And Another Great Tech Pioneer Leaves Us

The news around the Internet today is that Dennis Ritchie, inventor of the C programming language and the UNIX operating system, passed away over the weekend. I think it’s a mark of his impact that it might not be readily apparent exactly how important Ritchie was to our modern technology world. The fact of the matter is the majority of today’s Internet runs on some form of Unix. If I might steal a phrase from Steve Jobs, Unix largely ‘just works’. We don’t realize how much it’s humming along every single day. Arc was originally released on Unix, and I think it still impacts its current development. ERDAS’s Imagine feels like it still wants to be primarily a Unix program. Heck, even fundamental OS systems like Mac OS X and Android wouldn’t exist withouth Ritchie’s work.

On top of that, he invented arguably the most important programming language of all time. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts parts the upcoming Arc 10.1 was written in the language he invented. If programming languages were tracked like human languages, C would be the Latin of the programming world. C and it’s off shoots (C++, Objective-C, C#, and even Java) drive pretty much every technology device in the last 20 years or longer.

We lost Steve Jobs last week and his visionary designs will be sorely missed. Almost equally missed will be Ritchie’s visionary infrastructure designs. RIPC Dennis Ritchie…. RIPC.

Layar Vision – Is mobile AR finally knocking on the door of relevance?

In the mad scramble to finish editing my PhD dissertation and graduate, I haven’t been following the latest and greatest tech in the geospatial realm as much as I should be, but I am definitely intrigued by the launch of Layar Vision. It’s an extension to the mobile augmented reality Layar platform that allows a smartphone with a Layar Vision app to recognize real-world objects and then trigger digital content based on that object. Developers can build applications that leverage this functionality for all kinds of uses, such as a user in a retail store who wants content on a potential purchase.

What is really interesting to me about Layar Vision, which has also been highlighted in a number of writeups about the launch, is that by giving the smartphone the capability to recognize real-world objects no matter where they are located, you can get around one of the big challenges in implementing AR. By putting the focus on objects rather than locations, you don’t have to create a database of geotagged objects with specific locations. If a user wants augmented content for a new video game, they can scan the game at any place and still get the content. By the same token, if you want the specials at a particular restaurant, you can just scan the menu, no matter where you are sitting in the restaurant. If a developer wants to combine that augmented content with location-specific info, they can link the Layar Vision functionality to other location-based data sets and functions.

Of course, Layar Vision as well as the Layar platform are really developer tools, and the goal is to get consumer applications out there that are built on the platform. To try to get developers working with Layar Vision, Layar is sponsoring the Layar Creation Challenge, which is offering cash prizes to developers who come up with the most useful and innovative concepts for Layar Vision centered around the publishing industry, which is an area where the Layar folks think the technology will really be effective.

What do you think? Is augmented reality finally going to hit the mainstream?

Via FastCompany

Internet Operating System?

A couple of days ago, Tim O’Reilly published an interesting piece entitled “The State of the Internet Operating System” I’m not going to say a whole lot about it, other than to say it touched on a lot of areas.  He talked about mobile, location based services, platform integration, abstractions, and a bunch of other stuff.  It’s an interesting read and I find myself mulling it over more than most other things I read in the tech world.  Give it a read.  I think it has a lot of applicability in the light of some of the transitions we’re seeing in the geospatial world.

Micello – Mapping Indoor Spaces

As more and more mapping applications are being developed and releasing, we’re seeing a lot of innovative ways to utilize maps. Finding your way from point A to Point B, checking out real-time weather and traffic conditions, finding restaurants and services…. the list is getting longer every day. But one area that is still relatively untapped is mapping indoor spaces. One of the first applications I’ve seen is Micello’s new free iPhone application, which is now available for download from the iTunes store. Micello gave a preview of their indoor mapping app last fall, and generated quite a bit of buzz in tech news circles, and now the app is out in the wild. Most of the spaces included so far seem to be malls, but I’ve only had a little while to play with the app so far. Check out this preview of Micello Indoor Maps in action:

Via ReadWriteWeb

UNIX taking the lead (part 1)

UNIXThere are times when I hear someone say something that should have been obvious, but it just makes me pause (more dumbfounded than usual) due to the the way it shifts my thinking about a significant portion of my universe. The statement in question was made by Andy Ihnatko on a recent MacBreak Weekly (Epi173) where he off handedly said that he thought the biggest thing over the last decade (at least technology wise) was the dominance of UNIX and UNIX-like OSes (Linux, BSD, etc).

