Monthly Archives: June 2011

To 3D, or not to 3D: That is the Question

I want to put something on the record about the current fascination with everything 3D. It doesn’t matter what kind of a screen you are staring at, from hand held gaming systems to the largest IMAX theatre, they all seem to be getting the 3D compatible treatment. Whatever happens with 3D in the future I’ll now be able to come back to this post and say “see, I was right”, or “wow, I got that so wrong.”

I’ll not beat around the bush here; I think 3D, when applied to consumer electronics (CE), is nothing more than a ploy by the large CE companies to tempt you to upgrade your existing equipment.

The huge sales of wide screen, flat panel TVs over the last 10 years was driven by two major factors, a change in the format of TV and recorded media (from 4:3 standard definition to 16:9 high definition) and the increase in screen size with a reduced footprint. I have personally moved from a 4:3 Sony CRT TV to a 16:9 Sony CRT TV, then switched to a 4:3 projector screen and finally to a 16:9 projector screen.

If you are an executive at a CE company and the majority of your customers have upgraded to a super big, super thin, super HD, wide screen plasma or LCD, what can you sell them now? Sales are about to plummet to the standard replacement rate, with no disruptive technology to push the public into buying new screens. Maybe you could try competing on refresh rates, thinness, some fancy dynamic contrast ratio, or even how “green” the screen is, but none of that is going to create the inertia of the last 10 years. Eventually you realise that you need another change in the format!

CE companies all together now:

“Dear consumers you now have to buy a new screen because all movies will be in 3D, your sports programs will be in 3D, TV programs will be in 3D and so will computer games. But wait, there is more, imagine porn in 3D!”

Consumers all together now:

“Wow, 3D is everywhere, I’d better get a new TV or projector, oh I need a new AVR too and I can buy all those Blurays again to get the 3D versions!”

If you are into home theatre you would swear that this is actually happening with all the buzz around the new 3D products. I will not deny that I’m interested in how the products develop and the technology behind them too. In fact, I quite enjoyed the 3D performance of the latest range of JVC projectors.

However, I believe that there are a number of factors that make the wide adoption of 3D technology in homes unlikely.

Glasses

There are some new 3D implementations that do not require glasses, but I’m guessing that limited viewing angles and poor resolution will take some time to overcome. Therefore until this method matures everyone is stuck with either polarised or active shutter 3D glasses. Which brings us to the following questions:

  1. How many glasses do you buy, enough for your family? Wait, what about when friends come over to watch that cool game in 3D?
  2. Can the 3D glasses fit comfortably over an existing pair of glasses that are needed to see the content?
  3. What’s the viewing angle of the glasses? Do I have to redesign the living room for 3D!?
  4. Will one manufacturer’s glasses work with another screen in the bedroom? Probably not!

Content

Right now there is a limited number of Blurays with 3D content. TV is fairly limited to some sporting events and some trials of a few programs/movies. Even if all content was available in 3D, is it really necessary or do you want to even view the news and weather report in 3D?

Brightness

Wearing 3D glasses reduces the amount of light that enters your eyes, making the image appear darker than what it would otherwise be. If you have a 3D compatible super bright TV or projector and a light controlled room then you are probably ok, otherwise you will lose some of the impact. It’s the same at the cinema too, just take your glasses off and see the change in brightness the next time you catch a 3D movie.

Colour Shift

If you reduce the brightness and introduce a slightly coloured plastic lens like those on the 3D glasses then the colours change. I prefer to see content how it was supposed to look!

Fake Feeling

I just can’t help but feel that the majority of content feels fake. If it’s a movie like Avatar that is not set in the real world it’s not so much of an issue, but watching a group of Korean pop stars prance around in 3D just looks weird.

Artefacts

Even in the best 3D systems you are likely to see some processing errors that cause you to see jerky motion scenes, ghosting or even dropped frames. This causes you to become distracted, focusing on the technology and therefore reducing the overall movie experience.

Physical Issues

Yes, you read correctly, 3D can cause physical problems for some people, especially with the active shutter glasses. Symptoms associated with viewing 3D content are eye strain, headaches and even a temporary loss of balance. I certainly felt eye strain and a loss of balance while viewing an Avatar demo for less than 5 minutes with active shutter glasses.

Conclusion

When consumers moved from a CRT 4:3 display to a wide screen plasma or LCD it was a relatively simple change with immediate “wow” factor for everyone who came to see it. 3D certainly can have the “wow” factor, but with the many limitations mentioned above its adoption in the average family home is unlikely. I do know some people who have upgraded already, but they are in the hard core enthusiast category, who must have the latest and greatest technology in their home theatre system.

I will keep going to the cinema to catch a 3D movie every now and then, but I’ll probably watch many of the 3D movies in 2D instead. I certainly will not be upgrading my home theatre system to be part of CE companies’ ploy to extract my hard earned cash to hit their sales targets!



Singtel Announces Dividend Record and Payment Date

Singtel finally announced its dividend record and payment dates for the year ending  March 31, 2011. This includes the payment of a final dividend of 9.0 cents and a special dividend of 10.0 cents. The record date is August 10, 2011 at 17:00 and the payment date is August 26, 2011.

While it is great to finally receive the notice of the record and payment dates I do wish they were far earlier! I’m not sure I want to hold onto Singtel shares for that long given the market downturn, which really seems to have taken hold in the USA, Australia and most other markets since April-May peaks.

