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Comment: Exciting, but long way to go... (Score 1) 61

by cowtamer (#46265373) Attached to: The Road To VR

I think Rift is in the right direction -- I've played with a few HMDs and many VR systems, and although the resolution of the Rift is extremely poor, the comfort is better than almost any HMD that I've tried.

The State of the Art in VR is not HMDs but systems like the CAVE (check out the C6 at Iowa State) where the user is in a room with head tracking and a 3D input device, and each wall (including the floor, ceiling, and the wall you entered through in the case of the C6) is a 16 megapixel rear-projected 3D display updated in real-time. The experience is very much like being in the alpha version of the Holodeck (the walls disappear for the head-tracked user wearing the 3D glasses, and any object can be walked around).

The problem with these systems, of course, is that they take up real physical space and have been prohibitively expensive for the last 2 decades. To get something equivalent to the human eye, you need close to 100 Megapixels (updated at >60Hz) with a 180 degree field of view (to avoid feeling like you're seeing the world through welding goggles). The CAVE gives you this experience, at a great price. The real problem is that it is used almost exclusively for demonstrations to visiting dignitaries and funding agencies at the places fortunate enough to have them. The genius of the Rift is that it will have a huge developer and user base (at least compared to current VR systems). What is created by this developer and user base will feed into State of the Art VR research (which has, unfortunately, stagnated horribly for at least a decade) and lead to the creation of something cool. (I'm hoping for a 100 Megapixel equivalent eye tracked VR helmet with vergence and accommodation compensation -- or true real-time digital holography -- or light field displays).

[Incidentally, 3DTV could have been the basis of home based VR systems if the game console companies had had the vision to add head tracking and embrace it for what it is -- a very affordable VR display. For those of you who have never tried it -- the experience of head tracked 3D is VERY different than just 3D. But the 3D hate is too strong -- primarily driven by people who don't see 3D, are too sensitive to the effects of current display tech, or those who have had the misfortune of having experienced badly calibrated 3D]

Comment: War and Peace, Anathem, The Black Book, etc. (Score 1) 796

by cowtamer (#45843599) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Books Everyone Should Read?

Here are my favorites, if you're not stuck on a single Genre:

War and Peace: This one is a classic for a reason. Very clear and vivid descriptions, covers politics, philosophy, and even a bit of science and math if you read carefully enough :). Notable, of course, for its very well developed characters. NOT dull at all, despite the formidable length.

Anathem: Stephenson's best work so far. I like it for the same reasons I liked War and Peace (see above)

Snow Crash and The Diamond Age:
Two far-fetched futures from Neal Stephenson -- full of inspiring ideas and a bit of humor.

The Black Book (Orhan Pamuk)
I love this book for the atmosphere it creates as well as the exploration of the themes of identity (both individual and cultural), East vs West, etc. Orphan Pamuk won the Nobel prize in literature recently.

The Ringworld; Integral Trees; Building Harlequin's Moon (Larry Niven & collaborators)

These books are worth reading for the ideas and the world-building.

Glory Season (David Brin)

Brin is like a Larry Niven who can write beautiful prose. The book is indescribable -- also good for trolling your feminist friends (it takes place in a female dominated society and pokes fun of current stereotypes)

Brave New World (Huxley)

A past dystopia that will be eerily familiar.

East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

Read this if you enjoy epic cross generational tales and insights into human nature. I wish I had read this book 4 years earlier than I actually did.

Travels with Charlie (John Steinbeck)

Very insightful travel diary

Comment: Makerspaces (Score 2) 120

by cowtamer (#45717245) Attached to: Interview: Ask Forrest Mims About Rockets, Electronics, and Engineering

What do you feel about the Maker movement and Makerspaces in general?

It seems to me as the Maker/tinkerer is the new equivalent to the electronics hobbyist. Do you believe new project designs need to keep this in mind? (i.e, present the design of an entire gadget instead of just the electronics)?

Comment: Get your head out of your smart phone (Score 4, Insightful) 308

by cowtamer (#44899849) Attached to: To Boldly Go Nowhere, For Now

...and look up!

If you want to go and live in space, develop the tech to do so right now, before you lose the last of the know-how on how to do this. If you want to lust after pics of distant worlds forever unreachable to you, then divert your resources to robotic missions. Or better yet, just create the worlds in Maya and release them to the public -- it's not like they'll ever be able to verify.

The truth is, we care about space because some of us want to go there. In our lifetimes. This is technologically within reach. Keep taking pictures of distant rocks (instead of sending some humans to tough it out and settle them) and you will find all your money diverted to social media and more wars.

Comment: I'd love to believe you... (Score 2) 455

by cowtamer (#43001281) Attached to: Why Working Remotely Needs To Make a Comeback

"CEOs, like Yahoo's Marissa Mayer and Apple's Steve Jobs, think that a central office fosters more innovation and productivity. I think they're wrong." ...but how is your own multi-million company doing with your remote workers?

Less sarcastically, are there any LARGE companies out there which are mostly comprised of remote workers and have both innovation and productivity? (I know some small ones do exist)

Comment: Public Patent Challenge (Score 5, Interesting) 333

by cowtamer (#42952241) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

I think it's time for a crowdsourced patent challenge web site run by the USPTO where there would be a period of public comment for each patent about to be awarded in order to help underpaid (and I imagine under-resourced) examiners find Prior Art.

A lot fewer patents might be awarded, but ones that are would be genuinely new -- this might also save the world billions of dollars.

Comment: Fun and networking (Score 1) 64

by cowtamer (#42637321) Attached to: Corporate Hackathons: the Fine Line Between Engaging and Exploiting

I've won several hundred dollars and some hardware in various hackathons. They are generally fun, let you meet like minded individuals, and force you to think about problems you might not have considered.

