thinks - retired
Friday, January 27, 2006
  Get technorati to notice me...
Technorati Profile
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
  We've moved
Don't forget, thinks is now at See you there!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
  Time... they are a-changing...
Cnet has a story about Time laying off a number of senior executives, mostly from its business side, as part of a major restructuring. The notable part of the article comes towards the end, where it discusses Carl Icahn and Steve Case's gripes about the value of print in the age of digital media. You remember Steve Case, right? He's the one that merged his company, digital darling (at the time) AOL, with TimeWarner, specifically to get access to the content that TimeWarner controlled. Now he thinks that its content lacks relevance? Either Stevie has some other tricks up his sleeve, or once again is demonstrating a bad sense of, um, Time-ing. Back when AOL and TimeWarner joined forces, pundits praised the move as a brilliant marriage of new media and old, content distribution network and content provider, audience and message. Somehow AOL managed to screw it up (though plummeting online media budgets didn't help). In its aftermath, folks like Google and Overture have emerged to re-invent online media (primarily through targeted search ads), not to mention folks like Claria. So what gives? Clearly there's a lot to be gained in shareholder value by splitting the company into more easily understood businesses. But when you look at how the long-promised convergence finally may come to pass (more on this in the coming days), it seems that companies that excel at content, its delivery, or some combination, stand to benefit quite a bit. And you can print that.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
  Brother, can you spare a dime...
Wow. I mean, wow!!! Pardon the "Tom Peters'-style" overuse of exclamation points, (not to mention the word "wow" itself), but Amazon may have come up with a way to solve a really thorny problem. If ever you've been in the market for an infinite number of monkeys to type out all the great books, or other such task, Amazon has provided one possible solution. Their new Mechanical Turk service, or "artificial artificial intelligence" uses the power of idle minds connected to the Internet (much like SETI or the Human Genome Project tries to use idle computer processing power) to solve problems that aren't well suited to computers. Amazon calls these efforts Human Intelligence Tasks, or HITs. For example, Amazon has photos of locations in various cities and asks its Mechanical Turks (the folks who accept the HITs; the name is related to ancient computing machine history), to select the photo that best represents those locations. Amazon, or the company/person that requested the HIT, pays a small fee to the person completing it. Judging by the HITs on the site currently, those fees average a few cents each. Wild, huh?

While the service is still beta testing, the long-term implications are pretty interesting, particularly in the context of where Amazon pictures its business. For instance, Amazon's original tagline, some 10 years ago, was "The Earth's Largest Bookstore." More recently, Jeff Bezos noted in a letter to Amazon's customers posted on Amazon, "Our company-wide obsession for creating the best possible shopping experience will not change..." ( Within their media kit, Amazon gives further insight into where the company sees itself going. The page notes, " strives to be Earth's most customer-centric company where people can find and discover virtually anything they want to buy online." (empasis mine; retrieved from Clearly, Amazon has bigger things in mind these days instead of just being a bookstore; however, anyone who says, "duh, Amazon's been growing beyond that space for a long time" isn't necessarily considering what Amazon has become. They're becoming less a retailer, and more like eBay. Their intent isn't so much to be a store that consumers buy from, so much as it is to become a platform, or more appropriately, the platform, through which sellers sell and buyers buy. Mecahnical Turk shows this as well as anything because it now moves Amazon into fulfillment in the labor market. Admittedly, it's not the labor market most of us recognize (and conceivably not even one most of us need); however, it may also illustrate another example of the Internet creating an industry space where none existed before.

So, great, right? Maybe. Maybe not. I see at least a couple of flaws with regard to Amazon's move. Probably the most minor flaw is related to the compensation offered. Given the scale of the HITs, and the price offered by companies seeking assistance, I'm not sure how many people will find the effort worth their time. Micropayments, long touted by Jakob Nielsen and others, as something that the 'Net needs badly, require an Amazon account, and again, may not represent enough money to entice users to participate.

Most notably, though, is its separation from users' passion, which Amazon has successfully leveraged in the past to provide better services to its customers. does a phenomonal job of creating user communities through its Reviewer system, Associates program (affiliate marketing/Web-commerce platform), Purchase Circles, and Lists (both its Wish Lists and its consumer-created lists, which really use the same mechanism, but change the spin). Amazon gets all the labor it wants to create significant amounts of content, and gets it all for (mostly) free. Obviously, Amazon has costs for creating these tools, and they pay commissions for its Associates program. Still, the majority of labor is provided by users who do it because of their passion for the topic. has built an entirely successful business model tapping almost exclusively into its users' passion to leverage free labor. I'm not sure that users are looking for another job when they come home at the end of the day (and I shudder to think if its used by individuals at work), and I'm less sure that they'll be willing to do it for minimum wage (assuming $0.03 per task, two tasks per minute). These might only represent minor issues, or might spell doom for the Mechanical Turk service. Amazon may well have found that the only way to get people to accept these tasks is by offering some coin of the realm; I assume a better model would offer more compelling renumeration. Time will tell.

On an unrelated topic, you might want to check out, where I first read about Amazon's latest venture. Similar to Slashdot, though a bit less nerd-y. Until next time...
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
  Say what?
Napster has new commercials using a tagline, "Own nothing. Have everything." Lenin (not the one from the Beatles), would be pleased. What exactly is the appeal of paying money every month for something you used to be able to listen to anywhere, anytime and not getting to keep it?!? If Napster manages to make money on this, I have seriously overestimated the intelligence of today's youth.

Taking a page from Steven Levitt's "Freakonomics", the music industry needs to find ways to decrease the cost of downloadable music that protects copyrights, while increasing the cost for downloading unlicensed music. Clearly, suing alleged "pirates" is an attempt to raise the cost of downloading. Still, the RIAA seems to focus too much on the stick and not enough on the carrot. Why not provide CD's that act as "dongles" or as a key to online content that can only be accessed if the CD is in the drive? I'm sure there are myriad privacy issues with it; still, someone ought to be able to figure this one out to drive down the "costs" of legal downloads. That way, artists win, consumers actually get to exercise their right to "fair use," and record companies get to stay in business. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm an idealist that way sometimes.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
  And now for something completely different...
OK, this has absolutely nothing to do with my regular stuff, but I saw "Avenue Q" a few weeks ago, and thought it was great. Tonight, while watching the World Series (Chicago just took a 5-4 lead... that's the White Sox, silly. The Cubs don't get in the World Series), I saw Ann Harada from the show in a commercial for Sprint. Weird. That, and the word "schadenfreude" seems to be turning up everywhere these days. See the show. Trust me.
Monday, October 24, 2005
  Of course, you still can't afford gas for it...
So, here's a fun one for all the kids out there. It seems a group of scientists have created the smallest car ever made. You really can't make this stuff up. It seems that the idea is to eventually build trucks (like nano-moving vans, for instance), to move atoms and molecules around in an atom factory. Truth appears to be getting stranger than fiction every day now, doesn't it?
Monday, October 17, 2005
  Quick hit...
We used to talk about living in Internet years. Does anyone talk about mobile phone years now? Maybe they do in Japan or somewhere where networks are more robust. Just a thought.
  Does this mean I should've gotten a Treo?
Damn. I've been using technology long enough to know that every time you make a commitment to one product, something cool happens on another front that makes you reconsider. Clearly, this is another of those cases. I just recently got rid of my ancient (in cell phone years) Motorola V60i and replaced it with a BlackBerry 7100g. I dig the phone, it's really cool. Then this happens. I looked hard at the Treo, like it, and opted not to get it because our corporate mail server doesn't support it. Now, Palm and RIM are making nice-nice, and it looks like you'll be able to get a Treo running BlackBerry's email system. There just isn't any justice in this world.

