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Comment: The "antenna array" is a McGuffin (Score 1) 334

by Thagg (#46825655) Attached to: Aereo To SCOTUS: Shut Us Down and You Shut Down Cloud Storage

The antenna array is a beautiful piece of marketing by Aereo. Who could object to renting an antenna?

And, in fact, if the output of that antenna -- that is, the radio-frequency signal -- was transmitted to the home (as CableVision was doing back in the day) I think that Aereo would have an slam dunk. But that's not what they are doing.

They are converting the microwatt signal coming out of these antennas a few times. First, they are separating out just the channel that the user wants to watch, then they are digitizing that signal and encoding it onto the internet. That's what I don't think they are allowed to do, and that's why I believe they'll be shut down.

Comment: Still hoping they make a movie camera (Score 4, Interesting) 125

by Thagg (#46817917) Attached to: Lytro Illum Light-Field Camera Lets You Refocus Pictures Later

For still photography, focus isn't a terribly hard problem to solve. Autofocus works, and DSLRs let you compose, focus, and shoot manually as well. Easy peasy.

On the other hand, for movies shot using large-format sensors, focus is a huge issue. The amount of work spent following focus on a movie is significant, and it fails more often than you might think. Modern lenses are incredibly sharp, but they have such a tiny range that is in perfect focus that they are hard to use. Admittedly, the people who use these cameras and lenses are professionals with years or decades of experience, and they do well... ...But -- if we could focus our shots after the fact, it would be a true game changer for movie making. We could chose just what part of the scene should be in focus, and change that throughout the shot easily. Yes, this moves yet another part of the movie making process into post, but that's not a bad thing. As other people have suggested at other fora, editing/coloring/framing and visual effects are all done in post, and it helps make better movies. This would help too. Having the depth maps automatically generated would make visual effects easier and better as well.

I recognize that the amount of processing that goes on to make these images makes a motion picture camera a challenge, and the number of high-end motion picture cameras is probably a tenth of a percent of the DSLRs that are made, at most. Still, we could just capture the 40 MRays and do the processing later; storage and networks are getting faster and larger all the time.

Come on, Lytro! Make it happen!

Comment: I noticed this 40 years ago, with Reader's Digest (Score 1) 224

by Thagg (#46693721) Attached to: Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain

At the time, one of the most popular magazines was "Reader's Digest", which edited long articles into short three-page summaries. They did a pretty good job of it. They would often have a "condensed book" as well.

After reading the Reader's Digest versions of articles, though, it was difficult to go back to long-form reading. There's really nothing new here!

Comment: We need license plate tracker trackers (Score 1) 352

by Thagg (#46416047) Attached to: Vast Surveillance Network Powered By Repo Men

It would be cool if we could track the trackers, and post their location on maps in real time; showing where they troll for cars, where they park at night, what donut stores they frequent. After all, the license plate trackers are plainly visible, anybody could see them and remember where and and when they did.

Comment: Re:Does anybody believe Aereo? (Score 1) 211

by Thagg (#45924269) Attached to: Supreme Court To Hear Aereo Case

Yes. I understand that they have built these arrays of so-called microantennas. I believe that they are props, fakes, shiny objects to distract from what is really happening.

Those antennae are tiny, too small to pick up the relatively long wavelengths of current transmissions. The are packed together so tightly that they would be shielding one another from the signals. Running analog signals from those antennae to tens of thousands of separate tuners? Come on, really?


Comment: Does anybody believe Aereo? (Score 1) 211

by Thagg (#45923309) Attached to: Supreme Court To Hear Aereo Case

Does anybody really think that there is actually one antenna per customer? And that that antenna is hooked up to a particular DVR? And that that antenna and DVR are connected to just one customer?

I just can't and don't believe it. The 'antenna array' is surely a prop, and the DVR has to be a rack of shared servers.

Comment: These would be great for visual effects (Score 1) 52

by Thagg (#45912271) Attached to: CES 2014: Now You Can Make 360 Degree Videos With a Single Camera (Video)

I did visual effects for the first four Fast and Furious movies. We did a lot of the car photography on a green-screen stage, and comped in backgrounds shot driving down streets. We used arrays of film cameras, usually Arri 435s (on Fast 2 we also used VistaVision cameras.)

These would be much simpler, cheaper, and more rugged.

There are similar cameras from Point Grey []. These have been out for quite some time. The Point Grey cameras are an order of magnitude more expensive than these vaporware cameras, though.


Comment: Re:First (Score 4, Interesting) 250

by Thagg (#45690231) Attached to: Chinese Lunar Probe Lands Successfully

Curiously, in my youth in the 60's, we referred to Luna-9 as a "hard landing", and the first "soft landing" was Surveyor 1 three months later. Now, it's clear that the Luna 9 lander really was a soft landing (similar to the landings of the Mars Pathfinder and Spirit/Opportunity rovers) and we were just ragging on the Soviets.

Comment: Can go somewhat faster... (Score 4, Interesting) 236

by Thagg (#45565397) Attached to: How Microwave Transmission Is Linking Financial Centers At Near-Light Speed

Sending a neutrino beam through the earth will be faster than taking the great-circle route across the surface of the earth.

Of course, one would have to send a ridiculously large number of neutrinos to be sure to have them detected, but that's just an engineering problem.

Comment: Re:Put some old news in a new context (Score 1) 237

by Thagg (#44650977) Attached to: Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base

With fiber optics...I don't think it's very easy. Especially with the new doped fibers that do their own recharging.

It used to be that there had to be transceivers every so often along the fiber, to turn the optical signals back into electronic signals, then generate new laser pulses. The new cables basically build lasers into the fiber, allow it to refresh the signal without going through that process.

Comment: Elevation changes make hyperloop almost impossible (Score 3, Informative) 253

by Thagg (#44512323) Attached to: Elon Musk Admits He Is Too Busy To Build Hyperloop

Among the many problems with hyperloop is elevation changes. If you're going even 1000 miles per hour, the minimum turning radius to stay less than half a g is 25 miles. There are 4000 ft mountains between LA and SF, and either you have to build a 80 mile long tunnel through them (pretty expensive) or build a viaduct that is 2000 ft high and 100 miles long. Going around the mountains might make more sense, but you're going to end up way out to sea.

Comment: Not going to look anything like the simulation... (Score 2) 143

by Thagg (#44382513) Attached to: Norwegian Town Using Sun-Tracking Mirrors To Light Up Dark Winter Days

If the mountain is a 2km away the reflection from the mirror is going to be very broad indeed. The sun is a half-degree across, and half-degree times 2km means that the edges of the mirror beam will be about 20 meters wide, nice soft edges and not the harsh ellipse shown. The ends of the ellipse will have edges more like 100 meters wide.

Comment: Not the problem... (Score 1) 348

by Thagg (#43574063) Attached to: What's Holding Back 3-D Printing

There are thousands of visual effects artists who are, or soon will be, out of work -- who would be happy to model anything for you. Schools today are training thousands more every year.

I think the biggest problem is that people don't want something unique -- they wants something everybody else has.

Think about it -- say you could print your own phone; and it would be unique; custom fit to your hand (say), and really the best possible phone for you. How many would want that, vs. the phone that everybody else has?

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun