BitDepth#958 - October 14

The photographer’s selfie
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A bit of photographic meta. A self-portrait of a selfie in progress. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

A few weeks ago, I
posted my first selfie on Facebook and it occasioned a small bit of fuss among the circle of friends who commented on it.
Evidently, I was believed to be widely opposed to this widespread phenomenon of self-documentation, or at least, it seemed, I was expected to be.

Part of that is likely to be because I don’t tend to take many photographs of myself. As I often tell skittish portrait subjects by way of empathy, I’ve spent an awful lot of time and energy getting on the other side of the camera.
It’s an aspect of a series of
posts about portraiture that I’ve been working on for my photo blog, and one that I've never fully considered before now.

And yet, I’ve got quite a few photographs of myself on file. Among them a black and white multiple exposure I took while working out that technique from the early 1980’s, the “Mohawk for Carnival” photo and of late, far more frequent annual updates to meet the voracious needs of modern social networks, which quickly tire of the same thing posted for too long.

I’ve got at least one Facebook friend who changes her profile photo with the reliability and speed of Big Ben, pretty much rotating in something new or rarely seen on what seems like an hourly cycle.
It’s a thing that I’ve wrestled with for a long time, particularly since at least part of my business is based on the need to update and improve corporate images among people for whom the perception of self is as important as the reality.

That’s why I find it so surprising that creative people are so often terrible at putting a meaningful image up as their avatar, the digital representation of self so pivotal to online interaction that there’s a service,
Gravatar, dedicated to it.

Among my creative colleagues on Facebook and Twitter, there are still a few outline heads and eggs, the default icon that pops up when you haven’t uploaded a photo representing yourself to those services, along with a smattering of bizarre images that have nothing to do with the people I know.

When it comes to the Internet generally and social media in particular, I’ve found that most impressions are based on a quick read of “about” pages and anything personal.
Yet it is in these places, now public on a scale without precedent, that we seem most comfortable with being seen as quirky, strange or complicated.

There are some people who want to be seen as exactly that and others who will argue that I manage to be all three despite posting a photo revealing same, so there’s that.
A selfie can be a remarkably informative thing. I know more about the sons and daughters of friends by what the photographs they post of themselves than I do from anything I get told by their parental units.

There is, however, a gulf of difference between a selfie, which tends to capture an engaging and personally appreciated moment for further appreciation, and a self-portrait, which tends to be a more deliberate and considered effort at defining oneself visually.

Both are intended for public consumption, but they tend to serve quite different needs, though the inevitable mash-ups that digital technology encourages have tended to blur the line between the two.
Of late, I’ve been considering the difference between the two as I began to rethink the value of call cards.

Do people look for your call card or search for you online first? I’ve begun to think that Google is the new directory for finding people and that an online call card might be a good idea.
While preparing to post on
the popular people finder service About Me, I also decided to press into service a domain I’d been holding for the last four years to keep it out of the hands of name poachers as a prototype online call card.

Increasingly, we are all going to be evaluated by the images we circulate online and will be measured and understood less by what we write than by the pictures we post. The pictures we post of ourselves will be the adjectives of those declarations.
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BitDepth#957 - October 07

Windows 10, anyone?
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Windows 10 includes gracenotes from both version 7 and 8 to create a product that’s a bit of the best of both.

On the very last day of September, Microsoft introduced the newest version of its flagship operating system, Windows 10.
What’s that you might be asking? What happened to Windows 9? Don’t ask, the Internet has already answered that, for the most part with snide humour. Hit a search engine to find out for yourself.

And this isn’t exactly Windows 10, at least not yet. Microsoft makes it clear that this version is subject to change, and the product is still very much under development.
If you decide to play around with it, be aware that it’s a Technical Preview, very much a beta product and one that Microsoft is rather boldly circulating widely in the hopes of gathering feedback about how the product works for its customers.

Since releases like this are normally released only to developers, it’s clear that the company acknowledges the missteps of Windows 8, a brave and largely unwelcomed effort to merge a tablet OS with a desktop interface.
The company has
posted a blog with an embedded video that shows off the new design features and approaches.

In the blog, Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s front man for the launch, neatly conflates the blurbs about Windows 8 into the vision of new CEO Satya Nadella: “This new Windows must be built from the ground-up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

The new Windows offers some nuanced touches that are clearly designed to meet the expectations of users who have become comfortable with Windows 8 as well as those who have staunchly resisted upgrading and remain on versions 7 and earlier.
That’s no small figure.

As of July 2014, Windows 8 adoption was 12.5 per cent of Windows installations, compared with over 50 percent for Windows 7.
By September, that number had inched up to 13.37 per cent for both Windows 8 and its healing upgrade, 8.1, but that put the OS just below the widely reviled Windows Vista (14.3) and well below the now formally abandoned Windows XP, which tenaciously holds 23.89 per cent of the Windows install base.

