Hiperwall and NEC at Intelsat

Commercial Integrator published an article on the Hiperwall system built with NEC monitors at Intelsat. Some great pictures of their beautiful system!

A/V vs. IT

I wrote a post for the Hiperwall blog comparing the traditional A/V technology to circuit switching in networks, while the newer IT-based visualization approaches are more like packet switching. Click for more.


Video Wall Fault Tolerance article

I wrote an article for Sound and Communications Magazine on Video Wall Fault Tolerance.


Hiperwall Fault Tolerance

In March, I wrote a post on Fault Tolerance for the Hiperwall blog. I’ll link to it here since my name didn’t get attached to it there.


See the (Really) Big Picture

At Hiperwall, our tagline is “See the big picture” and we do that well. In applications from scientific visualization to control rooms and operations centers, being able to see lots of information in great detail allows our users to understand more clearly and make important decisions quickly. We’ve shown billion pixel images on Hiperwall systems, but haven’t had anything larger until now.

One of our developers used a capability provided by an NVIDIA library that the developers of Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt included in their video game to take an enormous game capture. He chose a resolution of more than 61,000 pixels by 34,000 pixels, so 2 gigapixels altogether. It took an absolute beast of a computer about a minute to render and save the resulting 1 GB file. Once the image was imported into our Hiperwall system, we could see how amazing it looked.

Here we’re showing the image fully zoomed out on our small 24 megapixel Hiperwall, so we can see Geralt on his horse. Click on the photo to see it in more detail.


Geralt in a 2Gpixel image shown on Hiperwall

When we zoom in to see his face, however, we can see the amazing detail in the rendering. We can see details of his witcher eye and the links on his armor. This image shows a zoom level of 1.0, so every pixel on the Hiperwall shows one pixel from the image.

Zoomed in to see Geralt's face

Finally, we animated zooming in on the image, so you can see how smoothly we can manipulate images, even those with 2 billion pixels. (Sorry about the canned music – we had people talking in the room as I shot the video.)

Problems with Click-Through Software License Agreements and Privacy

Almost every software product has a click-through End User License Agreement (EULA) that we typically just click OK on so we can actually use the software. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to click, because we’re often giving up our privacy or agreeing to other restrictions, but the software companies have us over a barrel, so we dutifully agree and move on. This is a real problem. EULAs were originally intended to protect the software company from liability and to prevent us from ripping them off. More recently, however, they’re throwing in binding arbitration clauses (which can be argued are legitimate protection for the company, but it does restrict our rights) and privacy clauses, which is the subject of this article. I believe these EULA problems can only be fixed through legislation, because competition and free enterprise don’t apply after we’ve already bought the product.

I have a Sleep Number bed and bought the SleepIQ add-on. SleepIQ is a $300 system in the pump (the mattress is filled with air) that measures your breathing, heart rate, and sleep. While it probably isn’t really worth $300, it is pretty cool, so when you buy a Sleep Number bed (and you should – they’re good), buy SleepIQ too. The sensor in the pump talks to an app on my iPhone, and the app was recently updated, which required me to click through a EULA. Well, I read this one, and it stinks. They threw in that they can do nearly anything they want with my private personal information that they’ve collected, including using it for marketing (not a surprise) or selling it to their business partners (bad). If I didn’t agree with the EULA, I needed to disable the SleepIQ system, thus throwing out the $300 I paid. It did say I could continue to use the bed – how generous of them!

This sort of thing isn’t any different than if you bought a car, and when you got it home, the entertainment/navigation system popped up a EULA that required you agree to all sorts of abusive terms or they’d disable all the features. That likely wouldn’t fly in cars, because consumer protection for cars is pretty good (lemon laws) and the consumer outrage would torpedo sales from that manufacturer. Sadly, with most other products, we’re stuck with whatever they want to give us.

What should be done?

I think EULAs should be restricted to EULA things, like defining the protections for the software company and restricting copying and other things. Agreeing to such a EULA could still be required before the user can use the software. Privacy statements have no place in the EULA, and I think protection of our personal data should be a legislated default. In no way should we be forced to give up protection of our private data in order to use the service. Of course, the company can offer us incentives that make the service more effective if we opt in to sharing our information, but it should not be mandatory. There are some services whose whole purpose is to share our data with someone – well they should get our permission explicitly, as well.

