Kitchen Stagnation

January 31, 2011

Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen argue that the pace of innovation in the kitchen has stagnated over the last 50 years or so.

The same can be said for one of my favorite technologies, the canoe. The modern day canoe is based on the Aboriginal birchbark canoe. The original design is hundreds of years old and remains unchanged though the materials used in the construction of the modern canoe have changed over time. The birchbark was first replaced by canvas in the 19th century followed by modern composites like fiberglass and Kevlar about 50 years ago. There have been no significant improvements in canoe technology since then.

Is the lack of canoe innovation a sign that we are doomed to technological stagnation?

For me, the canoe is an example of a perfected technology. Within its problem space, it is done. It is complete. It represents the fruits of a long and arduous process, the engineering end-game. It makes me happy. It is the high bar for anything I create.

I admit that kitchen appliances do not give me the same sense of engineering perfection or completeness that the canoe does. They do, however, represent another common engineering measure, that of being “good enough”. It is a waste of time and money to try to improve a technology that is “good enough”. Perhaps that is the definition. A technology is “good enough” when additional engineering resources applied to the problem space result in negligible technological improvement.

One would think that economists preoccupied with the allocation of resources would have a special place in their heart for technology that is either “done” or “good enough” rather than seeing it as a harbinger of middle-class decline.

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iPad Outdoors

June 5, 2010

This is my second weekend with my new iPad. The iPad was released internationally (I live in Canada) on may 28th. The device is pretty much what I expected but there have been a few notable surprises.

By far the happiest for me is that it works pretty well outdoors even in direct sunlight. It is on par with the first generation iPod Touch I own. The finger prints standout more in direct sunlight but a little bit of elbow grease resolves that. Mind you it is no Kindle. The e-ink screen on the Kindle and other eReaders is gorgeous in direct sunlight.

My second test outdoors with the iPad was a disappointment. Outdoors is one thing but outdoors with sunglasses is another. I wear polarized sunglasses and many screens washout through a polarizer. The Kindle is not impacted at all. The iPod Touch is fine in portrait mode but suffers a bit in landscape mode. Through my polarized sunglasses the iPad is nothing but black in portrait mode. So sad.

This weekend as I sit outside overlooking the lake, I decided to try it again. Notta in portrait mode but to my surprise it’s fine outdoors with polarized sunglasses in landscape mode. WooHoo!!!

Maybe outdoor posts is the only way to get me to blog in the summer.

Intel Atom

March 4, 2008

atom_rgb_78.gifIntel announced the Atom, a milliwatt x86 CPU that was mentioned here just about a year ago.

These new chips, previously codenamed Silverthorne and Diamondville, will be manufactured on Intel’s industry-leading 45nm process with hi-k metal gate technology. The chips have a thermal design power (TDP) specification in 0.6-2.5 watt range and scale to 1.8GHz speeds depending on customer need. By comparison, today’s mainstream mobile Core 2 Duo processors have a TDP in the 35-watt range.

I find it interesting that the press release does not even mention the word “phone”. I’m guessing this means that the new Atom chips are not low powered enough for smart phones like the iPhone.

Regardless, it looks like we are reaching an important milestone… the x86 architecture applied to the mobile and embedded space on a large scale.

A Shot from the Grassy Knol

December 14, 2007

Google has announced Knol which seems to be a shot over the bow of Wikipedia. I find this challenge fascinating as it matches the Open Source community of Wikipedia against the pay-for-performance model of Google ads.

At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads.

The name is pretty weird though. Is it Knol as in Grassy Knoll or Knol as in Knowl-edge? I really wish people remembered to included the pronunciation of new brand names in their announcements.

Wikipedia is entrenched but “getting paid” is a powerful incentive. I can’t wait to see how this one plays out.

UnicornCam Update

November 30, 2007

In Imponderable Decisive Moment Compact Camera Challenges I talked about a digital camera I call the UnicornCam. This mythical beast marries a digital SLR sized imaging sensor with a compact camera body to achieve a type of photographic nirvana.

One camera that gave hope to the UnicornCam enthusiasts was the announced but unreleased Sigma DP1.

Today, Sigma announced that the DP1 has entered alpha testing and the final specifications will differ than those previously announced.

After a careful evaluation, we found that the image processing pipeline we had developed for the DP1 was not ideal for achieving the best image quality as it was intended for the faster image processing speed, and we needed to make major revisions to it. At that time we had a choice between compromising image quality and moving forward or taking a different path. After long and sometimes intense discussions, we finally decided to change the entire image processing pipeline. When we decided to change the entire image processing pipeline, we also decided to return to the simple and original product concept of “a camera with the best still image quality in a compact body” and dedicate all of our DP1 development resources to that concept. Because of this change, we had to change some of the specifications that we had announced.

The final specifications will be released at a later time. I’m guessing that the APS sized sensor is gone.

Giving Thanks to Microsoft

November 23, 2007

As our American friends south of the border celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend I would like to give thanks to Microsoft. I would like to give thanks to Microsoft, not for their role in personal computing, not for their operating systems, not for their file or e-mail servers, not for their Office products, but for the Internet. I would like to give thanks to Microsoft for giving us the Internet.

Now this is not an Al Gore Invented the Internet moment. I am not claiming that Microsoft invented the Internet or even championed it. What I am saying is that Microsoft made the most important decision that shaped the success of what we now think of as the Internet and they didn’t even have a clue they were doing it.

At some point in the 90’s Microsoft bundled and embraced the TCP/IP protocol in their operating systems. They did this for a simple reason, to give them a competitive edge over the then dominant market leader Novell. That simple choice driven by fierce competitiveness enabled the ubiquity of the Internet that we know today and, I dare say that, it would not have happened without it.

For this, I give thanks.

Another one of Pogue’s Imponderables is:

I’m told that they could make a shirt-pocket digital camera that takes pictures like an S.L.R., but it would cost a lot. So why don’t they make one for people who can afford it?

This is a long running meme that I think started with Mike Johnston’s Decisive Moment Digicam and continued with Thom Hogan’s Compact Camera Challenge. Both Mike and Thom want a pocketable digital camera with: Read the rest of this entry »