The first thing that the intrepid user will find is the return of a full start menu, not the lame halfway effort included with the 8.1 upgrade.
Not only does it look like the old start menu, it’s actually better, adding selected tile apps to the right of your application launch list, giving users a quick update on what’s been happening in their digital lives.

It’s an inspired use of the Modern UI tile-based interface, so controversially introduced with Windows 8 and you’ll find those apps appearing in more sensible ways as you work through the new OS.
Which isn’t to say that it’s perfect. Some tiles that you’d expect to be live sit silently in the start menu and others update with such speed that it makes the menu a bit dizzying to use. You can also resize it upward, but apparently not sideways

The Task View, a merging of Expose and Spaces on OSX, is an effort at organising app windows, virtual desktops and icons for hard core users, but it’s a bit inconsistent in its execution.
Clicking on the Task View icon or typing Alt Tab gets you the same familiar view of your workspaces, but Windows Tab delivers something quite different for no apparent reason.

There’s also needless conflict between the Start Screen and the Start Menu. Microsoft feels that you should choose one or the other. I have no idea why.
Tile based apps are no longer bound to the digital ghetto of the Start Screen and now launch on the desktop, with their own windows in the desktop interface. This is likely to be a great boon to the developers who committed to creating software for the Windows App Store.

The Windows 10 Technical Preview isn’t for everyone, Microsoft specifically offers the software for “PC experts and IT Pros” through its
Windows Insider Programme though users frustrated with Windows 8 may be tempted to go for the new features early.
My own installation, which downloaded briskly and installed even faster in an old VMWare Fusion virtual machine takes up 10GB on disk, not bad for a modern OS installation.

But this is a version of Windows for adventurers, columnists and the technically adept. Using is on a production machine is probably inadvisable, no matter what your friends tell you.

That said, Windows 10 shows far greater promise of becoming that chimeric hybrid that the company was seeking when it released Windows 8 and most compellingly, it’s the product of a company that’s been listening to its customer base. That’s never a bad thing.
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BitDepth#956 - September 30

Passport to where?
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BlackBerry Executive Chairman and CEO John Chen holds the company’s new Passport phone aloft at the launch event on Wednesday last week. Photo courtesy BlackBerry.

In the week of Bendgate, with flocks of pigeons flocking with diarrheal enthusiasm over Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, it was hard to imagine that another technology company might be able to rival the misfortunes of the Cupertino company and its allegedly overly flexible new phone.

But one only needed to look north to Toronto to find the once erstwhile and market-leading BlackBerry offering up a new smartphone to skies thick and dark with corbeaux with their bladders full.

If there’s anything worse than bad press, it’s got to be no press, or so little of it hardly matters. Even worse than that is the prospect of marginal market share for not just a new product, but one that represents BlackBerry’s last, best hope for a presence in the pockets of business users.

At a cozy event on September 24 in Waterloo, Ontario and in the company of famed hockey player Wayne Gretzky, BlackBerry CEO John Chen introduced the new Passport device, a squat looking little smartphone with a design influence that seems based on a…passport.

If you’re looking for style, seek out the BB Porsche Design P’9983, a smartphone with far more impressive design pedigree, but BlackBerry is positioning the Passport as the device that its dedicated users will want to migrate to.

It’s pretty ham-handed positioning though, the P’9983 will be available through Harrods at the Porsche Design in-store shop for £1,400.
The company is playing a careful and deliberate marketing game here, announcing on its home turf and claiming Canadian carrier Telus as its first official partner with accompanying discounts for the first weeks of sale.

AT&T has been announced as its official US carrier, with 30 selected territories to come soon (T&T isn’t one), though the phone will apparently be widely available unlocked at a US price of $599.

That’s already proven to be a key factor in the phone’s appeal to its audience. Within hours of its release, BlackBerry was blogging about the 200,000 orders for the device on Amazon that had skyrocketed the Passport to the top spot among smartphones on the company’s US store.

For the average user, the Passport hits some modern notes as well as some old favorites. The BlackBerry keyboard is back, for one thing, along with a hefty 3,450 mAh capacity battery that’s rated for 30 hours of average use.

The new keyboard, which is generating mixed feelings among the BB faithful, also functions as a trackpad with a swipe across its surface.
As with other recent BlackBerry models, this device runs some Android software, which users can access through the preloaded Amazon Appstore app.

The phone’s specifications are a distinctly average; Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.2 GHZ quad-core processor, 3MB RAM, 32GB storage and a 13MP camera.
Earning a place in the pockets and clasps of today’s executives will be a challenge for the hefty phone, which weighs in at heavyweight class at 5.03 inches tall, 3.55 inches wide, and 0.37 inches thick. It also bends the scales at 6.91 ounces.

BlackBerry is putting it to their users that they really need a square tank to be efficient, and they may be the only smartphone maker with a business base dedicated enough to survive the asking.
With a square screen, this isn’t a device for looking at movies or YouTube videos, it’s dedicated to creating an old-school workspace with a distinctly modern pixel density of 453 pixels per inch on a 4.5 inch screen. Words, spreadsheets and presentations will be crisp and sharp.

