Friday, May 30, 2008

iTunes Dynamic Pricing - It's a Good Thing

There's been some speculation about whether or not Apple will make some video content available on iTunes on a dynamic pricing model or not. Personally, I think it's a good idea.

Now I know what you're thinking - "Hey Bob, WTF - doesn't that mean we'll be paying more for all that gooey video goodness?" Yes and no.

Think about it for a second - if everything was $1.99 per download - then the studios would say "it's not enough" and would limit the content. On the flip side, if the studios thought $4.99 was a better price, say, for an episode of The Sopranos then people could vote with their feet and just not buy it. Once the numbers trailed off - the studio could then lower the price back to $2.99 and see what happens.

Sure, there will be some pissed off people who bought the $4.99 episode when the price goes down to $2.99 - but if it was worth $4.99 when you downloaded it - it's probably actually worth $4.99 to you now.

Just have a look at the iPhone. It came out at a higher price, and then they lowered the price (much to the chagrin of those early adopters) to boost demand. And - it WORKED.

So you may not be enough of a fan of a show to fork over $2.99 for an episode, but what if they dropped the price (for a limited time - or for a couple of pilot episodes) to $0.49? Would you be interested then? Maybe.

And that's good for everyone. You get a "deal" on a show that you've never seen - or one that sounds interesting that you would have never really watched - and the studios then have to "earn" your viewership of future episodes by keeping the quality of the show high.

I'll admit - there is still something sort of FUD factor when an episode of 24 goes for $1.99 one day, then $2.14 the next and $1.61 the next. But the point is - as a series becomes more popular, then the studios have a bigger upside and they can test market prices - or aggressively try to stimulate demand for a new series or movie - by playing with the prices.

In the end, that whole market-driven thing is good for everyone.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This Just In: Music Industry Greedy

It may or may not come as a surprise, but the music industry is out for your wallet - again - I mean still. It seems that the unlocked MP3 game isn't making them as much money as they expected hoped for will settle for.

So, they have a new latest-and-greatest idea: "Let's RENT songs to people." Yep, now they want to the be Hertz or Avis of the online media world.

Now that you can finally (through huge fits, starts and lawsuits) actually buy DRM-free music and listen to it, download it and *gasp* burn it to CD - they want to turn the model on its head. The only downside is - people will have to think it's a great idea and actually use the "service."

The premise here is that people don't really want to "own" music - they just want to listen to it. So, let's give them a way to "buy" (the rights to listen to) a song for ten cents each. Then, we'll put it into a "locker" for them - and they can listen to that song as many times as they want.

As long as they're online.

Yep, no rights to download to anything, no rights to burn, no rights to nothin' - just to listen to it via a browser. And, after you've ponied up the cash - you can just hope that the company (Lala) will be there a year from now. If not, then thanks for the cash - sorry, you're S.O.L.

Does this sound nuts - to anyone other than me?

Apparently not to Warner Music Group - who quietly invested US $20 million into Lala late last year (2007). At that time they also agreed to put printed advertisement for Lala into 25,000,000 CDs in exchange for the right to greater ownership, and the good folks at Lala have managed to raise a whopping US $34.7 million in funding.

So, will people go for it? I hope not! What kind of half-baked idiot would pay ten cents per tune when there are other services like Napster, Imeem or even YouTube? If you only want streaming - there are all-you-can-eat plans for under US $13 per month - that's the same as "buying" 130 songs on Lala.

It's a pretty stupid idea, if you ask me. I think people want to actually buy their music and and do with it what they would do with any other type of purchased music: download it, rip it, burn it AND play it on their computer. If you're not one of them - or just have money burning a hole in your pocket - here's a secret URL you can use to check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cam-Trax Makes Webcams Useful Again

Well, the details are a bit sketchy - but a new company (founded in 2007) called Cam-Trax seems to have done the impossible - made the webcam relevant.

The company says it has made some software that will enable any webcam to track any object in realtime (in three dimensions!) that you can use to control any PC video game.

There's not really a lot on their single page website besides a YouTube video - and you can't download anything yet - hopefully it's the real deal.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Looks like they're young uber-wonks who just write code but could learn a few things about Marketing 101:
  • Before a launch, have more than a single page site
  • Have a flash demo of how you set it up - or at least a YouTube video
  • Give some details about what cameras you've tested, what OS it runs on, etc.
  • If the software isn't yet ready for prime time download, say when it will be
  • Do at least a one page PDF with the details of the founders, the estimated price of the software, timeframes, etc.
To be fair, perhaps they didn't realize that they would get any real notice or press - but with the speed of the Internet and such a novel use of (languishing) webcam tech - it's better to be prepared to put your best foot forward, in CASE you get lucky and get some free buzz.

In any event, I think the promise for this type of tech is awesome - and not just for gaming. I can imagine uses for the disabled, or kids (OLPC), etc. I'm hoping in the next few weeks (or days) that there is more to come - including a download (I'd love to try it out for myself).

What about it guys? When can we get some of that camera-lovin' goodness?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Microsoft Does About Face on ODF and PDF

Maybe Microsoft was having a "DF" day - as they did a 180 on their stance of supporting both ODF (Open Document Format) and PDF (Portable Document Format) in Office.

You see, ODF is the file format of OpenOffice and StarOffice - competitors to the 800 pound gorilla - Microsoft Office. So, rather than agreeing to support the ODF (which is already an ISO standard) - Microsoft fought to get their own file format (OOXML - Office Open XML) approved as an ISO standard as well. Which they managed to do (on April 1, 2008 - April FOOL'S DAY!) - although there are some grumblings and upcoming challenges to the ISO board by South Africa and others.

Seems MS didn't want to give people using - *gasp* - free Office-like tools the ability to actually interoperate with folks who ponied up the cash for the "real" Office suite.

Then, they went ahead and did the same thing with PDF. Seems that MS is not really that fond of paying royalties to others for their technologies - and Adobe really started to piss them off with their demands for revenue and their AIR/Flex/Flash suite. So, Microsoft came up with its own XML Paper Specification (XPS) as a result.

No, really - they did.

Good idea! Let's re-invent yet another standard - and make it Windows-only! Brilliant!

They did the same kind of thing with C# - it's basically a direct rip-off of Java - that they did for the same reason - lock developers into a Windows-only environment. They also didn't like the fact that they wanted to "extend the standard" Java - but not through plug-ins or just extra jar files (like everyone else) - but they wanted to muck with the core and Sun said no.

