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Apple is Absent from NAB 2016

Apple is Absent from NAB 2016

It appears that Apple has decided that they are so big and important that they don’t need to go to events like MacWorld and NAB. Apple was absent at the recent NAB 2016.

Presumably, the reasoning is that they can schedule and host their own events, stream them live and generate a huge online draw. This reasoning may be true for products like the iPhone or iPad, but I think it begins to fall apart when it comes to the video production space.

Final Cut Pro X is not a dominant factor in the video editing space. Most of the workshops and workflows this year were including Adobe’s Premiere and After Effects. In fact, I attended two workshops which outlined ways to export content from FCPX in order to better handle color and audio. Many of the filmmakers I talked with at NAB were using Premiere because of the easy integration with other tools like After Effects, PhotoShop and Bridge. Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve software is becoming an attractive choice for very good color correction and grading.

Final Cut Pro X was first introduced at NAB 2011. Since then, the development of this software has been lackluster. I think that Apple’s choice to not be widely present at NAB 2016 (they were there in a small suite of a nearby hotel) is a mistake. Video production is only becoming bigger and more important. One of the major themes at NAB 2016 was the small (1-3 person) video production team that has the ability to output quick, sophisticated, and effective video content.

Let’s hope Apple is paying attention.

Update: Latest AAPL numbers indicate that Apple may need to focus better on priorities!

Disruptive Tech, Bitcoin, and a New Order

BitcoinI’ve spent the holiday time off doing a deep-dive into the disruptive technology of Bitcoin and the underlying techonlogy.

From what I can see, Bitcoin is quickly becoming a profoundly disruptive technology. Actually, it’s not really specifically Bitcoin itself. Digital currencies, and even cryptocurrencies, have been around for a number of years. The real interesting technology is in the Blockchain platform that is the core of Bitcoin. A trusted, decentralized, system of checks and balances (i.e., a trusted ledger of activity) has the potential of reorganizing our social and governing structures in unprecedented ways.

The disease of traditional opaque and hierarchical structures has reached a breaking point. Too many so-called leaders are spewing tired academic papers and regurgitating old-school slogans and memes from like-minded leaders in the stagnant academy. For these withered minds, innovation is merely some new fork of an existing traditional approach. They continue to compete with each other, with false smiles, for recognition in a dying and increasingly competitive environment. They continue to attempt to micro-manage with hidden agendas, from fear and insecurity. They continue to destroy any creativity and innovation.

Nothing produces a wretched tyrant like a disconnected, insecure, and socially awkward leader.

The good news is that Bitcoin demonstrates the best of the disruptive technologies. For example, it has huge potential to become a game-changing way for 3rd world citizens to participate and benefit in a world-wide P2P banking system. It also has the potential for becoming a secured platform for voting. This has profound implications for the democratization of world systems.

This same concept has the very immediate potential to disrupt existing diseased organizations by removing ineffective leaders and giving back some power to innovative, creative teams who do the real work in agile organizations.

These are large and deeply important concepts for our world in the next few years. I urge you to look closely!

MicroSoft Surface: Déja Vu All Over Again

MicroSoft Surface: Déja Vu All Over Again

surface tabletMicroSoft is building their own tablet? Really?

I almost don’t even know where to begin here. Does anyone remember the Zune? That epic hardware fail and “Johnny come lately” approach should’ve been a proper lesson for the folks in Redmond. But apparently not. Balmer has been at the helm since 2000 and has learned nothing.

I have to admit, I wasn’t crazy about the name “iPad”. All feminine napkin jokes aside, it was still a weak name. However, I’m not sure that a more shallow name could have been conjured up than “Surface”. Add to that the fact that MicroSoft’s Surface tablet is, at this point, really nothing more than speculation. It’s nothing more than rumors of vaporware.

Then, there’s the destroyed relationships with other tablet makers, the miserable state of MicroSoft’s operating system these days, and the very real PR and marketing problem of this looking like an act of desperation by an obsolete giant, and you have the makings of perhaps the greatest of MicroSoft’s epic fails.

For all you traders out there, you may want to either sell or short MSFT (30.7) now while you can.

