Jun 032014

Apple is doing its best to convince me to make my next computer a Mac. The next version of OS X will closely integrate with iOS devices, allowing users to respond to phone calls and texts from their Macs (as well as initiate calls and texts). I’d love to have this capability, but I doubt Apple will make it available to Windows users.

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my PC, but perhaps I’ll wait for the next iMac refresh and see how the specs compare. I still prefer the modularity and flexibility of my Windows system, but I’m a sucker for integration and convenience.

May 282014

I’m in the final stages of purchasing a new van (a 2014 Honda Odyssey EX, if you’re curious) and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity to ride around in something that was manufactured in this century. Of course, I’d love a self-driving vehicle like the prototype Google has unveiled in the video below:

It’s a cute little thing and the clearest indication yet of what the future of transportation might look like. In another decade, I might be able to give up my van in exchange for a driverless taxi that is wheelchair accessible. Google certainly understands the powerful implications of this idea; two people with visual impairments are included in the video. Imagine how something like this could revolutionize paratransit systems that are currently understaffed and unable to operate around the clock, particularly in rural areas. For many people with disabilities, this technology could mean the difference between isolation and independence.

Apr 142014

I was a bit surprised to learn that Amazon has purchased digital comics purveyor Comixology. I now purchase most of my comics via Comixology and I hope this takeover leads to some much-needed improvements for the site, such as a more refined search function and a more intuitive way to organize the comics I have already purchased. Amazon has a reputation for not mucking up the companies it purchases (see Audible and Zappos), which could be good news for Comixology and its customers.

I’d like to see more competitors enter the market, but few companies will be eager to contend with a behemoth like Amazon. Publisher Dark Horse has its own digital storefront, but it’s a bit of a mess and I think I would prefer that they simply make their titles available through Comixology.

Mar 282014

Switzerland is planning to host the first “Cybathlon”, an athletic competition for people using prosthetics or other augmentive aids. It will include a wheelchair race, an exoskeleton race, and a (gasp!) brain-computer interface race. A better name for this event might be “Meet Your Future Gimp Overlords”. I’m curious to see what kind competition this attracts and whether it will be broadcast on-line. The organizers don’t seem interested in placing any restrictions on the kinds of technology that can be used, so the Cybathlon could be a showcase for the truly cutting-edge.

Attention corporate sponsors: I will gladly wear a sensor cap emblazoned with your product logo as I compete in the BCI races. All I require is a well-appointed training facility and a personal masseuse (whom I interview and hire, of course).

Feb 182014

The blog has suffered a few technical issues over the last week, rendering it inaccessible for large chunks of time. The problems seem to be related to server transfers at my hosting company, which hopefully are now resolved. Since I’m no longer posting every day and I don’t always notice problems when they arise, feel free to e-mail or tweet me if the blog is misbehaving (thanks, Rose!).

And a pop culture update: I’m really enjoying HBO’s True Detective series. It’s a successful mashup of Southern Gothic and existential noir that has kept me interested since the first episode. Sure, it’s another serial killer tale in a television landscape littered with such tales, but the character studies give this pulpy material some heft. The show is further evidence of Matthew McConaughey’s transformation from shirtless goofball to Serious Actor. And Woody Harrelson must have cut way back on the bud to imbue his alpha male detective with just the right amount of swagger.

Like American Horror StoryTrue Detective also represents a resurgence of anthologized storytelling on TV. A new story every season should keep the series fresh and keep people like me paying for HBO subscriptions.

Feb 132014

Comcast’s proposed deal to purchase Time Warner Cable is being met with plenty of skepticism from consumer rights advocates. Given the current state of the U.S. broadband and pay TV market, those concerns are not easily dismissed. Comcast, already the largest cable provider, would gain even more control over the national broadband infrastructure and the market influence that comes with that control. This deal wouldn’t do anything to hold down ever-increasing consumer broadband rates and it may encourage Comcast to hike prices further simply because it can. Absent any further FCC efforts to regulate net neutrality, Comcast could also decide to leverage its increased market share into charging the likes of Amazon and Netflix for “preferred” access to its network.

As a Comcast customer, I don’t have many issues with the services I receive. Unlike a lot of other providers, Comcast has steadily increased its broadband capacity and speeds. But it charges exorbitant prices for that speed that are well above the rates charged in other developed nations for similar or even faster broadband access. Allowing Comcast to further consolidate its power doesn’t seem likely to result in a more consumer-friendly marketplace for such an essential service.

Perhaps the FCC will use this merger as an opportunity to push for meaningful regulations that will preserve the open Internet and granting increased access to competitors. Of course, this assumes that the FCC will find its backbone and not cower in a corner while Comcast steals its lunch money.

Feb 032014

Yesterday’s Super Bowl was a dull affair, as were most of the ads. But this Microsoft ad featuring a former NFL player living with ALS caught my attention:

Two things: First, people actually use Surface tablets? Second, when did the Surface get eye-tracking functionality? Because that seems like something Microsoft might want to start incorporating in other products, like the Kinect.

I did get a little misty watching the hearing-impaired woman cry when she heard the words spoken to her. Don’t hate me, deaf community.

Jan 102014

The annual Consumer Electronics Show just wrapped up in Vegas and the tech press seemed determined to convince us that 4K televisions will soon be replacing our current HD TVs. I can’t help but think that 4K is a desperate push by the electronics industry to revive flat TV sales. Such high resolution detail can only be appreciated on screens that are 70 inches or larger. Some people might have room to accommodate such a monstrosity in their living rooms, but my 46″ TV still seems gargantuan to me. I’m sure my next television will be both thinner and larger, but only because that’s where the market is heading. Hopefully, I won’t need to knock out a wall to enjoy season 10 of Game of Thrones.

Nov 122013

I recently blogged that I wasn’t much interested in the new iPad Air. But then I started to think that it might be nice to have more storage than my current 16 GB. And I started to think that the additional processing power might be nice for the occasional game. And one of my nurses offered me a reasonable sum for my 3rd-gen iPad.

Which is a long way of saying that I bought an iPad Air over the weekend. It really is just as sexy and svelte as it is in the pictures. A few apps are noticeably snappier and I won’t have to worry storage space anytime soon. An unnecessary purchase? Possibly. But when it comes to most of my tech upgrades, “necessary” isn’t at the top of my criteria list.

Oct 252013

The new iPad Air is certainly a svelte and sleek device, but I’m not sure it’s a worthwhile upgrade from my third-generation iPad. A faster processor won’t make a much of a difference when I’m reading or scanning my Twitter feed. The slimmer profile is eye-catching, but my iPad always sits on a stand and is easily portable as is. I’d happily pay for a version with a larger screen, which may come in another generation or two. Apple already convinced me to upgrade my phone to the 5S, so I doubt the ghost of Steve Jobs will be offended if I sit out this product cycle.