The Dark Knight

IMHO, the movie thankfully exceeds the hype.  Heath Ledger’s performance is impressive, but does not carry the movie.  The sheer endurance and onslaught of the story is magnificent in itself  Christian Bale’s raspy voice ‘behind’ the mask isn’t ideal.

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Windows Mobile 8 = Windows 7 Lite?

 

Mary Jo Foley’s post speculating about Windows Mobile 7 coming in Q1 2009 says:

From recent executive remarks, it sounds like Microsoft is trying to get Windows and Windows Mobile to be more in sync.  Might this mean with Windows Mobile 8 — which Microsoft has told certain folks will be built from scratch — Microsoft might make Windows Mobile a “real” version of Windows, with the same core as Windows client?

I heard from someone at Microsoft probably 5 or 6 years ago that this was the plan.

Windows Mobile currently runs on top of Windows CE which essentially supports a subset of the full Win32, etc. APIs, so doing native (C++) development for Windows Mobile is similar to desktop development (just a little more ‘cramped’).  There is also the .NET Compact Framework, similarly a subset of the full .NET Framework.  There are also Windows Mobile specific APIs at the native and .net level.  Some of the internal sub-systems, for memory, processes, etc. are quite different.

To make Windows Mobile a ‘real’ version of Windows at the core is therefore a lot about how much Windows CE is API-wise (inc. .NET) and sub-system-wise, similar to the Vista kernel.  After that, we have the shell and applications.

The shell clearly cannot be Aero, and the UI experience expectations for mobile has been clearly set by the iPhone with everyone else playing catch-up.  The mobile device really needs a bigger or paper-like-expandable screen at some point – there’s only so far you can go with zooming.

Applications can be split between Office (and other productivity or line-of-business apps) and all the other software+services things that are required activities in this era.  No doubt Windows Live pieces need to be upgraded and combined with great UI.

Why not make Windows Mobile a .NET-only platform with WPF for the shell with add-ins for all MS and 3rd-party applications?  The mobile space is not big enough that breaking compatibility is such a big deal.  It truly can’t be long before Microsoft partners with nVidia and produces a Microsoft ‘mPhone’.  An investment in small WPF mobile versions of Office would be a re-usable investment allowing for web based Office running on Silverlight!

Will That New Electricity Meter Make you Poor and Fat?

In some locations electricity meters are being replaced with new models that record and transmit data about how much electricity you use at intervals over the day.

The meters communication use RF in small groups to a lead meter that is connected to a phone line in the lead meter’s residence.  I wonder if that user gets anything for that?

I was given such a meter recently.  The time-of-use (TOU) data should be available to consumers at some point in the future.

Also at some unpublished time in the future, the electricity company will switch to TOU billing like this (note the proposed pricing):

Current price is (5c per kWh up to first 2000kWh, and 5.9c thereafter)

Off-peak (3c per kWh)

  • Mon-Fri 22:00 to 07:00 summer/winter
  • All Weekends/Holidays

Mid-Peak (7c per kWh)

  • Mon-Fri 07:00 to 11:00 and 17:00 to 22:00 in the summer
  • Mon-Fri 11:00 to 17:00 and 20:00 to 22:00 in the winter

On-Peak (8.7c per kWh)

  • Mon-Fri 11:00 to 17:00 in the summer
  • Mon-Fri 07:00 to 11:00 and 17:00 to 22:00 in the winter

The accompanying leaflet says I should be “shifting activities that are energy-intensive to the less expensive mid-peak and off-peak hours”.

Given the current rate (5 or 5.9c) the only “less expensive” period will be Off-peak and look when that is!  The “energy-intensive” activities they include are “air conditioning, clothes dryers, clothes washers, electric ovens, electric heating and electric water heaters.”  Only the first 4 apply to me.

So – to summarise so far.  My bill will go up because I cannot effectively use air conditioning after 10pm!!!#$!#$!#$ and I will have to do my laundry after 10pm or on weekends otherwise my bill will go up (and the insurance companies can plan on more claims for flooding as washers overflow while people are sleeping).  It is unlikely that the saving of doing laundry for a couple of hours on the weekend will offset the huge increase of needing air-conditioning during the day (even if it’s set to a higher temperature).  We are about to get ripped off on 3 activities at least and/or be sleep deprived!

