Archive for February, 2007

Changing the World through Software

February 9th, 2007 No comments

I ran across this video while reading the Thingology Blog. If you haven’t checked out their web2.0 site for books, you should. I’ll warn you, it can be addicting though. And Tim quoted Chris Anderson (of Long Tail fame) saying, “this is why I do what I do.”

I want to change the world through software that connects people. As an educator, I believe in the power of connecting people so that we can learn about the world around us and about ourselves. This video inspires me…


Dr. Sendmail or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Google Apps for Your Domain

February 8th, 2007 No comments

I was reading about some suggestions for people to take when changing email addresses, intended to help you avoid losing any email from people that only have your old address. Most of the comments on these blogs are about the benefit of having your own domain so you have a permanent email address for life.

I’ve had the domain for about 8 years now. There’s a whole ‘nother story ’bout getting the domain, but I’ve had my same email address that whole time, through 4 moves in two states. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I relied on the email address that my ISP provided, because I’ve been through 8 different ISP’s in that time. I expect that I will have this email address for the rest of my life.

There’s a downside to this too. Read more…

HDHomeRun hits it out of the park

February 7th, 2007 3 comments

HDHomeRunI’ve been following the HDHomeRun a bit since CES this year. The idea is very simple – the box takes digital TV signals from an OTA antenna (ATSC) or your cable service (QAM), including High Definition channels, and then uses 100baseT networking to stream those channels onto your local network. You can either watch those streams using VLC or capture them to a computer-based DVR system like SageTV, MythTV, or even Windows Media Center.

The obvious advantage is that in contrast to a PCI, PCIe, or USB tuner, the HDHomeRun isn’t tied to just one box. Multiple clients (up to two) can access the two tuners. Streaming to multiple clients (multicast) isn’t available right now, but this would be technically possible with a software update. Read more…

Pin the (Long) Tail on the Colts

February 7th, 2007 No comments

The Super Bowl highlights are up on the iTunes Store (which still has DRM) and this reminds me again that the producers of sports programming are missing a huge opportunity to cash in on the Long Tail Effect. Look, I could care less about Peyton Manning (the shameless shill!) and the Colts. I was rooting for the Chargers this year (my wife is from San Diego and we visit every summer). Still, I’m sure that there are dozens of Colts fans that will buy the highlight video from the iTunes Store to remember their team’s victory. Bears fans probably won’t be interested, except to watch the first 12 seconds a few times and dream about next year.

But I’d sure like to own highlight films of my hometown San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl victories under Joe Montana and Steve Young. Shoot, even a “Road to the Super Bowl” special featuring “The Catch” would be fun to own. Then I’d still like to get a video of UCSB winning this year’s College Cup (Go Gauchos!) and maybe some classic games too. Yeah, classic all-time sports matchups on the iTunes Store – are you feeling me now? Read more…

Apple & The Beatles reach a new agreement

February 5th, 2007 No comments

Today’s press release is that Apple, Inc. and Apple Corp (owned by The Beatles) have reached a new agreement on the use of the “Apple” name. Under this new agreement Apple, Inc. will own all of the trademarks associated with “Apple” and will license certain trademarks back to Apple Corp. for their uses. This may well mark an end to legal wranglings that have continued for almost 30 years since the challenge against th inclusion of a sound processor in the Apple ][ computer.

Obviously, this sheds some new light on the recent name change from Apple Computer, Inc. to just plain Apple, Inc.

Categories: Apple Tags: ,

Garageband for 5th Graders

February 2nd, 2007 No comments

Last week I had a chance to help out a teacher that was using the Mac lab at their school to do some very cool things with 5th graders on a science project about the solar system. Their teacher had put together some resources about the solar system and I was there only to help show them how to put all that information into a podcast.

These kids, mostly 10 and 11, spent the period recording their narration of the info they had compiled on the solar system with the built-in microphone on the Intel Core Duo 17″ iMacs they were using. With Garageband, it was really easy for them to record and then go back and insert additional comments to introduce each “chapter” in their narration. Once they were done recording the “voice talent” for their narration, we had them drop in little “intro” and “outro” sound effects / loops as well. The kids had a lot of fun picking out loops to spice up their presentation.

