Stop reading this and vote for QNX CAR

Last week, I told you that the QNX CAR application platform has been shortlisted for an Adobe MAX award.

Well, guess what: It's time to do something about it. Here's what I'd like you to do:
  1. Stop reading this blog (temporarily, of course)
  2. Point your browser to http://max.adobe.com/awards/finalists/
  3. Scroll down to the Mobile category and click on Vote when you see this:

If you're still reading this blog (didn't I tell you to stop doing that?), you undoubtedly remain unconvinced. Why, you ask, should you vote for QNX CAR?

Because QNX CAR is doing something that has never been done before: Putting Flash in the driver's seat. In fact, several automakers and automotive suppliers are already using the QNX CAR platform to create Flash-based instrument clusters and infotainment systems.

So what, you say? Well, just think how this will transform the driving experience. Allow me to quote a press release that QNX issued yesterday:

"Imagine a dashboard that reconfigures itself for each driver, or a car infotainment system that tells you where your friends are, or that points you to the nearest gas station when it notices you are running low on fuel — that’s the kind of user experience the QNX CAR application platform is making possible...”

If that's the kind of car you'd like to drive, then, for the last time, stop reading this blog and vote for QNX CAR.


A blog(ger) is born

All I can say, it's about time. I've worked with Andy Gryc for a couple of years now, and I was hoping he'd get off his (admittedly busy) keester and start blogging. Because, frankly, he has interesting things to say. Some of them are even important.

So I am (delighted? happy? pumped? I'm still working on the exact emotion) that Andy has finally launched a blog, entitled True Gryc. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to it.

But don't go just yet. There's another blogger you ought to follow: Andrew Poliak. Honestly, if I knew 10% of what Andrew knows about the in-car telematics and infotainment market, I'd hang up a shingle and promote myself as a big-buck industry analyst.

So take the extra minute and subscribe to Andrew's blog as well -- I'll think you'll enjoy his recent post on how a toilet tanked his patent idea for a twittering car.


QNX to drive first Intel Atom-based car infotainment systems

This morning, at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced that the BMW 7 series and Mercedes S- and C-class cars will be the first to ship with in-car infotainment systems based on Intel Atom processors. And, according to the online magazine apc, the systems will run the QNX Neutrino RTOS.

A few days ago, I mentioned that Mercedes will use a QNX-based infotainment system in their upcoming S- and C-Class models; I believe this is the very same system that Paul Otellini highlighted in this morning's keynote. In that blog post, I mentioned that no photos of the system were yet available; it looks like that is still true. According to apc, this is the only image that has been provided... I believe the blurring is intentional. :-)

BTW, the QNX Neutrino RTOS offers some pretty cool fast booting capabilities on Intel Atom processors -- one reason, no doubt, that QNX was chosen for the Mercedes and BMW systems. Click here for some fast boot videos.

Linux is huge, scary, bloated: Torvalds

You've got to hand it to Linus Torvalds, he's never been afraid to speak his mind. Even when it comes to his own baby.

Speaking yesterday at LinuxCon, he stated that the Linux kernel has become "huge and scary" and that it isn't "the streamlined, hyper-efficient kernel I envisioned when I started writing Linux."

Asked whether a solution was in the works, he commented, "I'd love to say we have a plan."

You gotta admit, the guy is honest.

Predictably, his comments have ignited discussions on several forums, including Slashdot, CNET, and OSNews.


Intel blogger: QNX BMP simplifies migration to multi-core chips

Maury Wright, former editor-in-chief of EDN Magazine, has just posted a blog on the Intel embedded community site that provides an overview of QNX's bound multiprocessing technology — aka BMP.

If you've never heard of BMP, it's a variant of symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) that simplifies the migration of legacy applications to multi-core processors. In a nutshell, it allows legacy apps to run on a multi-core chip as if they were still in a conventional uniprocessor environment. Meanwhile, it allows new, parallelized apps to take full advantage of the chip's multiple processing cores.

In other words, your old stuff can run on a multi-core chip without going haywire or messing up your new stuff. This is good.

Maury provides a nice overview of the technology. You can view his blog here.


Cloud computing: It's a guy thing

I stumbled across the Cloud Computing Journal website and what did I see but the following ads, right next to each other:

Click to enlarge.

Now, either the "Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzpatrick Modeling Agency" has got a near-monopoly on the IT advertising market, or the folks who come up with these promos need to mix things up a bit. I mean, do all IT guys come from the same gene pool? Do they all beam the same smile? Do they all have beards? For that matter, are they all guys?


QNX CAR shortlisted for Adobe MAX award

UPDATE: Voting for the Adobe MAX awards is now open. To vote for the QNX CAR application platform, point your browser to http://max.adobe.com/awards/finalists/ and scroll down to the Mobile category.

This just in: The QNX CAR application platform has clinched a finalist spot in the Adobe MAX awards, for its innovative use of Adobe software.

Yeah, I know. That doesn't compute. Adobe software lets you design web pages, generate PDFs, and create fake photos of your Aunt Mabel smoking a pipe — none of which has anything to do with the car. So why the award nomination?

