All posts by Benjamin Vulpes

A future of wearable displays

…is here!

I reviewed the XREAL Air recently and walked away with a new tool in my computing kit: display glasses/head-mounted displays (HMDs).

The space is definitely heating up. Manufacturers are dropping the bulky, computationally heavy devices with oodles of sensors (although the Air ships with some amount of IMU capacity, my use case neglects it completely), and pushing towards lighter and brighterdog devices with a focus on the actual display technology instead of the bells and whistles of the Oculus and so forth.

However! The Air indicates that manufacturers are wearing institutional blinders around the kinds of products they should be developing. The addressable display space on the Airs is 1920×1080, the standard 1080p resolution of high-end TVs from a decade ago. However, actually wearing these glasses, and looking at the edges can get a bit painful, as the eyes have to rotate a significant distance from dead center in order to get the fovea pointed at the corners of the screen.

Stretching to look at the corners of the screen is largely irrelevant when working with display glasses and Ubuntu, as they’ve long since gone to the “search first” UI paradigm, and away from the Windows-style Start menu paradigm (I also have no problem with other LInuxes that I’ve beaten into submission with my favorite tiling window manager EXWM, although that is a post for another time). That said, I do find myself attempting to optimize content for the center of the display, because holding my eyes out at the edges of my field of view for extended periods of time does become a bit tiring.

Some suggestions for designers of this kind of hardware: reduce the field-of-view, reduce the onboard compute requirements so that these devices only do computation necessary to decode DisplayPort 1.4, and drive the things towards the highest pixel count possible.

XREAL Air: get your touch-typing game on, usable wearable displays are finally on the market.

The display-goggle revolution is finally upon us. You can now buy USB-C powered glasses-form-factor displays that output a perfectly acceptable 1080p, 1920×1080, which is entirely adequate for all of my email and programming tasks on the road. Follows are notes on my experience using these display glasses for all sorts of out-and-about computing. I won’t be reviewing any of the AR/XR functionality, as I think that’s a techno/social dead end without a few more technological breakthroughs in building and inhabiting virtual spaces together.

Read on for my review of these display glasses.

Continue reading XREAL Air: get your touch-typing game on, usable wearable displays are finally on the market.

Interpreting a Peterson tweet about pedophilia and Korn’s “Daddy”

I am absolutely at a loss for how Magdalene J Taylor got into my feeds, but since her writing piqued my curiosity, I put her website blog newsletter Substack RSS feed into this ancient-and-yet-still functional technology I use to keep up to date with interesting people called an RSS reader. Naturally, I got a quick dose of her past works, and in the same way I do with all new subscriptions skimmed her backlog.

In the piece “All Day I Dream About Sex” (itself a reference to a Korn song discussed in the post) Magdalene cites Petersen, about the Korn song Daddy: “Minor attracted person the aftermath warning this won’t make your day.”, following up with her own interpretation, that:

 I believe he is saying that the song is the result of the boogeyman discourse that alleges that some people are trying to normalize pedophiles by branding them as “minor attracted people.” The song is upsetting, and therefore won’t “make your day” if you listen to it.

Which isn’t much clearer than the original quote. I proffer my own interpretation: Jordan crusades relentlessly against the normalization of pedophiles with language like “minor attracted person”. I’d re-write that tweet of his to say something along the lines of “This Korn song shows the aftermath of pedophilic abuse, and what I expect to see a lot more of if we let folks normalize child abuse This song won’t make your day.”

I’d have left it as a comment on the lady’s site, but her publishing platform is configured such that you can’t even leave a comment without writing her a check for 10 bucks a month or whatever.

Project Cyberdeck v0.0.2: pruning the rat king

Did you know that you can’t find a true USB-C hub that powers all downstream ports while also supporting DisplayPort alt video out for less than $130?

I’ve also learned that the LattePanda 3 does not in fact support DP Alt mode on its USB-C port? I suspect that due to expecting USB-C to provide power, and the sheer rarity of the appropriate all-in-one hubs that are capable of delivering power and exfiltrating video over the same port, the LP’s designers didn’t bother to do video out. I confirmed this with both Windows and Linux, and neither behaved correctly. Tragedy.

So I bought a powered HDMI to USB-C adapter that can do the video trick and also deliver the 5W of power that the NReal Airs demand. It didn’t work, and it’s going back. It somehow draws the top of the video out at the bottom of the screen, which is just Not Going To Work.

I’ve also consolidated the rat king down a bit with this adapter, dropping the bulky (battery-containing!) special NReal HDMI-to-USB-C adapter.

The OWC Thunderbolt hub works perfectly, and I’ve even sourced a USB-C-to-barrel-connector kit that lets me power the hub from the power brick. This will complicate the ultimate packaging job in that I’ll need some way to turn power to the hub off to keep it from draining the battery when not in active use.

Someone stop me from designing my own single-board computer for the love of God.

Project cyberdeck v0.0.1: whatever we had lying around

With the miniramp done (or at least skateable), I have bandwidth for newer and dumber projects than ever! I’ve started cobbling together one of what folks are in the habit of calling “cyberdecks”, although I can’t really endorse the term as they’re usually tiny screens and tiny keyboards that aren’t usable by a nerd of my EXTREMELY HIGH STANDARDS for actual programming.

Read on for details about what I’ve bought so far and how the project is coming.

Continue reading Project cyberdeck v0.0.1: whatever we had lying around

Lifetime observability: the killer full-body scan application

The orange site’s two sole objections to full-body MRI scanning is “b-b-but base rate fallacy and iatrogenic harm!!1″ Which in conjunction boil down to “if you see something weird in there, you’re going to put yourself through hell getting biopsies and fail to produce a conclusive result”. Gatekeeping by witch-doctors, effectively. “Only we can figure out when it’s appropriate to give you a test!” Given the failures of the Medical Establishment over the last decade on everything from honest communication around CV-19 and its complete cooption by the business and industry of medicine, is it any surprise that ordinary folks are beginning to realize they need to advocate for their own treatment? Given the endless stories of women with serious medical issues brushed off by the systematic misogyny of Western Medicine’s refusal to consider specifically female challenges as anything but symptoms of the menstrual cycle, why would anyone continue to put stock in the practice at scale? Given how many people, regardless of gender, are shoved out of specialists offices with diagnoses of idiopathy, and who then have to advocate aggressively for themselves is it any wonder that everyone is now biased to think and advocate for themselves?!

Sniping at the medical establishment aside, you can find a few references to “baseline” on the linked comment thread, but even the notion of developing a baseline for subsequent comparisons ignores the forest for the trees.

The value in regular MRIs will be in having them done at such a frequency that all sorts of new knowledge will pop up. I look at this and wonder, how much of my lifelong suffering from scoliosis and all of the work I have to do on an ongoing basis could have been mitigated by early detection of a wonky spine, and physical therapy to help straighten me out?

Imagine not just a baseline, but an annual full-body workup. You could track all of the weird knobs on all of your organs, estimate their growth rate, and extrapolate risks from that.

The two huge wins from full-body scanning will be continuous internal observability, and population-level data production that will give us the statistical insight to spot problems well ahead of time and filter then from non-problems for treatment.

A pox upon the gatekeepers.