Monday, December 24, 2007

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) XO Arrives

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) XO computer arrived on Sat.

I participated in the Give 1 Get 1 program in mid November (title pretty much describes it). You can still do this yourself before Dec. 31st and I would urge you to do so.

If you wonder whether or not it's going to fly, give this article a read on what it's doing right now in Peru.

My initial impression after taking it out of the box was 'wow... this thing is small, and it looks like a toy'.

After spending a day with it, it ain't no toy. This is a full fledged linux laptop.

I think it might give Amazon's book reader (Kindle) a run for it's money as well. It's unique design lets you fold it over and use it as a book.

It's interface (specially created for the XO, called 'Sugar') is very intuitive and simple to figure out by simple poking around.

I'm going to apply for a developer key on Wends and we'll see what's really under the hood in the new year.














Next to my keys.



On top of a Toshiba 15.4" laptop

When I first got into computers back in the early 80's, I had the thought that wouldn't it be wonderful if every man, women and child could get access to a computer. I remember seeing my first Macintosh in 1984 and thinking: this is what people need. I had a similar reaction when I started playing with the XO.

It's not a power user computer, but it is every bit the every person computer I've been hoping would appear for the last 25 years. Hats off to Negroponte and the folks at the OLPC project.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Is Google losing it's programming 'Cool'?


Todays' Wall Street Journal has an article (subscription required) that says their recently announced Android (mobile phone) initiative ain't so hot:
"the tool kit is riddled with coding errors, some of them shockingly basic. Even worse, they said, is that Google has been largely unresponsive to their feedback"
Unfortunately, we found that to be pretty much the same case with OpenSocial tools released by the company.

I'm beginning to wonder if Google Cool when it comes to programming/developer prowess might not be so cool afterall.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Boulder's Strip Club


Heh.

The Nitro. A strip club (no alcohol) brings attention to the fact that Boulder has no laws about adult entertainment within city limits. Apparently they jumped through all the appropriate hoops to get set up and opened in the heart of Boulder off our pristine and upscale Pearl Street Mall. Not getting a liquor license eased them in under the radar and now the city leaders are 'shocked.

Not sure why this would be a big deal though. Boulder is touted as a deeply liberal and progressive community. Drugs in personal quantity are generally tolerated, why wouldn't adult entertainment fall in the same bucket? What someone likes is, afterall, what they like. As long as no one's getting hurt and everyone's having fun, why would anyone be 'shocked'?

I'm not a strip club person (the last time I went was, I think, 1992, with a bunch of buddies), and I doubt I'll ever visit Nitro, but I think it's a normal thing that's going to happen and if you try to suppress it, negative elements tend to get involved. Let it be. If there's demand for it and it's done with a bit of class, vs. the generally grungy drug and prostitute soaked 'average' strip club that's shoved into some dark dank corner of the county, it's a overall positive.

The Local CBS news opened tonight with a report on it. The city manager, who they interviewed, said, when asked why there wasn't a law against it, something like "maybe there should be". Let's hope the city doesn't over react and act like self righteous moral cops. Boulder claims to be a place where diverse ideas are embraced. Drive around and you'll see bumper stickers that say 'Keep Boulder Weird". I say: Yea. Let's.

Friday, December 07, 2007

My friend, the Chief Deputy

Steve Elliott and I go way back. He hired me as the sysop 0f the AMOS users group back in the late 70's/early 80's. (He also fired me, but that's another story).

He has the most cool 'real' title I've seen in a long time. He recently took a new job as the Chief Deputy of the Treasury Office of Boulder County. Not a trendy startup, we're talking the Boulder County Government here.

I know this is the child in me but they gave him a frakkin badge that says Chief Deputy on it.

Says it, right on there: Chief Deputy.

It has a bite as well. He's the guy that can show up at your door and say: "You haven't paid your taxes, I am seizing your property".

That, somehow elevates it from cool to awesome.

My Friend: Chief Deputy Steve.

And yea, I know, it's silly and I am such a geek.

I don't care. It makes me smile.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Non Compete Agreements- not such a good idea


Bijan Sabet, a general partner with Spark Capital, recently blogged about his belief that non-compete clauses for employee's is a bad idea. One key excerpt:
Can you imagine if employees agreed to a non-compete clause in California? Consider how many new companies would not have been created. How much value would be lost? It would be substantial.
Fred Wilson over at Union Square Ventures disagrees in this blog post. His premise is you should have non-compete clauses in employee contracts, but who a competitor is should be tightly defined. I would say 'good luck with that'.

I have some personal experience with this that has me coming down on the side of Mr. Sabet over Mr. Wilson.

In the mid-90's I was hired by a major Hollywood studio to work as the VP of technology for their interactive media branch in Palo Alto. Within 2 months of being hired, a large New York media company bought this studio and they decided to shut down the Palo Alto facility (gotta squeeze out those expenses to make that leverage buyout work ya know).

The NY company moved the executives to various positions within the company. It wasn't the best fit. Since we'd been hired to do a job that was technology based (largely around creating online media and interactive TV) and this NY company didn't really buy the premise, it was a mismatch to have us there. They gave us the option of taking jobs within the company or, as Fred says 'sitting on the beach', but not working for anyone else in our areas of expertise.

This, for a technology person, is death.

In my case, the employment contract was for 2 years. Since it was clearly defined (my 'area of expertise', i.e. use of technology in media) this meant that I would effectively be paid very well to lose my expertise in an industry that was going at warp speed just as the internet was forming (circa 1994/95).

Ack. Lousy situation. The NY company wouldn't budge on it either. I had to move to NYC and take a job with peers who went, daily, out for 'coffee and a lap dance' at 3pm to the strip joint 2 blocks down (this is not an exaggeration), or retire from working on things I'd been passionate about for close to 10 years just long enough to become hopelessly outdated and useless in my chosen profession.

What I ended up doing was putting together a plan that leveraged the internet in ways they hadn't thought of. I exploited the excel bug of the time: "if we can get 2% of the population to sign up, it's worth BILLIONS". Like everyone else at the time, they bought it and funded me for the remainder of my contract.

I was lucky. I managed to talk them into acting as a VC for an internet startup. I even got the Hollywood studio to back it so they promoted me to SVP, gave me an office in Hollywood and let me set up my operation wherever I wanted (I, of course, set it up in Boulder with offices across from the Walnut Brewery and only had to deal with the Hollywood guys during every other week trips out to CA for 'facetime' with the execs).

This kept me in the game, but it also kept me out of the startup world and in BigCo land for another 10 years. (path of least resistance). When big companies keep offering you big dollars and big titles with grand plans, it's hard to go another route without taking really big risks. I admit it, I was weak. It took until my 40's to get the balls to say no to the BigCo's offers and strike out on my own.

However, If I hadn't had that non-compete clause, I would have simply left and started a company in my 30's. The media companies would have had one more guy out there building something truly useful, tested by the market and something they could then BUY if they wanted it badly enough.

I only regret a few things in my life. One of my main regrets is that I waited so long to do what I should have been doing long ago. That non-compete clause was one of the mechanisms that kept me out of startup land. Not the only one (again, I was weak) but it put me on the path and made it alot easier to take that path of least resistance.

So, I agree with Mr. Sabet. Non-competes have no place in the startup world.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

XP rocks


I mean seriously. XP really rocks. At least, compared to my Vista box.

I couldn't take it anymore. Some days it would run fine for the whole day. Other times, every 30 minutes a blue screen of death, memory dump, reboot. No clue why. Could not figure out why. Finally got to the point where I just didn't give a shit why.

