Monday, August 25, 2008

Real World Test: iPhone Apps

I took most of the day off on Friday - I definitely needed a "mental health" day (or more than one!) - and took a day-long ride on my motorcycle. Now, as you probably already know - I recently bought an iPhone - so I thought that I'd use nothing but that to run my whole day. And here's what happened:

I started off checking the weather in various locations - trying to decide where the best place would be (not too cloudy or hot). I used the default app - but then I also downloaded a free app called WeatherBug. It allows you to get all the weather data about a particular place - more than you'll actually ever need.

Then I fired up the browser and Google Maps to plan my route. I decided that I would go from Moorpark to Valencia on the 126, then up the 5 freeway to Fraiser Park, then over the mountain to Hwy 166, into Santa Maria, and then up the 153 into Santa Barbara, then back up the 101 to the 126 and back to Moorpark.

Once on the road I stopped in Valencia to get some water (it was 95 degrees - 3 degrees hotter than the weather thing said). I checked my email while in line (only junk), checked my voicemails (I don't listen to music or phone when riding - it's too distracting) and then hit the road again.

I stopped again in Fraiser Park for gas and some junk food. When the service was unbelievably slow at the Jack In The Box I went to - I fired up the phone and used Twinkle to post to my Twitter account. It's really a great (and free) application.

While eating, I was listening to some streaming music from via their native iPhone app. Because Apple won't allow any background processes to run (except the iPod music?) - every time I wanted to do something else the stream stopped. After a while, I just put on the tunes from the local device, and headed over to my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts - also via their native iPhone applications - to check what was going on.

At various places I was able to take photos and email them to friends - documenting my progress for future posterity. As I rode down into the HOT valley between Fraiser Park and Santa Maria on the 166 - I was thinking about my upcoming ServoyWorld sessions and made some mental notes.

When I stopped in Santa Maria - I used the SpeakEasy voice recorder to capture my ramblings on ServoyWorld, consulted the Google Maps application (to make sure I hadn't passed the turn off for the 153 already), then checked the traffic in Santa Barbara (heavy on a Friday, but only for 2 miles). Then I did a quick check of the Servoy official blog using WordPress - and headed out for the last leg.

The traffic updates from Google were correct - there WAS traffic right where it said - and it really was only 2 miles long (seemed much longer at the time).

I have to say - that all in all - the iPhone performed above my expectations. I was able to have some fun while staying connected to the data I needed where and when I needed it. I didn't have any problems with the 3G reception (unlike a lot of other people) - but the battery life was a bit on the "suck" side.

I even turned off the 3G radio and used the Edge network - which I found to be relatively fast - almost as fast as the 3G network most of the time. Using the Edge network also increased the battery life by almost 50%.

For me, the iPhone honeymoon continues...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ning Bitch Slaps WidgetLabs

Social network giant Ning has suddenly pulled the plug on one of the biggest plug-in developers - WidgetLaboratory. They just summarily removed all of WidgetLaboratory's widgets from every single user's site - leaving a smoking pile of twisted debris in their wake.

Let's just say that the folks who had spent (literally) hundreds of hours perfecting their vertical social networks found themselves with sites that didn't work, or had big, gaping holes where there was once functionality.

All of this happened overnight. Without any warning from Ning to their members.

Ning says that WidgetLaboratory violated their Terms of Service. They haven't specified exactly what TOS they violated - but hey, nice job in blowing up a large portion of your user's sites!

The folks over at WidgetLabs haven't taken kindly to getting the boot. In a recent blog entry - they went on the warpath and decided to just totally open source all of their widgets so that their customers could get their sites back up and running. Considering that WidgetLabs was actually being paid for each widget (usually on a monthly basis) from each customer - this is a very big move that is a clear case of doing the right thing in the name of customer service.

Opening up their code should also put Ning in a bind. If Ning continues to ban the WidgetLabs software (which the users paid for and uploaded themselves to their own private site), then end users can just skim through the code and either re-create their own widget. If Ning allows the widgets to stay, then the "network degradation" issue they sited as the reason for the ban - is just a smokescreen.