What’s Your Frequency? The Power of Binaural Beats

This post is a deviation from my usual blather. But I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Some Background

I have long suffered from depression. I have been prescribed a broad range of pharmaceutical “solutions” that ultimately proved to be ineffective or so fraught with nasty side-effects that I’ve abandoned them. I’ve also fallen into some of the more self-destructive forms of self-medication. I can sometimes battle this ailment with a regular dose of sunshine and exercise, but this isn’t a reliable solution.

In the past several months, I have been researching and exploring an approach that is a little like putting my head between a humming tuning fork. Let me try to explain.

Brainwave Entrainment

The approach I’m exploring is generally referred to as brainwave entrainment or brainwave synchronization. The idea is that the brain tends to change its dominant frequency towards the frequency of a powerful external stimulus. (In this case its aural, but it can also be visual or electromagnetic or any form of vibration, making the potential source rather broad.)

The other important fact is that certain vibrations of the brain are associated with particular states of mind, like thinking or sleeping or creativity or dreaming. These type of vibrations are called resonant frequencies, and they can be quite powerful.

Some History

The power of resonant frequencies has been known for a long time. Nikola Tesla experimented with electromechanical oscillators in the late 1800s. In one notable experiment, he attached an oscillator to an iron pillar that ran down the center of his lab and into the foundation of his building. His goal was to let the oscillator run until he detected a significant vibration in the pillar. However, he was unaware that the vibrations were being conducted through the iron pillar and down into the substructure of the city. In much the same way that earthquakes are typically strongest a short distance from their epicenter, the nearby buildings began to shake and their windows shattered, while Tesla’s lab remained unaffected. Luckily, police intervention brought the experiment to an end before the nearby buildings were completely destroyed.

More recent research into the mind-altering possibilities of this entrainment principle have been undertaken by several people, many claiming to be the first. One of the early experimenters, Robert Monroe, a student of engineering and human physiology, set up a small research program in the 1950s to explore the effects of sonic frequencies on the brain. The sonic principle he was using was already known to electronic engineers as binaural beat frequency modulation (a primary concept of radio receivers today). Monroe recorded two channels of audio data using a stereo tape recorder. One channel was recorded with a sine wave tone frequency of 200cps (cycles per second, also known as Hertz), and the other channel at 208cps. When this recording was played through stereo headphones, Monroe discovered that although one ear heard a 200cps frequency and the other a 208cps frequency, the brain interpreted the tones as an 8cps frequency and began to entrain itself to that frequency.

What It Means

What makes this interesting is that normally the two hemispheres of the brain vibrate at different frequencies, but Monroe’s experiment demonstrated that both hemispheres could be synchronized. He also found that when the brain was entrained to vibrate near 8cps, there was a tendency towards a dramatic increase in creativity and intuition.

According to research, the human brain operates within a wide range of frequencies, but generally stays within 4 levels of awareness: beta (13 to 30 cps), alpha (8 to 12 cps), theta (5 to 7 cps), and delta (1 to 4 cps).  (Different researchers may put these ranges slightly higher or lower.)

The highest level, beta, is generally associated with an active and very awake brain. This state is usually associated with intellectual thought and verbal expression.

The alpha level is usually associated with a relaxed, calm and creative waking state. Alpha is often achieved by simple meditation and the slowing of one’s breath.

Theta is perhaps the most interesting level. (It’s the most interesting to me.) In this frequency range, dreams, deep hypnosis, out-of-body projections, and other odd and less-understood phenomena begin to appear. This is the state of consciousness that you’ve probably experienced on that border between being awake and being asleep. This is that “twilight-zone” where the conscious and subconscious mind begins to overlap. I have found this state to be one in which the mind is most receptive to deep suggestion.

The delta range is most often associated with deep, dreamless sleep. I’ve used these frequencies often when I am having a bout with insomnia.

There is another frequency range that I feel obligated to point out only because of my philosophical background and the potential implications. This is the gamma range (25 to 100 cps). This is a more controversial brain frequency, sometimes associated with the transcendental states of Tibetan monks, REM sleep, and particular brain states induced by anesthesia. The philosophical implications have to do with what is called the “binding problem”.  This is essentially about the meaning of “consciousness” and how this relates to the neurological activity of the brain. It is both a philosophical and neurobiological problem that often gets obscured by the language of the two disciplines. Suffice it to say that if you crank up your headphones into the 25 to 100cps realm, all bets are off the table!

