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Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy 16,000!

Here is your totally random fact for the day.

Today is day 16,000 in the Pick epoch.

All dates in a Pick Operating System are stored by convention in the form of a real integer. The start of the Pick OS date convention was chosen by Dick Pick as December 31st, 1967. In the Pick world this is day 0. This is convenient as you can take the modulus of the date and determine the day of the week.
0=Sunday
1=Monday
2=Tuesday
3=Wednesday
4=Thursday
5=Friday
6 = Saturday.

So even if you woke up with a nasty case of amnesia this morning I am giving you some good news. TGI + MOD(16000).

Another strange thing of note that I just learned about Dick Pick and the Pick Operating System, is that the original implementation of the OS was called Generalized Information Retrieval Language System (GIRLS).

posted by Matthew at 7:13 am  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So long Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle Mission ended today, leaving me feeling sad and a bit bitter.

I am sad because I remember in elementary school, we were all funneled into the library to watch shuttle launches. I was always enthralled with the notion of space travel and I can remember how sweet I though the shuttle was compared to those stodgy old rockets. I also remember the horror of watching the Challenger disaster and the sick feeling I got when I learned of the fate of the Columbia. To beat a literary dead horse, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My bitterness comes from a historical perspective. In the 60s dreams were big. My parents were children, and those who had survived the great wars were calling the shots. They had seen the heart of darkness and were reaching for the light. They were dreaming big and they were not afraid to shoot for the moon. They got there and as great and as groundbreaking as the Shuttle Mission was, its audacity does not even come close to that of the Gemini and Apollo missions. It wasn’t much of a step forward in many respects. Our leadership in the past couple of decades has failed to inspire us, lacking the Cold War pressure to win at any cost.

Still, I am grateful to have had the Shuttle Mission to give me something to be proud of and it is my sincerest hope that my generation can dream big enough to take us to the next level. NASA has been doing a great job exploring Mars with unmanned rovers, but I hope we can all come to the conclusion that the continued existence of our species may eventually rely upon our ability to leave our earthly home.

posted by Matthew at 7:28 am  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ideas for AT&T-Mobile Commericals

The scene is familiar. A white background showing three figures. The first, a balding suit reminiscent of Colin Mochrie but without the charm, stands next to the second, an average looking dude who is probably neither as handsome nor as hip as he thinks he is. They of course represent AT&T and the iPhone. Contrast them to the third, a rail thin young lady with hair that appears to have more gravity than the rest of her. She represents the T-Mobiles MyTouch3G and much like AT&T’s claim of data superiority and likely the device itself, she is attractive unless you think too much about it.

Most of the substance to these advertisements is the comments back and forth between the two devices, which is strangely reminiscent of another series of commercials involving a guy who wrote a book about hobos and another guy whom I want to pelt with dodgeballs. The comic relief is provided by AT&T. The interesting thing about these commercials is that product that is being sold really isn’t ever represented by an individual, which in hindsight seems prophetic as AT&T has recently agreed to aquire T-Mobile. Soon it will be only a memory.

I am not going to waste much space exclaiming why this acquisition is a phenomenally bad idea for consumers, because I think we all know that it is, nor am I going to spend a lot of time trying to compose conspiratorial theories about how regulators could possibly allow this sale to go through as it is a pretty simple case of follow the money. What I am going to do, as the good little consumer that I am, is try to provide a couple of ideas on how AT&T can retain the advertising campaign dollars that T-Mobile has already spent.

Idea 1: MyTouch3G girl walks up to iPhone and AT&T guy and begins apologizing to iPhone for talking so bad A&T all this time. It turns out that AT&T owns the bank that owns her sweet motorcycle (Which represents T-Mobiles 4G network). They all group hug and she gives the iPhone he helmet and he get’s on the motorcycle and rides off the screen.

Possible Markets: Primetime Broadcast TV.

Target Demographic: Current iPhone owners who hate their service but not enough to make the hardware switch to Verizon.

Likelihood of becoming reality: Not bad.