Anyway, how much do you think that the new Windows Mobile-powered Treo got the folks over at Research in Motion, um, in motion? It looks like the handset is shaping up to be the next desktop and the kids in Redmond want to play in that space, too. Do you think Ma Bell ever saw this one coming?
Friday, October 14, 2005
  The Devil gives you the first hit for free...
At least that's what they say about heroin. The RIAA, however, makes heroin dealers look like nursery school teachers. An anonymous donor now is providing students with access to music subscriptions for at least a year. Of course, if the kids want to listen to the music anywhere other than their duly authorized accounts, I assume the RIAA supports that, in exchange for Junior's immortal soul. At least, that's how the other pushers do it.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
  OK, so I fell off the planet again...
Still, there's interesting news in the world of intellectual property and what I'm allowed to watch on what player in the privacy of my own home. Bastards. Check out this column on Engadget regarding format wars and what drives them these days. How's this for an idea? How about we get the opportunity to watch what we want, when we want, and where we want, for a single, reasonable fee? Once I've paid for it, I want to be able to watch it on the television in my family room, bedroom, or on my laptop without having to pay multiple times for it. Hell, most of it's not worth paying for once (see recent box office receipts for evidence of that). How about this for an idea? How about we stop buying the nonsense that Hollywood produces? Look what happens to companies like Dreamworks Animation when their media doesn't produce like it's supposed to. And that's with a hit like "Shrek 2" not selling enough DVD's Imagine if they were producing crap like "The Island" or something. To paraphrase Obi-wan, "Who's the bigger fool? The fool, or the fool who pays repeatedly to watch the fool's really bad movies?"
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
  Meet George Jetson...
Wow! I mean frickin' wow!. When I was in eighth grade, my school got their first ever computer: a Tandy "Trash-80" (that's TRS-80 for those too young to remember). Now kids in Arizona are getting laptops instead of books! I'm absolutely blown away. Seriously. Sure, online degree programs have become more common over the last few years, but this takes it to a whole new level. I wonder if this is partly a play by Apple to get back into the education market in a big way, which they absolutely owned years ago. Pretty interesting. Stay tuned...
Monday, July 11, 2005
  Maybe it will be a World Wide Web?
So, how's this for an interesting turn of events? Apparently, the United Nations is looking to take control of the Internet. Obviously, the really key part of this debate is the so-called "fragmented root" or "nuclear option" (am I the only one getting sick of that expression?) discussion. The theory goes that the rest of the world could set up their own root servers that were different from those in the U.S. So when someone in Chile, for instance, typed, it could point to a different site than what someone in the U.S. typing the same thing would get. Ick. I'd suggest you write your congressman, but I expect that they'd make the wrong decision, and invoke an entirely different nuclear option. Warring standards, indeed.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
  If the Supreme Court agees, here comes an Avalanche of file-sharing...
So, what do you think the odds are that Microsoft will bring this to market if the Supreme Court rules that file-sharing is legal? I'm thinking they're pretty good. And what do you think the Men of Redmond are likely to charge for this? Probably the same they charge for most of their "utility" products that get incorporated (bundled, whatever), into Windows. Zero. Zip. Nada. Nil. What can they charge? BitTorrent, eXeem, and their ilk are free, too. Microsoft generally does a good job of pricing themselves below their competitors. With Open Source software, Microsoft has to effectively lower the price of Windows by including the same features consumers receive from the third-party software, built-in to Windows at no extra cost. Of course, if the Supreme Court goes the other way, Avalanche probably never sees the light of day. Should be an interesting week, no?
  I think there might be a trend going on here...
So the Supreme Court is finally set to rule on whether file-sharing software violates copyright. While I have no idea which way the court is going to rule, I think the story above this one might give a clue, no?
Thursday, June 09, 2005
  Do Patents Shine Up? They might...
Congress is moving towards changes to patent law that may clean up intellectual property for the first time in a long time. I still need to get up to speed on this one, but given that current patent law couldn't be much worse, particularly when it comes to disputes of "prior art," this can't be a bad thing. Curious to hear what others think on this one. Dig in, eh?
Monday, May 09, 2005
  So what had me so busy?
School, work, family, and my hosting company changing me to a new server. It's taken me a couple of weeks to sort out all the details with the other stuff going on. Anyway, I'm back and plan to be as verbose as ever. Cheers!
  Remember me?
OK, so I've been busy. Anyway, here's an interesting bit about the U.S Appeals Court ruling against the broadcast flag. Finally, it looks like some fair use is beginning to work its way back into the discussion regarding copyright. I doubt this is over, but it should be interesting to see where it goes.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
  Long time...
No post. I'd ask you to forgive my relative silence, but that seems a bit arrogant. After all, how many of you knew I was gone? Basically, I have either had nothing to say, or no time to say it. Still, this one's kind of funny. The IRS, never known for its creativity, has at last found its muse. Apparently, it believes that a tax created to pay for the Spanish-American War might apply to the Internet. You know, the Spanish-American War. The one in the 19th century. No. Really. This is going to hurt Al Gore's claims about inventing the Internet if people find out it was predicted almost one hundred years before. Especially if it was predicted in tax legislation. Crazy, man, crazy.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
  Tag! You're it!
Yahoo's acquisition of Flickr gives them access to its meta-tagging community. Very, very clever. I wasn't really that aware of Flickr before this, but they've got a novel approach to solving one of the more complex problems in computing: resolving searches of non-textual data. How cool would it be to say, "find me the picture from my wife's birthday where she's wearing the funny looking hat" and have the computer bring back the right thing? Or "bring back the cool live version of that song I like that happens to be named almost exactly the same as the studio cut (which is much less cool)?" Cool, indeed.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
  Sad story...
A federal judge today denied a request by Terry Schiavo's family to order that her feeding tube be reinserted. I don't usually write about these kinds of stories, because I think most people prefer to be entertained, not lectured. Still, this one strikes home for me on all kinds of levels, and since I call this thing 'thinks,' thinking once in a while seems like a good idea.