Ning claims that they were just "protecting their network" in this Friday post. In that post one of Ning's controversial founders, Gina Bianchini, keeps talking in circles while she fails to mention anything of substance. What is interesting, however is this statement: "If we could fill these holes today, we would. We will start this effort shortly"

Something stinks in Denmark.

I wonder if it's nothing more than greed. Maybe WidgetLabs had been getting too successful? Did Ning sense a revenue opportunity? Or did WidgetLabs simply piss the Ning folks off?

Ning is in the wrong here. Providers of infrastructure shouldn't just pull off a third-party developer's content (used on hundreds if not thousands) of sites - with zero notification. There's no reason in the world why Ning couldn't have given people 30 days notice or something. I mean, it's not like we're in China or something...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pandora Shutting Down Because of Greed

The free internet streaming site Pandora - may shut itself down. This service, which I just recently "discovered" as an iPhone application (btw: it's one of the top 10 most downloaded apps - about 40,000 per day) - allows users to set up radio "channels" based on a song or artist they like.

The service then uses the Music Genome Project to make educated guesses on other songs you might like based on the characteristics of the song itself. Every user can have an unlimited number of "stations" that plays similar music. So, whether you're into polka but have a Van Halen bent - Pandora's got you covered. The service serves about a million listeners per day.

And now it looks like they are going to shut it down. Why? Greed. Stinkin' record company greed.

Back in March, 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board (CPB) decided to drastically raise royalty rates (including 17 months' of retroactive payments) for streaming Internet radio. Not only that but they changed the entire model froma percentage of revenue to a per-song, per-listener fee.

It seems that the copyright holders (in most cases they're record companies) - have had their panties in a twist ever since the death of the LP and this whole "digital thing" came to be. So, basically, they pressured that obscure federal panel to ratchet up the fees paid by webcasters. Only webcasters.

"Real" radio stations pay ASCAP or BMI for the compser royalty. But the webcasters are being held up to pay a sound recordings royalty as well.

The problem is that for Pandora the increased fees will amount to over 75% of their yearly revenue of $25 million - up from 12% under the recently-expired royalty agreement that the RIAA had negotiated in 2002.

Basically, for providing a great, customized, unique service - they are being punished and are losing money.

As a last-minute attempt to keep things going Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) is trying to broker a last-minute deal between webcasters and SoundExchange (the fascist front organization that represents artists and record companies). The hope is that Mr. Berman can ram some sense into negotiate a deal that would reduce the per-song rate set by the pencil pushing lobby money taking federal panel CPB last year.

Fingers crossed here!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Death of JavaScript 2.0

JavaScript - better known by it's official name ECMAScript - was due for an overhaul (ECMAScript 4) - which was to be named JavaScript 2 - but the ECMA International Standards body decided to scrap that effort.

So, what's up with that?

It turns out that they are working to ratify a 3.1 specification that will have some "bug fixes" in it - and then are planning to take a whole new look at it in a project code named "Harmony."

Tell that to Adobe. You see, the basis of JavaScript 2 ECMAScript 4 was to be based on Adobe's ActionScript 3 (yes, the thought of that makes me shutter as well). Since they've decided that the name "JavaScript 2" is dead - so is the thought of basing it on ActionScript (thank goodness!).

So with Microsoft and Yahoo on one side and Adobe, Mozilla, Google and Opera on the other - "Harmony" is meant to split the difference and see if they can come to some common ground. All of this, of course, is after they get the 3.1 version out the door.

So, where does that leave us? It's sort of hard to tell. Microsoft still has 3 different implementations of JavaScript that can run in a browser:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Increasing Battery Life by 80% "Instantly"

So, what if you could instantly increase your laptop battery life by 80% - AND still be able to access the web, instant message? Oh yeah, and be able to have your computer come on instantly...

Yeah, baby!

Well it seems like Dell (taking a cue from the "nettop" sub-compact notebook makers Eee PC, et al) is making it a reality on their newly announced Latitude E4200 and E4300 notebooks.

The magic comes by way of a fully-dedicated, Linux-based system-on-a-chip. This low-power ARM processor and flash memory compbo run completely independently of the main CPU and storage. This means you don't have to wait for your computer to go through a 5 minute boot process just to surf or have a quick IM!