Idea 2: MyTouch3G girl and iPhone walk on screen together hand in hand and find AT&T guy in a laboratory. There are two sheet covered gurneys with tubes and wires running to a box with a big switch on it. There is a sign on the box that says 5G. The two question AT&t as to what he is doing. He laughs maniacally and just as lighting strikes he throws the switch dimming the lights slightly. After a moment the sheets fly off and the look of horror and amazement is shown on the faces of our two intrepid devices as on the gurneys you see the new iPhone 5 and and the device sit. The iPhone is a cybernetic hipster that is just campy enough to cool, outshining it’s predecessor in almost every regard and the device is 15 times hotter and much more scantily clad than the MyTouch3G girl (because that is what the selling tool of the original commercial was, right). After showing off the newcomers, it flashes to AT&T to who with a menacing gesture simply utters “Destroy Them”.

Possible Markets: Sporting Events. Internet Viral. Fox.

Target Demographic: Early adopters. People with short memories. Morons.

Likelihood of becoming reality: Fair to midland.

Idea 3: AT&T walk on screen together and and come across MyTouch3G girl working on her motorcycle. AT&T elbows the iPhone as say “Hey man, wanna double down on this bitch” AT&T giggles, rubs his hands together and walks off screen. The iPhone simply shrugs and follows him.

Possible Markets: The Onion. Auto Racing. MMA

Target Demographics: Douchenozzles.

Likelihood of becoming reality: Yeah, no.

posted by Matthew at 2:11 pm  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FourSquare’s $100M gamble isn’t totally crazy.

In the High Tech sector, millionaires have historically become ordained by coming up with an idea, developing it, gaining notoriety and then selling off to some huge McMegaCorp. This has played out over and over and over again. Sometimes the moves make financial sense and other times they don’t but the prevailing wisdom amongst entrepreneurs appears to be “When a Big Boy is willing to write a Big Check, be willing to cash it”.

At least this is the impression that I get reading this article from Valleywag.
It describes Foursquare as “Arrogant” for turning down the money ($100M), while noting that other (at the time) fledgling companies like Twitter and Facebook balked at considerably more money than was on the table at this deal. $500M in the case of Twitter and $900M in the case of Facebook.

My initial reaction to this article was to agree with the author because Foursquare is really nothing more than annoying noise to me and I would gladly sell it for whatever someone would give me for it. On a personal level it holds no value for me. I don’t use it, and I don’t feel it enriches my life nor my society. I think there are major issues with constantly publishing everything you do.

That being said, all of those things that make me not value Foursquare actually add to Foursquare’s value. Money is made on this here internet thing by advertising. Advertising has become kind of a dirty word in our culture because we see so much of it and we care very little for most of it. The secret to successful advertising is to put your product into the minds of people who would be interested in your product if the knew it existed. This is where Foursquare really has potential to excel.

The idea behind Foursquare is that you use your GPS enabled device to “check in” at various locations. You can earn various awards (badges) for doing so. My understanding of the minutiae is rather sketchy of honestly, but that is the gist of it.

This is potentially more valuable than Twitter or Facebook because Foursquare’s clientele appear to be happy to shill for the places they go, for free. This crosses over into the realm of Twitter and Facebook and is in essence free second hand advertising. This could make Foursqaure an attractive place for local business to advertise.

Another thing about the Foursquare users is that they are happy to surrender their personal information to the world for the internet equivalent of $24 worth of trinkets and beads. Through usage they profile themselves, define and publish their buying habits, and express those habits to anyone who is willing to listen. These users are easy to target advertising to because you know what they already like and willing to spend money on. The key to good advertising is marketing yourself to people who defiantly want to buy your product.

Besides being ready and willing, it appears that Foursquarers are also able, as the cost of membership is GPS enabled smart-phone and the time and money to go out. For the most part if you are using the Foursquare service, you probably have the secret affluence badge.

I am not sure if that is worth $100,000,000, but it actually could be and that is more than I can say for most of these acquisitions especially given the trouble that Facebook has had monetizing their popularity due to their user base rebelling every time they make an adjustment to their privacy policy.

posted by Matthew at 9:44 am  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Motorola Droid: The Honeymoon is Over.

