Friday, December 16, 2005


It may seem from my title that I am going to write about Blackberry's recent successes and setbacks reaching a resolution to the patent saga. Likely something will eventually be worked out, because it is both company's best interest to do so, so ignore the dire warnings that service may be stopped, etc.

However, this is an opportunity to think about how services and devices are tied to one another, and what the ramifications are of that.

Push email is Blackberry's killer app, and their devices mirror that functionality with the great thumb board, and an experience that makes reading and sending email a transparent experience.

The way that Blackberry does this is with their intermediate server technology, which talks between an email server and the device. Blackberry's initial technology for transporting data was using pager technology, and this infrastructure design betrays it's past. Now, it's moderately more sophisticated, but just moderately.

This is Blackberry's problem. They are a device manufacturer, they are a service provider, they are a software developer. They have a devoted following.

However, cell phones are getting smarter. The Treo is a decent replacement, and soon there will be devices that even more closely mirror the device functionality of the Blackberry, but do not need the Blackberry data service, since they will have sophisticated enough email clients, and fast enough data connections, where push email may be as quaint an idea as the pager itself.

The message here is only peripherally about Blackberry. It is really about the validity of open standards combined with services and devices. It becomes a marketplace of ideas, where people are able to choose what they want, with the service provider they want, and in turn, everyone has to innovate, focus on their customers, anticipate needs, keep costs reasonable.

This, I believe, may be Blackberry's biggest challenge. But it is really a challenge that not just faces businesses, but faces education as well.

More about that soon (really, I swear).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Casio VL Tone

I own several Casio musical instruments. As is consistent with my aesthetic, they are are cheap and easy to buy. Casio was a company that sold calculators, and began selling musical instruments. The VL Tone was one of their earliest efforts.

I was in college at the time, and I didn't have a lot of money. This thing came out, and it had the rudimentary abilty to program sounds into it. I wrapped my mind around that. I dabbled in music and noisemaking (ala Eno etc) as I do now. I had to have one.

It took a month for me to get the money together, but I bought one, many years ago, and I still have it. I think it and a guitar would be enough I had to get rid of everything else.

What triggered me to write about it now is that I have been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to create things. There used to be technological barriers, but many of those are dropping. Video production, as an example, is very inexpensive in terms of equipment. But it still takes a lot of time to create something that people will watch and enjoy.

I just finished a rough cut on a video project, ran into lots of little snags with Final Cut, but in the end, got it done. My estimate on how long it would take me to do it was way off. But at the same time, I had to again marvel at what I could do -- editing a video project at the kitchen table.

The Casio VL Tone was/is brilliant in that it is an utterly approachable and affordable instrument that allowed just enough depth to allow some mastery. Beyond playing a song reasonably well, I could change the way it worked in ways that were interesting enough that I never really tired of it. It encouraged experimentation, within it's modest limitations.

Casio went on to make some other remarkable instruments, such as the SK-1 and SK-5 sampling keyboards. These are equally remarkable and creative as the lowly VL Tone. I have these as well. The VL Tone is special, though, because at the time it came out, the walkman was the device du jour. The VL Tone was sort of an extension of it, but in a way, the antithesis. Instead of listening to music, you could create it yourself. And you didn't have to be a musician to do it -- no one would judge with the headphones on.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Media Distribution 4 All

We return once again to the mantra that media distribution systems are changing, changing, changing. A few more data points:

People will buy when they sense that they are getting a good deal. Witness Apple selling a ton of videos in a very short time. It was a cheap experiment for Apple, to gauge demand. There have been few complaints about the quality of the video. Ironcially, while many online writers assumed that consumers wanted higher resolution, the 320x240 frame size that Apple is using is more than adequate for content. The resolution is not that far removed from a conventional resolution television set. Content on broadcast TV is still produced in a way that assumes lower resolution, not higher resolution, because that is the lowest common denominator.

Broadcasters are in an uneasy position where they may want to take part in this revolution, but their relationships with local television stations will be put at odds. Still, there are some bright spots, outside of Apple's partnership. NBC is going to make their Nightly newscast available online soon -- albeit delayed until 10 pm. My guess is that they won't make it downloadable, it will be tied to a personal computer, where they will have more opportunity to push advertising. Due to their partnership with Microsoft, it will be in Windows Media format.

This all sounds progressive and such, but I have remind again that the CBC has been doing this for some time, as have others. The CBC, in fact, airs many of their regional news programs -- want to find out what's up in Yellowknife?

I would encourage NBC to take the logical step, which is make their news programs downloadable in MPEG-4, so that people can watch them at their leisure. It will surely upset some people, but others will understand that this is a new viewership that would otherwise not watch their newscast -- an additional opportunity to sell advertising, perhaps.

The pace will accelerate now -- the video iPod and the Sony PSP (to a lesser degree) will fuel that. It will be a struggle -- a struggle for content distribution models, DRM vs. Free Access, who pays for programming.

It will also be a big opportunity for people to leverage this as new ways to distribute content, the rise of narrowcasting for all perhaps. Startups like Open Media Network and Our Media are examples of groups exploring the ways that digital media can be used to "get the messsage out". Who knows? It really still boils down to how many people you can get to watch your stuff, but for a while at least the playing field is more or less level. It is an exciting time.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Just in Time for 99 cents

One wonderful aspect of the internet is that you can think you are predicting the future, and suddenly discover that someone has already invented it.

Want to know how to iron a shirt? Now? And all you have is a cell phone? No problem.

Unfortunately just Windows Mobile can play this stuff back, but if you go to their web site you will discover that Take Five even captions a fair amount of their content -- but again -- you have to use Windows Media player to play it back.

Expect to see much more of this. Readers Digest "Home Repair Series", ESPN "How to play Golf", whatever. Bunch of different business models (integrated advertising, symbiotic advertising, outright purchase, free).


Thursday, October 20, 2005


I have been thinking a lot about the Nokia 770. It is so counter-intuitive. Why would a cell phone manufacturer decide to make a non-cell phone tablet? The PDA market is not that great, and while tablepc sales are holding on, they are very much the minority.

The reason for the Nokia 770 is simple, after all. The idea is that UI can be tied to a device, the way it is to be used. However, with bluetooth, it is possible to build symbiotic relationships between devices that enhance the functionality of each.

The 770 has wifi, but with a Nokia phone, you have networking anywhere you have a signal. The phone does not have to be a "smart phone" design that compromises user experience to jam in a keyboard. It can really just be a phone. With the 770, though, the user has a way to modify information on the phone, make better use of common features such as SMS. I am sure some clever person will have their bluetooth equipped handset making SIP calls via the 770's wifi.

I think it's a great idea.