What I’ve Found

So I’ve been experimenting with binaural recordings in various combinations of the beta, alpha, theta, and delta frequency ranges. At first, I found a number of freely available recordings done by many people on the web. Some of these recordings were simple sine wave tones recorded at various offset frequencies to achieve the binaural beats associated with the various brain states. Then I found recordings that mixed in the sounds of ocean waves, forest sounds, rain-fall, white noise and pink noise. (Presumably, these added tracks were to make the listening experience more enjoyable.) There are many, many sources of free high-quality binaural beat recordings on the web that I’ve found to be quite effective. (It turns out that producing, packaging, and selling these recordings has now become another frenzied business trend, so beware.)

My needs were simple. I wanted to somehow fight my depression and the associated insomnia. For this, I have found several 10-30 minute recordings, at various frequencies (some sliding frequencies) that have been very effective.

I’m always fine-tuning with duration, amplitude, time of day, and synchronous activities. My experience is that it’s much like meditation, each person must find their “sweet spot” with these variables.

I’ve spent considerable time researching this subject. Although this is some pretty powerful stuff, I’ve found no significant areas of concern in terms of potential damaging effects of exploration into this realm, WITH ONE NOTABLE EXCEPTION:

FOLKS WITH A TENDENCY TOWARDS EPILEPSY SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR DOCTORS FIRST.

This warning is especially true when experimenting with visual frequency stimulus, but may also be relevant to sonic entrainment.

Epilogue

Most recently, I’ve been creating my own binaural beat recordings and layering additional tracks to my taste. I’ve also been experimenting with various software to create “sliding frequency” recordings. These are recordings that start with a particular frequency and slowly slide into another frequency, guiding the brain entrainment into a particular direction. I’m still tinkering with this method, but I’m finding some interesting results.

It’s fun to mess with your brain, so I encourage all you explorers to check out brainwave entrainment methods and approaches!

Resources

There’s an interesting iPhone/iPad app called Brainwave ($1.99) that may be a good way to introduce you to the binaural beat world.

Binaural Beats – an explanation

Forum – interesting discussions about binaural beats

Free Binaural beats – download free recordings and try them yourself

SbaGen – binaural beat creation software (opensource)

DeltaBox – binaural beat player with free recordings

What Does Net Neutrality Mean to You?

It’s been almost 7 months since Bill Moyers has left the PBS airwaves. It was a sad day for me.

I grew up with Bill and his PBS presence. He was for me the rare, insightful voice of reason and balance in a world that my young mind found contradictory, corrupt, and just plain wrong. He found and presented a dialogue that expanded my understanding and tempered my instinct to completely rebel against the status quo. He brought some balance to my perspective.

We need more journalists like Bill Moyers.

This video is from Bill’s second to last broadcast of the PBS series “Bill Moyer’s Journal”. I find it particularly poignant for both of it’s two major topics:

  1. The 2008 Wall Street Financial Debacle
  2. Net Neutrality

It seems that the first topic has been swept under the “collective unconscious” rug by now. And the second topic is about to go the same way unless there is a greater popular effort to prevent it.

I don’t know how to properly emphasize the extreme importance of Net Neutrality to us all, other than to make this post and urge you to view this video. So, please view this video, make your comments, and engage in some dialogue about this critically important issue for our democratic future.

Thanks.

Google Instant: Good For Google; Bad For Us

Is censorship here?

It’s clear why Google has released Google Instant: more profit.

Anyone who’s used it realizes that it’s more of a nuisance than a help. It’s much like the annoying auto features in Microsoft Word. It just gets in the way.

But it’s even worse than that. Google Instant is effectively censoring searches by encouraging its own search terms. Not surprisingly, the suggested search terms are the ones that Google sells for a premium.

This is also bad news for folks that have put time and effort into SEO. People will not see the same web anymore with Google Instant. Instead, what they will see is the web based on Google’s keyword suggestions; not their own. Imagine the control that Google will enjoy once they can limit people’s searches however they wish.

Censorship can come in many forms and in varying degrees. Has Google taken one step closer to being in the business of censorship?