Category Archives: Technology

3 Reasons Cloud Gaming Will Be Awesome

3 Reasons Cloud Gaming Will Be Awesome

The promise of Cloud Gaming seemed to be a false promise. But now it appears Electronic Arts (EA) can revive that dream.

Back in June 2018, EA demonstrated they were able to stream high-quality games via a high-speed connection. The person on the other end simply needed a controller to hook up to the television, computer, or laptop, and they could play the game.

Just like Netflix brings movies and shows straight to the consumer, EA is working to launch their own game streaming service.

All players will need is a controller, a high-speed internet connection on their device, and of course, a subscription. Then they’ll have access to a huge array of games to play with.

This would have been nice if they’d come out with this technology a lot sooner.Cloud Gaming

That One Roommate

Before Cloud Gaming, before even Netflix streaming, I was a college student sharing a house with five other guys.

The house, affectionately dubbed “The Shack,” should have been condemned. There were roaches living there, not to mention the squirrels and cats too. The squirrels left us alone, but the roaches were constantly inciting a turf war.

The cats just used the place to procreate, and loudly.

Rent was cheap though.

Which was the point, I guess.

To make the situation more livable, TV’s were brought in, DVD players, huge selections of DVDs, and games.Cloud Gaming

One guy had an Xbox. Let’s call him Rick.

While I did my fair share of movie watching, Rick played video games.

Non. Stop.

I shouldn’t judge, he turned out to be a great guy.

And I did spend a few nights trying to beat Gears of War. I wasn’t totally immune.

Yet, if you were to walk in there, 99 times out of ten, it wasn’t me on the Xbox trying to level up in the hottest game to come out that year- Halo 3. It would have been Rick.

So the soundtrack of the house was a constant stream of explosions, gunfire, Rick shouting into his headset, and vulgar putdowns from other people playing the game as well.

This was college.

Since Rick played hours upon hours of Halo, he was good at the game. I wasn’t.

I would be lucky to get five kills in a multi-player match. And Rick wouldn’t hesitate to point this out to me any time I picked up a controller.

As if living in that cesspool wasn’t enough, I couldn’t prove myself in the last arena of true battle- online gaming.

I graduated college, got married, and soon found online gaming really wasn’t the measure of a true man.

But I digress.

I didn’t own a game console. Thus, I wasn’t good at gaming. In hindsight, this wasn’t a bad thing. I did, after all, get into books. And I couldn’t be happier.

Gaming, however, is going to change.Cloud Gaming

As more and more games come out that only emphasize their online gaming mode and not their story mode, the video game companies will need a better way to market their games.

Enter Cloud Gaming.

It’s not all bad.

And here are three reasons why.

No Consoles to Pay For

Part of the reason I never bought an Xbox or a PlayStation was the expensive price tag. And I was a poor college kid.

My parents were also not big into gaming. So I can’t blame them for not shelling out the cash to buy me one that one time I put it on my Christmas list.

With a streaming service, there’s no need to buy the console, or even the game itself. Just hook up the internet, plug in the controller, and away you go.

A streaming game service was attempted back at the start of the 2010’s.

Two companies, GoLive and Gaikai, each showed cloud gaming was a viable possibility.

The only problem was the technology required to make it work was expensive and not as available as it was today. There was also the widely accepted belief that one buys games and does not stream them. Streaming was for movies and wasn’t seen as a stable method for delivering a high-quality gaming experience.

EA has cracked that.

Now all they need is enough subscribers to make it profitable.

Subscriptions

With Cloud Gaming, you’ll only pay once a month, or once for the whole year.

Paying once a month and getting games cheaper is better than having to pay for the console and the games too. At least, I would think so. I’m no expert here, but I do know what I like. And I’d much rather pay a little bit at a time than a lot all at once.

It’s unclear if other game production companies will create their own subscription services like EA’s. But who am I kidding? Of course they will.

Once EA proves this will work, other companies are going to launch their own subscription services to make it happen and compete.

Soon the entertainment world will be one big subscription service, with subscription services to manage subscription services.

At least the games will be cheaper.

Availability to More Players

Rick, though a good guy, was still hogging the Xbox most of the time.Cloud Gaming

With a subscription service, this opens the door for even more people to plug in and play…so long as the internet speed is fast enough. There’s a way around that, just get the best internet bundles and you’ll be able to have multiple players, on multiple devices, all streaming their games at. The. Same. Time!

If there are not enough ports for the controllers, then pull out a laptop, computer, or just another TV with an internet connection. Players would then be able to join in the game and no one would have to wait their turn to play.

Cloud Gaming would make gaming accessible to a much wider audience.

When Is The Future?

EA’s Origin Access Premiere is still in its infancy.

There will still be some kinks to work out, but as of right now, it seems to be working well. This is good news for EA as they continue their domination of the video game industry.

For those who don’t enjoy video games, or don’t object to EA on principle, there are always books to read.

As for me, I don’t see myself getting involved with video games beyond the few apps I have on my phone. Maybe when I’m older and my life slows down just a little bit I’ll have some time to just waste on a game. But I doubt that will happen any time soon.

Rick, my old roomie, did give up gaming. I’m not sure when, but it must have been some time after he got married and started working a real job. Then he had kids.

Last I spoke with him he was getting his masters and taking care of yet another baby. How he manages kids and masters level courses, I don’t know. I barely made it through my masters’ level course with one child.

A few weeks ago I was near my alma mater and thought, just briefly, if that god-forsaken Shack was still there.

Low and behold, it was.

Some other poor sap decided they’d live with the roaches, the squirrels, and the cats, in that confined space. Hopefully, they have fast, reliable internet, and a streaming service.

Walmart V. Amazon: Is it Good for You?

Walmart V. Amazon: Is it Good for You?

Why would Walmart compete against Amazon? They’re both large companies that make a good profit. Walmart has dominated the big-box store competition. Amazon has dominated just about everything else.

But Amazon bought Whole Foods.