Just in Time Revisited

Just in time training was the idea that the internet would provide opportunities to learn when the student needed to know. That has turned out to be quite true, but I suggest that we are on the verge of an explosion of ways to make this type of training available.

Tonight while cooking dinner I thought of the process that would be needed to create a enhanced podcast that would show someone how to make a simple dish -- in the case, fried porkchops with milk gravy.

A series of stills would work, combined with a script that would be narrated. This could be adequate to show someone who was not really a cook how to do this, in a way that would be much more immediate than a cookbook.

Okay, this is pretty boring, an enhanced podcast. I guess what I am getting at is the ubuiquitous nature of a video playback device, with a simple way to locate and retrieve content, that is not tied to a single company (or any company). You can take it with you.

So we now have the video iPod. It's not that big a thing, but in a way it is. It supports open file formats, as well as it's own DRM content. It is funny in a way that Apple has kind of beaten Sony to the punch. The PSP has been capable of being used in a similar way, but Sony hasn't taken advantage of that yet. You can put content on your PSP, but Apple has done it right, filling in the holes. It is not a technology thing -- it is an understanding of how people expect devices to work. I have a Sony PSP, and rarely use it.

So -- the resolution is adequate on the video iPod, the specs are nice. It is what it will do to the acceleration of downloadable video content that is important.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Palm introduces new models and no one cares

I will be accused of fixing history, but I have reedited this, because when I first wrote this, I had just come from a meeting with a faculty member that had bought 16 Palms, and was having difficulty with a few of them. One she has sent back twice now -- the problem with it is that it will not power up. Never has.

I am concerned about Palm because I greatly admired the industrial design and ui of the original model. I have continued to find inspiration in the early versions of the Palm interface.

For some time, a bit after the Treo came out, it became clear that this is likely the direction Palm should go in, even to the point of abandoning, or greatly reducing, the number of Palms they sell. In a way, Palm reminds me now of Apple in the years of the Centra. For those that are not Apple followers, the Centra was version of their line designed for low-cost, the education market. They were redundant models of models they sold for "pro" and home use. It was crazy -- the same model under different names. I guess it made sense for cars, but it just confused customers, and cost Apple money.

No one wants a $99.00 pda. Wifi on a handheld, with a digital camera, and video support. Sony had that a couple of years ago, before they abandoned the Palm.

They have broken the elegantly simple palm interface. What is with the damned buttonbar at the bottom? Is it supposed to be a dock or something? It is annoying -- I would guess I can turn it off, but I shouldn't need to, because it really got in the way. I watched new users puzzle with it for a while, and accidentally triggering stuff at times.

I spent some time with a Tungsten T5 recently -- and was offered one to keep for testing. After a week, I gave it back. It is like they threw away their own style guide, plus the wireless operation was unstable -- I don't ever remember having to reset a palm so often. No one wants that.

So - perhaps a nicer ending this time. What I would do to fix palm. Ditch all current palm models except for three, and the lowest would not the the $99.00 palm, but the non-wifi model with a camera. Have a new Treo model that forgoes the keyboard, is a flip phone for $199.00 with a contract. The idea is that this becomes more like Nokia Series 60 models, using a pretty, color version of the old palm interface, only input via keypad, but able to use palm data, play back media, etc. That would put a palm os phone in many more people's hands, and would make many palm developers very happy.



Video iPod

I guess it is mandantory for me to spend a couple of minutes talking about the video ipod. Some quick bulletted points:

1. Follows almost the same model as existing iTunes strategy, with the key difference being that owners of DVD content cannot use iTunes to rip their DVD's to mpeg-4 for playback. There are plenty of solutions for doing this -- but I think it is good for Apple to think of how they can add that capability to iTunes. I could convert audio cd's to mp3 before iTunes, but once I had it, I pretty much abandoned all other methods.

2. The video ipod will not just leverage apple's investment in iTunes and the online store, but the rise of other content distribution systems, most importantly podcasting. The problem with any new device is content, and Apple has plenty available. If I was a traditional broadcaster dabbling in audio podcasting, I would jump to video immediately, even selling advertising time in podcasted video content. You do not have to partner with Apple to do this, which is critical.

3. Content creators will be challenged to create content for small screens. There will folks who actually shoot and construct content specifically for the form factor. Animation will be particularly popular on this device. Flash support (perhaps Flashlite) would be fantastic.

4. The hardware in this device is different that previous iPods. We will know how different in a few days when someone takes one apart. My guess is that true to Apple, there will be features of the hardware that Apple with either choose to not support, or will unlock at a later date.

5. Recording dock for iPod? Video in and out with timer, tuner. Stay tuned.

6. The video ipod is almost a freebie for Apple. The hardware cost is probably about the same, they got a slimmer player with better battery life and a nicer screen. That would have been news enough. The video support comes along for the ride. Apple can guage utility and customer reaction, and depending on that, release a model with better resolution, more storage, 802.11n, whatever depending on what customers say.

7. The video iPod is a way for them to fine-tune their online purchase video standard. It is no accident that the iMac was announced at the same time, and that the iMac has a remote and a 10 foot interface. Expect to see a living room solution soon. My guess a slightly different version of the remote (bluetooth instead of IR) with an upgraded Mac mini more suitable for recording and playing back HDTV content, using iTunes as the content manager and network video player. With bonjour you can buy more of these things, put on in your bedroom, and suddenly it sees the content on other devices in your home -- no necessarily just Macs (think Intel's unpnp initiative).

Ahhh........I have a 20 GB ipod with accessories for sale. I think it is a white 60 gb for me, because while the black is sexy cool, it shows scratches like crazy.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Carnival of Souls in Public Domain has added "Carnival of Souls" to it's collection.

If you have never seen it, and enjoy subtly scary movies ala Twilight Zone, then you should see it.

I love


Friday, September 02, 2005

Why the iPod Phone?

A friend left a message on my answering machine last night. He had been getting caught up in Slashdot, and ran across the flurry of postings earlier this week on long-in-coming fruit of motorola and apple's partnership to develop a cell phone that can play back music from Apple's iTunes music store.

His question was a simple one, which is the title of this entry, Why? What's the big deal?

I am not as interested in speculating about this upcoming device, as I am in examining why it is that there is so much interest in this product.

First, I think people are mostly not happy with their cell phones. They use them, and manage perhaps to figure out a few things that their phones can do. But clearly, there is a lot of functionality in most cell phones that people ignore -- either because there is little need, or more importantly, because the functionality is buried in a bad user interface or implementation.