From the perspective of BlackBerry’s recent smartphone history, the Passport is actually a strong entry in the market, but the market has also generally moved on to faster, smaller, sleeker devices with far richer software ecosystems.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

Good hardware is the price of entry into this competition for smartphone customers, software is where they are won over and BlackBerry hasn’t done a thing worth noting on that front.
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BitDepth#955 - September 23

Battle of the phablets
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Apple’s new iPhone 6 Plus (right) is going to spark some interesting changes in the smartphone market. Photo courtesy Apple.

For the last six years or so, I’ve been an Android guy as far as smartphones go.
I’ve used Samsung’s devices specifically, from their shaky start as an iPhone challenger with the S1 through to the capable and competitive S4.

There’s a lot to like in Android. If you use Google, your phone becomes an effortless extension of everything that Google has to offer, from search to web apps.
Google open door to developers of all kinds results in an app store for Android that’s riddled with iffy software.

The steady growth in the availability of a much wider range of useful software for Android has helped, from the monolithic presence of Microsoft Office to tiny but important projects like Sunrise, which pulls your iCloud appointments into Google’s universe.
But let’s be honest here.

The Android app store can’t compare, particularly for creatives, to the thriving abundance of apps available for Apple’s iPhones.
At least part of the problem is the curious problem of Android fragmentation. OpenSignal reports that in August 2014, there were 18,000 individual Android devices in the market awaiting the attention of a potential developer.

Most of them can’t be upgraded to the current version of Android, so developers either target the most recent devices, leaving older phones and systems out in the cold or delay Android development in favour of software for iOS.
This is where the relative blandness of Apple’s product line offers its strongest market value, both for users and software developers.

Apple updates its iPhones on a cycle that runs between eight and ten months and maintains backward compatibility for roughly four generations.
That means that while iOS 8 really delivers for the new iPhone 6 models, it can be expected to run well on the 5s, 5c, 5 and 4s devices.

That 4s compatibility is a bit of a checklist item though. The Internet is currently a hotbed of complaints that the 4s becomes a turtle slogging through hot asphalt after the upgrade.
My own reaction suggests that the new releases, both software and hardware, will be just the wake-up call that Samsung needs right now.

For one thing, I’m looking very, very seriously at the iPhone 6 plus. It’s a honking big phone, but I’m a honking big person and if I invest in it, it won’t just be to use a phone, it will be to condense my need for a small tablet and a mobile communications device into one, admittedly large, box.
All the bells and whistles of Apple’s design and software ecosystem matter less to me than being able to work more comfortably on a device I can put in my pocket.

This is likely to be a consideration for other folks as well who are discovering that 4G connectivity, regardless of your carrier of choice, has quickly become a powerful enabler of responsiveness and connectivity.
Apple’s new phablet is a direct shot across the bow of Samsung’s Note series, a genre defining line of hefty phones that, to my surprise, I’ve been finding in the hands of quite several female executives who traditionally carry their phones in their handbags.

This is also where Apple needs to be ready to step into the future if the new device takes off. People who were waiting to buy an iPhone will buy one, but the Plus is a different market category that’s going to demand specific attention if it’s going to succeed.

If it does, Apple is one of the few companies with the capacity to scale to demand. The company reputedly can churn out 45 million iPhones per quarter, if the Plus takes off, Samsung, which also happens to one of those companies with production capacity, may find itself in an all out market war.
This is a far more likely possibility than even a skirmish in the smartwatch category, which remains unproven and experimental at best.

Samsung would do well to realise that this isn’t a battle that’s going to be won on specifications. The upcoming Note 4 will feature a slightly larger screen at 5.7 inches to Apple’s 5.5, higher screen pixel density, double the megapixels for the main camera and a processor that’s supposed to be faster.

Samsung’s Note series offers a bigger, more comfortable device for serious smartphone users, but the iPhone Plus is something else entirely for Apple, a product that’s likely to cannibalise iPad Mini sales and become more of a handheld computer than a phone. That’s likely to change the market perceptibly.

To meet that challenge, Samsung would be well advised to drop the crapware from their upscale devices.
With the time to see how the iPhone Plus is being used, they can make deals to pack the new Note with apps that will make it a real competitor in usability.
That’s going to be the terrain for the upcoming battle of the phablets.
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BitDepth#954 - September 16

Social intervention, new media style
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The popular Facebook pages of the issue specific social intervention websites Bad Parkers of T&T and TriniHomewreckers.com.

In an era in which everyone not only has an opinion, but multiple avenues for expressing those thoughts, it’s surprising that there are few efforts at making sustained social interventions using readily available Internet tools.

Most issues earn a rash of comments, usually on Facebook, the occasional Twitter flare-up and the odd change.org petition.
At least two people have managed to be so irritated at a perceived injustice that they have created a continuing, Internet-based effort to keep discussion alive on matters that concern them.

