April 2011 Archives

TBTB
April 28, 2011 1:47 PM | Posted in:

Meaning, "Too Busy To Blog." If, as they say (and I do wonder who "they" are and more to the point, how do they know such things?), idle hands are the devil's workshop, then the little demon imps aren't getting many toys this anti-Christmas, because I'm too covered up with work and other assorted commitments for Lucifer to get so much as a finishing nail from me.

I think I've carried this metaphor as far as I can, and much further than it should have gone. And speaking of carrying on, please do so.

I'll be back.

Watering for Show
April 23, 2011 5:49 PM | Posted in: ,

Dear, You know who you are with the big house at the golf course -

I'm sure you're aware that the city of Midland has requested that citizens cut back on their water usage by limiting their lawn watering to three days a week, between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. And you're probably also aware that they've also been asked to make sure that they monitor their sprinklers during those times so that water isn't wasted by running over the curb and down the gutter.

I assume that because of the large size of your corner lot, the better to showcase what is one of the largest, if not the largest house in the northern development of said golf course, you have at least one water well and thus are not using city water. (I don't know that for a fact; I'm simply giving you the benefit of the doubt.)

So, rather than being in direct violation of the thus-far voluntary watering restrictions, when you run your industrial strength sprinkler system during the heat and wind of the day and blissfully ignore the sparkling rivulets it generates in the gutters, you're simply guilty of condescension and poor taste. Oh, some small-minded people might point out that water is water regardless of its source, and it's all scarce and should be conserved, but we don't want to be unreasonable.

Your pal,

Eric

OK, I take no pleasure in posting something like this, even though it's based on a firsthand observation during a recent bike ride, because I live in a neighborhood that has two well-fed ponds that use and lose prodigious amounts of water, especially during the summer months. There's a part of me that thinks we should let those ponds go dry until the drought breaks, if for no other reason than as a show of solidarity with the individual families who are being asked to sacrifice their landscape in the cause.

Rattlesnake Dreams
April 21, 2011 3:00 PM | Posted in:

Debbie and I both dreamed about rattlesnakes last night.

In my dream, one chased me as I was walking [home?] from [somewhere?] at [night?]. (I don't always remember the details of my dreams with precise clarity.)
Artist's Rendering
Artist's Rendering
In a fit of terrified intrepidness, I jumped and grabbed a limb of a convenient live oak tree and hung off the limb, laughing as the snake snarled [really? a snarling snake?] at my foiling of his nefarious plan. Uh, then he climbed the tree.

Oh, crap. Just what I need...a tree-climbing rattlesnake with a bad attitude. Did I mention it was about ten feet long?

Fortunately, while he was navigating the trunk and limbs to seek me out, I dropped back to the ground and made my escape, leaving him to fume in futility. [Normally at this point in my dreams, I'm on roller blades, and I rock.] The dream went on and eventually incorporated mockingbirds and small children with inattentive parents, but you get the gist.

I know that sounds pretty traumatic, but I think Debbie's was worse. In hers, someone from her company's HR department gave her a bag containing a live rattlesnake. Now, some of you might not find that at all surprising.

I would be more sympathetic to her plight, but she confessed that she took it home and then worried about how to keep it from biting her. [I suggest she listen to Al Wilson's "The Snake" for guidance in any future similar situations.]

I just thought you'd like to know. Two rattlesnake dreams in one night. Life is funny, sometimes.

Avocet Video
April 20, 2011 2:32 PM | Posted in: ,

Remember the flock of avocets that visited our neighborhood pond last weekend? Sure you do! Anyway, I finally got around to editing the video I shot and I've uploaded it to YouTube. You can either view it there via this link, or just click the following embed. Note that the source footage* is HD so you can embiggen it in full-screen mode if you wish.



Please excuse the poor audio quality. The wind was pretty strong (I know; that hardly ever happens in West Texas) and my camcorder has a built-in windscreen, I'll be darned if I know how to use it. 

On the plus side, this was a good excuse to finally learn to use iMovie '09, which I've been resisting for a long time. Turns out it has some great features; I was able to bump up the contrast and saturation a bit to overcome the flat light caused by the wildfire smoke in the air, and the last 20 seconds of the video feature the slow-motion capabilities of the application.

*Isn't it interesting that we still refer to video as "footage," even though that measurement is completely irrelevant in our digital darkroom. Ooh, there's another one...