The expectation is that Apple will wave a magic wand and fix this; they will create a cell phone that has the same UI magic as the iPod. There were plenty of mp3 players on the market before the iPod. However, it was Apple that gave users the whole package; not just a good mp3 player, but an excellent desktop tool to manage content. In comparing the iPod to Dell's DJ for instance, the DJ is not a bad MP3 player at all. However, the software that ships with the Dell DJ, MusicMatch, was quite buggy and harder to use than iTunes. It took a potentially good user experience and made it frustrating. I continually find it surprising that portable media player manufacturers fail to recognize that.

Secondly, an iPod phone shifts control on content away from the wireless provider to the owner and other content providers. Wireless providers would like to control the ability to move data and applications to and from the phone, because it is a potential revenue stream for them. An iPod phone would of course sync to iTunes, and a user's music library. This cuts out the wireless provider from providing their own music service.

The third reason has to with status. This I think is of limited value, but it is the sense that an Apple phone will somehow be more special than other phones on the market. The iPod's snowball success is only partially related to the fact that Apple has delivered a superior product; it is also the buzz generated that spills over to people who spend very little time worrying about OGG-Vorbis support, etc. Apple's iPod has achieved iconic status, and the expectation is perhaps that Apple's iTunes phone will achieve something similar.

I really don't what this device will look or behave like when we see it. My expectations are that it will be a somewhat conventional Motorola phone with a somewhat nicer interface, hardware and software wise, and integrated music player support. It will have a card slot so that users can add more storage. It will support all the formats that Apple's iPod supports -- specifically, the Photo iPod's support for enhanced Podcasts and images. Beyond that -- who knows.

My guess is that will will know more by the end of the day on the 7th of September.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Learning Wrong

I am back in school, still shopping around for a master's program. I think a lot about a Master of Arts degree. Currently I am signed up for a overview course on Technical Instruction, which has it's roots in things like shop, industrial training and even computer training. I think it will help me with my job, and may give me more perspective on how people learn.

We have to write a research paper during this semester, and I think I may have already picked my subject. It's titled "Learning Wrong: blah blah blah" -- okay, seriously haven't fleshed it all out yet.

Essentially, it has to do with how to approach technology and how it can be utilized. In training on how to use a lathe -- there is a specific set of learning objectives, some of which are necessary to prevent ruining the equipment or the person using it.

However, when technology is being created so quickly that it is hard to define a "right way" to use it, interesting things happen. I recommend watching this video, even if you don't care about or even despise electronic music. Also, a warning -- you have to deal with a few minutes of blah blah blah pseudo-academic talk before you get to the story itself. It is a story that any teacher that uses technology should hear.

Nate Harrison discusses a music device made by Roland that was designed to take the place of a bass player for practice. It used an interface that was completely foreign to it's intended audience, which were guitar players. The manual included lessons on how to use the device, and admonitions to not give up. Still, it was hard for some to use, and it was taken off the market after mediocre sales.

Fast forward 10 years, and people with little money but a lot of creativity are finding these things in pawn shops, etc. Not knowing a "right" way to use the device, new ways are invented to use it as a composition tool. It helps fuel a whole sub-genre of music. It is a irony that software that is a model of the device has been available for a while (Rebirth), but chooses to have it use the same interface as the physical box onscreen, with multiple knobs and an arcane interface.

We have to see technology for what it is at times. It is a creation of us, and it can be shaped by us. Part of creation is defying reason, to break through to a new reason. Sometimes we only see opportunities that we are trained to see.

This may not necessarily mean a free-for-all, because a instructor may have already tried many of these approaches themselves. They can act as a guide, but may have to let students find their own logic. At the same time, setting up an environment of possibilities to be explored can mean that they have to accept that the outcome may be different than expected.

Usually, I am a lot more clear about what I have to say here. I need to think this through more. I think there is a lesson that can be learned from the TB-303.


Thursday, August 11, 2005


Just a little whiff of brimstone here......remember, the Catholics have it right, there are multiple levels of hell.

Electronic content vs. Books. I won't go there. Each has it's advantages. I would prefer for book publishers to make both available, and indeed, that is what some publishers have done.

My gut reaction is that DRM is a bad thing (more on that later) but we may be stuck with it for a while. Bear with me here.

Perhaps DRM is not necessarily bad, but we are working from an extreme position right now. I have focused a lot on digital media (video, audio, software) DRM, because this is the area in which it most likely to be commonplace.

As an example, if we had a video/audio DRM that allowed people to make copies, but didn't let them edit, would that be acceptable? For advertising supported video and audio content -- I would say absolutely. It would not break a business model where content is advertising supported, but would also not prevent users from doing what they are able to do now with older technology, which is record a show onto VHS tape, and share it with their friends. If you want the version without commercials, you could buy that as well.

Now -- let's think what this would mean for advertisers. P2P would suddenly be much better than regular broadcast. Advertisers would like it, because more potential viewers would see their ads, although certainly you could skip through them. Perhaps do what europeans have done, which is put ads at the beginning and end of a program, interspersed with brief cartoons to keep viewer's interest.

However, companies don't often see it that way. Let's enter the strange world of the Sony PSP for a moment.

This is a very powerful consumer media playback device and game system that is sold at a reasonable cost, perhaps for right around what it costs Sony to make it. This is because Sony will make it's money on software that runs on the device. has a memory card slot, so it could be that developers could write their own software to run on this device. So, Sony has to add software to prevent that from happening. Which is promptly broken by an active developer community. Which is then fixed by Sony. Which is then broken again.

So -- we have a device that someone purchases, but if they use it in a way that the manufacturer doesn't want to them to use it, they may be in violation of their end user agreement. Hunh? may be that when you break the seal on your Sony PSP, and turn it on, that you are greeted with a request to agree to not to use software to circumvent copy protection software on the device, and unauthorized software execution may constitute a violation of that agreement. Will anyone get prosecuted for this? Of course not.

But, it does mean that we have entered an era where something that we buy may not entirely be ours to do whatever we want with it. If this sounds far-fetched, it is not. Someone has indeed been prosecuted for selling hardware that circumvented the DRM on Microsoft's Xbox in Australia. They were not necessarily advocating piracy (although there are plenty of cases where people where justifiably prosecuted for doing just that).

The irony for Sony is that they make it easy for consumers to put other types of content on their PSP -- pictures, MP3's, even movies. They even shipped a new firmware update (the PSP has 802.11b, and can be upgraded over the network) which fixed holes in their copy protection, but also gave users a nice web browser, and support for better video codecs (h264 mpeg-4, to be exact). It is almost as if one hand doesn't know what the other is doing.

We are upset about DRM because it takes away abilities that we previously had. The textbook example is easy to get upset about, because we have had books for hundreds of years. For a long time knowledge access was a class thing (are you wealthy enough to own books), but the public library changed that, the printing press changed that. Now the internet has turned publishing upside down, as the very business/distribution model is challenged by one that has much fewer impediments.

