Monday, January 28, 2008

We Don't Usually Have to Worry About This at the Office

The phones here in our Kampala office were acting a bit strange when a call came in so I went to the communications room to check it out. Everything seemed in order so I took the cover off of the wall-mounted system. A number of geckos, maybe 5 or 6, came running out, one at least 4 or more inches long! I check the system and it seemed okay. I tested it by using my mobile phone and everything was alright now.

So, maybe it isn't the famous story about a moth and a vacuum tube, but its still interesting what we have to account for here.

Labor is Inexpensive in Uganda

I have been driving by the Kololo Airstrip as I move between the hotel and the office. This airstrip is used by the President and also is the occasional setting for ceremonies. It was the center of celebration for the Day of the African Child in June for example.

On one of the days, while headed to the office, I noticed the almost constant whine of small engines as we passed the airstrip. My first thought was "radio-controlled planes" but I quickly dismissed that idea. Then I realized that it was the sound of a gas trimmer. Over the next few days the sound was always there, sometimes it seemed as though there was a "swarm" of them.

Well, today I finally figured it out. They have people who trim the grass for the entire airfield using just these trimmers; about 20 of them. I just couldn't see them the first few days because of a berm at the far end of the field.

Even though labor may be inexpensive here, I can't imagine why a good lawnmower wouldn't do the job. Even a simple 21" walking mower would have to be better than the fueling and upkeep of so many trimmers. I'll have to ask my Ugandan colleagues about it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Darth Valice in Wonderland

Being both a fan of Star Wars and Disney, I found this artist’s mash-ups incredibly interesting. Who’d ever thought little innocent Alice would have a light saber? He has done several others, including some of the classic Mickey Mouse illustrations. Visit the artist's site at devientART (link below) to view his other works.


Darth Valice in Wonderland by *Thumper-001 on deviantART [From Darth Valice in Wonderland by *Thumper-001 on deviantART]

Friday, January 25, 2008

2008 Washington DC Auto Show Charity Preview Event

I had the privilege, offered through the Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County, of attending the 2008 Washington DC Auto Show's Congressional Gala and Charity Preview Event this week. This is a great evening filled with most of my favorite things; food, wine, music, and cars. The event is held each year and allows a small number of people to peruse the show in advance of its public opening. There is terrific access to the cars and displays. They sprinkle food stands and drink stations throughout the show floor and make it a truly terrific atmosphere for perusing the cars. My favorite spot is the hall where most of the imports are located. It's here that you find the special cars you rarely get to see; the Bentleys, Ferraris, high-end Mercedes, and other unique vehicles. And all of this raises money for charity! It was a great time! It was only later that I realized that there was a dinner and dance as well. I was pleased enough by the ambience and events on the show floor and it never occurred to me that there was more.

 

DSCN1089.JPG

[From Flickr Photo Download: DSCN1089.JPG]

 

Monday, January 21, 2008

iPhone as a Disney Tour Guide

On a recent edition of MacBreak Weekly (#71?), Scott Bourne spent time describing his vision for how the iPhone would be used in "push" style by retailers. He describes how a consumer might walk into Home Depot and get a store directory. I thought this to be a very insightful thought.

A recent posting at www.wdwmagic.com really drives this home. In the posting, they describe how Disney is now performing a similar function with the Nintendo DS device, and how they have forayed into this area in the past. [Click here for the wdwmagic.com forum discussions from users, or the full postings for Jan 9 and Jan 20 at this link.

Disney iPhone

These are excellent examples of how consumer-oriented companies can take advantage of portable technologies to expand and enhance the consumer experience while in their domain.

MacWorld Scorecard

I took a gamble last week and offered up my Apple predictions for MacWorld and 2008 at-large. Now that the show is over, lets score them and see if I have any latent ESP. The items highlighted in RED were at least mostly correct, PURPLE were partially correct, and BLUE were just plain wrong.