Software Review: AKVIS HDRFactory 1.0
April 19, 2011 9:49 AM | Posted in: ,

High Dynamic Range (HDR) images are all the rage nowadays. A quick scroll through this showcase of HDR photography shows why: HDR images can be dramatic and hyper-realistic.

HDR images exhibit a greater range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than normally captured by a camera. The goal is to embue the image with the same dynamic range that the human eye can record (or even more, if the desired effect is artistic rather than realistic).

HDR images can be created in several different ways. The most common method is to merge normal, standard dynamic range photos in such a way as to capture the lightest and darkest details in the merged image. This merging is done via software, and we'll talk more about this approach in a moment. 

The other alternative is hardware based. More digital cameras now include an HDR feature that allows in-camera processing and creation of an HDR image. This is generally accomplished when the camera takes multiple exposures of the scene - each exposure being "underexposed" or "overexposed" - and then using onboard processing to generate a single image that incorporates the details from the extremes.

In the end, all HDR imaging is software based, whether done in the camera or in the computer. Analysis of the lightest and darkest ends of the range of luminance is necessary in order to make sure details aren't lost in the final image.

In addition, all HDR imaging requires at least two source images - again, one that emphasizes the darker end of the luminance range of the scene, and one that emphasizes the brighter end of the range. The most common method of capturing these contrasting photos with a digital camera is by using a bracketing method of exposure. Photograph a scene with the camera set for one or more stops under "normal" and then take a second photo of the same scene with a setting of one or more stops over "normal." (Obviously, unless you have a camera that can simultaneously capture multiple F-stops with one shutter click, you'll probably need to use a tripod to ensure that the photos are capturing the identical scene.)

The tricky part of the process comes after the images are captured. How can you best combine them to create the HDR image?

There are a number of applications that can be used to generate HDR images. Photoshop CS5 has a couple of different approaches ("Merge to HDR" and "HDR Toning"), but it's expensive and is overkill if all you want is a quick method of creating an HDR image.

In that case, your best bet is a dedicated application geared specifically toward HDR imaging. There are several to choose from. I've tested Photomatix by HDRsoft ($99; Mac/Windows) and it's fairly straightforward and yields good results. 

A similar, less-expensive alternative to Photomatix is HDRFactory ($69; Mac/Windows), one of the many image processing applications offered by Akvis, a Russian software company. I was recently offered the chance to test and review HDRFactory 1.0, which I installed on my Mac Pro running OS 10.6.7 (Snow Leopard).

My source images were taken using a tripod-mounted Canon Digital Rebel XT. I used the camera's auto exposure bracketing feature to take three photos, one normally exposed, and two bracketed with -2 and +2 F-stops. (For those who obsess over metadata, the -2 was F/10, the normal was F/5, and the +2 was F/4.5. All photos were 1/1000 sec. and ISO100; 31mm focal length.)

Here are the source images (normal on top):
Photo - Normal exposure
F-stop: 0

Photo - Underexposure
F-stop: -2

Photo - Overexposure
F-stop: +2

After transferring the photos to my hard drive, I opened HDRFactory (there doesn't appear to be a way to import photos directly from a camera into the application, although that's not a big deal) and selected the photos for processing. The program handles at least sixteen different file formats, including proprietary RAW formats for all major camera manufacturers. My photos happened to be plain vanilla, 7-megapixel JPGs.

Those accustomed to the elegant interfaces of most Mac OS X-native applications will find HDRFactory's layout a bit Windows-centric (I even flashed back to Mac OS 6). The interface is functional and intuitive, but hardly slick. Here's a screenshot of the basic window:

Screenshot of program window

Lots of icons and control bars. Fortunately, the application's tooltip function works well, providing a summary in the yellow box of the purpose of each icon and option as you move your cursor over each of them.

And HDRFactory is all about options. The sheer number of detailed parameter combinations and settings is staggering, and I don't profess to either understand or have tested all or even most of them. For this reason, the program is easy to use, but difficult to master - true mastery requires a solid grasp of the principles of digital imaging in general, and HDR imaging in particular. This makes it a solid choice for pros, but the ability to quickly experiment (or to use the program's built-in presets) also make it a non-intimidating option for beginners and those who just want to play around with HDR to see what can be done. For my test, I stayed with the "AKVIS Default" preset.

