July 31st, 2008
How’s this for irony? I was reading the LA Times site this morning and glanced over at the Most Viewed, Most Emailed, and Related News module and noticed that the Most Emailed story is “You’ve got too much e-mail.” Nice of people to flood their friends’ inboxes with that one. On a related note, what exactly does the “Related News” module do on this site? Related to what? It appears on the home page, section pages (eg. California), etc. It seems like you should be reading a story before they start pushing related stories to you.
July 8th, 2008
I’ve found Firefox 3 to be much more stable and less memory intensive than previous versions. However, if you’d like see how many times Firefox 3 has crashed (assuming you submit crash reports), all you have to do is type “about:crashes” into Firefox’s address bar. It’s interesting that they keep this information on a publicly accessible server. I’ve always assumed software companies don’t really do much with this information (eg. Microsoft) but it looks like Mozilla actively combs through this data. Pretty cool!
Tip from Lifehacker.
July 6th, 2008
Google’s announcement this week that it will begin to index Flash content is a giant step forward for the search company which has historically left multimedia rich sites made in Flash out of its results. However, I often wonder if Google is stuck in the Middle Ages? The company is the king of text based indexing but has little capability when it comes to indexing multimedia.
Image search seems like a logical starting point. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? To date, Google’s Image Search has relied on examining the text around an image and then determining what the image is about algorithmically. This works to some extent (I use Google’s Image Search all the time) but what about actually analyzing what’s in the image? There are several companies out there that already do this. Take Toronto based Idée. Give their TinEye Image Search Engine a JPEG and they’ll find other JPEGs that are similar to the original. I tried this out with a photo of the Eiffel Tower and they returned several images that contain the Eiffel Tower but weren’t the same as my original. Pretty cool! Their Visual Search Lab is also worth noting. Select a random photo and they’ll return other photos with the same colors. In both these examples, they’re actually analyzing the contents of the images.
Another image search technology Google should note is what Evernote has built. The service lets users collect links, photos, notes, and other multimedia and then search through it. If you upload a photo, Evernote will automatically add tags to the photo from text it recognizes in the photo, essentially indexing it. For example, uploading a photo of a Canon camera box with the Canon logo on it tags the photo with “Canon” automatically. The technology can read all sorts of fonts (the text doesn’t have to be boring) as well as handwriting unless you write like a doctor. Why isn’t Google investing in technology like this?
Google is even more behind when it comes to video search. Their video search is seriously lacking in sources (they only appear to index a couple of the top video sites) and their approach to video has been similar to how they index images by looking at the text around the image. There are a variety of more robust video search engines such as Truveo and Blinkx. However, none of the major ones appear to be taking advantage of speech to text engines, object recognition, facial recognition and other technologies that actually examine the content of the video. Companies like Everyzing, Viewdle, and Digitalsmiths all offer these technologies.
Maybe Google is waiting for the technology to mature or for another large company to take the first step but if they don’t move beyond just examining text, another company could take their place to dominate a growing multimedia search market.
July 5th, 2008
It seems that slideshows are all the rage these days on big media sites. The LA Times appears to be no exception. This morning I went to their site to check the status of all the wildfires burning in California and the headline “San Onofre’s nude sunbathers will have to take cover” caught my eye. First of all, I went to San Onofre several months ago to take pictures of surfers and had no idea it was a nude beach. No one there appeared to be nude but maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Anyway, next to the headline, the LA Times offers — guess what? — a slideshow. Judging by the photos, it’s a good thing it’s no longer a nude beach.
July 3rd, 2008
I’ve been following Vimeo for awhile now, especially after they announced last October they’d offer videos in high definition. However, until now, I’ve mostly been looking at the Vimeo player and supporting features and not really at the content. Last week I started to go through the Vimeo HD catalog and spent several hours watching videos that people had created, the key word here being created. Vimeo appears to have built what YouTube should have been, a user generated content site for people to share and discuss videos they’ve made. The site itself is beautiful, feature rich, and full of really interesting videos. I just pulled up the most popular videos on YouTube right now and about half are clips from television or other sources (not created by the user who uploaded them) and the other half are comprised of girls dancing around in skimpy clothing. Skimpy dancing has its place but I’d hardly consider that creative. Vimeo on the other hand is loaded with student films, video experiments, and all sorts of other creative content. Vimeo’s player is also much better than YouTube’s both in quality and ease of use and if the content creator allows it, you can download the video in it’s original format. How cool is that?
I’m starting to notice more and more blogs embedding Vimeo videos and it will be interesting to see if Vimeo will start to take a bite out of YouTube’s dominance.
