Monday, December 31, 2007

What Did the RIAA claim about ripping?

There was another dustup this weekend over RIAA. It was originally spawned in early December by this Slashdot post which found this gem in a lawyer's brief:
Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs' recordings into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies...
Is the RIAA really claiming what most of the commentariat has written: "illegal to rip CDs" and "personal compies are illegal," etc.?

As I (a non-lawyer) read the excerpt from the brief, the issue is not simply ripping the files as mp3s, but ripping them and storing them in a shared folder. Can someone take a deep breath and put those two clauses together? Is the loathesome RIAA really arguing against ripping, which surely comes under Fair Use, or against sharing what you've ripped, which in RIAA's view, is simply inviting people to steal it.

Mickeleh's Take: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance but the surcharge of freedom is not crying wolf every time the RIAA sneezes.

(Tags:, , , )

Friday, December 28, 2007

How to User FlickrFan with iPhone

Open iTunes, Select iPhone from the sidebar and then follow the same steps as outlined in my post on using FlickrFan with AppleTV.

Mickeleh's Take: Apple. Consistent U-I pays off.

(Tags:, , , )

How to Use FlickrFan with AppleTV

I had a couple of inquiries about how I set up FlickrFan to work with AppleTV. Here's how:

To use Photos on AppleTV, you need to sync it with with one of the computers on your home network. I'll assume you've done that.

From the computer that is sync'd to AppleTV launch iTunes. (This is counter-intuitive for many. You'd guess that you'd manage the photos in iPhoto. But it's iTunes that is the master ap for AppleTV. It's a similar U-I to sync'ing with iPhone)

In the iTunes sidebar navigation, select AppleTV and then select the Photos tab. (By the way, you can select iPhone from the sidebar and follow these steps to sync your FlickrFan feeds to your iPhone. It's a tethered update, not a wireless sync, but still... it's cool.)

There's a pop-up menu that manages which photos get downloaded from your computer to your AppleTV. The two choices are to select some albums from iPhoto, or to point AppleTV to a specific folder on your hard disk drive. Select Choose folder...

Then navigate to screenSaverPics inside your Pictures folder. This is the folder where FlickerFan places the photos it downloads from Flickr and the AP.

Each feed appears in its own sub-folder.

Click the button for Selected Photos. Check the ones you want on your AppleTV. In the lower right of iTunes click Apply, then Sync. (The other choice puts all of the photos into one collection. Using this choice lets you be selective in your viewing. And you still get the option to view all.)

Allow a few minutes for the transfer (depending on the speed of your local network). and Voila!

The feeds are there ready for TV viewing. You can look at the whole collection or any individual folder.

Mickeleh's Take: So easy, even a marketing dink can do it.

(Tags:, , , )

Thanks to Dave Winer, my TV has a New Channel

My TV has a new channel this morning, thanks to Dave Winer, the Associated Press, and a bunch of my friends on Flickr. The channel shows photos—from the news and the lives of my friends. (In case you're wondering, that's a news photo above. Not from the lives of my friends. Back off NSA.)

As timing would have it, the debut of this channel today is dominated by distressing images from Pakistan related to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. (but without the inane gibbering of the cable news anchors.)

After a teasy weekend of buzz building, Dave Winer released the beta FlickerFan, a neat new product that will download photo albums from friends on Flickr and/or the news photo feed from the Associated Press—or any other RSS photo feed.

First round is Mac only and pre-wired to work with the Mac OS Screen Saver. There's huge potential beyond that, which, no doubt, will keep Dave and other clever coders busily digging for a while.

I like the promise of FlickrFan. It's built on a solid, stable code base and web standards, that Dave has been refining all century. I'm having fun with it. I wish Dave much success with it.

That said.

FlickrFan had one of the most bizarre intros I've ever seen--Robert Scoble webcast the first authorized demo from his Qik channel (is that pronounced kick or quick?) from his magic telephone—you heard me. His telephone. Amazing audio quality. Pretty darn good video quality. Another miracle of modern technology.

Gathering an audience with breathless hyperbole on his blog that promised a TV revolution, Robert launched into what seemed like an unplanned, unrehearsed demo. FlickrFan was not well served by being munged in with a bit of AppleTV, Media Center, and Xbox bashing, countered by the promotion of Mac Mini, browsers on TV. All of that is what politicians call "off message." It does nothing but provoke an audience to take issue with you.

Making things worse, the Qik channel had a come one, come all, anonymous chat widget that unleashed the evil wise-cracking gremlins lurking in many visitors. The chat got ugly fast.

You'd think Scoble would have absorbed the basics of how to do a good demo by now.Show the product... what it does... why you'd want it. Above all... plan and rehearse. What will you show? What will you do? What will you say? In what order? It can be loose. It can be off the cuff and conversational. But it can't be chaotically random.

The way Scoble pitched it, the price of admission was--trash your Xbox, put your Apple TV on eBay, buy a Mac mini etc. All for a free download that shows photos. Hmm.

At one point Dave called in to offer some live demo coaching. He didn't seem happy.

For what it's worth, I haven't trashed my AppleTV. I'm synching it with a folder on my G5 where FlickrFan is running. I set it up in about 8 minutes. I'll be sending Dave lots of feedback.

Mickeleh's Take: FlickrFan is a simple free download (for now), easy to install. It adds a bit of a good and a nice to my life. I'm a FlickrFan Fan

(Tags:, , , , , , )

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Super Cool Saudi Arabia

So, I log on to Facebook and see that my Saudi friend, Essam Al-Ghalib as joined a group called "Super Cool Saudi Arabia." For a minute, I thought it was about the hip side of the kingdom. Turns out that Super Cool is a distributor of window films and coatings that help insulate automobiles and homes against the hot climate.

Mickeleh's Take: If global warming continues, we all may be looking to join the cool kids.

Monday, November 19, 2007

PR Gaming that Still Works: The eBook Fifteen Years Ago

Fifteen years before Steven Levy had his exclusive with Jeff Bezos and gushed over Amazon's Kindle for Newsweek, Phillip Elmer-Dewitt in Time bowed to some nifty demos and exclusive PR access to a pair of CEOs, resulting in some unskeptical puffery on Voyager Expanded Book series for the Apple PowerBook in 1992:
... makes the experience of reading a book on a screen amazingly close to reading it on paper. "It's the first thing I've seen that I could curl up in bed with," says Nora Rawlinson, editor in chief of the trade magazine Publishers Weekly.

... displays the text on clean white pages that replicate the design of the hardback rather than using the scrolling strings of text so familiar to computer users. A touch of a button turns the page or allows the reader to flip back and forth. Users can dog-ear the corner of a page to mark their place, or attach an electronic paper clip for easy reference. Passages can be underscored or marked on the side, and there are generous margins for putting down notes.

The computer also brings benefits not offered by ordinary books: a backlit screen that permits reading in a darkened bedroom without disturbing a spouse, the option of enlarging the type to reduce eyestrain, the ability to copy passages onto a "notebook" page, and a search feature that displays occurrences of any chosen word, name or phrase. This last option could prove handy for, say, recalling the identity of an obscure Dostoyevsky character who suddenly reappears after 100 pages.
Here come those same features and bennies again in Kindle (plus some substantial new ones thanks to the networking and Amazon's back end).

BTW, Brian Caulfield in Forbes, and Seth Weintraub in 9to5Mac both compare Kindle unfavorably to iPhone as a platform for eBooks. The sharpest comparison —with the zingiest headline— is from John Paczkowski at Digital Daily.

Today, there's another company called Voyager. This one's in Japan. Guess what they're selling? Ebooks for iPhone and iPod.

Mickeleh's Take: I was at Apple when Expanded Books was launched for PowerBook. Neat idea. Good feature set. But you had to work hard at really liking the experience. PR can get you only so far. It's really up to the customer experience to deliver. Wait patiently for customers to report on the experience of Kindle.