So about that electric stove activity (or microwave to some extent).  I will now pay more money to cook lunch and dinner.  In fact I will now have to start cooking dinner after 5pm in the summer or after 10pm in the winter (noting that before 5pm is not feasible for many dual-working-adult families), in order to keep my costs down – or just eat uncooked food.  This leads to 2 realistic choices (excluding extremes like starving during the week):

  • Pay more money.
  • Put on weight due to either buying more take-out (and also spending more money) or cooking/eating later, both because you are trying to save money.

So when the booklet says “What are the best strategies for smart metering?”, that section should be re-titled as “What are the best strategies for choosing how much extra weight you will put on vs. how much your bill will go up”

Solar panels are sounding like such a great investment these days!

UPDATE:

I said most of this to the electricity company and they sent me a link to an official report.  The report was conducted by the energy board and local electricity company.

A sample of 124 people were tested on a TOU plan (of mostly new single-family homes with well educated and above poverty-line income) against 125 control group – that’s a horrible sample demographic and size for an official test!!.  Note that 125 & 124 others tried two other plans that are not in my meter literature.

In the best case under TOU someone saved $9 a month; in the worst someone paid $6 more.  The average was a saving of $0.78 per month (wooo), i.e. over the 124 people trying TOU pricing, there was little change and some people did pay more. 

However, since there was a 6.0% reduction of overall use and people were shifting their use (a figure the report hides as not significant for this price plan), on average I still believe people would be spending more.

Also, the TOU pricing structure was officially designed so that someone on TOU would pay the same if they did nothing.  Remember that these people are trying hard to save money and change their habits.  People are lazy – after a few months (and not getting another $75 for participating in the survey!), most people will tend to revert back to old habits plus >64% can’t recall aspects of the pricing structure, so the average bill would go up! 

I don’t see any old houses, old people, socially/economically-challenged groups or stay-at-home workers in the samples. 

Many people who (worked their butts off and managed to save their $0.78) were expecting large savings, so many of those people will not bother now and just end up paying more.

While conversation efforts are observed with TOU pricing, “a main purpose of time-of-use and critical peak pricing is to reduce peak demand” – nice to know the energy company’s view of energy conservation and everyone’s efforts.  Admittedly, the point is to increase system reliability/availability, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to put this responsibility on the customer who will end up either doing it or paying more (and will that more pay for better service?)

And as for getting fat?

According to surveys with focus groups: “In response to a critical peak notification, customers might reset their thermostats by a few degrees [get hot]… plan on dining out [get fat or pay more money] or cook on an outdoor grill [abandon their electricity supply]…”

I support conservation but as clearly stated, smart meters are not about conservation.  Oh, and someone has to pay for the system…

Xbox 360 vs. Sony PS3 vs. Nintendo Wii

I’ve had the 360 and PS3 since their launches and the Wii for just over a month (though it seems longer after my Zelda binge, despite it being two weeks ago).

Overall, 360 is the winner and here’s why:

