Monday, 30 June 2008

Nate Westheimer of The Silicon Alley Insider has this to say:

Twitter should take full advantage of their messaging platform, user base and user disposition to lead in the P2P mobile payments space, where, despite years of hype, no one has much of a head start.

Link to the article: How Twitter Could Be Worth A Billion In A Year

I have to admit, coming from the Internet financial services space, the thought of this actually happening scares me slightly, given the serious lack of stability and the manner in which changes have been made at Twitter with less than complete communication. But at any rate, they have a lot of money to throw at the problems, so I am rooting for them to get things right. It just hurts. :)

Westheimer makes some good points. Twitter is carrier/provider-agnostic and has amazingly terrific user and market penetration. Just as I send you a direct message today by typing "d yourname hi how are you?" I could pay you using syntax like "p yourname $20."

But getting from here to there is an whole other story. It's far from trivial to create a financial transaction and accounting system, especially one that scales to the sizes required (but it certainly can be done).

It's an appealing and interesting idea and one that warrant some real thought. As someone who comes from the the online banking software, infrastructure and security world, I can see the market need as well as the challenges from many fronts that will face any company that finally jumps fully on-board the micro-payments and mobile-payments train. A number of good, well-funded companies have given it a run before with limited success. It's a complex problem to solve, but it's doable.

It sure sounds like a fun challenge, and there's a massive marketplace out there just waiting for someone to get it right. Note the operative verbiage there - Doing it well is critical to success. The fact is there's no room for "scale later" in this game.

What do you think? Would you pay people via Twitter if you could? Would it be useful to you?



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IT Security | Mobile | Tech
Monday, 30 June 2008 22:06:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I've really missed Windows Live Writer since I starting using my Macbook Air so much. Even though I have it in a Fusion virtual machine running Windows, I find I rarely use it since it uses the VM's filesystem (not the Mac's), and copying stuff onto the Mac clipoard and then pasting into a Windows virtualized app is not what one might wish.

I was pleasantly surprised to run across a Mac app called Blogo, which I am using to write this post. It's nowhere near as feature-rich as Live Writer, but Blogo is a great start on a WYSIWYG editor with many of the bells and whistles. I pointed it at my blog home page during setup, with very little hope it would auto-discover my blog settings, but I was pleasantly surprised. Up popped a dialog asking for my username ad password, and once I provided it, there on the screen was my list of blog posts pulled straight from the server's API (which I seem to recall emulates the Blogger API). Very nice.

Blogo has a funny icon logo, is available as a free 21-day trial, and after that it's $25. There are a few key features missing that might make me pause when it comes to shelling out the cash. Specifically there is no spell checking (I'd like to see red underlines and inline corrections with the right-click action), selecting text and trying to drag it around doesn't work, the image editor is fairly limited, and it doesn't seem to pull my list of existing categories. Plus you cannot edit the HTML it creates (yet) and pasting multimedia content inline doesn't seem to work well. But as I said, it's a great start. If you have a Mac and you're frustrated with other blogging apps, you should check it out.

It's the best WYSIWG mac client I've found so far, so it earns a spot on my Mac's Dock. I will be keeping up with this editor's progress with high hopes, and am encouraged there may yet me a Mac blogging client to rival WLW.

We can hope!



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Apple | Blogging | Tech
Monday, 30 June 2008 17:59:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 29 June 2008
For the past several months I have had the pleasure of improving my communication effectiveness while at the same time reducing my reliance and the massive amount of time I used to spend on email. Tools like Twitter, blogging, and - yes - actively making sure I am using the telephone (remember that thing?) have all contributed to my big picture of improvement: Use better tools where they make the most sense, rather than relying on the cumbersome and often ineffective email medium.

What prompts me to write this? Luis Suarez works for IBM and today's NY Times online contains a piece written by him where he discusses his change away from email. I can relate and have had many of the same experiences.

Email is often chastised for a variety of shortcomings, among them the frustrating fact that often people come across (or are perceived) in a way they do not intend. Maybe the reader perceives the writer is angry or being short when that's not the intent. If I had a dime for every email-miscommunication I'd observed (or been a part of), I'd be a rich man.

Systems like Twitter (assuming you can forgive that app's famous reliability and availability issues), allow community information sharing in a manner you can never get with email, and which classic instant messaging doesn't quite do. Post your thoughts, questions or whatever you're up to and others who want to follow your thoughts can read then in your "tweets." And if they wish they can respond, either publicly (called replying) or in private (called direct-messaging). Twitter is basically a public broadcast communication system of short messages, with private messaging capabilities also available. All Twitter communication is (hopefuly) archived for access and reference later on if you like. The signal-to-noise ratio, however, can be quite high, especially when people use it like an instant messaging client (which it is not really suited for, in my opinion). You can tune the SNR of your tweet feed by choosing whose communications you subscribe to. Too much noise from Joe? Just stop following his tweet stream.

