WhatIs.com Word of the Day Archive


August 27, 2009  2:30 PM

Ray tracing – Is Lara Croft tomorrow’s version of Pong?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
The steps that computer gaming has taken visually in only 10 short years are nothing short of amazing, and in the next 10 years we will see games which make today’s high-resolution titles look like the original “Super Mario Bros.,” or perhaps even “Pong.”

Chris Buecheler, Character: The Next Great Gaming Frontier?

Not content with burned-in lighting, developers have moved to ray-tracing technology, coupled with advanced texturing techniques like bump and normal mapping in order to simulate depth. Not satisfied with simple animation, complex shader code has been written to simulate the movement, reflection and refraction of light on various materials.

I think Chris’ article is right on the money. Literally.  When it comes to virtual worlds, especially B2B virtual trade shows (VTS), we are really just at the Pong stage.

August 26, 2009  7:27 PM

Negotiation Ninjas – Don’t like to haggle? Use a computer agent

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“Heuristics are commonly used in computer science to find an optimal solution to a problem when there is not a single ‘right answer’.  If you can’t analyze mathematically exactly what you should do…then you end up with heuristics.”

Professor Nick Jennings as quoted in Computer ‘agents’ take to the Web

The BBC reports that “Negotiation Ninjas” will be tested on a shopping website called Aroxo. The agents will use heuristics ( a simple set of rules) based on information provided by the seller and the buyer.


August 25, 2009  12:40 PM

Bokode – replacing barcode and RFID?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
MIT scientists have devised a new coding standard that can be read from digital cameras, and will be used in everything from augmented reality to motion capture.

Rather than being a simple flat image, like a barcode or a QR code, Bokode uses a light beam, whose brightness and angle are encoded with information. The tag itself is tiny–about the size of the @ symbol in a keyboard. But it contains thousands of bits of data.

Cliff Kuang, MIT’s Bokode: A Tiny Barcode Replacement That’s Chockablock With Data

Guess we need to add definitions for Bokode and QR code.

A QR code (quick response code) is a two-dimensional bar code. In Japan, QR codes have become more popular than barcodes. A typical barcode can hold a maximum of 20 digits.  A QR code can hold up to 7,089 characters. How? Well,  barcodes can only span horizontally.  QR codes can span horizontally and vertically.

Bokodes take the concept a step further.

According to Quinn Smithwick at MIT, the current version of bokode tech uses a 2D data matrix with Reed Solomon error correction and can hold megabits of information.  Bokodes are going to be perfect for augmented reality.

Imagine going to the opera and looking through your cell phone’s camera at a specific character on stage. Now imagine that character has a bokode beauty mark on her face and when you aim your camera at her face, you can not only find out who that character is, but you can read an entire snyopsis that tells you all about the character and how she fits into the plot. You can even get a bio of the person playing her.

Now imagine doing the same thing when you’re shopping. There might be a bokode on the store’s welcome sign, telling you what’s on sale.  There might be a bokode on the sales tag for the jacket you’re looking at, telling you through your camera’s viewfinder what the jacket is made of, where it was made, how much it costs and how to clean it.  In the shoe department, that bokode on the bottom of the shoe you want to try on will tell you if the store has it available in your size.

Will all that hoo-ha about RFID tags on consumer goods being too intrusive will fade away? From what I’m learning about bokodes, the answer just might be “yes.”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/wG7vXI1I1wg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


August 24, 2009  6:35 PM

Overheard – The history of preamble

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Telegraph companies quickly learned that it was important to be able to track messages and minimize relaying errors. They developed the idea of a preamble that contained the information describing the message and providing the means to trace it back to its origins. The preamble concept proved so useful that it has been carried forward into the terminology of the Internet and computer networks.

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual

Preamble is still used in the very same way – the information at the head of a transmission contains information about the message that follows. If you examine a transmission of data on a garden-variety Ethernet network, you will find that each packet of data has a preamble with a unique number and address, among other things.