Of course, the true measure of image processing software is in the quality of its output. Below are comparisons of the HDR output from the three programs I mentioned above: Photoshop CS5 (two images), Photomatix, and HDRFactory. All images were generated using each program's default settings.

Photoshop - HDR Toning
Photoshop CS5 - HDR Toning

Photoshop - Merge to HDR Pro
Photoshop CS5 - Merge to HDR Pro

Photomatix
Photomatix

HDRFactory
HDRFactory - "AKVIS Default"

As you can see, the results vary widely, and "the best" result is a matter of personal preference. However, I did notice more artifacts in the HDRFactory image (look closely at the sky around the upper branches of the tree and you'll see the subtle white pixelated artifacts; they're missing from the other versions). The HDRFactory image is also 10-20% larger than the others.

Again, I didn't experiment much with the myriad of options available in HDRFactory, but there's not a single significant technical aspect of the image that can't be easily tweaked via the program's settings. And once you find a combination of settings that you like, you can save that combination as a default option, saving considerable time for future use.

If you already have Photoshop and don't often work with HDR images, a standalone program like HDRFactory may not be attractive, but the price and control of the program make it almost irresistible for those who want a standalone HDR application. (And if you want to use it seamlessly in conjunction with Photoshop, HDRFactory comes with a plugin option. Mac users have to buy it separately; it's bundled with the standalone Windows app.)

Awesome Acrobatic Avocets!
April 18, 2011 6:27 AM | Posted in: ,

Debbie and I were in the front yard yesterday afternoon - she was working; I was, um, supervising - and our eyes were drawn to a flock of birds circling our neighborhood's north pond, about two blocks away. I grabbed my video camera, and then returned and got my SLR with a long lens, and documented this unusual display.

Photo - Flying American Avocets

Burr Williams, executive director of the Sibley Nature Center, identified the birds as American Avocets. They normally inhabit the playa lakes of the Llano Estacado, but with many (most?) of those lakes drying up in the current drought, he said they're looking for other nesting areas.  

I don't think they'll find our ponds to be suitable, because there's too much human activity around them, and they're awfully skittish. But they are beautiful birds and a joy to observe. Click on the following thumbnails to see larger versions of each image.

Photo - Flying AvocetsPhoto - Flying AvocetsPhoto - Flying AvocetsPhoto - Flying AvocetsPhoto - Flying AvocetsPhoto - Flying Avocets

Those two head-on shots are my favorites; they remind me of airplanes flying in formation. In the last picture, notice how their wings seem to be synchronized.

I mentioned a video camera. I did get some footage, and if I can figure out how to edit it properly, I'll post something to YouTube. Those birds are fast flyers and hard to keep in a viewfinder, so don't expect anything professional.

Fire Map
April 17, 2011 1:56 PM | Posted in: ,

I've been tracking wildfires in West Texas via Weather Underground's interactive mapping feature. If you're not familiar with it, check it out when you have a moment.

When you initially visit the preceding link, you'll see a generic Google Map. Use the "Map Controls" located beneath the map to select which options you want to display. If you click on the "Fire" option, you'll then get a set of related options including displays of smoke cover, fire perimeters, and satellite detected fires. I think the first and last feature are most helpful in staying current with the ongoing blazes; the second option shows a [depressing] picture of how much acreage has already gone up in smoke.

The map is usable on a smartphone or iPad, but barely. It's slow to load and navigate. But on a desktop computer, it's very responsive.

Of course, what many of us may not realize is that we in West Texas aren't alone in being threatened by wildfires. As the map below shows (a snapshot from just a few minutes ago), the interior of Mexico is also being plagued by fire. Indeed, much of the smoke cover that's hitting the Texas Gulf Coast is coming from those fires.

Screenshot of Weather Underground wildfire locator map

I don't think I need to remind you...pray for rain!

When life gives you lemons...
April 16, 2011 11:45 AM | Posted in: ,

...make, uh, pomegranate juice?

As I may have mentioned, our big pomegranate tree didn't survive the Big Freeze of Ought Eleven. We discussed digging it up and planting something else, but then noticed a very healthy and vigorously growing batch of shoots coming up from the base of the dead tree. We decided to let nature run its course and see if the plant would grow into a healthy shrub (until the next big cold snap, of course).

Growing up in Fort Stockton, the only pomegranate plants I saw were bushes...they were never pruned into trees. And we've noticed several around town that are of the shrubbery persuasion. So, we're gonna let the little guy do its thing and perhaps in a couple of years, it will again be providing some beautiful fruit.

