Viodi View – 09/05/14

September typically means the start of the fall trade show season. Fortunately for this author, the trade show season started a week early in Viodi’s Silicon Valley home in the form of NTCA’s Finance and Accounting Conference. A big theme of this conference was building a culture of ethics, accountability and quality. This conference reminded me of an interview filmed at the 2014 MTA and how these traits will be increasingly important as operators become custodians of their clients’ data.


SOC It to Me – Building a Culture of Ethics, Accountability & Quality

A security key pad is just an outward view of the importance of having excellent internal controls.
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SOC-2 (Service Organization Control) compliance is a must-have for certain clients of data centers, as pointed out in the above interview with Brian Steuve and Robert Koch of the accounting firm of Olson Thielen. As Steuve indicates, it is about building trust and putting controls in place that puts clients’ minds at ease.

Click here to read more.


Managing Risk for New Services

Ken Pyle interviews Stephen Gorman of The Hartford at the 2014 ACA Summit.
Click here to view

“Once you are given the responsibility to protect and manage [somebody’s else’s data]…you need to make sure you are taking all the necessary steps to protect your customers and your clients,” says Stephen Gorman of The Hartford in the above interview. Gorman was referring to the idea that service providers need to account for the security and protection of customer data when building a business plan to provide cloud and other relatively new services.

Click here to read more.


A Quantitative Cultural Transformation

Ken Pyle interviews Albert Bodamer at the 2014 NTCA Finance and Accounting Conference in San Jose.
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Translating mission statements and vision statements into to transform corporate culture is what Albert Bodamer of Bodamer Consulting, LLC discusses in the above interview filmed at NTCA’s 2014 Finance and Accounting Meeting in San Jose. Bodamer talks about how his clients have used a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) to quantify their high-level goals. The Balanced Scorecard converts the language of a mission statement into a quantitative measure in the form of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for each employee’s performance.

Click here to read more.


2014 Hot Interconnects Highlight: Achieving Scale & Programmability in Google’s Software Defined Data Center WAN by Alan Weissberger

An image of Google's Andromeda Controller diagram.
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Amin Vahdat, PhD & Distinguished Engineer and Lead Network Architect at Google, delivered the opening keynote at 2014 Hot Interconnects, held August 26-27 in Mt View, CA. His talk presented an overview of the design and architectural requirements to bring Google’s shared infrastructure services to external customers with the Google Cloud Platform.

Click here to read more.


2014 Hot Interconnects Semiconductor Session Highlights & Takeaways- Part I. by Alan Weissberger

An image from the ARM presentation.
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With Software Defined: Networking (SDN), Storage and Data Center movements firmly entrenched, one might believe there’s not much opportunity for innovation in dedicated hardware implemented in silicon.  Several sessions at the 2014 Hot Interconnects conference, especially one from ARM Ltd, indicated that was not the case at all.

Click here to read more.


Shared Automation – Up to 90% Reduction in Vehicles

A screen shot from Dan Fagnant's presentation at the July 2014 Automated Vehicle Symposium.
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Removing up to 9 of every 10 cars from the road is the promise of sharing automated vehicles, according to University of Texas, Austin research from Dan Fagnant and Dr. Kara Kockelman. In their modeling, they found that private investors could achieve a return on investment of 43%, even with a $70,000 base price for the automated vehicle.

Click here to view the video and read more.


Tweets and Short Thoughts

  • wpid-20140830_092500.jpgAnd what will you get when you cross this robot with an #autonomousvehicle? Google Shopping Express 3.0 – response to Kevin Kutcher and his comment about robotic butlers at a Cupertino hotel.
  • A bumper sticker one would expect in Silicon Valley. I wish my other car was
  • “The sales process should start 2 years before you sell (your telecom co.)” Leo Staurulakis Finance & Accounting
  • att-ad-for-uverseWords of wisdom from Leo Staurulakis “Truth always comes out,” with regards to importance of transparency in selling a telecom company
  • Can 768Kbps be advertised as “High Speed”, given the FCC’s definition of high speed of 4Mbps?

The Korner – What Was He Thinking?

Ken Pyle interviews Steve Gleave at the 2014 Metaswitch Forum.
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If there was an award for gutsiest performance at a conference, it would have to go to Steve Gleave, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Metaswitch. Gleave gave attendees of the 2014 Metaswitch Forum the chance to take a lighthearted and entertaining peek into his thoughts. Gleave made excellent use of video and the stage to illustrate how software has decoupled from hardware and is distributed into a sort of collective brain; much like the Internet broke down the silos of intelligence.

In our interview, Gleave talks about the creativity that weaved its way through the 3 day conference, culminating in an homage to Michael Jackson. Gleave definitely exhibits the sort of left-brain/right-brain thinking that is increasingly important in this information, nay thinking age.

Click here to read more and view.