So, Microsoft just took their dollies and went home and came up with C#.

Now, it looks like Microsoft's changed their minds - and has agreed to support both ODF and PDF in their Service Pack 2 release that is due in the first half of 2009.

Are they just feelin' groovy? Has the voice of reason and not fear been heard in the hallowed halls? Maybe.

However, I think it has more to do with New York state officially promoting ODF as a standard file format based on customer demand as it launched a new initiative for technology openness and open standards earlier this week. I think that Microsoft is finally seeing the writing on the wall: "If we don't support these standards that were created by the other (explicative) vendors - we'll be screwed by local, state and (eventually) the feds."

Read my lips: your bloatware isn't the only game in town anymore. People will not keep paying $500 a throw for it forever.

Microsoft needs to get over their "not invented here" syndrome and knock down some of those interoperability walls. They should be the best integrator of the best-of-breed technologies that people are already using.

For example, the default format for stuff on the Mac is PDF. It just saves it that way by default, not as an after thought, or as a type of printer or any of that nonsense. This simple ability to save in PDF allows Mac users to share stuff and email/post/share content right away. That's part of their their competitive advantage and is just part of the whole ease-of-use thing.

I must admit that this is a good first step for Microsoft - and I hope we'll see see them take the lead in integrating standards rather than re-inventing the wheel for everything.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Tribute

Today is Memorial Day in the US - a national holiday where we Americans are supposed to take time to remember and reflect on the thousands who gave their lives in the name of our country and the freedoms it represents.

For most of my life - it was a really abstract concept - and a great excuse to get a day off from school or work. Oh sure, I'd observe a moment of silence and reflect upon it, but then it would completely slip from my conscience thoughts and that would be that.

Then there was Desert Storm. I was living in Bakersfield, CA at the time, and when the soldiers came home - the town basically shut down and everyone went to the downtown area and lined the streets. There were yellow ribbons, everyone waved flags, held up homemade banners and really went all out to welcome back the troops.

I was in the front row, and I could see just how thankful and overwhelmed these kids (for the most part) were. They went out to do a job in a foreign country - and while not everyone agreed on the politics involved - they sure agreed that welcoming people who put their lives on the line was a good thing. And it was!

Then there was 9/11. I watched on TV as the second plane hit the second tower - LIVE with a lot of America. I stayed glued to the TV as the devastation continued through out the day. When I found out the planes were hijacked - I got angry. I think we all did.

When we sent people into Iraq to kick ass and take names - it seemed like the logical thing to do. As I watched CNN while the first bombs were dropped - I was feeling a bit smug and horrified at the same time. It's one thing to watch it on TV, and a whole 'nother thing to actually think about and understand what the actual, live, human people were doing in going over there.

Some time later I saw the HBO series "Band of Brothers" and also, probably the most eye-opening and shocking - "Saving Private Ryan". These films really affected me. The true horror of war - and the true sense of duty (even though I realize they were just movies) - really became apparent to me.

The fact that these are real people with real lives, real families. They were babies, toddlers, teenagers. They went to prom, got their first car, their first kiss. Some got married, had their own children, were expecting their first child or grandchild. These were real people. With real hopes, dreams, cares and burdens.

And, in the blink of an eye their whole life is just ended.

Just... like... that.

And why? For what? For the very things that I, for one, take for granted: the right to be free. Free to say what I want (e.g. this blog), watch what I want, the right to believe in God, the right to have a say in the way this country is run, the right to be and do what seems right to me.

And they - and their families - and their loved ones - and their unborn children - and their wives/husbands - they paid the price. Whether they were killed in battle, or physically or mentally scarred for life - they all did the job - the VOLUNTARY job that they signed up for. The choice they made to help defend our country - regardless of role or branch of service - was and is an awesome one.

On behalf of me and my family - I just wanted to say Thank You.


P.S. - T0 CPL Wyatt Fulkerson (son of Bob and Oliva "Levy' Fulkerson in Somis, CA) - I'm so very glad you're back home after your tour in Japan and Iraq. It was great to see you this weekend - and I'm relieved to hear you'll be re-deployed here in the US for at least the next year. Thank you for your service!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Socially Unsocial

I don't want to sound like the Andy Rooney of social networking - but, I just don't get it. I spent some middle-of-the-night time this weekend trying my darndest to figure it out.

I updated my Facebook profile, I added people to my Twitter account, updated my LinkedIn profile, sent a Jott and then I spent a bunch of time (literally 4+ hours) reading profiles of other people who are "connected", or "linked" or "are friends of" the people I know.

Here's what I found out:
  • I'm not the most social person ever invented
  • Everybody in the world knows more people than I do

I also determined that most (not ALL) the people that I have linked to my various online profiles - must have a helluva' lot of down time. I mean, I can barely find time to write this blog - never mind keep up on 5 different social networking sites, posting things, updating things, pinging, twittering, twirling, and flickring.

I can understand it if you're a journalist, PR person, marketing person, recruiter, etc. But 99% of these folks are none of the above. I mean REALLY! People! Wow! Let me know the jobs you have that allow that much free time.

I can understand if you wanted to join one of these services because your friends are there - and it's a way to "hang out" without really doing anything... ummm... together... but I would still rather watch an episode of Lost - than obsess over who is doing what - RIGHT NOW(!).

And wow - how much personal information do you really want to share? I hear all sorts of people piss and moan about how little privacy there is in the world these days, how all these nameless, faceless corporations are putting up all sorts of personal information for sale to the highest bidder.

But some of these people are doing it to themselves. Lots of people give waaaayyyy too much information about themselves in all these social networking profiles. I'm not sure I really need to know your turn-ons and turn-offs, and what you had for dinner last night. If I did - I'd either call you - or send you an email.

OK, so I'd send you an email...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Vista Sucks

The main reason I didn't post on Thursday is because I got my first experience using Vista. Mind you - I'm a diehard XP user - and I'm not about to EVER install Vista on my own personal machine - but I set out to help a colleague who needed a print driver installed.

It was easy enough - or so I thought. Just go to the Dell site, download the driver, double-click, put in the printer IP address and done.

OK - so finding and downloading the driver took about 10 minutes (not bad). The instructions from the Dell site for the 1710n print driver installation:
  1. Double-click the new icon on the desktop labeled
  2. The Self-Extracting window appears and prompts you to extract or unzip C:\DELL\DRIVERS\R147083. Write down this path so the executable (I.e. Setup.exe) file can be found later.
  3. The Self-Extractor window appears.
  4. Click OK.
  5. After completing the file extraction, if the Self-Extractor window is still open, close it.
  6. Click the Start button and then click Run.
  7. Type C:\DELL\DRIVERS\R147083 in the Open textbox and then click OK.
  8. Follow the on-screen installation instructions.

These directions are very specific, and on the surface, look very helpful. Until you actually try to follow them.

First of all - it assumes you're using a circa 1998 OS that doesn't have the built-in .zip utility that treats the file like a folder. Second of all there IS NO "Setup.exe" in the download. Instead, there are two .exe files with stupid names that mean nothing to a person that doesn't work at Dell.

OK - so I do what any self-respecting geek would do - pick the first one, and double-click and see what happens. This is where the glory of the Vista experience starts to play out.

As soon as I double-click - Vista gives me a warning dialog that verifies I want to run an installer. It helpfully suggests that installers can "install applications" and those applications can do bad things to your computer - so don't blame us if you hose yourself.

With a chuckle, I murmur "cute" under my breath and proceed to install. As soon as that dialog is dismissed there is another one from "Windows Defender". I need to click to give this program access to install itself - because, you know, installers can install applications, and applications might hose your computer, so don't blame us!

Slight chuckle again.

So this beast installs itself and opens the "Add printer" wizard. Of course there are no Dell print drivers on a Toshiba machine, but the "Have Disk" option isn't there (like on the old Win 2000 and below wizard). Then I notice that Dell helpfully
launched an instructional window with instructions that include the admonition to click the "Have Disk" button and follow the prompts.

Ummmm... there is no "have disk" button. So, I clicked the "Cancel" button to exit the installer (so I could Google and find where the "Have Disk" button went in Vista.

Then, Vista helpfully tells me it appears as if the installer didn't finish all the way and do I want to re-launch it. Ummm... NO. That's why I clicked "cancel." Thanks for trying to be helpful, but if you don't know what I intentionally did (click "cancel") - then don't try to "help" me.

OK - so I found out that you have to click "local printer" (even though this was a network printer), and then when it can't find anything, you click "Next" and then you have the "Have Disk" button.

Right. That's intuitive.

So, I relaunch the installer - get the same helpful warnings as before, get to the "Have Disk" button - specify the directory the driver is in... everything says it's ready - and I print a test page.

Or try to. Nothing happens.

Then the print queue errors. The good news is that I get a helpful Vista dialog telling me that there was an "unknown" print error. HEY! Thanks! Wow! Helpful!

Now, I'm not the most geeky geek ever, and I only have a novice understanding of Windows (after 10 years using it) - but I know how to go into the printer control panel and muck with the port settings. So I go to the control panels - try to open the Printers - and Vista gives me yet another "warning" and asks if it's OK to modify the resource.

Slightly cursing under my breath now - I click yes, and muck with the port setup, etc.

So it now works - and printing is fine.

Then there was an issue with the wireless network - it wasn't connecting. So, I went into the wireless connection panel, and simply wanted to check the settings for the wireless setup. Guess what? Yep, Vista helpfully informed me that WiFi is dangerous and people can steal your crap and don't blame us if you hose your computer.

Ok. The connection settings were correct - then it showed a "Wireless connection troubleshooter" link. Finally! This is helpful! In context! When I actually need help! Click...

The help loads - cursor spins, the "Wireless connection troubleshooter" help topic appears... then... a message:

"The help file you requested cannot be found because you are not connected to the Internet."

I am NOT kidding. If I were able to connect to the Internet, I wouldn't need this help topic!

I get the fact that Microsoft is getting its ass kicked for being a leaking toxic tank of security flaws, patches, fixes, bubble gum and bailing wire - but if they take 6 years to "re-write" their operating system - you would think it would be better, not worse.

If you want to include these "helpful" dialogs and wizards - make DAMN SURE that:
  1. They actually work
  2. The user has the ability to turn them off in an EASY way
  3. Make them smart enough to know what the user intended to do (or has intentionally done)
or SHUT UP and don't try to be "helpful."

I finally got everything working in SPITE of Vista, not because it helped, nor was easy, nor guided me through the process. I got it (and everything else I tried) to work because I'm a bit geeky and generally know what to touch and what not to touch - after 10 years of experience.

I just absolutely SHUTTER at the thought that new computer users - or people who upgrade - or people like my parents will be assaulted by this utterly confusing, dialog-laden, piece of crap as their main way of trying to get their work done (or just surf the net, or whatever).

I'm going to recommend both Macintosh and Ubuntu Linux to all my friends, neighbors, in-laws, and family the next time they ask for OS advice... in fact, my next box just might be a Mac...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Apple's Stumbles with Bombs and DRM

Besides all the hype and "unconfirmed sources" cited in the run-up to the release of the 3G iPhone - Apple is finding itself in another round of bitch-slapping regarding it's Safari browser and it's DRM-protected content in iTunes.

First off - the "carpet bombing" hole in Safari. This little baby raised its ugly head over the last couple of days. Turns out Nitesh Dhanjani originally discovered that it is possible for a booby-trapped Web site to litter the user’s Desktop (Windows) or Downloads directory (~/Downloads/ in OSX) with executables that look like "real" application icons.

“This can happen because the Safari browser cannot be configured to obtain the user’s permission before it downloads a resource. Safari downloads the resource without the user’s consent and places it in a default location (unless changed),” Dhanjani said, warning that it could be used as a drive-by badware distribution mechanism.

Even Google-backed got in on the act - questioning whether Apple should take a look at this bug (or feature, depending on your perspective) and determine whether it qualifies as a security risk or not.

DUH! Hmmm... some baddie can just create cute icons in the default download location that are shortcuts to a website or app that can cause damage? I'd call that a security hole. I mean, the least they should do is put in a preference for it - so the user has a choice.

The other area where Apple is wearing a "kick me" sign has to do with it's retarded instance on crippling its iTunes downloads (most of them, anyway) with their FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) encoding. Of course, anyone can get around it by burning stuff to a CD and then re-ripping the thing - but really, who has the time to do that?

Now that everyone and their dog from Amazon, to Napster, to Netflix has DRM-free MP3s - how long does Apple think it will take for folks like Yahoo, Zune, and RealNetworks to ink their own deals?

Not long. Really.

Hey Steve, now that you're you're striking royalty-free iPhone distribution deals (in other countries) - what about making FairPlay = DRM-free? And for goodness sake - add a damn preference to Safari while you're at it.

Remember Newton? Remember OS 7? Cool - but eventually both technologies got their asses kicked by the competition. Don't let it happen again!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

iBob in the Wilderness

The hills are alive.... with the sound of music...

iBob here. I just wanted to report about the glorious outdoor experience I had this weekend up at June Lake. Even though the drive was long (and the DVD player died) we arrived at Boulder Lodge without incident.

The old welcoming lodge (think "rustic") embraced us like old friends. We were in one of the deluxe rooms with a small kitchen and a gorgeous view of the lake. Good ol' room 206 (the same room we've stayed in the past 3 years) had been updated with new carpet (now with 50% less fish hooks!), a single bedroom with a queen bed (for the kids) and a twin bed (for my wife) and a couch (for me). This was to be our base camp for this adventure.

My son had been simply buzzing with anticipation all week long. He simply couldn't wait to get here and get fishing. After the long drive we had some dinner and met up with my in-laws, and decided to get to bed early so we would be ready to go first think Saturday morning.

My brother-in-law, Jimbo, was heading out early (4:30am) to Bridgeport (about an hour north) to do some stream fishing, but promised to take my son out as soon as he got back. This meant that I would probably be up early to take him out for the first round.

Turns out that at 3:00am he was awake and crying that "...all he wants to do is fishing. That's the only reason he came up here!" I assured (promised, did a pinky swear) him we'd go - wanting to get a little more sleep myself.

At 6:00am (on the nose) there was a knock on the door and my father-in-law, Don, was dressed and ready to go - asking if he could take my son down to the docks.

Could he? Are you kidding?

I woke him up, got him dressed, stuffed his pockets with snacks and off they went - down to the docks in the crisp, early morning air. Being the stand-up father I am, I promptly... went back to sleep.

When I finally managed to push the cobwebs of an interrupted sleep out of my eyes - it was about 8:00am. My wife and daughter were just waking up - and still there was no sign of Don and Brennan.

We had a little breakfast (doughnuts and coffee), got dressed, and mingled with the extended family for a couple of hours - when Jimbo showed up. He didn't have very good luck in Bridgeport (after hiking in 3 miles and fishing on a icy stream) - but his first question out of his mouth was "where's Don and Brennan?" No sooner that we informed him they were down on the dock - he grabbed his pole and headed out.

The weather was simply gorgeous. There's no other way to put it. The online weather service said it would only be in the high 50's to the lower 60's - but it was easily about 75 degrees. There was a mild breeze, the blue jays were out in force, and it was a beautiful day for fishing.

Around 12:30pm - Don, Brennan and Jimbo came back - no luck. Undeterred in their quest - we all had some lunch, and decided that a good nap was in order.

I didn't wake up until 5:30pm (it's the most sleep I had all week!).

Turns out they were all down on the dock, so I dragged my altitude-weary body down there for a while and was informed that they still had no luck - although there were a couple of people next to them that had caught a fish or two (trout). Late in the day, about an hour before sunset, we all had dinner together (chilie verde burritos) - and I never saw the men eat so quickly. They wanted to get down to the other side of the lake before sunset for one more round. They still had no luck - and we called it a night.

On Sunday morning - the knock came at 5:15am. This time Jimbo was ready - and I got Brennan dressed, stuffed with snacks, and sent him off. Then another knock came at 6:15am - this time Don wanting to know if Brennan could come out and play. After informing him that he and Jimbo had set off - I decided that I would never get back to sleep and put on the coffee.

They came back about 11:00am with one big fish - a 4 pound German brown. Success and high fives all around. I took the kids swimming at the indoor pool for a couple of hours while my wife made lunch (her world-famous chili). She's not been feeling the best (cough, snuffles, not able to sleep) - so I ran into "town" to get some drugs while my niece and her husband watched the kids.

In the general store, they had all the fishing supplies up front - with the boring things - like groceries - in the back. After spending about 5 times more than I would have for the same supplies in civilization (they actually had a sign at the cash register that read "$5.00 charge for listening about how much less you paid everywhere else), I headed back to the compound.

We had some great chili - and hunkered down for our traditional afternoon nap.

After nap everyone decided to go out to a neighboring lake and so they packed up everything (and would have included the kitchen sink if they would have had a pipe wrench!) and were about to head out. My daughter, Brooke, who really isn't "into" fishing and prefers drawing, coloring, and puzzles, said she wanted to stay behind and play in the snow.

Well, with my wife in a cough medicine induced "nap" - I stayed behind with Brooke - and we headed off to the old snow plow pile of dirty, icy snow. You know, it's really amazing to watch a kid's imagination when it's in full swing. She found an old screw driver and was playing in this dirty, icy snow - just singing and hopping around when she hit upon a terrific idea.

She would try her hand at sculpting.

She found a piece of icy snow, sat down and began her work. After about 15 minutes, she announced she was done - and her masterpiece eagle head was finished. "Not too bad for my first sculpturing - huh, Dad?" Well, the snow might not have melted - but my heart sure did.

With everyone else gone (and no cell reception to find out where they actually wound up) - the three of us just sat around in the room with the slider open, feeding the blue jays (and chipmunks) on the deck, and watched the "Parent Trap" (the new version with Lindsay Lohan - before she imploded). We had snacks, read, Brooke colored, my wife dozed - and it was a really, really relaxing time. We had a late dinner (they didn't get back until about 8:30pm) of skillet-cooked hot dogs and salad and settled down for the night.

The knock didn't come until a respectable 6:00am - and it was Jimbo - ready for another day. Of course Brennan was ready to go in 2 minutes flat (try THAT on a school day!) and off they went. The fishing was crappy - mostly chubbs - but they caught one or two small rainbow trout as well.

The best part of the day came later on. We had rented a boat - and while my wife slept (she'd been feeling crappy the whole time) - I took my daughter out on the lake for a little cruise. I got her all strapped into her life jacket and off we went. 80 degrees, slight breeze, warm afternoon sun. There's simply nothing like it in this world.

On the last night we traditionally have the big fish fry - only we decided to do it for a late lunch this year (Jimbo and troop wanted to go back to Bridgeport). I followed Jimbo and Brennan to the little shack set aside for cleaning fish - and watched with rapt fascination as Jimbo made fillets out of about 10 fish in less than 10 minutes. Amazing.

