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Microsoft Tag

MicrosoftTag Recent new (beta) technology from Microsoft called Microsoft Tag is a new way of using colorized barcodes to imprint information anywhere and can be read by any device that has a camera. In the future, you will probably see these Tags everywhere. Please read on to hear about my concerns and why Microsoft has to make this open and free to be successful.

Update: After further investigation and thinking, it seems that it’s important to distinguish between Microsoft Tag and HCCB (High Capacity Color Barcodes). HCCB is the specification used by Microsoft Tag to encode an identifier, which is then used to query Microsoft for the real content. Problem with character sets is probably related to the server implementation at Microsoft and not the HCCP specification.

What is it?

It’s simply a way of storing information in a visual barcode. We are all familiar with the normal barcode that has lines in it; almost all products you buy in stores today are marked with one or multiple codes. These are identifiers for the stores to more easily register the products while checking-out.

UPC-A-036000291452

In recent years there has come up many competing standards for barcodes and the latest update to the scene is High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB) which comes straight out of Microsoft Research.

To create your own tags, you can visit http://tag.microsoft.com/ and from there you can generate files as PDF, XPS and WMF. I seriously hope Microsoft will be quick to add GIF, JPG, PNG and possibly SVG support very soon.

There are four different types of tags you can make: URL, Text, vCard and Dialer. What’s interesting about this is the way your mobile phone can intelligently react to the various types and information that is stored in the tag. If it’s a website, you can easily launch the URL on your phone. If it’s a vCard, which is an open specification for sharing contact information, your phone will ask if you’d like to add that person to your contact list. The dialer will allow you to quickly dial the company or person that is encoded on the tag.

So what does it look like? Have a look at my own contact tag, or visit my friend Lars Wilhelmsen:

vCard_Tag

Internationalization

I have a special interest in internationalization as I live in a country in Europe. I live in Norway, and here we have 3 additional characters to the alphabet: ØÆÅ. Additionally, I have worked with customers in countries like Saudi-Arabia which require the use of Unicode at all times to have proper storage and manipulation of information.

So here is the rub with the current implementation of HCCB on my mobile phone: It only supports the top 126 characters in the ANSI codepage. At the current stage I don’t know if this is a flaw in the implementation or a flaw in the specification. That’s impossible for me to know as there is no openness around the specification of the HCCB.

What does all of this mean? It means when you scan the tag I provided earlier, your phone will ask you if you want to add “Bjell?s, Sondre” to your contacts. It is unable to process the character å in my last name. It doesn’t work much better with other characters that are outside the top 126 characters.

Why I even concern myself with these is anyone guess, as Microsoft have often had a tendency to first release their products and services in the US and later to roll out internationally if they have success. With the Xbox, Microsoft did pretty much a world wide release and it’s been very successful. The Zune on the other hand, has not yet been released outside of USA and Canada.

This is what Microsoft states in the FAQ:

Q. Will the Tag beta be available outside of the U.S?
At this time Microsoft Tag will be available to commercial publishers and the general public in the U.S. We have not made any announcements about the availability of Microsoft Tag outside of the U.S., but we will explore the possibility of making the Beta available in other countries.

So I shouldn’t really be blogging about this technology, as it’s not something that’s available to us. Something similar happened when Microsoft released Windows Live Mesh Technology Preview. It was only available to users in the US, though after massive pressure from the online users, they expanded their support to more countries.

With the birth of the Internet, we’ve seen how little country borders really matter. We are all living on the same planet and experiencing the same Internet. We watch the same news and can access the same services, from anywhere and from any computer (if we ignore the fact that certain countries filter, blocks, hide and alter content).

There is always government policies and regulations to blame on, when in fact you don’t want a service to be used certain places; though a company as big as Microsoft, with all their international resources and experience; they do not have the luxury of such an excuse.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy is important and we’re losing it more and more. As identity thefts have become more common (and very easy to do) we need to always concern ourselves with the information we give away.

One thing I discovered with Microsoft Tag is the following: if you name the tag within the creation website with international characters, the mobile phone software will be unable to recognize the tag. I must admit that I was baffled by the fact that it didn’t even handle that. This got me thinking that the actual name of the tag on the website might possibly be imprinted on the tag itself. That’s a major privacy issue and there is no mentioning of this on the Microsoft website.

Then we have the reporting. When you scan a tag, they are sent to Microsoft for analysis. It’s not the mobile phone that does the recognition of the tag photo, it is Microsoft servers. This should be a privacy concern for the consumer that “reads” these tags on their mobile phones. The mobile software actually asks you if you want to publish location information to the tag owner as you scan the tags.

While this is very convenient for the companies that does advertisements, it will be a blocking issue for many other usages.

