Friday, December 2, 2005

Camera Phones

I had a disagreement with Russ Beattie and Jim Hughes a while back about camera-phones. It went something like this:

William: Camera phones are a solution looking for a problem. Camera phones are like sofa beds. They aren't very good beds or sofas. They just take up less space. I'd rather have a seperate camera, PDA, and phone; each optimized for their primary task. The other problem is security. Many companies are banning camera phones yet it's becoming impossible to buy a high-end phone without a camera! The carriers are going back to the OEMs and asking them to remove the cameras from some business oriented phones! My wife has a Treo 600 PDA/camera/phone. The phone has lousy reception, the camera takes lo-res pictures, and the PDA is slow with a tiny display. My T608 gets great reception. My iPAQ 1945 is fast with a beautiful display. My Canon SD110 is 3.2 Megapixel. I can take photos on my Cannon, drop the card in my iPAQ, and e-mail them through my bluetooth T608. All the devices are pocket sized and far better than any converged device I've seen.

Jim:... sure your phone, pda and camera are all pocket sized. But, that's three devices, three pockets. A smartphone with camera does all this (and more) whilst filling just one pocket.

The three step process to shuffle your pictures from device to device might be technically possible, but that's a pretty tedious process for a bunch of quick snaps.

William: A smartphone cannot do more than I can do with my separate camera, PDA, and phone. I believe it does significantly less. In particular it's not a very capable camera, PDA, or phone! Maybe it's "good enough" at those functions to satisfy most people. Maybe I'm just a "power user" that expects more. A bagel only takes up one pocket but I wouldn't use it to take pictures either.

It's not all that difficult to shuffle pictures from device to device. If my camera had Bluetooth then I would barely even realize the shuffling was taking place. The most tedious step right now is moving the memory card from the camera to the PDA. After that everything is pretty similar to sending photos from my Treo. In less than 20 seconds, I pick a recipient, add a note, attach the photo and hit "Send". With Bluetooth I don't even have to take my phone out of my pocket. Some custom PocketPC software could make it even quicker.

I believe connectivity (ala. Bluetooth) is far more valuable than convergence.

I decided to come back now and revisit the issue.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Save Toby Really is Illegal Extortion

The owner of the website at is threatening to kill and eat a rabbit unless visitors donate $50,000. Actually since PayPal closed the account used to collect donations, the threat has changed to "buy 100,000 copies of our book".

Most people would assume that this scheme is extortion and it's illegal. The site operators insist it's not illegal and defend the position by offering the following definition of extortion:

Extortion is a criminal offense, which occurs when a person obtains money, behaviour, or other goods and/or services from another by wrongfully threatening or inflicting harm to his person, reputation, or property.

Note how the definition says, harm to his person, reputation, or property. Since the thug is not threatening anyone's property other than his own, he says he's not breaking any laws. I disagree.

My brief search turned up the following legal definition of extortion:

EXTORTION - The use, or the express or implicit threat of the use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property as a means to obtain property from someone else with his consent. USC 18

The Hobbs Act defines "extortion" as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right." 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

I found the definition at I'm no lawyer and I'm not going to take the time to verify the definition, but at least cites a real U.S. code and the Hobbs Act while doesn't cite anything. I'm inclined to believe lectlaw.

That said, it seems obvious to me that the definition applies to savetoby. For one thing, the keyword, his, that Toby's executioner leans on, does not actually appear in the Hobbs Act. Furthermore, the simple use of fear as a tactic for extracting money seems to be enough to qualify as an illegal act.

If visitors are giving money because they are afraid that this maniac will actually kill a rabbit if they don't cough up the dough, well, that's extortion by the definition of the law.

Now lets move on to fraud. Again, the author at savetoby insists that no fraud is being committed. However, I have to question that as well. Let's look at the definition from

FRAUD, TO DEFRAUD - The term 'fraud' is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage. [Fraud may also include an omission or intentional failure to state material facts, knowledge of which would be necessary to make other statements not misleading.]

Now let's go back to the definition of extortion at Where did the definition come from? Has the source been intentionally omitted? Where did the word his come from in that definition? Was it added by the author? Is the author aware of any other definition of extortion that does not include his or that casts suspicion on the legality of the scheme?

If the author edited the definition, or carefully chose the definition, or later became aware of a more precise legal definition and failed to disclose it because doing so would have discouraged visitors from sending money, well, that's fraud. Afterall, the author must know that nobody would contribute to an illegal act of extortion and the author has attempted to convince the audience that the scheme is not extortion. If the author doesn't actually believe it isn't extortion then he has committed fraud to extract money from visitors.

I believe that the owners of are committing illegal extortion by the definition of the term in the Hobbs Act. Even if I'm wrong on that count, I believe the owners committed fraud by intentionally publishing an inaccurate definition for extortion to mislead their audience into cooperation.

Update: I added this comment to Bob Parson's (GoDaddy) weblog:

Isn't illegal extortion based on this definition from the Hobbs Act, section 1951, "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear..."?

The code also says, "Whoever ... threatens physical violence to ANY person or property ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both."

Notice that this is not the same definition given at which is not a legal definition at all and does not cite a source. The author's key
phrase "harm to HIS person" does not appear in the legal definition. Simply inducing "fear" is enough to qualify as extortion and no threat is allowed
against ANY person or property. This is why I believe savetoby may indeed qualify as extortion.

I say "may" because I don't really know, but this is not the way the information is presented at savetoby. The author puts forth a definition in the "legal" section of the website which we now all know is NOT a legal definition. The author then stands on this definition as cut-and-dry proof that the scheme violates no law. Furthermore, he establishes all this to convince visitors that sending money is the only recourse for saving Toby and to dissuade the public from attempting criminal prosecution.

Either the savetoby owner invented his own definition or he intentionally chose a definition that casts his scheme in a favorable light. Now look up "fraud." One cannot misrepresent or omit facts in a blatant attempt to extract money from the public. The author clearly selected a common definition and presented it as "the law", citing no sources, to dupe visitors into sending money.

One possible safety for the owner (and for Bob) is to claim that they honestly believed they were accurately representing extortion law when they (loudly) persuaded the public that the savetoby scheme was unequivocally legal. Now that the actual legal definition has been brought to their attention (Bob's at least), that safety is gone. We can continue to argue whether savetoby qualifies as extortion but one thing is unavoidable, the website owner MUST change his misleading definition or he is UNDENIABLY committing FRAUD. I would assume, that Bob would not be party to such fraud which does indeed violate the godaddy terms of service.

Bob, I like your service and your radio show. I respect your opinion and your integrity. I believe this is an honest mistake and I think you will correct it. Savetoby may or may not be extortion, but the website is unquestionably fraudulent.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Apprentice Season 4

After watching the train wreck served up on The Apprentice tonight, I have to ask if any of these contestants watched any of the previous shows. Let's start with the obvious, you never want to be the first project manager. Statistically your odds aren't very good. The first people fired are almost always the PMs.

I think Markus realized this but, holy cow, what a dweeb. I hate to pick on the guy, I mean, he put himself out there. It's not like I entered the contest. Seriously though, the fellow needs to learn how to shut-up. Even though he managed to pull out a win, the name of the early game is fly under the radar.

Kristi, oblivious to the statistics, plunged right into the PM role. She nearly earned a cab ride home for it too. Luckily, Melissa was even more annoying than Kristi was stupid. Not only does she miss the fly low trick but she missed the second most obvious lesson from the first three seasons, bring as many people into the board room as you can! Bringing back just Melissa was not a bright strategy.

Maybe my two pearls of wisdom aren't as firm as I thought. Neither PM got fired and Kristi pulled out of a head to head match up in the board room. Still, I stand by my advice. Like I said this show was a train wreck from the word go. Seriously Donald, a foot race? Chopper hide and seek? What were you thinking? Talk about putting the ladies at a serious disadvantage! Not only do they have to out run the men, they have to do it in heals and dresses. I can't believe it was even close. If the guys had lost that they'd never live it down. Was that Kristi sprinting for the helicopter? Holy smokes, she almost made it! Guys, pull it together.