(Tags:, , , , , , , )

Amazon's Shiny New Thing: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This year in tech started with Steve Jobs eclipsing all the news from CES by cranking up the reality distortion field in a rocking demo of the iPhone at Macworld. Result: instant off-the-charts technolust, teaser ad at the Oscars, anticipation, brilliant PR and advertising buildup, lines around the block, and last week's cover in Time as Invention of the Year. (Yes, and a healthy dose of carping about closed-system, locking to AT&T, bricking, etc.)

As the window for this year's new products closes, Jeff Bezos snags the cover of Newsweek with a Steven Levy exclusive that goes ga-ga for Amazon's new electronic book reader, Kindle. (That's, of course, the gold ring in the tech PR game: offer an exclusive to an A-list mainstream writer in exchange for a cover and hope for a gushing preview.)

But if Bezos is checking Techmeme or his opening share price this morning, he may be disappointed. The shiny-new-toy crowd is raining skepticism and scorn (Scoble calls it "hate") on the product even before it's official announcement. Jeremy Toeman predicts failure in a well-argued piece, calling it a solution in search of a problem. Many folks pronounce it ugly. (Levy blogs that it doesn't really look as bad as the photos suggest. File that under faint praise.)

Here's my take on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good:
  1. The Amazon brand will put the category of ebooks into play more effectively than any other current player. It's already interrupting us on the way to buy books the old-fashioned way. You can't buy that much exposure.
  2. The always-on networking (they call it Whispernet, in honor of the stereotypical shushing that librarians are lampooned for in cartoons?) makes it ideal for subscriptions to newspapers, periodicals, and blogs—and impulsive shoppers who need instant access to books. (I need a couple right now, and Kindle would save me a trip to the library or the local Barnes & Noble). It's an on-demand world.
  3. The hygiene factors seen about right: size, weight, screen brightness, battery life.
  4. If you rely on a suite of specialized reference books, you can have them always at hand.
  5. Another thoughtful and practical instantiation of concepts from Vannevar Bush, Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Alan Kay can make books more useful with personal annotations, cross-referencing, and community commentary.

The Bad:
  1. DRM will lock your purchases to the device. Can you share books with family members? Pass them on to friends? Re-sell them?
  2. With the New York Times dropping the pay wall and Wall Street Journal about to, isn't it swimming upstream to sell newspaper subscriptions for an ebook?
  3. Where iTunes and iPod made it easy (if a bit tedious) for me to capture the music from my CD collection, I cant digitize my existing library. The only way to get books into the Kindle is to buy them again from Amazon. Publishers will love this. Amazon will love this. I won't.
  4. The price ($399) is high. And this unecessary object falls pretty low on the list of unecessary toys that I lust for–especially for an object whose main purpose is to insert another siphon into my bank account.
  5. That name. Kindle? Books and Kindle don't go together. Sorry.
The Ugly
  1. An iPhone, it's not.
UPDATE:  Joel Johnson offers some useful information on Boing Boing. The system isn't as closed as I feared. There are a number of ways to get files onto it besides just buying them from Amazon.

In the mid-nineties, The Voyager Company (progenitor of The Criterion Collection) offered a series of Expanded Books for the Apple PowerBook—distributed on floppies. Among their titles, The Annotated Alice, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Jurassic Park. The time wasn't right. The hardware was too heavy. The fonts were hard on the eyes. We're a lot closer now to delivering a good experience with the technologies available to Amazon.

But books—physical, dead-tree books—are just fine. And very hard to beat.

Mickeleh's Take: Ebook readers are inevitable. But they will be slow in coming. Most of the early Kindle-bashing (including mine) is just hypothetical. The proof will be in the U-I and the experience. Ignore everything you read today about Kindle—including this. Tune in again next week for real experience. But not here—I'm sitting this round out.

(Tags:, , , , )

Sunday, November 18, 2007

KIndle? As in Farenheit 451? Pollution-free bookburning

Hey, Bezos? You're calling your e-book reader Kindle? As in book-burning? Fast-forward to when the fascists take over. Oh wait, maybe that's happened. OK. Fast-forward to when the fascists can drop their mask. My library is DRM'd. I have an always-on connection to Amazon headquarters. Book-burning can be replaced by pollution-free book-zapping.

Mickeleh's Take: Memo to self: stop blogging like a paranoid nerd. You're already on that list. But seriously, folks: is naming an electronic book reader Kindle, a) arrogant, b) brilliant, c) clod-headed, or d) daring?

(Tags:, , , )

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Will Open Social Beat (or even match) the User Appeal of Facebook

To many folks open equals good and closed equals evil. So the news that Google will promote an open API for social media across the web, is quickly short-handed to "Google unleashes Facebook killer."

Not so fast, say I.

Don't lose sight of the strong user appeal of Facebook--a large part of which is predicated on the fact that it's a walled garden--simple, neat, cozy, consistent. And Facebook is where my friends are. Not just my geeky friends who fly mothlike to any new shiny thing that launches on the web, but my tech-laggard friends, too.

The open question on Open Social is what user experiences will developers create? Will they appeal to and resonate with a broad public?

Open Social may have more potential than Facebook. But whether that potential is realized will depend not on what developers and advertisers see in it, but what users see.

When social is everywhere, will social be special? Or just the price of admission.

Mickeleh's Take: Remember when Zune was touted as an iPod killer? Remember that iPhone, (closed, locked iPhone) is a runaway hit.

(Tags:, , )

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Three Reasons I'm Not Reviewing Leopard. Yet.

[note to Techmemers: this post isn't about installing Leopard on a PC.]

1. I don't have it.
If I had ordered it from the Apple Store online—or headed out to the Bellevue Square store to buy it, I would have it now. Instead, I ordered it from Amazon. Where Apple shipped in advance for arrival on Friday, Amazon shipped on Friday for arrival next week. This was a tactical blunder on my part, but I'll blame it on Harry Potter. Amazon managed to get me a copy of Deathly Hallows on release day. I assumed they'd do the same for Leopard. Silly me.

So while everyone else is Twittering and blogging about unboxing, installing, waiting, and hating the reflective Dock, I got bubkis.

I tried to escape into the real world so as not to feel like such a laggard. But at a restaurant last night, our waiter, Hector, spotted my iPhone and asked me if I had Leopard yet. I had to admit that I didn't. He said, "How come, it came out yesterday, you know." I didn't deduct his geekly oneupmanship from his tip. But I thought about it. (Hector didn't have a review for me. He had sent his girlfriend to the Apple store to pick up the disks, but he had to leave for his shift, before the installation completed. He was dying to get back to it.)

2. You don't need me.
Come on, you've already read at least five reviews of Leopard. If not, Techmeme has a handy list. So does Google. (Hmmm. Maybe I should blog a review of the reviews, complete with a feature checklist. Memo to self: deprioritize that task.)

3. I'll write about it after Thanksgiving.
What I'm planning to report on is whether Leopard in any way changes my work, world, play, and social graph in any significant way. And that's going to take some time to develop. (Unless like R. Crumb's meatball, Leopard confers instant enlightenment. Based on the reviews
read so far, it doesn't).

Mickeleh's Take: Hector, if we meet again, you'll have to tell me what you think of Leopard.

(Tags:, , , ,

Saturday, October 27, 2007

iPhone Tip: Looking up Businesses? Use Maps.

Quick tip for iPhone users: If you're looking for the phone number of a local business, use Google Maps for a fast, filtered search—even if you're not trying to map the location. You'll get a short list of candidates, and when you tap the the arrow in the label attached to the map pin, you'll get name, address, phone number, and URL (if they have a website). It's one tap to dial, go to the website, or save the listing in your Maps bookmarks, or add a new listing to your phone contact list.

Mickeleh's Take: I use map searches most frequently for phoning in reservations to restaurants. I'd love a mash-up of Zagats with Google maps.

(Tags:, , )

Monday, October 22, 2007

Social Media Tracking SoCal Wildfires

Thanks to Robert Scoble for pointing to this Google Mashup from the L.A. Times that tracks the fires currently burning in Southern California.

Allen Stern, commenting on Scoble's site also links to his own page tracking the fires.

There is some dramatic coverage posted to Flickr. And YouTube.

My prayers and good thoughts for the saftety of all.

Apple Earnings Blow Past "Whisper Number"; Just Warming Up

Congratulations to Apple on a reporting spectacular quarter and fiscal year. From the official release:
The Company posted revenue of $6.22 billion and net quarterly profit of $904 million, or $1.01 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $4.84 billion and net quarterly profit of $542 million, or $.62 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 33.6 percent, up from 29.2 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 40 percent of the quarter’s revenue.
They did over $24 billion in revenues for the year.

The current quarter should be even more spectacular. It's traditionally Apple's best. Leopard will ship. People who have deferred hardware purchases to wait for Leopard will buy Macs. The new iPods continue to be a popular gift. And the iPhone is charging ahead at $399. But, of course, with everyone expecting great results, the pressure gets even higher to beat those expectations.

Mickeleh's Take: For anyone holding Apple shares, it's time to sell just a few and tip the croupier by buying some Apple goodies.

(Tags:, )

Oops! New iPhone Ad Refers to a Site That Requires Flash

Oops. Watching TV last night, I saw an embarrassing new spot in the iPhone testimonial campaign. It features Ken Davenport, producer of the off-Broadway play, My First Time.

He talks about how he uses iPhone to access the fan site for his play and gauge audience reaction.

I happened to have my iPhone in my pocket. I Googled "My First Time" and found the play's website. Oops! It's a Flash site. And iPhone doesn't run Flash.

You can watch the Apple spot here.

Mickeleh's Take: Maybe I should do a testimonial about how watching TV with the iPhone in hand lets me be a goofy nerd and bust commercials.

(Tags:, , , , )

Markoff Didn't Do the Math on Leopard vs Vista Pricing

John Markoff in this morning's NYT gives Steve Jobs a platform to tout Friday's release of Mac OS X Leopard. While Jobs graciously declined to comment on Vista's slow sales and lackluster reviews, he did slip in a zinger about pricing. He said that with Leopard, "“everybody gets the Ultimate edition and it sells for 129 bucks, and if you go on Amazon and look at the Ultimate edition of Vista, it sells for 250 bucks.”

Right. And Steve's other point: Apple has been tossing out a big cat every year and expects to keep it up for another decade.

On the other hand, it took Microsoft seven years to get Vista out the door, with Windows 7 slated for 2010.

So, Microsoft collects their $250 upgrade tax twice in the decade ($500) and Apple collects their $129 tax eight times ($1032). It's the ol' "eight easy payments" game

(OK, there's a big fallacy in this analysis: nobody keeps a computer for ten years. At some point(s) you get a new computer with the OS bundled. And surely the 2010 versions of either Mac OS or Windows won't even run on a 2000 vintage computer. On the other hand, in a multi-computer household, there are always a few computers that will need the upgrade. The screen-sharing features in Leopard will create viral pressure to promulgate this upgrade. Except among the paranoid.)

Mickeleh's Take: I never doubted that Apple could sustain another decade of innovation. The only question is have they run out of cat names? After Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, and Leopard where do we go now? Tabby?

And, yes. I've already ordered the family pack.

(Tags:, , , , , , , )

Monday, October 15, 2007

Can Leopard's Super-Smart Client Make Us Love Email Again?

Apple is on the verge of releasing an email-on-steroids client as part of Leopard (next major release of Mac OS X, slated for Oct. 26). The release hits at a time when alternatives to email are in ascendance. (see, for example this Business Week debate in which Robert Scoble steps forward as the champion for the "moving past email" camp.)

So it's worth asking, is Apple on to something or out of step with the zeitgeist? How will Leopard's mail fare in a Web 2.0, social net world?

Prince McLean at Macinsider has the history of mail on Macintosh, including third-party software and the major tributary branch that began at NeXT. McLean covers two massive, visionary, but unsuccessful and largely forgotten projects from the 90's, PowerTalk (AOCE) and Cyberdog. Both of these projects could be poster-children for how Apple went off the rails during the Steve Jobs interregnum; they overwhelmed available hardware, underwhelmed the market, and screwed the developers.

They also were terribly timed and irrelevant before they shipped. They completely misread the impact of the dominance of Windows, the rise of Internet-based mail standards and the explosion of the Web as a mass-market phenomenon. (Cyberdog had a Web browser, but in those days, Netscape had the world's attention, setting the pace for innovation and enhancements to HTML. Cyberdog could only chase after the evolving Web like a greyhound after a mechanical rabbit.)

In McLean's article, this past is prologue to a rundown of what's in the Leopard version of Apple's email client. If you want to skip the history, you can start right in with his description of what's ahead on page 3. It's almost as breathless as Apple's marketing page for Mail.

The new Mail will bid to be a center of our personal workflow, incorporating to do lists, notes, RSS reader and smart integration with Calendar and Address Book and more—thanks to the return of Apple Data Detectors. (This bit of technology from pre OS X days can parse your email for events, addresses, contact info and intelligently offer to file it or act on it.)

Mickeleh's Take: Email isn't going away any time soon. Apple's approach has the potential to transform the way we deal with it. But exploiting the full potential of the features baked into Leopard's email client will require lots of behavioral change on the part of the user. I'm skeptical, yet hopeful. But the acid test is whether Apple's new mail client will seduce Scoble.

(Tags:, , , , , , )

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Loren on the Plight of the iPhone unLocker

Our story so far: Apple releases the iPhone. It only works with AT&T in the USA. Some folks hack it to unlock it for use with any mobile carrier (losing some features in the process, but gaining freedom). Apple discovers that some of these hacks "cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable" after the next software update. Oops.

Loren Feldman, of 1938 Media, master of empathy, commiserates with the brave souls that unlocked their iPhones.

Mickeleh's Take: Look on the bright side: you still get your $100 store credit.

(Tags:, , , , , , , , )

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Microsoft Tool Forecasts Continued iPod Dominance over Zune

Steve Rubel points to a new Microsoft tool that helps advertisers sharpen their ad buys by rating the Online Commercial Intent of various queries and visits to websites. The idea is to rate the value of advertising not simply by counting impressions exposed to a target audience, but by whether the audience visiting a given site or entering a given query has a commercial intent to purchase.

Enter a URL or a query into a tool and you get a rating. Rubel lists various popular sites by their Commerical Intent index, with Consumerist and Gizmodo ranking at the top and Web 2.0 faves Wikipedia, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter ranking near the bottom. (Bear in mind that there's a hefty disclaimer saying this is merely proof of concept and "the tools do not provide or display conclusive results; rather, they are designed ro produce anecdotal information that might indicate a trend or behavior that seems pertinent to an individual advertiser.")

For fun, I tried queries on iPod and Zune. Turns out that people searching for iPod have better than a 93% commercial intent, while those searching for Zune have between a 68% and 76%.

Oddly, the tool won't give you the same number twice in a row. For Zune the results varied widely: successive submissions yielded results of 0.7259, 0.7496, and 0.65499.

Mickeleh's Take
: Anybody remember back a year when Zune was promoted as the iPod killer?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Google Docs May Be Good. Their Video is Great

Today, Google fills out their online application suite with a presentation tool. I don't have time to evaluate it and review it. I don't need to, because I'm sure that others are rushing to do so. Check with Techmeme.

