Archives for September 2007


Crushing the life out of the iPhone ecosystem

As a stockholder, I’m concerned about the command-n-control, draconian measures being exhibited by Apple around the iPhone and what that is doing to any semblance of an iPhone ecosystem. I’m also bored with a stock iPhone and was really enjoying what the ecosystem was delivering.

I also feel a push-pull: I have (thankfully) hung on to my stock for 15 years and have been well rewarded for that loyalty and have made a crapload of money off of the stock.

I have a unique perspective that concerns me about what I’m perceiving is a crushing of the energy and enthusiasm that comprises the iPhone ecosystem and how that is impacting future product launches, the current iPhone influencer base as well as any interest by developers going forward.

As I’ve written about previously, I was with a pre-Apple-salesforce manufacturer’s representative firm handling Apple in the days of the Apple II, Lisa and then the Macintosh. Even during the time that the IBM PC was gaining ground — which was ‘open’ so any third party could make boards, software and more for the box — Microsoft was beginning to execute on partnering in a way Steve Jobs has admittedly admired (see D Conference web site gives a summary/transcript and links to the various parts of an interview with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates).

One could argue that the #1 reason Microsoft has been so wildly successful and dominant is their development and courting of an ecosystem and the HUGE momentum by millions of people that were making a buck off the Microsoft space. With the latest release of the iPhone 1.1.1 update (which, while crossing my fingers, I just performed with success to my hacked iPhone), Apple has crushed any hacking which includes SIM unlocking and the development and delivery of any third party applications.

But maybe Apple had no choice? What data do we not have that could be influencing their decisions?

[Read more…]


Zink: Inkless Printing

It seems today that there are few technologies that surprise or delight me. When this one was shown at Demo last January, it was because it was close; perhaps it’s because of my prepress and publishing background that I took more notice than most; or maybe it’s because it’s simple to see the opportunity. Regardless, this is one amazing technology that’s worth you thinking about and watching as it develops.

I subscribed to the Business 2.0 “New Disruptors” video podcast (the now defunct Business 2.0) and Erick Schonfeld (now of TechCrunch and I hope he keeps doing these disruptor segments) did a segment on this company, Zink, that is close to delivering printing without ink:

ZINK is a breakthrough technology that produces on-demand color images and photos – without ink, ribbons or toner. The ZINK Technology enables a new category of color printers and paper that work as a system to print in a whole new way.


The key to this process is the patented ZINK Paper, an advanced composite material with cyan, yellow, and magenta dye crystals embedded inside and a protective polymer overcoat layer outside. The printing process is now radically simple. Just add Paper.

While I also was enamored by the Foveon chip (an innovative RGB image sensor), I realized early on that unless this chip was embraced by camera manufacturer’s it never would go anywhere. Sigma, Toshiba (with one camera) and Polaroid are the only OEM manufacturer’s who’ve used the chip to date and it’s effectively dead, in my opinion. Could Zink’s fate be tied with their ability to cajole, persuade and sell to OEM printer product companies?

Perhaps. But this article from July shows how they’re hedging their bets: Late last week, the company announced it completed a deal that sees it taking control of a manufacturing plant in North Carolina that previously belonged to Konica Minolta. With the purchase, Zink can now speed up the development of both its Zero-Ink printers and supporting Zink paper.

Though Zink has more than 100 patents on this inkless printing process, competition looms from Xerox, though the latter’s technology is focused on being an erasable one. This concerns me since so many of our artifacts (e.g., photos!) are digital and in considerable jeopardy of being lost. The archival quality of Zink’s approach gives me warm fuzzies about creating things that future generations may be able to hold in their hands.

Regardless of what happens, who wins, or what technology we end up using, the fact remains that in a short time we’ll have options for high resolution printing that will no longer require we buy expensive consumables, chop down trees or process pulp to create printed artifacts.


NetRadio’s 1995 debut in Minneapolis

If you weren’t deeply immersed in the Internet’s early days as I was, it’s hard to remember the pain, the obstacles and the now almost quaint state-of-the-art in 1995.