  • Xbox Live – it’s the 2nd version; Sony and Wii don’t have a story for multi-player games and have weak online marketplace experiences;  PS2 did have some online multi-player support but it was game publisher specific.  Once your firewall was set up for Xbox or Xbox 360, everything just seems to work and the game lobby experience is sufficient and consistent.  Microsoft is a software company and they have played that to their advantage.  Sony is touting an upcoming ‘Sims’ or ‘Second-life’ type experience but it’s too late
  • Price – the blu-ray disc in the PS3 is a compulsory purchase even on the lower model (that they have apparently discontinued) and it may have cost Sony the industry lead they had; having a PS2 compatibility board in there cost extra money, and while it beats Xbox 360 (with it’s slow-release compatibility list), anyone hard-core enough to buy a system at launch will probably keep their old systems hooked up anyway.
  • Interchangeable rechargeable controllers (with the right battery pack) –   the 360 controllers should have come with the rechargeable batteries from the start and I went for the standalone 2-battery charging station which prevents any battery issues; the PS3 batteries are not removeable, and the Wii only seems to have limited 3rd-party solutions available
  • Games – there has been very little PS3-only goodness here and even though Xbox 360 didn’t have a large number of launch titles, they have had a year to bring them on now, giving them the hard start; Wii will still attract people for cutesy games.
  • Dashboard and in-game interface – Nintendo and Sony have finally caught on to the idea Microsoft has with the original Xbox – having a consistent in-game interface to the dashboard is very compelling.
  • Media experiences – the 360 can be a media extender to Windows Vista Home Premium/Ultimate or XP Media Center Edition, but if you’re like me, you’d put the computer in the same room as the 360 where the big screen is, so this isn’t the big deal that Microsoft says, and if you want TV in other rooms then it’s something to consider but they you’re probably wondering why there’s no media center extender experience for the Windows desktop; if Microsoft plays it’s cards well in the IPTV industry then the next Xbox (once broadband is 10Mbps+) could be the set-top box of choice

For the truly serious technologist or addicted gamer, there are 3 consoles in play.  For the serious gamer, there are 2 (360 and PS3).

It’s really about the experience and the gameplay – Microsoft has it hands-down on experience, and is getting their on gameplay because it’s Microsoft with a huge developer following and they’ve had a year head-start.  A few more good titles and a killer Halo 3, and things could forever become Pepsi.

For the casual gamer with kids there’s the Wii – it only has 480i (in North America or 480p with component cables) and there’s no digital audio out – but the novelty is there and some games (like Zelda) have pleasant graphics once you get passed the very obvious resolution drop.  Wii sports is family fun but it didn’t take long for us to realise that you can sit on the couch and just flick your wrist with far more precision (so RSI is still on the cards for some).  Wii may have one of the strongest back-wards compatibility stories in terms of taking Game Cube games, controllers and memory cards.  The Mii characters you can build for yourself are limited (despite the many choices) but fun for a while.  The launch games are disappointing (esp Mario), however you can buy a fair amount lot of Wii equipment and games before you hit the price of a PS3 with no games.

If you are into gadgets and technology and you are choosing one then get a 360 and make sure you get the Elite (with HDMI output).  If you have $2000 to spare, get all 3, accessories and a switcher, then spend another $2000 on a 47″+ LCD/Plasma screen (making sure it’s native 1080p, not 720p with 1080i support) and of course another $1000 or so on digital sound receiver with 5.1/7.1 speakers.

To catch a Wii

I recently turned my attention to getting a Nintendo Wii. For anyone that knows me when it comes to gadgets, this means that I do not stop until I’ve managed to get what I’m looking for. It will not mean that I do nothing else but hunt them on the streets, but I will schedule things around critical ‘can you Wii me now?’ calls. I did see some fun geek pack mentality on PS3 and Wii launch days – let’s call it ‘drive-by geek pack networking’, along with ‘flocking behaviour’ and it goes like this:

Scenario 1:

  • Geeks are standing outside a store waiting for it to open
  • They will know the number of likely prey inside
  • Someone drives up and rolls down a window
  • The waiting geeks get mixed feelings when saying “there are only have x units here, but I believe they will have some at xyz store” because on one hand they are happy to help out a fellow geek but on the other they are proudly guarding their kill, while of course hoping this store does in fact have the advertised quantity and that they haven’t just sent somebody extra to potentially more fruitful hunting ground

Scenario 2:

  • Geeks have just got their prize (having slept outside all week, etc)
  • They are walking out of the store with their trophy
  • Someone drives up and rolls down a window
  • Similar conversation except geek with console is thinking “yes sucker I got mine” while being genuinely helpful, and the geek in the car says “thanks” in a quite sincere way while also thinking “those bastards got one”

When one outlet runs out, the unsuccessful hopefuls all flock to the next possible venue, like voters for American/Pop Idol flock to another finalist when their chosen hopeful gets voted off.