For a technology company that can deliver things so quickly and efficiently to buy a grocery store means Walmart’s going to have serious competition soon.

Reminds me of another epic rivalry.

Hi, I’m a Mac

Not too long ago, Apple ran this advertising campaign to highlight the differences between the two brands. Microsoft, who makes PCs, was played by the unassuming John Hodgman.

Hodgman was great as the embodiment of the PC computer who was terminally befuddled with problems. Some issues were legit, like Microsoft’s horrible Vista operating system. Most of the time it was about the identity of the brands.

Justin Long, the embodiment of the Mac, was the young and hip guy who casually took care of every problem and had no issues whatsoever with his operating systems.

As you can see from the clip above, they were hilarious. Superb comedy writing.

But they distracted from the real issue- buying a computer is more a personal choice than a rational one.

Mac or PC?

Microsoft makes great computers.

Apple makes great computers.

Which one is best comes down to a matter of personal choice.

Microsoft, who makes the PCs, are reliable computers. They may not be sleek or classy looking, but they do the job that’s required of them.

Apples are elegantly designed.

What makes Apples different from PCs, besides aesthetics, is that Apple has branded itself as the “different” computer company.

Those who want to see themselves as different, innovative, or an outsider, are usually going to buy a Mac. This stems from Steve Jobs prompting customers to “think different” when it came to buying a computer.

Macs were made to be simple to set up, easy to use, and intuitive.

PCs, however, were clunky and took a lot of work just to get turned on.

In the intervening years, PCs have come a long way in terms of their functionality and ease of use. It also helps that Microsoft Word works best on a PC, and Word is the industry standard for the publishing industry.

This article, in fact, was written on a PC…then copy and pasted onto our On The Download blog.

While there is a version of Word available for Macs, it’s not as sleek or easy to use. Somewhat ironic really.

So when it comes to a Mac or a PC, I go for the PC.

This doesn’t mean I don’t like Macs. I get more benefits out of a PC than I do Macs.

In the contest between Amazon and Walmart, it’s shaping up to look like the Mac v. PC commercials.

In the end, it’s a good thing for the consumer- you.

Hi, I’m Amazon

WalmartAmazon started out as just an online reseller of books.

It has since grown to become a behemoth in the online retail space.

Amazon has hundreds of warehouses and sorting centers across the world. It took years to build this up and cost a lot to pull off. But all that hard work has proven extremely advantageous as Amazon can ship things relatively easily across the world, sometimes getting something into your hands within a day.

You do have to pay extra for the service, but Amazon is the only one doing it right now.

With their huge warehouses of stuff, and third-party vendors able to sell their wares on the site as well, Amazon has a definitive edge when it comes to operating an online retail space.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though.

Their last Prime Day had a rocky start, and then there were the issues with Whole Foods.

When Amazon bought Whole Foods, it was expected they could start delivering grocery orders within hours.

That has not quite worked out.

Though Amazon has tried starting their own delivery service with sub-contractors, and even going as far as partnering with Uber and Lyft, the service hasn’t quite taken off.

This may be because grocery shopping is still a personal activity. I speak from experience as I would rather pick my groceries myself than have someone do it for me. It would save me on time but at the expense of getting the wrong cereal. And that’s a blow that’s hard to come back from.

Amazon is still working to iron out the kinks, but the food delivery issue is still unresolved as of this writing.

Hi, I’m Walmart

Walmart has the big-box chain thing down, pat!Walmart

The only issue with this is the world is becoming increasingly digital. Walmart’s method of delivering goods from warehouse to store, while efficient, is also costly. For this reason, Walmart may not have as big a profit margin as Amazon does.

What they do have, however, is brand recognition.

Drive through rural America and you’ll see a Walmart in any decent-sized town. It won’t be huge or flashy, but it will be busy.

Walmart’s brand of “saving you more” has stuck and people from far and wide will drive great distances to get a better deal on their weekly groceries.

Yet, the world is becoming more and more digital. As cities grow and rural communities shrink, Walmart’s advantage will shrink with it.

Walmart’s New Advantage

Unlike other companies who said “we’ve done things this way and it’s worked out for us so we’ll keep doing it this way,” Walmart is taking a different path.

Walmart is currently ramping up Vudu, the movie streaming service it owns, and will turn it into their personal entertainment streaming service completed with original content.

Walmart is also working on solving the grocery delivery and infrastructure problem.

To do this, they’ve created two tech incubators, one in San Bruno, California, and one in Austin, Texas.

A tech incubator is a shelter for startups. Incubators are geared for looking for a specific type of technology or process and then working on how to apply it to the parent organization. In this case, that’s Walmart. And Walmart is looking for the right startups, or even entrepreneurs, who might have solutions to their problems. Once those are identified, they’ll provide a workspace for them and money to work on their idea, process, or product.

Given Walmart has these two tech incubators in very tech-heavy markets is a sign they’re aggressively seeking solutions.

While Amazon has the brand image of creating new technology in-house, Walmart is working to bring in thinkers to solve its problems. That may not be part of Walmart’s overall brand, but it’s a wise move considering how business practices are changing.

On a minor note, Walmart could have saved itself some money and set up shop in San Antonio, TX, just an hour down the road from Austin. It would have still had access to all the tech genius of Austin but at far cheaper overhead.

Just saying.

Who Will Win?

In the coming contest for online retail dominance, Amazon appears to be frontrunner here.

They’ve been building their digital platform, they’ve already run into problems with delivering groceries so they’re farther ahead on solving them.

Walmart, however, isn’t sitting back and doing nothing.

They’ve invested in finding people who will come up with answers and then how to incorporate those answers. They may be proverbially late to the game, but they’re not showing up short-handed either.

The key to whole competition will be who will devise a better customer experience. Price will factor in too. Customers will overlook that if they like the customer interface enough.

A system may be more intuitive than the other or have more features, but if a customer does not like it, that will hurt the overall performance of each company.

In the end, it’s all about how well you take care of your customer.

Before that happens, however, you’ll need to have a decent internet connection. Check out the best internet bundles and save yourself a little bit of money too.

