Friday, April 25, 2008

My friend, Jon Henderson

We lost a friend last night. Jon Henderson passed away after a 9 year battle with cancer.

I met Jon through boulder free radio where he and his brother David played some fantastic hippie shit music and blues. I saw him many times over the last several years playing gigs, at Conners and, the last time, with he and David at the Boulder Theater a few weeks ago.

He was happy, and he never ever complained, although we sometimes gave him a hard time about how his hair grew back all curly after particularly onerous cancer treatments.

The last thing he did on this earth was visit Conners for a few beers with friends, something he dearly loved to do.

These last words from Jon:

"Oh well, I was lucky to have made it this far. And, I put up a pretty damn good fight. No crying....."

And then in his own writing:

"Enjoy Life"

You will be sorely missed Jon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

OLPRC One Laptop Per (Rich) Child


Hells Bells.

Saw this in today's The Inquirer (no, that not that one). Seems Negroponte, the visionary behind the One Laptop Per Child project is going Windows on the OLPC.

IN A SOMEWHAT shocking revelation, One Laptop Per Child has said that they might dump Linux from their XO laptops in favour of the Vole’s Windows XP. The seeming surrender to the evil corporate world comes just a day after the company’s president tendered his resignation.

OLPC, the educational project which purportedly aims to provide small, cheap laptops for kids has, since its inception, been running its home-made Sugar application, run on Linux, but on Tuesday, OLPC chairman and founder, Nicholas Negroponte, told AP that this was all about to change.

In an attack on pro open saucers, Negroponte slammed “the fundamentalism in some of the open-source community" and reckoned that by pushing the free, open-sauce software on OLPC XOs, the company was scaring people away. "One can be an open-source advocate without being an open-source fundamentalist" he snarled.

I completely get his comment on open-source fundamentalism. The pure Linux crowd can get a little overbearing at times, but dumping it? I'm not sure that makes much sense.

Putting Windows XP on the OLPC means they'll have to at least double the 1GB of disk space to 2GB (minimum). Not much, granted, but it's going to up the price of the $100 (umm.. I mean.. $200) laptop even more. Keeping a Linux based machine allows them flexibility in their pricing they'll lose with an XP only OLPC.

I have nothing against XP. I have it running on all my computers (PC's and Mac's) along side Linux (yes, I do indeed triple boot all my personal machines). I like the option of using different OS's for different things and XP is, by all accounts, stable and ubiquitous. Good traits in an OS.

But dumping Linux because of perceived fundamentalism is a mistake. Maybe he'll shake out the Linux bigots from the OLPC project (their president and head of software just quit.. most likely because Nick wants to add XP to the mix), and that may be a good strategic move, but I sure as hell wouldn't dump Linux outright.

Even Dell gives the option of a Linux install on their PC's.

I'm sorry to say that the OLPC project may well be on it's last legs. They have raised the awareness of the need (and market) for low end PC's. Intel's Classroom PC, the ASUS notebook and others would most likely never have come about had it not been for the OLPC vision, but the original, as is often the case, is likely to lose in this battle.

Negroponte, an academic by training and nature, just doesn't understand the world of business (and as much as he'd like this to be solely a 'movement' and not a business.. it's sure as hell a business). Anything that threatens the markets of, be they existing or new greenfields, the existing PC and OS makers is going to be viewed by them as a business. Too bad Negroponte can't seem to adapt to that reality.

That said, I've got a used Linux based OLPC for sale.

Anyone interested? Anyone? Hello?

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Beginning of the Chinese Century


I think it's really happening now.

Can anyone imagine a western power, in this case France, trying to 'limit the damage' and reacting to China's pressure 20 years ago? 10 Years ago?

What's happening here is a test run on China's part to see how much influence and pressure it can exert to get it's way.

France Tries to Limit Olympics Fallout

Published: April 22, 2008

PARIS — After a wave of anti-French protests in China, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is sending three top officials there this week in a diplomatic charm offensive to limit the political and economic fallout from the controversy surrounding the preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games.

Thousands of protesters targeted outlets of the French supermarket chain Carrefour in China over the weekend, demonstrating against what they see as France’s sympathetic support for pro-Tibet agitators.

France has become the main focus of the protests in China, notably after footage of a Chinese athlete in a wheelchair protecting the Olympic torch from protesters as it passed through Paris earlier this month turned her into a national hero and talk show star.

Among the three top officials, the president of the French Senate, Christian Poncelet, was headed for Shanghai on Monday, to be followed by a former prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, on Thursday.

On Friday, it will be the turn of Mr. Sarkozy’s chief diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Levitte, to reassure the Chinese leadership that France has no intention of straining relations.

This is pretty much a carbon copy of how the US has been acting for the last 50 years. China is taking a page from the US play book (who took a page from the UK play book... and on and on back to the Romans).

I think we're seeing the beginnings of the 'power' transfer happening right now. I also think the 2008 Olympics may be looked back on as the time China began the process of taking the lead as most powerful and influential nation in the world away from the United States.

Guess I should brush up on my Mandarin.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fire On The Mountain (a few blocks from my house)

What's the burning wood smell? I step on on the porch and there it was: Fire on the mountain! Seems we had our own little wildfire on the West end of Pearl Street (I live two blocks up from Pearl Street Mall, about about 10 or 12 blocks from where the fire was). Here's a quick video:



They got it under control, luckily, but it's still smoldering away into the night.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jason and Ryan on Boulder, CO.

Jason Mendelson and Ryan McIntyre of the Foundry group have a great post up on why they're glad they live and work in Boulder, CO.

Ben Casnocha's comment on the post is golden and gives both an alternative view from Silicon Valley and shows some of the hubris (sorry Ben, but you do live inside the bubble) common among the digiteri from The Valley.

I'm from Colorado. I grew up in Boulder County. I always thought things moved a little slow for me and eventually got hired by Apple in Cupertino. I moved to Los Altos, dead in the center of The Valley from 87 to 96. I remember thinking the first year 'finally, a place going at the same speed I am'. Then, after a year of the that life, I spent the next 8 years trying to figure out a way to get back to Boulder. I finally made it back and I'm very glad I did it.

Some of what Ben says is true. There's no doubt that there's more money and more overall opportunity for entrepreneurs in The Valley. It is, as Ben notes, a huge ecosystem geared toward supporting startups.

However, our little corner of the start up world, for someone who wants access to some big university talent, a rich culture, a world class sports town in Denver, an environment every bit as beautiful as NoCal, a great community of supportive startup people around them and has a desire to live a full life, it's hard to beat Colorado in general and Boulder in particular.

I also have to take a bit of issue with the comments on the weather and great food. I remember thinking 'where are the seasons?' when I first moved to The Valley. There was this tree in the parking lot of Tower Records at the intersection of San Antonio Rd. and El Camino Real that would go from green to sort of orange for a couple of weeks in the October, but that was about it.

We've got seasons.

And,, regarding the food...we've got The Kitchen, one of the best places to eat between either coast and pretty much any other type of the best kinds of food you would want like real Mexican, Ethiopian, Caribbean, Indian, Nepali, Tibetan, Middle Eastern, French, Italian, sushi (yea.. great sushi) and, of course, lots of organic fare and multiple natural food shopping markets not to mention a better steak then you'll find anywhere in The Valley, New York or Los Angeles.

You just can't beat Colorado, when it comes to steak, or Boulder, as a great place to start a company.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More on non-compete agreements

A few months ago, Bijan Sabet, a partner at Spark Capital blogged about how non-compete agreements, maybe, weren't such a good idea. It created a reasonable amount of gnashing of teeth in the blogosphere at the time. I agreed and relayed my own experience in a blog entry of my own here.

Apparently, Google just did a classic non-compete bait and switch on the Doubleclick folks they recently fired (about 300 of them) after acquiring the company.

Valleywag has the text of non-compete, which looks like this:
8. Covenant Regarding Competition. I agree that for a period of one (1) year after my employment with the Company terminates, I shall not (a) engage in any employment, business or activity that is competitive with the Company's businesses; or (b) solicit business from, do business with or render services to, in any capacity, directly or indirectly, any entity that is or was a Company client or customer within the last twelve months of my employment with the Company, for a purpose or in a manner that is in any way competitive with the Company's business. If, during or after my employment with the Company, I seek work elsewhere, I agree to provide a copy of this Agreement to any person or entities seeking to hire me before accepting employment with or engagement by any such person or entity.

9. Solicitation of Employees. I agree that for a period of twelve (12) months immediately following the
termination of my relationship with the Company for any reason, whether with or without cause, I shall not either directly or indirectly solicit, induce, recruit or encourage any of the Company's employees to leave their employment, or take away such employees, or attempt to solicit, induce, recruit, encourage or take away employees of the Company, either for myself or for any other person or entity.

You can make the argument that it won't stick, but apparently the employees who were fired are worried that it's Google and they don't want to risk crossing Google's legal department. Seems they felt compelled to look for work outside of their industry, following the demands of the non-compete Google asked them to sign, right before firing them.

If I look at my own business and imagine what I'd have to catch up on if I left for a year, frankly, I'd look at it long and hard and wonder if it was worth trying to get back in the game. Things just move too fast in the high tech world.

Now, this brings up some questions about Google's business practices I won't go into here, but more importantly, it makes clear how a big company known to enforce it's legal rights, can really screw up someone's life with a non-compete.

How an employee that was defined as unnecessary after an acquisition can be considered a threat to the business just acquired is beyond me. If they were so critical to the business, why have them sign a non-compete and then fire them?

Giving Google the benefit of the doubt, it's possible it wasn't their intent to lock someone up and then fire them, but the result was they did just that.

Locked em up, then locked em out.

And this underlines (several times) why non-compete agreements are, maybe, not such a good idea.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My personal version of TV's future


Soooo.... what is a home theater/video viewing system today anyway?

Is it a 27" Sony Trinitron with a a bulky 5 speaker surround sound system and a DVD player and a $79 a month cable bill?

I say: no more.

Here's my own personal version of the video future. I designed it just for me to be a sort of video cocoon.

The list of everything needed:

A dual core laptop ($600- Get an HP dv6000 at BestBuy)
A 2nd LCD screen -unnecessary, but I wanted it ($200- any will do, this is a 20" Samsung)
2 high quality studio monitors/speakers ($200- Mine ar Rokit5's by KRK from Guitar Center in Westminister, CO)
A projector ($650 for an Epson C77)
A USB 2 port mixer for the speakers ($100- Guitar Center)
Cables ($50)
Paint for the wall (Movie Screen) ($20 at Home Depot)
Comfy vibrating seat ($99 from Office Max)
3 Misc. tables to hold the gear ($50 at Target)

Total cost (for everything): $1969.00

What do I get? a 10 foot screen that looks pretty good during the day and is just short of mind blowing when it's dark. If I wanted to, I could block the windows during the day, but what's the point when I only really watch TV and movies at night.

I also have two recording studio quality speakers 2 feet from my head on either side. Sound doesn't get much better than that.

The laptop can be anything. This is a Mac, but a dual core HP is $549 on sale at BestBuy right now. And you can play some awesome games you can't using a 'traditional' home theater setup. (note the Quake 4 Arena box on top of the speaker in the forefront of the picture- 10' of violent gore with the equivlent of 15 lb headphones blowing out your ears: Priceless). And, of course, all laptops play DVD's now, gratis. Need I even mention P2P/Bittorrent?

The projector? An Epson PowerLite 77C ($649 at Staples right now). And this is a BIG ( 3 lbs!).

In the next 9 months you'll see things like this:



Or this:




And even this:





These aren't mock ups. This stuff is real. The tiny projectors are supposed to come in later this year for around $300 and project 2000 lumens (my 'big' one does 2200 lumens) on a screen size up to 8 feet across.

So, I look at this setup, and what's coming around the corner and I have to wonder how long before the movie theaters just seize up and go out of business. (other than the ones that get that movie going can be a social thing.. but they are few and far between).

I also have to wonder if the video distributers of today like CableCo/MSOs and Satellite TV providers have a chance.

Mix all this with services like my own Medioh and others like Hulu, Joost and Veoh, not to mention all the networks doing their own internet offerings (and things like South Park putting EVERY episode ever made online, free), well, whats the point of paying for cable?

Who's going to stop the Major Motion Picture studios from doing what SouthPark is doing? Why, if you're creating a great show like, say, FireFly, do you have to worry about 'getting cancelled' if you can put the show on the internet, charge for access (or give it away free with commercials), bring in LESS money but KEEP more of it? I mean, why wouldn't you do that? Why keep supporting the gatekeepers when you can free your content for more people (and more net income for your company?)

Oh...The Screen: I simply painted a nice big 'sliver screen' on the wall. Cost of $20 (of which I only used about $3 worth) of 'Silver Screen' colored paint from Home Depot. And yes, that picture shows just what it looks like: A big square painted on the wall. Nothing more needed.

And this is about the most I could spend to do this. Everyone I know already has a computer (usually a laptop). Few need the sound system levels I like (although at $300 total, why not?), so, in reality, all you need is your existing internet connection and that $650 projecter and you're set.

I talk to my developers (really anyone under 25) and none of them own a standard television set. They use, yep, their computers.

This isn't just a trend, it's where everything's going.

Yes, there are likely to be people that want a TV in the kitchen while cooking dinner, but why not just plop down your laptop on the counter (wireless, battery, no cables) and watch it there? I do. Why NOT you?

This will take time of course. Games, like Rock Band, are still tied to consoles. And innovations like the Wii will take time to migrate to a laptop (Wii like controls? hmmm.. maybe not that long).

However....I still think internet access with low cost projectors and laptops (or just the laptops or any other 'internet enable device with a screen') are going to be more than a simple and easy way to replace your TV and cable bill, they're the real future of TV. Passive AND interactive.