Monthly Archives: July 2010

Could Luxor-hotel light deliver more bandwidth than fiber optic?

Last night I met an interesting inventor. He’s been involved in the invention of WiMAX, among many other things and is the founder and chief technical officer of CeLight.

But last night he showed me a laser system that could provide a community with much more bandwidth than even a fibre optic line (he claims his system will bring four to five times more bandwidth).

It’s not a point-to-point laser, either. Instead of aiming the laser at a sensor across the land, he saw the light at the top of the Luxor hotel and thought that is actually an interesting way to bring bandwidth to a community.

Last night he showed me how it works. A purple laser which is almost invisible to the human eye and which is inexpensive to buy (they are the lasers inside every Blu-Ray disk player — the lasers are actually purple light, the “blu” in the name is marketing) is aimed at the sky and an array of sensors reads data from the beam of light. Readable due to scattering of light due to the atmosphere. He showed me how this works: you aim a laser at the sky and everyone can see the beam. If your human eye can see it, sensors can see it too and due to some tricks can get massive amounts of bandwidth out of the laser.

I was fortunate enough to meet Isaac and here he explains how it works.

Why is this important? Because aiming a laser at the sky is a LOT cheaper than digging and laying down fiber. So, this might be how lots of areas get high-capacity backhaul capabilities. Translation: we’ll all get cheaper broadband that we’ll need to keep up with future HDTV and 3DTV.

Arrogance or Artistry at Apple? My audio thoughts on antennagate

Dave Winer just re-tweeted someone who said that Apple is too arrogant to admit its iPhone 4 has a flaw.

That got me wound up. So, I used my iPhone 4 to call into Cinchcast from along the Snake River in Wyoming, you can listen into my call. The mosquitos were biting me and were making me downright ornery.

But the iPhone is the best phone I’ve used and here there are dozens of bleeding edge smart phones being shown off by VCs, CEOs, and geeks.

Yes, the iPhone has a flaw. But it still is the best phone I’ve used.

More on why I feel that way in my phone call. Oh, by the way, the call doesn’t drop.

Personally, I’m sick and tired of this issue. Techmeme is nothing but Apple today. Glad I’m on vacation with a bunch of geeks.

Onward.

3DTV’s ultimate test

Geeks in Wyoming

It was the ultimate test. Could 3DTV get geeks inside from the beautiful scenery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Just outside the window of the private home I was fortunate enough to visit today are the Grand Tetons. Yet inside we were sitting, watching 3DTV. Now, I’m sure some of you will say “what a horrid shame.” Don’t worry about us, we’re going back outside now, but we were here to hear a talk by Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality Digital and get his view of the state of the art of 3DTV (audio interview I did with him after the talk).

Don’t know who he is? His company filmed the first NFL game in 3D. Among many other “3D firsts.” He’s a true pioneer.

Me? I was skeptical about 3DTV. At CES I went and looked at the different models and thought “this isn’t the year for 3DTV.”

I was wrong.

In the picture below, Sandy is the guy in top right corner in a reddish shirt.

3DTV demo by 3D Pioneer

And, after being in a living room and watching the current state of the art of 3DTV I can tell you I was doubly wrong.

Did you know that sales of beer in pubs in UK and Ireland went up by five times after the bar owners hung a 3DTV up? I believe it.

Sports is 3DTV’s killer app. We watched a hockey game. A boxing match. And more.

A week ago I was at Oakley. There, the designers are working hard on finishing off some new 3D glasses that don’t make you look like a dork and have even better quality than the ones I was handed here.

Last week I wondered why Oakley would be “betting the company” on 3D, but now I understand. Brilliant.

Anyway, watching sports makes 3DTV a whole new experience that I want in my home. Listen to this interview with Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality Digital, and you will hear what excited me: a new way to experience events. In the interview Sandy covers production costs, TVs, glasses, and more. We really cover a lot of material, hope you enjoy it.

I’m sold. Now just got to wait for my gadget budget to be approved by Maryam. Heh.

Why I can’t kick the Apple iPhone habit

Louis Gray just wrote an interesting post about how he kicked iPhones out of his life and went with Android. I could write that post too. After all, I agree with it in principle, even if I can’t take the step and cross over the iPhone/Android barrier.

He isn’t the first, either, to advocate giving up your iPhone and going with one running Google’s Android OS. Leo Laporte told me the same thing at FooCamp (Tim O’Reilly’s campout where he invites a few hundred geeks for a weekend campout at O’Reilly’s headquarters). Although Leo was holding an iPhone he told me he is kicking the iPhone habit and going Android.

On vacation I had dinner with Brett Schulte, who is an IT consultant for celebrities. He’s the one who got me on the set of Criminal Minds and is one of those few influencers that companies try to get to push their products onto sets and into actors’ hands. He’s kicked the iPhone to the curb for the same reasons Louis gave.

And I do try. I’ve had three Android-based phones in my hands in the past nine months: a Droid, a Nexus One, and a Sprint EVO. I’ve also tried a Verizon Incredible and a Hero.

All of these phones have some magical features, to be sure. I loved having the EVO be a wifi hotspot. I like some of the apps better on Android, in particular, Google Voice, Google Maps, and Google Buzz. All are way better than anything on the iPhone.

But still I can’t kick the iPhone habit. Why not?

1. I’m more productive on the iPhone. You might say I didn’t give Android enough of a shot. But I completely stopped using the iPhone for two weeks to see if I could get my Android skills up. I still was faster and more comfortable with using the iPhone. More on why in a second.
2. The hardware is simply superior. Even with the weird antenna issue I just like the way iPhones are built. They feel better in my hands and that’s important to me since I use these devices SO MUCH during my day. The screen on the iPhone 4 is simply superior to anything Android has today. Leo told me “wait until you see the Samsung.” Well, OK, but the Samsung isn’t out yet. When it is I’ll try it out and see if that gets me to kick my iPhone habit.
3a. Apps on iPhone are way better quality. Sorry, but the apps I count on, things like the Twitter app, the Facebook app, the camera/photography/video apps, location apps, etc are almost wholly superior on iPhone than on Android.
3b. More app choices on iPhone, especially in games. I keep finding world-class games on iPhone that haven’t been ported yet to Android. I should make a list.
4. I hate AT&T’s quality, but I don’t hate it enough to leave. I didn’t really understand that, but then I started keeping track of how often I use voice. On my phone I only use voice about 5% of the time I use my iPhone. Almost all the rest of the time I’m using it for Twitter, to read news, to interact with apps, to play games, to Facetime with my sons/wife, etc. In non-voice parts of using the iPhone AT&T’s lack of quality of service doesn’t matter at all. Most of the time I’m doing those kinds of things I’m on wifi anyway. To gain better voice quality, which I only use about 5% of the time, I’d have to give up a better experience on the web and in apps, which just isn’t acceptable to me.
5. Apple users tend to use more apps. I’ve been asking my friends who have Android apps how many apps they have. The average, so far, is about half of the apps that my iPhone-using friends have. Also, something else I noticed, when comparing experiences with SlideShare’s CTO, Jonathan Boutelle, was that we both noticed that Android users haven’t purchased many apps yet. That is something I’m hearing from app developers, too, which explains why the best developers put most of their time into the Apple platform and aren’t working as hard on the Android. But to me this is a bummer because the way I discover new apps is to talk to people. In airports you’ll see me stalking iPhone users asking them what their favorite apps are, or online you’ll see me searching through Appsfire.com for new apps. Is there an Appsfire for Android? My point exactly. There is a network effect with apps and Android hasn’t gotten there yet. Will they? I’m sure they will, Google seems to have the same advantages that Microsoft had in earlier platform battles with Apple, but TODAY Google hasn’t come close and that means I can’t kick my iPhone habit.
6. Battery life. My Android phones totally suck when compared to the iPhone 4. My son literally texted with friends all day while at Disneyland (nothing like a teenager obsessed with texting). At 11 p.m. he still had 36% battery left on his iPhone 4 and I had 50% left, even after using it a lot as a camera taking video and photos of the family and checking into Twitter after an earthquake closed down a lot of the rides there. My Android-based phones don’t come close. My Sprint EVO used 40% of its battery on ONE one-hour phone call. Louis says he gets pretty good battery life, but then I started asking him what he did with his phone to get that and he turned a lot of stuff off that came on by default. I didn’t have to do that on our iPhones.
7. Camera features and aspirational advertising. You know, I’ve had tons of Nokia phones with two cameras. I’ve never used them as much as I’ve used the one in my iPhone. Why? Affordances. My iPhone affords using these features. It is easy, and when someone calls me I can see if they can use Facetime with me. Plus, their advertising is aspirational and gets my friends to WANT to try these new features out. I’ve never had someone get a new Nokia phone, call me, and beg me to try out a new feature. I’ve gotten DOZENS of those kinds of calls in the past three weeks.