Instant messaging is well-suited for casual, right-now conversations where archiving in the "cloud" is not as important. I can archive all of my instant messages locally, but I have to be on the archiving computer where I was writing to read the archives. It makes it easy to do provate chats with one person and add another person(s) if needed, although my use is almost always 1:1.

Of course, email works well - even best - for some things. I try to avoid using it as a filing cabinet, or at least limit it to specific critical uses. But by pulling all the real-time conversations out and using the real- or near-real-time tools, by email bloat has been significantly reduced, hence the amount of time I need to spend in it is less than the quality of the time I do spend there is higher.

Finally, the telephone. When it comes to making personal connections, nothing beats hearing the other person and them being able to hear you. It's real time in the most "real" sense. You can argue that voice and video capabilities of IM applications fill this need, and you'd be right. But there is something about the phone that really works well.

One other side effect of the technology growth I have noticed (and it's also probably a result of life changes for me as well) is that I don't blog quite as much as I used to. A lot of the quick thoughts that I used to turn into blog entries end up being tweets on Twitter or IM messages (or just left sitting on my brain's virtual table).

How have you changed your communication habits as a result of technology? Or have you?



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Tech
Sunday, 29 June 2008 11:27:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 26 June 2008
Trevin pointed to a cool site called Wordle, where you can enter a bunch of text and the web app then creates a visual image representation of the text, where the most commonly used words are larger. You have control over many aspects of the visualization, such as font, colors, layout direction, removing common words, how many words to display in the image (default is 150), etc.

I copied the text from the home page of my blog just before posting this and used Wordle to generate the image below. It's interesting to see what words flat to the "top" of the list. Makes me thing that maybe you can tell something about people from their writing, and as such from the words that dominate what they write.



You can make your own at http://wordle.net, and see what you learn about your own writing. There's also a gallery of wordles created by others, which I got quite caught up in for a while, reading what others have created. Wordle was created by Jonathan Feinberg, who works in IBM Research with the Collaborative User Experience group.


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Random Stuff
Thursday, 26 June 2008 11:00:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Everything about this video - The Website is Down - is so sarcastically and stereotypically hilarious. Josh Weinberg (the creator) is my new hero.
A mashup of true and mostly-true stories from IT hell. If you've ever called tech support and wondered what the hell they are doing down there... well, this should answer some questions for you. Starring Apache, Windows XP, Linux and Halo (among many others).
Note: There's some very NSFW language and visuals. You have been warned.

I'm not going to post video here -- You need to go to the site and watch the whole thing, and then be sure to check out the geeky interactive UI at the end.

(via Chris Pirillo on Twitter)


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Humor | Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 19:15:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I've traveled to Europe with my iPhone before, and despite activating an international data plan I ended up spending a bit more than I wanted to (by about $100). But Raven Zachary came back home to a $800+ bill, and there are many tales of others having even worse experiences.

Raven wrote a blog article offering some tips to keep your costs down, all of which are good. So, if you are traveling out of the USA with your AT&T iPhone (and yes, that DOES include to Canada or Mexico, so do your homework), check out what he wrote.

As of today, there is no "unlimited" international data plan available. It can get very expensive to deal with email attachments and use the maps program, or even just to check email the same way you do back home (meaning automatically every n minutes). With the 3G network coming on the new iPhone and the associated roaming costs for high-speed access projected to be higher, this all becomes even more important.

Until AT&T makes it a little easier to be their customers, and simplifies things for those of use paying them big bucks for service, you'll need to order specific international services and configure your iPhone in certain ways to make sure you don't get nailed and you'll have to search the 'net to find sources to read about the problems and related solutions. I feel sorry for people who get completely blindsided (and there are a lot of those people out there). So much for seamless, don't-have-to-think-about-it use, eh?



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Apple | Mobile | Tech | Things that Suck
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 06:49:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 20 June 2008
Jeff Martens had an idea, one I had been thinking similarly about - but he vocalized it first (or "tweeterized it" might be more accurate). I jumped right in and created a new LinkedIn group called "PDX Tech," a networking group for people in the Portland, Oregon general area who work in what we will loosely define as the technology marketplace.

