Software will reshape our world in the next decade

As I was wrapping up a Zoom meeting with my business partners, I could hear my son joking with his classmates in his online chemistry class.

I have to say this is a very strange time for me: As much as I love my family, in normal times, we never spend this much time together. But these aren’t normal times.

In normal times, governments, businesses and schools would never agree to shut everything down. In normal times, my doctor wouldn’t agree to see me over video conferencing.

No one would stand outside a grocery store, looking down to make sure they were six feet apart from one another. In times like these, decisions that would normally take years are being made in a matter of hours. In short, the physical world — brick-and-mortar reality— has shut down. The world still functions, but now it is operating inside everyone’s own home.

This not-so-normal time reminds me of 2008, the depths of the financial crisis. I sold my company BEA Systems, which I co-founded, to Oracle for $8.6 billion in cash. This liquidity event was simultaneously the worst and most exhausting time of my career, and the best time of my career, thanks to the many inspiring entrepreneurs I was able to meet.

These were some of the brightest, hardworking, never-take-no-for-an-answer founders, and in this era, many CEOs showed their true colors. That was when Slack, Lyft, Uber, Credit Karma, Twilio, Square, Cloudera and many others got started. All of these companies now have multibillion dollar market caps. And I got to invest and partner with some of them.

Once again, I can’t help but wonder what our world will look like in 10 years. The way we live. The way we learn. The way we consume. The way we will interact with each other.

What will happen 10 years from now?

Welcome to 2030. It’s been more than two decades since the invention of the iPhone, the launch of cloud computing and one decade since the launch of widespread 5G networks. All of the technologies required to change the way we live, work, eat and play are finally here and can be distributed at an unprecedented speed.

The global population is 8.5 billion and everyone owns a smartphone with all of their daily apps running on it. That’s up from around 500 million two decades ago.

Robust internet access and communication platforms have created a new world.

The world’s largest school is a software company — its learning engine uses artificial intelligence to provide personalized learning materials anytime, anywhere, with no physical space necessary. Similar to how Apple upended the music industry with iTunes, all students can now download any information for a super-low price. Tuition fees have dropped significantly: There are no more student debts. Kids can finally focus on learning, not just getting an education. Access to a good education has been equalized.

The world’s largest bank is a software company and all financial transactions are digital. If you want to talk to a banker live, you’ll initiate a text or video conference. On top of that, embedded fintech software now powers all industries.

No more dirty physical money. All money flow is stored, traceable and secured on a blockchain ledger. The financial infrastructure platforms are able to handle customers across all geographies and jurisdictions, all exchanges of value, all types of use-cases (producers, distributors, consumers) and all from the start.

The world’s largest grocery store is a software and robotics company — groceries are delivered whenever and wherever we want as fast as possible. Food is delivered via robot or drones with no human involvement. Customers can track where, when and who is involved in growing and handling my food. Artificial intelligence tells us what we need based on past purchases and our calendars.

The world largest hospital is a software and robotics company — all initial diagnoses are performed via video conferencing. Combined with patient medical records all digitally stored, a doctor in San Francisco and her artificial intelligence assistant can provide personalized prescriptions to her patients in Hong Kong. All surgical procedures are performed by robots, with supervision by a doctor of course, we haven’t gone completely crazy. And even the doctors get to work from home.

Our entire workforce works from home: Don’t forget the main purpose of an office is to support companies’ workers in performing their jobs efficiently. Since 2020, all companies, and especially their CEOs, realized it was more efficient to let their workers work from home. Not only can they save hours of commute time, all companies get to save money on office space and shift resources toward employee benefits. I’m looking back 10 years and saying to myself, “I still remember those days when office space was a thing.”

The world’s largest entertainment company is a software company, and all the content we love is digital. All blockbuster movies are released direct-to-video. We can ask Alexa to deliver popcorn to the house and even watch the film with friends who are far away. If you see something you like in the movie, you can buy it immediately — clothing, objects, whatever you see — and have it delivered right to your house. No more standing in line. No transport time. Reduced pollution. Better planet!