Costs and Open Standards

I would think there is a lot of money involved in these types of tags through barcodes. I tried to dig up some information on costs for producers that print barcodes on their books and groceries, but I couldn’t find anything. Though from what I know of barcodes, they are very simple and basic protocols. In my current project at work, we’re actually imprinting two tags on some automated document generation. We’re relying on the Barcode 39 and Barcode 128 standards for our need.

Another alternative barcode is the Semacode, which uses Data Matrix specification and is an open ISO specification for encoding URLs in the tag. The Semacode website states that Semacode tags are an "open system" and that tag creation is "completely unrestricted," with the SDK software tools being free of charge for non-commercial use.

Data Matrix is in the public domain for many applications, which means it can be used free of any licensing or royalties. The widely use standard in Japan is QR Code, which is protected by a patent but its rights is not exercised.

So to cover the costs aspect of Microsoft Tag, they state the following in the FAQ:

And in the event that Microsoft decides to charge publishers to use Tags, any Tags that were created and used during the beta, will continue to work, free of charge, for at least two years.

When it comes to the specification of the HCCB standard I was unable to find anything on the web. This is somewhat a concern for me, considering the fact that HCCB has the potential of becoming a mainstream protocol of data tags.

It’s essential that technologies likes this is based around open principles that allows for a vibrant ecosystem to evolve around it, with services, products, gadgets and so forth all coming together.

Why might it fail?

I’m predicting that the Microsoft Tag technology might fail within a short time if it doesn’t go through some drastic changes. These are my reasons:

  • Lack of open specification.
  • Lack of commitment to royalty free use.
  • Requirement to acquire a license to use the technology.
  • Dependent on centralize server technology.
    • If the Microsoft servers are down, your phone won’t be able to recognize tags.
  • Lack of international support through Unicode.

It has to be decentralized and it has to work locally. The phone should analyze the tag and no communication should be sent to Microsoft, that way it will actually work deep inside a basement or at the cinema which might block mobile traffic.

Let’s hope for a better tomorrow and I will continue to follow the progress of Microsoft Tag from its current beta stage and hope that it’s use can be applicable for more than just publishers of books, DVDs, etc.

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Technology Prediction for 2009

Technology_Perspective Read about my technology predictions for 2009 and how I did for 2008.

As a Microsoft Regional Director and Technology Leader at Capgemini in Norway, part of my responsibility is to see and predict trends and change in the technology and software industry (I wrote this sentence without reading what I wrote last year, and to my surprise it’s almost identical). When I went back to look at my 2008 predictions, I realized that I didn’t really make any concrete predictions. So for this year I will actually make a whole bunch of concrete predictions, many which is very obvious, but all of which I’m bringing to the table to make a point of what’s going on.

We’ve always been pretty bad at predicting the far future, we still don’t have flying cars or personal robots that assist us – yet these are ideas that were thought to be with us a long time ago. Though we are bad at predicting the far future, we are much worse at predicting the consequences of change in the immediate future. Few predicted that everyone would have computers when it was first invented, who could have predicted that there would be more mobile phone subscriptions that citizens in Norway? This happened years ago, who knows what the next major change in technology evolution will be.

I’m pretty sure we can all say that 2008 was the year of Web 2.0 and Social Networking Services like Facebook and micro-blogging through services like Twitter. What the major players in 2009 will be is yet unknown, but here is my attempt to “predict” what will happen and how the shape of our industry will be at the end of 2009.

(Photo by rutty, licensed under Creative Commons)

The Obvious

Computers have become the essential tool and companion for millions of people in today's society. The price, quality and performance of our computers is essential for us to be successful in our jobs and tasks. If the computer keeps hanging, crashing and reboot, you’re not going to be happy. If you’re battery life is less than optimal, you’ll be plugged in more often than is effective.

So in 2009 we will have computers with 8-cores, that mean on a single CPU, you will essentially have the power of 8 individual computer processors. While the performance from multiple cores is not linear, it opens up new abilities for software programmers to utilize the simultaneous computation capabilities. Software has been lagging behind CPUs for a while now, but with innovations like the CCR and DSS Toolkit (technologies that forms the foundation for Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio) which is now available standalone separately from MRDS and the Parallel Extensions for .NET Framework will hopefully rectify some of this and make it simpler for programmers to do better CPU-cores utilization. CPUs will now enter 32 nm production and further reduce the power requirements and heat leakage/production.

More GPGPU’s (programmable general purpose graphics processors) will be made available and many custom computer builders will make their own super-computers in their homes. These super-computers will be used for both good and bad. GPUs will come with 16-cores and a total of 64 threads.

In terms of memory capabilities, we will see laptops that will take is into the range of 16 and 32 GB of RAM. Most laptops today is limited to 4GB, and if you’re running a 32-bit operating system you’re not even utilizing the full 4GB.

Windows 7 is now out in the first beta and is looking very strong. Microsoft has put a lot of effort into improving upon the Windows Vista foundation and have done a very good job so far. My prediction is that a lot of corporations and users will jump directly from Windows XP to Windows 7, and those who’s already on Vista will quickly migrate over to 7.