When Amazon and Walmart finally figure out how to get groceries to your front door, you don’t want your internet making that difficult.

2 Good and 2 Bad Things About Google’s New Data Journalism Feature

2 Good and 2 Bad Things About Google’s New Data Journalism Feature

Researching for articles is an integral part of my job. Searching through data and data is key to providing quality content. If I skip and try to pass off my work as accurate, I’m opening myself up for a major headache.

And I could possibly lose my job.

Despite hating research, I’ve come to love it.

Which is why I grit my teeth when it comes to finding the right data, then identifying which datasets to focus on, and after all that is finally completed, digging into the data to analyze it.

Along with improving grammar in their Docs, Google’s going to make research easier too.

How Google’s Going To Help With Data Journalism

Growing up my father would wake up at 4 am to go out into the wilderness and conduct research studies.Data

He wasn’t researching wolves or bears or even something interesting.

He was researching elk…elk. Just let that sink in for a minute.

Majestic though they may be, these things don’t do much beyond graze and walk around. At least, they didn’t when I was looking at them. Since my dad was a wildlife biologist, I got the “opportunity” to go out on these trips. Sometimes if I misbehaved my dad decided I needed another “opportunity” to go out and help with the research.

After staring at these dumb animals for untold hours, we’d go home and he’d start calculating the data.

It took him more than twenty years to complete the research and analysis before he felt he had enough to present his findings.

Thank god we have Google now. With a decent ISP, Google’s at my beck and call. Make sure you have taken the time to look through the best cable and internet packages in your area to cut down on twenty years of research.

Without a reliable connection, I don’t think I’d be able to finish a single article. Thankfully, I do. And with it, I can easily type in a term and Google will return the relevant information.

At least, in theory, that’s what it should do.

Data1. Save Time

I still dig through the information available there and suddenly I’m back in the field with my dad staring at a dumb animal that’s just chewing.

What Google is proposing is to highlight relevant data within articles and list them above the title. A sort of preview.

Already, I can feel the weight of researching getting lighter.

By seeing what data is contained with an article or a report right there on the Google search page, I could save a significant amount of time. How much time I would save is still undefined. To figure that out would probably take a good twenty years anyway.

This wouldn’t make research a blissful experience, it would just ease some of the headaches of hunting for data. I’m okay with that.

Because there’s nothing more frustrating than opening an article and reading through a considerable chunk of it only to find it’s irrelevant. While the mistake of reading it was mine, it would have helped to get a better picture of the data contained within before I even started reading.

And data previews would be a huge help in accomplishing that.

2. Refine Search Criteria

I’ll be honest, I have no master’s degree and I didn’t excel in school when it came to research. I got by well enough though.

Now, when it comes to research for an article, I start by guessing at the search terms I need to use. There are the few times when I have a clear idea of where to look. Other times, and it happens more than I would like, I shoot in the dark until I find the right combination of words and terms.

This works well enough most of the time.

The other day, however, I had to dig through stuff from the FCC.

Never in my life have I been so frustrated trying to find the relevant datasets. There was plenty of data to look at, I just didn’t have a clue what most of it meant.

They use a lot of numbers.

Possible Drawbacks

Getting data previewed will be a huge help.

1. But humans will be looking at the previews

By reviewing the data alone, information can get missed.Data

When just the numbers and the related terms are pulled out, data can be misunderstood. With no context, sometimes we can read the data in the wrong way and draw the wrong conclusions.

This may not be as bad as it seems. Professionals do research and still misinterpret data from time to time.

2. Dense Reports

The real concern is when there is a huge report. You know, the academic kind with stuffy language. The type of report where the abstract alone hurts the brain while its being read.

These dense tomes of collected data and aggregated information may defeat the algorithm of Google’s search engine.

I doubt even artificial intelligence could make sense of them.

Get Ready For It Now

Google’s developers have already prepared for this.

And they are asking that published articles are prepared in such a way that data is easy to identify. As Google searches far and wide through the internet it’ll be able to pluck the right stuff out of the text if it’s been easily labeled.

There’s guidelines, source and provenance best practices listed in the developer’s announcement.

Before all that, there’s a list of examples for how authors and journalists can prepare their data so Google’s algorithms will recognize it.Data

  • A table or a CSV file with some data
  • An organized collection of tables
  • A file in a proprietary format that contains data
  • A collection of files that together constitute some meaningful dataset
  • A structured object with data in some other format that you might want to load into a special tool for processing
  • Images capturing data
  • Files relating to machine learning, such as trained parameters or neural network structure definitions
  • Anything that looks like a dataset.

That last one seems a little bit confusing. Or maybe that’s just me as I’m a not research-minded.

The feature is still in the pilot phase. No news on when it will officially roll out.

It All Works Out in the End

Conducting research, as daunting as it is, is part of my job.

I do get paid to do this, so I shouldn’t complain too much. And what’s a little research to make sure I’m taken seriously as a writer?

At least I’m not having to drive out to the middle of nowhere and stare at elk for every article. There are times when it feels that way though.

For those special people, like my dad, they look forward to that stuff. As weird as it sounds, they enjoy the hard labor of trekking out into the wilderness and collecting data. Then they head back home to crunch numbers without the help of Google to streamline the process. Instead, it’s spreadsheets upon spreadsheets. Which is almost worse than the job of collecting the data itself.

But these strange people enjoy it.

It has worked out for my dad though. He’s a published author now.

I did get a mention in the acknowledgments section, so it was worth something for me too.

Until I’m able to finish my next book, that will have to do.

The Future of Satellite Internet Hinges on 3 Factors

The Future of Satellite Internet Hinges on 3 Factors

There’s cable internet, DSL, fiber optics, and then there’s satellite. These are the most common means of connecting with the internet today. The best option, and usually the fastest, is fiber. But that involves installing the wires needed. Thus, fiber is mostly limited to urban areas.

Rural internet customers are left out, both figuratively and literally.

