Friday, October 22, 2010

HDMI 4.1 fills the bill even for 3-D devices coming this holiday season


Until I read this article I thought HDMI was the only choice for new HD electronic components but I guess there is something called Display Port.  Since I retired I guess I'm getting a little slow on tracking electronic trends!

Image via Wikipedia

DisplayPort is another new video connector that’s being included on newer equipment, especially laptops.  It was designed as the successor to DVI and VGA on computers, but hasn’t seen as much adoption as either DVI or HDMI.  However, it is being included on all newer Macs and many Dell, HP, and Lenovo computers.  It is actually very similar to HDMI, so it streams both HD video and audio on the same cable, and can output up to 1920×1080 resolution and 8 channels of audio on a single cable.
 On the good side, DisplayPort does support HDCP, so you can use it to playback protected HD content from Blu-rays and more.  You can also connect it to an HDMI or DVI port with a  convertor, since the digital signal is compatible.  The problem is, few monitors and TVs include DisplayPort ports, so you’ll almost have to have a convertor if you want to connect your laptop to a larger screen. -What’s the Difference Between HDMI and DVI? Which is Better?

 I was relieved to see that "Geeks" agrees with my favorite bargain hunter, Stacy Johnson, who says a cheap $10 HDMI cable is all you need too.  Monster cables costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars are a ridiculous waste of money.  That company needs to reinvent itself now that digital video is becoming so widespread.  

The one question this article didn't answer for me, though, was whether the current crop of HDMI cables will handle true 3D that will be available on HD televisions this holiday season.  But, I found this statement about the new HDMI 4.1 standard.

The latest version of the HDMI standard establishes critical infrastructure for implementing 3D video in the home, defining input/output protocols that will allow 3D displays and source devices to communicate through an HDMI link. It’s a major milestone on the path to bringing true 3D gaming and 3D home theater to the mass market, supporting resolutions up to 1080p in 3D.
3D technology is evolving rapidly, with several competing approaches under development, so the HDMI 1.4 specification establishes protocols for a number of popular 3D display methods, including:
  • Frame, line, or field alternative methods
  • Side by side methods (full and half)
  • 2D plus depth methods

 16' x 9' Home Backyard Theater System Projector Screen    Optoma HD20 High Definition 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector (Grey)   Optoma HD65 720p DLP Home Theater Projector
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Compromised credit cards a pain when used for autopays

A couple of days ago I received ANOTHER call from the security department of a credit card that I use for all of my online autopayments telling me that a new card they just sent me a month ago has already been compromised.  I'm afraid I lost my temper and really gave the poor security representative a piece of my mind.

As a retired director of information systems for a college at a major university for over 20 years, I am well aware of hazards involved with e-commerce and have always taken all of the prescribed precautions.  I have used online credit transactions since the time they were first introduced on the internet and I have gone years without problems.  Now in less than two months one of my credit cards has been compromised twice.

Naturally, this makes me immediately suspicious that the bank's own database has been compromised, especially since the new card had not been used for anything but autopayments to my electric company, my satellite TV provider, my long distance company, etc. but they insist that it hasn't.  I asked them how they knew to call me to check on a suspicious transaction then and they told me that the perpetrator of the fraudulent purchase did not use the correct security code or my correct address.  These types of thieves use a number generator to generate random 16-digit numbers that are then used online to see if they will be accepted for online purchases.  If a small transaction goes through, it lets them know the number is a valid credit card number.   Then they attempt even larger purchases. 

So I asked them why, then, did their system allow the transaction to go through? I've written computer programs and I know their system could be programmed to automatically deny these types of fraudulent purchase attempts.

I also explained to them that I was using their credit card for my online autopayments so having to reset all of my account information for all of my service providers was very time consuming.   They just kept repeating to me that they were sorry for the inconvenience but wasn't I gratified that they were so observant.

Then they asked me how I wanted to receive my new card.  They "offered' to send a replacement card to me for ONLY $30 by express delivery.  I snapped back that I wasn't going to pay $30 for what I deemed was their mistake!  I told them if they would put the new card in US mail I would have it in a couple of days anyway.  Oh no, they said.  It would take time to prepare the new card so I wouldn't get it for 10 days to 2 weeks.  I just snorted back that I had a whole drawer full of empty credit cards and I'd just pick another one, then, to use in the meantime!!  I don't think the credit card rep expected that response.