Even though they might not make sense from an hourly rate standpoint, you will pretty much get something just for showing up and make valuable contacts. I haven't had a corporation steal anything I've done yet (even when I won).

Hackathons are much more about proofs of concept and getting feedback from the group than anything else...if I were to follow through on anything I created for one, I am sure I'd re-do it with a different API. I don't quite see what the huge deal is....

Comment: Re:Unique random ID *is* "useful information" (Score 1) 412

The other useful information would be from persistent, not-in-person monitoring, such as determining the typical time that student ID# 135159815 walks by a particular location on their way to or from home. Monday to Friday at 3:45pm+-10 minutes, except Wednesdays (picked up by parent for after-class event?). i.e. detailed scheduling. Set up a passive monitoring station and you'll soon know the optimal time for ... whatever the person had in mind.

The point is, that kind of tracking information would be difficult to obtain without somebody noticing were it not for the availability of RFID.

mod parent up

Comment: Re:HR3D (Score 3, Informative) 436

by cowtamer (#42396045) Attached to: Has 3D Film-Making Had Its Day?

It's actually better than that. There are quite a few technologies which will interpolate the "in between" views from several cameras (google "Novel View Synthesis"). Don't forget that lightfield capture technologies like the Lytro Camera also exist.

I've seen projection based glasses free 3D systems that are also quite impressive, such as Holografika.

I really do wish this 3D Hate would end...

Comment: Simple: iPad, Goodreader and Dropbox with stylus (Score 1) 180

by cowtamer (#42159395) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Tablets For Papers; Are We There Yet?

I was not and am not an Apple Fanboy.

However, after an exhaustive search I've settled on:

iPad 2 WiFi 16 GB (cheapest available -- around $370 at Fry's)
Goodreader (Around $5 -- most definitely worth it)
Adonit Jot stylus (get the $30 version -- you don't need the pressure sensitive BlueTooth version for this). Do NOT get anything cheaper -- you can't write on the margins with your fingers or with cheaper styli.

I sync various folders of papers in dropbox, annotate them (usually with Dropbox and the stylus), and sync the back to my PC for printing and viewing with annotations.

I thought this would be a poor substitute, but it has the advantage over paper that you can zoom in on the figures.

The only thing I miss about paper is tearing a paper apart and looking at the references at the same time as the content as I read it. I usually have my laptop open for this purpose (opened to the end of the same paper) and to perform any fast googling necessary for comprehension of the paper.

Comment: This is dangerous in a democracy (Score 1) 866

by cowtamer (#41688379) Attached to: Parent Questions Mandatory High School Chemistry

You need to have a base level of education in a society where people elect the decision makers. While I believe voting should be universal, I believe we have a DUTY to at least attempt to educate future voters in the basics of Science and the Humanities.

Not doing this in the most powerful country in the world could easily lead to the destruction of everything -- by raising a generation of ignorant people who put one of their own in charge who make destructive and uninformed policies which will affect us all. You can already see this in the glorification of willful ignorance that's so prevalent today.

Someone who has never taken chemistry or physics will do things like try to roll down windows on airplanes, be easily persuaded to deny scientific results inconvenient to a moneyed few, and support obviously destructive policies without having even a smidgen of understanding about their consequences until it's too late.

(I might be a science geek, but I think having a fundamental grasp of why Western Civilization is the way it is, what brought it here, what common failure of societies are, etc. are just as important. We have 12 years of mandatory education -- let's continue to put it to good use!)

Comment: No, but you may _want_ to leave anyway... (Score 1) 418

by cowtamer (#41565821) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Am I Too Old To Retrain?

Being 30+, I get similar questions about being too old to be in grad school, etc.

I tell people that the only thing I'm too old for around this age is to train as an Olympic Gymnast!

That being said, if software isn't fun for you, STOP NOW. Software development, more than any other engineering field I know, requires that you love what you do in order to have any chance of success -- the concentration demands are too great otherwise. This, in my opinion, is the main reason older people leave -- they have more interesting things to do.

If you are _willing_ to learn new tech, don't fret anything. Just get in there and figure it out -- pick a project to finish in technology X and finish it. Take a class or work through a book if necessary.

But as an older developer make sure you do the following:

1) Be sure to know WHAT the latest technologies are
2) Be sure to have skills in more than one technology -- I would recommend branching out from MS-Only technologies (for 'street cred,' if nothing else)

(You need the items above to be competitive)

3) Dress and act mature -- and present yourself as having insight into technology integration, team dynamics, and what it takes to complete a project -- this is your edge!

Whether you do management or coding, I believe these things will help.

Comment: Actual pay for overtime, and Prototype Development (Score 3, Interesting) 468

by cowtamer (#41509481) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Incentives For IT Workers?

There are two things you can do which will matter

1) Don't disincentivize -- If an employee is willing to put in 55 hours, pay immediately for 55 hours of work. Don't make it "bounty pay" or "year end bonus" or some other form of unpaid overtime or delayed reward. This is rare and a great boon for a motivated developer.

2) Do a variant of what Google does -- allow people to work on prototypes and proofs of concept (of their own choosing, perhaps vetted by the company) either on company time or their own time. Provide a wide (and serious) audience for such demonstrations (a monthly "demo pitch" meeting for the whole company, perhaps). We would MUCH rather do something that might matter than read (or write on) Slashdot. It's the promise of achieving something larger than themselves which keeps the more interesting developers going. (The ones doing it solely for the paycheck are unlikely to be good. If they are, see #1). While the main purpose of this would be to keep your employees interested and focused on your company, you are bound to end up with several interesting and worthwhile projects in the end -- projects which you could NOT have bought with money alone.
(One of the most valuable experiences I've had in my career was such an opportunity given to us by a forward thinking company owner).

Lend money to a bad debtor and he will hate you.