Archive July 2015
One of the most-played computer games in human history has been tainted by greed.
Since 1990, Solitaire has been a part of Microsoft’s operating system Windows, offering countless hours of entertainment to bored office workers and multi-millions of dollars in lost productivity to their bosses.
Who can forget the thrill of matching red-on-black, black-on-red in rank order until, after numerous failed attempts, you manage to fill the top four boxes.
Before blasting machine guns, wizard spells and fast cars, it was the cascading deck and triumphant soundtrack that gave the earliest gamers their adrenalin fix.
Its beauty was that it could be played an unlimited number of times free of charge (apart from the cost of the operating system) and – most importantly – entirely free of ads.
Alas, no more.
Users of the new Windows 10 operating system, released in July, are now prompted to upgrade to the ad-free ‘Premium Edition’ when they open Solitaire.
This upgrade costs US$1.49 per month or US$9.99 per year — an eighth the price of a basic Netflix subscription.
If they refuse, players are subjected to full-screen ads that play for up to 30 seconds at a time, disabling the game for the duration.
Tech experts are aghast.
“It’s penny pinching at its worst,” tech futurist Morris Miselowski told The New Daily.
He thought it highly unlikely that large numbers of Windows 10 users would pay to upgrade. If true, the vast majority will be left to play through annoying ad breaks.
“It seems to be evidence that although Microsoft looks and sounds like they have finally gotten into the 21st century with their Windows software pricing, there is still this last-ditch attempt at trying to make money the good old-fashioned way,” Mr Miselowski said.
The paid version of Solitare was first debuted in the previous operating system, Microsoft 8.1. But in this version, users had to navigate to the online app store to find it.
In Windows 10, the paid version comes with the operating system itself.
Another tech futurist, Shara Evans, told The New Daily it was “ridiculous” for the company to expect users to pay a “rip-off” fee for a game that has been freely available for decades.
“Some people may be willing to pay a one-off fee to get rid of ads or get extra features, but it would be a rip-off to pay this on a monthly basis.”
Subscription fees are a growing trend among software companies, who realise they can charge more in the long run, Ms Evans said.
“Over time [a monthly fee] ends up being much more expensive than a one-off purchase.”
Consumer advocate Christopher Zinn said he would certainly not pay the fee, although he noted that at least users are not forced into subscribing.
“On one level you have the choice to trade up or not, but on another it seems a bizarre sense of trying to ‘nickel and dime’ the consumer – relatively trivial amounts for a relatively little, to my eyes, difference,” he told The New Daily.
“I’ll stick to the playing cards on this one.”
Perhaps we should spare a thought for Wes Cherry, the Microsoft intern who coded the game all the way back in 1989.
He famously received no royalties for the game.
This week I was in 4BC’s Brisbane studio with Clare Blake as we attempted to look at things that were happening now that might end up being tomorrows’ big trend or fad.
I say tried, because we did get to things like nose to tail dining; last weeks New York Fashion weeks big trend of men wearing sandals with everything; sparkling water being served for free at upmarket coffee establishments and others, but for some reason we ended up talking about take away food, which got Clare to make the request for someone to invent a take away container that was more environmentally friendly, to which I said in the 1960’s we used to take our own saucepans down to the local Chinese restaurant and bring home take away in them and then it was on for young and old.
Clare had never heard of it before and thought I was making it up, but my fellow Baby Boomers came to the rescue and flooded the switchboard with their saucepan take away memories and before we knew it the 1/2 hour segment was done.
I love this interview, it shows that even with the best laid plans that the listeners win and the topic and listeners were so much fun, we just had to stick with it, so maybe not so much future this time and more nostalgia, but you will hear me make a few useless attempts at trying to get us back on topic, before giving and just going with it.
And FYI I did uncover a brilliant new business idea in the conversation, one that I’m shopping around as we speak, so it just goes to show that inspiration can come from the most unlikely places.
Have a listen now and see what inspires you (20 mins 35 secs)
I 💓 innovation all the way to the moon and back
On the 46th anniversary of man first walking on the moon, in several of my regular radio segments I took a look and 11 gadgets and tech things we have today that are directly attributable to space missions, which include:
The microwave which started its life in 1945 with Dr Percy Spencer working on a new radar technology that allowed him to see really small particles in space. The story goes that one day, as he was peering into space, he realised the chocolate bar he had in his pocket had melted and being the clever scientist he was eventually figured out that the microwave signals he was using caused it, long story short much innovation, much thought and voila the microwave oven was born.
Baby Formula started its life as an experiment to create artificial oxygen in space. The algae that was used in this experiment didn’t quite do what it was supposed to, but some bright spark found that it had the same fatty acid properties found in breast milk and a new product was discovered.
