Archive for the ‘Technology & Internet’ Category

Three Easy Steps for Apple to take on Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft

August 26th, 2010

Here’s how Apple gets into the gaming console market:

Step 1: Launch the Apple Game Center as part of iOS 4.1

Step 2: Put iOS 4.1 on Apple TV

Step 3: Uh . . . there is no Step 3.

Okay, so it is highly unlikely that an A4-powered Apple TV (or iTV or however they brand it) is going to offer much that is desirable to the Call Of Duty-style hardcore gamer, but the Nintendo Wii and the Facebook/Farmville combo have already proven there’s a huge, under-served market of casual gamers drooling for interactive games that don’t involve getting pwned by a 14-year old with Mountain Dew-fueled catlike reflexes.

Plus, the iTunes media empire puts the media capabilities — and catalogs — of traditional gaming consoles to shame. And, if, as rumored, the price point for the new Apple TV offering is a very attractive give-away-the-razor $99, then the game console big boys might be scrambling to try to get into a new market segment they’ve ignored for decades.

And if Apple wants to really bring the unicorn tears, my secretest, bestest wish is that Apple TV bundle a TiVo app.

Apple, Gaming, Technology & Internet

Readability, or Maybe I’m Just Getting Old

August 1st, 2009

Last year, I found myself having to remove my glasses to read a piece of paper in my hand. A quick trick to the optometrist confirmed that it was time to start to be more like my Dad and switch to progressive lenses. In case you’re still a kid, “progressive lenses” is the modern euphemism for “bifocals” (because bifocals seems so — I don’t know — so Ben Franklin). But progessives are also like “stealth” bifocals because they don’t have that little sideways D-shaped lens-within-a-lens my grandmother’s glasses had. Whew. Still hip.

Anyway. Perhaps another evidence of my increasing Ben Franklinness is my newfound love of Readability, a little product from the Arc90 Labs.

Readability is a configurable bookmarklet you drop in  your browser toolbar. Say you encounter a page for a magazine article or weblog post that has a narrow column of tiny type (at least to my increasingly Franklinesque eyesight), like this:

screenshot of the

You click the Readability bookmarklet, and it reformats the page for you, stripping out all of the cruft (headers, ads, linkrolls, etc.) providing you with a simple readable format, like so:


My eyes thank you, Arc 90.

Technology & Internet

Royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable licenses

April 2nd, 2008

With disappointing repetitiveness, I stumble across some bozo up in arms over some company that’s attempting to “steal your copyright.” These are usually in a lather because they’ve actually read the Terms of Service for [insert web-based application here] and noticed language that looks something like this:

“the submitting user grants [company] the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, all subject to the terms of any applicable license.”

A good example is this comment on the Slashdot story last week about Adobe launching an online version of Photoshop Express. I’ve had to deal with these kind of complaints for the web properties I’m responsible for, but my annoyance is nothing new. The first time I remember coming across complaints about these kind of terms is almost a decade ago when Yahoo! took over Geocities. It annoyed me even back then when I was just a humble ed tech trainer, not a product manager responsible for honest-to-goodness web applications.
Although I am not a lawyer and you definitely shouldn’t take legal advice from me, let me explain to you what the heck is going on here: it’s called the Internet.

Read more…

Intellectual Property, Technology & Internet

Seriously, RIM, have you no shame?

March 31st, 2008

Does the shape, coloring, and body design of RIM’s new Blackberry 9000 look vaguely similar to any other product to you guys, too?

Apple, Technology & Internet

Are you a hotshot UI designer?

August 2nd, 2007

I don’t write about work on this blog, but my team at Blackboard is hiring a UI hotshot to work on Web 2.0-ish education applications. Having a full-time UI designer on my team will make my life a lot less stressful (borrowed resources & contractors make my head hurt), so I figured it can’t hurt to reach out wherever I can.
Check out the full job description for the Senior User Interface Designer position. This isn’t an entry-level position. We’re looking for someone with some serious UI design & AJAX chops to really make user interface and user interaction a focus on a team that’s focused on new product development. The team, the Blackboard Beyond Initiative, is a new division within the company that’s focused on building centrally hosted web applications, a different approach than Blackboard’s traditional enterprise, server-based product line.
Consequently, the team is sort of a start-up within the company, with both the benefits (more freedom to innovate, not hindered by legacy code or interfaces, etc.) and the challenges (yeah, we could use more headcount). One start-up challenge we don’t have, though, is the worry about where the next paycheck comes from, since Blackboard a stable public company with a market cap over a billion dollars.
Blackboard’s a great place to work — casual environment with lots of fun, really smart people. I’ve stayed at Blackboard for over 8 years now, longer than I’ve stayed at any other job, so they must be doing something right. Of course, I’m the product director for the Beyond team, so a potential downside is that you’d have to put up with me on a daily basis. ;-)
If you or someone you know sounds like a good fit, submit your resume through the regular channels, but drop me an email as well at my work address,

Technology & Internet

Accessing Your Computer’s Files Remotely Via iPhone

July 7th, 2007

So I’m out and about earlier today and realize that some information I need is in a file on my MacBook Pro . . . which of course is sitting at home on my desk. Sigh.

Waitaminute. I’ve got a brand new portable Internet device in my pocket. Wouldn’t it be simple if I could just access the files on my home computer from the iPhone?

Waitanotherminute. I use FolderShare, a free service from Microsoft, to keep key files on my multiple computers in sync across the various machines. One of FolderShare’s other features is that you can use the FolderShare web interface to access files on any of the machines that you’ve configured with FolderShare. Maybe I could access those files via FolderShare’s web interface and Safari on the iPhone?