So we live in strange times right now. Pushing back against extreme DRM positions by not buying, seeking out solutions that are more reasonable is a good start. To some extent, the marketplace will decide. There were music download services before Apple, but Apple took a more moderate approach to DRM than anyone else, and tied it to a great user experience. It is my feeling that book publishers have not done that yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dead Books

Remember a month or two back, about the public school that decided to move to all electronic content via laptops? One of the comments that was generated was that the "book publishers wouldn't like this".

Far from it. I am betting that the book publishers were in fact a part of the deal.

Academic book publishers have been busy reinventing themselves over the last few years. I remember meeting with a faculty member on a project we had both worked on, where the publisher was interested in bundling our content with their book. I kind of felt that things were backwards, as our imagery was of better quality than what is contained in most text books.

Book publishers are now into lots of things, such as competency testing for students using their content. The biggest proponent of room clickers? Book publishers who seek to bundle their courseware content with instant assessment systems.

The reason is not just to remain relevant "in this electronic age", it also to figure out ways to make more money on the content that they own. The problem with books is that they don't spoil. For the most part, content in a Harbrace from 15 years ago is still relevant, although the order of the pages may be shuffled from one year to the next.

The ultimate solution is to abandon books and go to electronic publishing means. It cost less for the publisher, but of course over the long term may cost more for schools, because you can add DRM, which in one small step changes the way we treat published content in a major way. With the onset of high resolution digital ink devices (such as Sony's Librie), it's possible to have an experience that offers many of the advantages of a book, but the ability to prevent people from viewing the content they paid for, after the expiration date has passed.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Konfabulator and Widgets - Secret Revolution

Konfabulator's sale to Yahoo could be seen as a happy ending to a story about a little software company that had it's best idea appropriated by a larger company, but still came out fine. I ran Konfabulator for a while on my Mac, and while I barely make use of Dashboard now, I have to admit it is a handy thing to have.

The thing that strikes me about Dashboard and Konfabulator is that both have all the markings of a little revolution, similar to what happened with Flash. Flash started life as a very simple but nifty vector animation program, grew a whole API, and is become a geniune development platform. Now we have kid's edutainment devices that run Flash.

Yahoo! bought Konfabulator because they wanted more ways for their audience to be able to use their services. That includes, for now, Windows and Macs.

These applications take what was once web delivered data, and breaks it out into sub applications that work on the desktop. It breaks out of the browser dominated paradigm (the internet is more than a web browser). Just like the struggle with the desktop OS transition to mobile devices, the widget neatly breaks that up for the user, and at the same time offers additional opportunities for Yahoo.

What strikes me about widgets is how perfect they are for mobile applications, network delivered or not. They are simple and focused (at their best). They do one thing well. The best ones are lightweight, not sucking lots of resources in the background. They use fairly common technology, so anyone can play -- just a little xml, javascript and perhaps just a little magic.

I have to wonder about this. I have to wonder if Yahoo saw something beyond the desktop widgets, and saw an opportunity to take their data resources in a totally new direction.

I'm back

Back after a hiatus. I finished my part on a chapter on QT based Learning Objects (took a week) and afterwards took a break. Hope you missed me ;-)

Lots to catch up on........

Monday, July 04, 2005

CBC on the 4th

I have just spent the weekend doing domestic things around the house. One of the things that I did was catch up on watching the CBC.

The CBC puts their nightly newscasts online for people to watch. I wish they didn't use RealMedia to encode with (I would prefer mpeg-4), but the quality is surprisingly good. So, I actually make it a point to watch the evening news in Canada, although it is a day behind.

I should explain that I am not Canadian. My parents are not Canadian. I have only been to Canada a few times. I live in the southern US, so it's not a quick hop over the border.

Why I watch the news in Canada is for many reasons. The main reason is that I often do not have time to watch the US evening news here. Secondary is war coverage. Finally, there is the simple reason that I think it's the right way to do it.

I can imagine a time soon where one of the traditional broadcast networks here makes the leap. I just popped into a few broadcast sites (which I never do otherwise). I found ABC News "World News Tonight".

Well -- just what the doctor ordered! The ability to watch the evening news when I want. I click on the link, get a request to download a smil file, which I load into RealPlayer. It loads a window, and another window, then finally a big window that offers to let my try ABC News On Demand, for only $4.95 a month.

I close that window, and discover another behind it that looks like the web page that launched this little adventure. One half of this window is advertising. I click on the link again, and it spawns the three same windows. I then figure out that the smallest of the three is the one that actually will launch the stream, and ignore the other two. I click the link......and finally get an error that I must be having network difficulties.

Let's ignore the technical problems. After all, I am using a Mac, and using FireFox as my web browser. Maybe that is it.

Instead, let's look at the contrast. CBC: Click on link, watch video. ABCNews: Click on link, get three pop-up windows full of advertising, one of which is advertising for their own live streaming news service.

The CBC broadcast does include ads, but they are non-obtrusive to me. Here in the US, our broadcast news is advertising supported to the point where the advertising is as important as the news. Certainly this little example makes that clear to me.

Even the PBS's online efforts are weak. Some stations such as WGBH in Boston used to offer some of their programming (and I think even a live stream) at some point in the past, but not now. Just a few podcasts.

Are we at the twilight of news coverage that has a vestige of impartiality, that is not consumed by commercial interests? At least it appears that way when we look at the internet.

Or maybe it is something else, and that broadcasting as we know it is trapped by it's technology and implementation. It costs money to run a broadcast station. It cost much less money to just stream content.

In any case, I am pondering this on our 4th. Who will originate those streams? Will the government be involved, either as a regulating entity (shudder) or as a participant? What can we learn from what the CBC, and it's parent model, the BBC, does?

The reason I focus on this is that while there is much focus on podcasting, and the romantic idea of a lone voice in front of a mike, the reality is that what we want is to hear the professionals talk. The smart guys. The ones who can produce content that is clever and well done. The broadcasters know how to do this, but they seem to be late to the party.

Happy 4th.

Monday, June 27, 2005

What's on my NGage?

Russell Beattie did this a couple of weeks back, and since I just had someone write me for recommendations for apps for their shiny new Series 60 phone, I did a quick catalog of what's on my phone.

I use a NGage QD. Overall, I like it, but probably not for the reasons that Nokia would like me to like it. As a gaming device, it is not terrible, but suffers in comparison to the Gameboy Advance, DS or PSP. Nintendo's announced Gameboy Advance Micro shows that a cell phone sized gaming system could work -- as long as there are titles to drive it.