He used his "secret" recipe of salt and pepper and flour and fried them up in hot olive oil on the crappy vintage 1954 electric stove in our room (an managed a small fire in the making). We feasted on baked potatoes, asparagus and fresh fried fish - yummy!

By the time this morning rolled around - I was prepared for the drill and was awake and waiting for the fated "knock" - which came at 5:34am. Brennan and Jimbo headed down to the dock to try their luck. This being the last day and all - I waited for about an hour and then joined them down on the dock.

Brennan was there talking smack - giving me 1,000 pointers about everything (" know - chubbs are bottom feeders with no natural predators so we got to get them out while we can..."). I was there about 2 hours in which time Jimbo got zero bites, and Brennan caught 3 chubbs (which promptly became ant food). Because no one was hitting anything - Brennan decided he would just fish for chubb right off the dock (we could see about 50 of them right below us).

His philosophy is: catching fish - even if they are chubb - is funner than not catching fish.

I couldn't agree more.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Gone Fishing

No, literally. I've gone fishing with the family (and in-laws!) at June Lake, CA. I'll be back on Wednesday with another installment... I know you "can't wait!"...

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Servoy 4.0 Experience - Part 4

Ok, ok, this is the last one. After digging into this Servoy 4.0 Public Pre-Release a bit more (over a nice bottle of wine) - I found some other cool stuff that I played around with andjust had to tell you about: form inheritance, form variables, and menubar plug-in.

Form inheritance is really cool and a huge time saver. Basically, it allows you to base a new form on any other existing form - so that you don't need to create many similar forms from scratch. It works like this: let's say you have a basic dialog form that has a text area and two buttons ("OK" and "Cancel") and you want to create another one that has a third button "Details".

In previous versions you'd have to duplicate the form, then go back and duplicate the method on the OK button, then duplicate the method on the Cancel button, then duplicate any other methods - and hook them up to all the objects, THEN add your new button and its method.

In 4.0 - when you create the form (or even after it's created!) - you can set the "extends" property to any other form. Servoy will then show all the objects on the form (locked with a red outline) and will keep all the methods attached to all objects and even all the form events hooked up to the original methods.

Now, here's the cool part - you can then overwrite the method that attached to any item with a new method (called "overloading" in geek speak). This allows you to quickly create lots of similar forms - and if you want to change something on all of them - you only have to change the base (original) form - and all the changes automatically appear in all the related forms.

Very cool!

Form variables are just what they say - variables that are scoped within a particular form - as opposed to "global" variables which are scoped within the entire solution. This is really a great feature. I can't tell you the number of times that I've created 10 or 15 global variables with the name of "text01", "text02", etc. so that I could use them at various places for specific form-based functions.

It's also handy in another situation: multiple instances of the SAME window. If I have Form_1 and open two copies of it - using global variables rather than form variables - if I changed the value in the global variable in the first window instance - it would change in the second instance as well.

Now, with form variables - both window instances have their own "copy" of all the form variables - so both window instances can act completely independently of each other.


And last, but by no means least, they've added a new menubar plug-in. Although available from the most-excellent Servoy plug-in vendor IT2Be for a couple of years - it's nice to see it bundled with the default installation.

The menubar plug-in allows you to - wait for it - take control over the menubar. You can add your own menus, change the default menus, add icons, hierarchical menus, disable/enable menu items, etc. But it goes farther than that.

You can add your own toolbars and place them inside windows, add contextual menus to any object and much more. Not everyone will want to monkey around with menus - so it's good that they made it a plug-in rather than just adding a bunch of overhead to the "application" object - for stuff only some people will use (isn't that why plug-in exist in the first place?).

Regardless - all these improvements (and I didn't even talk about rightClick and doubleClick events on labels and buttons!) really add up to a terrific release.

I didn't think it was possible to make Servoy any more productive - but in this case - I'm glad to say I was dead WRONG!

If you want to download the public preview (or the currently shipping 3.5 version for that matter) - just go to They've also scheduled some MORE live webinar events next week - but you gotta' register for them at their events page.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Servoy 4.0 Experience - Part 3

In this installment of my impressions of Servoy 4.0 Public Pre-Release, we'll have a look at the new Team Sharing capabilities.

In previous versions - doing team development was a bit arduous and could be slow over a WAN. Servoy used to have a "Multi-Developer Server" that would allow multiple developers to log into the same repository and then work on whatever they wanted.

Servoy would then "lock" the resource being used (form, method, relation, etc) and prevent anyone else from using it until you saved it. It would the broadcast that change to all the other connected developers - so that everyone had the "latest" changes.

In the 4.0 version - it's much more straight forward. Servoy now supports Team Sharing database repositories (without the broadcast stuff) - but it also supports both CVS and Subversion (SVN). These are standards-based, open source, commercial quality code management systems - that have been around for years.

You can either set them up on your own local machine, on a group server or even have them hosted as a service (most offer a free plan) over the Internet. Setting up Servoy to work with CVS or SVN is easy - just install the appropriate Eclipse plug-in (Help -> Software Updates -> Find and Install...), enter your CVS or SVN repository info - and you're off to the races.

Because Eclipse is file-based all the developers have all the objects on their own local file system. They can work on whatever they want, without being "locked out" of specific objects. Then, they can "synchronize" their stuff with what's in the repository (be it Servoy repository, CVS or SVN).

It will tell them the pending changes they have to put up to the server, what has been changed and is waiting to come down, and where there are conflicts (two people edited the same object with different settings).

In the case of a conflict, the developer can see his version and the version in the repository - with the changes highlighted in both copies. They can then adjust their code to remove conflicts - and "commit" their copy to the repository. Likewise, they can "Update" their copy at any point to pull down all the changed files "committed" by someone else.

This isn't at the solution level - but at the OBJECT level!

WOW. Totally cool!

Talk about being productive in a team environment! Hat's off to the Servoy engineers for making team sharing "for the rest of us."

If you want to download the public preview (or the currently shipping 3.5 version for that matter) - just go to They've also scheduled some live webinar events this week (and next) - but you gotta' register for them at their events page.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Servoy 4.0 Experience - Part 2

So yesterday I started with my impressions of the new public pre-release of Servoy 4.0 - and I thought I'd delve a little deeper into some of the cooler new things today.

I've already talked about the forms editor - now let me wax poetic about the overall navigation and coding improvements and I'll tackle the Team Sharing tomorrow.