These are just a few industries that have been completely transformed by 2030, but these changes will apply universally to almost anything. We were told software was eating the world.

The saying goes you are what you eat. In 2030, software is the world.

Security and protection no longer just applies to things we can touch and see. What’s valuable for each and every one of us is all stored digitally — our email account, chat history, browsing data and social media accounts. It goes on and on. We don’t need a house alarm, we need a digital alarm.

Even though this crisis makes the near future seem bleak, I am optimistic about the new world and the new companies of tomorrow. I am even more excited about our ability to change as a human race and how this crisis and technology are speeding up the way we live.

This storm shall pass. However the choices we make now will change our lives forever.

My team and I are proud to build and invest in companies that will help shape the new world; new and impactful technologies that are important for many generations to come, companies that matter to humanity, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about.

I am hopeful.

Drone-deployed sterile mosquitoes could check spread of insect-borne illnesses

Drone deployment of sterile mosquitoes could accelerate efforts to control their populations and reduce insect-borne disease, according to a proof of concept experiment by a multi-institutional research team. The improved technique could save thousands of lives.

Mosquitoes are a public health hazard around the world, spreading infections like malaria to millions and causing countless deaths and health crises. Although traps and netting offer some protection, the proactive approach of reducing the number of insects has also proven effective. This is accomplished by sterilizing male mosquitoes and releasing them into the wild, where they compete with the other males for food and mates but produce no offspring.

The problem with this approach is it is fairly hands-on, requiring people to travel through mosquito-infested areas to make regular releases of treated males. Some aerial and other dispersal methods have been attempted, but this project from French, Swiss, British, Brazilian, Senegalese and other researchers seems to be the most effective and practical yet.

Mosquitoes grown in bulk and sterilized by radiation are packed at low temperatures (“chilled” mosquitoes don’t fly or bite) into cartridges. These cartridges are kept refrigerated until they can be brought to a target site, where they’re loaded onto a drone.

Thousands of chilled, marked mosquitoes ready for deployment. Image Credit: Bouyer et al.

This drone ascends to a set altitude and travels over the target area, steadily releasing thousands of sterile males as it goes. By staging at the center of a town, the drone operators can reload the craft with new cartridges and send it in more directions, accomplishing dispersal over a huge and perhaps difficult to navigate space more quickly and easily than manual techniques.

The experiment used mosquitoes marked with fluorescent dyes that let the researchers track the effectiveness of their air-dropped mosquitoes, and the new technique shows great improvement over manual methods (on the order of 50% better) — without even getting into the reductions in time and labor. New methods for sterilizing, packing and meting out the insects further gild the results.

The researchers point out that while there are of course plenty of applications for this technique in ordinary times, the extraordinary times of this pandemic present new dangers and opportunities. Comorbidity of COVID-19 and mosquito-borne illnesses is practically unstudied, and disruptions to supply chains and normal insect suppression efforts is likely to lead to spikes in the likes of malaria and dengue fever.

Work like this could lead to improved general health for billions. The researchers’ work appeared in the journal Science Robotics.

How to get your nice camera set up as a high-quality webcam

Everyone needs a webcam these days, whether for business meetings or the distant socializing accomplished via video calling — but if you’re like most, you’re using the built-in camera on your laptop or some piece of junk from years ago. But if you happen to have a nice big-brand camera, it’s easy to set it up as a standalone webcam and produce imagery that will be the envy your friends and colleagues.

Our guide to setting up a professional-looking home webcam solution with lighting, audio, and all the other fixins is here, but unless you’re using a capture card (that’s a whole other how-to) getting your DSLR or mirrorless camera hooked up to your computer isn’t as simple as it ought to be.

Surprisingly, you can’t just take a camera released in the last couple years and plug it into your computer and expect it to work. So far only Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic provide free webcam functionality to at least one desktop OS. For Nikon, Sony and Olympus, you may have to pay or put up with a watermark.

Here are the easiest ways to put each brand of camera to work. (Spoiler warning: For Macs, it’s mostly Cascable. I’ll mention that a few more times because people are probably just scrolling past this to their brand.)

