Thursday, January 26, 2006

Heh.. MPAA caught Pirating!


I love this (click on the post title for a link to The Register story on this). The MPAA, after promising not to.. PIRATED (made illegal copies) of a Documentary Movie on how the MPAA does rating of movies in America. Heh.. I love it. The MPAA Response? "We're above the law" (my interpretation).

What happened to Google's 'don't be evil'


With the announcement of Google opening a search engine in China, and agreeing the the Chinese government's limits, you have to wonder: Is Google becoming evil?

Could be.

Or, just maybe, it's a trojan horse.

Here's my Doing Business With China story and how I think it might relate to what Google's doing right now with it's internet business in the Middle Kingdom.

I used to work for Motorola back in the mid to late 90's where I ran new business creation for a recently created multimedia group. This group lived inside of a business unit that was responsible for creating services business within 'greenfield' (not yet penetrated by the company) markets. Places like Asia and S. America. Mostly for Motorola products like cellphones and pagers.

So, after I'd been there for two weeks, they asked me: What can we do with some of our new products and with our friends at Kodak?

So I made up a product and business that combined Kodak digital camera's (just coming into their own) and the Irridium sat phone technology that Mot was just getting up and running (a sat based phone that would work anywhere on the surface of the planet).

The idea was: Create a kiosk with a camera in it that would link the mass of young adults who were moving from China's countryside to the cities back with their parents. The kids (about 100 million of them) would send emails and pictures back to their rural parents through these kiosks placed a post offices around china. The kiosks would have Kodak cameras in them, and it would be linked by the Irridium network (since there was no infrastructure in China's rural areas).

I thought is a kind of interesting. But only kind of. It was one of several ideas but it had a Camera in it, and our boss was friends with the CEO of Kodak. So..we pitched it to the CEO of Kodak at the time and he loved it (go figure). A 30 min meeting with him went on for 3 hours.

So we went to build a prototype. I spent alot of time in China and in New York (Kodak) getting things worked out.

My secret goal: Sneak the internet into China. Create informational freedom. Open up the country to new ideas and the internet way.

It's SO nice to be ignorant of reality at times. But only in the beginning.

I wanted to use an internet protocol based server in each kiosk (using standand POP type mail to send the pictures and messages around the country). I figured, if I could get an internet server into every city and village in China (or, at least, several thousand), I could backdoor the Internet into the country. And if there was a company that could pull it off, it was Motorola. It was worth a shot.

Man, was I ever wrong.

China get's the power of information. They control it. Period. The post office, in China, is run by the Military (yea.. it would be like the US Army 'owning' the mail system in the US). They required that we give them tools to read every message sent over this system. EVERY message. No exceptions. If we wouldn't do that, they wouldn't let us put it in place.

(side note: I don't know if this is still true, but at the time, people in China didn't seal their envelopes when sending standard paper mail. They knew it would be opened anyway, so why bother?).

I agreed to do this. I hated it, but I also thought: well, it's a crack in the wall. Maybe, just maybe, we can still work real internet access in over time. I was willing to allow some 'evil' (the government reading all your messages) in order to get my foot in the door so, later, I could do some good (you can't really control the internet, once it's in place- or so I believed at the time).

So how does this relate to Google being evil or not being evil?

It's China, not Google, that's being evil (relatively speaking).

If you want to be in China, you do business by their rules. No exceptions. If you don't, then you're out. Since every 5th person on the planet is Chinese, it's a bad idea to ignore them if you're in the 'capture all human knowledge' business like Google. So, you play by their rules.

AND, if you're enlightened, you hope, over time, the power of the internet, like water on a rock, will eventually wear down the Chinese government walls of censorship and oppression of information.

Personally, that's what I think (hope) Google is doing here.

Time will tell.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Overload!


OK.. it's happened. I am offiically overloaded on data from the blogosphere. I've always been a data sponge, soaking up any and all information that came my way but the tools are now SO efficient that I'm overwhelmed.

And not just by 'too much data', but by too much actual knowledge!

I've always catagorized 'media' into Data... Information... Knowledge and, finally, Wisdom. And they go up in value as you move to the right.

The first three you can get externally, the last is what you create for yourself by putting together the other three in your mind into something useful (at least to you).

I started using Bloglines about 6 weeks ago. I found many blogs that were loaded with great information and many with real knowledge. I subscribe to around 60 or so blogs on topics of interest. Well, I'm finding that many of these guys are just frigging brilliant. I can't not read them. Insights, views, perspectives... it's incredible.

And it's becoming amazingly mentally fatiguing. I'm not dumb, and, in the past, I've never really hit a wall on what I could absorb, but it's finally happened. I can no longer keep up with the flow and volume of valuable knowledge being pumped my way by Bloglines. I feel like it's spilling out of my ears by the end of the day.

So.. simplify. Cut back the data needle into my brain. It'll be painful at first, (I just KNOW I'm missing something juicy.. damn!) but it's getting out of hand.

Fed's force Google to reveal private info

So.. Google actually IS trying to not be evil. They're fighting the government's demand.
It has just come to light that the federal government is trying to force Google to reveal all searches conducted in a one-week period, as well as records for 1 million Web addresses.

The effort is part of a government campaign to revive an anti-pornography law, the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which the Supreme Court struck down two years ago. The law attempted to ensure that only adults visited porn sites by requiring that visitors register, or use access codes, before gaining entry to such sites. Now, the Bush administration is back in court, trying to prove that these requirements are the only realistic way of preventing minors from accessing online porn.

What remains unclear is why the government would need records from Google--which is, after all, a private company and not an investigative arm of the Department of Justice.
Too bad Yahoo can't claim the same thing.
Yahoo Inc., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., acknowledged on Thursday handing over search data, but insisted no personal information on users was given to government attorneys. The disclosure followed reports that rival search engine Google Inc. had refused to comply with a similar subpoena, issued last year.
I'm not all that excited about kids getting into porn sites .. not good...but these guys regularly take 'common' causes (like stopping terrorists by illegally listening in on US citizens phone conversations, and now this) and using these common causes to IGNORE the laws we have in place that make this a free country.

What the hell, let's just start over. How about throwing out that pesky constitution thing that keeps getting in the way and writing a new one (Hey Mr. Attorney General... whip something up for us and slip it into that case titled 'The Constitution"...no one will notice, at least not for awhile).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why am I so mad at a technology company?



I've been thinking about this the last few days. I am unreasonably pissed off at Apple right now because I bought a G5 based Mac a few weeks before I could have bought an Intel based Mac that runs twice as fast at the same price.

I bought it on the companies word that it would be 'summer' of 06 before these would be available.

My reaction, though, was more than just being PO'd at losing performance for the buck spent. It was an emotinoal response.

As much as I hate to admit it, I still am an admirer of Apple Computer. Having spent the better part of a decade of my life working there, it's in the blood. Like it or not.

A big part of it is watching them go down the same roads that almost killed them off in the past (proprietary hardware 'copy protection' for their operating system). They're still doing it, and even more so with the iPods.

I now own a Mac and an iPod (although I fought it for a long time, I swore off Mac's back in 95 shortly after leaving Apple for Paramount Pictures and finding that 'normal' customers were treated, well, like crap). I think this experience just underlined that treatment of customers that pushed me away from them initially. I felt lied to.

Ever have your girlfriend of wife lie to you? Maybe it's like that. I, sort of, want Apple to succeed, but then they slap me up the side of the head when I take a flyer and try them out again, unloading 'old' equipment on me when they knew damn well that it would be obsolete the instant (hell before) I bought it, but telling me it would be 'months.. maybe a year' before that would happen.

It's hard to get over, or ever completely forget, true love.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

That'll teach me NOT to buy Apple



So, I bought a brand new G5 iMac a couple of weeks ago because Apple said their new Intel based Mac was 'at least' 6 months away.

Today, they screwed me. They announced their Intel Macs 'at the same price, but twice the speed'.

Thanks Steve Jobs. You lying bastard. From me and the several hundreds of thousands of 'new G5 owners', thanks a frigging lot.

NO more new Apple's for me. If I need an Apple product in the future, I'm going to buy something cheap and used from this day forward.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Create an e-annoyance, go to jail


And it keeps coming.

Bush signed into law big fines and up to 2 years in jail for annoying people (via anonymous posts or emailing under a name not your own) on the internet.

Story on Cnet (link above).

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Oh yea.. what I really look like





Cartoons (like the one on my profile here for this blog) are great, but here's ACTUAL photo's of me. Yes, they do exist.

OK.. that's it on me. No more to see here folks.. keep moving.. keep moving...

What I drive


Ever wonder what other people drive? I know I do. I often make indepth social, economic, political and philosphical judgements about people based on what they drive (heh.. yea). So, here's my cars. An 05 Mini Cooper S (electric blue) and an 06 Scion xB (thundercloud silver).

My little world


Ever wonder what someone's work place looks like? I do... so here's mine. In the upstairs loft of my house. A mac, A PC, a Mixer and Mic (for podcast creation) and a bunch of other stuff floating around. Nothing special, but it's home.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Your phone records are for sale, no... really.. they are


Wonder if your wife (or husband) is cheating?

Wonder if your competitors are calling your best customer?

Wonder if a local cop is calling your drug distribution network personnel?

Just check their cellphones! For about $100 for a month of calls, without any legal anything, you can get anyone's cellphone records. Go to:

http://locatecell.com/

And send them a cell (or landline) phone number and a credit card number and, usually in a few hours, you've got the goods on anyone you want!

Wowie Zowie! I can think all KINDS of fun uses for this kind of service.. can't you? Here's a great story on what's happening here:

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-privacy05.html

Ahh privacy, it was nice knowin ya....

Homeland Security opening private mail


Man.. what a bunch of crap. Read this:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10740935/

Now our government is reading our mail. In this case, a retired 81 year old history prof. This is really getting bad.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

VC & Media Companies: Same Business?


I've noticed over the last several months a lot of similarities between venture capitalists and the media worlds of recording companies and the TV/Movie industry. I'm in the process of raising money for the startup I founded (a podcasting company called ClickCaster at www.clickcaster.com) so I've talked to many VC's of late and, having spent a substantial amount of time in past lives around the media business both directly (as VP of technology at Viacom Interact and SVP of Technology at Paramount Digital Entertainment) and indirectly (as director of the Apple Electronic Media lab at Apple Computer) they act, from a business perspective, in very similar ways.

It's a hit's driven business. And it's a 'front the talent money, take the bulk of the profits at exit' approach from both the VC side and the Media business side.

Think about it. A VC fronts the startup company X dollars (say it's $1m). They then take a significant percentage of the company and integrate themselves tightly with the management of the company (usually through reporting systems and seat(s) on the board of directors). They have ALOT of say in what goes on in that company once they've put up the money. They continue to feed money, as needed, into that company, taking larger and larger percentages until they (almost always) have a majority control. When the company finally is sold or goes public (becomes 'a hit'), the VC takes the bulk of the profit and, usually, a nice multiple of their investment. The founders generally do OK, but only OK and sometimes they don’t do very well at all.

Now, if the VC firm is lucky, that happens with 1 of 5 investments they do. 1-2 will break even, 1-2 will totally fail and be written off. Sounds scary doesn't it?

Well, the Movie guys have been doing it for 100 years. And the recording industry for 50. And they seem to be doing reasonably well at it. Their hit rate is more like 1 in 10 as well. They’re still consistently profitable.

They 'front' the musician or the producers of the movie/tv series the money to create the programming. In the case of the recording industry, they front, say $1M to a hot act, and they then write a contract that charges the musician for every expense the record company incurs related to that musician. If the record makes, say $5M, the musician might get $500-$1M of that (due to the contract that give the majority of the profits to the recording company.. sound familiar? Kind of like how a VC has the majority ownership in the startup companies it invests in). So if that album gets hot and makes allot of money, it's unlikely the musician (on the first record deal they do, because they often sign off on onerous terms without knowing any better) usually ends up making no money and often OWING money (on that initial $1M 'front money') to the record company.

Pretty slick.

And if you really think about it, their mining the same thing: Intellectual Property and creativity (both required in large doses to create successful media and successful startup companies, especially in software and high tech). So it's really no surprise that their models, at the core, are very similar.

Now, the VC I’ve talked with to date haven’t been anywhere near the level of ‘slick’ (term used loosely) as record executives I've known and heard about in the past. They have been as a whole decent and honest folks, at least, so far (I haven’t closed a deal with one yet). But the similarities between the two businesses are strikingly similar in many ways. They are, in the end, investing money in high risk/high reward scenarios with a ‘play the numbers’ approach that cycles the ‘talent’ through at as high a rate as possible for as high a return on investment as possible.

I’m not saying this is bad (or good). I’m just noting that if you want to get an insight into how the VC community really works, you might consider looking at the recording industry or movie industry for cues.

Just my 2 cents, and, of course, I could be completely off my rocker here.

We Can't Let Thousands of Local Newspapers Disappear ... Yang

I haven't really followed this guys campaign, but, I love the message he's got here. This is less than 5 minutes and it's deep...