It's about Adobe Flash. You know, that technology for adding bling to websites. Except it's not just about websites. A special version, called Adobe Flash Lite, allows software developers to equip mobile phones, kiosks, and, yes, automobiles with graphical user interfaces (GUIs) created entirely in Flash. In fact, some 800 million devices already have GUIs based on Flash Lite.

Mind you, taking Flash, which cut its teeth on the desktop, and embedding it in a vehicle presents some challenges. That's where QNX CAR comes in. It provides several technologies to make Flash-based GUIs fast enough and bulletproof enough for in-car systems, even virtual instrument clusters. (Imagine having to reboot your speedometer while driving down the highway, and you get why the bulletproof thing is so important.)

Now this is where it gets interesting. QNX technology is already running in more than 10 million in-car systems. Which means its QNX CAR platform provides a unique opportunity for Flash designers to target a whole new market: the automobile. In fact, QNX CAR even allows automakers to create application stores from which car owners can download Flash applications in a, well, flash. Which means even more opportunities for Flash developers down the road.

You can begin to see why Adobe chose QNX CAR. Because it allows Flash to go where it has never gone before. In fact, several automakers and automotive suppliers are already developing next-generation vehicles that will use the Flash-based QNX CAR platform.

Online voting for the Adobe MAX awards starts September 28. I'll link to the voting page as soon as it's up.


iPod nano gets FM radio

I'm going to have to eat my words.

A few weeks ago, I opined that Apple would never market an iPod that supports FM, for the simple reason that users would end up listening to the radio when they could be browsing the iTunes store instead.

Boy, was I wrong. The new iPod nano not only supports FM, but also lets you pause FM broadcasts and pick up where you left off. You can even rewind and fastforward through broadcasts. Think of it as the TiVo for FM radio.

But this is where it gets really interesting: You can also tag songs you hear on the radio for subsequent purchase on the iTunes store. In other words, Apple has just turned FM radio into a huge sales funnel for iTunes. Brilliant.

<commercial break>
The QNX Aviage Multimedia Suite also supports a lot of this functionality, btw.
</commercial break>

I'm ticked that Apple still isn't bringing FM to the iPod touch, especially since my second-gen touch contains a chip that supports FM reception. And you would think that Apple would want iPod touch users to also tag FM songs for subsequent purchase. But on the other hand, I now want a nano as well as a touch. So, marketing-wise, maybe the folks at Apple are one giant step ahead of me.

It wouldn't the first time. Or, no doubt, the last.


Mercedes chooses QNX-based infotainment system for new S-Class and C-Class models

Earlier this morning, Harman International announced that it will provide the next-generation COMAND infotainment system for the new Mercedes-Benz S- and C-Class models.

The system, based on the QNX Neutrino RTOS, offers "3-D navigation, brilliant graphics, Internet access, and wired or wireless connectivity." It also has a hard drive that will provide "rich navigation data and accommodate the user's personal entertainment files for increased flexibility and comfort."

That last part is just a fancy way of saying you can upload your favorite tunes to the hard drive and listen to them while cruisin'. Which is pretty cool. I assume the system will also let you plug in your iPod, create playlists, and generally control what music you want to listen to, and when. Which will be even cooler.

I don't see any photos on the Harman website, but I'll bug their PR folks to see if they have a snap or two. If they give me any, I'll post them here posthaste.

To read the press release, click here.


Sharp as a tack: Are we entering the golden age of camera lenses?

Camera lenses are getting better. Way better. And you can blame digital cameras for the improvement.

For all their advantages, digital cameras share a common problem: they tend to create images with moiré patterns and other unsightly artifacts. To eliminate these artifacts, most digital cameras come equipped with an anti-aliasing filter, which blurs the image slightly. The result is a better looking, but somewhat softer picture.

The Wikipedia article on anti-aliasing offers a simple example of what I'm talking about. Before anti-aliasing, an image might look like this:

But after anti-aliasing, it looks something like this:

Sharpening algorithms, whether implemented in PhotoShop or the camera itself, can help compensate for the loss in resolution, but not completely. The problem becomes worse if the lens isn't very sharp in the first place. Consequently, camera makers have been working very hard at boosting the resolving power of their lenses.

Case in point: Pop Photo's review of the new Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L lens. According to the review, the lens showed a "drastic improvement" over its predecessor, "especially at maximum aperture, where sharpness increased to 93.46% from 74.1% at 11x14 inches."

You can find similar improvements in lenses from other manufacturers. Even low-priced kit lenses are starting to show resolution numbers that are off the charts.

Anti-aliasing isn't the only reason camera makers are anxious to sharpen their lenses. Sensor resolution has been growing in leaps and bounds, and the new crop of 15, 21, and even 24 megapixel SLRs are quickly outstripping the resolving power of today's lenses, particularly since the bypass filter effectively reduces true lens resolution. As a result, manufacturers are playing catchup, improving lens designs and manufacturing tolerances to ensure that moving up to a higher-resolution camera also results in higher-resolution images.

Otherwise, it would be like driving a Porsche Turbo whose transmission went no higher than second gear. And what would be the fun in that?