Tara, invisible to Microsoft

Personal note to Tara Hunt: you don't exist. :-)

Oh, sorry, for everyone else, I'm just having some fun with Tara. She notes that big companies like Microsoft are gonna have a tough time getting it.

Totally agreed.

But, we have our secret weapons: Technorati and Bloglines and Feedster and NewsGator and IceRocket and other blog search engines.

They let us listen like a small startup.

The problem is, even when we hear, it takes a lot of convincing internally.

But, even there, we have another secret weapon: internal blogs. Email mailing lists. Lunch meetings. And social pressure.

Tara applies the social pressure. Which is why she's not invisible.

She's also onto something.

Big companies don't get small things. I was talking about that with a bunch of MBA students last night. The average billionaire executive doesn't understand why you'd speak to 100 MBA students. After all, Bill Gates could buy a full page ad in the New York Times and not notice the money missing from his account, right?

But, that's why my email is on my blog. Why my cell phone is on my blog (it's down at the right, and, yes, I do answer it, if I'm not in an interview or something like that).

By the way, I deleted all my feeds and am starting over. Tara's one of the first I added back in.

I’m nuts about Southwest

Funny, I just got off of a Southwest airline from San Jose to Seattle and found out that Southwest now has a blog. There's more on Memeorandum.

It's a pretty cold blog so far. It's the kind of blog I think most corporations will start out with. Safe. Take no chances. Don't piss anyone off. Don't reveal anything that the PR team isn't comfortable with.

That's OK, I guess. Most Microsoft blogs are just as boring. So can't throw stones when we live in a glass house.

But, I spend a great deal of my life on Southwest planes. Some things that I'd love to see?

Their IT system rocks. Who developed it, how is it built? Was it done in Java, or VB or C#? What does their data center look like?

What are some traveling tips? Here's one: There are two rows of exit row seats. The first row doesn't recline.

Second, if you fly Southwest ALWAYS check in online (you can do that starting 24 hours before your flight). That'll get you into the "A" or "B" group which will almost guarantee you a decent seat and that your carryon luggage will get on board.

Some other things I'd love to know? Is there free WiFi near their counters anywhere? What's the best restaurant in each airport?

Who makes the most reliable luggage?

Some craft definitely have funnier crews than others. Any way to know whether you'll be on one of those flights?

As a geek I like sitting near the front of the plane where I can see the door. They let me use my Tablet PC or cell phone up to the minute that the door closes. I answered several emails this morning using my Verizon card while waiting for everyone else to load onboard.

Others? What are their favorite online travel resources? (Flight trackers, etc).

Where do they go when they want to have fun on a layover?

Anyway, nice to see more companies try to figure out how to engage with the blogs and, yes, I am nuts about Southwest.

They are a no-frills airline, but generally have the lowest prices when we fly (which is why Maryam switched us to them). One thing, though, their service is almost always better than other airlines I fly, especially in baggage handling — my bags on other airlines can take 20 minutes to show up, but not on Southwest.

Southwest takes a bit of time to get used to (they give everyone a boarding card with "A", "B", or "C" on it, and first on gets the best seats, if you're last on often there won't be space for your luggage so it'll have to be checked). Plus they don't have meals or video screens, at least on the short flights I'm usually on.

Geek gadgets: New way to distribute software; iPod to AV system box

Disclaimer: I got these for free to try out, although I'll be giving away both things at the Gnomedex conference in June. The iPod player I got before I set my policy of not accepting free stuff. The U3 drive I got because I didn't have time to sit through Nathan's demo and wanted to try it out. When I received them I made no promises to them about the coverage I would give them, or even IF there would be coverage coming. If I ever have a conflict of interest, I will disclose that to my readers.

 +++++

U3 smart drive

So, last night, Nathan Gold, developer evangelist for U3, shows me a new kind of USB Thumb Drive. He had one loaded up, gave it to me, and said "try this out."

I'm playing with it now. It's a 1GB flash memory drive that plugs into my USB port. But it isn't a normal memory key. When you plug it in it automatically adds a new menu in the system tray. That pulls up a ton of software that Nathan put on my key for me.

Turns out it fools my PC into thinking it's a CD-ROM drive that auto starts.

This is a radical way to distribute test software. Why? Cause I unplug my key and any software I run disappears along with it (and any traces, including any temp files I've downloaded — I got the Maxthon browser on the key, for instance. As soon as I unplug it everything goes away, even registry entries).

Whoa. More details on the U3 site.