Oh, the task, that leads me to my next piece of sage advice. Handing out flyers on the sidewalk in New York City is about the most ineffective marketing campaign anybody can think of. We've seen this tried over and over again. It never pans out well. Pass out flyers to the people in the gym. Pass out flyers to people in other gyms! Send a mass e-mail out to the gym members. Strike a discount deal with the local Jenny Craig center. Bring a friend and save %20. Get an office to bring their entire staff as a team building exercise.

Let's talk about the course content for a minute. This is New York, how about self defense classes? A 60 minute lesson that could save your life. Use your aerobic training to your advantage. Free pepper spray to each student.

So much for the legitimate tactics, now lets move to the shady devices. Just pay people to be there! They only raised $500. There are 9 people on the team. Everybody chip in $60 bucks and you're done. Too overt? Offer a free massage to the first 36 who sign up. Everybody on the team gives four 15 minute rub-downs. It only takes an extra hour and it's an easy sell at $20. That would have been $720, right there. Pitch in hats, T-shirts, gym bags, anything.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dice Tries to be "Techy"

Here is an ad that Dice published recently:

if (myJob == boring) {
     // Go to Dice for great Java jobs
} else {

I thought this ad was cute when I first saw it. However, the second time it popped up on my web browser I realized something wasn't quite right.

Dice is a website for job postings. They ran this ad on SourceForge looking for Java programmers who are on the market. The thing is, if you actually read the code, the else clause doesn't make sense. OK sure, if myjob is boring then go look for a new job, but the else clause says suck it up. That effectively states, if your job is not boring then suck it up, which seems odd.

The proper code might be something like this:

if (myJob == boring) {
     // Go to Dice for great Java jobs
} else {
     // You job isn't boring

Alternatively, I'd accept this:

if (myJob == boring && CanQuit) {
     // Go to Dice for great Java jobs
} else {
     // Can't quit or job not boring

It still don't make much sense for the job is not boring case but it's better.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cygwin Tips

I added some tips for using Cygwin to the Cygwin entry at Wikibooks. I'm going to repeat them here for my own reference and the benefit of other Cygwin users.

  • Install Cygwin to the default directory, C:\cygwin for consistency.
  • When installing, check cygrunsrv to allow for running sshd as a Windows service
  • To use rxvt as the preferred console:
    • Create a Windows shortcut with the Target set to C:\cygwin\bin\rxvt.exe --loginShell -sr and Start in set to C:\cygwin\bin.
    • To enlarge the console window and add a title, add -geometry "80x50" to the Target.
    • To add a title, add -title Cygwin to the Target.
    • To adjust the colors, try -bg black -fg white
    • To start an SSH session, add -e ssh to the Target.
  • To change the default home directory to My Documents:
    • Create an environment variable called HOME with value of C:\DOCUME~1\USERNAME\MYDOCU~1 (where USERNAME is your Windows login username).
    • Edit /etc/passwd and change /home/username to /c/DOCUME~1/USERNAME/MYDOCU~1 (like the HOME variable)
  • Create an environment variable called SHELL with value of /bin/bash.
  • Create an environment variable called CYGWIN with value of binmode ntsec tty.
  • Make sure c:\cygwin\bin; is added to the Path environment variable.
  • To change the mount prefix from /cygdrive to / type this command once, mount -s --change-cygdrive-prefix /
  • Or keep cygdrive as is and create symbolic links (e.g. ln -s C: /C) for every drive.
  • Emacs and vi are the most popular editors but Nano is the easiest to use.
  • Create a file called .bash_profile in the HOME directory containing the following lines:
    • alias dir='ls -lav --color=auto'
    • EDITOR=nano; export EDITOR
    • VISUAL=nano; export VISUAL

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Requirements Specification" is an Oxymoron

I've never liked the term Requirements Specification or Software Requirements Specification even though these are widely used in the industry. There are requirements and there are specifications. The two are always different in my mind. Indeed, Webster's defines them differently.

re-quire-ment: something wanted or needed; something
essential to the existence or occurrence of something

spec-i-fi-ca-tion: detailed precise presentation of
something or of a plan or proposal for something; a
written description of an invention for which a patent
is sought

You can specify designs. You can specify architectures. Blueprints are specifications. Source code is a specification. Pseudo-code, state diagrams, and message sequence charts are specifications.

A statement of need is never precise or detailed. It should be clear, unique, feasible, and testable, but it cannot be precise or detailed.

The user interface shall be responsive, is a requirement. It's a poor requirement, but it's still a statement of need.

Lamp X shall illuminate 100 ms after button Y is pressed, is a specification. It defines a precise description of events. It's not a requirement. No information regarding the stakeholder's need has been conveyed.

I can usually spot a specification when I see one. A good requirement is difficult to identify and even harder to write. Authors naturally tend to slip into writing specifications because they don't know how to express their needs. Requirements are also subjective. Some people might view the statement, the UI shall be responsive as failing to convey need. One can always ask, why must the UI be responsive?

I admit I'm on a holy crusade to eradicate the term Requirements Specification. Let's call it a Requirements Document or a Requirements Database. Let's save the term specification for the Software Specification that will follow the Requirements Document. Typically this is a High Level Design and Low Level Design. Those documents are worthy of the title Specification.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Yahoo Music Service

I signed up for Yahoo's Music Unlimited service last week. I've found it to be quite nice. I don't often go looking for the deep tracks, so Yahoo's catalog seems pretty big to me. You can't beat the price. $60 for a year of Yahoo is cheaper than 5 CDs! Looking at my collection of 300 disks, I could have bought 60 years of Yahoo music for less!

I don't have an iPod, but I do have an iPAQ with a 1 Gig flash card. I also have an old portable CD player and a CD deck in my car. None of this stuff works with Yahoo's service which relies on the recently created Windows DRM 10 (aka Janus) to protect its music. I don't want to shell out $250 for a new portable music player and I don't want to pay an extra $0.79/song for a burnable copy, so I set off to find a cheaper solution.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Chevrolet is Phishing?

Today I received e-mail from Chevrolet that began like this:

Recently some of our unsubscribe data
was deleted. Please help us update our
records to ensure that we have captured
your preferences correctly.

If you have previously unsubscribed from
Chevy email communications, please
unsubscribe again

I would never respond to such a message because it looks like phishing. There's no valid return address. The website they ask you to respond to is the mysterious rather than The entire premise of the message seems dubious and there's no way to verify the story.

It looks a spammer trying to verify my e-mail address so they can send me more junk mail. I wouldn't click the link and I'd make the same suggestion to everyone else. I've seen lots of e-mail from people claiming to be eBay asking me to log in to some non-ebay website before they cancel my account. Don't fall for it!

To Chevrolet and any other business that needs to send a message like this, I suggest you always direct recipients to a page at your main website and then redirect them if necessary. There's no other way to verify the authenticity of your e-mails. You should also get an e-mail signing certificate from a recognized authority (like Thawte) and digitally sign your message. I sign (almost) all of my e-mail. Why can't a company like General Motors do the same?

Out of curiosity, I went to and checked the ownership of It turns out that it belongs to Electronic Data Systems Corporation who I happen to know is a major supplier of data services to GM, so this message is probably legitimate. Ironically, the whois record will take you to that advertises EDS's Phishing Fraud Protection service of all things! That's pretty sad.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"My Money Blog" Tips for Free

"jp" runs a great website about personal money management called My Money Blog. The author is publicly tracking his net worth as he works to accumulate $1 million starting with basically nothing as a 20-something year old college grad. It's a brilliant idea and I wonder how long it will be before he starts earning more from his website than his day job.