Roger Jackson, a Hospitality Management consultant for the last 35 years, created and runs the popular
Facebook group Bad Parkers of T&T which has attracted 3,444 members in just three months.
“I have been observing the way people park at malls, multi storey car parks, banks, groceries, churches, offices and basically anywhere that people park,” he explained.

“As OCD as I am, I thrive on perfection and seeing cars parked outside of lines, in handicap parking spaces when they should not be or simply parking badly causing inconvenience to others really started to bother me and I thought I would share this with others who I know feel the same way as I do.”

There was a personal spark for this project, and it was one that stuck in Jackson’s craw.
“I was trying to park at a mall a few months ago with my mum, who is 93 and needs a wheelchair to move around, when I [found I] could not use the handicap parking because it was already occupied.”

“I drove around the parking lot and finally found a spot where I could park my car with enough room to open the front door to manoeuvre my mother into her wheelchair, when along comes another car and pulls in the spot next to me and basically refused to move even though I explained about the wheelchair and my mother.”
“To me that was an inconsiderate bad park. There were other spaces available.”

From the start, content flowed to the page, the first surge of members quickly getting the idea of capturing acts of automotive negligence with their cameraphones.
Now members post “every hour on the hour,” and Jackson’s main role is in managing a thriving though occasionally rowdy group.

“I have not had anyone challenge me on an offensive post, but I have had to referee between a few members when their posts got out of hand and quite personal.”
For such a large and impassioned group, it’s a bit surprising to discover that Jackson has only had to eject two members, but as he notes “they both really did not belong in the group.”

The anonymous owner of
trinihomewreckers.com, a website dedicated to outing women accused of breaking up relationships with a sideline in deadbeat dads, was cagey about contributing to this column.
The
supporting Facebook page has won 15,222 likes and even spawned a dissenting page on Facebook, Shut Down Trinihomewreckers Website Now, which has attracted a rather less daunting 185 likes since it was created in March.

The website, which logs thousands of visitors per day, was started in November 2013 as “an outlet to allow persons to vent.”
“Let it all out by sharing your story,” the TriniHomewreckers proprietor wrote in response to e-mailed questions.
“I know that there are families that are hurting because of infidelity and betrayal. I have seen families torn apart and children hurting because of this. I also think that others experience will inspire, and to some extent deter, persons from making the same mistakes. I hope it does.”

As cautionary tales go, the posts are both raw and disturbing in their bluntness. It isn’t an easy read if you aren’t already angry about being horned or abandoned and most of the posts veer between slut-shaming and outright libel.

That hasn’t stopped businesses from advertising dating and event planning services on the popular website.
The website got off to a slow start, the owner explained, but then one of the stories went viral and “people became less afraid and began sending in their contributions.”
“The response so far has been overwhelming.”

Dissenters to the concept note that it’s possible for stories to be one-sided or just plain maliciously wrong, but the site’s owner notes that her experience is quite different.
“I read the comments on the website daily, and I have seen readers go back and forth with each other on the topic of family life, infidelity, adultery, betrayal, love and honesty.”

“I can honestly say that the wider community will benefit from frequenting my website as these topics are addressed and discussed in depth. There isn’t even any need for me to give advice, as my readers seem quite capable of doing so.”

There’s a longer interview with site’s owner under the unlikely name of
Krystal Bleu here.
TriniHomewreckers has a forum, but it’s barely used; the comments on posts are far more active. Both site owners make extensive use of Facebook’s community tools and potential audience, though Jackson hasn’t bothered to create an independent Internet presence.

“I prefer Facebook as it is a very popular internet site with a massive market all in one package.” “ÒIt is a household and business name. The world is Facebook!”
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BitDepth#953 - September 09

Another laptop story
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Is the future of education in our children’s laptops? Photo by BigStock.

Last week, the Ministry of Education scampered to respond to a claim by parent Julien Dedier that his daughter’s Government-issued laptop had been infected with spyware.
Education Minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh then issued a statement that noted the “alleged discovery of this spyware,” as well as the “non-reporting of this incident to the Ministry of Education.”

The issue prompted Dr Gopeesingh to dive into a spiral of counter claims, claiming “strong administrative policies governing the laptops.”
“We have firewalling, we have anti-theft and anti-virus devices,” the Minister said, noting that unauthorised installation of software to the State’s property was undertaken.

Information Security expert Shiva Bissessar of Pinaka Technologies had questions of his own on the matter.
He wondered what Dedier had found and what tools he used in the discovery process.
“If there was a report from a reputable firm describing a methodology for scanning several freshly delivered laptops direct from the manufacturer or the ministry, which then revealed malware, this would be a source of concern,” he said.

Bissessar also warned against taking the Ministry’s assurances at face value.
To discover more about the real world experience of school laptop use; I turned to a tech savvy user with a child who has used one for the last few years.
That user, who asked for anonymity and identity obfuscation because of the prestige school her child attends, answered questions about her experience with the system.