The only reason I had the machine was as my TV. I like Media Center. I really liked it on Vista. But not enough to keep Vista.

OK, so, I'll just revert. I tried to find a copy of MCE05 for my 4 core HP monsterbox but, alas, THERE ARE NO XP DRIVERS for this hot little baby. Vista only. Oh man. My most advanced piece of hardware, because of this Vista Trash on it, is effectively, useless.

So, I give up. I go to Newegg.com. I find an old 2006 MCE05 packing Media Center PC and I BUY The damn thing. It's not much more expensive than Vista Ultimate, so what the hell.

Oh My God. I'd forgotten how different XP was from Vista on my home TV watchin PC. It's faster. I mean, alot faster. Seems like, maybe, twice as fast.

Think about that. A 2006 2 core AMD against a 2007 Quad Core Intel chip with 150% of the memory. Twice as fast.

And copying from one hard drive to another... holy cow, it's... well, easy. No confirmation dialogs and 'you don't have privileges to do that' dialogs I have to decipher and then there's Clt/Alt/Del...

The TASK manager just comes up. Poof. Right there. No dimming of the screen and one, two or three 'is it ok to continue' dialogs.

I'd forgotten for a bit what it was like to just use my TV/computer in a way that was fast, simple and friendly. I am not trying to be sarcastic here. This is really what I'm sitting here thinking while using this XP based Media Center PC.

The only word I can think of is 'refreshing'. Now, imagine that. An OS that's what, 6 years old now that's, literally, twice as good as the latest version of the next version of the OS.

What the hell is Microsoft thinking?

No more PC's with Vista. I'm going Mac, Ubuntu or XP (preferably in that order) on all new machines in the future. The first question I'll have for any PC I buy from this day forward is: Does it have XP drivers? No? No thanks.

Goodnight Redmond, and good luck.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spock.com: a little evil


I just had an disconcerting experience from the website Spock.com. They want to be the 'Google, of People search' according to CEO Jaideep Singh.

But I have my doubts.

Not that it's not a good idea, but more because of the tactics they use to get information.

I signed up for it a few months ago when it first went public. Cool. Interesting. Didn't work very well yet but to be expected for a brand new/beta system.

I checked it out again last night and it had a new 'check for your friends' feature that allows you to import your email address book and find people you know on Spock. Nothing overly odd there, lots of sites do this.

What's not good, is how they misrepresented what they were doing.

I went ahead and had them check my gmail address book. It came back with 'found X profiles on Spock, would you like to connect?'

Not invite, connect. At least, that was the implication (I don't remember the exact phrasing).

Sure.

Well, it proceeded to send out emails to all those people with ME as the sender asking them to join Spock.

Turns out they didn't have accounts already. They just had what appears to be spidered profiles scraped off the internet and aggregated on Spock.

What they did with me was use my name and contact list to 'validate' those profiles and get the users to log into Spock without really telling me what they were doing. They implied that these people already had profiles and I was just adding them to my network.

Instead they effectively conned me into letting them use my name to get a bunch of people to sign up for a service I'm not sure I'll use, let alone recommend. Actually, I can tell you now: I do not recommend them.

This is slightly evil, maybe even a bit more.

So, to my friends and associates: I'm sorry. I was suckered. You can bet it won't happen again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Goofy Stupid


At first, I just didn't have words for this.

This has been going on for a few weeks now and I've been watching in disbelief.

A couple in Boulder has 'claimed an emotional attachment' to about 1/3 of an empty lot next to their home and have filed (and won!) ownership of 1/3 of that land.

From the Denver Post: " Richard McLean and his wife, attorney Edith Stevens, used an arcane common law called "adverse possession" to claim the land for their own."

This lot was purchased by
Don and Susie Kirlin in the early 80's. They planned to someday build their dream home on it. When they went to put up a fence around the property, Mr. McLean (and ex-Boulder Judge, apparently) had a restraining order in hand in under 3 hours.

This is goofy stupid. Since when does someone who owns a plot of land for almost 20 years, and lives 200 yards away, LOSE their right to a big chunk (34% apparently) because someone living next to it used that land (trespassing, effectively) and 'grew attached' to it? This made it pretty much impossible for the Kirlin's to build on the land.

This is goofy stupid. Even for Boulder.

I'm not a hard core land rights guy. I like the open space around Boulder. I think there are times when it the greater good of the community outweigh a single individuals desire to hold onto land for the sake of holding on to it, but this is dumb. This is an empty building lot good for one thing: building a house on. There is no greater good at work here, only selfishness and a well connected and legally slick persons ability to manipulate the system for their own personal gain at another persons personal loss.

One thing I would recommend to anyone who owns an empty lot in Boulder: Build a fence around it. Now. I'd also put a sign that said "No Trespassing. And all Ex Judges and Lawyers be warned.. this is my damned land".

Truly goofy stupid.




Sunday, October 21, 2007

The 'great developers' 10 year life span


Reading Niel Robertson's blog today, I got this great nugget:

Vishal basically said, “We don’t measure it [Java adoption] and we don’t care. We are not putting all of our eggs in the Java basket, that’s just what we’re offering for the time being.” And then the most interesting part, “Languages tend to have 10 year timelines - and then they are always outmoded by a new language. So in 10 years we won’t be talking about Java, we’ll be supporting something else.” If you step back and think about it, on the eve of asking a majority of the SAP customer base to embrace Java with open arms, saying in 10 years SAP won’t care (author’s choice of words) about Java anymore is a pretty interesting and ballsy statement. Again, these are paraphrases meant to capture the spirit of his answer (do not take them as verbatim quotes) - please keep reading for a bit more insight into what I think Vishal meant and why this is an important discussion.
Ever notice how your developers, especially the one's that match up with this 10 year observation (which I believe is dead on), are great from the time they graduate (or pick up the hot new language) until 10 or so years later? Say, early 30's, then the creativity and output drop off?

It's true. I used to think it was due to things like family, kids, burnout, etc. and that's all part of it. But not all of it.

I've been observing the 10 year cycle for awhile as well (we're on this curve now with Ruby on Rails about 2 or so years in), and I've noticed that the guys who are still writing code and kicking ass at it into their late 30's, their 40's and beyond, are the one's that are willing to pick up and learn that new language (or languages).

Sadly, most do not.

This is due, I would bet, to how our brains are wired. Learning a new language when you're young is relatively easy, but trying to learn a new spoken language at 50, no so much. It's just too damn hard for most people once they've mastered English, Chinese, French, etc.

Some can do it, but most can't (or won't). "English is just fine fer me, thank you; besides, it's the language of business, everyone else should learn it anyway!"

Sound like your C, Java or ASP/.NET expert?

yea....

I love that rare developer who loves languages, loves learning them (well) and can use different languages in different situations; or better yet, can integrate multiple languages in ways that single language developers just can't do. They are, after all, just tools.

It's a little like trying to build, say, a workbench out of 2x4's. Imagine doing it with just a hammer (just one language). Not so easy. Throw in a saw, tape measure, planer, sander and a few other tools, and you can do alot with a pile of 2x4's.

Those multiple language guys are hard to find though.

The other guy is the one that can drop a dying language like, C, and pick up the 'new' 10 year language.

THESE are the guys that go on being great developers into their 40's, 50's and beyond.

And, these guys are as hard to find as the multiple language guys. And in many ways more valuable because they have many years of experience that they can draw on to build better mousetraps.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Comcast Is Indeed Editing Your Internet Connection

Well, it's verified. Comcast screws around with your internet connection and makes editorial decisions on what you can and can't do with it.