It has a ways to go, though:

Photo of small pomegranate shrub

Spousal Challenge
April 15, 2011 5:02 PM | Posted in: ,

Ladies, when it comes to manly things, don't ever tell your husband that something he's trying isn't going to work. It's like trying to teach a pig to dance. It never works, and it annoys the pig. 

For example, don't ever say something like this:

"I don't think you can get forty bags of mulch in this pickup."

Or this:

"I don't think those will ride like that."

Because if you do, you'll ensure that he does something like this:

Photo of Honda Ridgeline loaded with 40 bags of mulch

On the other hand, I guess this tactic might be effective in getting something done that might not otherwise get done.

Light Duty
April 9, 2011 10:50 AM | Posted in:

Q: How many people does it take to change the light bulbs in the ceiling fan in my office?

A: Just one, but he should have a robust vocabulary to cope with the task of guiding a large fragile glass dome with one hand in such a way as to align and maneuver said dome so that the two pull chains will drop through their allotted holes, and then center said dome over the threaded support, while trying to find the 2 nanometer wide sweet spot in his progressive bifocals, and while holding in his other hand (1) a washer, (2) another washer, and (3) the locknut that will eventually - and perhaps theoretically - secure said glass dome to the fixture, and while holding said glass dome in place, with said remaining hand guide the two washers over the threaded support and then affix the locknut to the threads...and all of this while balancing on a rolling desk chair.*

Next time, I'll just stay in the dark.

*I lied about the desk chair, because it sounds more daring than the kitchen step stool I actually used. But even that was a challenge given the other distractions.

I. Must. Have. One.
April 8, 2011 9:36 AM | Posted in:

My command of the English language fails me miserably as I contemplate how to describe the depth of desire I have for this.

Photo - iPad Typewriter
It's not real, you say? Then, I command you, make it so!

How not to manage customer relations
April 8, 2011 7:51 AM | Posted in:

I've noticed a couple of recent examples of inexpert customer relations from companies large enough to know better.

One arrived in via email yesterday afternoon, from my insurance company (Farmers Insurance). It touted its "Go Paperless" program, in which its customers could elect to receive policy-related documents electronically (gee...what a cutting edge idea!). Sounds innocuous, right? But here's where the wheels come off:
Signing up is easy.2 Just log into "My Farmers" and the "Go Paperless" banner will display if you qualify.  Also, if you are eligible you can sign up for e-Billing or you can continue to receive your bills in the mail. It's all up to you and it's all right at your fingertips on Farmers.com.
The footnote reiterates: Not all policies qualify at this time. The Go Paperless banner will only display if you qualify for the paperless option.

So, they want me to go to the trouble of logging into their website in order to find out if I qualify? If they know my status already, why didn't they take that into account before sending the email?

To add insult to injury, I inexplicably don't qualify, even though I pay all my premiums (three policies worth) online. But - and here's the other flaw in this approach - how can I be sure that there isn't just a glitch in their system, or in my browser settings, or in my internet connection, that temporarily disabled or otherwise prevented that banner from displaying? This is a poor way to roll out a new feature, from several perspectives.

Then there's my cable/internet provider, Suddenlink. They went to the expense of mailing a letter that contains this ominous paragraph (emphasis mine):
Since early in 2007, Suddenlink has been providing high value bundled pricing for our multiple product customers. On next month's bill, you will see a price adjustment. The new rates of our bundled packages still represent a value savings over 30% off our a la carte pricing. [...] We apologize for any inconvenience these changes may cause you.
Is it obvious that Suddenlink is announcing they're raising their rates? (And, indeed, the bill that arrived this morning via email* reflects a 5% increase.) They're making their customers work to figure that out. And the "insult to injury" factor in this case is the apology for the implied burden "these changes" (whatever they might be).

These are both examples of how companies do a disservice to their customers, the first by taking technological shortcuts and the second by generating disingenuous and ambiguous communication.

*Suddenlink's website is the online equivalent of a funhouse...you never really know where you'll end up when you click a link. I've yet to figure out the logic behind its structure, and it sometimes seems that the same link leads to different places.

