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Archive for August 2009

Amazing CGI

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I saw District 9 this weekend. Quite a good movie. Memorable CGI generated aliens “the prawns”. Quite an improvement from aliens that are clearly people with lots of makeup and fur suites, quite an improvement over using muppets and other robots/puppets. The aliens appear to move naturally, they have insect like mouth parts that are constantly moving and bodies that clearly an actor couldn’t fit into. Good work to the Vancouver company Imagine Engine that created them. The aliens fit right into the film and are completely realistic.

The I was blown away by the trailed for Cameron’s new movie Avatar which is coming in December. Again huge amounts of CGI creating a truly alien but beautiful planet and creatures. Really amazing how realistic these imagined worlds are becoming.

Even on standard PCs today with relatively inexpensive graphics cards from NVidia or AMD, its amazing the level of realistic graphics you can get in modern computer games. Each frame in the movies mentioned above might take hours to render to get the desired quality, but computer games today aren’t far behind and rendering 30 frames a second on current graphics co-processor cards. These cards often have 1 gig of their own memory and hundreds of parallel processors doing all the 3D calculations.

It looks like with modern movie making technology, truly whatever can be imagined can be created. Currently it might be limited to big budget productions cost $100 million to make. But prices keep coming down, techniques keep getting cheaper. Next we’ll see movies less expensive to produce, we’ll see this technology incorporated into video games. Should be amazing to see the crop of movies that start appearing over the next few years.

Written by smist08

August 24, 2009 at 1:55 am

Posted in graphics

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Frenzy in the WWW

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Seems to be a lot happening in the web these days. Microsoft Bing goes live, Google goes into a frenzy of upgrades to their search engine. Microsoft makes a deal with Yahoo. Facebook buys FriendFeed. Twitter downed by a denial of service attack. Everyone frantically trying to be the ultimate search/social networking/communications service.

I received by test account for Google Wave today. The first thing that struck me, was that I would love it to be connected to FaceBook or LinkedIn, so I actually have someone to communicate with. Great tool, but the trick would be adoption. I think if any social networking site had developed this, it could really take off. Not sure how Google will manage alone. Maybe they’ll make a deal with Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn or someone. Someway to really spiff up the communications features of these sites, which tend to be a bit lacking.

It seems Microsoft unveiled Bing to much fanfare and have been running a massive number of TV commercials promoting it. But it seems that it is already standing still as everyone surpasses it. Google has already upgraded their search a couple of times, adding features Bing promises, but doesn’t deliver yet. Not sure if Microsoft understands how to compete in the Internet world. Still running on quite long software development life cycles, rather than operating in Internet time where product updates can be quickly rolled out.

Meanwhile Microsoft is playing Pepsi to Apple’s Coke in the music player category with Zune trying to compete with the iPod. I think they are starting from so far behind that they really don’t have a chance. Combine that with the power of the iPod/iPhone application store and they don’t seem to have much chance.

It seems online office productivity tools like word processing  and spreadsheets are quickly moving to the web. Probably much quicker than anyone anticipated. Meanwhile laptop prices continue to fall through the floor. Can now get good Linux based laptops for $200. Not much room in that price for the Microsoft Windows tax. With no real demand for office, these make a lot of sense now. The newer laptops can’t even run Windows since they are based on ARM CPUs.

Anyway all these developments, competitions and change make life interesting. Good time to be in the computer industry.

Written by smist08

August 18, 2009 at 2:51 am

Competition During a Recession

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The media was making quite a big deal that the economy only shrank 1% last quarter, compared to the 6% it shrank previous to that. Does it mean we are on the way to recovery? Or won’t we break the 0% mark and stay negative a while longer? Should the economy expect to grow to be healthy? There is something to be said that we live on a planet limited in size and resources. Common sense would say that we can’t grow forever without causing some sort of ecological cataclysm. Should we be looking to adjust our expectations for a steady-state economy. Europe has had that more or less for a while and remained fairly healthy and vital. Does the rest of the world need to realize that there aren’t too many un-exploited frontiers anymore?

Chances are we will come out of this recession and experience some sort of modest growth. But with dwindling natual resources like gas, we have to plan to live within our means. Meanwhile what does that mean for companies competing in this environment. Within our own area we’ve seen some partners go out of business while others are doing quite well. Some depends on geography, some on skill and some on luck. We’ve seen competitors become more cut-throat. Competition for deals and customers has been heating up. The language used becomes stronger, the sell harder, more perks and subsidies thrown in.

One thing this has shown to me is the power of community. Often smaller companies compete with each other but have a lot in common like selling the same products. They have attended the same conferences over the years, participate in the same discussion forums, attend the same courses. Its seems products that have developed a strong community around them are surviving better than products that haven’t developed this. For instance Accpac has been around for over 30 years in one form or another, from the original CPM version through the DOS version, through 16 bit Windows, 32 bit Windows and now the Web. Much of the strength that has contributed to Accpac’s success has been the strength of the community that has sold, supported, developed for and consulted on this product line. Although many of these partners will compete head to head on deals, often at the end of the day, they can happily go for a beer together and be best of friends. I think this is in recognition that other business people within their community are more friends than enemies and that a bit of joint effort is required against all the other competitive pressures that are out there.

Now with tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and dozens of specialized web sites, discussion forums, blogs, etc. the community has a chance to be stronger than ever. It is much more international now. Partners in South Africa can give advice to partners in Australia or Nova Scotia. The flow of information becomes better, the sharing of ideas and the comfort and support from that whole community. Of course vendors like Sage have to play their part to make it all work, but most of this community sprung up from the grass roots on its own and is very independent in its own right.

Written by smist08

August 1, 2009 at 10:27 pm