Computer prices have up until 2007-2008 been pretty stable, for the exact same money you could get an improved computer of which you had purchase some years earlier, but 2007-2008 changed this and made the whole computer landscape more fragmented. Today you can buy top laptops that are in the top-range of $1500-$2000 and in 2009 I predict we will see $199 netbooks.

The Problems

2009 will represent many new peaks of problems, just as 2008 did. The production of computers and digital equipment is not good for the environment and as more people have improvements in their ways of lives (China has today more dollar-millionaires than the USA) they will want to buy and acquire the latest gadgets and computers. It’s very important that we keep a pressure on the manufacturers to respect the environment and the safety of their employees.

That prices are going down is positive and makes equipment more available for poorer regions of the world, yet it will further drive the buy-use-throw mentality of richer countries. An $199 netbook doesn’t even account for 10% of the monthly salary of most of us, yet the countryside of China which has more than 800 million people have an average income of $560 a year. Yet their income is increasing at an annual rate of more than 10 percent.

As everyone goes online, we will see an increase in the need for education on netiquette for everyone. Who’s there to explain new computer owners how to use their computers and how to act in the online digital world? When you see how many individuals that are tricked in the daily life and have their money stolen or tricked from them – buying useless stuff and participating in “help programs” which could be a scam.

When we use a computer, we tend to be a lot more trusting than in the real world. We are more open to the idea of exposing ourselves and we gladly communicate intimate details to “strangers”. Part of this trust comes from a concept I’ve coined morphi. Read more about that on the link. I will write more on morphi in the future.

Identity thefts will become more common in 2009. In 2008 you had your Windows Live ID that protected your Live Messenger and Live Mail (Hotmail), yet in 2009 when Microsoft releases Windows Live Mesh, many will begin to store a lot more than communication on the Cloud. Considering the amount of personal information that can be stolen by guessing (or hacking) a users password, it’s scary that we still don’t have a good solution for this problem. We need a better architecture for authentication than usernames and passwords.

The Good

Never before will you be able to meet likeminded people on the net. You’ll quickly make new friends and share thoughts, experience and ideas on a global scale.

Your information will become to move into the Cloud and you’ll never lose anything due to a computer crash. All your photos, e-mails, communications, contacts and so forth will be stored in the Cloud. Settings and configuration of your applications can also be stored online, so when you get a new computer or mobile phone – they will be able to sync with the Cloud and retrieve your personalized settings.

More devices in 2009 will be GPS and wireless network capabilities built into them. You’ll be able to capture and stream video, photos and audio from the action where it’s happening and share it with your online communities. These new devices and the simple procedure of actually publishing video logs, I predict we will see an explosion of lifecasting in 2009. Lifecasting is the communication form of streaming your experiences life onto the net for anyone to see. They can become your third eye and share whatever you are doing. This cheap form of video distribution will open up the ability to watch virtually any sports event in the world for free, without a TV subscription or even a computer. You’ll be able to watch the local football game on your mobile phone on the bus – since someone at the match decided to share the game.

Another area we will see changes is the music industry. Music industry has messed up miserably with their online and digital efforts. They have tried to stop the unstoppable and ignored every opportunity to go forward and being innovative. If services like Last.fm and Spotify is any indication on what’s going on, I’m sure the labels needs to reconsider how they will distribute music and earn money.

What’s cool about Spotify is their online (“Cloud”) stored playlists. Additionally they have collaboration playlists, which allows multiple individuals to contribute to the same playlist.

Here is a scenario you will experience many times in 2009: You go to a party and connected to the stereo is a computer laptop. It’s running Spotify and music is streamed out through the speakers. You step up to the laptop and login with your own account and starts playing your private playlist of the best party-music in history.

2009 will mark the start of the death of the MP3 players. While this is not entirely the truth, it does represent an evolutionary step towards something new. Synchronizing music between computer and music players is something everyone hates. It takes an awful long time and it basically feels such a useless task. Manufacturers have for many years had the ability to earn extra money on top-range devices; getting 16GB of storage on your iPhone instead of 8GB costs you money. What if I tell you that storage on music players will go away?

It will all be streaming based and you will be able to access your full music library from anywhere in the world, directly on your digital entertainment device. I say digital entertainment device because I know there will be a huge array of gadgets available for us. Portable gaming machines, music and video players, communication devices, mobile phones – they will all be viewers into the online Cloud storage you accumulate.

As you might have figured already, I think Cloud-based Computing will be the biggest thing of 2009 and it represents a new form of software and services delivery. It will not replace anything we have today, but it will extend our ability to choose how we architecture and run our software.

The Bad

We are currently in a race towards point unknown. We’re in a race against the machines and we are doomed to eventually loose on all accounts.