Shared Automation – Up to 90% Reduction in Vehicles

Removing up to 9 of every 10 cars from the road is the promise of sharing automated vehicles, according to University of Texas, Austin research from Dan Fagnant and Dr. Kara Kockelman. In the above interview, Fagnant, now an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Utah, discusses what he means by Shared Automated Vehicle (SAV). In their modeling, they found that private investors could achieve a return on investment of 43%, even with a $70,000 base price for the automated vehicle.

Their research paper details their SAV model and discusses the implications of such a service in Austin, Texas. Fagnent and Kockelman looked at real-world streets, modeling things such as the routes, number of vehicles against parameters such wait time and vehicle miles traveled. One conclusion is that the SAV approach significantly reduces the amount of land required to support the automobile, freeing it up for other uses and offering the potential for more livable cities.

“Moreover, these results have substantial implications for parking and emissions. For example, if an SAV fleet is sized to replace 9.0 conventional vehicles for every SAV, total parking demand will fall by around 8 vehicle spaces per SAV (or possibly more, since the vehicles are largely in use during the daytime). These spaces would free up parking supply for privately held vehicles or other land uses. In this way, the land and costs of parking provision could shift to better uses, like parks and retail establishments, offices, wider sidewalks, bus parking, and bike lanes.”

Fagnant’s research could become the basis for a new type of subscription service by the likes of an organization outside the automotive world, such a Google, (described here) that melds vehicle sharing and automation into something that is more affordable, safer and enjoyable than today’s ownership/do-it-yourself vehicle paradigm.

Viodi View – 08/22/14

Image of a future car  courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design.
Image courtesy of Michael Robinson and ED Design.

It’s obvious by the look on their faces, that people could be thinking that this guy is from another planet. This is the feeling I have when talking about my latest obsession, the autonomous vehicle. The obsession first manifested itself in the fictional story of what life will be like for today’s youth in the year 2040 thanks to self-driving vehicles. That story has been a spring-board to various discussions with experts on the topic, such as the recent discussion we had with someone who is an expert in both the legal and engineering aspects of vehicle autonomy. Read his thoughts on the winding road to vehicle autonomy in The Korner, below.


V2V & Spectrum Auction Round-Up

Depiction of V2V in urban area - image courtesy of U.S. D.O.T.
Depiction of V2V in urban area – image courtesy of U.S. D.O.T.

As written,  Implementation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Begin Implementation of Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Technology could have an impact on service providers, as it asks about the FCC’s proposal to share the 5.85 to 5.925 GHz band between Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) radios (which are projected to be embedded in V2V-enabled vehicles, starting as early as the 2015 model year) and other WiFi devices. The NHTSA’s report on the topic outlines some of the potential safety benefits from such a network and, starting on page 92, goes into depth on spectrum utilization.

At the same time that the NHTSA is proposing rules of the road for vehicle to vehicle communications and potentially paving the way for an autonomous transport future, the FCC issued rules on how the broadcast auction spectrum will work. In an article in CED Magazine, respected telecom policy expert Jeffrey Krause suggests TV White Spaces and wireless microphone users will be the losers based on the FCC’s almost 500 page ruling.

As  was suggested in the article accompanying our interview with SocialMesh advocates, Devabhaktuni Srikrishna and Rajeev Krishnamoorthy, it  is not too late for Congress to step in and take a holistic view of spectrum to ensure maximum value for this public good; which might not mean direct dollars into the U.S. Treasury. This will require a big picture view  that embraces seemingly disparate use-cases, such as V2V and wireless broadband access. More on the bigger picture in the next issue of the Viodi View.


Better Driving Through Metadata

A picture of the 2015 Corvette Stingray along with  the metadata of its drive.
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Great racing athletes are able to visualize their every move giving them a mental picture for how they should perform. For the rest of us, Chevrolet may have the answer in the form of its Performance Data Recorder (PDR) in the 2015 Corvette Stingray, which is notable as it is the first telematics system to be included in a production car. Although not available in this version, the transmission of real-time metadata to other vehicles is the very sort of thing that would be at the heart of an aforementioned V2V network.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


Building Blocks – Adding Value to the Internet of Things

A demonstration of the Mobile Internet of Things is provided by CableLabs at their booth at The Cable Show 2014.
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Cable companies as value-add providers of data from the disparate Internet of Things is on display in CableLabs’ demonstration at The Cable Show 2014. Clarke Stevens explains how the prototype they created allows consumers to view the location of public transit buses on an app; an app that can live on multiple devices, including TVs, smart phones and tablets.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


The Heat Is On & Helping Monitor the House

Ken Pyle interviews Rob Riordan at the International CES 2014.
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Heat sensing with personal devices is about to take off, according to an articlethis week’s in the Wall Street Journal. Rob Riordan, EVP and director of corporate development for Nsight, talks about using thermal technology to add more accurate detection to their home monitoring service. We caught up with Riordan at International CES 2014, where he talks about the success Nsight has had in offering home monitoring services to its Wisconsin customers.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


Video Editing Challenges

One must click on the "About" option to see this menu. Although this shows only the "Disable GPU for this product" box marked, it may be that "Disable GPU Option for all products" may need to be selected as well.
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Anyone interested in video editing; particularly with the latest release of Sony’s Vegas software, should read this 3-part series on the challenges faced by this author in editing with the latest version of this professional video editing software package. To read the rest of the story, click on the following links.

