Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Balckberry Connect for Treo available, but only for Cingular

The long-awaited BlackBerry Connect software is available for the Treo 650, but currently only for Cingular customers.

Come on Palm, let’s get that Sprint version out into the wild.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Do you hate phone trees?

I hate phone trees.  Bringo gets rid of phone trees for you by calling the 800 number of the company that where you are trying to reach a live person, getting a live person on the phone for you, calling you, and connecting the call.  I tried it today with United and it worked exceptionally well.


Universal Music + Spiral Frog = ?

Boing Boing seems to have the most details on the Spiral Frog service, though some details are still missing at this time.  Apparently Universal Music has signed on with Spiral Frog to deliver music from the Universal catalog and it is rumored that Spiral Frog is in discussions with other music labels.

Essentially Spiral Frog will offer an ad-supported music service, so instead of paying a monthly subscription like Napster, you will simply have to view advertisements in order to keep your downloaded, DRM’d tracks playing.  Details from Boing Boing:

Spiral Frog will offer a desktop downloader for Windows Media Files (no iPods!) that can be listened to on one PC and two portable devices. Here’s the kicker - you must log in to the Spiral Frog service at least once per month, and see their ads, or your files will stop playing!

Spiral Frog will also offer far more than just music, but also video and other digital content. The selling point here is that users will be able to access media legally, without the malware, bad network connections and pirate’s shame that comes from other online media sources.

Obviously the details listed above are not set in stone and probably will change once the service goes active.  No information is available yet on the bitrate for the audio, how long and/or how many ads you have to view, etc.

Spiral Frog’s site lists its launch date as December of 2006, which is interesting as it relates to the launch date of the Microsoft Zune media player and service although it is not yet entirely clear if the Zune player will support PlaysForSure-type subscription downloads.

Link — Boing Boing

Link — Spiral Frog


Russell Roberts pointed me to an article that he authored on incentives in which he uses gasoline as an example to explain the incentive system:

Thinking about how people respond to the incentive of the higher price opens up a world of possibility beyond the cold turkey of going without. When gasoline gets more expensive, some people car pool, some people drive at slower speeds, some try and combine multiple errands into one trip. Let the price of gasoline rise enough and be expected to stay higher for a long enough period of time and some people will buy a car that gets better mileage, move closer to work or postpone or cancel that order for the pleasure boat that takes $400 to fill its tank when gasoline is $3 a gallon.

There are some interesting conclusions and other interesting examples in the article that make it a worthwhile read; it is especially refreshing to see an economist delve into the world of non-monetary incentives after having taken so many classes where the economics professors use the phrase “everything else being equal” when explaining supply and demand.


T-Mobile At Home

Rumors have been around for a few weeks, but Gizmodo snagged some pictures of a beta tester’s T-Mobile At Home equipment.  Essentially T-Mobile At Home is a combination of a T-Mobile router for setting up a home wifi network and a “dual-mode” phone that can operate on both cellular and wifi networks.

Looking at some of the shots on Gizmodo, it appears the phone automatically connects to the cellular network when you are not in range of your home network or a T-Mobile Hotspot.  What is not clear is whether or not there is a clean hand-off from wifi to cellular should you walk out of range of a registered wifi network.  Further, it is not clear whether you can register any wifi network with the phone or if you have to use a network operating through the T-Mobile router.

It will be interesting to get some feedback from the beta testers.



FairUse4WM strips the Windows Media DRM . . . for now.  We’ve been here before: software strips DRM, user rejoice, DRM manufacturer changes algorithm and renders stripped tracks useless, DRM stripper programmer guys re-work stripping software around new algorithm, etc.

In any event, while it works, FairUse4WM, as the name implies, strips the DRM from Windows Media files, meaning that if you are signed up for Napster or some other similar service, you may be able to download a bunch of songs and keep them rather than just subscribe to them (not that I am condoning such a thing).

Engadget has tested it out and it seemed to work for them.

Link — FairUse4WM

Link — Engadget


I read about the Timestrips product on the [non]billable hour where Matthew conceives of using the product to organize stuff on your desk.  What are Timestrips?

Timestrips® are single-use, disposable, smart-labels, which automatically monitor lapsed time, ranging from under 1 day to 6 months.

