Stock car racing, Windows 8 and Surface Pro…together…this is not your dad’s Windows

surface_WebLast week, the Great American Race-the Daytona 500-ran. Danica Patrick was the first woman to take the pole position and she finished 8th. Quite an achievement for any rookie and new team, regardless of who or what they are. It also signaled the start of the 2013 NASCAR racing season. Every year, teams try to eek out every bit of power, gain some kind of aero advantage (all but impossible with the ‘Gen 6’ race car) or, at least, gain as much information about how well a car performs on track.  This year, Toyota Racing Development contracted with Microsoft to develop a mobile, touch enabled application that will allow them to gather and analyze all types of data on car performance-data that can easily be updated by the driver with out the need for them to get out of the car (during testing or practice) as well as other team members.

Microsoft’s solution involves Microsoft Surface Pro tablets and a custom developed application running in the RT environment.

The Trackside app, as it is called, along with the Surface Pro tablet allows the team to capture performance data, via the touchscreen, and share it with the crew in real time.  Techs can then make more efficient use of time and fine-tune the car for better on track performance.

The Surface Pro was chosen mainly for its construction: its casing is durable and the Pro provides enough processing power to handle what ever is thrown at it.

This is a pretty good use for the tablet and Windows 8.  The ease of use that the RT side provides, along with the Surface Pro’s form factor, combine for a very powerful solution. It is nice to see this product being used in a real world (albeit an unusual one) situation and one in which most of the users are not computer people, but car people-racers.

Go here to read more about this and watch a short video about the application.

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iPhone 5: Are you Siri-us?

iPhone_5_34Hi_Stagger_FrontBack_Black_PRINTYes, I know Siri came out before the 4S. But, it was the 4S that made Siri more common. With the release of the iPhone 5, however, Siri is probably the most well known and used non-existent assistant ever.  And, for good reason.

First, let’s talk iPhone 5.  The phone is nice looking, thin and light-almost too thin.  It is a tad taller than the 4 and 4s, which means it has more screen.  That’s nice, but not a huge selling point since it is the same width.  Apple, if you want to make the screen taller, make it wider as well or just don’t bother.

Size difference aside, iPhone 5 is an iPhone 4 or 4s with a faster (much faster) processor.  So, I’m not going to indulge in another iPhone 5 review. Suffice it to say, it’s a decent smartphone with a really good eco-system.

Now, what really makes it shine, however, is Siri.  I have to admit to being a tad (ok, a LOT) skeptical that Siri was nothing more than Apple induced hype.  Well, some of it is just that, hype. But, there is a real utility to Siri and that is enough to make it worthwhile to upgrade to iPhone 4s or 5. 

Siri, put simply, is a combination of on phone software and a robust back end. Siri, at its core, is a glorified search engine. It searches both your phone and the internet for answers to questions that you ask, verbally.  Any question is fair game, unless you ask Siri about NASCAR, at which point Siri is totally useless. More on that in a moment.

You can ask very serious questions, like what’s the current temp or what’s on my schedule for today. Or, if you are like my kids, ask it stupid things, like ‘Who let the dogs out?’ (which, by the way, she will answer. Go ahead, try it. I won’t spoil it for you.)  My 15 year old carried on a conversation with her for about ten minutes. It was quite entertaining.

Apple is using Google, Yahoo! sports and Wolfram Alpha. With the latest iOS 6 update, you can also purchase movie tickets via Fandango. So, there is lots of useful things you can use Siri for, except, as stated earlier, questions regarding NASCAR. For whatever reason, Apple chose to exclude the nation’s number one spectator sport.  You can ask her about the current year stats in baseball and football (other ‘sports’ are, I’m sure, there as well) but not about NASCAR.  So, why are they prejudiced about the country’s most popular spectator sport? It isn’t Yahoo! Sports, I know. They cover the sport nicely. No, it has to be someone in Apple.  Someone who still thinks it is not a sport or it’s a southern thing.  Whatever. You can’t fix stupid, I suppose.

Sport elitism aside, Siri is, dare I say, pretty cool. Makes me wish I had it on my iPhone 4 that I use everyday. But, I am not going to fret too much. In another year and a half, I can upgrade my 4 to a 5.  If, that is, Sprint still does not have a decent Windows 8 Phone.

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