Thank you, Life

I wrote this on/around the 30th of May, 2014. Like many of my blog posts, I keep them in draft state for years. Now, I’m choosing to publish them.


May I thank someone? I’d like to thank someone. Perhaps it’s science. Perhaps it’s my parents.

I’d like to thank the universe for my life being so grand. (Okay, I know many people are living a tough life in many places. I’m not discounting that by stating ‘My life is so great… la dee dah.’. I just want to acknowledge everyone and everything in my life.) In the past few years I’ve spent my day-to-day somewhat on autopilot. I soak up as much as I can, but there’s the mindless automation of commuting, working (I’m great at what I do, so sometimes I don’t even need to think to interact with and be kind to customers), and creating art. You know, the stuff that comes naturally. Maybe it isn’t autopilot… it just feels like it a little. Too few new experiences?!

I don’t want to dwell on my greatness nor the misfortunes — read: different lifestyles(?) — of others. However, I notice when others are affected by something I’m not. Poor eyesight; driving and operating a car; only being able to afford fast food; missing limbs; fame; poor education (in a field I’m familiar with); lack of travel; applying makeup in order to go outside; a woman’s menstrual cycle; medication; disease. Diseases. What the heck is up with them?! I’ve been sick. Mostly when I was younger. Thankfully, those illnesses were nothing that didn’t fix itself or just required a week of antibiotics.

I’m so proud of the people I see living their lives with a brave face or a pair of glasses. If I had to take daily medication(s), then I’d probably be dead. (Although, I do pretty well with routine(s). You know, getting dressed and the like.) Lately, I’ve been almost forgetting to grab my helmet before biking to work. That scares me. ‘Oh, Derek. C’mon. Splitting your head open on the side of the road is hardly something you should be scared of.’, you might be thinking. Well, that’s why I’m being thankful for my life.

No, my life isn’t perfect. Do I have ailments? Not really. I dislike the fact that my body sleeps so deeply (I’ve started to hypothesise that this is because I’m thinking about many things; this can turn in to a dream or just be strong brain activity) that it can be a struggle to wake every morning — even when I sleep on my bed of choice (a rug on the floor). Once or twice a year, I have a conscious fainting event. If anyone ever asked me the question ‘Have you fainted before?’, then I would likely not consider those “events” as fainting. Although, the more I think about it, the more it seems like I do have experience with fainting. It usually occurs if I’ve been sitting in the same position (perhaps sitting on my legs; blocking blood flow) for a long time. I have spent a good portion of the last decade sitting for an extended period of time. I usually don’t see any affects from that since I’m fairly active (biking and frolicking, mostly).

There are these rare times where I stand up and I can feel myself beginning to blackout. My first one or two experiences of this were luckily near soft objects, so I feel — still conscious — without hurting myself. There have been times when I’ve tried to catch myself from falling but bumped my head on a table or a wall. There’s never any pain. It’s weird. I’m weird. I’ve learned to understand the blackout/fainting is coming and I hold on to something stable as my legs begin to give out and I gracefully fall to the ground. Once there, it only takes 3-10 seconds before my body sorts things out and I can stand up again.

That’s me. I’m thankful to be who I am, and for everyone who has had a positive (read: everything is positive) impact on my life. I’m also thankful for everyone who suffers from ailments or stresses and chooses to live on. There’s lots of cake to be eaten, frolicking to be endured, and yoga to be enjoyed, so don’t give up until we’re able to do all those things on Mars.


This post was inspired by a video about Lyme Disease, “Under Our Skin.

The End of an Era

NewZealand-road-IMG_2461Back in 2011, I wrote a post on the Viddler Blog (post removed; see Wayback Machine or Flickr) about our change in focus away from Personal (free) users to business/corporate/education customers. That was a hard transition for me. It was even harder for the users. We occasionally still get messages from that old user base asking us where their videos went. I sent out so many emails, tweets, etc. I think we (I led the interactions with the old user base) handled it exceptionally well. When other companies decide it’s time to focus on revenue, they usually don’t go to such lengths to look after longtime free users.

Now, it’s time for my era1 with Viddler to end.

I’ve been with this lovely company longer than most. Seven years. In the technology and startup space, it’s rather remarkable for employees to stay with a company for longer than a few years. This was my first job experience outside of the entertainment (acting, producing, directing) industry and the retail space. I suppose I’m really loyal to products and people I’m passionate about. It has been so exciting and challenging to be a part of a company which has transitioned through some very different industries — albeit centred around interactive video.

For years, I’ve spent brief moments pondering about this day. What will happen with my videos? What will happen to the extensive rapports I have with customers and coworkers? Will another company tempt me away? Will I continue living in the USA (or move to Japan, Iceland, Spain, or New Zealand)? When I was told I’m no longer needed at the company, my initial reaction was peace and opportunity. (I didn’t think about any of the aforementioned questions until hours or days later.) I owe that to God. His plan for me is more than Viddler; more than sitting on my talents in one place; more than anything I can fathom.