It has been a couple of months since Motorola Droid. I have come to know the little device pretty well and any time one comes to know something intimately, that things faults begin to become more glaringly obvious. Before I continue I want you to know that I still love this little device and I would buy it again given the chance. The display is still one of the best on the market, the number of free apps is impressive, the integration with Google’s service is awesome, and the device itself is still solid and looking good even after a couple of rather high falls off of an elliptical trainer (note to self, get bluetooth headphones). Here are some things that I don’t like about the device.

The Physical stuff

The Back Cover falls off of my phone.

A lot. I find it in my pocket loose fairly regularly. I am not a phone holster sort of dude, so this might not be an issue for most people but it drives me batty. Fortunately my battery hasn’t fallen out too many times.

The Camera flash is tinged blue.

This makes the pictures you take in poor light pretty much suck. I initially heralded the flash as one of the nice points of the phone, and it still is if you are using it as a flashlight. Just don’t use it to take pictures unless you have to, or unless of course you want to blind your subject for a couple of minutes. It feels like staring into the sun if the sun were made of blue LEDs.

One handed use is difficult due the location of the hot keys.

Before you get all grossed out about this, remember that I have two children and one of my arms is almost constantly in use scooping one of them up, or moving something out of their way, or trying to extract something from their hands and/or mouths so I do a fair amount of legitimate 1 hand browsing. If one is left handed (or sinister as I like to call it),this might not be much of a problem, but as I am a righty and i have freakishly large meat mittens my palm is always hitting one of the menu buttons (usually the back button) thus kicking me out of whatever I was just doing.

Also I question having the back button and the menu button right next to each other. They are pretty much the exact opposite of each other and I seem to hit the one I don’t want to hit about 32% of the time. Remember,. 98.7% of all statistics are fabricated!

The Android Platform.

The Droid runs the 2.0 version of the Android platform. What confuses me most about this version of the platform is that there was at least one major release before it which lacks one feature that I personally believe is very critical.

The very noticeably absent spell check

In the outline I had worked up in writing this I had this listed three time, I will avoid beating you over the head with that particular literary device and just tell you that I think not including a spell checker is positively stone age. Other phones do it so I don’t think that it is a huge technical hurdle. I follow the bug/feature request on the Android developer site and it is sometime comical to see what people write (often misspelled horribly) about this missing feature. I have not seen any offical response to this complaint from Google other than the fact that this “enhancment” is listed at Medium severity.

Medium, huh? It may not stop you from shipping it, but I bet it will stop people from buying it.

A nice middle ground might be to at least include the predictive text feature that pops up when you use soft keyboard. At least that might be helpful for some commonly misspelled words.

App Shopping is hard to do.

Another thing I am not terribly fond of it the fact that you need to use the phone to browse for apps. Firefox has ruined me. I can no longer browse linearly. When I am shopping for things I scroll down a list of items and open a tab for each one and then I read them one by one eliminating items I am not interested in until I am left with the best candidates. I am not able to do with the Market app. To further complicate things there is no way to sort things making searching for something difficult and makes browsing almost worthless unless you have lots of time to kill.

The Stock browser is boring.

I won’t dwell on it much, but it’s true. I use the Dolphin Browser, which has its own quirks, but is mostly awesome with pinch zooming, gestures and nicer tabbing (not the iPhone style of the stock browser).

There are a couple of other minor annoyances that I have, like not being able to figure out how to not get two status bar notification for ever text I get because I like to use Handcent SMS instead of the stock messaging program and the fact that when I am playing music I have to unlock the phone to see what is playing if it goes to sleep. It would be nice if there was some functionality to have the music player or some other selected app update the lock screen with that info. There are apps to Scrobble to last.fm whatever you are playing in the music player, I can’t imagine it would be that hard to update the lock screen.

Having noted all this in a public forum I fully expect Google to have all of these items fixed by this time on Monday.

Have a nice weekend.

posted by Matthew at 4:01 pm  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad. Another third device.

