Institutional Design and the Wisdom of Crowds + #Cryptocurrency and the Fall of #WallStreet

This is a great discussion on how provides all of their employees with the same dashboard and allows them to submit, collaborate, and vote on ideas to make the business better. The results are reported instantly to the leadership on their dashboards so that they can make decisions with better information. It allows the employees with the knowledge of day-to-day operations decide what’s best for the company.

It looks like they have been very successful in finding the most efficient way to do business.

The rest of the discussion gets into the corruption on Wall Street and how blockchain technology can be used to allow peer-to-peer trading, thereby eliminating the need for Wall Street and Central banks. What I learned from this portion of the talk disturbed me deeply. Finding out that no one owns the stocks in their portfolio and that it is all held by a single corporation is a bit scary.

That leads to what he describes as the “Deep Capture”, where the regulators of the market are themselves benefiting from the regulations they impose. And, that the journalists reporting on the economy are all heavily influenced by a few hedge funds with all the power. Plus, the politicians responsible for passing the laws that govern the regulators are also benefiting from the laws they pass. That’s my layman’s understanding of it. I’m sure it is deeper in scope than what I describe. It’s definitely worth reading.

Take a look at for a great education on the various ways people are having their money stolen by thieves on Wall Street.

The realization of how much actual trading is taking place versus the stock quotes taking place and the computers trading with each other at the rate of 10,00 trades per second makes me uneasy as well.

He mentions the “bezzle”, which is defined like this: Freeze time and ask everyone that has investments in the stock market how much they have, then look at the value of what is actually there. There is a huge gap in what people say they have versus what is actually there. This is called the “bezzle”, because that’s what people are embezzling from the system.

I am inspired to learn more about cryptocurrencies. While BitCoin may not be the standard in the future, I believe that it’s worth looking at. More and more companies are taking BitCoins as payment and many jobs are available that pay in BitCoin. It’s also defined by the IRS as property, so it is subject to capital gains tax.

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft @HoloLens Demo summary #VR #AR

Yesterday, I took a road trip to see the Microsoft Hololens in person. A few months ago, someone posted the details of the HoloLens demo schedule and there was a location close to me, so I secured a spot right away. I’m glad I did, because all of the slots filled up just a few minutes after I submitted my reservation.

When I got there, they checked me in and I watched a short orientation video on how to put the device on your head and adjust it for maximum comfort. Then, they used a cool device to measure the distance between my pupils.


Once they wrote my number on a little piece of paper, they led me to a small room decorated with modern furniture and decor. It was about the size of 1 and ½ standard office cubicles. I entered the room and sat on the sofa to the left. The Microsoft employee went over a few points about the device and assisted me with putting it on my head. He then helped me adjust it for the best fit and a perfect image. My initial thoughts were focused on how lightweight the device felt.

The image on my “screen” was the home screen for a game. They told me that the game would be about stopping an alien invasion by using the three primary modes of interaction (I’m probably missing the exact terminology that they used): Focus, Gestures, and Voice. To “shoot” an alien, you simply looked at it so that the reticle in the center of your vision was over the alien. Then, you “clicked” with your index finger by holding it up straight, then bending it at the first joint – this caused laser beams to shoot from your eyes (a very cool effect). As time passes your “special power” bar builds up. Once it is full, you can access your special power, which is being able to see through the walls and shoot the aliens that are crawling back there. To activate your special power, you have to say, “X-Ray”.

Before starting the game, it required that I stand in the middle of the room and scan the walls by doing a slow 360° turn while it drew a polygonal matrix on the surface and remembered where everything was. It even detected the Microsoft employee and rendered the game around him as he moved about.

The first level was pretty easy, as the alien ship broke through the wall in front of me and little scorpion robots started crawling out. They moved fast, but were easy to shoot. The level after that had scorpions crawling behind the walls and required that I use my super power to see them. I actually felt like I could see through the wall in front of me, it was a pretty amazing effect. The next level took place on the wall to the left. When the ship broke through the wall, a new kind of alien emerged. This one did not crawl on the walls, it hovered in front of me and shot fireballs at me. After the first few fireballs hit me, the game paused and showed a broken windshield in front of me with instructions on how to dodge the fireballs. So, I continued and learned how to dodge the fireballs. The next level had a few super aliens that took about 4 or 5 successful hits before they died, while scorpions crawled on the walls. So, I had to dodge fireballs while shooting the scorpions and shooting the hovering alien.