The computer, a Lenovo e425, was one of the 75,000 laptops issued by the Government to students entering secondary school over the last four years at a cost so far of more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
“It’s a basic Wintel laptop, with a low end processor, 2GB ram and a 300+GB hard disk. Nothing that you would buy for yourself, but adequate,” she explained.

The school’s librarian runs an information technology literacy programme for incoming form one students.
She’s had to do maintenance on the computer over the years. The school has one part-time technician who oversees 600 Government-issued computers, a number that will jump to 750 in October.
Her child’s machine is one of the few from her cohort that still works.

“If there is a problem, I assume you can take it to him but there is nothing preventive.”
“I do maintenance from time to time so the machine is in good shape. However, I had to (ahem) subvert certain security controls, in order to do it.”
“Most parents could not do this, and the other laptops I have seen, those that can still boot, are in a mess.”

The child uses the system regularly, mostly for research and typing, but also for viewing and drawing manga, a Japanese comics artform.
One major failing of the laptop programme appears to be a lack of continuity in the anti-virus software precaution. Most AV software is offered on a subscription model and expires after a year.
“Because I had taken control of the system I was able to replace the AV after the one-year subscription expired,” my source explained.

“I actually called the Ministry and spoke with the programme manager. He told me to speak with the school technician, but he said that he did not have the software. I got the impression that extending the AV for the life of the system had not been thought through.”

At least one major bit of surgery was undertaken on this system during its lifespan.
“The hard disk died after two years so I called the agent, and they said that they would charge $250 to look at the system and that charge would be applied to any repairs.”
“However, I did not like the idea of paying to fix a machine that does not belong to me. I had a spare drive and a Windows 7 license hanging about, so, with the permission of the principal, I fixed the machine.”

This rental arrangement sets up an issue for parents overseeing these laptops.
“The GoRTT [contract] explicitly states that maintenance is the parents’responsibility after the first year. What I think happens is that many parents prefer to spend the money on a new laptop of their own, and the eCAL laptop is left to rot once it develops problems.”

Over the years, my source has no sense that teachers have been incorporating IT in the classroom.
“A one or two-week programme is not sufficient to change your teaching practice if you have taught in a particular way for many years,” she notes.

She has seen a Master’s thesis on the eCal programme that has found teachers struggling with the project and many, for the most part have given up, some even before getting started.
The issue raised by Julien Dedier sparks larger questions about the laptop distribution programme which appear to run counter to Government supplied information.

How exactly are parents supposed to perform maintenance on a system that they cannot access as it is given to them?
Why claim anti-virus protection when it expires after a year with no simple option to renew?
Has the government reviewed the technician to computer deployment ratios in schools?
How many government supplied laptops are still functioning and in use from that first deployment?
Is the honest opinion of teachers tasked to work with these systems being sought in order to improve the pedagogy?

I have only one source to rely on for my information and while that report isn’t as sensational as the one that made news last week, I suspect it merits even greater attention from the Education Ministry.

There has been a lot of positive interest and hope for the widespread introduction of computers to schools in T&T, but these are questions that have been muttered in school hallways and in tech circles from the start.

It’s time that they were answered.
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BitDepth#952 - September 02

Ultra High Def TV and you
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Samsung’s U9000 UHD series curved television displays on show at the company’s T&T launch at Queen’s Hall on Thursday evening. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

On August 28, Samsung introduced its newest line of curved televisions to Trinidad and Tobago, the U9000 UHD series, available in two sizes, 65 inch and 55 inch.
These are undeniably handsome video display devices, with crisp rendition and brilliant colour.

They aren’t Samsung’s first curved televisions or their first large screen UHDTV devices either.
A year ago at IFA in Berlin, the company revealed their first curved televisions and a line of large screen televisions.
The show stealers at that event were the company’s 85 inch and 105 inch UHDTV screens, which ran 4K content designed to make them look not just good, but commanding.

In addition, Samsung has loaded the displays with a range of software tricks that are designed to make the picture look even more impressive.
Enhancements like Auto Depth Enhancer which, according to
the company’s press release, " automatically adjusts the contrast for greater depth perception,” and PurColor™, are designed to make the screens vivid and more lifelike.

In reality, the screen images are hyper-real; a bit too saturated, too sharp and too startling to be mistaken for reality, but that only makes them more clearly suited for the latest cinematic masterpiece from Michael Bay.
Samsung might save us all a bit of trouble by creating three simpler settings for these displays, “Action Movie,” “Nature Special” and “Sports,” because those are the genres that will absolutely sing on these screens.

But customers of UHDTV displays are going to run into another problem long before those enhancements come along, and that’s finding content that’s capable of filling these curvy displays with the pixels they hunger for.
Standard definition TV, better known as “the stuff we’ve been watching for years,” tops out at around 704 pixels per inch on the longest side.

