Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'll Pass on Smart Phones, Thank You!

Jack Trout has a great piece in Forbes magazine about why convergence is a pipe dream. Convergence refers to the idea that we will eventually have a single device that handles all our needs. The iPhone has been labeled a giant leap for convergence. Trout argues that the idea of getting something without a tradeoff is impossible. An excerpt:
Palm was wildly successful with organizers; then they introduced the unreliable and unremarkable Treo, essentially an organizer that makes phone calls as well ... BlackBerrys are great at e-mail, but the phone is barely adequate. The Motorola Q crashes almost as often as the Treo. The Apple iPhone is terrific for music and media, but lousy for e-mail and phoning. For marketing reasons, everybody is trying to cram all these complicated features into ever-sleeker, ever-thinner boxes, while also adding longer battery life, and so on. Invariably, smart-phone designers have to make compromises that mean some functions don't work especially well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Google Censorship

This is troubling - evidently Google doesn't bend over just for China. YouTube has censored a video by a human rights activist in Egypt showing the torture by the local police. This was supposed to be the great promise of the Internet - the ability to share not only the meaningless garbage that fill the bandwidth, but to expose and educate. And yet YouTube decided that it wasn't up to that mission. Of course, as Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard pointed out, YouTube had no trouble showing graphic videos of the Abu Gharib scandal. That was the right decision - after posting a warning and ensuring that viewers were over 18 years old, YouTube allowed you to see the videos. We don't need Big Brother censoring us, and we certainly don't need corporate America doing so! Shame on you, Google!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Photo of the Day: A Spinner in Action

Many of you probably know nothing about cricket. Greatest sport ever. Truly. A type of bowler (similar to a pitcher in baseball) is a spin bowler, and we all tend to think of them as crafty with their fingers. I loved this pic because it emphasizes the concert of different muscles coming together - look at the tension in the legs, abs, all over.

Friday, November 23, 2007

History Flashback: Time mag cover from April 1984

Picture of the Day: Iceberg!

A Liberian-flagged cruise ship after hitting an iceberg in Antartica. Thankfully, no one was hurt!

Random Thoughts on Black Friday

It was my first time in several years buying anything on Black Friday. There were quite a few deals - the one that got me to Walmart was this Kodak ZD710 digital camera with a 7.2MP resolution and 10X optical zoom. There were some other spectacular deals, and definitely some crowds, a topic supported by early news reports. But looking at people's shopping carts, and the vast stacks of unsold specials in my city's Walmart, I wonder if this is indeed an indication of a retail slowdown. It does appear to me that people in at least my town seem to be getting much more conscious of expenditures, possibly due to the housing slowdown and rising oil prices? I'll be curiously waiting for the final numbers ...

Speaking of shopping, be sure to check return policies! I haven't purchased too much more than books online, and as I was considering buying a camera (yes, I'm probably the LAST person to still be using a film point and shoot!) I decided to peek at the return policies. Amazon gives you a 30 day return period (although there's a grace period around the holidays), and any opened item loses 20% of its value. On, it's 14 days and a 15% restocking fee. If you think you're not sure about the quality of the product you are buying, favor the traditional retailers - a purchase at Walmart can be returned to a store for no extra charge, even if you bought it online.

Speaking of cameras, shopping for one is a bit like going to the gym. In the gym, there's the ridiculous emphasis on the bench press even though it is not a decent metric of fitness. In the camera world, it appears it's all megapixels and megapixels (ok, there are times when two seemingly identical cameras are vastly different in prices, but not for any reason a novice like me can figure out) Here's a tip: think what you'll use it for. I talked to a few friends savvier about these gizmos than I (hey, I still use a film camera!), and it seemed evident to me that if your application is mostly for travel, a good optical zoom is far more important than MP. If you plan to make posters, or make prints from portions of your photo (i.e. you crop out part of the picture) then MP are much more important.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dem Debate: Turn off the Commentators

Anyone else tired of the crap political commentators put out after every debate? After the last edition, one I watched because I was finally done with my doctoral defense (yes, yours truly now has signatures approving his Dr.-dom!), I couldn't help but notice how disparate my views were from those of the "experts".

Hillary, they told us, put in a stellar performance. Really? I must have missed that. What I saw were soft questions (including the most ridiculous question about diamonds or pearls, one it turns out CNN encouraged an audience member to ask), and a failure to commit to specific policies. Sen. Clinton is best when she has to play the old pol's game of being everything to everyone.

Obama, we are told, stumbled. I'm not that impressed with him, but at least he did on occasion commit to where he stands on issues. Of course, that was few and far between, as the top tier candidates largely deflected every question to a beration of the Bush administration.

The sidelined candidates, on the other hand, did a stellar job. Richardson and Dodd were very good in talking about specifics, and Biden had flashes of brilliance when asked about foreign policy. But the media just writes a few brief lines about them - after all, a Pakistan policy isn't as exciting as how Hillary snapped at Edwards!

Monday, November 12, 2007