I don't know whether Terry Schiavo told her husband that she didn't want to be kept alive artificially. What I do know is that, as tragic as this is for her parents, brother, and her husand, this woman deserves to be at rest. When Congress acted this past weekend, they acted on behalf of her parents. Many people have acted on behalf of her husband. More than a couple (particularly big lobbying groups) acted on their own behalf to establish precedents. None of those matter. What matters is acting on behalf of Ms. Schiavo. There are only two possible states that can describe Terry Schiavo's condition right now. Either she is brain damaged beyond the point of consciousness, or she isn't. If she is, with all due respect to her family, she is dead and all this wrangling over her legal status is moot. If she isn't, then this story is all the sadder. I cannot believe any reasonable person would want to "live," trapped inside a non-functioning shell of a body, without the ability to communicate, for fifteen years. I personally find it terrifying. I certainly wouldn't want it for myself, nor for anyone that I love.

Technology shapes our lives in many ways. In this case, it extended one. Maybe more than it should. Without technology, Terry Schiavo most likely would have died long ago. As our society ages, more and more work is done to find the technological solution that will keep us alive just a little bit longer. That's OK with me, as I'm not really looking forward to dying anytime soon. However, as these technologies improve, our values and our ethics are struggling to keep up. The definition of "alive" gets a little cloudier, a little grayer, every day. Some people in this debate cast this as a question of human rights, whether Ms. Schiavo is entitled to the same rights as everyone else. Of course she is. There's no question. I think it misses the point. Ms. Schiavo is entitled to the same rights as everyone else, as long as she is alive. The real question here is, "what does it mean to be alive?" Until we get that one right, this case is far from over.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
  I must be getting old...
But this is one of the more horrible ideas I've run across in a while. Some video game manufacturers plan products that feature drug use as one of the aspects of the game. I'll admit, I don't watch too many movies that focus on the drug culture, but I understand their place in society. Not too many portray drug use in a favorable light. Still, watching a film where you empathisize with a character's drug problem (or can't wait for his downfall like Frank Booth in 'Blue Velvet'), is a far cry from shooting up, simulated or not. Sure, you can argue that violence has been part of games for a long time, so why shouldn't drug use be? And for me, it's a question of benefit. Wars are violent. Police work can often be violent. Portraying someone in a game who has to take someone's life, presumably a bad guy, to achieve a more positive result is a big difference from taking a hit on a joint or sticking a needle in your arm just for its game play benefits.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
  Today's dispatch from the dot-bomb bust...
This just in: the dot-com thing may have been overrated. According to researchers, Metcalfe's law appears to be wrong. Um, do you think? Metcalfe's law basically says that the utility and value of a network increases exponentially the more things are connected to the network. Basically. As it happens, Metcalfe was full of crapola on this one. In a related story, most of the people who worked for Metcalfe's company have been unemployed for the last three years.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
  One more shuffle note...
No pun intended. OK, one quick question: is it just me, or did Scissor Sisters run across a whole stack of Elton John albums, say, Honky Chateau and Captain Fantastic? I've been listening to that on my iPod shuffle, and I swear, if I didn't knkow better, I'd swear some of these tunes are covers. Forgetting, of course, Comfortably Numb, which actually is a cover, albeit one of the stranger ones I've run across in a long time. It vaguely reminded me of the Flying Lizards' cover of Money (That's What I Want), which is still the oddest cover I've ever heard. Not that odd is bad. Too many songs these days aren't odd enough, I say. So grab a shuffle and boogie down.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
  Shuffle off to buffle...
OK, that's a stupid title for a post, but hang with me for a minute. I just got an iPod shuffle. I don't care what anyone says. It is awfully cool. It's fun. It sounds great. It works tremendously well with iTunes (which is still the best Windows MP3 player). It's uncannily musical in how it moves from song to song. Downright spooky, actually. For instance, did you know that The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts (Reprise) segues really, really well into Same Direction by Hoobastank? Me, either. Cool, though. Some people don't like the fact that it doesn't have a screen, but I think they're missing the point. When I'm on the treadmill, riding my bike, or even sitting on a flight or subway, I'm not paying too much attention to reading the song. The shuffle pulls all the songs from my library, so it's not like I've got hundreds lying around that I don't know to listen to. Most reviews I've seen for it say that it's really only recommended as a second MP3 player, but I'm not convinced. I guess that iTunes, Winamp (the second best Windows MP3 player), and Musicmatch count as my first (um, and second, and third), given that I run those on my computer. However, for someone like me, who listens in the car, or while working out, I can't imagine what more I'd need. The only bad thing I can say about it is it's Autofill feature, which somehow found a really cheesy Escape Club MP3 on my hard drive. Not only did I not know it was there, I can't imagine how it got there. Ah, well, I guess I can't blame the shuffle. I just wish I could pin it on something, because I really don't want to take the blame for that one. Really.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
  Oh. My. God.
I know I've used that title before, but, holy crap, man. I'm watching the Oscars and Counting Crows is singing the song they did in Shrek 2. And the singer, Adam Duritz, has exactly the same hair as Bob Terwilliger from The Simpsons. That's Sideshow freakin' Bob! Seriously. What in the hell is that?!? I'm all for having a, um, distinctive look. But, dude, man. That's hardcore.
Monday, February 21, 2005
  And then Google gets into it...
So, it looks like there's a new sheriff in town. And it might be as bad as the last one. Google, which prides itself on avoiding, in their words, "evil," is doing something that might just cross that line. Or does it? It appears that their new toolbar provides a feature called "AutoLink," which enables users to create links on a page automatically that will map addresses. Using Goolge's Maps feature, of course. So is this evil? I think that it's not. It provides a really cool service to users, and it only does so if the user explicitly requests that it do so. It is, much like Google itself, both cool and useful What it also is, though, is a damned slippery slope. Today, Google only inserts links for maps. Tomorrow, could it insert other things? For instance, links to photographs? That'd be OK. What about links to product reviews? That might be cool, too, from a consumer perspective. How about links to competing products? What if they got paid for it? Is that cool? Is it legal? While the jury may be out on this one for a while, I think it's definitely going to be worth watching...
  Is Microsoft moving forward or back?
I'm a little late on this one. Microsoft announced that they're going to release a new version of IE separate from the next Windows service pack. Or as the next Windows service pack. Or something like that. Which is a Good Thing. They've let IE run fallow the last couple of years, until Firefox gave them reason to reconsider. While I think that the Microsofties can be a bit much at times, when they really try to innovate, they usually do a pretty good job at it (see Internet Explorer 4.0, Excel, and Entourage for examples). So we should all be happy, right? Well, no. Because for every step that Microsoft takes towards the light, they find a parallel path that still leads to darkness. In this case, Microsoft is being very coy regarding whether IE 7 will address its poor support for a number of Web standards and whether they're going to make it available to the roughly 50% of Windows users who haven't switched to XP. So is this really an attempt by Microsoft to improve their product and compete in the marketplace, or is it an attempt to get people to buy more copies of Windows? I try to keep an open mind, but history isn't just a fancy name for where your browser's been. It's also something Microsoft needs to live down.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
  Competition is good.
Seriously. Thank God for Firefox. Not only is it a better browser than Internet Explorer, but it's now forcing Microsoft to develop a better browser, too. I've never been a huge fan of Microsoft, but I'll give them credit. When they feel even a little bit of pressure, they can really get motivated to do some serious programming. Maybe IE 7.0 will be cool. Then again, it may just be a boondoggle to make it look like they're "innovating" to keep their customers from hightailing it up the Open-Source Express. Should be entertaining to watch, no?
Sunday, February 13, 2005
  To blog or not to blog...
With all due apolgies to Big Will, now, there's a question. It seems that Google, who pride themselves on their "Do No Evil" philosophy, fired one of their employees for comments on his blog. I have no idea if they were right or wrong to do it (the specifics, so far, being fairly non-specific). I do think it raises some interesting problems for companies regarding their policies on blogging.