Canon: EOS Webcam Utility

Canon released this software just a couple weeks ago and it’s still in beta, so there may be a few hiccups — but it supports both Windows and Apple machines and a good variety of camera bodies. There’s even some extra documentation and tutorials for the app at its microsite.

Compatibility is pretty good, working with any of their camera bodies from the last 3-4 years: the Rebel T6-T7i, T100, SL2, SL3, 5D Mk IV, 5DS, 5DS R, 6D Mk II, 7D Mk II, 77D, 80D, 90D, 1D X Mark II and Mark III, M6 Mk II, M50, M200, R, RP, PowerShot G5X Mk II, G7X Mk III, and SX70 HS. Download the software here.

If you’re having trouble, check out the third party apps listed for other brands below and see if you have more luck.

Fujifilm: X Webcam

Fujifilm’s solution is easy, but a bit limited. The popular X100 series is not supported, and Macs are left out in the cold as well. But if you have one of the company’s more recent interchangeable-lens bodies and a Windows 10 machine, you’re golden. Just install and plug in your camera with a normal USB cable.

Compatibility includes the X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-Pro2, X-Pro3, X-H1, GFX100, GFX 50R, and GFX 50S. Get that medium format setup going right and your eyes will be in focus but not your ears. Download the software here.

This guy really did Mac users a favor.

For Macs, Cascable is a useful bit of Mac software that acts as a bridge to your camera for a variety of purposes, and the author just added webcam capability. It has wide compatibility for both wired and wireless connections, and provides broader functionality than Fuji’s own software, but it isn’t free. But the current $30 price is probably less than you’d pay if you opted for a nice webcam instead.

If you’re confident fiddling around in command lines, this tutorial tells you how to get a Fuji camera working on Macs with a bit of fiddling around and some other third party software.

Panasonic: Lumix Tether

That’s it. That’s the image they provided.

Panasonic just made the webcam-capable version of their Lumix Tether Windows app available, and you can tell from the paucity of the documentation that it’s a pretty barebones solution. The price is right, though. It works with the GH5, G9, GH5S, S1, S1R, and S1H. The company also posted a helpful start-to-finish tutorial on how to get going with streaming software like OBS here:

Cascable works well with a variety of Panasonic cameras, far more than the official app, even some superzooms that could be really fun to play with in this context.

Sony

There’s no official software to turn your Sony cameras into webcams, so we have to jump straight into third party options. Unfortunately it appears that there is no software available for Windows that lets you use your Alpha as a webcam — you’ll need a capture card to do it.

Cascable on Mac is again your best bet there, with support reaching back several generations to cameras like the NEX series and RX100 III. Ecamm Live also has limited Sony compatibility, but only supports the latest bodies. It’s $12 per month, but there’s a free trial if you want to give it a go first.

Olympus

It’s the same story for Olympus on Windows. You’re out of luck for now without a capture card.

On Mac, Cascable has wired support for many more Oly bodies, including Stylus cameras and the retro-style PEN F, which will probably resent being used for such a modern purpose. Ecamm Live has compatibility with the latest bodies — the E-M1 II, III, and X, and the E-M5 original and Mk II. No go on the PEN series, unfortunately.

Nikon

Surprisingly, while Nikon recently put up a rather helpful page on streaming using its cameras, it doesn’t produce any of the software itself, referring the reader to a variety of third-party programs.

As before, Cascable seems like the easiest way to get your Nikon working with a Mac, and SparkoCam is a frequent recommendation for Windows.

Warnings to the webcam-curious

These methods may be easy, but they’re not completely without issues.

One potential problem is heat. These cameras were designed primarily for capturing stills and short video clips. Running full time for extended periods can result in the camera getting too hot to function and shutting down. A camera shouldn’t damage itself seriously, but it’s something to be aware of. The best way to avoid this is using a dummy battery with a power adapter — these are pretty easy to find, and will mitigate overheating.

Audio also may not be as nice as the image. For people doing serious video work, an external mic is almost always used, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same. Considering a solid mic can be had for under $50 and should provide a substantial upgrade to your device’s built-in one, there’s no reason not to take the plunge.

