Archive for July, 2006

31
Jul
06

Even Me, Lord. Even Me….

images_pic_06_04_27_yolanda.jpgExcerpt from Yolanda Adams’ song, Even Me.

“….Even me, Lord,

Even me.

Even me, Lord,

Even me.

Let some drops,

Whilst Thou art blessing

Let Some Drops Now Fall On Me.”

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27
Jul
06

India Rejects $100 One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project

olpc1.jpgFor those who aren’t familiar with the OLPC project, “One Laptop Per Child” was a project originated by computer scientist Nicholas Negroponte. Among Negroponte’s many credits are that he’s an MIT graduate, became an accomplished MIT professor and was one of the founders of Wired Magazine. But Negroponte’s crowning achievement may still be forthcoming. He presented this OLPC project as an attempt to provide a lower cost alternative to countries without the means to provide laptops to children for learning. Further details can be found in various new articles, including the Wikipedia article here.

Regardless of what you think about Negroponte and the OLPC committee’s intentions, I think this is one of the most creative and positive efforts to come out of the tech community, which is typically branded as being rather selfish. The laptop would contain several low cost or free parts including a Linux based operating system and an AMD processor. ( A complete spec list is available in the Wikipedia article.) The engineers of the project worked pretty diligently to take the idea from a sketch to a physical and working reality. It took a significant amount of “number crunching” to get the right combination of a system that was capable and still met the $100 cost constraint. When you think about it, it’s quite a technical achievement, regardless of the social implications.

According to a Gizmodo article, Nigeria signed up to participate in the program and ordered one million laptops. However, it was reported that India rejected offers to buy into the project. Sighting the fact that the project is ‘not mature enough to be taken seriously’, Indian officials indicated that the more urgent need was for classrooms.

This story troubles me. First off, let me say that I’m not of Indian decent and have never been to India. There may very well be a great need for classroom space. However, my mind goes to the fact that they’ve benefited tremendously from having well-skilled and well-trained technical minds. People often wrap themselves in the American flag when discussions arise about India and outsourcing. However, I think it’s important to establish that they aren’t asking businesses to come to India. American businesses see the opportunity to hire lower-cost employees who are incredibly bright. Having seen an expansion in the amount of jobs available in certain cities, wouldn’t it be wise for the Indian government to give other cities a head start as well? Continue reading ‘India Rejects $100 One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project’

27
Jul
06

Redefining “Fanboyism”

10kmarios_large.jpgEver since the release of the original PlayStation, I began to hear more and more gamers — on message boards, in forums, during chat sessions and even in person — refer to each other as “fanboys”. Well, what exactly is a “fanboy” and how did the term originate? Wikipedia says that the term originated among comic book fans to identify people who are so immersed in the culture and lore that they sort of ‘lose touch with reality.’ In wrestling, we call these people “marks”. The term “mark” carried over from old time “freak shows” and amusement park tents when a man in a curly moustache would lure you into the tent to “see the bearded lady”. People who got really into believing everything they saw were considered “marks”. So, in wrestling, someone who watches and believes that it’s true is considered a mark. However, the folks who understand the trade and still like to watch are called “smarts”. (It gets much deeper — there are “smart marks”, “shoots”, “works” and other wrestling nomenclature, but I digress.)

I am troubled by the recent trend where gamers are being branded with the label of “fanboy” just because they gravitate to a particular gaming platform. I recall being in chat rooms and message boards and the IRC and usenet groups back in the mid-late 90s and anyone who would slightly lean towards Sony or Nintendo would be dubbed “fanboy”. There were some who I felt used the term correctly and then there were those who, lacking the ability to articulate their thoughts and properly retort a challenge would just scream, “FANBOY!” Almost like kids in a playground challenging each other with insults about who’s smarter or who can run faster. Then when the knife cuts too close to the bone…. when a kid mentions how he saw your father looking through a garbage can or your family being on welfare…. when there’s no comeback…… the insulted kid has to hit the proverbial “panic button”….. “YOUR MAMA!”. (I never quite understood that.)

Anyhow, the good folks who contribute to Wikipedia have taken the time to define the term fanboy. However, since this is such a subjective topic and Wikipedia contributors haven’t really dealt with the term as it applies to gaming, I’m going to take the liberty of redefining the term myself.