For me, that's a pretty good reason to drop Comcast internet service and find alternative's. For me, it's Qwest (the one phone company that also happens to have told the government to shove it when asked to perform illegal wiretaps, BTW).

From the Associated Press:

Comcast's technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user. Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: "Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye."

If my telephone provider told me I was using my unlimited phone service too much, making too many calls to too many people and cut me off because of it (even as they advertised unlimited calls) that's grounds to dump them. Hell, it's grounds for a class action lawsuit if you think about it.

I'm buying internet access from these guys. That means plain old any way I want it to use any program I want to use access. It doesn't mean filtered access. Or access to some things but not other things. As long as I'm not trying to use more of the advertised bandwidth that I'm paying for, I would appreciate you keeping your grubby paws off my bits, thank you very much.

What burns me here is I'm not really much of a P2P user. I don't use bittorrent to find movies and music. I do use Miro to find legal content (and it does use a P2P approach) but that's content that's submitted by the content owners. Is Comcast breaking my connections here to?

I suspect yes. And this is a very legimate, very useful and very well liked (by me) service.

Enough of this crap. Comcast is banned from my house.

Qwest for internet access and Dish Network for TV is the way to go in my book. I may not love Qwest, but I'm reasonably sure they aren't filtering my bits and giving me less than the advertised service I bought based on the services I might use. And Dish give's me more channels with higher quality for less money.

Why didn't I do this sooner?

Everyone should.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

ClickCaster Inc. Gives Back to Colorado's Entrepreneurial Community


ClickCaster Inc. has donated 1% of it's equity to EFCO, the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. This is a very worthy organization and we are proud to be a part of it.

PRESS RELASE

ClickCaster Inc. Gives Back to Colorado's Entrepreneurial Community

ClickCaster Inc., a provider of worldclass IPTV & Media Middleware Platforms announces it's support in EFCO, the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado.

[ClickPress, Tue Oct 09 2007] The company has pledged to donate one percent of it's overall equity to EFCO, a program targeted at angel and VC backed companies based in Colorado. The organization is focused on creating an endowment that let's young companies, through the gift of their equity, give back to the communities we live and work in.

"We learned about EFCO several months ago and decided on the spot to participate as soon as it made sense" says ClicKCasters CEO, Scott Converse. "Being part of the local community and giving back to the different institutions, organizations and entities that make Colorado such a great place to start a company is something every young company should consider doing".

ClickCaster is joining a growing group of Colorado based early stage companies in helping to build a permanent endowment to provide community grants for arts, civic involvement, education, the environment, and health and human services. Upon a liquidity event, the cash or stock that has been given by participating companies will be distributed to the appropriate Community Foundations.

About ClickCaster Inc.
ClickCaster Inc. was incorporated in Sept. of 2006. ClickCaster's technology has matured into a premier media middleware platforms with the ability to handle virtually any media type available today. With an emphasis on IPTV, ClickCaster and it's partners provide server and client device products and services to meet the most demanding needs of our customers. ClickCaster was founded by Scott Converse. He brings his expertise from companies such as Apple Computer, Paramount Pictures, Motorola and MCI to create the best media delivery platform products in our targeted markets available today.

About Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado:
Four companies - Tendril, Rally Software, Collective Intellect and Me.dium - are the founding grantors for the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado. The founding trustees are Brad Feld (Foundry Group), Kyle Lefkoff (Boulder Ventures), Tim Connor (Sequel Venture Partners), Ryan Martens (Rally Software), Bill Roberts (Hogan & Hartson), and Michael Platt (Cooley Godward Kronish). In addition, the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado has formed an alliance with the Entrepreneurs Foundation, an organization formed in 1988 with affiliates in Silicon Valley, Austin, Southern California, New England, Dallas, Portland, Atlanta, Hawaii and Israel.

If you get a chance, and want to learn more about EFCO, click here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Top 100 Alternate Search Engines


I tend to take this kind of thing with a grain of salt, but hey, I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Seems my company's product ClickCaster (www.clickcaster.com) is listed in the top 100 search engines by the site www.altsearchengines.com.

According to their about section:
The unique approach of AltSearchEngines is to expand coverage of search engines to include the hundreds of alternative / niche search engines. While the editorial attitude will not be “anti-Google”, it will certainly be “pro-alternative search engines” - a showcase of cutting edge innovation. Our goal for AltSearchEngines is to make it the definitive destination for everything related to alternative search engines - over 1,000 of them!
I wonder if they even know about semi-clandestine www.castlister.com. Maybe they do and that's why they say it's still in beta (which CastLister is and ClickCaster isn't).

Check out the list here alongside the other 99 (or so).

UPDATE: Apparently, I misread that one. From the author of AltSearchEngines (Charles Knight):

"Greeting! I am the author of the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines list on AltSearchEngines.

You are actually thinking of the Top 100 video search engines Guest column by Mark Robertson."

Apparently, this was originally on the REEL SEO blog and I happened to find it on AltSearchEngines. To see REEL SEOs blog, click here.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Game & Software "Studios" and Technology Giants

Bungie, the makers of Halo, and 'owned' by Microsoft, have taken controlling interest of their company back from Microsoft.

So what you might ask? Well, considering this one game, in it's three iterations, is somewhere around a billion plus business all by it's lonesome, it IS a big deal.

This is very similar to Pixar doing all the Merlin work for Disney.

I'm wondering if we're seeing the beginning of a new relationship model for software companies that, in some ways, reflect the Hollywood system.

The independent studios (software companies making cool products) sell a single, specific property to a particular software company. Instead of being bought by Microsoft, you sell a specific product to Microsoft for an amount similar or maybe a little less what they'd buy you for, but you stay independent as a company/entity.

Microsoft still gets it's 2 year's out of you (you sign up to support and grow the product just as company founders bought by Microsoft are usually required to enter into a 12-24 month employment contract to work for Microsoft as part of the deal terms), but in this scenario you're not a Microsoft employee.

You get the benefit of money and/or stock for your product but keep your independence and freedom to innovate outside of the stifling environment most BigCo's (including most technology companies) operate in.

Microsoft gets your source code for that particular product, the customer base for that specific product and a significant part of your mindshare working on things for them for the next couple of years.

One year, it's Microsoft, another, Apple, another, Google, then maybe an interesting Oracle or Cisco side deal for that code that supports a smaller product they're interested in exploring. You expand your staff to handle the various relationships.

I wonder if smaller companies can learn a little from this Bungie deal and, maybe, take some pointers from the entertainment worlds loosely coupled studio system as a way of doing business in the future.

Seems, at least to my aging brain, like a better fit for startup founders than the current 'go public, get bought or go away' model we live with today.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

RIAA Wins It's First Lawsuit and Alienates All It's Customers


Well, here you have it:
The recording industry won a key fight Thursday against illegal music downloading when a federal jury found a Minnesota woman shared copyrighted music online and levied $222,000 in damages against her.
See the full story here.

First, I've gotta wonder what the jury in Minnesota was thinking here. Most folks from Minnesota that I know are pretty level headed. Or... could it be... they're sending us an oh so subtle message?

Subtle you ask? Why, yes! I think they did this intentionally to send the message to every music fan out there: Don't you go supporting these RIAA folks, the letter of the law, which my not be a good law, but is a law, says this poor girl owes them about... oh... $222,000.