You may also want to check a few forums for the best settings to use for the camera, from making sure it doesn’t turn off after a few minutes to exposure choices. For instance, since you’re not doing stills, you don’t need to worry about sharpness, so you can shoot wide open. But then you’ll need to make sure autofocus is working quickly and accurately, or you’ll end up lost in the bokeh. Check around, try a few different setups, and go with what works best in your situation.

And when you’re ready to take the next step, consult our more thorough guide to setting the scene.

You can now install the first beta of Android 11

After a series of developer previews, Google today released the first beta of Android 11 and with that, it is also making these pre-release versions available for over-the-air updates. This time around, the list of supported devices only includes the Pixel 2, 3, 3a and 4.

If you’re brave enough to try this early version (and I wouldn’t do so on your daily driver until a few more people have tested it), you can now enroll here. Like always, Google is also making OS images available for download and an updated emulator is available, too.

Google says the beta focuses on three key themes: people, controls and privacy.

Like in previous updates, Google once again worked on improving notifications — in this case, conversation notifications, which now appear in a dedicated section at the top of the pull-down shade. From there, you will be able to take actions right from inside the notification or ask the OS to remind you of this conversation at a later time. Also new is built-in support in the notification system for what are essentially chat bubbles, which messaging apps can now use to notify you even as you are working (or playing) in another app.

Another new feature is consolidated keyboard suggestions. With these, Autofill apps and Input Method Editors (think password managers and third-party keyboards), can now securely offer context-specific entries in the suggestion strip. Until now, enabling autofill for a password manager, for example, often involved delving into multiple settings and the whole experienced often felt like a bit of a hack.

For those users who rely on voice to control their phones, Android now uses a new on-device system that aims to understand what is on the screen and then automatically generates labels and access points for voice commands.

As for controls, Google is now letting you long-press the power button to bring up controls for your smart home devices (though companies that want to appear in this new menu need to make use of Google’s new API for this). In one of the next beta releases, Google will also enable media controls that will make it easier to switch the output device for their audio and video content.

In terms of privacy, Google is adding one-time permissions so that an app only gets access to your microphone, camera or location once, as well as auto-resets for permissions when you haven’t used an app for a while.

A few months ago, Google said that developers would need to get a user’s approval to access background location. That caused a bit of a stir among developers and now Google will keep its current policies in place until 2021 to give developers more time to update their apps.

In addition to these user-facing features, Google is also launching a series of updates aimed at Android developers. You can read more about them here.

Apple could reportedly announce Mac shift to its own ARM-based chips this month

For years now, analysts and unconfirmed reports have suggested Apple was working on transitioning its Mac line of computers away from Intel -based chips, and to its own, ARM-based processors. Now, Bloomberg reports that the company could make those plans official as early as later this month, with an announcement potentially timed for its remote Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) happening the week of June 22.

Apple has historically made a number of announcements at WWDC, including providing forward-looking information about its software roadmap, like upcoming versions of macOS and iOS, in order to help developers prepare their software for the updates’ general public availability. WWDC has also provided a venue for a number of Mac hardware announcements over the years, including reveals of new MacBooks and iMacs.

Bloomberg says that this potential reveal of its plan to transition to ARM-based Macs would be an advance notice, however – it would not include a reveal of any immediately available hardware, but would act as an advance notice to developers to give them time to prepare their software for ARM-based Macs to be released in 2021. The report cautions that the timing of the announcement could change, however, given that there are no plans to actually introduce any ARM-based Mac hardware for many months at least.

This isn’t the first major processor architecture switch that Apple’s Mac lineup has undergone; the company moved from PowerPC-based CPUs to Intel in 2006. That switch was originally announced in 2005, at Apple’s WWDC event that year – giving developers around half-a-year advance notice to ready themselves for the transition.

Bloomberg reported in April that Apple was planning to start selling ARM-based Macs by next year, and was developing three different in-house Mac processors based on the architecture to power those machines. Apple has made its own ARM-based processors to power iOS devices including the iPhone and iPad for many generations now, and its expertise means that those chips are now much more power efficient, and powerful in most respects, than the Intel chips it sources for its Mac line.