It’s becoming increasingly complex and hard to work in the field of technology. The life of software programmers is especially hard with the increasing number of people with havoc and chaos in their intents. Hackers lure all around the web and they will try their best to exploit a failure in the solution we are building. Computer security is very hard and all it takes is one small mistake. While we won’t be writing bug-free computer software any time soon, there are ways of building mechanisms around that supports your solution with security, failure and so forth.

Yet what I mean with this race against the machine is that we have become an information based society. More of our daily jobs require us to know the latest frameworks, latest software and latest patterns & practices of doing our jobs. Yet, there are few corporations that have taken the steps to change themselves and realize that it’s not an easy task to keep you in-shape for the tasks of tomorrow.

Combined together with the fact that in 2009 we will produce a mind-blowing amount of information and you will receive more e-mails than before, we’re set for disaster unless we do something about it. What we will need is a personal digital assistant. Today we have non-intelligent spam-filters that can throw away some of the noise that comes over the network, yet our human brains are not good at distinguishing which e-mails are important or not. Not until we actually sit down, read through and analyze. This is something we hopefully can handle to our software-based assistants in the near future. I have hopes for seeing the beginning of such software sometime in 2009.

We will see more people that is required to take days and possibly weeks “offline” to recover from the stress it puts on us participating in this economy.

Privacy is a concern for many and in 2009 it will get much worse, yet it depends on your own personal actions. If you are participating in online communities, all that you write on the computer will potentially be accessible to everyone. Make sure you protect your address, phone numbers and other personal details and only share on a need-to-know basis.

Phishing will become an ever increasing problem as more new net-citizens arrive online. How we are going to solve the problem with education of sensible computer and net use is hard to tell, yet I think the computer manufacturers have a responsibility here. They can no longer get away with just throwing anti-virus and firewalls into the systems, there has to be sensible educational material directly available before the users connect to the network.

Conclusions

I’m not able to cover even the top layer of what’s going on in 2009 and I have so many other ideas to share. Hopefully I will get back to you all on this in a somewhat different form, later this year…

So to conclude my predictions, here are the highlights:

  • Cloud-based Computing will be big in all its forms.
  • Computers will become faster and better.
  • Digital Entertainment Devices (including MIDs) will have a lot of focus.
  • We will see the beginning of intelligent and emotional software.
  • There will be many disasters (both nature and man-made) and everything will be covered by the media, so you can watch it anywhere.
  • Hundreds of thousands of new robots will be deployed and the robotics industry will grow by billions of dollars.
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TED: Ideas worth spreading

Today I want to take some time to tell you about TED talks. There are still many people who haven’t heard about TED, which is an amazing resource where you can tap into the minds of some incredible individuals. You can watch talks on all kinds of themes, ranging from technology, arts, global issues and more. While the technology talks are always interesting, there are interesting new thoughts and ideas regarding education and how we actually go about in our daily lives and how we learn new things. Just as you might learn something by reading my blog and watching these talks right now.

http://www.ted.com/

First video I would like to share with you is a talk by Kevin Kelly titled “Predicting the next 5,000 days of the web”. In an evolutionary perspective from the beginning of the universe, our solar system, planet and life on earth, 5,000 days is absolutely nothing. But when you look at the web today and what we’ve archive in these few thousand days, it does blow your mind when you stop for a second and consider it. The wealth of information and data that’s readily available for you, just a single search and click away – it’s mind boggling that everything actually works. The computer that is the web is actually always online and have seen no downtime so far.

So from Kevin Kelly’s talk, I came across one from july 2005 by Clay Shirky. The talk discusses the difference between the institutional model and the collaboration model which has spawned up to become bigger than ever with the birth of the Web. Wikipedia, Open Source, Creative Commons, and so forth are examples on how the collaborative model prevails on the older institutional model. He actually uses Flickr to illustrate one of his points and searches for mermaidparade. What is interesting is comparing the difference from 2005 until today, september 2008.

Clay found 3,100 photos.

I found 46,115 photos.

That’s an increase of almost 15 times more photos in a little more than 1100 days. Which is actually a little more than 39 photos a day of mermaids in parades.

You can easily spend hours and days just watching through the interesting talks on TED, and I hope you do so. By educating and enlightening individuals, we will bring positivity into the society and local communities. Education and knowledge is very important, the normal and historical educational system that we’ve had for a while now does seem to work for some people, but it also fails miserably with others. I come from a background of little educational knowledge, but rather, I have a genuine interest in knowledge and information. So I spend a lot of my off-work hours to actually read books and the web, being involved in online forums, e-mail discussions and so forth. I can’t seem to feed my hunger for new information. If it weren’t for the computers while I was growing up, I’d probably be diagnosed ADHD.