Translating that into something you might be more familiar with, that’s roughly .4 of a megapixel in camera parlance.
DVD’s improve on that negligibly, though the compression applied to the signal is far less aggressive, so picture quality improves.

Blu-Ray at its best bumps that to 1920 pixels, giving us an image equivalent to two megapixels.
That isn’t something to underestimate. Most video is encoded at 30 frames per second, so every minute of Blu-Ray video pushes 124 megapixels worth of data to a high-definition screen.

Now the film industry, which already is struggling to upgrade the typical user from DVDs to Blu-Ray, is being confronted with a format capable of delivering 8 megapixels per frame, with its successor, 8K on the horizon, which delivers 33 megapixels per frame, within shouting distance of IMAX quality.

These are big numbers, particularly when multiplied by the video standard of 30 frames per second and it’s unlikely that a new disc format will emerge in time to capitalise on the demand for UHDTV displays.
Nor are television manufacturers hesitating to push the new technology. They need a selling point to get owners to upgrade, and 3D television turned out to be a humiliating bust.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective and/or religious beliefs, there is an online video market sector that has pounced aggressively on the potential of UHDTV.
The purveyors of naughty movies have been adding 4K options to their downloadable files since the end of last year. Expect mainstream video sites like iTunes and NetFlix to begin gearing up to follow suit soon.

Until then, UHDTV users will have to depend on the upscaling capabilities built into these sets. Samsung introduced its Quadmatic Picture Engine at IFA in 2013, but upscaling from a traditional television signal or a DVD isn’t going to feed these pixel hungry beasts.

And the curved screen? You need to be within 13 feet of the screen for that to make a difference
as this video explains, so if that doesn’t make sense for your room setup, you’ll probably be happier with a flatscreen.
UHDTV is still a bleeding edge, content starved technology and the value of curved displays is yet to be tested in the market, but there’s no denying that the screens, particularly with high definition content, are just plain awesome.
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BitDepth#951 - August 26

Talking Net Neutrality
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Part of the audience at the start of last week’s discussion on Net Neutrality. 
Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

The Room 101 at UWI’s Engineering Building was surprisingly full for the discussion on Network Neutrality hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS), the Internet Society Trinidad and Tobago Chapter (ISOC-TT) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Trinidad and Tobago Section (IEEE-TT).

The room number was also ironically appropriate for an event that set out to explore the importance of net neutrality by first creating a platform for understanding the concept. Disclosure: I was invited to moderate this panel discussion.


At it’s core, net neutrality posits that the underpinning of an open Internet should be the principle that service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.


It was this idea that drove the explosion of the modern Internet after 1990 when steady increases in technology and most importantly, bandwidth, allowed the creation of ever more adventurous software and technology platforms.

The problem is that any commons is always going to be overgrazed, regardless of how idyllic it seems.

The conversation last Wednesday constantly hovered around the decision by Digicel to block access to selected Voice over IP (VOIP) software last month.

In announcing the block, Digicel accused the services of “bypass activity,” noting that, “Unlicenced VOIP operators like Viber and Nimbuzz use telecoms networks to deliver their services, but do not pay the requisite money for the privilege.”

The company blocked access to Tango, Viber, Nimbuzz and Fring, but never responded to questions regarding the status of Skype and MagicJack, which were not blocked.

Four days later, in the face of a growing negative reaction and the prospect of formal involvement by the Telecommunications Authority of T&T, DigicelTT reversed its ban on the services, though the ban remains in force in Haiti and Jamaica, the first countries to experience the communications blockade.

That very day, the TTCS
issued a statement on the matter in which it countered that the company’s arguments for instituting the block were technically “unsound.”
Specifically, “VoIP services do not present a significant load on the mobile data network and their current network does not allow them to prioritise data packets by content.”

The discussion emerging from that sequence of events followed the kind of arc you might expect. Digicel was out of sync with modern times. Blocking or attempting to prioritise data streams would destroy an open Internet.


What emerged most clearly was a disconnect between the Internet as a business and the Internet as a commons, both of which are necessary aspects of maintaining the most remarkable technological network ever built.


Freedom and openness encourage innovation and enterprise, the type of thinking that builds businesses like cunning VOIP systems as well as the deeply complicated code that expands and enhances our experiences on the web.


But business decisions drive the expansion of the hardware and infrastructure that’s needed to support an ever expanding and apparently insatiable need for bigger pipe for data streams and faster data packet responses to enable interactions that drift ever more inexorably toward real time.


It’s notable to remember that the single largest jump forward taken by Internet backbone technology was funded by the Dot Com Bubble, a time of wild and unsustainable spending on anything Internet that resulted in a massive buildout of backhaul architecture.


One contributor from the floor at the net neutrality discussion suggested that it might be best to “let the market decide.”

But this is one situation in which the market may not be sufficiently informed about the issues as it needs to be in order to arrive at the right decision.