As a data-centric phone, though, it has a fairly high bang-for-buck ratio. I bought it because the price was in line with what a student would pay; $99.00 with a one year contract. The screen is nice, the big joypad makes navigating around in web pages really easy. It supports IMAP and POP mail right out of the box. It has support for external memory, which allows you to stick a bunch of applications on the phone. It has bluetooth, and works great with my Mac. It as a lot of application support, since it is a series-60 phone.

I am, however, shopping for a replacement. I will get another series-60 phone, but one with a camera, maybe the N90 or the 6680. I have noticed that prices for used P900's has dropped a bit on ebay as well.

So, here's what's on my phone:

Putty for Series 60 -- just installed this a few days ago. It appears to work quite well.

AgileMessenger -- don't use this much, but it's a free AIM client.

Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard Driver: The best accessory I have bought for my phone. After getting this, I not longer needed a PDA.

NetFront Web Browser -- It is close whether NetFront or Opera is better. It is probably the most often used application on my phone.

PicoDrive Genesis Emulator: No audio, a little slow, but playable, and it's free.

Helix Media Player (RealPlayer): Plays mp3's, some mpeg-4 and 3gpp content. Of particular note is that it supports rtsp: streaming.

PVPlayer: A commercial video player -- little better mpeg-4 support, but 3gpp support is a little buggy, it loses audio sync with longer files (15 minutes or longer).

Nokia's SyncML Client: Just in case we get SyncML running on Oracle Collab server soon.

Salling Clicker: I bought this right after getting the phone, but rarely use it. I was thinking about ways to do room control via a cell phone, and have decided that for my needs a web or flash interface is probably better. The powerpoint presenter mode is pretty cool, though.

: IMAP mail client for Symbian. I am on the fence about paying for it since I can use Pine via Putty. It's quite full featured.

Wideray Jack Browser
: The browser that ships the WideRay. We are in the process of deploying one for testing on campus. It is sort of a a Internet caching applicance; you send content (html, images) and applications to the device via their content manager, where it can be downloaded via bluetooth or IR to PDA's (palm and pocketpc) as well as many cell phones.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

stop yur micronchimps and lurn!

The Chronicle: 6/24/2005: Professors, Stop Your Microchips

We know from talking with k-12 instructors that "computer classrooms" often don't work in the way they are intended to work. I would extend the argument to include "laptop powered initiatives" where the faculty is not prepared to compete with wireless access to the internet. Essentially, an hour in class becomes a channel surfing experience......if what is on in front of me is not interesting, I will "change the channel" to email, surfing the web, etc.

There is quite a bit of research in education on what I call "discontinuous messaging". Essentially, instead of educational elements (talking before the class, using the blackboard/whiteboard/visual presenter, etc) working together to reinforce and build knowledge, these elements actually work as distractors. PowerPoint slides or Instructor? Which is more important? This is what the author is complaining about; that technology integrated poorly acts as a distractor instead of aiding in learning.

Classroom time is not treated as what it really is -- access to an expert that is going to guide the students learning experience. For the student to truly experience learning, it has to be active -- the student has to participate. This does not mean that everyone *must* do buzzword compliant endeavors such as "team learning" or "game theory based learning". It does not mean that every student must have a PDA or Laptop. It does not mean the instructor has to entertain.

Education is tough to quantify, despite our best efforts to apply principles of mass-production to teaching. Teaching doesn't scale. Education is profoundly expensive when done well. It is not necessarily expensive in terms of equipment or software. It is expensive in terms of time -- time that students, staff and faculty must commit to making it a meaningful experience. Money does not mean much when we are talking about hours and days of someone's life they will never get back.

We have tried for the last 150 years to apply the lessons learned in mass production to teaching, and we are finding that it often doesn't work. Given a choice between a computer lab and smaller classes, we opt for the computer lab, reasoning that the computer lab will offer enriched learning opportunities, but will also allow us to teach more students, give us "standards based learning" and "individualized instruction".

But blaming technology misses the point. Blaming the internet misses the point. Blaming a freakin' spell checker misses the point. The world is as it is. Pretending that these technologies don't exist is fruitless. It is akin to complaining about student's handwriting skills diminishing because they have typewriters. Instead of complaining that students don't use the library, spend time teaching students to be critical consumers of information, whether it be in a library, or on the internet at large -- which for many people, is becoming the library's replacement.

I posted a news item to our Mac user's list a few days ago, and challenged people to read it as if it was an assignment for freshmen english. It was because the story was most probably "fake news", something that is becoming quite commonplace, particularly on television, but also in other information channels we used to trust implicitly. If we are not able to teach critical skills required to analyze information, we are hopelessly lost. Fake News is such a big problem that the head of the FCC spoke about it to a room full of broadcasters a while back, warning that the FCC will begin cracking down on the worst offenders (insert your own cynical aside here). I am very much concerned that we are raising a generation of citizens that won't be able to tell Fake News from Real News.

So -- I disagree with the the author's admonition that we turn off our laptops. I say just the opposite -- use them, but use them in ways that challenge students to think. Don't do web quests that end up being a list of links -- have students construct knowledge. They won't like it -- because there are no shortcuts here. There are no tools that can neatly format internalized knowledge. There is only ourselves.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Apple's Accessibility Voice

Just got out of a "Making Your Application Accessible" session here at Apple's WWDC. It was okay, admittedly I am not much of a programmer. I did go to the python session earlier today, and I have to say that I think it would be a good language to teach kids how to program -- which means it might suit me as well ;-)

It's good to see that Apple is addressing accessiblity -- although they use the section 508 stick to motivate -- I prefer the carrot of building a next generation user experience -- where screen dominated interaction may be just one way to work with a device.

Speech synthesis is still one of the weak links in their scheme to make Apple the premiere platform for accessibility. If you don't know what I mean, I suggest seeking out someone who is using JAWS on a PC and spend some time with them. In all the examples Apple shows for accessibility they have the speech sythesis set at a "normal" speed. But that is not how many visually impaired people use a computer -- the speech is typically sped up considerably -- it almost borders on gibberish -- as I dicovered the first time I worked with a student that works for us -- who is a gifted programmer, very computer savvy -- and visually impaired.

Speeding up speech synthesis on a Mac gives you clipped phonemes -- speech gets mangled to the point where you can't understand what is being said. Go try it for yourself -- go to Preferences, go to Speech, and turn speed up to maybe 3/4 to maximum -- and now open some text in text edit and have it read to you. Now, turn it down to midway and play the same text. Now, turn it up to maximum. It clips phonemes.

Cepstral has voices for the Mac that sound much better. I have David installed on my workstation, but unfortunately not on my laptop here. It is not flawless -- but a noticable improvement.

There are open source efforts such as Festival that show some promise. Perhaps it would be good for Apple to get behind one of these and adopt it for the Mac.