Personally, I avoid mixing the business where I work with my pleasure of doing this blog. While some bloggers feel it's their ethical responsibility to air their workplace's dirty laundry on the Internet to force changes in the environment, I feel it's my ethical responsibility to keep things "in the family." Employers hire employees to do a job. In my case, I was not hired to write publicly about the company or what I do there. That, and the fact that I have a better shot of making anyplace I work a better place if I actually get to work there makes it the right call for me. 'Nuff said.
  Bye-bye Ma Bell. Hello Pa Gates?
So, is it just me, or is it weird that right after AT&T (who were something of a monopoly, albeit a legal one, back in the day) gets gobbled up by SBC, Microsoft begins its most recent, and potentially most serious push into the phone business? Crazy, man. Clearly, Microsoft is a great bellwether of the future of computing. I think it's interesting that in the last handful of years they've begun to expand their focus from OS's and office suites in two seriously different directions: the corporate data center and the home. While the focus on the data center is obvious, the consumer products are particularly interesting to me. I know people have been preaching the coming convergence for years (including yours truly from time to time), Microsoft may be, ahem, telegraphing their bet for the client of the future. Or hedging it. Stay tuned...
Thursday, February 10, 2005
  iTunes vs. Napster
So have you seen where Napster is promoting themselves as a really great alternative to iTunes? Except that you can't actually, y'know, keep the music. I'm not sure that's such a good deal, really. OK, truthfully, I think it sucks. Big time. Since when does the fair use clause of the Constitution focus on leasing for personal use instead of actually using for personal use? The music industry really needs to get the stick out of its heinie and artists really need to tell the major labels to go fly a kite. In the eighties I wanted my MTV. Now I want my MP3.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
  Sorry. I've been busy...
As have the folks at MySQL, apparently. According to a recent report, MySQL may have one-quarter the bugs of commercial database applications such as Oracle or SQL Server. So, it looks like open source coding might, you know, actually work well. Huh. But I thought Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates said that their model is better than open source. You don't suppose that they were wrong, do you? Yeah. Me too.
Friday, January 28, 2005
  OK. Wow. Seriously.
The new A9 Yellow Pages search is one of the coolest, scariest, most experience-altering things I've checked out on the web since Google came along. Everybody's getting into the search game. Google dominates it. Yahoo is trying to get back in it; MSN is trying to pretend they were ever really in it. But Amazon, with A9, especially in the local space, might actually have something. If you're an Amazon customer, A9 knows who you are and localizes the search based on your address parameters. It's incredibly cool. Really.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
  How many eras are allowed to end at once?
First, IBM sells off its PC business. Now, AT&T wants to sell their whole damn selves. More than most business stories, this one makes me a bit nostalgic. Not only can AT&T trace its legacy to Alexander Graham Bell, but my grandmother retired as a telephone operator in the 1960's, after more than twenty years at the switch (or in her case, the switchboard). She worked as an operator during the later years of the Depression through World War II, the 50's, and beyond. Without people like my grandmother, there would be no AT&T as we know it today. Now that she, and those of here generation, are no longer with it, perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised that the company cannot survive.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
  Oh, and by the way...
Google's building a browser, too. Tell me Bill and the boys in Redmond aren't looking over their shoulder just a little bit. You can try, but I won't believe you.
  Integration. No, really.
Well, I've been quiet for the past few days. Lots going on in the world that's been keeping me busy, and lots going on the technology world as well. Remember back in the day when all anyone was interested in was integration? Well, it may be upon us. Seriously. First peer-to-peer advances allowing the trading of video files such as BitTorrent and eXeem made it easy for individuals to get access to media on their computer. Now Google is getting in the game with searchable video. Does anyone else see Google as Apple, with searchable, downloadable, licensed content from everybody's favorite little search company stepping in as the video successor to iTunes? iTVTuner, maybe? Stay, um, tuned.
Monday, January 17, 2005
  The more things change...
I'm watching Inherit the Wind on cable right now. What a great movie. Spencer Tracy and Frederic March both are tremendous. The writing is crisp, the performance, while a bit over the top, fit the content and the era well. The thing that bugs me watching it is how relevant it still is. It ought to be a quaint museum piece. Instead, the same debate is still going on. Here's an article about a small town fighting the same fight. Except that it's 45 years since the movie was made and eighty since the original Scopes Monkey Trial. All that's missing is the townspeople marching through town burning the teacher in effigy. Spencer Tracy says in the movie, "an idea is a greater monument than a cathedral." We could use more of these monuments.
Google News spotted this one, and I had to bite. I'm not sure who the author of this piece is, but I'm not impressed. The author mentions that the Mac mini isn't a good deal. He or she argues that it's not cost effective and that it won't work as advertised with most PC owners' keyboards, monitors, mice, or software. He is also seriously missing the point. The Mac mini (and the iPod, and the iMac, and the PowerBook), have changed the game recently. I mean, is it just me, or has Apple suddenly become relevant again? I remember these PC vs. Mac debates and their religious fervor well from the late eighties and early nineties, back when it was a winner-take-all kind of battle. Now, though, you can get a Mac and do all the things that your Windows friends do, too. You can surf the Web using Safari or, better yet, Firefox. You can get your email (given the popularity of Hotmail, Yahoo, and gMail) using any computer you like. You can connect with to a wireless network. You can use Office and share documents with your co-workers easily. You can burn DVD's and CD's (no more format issues). Does the platform matter anymore? Apple's betting that the answer is "no" and that consumers will soon realize that, too.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
  Thoughts on the future...
My birthday was a handful of weeks ago, and maybe because of that I'm more reflective than normal. I'm really wondering what the world will look like in ten or fifteen years. Check out Mitch Kapor's interview with CNet about his views on open-source, Firefox, and his other future plans, such as Chandler. For a guy who was fundamental to the development of the software industry as we know it, I think it's pretty interesting how focused he is on the future. More on this in the future...
Thursday, January 13, 2005
  How much do you suppose a clean sample will go for?
Especially if you play for the Yankees? Major League Baseball and the players' union agreed (did I really just write that?) to steroid testing for all players beginning this year. Who wants to bet that home run records stay intact for the next couple of years? I mean, besides Pete Rose?
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
  The times, they are a-changing.
Dylan can contact my lawyers if he has a problem with that one. At least I didn't post the MP3 or sample him. Socialcustomer returns to thinks with this article that examines the role of the blog as a force for change in product development and customer support. I like the concept. But until the boards of these companies have a blog and give their view, and allow their constituencies to respond, publicly, I'm afraid it's just more Pollyanna stuff. Time will tell.
  The marriage of sports and entertainment...
I'm trying to find a way to keep this on-topic, no matter how off-topic it might be. I know I write about technology, but c'mon... pitchers and catchers report in just a few weeks, man. Sports Illustrated, whose writers have forgotten more about writing than I'll ever know, has this interesting piece about the Mets dealings so far this off-season. Here's the relevance factor, as well as what makes this piece so fascinating: he focuses on the Mets need to sign Pedro, (for whom we all know they overpaid… by about two years), and Beltran (for whom half of us know they overpaid… the other half are too giddy to care), in order to hype their new cable network. Content producer meets content distribution. Not that we haven't had it before. Like most things, it's just fun to pretend it's "new."
Monday, January 10, 2005
  Mac-eees back in town...!
So this year's MacWorld Expo is about to start, and it looks like a lots going down. CNet has this story about what Apple may introduce. Sure, now they start doing some more cool stuff, y'know, 'cause the iPod, and iTunes, and GarageBand, and that PowerBook I had (...sigh...), weren't cool enough. Why is it no one gets hot and bothered about the things Microsoft announces? Oh, right. Because they don't ship.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
  Opinion? Sure, but it's in the Times...
The New York Times reports on a Pew Internet & American Life Project study. The study polled experts for their views of what the 'net is going to look like down the road. The actual study can be found here. Anyway, as you might expect when you ask some 1,300 people what they think, the answers were all over the place. My favorite stat: half believe that "anonymous, free, music file-sharing on peer-to-peer networks will still be easy to perform a decade from now." The other half live in caves. I'm not saying it's right for artists to lose the ability to be compensated for their work, but, have you ever heard of, oh, I don't know, China? And let's not forget about sneaker-net. File-sharing, like warez before it, is here to stay. Whether you call it piracy or fair use, consumers have an expectation about their ability to listen to music where and when they want. The only way the incorrect half of that study gets to be right (and proves me wrong, to boot) is if music distribution becomes sufficiently intelligent that folks can do what they want with "their" music and makes peer-to-peer file-sharing irrelevant.

