Saturday, March 31, 2018

Fishing Islamorada

This one is mostly a photo blog. My son Richie and I fished two days this past week in Islamorada - one offshore day and one day on the flats. Here are a few photos and videos from each of those fun days fishing.



Day 1 was a trip targeting Sailfish offshore.


Captain Charlie (R) and mate Austin (L)

Rods at the ready
VIDEO: But first, we have to "make bait." A net full of ballyhoo.

2 kites go up, holding a total of 4 lines.



VIDEO: Rich fights a sailfish (we each landed one)

Sailfish alongside!

Sailfish alongside!

Sailfish alongside!

VIDEO: Sailfish fight


And we even caught some Mutton Snapper and Yellowtail Snapper for dinner!

Looking for scraps from the cleaning table


Day 2 was a trip targeting Tarpon in the flats.

Back for another day at Bud N' Mary's

This couple sold Swordfish bills, painted or scrimshawed by the man

A wood carving at the docks
Tame tarpon are around all the docks. But we chase the wild ones farther away.

Still, they taunt us. Swimming around the docks.

I'd love to catch one of these 50LB "Silver Kings"


An iguana holds on for dear life

Captain Chris, Richie and me

First catch of the day? A rare sawfish.

We caught several sharks

This bad boy is a bull shark. We also caught a lemon and black tip.

VIDEO: Shark brought up to the boat... but not in!

Back at the marina, it's time for two beers

And some stone crab

We still had some fish from yesterday's catch, so we took them to the famous Fish House and they cooked them for us.

I got Richie on his way home and then headed south to Key West for a day of kicking back

Arriving at Key West with the setting sun

A great couple of days! I look forward to my next visit to the keys. Just a few days can really be a cure for a long winter.


Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Merging AT&T and Time Warner

A trend toward fewer, larger companies

Image credit: CNN Money
Would consumers ultimately benefit from an AT&T merger with Time Warner? Or would negatives outweigh positives? 

That’s the question that the courts are getting ready to consider. It has been almost a year and a half since AT&T first announced plans to merge with Time Warner – a vertical integration, which involves merging companies whose operations include both communications infrastructure and content and services. Wireless communications, plus home entertainment services, plus content providers like HBO, CNN and TNT.

As the case comes before U.S. District Senior Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia, the same judge who cleared the way for the Comcast NBC Universal merger eight years ago, there are predictable arguments being made by stakeholders on both sides. AT&T wants the merger to have the might to compete with the new powers of media – Netflix, Amazon, and even Apple. The Justice Department hopes to block the merger, saying that it would ultimately hurt competition partly through consolidation and partly through the dangers of vertical integration where carriers and transport providers might have a level of control over content delivery that is anti-competitive (see my many blog posts on NetNeutrality for more on this). Some suspect more petty motives.

While they differ in some ways, this proposed merger does seem to have a lot in common with the Comcast + NBC Universal merger in that it is similarly a huge, vertical integration move – and that one was approved. Is that the precedent that is most applicable here?

My expertise is in Internet architecture (which is the "plumbing" on which this stuff depends) and not law, but for my part I believe both mega-mergers should have been denied as anti competitive and risky for consumers. Since we do have the precedent of the Comcast + NBC Universal, perhaps a fair way forward might be to approve this merger and then revisit the appropriate regulatory framework to protect consumers. Let’s not throw out Net Neutrality quite yet, folks. It might still have a very important role to play.

What’s your opinion? Leave a comment and let us know.

Links:



Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Early Season Fishing Tackle Shopping

In February each year, once we string together a few days of 50+ degrees Fahrenheit , I start thinking about the coming spring and summer fishing season in the North Atlantic. By April we'll have Winter Flounder, by May and June Striped Bass, and by July we'll have Fluke and Bluefish. March is the time to check rods for any needed repairs to guides and handles and put fresh line on the reels. It's also the time to shop for some tackle.

Most years, I'll clear out any ratty-looking hooks, and sharpen up a few others. I'll replace treble hooks on lures and polish the "tins" or shiny lures. I'll also clean up and sharpen knives. Other equipment like hook removers and pliers are given a once over. Some of them may need replacement. At that point, I get to look at fishing tackle catalogs, online and on paper. What will I need to start the year off right? The companies know that this is the rhythm, so they start sending big paper catalogs at this time of year.

Some of the items on my list every year are the foundational elements. These are the least sexy pieces in the tackle box. They aren't beautiful lures or razor sharp hooks. They are the connector pieces I use so often. I always need more of these as I lose them to broken lines and snags during the season. I need snaps, two-way swivels, and three-way swivels. I need them in multiple sizes, in both black and silver. I also need "fish finder" sliding sinker holders. These items are the core elements of my rigs. Some fisherman avoid them, tying every rig without them. That approach never made sense to me. I want to have ready rigs of different types for the fish I might encounter on any given trip, and I want to be able to change rigs fast. These foundation pieces help make that possible.


As many of my friends know, I'll also start this season with a new boat. I sold my faithful, beloved, 26' center console fishing boat at the end of last year and put a deposit down on a brand new model of the same size over the winter. I launch that boat in late April this year, and anticipate putting all that new tackle to good use.

"Tight lines," as we fishermen say. It's all about being ready, and that's what some early season tackle prep is all about.


Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Apple’s HomePod

The smart speaker space continues to expand and draw attention, with Apple now preparing to ship their new HomePod smart speakers in early February. 
Image Credit: Apple.com

I first wrote about the original blockbuster smart speaker, the Amazon Echo, way back in November of 2014. Later, in March 2017, I wrote a post called Talking to TechnologyDuring these last few years, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s Assistant have begun to handle some of our online interactions, moving them from keyboards and mice to natural language. While many online tasks will still be best accomplished with keyboards for the foreseeable future, this really is an important development.

Image Credit: developmentnow.com
If we just focus on the “smart speaker” part of the interactive assistant space, we can see the competition for the new HomePod. There are now several devices in the Amazon Echo product line and several in the Google Home product line. A few other companies, including Sonos, also have products in this space. The Verge, in an article that praises the HomePod's sound quality, also mentions that the Sonos One now supports Amazon Alexa integration, and is promising Google Assistant integration later this year. To look at a full range of products in this space, take a look at a nice comparison in a December 2017 piece in PC Magazine.

As Apple enters the space with the HomePod, do they have a value proposition that will shift the market? Apple has a good (but not perfect) track record of entering a product space after it is partially established, and then dominating it by delivering excellence in design, styling, user experience, quality and performance – usually at a premium price. Is that likely to happen now with smart speakers?

Apple says that the HomePod will bring together “Apple Music and Siri to learn your taste in music. It’s also an intelligent home assistant, capable of handling everyday tasks and controlling your smart home.” The promise of smart home control is intriguing, but only time will tell if Apple can deliver.

If the Echo seems like the strongest right now in speech interaction but weakest in audio quality, and the Sonos series seems strongest in audio quality but leaning on Amazon for interactive speech support, can Apple HomePod find a way to be the best (or at least very strong) in both? It needs to be noted that the HomePod sells for $349, which by comparison to competing products is certainly on the higher end.

For those heavily invested in the Apple economy of MacOS and iOS devices, Apple iCloud and Apple Music, and who believe that Apple HomeKit will soon deliver integrated smart home automation with HomePod as the control point, the HomePod seems like it could be a winner. For those not so invested, it might be that the high price tag makes it less attractive than the lower cost smart speakers already well-established in the market.

Are you planning to buy a HomePod? Please leave a comment and tell us why or why not.

Links:

Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Magic Leap Into Augmented Reality?

Image credit: Magicleap.com
Over the years in RapidGroove, I've thought and written about Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and a number of other Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality products and possibilities. During the last few years, the not-yet-a-product that may have most captured the imagination is Magic Leap. We may now be finally getting a peak and a promise of a Magic Leap product in the coming year.

Let's back up a bit and review terms. Virtual Reality (VR) immerses a user in a simulation of a real or imagined world, shutting out the real world. This is generally done through strapped-on goggles that have an integrated display (or sometimes leveraging your smart phone). The display replaces your view of the world around you. Sometimes the experience is extended through the addition of audio via headphones. Oculus Rift and HTCVive are examples of consumer technologies that deliver VR.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated elements, such as graphical objects or text, over existing reality in order to extend the experience or deliver additional information. As with VR, AR can be delivered through strapped-on headsets. Rather than eliminating the world around you, though, AR superimposes graphics or text onto the objects in the real world that you can see. Google Glass was an early example of consumer technology that delivers AR.

The next level of consumer AR may come from Magic Leap via the Magic Leap One. The secretive company has been the talk of the industry for some time as a result of some amazing concept videos showing whales sounding from a high school gym floor and tiny elephants walking around in cupped hands. The mix of real with realistic-but-computer-generated in these concept videos has been compelling. But when no actual product was forthcoming for several years despite huge investments and the passage of time, and given that very few had seen any of the company's work first hand, some began to wonder whether any real product would ever be delivered. Then in mid-December of 2017, announcement began to appear. Magic Leap One would ship in 2018. Details are still few, and an exact date has not yet been announced as of this writing, but we do seem to be getting closer to seeing an actual product.

Magic Leap One seems to involve four elements. First, there is a set of goggles through which the user sees the real world and also sees the augmented elements. Second, there is the “Lightpack,” which is a small round computer strapped to the user and providing most of the computational power. Third, there is a handheld controller to allow manual interaction. And finally, there is the Magic Leap software that ties all of this together and makes the augmented experience possible.


Given the intense computation and communication work it takes to render virtual objects in the field of view and anchor them to real world objects, most skeptics have pointed to computational capacity, communications latency, and battery life as significant challenges. Lag in VR can cause some people to experience a sick feeling, and in AR it can take away from the strength of the experience and the realism of the augmented elements. When Magic Leap One was demonstrated to Rolling Stone reporters a few weeks ago, however, they reported very good performance.

The history of personal computing, including modern mobile devices, involves users tied to screens of various sizes. The promise of the kind of AR that Magic Leap One seeks to deliver is a future without such physical screens. Virtual screens can appear anywhere, floating in space or following us or other objects around. There can be as many or as few as we want or need. And rendered information can go well beyond flat virtual screens since it can appear to be three dimensional (virtual people, animals, objects) and can co-exist with the real world around us.

What's this stuff good for? Gaming seems like a natural, of course, but how about other uses such as social interaction, education, and business collaboration? The applications seem endless. 

Is 2018 finally the time when compelling AR becomes available to consumers? Magic Leap has broken promises before, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that this time they can really deliver in the very near future.

What AR applications would prompt you to invest $1500 or $2000 (a wild guess at the entry level cost) into a system like this? Leave a comment and let us know.

Links:

Thanks for reading! A blog works best with active participation. If you enjoy this blog, please +1 it and leave a comment. Share it on your favorite social network. More readers will drive more discussion.