I think this illustrates the problem with accessible efforts for programmmers are fresh to the issues of accessibility. I really believe that Apple is intent on doing the right thing, but they simply didn't recognize the way that computer savvy visually impaired folks use a computer. I know that I didn't see Apple speech synthesis as a problem until I actually worked with our student programmer. Now, I am beginning to learn what to look for. It is not enough to just turn off the monitor and try to navigate -- everyone (visually impaired or not) wants a computer interface that is quick, easy to use and just allows them to get their work done.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


I just finished lunch at the Moscone center here at Apple's Worldwide Developer's conference in San Francisco. We were given a choice between a bag lunch or a vegetarian hot buffet. Everyone was in a sort of daze, due to either jet lag or the after effects of Steve Jobs reality distortion field, where it is now okay to like Intel processors. The vegetarian fare was a festival of carbohydrates. The bag lunch was a big wad of bread with a wad of meat in the middle. I am unable to find any kind of literary parallel between lunch and the keynote right now.

Before the address, I had talked briefly with someone at Adobe, who had pointed out that it would be great if Apple moved to Intel architecture, as it would help them develop a more common code base for their development. I think there may be a few people who are thinking this way.

Everyone has their own explanation for why Apple is moving to Intel. I think it isn't as simple as one or two bulleted items. There are a lot of little reasons.

An apple engineer yesterday belabored the megahertz myth scenario, where people were still picking computers based on the clock speed. Apple has yet to break 3 ghz in a desktop machine. I believe that people are becoming savvy enough that they understand themselves that there are other things as important as the clock speed of the machine. Features, aesthetics, size, cost. These are all things that are important as we quit thinking of desktop computers as calculation engines and more as appliances that do stuff.

While high-end processing can give you chest thumping rights, the reality is that the majority of Apple's sales are in the laptop market, and this is where the gap is really showing. Apple's laptops are not just being surpassed in terms of processor performance, but in a much more important area -- power consumption.

While Apple makes very nice laptops, there are even nicer ones out there. Everyone is coming out with sub-3 pound laptops, but Apple. Apple can't because they do not have a processor that can compete in that arena. Now they do.

That is the numero uno reason I can think of at the moment. Steve Jobs even had a slide illustrating the ratio of power consumption to performance between the PowerPC and Intel line. I know this has some impact on the desktop market, but the desktop market is shrinking.

Everette and I are speculating what the first Apple intel box will be . He thinks it will be the Mac mini. I think it will be a desktop, followed quickly (if not simultaneously) by a Intel powered laptop. This will happen very quickly. The intent is to migrate over a two year period, but I think we will see Intel powered Macs for the masses somewhere around MacWorld 2006 in San Francisco.

Apple's fortunes have been on a slow climb over the last two years. I think they actually have a chance to double their market share. Keep in mind though, in the grand scheme of things, Apple and Microsoft are battling for a market that is in itself going to be challenged by the rise of cheap information appliances -- ie cell phones, Tivo, game systems etc. But again, this announcement paves the way for Apple to be completely free of attachment to a single line of processor, whether is be Intel, IBM, AMD or whatever.

Friday, June 03, 2005

browse Live_ASCII_Streaming

Read about Ascii Streaming

It's Friday, I am trying to finish up a million things before going to San Fransciso and Apple's WWDC. I have the schedule here somewhere and it looks like there are a few sessions on mobile development with Apple's tools.

I ran across this while looking for something else, as is always the case. I know it is really old news, but again, it's Friday, and I haven't posted anything in a week.

Note in the last paragraph the "portability and playing on handheld devices". Using a Dynebolic selfboot CD, you could turn any PC with a WinTV card into a little streaming server. Yes, it is streaming ACSII, so any browser can see it, including a cell phone browser. It is cruddy resolution, but that may be it's charm.

It did get me to thinking, though. I just bought a Vbrick mpeg-4 encoder, which is essentially a Un*X flavor box with video encoding hardware, which is remotely manageable. I have seen Linux distributions that turn a PC into a HTPC, but I have not seen one yet that turn a PC into a remotely manageable (complete with web interface) video encoder, or video streaming server. What a handy thing this would be.

VideoLan client can utilize the mpeg-1 and 2 hardware encoder in the Hauppauge PVR series of cards, so this might be a place to start. This would allow the actual encoding box to be fairly lightweight -- you may even be able to use a fairly low-power ViA processor based motherboard. Or perhaps something could be built around the Plextor box that can encode MPEG-4 and Divx.

The problem is that the pieces are out there -- but it still takes expertise to make it happen. I certainly don't have the expertise to build a Linux distro that would do all this, but it sure would be cool.

CyTV will almost do what I want. I use it at home now with my Mac Mini in the living room to record programs that I can watch elsewhere in the house. It is servicable, and you can't argue with the price. It will transcode video into mpeg-4 in software from an EyeTV box, and is remotely manageable. However, it can't currently talk to a streaming server -- such as Darwin Streaming server, but who knows?

The nice thing is that it would not be hard to transcode into .3gp on the fly, which would then allow me to watch TV programming from my home on my cell phone, simply and easily. There are of course other things that will do this for you, but most are centered around the Windows platform. I ran a PC using Snapstream in my livingroom for almost a year, and dismantled it after it became apparent that they would never fix browser compatibility issues with their remote management interface (it requires IE). In addition, there was no simple way to archive shows I have recorded directly to DVD (I ended up using Nero to burn stuff, but there were too many steps). In contrast, while the EyeTV I am using now does not have a remote interface (but now has, thanks to CyTV), it will work with pretty much everything I have (including my PC). Putting shows on DVD is simple. It saves in a bunch of formats, including 3gp.

I like this approach because I don't screw with things, and it works. I do wish that the EyeTV software could control my DirectTV box. If that happened, my Tivo would be gone.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fake News

Read FCC Commissioner Adelstein comments before The Media Institute.

This is a remarkable read. I ran across this while looking up data on subscription rates vs. broadcast viewership. It does not directly relate to my broadcast flag posting, but it certainly compliments it. It is an excellent reality check.

Just to caution though -- while he is specifically talking about broadcast, the commercialization of media (and subsequent reporting of fake news) affects all media. Fake forum postings have been around for a while, there are blogs that are really just mouthpieces for a company or group, etc.

I wish the FCC luck -- as the document itself points out -- many of the tools that the FCC had to ensure that broadcasters were using the public's airwaves in appropriate ways have been taken away (thank you Ronald Reagan). But after being a little depressed about the broadcast flag nonsense, it is good to see that the FCC is serious about doing the right thing.

Broadcast Flagged

Why the broadcast flag should go forward

To Quote: "Without proper protections, it will be increasingly difficult to show movies, television shows or even baseball games on free television".