The full results makes for interesting reading as well. The study gives a quick insight into the disparity in answers right up front. Question 2 asks "What year did you start using the internet?" The response garnering the highest percentage, by far with 54%, was "1993 or later." How many other fields have over half its experts possessing roughly a decade or less of experience in that field? Folks, as smart as we may think we are, we're still in the cave painting days. The reason so much of what's happenin' on the 'net feels like it's completely new is because it is! I've got a 6 year-old child. Ask me what she's going to be like when she's 30, and I'm probably going to look like a schmo on half the answers even 10 years from now because so much is still so nebulous. Very few people manage to predict the future. The ones that seem to either react faster once it becomes clear, or make it what they want it to be. So stop predicting. Start creating.

Saturday, January 08, 2005
  The ballots have been counted, and the awards are in!
Wired News has published its annual Vaporware Awards which "celebrate all the wonderful gewgaws of 2004 that sadly never saw the light of day." Where the sad meets the funny is more like it. While gaming companies appear to be the most frequent offenders, our old pals Apple and Microsoft have their fair share of misses on this list. My favorite line refers to the continual delays that keep Microsoft from releasing Longhorn (the next version of Windows). Says Wired, "the company subsequently pushed the launch date to 3015 or something." Funny.
  I want my CTV...
C, being Carbon, that is. At least if I remember my high school chemistry. Companies have begun showing prototyes and working on production versions of carbon, or field effect display, televisions. These screens are supposed to be equally thin as an LCD with higher image quality, larger sceen widths, and lower cost. Ain't technology great? Unless you've just shelled out a couple grand for an LCD display, that is. Ah, the price the early adopter pays.
Friday, January 07, 2005
  Fiction is occasionally stranger than truth.
And damned funnier, too. This is great. I don't know what would be funnier: this or the people who don't get it. I don't know why the humor pieces have captured me today. Just lucky, I guess.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
  Microsoft demos new ways to make us insane...
This is the funniest thing I've run across in a while. The Onion couldn't make this stuff up, even when they were still the funniest thing on the web. During his annual CES demo, Bill Gates had, um, some issues. My favorite part is that he hired a comedian, Conan O'Brien to host, so, of course, he made a bunch of cracks about who's running the place. Then Gates had O'Brien killed. OK, not really. He just outsourced next year's hosting job to India.
  Here's a happy guy...
He may just be right, too. Socialcustomer is a blog that I like. He's got an interesting piece about Real Networks and how customer-unfriendly they can be. See what you think.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
  In the immortal words of Private Hudson...
Game over, man, game over! OK, seriously, as a musician and frustrated writer, as well as someone who likes feeding his kids, I feel for content producers. Having said that, producers and publishers of content need to come up with some alternate business models for getting their offerings to customers and soon. To think that lawsuits or some kind of legislation is going to change this dramatically at this point is just silly. Pandora's box is open for business, just not Hollywood's version of business.
  Maybe someday...
When can we just watch a show we've recorded where and when we want? TiVo will let users transfer some recordings to their computers, but not all. Is it just me, or did there used to be something known as "fair use" in copyright? Oy.
  Perhaps trying to take a bite from Apple?
Maybe these guys read my post from just a few minutes ago? It seems that a digital music distribution group has bought Commodore, and may yet make computers using the brand name. Which begs the question: was the Commodore 64 as solid a computer as the iPod is today?
  When worlds collide...
More from the Mac vs. PC debate: Rumors are going around saying that Apple is going to introduce its own office suite to compete with MS Office. Is it just me, or have we entered a time warp? The last time I remember a meaningful debate between operating systems and office suites, Microsoft had just released Windows 3.0 and the really cool Apple was the Mac IIfx (which was a truly awesome machine, y'know, if you had an extra twelve grand laying around). In fact, I think that one of Apple's truly major missteps back in the early '90's was not recognizing the coming age of commoditization, or at least not responding to it in a meaningful way. Maybe they were ahead of their time, treating the Mac as a high-end consumer electronics product instead of a commodity computing device, but it cost them dearly in terms of market share and consumer mindshare in the ensuing decade.

