Sunday, August 21, 2011

SONY Project Shiphunt

Well SONY is back with a new, ill conceived student-exploitation campaign that selects a few students, and pretends that they and well placed Sony computers did something cool. Last time it was to launch a really impressive two-stage rocket: SONY Rocket Project. During the rocket project, the students learned quite a bit (what an experience) but didn't really design or build anything. Despite the hype, it was really about relying on a team of well known rocketry enthusiasts who already had the design on hand.

Getting kids involved in such a project and funding it would have been fine. But Sony did not stop there. After tons of delays, one of the rockets did launch. Sony posted "success!" and released a teaser youtube video that did show the rocket launching. Oddly enough, that video ended abruptly, mid-flight. Later on we find out that the rocket shredded during the flight. Rather than admit this (and who wouldn't understand that prototype rockets often fail?) Sony just outright lied. On the heels of the Sony rocket project, you will have to excuse me for being a bit concerned about their next (almost identical) scheme to hype up a laptop.

Notice that (in the link below) you actually read about this project in the Sony store. I understand that a corporation is out to make money. Indeed the officers of a company must do what is in the best interests of their shareholders, or possibly face criminal action. This is why I never blame them for seeming greedy. Their job isn't to be nice or charitable. But most corporations know how to donate money with some semblance of class. Intel will have it's name on a project. They may have a logo here or there, and a link from their website, for example. Alcoa also does a good job at funding science and students.

Why do I care? Do I just watch what Sony does all day and complain? Not at all. I like their products, and honestly hope they will find better ways to work with students. It just happens to be that I do rocketry, scuba, and "THing" or use metal detectors to "treasure hunt." Obviously I also use computers all the time, and I also work with science students and interns who are trying to get into the industry. By coincidence, these two Sony projects happened to fall at the nexus of so many of my personal and professional interests.

The fact is, any computer could have done what the Sony laptops did here. The majority of the work was done by people, already experts who spent years or decades learning a trade. That isn't a very profitable story to tell, however. I won't, and lack the desire to investigate this project as much as the rocket project. But the fact is, I suspect there is at least one skilled boat captain, sonar operator, and lots of research in a library behind this project. Would divers accept that a good laptop could be behind the discovery of U-869? That is how it feels to hear that a computer is behind a successful rocket launch. Let alone the implication that somehow, because these laptops are faster than the Saturn V IU or LM AGC, that is something to boast about.

SONY Shiphunt

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