Since my previous post I have sold my Starhub ($2.78) and SP Ausnet ($1.20) shares to try and minimize any further impact of the downturn. I’ll be keeping an eye on my other shares for the rest of June and determine which ones I can sell as I move back into cash.

I’ve also decided to start watching price movements of high dividend paying stocks around their dividend record dates to determine if a hit and run strategy makes sense for some shares. I suspect the costs of buying and selling will outweigh the benefits, but I’ll do the analysis and evaluate the approach before making a final decision.



Adding Google’s +1 to WordPress with Twenty Ten

I added Google’s new +1 button to this blog with relative ease, but then found out it didn’t work! I must admit I was a bit lazy and didn’t follow the instructions to the letter, but it appeared to be working with the button added to the bottom of each post on the main page and on a single post’s page. Then someone pointed out they were getting an error, oops!

Since I made a mess of adding the +1 button I thought I should share what I did incorrectly and the correct way to get it working with WordPress using the default “Twenty Ten” theme.

What is Google’s +1 Button?

The Google +1 button for websites was only launched at the start of June, 2011. It is still early days and therefore difficult to determine the full implications of the +1 button, so I’ll just give the basic information here, rather than predicting what the future holds.

The idea of the +1 button is similar to Facebook’s like button, which I have also added to this site. That is, you can show your friends and contacts which things you find interesting on the web such as a web page, a video, a search result or even an ad. Google’s +1 button also integrates with Google’s services, enabling you to see +1 information in both the search results and on advertisements. There is also integration with non-Google sites to help customize content and ads.

None of this will work without your own Google account and if you want the non-Google site integration you have to change a preference setting in your account information. If you already have a Google account you can go to your account preferences where you should see an option to edit “+1 on non-Google sites” under the “Personal Settings” section. Once you click the edit link it will take you this screen:

Google +1 PreferencesNotice that it is set to “Disable” by default (a sensible policy!), so you need to “Enable” it to get the full integration with non-Google sites. I’m not quite sure what they mean by “personalise content” other than showing which friends actually clicked on the +1 button instead of just the numbers of people who have clicked on it (as shown in the image above). In any case I have enabled the option to see what happens.

If you want your contacts to be able to see which +1 buttons you have clicked on you need to make some adjustments to your Google profile too. You should see a “+1” tab on your profile page where you can set the preference to keep it private or to make it public. Here is mine:

Google +1 Profile TabYou can see that my preference is set to private (“This tab is only visible to you.”). You can change this preference by editing your profile which will show you the following screen:

Google +1 Profile Tab Preference ChangeI haven’t changed this preference yet. I didn’t even know I had a Google profile before I started reading about Google’s +1 button! :)

Here are some handy links if you want to know more: Google’s +1 Page, Google’s Profile Information Page.

How to get the Code?

I actually had some information appear on my Google Adsense dashboard about the Google +1 button which took me to the correct page to get the relevant code. You can also go directly to the main configuration page which allows you to change a few options before getting the final code.

Google +1 Button ConfigurationAs you can see above there are two main cope snippets that you need to use. The first is the Javascript code reference and the second is the code to make the button appear.

How NOT to Add the Google +1 Button to WordPress!

I was lazy and thought well I wonder what happens if you just copy and paste the code into the loop.php and loop-single.php, even though it says to put the script tag in the <head> section or just before the </body> tag. Well it worked, or so I thought. The button appeared in the correct place and I was quite chuffed with my efforts, so I went and added the Facebook like button too. I didn’t test the button because I thought it would be a bit lame to click on my own website. In hindsight I probably should have!

I was talking to my stepfather this morning and showed him what I had done, as he has a couple of blogs that he is working on too. He was curious and decided to click on the Google +1 button which ended up with the +1 button turning red in anger with an “!” in the middle of it. I tried it too and then faced the same problem.

Time to RTFM!

How to Add the Google +1 Button to WordPress!

Funnily enough, if you actually follow the instructions that Google provides then not only will the +1 button appear on your blog, it will actually work too! 😉

I put the script tag just before the </body> tag by editing the footer.php file. Depending on where you want the +1 button to appear you can then edit the other files as appropriate. For example, if you just want to have the +1 button appear on your single post pages then you only need to edit the loop-single.php file.

I decided to put it on both my main page, after every post, and on a single post page. This meant I had to edit both the loop-single.php file and the loop.php file.

To edit the “Twenty Ten” theme you need to log into your dashboard screen, click on Appearance and then select Editor. This will normally bring you to the stylesheet file by default. The other files you need to edit are listed on the right hand side.

First off, select the footer.php link and put the first code snippet just before the </body> tag, like this:

Wordpress Theme Editor - Footer

Now select the loop-single.php link and insert the second code snippet like this:

Wordpress Theme Editor loop-single.php

It’s the same for anywhere else you would like to put it, so just edit the relevant file and insert the code where you want the button to appear. You could also put the code in a widget if you so desired.

Conclusion

Google is introducing more social networking features to try and keep up with Facebook. The +1 button looks like it might be a useful tool for both web users and webmasters, but time will tell.

There are probably better ways of adding the Google +1 button to WordPress with the Twenty Ten theme, such as using custom functions, but this works for what I needed and I hope you find it useful too!