After successfully completing that level, I got to the “boss” fight. This was an all out assault. Every kind of alien came out and required that I blast it. Plus, a new alien emerged that took many many hits to kill it (I stopped counting after 6). This alien shot out a constant laser beam and started at one side of the room and shot out over the rest of the room. I had to duck to avoid the laser while also avoiding the fireballs from the other aliens and killing them. As soon as my X-Ray built up, I activated it and could then see the bosses weak spot, I hit that a few times and it exploded.

During all of this, I was hearing 3-D sound as aliens spawned beside me and behind me. There were no headphones over my ears, it used an aural engine built into the sides of the device.

Overall, the game was engaging and appropriate to the technology I was wearing. It wasn’t a hammer looking for a nail. I really thought that I’d notice that I was wearing a heavy VR goggle, but I didn’t. I totally forgot that I had anything on. I was fully engaged in the game at hand. I did feel a little awkward ducking and dodging things that weren’t really there, but I felt the Microsoft employee had seen many other people doing this, so he was used to it.

The important thing to note here is that the HoloLens is a self-contained device. It does not have any wires tethering it to another computer. It has an onboard computer running Windows 10. It also has WiFi and BlueTooth built in for future peripherals.

After the game was over (I got the high score of the day ;) ), I moved to another room where I met with the development team and discussed my experiences. They showed me a short slide show about the device and the partnership they have with the people that make the Unity gaming engine and tools. We talked about the upcoming SDK and the developer edition of the device (with a $3,000 price tag).

As far as virtual reality goes, I’m not sure the HoloLens will be a fully immersive experience. I think it will be less of a toy and more of a tool. If history has taught us anything, it’s that Microsoft is on the right track and is covering all the right bases with this, but they will be too early to the game and no one will buy it. Then, a few years later, Tim Cook will introduce the iReality with Apple VROS and the world will go crazy over it. Microsoft will come out with HoloLens 4.0, but everyone will talk about how Microsoft was too late to the game and how they’re always playing catch up to Apple.

All joking aside, I can see where this device will be extremely useful in medicine, mechanical engineering, and even cooking. I’m sure there are millions of use cases for it, but they have yet to be discovered.

I’m pretty excited about it, but I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with 3 grand to spend on niche electronics any time soon.

A while back, I had a chance to try on an Oculus Rift. It was a little too heavy for me. Plus, when I moved my head left or right, the momentum of the movement caused the device to shake when my head stopped moving, causing my VR experience to jitter. Also, the head tracking was a little slow on the Oculus. With the HoloLens, it fit snugly on my head and did not shake. Plus, the head tracking was instantaneous.

Other people have complained about the field of vision on the HoloLens. I agree that it had less available “screen” space compared to the Oculus, but I believe this is actually a good thing considering my opinion that this will be a tool and not a toy.

HoloLens Field of View
HoloLens Field of View

Microsoft was careful not to call this “Virtual Reality”, so they are aware of what they are doing.

Overall, I think the HoloLens shows great promise. I personally believe that once the IoT hotness subsides, this will quickly replace it as the hotness of tomorrow. If you’re interested in developing for the HoloLens, now is the time to get started. I think you’ve got a few years before it gains widespread acceptance.




Flag with Soldiers

A Tribute to the #Veterans in my life

Today is Veterans day here in the United States. I’d like to take this time to thank those members of my family who served in the U.S. Military both domestically and overseas. I never joined the military. I could lie and tell you that it was because I had asthma (a reasonable excuse), but the real reason is that I knew I would be no good at taking orders and fitting in to a militaristic community. It takes a special kind of person to commit to serving our country by sacrificing who they are and becoming the person the military forms them into. It takes a special kind of person to risk their lives by committing to enter a dangerous situation for the protection and promotion of freedom throughout the world. It takes a special kind of person to leave their family behind to serve far away from home.

Below are my family members who have served/are serving in the military. I left out the deceased members as they will be remembered on memorial day. Today is about the veterans.

  • My uncle Robert Nash Allwine-  United States Air Force- Cold War
  • My cousin David Allwine-  US Navy
  • My father Gary E. Earls-US Army-Viet Nam, Cold War, Desert Shield/Desert Storm
  • My uncle Harry Earls-US Army-Cold War
  • My uncle Larry Earls-US Marine Corps-Viet Nam
  • My uncle Gordon Earls – US Marine Corps
  • My cousin Brian Earls-US Marine Corps
  • My cousin Adam Earls-US Marine Corps- Iraq
  • My cousin Alisha Earls-US Air Force
  • My biological mother’s cousin Gary Davis – US Navy

Growing up in a military family was a great blessing as I learned discipline and respect for our country and our flag. It was the reason I became a Boy Scout and learned even more about becoming a good citizen. Despite my rebellious years, I still learned what it means to be an American from these people.