If you'd like to join the group and you meet the above requirements (which are not too restrictive), just click here and sign right up.

In the first 24 hours we already have a substantial group of people who have joined, but I know there are many, many more out there in PDX-land. Hope to see you on the group list!



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Tech
Friday, 20 June 2008 22:29:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 19 June 2008
The Mars Phoenix crew has just announced they've discovered ice on Mars. There will be more tests soon, and ones that should be more direct in their analysis. Today's discovery is based on the visualized disappearance of some white material from the surface over the past few days. From the Mars Phoenix web site:
June 19, 2008 -- Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it.

"It must be ice," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."
Very cool stuff, and it will be even more interesting to see what's next:
Also early today, digging in a different trench, the Robotic Arm connected with a hard surface that has scientists excited about the prospect of next uncovering an icy layer.
And how/where did the news come to us? Via Twitter!

You can follow http://www.twitter.com/marsphoenix for regular updates if you wish. The specific ice updates from today on Twitter are here and here.




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Random Stuff
Thursday, 19 June 2008 16:36:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Today the trucking company showed up with my oh-so-cliché-midlife-crisis mobile, a 1969 Mustang convertible that I recently purchased from a good guy in Pennsylvania. I made a trip back east a couple weeks ago to hand over the check, transfer the title and drive the car a bit, and then painfully left it there to wait for a vehicle transport company to pick it up and deliver to Oregon.

The car made a long and round-about trip all over the country, and it got pretty grungy while in New Mexico thanks to a dirt road construction zone detour in the desert. I used to live there, so I understand. The soil in the desert, if you can call it that, is very fine and it gets into the air and can find its way on and into everything. When the car came off the truck today, it looked so dull and gross I almost couldn't stand it. But, after two complete washes it looks quite a bit better. It will need another good hand wash and them some detailing and a good wax, but it looks pretty nice already. These pictures were taken after the second wash and a hand-drying.

69 Mustang convertible top up left 69 Mustang convertible top up right 69 Mustang convertible top down

Most of my day was spent on the car: Receiving it from the back of the truck, washing it the first time, getting title and registration taken care of at the DMV, fueling up and washing it again, driving to town and giving some friends rides, stopping by the 60's-style corner soft ice cream and burger place with outdoor tables in the town I live near, and driving home on twisty-turny roads through the woods. It's a powerful, cool sounding and fun-to-drive machine, without a doubt. It's several years since I owned a convertible and I forgot how much fun and how relaxing it is on a nice day to just put the top down and drive. Add the raw power of this car's engine, and wow... A pretty darned good day, if I do say so myself.

And a bonus, which I only discovered when I got it home tonight: It fits in the garage with just about 12 inches of room to spare, nose to tail. Phew! Looks like I need to relocate some shelves.



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Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Wednesday, 18 June 2008 20:08:28 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Microsoft's Steven Lindsay posted a video a couple months ago showing his top five things you didn't know you could do with your Media Center PC. Cool tidbits for people who want to get deeper into using a few more of the capabilities of Windows Media Center. Worth the viewing time.


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Tech | Windows Media Technology
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 21:29:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Apologies to web viewers for the temporary disruption here - I have changed the design template for this blog to a new one (thanks to Anthony Bouch at http://www.58bits.com/ for letting me borrow) and plan to leave it live for 24-48 hours to see how it impacts visits, clicks and retention times in the stats.

I want to make a change since my old template is, well, old. And because Scott harasses me for it a couple times a year. But the template I have been using for a few years now works very well and so I have not made the final decision to move away from it just yet. My plan is to play with this one some and work toward a design that is as effective performance-wise as the old template, but one that looks nicer.

Anyhow, just wanted to send out a quick "sorry" for regular readers of the blog via the web for the cliche "under construction" phase. Be sure to let me know what you think works and what doesn't for you.



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Blogging | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 21:04:29 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Last month, Microsoft released the Microsoft Forefront Integration Kit for Network Access Protection, a solution accelerator that enables their Forefront Client Security products to interoperate with the Network Access Protection (NAP) capabilities included in Windows Server 2008. In a nutshell, it allows an integrated system of policy compliance and real-time checking of the status of a computer's Forefront security status, as well as remediation and access protection for machines that fall or are found to be out of compliance.

Using the technologies together, administrators can leverage the state of a client computer as part of the information and policy status that NAP leverages in controlling access to the network.
You can use the Kit to help protect your network infrastructure by configuring a Forefront Client Security compliance health policy across your network, monitoring the operational health of Forefront Client Security in real time, and remediating problems that arise.
More and better in-depth defense mechanisms, and ones that work well together on top of that, are good to see coming out of Microsoft and others. It's the kind of progress that's needed to stay on top of quickly evolving threats, and to proactively keep them from spreading.