The issue of net neutrality isn’t as simple as whether Digicel should be excoriated for taking drastic action to preserve revenue from its long distance calls or sneered at for not being more digitally enterprising in its approach to solving the problem.

It certainly isn’t going to be solved if service providers can’t engineer a business model that allows them to attract returns on their investments.

It is, in short, a
tragedy of the commons, with both service providers and customers seeking their own interests in a technology that was designed to facilitate the free transfer of information and which has proven resistant to efforts at monetizing old business models when they are transferred into bits.

Last Wednesday’s civil society discussion on net neutrality produced no answers, but raised a lot of questions that demand clarification. That kind of understanding won’t come if businesses cloud the discussions with PR driven obfuscations and users respond with perspectives inflamed by emotion.


A growing, thriving Internet must be paid for, but that coin is no longer denominated only in cash. Attention, access, reliability and excitement are growing currencies being traded in bitspace and everyone has to become both more familiar and more courageous about leveraging them to advantage.
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BitDepth#950 - August 19

The Pagliacci syndrome
950-Anthony_Seyjagat
Anthony Seyjagat photographed in costume, 1990. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Robin Williams is dead. There. It's said.
I did not know the man, and even though he gave of himself in an abundance of riches in every medium he touched, I never confused those pleasures with any sense that I understood who he was.
At least part of that is because of Anthony Seyjagat, a talented physical actor, mime (of all things), and an awesomely effervescent personality.

Anthony did traditional mime performances, but then he took it to another level in a seriously disturbing suite of pieces performed with Penelope Spencer at Raymond Choo Kong’s The Space at Bretton Hall.
Even after I’d begun wandering away from my ten-year flirtation with the local theatrical community, he kept in touch, constantly trying to get me involved with one project or another.

During that time, he also tried hard to mend a rift I'd managed to engineer with Raymond some years before.
After Anthony abruptly committed suicide, it became clear that he had spent weeks calling and visiting people having, what we all realised in retrospect at his wake, were not pleasant, out-of-the-blue chats but final conversations.
I was angry after I’d heard the news of his passing and when I was asked to speak at his funeral, I said so. Ultimately, we didn’t know Anthony Seyjagat at all.

When I heard that Robin Williams was dead, most likely by his own hand, I didn't think of Mrs Doubtfire or the Genie.
I thought of Anthony perched on a thin ledge, braced against a second story wall, for a promotional photo for the Baggasse Company’s Children's Storyworld.

I also thought of the unkempt bush around the rectangular mound in an Arima cemetery the last time I visited his grave two decades ago.
Creating is hard. It's so much easier to do work that passes muster than it is to do something that challenges or even defies expectations.

Being funny is hard. You can't really be funny without being a bit wicked and the best humour is downright nasty. Every joke has a butt and it’s often roundly kicked.
In the early 1980’s I wrote my first produced play, after a fashion. I wrote a play called Sno Kone and the Seven Douens as a possible sequel to the smash Christmas production that Helen Camps’ All Theatre Productions had staged the previous year, Cinderama.

It wasn’t really a sequel. It was a black comedy and very little of my original script made it to the stage after it had been workshopped with the cast and Roger Israel had written the music, just the general outline, a couple of songs I wrote lyrics for at the last minute and a few bits of dialogue here and there.

It was a dismal failure. People walked out halfway through, deeply offended at its bleakness. The ones who stuck it out to the end got a fake newspaper celebrating the death of all the heroes complete with a very Randy Burroughs kind of photo of dead bodies lying at the feet of the law.

It's impossible to create anything of any value without leaving some skin behind, and good comedy demands a regular pound of flesh from its author.
In a country with a distinctly immature funny bone, satire gets treated like gospel truth and bawdy fun rules.

Happiness isn't a default for most of humanity. It's something precious that must be continuously earned. I experience it as a frisson of pleasure on occasion, like a cool breeze aberrantly wafting through a stifling and damp mineshaft.
There is a price for seeing the world as it is, and the fee rises as you choose to share that understanding with increasing honesty.
People who do so tend to self-medicate, either to blunt their perceptions or worse, the consequences of expressing them.

There’s an old joke told about the protagonist of the opera I, Pagliacci that’s retold with brusque irony in
Alan Moore’s Watchmen, a bit of harsh wit that hearkens to the final line of the opera, “La commedia è finita!”
Of all those who dare to return with dispatches from the front lines of reality, funny people are the ones most at risk, because the reality they mine ruthlessly is often their own.