I’ve found that the best way to define these “social labels” is not to give it a Webster or Merriam-style dictionary definition. I’d rather present them by describing their behavior. Continue reading ‘Redefining “Fanboyism”’

26
Jul
06

Mac Users Switching From OS X??

unbuntu.jpgThere seems to be an interesting trend developing within the Mac community. As if it wasn’t difficult enough to get more people to adopt OS X, there seems to be a division emerging among Mac users. Ubuntu is the name of an open source Linux-based OS which appears to be gaining some momentum among Mac users. The name Ubuntu comes from an African word meaning “humanity to others”. The story that brought this to my attention was posted on The Unofficial Apple Website (http://www.tuaw.com) where one of the editors is creating a press release where he declares his decision NOT to switch to Unbuntu in the face of increasing pressure. Actually the article is a bit of a rib towards a Digg article where a few unknown bloggers (not much different from the writer of this post) who host an Apple focused blogsite decided to switch from OS X to Ubuntu and actually created a press release declaring this.

As much as I think the last thing the small Mac community needs is division, I am a big proponent of open source as a concept. Some of the best products that I’ve begun using recently are open source developed apps. I’ve been really tempted to install OpenSUSE, but I’d need to find the time and to set up another box and I’m way too lazy for that right now. But it will be interesting to see how this movement develops. I really really like this trend. It’s forcing all of the big OS developers (Apple included) to take notice of a movement that could be seen as a threat and to be sensitive to the requests of the community. Microsoft in particular should be wary of the open source community more now than ever. I would have bet the farm that Internet Explorer would never even have come close to being challenged for market share. I don’t agree with all of the Firefox related market share numbers, but apparently this is more than just a geek thing. No longer will we see any OS manufacturer draw out the release of a product the way Longhorn/Vista has been. I admire the fact that they’re taking the time to get it right and I have an appreciation for the scale of a project like the development of the next Windows operating system, taking into account all of the legacy equipment and applications that will eventually be attached to it. However, the landscape is changing such that five years from now when it’s time to talk about the successor to Vista, it may be much less of a foregone conclusion that the majority of Windows users won’t consider an alternative. Same goes for OS 10 users. As these small OS projects gain more momentum and as open source projects become less geeky and more appealing (check out the Ubuntu website), the barriers to switching platforms may become more and more transparent.

I think most of the mass media is correct in labeling Google as a prime candidate to compete with Apple and Microsoft. They have a business model with Ad Sense that insures revenue, they’ve proven throughout most of their releases and beta releases that they know how to create a positive user experience and they have the commercial appeal to pull something like this off. They’ve denied that they’re working on anything now, but it will be interesting to see how the OS market looks in about five or six years..

Ubuntu information courtesy of The Official Unbuntu Website (http://www.unbuntu.com) and Wikipedia entry for Unbuntu.

TUAW story courtesy of http://www.tuaw.com.

26
Jul
06

Mission: Getting People Back to the Theaters

3d.jpgI recently read a post over at HDBeat about the fact that Mark Cuban is mulling over ideas about how get people “back to the theaters”. For those of you who don’t know, Mark Cuban is owner of the Dallas Mavericks and more importantly a good businessman. He took the Dallas Mavericks basketball franchise from being pretty poorly regarded to being known as one of the best sports franchises. He updated the arena and gave players the best and latest technology equipment. In a past life, he started a company streaming sports broadcasts and sold it for a pretty profit. (Can’t do his accomplishments justice here, but let’s just say, “he’s a smart guy.”)

Part of me thinks that he’s trying to solve the wrong problem — I think great content would get people back to theaters. But pondering on the issue a bit more, maybe he’s onto something. The advent of peer-to-peer services, Netflix, Pay-Per-View, Cable and Satellite TV and the DVD market has given consumers many viewing options, leaving theaters as one option among many.

Anyhow, Mark wants suggestions on his site (found here) regarding how we can get people back to the movie theaters. And, oh yeah, he’s willing to give you a job if you come up with an idea that tickles his fancy. Hey – I’m not working at the moment. And being a bit of a movie afficionado myself, why not offer my suggestion?

I thought about the issue and posted my response (among about 600 other responses.) Here’s an expanded version of my plan to get movie goers back to the theater. In a word – tchotchkes.

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There’s one sure fire way to get folks to the movies. Something that “waiting for the DVD” can’t necessarily give you. Well targeted promotional giveaways. Well defined items for the movie’s target audience that are given out after the credits have rolled, one per movie goer, in exchange for your ticket stub, would create a much closer bond to the film and get people to the theaters.

Often I walk out of a film that I didn’t like looking down at a hand holding a ticket stub and I feel completely robbed. Now, replace that ticket stub with a quality item featured in the movie, and suddenly I don’t feel like I was robbed. I’d have something in exchange for my $9.50.

