Responding to DVD subscription decline, Netflix closes call center

This is as predictable as the sunrise, if there weren’t titles only available on DVD then the red envelopes would be even fewer.

Netflix is closing a call center devoted to its DVD subscription business in Hillsboro, Oregon, letting go of 188 remaining employees, according to a report by the Oregonian. The news is just the latest sign for Netflix shifting priorities away from its DVD business as the number of subscribers still paying for those iconic red envelopes continues to decline.Netflix used to have close to 14 million DVD subscribers in Q3 of 2011. Three years later, that number has shrunk to less than six million. The company has responded by closing a number of its DVD distribution centers, and is now looking to manage customer support out of its DVD business offices in Fremont, California.

— Tech News and Analysis from GigaOm,
by Janko Roettgers
via Responding to DVD subscription decline, Netflix closes call center — Tech News and Analysis.

The Best 3-D Printed Gun Yet Shoots Paper Airplanes

Paper Airplane Machine Gun / Papierflieger-Maschinenpistole – YouTube.

The Internet of Things Is More Than Just a Bunch of Refrigerators

Harvard Business Review covers the internet of things, but everyone is probably wondering what the heck is meant when people say that. The (with a capital T and capital I) Internet of things is all of the public accessible things on The Public Internet plus a subset. The subset internet of everything are the things that are semi-private to private but still accessible to private parties via internet. So in the view below you see that a nearby view of things for me shows some Global Bike Share stations, some Raspberry Pi‘s, and some Netatmo & other weather stations. You can click on the “Thingful” icon and pull up a map of your area if you want to as well.

This area is somewhat un-thinged, and un- smart compared to some cities – that will change dramatically over the next decade. In time you might see those tennis courts get a public schedule, the transit stations might show up along with real time mapping of the actual buses, web cams will pop up, restaurant menus, and some things people haven’t yet imagined will also show up.

The internet of things is going to grow up organically around us over time, and in some exponential fashion — the more things that are on the internet, the more reason there is to have even more things that are on the internet. As that occurs it will sort itself into Public, semi-public, and private spheres – with some devices and sensors present in more than one of those overlapping zones.

In your private intranet you will have things at home that can only be reached internally like maybe your security cameras, and you might have other things that can be reached over the public internet with biometric passkeys, certificates, and/or two step authentication, such as your DVR or media center. You might also have a public accessible weather station or other sensors fully public on the internet (like some of the Netatmo’s in the map above.)

In fully smart cities like Santander, Spain, all sorts of services and things might be available. In other cities, like mine, you might see smart infrastructure and services slowly integrated as refresh and replace cycles hit, and as new infrastructure is constructed. In Lenexa they’ve added an app for users to let the publics works folks know when there’s a problem. So you can snap a photo of the streetlight that’s out from your phone, upload it with the GPS coordinates, and a crew will come out to replace the bulb.

The interactive features and networked devices in smart Stadiums, factories, transport hubs, and other public venues are still evolving quickly, and will continue to do so because we do live in an exciting time and like the HBR article says, it’s not just about smart refrigerators and things in your home.

by Scott Berinato | 11:00 AM October 14, 2014 Harvard Business Review

The Internet of Things is definitely becoming a Thing, in the same way that big data’s a Thing or the sharing economy’s a Thing. And the thing about a thing that becomes a Thing is, it’s easy to lose sight of the things that made it a thing before everyone declared it the Next Big Thing that will change everything.

Got it? Good. We’ll start there. With the hype over the Internet of Things behind us. Because whether or not it’s a Thing, the internet of things is already a lot of things. Here’s a look at a tiny, tiny slice of it:

Those are a couple of dozen air quality sensors located around Boston, as documented by Thingful, a search engine for publicly available Internet of Things things (including sharks!). Click on a dot to get real-time information on air quality in the area. That alone may only cross the threshold of “neat,” but it’s also the foundation of real social and business applications.

More: The Internet of Things Is More Than Just a Bunch of Refrigerators – Scott Berinato – Harvard Business Review

Future of Braille Report- Library of Congress

In the early 1990’s right after the Americans with Disablities Act was signed into law I helped incorporate a Braillex screen reader / keyboard into a PC with custom mainframe applications to enable the company I worked for to hire their first blind customer service representative. It took a great deal of concerted effort with the PC vendor, Papenmeier, & third tier support at the terminal emulator software vendor because midstream in the emulator’s translation characters typed by the agent echoed back and switched from EBCDIC to ASCII, which meant our blind agent couldn’t see some special characters and others that they typed would move the cursor wildly across the screen. We hired some assembly language gurus to code a keyboard scanner that captured and faked the echo back from the terminal emulator which worked great. After that we used the knowledge gained to enable other blind agents to work at Telecommunications Relay for Deaf call centers as well. Technology has moved forward a lot since those days, with sites like BARD, bluetooth connections, and new devices.