It was that year in November that NetRadio made its debut here in Minneapolis and is an invention and milestone that needs to be lauded and remembered. Invented by Scott Bourne and Scot McCombs (more here), NetRadio used RealAudio‘s first player and server technology to run. A former Authorware (now part of Adobe) colleague of mine, Rob Griggs, was an early investor and co-founder and he invited me to the offices you’ll see in the video below (via TWiT) to see their new radio offering streaming over the Internet.

At the time I was impressed and could easily visualize the possibilities, but also knew in every cell of my being how long it would take before this was anything more than cool and a novelty. In fact, my belief as to one, key cause of the dotcom crash was that there was a HUGE amount of Web content pouring into the top of the funnel (i.e., being served) and most of us were sipping through the tiny hole at the bottom of the funnel (i.e., with dial-up 56k modems) and there was no way rich media of any kind — including low audio quality radio — would yet flourish over copper wires for quite some time.

In 1995 there were, as the video points out, roughly “110,000 Web sites” and that NetRadio received “about 25,000 Web visitors in the first few days“. Impressive at the time, but so was the Model T in 1908.


Empowered Participants in a Connected Age

Let me tell you a little story about being empowered in a connected age in order to illustrate how a participation culture is changing communications, grassroots efforts and is undoubtedly putting the fear of God into the hearts and minds of PR and marketing professionals.

For over 10 years, the section of the upscale neighborhood in which my home sits has experienced major and minor power outages. Usually two major and several minor ones per year.

What has made this issue particularly irksome is that my neighbors behind me have never been without power while I have as has the majority of our development (my 50 home-ish section is on another part of the grid). A flooded basement that cost me $6,000 in repairs, hundreds of dollars of food thrown out, and untold irritation and frustration have been just a few of the results.

Our utility, Xcel Energy, has been about as responsive as any monopolistic, regulated and bureaucratic entity is: not very. Then, after two outages within days of one another in August after Xcel implied a fix had been done — I blew a gasket. I had had just about enough and leveraged my squeaky wheel that needs to be greased ability to communicate and ratcheted up my pleas to an atypically responsive (and blogger!) Eden Prairie city manager, Scott Neal.

Neal opened doors for me and pushed to ensure that my voice in the wilderness was helicoptered out and not left in the woods to be devoured by bears. Neal’s blog post succinctly describes the issue and positive outcome.

I’ll take a little credit for being a diplomatic, nice, persistent pain-in-the-ass to everyone. It was clear I was capable of being an effective communicator and would do so in front of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (which I could), to the governor’s office (one degree of separation from Gov. Pawlenty) and all over the Web (which I’ve done). I made certain it was clear to everyone that I’d NEVER let go of this until a permanent solution was planned/budgeted for and implemented. Perhaps that attitude helped move things along.

[Read more…]


1 Billion U.S. Air Travelers by 2010

What will you do when the major commercial airports (among the 5,177 airports in the United States) demand that dozens or hundreds of flights per day are diverted to smaller general aviation airports? Imagine the traffic acceleration, noise and pollution you’ll experience in your community or one near you.

Those among us who don’t think beyond this coming weekend pooh-pooh the idea that a sudden shift will occur driving corporate jets and smaller planes away from international/major airports and toward these smaller ones. To that I say, “Breathe deeply, my friend, and enjoy that fragrance of jet fuel” because it’s going to happen. It may not be sudden and will likely play out over several years but there isn’t a choice and here’s one example: 55 planes an hour trying to depart New York’s LaGuardia airport when only 45 slots are available (and some slots have smaller planes or corporate jets in line) and this can’t continue. Especially when that number balloons to 65, 75 or 100 an hour.

This article says it all about our air traffic gridlock and the composition of the aircraft exacerbating the problem: “At La Guardia, half of all flights now involve smaller planes: regional jets and turboprops. It’s the same at Chicago’s O’Hare, which is spending billions to expand runways. At New Jersey’s Newark Liberty and New York’s John F. Kennedy, 40 percent of traffic involves smaller planes, according to Eclat Consulting in Reston, Va. Aircraft numbers tell the tale: U.S. airlines grounded a net 385 large planes from 2000 through 2006 – but they added 1,029 regional jets – says data firm Airline Monitor.”

[Read more…]


TalkShoe adds VoIP with ShoePhone

Want to see, experience and understand a phenomenal way to extend your company, personal or other value proposition online? Then you owe it to yourself to spend a bit of time at TalkShoe and understand the implications of what they’ve just released with free and easy voice (VoIP) capability with TalkShoe called ShoePhone.