MacWorld

  1. Ultralight notebook: Well, I was close as they did announce the MacBook Air. I was off on the price at $1399 since it is really $1799, and I was partially correct about different units (consider CPU to be different). I was wrong about an ExpressCard slot though.
  2. iTunes Movie Rentals: dead on with this one, not that it was difficult.
  3. AppleTV Gen 2: mostly right, so far. The only feature I seemed to be wrong about was a new video input capability.
  4. MacBook next-gen: I was completely wrong on this one, at least for it being MacWorld. I still think there is a chance later in 2008.
  5. Monitors/Displays: again, I was dead wrong. But I do think this will happen in 2008.
  6. Mac Mini: another one I missed, but a possibility for later this year.
  7. Touch interface: Partially correct as he touch interface was expanded with the MacBook Air touchpad.
  8. iPhone II: my iPhone predictions didn't come true, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a special event in February around the launch date of the SDK.
  9. iPhone firmware update: of several features I listed, only two were correct; an expanded Springboard and some customization of the interface (webclips).
  10. iTunes Store & the Beatles: Wishful thinking and foiled again. I am still waiting for Merlin Mann's yellow iPod.
  11. iTunes Store and non-DRM: no news announced on this front. Perhaps later in 2008 since Amazon has just about everybody on-board.
  12. Several vendors have advanced iPhone SDKs and will announce apps: well, the new Google Maps says something.
  13. Apple in content creation: definitely not.

2008 at-large

  1. iTunes will become a commerce hub for games and applications for the Mac
  2. AppleTV: will get an update that will allow it to record video to iTunes, essentially becoming a PVR.
  3. The MacBook Pro line will get a refresh in late-Summer.
  4. Apple will release a new product similar to the almost-failed UMPC. It will have the touch interface mentioned in #5 above.
  5. iTunes will add true HD content: right-on with this one too!
  6. Apple will release products that have wireless video capability. They are big on dumping wires and the technology is there.
  7. A new iLife with advanced iMovie features and the ability to produce content directly into iTunes.
  8. Leopard brought us some improved speech tools. I think 2008 will be the year that we see more apps that use it, and use it well.

Well, it doesn't look like the great Kreskin, or Carnak for that matter, have anything to fear from me. If you score a point for correct and half point for partial, then I scored 4.5 out of 13. That's a failing grade by almost any standard. Even with the extra credit point for the 2008 at-large prediction coming at MacWorld, it's still pretty lousy. We'll see how the scorecard is at the end of the year.

But, there are some things I have to wonder about. Steve Jobs and Apple are notorious for wanting to make a splash, and he is a polished presenter. However, most of the announcements were expected and even leaked. Steve also made more errors than normal in his presentation and, for perhaps the first time, part of his technical presentation failed (Flickr browsing from Apple TV). This makes me wonder if there were last minute changes to the presentation that may have been driven by the leaks and Apple's desire for a splash? I am pretty certain we'll see an Apple event before the end of February, but is there a chance that we'll see two of them?

Friday, January 18, 2008

MacWorld Product Alert: Toilet Paper Holder iPod Dock

With vendors from all over the world jumping on the iPod accessory revolution that has occurred in the last 4 years, we have seen a wide variety of products aimed at almost every corner of our lives. Many of them are utilitarian and not unexpected, such as car adaptors, chargers, speakers, and docks for home media centers. But once in a while, you come across something out of the ordinary.

The iCarta and iCarta+ from Atechflash are just such products. On the market since 2006, they are described as "A dock for iPod® with Bath Tissue Holder with Built-in rechargeable battery by the manufacturer, both promise to take your iPod experience into the inner sanctum of your home. Now, never miss a podcast or relax to your favorite music. Watching a digital movie and need to take a break? No problem, just be sure its on your iPod and take it with you; a movie with no interruptions. No specific mention of iPhone compatibility.

The specs from the manufacturers site are:


Now you can Enhance your Experience anywhere with the built-in rechargeable battery.
Features:
  • 4 Integrated high performance moisture-free speakers deliver exceptional clarity and high quality sound
  • Charges your iPod while playing music
  • Audio selector allows you to play iPod shuffle or other Audio device
  • Integrated Bath tissue holder that can be easily folded as a stereo dock
  • Requires AC Power (AC Adapter included)
  • Easy to remove from Wall Mount
  • Rechargeable battery provides up to 8 hours of playtime.