If DSL and cable are not installed nearby, then the only options left are satellite, or if you’re lucky, fixed wireless.

As cool as satellite internet is, the common complaint is that it’s too slow, or that weather interferes with the signal too easily.

There’s change on the horizon though.

Is there a way to make satellite internet more reliable?

Who’s working on new technology to decrease latency, and increase download speeds to be on par with fiber?

What if it wasn’t about technology at all?

As of this writing, there are companies out there working on just that. According to an article on PC Mag, it’s the “New Space Race.”

The Problems

To solve the issues plaguing satellite internet’s reliability and latency issues, both well-known and unknown companies have begun their own research into how to get around all the factors involved with transmitting internet signals from the earth’s surface up into space.

SatelliteWeather and Geography

DSL, fiber, and cable, all have the advantage of being installed on the ground. Satellites contend with about 310 miles, at least, of space between them and the transceiver they’re hooked up to.

That’s 310 miles, at least, of space that stuff can get in the way.

Storms, even some cloud cover, can have an effect on this signal. A satellite signal is, at its core, energy riding on waves. Clouds and storms have a way of breaking up that energy. Sometimes it’s a small disturbance, other times it’s a big one.

Geography, such as mountains and trees, have a more powerful effect on this energy. The signal can’t go around them, which is why satellite dishes need to have a relatively clear line of sight to the satellite itself.

Signal Strength

Tossing a football a short distance is easy.

Throwing it the length of a football field, and into the hands of an open receiver, is much more difficult. And while NFL quarterbacks are paid millions to do this, their accuracy is still on par with satellite signal strength.

I could name a few quarterbacks who’ve upset me in this way, but that would be too mean.

A satellite, in simplest terms, is throwing a football over 310 miles, at least, to a receiver. The receiver must be able to catch and throw it back. To extend the metaphor further, because of the distance and the among of energy needed to hurl something that far, the satellite can only throw a small football.

That football needs to go up to the satellite, and back, quickly. Which is why it’s kept so small. That’s why there are data caps involved in satellites.

The Players

To combat these issues, companies are trying new methods for getting around the issues.Satellite

SpaceX’s Elon Musk petitioned the FCC to send up over 7500 satellites for his endeavor, Starlight. These satellites would be placed at different altitudes above the earth, some in low orbit (310 miles), some in medium orbit (3,000 miles) and the rest in geostationary orbit (about 22,000 miles). The idea is to have more satellites to transmit the signal to resolve any latency and speed issues.

Google has Project Loon, which will use balloons instead of satellites. These balloons will be sent up to the stratosphere and will link up to transmit signals.

Then there’s OneWeb, similar to Starlight, only they’ll use a small number of satellites for their network. The key difference is the method in how they link the satellites together.

The short answer is; it’s complex. Both developers are using a different way to set up their networks.

Which one will do a better job?

3 Factors Deciding Satellite Internet’s Future

All this new technology will undoubtedly yield some benefits. The speed and reliability of satellite internet may remain at the level it is today for some time. But it’s good to see brilliant minds working to solve the issues. The more they work on it, the sooner we’ll see results.

The technology, however, is not what will be the deciding factor in who wins the New Space Race.

It’ll be because of these three factors.

1.      Who Will Create a Viable Infrastructure?

All the technology in the world will not solve the problem of increasing the speed and reliability of satellite internet. Sure, technology is great, it can connect us over great distances, but it needs to be structured in such a way to achieve that greatness.

Amazon didn’t perfect the book buying business, they found a better way to deliver the books to the customer. To do this they needed a warehouse and delivery system. They could have started with delivering toothpaste and it still would have come down to how well they were able to get that product into the hands of the person who ordered it.

Satellite internet, to be the next big thing, needs an infrastructure that maximizes the technology available. By streamlining the process, the satellites above can do a better job of sending and receiving signals.

2.      Who Will Adopt It First?

AS with any movement, there are the early adopters. These are the people who see the value in something that’s not been perfected yet. There will be bugs involved, frustration when it comes to incorporating it, and other problems.

These early adopters gladly take on that burden because they see this new technology as giving them a value far outweighing the problems.

The trick is getting those early adopters to see the opportunity, which leads us to point #3.

3.      Who Will Market It the Best?

Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, and Mark Zuckerberg have something in common.

They respectively did not invent the home computer, cheap flights, and social media.

They found a better way to market it to the consumer.

Jobs with his Apple II made his computers easier to use by taking out the need for the average joe to know the programming language.

Kelleher found a way to make buying flights simple, fun, and cheap.

Zuckerberg took the concept of a university-wide student directory and put it online along with the ability to message friends and share pictures.

There are other pioneers like these who didn’t invent something new, they just found a better way to market it to the individual.

For satellite internet to take off, it will not be because someone figured out a way to make it 100% reliable. Though that would be very important to the story, it will mean nothing if no one knows about it.

The Internet Will Change

The one constant in life is that there will always be change.Satellite

The internet is no different.

What will the next change be?

No one knows for certain.

Given that there are a lot of minds, and a lot of money, involved with improving satellite internet, satellite will play a bigger part in the future of it.

Until then, we’ll have to make do with what we have.

If you’re a rural customer or an urban one, save yourself some time and check out the best internet and cable packages. This way you don’t have to do all the work of finding the best deals in your area, and you can save some money too.

5 Ways to Check Facebook Campaigns

5 Ways to Check Facebook Campaigns

On July 31st of this year, Facebook announced they’d found and banned thirty-two pages that coordinated, what they call, inauthentic behavior. These pages were linked to campaigns that were designed to influence the upcoming mid-term elections in November.

Back in March, Facebook had their Cambridge Analytica Scandal in which the political consulting firm had illegally gained private information from about 87 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica then used that information to plan ad campaigns.

To prevent something like that happening again, Facebook has begun working with the FBI and hired on more human fact checkers for ad campaigns and to weed out suspicious accounts.

This is reassuring to hear.

At the same time, it’s frustrating.