Latex Foam was created to cushion the impact of spacecraft landings and now cushions the sleeps of millions of people around the world as a latex mattresses and pillows.
Shoe insoles humble beginnings saw it invented and intended solely (pun intended) to even out the spring of astronauts on the moon, but that’s before some bright spark took the idea and started a whole new industry here on Earth.
We needed water in space and what we took with us might be a bit stale by the time we got around to drinking it, so voila the charcoal water filter was invented and we still use it today.
One of the hottest dental trends right now is invisible dental braces, but who would have known it started its life as translucent polycrystalline alumina (TPA) and originally used to protect heat-seeking missile trackers, that is before somebody got the bright idea that this transparent flexible casing would be just the right thing to straighten out crooked teeth.
Some of the more straight forward kit built for space and used on earth in pretty much the same way as intended are scratch resistant UV blocking sunglasses, wireless headsets, joysticks, cat-scanners, and smoke detectors
Space has given us many of today’s cool and now ordinary toys and inventions, but the kicker is as always it then took somebody with a commercial eye and an aha moment to see the innovation and possibility in what was right in front of their eyes. So if there’s a lesson in this story, it’s what’s sitting right in front of you now that you can turn into the next big thing?
Have a listen to these segment now and then let’s discuss your next big idea
Phil Whelan – Hong Kong Radio 3 (16 minutes 10 secs).
David Dowsett – ABC Wide Bay (7 minutes 30 seconds)
Phil Staley – ABC Far North (18 minutes 43 seconds)
Obviously there is a relatively new retail player that lives inside the digital world and starting from a zero base only a decade or so ago has taken a lot of the conversation, but put into perspective Australians last year spent $265 billion in retail stores and only 13% of that was spent online.
I have never believed that physical retail would disappear and be replaced by a totally digital online space, it just doesn’t make sense and overlooks a fundamental need we have as human beings of wanting to go to the village square, meet people, gossip, catch up, be seen, eat and buy and this innate need isn’t going to be satisfied by a totally online experience.
We have however found great purpose in online shopping – convenience, global reach, 24/7 availability, research and of course price comparison and this is where our special guest Ben Lipschitz of newly launched Shopping Ninja came into our conversation joining 4BC’s Clare Blake and myself in studio.
Ben took us through this new Australian based price comparison website and app that once downloaded sits in the background of your search engine waiting for you to shop and when you do then does its own online research bringing you back what it believes are the best prices on your white goods, liqueur or other products you’re searching for.
This is part of new set of anticpatory online tools we are using that don’t require us to remember that they’re there nor do need to activate them, but rather after we’ve installed them and given them permission to ongoing search for us, it sits in the background until we need them and then pops up do its job before disappearing again.
We then moved on to look at the future of the retail and Clare reminded me of a working exhibition I curated and built in 2009 looking at the future of retail and what technology we might expect in 2020, here’s a video segment from Channel 10’s morning program.
I love looking back at these old pieces and the foresight thinking then and in this case am proud to say that I got it right and that there is still stuff we were able to prototype and build then, that is just starting to be seen now.
As always a great segment, wonderful listener questions, terrific guests and a really good chat, so listen now (20 minutes 09 seconds) and then let me know what you see in the Future of Retail.
Lots bubbling out there and in my regular catch up with Phil Whelan of Hong Kong Radio 3 we took a look at some of the stories catching his eye and some of the stuff I’m speaking about and working on.
This week we marked the sad and untimely passing of Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s Chief Executive, who died on Saturday at the age of 55 and asked whether he was part of the founding father group that shifted game playing off our television and large fixed screens into handheld consoles and then into our mobile phones heralding a new era in video gaming. He was also responsible for normalising gaming taking it out of just being for gamers and instead made it something that many people do in between doing other things.
We also took a look at another almost overlooked event and marked the anniversary of the open source revolution which began today in 1992. This hippy start-up rebelled against the large corporates that demanded we buy their costly, bloated and flawed mainstream software and instead insisted that those that right the code have the right to share that code at no cost. This revolution led to Linux and many many others and to me is the precursor of today’s smart phone apps and the general approach to software today of low or no cost, constant updates and alternate revenue models.
We then turned our attention to an earlier piece on I did on some other media interviews this week the Willy Wonka elevator which Phil thought in a congested city like Hong Kong may offer some new building possibilities.
As always a fun chat, lots of topics, opinions and laughs, so have a listen now (8 mins 23 secs).
Since day one on earth we’ve moved from one place to another and in the future this will not change, but what will change is the way we will move and the things that will move us around and this was the theme for my regular on air catch up with Phil Staley of ABC Far North radio.