Now, ya all go out and tell all your friends about this. First tell em this law is dumb and has plenty of letters to follow, but no spirit, no spirit at all, and they should make sure their lawmakers know that. Then, make darn sure they know that supporting any artist who publishing through any label that's a member of the RIAA is, deep down inside, a self centered narcissist who's music isn't to be supported by fans cause they signed away their creative souls (not to mention all their rights for anything their creative souls might think up), for a few dollars, to groups of kinda slimy people that just can't understand that they're destroying their own business, and their artists, by trying to hang onto an old dated and irrelevant business model and ignoring the realities of the digital world. Did ya all get that?

Good.

We're going home now to have some Lefsa.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Linux Wins over Vista


I've got a lot of boxes (PC's) scattered around my life. Most run Windows XP, a couple are Mac OSX machines and exactly one runs Vista and as of a couple weeks ago now, my personal laptop, runs Ubuntu Linux.

I'm running the Vista and Linux boxes next to each other and now that I've turned off my CableTV and no longer find a need for MediaCenter software, it's a no brainer win for Linux (although there are Media Center like programs for Linux as well, I still don't need it).

There are hundreds of blog posts up about the whys of this so I'm not going to repeat it all yet again. Here's one, and another and another (you get the idea).

Even Bob, My IT director, a guy I've known for years as a Windows bigot (and I mean, B I G O T- I can't count the number of times I had to referee a flame war in email between him and one of our linux guys), also just made the change. All his servers, desktops and laptops are running Linux. I think he has one Windows machine still running to play games on, but that's it.

His reasoning? Vista. He considers it incredible resource hog requiring huge amounts of memory and processing power (with no advantage to the user) and a form of DRM infection (among many other 'really serious issues').

When hard core lifelong Windows guys who make their living off of knowing the weirdness of Windows switch to Linux, you know something's up.

Me? I just want a machine that runs my Firefox browser. I live about 95% of the time on the web. The only times I work locally anymore are on presentations and particularly large spreadsheets (OpenOffice!) and multi-track recording (Audacity!)- and yes, both are free and both run great on Linux. Everything else is a website and GoogleDocs.

The vast majority of people using computers today don't care alot about getting deep into technology. They want to create and edit documents, presentations and spreadsheets. They also want to do email and manage contacts and calendars. And, they want to access the internet via some browser that supports the functions websites support through Flash and Java (any browser will do, really- unless is Safari on an iPhone... but I digress).

That's about it. I would bet that list above covers at least 80%, and maybe even 90% of the people using computers today.

Ubuntu Linux, finally, meets and exceeds those needs. And it does it in a way that's as easy to install and use as Windows XP and easier to use day to day than Vista.

Oh.. it'll run quite nicely on a 3 year old laptop to boot.

I wonder if Microsoft (and Apple, for that matter) really understand what's going on out there with this shift to web based services and free easy to use and fully compatible Opensource software vs. standard shink wrap software. I know both (particularly Microsoft) are trying, but that legacy boat anchor around their necks makes looking up and seeing that mondo wave come at you really, really hard.

I now have a free and very viable alternative to Windows and OSX. It's not quite ready for my Mom to use, but damn it's close.

I give it 12 months, tops.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ahhh.. the iPhone Debacle


Heh.. I just knew this would happen with the iPhone.

The reality is Apple's history and inclination means it just can't help itself. Here's a short blurb from today's New York Times :

It was not unexpected that Apple would try to stop people from unlocking the phones, as this threatened to cause problems for AT&T, Apple’s exclusive United States partner for the iPhone.

“I don’t blame them for fighting the unlocks,” said Brian Lam, editor of Gizmodo, a blog devoted to gadgets. “They are trying to make money, as a business. I get that.”

Still, he said, that disabling someone’s phone, “instead of just relocking it and to wipe out the apps, it seems like Apple is going way too far; I’d call it uncharacteristically evil.”

There you have that 'evil' word, again, being applied to Apple. I do think 'uncharacteristically' isn't exactly right. I also think evil isn't exactly right either. It's a bit more complicated than that.

As some of you know, I worked for Apple in Cupertino from the mid 80's to the mid 90's and got a very up close and personal view of the company, how it worked and how it tended to think. I was one of the converted when I joined them and, by the time I left, I had very mixed feelings about the company.

I still do.

On one hand, this is a company that makes truly wonderful products. It's basic DNA is all about making technology useful for the average person. And it knows how to infuse beauty and elegance into products like no one else on the planet.

But the dark side of this equation is it's control freakness. This is largely a result of Steve Job's personality, but I was at Apple during the time that Jobs was not part of the company and that control freak nature was alive and well without any one person egging it on.

I could name dozens of examples but one that sticks out is when Gasse' (then president of the R&D organization) found a group secretly porting the MaxOS to the Intel platform. This was the second half of the 80's. And, they'd done it. Gasse' (I'm told) saw it for the first time and immediately fired them all and shut it down. Same thing happened again a few years later when John Sculley was CEO and David Nagel was in Gasse's shoes. I was told Sculley sanctioned it, it got to the point of being real and Nagel convinced Sculley to shut it down (they didn't fire everyone this time though).

Why be so weird about not having Apple hardware running Apple software?

Copy protection of Apple's software.

Seriously.

What do you think a Macintosh is? It's hardware copy protection, Apple's own take on DRM, if you will, for what Apple considers is crown jewel: The MacOS.

This is one of the main business reasons you can't buy a the MacOS without a a Mac. Oh, sure, it also has to do with controlling that experience (there's that control word again) but in the end, it comes down to the dollars involved.

Going from a (when I was there) an $11B hardware/software company to a $2B software (only) company was something that couldn't even be contemplated. Still can't.

Same thing is happening here with the iPhone. That hardware (and it's locked down services) are a form of copy protection for the real value: The software that makes the phone so easy to use. And that revenue number for hardware AND software just looks a hell of lot better on the balance sheets. It certainly makes the stock price easier to justify.

So....Control Freakness for sure, but also a way of doing business that Apple hasn't really moved off of since the Macintosh was first shipped in 1984.

What complicates things are how the MacOS is now built on top of BSD. Many many Open Source, what's fair, what should you share kind of questions here.

Apple's built a great set of products on top of the work of others now. It's not all Apple's sweat anymore.

You'd think, with that in mind, they'd be a little more open. I can see locking down the cellphone service. There's a lot of investment and business contracts circling that particular relationship.

But locking out all third party applications? That's not only a little bit evil, it's just plain dumb.

And I will bet you an unlocked working iPhone that it's all Steve Jobs doing.

King of the control freaks; back in the saddle again.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Games: Bigger than the Movies


Anyone wonder why creative types spend time on making movies anymore?

Halo 3 Breaks Records, Pulls $170 Million First-Day Sales

Microsoft grabbed first-day sales of $170 million on Halo 3, the latest edition of its ultra-popular Xbox series. The tally easily eclipses any first-day album sales total, though it also bests record-setters within film and other forms of media.

The comparable, record-setting total in Hollywood comes from Spiderman 3, which grabbed estimated worldwide debut-day revenues of $117 million - and $151 million over the course of its opening weekend. Halo 3 also trumped the recently-released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which shifted 8.3 million copies on its opening day.

Microsoft quickly trumpeted its newfound record for the highest-grossing launch day in entertainment history. But the biggest rewards could come from ramped sales of Xbox consoles, especially ahead of the critical holiday sales season. The result further reinforces the ultra-powerful role that gaming now plays in the entertainment world, and that stronghold is attracting more promotional energy from labels and artists.
Man o man.. not me. It's REALLY clear where creative people who are also interested in getting the biggest return for their time and the invested buck should be focusing their energy.

Skip Hollywood. Game On!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Power of The Blog... or...Getting Comcast to actually do it's job


Here's a first.