The animalistic instinctive part in all this is that the geeks know what the other geeks are hunting without explicitly asking…

Back to my hunt…

One of the first rules of hunting gadgets at retail outlets is don’t believe what the first store assistant tells you. Yesterday from Walmart I heard “it’s hard to say”, “we wont get any today”, “the truck could show at anytime” and “it was delayed and it’s best to call between 11am and 1pm”, and not in that order.

So I called at 11:55am this morning and was told that yes today could be the day but I should call back at 12:15pm or 12:20 when they’d know for sure.

I called back at 12:25 to be told they had sold out and that the merchandise had been received at 11:30 and was on the floor at 12:00… bugger – I broke my own rule and should have invested 20 minutes going over there.

Not to be deterred I remembered that there are 4 Walmarts within a 15 minute radius, and I concluded that they would deliver quantities to more than one location, and that the deliveries may well be on the same truck.

I’d been dealing with the South location, so I tried the West location – no go – and then the East location and got “yes we have 6 left, we’ve only sold 2 and there’s no-one here”. Could this be???!?!

I got straight into the car, drove 10 minutes and I was there. This location, to which I’ve never been, is away from down-town and is in an industrial park rather than a retail park. I almost thought I was in the wrong place until I rounded the last corner.

They still had 6 left and they had no nunchuck controllers. The assistance asked me how many I wanted. Um… err… um… I almost wish there had been a way to inform those people I saw on Monday morning that they could get their system afterall.

Wii scored… now to avoid breaking my 1080p screen with a controller…

https://colinizer.com/2007/04/06/my-kingdomps3-for-a-wii/

https://colinizer.com/2007/04/09/walmart-only-has-a-rfider-on-wii-availability/

Walmart only has a RFIDer on Wii availability

I had spoken to someone in the electronics department at Walmart last week. They said they were expecting Nintendo Wiis this morning.

I woke up early this morning knowing that Walmart would open at 7am. So…

I pulled up at 6:55 and the store was already open.

On the way in, I saw other people of the ‘appropriate type’ strolling in. I wondered if it would be a foot race to the check out, though given the fact that the store was already open, I was kind of expecting them to have sold out.

As it turns out, the department was desserted and I was the only one there, well at least for 2 minutes, at which point a young asian couple and a teenage boy both showed up just as a staff member appears at the counter.

Undeterred by the make-shift ‘There is a shortage of Wii and DS – please call Nintendo for details on ….’ sign on the display case we all asked the guy what the deal was.

He kept on repeating that it was “Hard to say”. I resisted the urge to be pedantic and go with “But still possible then?”.

So then it was time to leave the store empty handed with that… ‘perhaps I should not leave because I need to stalk the display case for any possible sign of Wiis surfacing and I can not have those other people getting one an not me’ mentality. OK, not really. In fact there’s actually a kind of instant fellowship between console hunters, though this can be quite interesting given that heavy duty gamer types can be awkward social geeks – this was evident at 7am on the PS3 launch day last year when we were all waiting outside EB Games in the cold engaging our social skills; probably to avoid de-evolving to cavemen and ripping each other’s head off for the primal prey kill.

On my way out I remembered that Walmart has begun mandating a large amount of RFID chipping on supplier palettes (not yet individual items). I don’t know how widespread the mandate is yet and I wondered if Nintendo was subject to this. With my IT head on I thought of all the smart but useless things I could have said like “This is the company that mandates RFID chips – surely you know exactly where the shipments are and when they sneeze”.

So really my point is that I am (of course…) somewhat appalled by the fact that ‘in this day and age’) Walmart did not know whether a shipment of Wiis was coming, and couldn’t show me GPS tracking of the truck in question (highway robbery anyone? OK that’s the PS3). Actually I was pretty sure that someone somewhere did now, but of course they wouldn’t dare tell the floor guy for fear that alien beings would extract his brain matter just for the chance to be able to play some human entertainment.

So Walmart may have RFID but they only still pass on a RFIDer to the customer. Yes, OK, it’s cheesy.