What I'd like to do is review the marketing video that introduces the concept on Google's blog. The video was made by CommonCraft and it's brilliant in its simplicity and clarity. CommonCraft, by the way, is two folks who live just across the lake from me in Seattle: Lee and Sachi LeFever.

They found simple visual metaphors, a low-cost production technique and, above all, they make the benefit of the product crystal clear. If you need to explain something complex, get in touch with these folks.

Mickeleh's Take: I love that you can see the strings. That's the coolest thing about this video.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

iPhone Early Adopter Tax refund? (Thanks Unca Steve)

I'm sure there's something I'll be able to do with my $100 store credit. Kudos to Apple for responding so quickly to the waves of resentment triggered by the sudden dramatic price drop on iPhone.
I'm in New York with the MWA production crew that put on the HP event last night. Two of my colleagues (including the actual MW of MWA) snapped up two of the now cheaper iPhones.
I'm posting from the Apple Fifth Avenue Store looking for Genius Bar service since my MacBook suddenly decided to show me the dreaded folder icon instead of booting up.
The place is mobbed at 10:15. Everyone is schnorring some free computer and internet access. Except for the fact that there are no drinks and no chairs. And the tables are a little low for comfort, the place has the feel of an Internet Cafe.

One of my fellow net schnorrers is dealing with the low table by adopting a Senator Craig style wide stance. But with the trousers up.

That iPhone Early Adopter Tax (shrug)

I missed the announcement yesterday. (I was working with the MWA team on producing the HP product event that ran last night, and somewhat pre-occupied.)

I learn this morning that Apple had revved the entire iPod line, but the only bit that penetrated my pre-occupations yesterday was the price-drop on the iPhone. (The Jefferson Graham and Ed Baig Q&A with Jobs focused on the price drop and captured the lede this morning on Techmeme as well.)

The only email I got on Apple's event this morning was on the price-drop. Someone asked me if I had any theories. Yeah, I got a theory: Steve wants to sell a shitload of iPhones.

iPhone was clearly designed (and marketed) for the mainstream. Apple is buying a lot of TV time to get the iPhone mini-demos in front of gazillions of viewers. But $600 for a phone is not mainstream pricing. Frankly, neither is $400. Ah, but $400 as a price-drop from $600? Now that smells like a bargain.

Mickeleh's Take: A price drop on iPhone was inevitable and widely predicted. The surprise was the timing. So soon? I paid $200 for only six weeks of what Owen Thomas pegs as nothing more than smugness? Did I overpay? Could I have bought that much smugness for less? Probably not.

(Tags:, , , )

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Criswell & Scoble Predict

Here's my take on the recent unpleasantness instigated when Robert Scoble offered sweeping (and very unlikely) predictions of the future of search.

Back-story for those who don't follow these things. (For those who do, then skip to "for those who do.") Actually, for most of those who don't follow these things, this is your stop.

Last weekend, Robert Scoble posted videos to his Kyte channel with some brave predictions about the future of search. A ton of bricks fell on him. He cataloged some of the heaviest bricks on his blog. The refuteniks rated Scoble's original video somewhere to the south of the immortal Criswell opening of Plan Nine from Outer Space.

Many bits were slaughtered, splayed, and sprayed through the ether in the mayhem that ensued. Robert fought tirelessly and railed against his enemies (Nixon nostalgia?) until Dave Winer reminded him that he actually knew better. Dave can get Robert to listen (sometimes). Things changed. But while Robert responded to Dave's post, IMHO, he never quite embraced the essence of it.

For those who do follow these things, pick it up here:

I think there were (at least) six layers to this perfect storm.

1) Robert's predictions about the future of four companies—unlikely scenarios based on misperceptions and shaky assumptions;
2) Implied endorsements and embrace of Mahalo, Techmeme, and Facebook--and the entrepreneurs and/or developers behind them.
3) Robert's presentation and medium—unsearchable, unskimmable, requiring a higher investment on the audience than text; (and being harder to revise and improve before posting.)
4) Robert's persona in the videos as all-knowing oracle—belied by the preposterousness of the story and incompleteness of his knowledge; He didn't present it as a hypothesis to be tested and vetted, but as a done deal. (Did anyone hear the famous Scoble laugh in the Skype videos? I confess, I bailed long before the end, so I don't know for sure.)
5) Robert's standing and status in the blogosphere—which will always draw challengers.
6) The size of the bet that Robert made by the magnitude of his claims—he was going for broke and claiming first chair in the visionary section.

Some of the prominent participants in the melee were clearly gunning for Robert based on 4,5,6. (And you know who you are.)

It became impossible to track the conversation back to layer 1 where the collaborative dynamics of "we'll fact check your ass" apply. Anything less than agreement became an attack.

It's clear, however, that Dave's relationship with Robert gave him a unique standing to break his cycle of defensiveness.

Mickeleh's Take: If it were possible for everyone to focus on the top layer and talk about the story and why it might or might not be plausible, the conversation would have had a different tone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Note To Politicians Planning to Take August Off

August is much in the news lately. We've come to the point where months get two weeks of promotion just like new movies.

What we're told about August is that the Iraqi parliament plans to take it off. So does the President. So does the U.S. Congress. But not, of course, the soldiers and marines serving in Iraq.

So here's something to think about during the month of August. The month is named is named for the Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar about whom Edward Gibbon wrote:
... it was easy for him to discover that Rome, in her present exalted situation, had much less to hope than to fear from the chance of arms; and that, in the prosecution of remote wars, the undertaking became every day more difficult, the event more doubtful, and the possession more precarious, and less beneficial.
Know any current "remote wars" that might apply to? "... the undertaking became every day more difficult, the event more doubtful, and the possession more precarious, and less beneficial."

Mickeleh's Take: Hey, Bush: Still looking for legacy? Try peace. You've already demonstrated you're hopeless at war.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Scoble fires back at Nielsen.

Did Jakob Nielsen actually attack anyone in his recent Alertbox?

Doesn't really matter. Robert Scoble, took it personally and worked himself into a high dudgeon. (BTW: Do dudgeons come in low and medium, too? or is it only high?)

(Cue Carly Simon: "You're so vain. I'll bet you think this blog is about you. Don't you? Don't you?")

OK, here's da ting: Suppose that Nielsen had advised people to be like Scoble. That advice would be impossible to follow. Scoble is a force of nature. He never stops. He's relentless.

When I was ten, my piano teacher told me that in my entire lifetime I could never even copy all of the music that Bach composed in his lifetime. Likewise with Scoble. I could never just watch all the videos he produces. I could never even read all the posts he writes, all the tweets he tweets, and I don't even want to think about keeping up with him on Facebook.

Robert Scoble is generous and open, often wrong and insufferable, but right more than wrong. If journalism is the first draft of history, Scoble's blog is the zero draft sketchbook. But that's okay, because he's gathered an audience of friends, fans, boosters and detractors who provide corrective wisdom or unbridled inanities that make Scoble appear wise by comparison.

Mickeleh's Take: Here's why Nielsen's advice is better than Scoble's: a mere mortal has a chance of following it. There's no point in trying to be Scoble. The job's taken. (Oh, and by the way, didn't Scoble actually follow Nielsen's advice when he worked with Shel Israel to write Naked Conversations?)

PS: I read Scoble much more often than I read Nielsen. But I have a t-shirt with Nielsen's picture on it.

(Tags: , , , , )

Can I Post on Jakob Nielsen's Advice Not to Post?

