Dumb robots are of little good to us

This paper towel dispenser has it all backwards.

“Wave to dispense paper towel” it says.

What is your purpose, robot paper towel dispenser, if not to ensure that my wet, dripping hands can quickly grasp a paper towel?

Why do I need to exert such a silly effort so you can fulfill your one purpose in life? Namely to make sure a paper towel is ready for me?

I’ve worked with paper towel dispensers who are smart. (In fairness to you, they were at Facebook, where I suppose the entry criteria are more selective). They don’t need me to wave at them before they  roll out a new paper towel. The moment I happily tear one from its rollers, it calmly unrolls the next portion. No waving, no waiting. Common sense.

There’s no room for dumb robots in the future. Get with the program–or get reprogrammed.

The Moto X Camera – Making me (think I am) a better photographer

I’m not a terrific photographer. I’d like to think I am, but generally my photos are poorly framed, horribly lit, and ill-timed. Burst-shot on my Galaxy S 3 was a great feature to have becuase I could snap 20 pictures in a single press and I could count on one of them looking decent.

Click to view a gallery of photos taken with the Moto X

The Moto X camera has been suprising in a few ways. For one, there is basically no interface for it. When you start up the camera, it’s just one big viewfinder on your screen. Tap anywhere and it takes a picture. From an ease of use perspective, this is great. For folks used to messing with white balance and f-stops, it could be frustrating.

You can open the camera with a careful double-twist of the phone in your hand–the actual motion takes some practice, but I’ve used this gesture a number of times to quickly launch the camera app. It’s handy, if not a bit quirky.

The timing of a picture is a little different on the Moto X. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a display quirk or a camera quirk, but it seems like there is a lag between tapping the screen and the shutter animation playing and the phone actually taking the picture. I don’t have the timing figured out quite yet, but I imagine this could be cleared up relatively quickly.

Depending on who you talk to, the photos that the Moto X put out are either very nice or total junk. I’ve seen and heard many comments about the photos being over-saturated, trend to be red-tinted, or grainy. Motorola did release an update shortly after the phone launched which corrected a number of reported camera issues.

If you take a look at the sample gallery of photos I snapped one afternoon with the Moto X, I think you’ll see some minor blending/contrast issues, but otherwise some very rich pictures including a nice panorama shot, a neat macro-ish shot of a praying mantis we stumbled upon, and some nice detail picked up in close-ups of a rusted out International we found in the creek. Oh and a fun shot of my son laughing too. Overall, a nice set of pictures from a very capable camera.



Moto X – The Android smartphone for everyone?

If you’ve been watching the smartphone race for the last few years, you’ll notice the occasional purple or red rectangular Android smartphone. But by and large, we’ve been stuck with generic black plastic squares that have slightly different combinations of “Android + branded processor + branded display technology.”

Moto XWhether by focusing solely on the specs–processors, memory, storage and display–or tweaked design aesthetic–rounding the corners more, adding or removing a tenth of an inch here or there–it seems that smartphone manufacturers and marketers (other than Apple) haven’t succeeded in satisfying a broad consumer base. Phones are either for niche segments or a bland swath. Apple, again, is the outlier here, who has focused in many ways on making sure things “just work,” and avoiding the specification race while delivering a reliable, compelling customer experience.

With the Moto X, we have an Android smartphone that steps ahead of the pack–and delivers a solid iPhone competitor, too–by going to market with a device that also “just works.” Neither a bleeding-edge techno-phone nor a slouch in performance, it delivers a very balanced experience wrapped in a brand that delivered well in the past.

The physical design of Moto X itself is approachable, packing a 4.7″ screen into a solidly-built shell that isn’t imposing at all. The weight and balance is solid, and the materials feel high-end. The customization options available on some carriers give a very unique nod to the idea that a phone is as much accessory as technology. On the software side, Android 4.2.2 with very minimal tweaking by either Sprint or Motorola on top of the standard Android experience delivers a more consistent and responsive interface. And the “whizbang” features, namely Touchless Control and Active Display, are so nifty and useful that I can’t imagine having a phone without them.

To their credit, the Motorola marketing team seems to have struck a good balance between touting the hardware specs that geeks and early adopters love to chatter about, and featuring the useful features in a way that could interest your average consumer.True, there is talk about the Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System” but generally only in reference to the true innovation they power, like the dedicated natural language processor for Touchless Control.

Having used the Moto X for nearly a month, I’m sold. Admittedly I do pick up my Samsung Galaxy S3 on occasion and notice the ever-so-slightly larger display; but after a few seconds I remember how akward it can feel in my hand due to the size and shape. I’ll pick up my wife’s iPhone 5 to glance at the time or weather, and get frustrated that it doesn’t automatically turn on the display when I pick it up like my Moto X does. And that I have to press a button to get Siri to wake up.

I was a Motorola fan with the Razr, and again with the Photon. After a debacle with their support for upgrading Android on the Photon wavering and eventually backpedaling, I was wary of picking up another Motorola device. Google’s acquisition made a lot of sense, and with the Moto X, I think the blending of software and hardware has resulted in one of the most compelling smartphones available on the market. The Moto X brings enough spec to the party to sate the geeks, enough fashion to turn heads, and ease of use that allows my kids to use things like Touchless Control and the new camera interface without any prompting from me. I have no reservations about recommending the Moto X, and think it will be a very competitive phone for a while.

At least until the next Nexus comes out.


Moto X – Unboxing and a few thoughts.

Here’s a quick video unboxing of the Moto X from Sprint. I am lucky enough to participate in the product ambassador team again, and I’m excited to get to explore this new phone from Motorola. My last Moto device was the Photon, which was a solid piece of hardware, but was replaced by my Samsung Galaxy S 3 which I’ve really enjoyed. I’ll be posting a few updates on the Moto X over the next few weeks–but so far, my impression is that this is a solidly built, well-performing phone with some pretty neat features. Any questions? Leave a comment or hit me up @justinkramp on twitter.

Sharing an old Flash project

From the timestamps on the file, it looks like 2001 was a crazy year for me. At least in regards to Flash animation. I was working at a Community College and picking up some freelance work. I also made friends with some folks in the print shop who played disc golf. One way or another I found myself making a little website for the new disc golf course being installed on the Community College campus. Today, I bring you this piece of work–unedited in any way from it’s July 24, 2001 published state. It seems like maybe I should be embarassed, but really, I think I did pretty okay. Warning-turn your speakers to a reasonable level; this thing will autoplay when you click through.

Read More…

▶ Enders Game Trailer

I read this book earlier this year when I heard that a movie adaptation was coming out (sorry, geek brethren, for not reading it sooner).

In a word, Ender’s Game is terrific; I’m looking forward to the movie. This trailer provides a number of space battle shots, which look great — but special effects aren’t that hard to deliver anymore.*

The hard part of adapting this book for the big screen will be the internal struggles Ender has and the interpersonal conflicts that don’t involve guns or spaceships.

I’m sure the movie will satisfy casual sci-fi fans who love a neat spaceship and lasers. And frankly I’ll love it if those things are done well too. But I will be disappointed if the emotional depth that made me enjoy the book so much are minimized.


via ▶ Enders Game TRAILER 2 2013 – Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford Movie HD – YouTube.

* Okay special effects are really hard to do; you get my point though right?

Government Demands Encryption Keys – Business Insider

With SSL keys & access to network traffic (both of which they have), the NSA doesn’t need direct access to servers of companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook et. al. Which means those companies can honestly say they don’t give the government “direct access” to their systems to allow for wholesale decryption, copying, storing, etc. of all your emails, chats, messages and Skype calls.

Government Demands Encryption Keys – Business Insider.

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