If art is truth reinterpreted, then the best comedy is the most dangerous of fun house mirrors, the reflection that is both honest and surreal, the guffaw that catches in the throat sourly.
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BitDepth#949 - August 12

Android phones ship with with a wide range of software, but some of it is hardly best of breed. These five apps are. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#948 - August 05

Jeffrey Alleyne's successful film about ghetto life in T&T gets widely pirated. This is the story of the making of the film and its widespread theft. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#947 - July 29

TSTT's acting CEO George Hill explains the company's status and strategy for its five year recovery plan. Click here to read more...
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Two days of copyright talks later…

Reporting for the Trinidad Guardian on two days of copyright discussions related to Carnival. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#946 - July 22

Two days of deliberations on matters related to copyright in Carnival prompt strong responses from its stakeholders, including this author. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#945 - July 15

Facebook quietly allows a University research team to influence the feeds of the social media website. Here's why that shouldn't surprise you. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#944 - July 05

DigicelTT announces a ban on Voice over IP software, prompting a national discussion on net neutrality. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#943 - June 30

The National Carnival Commision reveals the results of their analysis of Carnival's traffic and parade flows and preliminary proposals for the parade route. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#942 - June 24

An explanation of BitCoin and its likely applications to e-commerce. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#941 - June 17

Accvent introduces a line of mobile and computer accessories to the Trinidad and Tobago market. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#940 - June 10

Apple previews a new version of its flagship operating system, Mac OS Yosemite. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#939 - June 03

For today's web publishers, Wordpress is the overwhelming choice. My experiences with the content management system in creating a new website. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#938 - May 27

Steelcase introduces a new chair for the tablet and laptop user. Click here to read more...
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T&T a key market for Microsoft

Microsoft's Vice-president of the Sales, Marketing and Services Group, Barry Ridgway explains his strategy for the region. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#937 - May 20

Nokia disappears into the portfolio of Microsoft and a bold and innovative company that once ruled the business of cell phones pays a heavy price for not keeping pace with the changes in the market. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#936 - May 13

Three hard drive crashes in two weeks prompt a review of my backup regime and the hardware supporting it. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#935 - May 06

A team of young developers from the University of the Southern Caribbean win a Microsoft software development challenge. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#934 - April 29

A shockingly violent video of corporal punishment sets the Internet on fire in Trinidad and Tobago. Some thoughts on the debate. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#933 - April 22

More impressions of the Samsung Gear Fit and all the ways it both succeeds and falls short of its potential. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#932 - April 15

First experiences with a smart watch, the Samsung Gear Fit. Click here to read more...
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One. Then five to fifteen.

Talking to Carnival students at UWI on a new media panel, I offer some perspectives on the status of the festival in this talk and explore the issues that are likely to shape its future. Click here to read more...
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Carnival conversation

Carnival always seems to be on the verge of Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#931 - April 08

Samsung's announcement of not just a new smart watch but also a new OS for one of its new devices points to some new strategy from the Android market leader. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#930 - April 01

Microsoft announces a version of Office for the iPad. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#929 - March 25

As Carnival comes to an end, a national conversation about the festival still looks back at the event's past. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#928 - March 18

Putting an Android powered camera, Samsung's EK-GC100, to the test on Carnival Tuesday. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#927 - March 11

What a day at the Socadrome taught me about the future of Carnival. Click here to read more...
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More transparency in Carnival

My editorial for the Guardian for March 10 calls for more transparency in the operations of the state agency responsible for convening Carnival and its most senior stakeholders. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#926 - March 04

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago should be much further along than it is today. Some thoughts about why that's the case. Click here to read more...
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The Geography of Carnival

Editorial for the T&T Guardian written on March 02 on the controversies surrounding the routes taken and planned for Carnival 2014. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#925 - February 25

Leslie-Ann Boiselle, BC Pires, Dean Ackin, David Rudder and Kenwyn Murray all have a stake and interest in Carnival. These are their thoughts on how Carnival might be improved. Click here to read more...
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Elitism or entrepreneurship?

Editorial written for the T&T Guardian for February 26 considering the implications of the Socadrome and its potential impact on Carnival 2014. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#924 - February 18

Copyright issues arise again during Carnival 2014 with no apparent solutions or common sense evaluations of the actual law in sight. Click here to read more...
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What the NCC should do

On January 23, I responded to a request from the NCC asking for suggestions on media accreditation and handling. This is the document I supplied to them and later in the season, to the management of the Socadrome. Click here to read more...
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Zorce on accreditation

A letter from Zorce boss Narend Sooknarine about his experiences applying for Click here to read more...
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Yooz seeks more for its users

Reporting for the Business Guardian on Yooz, an electronic payment system that works on all phones. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#923 - February 11

Facebook's new post distribution algorithm creates problems for publishers and marketers. Nicole Phillip Greene of WhenDidIBecomeMyMom.com offers some solutions and approaches to handling the issue. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#922 - February 04

TSTT introduces its first Gigabit Community to a gated housing project in Chaguanas. Click here to read more...
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The Gigabit Community

Business Guardian news reporting on TSTT's Gigabit Community project. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#921 - January 28

Apple's Macintosh, 30 years later. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#920 - January 21

Microsoft introduces CityNext, which marries the social engagement of Facebook and Twitter with the power of Open Data's ability to improve governance. Click here to read more...
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BitDepth#919 - January 07

A few words of respect about Therese Mills on her passing. Click here to read more...
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