Unless you have been living under a rock that blocks WiFi signals, you have probably already heard that Apple has announced with a throbbing intensity that it will be releasing a Tablet like device called the iPad to the public in the next couple of months. The announcement will finally end the wild-ass speculation has been clogging up the Intertubes over the past couple of weeks and instead has already begun clogging up the Intertubes with wild-ass conjecture about how this device will alter the very fabric of our society.

I am not so sure about all that.

As a modern user of technology, I have two devices that I use daily. My workstation, and my handheld. My workstation is optimized for me getting things done. It has a large display to assist in multitasking and a full two handed qwerty keyboard for quick data entry. It is good for watching movies and listening to music. There are a multitude of methods for getting data on and off it as well as a near limitless amount of options to process and manipulate that data. The workstation is pretty much the best at doing everything except moving.

And making phone calls, but that isn’t as important at home, or is it?

The mobile on the other hand by definition is great at moving. If it does any subset of the features the workstation does in a usable manner then that is icing on the cake. Mobility here is the key to this sort of devices success. Also, the mobile is great at making phone calls as well. So good that in some cases it has eliminated the need to have a phone that doesn’t go with you everywhere. In this respect mobile devices have become revolutionary because they have changed the fundamental way in which we do things.

The iPad straddles the functionality of these two devices. The screen sure is bigger and prettier than my current mobile devices is, but it doesn’t provide nearly the experience of the 22″ monitors I use on my workstation. Additionally the device cannot replace my current mobile because it doesn’t have the ability to make phone calls, which is honestly the primary function of my mobile device. Besides I am pretty sure that it will also be harder to get data on and off of this device, given Apple’s syncing track record.

So what it comes down to, getting this device is adding a third device to your life. This is an additional item to keep up with, complicating instead of simplifying life. There is nothing revolutionary about it. It is a big iPod touch with (eventually) available 3G. Don’t get me wrong, I have long been a huge fan of the iPod Touch as a huge leap forward in hand held devices, but I still think of it primarily as a toy. So my as my logic follows, the iPad is just a bigger toy.

What would be revolutionary is if the iPad could replace your existing mobile device and act as a sort of traveling user profile holding your personal programs and data with very low level integration with a workstation transforming into more of a landing pad for your one device instead of being though of as the primary device itself. The iPad may be headed in that direction and if so, I will prepare my Kool Aide cup, but until then I will stick with my current paradigm.

posted by Matthew at 1:55 pm  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Freak-a-droids, Robots! Please report to the dance floor.

I have undertaken my second attempt to become a smart phone user with purchase of a new Motorola Droid. My first attempt ended in ruin, and by ruin I mean with a cracked screen due to riding around in my pants pocket. I was out with my family and I knelt down to tie my shoe and it was all over. I had only had the thing for 3 months but I had really found much use for the thing. The screen was too small to do anything really productive on and the flip out keyboard was nice but kind of goofy. Only the ability to mount memory cars without removing the battery still stands out as the most useful feature of that phone. At the time I didn’t even think that this was that big of a deal, but almost 5 years later I have still never had a phone with that feature.

I feel that I must confess before we continue that every other cell phone I have ever owned, with the additional exception of my second phone which was a particularly crappy Samsung, has been made by Motorola. This may graduate me into the ranks of the raving fanboys. This criticism may be fair but I still believe I have purchased the best phone my budget and network would allow with the possible exception of my first phone, a Motorola Timeport, which I bought solely because it looked like a Star Trek communication. I have grown up a lot since then, and frankly so has Motorola.

Without getting into the details of each phone I have owned and why I liked it specifically I will say that as a general rule I have bought Motorola phones because they are sturdy (and the need to be to live through a 2 year contract commitment with me), they usually use standard USB ports for data and charging, and more often than not that have made phones that are not unattractive. You will remember that I previously stated that I bought the first phone for its Star Trek like qualities and take that last point with the grain of salt it deserves. These items of my adoration remain
strong points when talking about the Droid.