Usability Guru Jakob Nielsen makes a cogent case for slowing the pace of discourse. He favors writing serious, well-researched articles rather than snappy blog posts. (Scoble, Winer, Israel, et al. not withstanding.) Whether your aim is to promote yourself as an individual expert or to promote your business, Nielson argues for quality and substance over quantity. (My favorite blogger who embodies this philosophy: Guy Kawasaki)

Nielsen may be right. But it doesn't matter any more. Our brains are hopelessly scrambled and scrunged. After a decade of blogs, two decades of PowerPoint and SMS, six decades of TV—both programming and advertising—and a century of research and development in how to by-pass logical discourse that runs from from Hopkins to Bernays to Goebbels to Luntz, it's just too late. If people don't get it in a quick emotion-charged hit, they're on to the next thing. We're always reaching for the clicker—whether it's the remote or the mouse.

Jakob is standing athwart history. The game was over before it began. The late Neil Postman nailed it in his 1985 classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness. We've moved on to the age of the sound bite embodied by Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce. (If they merged, they'd have a great name. But is it for a law firm? ad agency? or do they do repo for auto loan companies?)

Update: Scoble fires back at Nielsen. (But did Nielsen actually fire at Scoble?)

Mickeleh's Take: It's the age of the dot-com meets the dot-dot-dots. Walter Winchell, Herb Caen, you left too soon.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

iPhone Parody Ad: The Real Internet (minus Flash)

Thanks to Scoble for the pointer. (Scoble is prowling and posting from the iPhoneDevCamp being held at the Adobe offices. Y'know Adobe... the folks who sell Flash. But this isn't Adobe's conference; they're just one of a couple dozen sponsors of this BarCamp. Oh, and it's most certainly not Apple's conference, either.)

Mickeleh's Take: I knew I was wise to wait. (Keep telling yourself that, Mickeleh. How long will you be able to hold out?)

(Tags:, , )

Friday, July 06, 2007

On the Soapbox: Top Ten Rants on the Scooter Commute

Over on the political side, I've linked to the top ten rants I've seen on the Scooter Commute. (It goes to eleven and includes some bonuses.)

Mickeleh's Take: They knew we'd be outraged. But they're counting on the outrage to fade quickly as some other news crowds this out of the headlines. The best ways to keep it in the headlines: write to Congress. Encourage inquiry. Blog about it. Write letters to the media. Post on Other blogs. And stay informed.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Steve Jobs' Other June 29 Product Launch: Ratatouille

If Steve Jobs had just brought us the iPhone on June 29, 2007, dayenu--it would have been enough. But that date also marks a simultaneous launch of a groundbreaking product from Steve's other company, Pixar (now in the corporate maw of Disney): Brad Bird's Ratatouille. (If you're lucky enough you can find out where it's playing on your iPhone.)

The review I'd write, had I time and talent is by A.O Scott in the New York Times. But don't read the review until you've seen the movie. Scott gives away too much that you should have directly from Bird.

Bird takes the standard formula for commercial success in animation (write for the kiddies and throw in some sophisticated jokes and cultural references to keep the parents from squirming) and turns it on it's head. Ratatouille is a film for adults about the essence of excellence and the soul of creativity with enough madcap mayhem, chases, fireworks, spills and gags to keep the kiddies from squirming. (It's been known since the dawn of movies: falling into water is funny. Remember that if you ever want to make a comedy.)

As in The Incredibles (2004) Bird finds a way to translate the look of drawn caricature into the language of 3-D models. The character design is hilarious, and the character development is rich and distinct—even for the supporting cast. As in every Pixar feature, the look of every frame is meticulous, thoughtful, and invested with love and delight of craft. The best Pixar features are love songs to the worlds that inspire them. Just as Cars bursts with deep knowledge and joy of car culture, Ratatouille takes food, kitchens, and restaurants seriously. The filmmakers tackle the challenge of depicting the senses of smell and taste without resorting to the cartoon cliche of wavery, wafting, smoky aroma lines. This film is so delicious, you can almost taste it.

Moore's law and an army of clever coders will guarantee that each year's crop of big budget animated movies will have richer palettes of texture, lighting, fire, fur, and liquids to throw up on the screen, But what catches our breath and holds our attention in a Pixar film is not the atmospherics, but the story. No one works harder or better at building animation stories than Pixar, and Ratatouille has, perhaps, their best, most satisfying story ever. Director Bird also has screenplay credit on Ratatouille and shares story credits with Jim Capobianco and Jan Pinkava.

Mickeleh's Take: As a meditation on excellence and creativity, Ratatouille can be taken as a commentary on iPhone. Great movies and great products (like great kitchens) are the product of teamwork, top ingredients, dedication, risk, and love. They also are expressions of a singular, driven, creative vision. Chuck Jones said that it's combination of a lot of work and a lot of love, but when it's done right, all you notice is the love. Thank you, John Lasseter. Thank you, Steve Jobs. Thank you, Brad Bird.

(Tags: , , , , , , , )

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone is Bigger than Paris Hilton (Today, Anyway)

As the six o'clock iPod launch hour marched westward across the U.S. time zones, CNBC gave it the kind of coverage that cable usually reserves for wayward blonds, and school shootings. Feeds from Palo Alto, San Francisco, Walnut Creek, New York, and Chicago. Pundits, geeks, business folks gladly volunteering to become props and shills for the promotion of iPhone. The privilege of being in line was payment enough. (except for those few who sold their place in line to the more privileged and less sane at prices from $400 to $700.)

Mickeleh's Take: Kudos to Apple for a communications and PR blitz that managed to knock coverage of America's wayward blondes off the air for a few hours.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Survey Most Dem Candidates Use Linux; Repubs, Microsoft

Kos points to a survey by Douglas Karr of the server software running presidential candidate websites. Kos notes:
... several Republican campaigns are using Rackspace, which is one of the most expensive hosts around. That's money pissed down the series of tubes. Most Republicans are on Windows, most Democrats are on Linux. The lone Democrat to host their site with the evil empire? Hillary's, of course.
Mickeleh's Take: There may be more to that Hillary/1984 parody than we thought.

(Tags: , , )

Monday, June 25, 2007

Does this mean Cory Doctorow Isn't Getting an iPhone?

Pop Quiz: Which of Apple's iPhone partners is famous for the motto "Don't be evil"?

Hint: it's the one that finds seafood restaurants for people in San Francisco who hanker for calamari while watching Pirates of the Caribbean.

If you answered AT&T, you might want to take a refresher course at the university of Boing Boing with Professor Doctorow. He doesn't actually say they're evil, but he does call them scumbags and vows, "Seriously: the only day I wouldn't piss on AT&T is if they were on fire."

A tip of the Mickeleh Yarmulke to my sister for pointing me to Cory's post.

Mickeleh's Take: If anybody sees Cory Doctorow with an iPhone, ask him who his carrier is.

(Tags: , , , , )

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Are People Ready for Another Techmeme Circle Jerk?

You bet they are. It's the weekend, so out in the blogosphere, you'll find a gazillion people ready to spend their time reading and writing, huffing and puffing about some grand ethical issue exposed by Valleywag and facilitated through Techmeme.

And what are people ready to churn up the internets about this weekend? It's a John Battelle-brokered scheme to let A-list bloggers pocket some Microsoft bucks in return for a saying a few words about a Microsoft marketing coinage. (These would include, for example, a famous A-lister whose nose turned in the direction of up at this declassé version of blogging for dollars. But who now takes the Talmudic view that it's okay for a woman to lie about her age because everyone knows that's what they do.)

Mickeleh's Take: If I were to have an opinion about this one it would be Dave Winer's. And if I were to point to someone who handled this almost honorably, it would be Om Malik. (I say almost, because a close reading reveals he's offering only an "I'm sorry you were offended" non-apology perfected by politicians. I say honorably because he promises not to do it again.)

But I'm sitting this one out. Disclosure: nobody paid me for not offering an opinion.

(Tags: , , , , )

Thursday, June 21, 2007

YouTube on AppleTV; it lasted a night, now it's down; back after power-cycling

Had some folks over to play with AppleTV (now with the great taste of YouTube).