Their press release says in part, “ShoePhone is an easy to use service for unlimited group calling with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Up to 250 people can participate in a live call (which TalkShoe calls Talkcastsâ„¢), and 1,000s more can listen to the simultaneous live Internet audio stream. Users can also simultaneously text-chat, and Talkcasts can be recorded and stored on TalkShoe’s website for later listening and podcasting. Talkcasts can be done instantly, or scheduled in advance. ShoePhone is Free to use.

ShoePhone uses voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology to create calls. However, unlike other VoIP services, ShoePhone users can connect with other ShoePhone users as well as to people using standard telephones, mobile phones, other VoIP services such as Skype, and 3rd party VoIP clients such as SJphone and Gizmo. This is because ShoePhone is based on a telco-grade conferencing system unlike other server-based VoIP-only services which have limited conferencing capabilities.”

After I pinged famed Internet radio guy Doug Kaye earlier this year he forwarded my note about high quality call-in recording solutions with VoIP to Dave Nelsen, the CEO of TalkShoe. Nelsen immediately jumped in with their solutions, indicated that (what now has become ShoePhone) VoIP solutions I needed would be coming this year which I expected would be December! How’s THAT for underpromising and overdelivering.

I’ve listened and participated in shows and played with the TalkSho system myself. Though embracing an online system was something I was reluctant to do since I want complete control over the recording, the show itself (using a conferencing service) and so on, I’ve been hunting for a high quality, easy to use, free-for-my-listeners solution that gives them lots of different ways to call in and either listen to or participate in a show…and be of high quality. TalkShoe has delivered.

Hey Borsch, are there any downsides that you’ve discovered?

[Read more…]


Biker identified with iPod: Adam Finley

Turns out that the 30 year old guy, Adam Finley, who was hit and killed on his bike near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis last Thursday — and was identified only because the police worked with Apple Security First Tech Apple experts to identify him from the iPod he was carrying — was a blogger and TV Squad is reprinting some of his articles in memoriam.

It also brought back bad memories since I was hit by a car jogging on that exact same intersection when I was 29 years old, carrying no identification and listening to a Sony FM Walkman at the time.

Site of Collision (click for larger view)

A drunk was making a left turn westbound Lake Street and fortunately was going very slowly. I turned and saw him at the last minute simply coming at me and it gave me time to leap up in the air, landing on the hood of his car. I slid off, he hit the brakes and the rear tire ended up six inches from my head.

Others snagged his keys and kept him there until police arrived, and I was just damn lucky I wasn’t killed — it just tore my jacket and gave me a few bumps and bruises. Adam’s untimely death — though I didn’t know him or read his blog — really has given me pause about how quickly things can go the other way, how lucky I was and how I’ve carried identification ever since when I’m out running or biking.

Take a moment and think about how interesting it is to live in a time when digital breadcrumb trails can be left by people like Adam in blogs, podcasts, MySpace pages…or by you…and how good it is to remember someone partially by the contributions they’ve made. I think often about preserving my blog and podcasts to be discovered by some interested descendant of mine who might wonder who I was and what was happening when I was alive. In a small way, I now have a glimpse into Adam Finley whose life stopped far too early.


Finally…Congressional pressure on mobile telephony providers

When describing my experiences trying to figure out what I’m paying for with mobile telephony services — and how to figure out a personal or business cost model — I’ve said, “If it’s Tuesday and the customer service person has had onions on their cheeseburger for lunch, the price is different.” It’s my way of expressing the huge number of variables that make it very difficult to predict what mobile usage is going to cost.

Obviously that’s the strategy. Keep us befuddled and confused with a dizzying array of choices and we’ll just pick one and rack up who knows what costs.

Thankfully my own Minnesota Senator, Amy Klobuchar, has teamed up with Senator Jay Rockefeller to introduce a bill to empower all of us to not be locked in to any given mobile telephony provider and have some form of mobile telephony choice:

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) today unveiled legislation aimed at empowering the 200 million cell phone customers nationwide to make informed choices about a wireless service that best fits their needs and their budget.

The Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act of 2007 will require wireless service providers to share simple, clear information on their services and charges with customers before they enter into long-term contracts; a thirty-day window in which to exit a contract without early termination fees; and greater flexibility to exit contracts with services that don’t meet their needs.

I’ve had my own issues with Verizon Wireless in the past as well as the only provider I could use with my new iPhone (AT&T Wireless) and their sneaky methods to get me to pay more money. All of it stems from these provider’s attempts at maximizing their profits at our expense. It’s as though each has figured out the absolute base-case services to provide and no more.

Why is it that my old phones could easily connect to my laptop so I could add my own, home-created ringtones? Then the mobile telephony providers pressured cell phone manufacturer’s to remove these features so they could sell $1.99 ringtones (of course, I’ve found easy ways to make my own ringtones for my iPhone and can easily get them there…I’ll not pay even $.99 for a ringtone from a song I’ve already purchased!).

In their defense, these companies have invested billions in infrastructure and it’s not trivial to cover the huge geography that is the United States of America. They’re finally facing potential competition from the upcoming auction of the 700mhz spectrum (which could see a non-traditional telephony provider offering competitive mobile telephony products and services) so maybe they’ll change before competition ensues or Congressional bills become law.


Is this Steve Fossett’s plane?

UPDATE: A fellow pointed out to me in an email that others had located this same plane BUT that shadows make it appear to be a plane in flight vs. on the ground. Slashdot thread here. SUNDAY A.M.: A tired Sergeant from the Mono County Sheriff’s called that they’d combed this area already and wanted me to know. Even though I expressed my apology for reaching out beyond channels, he stopped me to let me know that he was *very* appreciative of all efforts expended by satellite imagery searchers and eased my mind that I hadn’t (even with all my best intentions) diverted search and rescue (SAR) efforts.

I’ve communicated with the Amazon Mechanical Turk folks that are coordinating this imagery search effort on how challenging it is to communicate with them in the event of discovery — which is why I took my own steps to reach out to the SAR folks. They’re working on methods to streamline their interface (and make it easier to communicate findings to one, central point) so this sort of thing is intuitive and easy to do in the future.

My wife is out of town and it’s a Saturday night at home with my 12 year old son. Reading this Slashdot article, I thought “Hey…why not do something useful tonight instead of watching TV?” and I went to this Amazon Mechanical Turk site to help out in the search for Steve Fossett by scouring a detailed satellite image for any signs of what might look like a small, white plane.

About three hours into the search, I found the white plane above. At first thinking “Nah…this is too obvious,” I couldn’t let it slide and immediately tried to find a way to alert the authorities through the Amazon site, but just couldn’t figure out how to do it with any sort of urgency.

So I instead did a quick search and found the woman (Major Cynthia Ryan) who is running the search for the Nevada Civil Air Patrol. Her voicemail left her home phone but it’s been busy for over an hour. I next called the dispatcher for the local sheriff’s office near where the search central is (Minden, NV) and left the latitude and longitude coordinates with the dispatcher.

For some reason I was troubled. I plugged the coordinates into Google Maps and was dismayed by the significantly lower resolution imagery, but I could see more macro level detail and realized that the plane I found is in California and specifically within Mono County.

Next call was to the Mono County Sheriff’s Office who has the data now. The dispatcher, John, actually called me back to the get the latitude and longitude coordinates since he didn’t do it on the first call we had. He sure sounded more urgent so we’ll see.

The plane looks intact and I sure hope Fossett is found a bit busted up but alive.


Powerful tools in the right hands…

If you’re not amazed by the following video and the techniques this young math teacher used within it, I’d suggest you put down your mouse, back away from your computer and finish reading your current issue of the National Enquirer.

On the other hand, if you’d like to see what powerful tools can offer someone with a vision and the passion to deliver an end-of-summer video for friends, then take a look at what Dan Meyer has built (and his post…peek at the comments too…and I came to this by way of Christian Long’s post). It’s just over six minutes and could use just a tad bit of tightening up with editing, but the point of the video is not OUR general amusement…it was created for the people IN the video so consider that as you watch it.

I’m pretty sure how he accomplished each of the effects and I can only imagine how many hours he invested in this effort. 75-100 hours is probably in the ballpark for time. Wow.