Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm so over physical media

The CD is dead.  The DVD has no interest for me.  Blueray, you're joking - right?

I stopped caring about the CD about 10 yrs ago.  They are just annoying.  Buy it.  Rip it.  Store it.  I just spent the better part of a decade waiting for the music industry to find a way to sell me mp3 files.  Even though any 12yr old from 1992 could have told them how.  Now even the mp3 is in danger in my world. 

Enter streaming music.  I thought it was pretty cool when it first appeared but streaming music was something that could only be done where there was significant bandwidth.  The streams on my dial-up connection sounded horrible and it completely monopolized the connection.  Now I write this as Pandora plays a station of my design.  Later on I'll listen to a streaming podcast as I walk the dog.

Sirius and XM really pushed me over the edge.  Streaming music to me wherever I was (as long as that was my car, home or office).  Now streaming music is available everywhere.  On my TV.  My computer.  Even on my "phone".  The latter is a game changer.  With the advent of broadband to my phone - and services like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Slacker that tailor the music to my tastes.  Why would I even purchase mp3's - even now that they seem to have gotten the selling part mostly figured out.  Streaming to my phone is so handy and natural - I've turned off 2 of my 3 xm radios and the last one is in danger as I have not listened to it in weeks.  The moment that Slacker or some other service enables caching of stations on Android - My XM radios will go into storage.  Probably in the same cabinet with all those CDs.   (Slacker released a new Android client that caches - even as I was working on this post)

I think it's funny that streaming music seems to have followed the same pattern as the telephone.  First it was just a few folks that had it in their home.  Then it became a norm to have it at home and in the car.  Now it's making the move to everyone's pocket.

Music was first.  Movies are next.  The DVD is fast on it's way out in my house.  I keep a basic Netflix account mostly for access to the streaming service.  The movie I watched last night came in the form of an on-demand movie from my cable provider.  I can't imagine how Blockbuster and Hollywood keep the doors open.  This business is still in it's infancy but it's just a matter of time before a movie rental membership will mean a monthly fee that gives you access to a certain number of streaming rentals a month.  That reminds me - I need to go mail in the DVD Netflix sent me 3 weeks ago.  I can't even keep a movie queue going on Netflix anymore because I normally see the movies via some streaming source before they can send me the physical disk.  I keep waiting on a "streaming only" option.

Now the dumbass movie industry (sorry - they are) wants me to purchase a Blueray player.  Why? The dumbass studios think that I will just chuck all of those DVDs I've already purchased generating huge revenue.  Plus the even dumber-ass MPAA is convinced that this time no one will be able to crack their copy protection scheme. Where have we heard that before.

Streaming media will make Blueray irrelevant.  It's already NOT catching on.  Pretty much the only market for the disks are PS3 owners.  I mean really - if you have a PS3 and you are going to actually purchase physical media, why not.  It does look better.  Good enough in fact to expose most special effects as fake, and show you the pores, laugh lines, and bad makeup jobs on all the actors.   My recommendation - save the money you would drop on a blueray player and get a Boxee Box when they come out later this year.

The downsides to all of this:  The industries trying to hang onto their old business models.  Look for the record labels to have a conniption over streaming music in the near future. When they realize that streaming makes them irrelevant.  Who needs a physical distribution and marketing layer for a product that no longer exists (physical CDs in this case).  I'm also not looking forward to the day that the movie studios start forcing the streaming providers to insert the 10min of ads, trailers, and copyright warnings at the front of every movie. 

The other downside.  Bandwidth - or the lack of it.  It's already a problem.  I have an average cable modem connection.  I use it all day for work and then all evening for entertainment.  During the work day - when everyone else is at the office - I see an average of 8mb downstream.   About 4:30 it starts to decline.  Around 7pm I'm lucky to get around 1mb.   A year ago I could watch a Netflix stream in HD or on the highest quality every time.  Now - unless it's during off hours a stream will normally change bit-rates at least 3 or 4 times per film and rarely reaches the highest levels.

As cable providers move more and more towards on-demand type of services this will get worse.  The new DOCIS 3 cable standard becomes a must-do.  I have no idea how Dish and DirecTV will cope.  Well - I'm off to play on X-box live.  Wish me luck!

Update: Walmart buys VuDu streaming service.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Inrovert's Corner

A few readers may remember my introvert rant. If you are still trying to figure out where I was coming from or why that certain friend or family member never comes out and rarely returns your calls... The Introvert's Corner will help explain.

