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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Just How Big IS the Cloud?

 Once in a while, I will do something silly, like reengage Google and Amazon integration on my laptop. Just to sync everything up. Now, if you're not careful, these apps start to suck everything in from your devices, from photos and documents, to images from other apps. This is how you unknowingly clog up your free allotment of space, and FAAMG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google) gleefully talks you into buying more cloud space.

About a month or so back, I had reinstalled an old CD copy of SimCity 3000. Windows 98 old. Cringe old. After attempting to play it for about 5 minutes, I had to give it up. The graphics reflected the tech of the time. "I'll uninstall it later", I told myself. But not before I had forgotten about it and reengaged Google. So imagine my surprise as my laptop slowed to a crawl as Google is Hoovering up umpteen zillion gifs and jpegs from the SimCity graphics files. I put a stop to it, and uninstalled the Google and Amazon apps, and SimCity, until I could clean up my cloud storage.

This got me to thinking. My cloud drive is bursting with what I deemed as unnecessary texture images. But are they? Most of us know that FAAMG relies on the petabytes of data we provide to them daily to fine tune their AI algorithms. As we proceed to transition into spatial computing, FAAMG is charging along with parallel development of the AR cloud. How many of us have unwittingly allowed our game graphics to be uploaded into the servers as well?

Very soon, popular virtual worlds will be as mapped out as the default world. And that will be in some small amount due to our allowing textures to be uploaded to the cloud. We (including personal AI agents) will do a search, and textures already in the cloud will be anchored to VR and gaming locations, allowing FAAMG's algorithms to say "Your search for Mom & Pop Shoppe has been located in City Skylines, Westlake, 12th Corridor, 122, 683, 192" (or whatever the XYZ coordinates would be).

So. Do you want to keep your textures in the cloud? At first, I was against it. Now, I'm not so sure!

Monday, September 7, 2020

The State of Immersion

I'm feeling kind of mopey. 

Burning Man has happened online. Second Life has had a camp up for a number of years. This year, the even also took place in AltspaceVR. What's the difference? Second Life is computer monitor 3D. Altspace is HMD (head mounted device) VR.

Normally I don't get excited for Burning Man. Living in a desert for 5 odd days to experience art isn't my cup of tea. But it's occasionally fun to visit the SL sim to experience the next best thing. And I popped in quick to see the displays as always.

So imagine my enthusiasm when I learned that Altspace was hosting it as well. All fine and dandy. But there have been a number of tweets, podcasts, and blog posts all extolling the richness of the Altspace experience. Without the mention of Second Life. So I'm a bit dismayed with it all.

I get it that you feel like you're once again on the playa when you're in an HMD. I, for one, have championed HMDs for a number of years. But have we really moved beyond the use of screens and monitors that far?

There would be no VR, were it not for the pioneers of 3D. The whole concept of 'immersion' is the suspension of the surrounding environment. I proudly anchor my 3D experiences in the early days of VRML. I cut my eye teeth in a world called Colony City, put out by a long forgotten company called Blaxxun Technologies. I was able to lose myself in a 13" monitor on a 16 bit 386 machine with a 2400 baud landline modem for 3 hours while I explored a wondrous location that was then 'cutting edge'.

And, I strongly point out, it was web based. No apps. No app stores. No 30% cut of anything. Keep that in mind.

An Oculus Quest, which is 'state of the art' now, will soon be rendered obsolete when Facebook follows Apple's path in upgrading hardware every few years, and the old stuff quits. No other company will be able to match their prices without being inside an ecosystem. Valve will come close. Don't try to deny it. You know in your own heart I'm right.

Which leaves us with 'fall back' tech. Screens.

Developers need to stop drinking the Kool Aid. There is another platform that exists. It's called the World Wide Web. And there are open standards that are ridiculously easy to code in. Are you going to keep your heads buried in the sand forever, thinking that your work needs to be 'VR immersive'? I challenge you to investigate a standard called X3D. It's XML based. And specs are expanding to include HMDs. But the best part about X3D? It's viewable on older machines. And on phones.

That's right. Screens. Because not everyone will own an HMD. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Blah Blah Blah

Lots of random today. I've been chomping at the bit to go back to work like thousands of others. Almost did tonight, but hey, shit happens. Not going now until the 16th.

I've been messing around some with A-Frame. Got some basics done thru Frame Academy. But I've slacked off. I can't focus.

Worked some on the Westlake modules. That kind of is in limbo again. JMRI, A-Frame and XR is hinging on those.

Played in IMVU and Second Life. My storefronts are going to shit. no business for 3 months. Visitors. No business. If you can't afford to buy play money, you cant afford to buy digital goods.