Click here to read more.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:


The Korner – Autonomous Vehicles and the Law

Ken Pyle interviews autonomous car expert, Brian Walker Smith.
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The advent of self-driving vehicles will have a profound impact on the way communities develop; particularly if the service model, as already coming into play with companies like Uber, Lyft and others, turns out to be the predominate way of transporting people.

As one MIT study suggests, a shared, self-driving vehicle approach could mean only 1/3 as many vehicles would be needed as compared to one where humans are behind the wheel; which has huge implications for the way cities are designed. And the autonomous vehicle’s reach won’t be limited to the urban areas, as fully autonomous vehicles are already operating in various mining operations.

In this interview, legal and transportation professor, Bryant Walker Smith, talks about the challenges as we transition from human directed vehicles to fully autonomous vehicles. As he points out, there will be tensions between local and national interests. He likens it to the early days of broadband and implies that the road from here to fully autonomous vehicles will be a one with some potential forks and paths not yet imagined.

Click here to read more and to view the interview.

Autonomous Vehicles and the Law

“You can look forward to automation as a similar set of local and national tensions and developments and opportunities,” said Bryant Walker Smith. Smith was comparing the early days of broadband and its organic development to what we are seeing with vehicle automation. He brings a unique perspective on this topic, as he is a former transportation engineer, turned law professor who is a current Fellow, Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School and Center for Automotive Research at Stanford, as well as an Assistant Professor of the School of Law and Assistant Professor (by courtesy) of the School of Engineering for the University of South Carolina.

He suggests that, although local communities aren’t going to determine national policy, it is important for them to begin laying the foundation for the various levels of autonomous vehicles in their communities. There are use-cases that may already be economic, including introducing automation into applications such as fleets, downtowns, business campuses and retirement homes (think Villages in San Jose). He suggests that city planners and officials need to be preparing for and asking the questions of what happens as these use-cases become viable.

Many of the important questions that need to be asked are in Smith’s 2012 Santa Clara Law Review white paper. As he points out, the implications of automating vehicles may not always be so obvious (for instance, decrease the cost of travel might mean more vehicle miles traveled). His important point is that now is the time for cooperation among various disciplines to get the full benefit of vehicle automation.

Note, the above video was filmed at the all-day workshop, Envisioning Automated Vehicles within the Built Environment: 2020, 2035 and 2050.


Lastly, given that we seem to be on precipice of some major changes in the way we transport goods and people, what question regarding transportation would you ask someone running for mayor of an urban area (yes, I am trying to crowd-source some intelligent questions for a potential debate)? Let us know by completing the comment field below.

Sony Vegas 13 – Catalyst for a New Computer

PC hardware manufacturers should love Sony Vegas 13, as it will drive new sales, at least if the experience of this author is typical. Granted, this author’s two-plus year old laptop, with its 4 Gig of memory and Intel, i5-based CPU, had issues editing with Sony Vegas 12 (would need to reboot at least once per day, occasional crashes, long load times).  Sony Vegas 13, combined with some of the NewBlue effects, slowed that lap-top to a crawl and made editing painful and rendering extremely time-consuming.

These issues led me on a quest to find a new laptop (see posts about the Lenovo Y50 and Toshiba S55t laptops). The one parameter that seems to make the biggest difference in terms of the Sony Vegas performance is RAM; 16 gigabytes seemed to fix many of the issues with load-time, crashing, etc.

This post provides a brief history of some of the symptoms I saw with Sony Vegas 13 performance, in the hope that his may help others who are experiencing similar problems.

Problems:

There were three issues with Sony Vegas 13 when using the NewBlue effects plug-ins:

  1. PCs with older graphic cards would not display images that had a NewBlue ChromaKey effect.
  2. On my desktop computer, Sony Vegas 13 crashes when rendering most file formats; very frustrating.
  3. There sometimes seems to be noise introduced into the rendered output. This was seen with both of the new Lenovo and the Toshiba laptops, which didn’t exhibit the issue described in number 1 and 2, above.

Solution:

Disable the GPU in the NewBlueFX Video Essentials. The pop-up menu to do this is found by clicking the “About” text that is next to the “?” (help) icon just below the preset drop down menu on the Video Event FX menu.

One must click on the "About" option to see this menu.  Although this shows only the "Disable GPU for this product" box marked, it may be that "Disable GPU Option for all products" may need to be selected as well.
One must click on the “About” option to see this menu. Although this shows only the “Disable GPU for this product” box marked, it may be that “Disable GPU Option for all products” needs to be selected as well.