The embedded OS is based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and has a built-in Firefox-based browser and customer email, calendar and contacts application, a PDF viewer, a MS office document viewer and the drivers that are needed to use the wireless radio.

There is also talk of getting an IM client and making Flash and Java work in the browser - but that may come in the next release.

I think this is one more nail in the coffin in the long-term prospects for Windows as we know it today. If this concept catches on (and I really can't see why it wouldn't) - people would be getting a free test drive of Linux and I'd bet that people would use this type of browse-only functionality (if they make it EASY to boot) about 30% of the time - maybe even more.

That means as people get used to using Linux, and have confidence in it, they may just opt to give it a try on the desktop as well.

That would mean you could actually USE a computer with Vista on it...

Friday, August 15, 2008

2.0 Site Goes Kaput - Now What?

The Washington Post reported that Vongo, the all-you-can-view movie site run by Starz, has gone out of business. Well, really, technically, not out of business, they are moving all the content over to the Verizon service called Starz Play.

Which is fine - IF you're a Verizon customer. If you're not - you're S.O.L. after September 1st.

That means that all the movies that you may have paid for with your $10 per month subscription will no longer be viewable. OK - so it's not like having Salesforce or Google go belly up and taking all your data with it - but still, I think it's the "shot across the bow" that will wake some folks up to the realities of life in the cloud.

With all of these hosted solutions there's no warranty, no SLA, no guarantee about data loss, no language about what happens to your data if they just turn off the DNS.

What would happen to your data if one of these services just folded up? Presumably there would be dozens (hundreds?) of servers full of hundreds (thousands?) of companies data, email, spreadsheets, documents, memos, etc.

Who owns that data? The customer? The provider?

What if the provider just sells the entire data center full of servers to a third party - and doesn't bother to wipe the drives? And what happens if that third party then takes sensitive information and sells it or exploits it?

Who is liable?

As it is - you're responsible to back up your own data (even from a cloud provider) - but do you really do it?

I think as we go along the PaaS road - these questions will inevitably be answered - hopefully in the "right" way. Perhaps there is some room for a third party to come up with a solution to create a product that would allow companies (and individuals) back up their data in a painless, seamless way - for all of their cloud data.

One option that I think we'll see as a sort of stop-gap measure is that these types of applications will support a true disconnected model - by storing the data on the local drive in a lightweight SQL database that would then synch back up with the "main" cloud data store.

Hey - Servoy developers - I'm smelling an opportunity here...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Virtual Desktop Apdoption Is a Social Issue

I was thinking about virtualization - as it seems to be all the rage. Companies both big and small have made the move to reducing the number of physical servers in their IT departments to save on cost, cooling, maintenance in a bid to save money and appear more "green."

So what about desktop virtualization? What's up with that? It makes sense that if servers can be virtualized, then desktops should be as well (there are several technologies that will allow this today).

If the tech isn't an issue - what's the deal? Why have people (and companies) been slow on the uptake in terms of virtualizing everything?

I think the issues are more social and economic than linked to technology:

IT Folks - They are already overworked. They have tons of "initiatives" on their plate - and with a slow economy everyone is in the "cost cutting" mode. In addition, although they would love to "control" everything - that brings on the horror of having additional support issues ("I can't get to my desktop from this Internet Cafe in Bornio").

Cost - More servers cost money. Getting people with expertise in those technologies also costs money. Updating and/or replacing hardware on the use side - also costs money. IT investments are generally looked upon as "what have you done for me today" type of expenses. Those budgets are rarely increased in economic slow downs - and are almost always frozen (if not cut).

Licensing - This is where things get a little tricky. Just because you have multiple OS licenses for individual workstations - does that mean you can just aggregate them all on a single set of servers? How about the productivity apps that everyone uses (and guaranteed there is someone that uses some weird-ass, one-off app that no one's even heard of). Who's going to maintain compliance on all those licenses? How are people supposed to learn what the license terms are for the software they have purchased. Clearly, there needs to be an industry-wide initiative to make this a standard part of pricing/licensing.