Now, however, things have changed. Apple seems to be using its resurgence as a high-end consumer electronics company (think iPod, iTunes) to make more of a play for market share as a commodity computer manufacturer (iMac, iBook). If I more well-read, I might say something like "Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose", but, you'll pardon my French if I say instead, "Ain't that a kick in the pants?"
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
  One more comment about the new laptop...
OK, so I just had to create a share on my old laptop (14" screen) so that I could connect to it from the new one (17") and move some files. Jesus, but 17" screens are big on laptops. The old one made me feel like I was using a Blackberry by comparison. The size of the new one is stunning. I don't think I can fit it into my briefcase (which is fine, since I didn't really buy it to travel with), but holy-schmoly is it big! To quote Ferris Bueller, if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

No. Seriously.
  My wife misses me...
Because my new Dell is here. OK, I looooove the 17" screen. The one on the Apple was a little crisper, but this is still pretty rockin' and kicks the crap out of the little 14" fella that I was using previously. What a bad-ass little (OK, not so little) computer this is. The keyboard is a little squishy, but nice in its own way. Everything worked right out of the box without any difficulty, it found my network nicely, and here I am blogging away like the fool that I am. I'm glad to be back, and can't believe that more of you didn't complain about missing me. Now back to our regularly scheduled griping.
Friday, December 31, 2004
  Giving a whole new meaning to server farm...
Obvious point of the day: technology changes many things. That's never more clear than in this story on about the use of technology on farms. How is that people on farms get branded as "hicks" when they've got cooler technology than half the folks in this country? Sounds like city cousin might want to pay attention to what country cousin's been up to. K-E-W-L, cool!
Thursday, December 30, 2004
  Help those impacted by tsunami in Southeast Asia
The Red Cross is accepting donations for the International Response Fund to help those impacted by the tsunamis that hit Southeast Asia on Sunday. If you can help, please do.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
  Truth is stranger than fiction, that is.
Uh...damn. This is straight out of some Star Trek episode. Or, maybe the Twilight Zone. A 55-year-old woman in Virginia just gave birth to her daughter's triplets. Seriously. So she is both the grandmother and the birth mother of the kids. Grandma advises her daughter to love them unconditionally. Which coming from a 55-year-old who just gave birth to her kid's triplets sets the bar mighty high, I think.
  A brief message from our China
By the way, most of this stuff is written using w.bloggar, a program out of Brazil, written by a guy named Marcelo Cabral. It's a wonderful tool, and turns my blogging provider into the best content management system I've ever used. Seriously. People like Interwoven and VIgnette could learn a thing or two about inline editing from this thing. So, anyway, now I'm using a blogging tool from Brazil, and a text editor from South Korea (the excellent EditPlus) to keep my site up-to-date. The EU forced Microsoft to change Windows. If you buy an IBM laptop next year, it will be from China. Is it just me, or is the U.S. fading a bit in the technology cosmos? I don't want to sound too provincial here. It's not necessarily a bad thing. All those unemployed programmers may get their jobs back in a few years when China, Brazil, and India start outsourcing to the U.S. for cheaper labor.
  Stores? We don't need no stinkin' stores...
So, it appears that the holiday shopping season wasn't all that cheery, according to this article. The really interesting trend is that consumers apparently don't like doing the online thing as much, though, because they're less likely to get the impulse buy for themselves while shopping. I guess it's better to give and receive, eh?
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
  Um... huh?
This one I don't get. This guy on MacNewsWorld is talking about the price of Macs vs. the price of PCs. I think he's nuts. Here's why:
I just took my PowerBook G4 (about 2,800 bucks, plus $380 for AppleCare) back to the Apple store. A very sad day, indeed. However, I've replaced it with a Dell Inspiron 9200, complete with a 17" screen, 1 GB RAM, an 80 gig drive, 3 years support, Bluetooth, Wifi, DVD burning, and an upgraded battery for a bit over $2,700. And they throw in a printer (though they do make you buy the cable). Maybe the processors don't compare. I honestly don't know, and frankly, I don't care. I couldn't percieve any difference in the operating speed between them. If the Mac's processor is faster, and it could be, I don't see it in the types of things I do, like spreadsheets, email, basic photo editing, and updating my web site.

Now here's the kicker. I own Photoshop, Office, Dreamweaver, and Quicken for the PC already. That's probably another grand worth of software. Additionally, I use a couple of really cool text editors for doing HTML. The best text editor I could find for the Mac (the excellent BBEdit), costs $180. Whereas the two that I like best on Windows, EditPlus and HTML-Kit, are $30 and free, respectively. I can use Firefox on both, iTunes on both, Office on both, vi on both, Perl on both (vi and Perl at the terminal shell on the Mac). They're both excellent machines. For people who don't have a legacy on PCs (and the software that goes with it), I'd easily recommend the Mac. I may yet break down and buy an eMac to satisfy my Mac jones. If you want to argue which provides the greater value, I might get onboard. But to compare Macs to PCs and conclude, out of hand, that the Mac costs less is simply a fiction.
Monday, December 27, 2004
  More on the Mac situation
OK, I've caved. After spending the better part of the last two days really getting to know my PowerBook, I broke down, went to and ordered an Inspiron 9200. It's also got a 17" screen, 1GB of memory, DVD-R (all flavors), an 80GB hard drive. It's also about $600 less money and it will run all of my existing softward and I don't have to learn how to do everything I know how to do all over again. Oh, and they throw in a printer for free.

To be fair, the Mac is an awesome machine. It made me excited about a new computer for the first time in a really, really long time. I think I drove my wife near to nuts going on about how unbelievably cool the DVD burner is (it really, really is). Still, convention seems to have won out for now. Time will tell.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
  So sad...
Well, Merry Christmas, everyone. A day late. I got the best present in the world for Christmas yesterday. A shiny, brand-spanking new, Apple PowerBook G4 (17" model, thank you very much). Just what I wanted, what I'd asked for, what I'd pleaded like a child to get. I love it. It's the coolest computer I've ever owned. Here's the bad part: it's probably going back. Why, you might ask? Because, despite my unbridled passion for it, despite its glorious 17" screen, despite its oh so satisfying keboard, and the fact that it runs everything I need it to, I can't use it. Not that it's not user-friendly. It's very user friendly. It's just that its version of user-friendlyness is different (better) than that of the four Windows computers I use every day between work and home. I spend way too much time using computers that don't work like this to learn to use it as efficiently as I run all my other computers. For instance, I'm married to the keyboard and rarely use a mouse. The PowerBook is the most most mouse-centric computer I've ever used (yeah, I know, duh!). I can't figure out a how to do many of the things that I do using the keyboard on Windows. It's not that they can't be done. I'm just too lazy to figure it out. The payoff of its power and elegance isn't sufficiently greater than the computers I'm used to to justify the time I'll spend learning how to use it. And that, unfortunately, is the problem Apple faces in getting customers to move from Windows to its platform.