In looking at the Timestrips site, it seems that all of the products are currently geared towards food service and health care.  I wonder if anyone from Timestrips is doing a search for their product on Technorati and realizing that bloggers are coming up with different implementations for their products.  Wait until those Getting Things Done fanboys start playing around with these things.

Link — the [non]billable hour

Link — Timestrips

Google suite for your domain

Like it or not (and there are a lot of people that are both sides of the issue), Google has released a suite of its products that will work on your domain.  Here’s where I net out on the issue:

I like Gmail and use it a lot.  If I had a domain behind which was a small business, and I wanted a very user-friendly e-mail program that all my employees could easily access, I’d probably go with the Google suite at this point in time.  The Google Calendar portion is nice, but still a little lacking in features; chances are that it will get better.  Google Talk is a nice bell/whistle for the other components, but not something that would be a deal breaker if it weren’t included.  It’s interesting to see that Google Spreadsheets and Writely are not currently included as part of the suite, but I guess the push right now really is “Gmail for your domain” and not “Google applications for your domain.”

You can’t beat the price.


Monday, August 28, 2006

AJAX front-end and network drive front-end for Amazon S3 service

Openfount has created an AJAX front-end for graphical Amazon S3 storage management.  I have only very basically played around with the Openfount product, but it is very cool and I like the fact that because it is written in AJAX, it is platform-independent.  For those note familiar with Amazon S3, it is a pay for what you use storage system hosted by Amazon with a simple pricing structure: $0.15 per month for each GB stored and $0.20 per GB transferred.  You can’t access Amazon S3 simply and directly, in fact it is designed with a very minimal base feature set, so products like the Openfount S3 Manager are required for people like me that do not want to have to hard code and/or use command line interfaces in order to interface with the S3 service.

If you look on the Amazon S3 Solutions page, you will see that there are a number of developers creating various different interfaces for interacting with the S3 services, but Openfount’s AJAX web interface seems to be one of the better, free, multi platform, web-based solutions.

I will say that Jungle Disk is another interesting, free, multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) front-end to S3, but Jungle Disk acts as an actual network drive, not a web-based access platform.  To be honest, it seems like it would be a good idea to use Jungle Disk on my machines at the home and office, and to use Openfount S3 Manager as the web-based access when traveling and not using my own computer.  Note that Jungle Disk has a pretty cool utility on their main page that will allow you to do an easy comparison between Amazon S3 pricing and other service pricing.

I’m planning on using both of these service to back up all of my data in the next few weeks, so I’ll let you know what my experiences are and eventually what my total storage cost winds up being.

Link — Openfount main page

Link — Openfount S3 Manager

Link — Jungle Disk

Link — Amazon S3

Link — Amazon S3 Solutions

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How will companies set up the same sort of web policies for cell phones?

If your company pays for your cell phone and data service, does that give them the same rights to monitor, filter, and even block web access?

This could be the next frontier in corporate IT management as smart phones get cheaper and mobile data service gets faster.

Like water for checked baggage

So today was my first time flying after the newly imposed TSA rules regarding no carriage of liquids, gels, etc. on airplanes.  I curb-checked my bag at DIA for $2, which saved me from having to go up on level from where I parked and back down one level to security.  It was interesting watching people in the security line that were removing things from their bags and either throwing them away or putting them in clear, plastic bags to check (wouldn’t you just check the whole bag at that point?) — I kept some contact lens eyedrops in my backpack, which earned me a secondary search of my bag.

On the other side of security all of the stores are still selling liquid and gel products (I wonder if those items go through special screening) and, while there were 2 TSA people at the gate doing random bag checks, there was nothing beyond that an announcement from the gate agent stating that liquids could not be brought on board.  What I did notice was a remarkable lack of carry-on luggage — those of us business travelers that would otherwise be carrying a rolling suitcase and computer bag were only carrying computer bags.  The race to get on the plane was as stupid as ever, which was interesting when the vast majority of the people boarding had only one bag that would easily fit under the seat in front of them. 

