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Christopher Schmitz
Works at Defy Media (Break Media + Alloy Digital)
Attended University of California, Irvine
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Christopher Schmitz

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People vs. Policy...

This week my mother-in-law died unexpectedly.  We'd already rushed into town to see her after hearing she'd been hospitalized, so we're staying for the funeral this weekend.  During this difficult time many people have reached out to me and other family members to offer their support and condolences.  I also noticed everyone in the family making an extra effort to be kind and understanding with each other.  In stark contrast to this have been a couple instances where people were much less supportive and understanding, both of which have their roots in policies.

The first instance was with my niece, who's currently in college out of state.  She too flew back immediately and was planning to stay for the funeral.  She had some tests coming up, but most of her teachers said she could make them up.  Unfortunately, one teacher said they only excuse absences for school functions, which is required by school policy.  The morning after being at her grandmother's side as she passed she was on the phone with various student organizations trying to sort everything out, each of which said it's up to the teacher's discretion and that this isn't uncommon.  Her mother also tried calling all the way up to the dean of the school, being very upset by the lack of flexibility, especially given their hefty tuition bill, but she got the same response about the school policy; even being told that another student is currently in a similar situation after having her own mother die.

Ultimately my niece decided that her grandmother wouldn't have wanted her grades to suffer, so she was forced to fly back and do her best to take the test after limited studying.  What was especially frustrating was that re-taking the test is possible for school functions, as the teacher stated, but that the teacher chose not to be understanding.  The teacher is technically completely within his rights to deny a make-up test, but that doesn't make it the right thing to do.  If he's concerned about students abusing such excuses to get more study time he could ask for a note from the funeral home, like she's providing to other teachers.  If it's fairness to other students he's concerned about he must be living in a bubble, as each student has different ability to study due to different schedules, and it's not like my niece would have been cramming at the funeral anyway.

The next instance was with my work.  I knew we got bereavement time, which was nice to be able to take without needing to worry about how much time off I had left, even though I still ended up taking 2 more days to get the full week (they only cover 3 days).  When I read the policy online it said it covered immediate family, and even gave the examples of parents, spouse, and siblings.  I had assumed that being married meant that my wife's family was included in that, but it turns out I was wrong and will probably be forced to use time off to cover the whole week.  I know some people don't get along with their in-laws, but that's not the case with me, and even if it was I'd want to be there for my wife.

This realization about my time off actually got me thinking more about how adequate the policy is in general.  At first 3 days sounded reasonable, but it's really just enough time to fly in, attend the funeral and grieve with family, then fly out.  That's actually the sort of thing I'd do for a friend or distant relative, but I can't imagine going back to work the same week that anyone in my immediate family died, maybe not even the following week.  In such an emotionally charged time, an inadequate policy like this can actually be more of a frustration than a comfort, possibly even irreparably souring an employee or spouse on a company.  I understand that companies need to limit the possibility of employees taking advantage of such policies, but limiting bereavement time to a minimum and arbitrarily drawing a line in the sand of who they're allowed time to grieve for if they don't have time off is unreasonable.

For me the takeaway is that while policies can be good to clarify what's acceptable, they can sometimes be used as an excuse to suppress the otherwise naturally compassionate response.  I'm sure if my company's policy was to leave bereavement time up to the discretion of my boss he'd tell me to take the time I need with my family; he's already said he'll work with me and HR about this.  For my niece, perhaps a school bereavement policy is needed, although I still think explicitly setting date and relationship limits will discourage compassion in favor of a one-size-fits-all standard.  In addition to hurting those involved, favoring standardized policies over individualized compassion hurts trust and motivation with the organization enforcing the policies.  This reminds me of a TED talk I watched recently about "Why good leaders make you feel safe" (http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_why_good_leaders_make_you_feel_safe), largely because they foster trust and mutual respect.