This last ploy to get $30 out of me made me suspicious that the bank itself was pulling a scam trying to get yet another fee to replace all the fees they used to make before the government cracked down on them a couple of months ago.  After all, both compromises occurred right at the end of the month when autopayments are being processed.  Both compromises involved two very small transactions from an online vendor I couldn't even find online.

Anyway, now I had the problem of what to do about my autopayments again. 

So, I decided to use a card for my autopays from a different bank.  I have a Bank of America card and I noticed that they offer a free service called "Safe Shop".  To use it you set up an online banking account then you go under your credit card account and click on a link for More Details.  There you will see a link to set up a Safe Shop card. 

Safe Shop is like a virtual credit card with its own number, its own security code and its own credit limit that you set that is connected to your real credit card.  If you want to set up a recurring payment for something like Netflix you create a virtual Safe Shop VISA and specify a maximum amount allowable per month for the transaction and how many months of transactions you wish to authorize up to a maximum of 12 months. 

For example, I generated a Safe Shop VISA for Netflix and set a $10 payment limit for 12 months.  Then I logged into Netflix went to my account settings and entered the new "virtual" Safe Shop VISA information as my new source for autopayments.  Each Safe Shop VISA can only be used at one location. 

To set up my next autopay for my puppies' pet insurance account I generated another Safe Shop VISA, set a credit limit sufficient to cover the premiums for 12 months then called VPI (my pet insurance company) and gave them my new Safe Shop VISA information for their account. 

Only Bank of America has the association key to link these virtual VISAs to my real credit card.  My real credit card number is never given to any online vendor and each vendor has a different virtual VISA number that cannot be reused so it eliminates the possibility that an employee of any of the online vendors could use my credit card number anywhere else. 

I just have to set myself a reminder next September to go back and reissue new virtual VISAs for my next 12 months of autopayments since the maximum number of months of credit you can set per virtual card is 12.  It's worth an hour once each year to be able to take care of bill paying in a more secure fashion.  By the way, you can also generate a virtual VISA for just a single online purchase too for those occasional online bargains!

The service is entirely free.

I realize this process is not as convenient as the One-click shopping that many larger vendors are attempting to get you to use but it's worth the piece of mind.

Museums take baby steps with iPhone Apps

Edward Rothstein, art critic for the New York Times, gave his take on the museum iPhone apps that are popping up all over New York.  I think he is right on target when he points to GPS as the key to make the retrieval of information about objects in a particular collection much more seamless for the visitor.

Imagine standing in front of an object with an app that, sensing your location, is already displaying precisely the right information. It might offer historical background or direct you through links to other works that have some connection to the object. It might provide links to critical commentary. It might become, for each object, an exhibition in itself, ripe with alternate narratives and elaborate associations. And, best of all, you could save it for later, glance up from the screen and look carefully at what faces you, all scrims removed, all distractions discarded.- Edward Rothstein, From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by iPhone Apps
I must admit, though, that I was surprised he pointed out that the app information may not even be equal to the information on the item's printed ID card.  Why aren't museum inventory databases connected to such information retrieval systems so a visitor can view at least all of the information on the ID card if nothing else?

I was also surprised that he complained that many objects' search tags are so obtuse.

Monet’s “Church at Vernon,” (from the Brooklyn Museum of Art) we learn, is tagged “blue,” “dreamy,” “hazy,”  Rothstein observes, puzzled.

At first I thought he meant that only those tags were entered.  However, by looking at the link Rothstein provided to the Brooklyn Museum's actual object record for this painting, we see there are 28 tags for this work of art and the museum invites visitors to add more tags.  Tags like "dreamy" actually serve to record a visitor's emotional response to the painting and although such a tag is subjective I agree with the museum's inclusion of it since art is suppose to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.  I had never thought about tagging art with emotional terms before but I like it!

For those of us who are trying to assist educators and students by providing photographs that we have taken of museum art objects and artifacts, how about an application that we can use to sync the Geocoordinates recorded as XIF data in the images from our cameras with the museum's inventory records so we can be  certain we are labeling images correctly.  Now I have to remember to photograph the image's ID card and, if the information is provided in a list of object descriptions, align the information in such a way that I can distinguish it from entries above and below it.  Similar objects are often displayed together so its not always obvious which description goes with which object unless you take an image that includes the item's number.  I take a lot of detail closeups that do not include the item number so I may not have a number for reference when I am working on my images in post production.