To illustrate an example of what I’m talking about, perhaps a “golden key” that bad guys were chasing after throughout a film could be given out? Maybe on a commemorative keychain? Perhaps for “The DaVinci code” it would be a model of that cylinder-shaped puzzle that held one of the secrets? Perhaps in the next Matrix movie (God forbid) the theater could hand out one of five collectible figures? Or perhaps one of three collectible books featuring artwork from the movie? Even if I hated Revolutions, I might go back again. Maybe I would force my girlfriend to go so that she can give me her item. And if she doesn’t go, I buy three tickets in hopes of getting three different books, each featuring a different character of the film. Even if the film sucked, it seems like more of a fair exchange. I hated the movie, but again, I have something to show for my $9.50. Continue reading ‘Mission: Getting People Back to the Theaters’

26
Jul
06

The History of Nintendo’s Stubborn Ways Could Spell Trouble for the Wii

fea_phil_hdrw.pngNever had I received as much “hate mail” as the time I went on a message board and talked negatively about the naming of the new Nintendo console — the Wii. Nintendo seems to be the one brand among gamers that brings out a rare kind of passion. And it should. After the crash of the video game market in the U.S. between 1984 and 1985, many thought that gaming was a passing phase that had run its course. Nintendo took the brave chance of releasing the Nintendo Entertainment system in 1985 and pretty much single-handedly rose gaming as a viable business back from the dead. Console gamers, regardless of their platform of choice, owe a lot to Nintendo for legitimizing gaming as a business.

One of the things we all love most about Nintendo is their ability to take chances where others play it safe. The release of the GameBoy as a portable cartridge-based device was a huge risk at the time — and one that is still paying dividends today. Even though the Virtual Boy was a commercial failure, you have to applaud Nintendo for having the courage to bring something different to gaming fans.

But at the same time I salute Nintendo, I just can’t help but think back on some of the somewhat stubborn business decisions they’ve made. Some may see my use of the word “stubborn” as a bit extreme in describing the company that has played such an influential role in shaping the landscape of gaming. But if you stay with me, I think you’ll agree that stubborn is a somewhat fitting description.

In the late 80s, Nintendo was working jointly with Sony to create a CD-based expansion that would work with the Super Nintendo. The partnership was scheduled to be announced at the 1991 CES (Consumer Electronics Show). At a behind the scenes meeting before the show, a disagreement between executives at both companies over how the profit from the sale of CD games would be shared led to a standoff. The details are somewhat sketchy, but the end result was that both companies walked away from the deal. Nintendo announced plans to work with Phillips and Sony was seemingly left out in the cold. Continue reading ‘The History of Nintendo’s Stubborn Ways Could Spell Trouble for the Wii’

25
Jul
06

Samsung i320 – Motorola Q Killer?

samsung_i320.jpgThe love affair between me and my Motorola Q is still very much alive. Yes, the thrill is still there….. But Moto Q, I gotta come clean. You know how I told you from the start that I wanted an open an honest relationship. Well, here it is… Lately my eyes have been wanderin’ a bit. Now please, Q, slow down now. You know you were my first smartphone and you’ll always have a special place in my heart. You’re as slim and as sleek as any other device. You handle e-mails and web pages better than any mobile device I’ve ever owned. Battery life – no complaints. But there’s something about this other device that’s just calling me. So when you’re sitting over there in the cradle synching continuously while I’m working and you happen to see me browse over to MS Mobiles.com and peek at the i320, just know that you’ll always be the one for me. It’s because you’re special to me….and you always will be. (Well that and the fact that I’ve got 21 months left on my contract before I can think about a new discounted device.)

Seriously folks. This is a nice phone. It’s as thin as the Q and the black case just adds this element of GQ/James Bond-ism that just makes it so appealing. Not to mention that since I’ve started using Windows Mobile 5.0, I don’t know I managed without it for most of my digital mobile device life.
There are a couple of reviews over on MSMobiles.com here and here.

I can’t give you a breakdown of the review details because….to be honest…. I’m scared to read ’em. Scared of what I might like. One thing I do know is that the current i320 is a GSM phone (which effectively knocks me out of the market right now unless I switch…. and Verizon is about as close to perfect as a mobile network here on the East coast.)

I really need to tread carefully these days as far as mobile phones are concerned. I don’t think Khadija has forgiven me yet for my 5 month stint with the RazR. (Hey – how was I to know that the Q was going to be this nice?)

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