I read about these things happening and I get paranoid. It doesn’t help that I already get jittery for pointless reasons.

Gas Scare

FacebookI live in San Antonio, TX, and back in the fall of 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast. Houston bore the brunt of it. San Antonio was spared a lot of the flooding and destruction.

A week later, however, rumors spread that there was not enough gas to go around for the entire state of Texas, or at least San Antonio. A run on the pumps ensued. I saw lines of cars about a mile long to get to pumps because everyone thought gas was going to run out.

All these rumors turned out to be false.

There was a hitch in the supply chain, but San Antonio had enough reserves on hand to handle a normal amount of people getting gas for a weekend. When an above average amount of people ran to the pumps to top off their tanks, that’s when there was a problem.

Thanks to some misinformation, I had to put up with long lines at the pumps.

Campaigns like this, be they viral or engineered, make me paranoid. I never know when it’s going to happen.

When it comes to seeing ads or news stories on my Facebook feed, I am skeptical that they’re fabricated, or heavily skewed, to give the wrong impression. Sometimes the stories turn out to be true, other times they’re false. Like San Antonio running out of gas.

So how can I know?

Thanks to websites like factcheck.org, politifact.org, Washington Post’s Factchecker, snopes.com, and Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, there are ways to combat my paranoia. They’re also helpful for determining if the information contained within is true or not.

It’s not a process or a 100% effective method for ascertaining the validity of an article. These are helpful steps to keep me from reacting and doing something stupid…like all the idiots who drained San Antonio of gas in late August of 2017.Facebook

Check with Other Sources

I remember hearing about the gas scare as I left my house on a Thursday. I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I believed it to be false information.

When I saw other cars pulling into the nearest station, I began to wonder.

After some needless traffic, I arrived home and did a search. Come to find out, more than three news stations were running stories about the misinformation when it came to gas availability.

I was right.

By then, however, the scare had taken hold and gas stations went dry.

Doubt Your Assumptions

Hearing about the gas scare I first doubted it. When I saw the cars lining up, I could help but worry.

Since so many people believed the news that San Antonio was about to run dry, it must have some truth to it, right? I started to second-guess myself and was tempted to get in line for the nearest station and wait to fuel up.

When other people are reacting a certain way, it’s easy to assume they know what they’re doing.

In this case, my grandpa had some wise words to share. Most of what he said wasn’t always wise, but every now and then he hit the mark. If the subject was assumptions, it was one of those rare moments- “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

Another nugget of wisdom applied to this situation- “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in a large crowd.”

Take a Step Back

By checking other sources and taking a moment not to get caught up in the crowd, we’re giving ourselves a chance to clearly assess the situation. By distancing ourselves we’re able to get a better idea of what’s going on and see if there’s a real reason to worry.

This option isn’t always available. You may have an impending deadline or find yourself without the time to clearly assess your surroundings.

Assess the Source

FacebookOn Facebook, in the news, or when you’re hearing gossip from a friend, always—always—assess the source.

Usually, it’s from one person or outlet and others took it and ran with it. It may take some time to figure out who said what and where the “knowledge” came from. But do yourself a favor and stop yourself from jumping to the conclusion because one person said something.

Accept Your Own Biases

This one is difficult, especially for me.

After years of thinking a certain way, we’re going to look for sources that confirm what we’ve always believed to be true. Sometimes we’re correct in our thinking, something we’re not. But if only look to those sources that confirm what we want to hear, chances are high that we’ll make the situation worse.

For example; I loved rainbow sherbet. It was my favorite ice cream for a long time.

That is until my wife pointed out that it’s not ice cream.

After debating her, heatedly, for two hours, it turns out I was wrong.

I still like rainbow sherbet, but I’ve had to find a new favorite ice cream flavor.

Be Ready for an Answer You Don’t Like

When it came to the gas scare, I was right when I doubted there was a shortage of gas in the San Antonio area.

When it came to rainbow sherbet, I was wrong even though I heatedly defended my position that sherbet is a dairy-based desert, hence, it’s ice cream. Sherbet, as it turns out, is juice based.

It’s not ice cream.

I’m still married though, so that’s good news.

When it comes to something we believe—politically, ethically, religiously—there are those times when we’re proven wrong. It may be because we’re overconfident or doubt the validity of a counter-argument.

It’s not easy to accept there’s a truth out there other than our own.

It’s not the end of the world though.

Much like rainbow sherbet, there are other ice cream flavors out there that we can enjoy.

The Cause

As people work to influence a wider audience, it’s up to us to double-check the validity of their claims.

As for Facebook, we need to be aware of the amount of information that comes across our newsfeed and the fact that it’s not always 100% true. When it came to the gas scare of 2017, it turned out to be a viral post on Facebook that was completely unfounded.

This only illustrates the need to check out the truth of a story before we begin to believe it.

 

And as always, check out the best internet and cable packages so you’re at least saving some money. Feel free to double check our numbers as we’re always hunting for the bundle deals to fit any budget and we’d rather get it right than make a sale.

Get Ready for the Holodeck

Get Ready for the Holodeck

Looking Glass Factory may have put themselves into the history of the holodeck.

The technology startup has introduced hologram displays available for purchase through a Kickstarter campaign. These displays project virtual images through a lenticular lens, from 45 distinct views to give the illusion of three dimensions. You can pick up the display and turn it to see different parts of the image on display. We’re now one step closer to a fully integrated and immersive holographic experience.

This idea has been floating around our collective consciousness…thanks to science-fiction.

To Boldly Go…

Star Trek made popular the concept of the interactive holographic display.

Though not really utilized until The Next Generation spin-off, The USS Enterprise-D had an entire level of the vessel committed to this unique entertainment experience.

The Holodeck

Data gave the hard science explanation.

And now for plain-English: light is projected to create three-dimensional environments that are fully interactive.

Different environments could be loaded in seconds and based entirely on the whim of the person using it. The writers even went as far as to say that holograms could be solid. A solid hologram opened the door for the element of danger as blades and bullets would be lethal.