So while schools through it’s institutional model has it’s value, I believe we will soon see new ways of actually educating people (children) and having processes in place in the society to fulfill the individual needs of every one. There are always people that doesn’t cope with the normal school, it’s built around a model that makes everyone equals. The current system fails on on individuals on both ends of the extremes.

So my next video is by Jonathan Drori, which explains why we don’t understand as much as we think we do.

Jonathan mentions that in some countries, before going to school, kids actually knows better how magnetism and gravity works. His last takeaway is: Fiddle with things … mentally and physically.

I could sit here writing all day and showing you some great videos, but you will probably be able to find interesting talks on your own. But before we end this, I want to focus on Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools might kill creativity.

Ok, one final video, I’m sure all of you have seen the videos on YouTube with Johnny Lee and how he used his creativity to create cool stuff with the Nintendo Wii remote. It actually ended up getting him on TED.

And don’t forget Paul Rothemund’s talk on how to build stuff by manipulating the DNA structures. So a question for my readers, how quickly does your computer complete a protein folding sequence on the Folding @ Home network? There is actually a GPU-accelerated version available, so go check it out: http://folding.stanford.edu/

Are you still reading? Go on to http://www.ted.com/!

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What’s your Circle of Interest?

Following up some of my great friends, Jonas Follesø, Gøran Hansen and others like Pål Fossmo. Paul Stovell was the guy that started it all. Without any further ado here is my Circle of Interest!

CircleOfInterest  

Check some of the links above for explanation on the terms used in this diagram, but I think they are pretty much self-describing. Just a few words of description regarding my core interests:

  • Team System is one of my main work areas and interests, I’ve been using it since the first betas and have built multiple custom add-ins and reports on top of it. It’s a very valuable tool in any software development projects.
  • Robotics has been my passion since I was a kid and the interest and involvement is only getting stronger and growing. If you live in Oslo area, you should check out Forum Technica where I’ll be doing a presentation on Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio.
  • SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) is something I have followed since it’s early beginning and the hype that followed. It’s a very interesting but also hard topic, a lot of challenges exists today that we need to work out to truly deliver on the ideas behind SOA. Somewhat related to SOA is solution architecture, which I’m involved with at work.
  • Agile project processes and software development is close to my heart, and I have used the Scrum methodology for some years now. Enabling some of the agile tools like TDD (Test Driven Development), CI (continuous integration), CC (Code Coverage) and others is something I always strive for with what I’m building personally, but also in the projects and teams I work with.
  • Home Automation is closely related to my interest in robotics, my goal is to build a futuristic home in a few years time where everything will be automated, intelligent and friendly on the environment.
  • Technology in general is something that fascinates me and I believe it has taken over for the biological evolution that brought us here. The next step in evolution is controlled by us, up until the point where technology on it’s own will continue to evolve far beyond the reaches of human comprehension. One of my favorite authors on technological trends is Ray Kurzweil.
  • Future goes hand-in-hand with technology, but I put this up as a separate interest because the future is more than just technology. I have daily thoughts on what will come and how we’ll live and act in the future. How will the economy be, when will we start living on the Moon and Mars? I’m always excited when I meet people that wants to discuss the future.
  • H+ stands for transhumanism and is synonym for "human enhancement". It’s an international, intellectual and cultural movement that supports use of technology and science to enhance the capabilities of the human body. I’m part of a Norwegian transhumanism group and I try to live my life according the the current state of science on what’s healthy and good for longevity.

So there you have it, my current core interest, which has been stable for some years now and will continue to be my main focus areas. What are yours?

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Geek of the Year!

Last night, Microsoft arranged the Heroes Happen Here release party for Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

As a part of the event, the National Broadcasting Channel (NRK) wanted to make a story on one of the nominated candidates and they choose me to be part of this. NRK came home to my apartment to see some of the things I’m doing with a digital and automated home (see news report links at the bottom).

bjel210bro_381431a_thumb This took longer than expected, so I didn’t make it to the party in time to receive my award which was announced by Mike Neill, who is general manager of Virtualization at Microsoft who came all the way from Redmond. So the event managers had to re-arrange a bit on the program, and they got Lene Alexandra (she even has a blog) to give me the award before she held her concert.

It’s a great honor to receive such an incredible award, Geek of the Year, and I want to thank everyone who nominated me for this award. Cheers and thanks to everyone!

I was of course not the only winner of awards, many of the other winners are great individuals whom I’m proud do know from work (Jonas Follesø!) and the Microsoft community around Norway:

  • Geek of the Year: Sondre Bjellås, Capgemini
  • Custom Built PC: Einar Roland, DataGuard
  • Best Server Room: Daniel Estefanos, Statens innkrevingssentral
  • MSDN Honor Price: Jonas Follesø, Capgemini
  • Best DBA: Jørn Aakre, Crayon
  • Best IT-tech: Ragnar Harper, Crayon
  • Best Trainer: Kristine Kjenes, Crayon
  • Cutting Edge Company: StatoilHydro
  • Problem Solver: Stein Morten Rustad, Lindbak Retail Systems AS
  • MSDN Guru: Anders Nordås, Storebrand
  • TechNet Honor Price: Olav Tvedt, Tvedt Consulting
  • Best Home Network: Holger Sommer, Visma retail
  • Colleague of the Year: Ole Jørgen Jacobsen, Vivento AS

Surely hope that all of these winners can be inspirations for everyone else to contribute even more to the Microsoft community in Norway.