Here's the good news: It's fun. If you have folks in the room, browsing on TV changes the YouTube experience into a comfortable social experience. Some of the clips look very fine. They even show up in full widescreen glory. (see Matt Haughey for more on this.). . Low bit-rate clips that suck on a PC screen suck as much or more on TV.

My sister had an a-hah moment, saying that with YouTube, AppleTV finally makes sense to her. My roommate logged into his account through the TV interface and was able to browse through his favorites to show some of his clips. Performance was excellent—a short pause for buffering and then the clips played through smoothly. We didn't see any that had to pause or hiccup to gulp down some more bits

The bad news: While it let me log in, when I tried to save a clip to my favorites, it suddenly said it didn't recognize my password. (My roommate didn't have this problem.) One gotcha: it's likely that most of the clips in your Favorites are not yet available on AppleTV. Only a tiny fraction of the YouTube library has been encoded in H.264 as required for AppleTV. Most of them are still in Flash video format.

The worse news: This morning, I couldn't get the lists for Most Recent, Most Viewed, Featured, or Top Rated to load. (endless spinning). History, which I guess is cached on the box, came up and I could stream any of the clips on that list, so I'm pretty sure the box is online. After unplugging and replugging the AppleTV, YouTube worked as expected.

If you want to sample the experience for yourself, Brian Lam posted a tour on Gizmodo.

Mickeleh's Take: Last night I saw the future. This morning I learned that the future isn't here yet. Maybe it will work better on iPhone.

(Tags: , , )

Cool Tool for Cooks: Grease Blotter

Kevin Kelly offers a neat tip for cooks who need to get the grease and fat out of stews and such.

Mickeleh's Take: Think of it as liposuction for soups stews.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

YouTube on AppleTV; first look

The download completed. (had to keep checking, because AppleTV went into screensaver mode). Then another click to install and restart. Bonus: you get another view of the startup movie.

Neat translation of the YouTube U-I into AppleTV. (Could it be anything less?) Video quality? Better than I expected, but it varies per video.

There's an onscreen keyboard for search (you can navigate by arrow keys on the remote), and another keyboard with a different design and many more, much smaller characters for logging in to rate videos and save to your favorites.

The announcement said that they'd start with 10,000 videos available in the ecoding format that AppleTV requires (H.264), and it's already up to 11,500. The plan is to have the entire library available by year's end.

I'll offer a considered opinion of the experience after I've used it at leisure. But at first glance, it's a solid and well-designed translation of YouTube to the living room.

Mickeleh's Take: I wonder how many AppleTV users will a) know that the update is available, b) know how to pull it down, c) take the trouble to do it? Compare this to, say, TiVo, Moxi, or any cable DVR: when a software update is ready, it's pushed to the box willy-nilly. Apple is following PC rules—don't mess with the user's software without knowledge or permission. But now that they're in the CE space, maybe it's time to be a little more paternalistic.

Either way, the triumph is this: Finally, something even more mind-numbing than TV. Technology Marches On.

(Tags: , , )

YouTube on AppleTV; downloading now

Apple announced an update to AppleTV software available today. They don't push it. You have to go into Settings and ask for it. Which I did. Spinning.

Vince Foster's Revenge: Clintons Gleefully Wear The Mantle of the Mob

Okay, it was funny. Someone emailed me about it. I passed it on. I mentioned it on Twitter. It made Olbermann. It was the funniest Sopranos parody by a politician ever. Not quite on the level of the great MadTV parody of a few years back, but a fine piece of work. Hill and Bill as Tony and Carm. (Carm and Tony?)

I don't want to overthink this but I can't help myself. Tony's song was "Don't Stop (Believing)" Bill's was "Don't Stop (Thinking about Tomorrow)." Hmm. Did they really want to revive all of the Bill Clinton whacks his enemies crap? Hmm. Did they have to pick a song by a Canadian? Hmm. That Canadian? Do they know that half the country thinks that the cut to black at the end of the Sopranos signifies that Tony was whacked? Hmm.

Mickeleh's Take: Great way to co-opt the culture and soften the candidate's image."You and I were meant to fly." —Celine. "Fly, you fools!" —Gandalf

(Tags: , , , , )

Addendum: Things you can learn in the blogosphere. The Clinton spot was filmed at the Mount Kisco Coach Diner. If you're ever there, try the chocolate pudding, says Marty of Martin's Musings.

Second Addendum: Did I say, "soften"? Stacey Parker AAB has thought this through much more deeply than I.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Krya Sedgwick Blurts About a Demo Steve Jobs Never Showed Us

This morning's Fake Steve Jobs post warns of the inevitable media backlash against Apple. (Thanks, Scoble, for the tip.) Fake Steve, as usual, offers truth, wisdom, comedy, and darn good writing. I think he's right about the backlash. When Christopher Escher was doing PR at Apple, he called it the clock theory: when you're at the top of the clock (noon), it's time for the media to start predicting your fall. When you hit bottom (six), it's time for the comeback story.

But it ain't happening yet.

Early Friday morning on Conan, Kyra Sedgwick gave Steve and Apple a priceless plug, asking us to imagine a demo that, so far, has never made it into a Steve Jobs Keynote.
I’m curious about something. Your career is, of course, going very well, but this must be a little difficult—your husband, of course, Mr. Kevin Bacon, lives in New York with the kids. This is, uh, so you’ve got to keep this relationship going long distance. That’s gotta be difficult

Yeah, it’s hard. You know, but there’s the phone and there’s iChat.



Is I chat..? You find that better than the phone?

Yaah. Because you know, you can see each other and… (long pause, lips pursed). Let’s just say I’m really grateful for Steven Jobs.

Right. Right.

He’s kept my marriage together.

Right. So... it gets kinky over iChat? Is that what you’re suggesting?

Maybe. Sometimes.

You know I dfon’t think that’s what… I think when they came up with the computer, they weren’t… that wasn’t their first thought. Maybe it was?

But It was there second thought. Let me tell you. Because, I mean, I Chat, I mean realy. What are people gonna use that for

But how hot and heavy can it get on iChat.. I mean, I’ve experienced that a little bit. It doesn’t look like you can really be whoo-whoo-whoo- (pantomimens lifting his shirt to flash his chest) It doesn’t look that exciting to me.

You have to use your imagination. No it’s good though. It’s gotten better and better.Maybe you don’t have the right camera.
You just solved all my problems

Mickeleh's Take: So, does that earn Steve a Kevin Bacon number?

(Tags: , , , , )

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Safari for Windows Take 2: It's all about iPhone

Tim Moynahan has the clearest take I've seen so far on the impact of Safari for Windows. Sez he: it's a ploy to get the Windows development world engaged in apps for iPhone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Safari for Windows

An Apple branded browser for Windows is something nobody expected and nobody needs. If you have Windows, you already have a browser (IE7), and if you don't like IE7, you can choose Firefox, If you don't like Firefox, you can help yourself to any one of a sturdy bunch of excellent hopefuls. Obviously, Safari for Windows is just a big yawn. Or so you'd think.

Take a gander at Techmeme this morning and it seems everyone in the world wants to say something--usually something critical--about Steve Job's announcement yesterday that Apple was releasing Safari for Windows. Ryan Block is skeptical. Michael Gartenberg hails it as a "great strategic move." While I'd expect the pundits and analysts to pundificate and analyze, it's astonishing to see the large number of folks who took time from their busy Monday to not only follow the keynote, but to download the beta, test it, and blog about it. Top takes: vulnerability to malware, fuzzy font-rendering (though this one is debated), and yes, it's fast.

Mickeleh's Take: Don't we have anything better to do than download irrelevant software? Shouldn't we outsource this odious task to India or China? When Walt Mossberg quizzed Steve at the D Conference about why Apple was doing apps for Windows, Steve quipped, he was bringing ice water to people in hell. If the critics are right about Safari font rendering, I guess it's fuzzy ice water.