August 21, 2009  5:56 PM

Overheard – DNA origami

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“At IBM, scientists are investigating the possibility of using structures made of DNA strings as buildings blocks for future microchip designs. The structures, dubbed ‘DNA origami,’ self assemble onto lithographic templates which can lead to manufacturing of circuit features down to 22 nanometers.”

MedGadget, IBM’s DNA Origami May Lead to New Computer Chip Design


August 20, 2009  7:10 PM

Overheard – MapReduce is a screwdriver

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
mark-chucarroll “Just because you’ve got the best hammer in the entire world doesn’t make everything a nail. If you’ve got a screw, even a cheap, old, rusty screwdriver is going to do a better job. And MapReduce is a lot better than a cheap, old, rusty screwdriver.”

Mark C. Chu-Carroll, Databases are hammers; MapReduce is a screwdriver

RDBs are absolutely brilliant things. They’re amazing tools, which can be used to build amazing software. I’ve done a lot of work using RDBs, and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do some of the work that I’m proudest of. I don’t want to cut down RDBs at all: they’re truly great. But not everything is a relational database, and not everything is naturally suited towards being treated as if it were relational. The criticisms of MapReduce all come down to: “But it’s not the way relational databases would do it!” – without every realizing that that’s the point. RDBs don’t parallelize very well: how many RDBs do you know that can efficiently split a task among 1,000 cheap computers? RDBs don’t handle non-tabular data well: RDBs are notorious for doing a poor job on recursive data structures. MapReduce isn’t intended to replace relational databases: it’s intended to provide a lightweight way of programming things so that they can run fast by running in parallel on a lot of machines. That’s all it was intended to do.


August 18, 2009  4:22 PM

Overheard – RealDVD and the power of the MPAA

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“It’s perfectly legal to rip music from a CD and upload it onto an iPod for personal use; why can’t a person do the same with their own copies of movies?”

Brennon Slattery, Why Pick on RealDVD?

It’s sad that RealDVD, with its sophisticated and lawful approach to DVD-copying, had to swallow the wrath of the MPAA. It’s also clear that the DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998] needs to be updated to reflect the changes in media distribution 11 years later.


August 17, 2009  4:38 PM

Overheard – MIT license

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“…If I were to release a piece of software under the MIT License, and then give you a copy, you would be free to modify, sell, and build upon my creation so long as you leave the notice that I was the source of the original work in your adaptation. Licenses like the MIT License and Creative Commons licenses enable me to hold credit for my work while still giving my consumers some freedoms.”

Winslow Dalpe, Why Go Open Source?

Today’s WhatIs.com Word of the Day is MIT license.


August 10, 2009  7:26 PM

Overheard – Difference between CDMA and GSM

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
“The two biggest differences between the CDMA and GSM standards are international compatibility and how the networks handle activating phones.”

Adama D. Brown, Brighthand FAQ: What’s the difference between CDMA and GSM?

Outside the U.S. and Canada, most GSM phones will still work, while almost all CDMA phones simply can’t be used overseas.

CDMA phones are activated remotely, by the carrier, using the phone’s serial number, known as the ESN. Since each carrier has a database of all the ESNs that are approved for its network, this lets most CDMA carriers refuse to activate phones not originally intended for their network.

GSM phones are activated differently. Each account is associated with what’s called a SIM card, or Subscriber Identity Module. This card, about the size of a fingertip and the thickness of a piece of paperboard, carries an encrypted version of all the information needed to identify your wireless account to the network. You slip it into the appropriate slot on a GSM phone (usually under the battery) and that phone is ready to use.


August 10, 2009  7:06 PM

Overheard – Deep fiber

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Pushing fiber close to the customer is generically called “deep fiber,” and various acronyms are used to indicate just how deep the fiber is. FTTH means “fiber to the home,” which is the extreme of giving every user an optical-electrical termination. FTTC takes “fiber to the curb,” serving a group of homes, while FTTN means “fiber to the node” or “neighborhood.”

Tom Nolle, Fiber-optic networks: Access network design


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