Let's think about this. Free broadcast TV is in decline. Digital Broadcast is coming too slowly and too late. And now it will be further crippled. Unfoturnately, digital TV in the US is either equated with HDTV endeavors, or proprietary services (directTV, DishTV, Digital Cable). Standard Definition digital, which offers a better picture than analog broadcast, more choices and potentially richer content, has been sort of the poor stepchild. It is there, but there are no inexpensive TV sets (say -- $20 over the cost of a conventional analog set) that forgoes expensive HDTV, and just offers digital TV.

Having or not having the broadcast flag will matter little here, the market is already eroded.

On top of that -- the stuff that these pirates will steal off the air will be be hacked up versions of feature films -- not only with commercials added, but content deleted. I know. I recently time shifted a 3 hour made for TV movie, and ONE HOUR of the three was commercials. Don't whine to me about Tivo users blasting through commercials.

Let's talk about the NFL. It has it's own syndicated (for money) channel now. There are only a few games per week that are shown free-to-air. I seriously doubt that the NFL's revenue will be impacted whether or not the broadcast flag is in place. The few that would "illegally rebroadcast" will do so regardless of the flag or not. Internet streaming delivery is not at the point yet where you can offer a satisfactory replacment for broadcasting of sports events (high motion, high frame rate).

Arguments that DRM or Broadcast Flag will "protect the industry and the consumer" don't hold water with me. What broadcast flag will do is further cripple an industry that is struggling anyway, in the face of newer, more consumer friendly and flexible ways of distributing content. Let's be real here -- with the money that can made by selling DVD's of vintage television content, that there won't be a convincing argument to "broadcast flag" most content. Certainly, stuff like the Simpsons, old episodes of Star Trek, etc. will all be broadcast flagged, despite the rhetoric. Certainly, most of the HDTV content we recieve over the air will be broadcast flagged.

In the end, I suspect we will get the broadcast flag. Part of me feels that this is a fight that is almost a moot point, as the market these people are trying to protect is eroding underneath them. It seems that instead of driving customers to other distribution models, they would be searching for ways to remain relevant. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Screwed for Sure

Hilary Rosen's piece last week raised a lot of hackles. The obvious irony is that she is complaining that Apple's "restrictive" DRM prevents her from using music from other suppliers than Apple. You see, she used to head the RIAA (bada-bam).

Of course, she is not being honest. CD's continue to work, and will work for some time to come -- very rippable and non-DRM'ed. There are plenty of places to get non-DRM music on the internet -- in fact, I have up to now avoided *any* DRM content, without sacrificing my taste for new music. For me -- recorded audio has just entered a new renaissance, with no industry pundits to kick it along. It is driven not as much by money as it is by human being's innate need to create and share (and thus I write this now).

Music distributors and licensing companies would like to get rid of CD's at some point, if they can replace it with a model where the customer would not actually have complete ownership of their content; recurring fees are so nice. It really does change the dynamic of how we think of content that we purchase -- instead of purchasing a book, it is more like going to a movie. The content only works as long as the fees are paid. If you don't value your audio collection anymore, you simply have to stop paying for it, and it will go away. Relax, you can get it back later.

Subscription models for content are going to continue to be popular. For young people, it is appealing to have a low monthly charge and have access to everything right now. Don't have to wait. You don't even have to buy the whole album just to get that one song. Never mind that the recurring costs add up - young people rarely worry about such things, just what it will cost per month. $20 a month is $240 a year. I wonder what the average budget is for a 20 something is for conventionally distribuited music (ie CD's) -- if it is even twice that $500 a year -- and this comparing content that is ephemeral (it stops working once I stop paying for it) versus sunk cost of CD's (I can always trade the ones I don't like for new music) -- things a tweener or 20 something may not think about.

This is the same market that cell providers target with their add-on services, pre-paid cell phones, and eventually their own music service. There is no immediate cost -- just a bill later. If the subscriber gets in a jam (car broke, just lost job at McDonald's), they just drop the service. This is the same response you hear when this same demographic group talks about cell services in general (look at the powerpoint slides in my last posting) -- that they will drop it if they can't afford it.

This is the market that everyone is after, not just for now -- but for their children. Now is the time that companies such as Microsoft, and content conglomerates such as Sony, can change the rules forever on how consumers purchase and use content. If they are successful, the CD will be gone in the next 10 years, and we will be left with DRM encrypted content -- if you are banking that the big players will continue to control all the media channels. I, of course, believe that they are one step behind, and that with every day, they fall a little bit more behind. That is for another piece.

Hilary Rosen's op ed piece is really just a rehashing of Microsoft's business strategy. Too late to the game for music downloading, Microsoft instead works with the other also-rans to go against Apple -- an enemy of my enemy is my friend. I would suggest that some of these folks should be careful who they make deals with. It is really Microsoft that wins in the end, not Yahoo, not Creative Labs, not Nokia. If everyone is selling essentially the same products and services -- at about the same cost -- sounds like consolodation is in order. There is really is no choice here -- if all the players are saddled with the same DRM, and feature sets are pretty much the same for all players -- looks like a tough market to work in.

The wonderful part is that it just gets better for Microsoft. They will roll out the Xbox 3 this next Christmas. Despite what Bill Gates says, it is a version of the Media Center that this time won't suck, unlike every other interation Microsoft has tried up to this point. It will loaded to the teeth with DRM -- not just for audio, but for Microsoft's push into on-demand video content. Maybe they will just buy Akimbo and be done with it. They may not be able to get VC9 to become part of the HDTV spec, but it may not matter -- if everyone in Hollywood ends up using their DRM.

Play For Sure is a joke, but a joke with an evil twist. Microsoft's DRM is not pro-consumer. It is not even pro-humanity. I have repeat this again and again. Their DRM is short-sighted. It not a done deal that Microsoft, the owner and holder of their DRM technology, will even exist 100 years from now. I have mentioned this to people, and the stock response I get is to not worry, it will be broken by some 17 year old programmer soon any way.

But what no one appreciates is that it will turn everyone into a criminal. Historians will have to routinely break DRM to be able to look at archived emphemera that our generation creates. They will be criminals given the laws that are on the books now.

Hilary Rosen gets it -- but isn't about to let anyone else in on this dirty little secret. She complains that Apple is not pro-consumer -- but in reality is acting as a mouth piece for a company that is even more anti-consumer. It is more doublespeak -- DRM is good for the consumer....right......

Microsoft may have found their way after struggling for a while. The desktop OS is rapidly not becoming that important any more -- it's network centric applications and mobility that are driving innovation these days. Have there actually been any major improvements in Word Processing in.....the last 10 years? Compare that with speed of change in webspace. Microsoft lost the bid to shunt webspace into some sort of proprietary framework with .Net, but they may have found their future in DRM and content delivery.