As I mentioned yesterday, most of the modal dialogs are gone, and rather than having a bunch of menus at the top of the screen, there is now the "Solution Explorer". This view shows all of the things that used to be on the menu - but in tree format.

To work on a solution - you right-click on the "All solutions" node. Want to create a new form? Right-click on the "forms" node. Setup security? Yep, right-click on security.

HOT TIP: Right-click is your friend! When in doubt, right-click!

Now let's take a look at another area that they've made great strides - the coding environment. It's nice to see that they've taking the time and effort to include some real improvements where the rubber meets the road.

All the methods of a particular type are all now in a single file (form methods are all grouped per form, global methods are all grouped together). This means that you can now get the "flow" of your methods. In previous versions you had to open up multiple tabs - one for each method. This "unified view" is much easier to gain context in as well as more flexible.

But, the code listings are much longer. Thankfully, you can now "fold" the code - or roll it up to the function level. You can now just create functions on the fly by using: function myfunction () { }. When you save, Servoy will automatically create the object and add it to the project.

The good news is - it still works the "old" way by clicking the icon or by right-clicking where you want to create it. This is a great blend of "old" and "new" - and is really easy to get used to.

You can now do cool things - like have auto-code complete. Before, you had to start typing and hit Ctrl+Space to get the contextual code complete menu to pop up. Now, if you enter the object type (application, form, controller, element, etc.) and type the "dot" - the contextual auto-complete menu pops up - and even will now show the example usage of the function along with any additional parameters.

There is also an "outline" view available - that will show all the methods (again in a tree) and if you double-click it - it will scroll automatically to that place in the code listing. It will also show all the variables you use (the ones you declare with: var x = ) in that same tree view. Nice!

Then there's the code coloring. There are lots of very particular people out there - and in the 4.0 version you can no only change the code coloring - you can add your own! There are preferences for everything about the environment - you can even arrange all the panes and all the tabs to your personal liking.

On top of all this - you have interactive debugging and persistent/conditional breakpoints.

Persistent breakpoints are saved between sessions - and also appear in overview (list) format - so you can just double-click right to a particular point. A right-click on the breakpoint will allow you to disable it, or make it conditionaal.

For example - it will only cause the breakpoint after X number of times of running (great for loops) - or you can even specify your own ad-hoc condition under which it activates. Terrific if you're trying to hunt down that pesky "sometimes happens" bug.

The interactive debugging is really cool! All you have to do is set a breakpoint and then open up either the Smart Client or Web Client - or BOTH - and click around in your application until you perform the method that you have the breakpoint set at. Once it hits the breakpoint, Eclipse comes forward and you're interactively debugging - able to see all the variable values, etc.

Did I mention this works for the BROWSER client as well? Really, not kidding. This is simply the easiest way I've ever seen to debug a browser-based application - bar none.

Not only can you debug interactively - but any changes you make to your forms (or methods) are automatically reflected in the Smart Client and Web Client sessions. There's no need to re-launch the browser application or re-start the client application (and re-do the login and all the things you normally have to do to get back to the point where you were testing) - all the changes just appear (and work!) - instantly.

Now THAT's productivity!

If you want to download the public preview (or the currently shipping 3.5 version for that matter) - just go to They've also scheduled some live webinar events this week (and next) - but you gotta' register for them at their events page.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Servoy 4.0 Goes Eclipse!

Today Servoy released a public pre-release version of their upcoming namesake development and deployment environment. I've kicked the tires of this thing for the past few days and BOY OH BOY is it ever cool!

The Servoy engineers have managed to keep the ease-of-use of the 3.x product - while at the same time moving to standards-based Eclipse for the IDE. This move will bring them out of their proprietary IDE and into the most-used IDE on the planet.

It's always difficult to move to a new IDE - regardless of the reason - regardless of the tool. There is a certain comfort level that is inherent in working with a tool for a period of time. You know where all the menu commands are, where to click in the toolbars - you barely have to even look to know the context you're in.

As with most moves to a new environment - the devil is always in the details. There's always that initial hesitancy, and that initial fear of the unknown: Will the form designer still work the same? What about scripting? How about debugging?

I, too, had these types of concerns - because I had never used Eclipse before. I mean, hell, I'm not even a "real" programmer - just an old 4GL hack - and even I found it easy to figure out what's going on and get going right away.

The first thing I noticed is that it's both very familiar and totally different at the same time. It felt like when I was 17 and got to drive my dad's car - very grown up and luxurious. All the basic controls were right where I expected them - but there were a few that were in new places and it took about 1/2 hour of playing around (and referring to their great Flash tutorials and PDF files) to become familiar with all of it.

They have a great "Welcome" screen now - one that links to their site for more information and tutorials, and they even have a link to start the process of "checking out" a solution from the repository.

I'll admit that at first I found this to be a bit strange - but once I realized that Eclipse is a 100% file based environment, and that Servoy 3.x is a completely file-less environment - it began to make sense. Once I checked out a solution from the local repository (all the sample solutions now come automatically installed) - it basically looked and behaved just like the 3.x version - with some noticeable improvements:

You can edit multiple items at once. That means you can have multiple forms open, multiple methods (more on that in a minute), valuelists, table definitions, etc.

Gone are the modal dialog boxes for creating and editing objects. Everything is in its own tab, and you just hit Ctrl + S (or "Save" from the "File" menu) and that's it. You can even close a tab and it will ask you if you want to save your changes! Nice.

The other thing I wasn't quite used to is opening a form in the designer. In the 3.x product, you could just navigate to a form (via the windows menu - that would grow to a huge list in complicated solutions) - and go into designer mode. Then you would exit designer mode and "run" the current form.

In the 4.0 version - you can simply stay in the Form Designer and open up a Smart Client (that loads almost instantly!) and see the form that you're working on. They even hooked up the keyboard equivalent, so that your finger "memory" won't change and you get the same result.

The other thing that has been greatly improved is the way the over designer works. It's not really a huge change - but, for example, you can now click and move without first having to select the object. They've also added drag rectangles for the objects - making it easier to see where you're going to move them to.

And another small improvement - but one that I'm personally thankful for - is the ability to set the horizontal size of a form by dragging an arrow widget in the top ruler.

Again, in and of themselves, it's not that big of a deal - but it's these little improvements that really have the effect of giving the tool a more refined "feel."

The improvements just keep coming - especially when it comes to coding - but I'll get into that and the new Team Sharing capabilities tomorrow.