Additionally, to prevent Sony Vegas from crashing during rendering on the desktop machine, 32 slices were selected in the MP4 rendering configuration.

When the GPU option is enabled on the NewBlue FX, occasional noise would be introduced, as seen in this screen capture. This noise would be seen in the rendered output. Interestingly, the noise was only visible in the edit line when it was in draft quality. Even if it couldn't be seen in the edit mode, it was still there in the rendered output.
When the GPU option is enabled on the NewBlue FX, occasional noise would be introduced, as seen in this screen capture. This noise would be seen in the rendered output. Interestingly, the noise was only visible in the edit mode when it was in draft quality. Even if it couldn’t be seen in the edit mode, however, it was still there in the rendered output.
When the GPU option was disabled, the noise went away.
When the GPU option was disabled, the noise went away.

Additional Notes:

The following are rough notes of how I came to the above conclusions. These troubleshooting steps were on my desktop machine (see specifications below), which, on paper, has the best specifications of any of the computers I own, including the aforementioned Lenovo and Toshiba lap-tops I reviewed.

  1. Sony Vegas 13, build 373, either crashes or it stops rendering when using:
    1. The Mainconcept MP4 file (1280×720 – various resolutions were attempted).
    2. Also tried rendering with OpenCL and CUDA
    3. An MXF file (35 Mbs resolution) (screenshots of a couple of the Crash messages are below)
    4. I tried “preparing content for review” (this is the option that creates review files), but no luck.
    5. Tried rendering as a WMV file, but no luck.
    6. It did render with the Sony AVC MP4 format, but the quality wasn’t very good (not as good as MainConcept normally is).
    7. I did notice that I was able to render 1 minute of the 4 minute file, however.
  2. One by one and then altogether, I disabled the three plugins (NewBlue ChromaKey, Isotope Repair and HitFilm) that came with Sony Vegas 13 that I was using (note they were unchecked, not removed). Each time, it would crash.
  3. Graphics card driver software was upgraded. Background processes, including firewall and anti-virus protection were disabled.
  4. After noticing that it would encode approximately 1 minute of the file, I thought it might be a RAM issue, so the RAM was upgraded to 16 Gytes from 8 Gbyte that came with the computer. 16 GB Patriot Viper 3 DDR3 PC3 – 15000, 1,866 MHz. Still crashes!
  5. As noted above, disabled GPU in the NewBlue plug-in menu, which fixed the problem in the lap-top and older computers. Additionally, it seems like the number of slices had to be increased to 32 when rendering on the desktop computer.

Specifications for the Lenovo K10 Desktop computer

Upgrades

  • Graphics Card (Upgraded) AMD Radeon R9 200 Series
  • 16 GB Patriot Viper 3 DDR3 PC3 – 15000, 1,866 MHz.
  • Antec 620 Watt Power Supply

Lenovo K410 Base Specifications

  • Max Turbo Speed -3.4 GHz
  • Number of Cores – Quad-Core
  • 64-bit Computing – Yes
  • CPU Qty -1
  • Max CPU Qty – 1
  • Processor Main Features – Intel Virtualization Technology
  • CPU Socket – LGA1155 Socket
  • Chipset Type – Intel H61 Express
  • CACHE MEMORY
    • Installed Size – 8 MB
    • Cache Per Processor – 8 MB
  • RAM
    • Memory Speed – 1600 MHz (as noted above, upgraded to 16 Gbytes, 1866 MHz)
    • Memory Specification Compliance – PC3-12800
    • Form Factor – DIMM 240-pin
    • Features – dual channel memory architecture
    • Configuration Features – 2 x 4 GB (upgraded to 2×8 GB)
  • HARD DRIVE
    • Interface Type – SATA 6Gb/s
    • Spindle Speed – 7200 rpm

Tohisba Satellite S55t B5233 as a Video Editing Machine

The Toshiba Satellite S55t B5233 lap-top.
The Toshiba Satellite S55t B5233 lap-top.

The following post provides a high-level view of the Toshiba S55t B5233 lap-top and its performance as a video editing laptop. The intent isn’t to provide a comprehensive review, but to give a snapshot of a couple of days of use for primarily editing videos using Sony Vegas 13 with various 3rd-party plug-ins. This combination of plug-ins with Sony Vegas 13 have caused various issues, as will be documented in another article.

Background:

The issues I had seen with Sony Vegas, combined with NewBlue effects caused me to search for a more powerful computer. I tried a Lenovo Y50 and it had incredible specifications, but, as posted here, it may be a little too far ahead of the software. After returning the Lenovo, I took my wife’s advice and stopped by Costco and purchased the Toshiba S55t B5233. Costco has a 90-day, no questions asked return policy, so it was little risk to give it a spin. The specifications that were of most interest to me were:

  • Intel® Core™ i7-4710HQ Processor 2.5GHz
  • 16GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • 1920 x 1080 Display

It uses integrated Intel(R) HD Graphics 4600, which supports Open CL version 1.2. It is unclear whether this will support some of the more graphics’ intensive plug-ins. It does support a 4k output via its HDMI connector (unclear whether it is only HDMI 1.4 or 2.0 – most likely 1.4 and 30 frames per second, not the 60 FPS of HDMI 2.0).

