Sep 112014
 
Lately I’m working on a collaborative book project; three authors, one editor, and a small collection of raw content contributors.  It’s an exciting prospect but have to say, when it comes to co-managing a project like this sometimes little things become surprisingly big.  Like platform preferences.  Everyone has their pet tool and trying to get consensus on one easily reduces to finding the Least Worst Overall Not-Quite-Hated solution.  We’re working through that, but…

In our first conversation, Charlene the editor she asked me something about iPhones and the conversation went

Me: I wouldn’t know; I use a Windows Phone
Charlene: Oh, I’m sorry

So many ways to go with that… but suffice to say that from my perspective it proves how much more convincing a distortion field can be than reality.  I’m in no way impugning Charlene– she’s definitely sharp or I wouldn’t have started following her in the first place.  But Apple and others have done a spectacular job at misinforming even the discerning public.

Microsoft is included in that others category. Continue reading »

Sep 102014
 
Well, I’ve posted a few times here about work/life changes and how they’ll affect my writing here, but given more recent developments I want to narrow that further.  Warning: this gets personal.

I’ve historically held a variety of interests and usually found the time and energy to manage those most important.  I’ve always taken that for granted.

However, the past several months have truly tested that.  A negative turn to my marital situation, oldest son leaving for the Navy, and ongoing health and other issues have all contributed to pulling my “eye off the prize(s)”.  Not that I view my son’s choice as a bad thing per se; I just miss him when I could use local support. Continue reading »

May 272014
 

Every serious fisherman has a One That Got Away tale, usually shared with wistful regret and a declaration to get back out there and overcome the loss.  Fishermen are a stubborn lot, rarely letting anything get in between them and the prize.  They will always make the effort.

Fort Worth is surrounded by many nice lakes and as a consequence we have more than our share of committed fish stalkers.  But I’m curious: why wouldn’t that sort of dedication translate to opportunities in technology?

That’s not just a rhetorical question.  As I wrote last time ["Cowboys and Culture"], we can be a laid-back bunch in these parts, exhibiting a skepticism over urgency that would make Show-Me-Staters proud.  And as I promised in that previous article, I will now share the perfect example of one that got away… and maybe shouldn’t have. Continue reading »

May 232014
 

Yesterday I wrote about tech events in Fort Worth, Texas ["Cowtown and Code"] so it’s only fitting I expound on that theme with another alliterative article.  Today I’ll dare to get politically incorrect and lay bare one aspect of Cowtown culture that is simultaneously brag-worthy and yet fiendishly aggravating as well:

Folks are laid back here.

Stereotypical cowboy talk includes words like “mosey“, a colloquial verb describing walking much like glacial describes progress.  Like their trail-dusting forebears, Fort Worthians are usually in no hurry.  Whatever it is, it’ll wait.

This is at once endearing and maddening.  Sometimes it can’t wait, and that’s especially true with technology. Continue reading »

May 212014
 

My current day job involves supporting safety systems on locomotives.  This is a relatively young field and can be thought of as air traffic control for trains.  Even though the associated technologies (GPS, cellular communications, data acquisition, etc) are mature, the overall development is fairly new.  This means we talk a lot about IT.  And not always kindly.

We’re part of engineering, so even from our geeky perspective IT is still a THEM.  Sure, I do some coding when I have the time but it’s just not under IT auspices.  And when our coffee talk turns to IT, as it frequently does, it’s laced with the usual fear and suspicion.  IT guys don’t play well with others.

As a fringe IT guy myself I know it’s a mistake to paint all software developers with a brush as broad as “coder culture”, but there are some stereotypes that I’ve seen generally run true. Continue reading »

Aug 062012
 

Okay, you caught me.  The title was click bait.  How many MBAs did I catch?

In all seriousness, it’s been way too long since since I filled this space with meaningless patter so I’ll try to catch up.

This has been an interesting year.  I came up with more business ideas the past several months than I had the previous several years.  So many that I couldn’t stay focused on any one.  Nor could I find anyone interested in taking any off of my hands.  So Google Docs fills up with billion-dollar brain farts that someone else will likely make happen.  C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

As I posted a while back, I had decided I would form this thing called Tribal Method to 1) get my own $#|+ under control and 2) develop processes and resources for modern idea cultivation, collaboration and project management.  Not long afterward I discovered that others were well ahead of me on the same course so I figured it makes more sense to watch and/or contribute to their projects.  More on that in a post404 article or two to come.

On that last note, I had *almost* given up on post404 just a few months ago.  Low readership was the main reason.  I love writing but not solely for my own sake; readers are a necessary blessing.  I was also (and still am) discouraged by the inability to get any contributor articles.  But a funny thing happened: in July I posted My Nokia Maemo Story and suddenly I was getting views from everywhere.  Which mystifies me.  I put significant effort into A Geek’s Tribute to Jack Tramiel and it garners 38 views.  I post my own personal ramblings and get over 2000.  Folks, Jack Tramiel was a major reason we are doing what we’re doing.  He definitely deserves better!