Black Rings of Distraction
April 7, 2011 3:37 PM | Posted in: ,

I had a big ol' Random Thursday post ready to go, but at the last second I decided you were probably tired of that meaningless, Content Freeā„¢ junk, so I pulled the trigger on a project that's been rattling around in my head for a while, ever since I ran across this website. It's called Center of Attention, and it's simply a series of scanned artwork from vinyl records, both singles and LPs (if those terms are meaningless to you, there's a reason you're still sitting at the kiddie table at Thanksgiving).

Now, this is all well and good and no one can argue that this piece of our cultural history should be preserved, if only so that codgers like me can recall a time when we mastered our technology rather than the other way around. But it also occurred to me that this focus omits something that's arguably even more important: the other stuff that comprised the records. You know, the black stuff (although it wasn't always black, now that I think about it)...the vinyl. So, here's my Big Idea: I propose to complete what Simon Foster's Center of Attention began by immortalizing the vinyl part of the records. Classic, huh. Don't hate me because I'm creative; I'm sure you have skills that I don't have, like macrame or curling.

I'm not going to completely try to be the yin to Center of Attention's yang, and not just because that sounds weird, but also because I don't think I have many of his records in my collection (although I do have the album, The Shape of Things to Come, by Max Frost and the Troopers; Simon is displaying the the B-side of that song, Free Lovin', on a 1968 single). He's got a lot of old R&B and blues records, and my tastes ran to mainstream pop and rock, with the occasional foray into the weirdness of artists like Frank Zappa. But, I think there's room in this field for all of us, don't you?

So, here's the deal. I'm scanning my 45s, and editing out the cover art so we can focus on the exquisite and unique beauty of the vinyl. Here's my first offering, a classic by the Monkees (and written by Neil Diamond), called A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You. But, silly me; I'm sure you'll recognize it as soon as you see it, even if you're not Dr. Arthur Lintgen.

Scan of 45 rpm record

OK, I know what you're thinking: "How do we know this is the authentic scan?" I could have pulled a fast one and substituted C'mon Marianne by the Four Seasons. It's a fair question, given the relatively low resolution of the image. I did the original scan at 200 dpi, magnified 600%, and the resulting scan is almost 300 megabytes, not really conducive for putting on a website, but absolutely detailed enough to provide a good sample. To wit...click on the image below to see the uncropped version of the cropped image (there should also be another teensy button on the popup that allows you to expand the image to its full, magnificent size).

Detail of 45 rpm record

If you happen to be a geologist, you might think this is reminiscent of core sample, with its layers of strata, and I guess that "H" at the bottom would represent - I don't know - Hell? There's got to be another explanation, but I got nothin' at this point. Perhaps a Discological Historian can enlighten us about the random letters and numbers inscribed near the center of each record. Are they the earliest anti-piracy efforts? Or just inventory tracking devices? Or something more sinister (I keep going back to the "H for Hell" thing)? It's questions like this that provide the scholarly justification for the time and effort I'll be sinking into this project. Don't thank me; that's just the way I roll.

So, what do you think? Is this research worthy of the Fire Ant imprint, or should I continue my quest for excellence in another direction?

By the way, I'm not the first yahoo to get the idea of scanning a record, much as I'd like to make that claim. This guy did it, and then developed software that could "play" the scanned image. Show-off.

Playing with Uranus
April 6, 2011 2:34 PM | Posted in: ,

Hey, they started it!

Nevertheless, I think you'll be impressed by this interactive 3D model of the solar system.

What did you think I was talking about?

Brain Wracking Rack
April 5, 2011 2:26 PM | Posted in: ,

One of the challenges of owning a bicycle with a wheelbase of more than 9' is transporting it. Conventional bike racks just don't work.

In the past, we've used a Thule roof rack system along with a Thule tandem carrier that I extended with a length of square tubing and a second welded-on "foot" for attaching it to the rack. Here's what the bike looked like mounted on our previous vehicle, a Dodge Durango.


As you can imagine, lifting a 50 pound bike up and onto the carrier was quite a job. Fortunately, I was able to effectively supervise my wife as she did the job and I thought it worked quite well. OK, you got me...this was a two-person job, one of which I could never farm out to somebody else.

Now that we have a pickup, you'd think the job would be considerably easier, wouldn't you? But the bike's wheelbase is only about a half foot shorter than the truck's, and the bike is several feet longer than the truck bed with the tailgate down. Nevertheless, by continuing to use the Thule carrier and enough tie-downs to moor the Queen Elizabeth, we can transport the bike in the Ridgeline's bed in effective, if ungainly, fashion. Click on the following photos for evidence.