It's easy to find stuff worthy of comment at My Money Blog which keeps readers engaged while presenting Google ads and promoting books for sale. I got sucked in by this post:

Through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open CourseWare (MIT OCW) Project, you can get free, searchable, access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world. From Aeronautics to Women's Studies, they currently have over 900 courses published online, with a goal of making virtually all course online.

Poking around for a bit, they have handouts, sample exams, lecture notes, even digital pictures of the blackboards! The only thing missing is the sound of the guy beside you snoring. I always wondered why someone couldn't just walk into most university campus classrooms, sit down, and learn just about everything I did, minus the diploma. It would take time and some passion, but you could do it...

Like I said, each of his money saving tips invokes some thought as to their practicality. In this case, I replied:

In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon said, "You dropped 150 grand on [an] education you could have gotten for $1.50 in late charges at the public library."

There are obvious reasons why you can't get a free education, but I'll state them here anyway. First of all, most institutions prohibit outsiders from auditing courses. It may not be rigidly enforced, but I think if you started attending every lecture you'd get kicked out sooner or later.

More importantly, there is no group involvement or feedback on your progress. The professor critiques your work and you learn a lot through that process. You also learn by interacting with your peers on group projects and study sessions. All of that would be lost.

Maybe somebody would like to take on the antithesis project. Let's hear from a 60-something person retiring today with $1 mil in the bank and watch as they spend their way to $0.

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Software Patents

Could Patents Ever Be Beneficial?

Clearly software patents are not urgently needed by anyone except patent lawyers. The pre-patent software industry had no problem that was solved by patents; there was no shortage of invention, and no shortage of investment.

I have to disagree with this. Some software patents represent considerable investment. Consider compression or encryption algorithms. A great deal of research goes into creating a highly efficient compression algorithm like MP3. If there were no patent protection and no opportunity for licensing revenues, we might not have things like portable music players.

You can read more about The Case Against Software Patents from Jason V. Morgan but I still can't agree with the basic premise that all software patents should be abolished. Patents and the promise of licensing revenue drive basic research into complex algorithms and protocols.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

m-Payments Through Cell Phones

I recently got into a discussion on JavaRanch about mobile payments (m-payments). It started with a simple question.

Are there m-payment systems which are done in J2ME? Would be really grateful to know about any company which is using that kind of a technology, case studies and thesis? What about the trend of M-Payment systems.

Several others expressed interest in the topic so I added my thoughts and I'm going to rehash them here. Basically, I think that you already can use your phone in place of a credit card or a check in certain circumstances, but for whatever reason, consumers don't do it and merchants don't encourage it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Solstice Brings a Long Day for Apprentice Hopefuls

If you saw The Apprentice today, you know Pontiac starts taking orders for the Solstice tomorrow. Sign me up! Sure, maybe I'm biased. I spent 18 years working for General Motors. I've heard some insider information about this new roadster. None of that would matter anyway. Even a blind man couldn't miss the beautiful curves of this gem. I've been planning to part with my 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider this summer and I'm searching for a suitable replacement. Pontiac definitely has a winner. I went on-line tonight and got an official early order ID. I'll be heading to the dealer tomorrow afternoon to see if that number lets me place an order.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

How to Beat eBay

Alyce Lomax at Motley Fool wrote a bunch of backhanded compliments about eBay and how she missed the boat in the 90's. She avoided eBay expecting it to eventually collapse after the dot com burst. I wouldn't have agreed back then (or now). Unfortunately, I didn't put my money where my mouth was. Now my neighbor drives a new car wearing a plate that reads "4MYEBAY" and I still have no eBay stock.