Now it’s time to look into the future – as we move to the Internet of Things, and as we encounter new devices, what is the future of Braille? Here’s an article on the new report from the Library of Congress

The Future of Braille” Report Presents Recommendations for Improving Literacy Opportunities

Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert J. Dizard Jr. today released a report exploring issues related to braille, the literacy tool that makes independence possible for people who cannot see to read regular print, at the National Federation of the Blind national convention in Orlando, Florida.

"The Future of Braille: NLS Braille Summit Presentations and Outcomes" details the proceedings of a conference held by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in partnership with the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, June 19–22, 2013. It was attended by more than 100 librarians, instructors, producers, and other experts in the field of braille.

NLS director Karen Keninger said, "This was the first gathering of its type since the early 20th century. People were eager to share their experiences and to contribute their ideas to help shape the course of this important literacy tool."

"The Library of Congress has been providing braille books since it was authorized by law to provide free library service for people who are blind or have low vision," Dizard explained. "This program, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, has recently expanded to include electronic braille, which is downloaded over the Internet from the Braille and Audio Reading Download site (known as BARD) and read using braille embossers or note-takers with a Bluetooth connection.

"The Braille Summit is a product of our effort to keep this medium at the forefront of library service," Dizard said.

Speakers included Peter Osborne, chief braille officer of the United Kingdom’s Royal National Institute of Blind People, Michael Yudin, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in Washington, D.C., and other notables in the field. Panels discussed improvements in the braille code, methods of producing braille, lowering costs, leveraging technology, and addressing misperceptions about the literacy tool.

Participants recognized that collaboration is the way forward for strengthening braille literacy. As NLS has been a leader in ensuring access to reading materials, the gathering recommended that NLS support efforts to update braille technology and specifications. They also recommended that the service provide a low-cost braille display in the same way that it provides audio-playback equipment.

Other stakeholders were encouraged to address the shortage of teachers and cost prohibitions, promote braille as a communications tool, make better use of technology to reduce the cost of braille production and to produce a low-cost braille display unit.

The report is available online at www.loc.gov/nls/.

NLS administers the braille and talking-book program, a free library service available to U.S. residents and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or disability makes reading regular materials difficult. Through its national network of libraries, NLS mails books and magazines in audio and braille formats and digital audio equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are also provided. Selected materials may be downloaded. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/nls/ or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

via Future of Braille Report | News Releases – Library of Congress.

Vimeo’s video recording app Cameo gets indie music boost

This is good news from Vimeo, other video services might want to pay attention to this move.

Cameo, the iPhone video recording app that Vimeo acquired in March, relaunched with a bigger focus on music Wednesday, allowing users to combine their clips with select songs from a variety of indie bands. The update also includes an option to upload Cameo clips straight to Vimeo.

The new Cameo app features a new music interface that makes it easier to pick songs as soundtracks. “ Music and video go hand in hand, and by connecting enthusiasts of both, Cameo is inspiring user creativity and facilitating personal connections between fans, artists, and creators,” said Cameo VP Mark Rosenberg.

Cameo actually faced some criticism when it first made the move towards a curated music catalog, with some of its users arguing that they’d rather use songs from their own library for their videos — something that was possible in earlier versions of the app, but has since been disabled. Asked about this, Rosenberg said: “Many emerging artists have been victim to pirating on other mobile video platforms, and our goal is to develop relationships with these artists and get them the exposure they need to be successful.”

Vimeo’s video recording app Cameo gets indie music boost — Tech News and Analysis.

Crunch Your IoT Data Before It Clogs the Network

Paul Glynn makes a good point here – for the Internet of things to be effective and efficient, some data refinement needs to take place at a local level. If you pass every measurement, second by second, you will quickly clog your M2M pipes upstream to the cloud. Essential data regarding context and environment needs to pass, and the rest needs to stay local on the internal M2M framework. For measurements that need to be near real time, you need to make a determination of what’s the best sampling rate for your application to be effective. (Every three seconds? Every five minutes?) You will also need to threshold some M2M events for detection reasons – e.g. for a medical application a heart rate sensor ticking away at 65 BPM isn’t news the cloud needs, but a heart rate sensor ticking at 130 BPM while the subject is otherwise at complete rest might be.

In today’s IoT frenzy, a lot of companies rush to connect sensors and provide all sorts of monitoring services, and carriers will happily bill them for the data that transits through their networks.

But sending all the raw data to the cloud for processing and intelligence is inefficient and expensive, notes Paul Glynn, CEO of Irish startup Davra Networks. With the release of its RuBAN application enablement platform, the three-year-old Irish company jumps on the “fog computing” bandwagon with a clear goal to add local value to IoT data before it even reaches the cloud.

“Out of the estimated 50 billion connected devices that may be deployed by 2020, the vast majority will not have a direct connection to the cloud but will pass on their data through local gateways or routers,” explains Glynn.