One very interesting thing that I noticed was that the flight attendants seemed to not be bound by the same restrictions — I saw one flight attendant with a cooler bag and all of the flight attendants that I saw had rolling bags that I assume also contained toiletries.  I wonder what kind of vetting process allows the flight attendants to be exempt from the rules; surely there are some business travelers that log as many air miles in a year as some flight attendants — I would be happy to go through the same vetting process in order to carry-on my toiletries and a bottle of water.

There’s a big opportunity right now for a company that wants to provide bottled water to airplane passengers.  Certainly with the decrease in carry-on luggage there is an abundance of bin space that could easily accommodate a few cases of bottled water.  Seems like a big opportunity for someone like Dasani or Aquafina or Arrowhead to get some goodwill points with a captive audience at very little cost relative to trying to traditionally advertise to the same group of people.

When I arrived in LAX it took me 45 minutes to retrieve my luggage — I had to get from LAX to Hollywood and had I been able to carry on my bag instead of check it, I would have been in Hollywood by the time my luggage finally shot down the carousel.  It seems to me that if the TSA is going to continue to regulate specific items to the point that a traveler has no choice but to check what would have been carry-on luggage, then the TSA and/or FAA needs to impose strict performance standards on airlines and airports regarding the rapidity of checked baggage service.

Does this mean that I will travel less?  Probably not yet, though it does make it exceedingly more inconvenient, especially for 2–3 day trips.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Blood Sweat & Tea

Blood Sweat & Tea is a book by Tom Reynolds who blogs about his daily experiences working as a EMT for the London Ambulance Service; the book consists of a collection of his blog posts dating back to 2003.  Most interesting about the book is that although it is available in a published, bound version, it is also available electronically under a pretty gracious Creative Commons license.  If you look carefully on the electronic site, where you can download a full version of the book in many electronic formats, a reader has already, under the terms of CC license, reformatted the book into an iPod-compatible version.

The future of publishing might be here now.

Link — BST main site

Link — BST electronic site

Comcast is out and Qwest is coming in

I gave Comcast one last chance to retain me as a customer after the horrible experience that I’ve had over the past week — I talked to an agent on Sunday who promised that a supervisor would call me on Sunday and I informed that agent that they had until 9AM on Monday to reach before I switched to Qwest.  After no call from Comcast, I went online with Qwest and set up the installation of my new DSL service.

DSL service from Qwest is $36.99 per month for the first 12 months, meaning I’ll save around $15 per month or $180 the first year versus the $52.95 I’m currently paying to Comcast.  Qwest’s online ordering tool couldn’t have been easier to use — it was so refreshing to be able to do everything online without having to talk to an agent, unlike my experiences with Comcast over the past week.

Qwest will be installing the DSL next Monday, which means that I will be without internet and Vonage service for another week; I only wish that I had signed up with Qwest when Comcast screwed up my first tech appointment.  It’s amazing how to me how much we used the internet at home — totally true what they say: you never realize how much you appreciate something until it’s gone.  I only hope that my TiVo downloaded enough program information to get me through the week.

If anyone’s looking for a Motorola (update) SURFBoard cable modem and Linksys Router, I’ve got them to sell pretty cheap, just send me an e-mail and I’ll give you the full model information and the price I’m selling them for.

Farecast now covers 55+ cities

It may still be beta, but Farecast is no providing data for 55+ cities — I’m going to be using this every time I travel.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Leopard server has fun features

All kinds of web 2.0 goodness in Leopard server:

  • Scheduling/calendar server
  • Podcasting production
  • Wiki server


Comcast service truths

So I’ve scheduled Comcast twice to fix the internet at my house — it’s now been down for a week.  Here’s the simple truth of how Comcast is scheduling service calls, which I was able to pry out of one of their people:

Due to high gas prices, Comcast dispatch is calling the number on your account prior to a technician visiting your house — if you do not answer the phone for Comcast, they leave you a message telling you that they have “missed you” and leaving you the main Comcast number to reschedule your appointment.

Here’s my story:

Last weekend I noticed that my cable modem was not “online” with Comcast; the “send” light was blinking, but I had no connection.  I followed the procedure for resetting my modem, had no success, so I called and scheduled a service appointment between 8AM and 10AM on Monday morning.  At 8AM, I opened my front door so that I could see the street and read a book on my couch that faces the street — by 10AM I had yet to see a Comcast vehicle.