The performance of the 5,400 RPM, 1 TByte drive doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of rendering or editing, as compared to a desktop machine I also own that has a 7,200 RPM drive.

Although this laptop will never be a desktop replacement with the ability to have a discrete graphics card, it makes up for this with a relatively lightweight (4.9 lbs) in an attractive, brushed aluminum case.

The Good:

  1. Sony Vegas loads faster than compared to my i5-based lap-top with 4 Gbytes memory. Sony Vegas 13 crashed only once during two days of editing. I suspect a big part of the reason that it isn’t crashing is because of the extra memory.
  2. It hasn’t crashed once while rendering a file with Sony Vegas 13. Rendering has typically been faster than or around real-time for a single pass. There is an issue that seems to have to do with using Open CL with the NewBlue effect. This doesn’t seem to be specific to Lenovo and will be covered in another article.
  3. The location of the keyboard, relative to the trackpad is much more convenient than the Lenovo Y50.
  4. The touchscreen capability is a nice bonus.
  5. At $849 ($999 less $150), the price is hard to beat.

The Bad:

  1. It would be nice to have an option for a solid state drive, to, potentially, improve battery time, reduce the weight and improve start-up and rendering time.
  2. Battery time seems weak. It looks like it will get about 2.5 hours with just casual web surfing/posting this article. It seemed to last a little over an hour when editing video.
  3. No optical drive. This means bringing along an external drive a couple of times a year, when I have to burn a DVD.
  4. [Added 10/10/14] Battery life is awful. I get about 1.5 hours (in “eco mode”) using batteries. Barely enough juice to make it between, say, Denver and Chicago. I suppose poor battery life is a trade-off to get light weight and relatively low price.

Summary:

So far, it is exceeding expectations, as far as editing and rendering with Sony Vegas 13 and NewBlue effects. The size and weight (relative to my old laptop) somewhat offsets the disadvantage of a battery-life that won’t last even a short airplane trip. It probably isn’t the laptop that I will be use to render 4K videos in 5 years, but it looks like one that will be a relatively inexpensive workhorse for editing HD videos for the next couple of years.

Support Addendum – Won’t Turn On After Updating to BIOS Version 1.8 – Added 11/19/2914

Remove the two screws on the Toshiba Satellite S55t B5233 lap-top to remove the battery.
Remove two screws (circled) to remove battery.

After updating to BIOS 1.8, the lap-top would no longer turn on; black screen. The only indication of life was that the power switch would blink with about a 3 second duty cycle. I tried all the routine stuff, like pulling the power cord, holding the power button down (first for 5 seconds, then for 20 seconds, but to no avail). I thought about removing the battery, but didn’t see how (more on that below).

The Toshiba support web site’s forums suggested battery removal (which would apparently require removal of the back cover) might fix the problem. Reluctant to removed the cover, I instead followed a troubleshooting process on the support site which revealed a Toshiba support phone number to call.

The support hold time was less than five minutes and the support person was nice enough. We went through the same steps I did, except she also suggested connecting the lap-top to an external monitor. She also tried to have me reset a non-existent reset button. She informed me that I could return the lap-top for repair.

I asked her about how I would go about backing up the data and she indicated that I would be responsible for doing so and she suggested that this be done prior to returning the lap-top to Toshiba. Upon further questioning, she said opening the cover (which is needed to access the hard-drive) would not void the warranty.

Whether or not this statement about removal of the cover not voiding the warranty is true, I don’t know, but my screwdriver was busy removing the screws while we were finishing the call. As a disappointing aside, I noticed that one of the screws was missing and that several others were loose. The screws had adhesive, but that wasn’t enough to secure them in place. I had similar problems with my previous lap-top, so it looks like screw tightening is something that should be part of a regular maintenance plan.

Based on what I had read in posts on the Toshiba support forum, I thought the battery was under the cover and I started to use a credit card to slip between the cover and chassis to pry open the cover. It wasn’t easy and, as I pried and pulled, I accidentally removed the battery. To remove the battery, only two screws need to be removed (see above picture) and then only a slight downward pressure needs to be applied for it to pop off the back of the chassis. Sure enough, removal and re-insertion of the battery fixed the problem.

Overall, the support for the product in terms of responsiveness, friendliness and willingness to take  the product wasn’t bad, relative to many high-tech products. Still, it is disappointing that they missed such an easy fix and that they don’t have better documentation on their website.