Friday, May 13, 2005

W3C + Mobile = Huh?

Unlike other Accessibility initiatives, cell access to content will likely be driven by market. In the US, about 60 percent have a cell phone. In some parts of the world, that ownership is higher, but there is consolodation in technology (GSM). I think this is one of the reasons we are behind the rest of the world. There is no impetus for cell providers here to offer mass market solutions for access to web and other data driven content -- they are more interested in going after that last 40 percent, and buying each other out. In Europe and Asia, it's different. Everyone offers similar technology.

Overseas, there is more drive for cell provider differentiation -- competition to offer additional services. WAP and dumb short-sited solutions don't work because it is driven by content, and content creators won't develop for a perceived smaller market. People want access to network delivered content because the are spoiled by having that access in their offices and at home.

It is also Generational.
Our own student population ownership of cell phones is around 90% here at NCSU. Admittedly, the majority of them use them for one thing -- voice. Data services here are minimally used -- I would guess photo sharing would be fairly high. SMS is not quite as prevalent as UK, but it's there. Games are the biggest secondary use of cell phones for 20-somethings.

I think the cell phone carriers will end up being involved to ensure that new data-driven services work well with their phones -- Voice plan plus data plan equals more money. Video on demand, Video Conferencing, Meetup services, Mobile Blobgging, Image sharing, etc. The next big one is data services -- you need to look no further at the directions that Google and Yahoo are moving in.

I wish that the w3c would do more -- but I think this one is going to be driven by the cell phone companies and content creators. The good news is that publishing models like Blogs make it easy to make content that is accessible and Accessible. The fusion of these publishing models is no accident.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Palm Life(Boat)Drive

Amazon has leaked pictures of the new Palm LifeDrive. 4 GB microdrive, 480x320, wifi and camera. I would guess Palm OS 6, which is important, as this is the first release that uses bits from the purchase of Be Inc.

LifeDrive is a good name. It is a device that people use to document their life. But wifi is not pervasive, and may never be. Take the same concept, and make it a cell phone, and add other services -- the ability to spontaneously share (phone call, images, streaming video, data). Now you have something that is relevant.

The european/asian market is still so far ahead of us in terms of mobile technology. A co-worker and I have been tracking the recently announced Nokia N series. In a sense, it is a continuation of the NGage -- a hybrid of multimedia and phone.

The N90 is a very interesting phone, but we will never see it in the US because the market it is designed for doesn't exist here yet. But 20-somethings in the czech republic certainly want one:

We are just starting to see streaming media on phones here -- in part it is not being driven as much by the cell providers themselves as it is by the content owners/developers. When I talk to folks about video-conferencing on cell phones, they assume that this is some technology yet to be invented, but companies have been shipping them for a while now.

But people *do* want this stuff. At least Orb hopes so:

We are stuck with infrastructure that is a blend of cell phone centric services, tied to legacy services that are designed for a personal computer. Web pages are written so they only work on IE. People still think of cell phone access to data as a unique thing. Witness the Blackberry -- people will carry around a big device that has expensive monthly service fees, just to have access to their data on a text-centric device. No streaming media, very limited image capability. It is a closed box tied to a proprietary service. Just what the cell phone companies want. But it does it's job well, I guess.

And I have to keep reminding myself what someone (I think it was Russell Beattie) wrote: Cell phone company's customers are not end users, but the cell phone service providers.

So, it may be up to Sony, Palm and other companies to prove that there is a market here for mobile media beyond iTunes. It will only happen if there is content. I seem to remember that Palm 6's OS has better MM support. I mean more than mp3 playback -- perhaps even 3gp content that my $99.00 Ngage QD has no trouble playing now. I think the key is in letting people have the abilty to create their own content, and make it easy to share.

I wish Palm luck. Sales of PDA have slid for some time, while Microsoft continues to grab more the remaining market share. Sony bowed out a while ago, and now it appears that Tapwave is headed in a different business direction. Palm needs a killer device, an iPod. I am not sure this is it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Education Doesn't Scale

Alan passed this along to me, and I in turn am passing it along to you. Read along -- the last 4 - 5 paragraphs are great.

I am still a novice in this field (education) -- I know that. But I see what I see - there is a big disjunct between how we are applying technology, and what we know about how people learn. The evidence is there.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Treo 650 Compensates

Russell Beattie has picked a real scab with hisbashing of the Treo 650. Many of the respondents are of course defending their shiny expensive handheld. I had a Treo 600 for a few months, and actually have recommended it to people. But I don't own one. It turned out that I left it at home a lot. It is too big. The camera is lame. I just need a phone, a way to check email, look up something on the web and play a game to kill time.

I ended up getting a Ngage QD, which is a Symbian based device. It was cheap (I think Cingular never actually charged me for it) and despite all the bad press, I like it. It is simple and to the point, and the ergonomics for gaming also work great for scrolling through web pages. The functionality and price is more in line with what a student would have -- although they would likely (as I would) opt for something with a camera.

What has occured to me after having the Ngage QD for several months is that the Treo is necessary because it has to compensate for legacy back end services. Because things are not designed in ways that work across modalities of access, we are stuck in the late 60's with a typewriter connected to a computer. The Treo is pretty much that. It exists because backend services have not caught up with how people want to interact with information.

The good news is that as we invent new services -- such as image sharing -- they are by default being designed for this very purpose. Flikr works with cell phones, but in contrast, Groupwise Mail barely works. Novell is stuck with the concept that mobile devices are just a dumb web browser, not much more. This is not to say that it doesn't work -- people I know use it. But it sure isn't fluid. It isn't something that I would recommend to most people in a hurry.

Yes -- you can buy third party products that "fix" Groupwise's problem. Ho Hum.


The Crushing Blow

I have had a LiveJournal Account for a while, but have not used it as much as I planned. There are things that I appreciate about how it works, but it is become clear to me that I need to create a second blog that is more focused on the things that I am working on, things I present and write about.

hal2k will continue to live, but it will become more about day to day stuff. It will be focused on community.

This blog will be an ongoing journal, a place for people to get stuff from my presentations, etc. It is for my convenience -- I am through with generating web pages for content that is ephemeral. For me, the annoyance at simple things becoming difficult leads me to move on. It is sometimes called a "tipping point", but I prefer an alternate way of describing the moment where it becomes clear that things have changed. It is the Crushing Blow.

The Crushing Blow is the last hit -- the one that topples. I believe the crushing blow is getting ready to happen to Television, as an example. I see it happening in other things as well. Commercial radio will have to radically reinvent itself, or it will just become irrelevant. Low Power radio promised to save the industry, but the industry has tried to kill it. I hear the sound of another crushing blow, the last sound something hears before it all goes black.