Specifications:
  • Dimension (W x H x D): 8.25in x 3.68in x 7.12in 210mm x 93mm x 181mm
  • Power Requirements: 12V, 1.5A AC
  • adapter Speakers: 2 x tweeters for highs 2 x woofers for lows

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steve Jobs Kills Internet!

During the MacWorld keynote today, the Internet died; or at least appeared to. Venerable sites such as Twitter were offline with out-of-service messages displayed. Many tech sites that had planned to liveblog the event went 404, including the CNET site for the live coverage. Jaiku was evidently impacted as well as response times suffered. Oh how are we tech junkies supposed to get our fix if we can't be there in person? Update: Only Gizmodo seems able to keep their site up and the blog stream updated.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

MacWorld 2008 Prognistications

In my web wanderings, I've come across a number of industry pundits who have seen fit to offer predictions about Apple, both at MacWorld this week and the year as a whole. After some consideration, I've decided to jump on the bandwagon and offer my own prognistications. Unfortunately, I am usually less accurate than Phil, the Groundhog. But there is no harm in trying.

MacWorld

  1. Ultralight notebook: I do think Apple is on the verge of announcing an ultralight notebook in the MacBook Pro line. This would target the folks who used the beloved 12" PowerBook and sweep in others for whom portability is tantamount. There was a patent application about a year ago that described a method of attaching an external drive, like a DVD, to a notebook and I think that is a big part of the new design. I believe Apple will price this to start at $1399 and have at least two basic units, with the second being $1699. It will have an ExpressCard slot as well.
  2. iTunes Movie Rentals: this isn't a big stretch with all of the information that has been leaking, but I am still adding it to my list. I believe that they will allow users to extend the rental video to the iPhone as well.
  3. AppleTV Gen 2: along with a beefed up AppleTV that will have an improved interface and direct access to the iTunes stores for renting movies, and video "in" capability.
  4. MacBook next-gen: I think Apple will bump the processors and include LED screens, larger drives, more RAM, better processors, and colors.
  5. Monitors/Displays: Apple will unveil a new line of displays that are LED-based.
  6. Mac Mini: I thinkl we'll see the venerable Mini replaced by a new form-facor with additional capabilities, perhaps an Express Card slot included.
  7. Touch interface: I believe Apple will extend the touch interface that is in the iPhone and iPod Touch to the entire portable line before the year is over.
  8. iPhone II: Steve will announce a new iPhone at MacWorld. Delivery will be around June 30.
    • 3G data connection
    • 16GB and 32GB models
  9. iPhone: the next update to the iPhone firmware will include:
    • cut-n-paste
    • customization of the interface
    • an expanded Springboard (to accommodate all of those apps that will be coming)
    • tasks
    • synchronization of notes
    • improved Mail functions
    • the ability to "send" data to other apps
  10. iTunes Store: the Beatles will finally arrive.
  11. iTunes Store: non-DRMed music from all participating labels
  12. Several vendors have advanced iPhone SDKs and will announce apps. I expect FileMaker to be one of them with an app to complement the recently released Bento desktop software.
  13. Several people have mentioned getting into content creation, especially music and perhaps video. I would think this to be a conflict of interest for Steve Jobs. And when he has Disney at his disposal, it begs the question "why?"

2008 at-large

  1. iTunes will become a commerce hub for games and applications for the Mac
  2. AppleTV: will get an update that will allow it to record video to iTunes, essentially becoming a PVR.
  3. The MacBook Pro line will get a refresh in late-Summer.
  4. Apple will release a new product similar to the almost-failed UMPC. It will have the touch interface mentioned in #5 above.
  5. iTunes will add true HD content
  6. Apple will release products that have wireless video capability. They are big on dumping wires and the technology is there.
  7. A new iLife with advanced iMovie features and the ability to produce content directly into iTunes.
  8. Leopard brought us some improved speech tools. I think 2008 will be the year that we see more apps that use it, and use it well.

That's it; all I care to commit to for the moment. I'll revisit this list in a week, after MacWorld is over to see how I scored. I'll do the same throughout the year.