Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Big Gotcha of Apple TV:
It Might Not Work on Your TV

Apple says it's going to be a little late turning its homework on AppleTV (see AppleInsider for the deets).

That give them a little breathing room before the flood of buyers returning the product in droves because they can't make it work with their televisions.

Apple says it clearly, if not prominently:
"Apple TV works with widescreen, enhanced-definition or high-definition TVs capable of 1080i, 720p, 576p, or 480p resolutions..."
But I wonder how many people won't notice that until they open the box?

While TVs that meet Apple's requirements dominate current retail sales, they're far from dominating the installed base of TVs. (See also Scoble's lament that his Dad isn't in the digital TV generation.) If you have an older TV, you're just not going to be able to make the connection.

Mickeleh's Take: There are more than enough modern TVs to make Apple's numbers, but there are also many more older TVs that will make headaches for the returns counter at the Apple store. Apple's delay on shipping the product gives them another few weeks to stock up on aspirin.

Other Mickeleh's Takes on Apple TV:

Pixel-Punchy Scobel's Rant about Apple TV

Apple, Pioneer of Accessible Solutions,
Neglects Closed Captions in Apple TV

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Newest Mad Scientist Threat: A Machine that Remembers Everything

[This article spans technology and politics, I've cross posted it in Mickeleh's Soapbox.]

The Scooter Libby case goes to the jury today. It hinges on this question: did he lie to the FBI about how and when he learned about Mrs. Wilson, or was he innocently mis-remembering?

Apparently, we will soon have the technology to expedite trials like this. Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell, in Scientific American, describe research they are doing at Microsoft on harnessing the technology to record everything.
Scientific American: A Digital Life [ INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ]
New systems may allow people to record everything they see and hear--and even things they cannot sense--and to store all these data in a personal digital archive
Storage is getting cheap. Processors continue to obey Moore's law. Network access is getting ubiquitous. Sensors of various types being embedded everywhere. (Carry a cell phone? Then you're carrying a microphone and a camera that know where you are. hmmm.)
Mickeleh's Take: Feds Using Cell Phones to Eavesdrop
...feds can download software to many kinds of cell phone and then have the ability to turn on the microphone and listen in. Even when the cell phone is turned "off."
Bell has amassed 150 gigabytes of data in six years, and his descriptions of what he can do with it make it sound really cool. Without a good overlay of intelligence and analysis, an archive of everything in our lives might turn all of us into clones of the Borges character Funes, the Memorious, who remembered everything but understood nothing.

Bell and Gemmell acknowledge that "the prospect that identity thieves, gossipmongers or authoritarian states could gain access to such records is frightening." And, with the optimism of every scientist in a fifties sci-fi movie seem assured that technologies can be tamed so as to minimize potential dangers. I wonder if Admiral (Total Information Awareness) Poindexter would agree.

(See also my recent posts in the Soapbox: To Engineer a Totalitarian Takeover, First Appoint a Clown to Be President)

Mickeleh's Take: Is it time to join the Luddites yet?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mind of an Impressario, Soul of a Venture Capitalist, Heart of an Agent

Mickeleh's Take: That Tail gets longer by the minute.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What's Web 2.0, Anyway? The Video

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

Video by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University. The director has placed a higher quality version on MediaFire and made it available for download. For more info, click through to YouTube and then click "more" to the right of the video window.

Mickeleh's Take: I love this video. There's much to learn here, both about Web 2.0 and using motion graphics to tell a story.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lawrence Lessig Has a Modest Suggestion for iTunes DRM

Lawrence Lessig points out that there are independent artists on iTunes who would be happy if the DRM on their music were turned off today. Why doesn't Steve start there?

Amazon Video Downloads; Now with the Great Taste of TiVo

The battle for movies online just got a lot hotter. Amazon's Unbox is coming to a TiVo near you. This makes things a lot simpler. Steve Poland on Techcrunch says "Amazon steals Walmart's thunder." But there wasn't that much thunder to steal.

More on Techmeme

Mickeleh's Take: Yesterday's Take is now slightly obsolete. Call this Take Two: The video download game is decidedly less geeky this morning. Now there are two top tier players with attractive end-to-end solutions: Apple, and Amazon-TiVo. Except that the potential TiVo audience is tiny (1.5 million with broadband connections). Apple TV has a zero audience today, but rumors on AppleInsider suggest they could easily outpace TiVo within a year.

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Can I Be the Only Blogger with Nothing to Say About Steve Jobs Open Letter on DRM?

I can't recall ever seeing so much commentary on anything at Techmeme. Steve Jobs writes an open letter to the music industry inviting them to allow him to cut the locks off the music he sells at the iTunes store. And the crowd goes wild. His strongest argument is this: the horse is already out of the barn; why bother keeping the door shut?

Mickeleh's Take: Bravo Steve. Very cool move. Steve Jobs is a master of timing. He bravely asks the industry to drop DRM two weeks after the NY Times says they're already thinking about doing it. That's leadership. Find a parade. Grab a flag. And run to the front, yelling, "follow me, boys and girls!" Works every time. Mr. Gates, you've made a fortune by copying Steve. Please continue.