While I mostly wrote this to get it off my chest, I'm also hoping to shed light on a potential problem most people aren't aware of until they need to deal with it.  I encourage everyone to reach out to their work, schools, or any other organizations they participate in on a regular basis to find out their policy on bereavement.  If it's inadequate, I encourage you to speak up and try to improve it, if not for you than for your fellow coworkers, students, and friends.  You may want to share this with them to help them understand how important this issue is.  For organizations there's a minimal cost, but it can have a huge impact when someone is grieving.  Thanks.
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Gear VR vs. Cardboard

I wrote a comparison of Samsung's Gear VR to Google Cardboard in the comments for an article and I figured I'd share it here too for anyone who's interested:

I got my Gear VR in December I've been loving it ever since (got Cardboard a couple months earlier).  The Gear VR is definitely more than an expensive version of Cardboard.  The most obvious hardware difference is the trackpad and back button, but that's not the real value.  Really, the biggest hardware difference is the fact that the Gear VR has it's own position sensors.  It sounds like a small thing, but in most cases it eliminates ALL image position stuttering (the VR world not matching your head position), which means it's much less likely to make you sick.  On Cardboard, the position sensor data is all processed on the phone, which is already working hard to display dozens of frames per second.  For most videos this usually works fine, but for apps that generate their own frames (i.e. dynamic content like games and simulations) you'll usually see some stuttering.  For videos you can probably get away with just Cardboard, but you'll need Gear VR if you want more.

As far as software goes, it's true that there aren't a lot of full apps for Gear VR (a few dozen), but most of them are pretty good and a few of them are great.  Some games are definitely waiting for payments to be enabled by Samsung/Oculus before releasing a full version (I'd be happy to pay 3x my usual app price limit for some of them), but there are still some very compelling and complete apps.  Here are a few of my favorites:

* theBluVR - This is my go-to example for showing people the Gear VR.  The graphics aren't great, but the immersion is perfect, and it's a well curated exprience (like a museum exhibit).  It's also not too long for people who just want to try it without learning how to use the input.
* Strangers with Patrick Watson - This is the best example I've seen of 3D/360 video.  You really feel like you're sitting in the studio (complete with a dog) getting a personal performance.  Unlike some other videos, I didn't notice any image stitching (from combining multiple cameras for 360 videos), which causes strange effects when you generate a 3D video.
* HeroBound - If you like dungeon crawlers like Legend of Zelda you'll love this.  The game cleverly puts you in the same room as your character (usually against a wall, unless it's outside), allowing you to watch your character as he battles his way from one side of a room to another.  The scenery from room to room is great, without too much duplication (some, but it's not excessive).  In the demo available now you get 3 different weapons (plus strength upgrades), 2 full dungeons and 1 small dungeon with a big boss.
* Darknet - A pretty good puzzle game that doesn't seem to be a demo.  The only problem with it is that the play sessions are pretty long (you try to complete a game board in a time limit), but I think there's a way to pause it for later.

I could list 3x as many that I liked, but many of the demos are a bit too short for me to feel satisfied.  That said, it's a great showcase of what's to come.
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I just watched a very interesting documentary on Netflix about a "living game" art project from 2008-2011.  It reminded me a lot of #ingress , so if you're into that game I'd be interested to hear what you think about how they compare.  Ingress is much more obvious about being a game, but they both superimpose a game world over the real world, hold mass game events, and develop a long running mythology.  I wonder what the social impact will be if these sorts of games become more common, and what it says about people's satisfaction with their "real world" lives.
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We're starting a new series of articles about things likely to shape our future, starting with 3D printing.  If you think it's just for rapid prototyping and trippy plastic sculptures think again!  3D printing will impact everything from manufacturing to the medical industry to the construction industry.
In this first article of our new series, “Shaping our Future”, we’ll cover 3D printing and its potential impact. At first glance 3D printing might seem like little more than a novelty, but it has the potential to change the way we create most things in our lives. The term 3D printing...
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Here's my latest article for InnovativeFuture.org, inspired by a documentary I watched on Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.  The picture is of Khazar Islands, a $100 billion dollar planned city being developed!

#PlannedCities   #InnovativeFuture  
There are now more cities being built from scratch, and at a larger scale, than at any other time in human history. There are over a dozen cities either planned or in development, and over half a dozen at a massive scale in areas either mostly or completely undeveloped. The question is what...
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New nonprofit organization site!!!