In fact, a perfect application based on the Flickr API using the Flickr Uploader interface would match the image coordinates with the inventory records then use the Title, artist, date, location made, and medium for the Title field, populate the tag field with the museum's tags formatted as needed for Flickr then populate the description field with a "Photographed by (photographer name) at (linked Museum name)", like I do now manually. 

I like the way the Brooklyn Museum displays related works by tag groups in their records.  Ideally, I think it would be even more helpful if the related object images were linked to a gallery map indicating each related object's location so a visitor that was interested in comparison could easily find them.

In fact, a visitor tracking system based on GPS could alert visitors to small exhibits in adjoining alcoves that might have been missed if the visitor begins to leave a main gallery space without a travel path into the adjoining alcove.  I usually try to be quite thorough when I am photographing museum collections but on my second visit to the Getty Villa, I noticed a display of ancient coins and jewelry in a small alcove off of one of their main galleries that I just hadn't seen on my first visit.  I'm very fortunate that I travel to the LA area on business at least once a year so I've been able to visit the Getty three times.  However, when I'm overseas, I may be in a museum only once - perhaps in my entire lifetime - so I don't want to miss little treasures tucked away in obscure areas of the museum. 

Museums could also analyze these travel path records to determine if objects could be displayed differently to avoid visitor oversight.

Understanding GPS: Principles and Applications, Second Edition   GPS: Theory, Algorithms and Applications    PEACH - Intelligent Interfaces for Museum Visits (Cognitive Technologies) 

Friday, October 01, 2010

Star Trek vs. Star Wars Fake Movie Trailer Points The Way to Online Remix Service

This morning I received a link to a fake movie trailer where the Starship Enterprise and her crew (circa Star Trek: The Next Generation) race to save planet earth from Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader and their evil minions.

The YouTube producer 2SunsNoWomen did an excellent job of integrating scenes from:

Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek First Contact
Star Trek Generations
Star Trek Nemesis
Star Wars A New Hope
Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars Return of the Jedi
Star Wars Revenge of the Sith

Yes, I was an original Trekker and seeing scenes from Star Trek is like savoring a mouthful of my favorite dessert.  Star Trek must still be the favorite dessert for a lot of other people as I see the video has almost 40,000 views in less than a week!

My dream would be to easily have the ability to create a similar mashup of movie clips and share online with an online movie subscription and an enhanced remote control.  I have read that some Blue Ray DVDs include a mashup feature but I'm told its pretty primitive compared to a clip like this one .  I can only speculate as, alas, my husband says I can't get HD until our big screen bites the dust (which could be quite a while since we just replaced the convergence component last year).  I must admit even I want to wait until the dust settles around 3D integration but my resolve weakens everytime I walk into Best Buy or the entertainment department of Sears.

Of course there is also the problem of accessing clips from films produced by different studios.  I noticed after working in higher ed for over 20 years that a lot of people used to talk about the synergy that could be achieved with interdisciplinary courses but very few professors actually tried developing them.  Perhaps when we finally get enough critical mass of streaming customers to motivate the studios to move all movies to online delivery maybe they'll introduce a movie remix service that will let us add multiple movies to a project space much like Microsoft MovieMaker does, mark start and stop points on a movie to isolate desired scenes, edit, then save to Youtube and share via email, Twitter and Facebook.

I'd love to take a crack at a remix of Oliver Stone's "Alexander".  The introduction of the theatrical release was so slow and drawn out that even I was tapping my foot impatiently on the theater floor waiting for something to happen!  I purchased the director's cut when it was released on DVD and it was an improvement but still too low key for a tale about such a dynamic conqueror.  I think I would have started with the scenes of young Alexander (Connor Paolo) and King Philip II (Val Kilmer) in the dank cave below their palace in Pella looking at paintings of legendary heroes on the cave walls.

I would intersperse live battle scenes at points where the camera shows a closeup of  drawings of the eagle pecking out Prometheus' liver, the helmeted warrior with an arrow protruding from his eye and Herakles thrusting up the body of one of his children, then cut away to Alexander looking over the aftermath of the battle of Gaugamela followed by the camera pulling back and up to encompass the whole battlefield.  Then I would proceed from that point on. 

Sorry Sir Anthony Hopkins, you're a heck of an actor but listening to an old character ramble on for twenty minutes is not the way to open an historical epic IMHO.