Thanks again for your service.

Tracing my roots

As I have mentioned before, I was adopted when I was an infant. When I was 19 years old, I tracked down my biological mother and sister and took a long trip to visit them. I then visited my sister again in 2000. I met my nieces and talked a bit to my sister. Unfortunately, I lost touch with her shortly after that meeting.

The other day, I decided to track down my mother again and see if I could track down my sister. Unfortunately, I learned that my mother had passed away a few years ago. However, on her obituary, they listed her aunt. I was able to track her down and connect to my maternal family. They shared with me the story of my family and I learned a lot. Sadly, I learned that my sister died in 2001, only a year after we visited her. I was hoping I’d get to see her again. Luckily, I learned about her daughters and connected with them on Facebook. I’m so glad I was able to find the family.

It’s a bit odd, as I have always been (and will always be) part of the Earls family (as well as my mother’s side of the family). They have been a wonderful family for me and I have been blessed to have known them all. But, it’s very strange to see pictures of people who are blood relatives and see the similarities in my own appearance. I actually look like them. I don’t look anything like my adopted family, so it has been strange growing up with them in that regard.

I also connected with my half brother on Facebook, though I still don’t know what to say to him. He was born a few years before me and grew up away from our mother.

I look forward to getting to know my biological family more. I hope that my surviving sister will accept my friend request on Facebook, as we share the same mother and I met her when she was a little girl. I’d love to hear more about her. Based on her pictures on Facebook, she seems to be very happy and even has a few kids of her own (I will now take this moment to point out how creepy it is that I can browse a complete stranger’s pictures even though we’re not friends on Facebook). I even found a picture of her with my biological mother.

I am not sure how I feel about losing my mother and sister. I did meet them, so there’s a little more attachment than there would be had I never met them, but I’m not sure I feel as sad as I would if I were to lose my adopted brother or sister or my adopted parents. I just didn’t grow up with them, so I don’t have the same attachment. I guess the only real disappointment is the fact that I’ll never get to visit with them again or get to know them better.


Game Review: Ori and the Blind Forest #gaming #xbox #pc

One of the reasons I chose the XBox Bundle that I did (besides the 1TB hard drive) was because of the games it included. One of those games was Ori and the Blind Forest.

From the very start, I was hooked. It has a great story and challenging gameplay.

Getting food with "mother"
Getting food with “mother”

Aside from basic platformer shooting, there are also fun puzzles and, what is probably the best feature of the game, the escape sequences from the six major areas. These escape sequences give you very little time to think and no room for error as you use your skills to progress through the board with a very stressful natural disaster (or enemy) on your tail.

Perhaps the hardest sequence in the game is the first one, the Ginso Tree escape. It’s the hardest because it’s the first and you can’t make any mistakes.

One of the great features of the game is the ability tree that you have access to that lets you spend your spirit points (gained by killing enemies) to gain new abilities. I was one ability away from collecting all abilities. I missed that achievement. I just didn’t have enough skill points going into the final sequence. I’ve read that you can’t go back and explore after you win the game.

Ori's Ability Tree
Ori’s Ability Tree

After getting a new ability, I would go back to areas I had already cleared to get powerups that I could not get earlier in the game. I would also attempt to explore 100% of each area and get to all the secret places.

Map of the area
Map of the area

I am currently on the last sequence. It’s very difficult. I have the enemy on my tail. The sequence is a series of very challenging moves that require a mastery of all the skills (abilities also come in handy – like the triple jump) that Ori acquired throughout the game. Each section only gives you about 10 seconds to get through before the enemy swoops in and violently ends your life. Then you spend a few seconds getting through additional sections. If you spend too much time in an area that is not visible to the enemy, you still have to worry about the environment around you catching on fire. Basically, you can’t stop moving (much like the other escape sequences). I’m almost to the end of the sequence. Even knowing what’s coming next, you still have to execute the movements without faltering. The sounds of the enemy in the distance add a creepy ambiance to the sequence. It also gives you audible clues as to how much time you have left to finish your current section.

The following video does not show the ending with spoilers, it only shows the sequence.

I have to play these sequences sitting on the edge of my seat. It can be very stressful, but the reward for finishing is a feeling of great relief.