++++++++++++++++++++

Xitel HiFi Link for iPod

Maryam has an iPod Nano, so back when I was at CES, when I saw the Xitel HiFi-Link for iPod, I wanted to try it to see if it was really good. Lots of my friends have iPods, so thought this was unique.

It's a box that you hook up to your AV system at home that lets you dock a Nano and play the music off of it onto your AV system.

It does exactly what it says it'll do, is well designed (looks just as stylish as Maryam's iPod) and sounds awesome on our AV system. If you're looking for a way to connect your iPod to your AV system, this is worth considering.

On both of these products I'll buy one after giving these away at Gnomedex.

More on Eye-Fi

First, I got a ton of questions about Eye-Fi. First, Eye-Fi's URL is http://www.eye.fi/.

Second, here's answers to a bunch of the questions received in my comments today about the Eye-Fi device:

Rob said "you could just get a WiFi or Bluetooth enabled camera." True. They had one of those, a Nikon, at the offices, but it wasn't easy to use. It didn't work with services like Flickr and Nikon programmed it to be just a replacement for a USB cable. Eye-Fi could do a LOT more, and because Eye-Fi aren't locked into a specific manufacturer's choices, it could work with a lot more interesting stuff. The Xbox scenario, for instance, that I put out there isn't possible with the Nikon WiFi camera.

Also, there are more than 100 million digital cameras already sold that don't have any wireless capabilities.

Jake asked "$100 for what exactly?" Well, let's say a 1GB SD Memory card costs about $60 to $100 retail. Well, Eye-Fi could make a card that has BOTH a WiFi system on it, as well as the memory, for $100 to $150. Yuval didn't want to talk pricing because it really depends on a lot of factors (he thinks there's a subsidization model possible where companies with services, like Ofoto, that make money, could pay to subsidize cards). So, the amount you'd pay at retail could greatly vary. But would certainly be a lot less than you'd pay for a new WiFi-enabled camera.

Chris asks "I would love to know how this works." Unfortunately I can't give away all the details, Eye-Fi hasn't finished the development and Yuval asked me not to talk about how it works technically. But it works, and it works easily (or it could, depending on partnerships that still need to be finalized — keep in mind this technology is still in alpha stage, so some of what I talk about here won't work when the final product ships, and other things that we haven't thought about might be enabled). Another scenario that could be made to work? You go out and shoot. You come home. You turn on your camera. Your photos are automatically pushed to Flickr.

Chris Wood says: "it would be too simple but many cameras have a video out connector that you can just plug into the yellow RCA jack at the front of the tv."

Um, Chris, I don't even know where the cords are for my camera, and my TV doesn't have an input on the front of the TV. Also, so you can hook your camera up to the TV. That solves that scenario. Now, your friends ask you to print. What do you do? Or, you want to put the photos on Flickr? What do you do? Get out more cords. Geeky.

Diane says: "Unless it is as easy as pressing ONE button, it still wouldn’t work."

Hey, Diane, you'd love this. No buttons to push. Just turn your camera on when you're within your WiFi network at home (or possibly at WiFi hotspots that are open around the world) and everything happens — automatically. When he took my picture my picture appeared on his computer without him touching the camera further. Obviously there's a bit of setup, but that's easy. Anyone who can use a Web browser could setup the system.

>Doesn’t the 360 already support plugging the camera into it directly through USB?

Yes, but again, I have to have cords. If cords are so cool, why are the Xbox 360s controllers wireless?

>It’s ok if your camera doesn’t have wifi but memory cards are the wrong place to put wifi I think.

You don't need as much memory if you have an Eye-Fi. Why? Cause your camera's memory is just a cache. As soon as you're within a WiFi hotspot the camera could spit the photos to your favorite photo sharing site (BubbleShare, for instance, lets you upload and download full photo files, so you wouldn't need to store them on the local camera).

Also, someone asked about metal cases on cameras. The Canon he demoed to me had a metal case and the WiFi worked just fine. Keep in mind that the WiFi antenna AND the memory are stored on the same card. It's amazing what the miniturization has done due to cell phone R&D. I remember the engineers at Winnov back a decade ago struggled to get less stuff onto a card the size of my hand, much less the size of my thumbnail. That's why it was inspiring to me.

Scott says: "One thing all these kinds of tools should have is the ability to read the EXIF data and rotate the picture on screen for you (ala Picasa)."

This does exactly that, and a lot more. Want your photos to automatically go to Costco for printing? You could do that. In addition to possibly sending them to Picasa, or to Flickr, or to other services or to your Media Center PC.

I want one. I'll throw away my SD memory card when this comes out.