Lenovo Y50 – Almost, but No Cigar

A picture of the Lenovo Y50 Lap-top
Lenovo Y50 Lap-top

The following are my notes from trying the Lenovo Y50, Intel Core i7-4700HQ, 15.6″ 4K Resolution Display, Notebook With 16GB Memory, 256GB SSD, Windows 8.1. The intent of this  post is to help others who may be thinking of purchasing this unit. Sadly, after investing several hours into trying to make this work, primarily as a video editing machine, I am going to return it as it has several issues that make it frustrating to use.

Background:

I needed a PC that would edit a Sony Vegas 13 video, which included NewBlue Chromakeying and other effects. The addition of the effects managed to slow my 2 year-old, Intel-based, i5 lap-top to a crawl; so much so that it was almost impossible to edit. A desktop I sometimes use, which has an Intel i7, 16 Gigabytes RAM and an AMD Radeon R9 270 Series graphics card, is great for editing Sony Vegas 13, but would consistently crash during rendering.

The Good

  • Lightweight, yet with a powerful processor and graphics card,the Y50 rendered the Sony Vegas 13 files with the NewBlue Chromakey effects. The graphics card didn’t seem to improve the rendering time, but it didn’t crash. I did find that the graphics card had to be configured for either the integrated Intel graphics or the Nvidia card. If it was configured for “automatic”, the resulting rendered MPEG-4 file would have visible bit errors (almost like snow). It tooks approximately 30 minutes to render a 4 minute file that was made liberal use of several NewBlue chromakey and color replace effects.
  • Backlit keyboard makes it easy to see in dark conditions
  • 4K display

The Bad

  • A screenshot of a menu with the Lenovo Y50.
    Menu Items Get Crunched

    4K display – it seems that most software menu items are designed for lower resolution displays. There may be a work-around, but I am not certain what it is (I tried different resolutions to no avail). The screenshot provides an example of how one menu was compressed and difficult to read).

  • It doesn’t open AVI files. Again, there is probably a work-around or codec that needs to be downloaded, but I wasn’t able to figure it out either by searching the help files or the Internet. This is unbelievable, as AVI files have been around forever. Unfortunately, my Sony Vegas project had an AVI file and it wouldn’t appear within the timeline (or render). [Added 10:11 pm, 8/10/14 – The AVI issue was not an error of the Lenovo or Sony or Windows. These AVI files had been created with the FRAPs‘ capture program. In order for them to be viewed in Sony or within Windows Media Player, FRAPs had to be installed on the lap-top, as they indicate on their web site, “Please keep in mind that if you want to give your raw footage to another person they will also need to have Fraps installed.”]
  • The trackpad is in a bad location. While writing this post, I probably have accidentally hit the trackpad with the palm of my hand while typing, bringing up a different window. This is extremely frustrating. I have tried various “personalization” settings to no avail. The cursor seems to jump and, at least once, has led to undesirable results, such as accidentally closing this post while I was in the middle of writing.

Summary:

I really wanted this lap-top to work, as it looks great on paper and has a nice feel. I have a Lenovo desktop which has worked well. Some of the issues I observed may be Windows 8.1 related and may have to do with my naiveté regarding that operating system. Regardless, the issues are too large to ignore, so my quest for a lap-top that will edit Sony Vegas 13 with effects will continue.

Viodi View – 08/09/2014

Computer on top of a Prius optimized for best WiFi reception.
Optimized WiFi Reception

“High speed and reliable broadband is becoming as essential as water and electricity,” to paraphrase what I heard last week from a general manager of a provider that offers all three of those services. I have had many opportunities to reflect on those comments, as my travels since then took me to the Southwestern U.S. where water and broadband are often in short supply. Continue to bottom of this newsletter to read some of the random thoughts from someone who was broadband starved over the past week.


FCC Acts to Improve Rural Broadband Service with $100M Fund- Census Blocks Released by Alan Weissberger

An image of Redwood Estates, an area of Silicon Valley that has some high-cost broadband locations.
Click to read more

Roughly 10% of the U.S., mostly in remote rural areas, is eligible to take advantage of $100 million the Federal Communications Commission is allocating for improvements in rural broadband service.  The FCC this week released a list of the U.S. Census blocks that would qualify for a piece of the $100 million fund the agency created earlier this month. Interestingly, there are several locations in the county of Santa Clara, home to Silicon Valley, that are unserved and potentially eligible to receive support.

Click here to read more.


Network Neutrality is Dead: Netflix deal with AT&T; VZ Throttling- FCC? by Alan Weissberger

Netflix announced last week that it had agreed to pay AT&T for a direct “peering” connection to AT&T’s network. The two companies arranged the deal this past May and have been working since then to connect their respective networks. AT&T had been pressing Netflix to pay for an upgraded connection between their networks since at least March when Netflix asked for a free peering arrangement.

Click here to read more.