Change Itself - Try to explain the benefits of having a virtualized desktop application to a person that enters orders all day. Or to someone that doesn't spend 1/2 their life on the road. I don't think they'll see this as the automatic answer to all their problems. Why should they learn something new - when what they have (in their mind) isn't even broken (that badly)?

Overall, I don't think we're quite ready for the "Thin PC" vision of Sun. People are still attached to their laptops and are used to having the freedom to install crazy apps (where permitted). With the rise of PocketTop computers (TM) [!] - like the Eee PC and iPhone (and more to come, no doubt) - it might gain some traction.

For now, it seems like a solution in search of a problem to me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

iPhone OS - Now Like Windows!

So.... my new iPhone said the battery was almost dead - which was interesting - since it was connected via the USB connector at the time - which, should, in theory, mean it was charging.

In iTunes, the little "lightening bolt" didn't appear (which means it wasn't charging). So, I looked online and people said to restart it - or "let it sit for 5 minutes completely turned off."

Did both of those - no luck.

Then, I decided to think like a Mac user. In iTunes - it says "If you are experiencing problems with your iPhone, you can restore its original settings by clicking Restore."

Hmmm.... hey, I was having problems - so, being a Windows user with my "Mac User" hat on - I clicked Restore. After an HOUR it said all things were a go.

Great! Re-plugged in and it asked if I wanted to register the phone as a new iPhone or restore from backup. So, thinking like a Mac User - I clicked Restore - thinking it just needed some clean up, etc.

Nope. It did the whole thing over again. Surely this time - iTunes would bless me with the "default" iPhone screen for synching, etc.


So after some more searching - I found some posts by Windows users (and Mac users) that said to FORCE QUIT iTunes during restore and shut off the phone, turn it on, re-launch iTunes and re-connect.

Now THIS is advice I can use! Being a Windows user - force quitting and restarting is something I'm 100% comfortable with! So, I tried it - and guess what? It WORKED.

Not kidding.


I think that firmware update did the old hose the iPhone thing. From the number of posts I went through - there are lots of people complaining of "slow downs" and "freezes" and all kinds of good stuff.

To sum up, in terms of that famous line in Disney's movie Nemo, "Good feeling gone."

They just blew the entire wad of good will they built up - and not just for me. There are horror stories of people staying on the phone with a tech for 2 to 3 hours, re-installing iTunes, etc. - all to no effect.

It's the ultimate revenge - making Mac Users think like PC users!

iPhone Really IS All That

So I'm still in the honeymoon period with my iPhone, but I have to tell you - it's the bomb. Coming from my Charlie's Angels Motorola - this thing is like the communicator in Star Trek.

Now, I'm not a person that is easily impressed - especially with gadgets. I'm not really a "gadget guy." I still have a VCR. No, really.

I still have cassette tapes (although I've ditched my 8 Tracks and LPs, though). We still have a video camera that uses VHS tape (of course we have a new digital as one as well - but only as of 9 months ago!). My TV is not HD - and we only have one of them in the main family room (and an old one in our bedroom that is only used in the case the kids are in nuclear meltdown over who gets to watch what).

As I've said before - I was waiting for the Android phone - but then I got tied of waiting. I also wanted to see why in the heck grown people would stand in line (for a whole week!) to get some piece of gear.

Now I can sort of understand why it's so popular. It's really, really cool. It's like a mini laptop in my pocket. I can do email, get stock quotes, surf the web (although that's a bit retarded since Flash isn't supported). I downloaded a couple of games, I can send Tweets from the road, it gets WIFI, and has turn-by-turn directions to help me out when I get lost.

The visual voicemail is cool and easy to use - and now I never have an excuse to not have pictures of my kids with me at all times (I downloaded over 100 - so if you see me in person - NEVER ask to see pictures of my kids!).

The keyboard was a little hinkey at first - but just like the Palm devices I've had - once you get used to it - you can really fly on that thing (although I won't be doing long blog posts from it).

Now I've heard all kinds of people bitching about how the battery life is greatly decreased (from the 2G version), and how spotty the 3G service can be (it's really terrific where I live), and how they're disappointed at the crapware that Apple let out on the App Store.