Special Thanks to:

Capgemini
Capgemini

 

NNUG
Norwegian .NET User Group

 

MSDN
Microsoft Developer and Platform Team
(Rune Grothaug!)

 

RegionalDirector
Microsoft Regional Director Program

 

News Reports:

NRK Kveldsnytt (video)
http://www1.nrk.no/nett-tv/indeks/124838

"Årets norske geek er kåret"
http://www.digi.no/php/art.php?id=513730

"Sondre er nerd"
http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/distrikt/sorlandet/1.5042257

"MS Bits and Boobs" (video)
http://www.idg.no/computerworld/article90153.ece

"Venndøl ble årets nerd"
http://www.fvn.no/nyheter/kristiansand/article563862.ece

"Smarte menn er sexy"
http://www.seher.no/php/art.php?id=513699

"Sondre Bjellås kåret til Årets Geek av Microsoft Norge"
http://www.nnug.no/Siste-nytt/AretsGeek/

"Nerde oscar vinnere"
http://www.hegnar.no/it/article258712.ece

NRK P3 nyhetene, 7. mars kl 08:30
http://nettradio.nrk.no/default.php?kanal=p3

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World’s first 2 billion transistor chip

Tukwila If you read my predictions for 2008 and beyond and had a look at the Gizmodo video, then you might have noticed the last CPU on the video had 582,000,000 transistors. The Quad-Core Xeon processors.

Now we have entered 2008 and Intel have just launched their new Quad-Core named Tukwila. It’s expected to arrive in the second half of the year and will be running at 2GHz and have 2 billion transistors.

Read more about it on BBC News: Chips pass two billion milestone.

Tukwila will be 65 nanometer based, while Intel is already producing new chips with 45 nanometer technology that you can buy today.

In other related news, Intel and Micron have developed the worlds fastest NAND Flash memory which has a read speed of 200 megabytes per seconds (MB/s) and 100 MB/s write speed. Let’s just hope it hits the market quickly.

This could be useful for my recent new hobby of video editing (thanks to my wife for the lovely Sony HDR-HC5 that I received for Christmas).

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Ford Sync and computer technologies in your car

During CES 2008 in Las Vegas, Microsoft and Ford demonstrated the Ford Sync technology (built on Microsoft Windows Automotive) which is starting to appear in certain Ford models. Ford Sync is a technology that allows you to easily integrate your mobile phone and music player with your car and operate those devices from easy controls on your steering wheel. In combination with speech recognition and text-to-speech for playback of text messages: this is a compelling experience for many consumers.

While I’m on the other hand is more a gadget and techno-freak that likes to stay and live on the edge of what is possible to do with the current technologies. As a programmer I’m able to realize the concepts and ideas that I envision in my head – but all to often it takes to much time and effort to build the software that is required to achieve the functionality that I envision. Therefor I have high hopes for the big software and manufacturing industry to go forth and innovate.

Let’s introduce you  to the concept of Ford Sync by watching one of their funny TV commercials:

And here is a video that demonstrates some of the features of Ford Sync:

I can’t help to feel a bit unimpressed by this Ford Sync. It has been done before and it’s been possible for quite a while to do something like this, even in big productions for a wide array of consumers.

Why this isn’t standard equipment in most cars today is poor, but kudos to Microsoft and Ford for going a step in the right direction.

Change and innovations is today happening faster than ever before and it’s increasingly getting harder to develop good quality software that is the foundation of every product and service that we as consumers experience and pay for. Our demands for quality and improvement is continuously increasing as we recognize what is possible.

Remember the old TV series, Knight Rider starring David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight? He drove around in a high-tech car named KITT, which had artificial intelligence that helped Michael Knight in his quests for helping the good guys against the bad guys. The technology that was envisioned in this TV series was not possible back in 1982 until 1986 when it was aired.

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Today the game is a little different: Knight Rider is launching as a new TV series with new cast, including an upgraded 2008 Mustang Shelby GT! I’m feeling like a kid again as I’m waiting for this show to air and from a technology perspective I’m hoping that feature in the new KITT will inspire car manufacturers to think beyond their limits and deliver us truly intelligent and smart solutions.

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(View more photos of KITT on the AutoBlog)

Have a look at the introduction of the cars that will feature in the series:

So to end of this blog post, here are some of my ideas for car manufactures (and Windows Automotive) to start developing and deliver:

HUD – projection of information from the dashboard onto the car front window. Some manufacturers are already doing this.