So what is next? You tell me. I’ll be with Viddler until October 31st, 2015. After that, I’m all yours. Here’s my LinkedIn.

1I recognise ‘era’ means a humanly incomprehensible amount of time. Its use here is a little tongue-in-cheek; it has been a rewarding, loving, and great length of time. In my life so far, it has certainly spanned a large portion of it.

The Solution to Vertical Video

The introduction of video on the iPhone 3GS introduced an issue into society: vertical video. If you’re reading this online, then you’ve likely seen a vertical video. The iPhone 3GS only recorded SD (640×480) video. Now, iPhones record HD (1080p). Thus, people are sharing around huge vertical videos via social media, SMS, etc. If you’re unfamiliar with this, then watch the following video.

This has been prevalent since 2009, but has increased exponentially in the past 3-4 years. It seems educating people on the matter is a lost cause; (non-technical) people are complacent. (Snapchat also isn’t helping the situation.)

I have a solution which doesn’t require people to learn anything new. (Plus, it will make Instagram users squeal.) Device manufacturers just need to place a square imaging sensor inside phones, tablets, and any devices which people tend to primarily hold in a vertical orientation. Most imaging sensors in cameras (DSLRs, camcorders, REDs, etc.) are in a 4:3 or 16:9 (wider than they are tall) aspect ratio. Cameras were built to be held in a certain way. Phones were also built to be handled in a certain way. If manufacturers just place a square sensor in devices held in a portrait fashion, then the software can determine whether to record with a widescreen crop on the sensor, or not. Vine and Instagram have exploded the square (1:1) content market. I don’t like the limitation of a square (especially in video), but it’s far better than vertical videos.

iPhone 5 iOS 8 UI - Video Camera modeWith a square sensor, you would load the built-in camera app and it would function the same way it does now. However, when you switch to video mode and hold the device vertically, it will display a dark, translucent overlay on the live view from the sensor. That overlay will appear on more of the screen than the clear portion representing the content which will be captured (see image left). This may entice people to rotate the device horizontally — so they can see a larger image of what is being recorded. Even if they continue to hold it vertically, the video recorded will be horizontal. Huzzah!

So, Apple, Google, Motorola, LG, and all you folks. Get Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and all those image sensor manufacturers to make you square sensors. Then spend a day tweaking the software to support it. Then give yourselves a big hug as you witness vertical videos being less and less viewed online.

From an art perspective, I have no issue with vertical video. I haven’t not seen it used in a creative, artistic way though. Enlighten me, if you have.

Oh, and Instagram users. You’ll be sharing photos created by capturing light to every single pixel on that sensor. Congratulations.

Graphic created by me using iOS 8 Illustrator Vector UI Kit, screenshots from my phone, and a frame from a vertical video Kali sent me. 

I need a room for SXSW 2014

Austin Panorama during SXSW 2011

Greetings! I have plenty of thoughts and ideas I’ve been writing over the past few years. Y’all will be able to feast your eyes on them one day. For now, I have a request.

I have visited the SXSW Festival since 2009. This year — 2014 — wouldwill be my sixth year. I just need some accommodation. Airbnb hosts have become wise to the event and some have raised their rates to ~$200-400/night during that week. That’s more than a lot of hotels — which all sold out in 2013. The closer the dates get, the more I’m coming to terms with not attending… but then I remember how amazing Austin is and all of the fantastic people I have met there. I digress (I’ll get nostalgic at another time).

I don’t need much:

  • Sleep – A floor, couch, or bed. I take up very little room and can sleep on almost any surface.
  • Dates – I’m planning for the 6th-14th March, but I’m flexible. These will cover the Interactive and Film events.
  • Proximity – Walking distance (less than 2km/1mile?) from the Austin Convention Center.
  • Friends – I have a friend or two in the same situation as me. Any extra space would be used by them.
  • Cost – Yes, I’m willing to pay for accommodation. Just not an arm and a leg. I’m happy to split a room with one, three, or ten people.

If you don’t know me, then you can gather a lot of my personality from this blog, my Twitter, and/or my Airbnb profile. The best way to contact me is on Twitter: @djsteen.

Is iOS 6 really a modern operating system?

Is iOS 6 really a modern operating system?

I think Apple has been focusing too much on bringing iOS features to Mac OS X rather than advancing iOS to evolve into a very smart mobile operating system. I know they have the resources to do both.

I’ve had the opportunity to play around with certain versions of the Android OS. I definitely don’t have a full grasp of it, but I like it. There are even mobile operating systems that predate smartphones which can do simple tasks that iOS can’t (without jailbreaking).