The thing feels study. An iphone feels sturdy as well, true but it is easy to make something with no moving parts feel sturdy. When you slide the keyboard out on the Droid it feels substantial. It snaps in to place and it feels robotic. I doesn’t feel cheap as some sliders do. And on the keyboard, it looks how I would think people from the future would think we citizens of the past would think an everymans keyboard of the future would look like. The copper accents almost add an element of steampunk to the device. As far as the usability of the keyboard is concerned, I am still quite new to using it but I think that you actually get a little more haptic feedback when using the navigation buttons (which are part of the touchscreen) than you do with the keyboard. It feels almost too smooth and I have had some difficulty getting my fat thumbs to type accurately. This has brought to my attention another problem with the device and that is that the browser lacks a spellchecker in text fields, which is a feature I dearly rely on. There are other browsers available, but I haven’t looked into them yet. This is not a game changer, but it is something I certain would rather not do without.

Back to the physical, the screen on this thing is amazing. At 480 by 854 it totally smoked the iPhone even though the screen real estate is about the same. It is hands down the sexiest part of this phone. Granted, the Droid itself really isn’t really sexy. It is certainly not as sexy as an iPhone. The lines aren’t as sleek. It isn’t as thin. There aren’t any color choices. But to me, that’s all okay because I am not looking for a sexy phone. I am not really Apple target demographic. Besides, I really wasn’t looking for a useful accessory. I am looking for a tool. One to help keep me organized and make my life a little bit easier. The Droid started doing that as soon as it came out of the box.

Upon activation, one of the first thing the phone does is ask you for is your Google account credentials. Now, this will not seem like big whoop to some of you, but as a user of Gmail and Google Calender it was awesome to see that the contacts I had set up in Gmail were already populated to my phone, and my calendar was already set up. It was then easy to log into Gmail from my PC and update the rest of my contacts instead of having to enter them into my phone individually. It’s nice to be able to add contacts without having to touch the phone. Additionally there is a App for Google Voice with is pretty sweet and allows you to use your Google voice number to place calls and send SMS. I am sure if you think about that you can figure out a way to use that to your Cell Carriers disadvantage.

All in all I have to say I am very pleased with my purchase so far, but I haven’t even had it a week yet. I will try to write something a little more in depth after I have had further time to play with this awesome little device.

posted by Matthew at 11:12 pm  

Monday, November 30, 2009

Begin again.

I have been trying to decide what to do with the space. I have been putting off doing anything here in hopes that I was going to get around designing my own theme, as I have been a WordPress user for quite awhile and understand a little bit about how it works under the hood. This has lead me to a bit of a realization that is both terrifying and liberating.

I have always fancied myself a bit of a Jack of All trades. I am a firm believer that I have the ability to do whatever I set my mind to. This adaptability is something I hope I never lose, as I think that I am constantly in the process of rediscovering myself. However can I really say I am rediscovering myself? Have I ever actually even discovered myself for the first time? The older I get the closer I get to a definite answer to these questions. Unfortunately, the answer is an emphatic “I really don’t know”.

What it has boiled down to here is that I must admit to myself that I am  not a designer. I like design. I think fonts are cute. I recently used the word “kern” is a sentence and didn’t get filleted by the designed I was talking to. I have even dabbled around with it for years, but I don’t think that I have the eye for it. I can design something that may eventually even look nice, but I am discovering that the effort I  have to put into it these things is not worth the time it costs. This has lead to one of the biggest realizations of my life.

The problem that I have with my can do attitude, I have discovered, is that I haven’t the foggiest idea of what I actually want be doing. I have so many projects in my queue that I can’t seem to get much accomplished.  I have to start limiting myself and I am beginning this website anew with hopes that it gives me a place to focus.  I will try to narrow my energies (the ones not devoted to paying my rent, and loving my beautiful wife and lovely children) on these subjects here.

  • Computers and Programming
  • The Outdoors (Hiking and Camping specifically)
  • Making (the disassembling and/or reassembling of things and stuff)
  • Food and Drink.
  • Literature/Journalism

Subsequent posts will talk about why I chose these subjects, this is probably more for my benefit than yours.

posted by Matthew at 4:50 pm  

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