I still think eBay has a sound business model and I should probably buy the stock even at today's inflated prices and despite the sharp decline in 2005. Their long term outlook always looks excellent due to their powerful network effect. Plenty of other on-line auction options exist including big players like Yahoo and Amazon but they can't catch eBay which has already passed critical mass. If you want to sell something, you will have the best results by listing it on eBay because that's where the most buyers shop. Likewise, you have the best chance to find what you are shopping for on eBay because that's where the most sellers are. As long as that symbiotic relationship exists, eBay will be king (baring them doing anything blatantly stupid). However, I have a few ideas that could turn the tables on that relationship.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Treo 650 vs. the Alternatives

I got some Treo 650 questions from somebody over at

I am seriously considering purchasing a Treo 650. I have a Sanyo 7400 currently. I talk while driving often enough for that to be a concern for me. Is it cumbersome to use while driving? Does a bluetooth headset make talking on the phone very easy, driving or otherwise? I use a BT headset right now with my 7400, with an adapter, and I have different ring tones for some of my main contacts. It makes it nice and easy to make calls and I can use voice dialing with the headset as well.

I also will be using Vision a lot, even more so on the 650 since my guess is, it is much better on the 650 than on any other regular phone, since the screen is so much bigger, and you have a full QWERTY keyboard. Do you have Vision and browse normal websites often?

I have read a lot about bugs and soft/hard resets. This is perhaps the biggest thing that is making me hesitate buying this. How much of this is do you think is caused by 3rd party software people try to install and how much of it is just the inherent programming of the 650

My wife uses the 650. I use an LG 325 and an iPAQ 1945. I prefer Pocket PCs over Palm devices. I use Bluetooth to connect the two.

If you talk on the phone a lot and that's the most important factor to you, I'd recommend the LG325 and a good Bluetooth headset. The Bluetooth on the 650 isn't as good (it's crackly sounding). The 650 does not have voice dialing. If you need to place a lot of calls while driving, I think you will find the touch screen difficult to use. Actually, the Sony Ericsson T608 is the best to use while driving. Not only does it have voice recognition and rubber keys that are easy to dial by feel, but you also get speaker independent digit dialing. That's something missing from the LG325. With the T608 you can place calls by speaking the phone number into a Bluetooth headset and never touch the phone. My dream is for a Bluetooth headset with a voice recognition system as advanced as the Samsung A700 (provided by VoiceSignal). The phone has "natural speech" dialing that makes it super easy to use hands-free.

I had a love/hate relationship with the T608. It's still one of the best feature sets ever offered by Sprint but its super buggy, the battery life is dismal, and the display is hard to read. The LG325 is missing some key features but it's a much more polished phone.

If you need PIM features and quick internet access, the 650 is the way to go. Using the browser on the Treo is a real joy. It's nicely integrated. It starts up quick and reliably. However, if you want real applications (Word, Excel, maps) and a big display, the iPAQ/325 combo is the best even though internet connectivity is more cumbersome. The Bluetooth link is sketchy.

The 650 screen is excellent. The keyboard is nice though I'm used to a stylus. "Normal" websites look horrible on the 650 and even the iPAQ. There's just no substitute for a laptop. Everything is designed for 800 x 600 displays. However the Treo is a very capable web browser and works great with Vision. If I have a little more time or I'm trying to view a particularly difficult site, Pocket Internet Explorer on the iPAQ is a much better browser.

The 650 certainly has some bugs, but it's an improvement over the 600 (had one of those too). It's just never going to be as stable as a "regular" phone like the 7400.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Apple Can't Crack Cellular Carriers

Newsweek ran a story titled Major Hangups over the iPod Phone. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the phone-pod concept other than the greed of the carriers. Everyone seems so surprised that the carriers won't support a phone when they don't get a cut of the revenue. I could see it coming.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Mini Ideas for Mini Golf

The official Apprentice recap provides detailed blow-by-blow of episode 7 while
provides an interesting personality analysis in The Apprentice Blog: Episode 7: Miniature Golf. I'd rather weigh in on where the teams could have done more to promote their golf courses.