I have really enjoyed this game. It reminds me of the early days of playing Super Mario Brothers for the first time. The artwork is fantastic and the gameplay mechanics are fun. I find that it had just the right amount of difficulty.

Valiant Hearts

Game Review: Valiant Hearts: The Great War #gaming

One of this month’s Games for Gold on XBox Live is Valiant Hearts: The Great War. I downloaded it last night and started playing. The game takes you through the lives of four characters during World War I. It is a combination of puzzles and action sequences. The graphics are much like an animated movie would be. It’s an amazing game.

As soon as I started playing this game, I was hooked. We had to leave for a meeting after I had been playing for about an hour. During the meeting, all I could think about was getting home to continue playing. When I got home, I played through all of Chapter 1 and into Chapter 2.

The puzzles are fun and the action sequences are just hard enough to be fun without being discouraging. What I liked most about the action sequences is that when you messed up, it didn’t always start you over from the beginning of the sequence. It progressed far enough so that you could get progressively better at the new parts and skip the parts you had already mastered. A lot of the game is a side scrolling platformer. The boss fights are a lot of fun.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War_20140625204222

While you are playing the game, it reveals historical facts about the war that are very interesting to read if you aren’t educated on the history of the war (or want a refresher). There are also diary entries throughout the game that give some character development to the characters that you are playing and the ones they love.

Valiant Hearts

I’ve learned quite a bit about the war from this game and it’s interesting to read about the trenches and tunnels. You get to explore the tunnels as part of the gameplay.

At some point early in the game, you meet a medic dog. He stays with you through the adventures and becomes a vital part of your puzzle solving team. You can command him to fetch, dig, and distract the enemy. Since he’s a dog, the enemy doesn’t recognize him as being on your side (he started out in the service of the Germans), so you can send him into enemy territory to get things for you.

I would highly recommend this game to anyone that enjoys casual puzzle games.

XBox One Holiday Bundle

I Finally took the plunge and bought an #XBox One

I’ve been a very happy owner of XBox since the first one was released. I bought the original XBox and the XBox 360 on release day. I have watched the dashboard change from its original layout to the latest layout.

Original XBox Dashboard
Original XBox Menu

My XBox 360 is so old that it has a 20GB hard drive on it and it’s white. I had the “red rings of death” and sent it in to have it fixed. I still loved it and played it a lot. I remember the first time I encountered “the flood” in Halo and ran my butt off to avoid the massive swarm at the end of the game, running out of ammo along the way. Man, was that a blast.

Flood carrier
Flood Carrier

I remember thinking how advanced the graphics were on Morrowind on the original XBox. We’ve come so far since then. I thought those graphics were “photorealistic”, but today’s graphics are far more advanced.

Evil abounds in Morrowind
Evil abounds in Morrowind

I’ve been saving my “allowance” for a few months now and was looking for a way to spend it (keeping it in savings was killing me ;) ). At first, I was considering buying an Apple Watch, but after a few days of consideration, I finally decided that it was time to upgrade my gaming console.

When the XBox One first came out, I felt that I did not need a new gaming console because I would just play my games on my PC. However, after buying and spending hours playing PC games, I realized that I was very uncomfortable sitting in my desk chair for the duration. I was also wearing headphones because I hate all the wires associated with desktop speakers. Playing games while sitting on the sofa, with the soundtrack coming from the stereo would be a far better experience.

So, last night, I traded in my old XBox 360 for the holiday bundle of the XBox One. I chose the holiday bundle because it has over 30 games included with it. I didn’t have much time with it before I had to go off to bed, but I did manage to get Netflix and a few other apps downloaded. I also got it wired up to my DVR cable box so we could watch TV through it.

I am going to look into getting the USB TV tuner to see if I can use that with our cable company. I am hoping that I can so I can get rid of this terrible DVR that they gave us. We really liked the way Comcast’s DVR worked (the Scientific Atlanta model), so we were very disappointed when we got this piece of junk from WOW! cable (our cable provider). However, WOW! gives us 60Mbps Internet for the price of 30 and they don’t have data caps, so we can’t complain overall.

Now is a good time to get into console gaming as there are a few games that I’m really excited about:

  • Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (I have been playing it a lot on the PC)
  • Fallout 4
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Fable Legends
  • Destiny

I am also looking forward to playing the updated version of Gears of War that came with my XBox One.

I think that, in the end, getting an XBox is far more useful than spending the same amount of money on an Apple watch. I think my Pebble will do fine for now.