(Tags: , , )

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Sopranpose

How can anybody complain about an episode in which A.J. discovers Dylan, Agent Harris gets laid, Little Steven gets to relax his mouth and hair from the silly Sil grimace and do, Paulie gets to call Tony, "my liege," and we all get to enjoy a nice game of Pop Goes the Weasel's Head?

Mickeleh's Take: Ending Schmending. Kudos to David Chase and the entire cast and crew.

(Tags: , , , , )

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm back

Good gracious, what a hiatus. I've been "off the air" almost as long as the gap between Heroes episode 18 (Parasite) and 19 (.07%). You'd think I'd fallen off the edge of the world. I tried to, but it turns out there is no edge of the world, so I wound up in Shanghai instead (working with the MWA crew on the HP "Mobility Summit"). I know I could have blogged from Shanghai, but I was having too much fun. Or I was working too hard, which is much the same thing in the workaholic game).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fame and the Future of Mass Murder

Yesterday, I took NBC to task for its willingness eagerness to advance a killer's agenda of becoming famous. On Huffington Post, Cintra Wilson takes it further. Reminding us that Cho explicitly aligned with the Columbine killers and sought to top them, she asks whether NBC hasn't contributed to raising the bar and ensuring that the next sick mass murderer will do even more damage than Cho.

I think we can cut through the arguments about whether future "copycat" killers are likely. They're inevitable. The VTech killer himself tells us that he was a disciple of the Columbine killers. Some tiny fraction of human brains turn out to be horribly buggy. And some of the buggy ones will inevitably be drawn to the fame game. As with TV ratings, movie grosses, and IPOs, unique visitors, and Technorati rankings, the infamy game has a scoreboard.

How long will we wait for the next buggy-brained sociopath to go off his meds and play a round of "Can you top this?" It might be years, but it will happen.

Next time, however, the mediation of a major broadcast network may not be necessary. (for the early-adopter crowd, it wasn't necessary this time.) Dave Winer contemplates the marriage of our evolving arsenal of social media services and abuser-generated content. Dave also has some worthwhile links to other voices in this grim conversation.

Earlier in the week Dave and Doc Searls argued for the release of the entire package unedited and unexpurgated. Doc views it as an application of crowd-sourced debugging:
"More eyes will make the this bug shallower. It may save lives. Even if we see a zillion mashups of the original video, which we'll see eventually anyway."
Doc expanded on that on an NPR interview with Xeni Jardin and in his own blog.

Jeff Jarvis
takes the same position that got Tex Antoine fired many consciousness-raising revolutions ago.

Mickeleh's Take: NBC should have used their editorial judgment, but reversed the filter. Instead of broadcasting and posting the Rambo-glam dress-up movie posters and the bling-envy poetry, they should have aired the sickest, most profanity-laced, and least comprehensible rantings of the killer. That would have serve two purposes: If Doc is right and crowd-sourcing the bugs will help us fix them, then NBC should have put the buggiest bugs out there. If Cintra is right and copycats will look to Cho for guidance, then NBC should have made it really hard for anyone to latch on by showing Cho only at his least accessible, and most incomprehensible.

(Tags: , , , , , )

Thursday, April 19, 2007

By Airing Cho's Video, NBC Became His Willing Accomplice

VTech killer Cho Seung-Hui had a grandiose suicide plan that began with mass murder and concluded with a worldwide airing of his raving grievances and poses. He accomplished the murders by himself. But to complete his scheme he enlisted NBC. They were more than happy to carry out his wishes, confirming a killer's right to show under the guise of the public's right to know.

At long last, having recovered a sense of decency and firing Imus for hate speech, NBC dropped to full pander and gave Cho more coverage than he could have hoped for.

Even Keith Olbermann, who a week earlier had pressed his managment to drop Don Imus, participated in the spectacle of all-Cho all-the-time.

Fame, notoriety, and attention are prime motivators for the deranged, tormented souls who do mass murder. By fulfilling Cho's desire to be the auteur of his own world-wide video portrait, dumb-as-a-peacock NBC became his willing accomplice. They've demonstrated to other carriers of simmering, ungoverned rage, that major broadcast networks will assist them in reaching a worldwide audience.

Mickeleh's Take: Where advertisers have to pay cash for airtime, NBC offers it to mass murderers for the price of bullets and corpses. This is not comforting.

(Tags: , , , , , )

Monday, April 16, 2007

Senator Edwards' Statement on the Shootings

I don't look to presidential candidates for comfort and grace in times of disaster.
But this morning I found it in Senator Edwards' statement on the Virginia Tech shootings.
"We are simply heartbroken by the deaths and injuries suffered at Virginia Tech. We know what an unspeakable, life-changing moment this is for these families and how, in this moment, it is hard to feel anything but overwhelming grief, much less the love and support around you. But the love and support is there. We pray that these families, these students, and the entire Virginia Tech community know that they are being embraced by a nation. There is a Methodist hymn that gave us solace in such a moment as this, and we repeat its final verse here, in hopes it will help these families, as it helped us:

'In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing, in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.'

Our dearest wish is that this day could start again, with the promise of these young people alive. Knowing that cannot be, our prayer is for God's grace and whatever measure of peace can be reached on this terrible day."
CNN has compiled this with statements from other candidates.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Information on Gonzo-gate: Did Bush OK Firing Iglesias?

There's new information linking Bush to Gonzo-gate. I just posted about it on the Soapbox.

(Tags: , , , , , )

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Why Imus Had to Go—David Carr Nails It

David Carr in The New York Times analyzes the perfect storm of forces that converged to force Imus off the air (and the cable). Why was "nappy-headed hos" any more egregious than previous bits of nasty Imus insult that passed without consequences? Carr explains why Imus was doomed this time.

Mickeleh's Take
: The fatal Imus flap sullied the brands of both NBC News and CBS while driving away advertisers. That Imus was suddenly unsustainable while Savage, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck, Boortz, and Gibson continue to cruise along pleasing their audiences, advertisers, and networks is outrageous. Imus was simply was crude and mean (not that I'm defending crude and mean). But these other guys are not only cheapening discourse, they're aligned with forces and agendas that are ruining our environment, trashing our constitution, depleting our military, and keeping us at war. If you sully brand CBS, you're fired. But if you trash brand USA, you get to keep your microphone? Before this firestorm abates, I wonder if it can take out one or two of the truly bad guys. (Media Matters has transcripts on these verbal vermin).

Amen to Al Franken, who told Larry King that CNN needs to can Beck.

Questions: Anyone listen to Howard Stern this week? Did he have anything to say about it? Will Imus pack it in this time or wind up with another (maybe satellite) show.

(Tag: )

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Haiku About Twitter

A haiku (not a Jaiku)about Twitter.

Messages online
From people I've never met,
Junk food for the brain.

Mickeleh's Take: Find me on Twitter, here.

(Tags: , , )

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thanks to Scoble and His Twitter Friends for Hot Mac Software Recommendations

Now that Macs can run Windows (thanks to their Intel processor and Parallels), Robert Scoble has decided it's safe to switch. As a Mac newbie, he reached out to his vast followership on Twitter (more than 2500) for software recommendations and they came pouring in. If you're a Mac user, it's a good list to peruse.

Mickeleh's Take: I've been on Mac since 1984 and I found a few gems I hadn't known about. If you have some to add, you might leave a comment on Scobleizer.

(Tags: , , , , , , )

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dave Winer: The 10-year Anniversary That Almost Wasn't

Last year, April Fool's day fell on March 13. On that day, Dave Winer posted on why he would stop blogging. Thank goodness he thought better of that and Scripting News persists. Yesterday, it passed its tenth anniversary. Mazel Tov.