Lawrence Lessig Learns Lesson of Spam

Lawrence Lessig sent out a bunch of e-mail urging for political action and got several angry replies from the recipients of his spam. He tried to defend his actions by claiming his post does not ask for money or propose a commercial transaction and thus is not spam in his view. That started several people ranting about what "spam" is.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Apprentice Tara Sees the Writing on the Wall

This week's task was tough. Artwork is very subjective. None of these candidates are artists. How can they pick a winner? I can only fault them for failing to work together as a team and for thinking too small (again). I can't say that I could have picked a better artist and lead a team to victory, but I certainly would have pushed the idea further than any of the other contestants.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Trailer Trash for The Apprentice

Alex The Entrepreneur writes that he likes to watch The Apprentice because, like me, he finds himself thinking of so many alternatives to their lame decisions on the show.

Once again the kids are asked to invent a business for a day on the Feb 17th show. They have $5000 to work with and the winner is based on revenue, NOT profit. I am mystified. This is so simple, it's dumb. Psst, hey buddy, pay $4000 to come into my trailer and I'll give you a $5000 plasma TV. Boom, one customer, and $4000 revenue that easily blows away $900 earned by selling manicures. One big ticket item might be hard to move. How about a crate full of iPod minis for $200 each instead of the typical $250?

Gina's RantSpot About The Apprentice

Gina's RantSpot About The Apprentice

Gina has a nice summary of the Feb 10th episode of The Apprentice. Read that first if you didn't see the show.

I honestly believe that the Street Smarts team ("Net Worth") had the winning Dove ad and simply lost on the execution. The initial concept was funny but the director, Kristen, totally lost it. John should have scripted the whole thing and stayed on the set. Bren's idea for Magna's commercial was so bad on so many levels, I don't even need to go into it.

Apple Partners with Teleca

MacCentral: Apple partners with Euro telecom firm Teleca

European telecom services company Teleca on Monday announced a partnership with Apple that will enable the services provider to use Apple's hardware and software in its creation, delivery and multimedia playback solutions.

Someone else in my office brought this to my attention today (I work for Teleca in San Diego). I didn't know our company was working with Apple at all. I'll have to forward this to my friends at AAPL.

The article claims OS X will be the focal point of Teleca's efforts to build ... software for mobile devices. Sadly, our office doesn't have any Macs, but based on this statement I think we should get some for our mobile application development. I'll keep hoping anyway.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Apple, Napster Swap Jabs Over Security Flaws

Apple, Napster Swap Jabs Over Security Flaws

Apparently, Steve Jobs sent a message to top record industry executives directing them to "a Web page detailing how to convert Napster's rental tunes into permanent downloads." I'm not sure what page he is referring to but it could be something like All-Streaming-Media.

Napster CEO Chris Gorog jabbed back by pointing out that the same technique could be used to capture iTunes music and in fact, it's even easier to unlock most iTunes downloads using Hymn. Hymn is open-source, free software that attempts to remove the Digital Rights Management (DRM) from Apple's AAC files. Of course once the DRM is removed, users can swap files with their friends or move the music on to (unauthorized) machines.

There has been an ongoing battle between Apple and Hymn. I can't believe that Jobs would be so dense as to throw rocks from his glass house. I thought Steve was smarter than that.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Impressive Bird Brain

Animal Planet has a great video clip of an African grey parrot named Einstein. African greys are one of the most intelligent species in the world. They rank right up there with dolphins and chimpanzees. The San Diego Wild Animal Park has a daily bird show featuring an African Grey named Bruce Nadell. Bruce will spout off words and sounds in response to natural language commands just like Einstein. The trainer likes to rapid fire commands at Bruce to show off his wide vocabulary and speed. I highly recommend going to see that show.

Most birds aren't as fluent as the Bud Light cockatoo you saw on the Superbowl ad, but that was obviously faked. That bird had a Spanish accent and everybody knows that cockatoos come from Australia (like iocane powder).

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Can an Apprentice Break Rules?