I've been using Planetfeedback.com for years to complain to companies about their service. If you don't use it, you should. It actually works about 30-50% of the time to get a response from a company when nothing else works.

Some companies respond (like Qwest, our local RBOC.. but only if you use 'magic' words like PUC- Public Utility Commission and FTC- Federal Trade Commission in your cc: list).

Some don't. Circuit City, Best Buy and CompUSA, for instance, could care less if I write them to complain. At least in the past.

But... I do believe I just learned a new Magic Word that get's companies to do what they should do without resorting to public humiliation. That word is:

Blog.

Here's why I think so:

After Comcast turned off my internet access at home for reasons I have yet to determine, going through the usual 5 calls to the support number and getting put on hold for hours, hung up on and transfered to weird nooks within Comcast that couldn't help me... I just gave up and put up a planet feedback posting (www.planetfeedback.com).

I put in the usual (here's what happened, here's why you suck, I'm telling all my friends family you suck, blah blah..) but then, I put in something new that I haven't done before, on it's own line:

And I will be posting about this in my Blog.

What Planetfeedback does is it emails your complaint to the Company CEO (and posts it on there semi-social networking site where others can read it and comment on it). Pretty simple thing really but it's nicely packaged and works well.

Now, I do not have a popular/powerful blog presence. But, I suspect they don't know that and what they DO know is BLOGS out people and companies when they do bad things. Ton's of press on it.. so it's gotta be true.

Within the day, "Special Assistant to the CEO" had emailed AND called me back. He referred it to an 'executive support' person who had my internet access back on within a few minutes of getting my email with what I wanted fixed.

I've complained to Comcast with no response in the past. The only difference between then and now is that BLOG comment.

BLOG is the new Magic "use this if you want a response" Word!

Whodathunkit

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Context and Editorial Perspective


Kfir Pravda has a great post on content titled "Can Someone Please Create the HBO of Online Video"

Our CEO, Tom Keller, and I go back and forth on UGC vs. more professionally produced pro and semi pro content. I tend to lean toward UGC, he leans toward the pro stuff.

The more I use online video, the more I'm thinking Tom's right.

You could even say I'm doing a full circle in becoming a believer. Peter Gabriel just lead a $5M round for a music site called 'The Filter". His view is that there is so much stuff out there that people need editorial context to guide them.

This is something that swings back and forth. Back in the late 80s, I was saying the same thing when we did eWorld at Apple. I recruited Knight Ridder and The Washington Post newspapers (among many others) to create cache and draw people to our service. I spent a day at the post watching the paper 'being made' and decided it was a daily miracle that it actually got out each day (sooo much labor).

One thing the managing editor said to me sticks with me even now: "Scott, people don't pay us for what we print, they pay us for what we don't print...it's all about filtering out the noise and presenting, with a discerning eye, things that matter to our readers".

There's a balancing act in here somewhere that's the sweet spot of online video content. There's some really great UGC out there. And there's obviously some great pro and semi pro content. The real added value here is figuring out how to filter the UGC and procure the pro and semi pro content in a way that doesn't require a thousand people like the old media systems of The Washington Post, or in our case the old video stalwarts like TV networks and movie studios.

Do that, and find ways to make the process as automated and painless as possible, and you've hit a home run.

No one's really hit it dead on. Yet.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Don’t die with your music still in you

I don't generally link to a blog entry as a blog post, but this post, in my book, is a must read for anyone, really, but especially entrepreneurs. There's a good chance you've already read it in which case, it's worth revisiting. If not, it's a potential life changer.

It's from Steve Pavlina and you can find it here.

It clarifies why guys like me leave behind the Big Job at the Big Company and forgo the Lofty Titles and Cushy Perks to work our asses off and, if we're lucky, get a 1 in 5 chance of succeeding at creating a company from scratch.

I read it whenever I'm having one of those inevitable down days on the roller coaster ride.

It's especially relevant if you're thinking about taking the plunge and doing your own thing, but haven't figured out how to do it yet.

Medical Patents and Software Patents...Close Relatives?


You may not be aware of it, but you can patent a surgery or other medical method. As noted in this article from law.com:

A surge in patents that protect surgeries and other medical methods has triggered numerous lawsuits in recent years, with inventors fighting more vigorously than ever to protect their intellectual property rights.

Patent lawyers say doctors and scientists are suing to protect everything from laser eye surgery techniques to stent procedures to methods for declawing a cat.

This is no small time trend. It's a big deal. From the same article:

"Many physicians are constantly coming up with new techniques and devices. They have started to see some of their colleagues strike it big with patents, so they have tried to do the same," said Dragseth of the Minneapolis office of Fish & Richardson.

Dragseth cited the recent case of Dr. Gary Michelson, who in 2005 received a $1.35 billion settlement after suing a medical device company over his patented spinal surgical technique that speeds recovery. Medtronic v. Michelson, No. 01cv2373 (W.D. Tenn.).

Most of these patents are 'method patents'. Similar in many way to a process patent in the business world.

Think about this. If a particular doctor, clinic, hospital or HMO decided that, since it held the patent on a particular stent procedure, they wanted to keep it secret, proprietary and specific to only their business dealings (i.e. their patients). In their view, it would create a competitive advantage.

Now let's say that method had a 2 or 3X better chance of saving a persons life or extending it by years, but you lived where they didn't 'practice' the application of this method (and did not allow it to be used anywhere else or by anyone else they considered competitive).

Compared to the person who has access, you're pretty much screwed.

The same thing applies to business process patents and a to a degree, software patents (isn't copyright law already at work here?). Yes yes, I know.. this isn't life and death stuff, but it, structurally and intellectually, is very similar. It's also a very good way, by comparison, of showing how patents, although good, can also be very bad if used in ways that stifle innovation, human knowledge transference and rapid absorption of ideas into a particular community be it the medical profession or software development.

The patent system is being abused in ways that don't improve the day to day environment we live and work in and it's now actively blocking our ability to move quickly, innovate fast, implement, learn and go to the next level.

And now, it seems, it's potentially keeping people from the medical care they need.

The Patent Reform Act of 2007 is in the works. It moves us from a first to invent to a first to file system (like the rest of the world) and it streamlines the process for challenging patents. I'm not sure first to file is good for startups (it's easier for a big company to file boatloads of patents than it is for a cash strapped startup) but the process for challenges is a good thing.

We're still missing the important part though. A change to what can be patented. Software patents, process patents, method patents, etc. are all (usually) damaging to innovation.

And in the end, a patent is like a really big cannon. Powerful and to be feared by those who would infringe on it. But, with our current system, the shells for the cannon cost millions of dollars (lawyer bills) to enforce and that makes it a friend of big business and not as valuable for startups (other than one's who're looking to bought for their patents).

I know it's a bit of a stretch comparing the impact of medical method patents to software and business process patents. The differences in impact are vast. But the application is very similar. Both make it hard for others to build on the knowledge of those that came before them.

When a system hurts innovation and stifles startups, that's bad. But when the system starts literally killing people, it's most definitely time for a major change.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The End of the Wireless Gatekeepers?


The New York Times has a thought provoking article on what Google announcing they'll bid on the 700mhz spectrum and it's proposed rules for use of that spectrum recently submitted to the FCC means.

Effectively, they want to decouple the cellphone (or any similar device that can do a lot more, like, say, an iPhone?) from the network.

Isn't Google's CEO on Apple's board of directors? hmmmm...

Their point is a simple one. You don't have to choose a cable or sat. provider when you buy a TV, or an ISP when you buy a computer. Why require your phone/device be tied to a specific cellular carrier?

I recently signed up for Google's GrandCentral. It assigns you a phone number and gives you excellent control of who can reach you and how they reach you; for detail see my post here. What it does is put Google between the customer and the phone companies knocking them out as gatekeepers. Of course, it has the effect of making Google the gatekeeper instead (they supply and operate the systems supporting your phone number). However, you can bet several other companies will pop up with GrandCentral like services to compete with Google. Getting a phone number will become like buying software or a SAAS (Software As A Service) application.

If they succeed in buying much of this spectrum (or get the new FCC rules they want in place), combined with GrandCentral or similar type services, man, they've done what no one else has ever done before.

They'll level the playing field for the voice and wireless data industries in the U.S.

No more 2 year contracts. No more limits on devices you can use with a specific cellular network. You can use any device, made by anyone, to use any service. Real competition based on service, price, quality and (dare I say it) support. And maybe, just maybe, I can even get all my existing services like Gmail, Googledocs, Gtalk, etc. integrated in there as part of the bargain.

The thought of an open competitive robust series of service providers with open platforms and unlimited application choices that run on my device competing for my business here in the U.S. today? Inconceivable.

Tomorrow? If they pull it off, very conceivable indeed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How Do You Monitize Facebook?


I had dinner with my friend David Henderson, VP of bizdev at SocialMedia this week and I asked him the question: how the hell do you make money doing apps on Facebook???

He actually has an answer. Several actually. I found myself nodding and going.. huh.. yea. Why didn't I think of that.

Would being able to target the MySpace or Facebook demographic with a specific set of questions in a survey, and getting, say, 50,000 people to answer your survey in a few hours be useful? Yea... I think so. Valuable? You bet. Could they charge for that? Yep, big bucks.

They know how. And.. it's really simple. I'd suggest you check out their site or that you get with David directly if you want to know more. (and no, I'm not spelling it out and no, he didn't pimp me to do this. He has no idea I'm even writing this up).

He and Seth Goldstein had a grand slam with DoubleClick back in the late 90's and I think they might be moving along the same track again. Here's their quick take:

The Evolution of Social Media

1995 Netscape opened the Web

1996 DoubleClick Networked Advertising on it

1999 Yahoo! organized it

2003 Google searched it

2007 Facebook made it social

2007 SocialMedia Networked Engagement

They launched SocialMedia this week and he writes about it in his blog. Both are definitely worth checking out.

Simplifying Life Through Your Relationship With Socks


Katherine McIntyre, whom I have never met but who's blog I subscribe to and enjoy reading has a great post on socks.

Yes, socks. It's not really about socks of course, but it's a great metaphor. It seems her husband Ryan (disclosure: Ryan is an investor in my company ClickCaster) is really into cool and funky socks, has a big collection and loves em.

Katherine, however, doesn't do overly well at matching them up. So, he went with black socks. Nothing else. Throw the rest away. And this brings me to a theme I'm noticing in my own life. Actually a couple of them.

Simplicity & Dematerialization.

I want a simpler life. I just do. I'm down to one low maintenance high milage car.. a Toyota (fill it up less! simpler.. smaller carbon footprint and all that hippie stuff).

I've been doing the black socks only for years now. I even do just one brand (Wilson).. so they ALWAYs match. Same with cloths. I have winter (all black, just pick a top/bottom and go) and summer (khaki pants, short sleeve cotton shirts, all go will with khaki.. just pick a top/bottom.. go).

Simple is good.

Dematerializing is part of this. I've had the garage full of cars; multiple houses, etc. etc. It's fun for awhile, but man.. you don't own that stuff.. it owns you. So I'm really doing the dematerialization thing.

As noted: I'm down to one car. I put my house on the market last week and I'm looking for a simple studio apt/condo with a bed/computer and shower and nothing else.

Now, I'm a single guy not in a relationship (also by choice, and that's another whole layer of simplification I won't go into here) and you can't do this kind of thing if you're married, and especially if your married with kids at home. I know that. And I know it seems weird.

But it's really not. Interestingly, This has zero to do with things like money, religion or political beliefs. There is no deep metaphysical motivation here. I've got money, I don't need to sell this stuff. I just really want to.

I don't want to worry about it. I don't want to insure it and count it and keep an eye on it and make sure someone else doesn't get it from me when I'm not looking and.... and.. and... you get the idea.

Don't get me wrong, I still like money... It's an extremely useful tool, but for me it's more of an abstract construct that you apply to things or situations to get things done. Money=good. It's the owning of the stuff part of our consumer culture just doesn't do it for me anymore. Stuff=not so good.

So, I know I'm extreme this way, but I want to say to Katherine and Ryan regarding the embracing of 'only black socks'... Most cool. It's your first step to a simpler life.

Monday, July 16, 2007

GrandCentral from Google quickreview


A freind of mine asked me for my thoughts on Google's latest acquisition: GrandCentral, so, here's my take on GrandCentral. Kind of a quick brain dump.

Bottom line: I really like it. It's not quite ready for primetime, but it's damn close. It's a game changer for the voice business.

A bit-o-detail:

It works as advertised. I won't go through the full feature list (you can see it here). Amazingly, it's all actually there. No coming soon teasers. And, it's all pretty well thought out from a usability perspective. Without much work at all I was able to use (and easily remember how to use) pretty much all the features across the entire system.

It's a small step toward my friend Brad's cognitive web where things computers should be able to do for you, actually get done for you.

Some things I liked: The Webcall button; put it on your blog.. user puts in their phone. GC calls you, asks if you want to talk, if yes, calls them/connects. Smooth.

Excellent for people with multiple phones and/or locations. Ring em all, or just a few. Set the hours that it rings certain phones.

And it remembers (alot). Once somone's in the system, it remembers details about them so things only have to be done once then it uses that over and over (like the first time someone calls you.. it asks for their name.. so it can ask you if you want to 1) talk 2) send it to voicemail 3) send it to voicemail and listen in (and break in if you want) or 4) take the call, and record it. Next time that person calls, it reuses their previously recorded name associated with that callerID. Slick.

It saves everything as a MP3, and you can forward them like emails. Being an avid Gmail user, I can see how this will very easily integrate into existing Gmail accounts.

You can quickly set up a 'different' phone for it to call you at. So set it to call your parents house when you're visiting or a friends cell number when you're having dinner. Your friends phone starts to ring and someone says "is -your name- there?". Sneaky fun.

A pretty good (considering the rich feature set) cellphone interface as well. Not truly great, but this is almost impossible to do on anything other than, maybe, an iPhone. It works though and if you need cellphone access to your Grandcentral webpage, you can get it.

It's fun too. When the 'operator' answers the phone when someone calls you... after it records the callers name it uses a 'ring tone' you can choose while it contacts that caller. It can be US, Japanese, European, some NY guy saying in a thick NY accent 'ring ring.. I'm ringing here'.. (seriously.. that's one of the rings) and others. Goodness.

There's a bunch of 'Have some fun" suggestions which are basically suggested ways to frak with people which are pretty funny. They have attitude.

I could go on for awhile, but I'll stop there.

It's about 98% done. There are several little things they could improve on, and if they're any good at taking feedback(I gave them a bunch over the weekend), I'm sure they will. Mostly interface stuff that would make it slightly easier/more intuitive to do something. No deal killers for me though.

A potential downside: This IS your number now. They say for life. How comfortable are you with Google having access to everything that flows through your telephony world forever? 18 mo. ago I'd have said.. cool. Today.. not so sure. I'm not saying I wouldn't, I'm just sayin...it's Google. They're generally good.. but I've gotta think about it a bit.

Another downer: it's a pain to change your 'main' number with everyone. Everything starts with the number they assign you (which you can choose from by area code or by town.. like Lyons or Arvada, but oddly, not Boulder). You choose it through a GoogleMap mashup (surprise!).

They do hint that some of these features will be 'premium' and don't tell you exactly which ones. Personally, I'd like to not get dependent on something and then find out it costs more than I think it's worth down the road (no pricing hints either).

There is one really important business implication:

It's going to completely freak out the phone companies (POTS or cell) once they figure out how this puts Google directly between them and their customers. I mean freak out, as in 'death to Google' freak out. Should be interesting to watch.

30-40% of what they could do is in here. Once they get integrated with GoogleLand, I'd expect to see it expand even more into 'damn.. that's amazing' territory.

It's still closed beta, but you can sign up to get an invite on the reserve page. I asked about 2 weeks ago and just got the invite so I expect they'll be accelerating it's opening up soon.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Corporate vs. Startup behaviors


Over dinner this week, I had an interesting conversation that highlighted for me the different types of behaviors required in a big company corporate environment vs. a startup environment.

One really big one is passive/aggressive behavior. Oddly, in a corporate environment, this is a a positive survival trait, especially for executives. You nod and smile at your boss a lot. You may not agree, but you know you damn well better appear to be agreeing. If you don't, you get shut down right there and the opportunity to go ahead and do what you believe is the right thing anyway, and then sell it later (without getting shot in the head first) goes away.

To start something up inside of a BigCo, you need to have the trust of your immediate bosses, and enough leeway to do things under the radar. After a few successes on your part, the nodding and agreeing is done with a lot of nudge nudge wink wink kind of nonverbal communication from your bosses (you go do it anyway, just don't get caught too soon).... however, the whole passive/aggressive thing remains. You act as if you're a good boy, but you go do what you know needs to be done to create a new business or grow the existing business with new approaches. If it works, everyone's a hero. If not, well, you're boss gets to reprimand you, protecting his or her reputation. If it's bad enough, or the politics get particularly sticky, they may need to fire you to save their own skin. It's part of the game if you want to do anything truly interesting and creative inside a big company.

I know.. this has to seem weird to a pure startup guy who hasn't had to do this at a high level in a fortune 500 company. It's how corporate America works though. They are, by nature, risk adverse. The initial response to everything is: Wait. Let's do more analysis. Who's already doing this? What's the CEO think/know about this. Will it make me look stupid if I take this up the chain? You get the idea...Getting something done is really hard inside a BigCo. You have to break a lot of rules and try to avoid the corporate anti-bodies long enough to be successful enough that the guys running the place (usually the CEO/CFO/COO or CTO) buy into what you're doing.

That's been my job inside of companies like Paramount, MCI, Motorola and Apple over the last 20 years. Most successful BigCo's have people like this in them and tend to nurture them (even as they occasionally kill them off). It's just the nature of the BigCo beast.

So, if you're a startup kinda guy who happens to do your thing inside of large (usually) publicly traded corporations, you learn a bunch of behaviors that are very successful at starting new ventures inside BigCo's... and everyone who does this kind of work inside of big companies learns these behaviors, but I'm learning they don't translate so well to true startup land.

Nodding and saying yes to your board of directors 'because they said so' is not a good idea. At least, not if you don't fully agree. Especially not so for an early stage startup. especially if you're new to startups and think they must know something you don't and you do exactly what they say, even when you know in your heart there is likely a better approach, or what they decide doesn't sit well with you but you agree and do it anyway.

What I've learned the last 6 months is you (mostly) take the passive part out of the behavior (you still need to be pleasant to work with), tone the aggressive part down a bit (but not alot), and stick with that. Be up front, move fast, say what's on your mind. If you disagree, say so, and talk it out until you come to agreement.

Things move too quickly and there are a million other things to worry about in a startup. You don't need to bring old BigCo survival techniques from a long lost land with you to the party island of Startup Land. Nosiree... Leave that shit on the boat.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Four Frakkin Cores = Oh My Quad



Holy Burning CPUs Batman! FOUR CORES for $1100!!!! Not just that, but an entire media center system. I picked up an HP Media Center PC m8120n at Best Buy today. It's standard config was 3GB of RAM (yea.. 3); 620GB 7200 SATA Drive; Built in TV Tuner with controls/remote; wireless keyboard and mouse, nice high end video card, Tons of USB and FireWire connections, removable media bay and four frakkin cores.

Did I mention it has 4 cores? And it was $1100? Yea... that...

Here's the task manager screen shot for proof:















This means that the power behind the tools for things like heavy duty encoding at home are now affordable for almost anyone. The age of the professional amateur for audio and especially video creation of content really is only now as far away as the tools we create to make it easy for them. The brain melting costs of SGI's and quad core Mac G5s are a thing of a the past.

This is the kind of power, and the kind of price that any semi motivated aspiring film maker can lay down. Mix that with some $1000 HD (true 1080p) Camera's (see my post on Cheap Gear) and for about $2000-2500.. you've got what Pixar was spending really big bucks on and filling up rooms with not very many years ago.

The price of the gear that anyone can use to create content.. really good content....just keeps getting lower.

That means the barrier to entry (for the bad and the good) get's lower right along with the price.

It's going to take people some time to figure this out and to learn how to use the tools, but in about 18 months or so, I'll bet you see Sin City quality 'amateur' movies popping up all over the place.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Illegal to read the Patriot Act


ohmygodohmygodohmygod......

I read this and was BELIEVING IT until 1/2 way in I thought.. hmmm.. looked a the url (The Onion!) and knew it was BS.

Revised Patriot Act Will Make It Illegal To Read Patriot Act


WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush spoke out Monday in support of a revised version of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that would make it illegal to read the USA Patriot Act. "Under current federal law, there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism, including the public's access to information about how the federal police will investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism," Bush said at a press conference Monday. "For the sake of the American people, I call on Congress to pass this important law prohibiting access to itself." Bush also proposed extending the rights of states to impose the death penalty "in the wake of Sept. 11 and stuff."
But I thought it was real for a few seconds! I can't believe I thought that. But... I can, because it's not as bad as some of the things that have really happened the last few years and been reported with similar headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post and my local media.

It was downright surreal. I'm both laughing and, like, ya know... throwing up a little about the whole thing

Monday, July 02, 2007

The New Old Media


And so it begins. Google starts acting like a traditional TV network with it's (sort of) attack on Sicko. from The Inquirer:

Here's the recap. Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, goes on general release this week and has been widely applauded by critics, pundits and bloggers - across party lines, interestingly enough - as a well-made and powerful document of the flaws in the American health care system and the providers of that care.

Consequently, the health care industry is taking something of a beating in the popular press, and many would argue deservedly so. Not, however, Lauren Turner of the Google Advertising team - she suggested in a recent blog post to the Google Health Advertising Blog (yes, such a thing exists) that the movie was deeply flawed, and failed to show the health industry in its best light. The answer, she suggested, was for healthcare monopolies to buy ads on Google against the keywords "Michael Moore" and "Sicko", thus promoting the healthcare industry to those searching for information on Moore's film.

Where have we seen this before?

Let's give away a service, say, entertainment... and instead of charging each user for access, let's shift the payment for that service to people wanting to sell their products by pitching them during use of that service.

That's television.

Google (and Yahoo, and any other internet based service that gives away a service in exchange for the selling of advertising) are heading down the same road. And, human nature being what it is, they'll very likely look and act just like Television Networks (and radio and other advertising supported media) more and more as time goes by.

This Sicko flap happened because Google isn't very sophisticated about this (yet). You can bet they'll get sophisticated quickly enough though. In a few years you'll likely be seeing behavior's very similar to what you've seen the TV folks doing for decades. Google (and all the others) may be technology companies in how they operate, but their business is media and advertising. And that's what'll drive their day to day decisions.

It'll seem a bit slimy and evil (like this Sicko thing), but it's really just a young innocent set of companies getting older, more mature and, in the process, losing some of that naive child-like glow. And yea, it's still a little slimy and evil. It'll happen anyway.

Welcome to the new old media!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pick your iPartner iWisely (or: How AT&T is wrecking the Apple iPhone Experience)


Yet another report of a lousy 'getting it going' experience from Brad Feld with the iPhone.

I've read about 2o of these in the last half an hour. It seems AT&T just didn't think it through very well. Apple's just as guilty. (what is it they say about being able to judge a man best by looking at how he marries?).

Goes to show how you can spend years, 10's of millions of dollars and use up lots of braincells to create an amazing product and STILL, easily, have the users first experience with that product (arguably the most important experience) destroyed by choosing an incapable, immoral or just inept (AT&T, it seems, fit's all of this and more) partner.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

just say no to that subpoena

"Bush's attorney told Congress the White House would not turn over subpoenaed documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor. Congressional panels want the documents for their investigations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' stewardship of the Justice Department, including complaints of undue political influence."

"Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He portrayed the president's actions as "Nixonian stonewalling."

His House counterpart, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said Bush's assertion of executive privilege was "unprecedented in its breadth and scope" and displayed "an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government."

Gee. Does this mean if I get a subpoena, I can just ignore it? You know.. this could be get really interesting.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Over 30 Age Meme.. this one's getting old


Dave Winer's at it again. He's baiting Fred Wilson into continuing the 'over 30 means you can't do a startup' meme.

Fred should know that Dave's a master at this (especially the baiting part) and has been doing it very successfully for years. For Dave, I suspect, it's fun. A sort of sport really.

The age meme discussion is getting too much play though. I'm gonna sum it up and pack it away:

-Yes, if you're over 30 (or 40 or 50) it's harder to do a startup than if you're under 30.
-Yes, you're harder to 'deal with' for VC's and angels because you've had time to learn up from down. They'll deal.
-Yes, it's likely you'll work less if you're still married with kids. Or married w/o kids. Or divorced with kids.
-Yes, it's only likely you'll work like a 22 year old if you're single or divorced w/o kids.
-Yes, over 30's know more and can avoid potholes under 20's cheerfully bee-line into.
-Yes, if you're willing to find us (single/divorced/healthy/withoutkidsathome) we are gems.

Any money guy who bases a decision on funding primarily on your birthday isn't a funding guy you should be dealing with anyway (even if you're under 30).

Fred knows this. Every top notch VC or angel knows this. And Dave knows it too.

And now... I'm done commenting on this one.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Blogging: Average Persons Way To Immortality?


I know that's an odd title, but I think it's true.

The Chinese have a great saying that puts everything into perspective:

"Every 100 years- All new people".

Think about that. It's effectively true. For the vast majority of people on Earth, their time here is nothing more than a blink of the eye and then they're gone. Poof. Dust. Forgotten.

Unless they write a blog.

I suspect that, 1000 years from now, your blogged words, thoughts, ideas, rants and tirades will, somehow, somewhere, still be stored in the Googleplex, or on the Internet (or it's equivalent) and accessible. Effectively the only thing left of you long after you're dead and gone.

I doubt anything else you do with your life will have that kind of personal staying power. Maybe if you write a book or record a song, but that's not something the average person does. The only other thing that might be really equal in representing you, and what is uniquely you is the DNA you pass on to your children.

Even then, your thoughts via blog are more personal, public and representative of you when you were alive and spewing energy into the void.

I've always known whatever I wrote here was available to anyone, anywhere. What I didn't think about before was that also means anytime. Now, or 1000 years from now.

This stuff isn't going away anymore. The internet saves everything somewhere.

I'm sure you've all thought of this already and you're doing the 'so what'. Still, the TIME aspect and what that means to a human with a deterministically short (<100 years) existence never really sunk in until recently.

Time to go read a book. :)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hatchery's vs. Angel Investing

I've been watching what Brad and David are doing over at TechStars and I think they're really onto the right model. I've heard David say that it's the evolution of angel investing, and I think he's right. Especially in the high tech/internet/media sector.

I look at what I've done with ClickCaster, which was a traditional angel model. First the founder invests his own money/time/resources to get an idea to a certain point (a team that delivers, a market identified, a beta product in production) and then he goes for either angel money or VC money depending on how big his/her plans are. In high tech/internet, with the costs to get to the next level so low, it's usually angel money. Certainly less than $1m, and usually half that; call it $500K average.

So I'm an angel investor, and I've got, say, $50 or $100K into an angel round of an early stage startup. I've put a pretty fair amount of betting money into this one deal. Is that good? Is it the most efficient way to invest money on high risk ventures? Until recently, I'd have said yes. Now, I'm not so sure.

David Cohen's TechStars is bringing in 10 groups at $10-15K investment each. Invested amount of around $150K total. Another $50K for things like creating a space for 3 months for them to work out of, maybe some datacenter setup with servers and bandwidth everyone can use to prototype on and some computers in the space they'll work in.

$200K. 10 companies. 20-30 hungry and foolish entrepreneurs with big dreams. Out of that you're likely to get 1 or 2, maybe 3 real companies that get their claws dug into a real market. For the money put in, you get 5-6% of the company. But they've been seriously vetted to get there. Maybe 200 applicants for 10 slots of which 2 companies will emerge. That's a hell of an efficient tunnel that happens in very short order (2 months to screen the 200, 3 months to screen the 10). Get your other legal, data center, entrepreneur and angel friends to help out and, man, you've got a wisdom of crowds market that, I suspect, kicks ass on the traditional angel investing or even early stage VC model.

Old news to many of you I'm sure, but here's what's new news (at least to me).

I put in about $200K of my own money for ClickCaster and a couple of years of my life (so far). I'm over 40, I've got some money to bet, I'm reasonably smart. I've been involved in starting things for a couple of decades, I'm well versed in the high tech/internet space and I want to get involved in the startup world.

Would doing a hatchery have been a better approach than focusing on a single company? Should a guy like me do this as opposed to a single focused startup with that $200K?

I don't know the answer, but I would bet big that several thousand guys like me, and angel investors who already have networks of friends, VC's and resources needed to do startups, are having this exact thought right about now.

They're watching TechStars and Ycombinator and the other hatchery's and looking to see if this way of filtering ideas, people and markets is the best approach for this particular investment sector.

If I were an entrepreneurs or angel investor (or a wanna be) who was looking for what's next, I'd want to talk with David and gang, get the initial formula/playbook (and blessings), move to Austin, Santa Fe, Iowa City, Portland or any of a couple of dozen smaller cities with high quality of life, a university, get plugged into the local scene and fire it up.

One side note on Hatchery's vs. Incubators:

David likes to point out this is not the old bubble days incubator approach. An incubator owned a larger percentage of the companies, was more deeply involved in the day to day business and didn't have a well defined near future endpoint when the money stopped, dead, and you were kicked out of the nest to live or die.

A hatchery is fast, ruthless in it's selection process and, after everyone involved votes (by what I can tell, with angel or even VC money) shuts down the 7-8 companies that didn't make the cut and does everything it can to help the 2-3 survivors.

Darwin, I think, would be proud.