It's funny though - most of the people yelling the loudest have bought their SECOND iPhone. A YEAR later. When was the last time you went out and bought a new (anything) the next model year? Would you go out and buy it again because it totally sucked and was a useless piece of crap?

I'm guessing not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Boo Hoo - Don't Bitch About Free

I'm sick and tired of reading stories where people are pissed off because of the gMail outage. Yes, I agree that companies who host things in the cloud - especially with something as important to productivity as email - should do everything in their power to ensure uptime.

But hey - even the folks at Google are human. Servers fail. Protocols get messed up. Windows crashes. Some idiot hits a phone pole with fibre in it.

Stuff happens.

Especially in "the cloud."

People who pay for services (and some do pay for Google services) - should still have a reasonable expectation of service failure. Yes, it sucks, and yes, it's inconvenient - but hey, it's a miracle the thing even works at all.

There are so many ways that a hosted solution (even with a multi-million dollar redundant uber server facilities) can fail. No one, not Salesforce, not Apple, not RIM, not Google, not Microsoft - NO ONE is immune from downtime.

That is part of the price you pay for the "convenience" of not having to manage your own servers. An oh, by the way, if you do manage your own servers - you will STILL have downtime. There will be times your ISP gets hosed, or DNS goes down, or a drive fails, or the new intern wipes your active directory store.

It WILL, for 100% SURE, happen. It's the nature of technology.

If you don't like it - sell your Google stock. Maybe you should do what we did in the old days - buy and Exchange Server and download and manage your own damn email. Or POP rather than IMAP the stuff.

I'll bet your uptime with your own managed, on-premesis server is about the same as a solution hosted in the cloud. Technology is a really good thing... WHEN it works.

Friday, August 08, 2008

iPhone Says No To Thunderbird

OK, so I've had this phone now for just under 24 hours. I've upgraded the firmware, and OS (no jailbreaking for me - YET), and have visited the Apple App Store to download a few thingies, have put some photos on there, and of course synched my iTunes library.

The one thing I can't do - EVER - it seems, is to put my contacts on there from Thunderbird.

So, when I got the the thing, I put my wife in there first (she was with me when I got it) - and took her picture and put in the the little contact window and everything.


Then, this morning, I wanted to get my other contacts in there - without having to type them. Although due to the age of my old phone - and the fact that a new SIM was required (or so I was told) - I will have to enter some of the phone contacts I have by hand.

Not such a big deal (or so I thought) - since I have most of them in my Address Book in Thunderbird - thus effectively shunning the 'evil' Microsoft empire's Outlook.

Well, as it turns out - unless you're on a Mac (I'm not), or using Outlook (I'm not), or using Microsoft Mail (I'm not) or have a MobileMe account.... HEY! That's IT! I'll get my free trial.

Signed up for it (easy) - set up the iPhone for it - easy - then hit Synch.


All contacts gone. Turns out it does a PUSH synch down TO the iPhone, but not the other way around! And if you're not using a Mac, Outlook or MS Mail (I'm not) - then the synch will cheerfully erase ALL your contacts.

Gee... THANKS!

I'm really glad I didn't sit there for hours typing in my contacts from my old phone - and THEN do the synch. I would have been beyond pissed off.

However, now I'm mildly pissed off that I'll have to sit there tonight and manually enter all the people from my own phone... that really sucks. I'm not about to start using Outlook or MS Mail or buy a Mac just to have my contact details in there.

Looks like I'll get pretty good at that on-screen keyboard, though...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I've Been Assimilated

OK - so I've been assimilated into the Borg collective... of iPhone users.

Yes, I know!

I decided to replace my phone (and have wanted to for 6 months). I'd been holding out for the Android stuff - but it looks like that's not going to happen in 2009 - and I'm not waiting 6 more months for the latest and greatest.

At some point, you just have to go for something.

I went to the local Apple store across the street from my office. Now, I WAS going to go into an AT&T store - but my colleagues who did - had to order their phone with a 10-14 day waiting period (or as soon as Apple decided to ship anything to them).

So, I decided to just jump to the mothership - and see what happened. It turns out - no line! I asked if they had phones - and they did - just no 8GB models (which I didn't want anyway). So I got one of the last 2 in stock (that didn't have a "will call" sticker on it).