Maybe I'm in the minority on this. Maybe this is only a problem for so-called "power users." But I don't think so. To me, it's just like the situation with alternate keyboard layouts. For instance, the Dvorak keyboard is definitely faster than the QWERTY keyboard, yet no one switches. Why? Same reason that I think I need to send this wonderful computer back. The benefits of switching simply don't outweigh the costs it entails. And for all of us, that's a real bummer. Especially me.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
  Maybe the second chink? Or not.
So, Microsoft got slapped around a bit by the EU, eh? Is this the beginning of the end? Not according to this opinion piece about the EU ruling. Or is it? I'm pretty sure we haven't heard the last of this, and may not have a clear picture for years. Still, it should make for pretty decent theater, I guess.
  Score one for the upstart...
Not sure where they're getting their data, but Boost Marketing says that Firefox has siezed further market share from Internet Explorer. Who says the browser wars are over? OK, well, everybody. Still, this is pretty impressive given how firmly entrenched IE has been for the last four years. Perhaps, the first chink in Microsoft's armor?
  Phishing? Searching for Worms? Good way to spend a summer...
Good way to kill the Internet, too, unfortunately. PCWorld has this story about a worm that was trying to use Google to find servers it could propogate itself to. The folks behind these attacks really unnerve me. Their motivations are pretty unclear, given that they're not really benefiting directly. Are they a bunch of kids just getting their jollies, or are they practicing for some more serious attack? I've never been a huge fan of legislation, but the penalties for these sorts of things need to be more severe and more consistent around the globe, while developers need to be more diligent in securing their code against this sort of nonsense. While the Internet currently represents a fairly minor percentage of the world economy, its growth could fuel economic benefits for countries and people around the world for years to come. Some unknown party mucking it up for kicks should be kicked back, and hard, for all of our sakes.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
  Wal-mart vs. Microsoft?
Is it just me or is it interesting that Wal-mart offers computers for sale running Linux. The latest one is a $500 laptop running Linspire at The deep discounter clearly doesn't care whether it's selling Wintel boxes or something else, so long as they can advertise the lowest priced product. This could get interesting, given that Wal-mart generally has taken a very conservative approach to introducing technology to its customers.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
  I'm back. What do you mean, you didn't know I was gone?
OK, so my lousy hosting company finally got the issue resolved. Apparently, someone fat-fingered something in the DNS entry during a server move. Lovely. It's amazing how reliant we have become on things that can be screwed up by one little typo. Our livelihoods are increasingly dependent on people not making a mistake like that. Seems kind of scary, doesn't it? As Martin Gore put it, people are people. Is that a Good Thing?
Saturday, December 18, 2004
  I hate my hosting company
I'm mostly writing this as a test to see if I can still post, since it appears that my hosting company (and possibly soon-to-be-former hosting company) has knocked me off the Internet. Grrrr! Insert appropriate swear words here. I've posted multiple messages to their support forum, but haven't gotten any response yet. More to follow.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
  Just in from the People Smarter Than Me Dept.
Clearly, that could be a lot of people. Ah, well. Really solid piece by Adam Penenberg, listing his Media Wish List for 2005. I'm not familiar with Penenberg's writing, but I think he's onto something here. He takes bloggers to task for not doing more to break news, and has some great suggestions about what to do with the FCC. I'll shut up now and let you read him, since, unlike me, he knows what he's doing.
  See, I told you they were still suing people...
The RIAA, in their infinite wisdom, files 754 new file-swapping suits. They've now got almost 8,000 suits pending. And they still complain about swapping hurting profits? You don't think legal fees have anything to do with it, do you?
  Maybe they'll have an awards show...
According to CNET, iTunes hits 200 million download mark. Again, why is the music industry still suing people over this stuff. Get on board, man. There's a whole new way to market music and you are fast being shoved aside.
  Google wins. Who else does?

In a huge development, a federal judge ruled that Google's use of trademarks for keywords is legal. Obviously, this is an enormous victory for Google, given how much of its revenue comes from its AdWords program. Of course, the question is whether this benefits anyone besides Google. And actually, I'm pretty sure its a Good Thing, overall. Here's why.

Right now, the Web is still a little bit like the Wild Wild West, where law is largely a matter of interpretation. Maybe more like the 1890's Old West, than the 1870's Old West, with finer things and a bit more culture, but still kind of rough around the edges. And that's OK. These open questions provide opportunity. They provide areas for companies to exploit where they can find whole new products and services and entirely new ways to market them. Sure, you may get the renegade who purposefully goes for the unethical and damaging, but most companies are looking for legitimate ways to serve the needs of customers. Let's be honest about this. Most of the people who are buying these trademarked words are actually selling something that may be valuable to consumers. For instance, when I do a search for Geico (the folks who sued Google in the first place), most of the results are either about insurance or the news story about Geico suing Google. Yes, there is one clown who's gaming the system. He'll go away eventually when there's no benefit to him. And in the meantime, Geico's competitors, and the customers they're trying to serve, get more choices. Once fences go up on the open range, they're much tougher to take down. Let these horses run and let the market sort it out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
  Hey, if the Red Sox can do it...
This has nothing to do with what I usually write about, but my favorite baseball team, the Mets, have signed Pedro Martinez to a whopping deal. I want to be excited about it, I really do. The problem can be summed up very simply: Mo Vaughn. Oh, and Cliff Floyd. And Mike Cameron wasn't so hot, either. The Mets could sign Carlos Beltran right now and he'd probably go down with a persistent hangnail or something. Ah, well. Just another fifteen years or so and we can look forward to them signing David Ortiz.
  Reagan was right: Trust, but verify
There seems to be a lot of buzz regarding Google's intent to search books from major university libraries. I think that Scott Rosenberg has a point, clearly. Here's a question, though. Salon is public company that allows access to their content for those who either a.) pay a subscription fee, or b.) agree to watch incredibly intrusive ads for things such as vodka and wireless service (a dangerous combination if ever there were). I'm not saying we should all just blithely trust Google to keep access to the information free for the masses. I am saying that what's new about that? There isn't a company that should be trusted implicitly, because companies tend to be greedy, and greed is supposed to be evil, if you agree with the Bible and all that. I'm OK with that. We live in a (roughly) capitalist society and should expect our companies to be greedy so that their stock prices go up so that our 401(k)'s can appreciate so that we can all retire in comfort to someplace warmer than it is here today in peace. So embrace Google for being untrustworthy. It's the trustworthy ones you've got to watch out for the most.
  Exploring blogging as a social movement
San Jose Mercury News tech guy Dan Gillmor is leaving the to work on a "citizen-journalism project", according to, um, Dan Gillmor. Putting aside my usual bad jokes, Dan Gillmor provided great insights into Silicon Valley for the last decade and helped a lot of people, including me, understand the way the tech world works just a little bit better. I wish him all the best.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
  Sure, but what do you think the nipple ring would go for?
CNET notes that the scene of Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" is up for auction. Insert your favorite breast joke her. I'm fresh out.

  Yeah, but Bill Gates has a lot more money...
Another CNET reference. This one says that security research suggests Linux has fewer flaws
They say that "four years of research by a code-analysis firm finds that the latest open-source OS beats commercial software for quality." What in the world took them four years?!? I've got a Linux installation running on a (poorly) home-built AMD that requires fewer reboots and less TLC than my P4 laptop running XP (which, I admit, is where I churn out these things I thinks every day or so). What Linux needs to be viable as a desktop is to be easy enough for my sister to use. My folks can't use XP either, so I can't use that as a baseline.