And I try not to follow the news. Too damn depressing. So that was my week. Hope yours was better!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Pets" and "Bots"

Good morning everyone. I hope you're all staying occupied during the lockdown. I just wanted to share a few ideas rolling around in my head. I've been brooding over the differences between what virtual pets and bots are in games, VR, and internet life in general.

So, what is a pet? A classic example is Tamagotchi. A web version would be Neopets. These are digital critters that you must groom and feed and pay attention to. Most often you'll find pets in games. Bots, on the other hand, are most often a snippet of code that executes when a particular function happens. Depending on the application that you find a bot in, it either will or won't have a visual representation of itself. So here is my dilemma. I would like to run a few bots that I've been finding online. They're being offered as pets.

I know what you're saying. "But you just made two different distinctions". That's my problem. I don't want to have to "feed and groom" the things, but simpler code isn't as effective. I've always been of the opinion if it's a program, it should be able to tend to itself. If I wanted to tend to a pet, I would get myself a cat. What I'm seeing is the complexity levels of these things are starting to incorporate AI. Now if it has a rudimentary AI, it should know how to tend to itself. I guess I'm going to have to keep looking.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

OS Agnostic

Sometimes I can be a dunce. Seriously, I can look at something for hours or days, or in this case, years, and not see the forest for the trees. Then when the dawn comes, it's like a great revelation from God. You'll understand this as you read along.

We're on the edge of Spacial Computing. I refer to it as eXtended Reality. you probably recognize it as plain old Augmented Reality. The whole tech has been percolating for years. There have been a few apps released over the years. Nothing mind blowing, with the possible exception of Pokemon Go. But we're reaching critical mass. The key ingredient will be an Head Mounted Device. I have been championing Vuzix for almost as long as they've been in business. But Apple is in the arena, and as usual, everyone in the industry is sizing up the elephant to see the best way to tackle the beast. Damned hard to take down an elephant.

But what is the crucial feature of ANY hardware device? It's OS. Now I'm partial to Windows. I won't belabor the virtues of Windows over iOS, nor Android over Linux, etcetera. Each is efficient in it's own manner. But I've been casually following the progress of the way Microsoft has been positioning Windows to be the gateway into it's enterprise Azure cloud. The reasoning is to eventually wean companies off of Win XP. And to maybe lock them into Software as a Service. So I let my mind wander. What if, instead of the Win 10 shell, they could use the Win XP shell? Or something even farther back, like Win 98? Or the granddaddy of them all, Win 3.1?

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: Who's to say that we couldn't use a Windows shell in an HMD? And my mind was blown.

Apple will stubbornly stick to it's proprietary iOS, of course. I expect nothing less. But think with me for a moment. All computing devices use a BIOS. Including HMDs. After that, something called the Open AR Cloud kicks in. Or your shell of choice runs in the background. The point I'm making is that regardless of your operating system, a shell is a shell. You can have Android, or windows or linux or any damn thing that can appear on the horizon.

(Edit) I thought I had published this back in October of 2019 when I wrote it. So I'm sending it off now.
(2nd edit) Now the date is showing April. And somewhere else it shows September. Ugh.

Uff Da, Have a Corona!

Yup, I'm still around. I'm weathering the lockdown just like everyone else is. I just wanted to boot up the blog, and maybe start doing weekly posts again. We'll see what happens. In the meantime, everyone stay safe!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Windows Vs Linux

Even though I do all my work on a two year old HP Windows laptop, I have an old eMachines desktop that I've been threatening to upgrade to Linux for years. I got it from a friend that bought it new almost 10 years ago. It originally came with Windows Vista. I finally put Windows 7 on it about a year ago. But now Win 7 is reaching end of support on 14 January 2020.

I'm quite familiar with MS's end of support cycles. I started out with Win 3.1 on a Packard Bell. Which was cutting edge for me then. I had been using Commodore computers before that. But since the eMachines is still a working product, I'd much rather upgrade it to Linux. This way I'll know that the machine will be stable, rather than trying to shoehorn Win 10.

I very much enjoy working in Windows. But... Ah, where to begin? Since Microsoft has been guiding everyone to the cloud, Windows has made some significant changes. They haven't affected me to badly, but I'm concerned that if I make changes on files in One Drive, their online storage system, it possibly changes the file on the C: drive. I have done stupid things in the past like delete whole folders, and then find that the folder is missing on the machine. Fortunately I keep a master backup on a USB drive. Google has done this to me as well.

Linux, as far as I know, has no cloud storage feature, unless you use One Drive or Google's cloud through the web browser. This is what I think is best for me right now. I need to be able to control what I send to the cloud, and when. I really don't need EVERYTHING in the cloud. I'll fill you in on how the instillation goes.