Lights, Set-Top, Action

An image of the CableLabs NCTA 2014 Cable Show demonstration of an Internet of Things demonstration showing how lights can be controlled by a set-top based on the content being viewed.
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What happens when you mix a home lighting system with a set-top box? Clark Stevens of CableLabs demonstrates this unlikely convergence of the so-called Internet of Things and how CableLabs envisions being able to help cable operators create applications that marry these two disparate “things” into a better experience for the consumer (e.g. viewer hits the play button on the remote and then the lights dim).

Click here to view.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • Wow, if this idea turns into legislation it would remove the operator as middleman and seemingly end blackouts and retransmission disputes.
  • @MATTatACA Financial Panel — I still remember the guy from last year’s panel I thought kept saying, “content craters…” Cre-A-tors! 🙂
  • Roger Bindl gets a bird’s-eye view – filming from a bucket truck.
  • Frank Chindamo’s latest venture brings his comedy to the room. Great idea.

The Korner – Random Notes from a Summertime Journey Through the Southwest

An image of human shadows on a wall of the Grand Canyon.
Ancient petroglyph???

The great thing about portable electronics and broadband is that one can work anywhere or anytime. This isn’t necessarily a good thing if one is trying to recharge and disconnect from work. Of course, my work with Viodi isn’t really work, as it is fun and its impossible to turn off thinking about the next issue of the Viodi View.

Here are some of my observations from my week-long journey to the 4 corners and beyond.

  • Reception of WiFi was extremely poor inside the car. Had to move the lap-top outside the car for adequate reception.
    WiFi using Comcast hot spot.

    Operators need creative ways to convince owners of 2nd homes to sign up for broadband. A part-timer plan was highlighted in the previous issue of the Viodi View as one such way. Based on my experience with my brother-in-law, another approach would be to bundle broadband into something like a home monitoring service, specifically designed for second home owners.

  • As it was, the 4G wireless hot spot, that my brother-in-law thought was broadband, didn’t meet the needs of someone who had to upload several 100+ Megabyte video files over the course of several days. As a work-around, one morning, I did pay the equivalent of $70/month for a decent broadband connection (with a free cup of coffee as a bonus). This wasn’t ideal, as, besides being against my inherent thriftiness, the coffee shop wasn’t open late at night when I wanted to upload the files.
  • This gave me a chance to use the Comcast app to locate their WiFi hotspots. The app identified multiple businesses which had Comcast hotspots where I could “roam” without an extra charge.
  • Computer on top of a Prius optimized for best WiFi reception.
    Optimized WiFi Reception

    It was difficult to receive the signal outside the business (the hot spots were most likely built into the indoor, Comcast-supplied cable modem/wireless routers). This meant placing the laptop next to a business’ window or, in the case when my car was my portable office space, the laptop had to be placed on top of the car to avoid the shield effects of a big metal container. Properly positioned, the WiFi connection worked great.

  • The Comcast app shows the name of the business and address of the business. It also showed the name and address of one location that looked to be that of a resident. Although the information provided really isn’t any different than what one would find in a telephone directory, one has to wonder if the average consumer realizes their information will be included in an app for the public to see.
  • T-Mobile’s coverage is inferior compared to its competitors in rural America. This is something observed from years of traveling with colleagues who have AT&T and Verizon and was reinforced by the lack of coverage found on this trip. With the Sprint merger off the table, perhaps one approach is for T-Mobile to partner once again (like they did years ago in Iowa) with small carriers and others to give them coverage and feet on the street in rural America.
  • Meanwhile, with a new CEO, what will Sprint do? Will Sprint land back in the arms of the cable operators that helped give birth to its wireless operation some two decades ago? Will they, as Alan Weissberger asks, focus on being a carrier’s carrier?
  • An image of a Google Fiber billboard in Provo, Utah.
    Google Fiber in Provo, UT

    Speaking of which, Windstream’s spin-off of its network from it operations is interesting. As a REIT, the actual network and associated equipment may be closer in structure to that of data centers. In the long-term will this mean that the Windstream operations group might branch into running network infrastructures for other entities, such as municipalities?

  • Regarding a former municipal-owned fiber faculty, I snapped a photo of this Google Fiber billboard in Provo, Utah promoting their broadband offering. Simple message from a company that is adept at cutting through the clutter.
  • Sometimes its good to put down the broadband and stop and smell the flowers.
    Smelling the flowers

    Visiting National Parks and other points of interest, I found myself yearning for good wireless broadband to power the augmented reality apps that may or may not exist. There were a couple practical reasons for this desire; 1) not everyone likes to read park information signs and there is often tension between the readers and the lookers in a group, 2) When the projector breaks (as it did at the Grand Canyon), it would be nice to be able stream it to a personal device. Then again, maybe it is better just to be disconnected for a few days.

Viodi View – 07/24/14

Managed Broadband TV – A Decade Old Overnight Success

This is an example of what a possible TV user interface might look like as envisioned in the Viodi authored, June 2003, Streaming TV Whitepaper.
Click to Read More.