Having solid holograms may have been less about science and more about practicality, as the budget for the show couldn’t produce the necessary effects to truly give the illusion of a holographic environment.

With the science explained, the writers for The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise, all used holographic technology liberally in their stories. Again, it had practical uses to explain away why the crew kept showing up in places that looked a lot like southern California.

“This is a hologram!” Someone would explain, and the show would continue.

The writers also used holograms to hand-wave away deceptions. If the villain, or the good guys, needed to create a convincing forgery to trick someone, they’d lure their mark into the holodeck. This technique is in use so much it now has its own trope.

Deep Space 9, is set somewhere other than a Federation vessel, had the holosuites. The same concept, just a different name.

Voyager went as far as to create a character, The Doctor, using it. An intriguing idea until the discovery that the charact couldn’t leave the ship. To solve this problem, the writers gave The Doctor a piece of future technology that allowed him to walk anywhere.

But the writers for Voyager ran the character into the ground as it seemed they didn’t know how to develop flesh and blood characters.

That’s enough on that topic…for now.

Practical Uses

While we work in the three-dimensional world, a lot of our planning is done on a two-dimensional surface. This can cause problems for artists, engineers, and designers who create three-dimensional objects.

The Looking Glass is a tool they can use to avoid such issues.

Up until now, three-dimensional displays were expensive and cumbersome. This has forced three-dimensional designers to wear bulky goggles. Not the worst part of the job, but I can imagine it can get old very fast. With a Looking Glass display, they can see and modify their designs in real time without having to take off and put back on a set of goggles.

The Looking Glass requires a computer to run. Check out their site to see what equipment you need to utilize it.

Unfortunately, for writers, like me, such a device wouldn’t be very helpful.

Creating New Environments

The Looking Glass also works with various haptic devices.

Motion controllers, like Nintendo’s Joy-Con, the Leap Motion controller and others, can connect to The Looking Glass to allow users to interact directly with the designs. This type of virtual reality interaction, seen in the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, as well as the movie, are just a step on the journey towards a fully interactive environment.

With Ready Player One, interacting with the Oasis requires the use of goggles, haptic gloves, and omnidirectional treadmills (a much better explanation is in the book). Given the book is set twenty minutes into the future, this isn’t too much of a stretch. I shudder to think of the cost and labor required to install all that equipment in my house.

I think I’ll just wait until a fully-immersive environment is rolled out and ready to go.

But not The Matrix.

While interesting and certainly a possibility, I’m not keen on jamming a needle into my brain to travel to a digital environment.

Through The Looking Glass

With The Looking Glass Factory launching this new product, the holodeck is closer to becoming a reality.

How soon that reality comes to fruition is still an unknown.

Creating a three-dimensional image on a lenticular lens is one thing. Creating a fully-immersive three-dimensional environment that could possibly kill you– is something entirely different.

Despite the gap between today’s technology and Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, we’re slowly closing that gap.Looking Glass

All it takes is for someone to say “I think this would be a cool idea.” After that, someone inevitably says “yeah, let’s make it a reality.”

Until Edgar Rice Burrows and Jules Verne wrote about adventures in space, no one had really thought about leaving the boundaries of the earth. Then more and more people started writing about it and theorizing how it would work. Soon John F. Kennedy is standing in front of the nation and calling for a program to send a man to the moon and back before the end of the decade.

It’s often the dreamers who dream that lay the groundwork for what’s to come. It’s said Roddenberry’s fascination with science-fiction began when someone handed him a copy of Astounding Stories. Had that not happened, there would be no Star Trek, no holodeck, and no Looking Glass Factory trying to make holographic displays.

Find out for yourself by visiting The Looking Glass Factory and Start Trek: Memory Alpha.

Before you do, save yourself some headache with the internet bill by finding the best internet bundles. You get to cut down on bills and streamline your services.

After that, you can boldly go…wherever your imagination takes you.

2 Solutions for Cable Top Boxes

2 Solutions for Cable Top Boxes

As more and more devices are integrating and folding into others, there’s one stubborn resister- the cable-top box.

No matter what the new advances in technology these days, cable-top boxes are still around. They sit there, blinking dumbly at you whether the show is loading or not. Some customers complain they’re an eye-sore, others hide them behind furniture. Though this does fix an aesthetic issue, it ends up killing your Wi-Fi.

Despite smart home devices becoming more plentiful, and easier to use, the cable top box hasn’t changed much.

Remember the First Cell Phone?

I remember the days of Saved By The Bell.

Remember Zack Morris? Remember that phone?

The cell phone began as a luxury item, much like cable. And much like the cell phone, cable has evolved.

It seemed to be stuck though.

Cell phones, on the other hand, have changed.

They began to get smaller and smaller, lighter and lighter. But they still had horrible sound quality and would drop calls. That’s when providers learned to improve cell signal quality.

Then came texting, games, mapping apps, music, and other bells and whistles.

More and more stuff kept getting shoved into this little device until they ceased to be cell phones and instead became smart phones.

Touchscreens were at first a hip new thing, now they’re a requirement for inclusion in the smartphone category.

If we’re to follow this analogy, cable top boxes are sitting at where cell phones were at the turn of the century. They have a lot of functionality in them, but there’s obvious room for improvement. Not to mention they’re still clunky and come only in one color.

Instead of moving forward, cable-top boxes have halted in their evolution.

Darwin’s Not Happy

Cable companies still make a lot of money off the cable-top box, the main reason why there hasn’t been much improvement with this technology. They’re a requirement for access and customers rent them monthly. It’s an income stream they’re not willing to get rid of. And who can blame them?

As more and more streaming services enter the market, and less and fewer people continue to pay for cable, the cable-top box needs to adapt or die.

Adapt

Cable-top boxJason Brush, the global EVP of experiences & innovation for Possible, argues the cable-top box is not living up to its potential.

With the push for TVs to be less of a TV and more of a smart hub for smart homes, cable top boxes could provide this already. Since cable-top boxes are usually the entry point for internet into a home, it makes sense to make these the hub for the smart home.