LCD – Touch monitor as oppose to low-resolution LED (as in Ford Sync), which can then display anything you can imagine.

PC – add a full x64 PC into the car! (Vista Sideshow/Vista Gadgets)  (think Automotive Gadgets!)

Wi-Fi – Make the car a Wi-Fi gateway/router and make my car automatically synchronize with my Windows Home Server every time it’s connected to a Wi-Fi access point. This way, when I connect my Zune to the car, it’s not the Zune that syncs with the car, but the car that updates media library on the Zune!

Cameras – Add at minimum a front and rear view camera with monitors on the dash, allowing me to always have a good and clear view of the rear when backing and parking. Make sure the cameras have night-shoot so you can view people and objects in the darkness as well.

Image Pattern Recognition – When you’re driving the front view camera should automatically recognize road-signs and display them on your HUD. Then you always know what signs is currently active on the stretch of road you are driving on. Then you won’t hear the excuse: “Oh officers … I know I was driving a bit fast, cause I thought the speed limit was 80, not 60 mph…”. It should recognize license plates of your friends, colleagues and family for ad-hoc chats over wireless communication between cars and exchange of information.

GPS – Obviously every car should have GPS for maps, directions, driving and mileage reporting. Let me use the GPS to tell my car what is where: It should know when it’s parked at work or at home.

Calendar/Tasks – I should be able to ask my computer to tell me and update my calendar and tasks while driving, when anyone invites me to a meeting while I’m out driving, I should know about it and be able to respond to the event. The car should tell me that I’m having a meeting in 30 minutes and that I’m 40 minutes away…

Personal A.I. Assistant – Your artificial assistant that helps you out at work should obviously be “morphed” into the cars computer when you’re going from office to car, and from car to your home.

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Technology in 2008 and Beyond

As we are closing the chapter on another early year in the 21st century, I have some thoughts about what to expect from the technologies that arrive next year and what we might possibly see beyond that.

As a Microsoft Regional Director for Norway and a Technology Leader in Capgemini Norway, one of my tasks is to be up-to-date on technology, trends, and changes and also help my fellow friends and co-workers to adapt to the ever changing world around us.

So here follows some of my (unstructured) thoughts about the history so far and what advances we might see in the coming years.

 

Internet The 20th Century was an era that spawned the digital revolution in the 1980s and 1990s with the birth of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

In the beginning of the 21st century, the IT industry was hit pretty badly by the DotCom bubble and many individuals are seeing some of the same trends in today’s market where many industries are seeing an incredible upturn. I don’t think we have never seen such low unemployment rates in Norway ever before, which is now down to 2,6%.

Oil has been an important fuel for the economy in 20th century and we are facing the potential consequences of our previous actions with unstable weather conditions around the globe and a melting north pole. Well, I personally don’t believe the global warning is directly related to the pollution introduced by human-being, but a normal cycle of the world; it is still a problem that we will have to face one way or the other.

Pollution and resource depletion have received very high focus in research and media in the past years and the severity will continually increase as we will see more and more natural disasters hitting every continent where hundreds of millions of people are living.

Many people are promoting the ways of being sparser with resources, both for business and for personal use. I try my best to contribute to the efforts of recycling and staying healthy and well.

 

But there is always a but: We need to ensure we do not let these actions stop or halt the innovation and advances that is required for technology to progress.

It’s the technologies of the 21st century that has the potential of changing everything around and not only so – but to radically change the very life’s of every one of us.

You have probably read enough about the promises behind bioengineering, nanotechnologies and other advanced research. These areas have for a while underachieved in the same ways as artificial intelligence did when the pioneers started out back in 1956.

We celebrated A.I.’s 50 years anniversary last year. Even though we are still far away from the dreams and promises made in the early days, the fruits we are ripping are already very amazing and have impacted millions of people’s lives and more every day.

Robotics is another field in which I have a lot of interest, and I also have invested a lot of my spare time doing projects and research on it. This is the single most important area to watch out for in the future and I promise you all that robotics will transform the life of yours and mine. Let me get back to this topic after some other thoughts.

 

While the work done on A.I. has taken a long time to come to where we are today, it mainly depends on one single technology:

The power and speed of the central processing unit (CPU).

Technology is something that does not following the normal pattern of improvement; it follows a trend of exponential growth. What this means is that we are seeing doubling in many different aspects of technology and its use in products.

Your laptop is now many times faster than a supercomputer back in the old days (some decades ago). A few years from now, your new laptop will be many times faster than what you have today.

Yesterday Intel marked the 60th anniversary of the transistor, which is the foundation of modern day technologies.

So before we move on you should watch this history of Intel CPU video that is made by the Gadget.com crew and see how everything have progressed the last 60 years.