More: Crunch Your IoT Data Before It Clogs the Network

The Demise of Spinning Disks and Other Technology Verges: Updated

More than a couple of years back I made predictions about spinning disks that are speedily playing out now. As SSD’s both increase in space and decrease in costs the move to adopt them in all infrastructure is accelerating. If you are going to pay for a disk now you should consider the benefits (speed, instant on, low energy, low maintenance,) of SSD unless it’s massive storage you need – and even that barrier will quickly fall once SSD’s come in terabyte sizes for < $150.00. So if you are in a business dependent on spinning disks, it's past time to consider product migration strategies. From 2 years ago:

It’s very clear that memory devices that use spinning platters and disks are all headed to obsolescence soon. This means Hard drives, CD players, DVD’s and DVD players. So what will the replacement be?

The most likely replacement is streaming digital mixed with the SD-MMC card in some form or another. Since manufacturers are making 128 GB versions of these chips, it’s likely that the lower GB versions will become dirt cheap soon, and when that happens 16 GB chips might become the media that movies get sold on. (The typical HD or Blu ray movie takes less than 8GB on average on DVD’s now.) There are also solid state devices using similar memory technology for capacity right now, while solid devices like the Ipod touch are relatively expensive for the average consumer for the memory (64 GB), they will improve.

via The Demise of Spinning Disks and Other Technology Verges | Noblesse Oblige.

Apple IOS 8 adds extensions for IoT

The new IOS extensions are Apple’s way of trying to meld their walled garden gear into the Internet of things. Essentially Apple has to poke more holes in the garden walls if they want their devices to stay relevant and useful in the coming home constellation of other devices and applications that must interact, talk with each other, and most important – know their context and their user’s context, in order to provide best utility and “artificial AI” semi-aware functionality. The real challenge is to keep those holes secure while functional.

 

Standards will evolve for this eventually…

Explaining iOS 8’s extensions: Opening the platform while keeping it secure | Ars Technica

Allowing third-party apps to communicate with other apps is just one of the problems extensions are meant to solve—third-party keyboards, connecting apps to cloud services other than iCloud, and the new Notification Center widgets are all their own kind of extensions.

Not all parts of iOS can be changed (or “extended”) by third parties. If you wanted to replace one of the default apps with your own or add some kind of toggle to the Control Center, you can’t do that. Apple defines a handful of pre-set “extension points” to show developers where they can add stuff. The iOS 8 extension points are as follows:

via Explaining iOS 8’s extensions: Opening the platform while keeping it secure | Ars Technica.

Crop Factor with ISO & Aperture: How Sony, Olympus & Panasonic Cheat You

Here’s my PSA for today – if you buy one of those small sensor mirror less digital cameras or any other crop factor sensor camera then you really need to pay attention to the math & logic in this video before you buy any expensive lenses. If you don’t you can get really screwed.

Crop Factor with ISO & Aperture: How Sony, Olympus & Panasonic Cheat You – YouTube.

How to create and tailor a Smart playlist in ITUNES

I listen to a lot of music, but I mostly like to keep songlist rotation to newer tunes. I think this keeps me young, forward-looking, and out of a deep nostalgia rut that can become a sucking morass that steals your soul and all of that. e.g. I know some folks who listen to nothing but old songs that are sad paeans to the joys of their lost youth, and get this: they started listening to that yearning for lost childhood song list way back while they were still young believe it or not. Their song list is about 75 tunes of total melancholic bore on endless repeat and I sure don’t want to become like that. (No! I am not talking about you my friend!) Enough of the rambling, and to the point.

I do get in a rare moods where I do want to think back, and I still have all of those old tunes on my IPOD; I just don’t listen to them as much as most people because I played the heck out of them while DJ’ing. When I do want to listen to old stuff I use a smart playlist, and here’s how you can create and tailor them for particular decades in ITUNES.

First under “File” menu Select >NEW then >Smart Playlist — once the window pops up click the Plus sign a few times to create a few programmable lines, when you finish it will look something like this but the lines will be mostly blank & the same:

Untitled-1

The first window says “artist” but it’s a drop selection window with a ton of choices — Select “YEAR” and then move right to the next window on that line for the operator. You want to select the year prior to the year you actually want the list to start with so if you were making a playlist of Rock, Pop, and other music from 2000 – 2010 then after you select Year, next to it the operator drop down that has “is greater than” and then in the last selection window type in “1999”.
Next in the bottom line of your playlist you close your program bracket by doing the same but use “YEAR” “is less than” and put in “2011”. That brackets your decade but you aren’t done yet, you should always put in a line in that excludes “holiday” so you don’t get that Christmas tune playing in June at minimum…” To do that Select “Genre” to exclude “Holiday” by using “is not”, on those other lines you can also exclude any other genres or things you don’t like, look at those drop downs and be creative in narrowing the playlist – you can always add more lines in the script by hitting the “+”, and once you are all done you use the “-” sign to eliminate any extra lines. Click on “Live Updating” so it grabs any new songs you add that might fit the criteria and then hit save, and name it something specific like 2000-2010 or “the lost decade” or whatever. Bam! you done..