If you ARE an introvert - The Introvert's Corner will remind you that you are not alone.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Droid - gadget of the year

The Engadget readers choice awards are out. The Droid wins Gadget of the year, Smartphone of the year, and GPS device of the year...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Google Voice Explained.

Google Voice Explained.

From the Google blog this morning...

Friday, February 12, 2010

What's wrong with the iPhone

The iPhone will never compete with Android.

I've used an iPhone for at least 5 minutes and I've come to the conclusion that it's a nice try but it's just not ready for prime time.  I mean really - a phone without such basic usability as active wallpapers is just not a serious player.  The iPhone will just never be a serious Android killer until it gets basic functionallity like active wallpapers and the long press.  I have heard rumors that Apple is looking at including the long press in it's next browser - Eric Schmidt will never let that stand!

The iPhone is just not intuitive.  After the simplicity of Android's window shade notifications I guess I just expect more. For example, I got into what Apple calls a web browser and couldn't find a way out.  I had to actually ask someone else!  The so-called "home" key is a joke.  It doesn't even look like a home at all.  In fact it doesn't even look like a key!   I thought it was the microphone.  Come on Apple get on the usability bandwagon and design a UI that's actually intuitive. 

Bottom line:  Until the iPhone looks and works just like Android users will pass it by.  Sorry Apple it's just not an Android killer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I want this...

Buy my the Pulp Fiction version here. It's only $90.

Monday, February 08, 2010

It's not a phone.

...But I'm not sure what to call it.  Really.  I think it's past time that we stop calling these gadgets we carry around "phones".  The phone is just an app - actually on my current device I have at least three different "phone" apps installed.  It's also probably one of the least used apps on the device.  I rarely make actual calls.  In fact I avoid the phone because it's so in-efficient for most things.

This little brick is so many things at once it's hard to imagine.  Even basic "phones" like the $20 pre-paid my mom carries, are a camera, address book, calendar, alarm clock, calculator, watch, and txt messenger.  I have the other end of the spectrum in that I carry a "Droid".  I think that is actually a more useful moniker.  My device fill s more "bills" than I can enumerate.  All of the above crammed together with everything a PDA and laptop computer can do, a navigation (GPS) unit, always on internet connection, media player, plus the addition of more sensors than you can shake a cell phone at,  and the ability to fit in my pocket.

A great exam ple and one of my favorite apps - always a part of any demo of the Droid - is Tricorder. You know like the hand-held gizmos that Spock and Bones always carried.  This app looks like the LCARS interface familiar to any fan of the newer "Next Generation" series.  It makes use of a few of the sensors available on most Android phones.  It will operate as a magnetic sensor (stud finder), a sound pressure/spectrum analyzer, gravitational sensor (how many G's can you pull in that turn), RF spectrum (wifi and 3g) analyzer, and a solar phase calculator.  Ever think your "phone" could do that?

Now I can do things like say "navigate to the museum with the king tut exhibit",  "find a Wendys on route".  After navigating me to lunch and the museum - (complete with street level views of my destinations) as I wait for my friends, my "phone" will tell me about next month's exhibit, get me a discount on my entry fee, tell me about the great Thai food across the street, alert me that my boss is also at the museum, update my facebook status - with a photo, and - yes call my mom on any of her numbers just by saying "call mom".  Last month I had the odd experience of having a Skype conversation from the back seat of a moving car in Wyoming with a friend in Perth while en-route to a restaurant that my "phone" had recommended and assured us was open - even on new years day. 

Personally I think we blew it when we started calling those last generation hand-held things "PDA"s.  If anything is a PDA - the Droid is it.  It actually assists. 

The new killer apps are the melding of location and real time data searching into what they are calling "augmented reality".   If you haven't seen these apps - they are amazing.  On Android there are several.  In general the apps take advantage of the device's camera, GPS, accelerometer, and internet connection and in real time searches multiple sources for info on your surroundings.  It will overlay the image with data from your choice of multiple sources. Such as Wikipedia, Google local, and even your social apps.  As you pan around the display might tell you the history of a building, the specials of the restaurant on the first floor and that your best friend (or someone you are currently avoiding) is currently there.  As you turn the other direction your phone might fill in the architectural drawings of the new building going up across the street, tonights band at the bar,  and tell you that there is a Starbucks on the next block (because your phone knows you like frappacinos). I'm watching with great interest as these AR apps grow into things like face recognition and call out for hardware. 

I'm betting that within a year or two we will see bluetooth connected glasses and maybe even contact lenses that will give us a full time heads up throughout our day.  For me it would be so helpful to have my "phone" remind me of a person's name, spouse, kids, birthday and anything I wanted to remember the next time I was in their presence.