The problem is, companies aren’t going to do this voluntarily. There’s profit in our names and email addresses and personal preferences. Selling that information is essentially free money for a company that makes software or other products. Since consumers don’t often know what we’re signing away and realize that we have no choice in doing so, there’s little market pressure to stop this practice. That’s why (I hate to admit it) government should get involved and protect the rights and privacy of its citizens. We need to stop companies forcing customers to agree bad things in order to use services we pay for. This sort of behavior should not be accepted or allowed.

Opinion: The Unfairness of Rapid Minimum Wage Increases

I never write about politics or economics, because I’m not an expert in these things, but California is about to pass a huge increase in the minimum wage (over time), and that’s something I have an opinion about. Talking about this is a little scary, particularly in California, where my opinion won’t be popular, but my opinion is for a different reason than you think. Lots of noise has been made about how this will hurt small businesses, and more noise has been made about the need for a living wage, and there is truth on both sides, but that’s not what I care about here. I think the wage rise is unfair and demoralizing to the very people it is supposed to help.

In college, I worked a couple of minimum wage jobs. Well, they started at minimum wage, but quickly I took on new responsibilities or showed my value and got raises, which made me very happy. Now if the minimum wage was raised so the new hire makes as much as I do, well then I’d be unhappy. And there’s no way I’d be able to “catch up” to the wage curve the new hire is on.

The effect of these rapid increases over time is that they will compress the salaries of many workers to the minimum wage. Employers are going to have to make everyone earn at least the minimum wage, but if I was earning a dollar more than minimum, I’d guess that that dollar gap wouldn’t be kept after the minimum is raised, because of the newly increased expenses. Hopefully, if the employer is nice and wants to reward achievement, I’d still be a little above minimum, but there’s no guarantee of that. So the new people catch up to previous high achievers each time the minimum wage increases.

You can argue that nothing was taken from the high achievers, and, in fact, they will be caught up in the wave of increasing wages, but I think it would be demoralizing to the high achievers, and they’re the future of the business, so it’s a bad idea to demoralize them. While I was at Northrop Grumman, we had some boom times in the economy where engineers became expensive. We were hiring in new engineers at salaries that weren’t far below the salary that I was earning even after getting good raises every year. This was depressing, because the engineers in my cohort were on a much lower wage curve than these new engineers that started so much higher than we did (even accounting for inflation). The only way to change the curve is to leave and get higher pay at another job, which isn’t what any company would want. So I know how it feels to have new hires fresh out of school earning nearly as much, and it is demoralizing. I can guess this will happen near the minimum wage level as well.

I don’t have a solution to propose. The increase is a done deal and will be signed into law today. But we shouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t help as much as people think it will, and I think some of that will be the effect I described above.

Picture of the Building a Product Panel at the UC Technology Commercialization Forum

This is the Building a Product panel at the UC Technology Commercialization Forum on May 8th. Next to me are Dr. Christine Ho of Imprint Energy and Dr. Michelle Brown of Olfactor Laboratories, as well as the moderator Dr. Thomas Lipkin of UCLA. The picture is pretty low res, because it was cropped from an iPhone 4S photo taken 25 or so feet away by my wife. I should have brought my good camera for her to use…

Panel 1 edited

UC Technology Commercialization Forum

On Thursday May 8th, I participated in the “Building a Product” panel at the University of California Technology Commercialization Forum at the Westin Hotel near San Francisco Airport. The day-long event had presentations by researchers who have products that are nearly ready to commercialize, as well as panels and talks by venture capitalists and members of industry.

The “Building a Product” panel was right after lunch, so it had great attendance. It was moderated by Dr. Thomas Lipkin from UCLAThe other panelists were Dr. Christine Ho of Imprint Energy and Dr. Michelle Brown of Olfactor Laboratories. We all had very different experiences in the transition from academia to startup, so the panel had plenty of different perspectives.

It was exciting to hear UC President Janet Napolitano mention Hiperwall and the other companies by name during her opening address!

Story about Hiperwall installation for US Coast Guard

Homeland Security Today magazine has published an article about how a powerful, yet cost-effective Hiperwall video wall solution helped the Coast Guard modernize their command center while maintaining and enhancing capability in a budget conscious manner.

Click the link in the paragraph above or use the URL below: