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


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.

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...