If you want to download the public preview (or the currently shipping 3.5 version for that matter) - just go to They've also scheduled some live webinar events this week (and next) - but you gotta' register for them at their events page.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Redefining FUBAR: Oracle ADF

Oracle developers are highly skilled and highly valued resources. They love code, and can write PL/SQL in a command line-like interface like nobody's business.

Oracle has acquired so many companies - that they need to have a way to build applications around the vast number of products in a vast number of tools.

Oracle loves Java, Linux and has finally realized that Oracle Forms and Oracle Reports absolutely suck.

So, they're looking to put together an alternative. JavaServer Faces is one way to go (open, Java = good). So, they decided to make it "easy" for developers to create J2EE applications in a browser with all that fancy AJAX stuff.

Sounds great!

But, yet again, they have created the most convoluted, complex, hard-to-set-up, code-oriented, no-way-in-hell-anyone-but-a-Java-programmer-can-ever-use-it solution: Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF).

Don't believe me? I DARE you to open this page - and don't even read it - but just scroll down it. It's OK, I'll wait...

Cool, huh? Now THAT'S EASY!

I'm no Java programmer - in fact I'm no 4GL programmer (any more) - but even I can use Servoy to create and deploy both client server and full AJAX web applications against an Oracle database (or 3, or 5 or 10), a Sybase database, SQL Server database, a MySQL database, AND a DB2 database - at the same time, on the same form in 5 minutes or less.

Really. I do it all the time.

Servoy gives me the speed of using a traditional 4GL, but it's at LEAST 5 times faster to build and deploy and 100 TIMES easier to set up and configure than ADF. Or Ruby on Rails. Or ColdFusion. Or Flash. Or Gears. Or AIR. Or OpenLazlo.

Do yourself a favor - if you haven't checked out Servoy lately - do it NOW! Also, watch for the upcoming public preview of their new Eclipse-based Servoy 4.0. It's even MORE productive than what they have now.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sun Breaking Through The PaaS Cloud

It looks like Sun is putting together a cloud offering to compete with the likes of, Amazon EC2, Microsoft's Live Mesh and all the other folks to strive to provide a PaaS (Platform as a Service) stack in the cloud.

At their JavaOne conference they announced an imitative they've code-named "hydrazine" (a highly flammable rocket fuel!). Robert Brewin, Sun Chief Technology Officer and Distinguished Engineer, described Hydrazine as a combination of Amazon’s Elastic Cloud, Microsoft’s Live Mesh and Google Analytics all rolled into one.

They envision JavaFX to be the GUI glue that holds the stuff together. Which is interesting - given that it's not shipping Sun has already got the domain going - and has a pretty good description of it on their site.

The basic idea of hydrazine is that Sun is building a set of common services (discovery, personalization, deployment, location, content delivery and developer) that will allow developers to hook into when they are building Java applications (both J2EE and J2SE).

But the vision isn't to just stop there. There will be (according to Sun) another layer that contains services for advertising, a market place, developer hosting and repository services, and more.

It looks like Sun is trying to create a flexible PaaS repository that utilizes all of their assets (Java, Solaris, Sun hardware, MySQL, JavaFX).

My thoughts on all of this? Much like JavaFX - it will sure be interesting to see if they can pull it off. Because just like Microsoft's Live Mesh stuff - it's all just a slide show and YouTube video at this point.

So this whole PaaS movement is really getting some legs - and everyone seems to be wanting to make sure that their tools and stack is represented. Assuming it's all going work - and developers will actually use the stuff - it may mean the beginning of the end of the data center for SMB and SME customers.

It will certainly be fun to watch!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sun Shows Flocked Up Demo of JavaFX

Yesterday at their 13th annual JavaOne Conference - Sun announced a new, ambitious plan for JavaFX - their answer to Adobe Flash, Adobe AIR, Microsoft Silverlight and plan ol' AJAX.

Param Singh, senior director of Java marketing (and ex-Apple dude), apparently showed a demo (which had to be restarted twice) that took Facebook and Flickr pictures and applied a "flocking algorithm" (no, I'm not making this up).

When you enter a person's name all the pictures that have to do with that person "flocked" together out of a slowly moving mass of pictures moving on the screen. He then showed how pictures with similar colors could flock, etc.

The plan is to also allow the user to drag a app that is downloaded into the browser to their desktop to run without a connection to the Internet.

JavaFX will have a scripting language - not Java, not JavaScript, but that tried-and-true, non-standards based, Adobe-inspired ActionScript! Yeah!


Plus, at least initially, users will have to install a browser plug-in until the JavaFX stuff makes it into the standard builds of the JVM (Java Virtual Machine).

Oh, and they're planning on bringing this to mobile devices in the fall of 2009.

By now you've probably guessed my take on this - "Oh goodie - yet ANOTHER damn, half-baked, me-too, non-standards-based, piece of crap just to muddy the waters of an already clouded pond filled with the refuse and lack of interoperability between competing companies trying to get developer mind share and application lock-in."

And, ordinarily, you'd be right.

But for this one, I'm going to take a wait and see approach. I'm interested to see what kind of back end programmatic, Java-linking, server-based goodies MIGHT be in there. It all depends on the execution - how quickly they can get it out in the wild (rumored to be "this fall") and whether it can perform as hyped.

We'll see..

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sun Backs Off MySQL Crippleware

In an official statement on his blog Kaj Arno, "VP of Community" for MySQL, as said that Sun has done an about face on making parts of it's upcoming 6.0 MySQL release closed source.

To quote Kaj, "MySQL 6.0’s pending backup functionality will be open source..."

He blamed the experimentation of the business model on "a company considering an IPO" but that it "made less sense in the context of Sun, a large company whit a whole family of complementary open source software and hardware products."

Ummm... yeah, sure.

I'm sure it had nothing whatsoever to do with the huge Community Edition (free version) users screaming "not fair" until their throats were dry.

It seems that the Community Edition folks have more time than money - so what did you think they would do? They have nothing better to do all day then bitch and moan about MAYBE not getting something for free (remote backup) and that it's NO FAIR that those "rich" people actually paying a small licensing fee and keeping the company in business should get something they MIGHT not get.

People, people.

OK - so they've backed off of this issue on this release. But, you gotta know that at sometime, in the future, they are going to make some add-ons closed source - for paying customers only.

The good news is that most of the APIs are open - so those of you with more time than money can go ahead and spend time writing your own functionality that is equal to (or better than) the closed source one.