So, why am I more productive on iPhones than on Android?

It came down to small things that I’ve noticed. For one, each app works more consistently. On Seesmic on Android, for instance, I could scroll to the top of its window by clicking a red bar. On every iPhone app that happens by clicking the top bar. On EVERY app. On Android it isn’t in the same place, or with the same command.

When I want to edit text, I just click and the cursor on the iPhone enters the place where I clicked. On the Android it doesn’t work as consistently. Partly because some of the screens aren’t as sensitive as the iPhones, but partly if you click too long a dialog box asking if you’d like to copy text comes up. Grrr.

On other things, when I double-click columns of text the iPhone works how I expect it to: the text zooms to fill the maximum width of the screen. On Android it often would overzoom so now I’d have to scroll around to read. Add in the extra readability of the new screen and this is maddening, but is a little thing very few people would notice.

I’m sure lots of people will argue with me and tell me how the Android is already superior in all of these cases. They probably are correct: for them.

But I’ve tried it out and continue doing so (I keep my Verizon account and Motorola Droid and I keep playing with it just to see if I can kick the iPhone habit) and for me I’m still addicted to the iPhone.

When that addiction ends, you’ll be the first to know since I’m in agreement that Google is the company I’d rather be in bed with than Apple but for now I just can’t kick the Apple habit and I’m very happy with giving Steve Jobs more of my money because Apple definitely has built the best mobile device on the market today.

Tomorrow? We’ll see.

How about you? Have you kicked your iPhone habit?

Our excellent iPhone 4 star-studded iMovie vacation; my core compulsion loop

Over the past 10 days we’ve been on a road trip through Southern California. Lots of fun. But being off the grid gave me a chance to really play with the iPhone 4. Since we were in Hollywood, it was a good chance to test out the new iMovie that you can use on the new iOS4.

Here’s my first movie, don’t worry, it’s very short, only 87 seconds. You should click here, pop it out, and make sure you’re watching the HD version on Flickr.

In making this I found iMovie to be most excellent EXCEPT for a couple of things — the sound track is too short and the audio level was inconsistent, getting louder during a couple of clips and I couldn’t figure out how to control it! I guess Apple wanted us to only create 60-second videos, not 87-second ones. Well, that and there wasn’t many choices of music. I really wish they would hook up with Tapulous. Oh, wait, another Steve Jobs company, Disney, just bought Tapulous. Why is Tapulous cool? Because you can buy music to play games with. Why couldn’t I buy longer and better music to put onto my home movies?

One other thing. Hand holding the iPhone is WAY too shaky. I don’t know of a good solution. I tried to prop myself against things when I could, but usually I couldn’t. So, my video has the shakes. That’s the only downside of the new camera in the iPhone 4.

By the way, check out how good the iPhone 4 camera is. Here’s a shot I did with it from the deck of our villa in Laguna Beach on Thursday night:

View from Laguna -- iPhone 4

Now compare the same moment, but captured on a $3,800 Canon 5D MK II:

View from Laguna -- Canon 5D MK II

Yes, the Canon image is better, especially if you look around the sun, but the camera in the iPhone holds together remarkably well. If I didn’t have them side-by-side it’d be tough to tell which one is which, other than when you blow them up to maximum resolutions.

Anyway, we met a few stars on our trip.

MCE Tech pimps out my MacBook

The CEO of MCE Tech, Arnie Ramirez, pimped out my Mac. Damn is it fast! Thanks to Sam Levin for organizing that visit. Arnie took out my hard drive, put SSD in, then took out my optibay drive, and put a 750gig drive in there. Finally he increased my RAM to 8 gigs. Wow, does everything work fast now! MCE was the first company to come up with ways to better use the optibay and they did an awesome job. Full disclosure: he gave me a good discount.

And we had lunch with movie star and entrepreneur/investor Ashton Kutcher who invited us to lunch to talk geeky stuff. He’s working on an interesting company and wanted to tell me about it. But mostly we talked about how to save Yahoo and the future of media. More on that later in July because I can’t disclose what I know.

Movie star and entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher photo opportunity

During vacation I downloaded quite a few apps (my install right before vacation deleted all my apps, so I needed to redownload all of them since I didn’t have them properly backed up). Anyway, thanks to Appsfire you can see all 250+ apps I have installed. More on those later, too.