The twentysomething guy that helped me (looked right out of the I'm a Mac commercial - scruffy beard included) - was efficient, and the transaction went smoothly. Asked for my phone number, last 4 of social and billing zip code. Then tapped a few times (on a Symbolic handset - NOT an iPhone!) - swiped the credit card, had me sign - that's it.

Oh, and one more thing - unbox the phone - hook up to an in-store computer and do a little activate trick (no GUI, just iTunes) - took about 30 seconds.

In about 10 minutes - the whole thing was done. I could make and receive calls, text message, the whole nine yards.

The bad news is that I will have to manually type in all my contacts - since there's no way to get my old stuff into the new stuff - and I don't use Outlook (*shutter*) and I'm not on a Mac.

But that's OK - I'll have to see how quickly I can get up to speed on that whole virtual keyboard thingie.... we'll see...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

View From a Birthday

Even though I share a birthday with Edith Roosevelt (1861), Lucille Ball (1911), Robert Mitchum (1917), Andy Warhol (1928) and M. Night Shyamalan (1970) - another year older this year feels like, well, another year older.

While I'm thankfully not dead - the old body is getting a little worse for wear. I'm starting to need longer arms to read medicine bottles, gravity is making my stomach hang down (and out), and I actually even considered getting one of those "map lights" to read menus in restaurants.

There have been some cool (and horrific) things that have happened on August 6th:
  • Gertrude Ederle became the first U.S. woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926

  • The first atomic bomb used in warfare was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945

  • Jamaica gained its independence within the Britain Commonwealth in 1962

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy to replace Gray Davis as governor of California to Jay Leno on the Tonight Show in 2003
And somewhere in there - I was born. I can't help but to recall a line by Steve Martin in The Jerk - "... I was born a poor black child..."

In my case - that's just not the case. I was born in California to a teenage girl whom I've never met. I was adopted when I was only a few weeks old - and my parents are, well, my parents.

I'm not sure if it's any easier to harder today, but I can imagine that back in the early 60's it must have been difficult (to say the least) for a teenage girl to carry, and then ultimately give away, a baby. And yet, I'm sure there were pressures (as there is now) to simply "get rid of the problem."

I'm very glad she didn't make that choice.

I always get to thinking like It's a Wonderful Life - right around my birthday. What would change if I simply never existed?

Well - the single biggest thing is that my kids wouldn't be here. Neither would my future grandkids, or their kids, etc. And all the achievements and relationships and things they will do in their lives and all the people they will (and do) touch - simply would never be.

I really can't picture that - nor do I want to.

What I want to do is to be thankful for all the people and the multitude of blessings in my life. I'm thankful that my parents adopted me - or I (probably?) wouldn't have met my wife. If I had never met my wife, my kids wouldn't be here.


When I was a kid, I used to think that adoption worked like a bride throwing a bouquet in a reception. There were all these people who wanted a baby in a crowd, and a nurse (or someone in white) would take a baby, turn their backs to the people and toss the baby in the air. Whomever caught it - got it. Simple.

Of course nothing in life is that simple (or dangerous!). It takes all kinds of paperwork, time, money, waiting, worrying and nail biting to adopt a baby. My folks did that (twice - my sister is adopted as well).

So - Mom & Dad - THANKS for going through all the B.S. required - and thanks for jumping the highest in the crowd to snatch me away from the others.

And a special thanks to an unnamed, 58 year old, white or hispanic, rich or poor, alive or dead woman. Who, against all the social pressures (or maybe because of them) - gave 9 months of her life in order to give me the 44 years of mine.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The iPhone Tablet

In a call a couple of weeks ago Apple's CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, had a call with financial analysts in which he mentioned a "product transition" seven times. Of course, in typical Apple fashion - details were sketchy (as in NONE provided) - but I was thinking about it today in the shower and I have some speculation of my own.

I think it's going to be a tablet PC.

Yep, you heard right - a tablet PC. It's really not caught on all that much (except for vertical industry uses) - but I think if Apple just "super-sized" the iPhone - it would make one helluva a computer.