At 10:05AM I called Comcast and was connected to an operator who looked at the notes and said that the service order was still open and that it was “weird” that I had not heard from a service tech.  The operator put out a call to the dispatch office, verified my cell phone number, and told me that I should hear from someone in 20 minutes.  Finally at 10:45AM I called Comcast back only to have the operator tell me that the notes in the record claimed that there was a service call at 8:32AM and they were unable to reach anyone, so I needed to reschedule; I explained that I had not seen a single Comcast vehicle in the last 2.5 hours and she had no explanation.  When I arrived at work, I had a voicemail on my work phone stating that they had missed me at 8:32AM (even though the message was left at 10:22AM) and gave me the main number to reschedule an appointment.

Yesterday I called Comcast to reschedule my service call and they gave me a window of 10AM to 12PM today.  I specifically asked the operator what phone number was in the file and she read my cell phone number back to me and told me that there were no other numbers in the file.  Once again, I left the front door open to view the street and never saw any Comcast vehicles.  Just in case, I called my office voicemail every 15 minutes, and at 11:45AM found that Comcast dispatch had called at 11:42AM, told me that they had “missed me,” and gave me the main number to reschedule.  My wife immediately called Comcast on her cell phone and I retrieved the caller ID number from my voicemail to call back — Comcast in Denver has their system configured to give (303) 248–4431 as their caller ID, which rings through to a disconnected line when you try to call it back.  I then called Comcast on my phone and sat on hold while my wife got someone on the phone and explained the story; the person that my wife called told her that the main number on my account was the office number and that my cell number was listed as secondary and that the notes showed that dispatch had called both numbers — my cell phone never rang.  It was that person that told my wife about the fact that due to gas prices, Comcast was only calling people, not actually showing up at addresses.  The person that I talked to told me that I needed to reschedule my appointment; when he checked my file, he told me that the only number on record was my cell phone.

I asked for a supervisor and after 15 minutes was connected to a supervisor that told me all she could do was reschedule on Monday to which I replied that I wanted a service discount and someone back out to the house in 30 minutes.  The supervisor told me that she had put in a discount, but that she could only guarantee that someone would be out some time today — it is now almost 7PM mountain time and I have yet to have a Comcast service tech show up at the house nor have I received a call from anyone, leading me to believe that it’s not going to happen today.

I’ll be signing up for Qwest naked DSL on Monday, which will not only save me around $20 per month, but also can be self-installed.

Future Comcast buyers beware.

Garage Prophet

Check out Garage Prophet, a recently launched social community for people working in the car racing community.  Appropriately the site includes forum discussions, blog posts, and pictures that have to do with car racing.  Although the site is accessible by the public, there is a private section that is only accessible by people working in the racing industry that have been verified — NASCAR License Numbers can be used to verify or a verification e-mail can be sent to the site administrator.

This is an excellent example of a niche-based social community site that provides both a public interface and a private community interface.


Sharpcast is compelling

Sharpcast allows you to synchronize photos across multiple machines and stores them online for you, which is an interesting service if you need that sort of thing.  More interesting is the underlying technology and how Sharpcast could apply it to things other than photos — think documents, PST files, and all kinds of other things that you might want synchronized and backed up online.

I will be very interested to see how they apply this technology to other things.


Anonymous web surfing from Sweden

Relakks provides anonymous web surfing by assigining you a different IP than the one provided by your ISP and opening a VPN connection between you and their server — all for just 5 Euro per month.

Interesting stuff, though the service is not entirely working due to money transaction processing problems and VPN server problems.


Who's your boss?

Seth Godin explores what a boss actually does for you and concludes with this:

The main thing a boss does, though, is give you the momentum you need to get through the stuff that takes perseverance.

If you don't have a boss, you may need to invent one.

Read Seth’s post for a more exhaustive list of what bosses do and, if you don’t have a boss, consider his last statement above about inventing one.



Web-based weight loss at no cost

Think social weight loss and fitness free of charge and you get traineo — check it out.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Can't access saved posts on Bloglines right now

This totally sucks — the interface is showing that I have saved posts, but when I click one of the folders, none of the saved posts actually show up.  Hopefully this is corrected quickly.