I took the time to really play a lot more with location apps. Yes, you can see everywhere we went on my Foursquare Feed. Even Ashton Kutcher is using it, too (he invested in the company, he told me) and he does, indeed, do his own checkins.

One thing I learned about vacation: it’s not to escape work. Especially when, in my case, I do what I love already.

In my case, it was about switching off the machine that feeds content to Twitter, my blog, and elsewhere, and get some time to get some perspective on what’s going on in my family and at work. I came back with a ton of ideas written on my iphone and some observations, too.

Oh, and Microsoft killed Kin? I could have told you THAT was coming. Microsoft and big companies have a disease where they go for the mass market. The problem is that the mass market has already happened. What will happen tomorrow? Something small that most of us will miss. How many of us predicted that the iPhone would force entire industries to shift? Microsoft certainly didn’t.

Plus, Microsoft should talk to teenagers. They want iPhones. They might settle for something that LOOKS like an iPhone, like a DroidX, but they certainly don’t aspire to get some lameass phone that doesn’t look like an iPhone. Ask the teenagers. They will tell you the truth. Whoever built the Kin didn’t do their homework. Same for the phone designers at Palm. Misjudged what people now want. Go to Disneyland and look at how people are using their phones. That will be where new ideas come from, but did Kin’s team think of doing that? Did Palm’s?

FooCamp kicks off

Other stars? At the beginning of my vacation I spent some time at O’Reilly’s FooCamp. I love Tim O’Reilly’s explanation of why they do it: “to make us smarter.” I got smarter, mostly by spending the past 10 days trying to figure out my core compulsion loop is. But nothing like hanging out with tons of interesting geeks in an apple orchard (the fruit, not the machine) for a weekend. Not to mention my tent was right next to Leo Laporte’s and I got the skinny on what he’s up to while we shared a nice cigar or two.

What’s that? A core compulsion loop is something in a game that a player MUST do. What did I find out on vacation that I must do?

Oakley's headquarters

Inside Oakley's headquarters

Well, this post explains it all. My core compulsion loop is to study the best-of-breed tech companies, the entrepreneurs that build them, and the infrastructure choices that they make. Even on vacation I felt compelled to get a tour of Oakley, which has the coolest headquarters building I’ve seen (and I’ve been inside dozens of the best companies like Target, Boeing, Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft, Loreal, etc — none come close to Oakley’s design). We got a private tour of Oakley’s manufacturing plant with one of the tech geeks there. Thanks Colin Smith, really appreciated that. They showed us some of the ways they have made better sunglasses than any other company and I didn’t realize they make almost everything right in their Southern California headquarters. Nice to see manufacturing done in the good old USA!

Denise Howell

Speaking of manufacturing, one of my favorite law bloggers, Denise Howell, was down in Laguna Beach at the same time we were, so we met up and intermingled kids on the beach. Lots of fun, and learned a bit about Laguna from her. You can read her blog, or follow her podcast on Leo Laporte’s This Week In show.

Anyway, my vacation was mostly captured with my iPhone 4, so back to that. I almost spent a day writing a review of the iPhone 4, but for now it’s my phone of choice and is more productive — for me — than any of my Android-based devices but the reason I didn’t write that review is because MG Siegler at Techcrunch wrote up a good review that matches my experiences completely.

One last thing, though. Apple is full of crap about its antenna problem. We own three of the new iPhone 4′s and if we touch the gap at the bottom left of the screen, which joins the antennas, we can get our iPhones to consistently drop calls at home. On our road trip we learned that this only happened in low-quality wireless areas where we were quite a ways away from the nearest AT&T antennas. But for Apple to try to make this out to be just a problem with the display software is absolutely wrong and should be further addressed. Yes, putting a case on it, or refraining from touching that area, does fix the problem but Apple should admit they have a problem and put out a fix, which probably involves some tape or a case, which I’m sure they don’t want to do. In my mind it is a defective product and I’ve never had that kind of problem with any other cell phone. I’d probably just have lived with it, but Apple’s explanation was so lame and so wrong it really pissed me off.

And, with that, I guess my vacation is over.

Oh, here’s what my iPhone 4 screens look like. I +love+ the new groups feature, which let me fit 250 apps into two screens:

My new iPhone screen #1My new iPhone screen #2