Instead of only allowing cable access, with a DVR, cable top boxes could act as the headquarters for all the smart home devices. Brush suggests making them voice-activated, or to expand the user interface to make it more intuitive. The cable top box would become so much more than just “that thing for the cable.”

By changing the gizmo into another smart home device, the cable top box would have more functionality. It’d be part of the home’s network instead of a network on its own.

Or Die

Another suggestion and the one consumers are more likely to approve of, is to have the cable-top box go the way of the dodo. That is, to become extinct.

Take the cable option and incorporate it into an app available on your smart TV.

This choice takes away a huge income stream for the cable company, so it’s the one they’re going to be the least happy with. The consumer, on the other hand, will be glad to get rid of the ugly thing and make their lives a little simpler.

With smart TVs becoming more and more integrated into the smart home, getting rid of the cable top box is a natural part of the process. TVs will absorb the duties of receiving the cable signal and managing the smart home devices. And it’ll only require one remote too!

Or heck, even an app from your phone.

The Future of Cable

Once the cable top box goes, and it will go, cable companies will need to rethink how they provide services.Cable-top box

Although streaming services are pulling in more customers every day, cable television isn’t done yet. There will always be holdouts who decide they’re going to stick with cable, no matter what.

Then there are the cable companies themselves who have spent years and years building their empires. No one walks away from something like that just because they think a new competitor is too strong.

Cable companies will find a way to adapt to the changing environment. The real question is; will they come up with a solution sooner rather than later?

The good news is cable companies are still around and with streaming services coming after them, they’re eager to cut deals to ensure they increase their subscriber base and keep current customers.

Search for the best internet bundles. These bundles put cable, internet, and sometimes phone, into one package. You’ll save money by putting your services into one spot, as well as streamline the connections into your house.

The cable top box will remain for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t a bad thing at all, except if you don’t like the design and color of it.

Possible 5G Partnership Between Verizon and Apple and Google

Possible 5G Partnership Between Verizon and Apple and Google

According to a report from Bloomberg, Verizon is looking to partner up with Google or Apple to stream live television over its upcoming 5G service.  A partnership with Apple TV or YouTube TV could mean that those services will be offered at super fast 5G speeds, creating tantalizing content packages to rival those of the traditional cable companies.  Another reason to cut the cord.

However, don’t get too excited just yet.  These talks are still in their negotiations phase and are not guaranteed to result in a partnership.  Still, the prospect is alluring.  Verizon did announce today that they will be launching their 5G network in Houston during the second half of 2018.  The city of Houston is part of their four-market 5G deployment plan, which also includes Sacramento and Los Angeles.

Houston Mayer Sylvester Turner had enthusiastic words to say about the announcement: “We expect 5G will be a game changer helping us usher in a new wave of progress and innovation,” said Mayor Turner. “We’re delighted to be one of the first cities to bring 5G to our local communities and look forward to continuing our long-standing relationship with Verizon.”

Verizon is geared to become the first company to offer commercial 5G service, which promises to deliver faster speeds and lower latency.  It’s 100 times faster than your typical cellular connection.  With 5G, which stands for 5th generation technology, latency is expected to be as low as a millisecond.  The blink of an eye is between 300 and 400 milliseconds.

Apart from improved speeds and latency levels, 5G may also allow for new types of connections to occur.  When 4G was launched, it allowed for communication between two different types of devices – smart phones and tablets.  The technology may eventually lead to everything becoming “smart.”


Let us help you find the best Internet deals in your area!

DC to Save Comics

DC to Save Comics

DC has been tailing behind Marvel for the past decade, at least.

There have been a couple bright spots—Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, V for Vendetta, and The Watchmen. Maybe a couple more, but NOT Man of Steel or the Justice League. I have yet to see Wonder Woman, so the jury is still out.

Marvel, on the other hand, has created a powerhouse, a self-sustaining machine of adventure, excitement, and story. Based on the concept of superheroes jumping in and out of the narratives of other superheroes, Marvel has, pardon the pun, written the comic book for how to monopolize on years of fandom.

They’ve also figured out how to bring in new fans.

There is still the argument that the once glorious and awesome fringe society of comic book readers has been diluted with commercialism, but sadly, this is where we are.

To answer this, DC is launching a new streaming service.

DC’s New Streaming Service

DC comicsComing this fall, DC will launch DC Universe- the home for content based on DC comic book titles, as well as a vast selection of DC comic books to stream and read.

Although there are properties on other networks, the new service will have options to watch those too while they remain on their respective networks. They’ll be launching original content for their service as well.

One thing that makes this truly different than other streaming services is the abundance of comics available. These comics, which the properties were based on, can be streamed to various devices for reading pleasure.

Just imagine- watching a show based on the Green Lantern, then reading from a curated list of issues to get the full backstory of the superhero and his foes.

And doing this with your friends.

Though it seems farfetched, I wouldn’t mind joining a few comic geeks for an evening of reading comic books—on a 4k big screen—and discussing them afterward. It’s a strange concept, but then again, we’re living in a time when binge-watching movies and TV is the norm.

Marvel has already launched Marvel Unlimited, a platform to stream their own comic books for a fee. None of their movies and shows are there, however. There are links and synopses for the programs based on Marvel titles.

The big draw for this service is the curated lists, character encyclopedia, and how they tie in with the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.

DC is going one step further and putting all that content together in one place.

Will this Save Comic Books?DC comics

Being a part of the retail world, comic book stores have been suffering in the recent retail-pocalypse. Last year sales dropped 8%.

While physical comic books have been losing their draw, they’ve also begun to transition into a prestige item.

This works well for the niche audience that still buys physical issues.

The stores, unfortunately, will not be able to sustain themselves in this way.

By installing a big screen TV and buying the top subscription, comic book stores could possibly use this to level off their losses. It’s a suggestion coming from someone with no business expertise, but it’s a creative idea at least.

With DC Universe, they’ll be able to get all the content in the same place.