We just released the website for our new nonprofit organization, the Foundation For An Innovative Future.  The site describes the organization and our goals, and gives people an opportunity to provide feedback.  Check it out and let me know what you think!
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The picture is cool, but seeing it animated on the website is even better.  Great for programmers to compare sort algorithms under different conditions.  It's even interesting for non-programmers to see a beautiful, simple demonstration of the crazy methods used to finish even just a little quicker when you ask your computer to sort something.
 
SORTING - A visualization of the most famous sorting algorithms
http://sorting.at/
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I just posted the next article in our series about things which will shape the future, this time on makerspaces.  Makerspaces aren't just for hackers and crafters anymore, and are actually launching real businesses.
Makerspaces, often referred to as hackerspaces, are places where people can go to make virtually anything they want. They’re closely tied to the maker movement: a growing trend of people expressing their creativity by making things, epitomized by Make:, Etsy, and Maker Faire. Most...
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We're getting games!!!  I'm not sure yet how closely I'll get to work with any of this, if at all, but I'm optimistic.  Looks like I might be back in the game industry!  :-D
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I just posted a new article to InnovativeFuture.org.  I was inspired to write this because of the huge variety of sizes and configurations new being tried for computers (desktops, all-in-ones, laptops, tablets, smartphones, glasses, watches...).  In the article I try to make sense of it all and give what I consider a realistic prediction of what form computers will probably take in the future.

#InnovativeFuture  
Computers have evolved from basic business machines to our windows to the world, and they show no sign of slowing down. This poses an interesting and challenging question: what will computers look like in the future and how will we interact with them? This isn’t a new question, and...
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Check out the latest article I wrote for InnovativeFuture.org

#Robots   #Jobs   #InnovativeFuture  
Some people are excited for a future where robots can make more stuff more efficiently, driving down cost. Others are justifiably concerned this will lead to fewer jobs and fewer people able to buy what’s being produced. We live in a very carefully balanced financial ecosystem, where any...
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It's alive!!!

We just released the completely overhauled Break app for Roku (under Internet TV in the Channel Store).  It may not look like much compared to our mobile apps, but if you're familiar with the quality of apps available on Roku you probably realize how revolutionary this is.  With the exception of the Netflix app, which I believe is just a C++ based web browser showing their standard HTML5 experience, our app is by far the most visually impressive I've seen on Roku.  We even get decent performance on devices with MUCH lower specs than most phones, using various graphical optimizations.

I actually pulled a lot from my mobile game industry background to build this almost completely from scratch, using just basic drawing drawing commands.  Some of the more interesting limitations include: no clipping, no circle/arc/triangle drawing, no native scroll control, no alpha level control when drawing images, no available memory checking, reference counting GC (manual mark & sweep, but it's slow), no way to define classes/objects/interfaces, no thread access (asynchronous calls available for native functions, with message polling), and almost all errors are runtime errors.  Despite my griping, I do like how powerful BrightScript is, but you definitely need to know what you're doing.  If you don't stick to a well defined structure you'll end up with a huge list of bugs which can be extremely difficult to track down.

If you or someone you know has a Roku, go check it out!
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Education
  • University of California, Irvine
    Information and Computer Science, 2004 - 2006
  • Golden West College
    Game Development, 2004 - 2006
  • Orange Coast Community College
    Computer Science, 2000 - 2004
Work
Occupation
An inventor, currently masquerading as a software engineer in the mobile industry
Employment
  • Defy Media (Break Media + Alloy Digital)
    Lead Android Developer, 2012 - present
  • Isotope Entertainment
    Founder & Lead Developer, 2009 - present
  • nProgress
    Senior Programmer, 2011 - 2012
  • Citysearch
    Mobile Developer, Android, 2010 - 2011
  • Javaground USA, Inc.
    Sr Tools Engineer, 2006 - 2010
  • Fountain Valley Music Center
    Saxophone Teacher, 2002 - 2006
Basic Information
Gender
Male
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Friends, Networking
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Chris Schmitz
Christopher Schmitz's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
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