Mickeleh's Take: Dave earned my eternal gratitude for writing Think Tank and More. He could have stopped there. But he didn't and he still hasn't. Consider that for most of his career he's worked as an individual or as leader of very small companies, yet he has done more to shape what I and many others do on the net on a daily basis than most of the giants. Thank you for being a hero not only to me, but to scads of my other heroes. Keep the fires lit. And keep holding everyone's feet to them.

(Tags: , , , , , )

Last Year On Mickeleh's Take: Pesach, Roosevelt, and us

Pesach begins tonight. Because of the way the Hebrew lunar-solar calendar occasionally adds a leap month instead of a leap day, Pesach coincided with the anniversary of FDR's death. I wrote this on that occasion.

Mickeleh's Take
: Still holds.

(Tags: , , , )

EMI Deal: iTunes Gets First Dibs... But EMI Will Offer to Other Retailers

There are two reasons why I (usually) buy CDs from Amazon rather than download them from iTunes: no DRM and higher sound quality. Those reasons went away (for some recordings) when EMI and Apple announced a new tier of DRM-free, higher bit-rate tunes. (At least that's how Steve Jobs sees it. It remains to be heard how the well the improved--but still lossy--tracks compare to CD quality.)

Price on a single tune goes up from $.99 to $1.29, but the album price stays the same. (This is the second move from iTunes aimed at offering incentives to buying the album rather than cherry-picking favorite cuts. Last week they offered to allow people to complete albums for the price they would have paid in the first place.)

A neat deet: If you have already bought the lower-quality DRM-shackled version of the song for $.99, you can upgrade for the price difference--$.30.

While iTunes gets first crack at this deal, EMI said it will offer the same deal to other retailers in a choice of formats (AAC, MP3, WMA, and others).

Mickeleh's Take
: I'm seeing one of those movie scenes in an aquarium where the camera cuts to a small crack in the glass. And then keeps cutting back as the crack lengthens, until, with a great roar and a rush of waters, all the actors are drenched and covered in fish. Thanks, in advance, for all the fish.

You don't suppose that EMI decided to set the music free in honor of Pesach (also known by it's slave name, Passover.)

More at Techmeme

(Tags: , , , , )

Sunday, April 01, 2007

One Week With Apple TV

What's wrong with these pictures? The copy in this Apple promotional graphic says "widescreen TV," but all of the TV images are standard 4:3 format. Hmmm. It's a good metaphor for the gap between the promise of Apple TV and the reality. But for me, the reality is plenty good (for now).
I'm late with my promised Apple TV review because I can't stop watching and listening to it. The boob tube is back and this boob is glued to the couch. All in all, though, I'm watching much less of the stuff that comes down the cable channels. (We used to call that stuff TV, but I think we're going to need a retronym for it à la "snail mail" and "acoustic guitar.")

Apple TV has been one of the year's most anticipated, reported, reviewed, analyzed, (and, now, hacked) products. So, if it's a topic that interests you, you probably know more about it than I'm about to reveal. But that's blogging for you, thousands of people writing more or less the same thing over and over. Let me thank you in advance for reading it here.

What you've heard and read is all true: Setup is astonishingly smooth and effortless, the U-I is engaging and clean, with a dash of tasteful eye candy (iCandy?).

Apple TV performs as advertised. It does not, however, perform as fantasized. As you probably know by now, it has its limits. It presents in last year's sound and picture quality (last century's, actually). It doesn't get YouTube. It's not a DVR. The movie section in the iTunes Store has bupkis. Apple TV has a tiny hard drive by today's expectations (40GB). It gets very warm to the touch. And, yes, XBox not only does more, but Xbox Live offers true HDTV. (And they announced more HD titles this week.) how much more does Xbox do? Jodie Cadieux reminded me that XBox is even stopping drug and gun trafficking in Mexico as officials there are giving out a free Xbox for every gun turned in to law enforcers. Match that, Apple TV.

That Apple TV, despite its limitations, has captured so much attention and early success mystifies some and infuriates others. I'm not here to argue the case. I'm just here to testify that I'm happily enjoying my Apple TV for what it delivers, and I'm not fretting about what's missing. It will get here.

I took Apple at their word: iTunes on my TV. That, right there, is enough to give me two things I've been waiting for: I wanted to connect the music collection on my office computer to the really good sound system in my living room. Second, I made a pledge to Scoble to watch ScobleShow, when I could do it on Apple TV. (is that a recursive reason?) Well, there's lots of other good video podcasts worth subscribing to. Kasper Hauser and other video podcasts on the big screen. Turns out that, even though Ze Frank has ended The Show has putting the archives up on iTunes.

More than I expected

I can tell you that I not only got the two things I bought it for, but I found some bonuses: It was easy to convert my own videos into Apple TV format (QuickTime Pro 7.1.5 has a command "export movie to Apple TV). Now I have Day of the Longtail and a bunch of other videos I worked on with Peter Hirshberg, Michael Witlin Associates, etc. into Apple TV format where they stand ready to inflict on unsuspecting house guests. What's more, it's not a big chore to download clips from YouTube and convert them to play on Apple TV.

Music from background to foreground

Even though the product has "TV" in its name, what I value most is is being able to hear my iTunes music on my best speakers. (Sneaker-netting the iPod into the living room or using AirTunes with Airport Express wasn't cutting it because there's no big screen U-I for browsing.)

Apple TV's oh-so-tasty screen saver is simple and satisfying, offering a multi-plane display of over lapping album art. (memo to self: resist temptation to re-scan all album art to higher resolution.)

About that Teeny Hard Disk Drive

I'm not overly concerned about the small hard drive. The drive is required only for photos. For all other content, you can stream from your computer(s) to Apple TV. I'm having no problems, no glitches streaming over my home WiFi network . (Your mileage may vary.)

The catch is that I have to have my computer on and iTunes running. If I could fit all my content onto the internal Apple TV drive, I could leave my computer off while using Apple TV. If you're running from a notebook, you can leave the house with it, and the folks back home can still enjoy the Apple TV. With content on the internal drive, you can even unplug Apple TV, take it over to a friend's house.

In order to manage what actually gets sync'd to Apple TV, iTunes 7.1.1 has set of panels, similar to the panels for managing the content that syncs to your iPod. You set set which playlists, photo albums, or podcasts should sync to Apple TV.

Up to Six Computers Can Play

Up to six separate computers can register to stream to a single Apple TV, so if your household members have multiple computers, they can share a single Apple TV. Only one computer, however, can register to sync content to the Apple TV hard drive. You can mix and match PCs and Macs.

How good is the picture?

Depending on the source, it varies from yuck to not-half-bad to pretty close to DVD—and occasionally better. So if your goal is a new source of HDTV quality programming, look elsewhere.

How good is the sound?

Quality is fine. But it's stereo or Dolby pro-logic only. Despite the presence of a digital audio port (optical S/PDIF), Apple TV does not now support discreet 5.1 or 7.1 surround formats.

Ben Drawbaugh
offers a clear table on the technical limitations of Apple TV vs HD DVD

Mickeleh's Take: March has seen some huge steps aimed at flipping TV away from the established cable and satellite walled gardens for delivering TV shows and movies. Online video is moving in. Amazon Unbox started downloading movies to TiVo. NBC Universal and News Corp. initiated an everybody-but-Google consortium with AOL, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo planning to put a vast film and TV catalog online. Joost beta went live. And Om Malik launched a redesigned NewTeeVee to report on it all.

There's little doubt that a revolutionary change is underway, but it's one that will be years in the making. Bandwidth and intellectual property battles are the biggest constraints.

What's makes Apple TV successful despite its limitations is that it fits well with the current state of things. For me, cable is still my only source of HD programming. But for music, podcasts, and TV access to my own videos, Apple TV is proving well worth it.

(Tags: , , , , , , , , , )