Here are some features Apple needs to bring to iOS in order to bring it up to speed:

  • The ability to set a time the device turns ON and OFF.
  • The ability for the alarm clock to turn the phone ON. (I used to turn my Nokia 6280 phone OFF at night and it would turn on with the alarm in the morning. Great feature.)
  • The option to turn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/4G, etc. ON/OFF via the Notifications drop-down menu.
  • A home screen with widgets. (This could be thought of as copying Android and/or Windows Phone 8, but I’m sure Apple could add their own flavour to it.)
  • Swype. (And other soft keyboards.) Seriously.
  • More inter-app capabilities; if I copy text/image/link then any appropriate app (e.g., Clipboard) should be able listen to that copy command and save it appropriately (i.e., I never open the Clipboard app)

 

DKTHINKS – Siri in AppleTV

I don’t pay close attention to technology rumour mills. Apple rumours that get a lot of hype eventually reach my radar, but I don’t enjoy following something that has the potential to be completely fabricated just to get a few views on a blog/site. I do like to make predictions. Almost any prediction anyone makes it bound to come to fruition… some day. Although, some predictions are more logical than others.

There have been rumours and predictions in recent months regarding the future of Apple TV, and how it will contain Siri sooner rather than later. I don’t think any of these predictions have much thought or imagination put into them though. Hence, here’s mine.

A few things to note: When I refer to “record” I also mean access/download the episode/movie after it has gone live to air. This may be by auto-purchasing the media via iTunes, or adding it to your Hulu/YouTube queue (whichever is the cheaper/better/faster option). “Siri” is referred to when commanding the Apple TV to perform a function (record, play, save, download, brightness, etc.). “Apple TV” is the device/software that records, performs functions, and commands the television to perform its respective functions. That said, “Siri” and “Apple TV” could be used interchangeably.

Siri in Apple TV

This one is obvious: You’ll be able to speak commands to your Apple TV — even if you’re not near your Apple TV. Siri will be in all your devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc.), so you’ll just need to tell her what you’d like to do with your Apple TV:

  • Record a show/movie — Siri will have access to an EPG which is updated every 30 seconds. If a live show or sports event runs overtime (cutting into your program), then Siri will be able to adapt and record the show at the accurate time, and, more importantly, stop the recording when the show is over (not when it was originally scheduled to finish). Also integrating media fingerprint recognition technology (e.g., Soundprint, Gracenote) into the recorder/system would allow Apple TV to know when the show is actually over. The combination of this accurate EPG and media fingerprint recognition would result in 100% successful viewings and recordings. If you choose to watch a show ‘live to air’, and it’s not going to air at the scheduled time, then Siri would notify you via any communication method you choose (e.g., call, SMS, push notification, email, etc.).
  • Controlling volume — Not only will you be able to increase or decrease the volume of the television, but Siri will always be sensing (microphone, motion sensor, ambient light sensor, etc.) what you’re doing. First, advertisements (if any) will be the same volume as the content you’re watching. Second, if you walk out of the room, then Siri will pause the show and cue it back to where you left off by rewinding a few seconds. Third, if you receive a phone call or SMS, then Siri will pause the show and display it on the TV screen. Contacts you frequently communicate with will receive priority over others or unknown callers. In other words, some calls may be forced directly to voicemail if you choose to not be disturbed while watching a show/movie. Of course, all of these options can be configured ON/OFF in the settings menu of Apple TV.

Your iPhone/iPad is Apple TV

  • Eventually, Apple TV will no longer be a standalone device. It will be integrated in to all iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.). Thus, you’ll be able to use Apple TV on any TV — no matter where you are (home, friend’s house, hotel, tech conference). This will be exceptionally great if you’re in a foreign hotel and you don’t know which channel has the show/movie you’d like to watch. Hotels are notorious for having such poor user interfaces (TV and remote control) because they choose to lock down what you are able to do with the television. Apple TV could fix all this.
  • You will be able to connect your various media check-in apps (e.g., GetGlue, IntoNow, SideReel, Tunerfish, etc.), and Siri will pull data from them in order to know your viewing habits, likes, episodes/shows you have/haven’t watched, and so on.

Siri and Apple TV know where you are

You will be able to program Apple TV to switch on your television when a show/movie is about to go live to air. If you’re home, and unable to watch the show/movie at that time, then you’ll be able to command Siri to “wait [n minutes/hours]”. Siri will turn off the display and/or mute the volume until that time comes around. Additionally, Siri will know where you are thanks to apps like Foursquare, Google Latitude, and Find My Friends. If you’re not home at the time a show is scheduled to air (and subsequently turn your TV on), then it will not turn on, and it will record the show instead. Your calendar will also be involved in this decision making process. If you’re scheduled to be away at an event (e.g., South by Southwest), then your Apple TV will never turn on your TV during that time, and it will record the shows instead.

I’ve been referring to Apple’s Apple TV throughout this prediction, but Google (and others; less likely) could just as easily create a similar product that is just as intuitive and forward-thinking. We will see.