Then feel free to give it away - free.

Monday, May 05, 2008

YHOO Fallout

Well, I hate to say I told you so - but I told you so. In late-morning trading this morning, Yahoo shares shed $4.69, or 16.4 percent, to $23.98, below Friday's close of $28.67. If anyone is doing the math - that means that Yahoo's market value tanked roughly $14 BILLION below the Microsoft offer of even this past Friday.

$14 BILLION. Nice job, Jerry!

I don't know whether or not the shares will completely tank (right away) back to the $19.18 level they were before the Microsoft offer - but it's clear: Jerry has only a little while before Wall Street is going to give him a serious thrashing if things don't improve in a significant way.

On the other hand - if you're not as cynical as me - you would see this as a great time to buy Yahoo (if you believe they can and will turn it around).

Let's see - whose shares went UP this morning... hmmmm... oh, I don't know... maybe Microsoft and Google? Yep. Both up 2% - not spectacular, but still, it's a little bump.

Microsoft shares rose nearly 2 percent, or 57 cents, to $29.81 (as opposed to a 10% drop when they made the bid at $29.24 ). Shares in Google went up nearly 2 percent as well (up $11.15 to $592.44).

Looks like both Steve Ballmer and Sergey Brin can each by a small South Pacific Island today - courtesy of a greedy Jerry Wang. Thanks, Jerry!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Microsoft: Yahoo Can Bite Us!

Well, it looks like Microsoft told Yahoo adieu today - officially pulling its $44 billion off the table. I mean its $49 billion offer off the table.

Yep - ol' Steve Ballmer & Co. added another $5 billion to the pot - and Jerry Yang declined - with his hand outstretched. Seems that Jerry, who obviously doesn't believe a billion is a billion in this day and age - wanted ANOTHER $4 billion.

In a letter from Ballmer to Yang, he states that Microsoft also won't be looking at its option for a hostile takeover, stating that Yahoo! likely "would take steps that would make [it] undesirable as an acquisition."

Really? You think?

So it's over. There will be no Microhoo. Boo hoo (for Yahoo!).

Like I mentioned in a previous post - sit by your computers as the markets open on Monday and sell Yahoo short! That stock is going to tank like no body's business.

While you're there - pick up some Microsoft - their stock is going to go up.

And Jerry - for goodness sake - LAWYER THE HELL UP! Everyone and their dog is going to take a crack at you from your own shareholders, to the DOJ for that "crazy little partnership" with Google, to Microsoft (dunno what yet, but guaranteed - it'll be something).

To Microsoft: I wouldn't have bet you would have walked away from this deal. But, hey, Steve - glad you took a man pill and did. It would have truly been one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the company. And how would that have looked now that Bill has only a couple of months left?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sometimes Less is More

I went out to an upscale "casual dining" restaurant (Cheesecake Factory) - and just wanted to grab some lunch from somewhere without a drive through (for a change).

The people were very nice, the surroundings and ambiance was terrific. Then I get the menu. This thing was (literally) 21 pages long! It was so big - that it actually had advertising in it. Like a magazine.

There were about a million choices in every category: Appetizers, Lite Fare, Soups & Salads, Sandwiches, Pasta, Steak & Chicken, Entrees, Desserts, Beers, Wines By The Glass, Wines, Mixed Drinks...

Ummm... all I wanted was a club sandwich.

Luckily - on page 14a, subsection 4, paragraph 8, line 13 - I did manage to find a club sandwich.

Now, I don't know about you - but I'm the kind of guy who orders the same two dishes from a particular restaurant every time I go there. I'm not huge on "experimenting" on a new dish. For me, what I like is what I like.

I stuck to my guns and the sandwich was very good (the portion size was as big as my head - and enough to feed a family of 5 in Holland). But, it took me about 10 minutes (and a basket of yummy bread) to plow through all the choices.

The food was good, the experience was good - and maybe next time I'll try something else...

Now contrast that to In-N-Out Burgers (a hamburger joint here in California and Nevada). They have a menu of two things: Hamburgers or Cheeseburgers. The only variation is how many patties you want and whether or not you want onions on it (you also need to request pickles if you like).

They have one size of drink, they have one size of fries. They have 3 kinds of shakes (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry). That's it.

Easy. Consistent. Yummy. You know what you want even before you're at the counter (or drive through order station). And because there are only a few variations - they can crank out absolutely fresh, made-to-order food in record time.

That got me thinking about all the other ways where having too many choices can paralyze the sale - or worse - leave potential revenue on the table. It's our jobs as business people to make sure that our offerings are clear to our customers - and that we make it easy for them to say "yes".

Like almost everything in life - choice is great... in moderation.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

AT&T Makes Move To Less Expensive iPhone

According to Fortune magazine - AT&T is talking about giving customers of the new iPhone model (rumored to be introduced next month) a $200 rebate in exchange for a 2 year contract.

Hmmm.... it's not APPLE giving the rebate, but AT&T. And, if you activate your iPhone via Apple, you still have to make a 2 year commitment... so... hmmm.

What is AT&T thinking?

Well, since it's customary here in the US for carriers to subsidize $100 to $200 on handsets (give them the razor, sell them the blades) anyway, and given the average bill for an iPhone customer is $100 per month - it's a pretty good bet.

Granted, AT&T doesn't get to keep all that money - they still have to fork over a percentage to Apple of the monthly revenue - but even if their payback is 3 months - it's still a good investment for them.

It's funny - but as of now - Apple won't be promoting the rebate in their stores - and it sounds like you'll have to buy the new iPhone directly from AT&T to get the discount. Or not. It's still unclear on the procedure for the rebate - but if I were AT&T, I'd make them come into the store.

That way I can sell them a headset, mobile charger, iTunes gift card and more. Oh, and I'd also lock the phone so that people can't just buy the phone, unlock it, and change carriers - OR charge a huge early termination fee and tack the extra $200 rebate on to the penalty.

Since the release date of the iPhone 2.0 hasn't been announced, and the feature set has not been announced (but will probably be a 3G compatible phone with GPS built-in), AND AT&T has been building out their 3G network for the past year... it will be interesting to watch.

Besides all the 'squishy' information that is available (read: speculation) - Apple is absolutely jonesing to sell 10 million iPhones THIS year.

I'll reserve my judgment until things are more firmed up (read: announced) - but there might just be an iPhone in my future...
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