There is a future event that is predicted and called the Technological Singularity (or The Spike) which is a hypothesized creation of an entity (through A.I. or some other means) that is vastly intelligent to humans. While there are many important individuals to be mentioned in this regard, I would like to point out Ray Kurzweil who’s written many great books on the subject of exponential growth.

I won’t go into any more details about it; let me continue my thoughts on the current times and the future.

 

We saw the birth of the Internet just a few years ago and it is now available to anyone who has the right equipment to connect to it. What the Internet represents might not be truly understood by most of us, and we probably never fully grasp it. As we will never truly understand how we are able to fly into the space and visit the Moon and soon Mars.

But it’s here (Internet) and all of our lives are depending on it. When something happens to the infrastructure of the Net and an office or a whole city, region or country loses its connection to the rest of the world – people are starting to walk around like zombies out of a fresh grave. Many of us who work as consultants are often very much dependent on the network to be up and running 24/7 with the downtime as low as possible. We have all our e-mails, documents, applications and services running up in the sky and if someone is unlucky and pulls your plug, your brain becomes an empty shell with nothing to do (Please note that I’m taking this example to the extreme, but this will soon be the reality).

As we are getting more wired up to the Internet through or mobile phones, our music and video players, watches, clothes and even glasses – the dependency on always being online and having the latest information available will be more crucial. But this is only something that you will imagine, because it’s a drug and we are all addicted to it. We are abusing our lives and precious time by using spending numerous hours on social networks like MySpace, FaceBook, Second Life and playing Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games like World of Warcraft. And writing useless personal e-mails and chatting online with people you have never meet and probably will never meet. Why do we do all of this and all those other things to make the day pass? Because it gives us personal enjoyment and experiences.

Experiences I say? But we don’t even have time for that any longer. My Xbox 360 is dusting down as I keep working myself out of tighter schedules and important meetings and tasks. How can we get more time for fun and pleasure?

 

While we have waited 50 years on A.I. research to come through, we will not have to wait that long for the technologies of the future. The progress we have experience in 2007 might only take 6 months in 2008 for the same amount of achievement. As a Microsoft Regional Director I’m very interested in the products and technologies that Microsoft is working on and three very important releases in the early 2008 is of course Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008. All of these products are bringing advantages which will be the foundation for further growth in 2008 and beyond.

Maybe those products sounds pretty boring to some of you, there are of course other interesting products like Microsoft Surface which is a platform for multi-touch tables. While others have demonstrated the ability to handle multiple inputs, Microsoft is working on a framework that will spawn innovation into this area of research and product development.

The same basic idea is what has driven Microsoft from its beginning – enabling people to live out their dreams and visions. Which is the heart behind the Web 2.0 era that we are currently experience, with the user (you) being the driving force behind all of it.

1101061225_120 Did you recognize who was Person of the Year in Time Magazine this year? You! Why? Because you’re the one driving the Internet forward with user contributed content on sites like FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, Digg and who knows what kind of services will appear tomorrow morning.

While Surface is still on the drawing board, it’s been more than a year since Microsoft released Microsoft Robotics Studio which is a platform that unifies the tools and hardware to build robots and machine automation.

Bill Gates wrote an important article about a robot in every home, in the Scientific American, where he explains his thoughts on the robotics industry as it is today and how it is in many ways similar to how the computer industry was back when he started Microsoft. But it doesn’t require rocket science brain to figure out that it won’t take as long for this industry to advance much faster and grow bigger than anything imaginable today.

But, here is another but; The Robots is among us already. Production factories are heavily dependent on them, the car industry has used them for as long as they have existed and they are slowly moving into your living room. As you can read in the article that I just linked, they even save marriages.

And here follows the only quote I have in this post:

"What is about to happen is totally unprecedented: a second intelligent species is poised to appear," he says.

It’s not only unprecedented; it’s unexpected, unknown, unstoppable and most of all – incredible (the robotic revolution)!

robot_thumb My prediction for the near future is that robots will change your life forever and in so many ways you can’t even imagine. With the birth of a general purpose humanoid robot that can do every day normal task for you and me, then the race is on. As humans we will be required to find new and challenging jobs that our robots can’t do yet. But this will be a race that we will lose in the end.

Robots will do everything for us; they will tutor us, they will feed us, they will build our homes and cars (as they do today). They will transport us to where we need to be. They will be able to carry enormous weights and execute dangerous tasks perfectly without requiring any payment.

So you need to ask yourself: Are you prepared, how will you avoid getting replaced by a robot?

 

(End Notes: Nobody can predict the future but we can look at trends and think of possible scenarios that has a high probability of being realized. I do hope that the transition will be as smooth as possible and I hope we can all get more free time in the future that we can enjoy with our friends and families.

Why would you need to have a job in the future, when everything is produced for free and from clean energy from our Sun?)