed video.
It's also a chicken-and-egg scenario. I'm a broadcast engineer and audio specialist. I had Ma Bell contact me about 7 years ago asking about how important uncompressed video transmission was, as they were trying to gauge a timeframe for a network rebuild to allow for uncompressed video transmission. My answer hasn't changed much in 7 years, because although moving uncompressed video from site to (in the case of Fox) Houston and then back to your local affiliate would be nice, it's completely unnecessary because by the time it reaches your house your local cable or satellite operator has compressed your 1.5Gb/s signal down to between 4Mb/s and 10Mb/s typically, making the quality gains negligible.
It will solve one problem, which is image degradation due to multiple passes of compression. Think about it... the 1.5Gb/s leaves our TV truck and gets ASI compressed into 270Mb/s (best case scenario, satellite transmission is significantly lower bandwidth, and most networks don't use an entire 270M circuit, they use less). It then arrives at the network hub, where it gets decompressed. If it's live it then goes through several switchers and graphics boxes, then gets re-compressed to ASI and sent either to another hub or to your local affiliate. (If not live, it gets put into a server which re-compresses the video even harder before playout.) Your local affiliate then decompresses it, it passes through more switchers and graphics boxes, then it gets either broadcast using 8VSB, or it gets re-compressed and passed on to your cable or satellite provider, who then un-compresses it, processes it into MPEG or some other flavor, and re-compresses it into its final 3-12Mb/s data stream for your receiver to decompress one final time.
This would eliminate several compression steps, and mean a better final image quality because you're not recompressing compression artifacts over and over and over again. A real 1.5Gb/s video frame looks like staring out a window compared to the nastiness you see when you hit pause on your DVR during a football game (also a best-case scenario, most cable/broadcast/sat providers ramp up the bitrate to the max for live sports and then set it back down shortly thereafter).
But the 100Gb/s makes no sense to me. Are you (crazy) overcompensating for latency? Are you sending 100% redundant data for error correction? Why in the world would you need that much overhead? I can't imagine it's to send multiple video feeds, the telco companies don't want you to do that because then you order less circuits from them. Plus you'd want at least two circuits anyways in case your primary circuit goes down for some reason.
(Side note: The one benefit to a TV truck using Ethernet as a transmission medium is the fact that these circuits are bi-directional. Transmission circuits nowadays are all unidirectional, meaning you need to order more circuits if you need a return video feed, meaning higher transmission costs. The ability to send return video or even confidence return signals back down the same line would be huge for us and a big money saver.)
top Countering a DMCA Takedown In the Magnet Wars
You can always repost a voicemail. US law only mandates that both parties are aware that the content of the phone call is being recorded. Leaving a voicemail implies knowledge that your voice is being recorded, thus there is no issue there. The picture can be more complicated as far as copyright, as just because it's available online doesn't make it fair game.
The more important issue is the fact that the DMCA is unbelievably flawed, and this points out a perfect case. If I use the DMCA to demand a video be removed and you don't do so in a timely manner, I sue you. If I use the DMCA to demand the video be re-posted and you don't do so in a timely manner, I sue you. However there is no severe penalty for misuse of the DMCA. Thus the reason for all the automated DMCA takedown notices - there's no consequences if you get a few wrong. The only ones getting unconditionally screwed in this case are the hosting sites, which is absurd.
For the love of your particular deity, will someone hold the companies who abuse our laws responsible for something?
top UK Gets Europe's First 3G Femtocell
What a great idea! Can't believe I didn't think of trying this! That basically amounts to free international calling, and the ability to use my american cell phone (without a SIM card) overseas!
Sprint makes a device called the Airave that acts as a mini-cell tower over a DSL line. I imagine it could be plugged into any DSL line overseas, and route calls and voicemails to my cell phone in another country. Even if Sprint had some geographical limitations as to where the traffic could come from, I could tunnel the data back to my house and have it leave from there, at the expense of a little extra lag.
Does the wireless spectrum match up in, lets say Europe, to allow for this? It would save me a fortune in international calls and prepaid cell phones on trips.
top Ridiculous Software Bug Workarounds?
That's funny, I literally JUST did that a few minutes ago. I cut-and-pasted from Thunderbird to GMail, and it had a ton of absurd formatting that I couldn't eliminate that made everything basically illegible.
Works like a charm.
top Court Sets Rules For RIAA Hard Drive Inspection
After all, it is already illegal for Best Buy employees to search my hard drives for software, music, images, porn, etc. and make copies of said information to keep them on a centralized file server in their store for all the techs to peruse at will. But wait, it happened anyways en masse, didn't it?
So this provides legal protection from authorities "stumbling across" other illegal files (child porn, warez, etc) but it does little to protect privacy beyond that (trade secrets, private/original music and/or speech recordings and the like). And I find it wonderful that the RIAA gets to select the parties that peruse said information, as opposed to a neutral third party. Smells like an arrangement that could easily be abused.
top NFL's IT Chief Gears Up For His 25th Super Bowl
Having personally worked with him on SBXL, I can tell you that Dave is a great guy who knows what he's doing. The level of planning is amazing, not to mention the equipment they travel. They bring their own phone network (refusing to use even brand new state-of-the-art switches the house may own), a ridiculous amount of fiber, have fatter data pipes than some small countries, and are completely flexible to individual needs. It's completely night-and-day from any other sports event (including the World Series, Stanley Cup, and the Final Four).
He also has a bunch of really cool toys. Between him and the FCC, they can pinpoint an unlicensed RF transmitter within 5 feet in under 3 minutes and have it shut down. And yes, this happens multiple times in each super bowl, usually with foreign media.