June 26th, 2008
This is why I love The Daily Show:
June 23rd, 2008
To date, Apple hasn’t made much of a move into large enterprises. Dell, HP, IBM, and others still dominate that space. However, enterprise adoption of the Mac platform is increasingly important to Apple if they want to continue to grow their market share. After all, the enterprise is where the big money is when it comes to computing. So, it’s only logical that Apple wants into this space but their push into it is surprisingly being spurred by longtime rival Microsoft.
Apple has realized that Microsoft’s inability to support the Office suite on the Mac is holding back Mac sales in the enterprise. Even the most recent version of Office 2008 lags behind it’s 2007 Windows counterpart. For example, Entourage lacks server synchronization of tasks and notes (on the Mac, these are stored on the local machine and not the server), a feature that many office workers use since tasks and notes sync with their Blackberries.
Personally, I’ve refused to use Office 2008 on my Mac because of compatibility issues with its Windows counterpart and instead run Office 2007 in Parallels. Setups like this are an ideal scenario for Microsoft since the user pays for both the Windows OS as well as Office whereas on the Mac, the user would only be paying for Office. However, this additional cost and the related complexity has to be hurting Mac sales. In other words, having an inferior product on the Mac has no downside for Microsoft (it actually helps their revenue) but has a large impact on Apple.
Apple’s big response which hasn’t garnered much media attention is in part Snow Leopard, the next version of their OS which will naively support Microsoft Exchange. In theory, users won’t need Entourage anymore since Apple’s Mail, iCal, and Address Book will directly integrate with Exchange (we’ll see about those tasks and notes).
All this sounds well and good but Apple’s going to have to do more than simply support Exchange in their current lineup. Outlook is incredibly powerful, much more so than Mail and enterprises often value power over simplicity. Pages, Apple’s word processing software pales in comparison to Word, as does Numbers, a competitor to Microsoft’s Excel. It’s going to take more than simple Exchange integration to convince enterprises that the Mac has a software lineup that can go head to head with Microsoft’s Office.
Apple’s other enterprise battle will be the iPhone which will have to beat out Blackberry. For that, they’ve taken a similar approach to Snow Leopard: Exchange support.
Long term, Apple and Microsoft will battle it out for the office desktop but don’t expect Microsoft to go anywhere. I think they’ll start focusing more on backend services that power enterprises like Exchange, something Apple probably isn’t interested in; at least not yet.
June 9th, 2008
Steve Jobs today got up in front of a crowd of 5200 adoring fans and announced to the world the new 3G iPhone. He claimed that Apple has listened to the marketplace and decided to make the new iPhone more affordable and quoted a new price of $199 USD for the 8GB version (the old iPhone initially debuted at $599 and then dropped to $399). What Steve, and his adoring 5200 fans, have failed to note is that the price of the phone has actually increased given AT&T’s new voice and data plans tied to the device. The base AT&T iPhone price used to be $59.99 but according to a press release AT&T put out today, the new base rate plan will be $30 for unlimited data with voice plans started at $39.99 a month, an increase of $10 a month for the cheapest plan. Carry the $10 price increase out across two years and you’re now paying an additional $240 to AT&T which means the phone actually costs you an extra $40 over the two years. What’s even worse is that this price increase is tied to your phone plan and locked into a two year contract. At least if the price increase was tied to the device itself, there could be a chance that device could drop in price in the future. So much for more affordable.
I’m an Apple fan. I have a MacBook Pro at home with a big Cinema Display and use a MacBook Pro at work with a Cinema Display. And like any good Apple fan, I recommend Apple products to friends and family. However, Apple’s purposeful obfuscation of the new iPhone price is unacceptable. For a company that challenges itself and its consumers to think different, Apple appears to have joined the rest of corporate America by burying their real pricing and instead has put on a dog and pony show with the hope no one notices the reality of the announcement.
The fact more people haven’t realized this doesn’t surprise me. When it comes to Apple, the media and blogosphere seems to be more and more of an echo chamber with the attitude that Apple can do no wrong.
UPDATE [6/10]: I forgot to mention that Exchange support (ActiveSync) will be an additional $15/month and that unlimited text messaging (SMS) is no longer included in the plan (that’s extra as well).
June 6th, 2008
Amazon.com, my favorite e-commerce site where you can buy just about anything is offline. I’m not talking about the all to common Twitter outage these days. I’m talking about a cold down for the count outage. No pretty “we’re building awesome new stuff” maintenance page, no Bloglines plumber, just a very direct Http/1.1 Service Unavailable.
June 6th, 2008
This is the last I write about Time Warner Cable for at least a couple weeks, I promise. According to the LA Times, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has filed a lawsuit against Time Warner Cable claiming the company made false and misleading statements to subscribers and failed to provide service levels outlined in their franchise cable agreement with the city.
Maybe there is justice in the corporate world. The big question is should the city win, will the subscribers see any money out of all this or will we continue to pay outrageous prices for sub standard service?