Add in a USB or FireWire port, keep the GPS chip, add a SuperDrive and a dual core Intel chip - done. This baby would run OS X (natch) - but, at least in theory, could run Winblows XP or even Ubuntu. But the version of OS X should be the "full" version - not some cut down iPhone-like OS.

It could also be offered in a couple of sizes - like a super compact 8 inch - a 10 and a 12 inch version. It would have the highly debated on-screen keyboard, but with a USB connector (and some sort of kick stand) it could have the ability to have an external keyboard and prop itself up as a horizontal or vertical monitor.

They have the handwriting technology left over from the doomed Newton - so throwing that into the OS might be a good idea as well.

It would ideally have a replaceable battery (HELLO!) - a padded carrying case (like those wetsuit-style material "condoms" for the MacBook) - and the ability to "dock" to something. I'm thinking an iMac sort of screen with a place to "pop in" the thing.

And price - yeah, well if it were < $800 (starter) - I bet a bunch of people would buy them.

Including me...

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's a Cuil World

I've been wanting to write my impressions of the next supposed Google-killer-cum-search-site Cuil (pronounced "cool"). The problem is - apparently so did everyone else.

The site was absolutely killed by traffic requests when it officially launched last week. I tried many times over several days to get it to work - but to no avail. Finally, finally, when I was back home over the weekend - the site had recovered sufficiently to give it a whirl.

Initially, it's a much different experience than the default list of links on Google. The search results are instead put in 3 columns across the page - like a magazine. For each of the links - there is a seemingly random image put next to it - which may or may not have anything to do with the actual search results.

It's sort of slick - like a magazine - and on the top side of the right hand column (for most searches) Cuil provides an AJAX-powered category box that has related searches by topic (pre categorized by Cuil). For example - if you search for "FJR1300" (a Yahama motorcycle) - you'll see a group of other motorcycle manufactureres with sets of keywords.

Clicking on a keyword will basically refine the entered search box by appending those terms. So, if you wanted to search for articles that compared two bikes - it was more likely to show up. They have a black theme at the top and bottom - with prev/next paging controls that work more or less like you expect them to.

Cuil claims to have 3x more pages indexed than Google (140 billion versus 30 billion for Google) - and in fact, it was founded by some ex-Google employees and backed with a cool $33 million in venture capital. There's no ads (yet), and during my tests - it seemed to search pretty quickly and give reasonable search results.

Whether or not it will become a "Google-killer" is yet to be seen. My gut says no way - but you never know.

I remember a scrappy little up-start company that wanted to take on the biggest search players in the world (Yahoo and AltaVista) and wound up doing a pretty good job. That company? Google.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Finely Pressed

What a whirlwind week! I just got back from Amsterdam where we hosted a Servoy press tour for an “A-list” band of journalists: Joel Dreyfuss, Amy Wohl, and Dan Tynan.

Wow. Talk about getting a college education in a week...

These folks all have the official "been there, done that" T-shirt... but for everything. No really, literally - everything - and everyone.

These are the top-caliber folks whose Rolodex reads like a historical record of the computer industry. Need to talk to anyone (literally!) at IBM - see Amy. Want to talk to Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs or anyone else in the tech sector named Steve? Joel's got their home and unlisted cell numbers. Web 2.0 more of your thing? Want to talk to anyone with any sort of social-anything app? Dan's your man.

I mean, it was really, really amazing to listen to them recall their participation in, and input into, every single paradigm of computing from time sharing on the 8080 to the launch of the Newton to the dot com bust to where the future of computing is heading.

It took all the strength I had in the world to not just sit there and giggle like a Japanese schoolgirl!

Even though I have over 20 years of experience in tech and consulting all of my lame attempts at conversation would pop out of my mouth prefaced by " time, at band camp..."

These folks were not just knowledgeable, not just professional, but a helluva lot of fun as well. We jammed them in a van and rode them around the Dutch countryside to give them a taste of Holland. We dined in several nice restaurants where the default is a multi-course something-really-small-and-elaborate-in-impossibly-small-dishware.

They had some terrific advice on everything from marketing, presentations, venture capital and emerging markets. There was talk of social media, big-time corporate America, and European versus US business trends.

All-in-all it was a terrifically memorable (and awesome!) trip!
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