So I guess I still don’t get this tech blogging thing.  Especially since I keep seeing people subscribe to my old WordPress site, Tabula Crypticum, when I don’t even write there any more.  Guys, seriously: http://post404.com.  I promise, more content is coming!

Oh, and in June I did make it to Tampere, Finland for Devaamo Summit thanks to many friends who loaned me part of the airfare.  Thanks to a new job with a US railroad (just started two weeks ago) I should soon have the funds to start paying people back.  There’s also an article in draft that I need to finish…

Circling back to Tribal Method, time management has always been a pain for me.  My idea-to-time ratio sucks.  I either need to generate fewer of the former or find more of the latter.  Neither seems to be happening, so I’ll fight the urge to mania-task (multi-task just isn’t the word) and focus on a select handful of items.  They are:

  • Downtown Fort Worth Plan 2023 improvement/renewal project.  I’m mainly looking to get a Hackerspace started (help?).
  • post404 of course
  • 3d printing community work.  I may be helping Shapeways with a Dallas event soon.
  • Nokia Developer Champion stuff.  We have a meetup group of around 50 people for Windows Phone development.  Yes, I would prefer working in Qt and on N9 or N950.  Things are what they are.
  • unfolo.  I have an idea about temporary contacts.  Under development.  Follow @unfolo on twitter.

That list leaves out several projects I would really like to get going… some of them potentially huge game-changers.  Millionaire-making stuff.  But I’m just one guy and need to find people interested in making them happen.  I will be discussing them at a high level at post404 soon.  If something piques your interest, I’m ready to help make you rich.

 ;)

Apr 252012
 

As NOK stock continues its slide, the vultures are gleefully circling.  I don’t have to link you in to pundits predicting the company’s demise– you probably had to step over some doomsaying articles just to get here.

Nokia was always good to me, even before I worked there.  I made decent money off of it after the 2000 tech bust and in fact had I hung on a bit longer could have really made out.  Nokia used to follow fairly predictable patterns so you knew you could safely buy under $14 USD and you should probably sell at over $30 (not counting bizarre stock bubbles).

So today I glance at my IRA and see NOK sitting pretty at an attractive entry point of $3.75.  Of course that’s not my entry point– even some aggressive dollar cost-averaging has me at around $7.50.  That’s not counting the high-priced bundle that came out of my 401K when Nokia decided it could somehow carry on with a less-than-marginal global logistics team (I disagree, but I’ve already hashed that over.  And over).

I want to make money on that heap of discounted shares, but even more, I want to keep Nokia out of the hands of the serious vultures.

Even at its present high cash burn rate, Nokia squats on assets that must have its competitors sitting up to take notice.  Imagine Samsung swooping in.  Or how about Apple?  Their global market share is still relatively tiny– nabbing Nokia’s logistics bits, at the very least, should help its penetration plans.

Heck, I could go on and on, even without touching on the obvious (i.e., rumored Microsoft panic button purchase threshold).  Better yet, I’ll cut to the plan.

Let’s all buy Nokia.

Look folks, it’s cheap.  And Graham Neray over at The Next Web has me thinking we’ve all been way too hard on the shrinking Finnish giant.  He’s loading up.  Why should we be left out?

So let’s take advantage of this once-in-a-digital-lifetime opportunity.  Join Graham and I in taking ownership of Nokia.  Keep the vultures out of it.  And once you have those shares, make your voice heard at every opportunity.  Don’t let me be the only one.

Feb 282012
 

Okay, the title is a bit hyperbolic I’ll admit.  No matter what happens at the low-end, professional digital cameras aren’t currently threatened.  And I definitely don’t advocate tossing electronics into landfills, functioning or otherwise.  But writing about sustainability (certainly a great passion of mine) will come at another time.

Today I want to talk about convergence, game-changing and blogger blindness.

Normally I wouldn’t write about an event like Mobile World Congress unless I was there.  Which I’m not.  And I won’t actually cover the event.  Rather, I want to address something that came out of it.

Still-downtrodden Nokia released its pretty 808 PureView this week at MWC, and it naturally generated a great deal of buzz.  A 41 megapixel camera isn’t something to easily dismiss.  But after the initial hoopla faded, some have done exactly that.

Many comment that Nokia was crazy to drive this beautiful beast with Symbian Belle when Windows Phone has been positioned as the operating system of choice.  Others make the odd claim that cameras are irrelevant in the mobile phone space, as ostensibly proven by the failure of Nokia’s former flagship N8 to gain significant traction.  And some pass the 808 off as a simple science project.

All of those observations miss the big picture.