Cuban on bonuses

I pay bonuses based on the FINANCIAL success of the company first. If the company is making money. Actually cash flow positive, then Im always going to be open to paying bonuses that reward those that have earned rewards. If the company is making progress, but is not yet profitable, but on its way, then Im open to paying bonuses that are more in line with saying “thank you for sticking it out with me, together we are in the process of building a company.  When i make money, you will make money”.

As Cuban rightly points out, many employees walk around thinking that when they do great things that they should get a bonus, not realizing that they were hired to do great things and paid a salary to do great things.  Successful bonus programs frequently focus strictly on financial goals — EBITDA, sales targets, etc. — that provide positive cash flow and/or company profitability.  Further, successful, financially-based bonus programs allow employees to know the status of their bonus potential at any point during the bonus period (quarter, fiscal year, etc.) by allowing those employees access to the financial numbers that drive their particular bonus.  In an ideal world, doing great things leads to financial success or will lead to financial success, which should lead to bonuses.


Passport safety

Cool Tools posts about the “passport proxy,” which is essentially not much more than a color-laminated photocopy of your US passport that you can carry around with you while leaving your full passport securely locked in the safe at your hotel.  The US Passport Agency states that it is perfectly legal to make a color copy of your passport and Cool Tool reports much success in using their color copy.

Check out the post for more details.


MO List

Shawn Conahan over at Intercasting Corp has started up a forum for those interested in the mobile space — this is not anything that is run by Intercasting, rather:

All we need is a mobile industry mailing list. There are some closed lists and some blogs, but no open and free forum to discuss the mobile industry. So we registered a URL and set one up. It has nothing to do with our company and we have no agenda other than to create a forum because nobody else has done so. It is not limited to a particular topic or group or whatever. It is completely open and everyone who has an interest in the mobile space is invited.

Details on Shawn’s blog about how to join.


Apple Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off tomorrow at 10AM PST

Lots of speculation and now less than 24 hours to see what kind of new products will be announced.  Many of the tech and Mac blogs will be covering the even live, so range around the blogosphere after 10AM PST for pictures and live info.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's not just about phone exclusivity for carriers any more

Wireless carriers are powerful in related accessories: SanDisk has just released a 2GB microSD card that works in any device with a microSD slot, but you can only get it from Verizon Wireless for the first 60 days that it’s on the market.


Read the headline below:

Diamonds are no longer a girl's best friend, according to a new U.S. study that found three of four women would prefer a new plasma TV to a diamond necklace.

Is technology really telling that much of a better story and/or telling a better story to women?  Perhaps it’s the simplest explanation: diamonds aren’t telling a great story to a new generation of women.

Regardless of the cause, I don’t think that proposing to a woman by giving her a plasma instead of a diamond ring is going to win you any points.


Update: Seth Godin just wrote about the same thing and here’s what he concluded:

. . . I think it means that diamond necklaces are a lot less remarkable than they used to be.

Diamonds have no intrinsic value, just the totem value that comes from scarcity and social esteem. When those start to fade, the necklace itself is worth a lot less.

T-Mobile 5

What if you could pick 5 phone numbers anywhere in the United States (cellular regardless of carrier, land line, etc.) and make and receive calls to and from those lines for a flat monthly rate?  That’s the value proposition of T-Mobile’s “5” service.  Of course, there’s a little bit more to it as you are required to have a “5–compatible” phone in order to make the service work because the 5 people/numbers that you pick are constantly displayed on what would otherwise be the blank homescreen of your phone.  It is important to note that the service currently only supports unlimited voice communications between your 5 and does not include text messaging, picture messaging, or video messaging.  Currently 5 is being tested in San Diego and Portland.


Oh, and check out Shawn Conahan’s take on the whole 5 service and what it should/could become — quite an interesting read.

Least reliable luxury vehicles of 2006

Forbes has a list of the least reliable luxury vehicles of 2006 and here they are in no particular oder:

  • Range Rover
  • Land Rover LR3
  • Volkswagen Touareg
  • Saab 9–3
  • Lincoln Navigator

Results are based on Consumer Reports lowest predicted reliability scores and JD Power below average manufacturing quality scores.

All of this begs the question: Are people that purchase the vehicles above really purchasing them because they believe them to be reliable, or is it for another reason?