We may soon see “Comic Book Viewing” nights at local comic book stores, and even more farfetched, in theaters.

DC or Marvel?

Although I was once a die-hard Marvel fan, I do enjoy the big names of the DC universe. With the quality of their recent films, however, I’ve not been that impressed.

Then again, I wasn’t happy with how the original X-Men Trilogy was handled (thanks Brett Rattner!)

When Marvel finally got a clue and started writing stories that didn’t alienate their fanbase, I was happy. The content was based on the Avengers subset, which wasn’t my bag growing up, but I was familiar with it at least.

Now that The Avengers is a big thing going on, I know that each movie will at least be entertaining, even if I don’t know the entire mythos behind the central hero.

It’s the same with DC.

The last great DC superhero movie was The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises was good yet fell short of the quality of its predecessor. Then again, it was the last movie in the trilogy, always a hard spot for a creative team to handle. Heath Ledger had also passed away, necessitating Nolan to shift his direction in the overall story arc. For what it was, it was good.

Since then DC has decided Zack Snyder was the one to take charge of all their films.

Even after his films didn’t do so well at the box office.

Maybe part of it was their insistence that they match Marvel in their scope of the story?

Either way, DC has been playing catch up with Marvel for a while.

This streaming service may be the one thing that turns it around for them. It’ll be small, but if there are enough early-adopters to it, the new streaming service will gain steam.

It’s also impossible for Marvel to keep their momentum going as they have been. Eventually, Marvel’s bubble will burst or they’ll switch to a different method of turning their titles into live-action entertainment.

Virtual reality maybe?

DC, in the meantime, needs to shape up with their DC Extended Universe and they’ll be able to swoop at the moment things turn for Marvel.

This streaming service, DC Universe, can be part of that.

Of course, all of this will be for nothing if you’re not able to connect and stream the shows and comic books to your favorite devices. Find the best internet deals for your zip code, as well as save yourself some money.

Then get to reading!

The 1 Way to Succeed on Twitch and YouTube

The 1 Way to Succeed on Twitch and YouTube

Monetizing a live-stream is seen as a legitimate career these days. Simply set up an account on Twitch, YouTube, or both, and just be yourself.

It’s…not that easy.

For those who assume acting is easy, simply ask any aspiring actor if they think acting can be done by anyone. Hopefully, they’re not offended and will just laugh at you.

The same with comedy. To quote the great Robin Williams’ “Of course you have to know comedy. Because if you tell a joke and they don’t laugh, then you know tragedy.”Live-stream

Streaming content is the newest version of creating entertainment. The upside is that it’s easy to get into. The downside is that this creates a saturated market.

Voices are easily lost in a market that’s brimming with people trying to get attention.

To get those coveted followers it takes a lot of time and effort.

Without a direction, however, even time and effort can be wasted.

Know Your Topic

I’ll admit, I have no skills when it comes to playing online games. The last time I touched a Halo game I barely scored one kill.

When it comes to researching, organizing, and telling a story, that’s where my real abilities lie. Thus, I’ve given up on video games and instead have focused on reading books, reading about writing, writing, talking with other writers, editing, and writing some more. The upside of all this is that I’ve now landed a job where someone pays me to do this all day.

It’s still a challenge.

Putting words on the screen every day requires hard work and discipline.

Working through horrible drafts is just part of the process of getting to the right one.

Now let’s replace writing with live-streaming. The same advice applies; keep working at it.

You’ll also learn some surprising things about yourself.

For example; my boss asked me how long it would take to complete an article consisting of 800 words. I ballparked it at four hours.

He blinked at me and said, “You’re the first person to use a number.”

And I got the job.

You don’t have to be an expert, you just need to know more than the average person.

Create Genuine Connections

This one has always proved difficult for me.

Since I’m good with writing and rewriting, and editing, and rewriting, talking to people face-to-face can be daunting. It may seem obvious, but making friends wasn’t my forte as a child.

When I worked to make people like me, I came across as a fake. And worse, desperate.

No one wants to be friends, or do business with, a desperate person. And those that do are going to take advantage of you.

Instead, working to find a personae or a particular schtick helped make it easier to interact and relate to strangers. It was subtle at first, and at times overblown. With time I honed it. It’s not as difficult as it used to be and I still work on it from time-to-time.

By being genuine you create genuine relationships.

Genuine relationships lead to a solid fan base.

Do Your Research

Once you’ve discovered what works for you, hone it, develop it, work on it.Live-stream

This means, as bad as it sounds, that you much do research.

Yes, research.

Looking for relevant information and data that are relevant to your topic takes time.

If you’re at least interested in the topic, then researching it will seem less arduous. In fact, it may even be fun.

I enjoy reading books not just for the stories, but to see how the author tells them. Soon I plan on taking Malcolm Gladwell’s Masterclass on writing.

If you neglect research, you run the risk of losing your audience. This links back to the “being a fake” mentioned earlier.

The best comedians still do it. Jerry Seinfeld, when his hit sitcom ended, went back to doing standup. It helped him figure out new material, find what worked for him, and as he says, get back to his roots.

Then You Can Think of Monetizing

Technology, though amazing, does lull us into this false belief that things will happen quickly. We stream movies and music instantly. Every time you tap an icon on your smartphone you get a little dopamine rush from completing a task and completing it quickly.

Getting into writing has taken me years. There were times I considered quitting. Thankfully, I’d started, and quit, a lot of things before then. I’m tired of repeating that process. I’m also a father now and constantly “searching for myself” does not work well with trying to raise a child.

It also helps that I enjoy telling and sharing stories. I’ve also been told I’m good at it. And now someone is paying me to do it. Took about three years to get here, but better late than never, right?

So if you decide that a career as a streaming personality or entertainer is for you, then go for it. Be prepared for a long road filled with tough times.

In the meantime, to ensure your connection is fast so you can stream uninterrupted, check out internet bundle deals.

 

“You can start any ‘Monty Python’ routine and people finish it for you. Everyone knows it like shorthand.” —Robin Williams