We started by looking at the future of private transport and the imminent arrival of cars that will morph between allowing us to drive as we do now and then, like today’s airplane pilots, when we hit the magic button the car will go into auto pilot drive us.
Moving forward we are also expecting a downturn in car ownership down from today’s 2.5 cars per household to 1.7 cars per household in 2025 and the rise of car sharing schemes such as lyft, uber, carnextdoor, flightcar, waze and many others that will allow us to drive cars when and where we want without owning them.
In this horizon space we can also expect public transport change its operation for buses away from fixed timetables and routes to on demand uberesque style routes and timings where users will hail a bus that will pick them up from where they are and within the confines of a designated area take them to where they need to go.
Infrastructure will take time to build and bring to market, but it is likely that within the decade we will see the start of many maglev (magnetic levitation) trains like those already used in Shanghai which currently travels at the 430 kms per hour (and in 2025 should be able to reach 600 km per hour) which would be capable of a Cairns to Brisbane trip in 4 hours and of course the famous Japanese bullet train.
Our chat then turned indoors to talk about the elevator of next year, the willy wonka like maglev elevator (using similar tech to the train) that travels both vertically and horizontally. It may seem to be a “what for” question but 120 years ago the invention and adoption of elevators that travelled vertically change the way we live and work for ever and made the building of today’s skyscrapers entirely possible.
These elevators will do similar allowing many elevator cabs to use the same shaft at the same time and also to travel horizontally along the building allowing us to build wider and in various shapes knowing that we can transport people to anywhere within the building.
As always a great chat, have a listen now (15 minutes 58 seconds) and then let me know which future transport you’re most looking forward to.
Will computers take over the newsroom? was the question that prompted Derryn Hinch, of Hinch Live Sky Business TV, to want to chat about the Future of Robots.
In this lively discussion Derryn and I explore all things Robots, looking at the future of robots in the workplace, in the home, on the road, in the skies and in our lives and ponder what the world of 2025 and beyond might look like.
A great chat so have a watch now (10 minutes 39 secs), then share it around and let me know your thoughts on the future of robots.
I say relatively new because texting for most people only began 8 years ago with the huge uptake in smart phones brought on by the iPhone, prior to which most people didn’t even know what texting was or where to find it on their Nokia mobile phone.
This new scourge has caused governments around the world to ban texting whilst driving and to spend millions on advertising and education campaigns to convince us not to do it and punish us if we do.
A new device called Groove, that slots into the port just below the drivers steering wheel and blocks all of the drivers calls and texts from coming in is to be launched in Australia and this new tech triggered Phil Whelan of Honk Kong Radio 3 to want to chat about this phenomenon and what else is happening in this space.
This new gadget is a hardware always on solution to the problem, but there are many apps and alternate devices that also do this, some of these apps include Live2Txt, Canary, DriveSafe.ly which require you to start the app before you drive off and turn it off when you’ve arrived and apps like textecution that automatically start when you are moving faster than 30 kms (but you better remember to turn it off when your on the bus or train or a passenger in a car).
These are all great tech solutions to the new problems, but there is a really low tech solution that costs no money and is always available and it’s remembering to turn the phone off yourself or putting it into Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode whenever you’re driving.
Increasingly I’m getting frustrated by the huge appetite to solve every tech problems with a tech solution when sometimes just good old fashioned human actions can achieve the same thing.
And besides when we get to 2035 and beyond our self driving, fully connected, intelligent cars, roads and cities will require no speed cameras, traffic lights or infringement officers and fines, because the car will not allow itself to break any laws and traffic flows will be dynamic allowing every car an express lane ride to wherever their car is taking them – well that’s the theory anyway?!
So have a listen to the segment now and then let me know your thoughts on the driving and texting and the roads of tomorrow
Did you hear the one about your snail mail turning into carrier pigeon mail? Well Sonya Feldoff of ABC Afternoons Adelaide did and it started one of our regular chats about the future of postal and general deliveries.
Reprising an earlier on air conversation I had with Brisbane ABC we chatted about the reality that only 2.1% of mail delivered is person to person, 45.4% is business to business and 36.2% is business to consumer, so the decline in physical mail is due to a whole raft of reasons fanned by technology advancement including email, pay on-line options and a multitude of communication tools like Facebook, snapchat, twitter, Skype and the list goes on.
The other seismic change is of course our unending desire for instant communication rather than a it’s in the post and you should get it in a couple of days pace.
The discussion soon turned to delivery of parcels which is growing and some of the different business models on the rise including services that accept delivery for you during the day and then re deliver it to you at night or at a time more convenient to you.