The last episode of The Apprentice featured one of many tasks that required creating buzz. I'm dumbfounded that nobody leveraged the internet to do that job. I can go to Google, search for "blog apprentice" and churn up over 250,000 hits. Why wasn't anybody on those blogs posting comments the night before, urging people to come out to their events? Why limit it geographically to a park in NYC? How about a 1 day, worldwide contest? Did anybody call newspapers and TV stations? Honestly I think they could have gotten a bigger turn out just by walking down the street saying, we're filming The Apprentice over there today. Why give away anything at all? Put the money into entertainment and advertising.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

OBEX for the LG PM-325

As it turns out, Sprint PCS subscribers are not alone in our quest of OBEX enabled handsets. The Verizon Motorola v710 has been available since August. It is the second CDMA Bluetooth handset in North America (the first being the Sony Ericsson T608).

Surprise, surprise, no OBEX on the v710.  It has dial-Up Networking (DUN) and Handsfree only. There were some blatant communications from Motorola and Verizon that flatly stated OBEX was removed at Verizon's request. Lots of rumors were flying about Verizon releasing a new firmware version that would enable OBEX again.

For those not familiar with the story, the OBEX part of the Bluetooth protocol is what allows phones to exchange business cards, synchronize data with PCs, and generally work nicely with other Bluetooth devices like the Acrua TL. It is something of a mystery why carriers such as Sprint and Verizon have chosen to leave these features out of the LG PM-325 and the v710.

Jonathan Zdziarski started a cash prize to the first hacker to enable OBEX support. In the mean time, Verizon Wireless customers in California started a class action lawsuit to enable OBEX.

The prize was never claimed and the case is still open. However, somebody has indeed succeeded in hacking the v710 firmware to enable serial data over Bluetooth. With the new firmware they can sync wirelessly using special PC software (counterpart to SnapSync).

Apparently the new firmware was created by merging the v710 software with another Motorola phone from a different market that had the features enabled. While it doesn't get them OBEX, it still eliminates the need for the cable (though you need the cable to re-flash the phone). It seems possible that they will eventually get OBEX working.

The Bluetooth Treo 650 was also crippled when it first hit the stores. You couldn't use the DUN profile. Somebody at TreoCentral hacked it. Sprint later enabled it for everybody.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Coffee Break for The Apprentice

I have to say, I just love watching The Apprentice. I guess it's because I love to analyze things and I like trying to solve tough problems. Today is no exception.

In the most recent episode, the teams were given a $75,000 budget to devise and execute a marketing campaign for Nestle Taster's Choice Coffee. The Donald urged the teams to think big. I think both teams came up short.

Shopping via MIDlet

Paul Golding would like the assistance of his mobile phone while shopping. I'll refrain from quoting his entire article, but I wanted to explore the concept a bit and see what's currently possible.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

Dali Artwork

I purchased these two Salvador Dali prints from The Divine Comedy series. These are watercolor prints from wood engravings. There is some dispute over Dali's involvement in the actual creation of the wood plates but the artwork is certainly his. "The Divine Comedy" was published by Joseph Foret and was carved and printed by Les Heures Claires, arguably the finest printer ever of art books. Foret required Dali to oversee the work on the 100 different woodblock prints. He pencil signed all of the prints in the first 100 books of the tirade.

The signatures on my prints are signed in the block meaning it is basically a stamp of Dali's name. I've seen pencil signed prints from this series for sale on the internet for about 4 to 8 times the cost of block signed prints.

To celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante's birth, the government of Italy planned to issue a special edition of The Divine Comedy. For this issue, Dali created 101 watercolors between 1951 and 1960. In 1954, La Libreria della Stato published a brochure with seven of the paintings reproduced full size as lithographs, together with sample pages of the text. The prints are 16 1/2 inches x 11 inches with narrow margins. Due to the opposition these prints created, the Italian government dropped the project and postage stamps were issued instead. Several years later, Joseph Foret, in Paris, who had previously published other Dali suites such as Don Quichotte, started production of the prints by wood engraving. Master engravers worked from 1959 - 1963 to carve 3500 separate wood blocks for the 100 prints. The Divine Comedy project was then taken over and completed by Jean Estrade of Les Heures Claires.