What? Well…umm…that can’t…but…if you look at it like…huh. He’s right.

He was talking primarily about consumer devices. Since it was MacBreak Weekly it is easy to start with the fact that MacOS X is basically UNIX under the hood with much of Darwin coming from FreeBSD, meaning that every Mac product sold over the last decade from desktop to laptop to iPhone and iPod Touch which has a version of Mac OS X installed has UNIX under the hood. Add to that the OS running the iPod and just about every other mp3 player out there has dreamy, linuxy center and we are already talking millions of products over the last decade.

But what about today’s announcement of the Google Nexus One…Android is a linux-based OS, so we add more products from the last couple of years from the G1 to the Droid that add to the numbers. Many of Nokia’s phones as well as other major phone manufacturers who are using a Linux variant to power their devices. Netbooks started out with Linux OSes to keep the prices down and even some of the tablets that are being announced this week at CES are boasting Linux. Ooo…tablets! E-readers are as far as I can tell are all Linux-based. So in 10 years we went from scoffing at the dead or dying Linux desktop solutions to not being able to remember what size socks we wear without a UNIX-like OS device in our pocket.

On the back-end (aka server-side) UNIX dominated 10 years ago and Linux dominates today so it has remained fairly stable, but what about the sheer ‘vastness’ of that dominance. The internet has grown and Linux with it. Heavy hitters like Google and Amazon run their and everyone else’s services on Linux variant OSes. Others like major ISPs (including ours), universities, heck even Microsoft themselves were caught running UNIX on some of their servers. Most folks have a NAS or direct connect storage array in their network config and while we are connecting to them with Windows boxes, the brains of these devices are…yep…you get the idea. But all of this raises the question for the next post of ‘how has the geospatial industry almost completely left behind support for UNIX-like OSes’…which I will talk about in part 2 next week.

MySynths – Photosynth meets Facebook

As many of you know, I just love Photosynth, so naturally I had to post when I was catching up on tech news this afternoon and read about MySynths, a new Facebook application that lets you upload synths created in Photosynth to your Facebook Profile and display them on your Wall. Developed by speakTech, MySynths is a cloud application that uses Windows Azure cloud services operating system.

Of course I had to try MySynths out, so if you’re on Facebook, you can check out one of my synths uploaded via MySynths here

Via CNET

Adobe Acrobat and geospatial information

I was catching up on my email this morning, and got a note that Adobe has started an Acrobat Geospatial and Mapping Forum for its users to discuss topics related to using Acrobat and spatially-enabled PDFs for geospatial applications. Although I often export maps and other documents as PDFs, I’m not really that familiar with spatially-enabled PDFs myself, so I have been browsing through the forums to see what topics users are talking about.

In addition, Tomas Lopes of Farallon Geographics did a recent webinar on using Adobe Acrobat within a professional GIS setting, so check it out if you’re interested in learning more about how to use spatially-enabled PDFs.

Holistic City’s CityCAD turns one year old

citycad_title_6Sue and I had a chance to Chris Sharpe of Holistic City about their CityCAD and Streetscape software solutions. That will be released later this month, but I wanted to highlight the deal they are running now for CityCAD’s first anniversary. When you sign up for a commercial subscription of CityCAD before June 30, you will receive two additional installs free.

I am a fan of CityCAD as a planning tool because of its sketch oriented functionality. The software is more about interactive design where you want to create something quickly and iteratively. On top of the quick and easy plan creation though it does offer more advanced tools and model import as well. I haven’t had a chance to try it on a tablet or laptop in the field, but I can see CityCAD being a great field tool to help stakeholders to see what is suggested and to make edits to plan models in real time. While educators can’t take advantage of the 3 for 1 deal, the price is amazingly low and I can think of a million ways to use CityCAD in Urban Geography or planning classes.

Check out our conversation with Chris later this month and check out the 3 for 1 deal on CityCAD subscriptions through June 30, ’09.

Synthing the Inauguration

In case you haven’t already seen this, Microsoft is partnering with CNN to use Photosynth create a huge synth of Obama’s Inauguration on Tuesday, January 20th. Using a combination of photos from CNN photographers and anybody attending the event who wants to participate, the synth will capture the entire sweep of the Inauguration, from closeups of Obama to wide shots of the whole scene. If it works well, it will be the first time that 3D technology will be used to capture such an historic moment.

I think this is an amazing idea, and for those of you who will be attending and want to participate by taking photos with your cell phone or digital camera, you can get information on what you need to do from the Photosynth team’s blog or from CNN’s page on “The Moment”