Holdonthereaminute! Are you sure this is secure? Well, FolderShare is a secure P2P infrastructure. All the traffic is authenticated via RSA, encrypted via AES, and delivered over SSL. Good enough for me. Let’s give it a shot.

Starting up Safari on the iPhone . . . thumbing into the iPhone keyboard . . . yep, there’s the site . . . logging into FolderShare . . . navigating to the FolderShare Remote Access interface . . . yep, the FolderShare client on my home computer is running . . . click on that icon for my home computer . . . zowee! there’s the Home directory . . . navigating to the Documents folder . . . scrolling down the list of files . . . bingo! there’s the file . . . opening . . .

Ta-dah! There I am sitting in the bookstore viewing a PDF pulled off my computer at home over the Internet on my iPhone.

Sometimes technology makes me really happy.

Technology & Internet

Total Time to get an iPhone: <15 minutes!

June 30th, 2007

On a whim I drove by the Apple Store in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, VA, after grabbing an omelet at Pete’s Diner this morning. The Clarendon Apple Store is in a little shopping center called Market Commons that has a U-shaped road looped through it. There’s almost never parking in the loop, but I told myself if there was no line at the Apple Store and if there was parking in the loop, I’d buy myself an iPhone.
I figured I was saving myself some money by making that deal.
The loop’s one way, so you have to drive all the way around it to get to the Apple Store on the east side. I could see there was no line outside the store. As I rounded the corner of the loop, I saw an SUV pulling out of a parking space right in front of the Apple Store. Yes, I got a space less than 10 feet from the door of the Apple Store. I got out walked in and walked straight to the demo table where the floor samples of the iPhone were set up. As I walked up, another guy walked away and with a grand total of zero seconds waiting time, I was playing with an iPhone.
It really took only a few minutes to confirm that I wanted one. I checked a few websites, played a song, flicked the contact list up and down, badda bing, badda boom, turned around and walked the eight feet to the front counter where there was no one in line and bought an iPhone (8GB model).
I would have been out of the store in under 6 minutes, except as soon as the cashier handed me the box, I realized the iPhone doesn’t come with a belt clip of any kind, so it took another four minutes or so to grab a simple, inexpensive belt clip and get back to the cashier — still no line — and buy the clip.
Total time elapsed from getting out of the car to getting back into the car with an iPhone — less than 15 minutes.
I had to text (from the old Sony Ericsson) my friend, Bug (a nickname, but he answers to it) and gloat a bit. He’s an Apple diehard — the man has three 30″ Apple Cinema Displays on his desk, and I lost count of the number of Apple computers he owns. He did some intermediate (read: hours, but not double digit hours) line waiting yesterday evening.
Gloating was unnecessary. He was at the Bethesda, MD, Apple Store getting his second (or third maybe) iPhone, and having the same speedy experience.
Should anyone really have expected any different? I’m sure it might be different in some of the densely populated areas like NYC or geek-heavy regions like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, but Apple is not like Sony delivering a new playstation. Apple doesn’t have to under-manufacture the hardware to manufacture demand through scarcity, because they are expert at creating demand before the release.
So the iPhone is activated now and going through the first sync with iTunes which is nearly done, so I’ll finish up this post and write a full review later.

Technology & Internet

When 20/20 Hindsight Makes You Want To Blind Yourself

June 28th, 2007

It’s hard to feel sorry for James Hong. As one of the two co-founders of HOTorNOT, the oft-copied photo rating site, he’s raked in the dough. For years, HOTorNOT was run leanly, with little investment in development and lots of advertising revenue. Hong himself describes it as a cash cow.
Recently Hong has been re-inventing the aging HOTorNOT, and he has written about it on his blog.
It’s a good read in general, but this is the part that made me groan out load. He describes their initial strategy to re-invent the business:

[O]ur original vision was to become an incubator and to enable our employees to work on new ideas, and let them spin those off as separate companies.. basically let our employees graduate into becoming funded entrepreneurs at a time when funding was hard to get. Our first and only attempt at this was back in 2003 when we hoped to work with Steve Chen and Mike Solomon to start, which was going to be a social networking site with media sharing applications built on top. [Emphasis mine. -greg]
In the end things did not work out because some members of our board were uncomfortable with the idea of giving the employees of a spinout majority share and control… so Jim and I agreed with Steve and Mike that it was a no go.

Sounds reasonable until a couple of years later when you realize you punted on funding a social media-sharing service being pushed by Steve Chen. Yes, that Steve Chen.
I’m sure the tens of millions Hong has raked in from HOTorNOT allays the pain a little, but still . . . damn, that’s gotta burn!

Technology & Internet

Switch Part 1: The Demise of the Dell

August 13th, 2006

The old Dell Inspiron 8200 notebook did right by me, and, in general, it’s been the best computer I’ve ever owned. My basic computing activity has changed a lot in the last four years — I’m arguably online more hours per week than I’ve ever been before, thanks primarily to getting off the road and broadband in the home. For the most part, the Dell kept up with my needs. Unfortunately, it was getting a bit gray around the temples. Time to switch.

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Technology & Internet

Going Mobile

April 26th, 2006

Recently, I got a Tablet PC courtesy of my boss. (Thanks, Dan!) This is my first ever blog post written by hand. Literally — by hand, with a stylus, in digital ink, on the tablet. So far I have only corrected the handwriting recognition twice in this paragraph. I’m finding that it actually does better if I don’t try to compensate for bad handwriting. Damn. Okay three times. :)

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Technology & Internet