Now, the issue should be obvious. While the bike is quite secure, I worry about it extending so far in back of the vehicle. There's little chance that someone would run into it during the daytime (it's apparently quite an eye-catching sight traveling down the highway, judging by the reaction of other drivers on I-20 last weekend), but night is a different matter. I'll mount reflectors on the carrier for nighttime use, but I'd prefer a completely different solution. We may have to revert back to the roof rack approach, which is unfortunate, as it will require both of us to load and unload. I can handle the current setup by myself.

I don't want to alarm anyone, but there could be a welding project in my future!

Fire (Ant) Sale
April 4, 2011 9:45 PM | Posted in:

I still haven't figured out what happened with the vanishing fire ants, nor have I contacted CafePress to remedy the situation, but this snafu along with a special request from a friend for some new products caused me to revisit the Gazette's store and my business model related to said store.

My goal has never been to make money with the Gazette merchandise, and it occurred to me that there was no reason even for the measly markup (averaging about $2 per item) in the store, so I used CafePress's management tools to reduce the markup to a big fat zero. In other words, if you have the questionable judgment to actually want, for example, a Fire Ant ball cap or hoodie, you'll pay the minimum price CafePress charges. It's like getting wholesale prices with a retail shopping experience! Whatever that means!

Plus, if the shirts are going to be missing the logo, you probably should get a price break. But that's a whole other issue.

On a more seriouser note (it's really, really hard to be serious about merchandise sporting a Fire Ant logo), I also tweaked most of the t-shirt designs a bit, deleted some of the lamer products, and added a few new ones. 

What hasn't changed is that anyone who sends me a photo of a Fire Ant product in an exotic locale, like Kermit or perhaps Enid, Oklahoma, will be featured in the virtual pages of the Gazette. No need to thank me; it's how I roll.

[cue obligatory stock product photos]

QR Codes Already Obsolete?
April 4, 2011 2:58 PM | Posted in:

I've done a couple of recent posts about QR codes, trumpeting their use as the Next Big Thing in print-to-web interactivity, and what do I now learn? Google is abandoning the technology in favor of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology! 

So, does this mean the death of the QR technology before it even gets a chance to mature? When the world's leading tech company writes it off, you'd hardly be blamed to believing that, but I think there's quite a jump between QR and NFC...it's big enough that it will be years, if ever, that NFC becomes "consumer grade" technology.

Here's a quick NFC primer, lifted from this ReadWrite Web article:
NFC is a newer wireless technology that allows devices to communicate with each other over short distances. The data transfer between the devices occurs through one of two means: either a short wave or, as is more common, a touch or tap.

The communication doesn't have to occur between two handheld devices, like two phones, however. It can also work with a mobile device and a target of some kind - for example, a point-of-sale system at a store's checkout counter or even something as simple as a tag, sticker, poster, decal or card with an NFC chip embedded. In the case of these simple targets, batteries are not required to power the NFC chips. Instead, the chips are in a passive state, waiting to be activated by another device that can generate a RF (radio frequency) field.
So, unlike QR codes, which can be easily generated and require only a printer to "manufacture," NFC is a chip-based technology, and I don't see a lot of printed circuit creating devices for sale on Amazon.com.

In addition, the NFC reader is a hardware solution; your phone (or other mobile device) must have the capability built into it. Here's a list of the mobile phones that are currently NFC-capable. It's not an impressive list, as it lacks representation by such brands as RIM (Blackberry) and a minor player known as the iPhone. (But they are in the "rumored to be coming real soon...really" category.) Of course, the Google Nexus comes with NFC baked in. QR codes can be read by any smartphone with free reader software installed.

I do think NFC has a lot potential (and is already being implemented by various major players for mobile payment systems, where you can just wave or tap your phone near an NFC station to complete a transaction). Google's emphasis is on providing merchants with NFC-enabled window stickers or decals that allow passers-by to connect to a website to get more information about the business. This is tied to a new Google service called Hotpot, and obviously Google hopes it will someday be a revenue stream for the company.

But until the day comes when we have our own personal chip stamping machines (to go along with our flying cars), QR codes (or something similar) will be a much more accessible technology - and carry much fewer security and privacy concerns - than the NFC approach for run-of-the-mill connections between the worlds of print and web.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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