Once the audio was set, the kids then dropped in pictures to illustrate what they were talking about in their podcast. In typical Apple fashion, all they had to do was drop the image from the folder in the Finder right on top of the tracks in Garageband. To place the image at a certain timecode in the podcast, you just click and drag. Once in place, the kids dragged the edges of the image placeholder to make it appear on screen for a shorter or longer time. They were able to listen to their podcast (thank goodness we had headphones for all 25 kids!) and then visually move the images to the appropriate spot in the podcast so that they appeared when they were talking about that topic. It was dead simple and incredibly fun to watch how easily these kids were able to manipulate the content to produce their very own podcast about the sun and the planets in our solar system, complete with pictures.

While simple, it was a really powerful illustration of how technology can enhance learning for young kids. The podcast was merely a way for the kids to interact with the content and really own the material that they were putting together. One of the frustrations with projects like these is that sometimes the technology becomes the focus of the lesson and managing the tools actually gets in the way of the content you are trying to teach. Here is where Apple shines, of course. The technology behind Garageband just faded into the background as this group of 10 and 11 year-olds was able to manipulate all the information they had put together in a way that will help them retain what they have learned.

It was a great experience and makes me really excited about the future of education and technology (my two favorite things!).

Note to teachers: This lesson could be adapted to older students by having them research a topic, write the script, and find pictures on their own. It can also be used to have students find examples of a principle, technique, or strategy where everyone will have unique material that all connects to a common theme. You could then host all of the podcasts or publish them to the iTunes Store for the other students to explore.

Why the iPhone won’t have VOIP

February 2nd, 2007 No comments

There’s been some discussion in the blogosphere about the lack of VOIP features on the iPhone when it has WiFi built-in. I suppose the iPhone is more than capable of running a Skype client (or similar software) but I would say that VOIP is never going to happen on the iPhone for the next 5 years.

Why?, you ask. Well, because that’s the term of Apple’s exclusive agreement with AT&T (nee Cingular). I have a little insight into the issue because AT&T Wireless was a client of mine, once upon a time. This was before they were acquired by merged with Cingular. At the time, AT&T Wireless spent over $1 Billion every year just to maintain their wired network connecting all of their cell site towers (which is why they hired me and a small team to try and figure out how to save 5-10% on network costs). It’s a hidden cost, but each cell tower requires backhaul to the network backbone which is usually accomplished with leased lines like T1’s and T3’s. Sometimes microwave is used, but this is more rare. This $1B+ number didn’t necessarily include all the capex money going into improving the network for 3G services. When we look at the new AT&T, these numbers get even bigger.

When you give a CEO a fixed cost in the billions to operate a network, he’s going to want to find ways to pay for that. The value proposition for wireless carriers is largely based on the coverage of their network and the services provided by that network (hence those “can you hear me now?” and “raise the bar” commercials). There used to be value tied to the number but wireless number portability (I also did consulting work on WNP) changed that significantly (to the benefit of consumers). But today, the carriers compete based on coverage, data services, and plan pricing.

If AT&T allowed the iPhone to use a Skype client that would discourage people from using the network that they spend billions to operate, you would choose a cheaper voice plan with fewer minutes in that scenario. Their ARPU (average revenue per user) would go down and their stock price would tank.

But I think there is still an opportunity here and that AT&T should actually embrace the VOIP trend. The key here is that 21st century carriers can turn the value proposition around and make the phone number valuable again. What they need to do is integrate your wireless number with VOIP services so that you can bounce back and forth from 3G, GSM, and WiFi networks while always being accessible at your personal number. This requires a significant amount of engineering in the handsets and throughout the network (both in the backbone and out at the nodes) to enable seemless network hopping. Still, if AT&T would integrate their wireless service with their inherited VOIP service (from the pre-SBC AT&T) they could offer customers the best of both worlds. Cheap calls when in range of WiFi and great coverage when travelling or driving down the road.

Still, when you have are spending billions every year, it’s scary to look at technologies that could disrupt your business. But I think that this is an opportunity for AT&T to actually develop stronger relationships with their customers by offering choice and flexibility. They just need to come up with a way to bill for VOIP usage (at a much lower rate) and have it appear on your regular phone bill.

I can’t help myself from making one more industry insider comment. Most suprisingly to those outside of the telecom industry, modifying the billing systems is usually the hardest part in offering new services.