(via Dan Griffin)



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IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, 10 June 2008 11:40:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 09 June 2008
I'm in warm and sunny Orlando for the IT week of Tech Ed. My cohort Richard and I will be interviewing, making the speaker contest happen, and generally staying busy through Friday. If you are at Tech Ed this week, be sure to drop by the Tech Ed fishbowl in the exhibition hall, or send and email and let me know. It would be great to meet new people and catch up with others.



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Random Stuff | Tech
Monday, 09 June 2008 07:53:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 06 June 2008
Most of my friends know that every now and then I operate public fireworks displays - as in the big ones with hundreds or thousands of shells, way up in the sky and loud as hell. It's a fun side gig, and I am licensed in Oregon and Washington to run the displays.

This year for the July 4 celebration, I am once again operating the Walla Walla, Washington show. I ran last year's show and am headed back. But I certainly can't do it alone, and so this is an invitation to anyone in the area (meaning in Walla Walla or in the Portland/Vancouver/etc. area) who might be interested in joining me as part of the pyro crew to speak up and join in!

And I'm quite serious. We'll load mortars and set up some thousands of shells and stuff, do a lot of fun and interesting training and safety stuff, learn about how fireworks work, and generally have a fun time. It's not lounging/leisure time - In fact there's quite a bit of manual work of a reasonable nature, and it can get hot. But pretty much without fail, people who join the crew have a great time and are glad they did it. Some get hooked, like Travis and Jenn, who keep coming back for more year after year. Suckers. Heheheh. Be sure to check out Travis' blog entry and Jenn's pictures from last year's show to give you a bit of an idea of what it's like.

So, who can participate? Anyone 18 years of age or older (you have to be 21 years old to fire a show, 18 to help set up and whatnot), who is not restricted from handling regulated explosives (in other words, you can't be a convicted felon or certifiably insane - sorry). You'll be doing some moderate labor (some lifting, carrying, etc). Obviously nobody on the crew can consume alcohol on that day (until the show is over, at least) and you can certainly think of other obvious things that would be safety no-no's.

If you're interested, great! Let me know as soon as you can. I need to firm up a crew list in the next week or two. All I ask is that once confirmed, please make sure you are actually planning to be there. We'll provide the lodging, food, drinks, training and lots of fun. You get to tell people (kids, grandkids, friends, and lame non-believers) about how you are so awesome becuase you helped blow up tons of cool explosives for the Walla Walla community. Just be warned: It can be addictive. Ask Travis and Jenn. :)

To entice you, here is a video with some highlights from last year's show. The video is only a few minutes long; the actual show was close to 20 minutes.




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Fireworks | Random Stuff
Friday, 06 June 2008 17:21:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 05 June 2008
A reporter from Forbes Magazine, Brian Caulfield, has been sneaking around a bit, asking questions, and taking pictures from various public-domain locations where he thinks Apple's next-gen iPhone (or APple Tablet, or next-gen iMac, or all of the above) are being dispatched from.

Tons of boxes overflowing a large warehouse, courier service trucks in drives coming and going, no-label boxes and warehouse workers being cagey but saying basically nothing. But when you start to stack up so much circumstantial evidence it's pretty convincing. If nothing else, it generates great hype and gets people like me to pay attention and write about it. Marketing madness.

What I really want to know: Where and when to line up as an existing AT&T customer who wants to upgrade, and how much cash to bring with me. I'm guessing/surmising the answer is sometime in the next week and a half, and $200 (plus a pen to sign a contract extension).



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Apple | Geek Out | Mobile | Tech
Thursday, 05 June 2008 13:35:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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TechCrunch is reporting that Google is releasing Gmail Labs this evening, and is also outlining some of the details as they hear them.
Gmail engineers come up with new ideas all the time. Gmail Labs is our place to try them out and get your feedback. None of these features are really ready for prime time yet, so they might change, break, or disappear at any time.
Very cool. You can choose which ones you want to use, turn them on and off. Check back in a little while - all Gmail users will be able to take advantage.
At 6pm PT they’re launching Gmail Labs – it will be a tab on top of settings, a list of features that are rough, have gone through almost no filtering. Using the send feedback link users can go to the Google Conversation. Every user will have this available.

The first batch will include 13 new features being tested now, all created by Gmail engineers. Everyone will have access to these.



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Tech
Thursday, 05 June 2008 13:28:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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