Other models include a crowdsourced approach where other shoppers may elect to deliver your goods to you for a fee which has been trialled by Ikea; using a casualised labour website like Airtasker to find someone to pick it up or deliver it for you and of course the one that had listeners calling in the drone and self driving car deliveries.
Listener Brad was most keen on having his parcels delivered to him by a fully autonomous driverless van and wasn’t all that excited when I suggested he may be waiting about 15 years or so for his next parcel, but Jenny of Port Augusta made a great point that in country and regional areas they’ve always had crowdsourced deliveries with neighbours helping neighbours doing deliveries, pick ups and drop offs for each other.
Great conversation around an industry and entrenched way of doing something that we always assumed would go on for ever and is now falling apart, seeing huge staff sackings and forcing users and suppliers to re-imagine how, where, when and what of getting mail and parcel deliveries so have a listen now (12 minutes 48 seconds) and then share your thoughts on tomorrow’s world of mail and parcel deliveries.
Rather than simply finding and regurgitating information, this search engine marries, melds, culls, gleans and kneads it, giving you the best possible answer to what you ask.
That, at least, is what makes it unique. Last month, it tried to become just like everyone else by debuting image recognition – an inferior copy of what Google already does quite well.
For now, Wolfram’s ability to read images is, by its own admission, limited, but it is learning. It is this ability to learn, like a brain, that makes the engine useful.
In a speech in 2010, its creator – computer scientist Dr Stephen Wolfram – said he dreamed ever since he was a kid (he published his first scientific paper at the age of 15) of making as much human knowledge as possible “computable”.
“I’d always assumed that to make progress, I’d essentially have to replicate a whole brain,” he said.
Stephen Wolfram wanted to create a search engine with a brain.
Instead, Dr Wolfram gave us this beautiful, geeky guardian of facts. The Stephen Fry of search engines, if you will. The quiz master of the web.
For example, ask it ‘who is Kim Kardashian?’ and you are not greeted by X-rated images of the celebrity in various states of rumptastic undress, but instead a list of factoids, such as her height (1.57 metres), weight (54 kilograms) and middle name (Noel).
“It doesn’t come back with three million searches,” tech futurist Morris Miselowski told The New Daily.
“It comes back with 10 or so facts that are really tuned in to what it is you are looking for.”
To become truly intelligent is the goal.
“What it’s really pushing towards is artificial intelligence. That was always where it was headed – to know more about what we were looking for than we did,” Mr Miselowski said.
This, it seems, is the future.
“Google and the other search engines are very much heading in that direction,” he said.
“We’ll come to a time very quickly where search engines as we know them will be old and antiquated and we’ll wonder how we ever bothered with a million different answers to something.”
Wolfram Alpha works by using “very sophisticated algorithms” to pull together information from reliable sources, said University of Technology Sydney senior lecturer Maureen Henninger, an information retrieval expert.
“It’s a terrific search engine for facts and computation,” Ms Henninger said.
“I use it all the time for when I want a fact, an actual fact.
“Whereas if you use Google, it’s going to do a whole lot of personalised searching and contextualising according to your comfort zone, and so on.”
Here are some of the cool things it can do.
Type in ‘create password’ and fiddle with the options that appear to save yourself the headache of inventing one.
Type in ‘poker hand probabilities’ to find out your chances of winning your bet.
Track satellites in real time
Type in ‘International Space Station’ to find out over what part of the Earth the research facility is currently hovering.
Can you remember part of a word, but not the whole thing? Just type in the bits you remember and fill in the bits you don’t with a line.
Track space stations and satellites from your study.
For example, ‘_cious’ returns just one result: ‘vicious’.
Plan your exercise regime
Type in something like ’30 min walk calories’ and Wolfram will tell you how many calories you can expect to burn, depending on factors like your speed, gender and weight.
Not quite in the metaphysical sense. But type in ‘where am i?’ and Wolfram will use your IP address to calculate just that.
Want to quickly compare the ranking and traffic of two websites? Type both addresses into the search bar with “vs” in between and you’ll have the answer.
Compare the Empire State Building (front) to the new World Trade Centre behind it.
Enter your weight, gender, drinks consumed (if you can remember), time you consumed them in and you’ll get your reading.
Detailed nutritional information for a massive variety of foods, meals and products.
Know what to expect at the doctor
The search engine will use data to predict what kind or brand of medication you’ll be prescribed for certain conditions.
What is $10 dollars in 1920 worth today?
Go to any point in time with any amount of money and find out how the dollar has changed through history.
Compare man-made structures
This includes their size, features and little-known details.