It’s always fun to see industry friends face-to-face and last week’s NTCA Southeast Regional Meeting in Savannah, GA was the perfect venue for catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in a while. It was an honor to moderate a tech talk panel on the topic of video services. This video summarizes the opening comments I made and set a baseline for the presentations that followed from Mark Chambers of NRTC and Bob Saunders of Skitter.

Click here to watch the video and read more.


Building a Bigger Box

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
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Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

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“Rural America Is a Big Part of America” #Summit21

A picture of a waterfall in Warren, VT.
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It’s one thing to talk about or even see pictures of rural America, but it doesn’t compare to experiencing it first hand. Last April at the ACA 2014 Convention, I had a chance to catch up with the lone Representative from the very rural state of Vermont. Interspersed in the above interview with Representative (D-VT) Peter Welch are some images captured from my brief visit to Vermont from a couple weeks ago. The images reinforce Welch’s points about the unique nature of rural America.

Click here to view and read more.


How Cable Began – The Rest of the Story #Summit 21

It is often difficult to receive over-the-air television broadcasts in the mountains.
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The following video interview captures the spirit of the folks who built a new industry decades ago. Most people in the telecom industry are probably aware that the cable industry sprung to life in rural areas that were too isolated to receive off-the-air broadcast signals. No doubt, many have heard about the guy with an appliance shop that was attempting to sell TVs and had to figure out a way to bring the signal from an antenna on top of a mountain to display the wonders of television to prospective customers.

Unfortunately, Viodi won’t be able to cover next week’s Independent Show in Kansas City celebrating the NCTC’s 30th anniversary, but the above video is an example of the many stories that could be told by long-time attendees to that event.

Click here to view and read more.


Looking at the Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on How We Live

The sign that greeted attendees to the Autonomous Vehicle Workshop.
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“It’s time to think about the built environment,” said Shannon McDonald, an architect and Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. McDonald was referring to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on the design of streets, buildings and associated infrastructure. She indicates that this is an important and timely discussion to have, as she compares autonomous mobility to the rapid changes to cities and the explosion in suburbs that resulted from the introduction of the car 100 years ago. She is in an expert in that transition, as she literally wrote the book on one aspect; parking and how it changed cities.

Click here to read more and to view the video.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • BYOB – Bring Your Own Brain – if this works as shown, it will be an affordable personal #robot
  • As follow-up to my interview with Carissa, this just released reel describes her new TV show that helps independent operators teach customers tech.

The Korner – The Solar Window Awning & Shade

Ken Pyle interviews Joseph Hui of Monarch regarding their solar solutions.
Click to View

Joseph Hui is on a world-changing mission; to help people live a comfortable and renewable lifestyle. This Arizona State University professor wants to help solve big problems, such as access to clean water, climate control, healthy food, information and transportation. Hui’s company, Monarch Power, is his vehicle for tackling these weighty challenges.

At International CES 2014, Monarch demonstrated some relatively low-cost solar power solutions; think less than $1 to $2 per Watt versus $5 per watt for a typical roof-mount system. Monarch takes a system approach to lowering the cost of technology to make it economically practical. As an example, in addition to providing shade, the Monarch window awning, shown in the above video, also generates solar electric power (280W) and heats water.

Click here to view and read more about how to use the hot summer sun to lower energy bills.

Looking at the Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on How We Live

“It’s time to think about the built environment,” said Shannon McDonald, an architect and Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. McDonald was referring to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on the design of streets, buildings and associated infrastructure. She indicates that this is an important and timely discussion to have, as she compares autonomous mobility to the rapid changes to cities and the explosion in suburbs that resulted from the introduction of the car 100 years ago. She is in an expert in that transition, as she literally wrote the book on one aspect; parking and how it changed cities.

The all-day workshop, Envisioning Automated Vehicles within the Built Environment: 2020, 2035 and 2050, organized, by McDonald and a committee of other experts, looked at seven scenarios for vehicle autonomy. The morning portion featured subject matter experts who provided a baseline understanding of the state of vehicle autonomy. Workshop participants, which included city and regional planners, lawyers, architects and technologists, split into groups to create plans for the different autonomous vehicle scenarios in the year 2020, 2035 and 2050.

Fully autonomous vehicles (level 5 in the SAE standard), won’t happen overnight and will occur at various levels (e.g. it has already begun with adaptive cruise control) and will roll out with specific use-cases (e.g. the autonomous mining vehicles in Australia). There are many opportunities to create better living spaces, as there is long-term potential to do things like eliminating street parking or reducing lane size. Still, it is a huge challenge for city planners who have to plan based today’s assumptions; assumptions which could be undermined very rapidly if the social benefits to autonomous mobility live up to their potential.

We will have additional interviews from this workshop in follow-up posts and look forward to following up with McDonald to find out the results of the workshop (the above interview was filmed just as the workshop portion of the program was beginning). Note, this workshop was one of the ancillary meetings associated with the AUVSI’s Automated Vehicles Symposium 2014.