The 90's sci-fi show "Earth the Final Conflict" had a device very similar to our current smart and super "phones".  They called it a "global".  We need a new term like that.

Anyway - any one have better ideas as to what we can call these things?  It seems like calling my Droid a "phone" is like calling an RV a wheelbarrow.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Multitouch blows

Multi-touch blows - long live double tap.

I just need to register my opinion here.  I don't want multi-touch in the Android browser.  I know I'm in the minority.  I've mussed with my son's ipods and I installed the Dolphin browser.  After using it for an afternoon I stopped and went back to the built in.  Multi-touch, at least for web browsing sucks.  The Android browser is so simple.  Double tap and it's perfectly zoomed.  Text re-flowed. No hosing around for 2 minutes to get the page the correct size.  Please give me the option of double tap or pinch.

Pinch in the gallery - fine.  Multi-touch for games - absolutely!  Leave my browser alone!

Update: From Twitter: @Leolaporte reports: "Google just pushed the Nexus One update to my phone. 2.1 Update 1. Build ERE27. Multitouch is on for maps and gallery but not browser."


iPad vs Kindle = WTF?

I had a friend in high school that could play the guitar. I mean REALLY REALLY play the guitar. He was the envy of every wannabe in the county. I was assigned to do a portrait of him for a story in the school newspaper. He sat down and said "I'm going to play Stairway for you. Take my picture and make sure you caption it - XXXX Playing Stairway to Heaven - so I never have to answer that question again - ok".

In his spirit - I'm going to give you my comments about the iPad and the Kindle so I never have to answer the question again... (I hope)

1. The iPad is just a 10" ipod touch. Get over it. It will fill some odd niche for people with too much money but will never sell like the iPhone or even the iPod.

2. It may be ok for reading, and If I already had an iPad - I'd probably read on it while traveling. It would never become my primary reading device. Why, because it's a back-lit LCD and touch screen. Give me both and I'll read books on the Kindle every time.

3. I don't want a back-lit / touchscreen Kindle. I've read books on many devices - large and small pda's - laptops - netbooks - desktops. The experience is tolerable if it's convenient. I would occasionally use a Kindle app on my Droid if it were available but as nice as the screen is, it would never replace the Kindle itself. Please don't ruin the device just to be like Apple. Are you listening Amazon?

4. The Kindle works because it duplicates the experience of reading on paper. My eyes don't burn after 30min of reading on it. It's small enough to fit in a large pocket just like a paperback. I can take it out in the sun and read in the park or a hammock in the backyard. I don't worry about changing screens/functions by accidentally touching the screen. This means I can hold it pretty much any way I want. Try reading with a touchscreen in bed, or an LCD at the beach.

If my eyes hurt and I had to hold the device delicately I would have stopped reading on the Kindle long ago. Instead - it's my preferred reading platform for books and has been for almost a year. Don't mess with it.

5. Stop comparing the iPad to the Kindle. This is like comparing a 10" tv to a paper copy of a book. Sure you can read on the TV but why would you if you have the book. Then again if you have a big screen - even a 20" in a hotel why would you watch tv on a 10" you have to hold.

In summary; The iPad is pretty and if I had $500 bills laying around doing nothing I'd consider one just for the gadget factor. Except my Droid does everything the iPad does (and more) and fits in my pocket. Plus I've already dealt with the awful itunes store for my son's iPods and that experience was more than enough to put me off the world of Apple permanently.

In the world of e-readers Apple is the new excited kid on the block that doesn't know what it's doing. Take for example this stupidity of $15 books from MacMillan. The Kindle readers banded together some time ago and boycotted books over $9.99. Amazon learned that lesson. So will Apple. No one will buy e-books for $15. Even on a superior reading device.

The iPad hysteria will pass. A few fanboys will own it. Yawn.

So I ask the question iPad vs Kindle, WTF?

UPDATE: One of my favorite blogs Lifehacker ran a poll. They found out what I have been saying. "Majority aren't interested in paying more than $10 for an e-book"

The gist of the results of 10k respondents:

* 45% would pay $5 to $10
* 25% would pay $1 to $5
* 15% say it depends on the book
* 7% never plan to buy e-books
* 5% are willing to pay $10 to $15

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

OpenOffice tops 20% market share

"The guys at Webmasterpro have published a study that analyzes the install base of various office packages among German users. While Microsoft Office comes out top (72%), open source rival OpenOffice is already installed on 21.5% of all PCs and growing."

Via Quantenblog