Monday, December 13, 2004
  So where would the viruses live?
CNET has a story about Microsoft testing subscription Outlook. I don't know where to begin with this one. Is the goal to lower support costs for companies by letting Microsoft be the one to ignore user needs when Outlook blows up?
  Hey, here's an idea... screw your customers!
In a note titled The Dirty Little Secret About eStatement Adoption, Forrester Research notes that "eStatement adoption has more than tripled in the past year, with 26% of online households now receiving one or more eStatements from their financial providers." They continue with "The only problem is that 97% of eStatement adopters continue to receive a paper statement. Firms must wean customers from their addiction to paper by offering a printable statement in PDF format, automatically turning off paper statements for eStatement adopters, and charging customers who request a paper statement via snail mail." OK, here's an idea: how about you actually provide your best customers the statement that makes the most sense for them? For instance, I don't get eStatements for many of my accounts for two reasons: one, I forget to check each month; and two, yeah, I need more email. Charging customers for something they currently receive for free is a bad idea. Note all the ATM providers that are now getting out of charging fees to people who are in their network. Why? Because it's good customer service. And consumers actually seem to prefer that. Weird, huh?

  'Cause, you know, those .tv and .info domains are taking off...
ICANN board votes to begin talks on two new top-level domains. Big deal. This feels like it's just one more place for those of us with websites (or who manage corporate ones) that we have to register our brands. Oy. This is a good thing, why?
Sunday, December 12, 2004
  From the "My Dad can beat up your Dad" Dept.
The Supreme Court will review whether peer-to-peer providers are liable for illegal file sharing on their networks. Look, I believe artists are getting screwed by people stealing their music. I can't, however, imagine that the Supreme Court is going to rule that a technology is inherently illegal, especially when there's a fair bit of precedent regarding the legitimate utility of technologies that could be used for illegal purposes (see the VCR and audiotape for instance). Ultimately, the record industry needs to acknowledge that the game is over and that they need to examine these as promotional tools to grow awareness for a larger set of artists with smaller audiences for each.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
  Also, they recommend frat boys stop drinking so much...
Penn State is jumping on the 'ditch IE' bandwagon. I'm really curious to see if this actually amounts to anything. I think it's going to take a corporation, and a big one at that, switching their managed desktops to one of the alternatives before this gathers any momentum. Still, Redmond has to be paying attention to this stuff. Eventually consumers may start asking questions and then it's anyone's game. Though I wouldn't bank on it just yet.
  Going to the chapel, and we're gonna get... no signal?
Apparently Sprint and Nextel are looking to get hitched. A deeper read of this article certainly makes Cingular look like the obvious winner. Sprint and Nextel use very different technologies and, more importantly, have very different cultures. Everyone I know with a Nextel phone generally takes a "cold, dead hands" approach to it, and wouldn't readily give up the two-way radio feature without something much, much cooler to replace it. I'm not sure what it's going to take for all the wireless players to focus on their networks and fix the whole dropped call nonsense, but I doubt rampant consolidation is it. Especially one that looks as forced as this seems to.
  Perhaps it was on April 3rd from 11:45 to 11:49?
OK, I just read Wil Wheaton's latest entry talking about how funny John Tesh was on VH1's My Coolest Years: The Geeks. Willie, man, are you kidding me? When, ever, has John frickin' Tesh, ever been cool?!?

I'm sorry. I really, really am. I don't usually like to go for the cheap laugh. Waitaminnit! Who am I kidding? Of course I go for the cheap laugh.

I stopped watching VH1 a few years back when I realized that 'Behind the Music' was the story of every guy in every band I ever knew. Y'know, start from nowhere, find fame and fortune, blow it all on blow or hookers, end up being profiled as another jackass that started from nowhere, blew it all to hell, and ended up, essentially, nowhere. Exactly like the guys I knew. Except for the fame and fortune part.

So, what does any of this have to do with "technology, society and culture, and..."? Actually, more than I thought when I started this post. It's interesting to me how a former child star can find fame, and at least a little fortune, talking about whatever interests him. David Weinberger is supposed to have said, "In the blogosphere, everyone’s famous for 15 people." And really, isn't that what I'm doing too? Just trying to find my 15 minutes, or my 15 people, or maybe 3 people for 5 minutes each? What's to prevent anyone, anywhere from finding their little slice of fame, fortune, notoriety? Even if it's just to a little slice of the world?

Marketers talk about differentiation and finding attributes that can be owned in the minds of consumers. Blogs are all about differentiation. If marketers are correct, blogs are the ideal way to connect to a target audience. The people who manage to get their blogs in front of their audience most effectively will be the media sensations of the future. Well, a very small sensation anyway.
  Windows 2095, anyone?
Now here's a surprise: Microsoft crowed for the last couple years about a product that isn't remotely ready for primetime. Tasty eats in Gates-ville, apparently. Crow, that is. Their new estimate for when WinFS will be available in a shipping product is somewhere into the next decade. Given the number of folks still on NT 4.0, Microsoft is probably looking well into the future to get most of their users over to the new filesystem. Seems to me that the Linux folks, or Apple, or PalmSource, or Symbian (you get the point) should be able to come up with a viable alternative to the PC-centric, Windows-dominated platform by then, no?
Friday, December 10, 2004
  Here comes the Sun king. And there he goes...
Either Scott McNealy's an idiot or we're all in a world (wide web) of trouble. I worry about my mom and my kids on the Internet. Now I've got to worry about the CEO of major technology companies? I'm not too worried about people falling for some goofy hoax, but we've grown accustomed to trusting our media. Well, not CBS, but, y'know, real media. Like the web. Oh, dear God. What's a poor boy to do?
  Now if only I could remember where I put my keys.
A new search from Google offers suggestions of things that you may be looking for. It automatically attempts to populate the search field based on what you're typing. To avoid privacy concerns, it's not based on individual search patterns. Not uncool, actually. Is it just me, or does Google sometimes remind you of the kid who always got the answers right in school? Now they're just showing off.

Thursday, December 09, 2004
  Maybe they'll outsource development to Aramonk...
Well, IBM has succeeded in selling off its PC business. "End of an era" would sound appropriate if only Dell hadn't ended it for them years ago. Still, the Thinkpads with built-in biometrics are pretty cool machines. What's really amazing is that Lenovo gets to use the name for 5 years and how little they paid for it. Old Tom Watson can't be too pleased with that. I'm not sure selling off the good products and keeping the (in my experience) crummy services is a good long-term strategy.
  What other business would be upset about this?
Can you imagine any other business that would actually mind if you took a substance that enhanced your performance? No wonder baseball isn't moving more quickly on this.

  Does this mean I can copyright my bookmark file?
Financial Times has a good piece on the silliness of potential copyright laws applying to databases. What happens when all the data's taken? I may have to copyright my email address book and charge royalties to spammers who contact those folks. Say, that's not a bad idea...
  Umm... yeah... this probably isn't good.
ABC News in NYC has a story about laptops causing infertility. Now they tell me. I probably could have avoided that surgery.
  Awards shows must adjust to changing times
Does anyone care about the Grammy Awards any longer? Where are the awards for MP3 artists? How come there's no Billboard or Soundscan tracking the popularity of shared files? If, indeed, the music industry is suffering from the popularity of downloading and file-sharing, someone ought to step up and show which artists benefit from the greater exposure file-sharing theoretically provides.

What I think about technology, society, and culture, and what happens when those things intersect.

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