Another reason for the timing; Europe is giving Apple grief around the DRM lock-in that ties iTunes music sales to the iPod and only the iPod as a portable player. (Steve's letter has a pretty explanation for why Apple can't share it's DRM mojo with anyone else. It's the Ben Franklin defense: "three can keep a secret if two of them are dead." In other words, if Apple shared the secret sauce, then the secret would get out and if the secret gets out, then, according to its deals with the music industry, Apple has to stop selling music.)

You'll notice, by the way, that movie-mogul Jobs isn't thinking about dropping DRM for any of the Pixar and Disney flicks. (Those horses are still in the barn, and we're keeping the door shut tight, thank you very much.) But if Steve won't make the case for dropping DRM universally, Cory Doctorow will. In fact, he already has at Microsoft and at HP.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Anti-Vista Mac Spot: Hilarious, Vicious


Walmart Jumps Into The TV and Movie Downloads With Deals with Six Studios

Walmart leaps into the video download battle this week. The first service to offer titles from all six major film studios, Walmart faces off against iTunes, Amazon Unbox, CinemaNow, MovieLink, Vongo, Netflix, BitTorrent, Akimbo, Xbox Live, and others too numerous to mention. And the ones I mentioned are too numerous to remember, which is part of the marketing problem.

But Walmart is memorable. They account for 40% of all DVDs sold. And they used that leverage to nail agreements with all six of the major studios. The online service is Windows-only. 3000-titles-only (for starters). No DVD-extras. Not quite DVD quality. And Walmart has already lost to Netflix in the DVD-by-mail game.

Stories by Michael Barbaro in NYT and David Lieberman in USA Today.

[Update: My take on the Amazon-TiVo deal. Feb 7. 11:31 AM]

Mickeleh's Take: Movies over the Net is still a not-ready for prime-time early adopter geek's game. For our viewers at home, it's all tradeoffs and gotchas. Small libraries, high prices, less than DVD resolution (at a time when HDTV sales are taking off), rights restrictions, etc. And most of all, too many choices. Expect Unbox and Xbox to hang in there (Amazon and Microsoft can keep them on life support forever). Expect AppleTV and Netflix to make the most headway. Apple, has the closest to a simple end-to-end system from distribution through handhelds to the big TV in the living room. Netflix has the best and most innovative deal—free to DVD-by-mail subscribers; you have a time alotment, not a title alotment, which encourages you to sample and abandon titles until you find one you like (remember channel surfing?) Pogue has the details on why Netflix is so cool.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Boston vs. Mooninites: Gearing Up For New Witch Trials

I loved Boston when I lived there, which was long after the witch hanging and the neighboring Salem trials and long before the upcoming trial of the Mooninites. (Actually, the trial is for the guys who put up the light-up Mooninite pictures that twenty-first century Boston couldn't deal with.

MSNBC is running a poll: "Should Boston officials prosecute the men responsible for putting up the signs that disrupted the city by stirring fears of terrorism?"

Mickeleh's Take: I think Boston hasn't gotten over Paul Revere's alarming ride. Hint: The British ain't comin' and neither are the Mooninites. The Aqua Teen movie just better be funny after all this publicity.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

News of the Death of the Googlebomb is Greatly Exaggerated

Nick Carr has a good piece on Google's attempt to excorcise the Googlebomb

Matt Cutts has Google's take.

Mickeleh's Take: News of the death of the Googlebomb is greatly exaggerated. Go search on "miserable failure" today and you'll get a gazillion items that explain how "miserable failure" was linked to George W. Bush through Googlebombing. Reminds me of the scene in Fantasia where Mickey chops up the enchanted broom into a gazillion splinters and then all of the splinters re-animate into a gazillion enchanted brooms. Was Google's mission accomplished? No more than the Miserable Failure's.

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So, Now we Know WTF Technorati's WTF is all About

It turns out Steve Rubell and his echo-chamber got it wrong yesterday. The new Technorati feature, WTF isn't a Digg clone or a meme-tracker after all.

It's more akin to the "previously..." clip-fest that opens a lot of TV shows. For viewers who are jumping into a show midstream, it gives you a warm bowl of condensed cream of plot-and-character soup.

According to Liz Dunn of Technorati, WTF is a way for readers to get some context on the hot Technorati searches. It's a maketplace between people who like to explain things and people looking for explanations. Technorati has long featured top searches on their home page. If you're the second hippest person in the room, you may be wondering "why this?" and "why now?" With WTF, there's a good chance that the hippest person got there ahead of you and left an explanation. ("OMG, so that's why people are searching on Britney!)

Mickeleh's Take: I don't believe for a New York nonsecond that WTF stands for what Technorati says it does. ("Where's the Fire?") And neither do they. (nudge-nudge, wink wink.) I think this feature is helpful. There's a lot of smart people out there who like to explain things. And other people who like to vote on how smart the explainers are. And folks like me who just need to buy a clue. Could get interesting. (Disclosure: some folks at Technorati gave me a heads up on WTF last week.)

Niall Kennedy has the backstory.

More on Techmeme.

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