For one, the technology has been under development for five years according to Nokia, which indicates a Symbian legacy that may not be that easy to change.  In addition, it’s also likely that Windows Phone (WP) as we now know it can’t yet power something like PureView, thanks to Microsoft’s prehistoric specifications.  But this is where Nokia should be driving its differentiation in the WP space.  If the company isn’t doing just that, even behind the scenes for near-future product releases, then it deserves to fail.  More on that in a bit.  As for Symbian Belle, after having installed it on an E7 I can honestly say it’s usable, marketable and exactly what Touch on Symbian should have looked like four years ago.  That said, the concerns about its lifecycle are perfectly valid.  Still, as I’ll explain in a minute, so was this release.

Second, Nokia’s inability to mainstream the N8 doesn’t by itself indicate that a unique built-in camera can’t be driver for competitiveness.  Certainly, decent cameras are an expected feature of smartphones so the omission of one could be a dealbreaker (outside of some corporate and journalistic uses, that is).  But the press for the N8 showed quite clearly that an above-average camera *could* separate a smartphone from the crowd.  The caveat, of course, was the original version of Symbian with which the N8 shipped.  Reviewers criticized the awkward OS with the same passion that they praised the camera specs.

Finally, while it’s easy to dismissively label this a “five-year science experiment” at first blush, the 808 is much more than that.  Let’s ignore the obvious: that it’s an actual product instead of just the common cool Nokia concept.  The technology behind the 808’s jaw-dropping imaging didn’t fade into irrelevance just because the device itself may suffer limited adoption.  Indeed, Nokia has been very vocal about the 808 being just the first implementation; company spokesperson Karen Lachtansky assures us that we will see Windows Phone come into the picture at some point.  Which leads to my essential premise.

Nokia has sold more digital cameras than anyone– more than many companies combined.  That’s not a trivial detail here.  And now it’s thrown down a gauntlet, fired a challenge at its competitors: the new standard is now 41 megapixels.  That’s a quantum leap for anyone, and a likely hurdle for many.  The threat isn’t limited to competitors, either; it’s also a strong message to partner Microsoft: “If you want to keep us on board, then we need to talk about your confining specifications.  This is what we can do.  Support it, or we may have to reconsider our platform strategy.”.

Nokia’s 808 foretells a sea-change in the electronics market.  It makes us envision a world where  the unintentional handoff of the camera industry from companies like Kodak to companies like Nokia drove significant changes in technology and human behavior.  One where the low-end stand-alone digital camera has faded into obscurity.

Engadget calls the Nokia 808 PureView an “imaging flagship”.  They go on to say:

If you haven’t been sufficiently smacked in the face with the Nokia 808 PureView’s primary selling point, let’s settle the score right now: it’s a phone for camera enthusiasts. [emphasis mine]

Engadget gets it.  They’re seeing the big picture.

I read where some observers insist that the “thin is in” mentality will hinder sales of a phone with a camera bulge.  But for those users focused more on casual photography than phone calls, and they actually do exist, the 808 presents less bulk than the traditional consumer-grade camera– and it means one less device to carry.

Many laugh off the concept of the ultimate convergent device.  And the 808 isn’t quite there.  But it proves that such convergence isn’t just a pipedream.  If it can draw the final pieces together, Nokia stands to be the first to pull it off.  That’s the promise of PureView.

UpdateDevin Coldewey at TechCrunch explains things even better.

Note: the opinions, assessments and predictions expressed here are entirely my own.  No inside knowledge of any kind from anywhere went into the writing of this article.

Dec 062011
 

This is a short story of stupidity and the power of social media.

And I don’t mean in a good way.

Along with nearly 2 million other geeks, I follow Wil Wheaton on twitter.  I do this because I like him as an actor, I like most of what he has to say on twitter, and he seems like an all-around good guy.  Yesterday he tapped out a bit of outrage against PayPal.  I had to click out of curiosity.

I landed at regretsy.com, specifically, a blog article there.  Now, I’m not familiar with Regretsy, but I gather it’s a site wrapped around selling cool art stuff at the eBay for bohemian crafters, etsy.com.  I know about Etsy because I’m trying to get my artist wife to sell her stuff there, too.

The author of the Regretsy blog article describes a customer service nightmare with a PayPal lack-of-service rep.  This is followed by an admirable amount of righteous commenter cursing.  But interspersed amongst the perjorative punctuation is evidence of social media’s awesome power.

You see, latest research says that, thanks to virtual mosh pits like twitter and Facebook, we are no more than 5 people away from Kevin Bacon.  Maybe even fewer from Stephen Colbert.  So thanks to some hardcore Regretsy customers and a random tweet of indignation from “just this guy” with close to 2 million twitter fans, PayPal is getting more than they bargained for due to a lone dysfunctional employee.

You can’t treat customers badly like that.  Especially not when the internet is involved, which it is in darn near everything these days.

The power and reach of social media can send smart companies to great heights, and dash unenlightened ones against the rocky shoals of commerce.  PayPal won’t go under because of a single incident of phone jock stupidity, but I’m sure by now some red-faced executive is at least wishing that a certain public-facing Pharisee had been better trained.

Surely by now you’re motivated to read the actual story.  Go ahead.  And retweet this article, too.  You may help spare future phone jocks from the hell that one must be enduring even now…

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