Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Gmail thoughts

I have been testing Gmail, for the last coupla weeks, and generally like it. Labels are a bit different, but more powerful than folders are.

Gmail has an interesting advantage over other mail systems; namely, it permits different parties to read and send mail to each other without having to worry about their plain text communications happening over the net. I know there are any number of ways to do this, but I thought it was worth pointing out Google's https:// interface.

Simply log in using https and compose and send your mail. Other user does the same. Nothing travels plaintext over the greater Internet! Simple and sweet.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Freeway Frogger!

Was taking my oldest daughter to the airport today when her brother said, "hey, lets play Frogger on this!" We were walking over the freeway to the light rail station. Being the slightly slower adult, I asked: "What do you mean?"

Basically, the game goes like this:

You are the frog and the cars passing below are off limits. Your goal is to get to the other side without being 'hit' by one of the cars. The rules for movement are the same as frogger and their are no bonuses. The entire game is played on the honor system obviously.

We spent a minute or two working our way 'through' the traffic passing below. The whole thing was fun and creative.

So, there you go. Next time you find yourself board on a pedestrian overpass, why not play a bit of Freeway Frogger!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Convergence --the dirty secret they aren't telling

Business week is running one of those warm fuzzy concept sales items they show a soft spot for every once in a while. This one happens to be on the topic of convergence. All your devices and functions intergrated into one another for maximum benefit...

Sounds like a pipe dream to me.

The real truth is this:

All in one devices generally suck more than the single function ones do. So why do we make multi-function devices if that is the case? Value adds, my friend. As the cost of technology drops, so do the potential profits. Volume helps for a while, but in the end things simply get cheap.

Not sure how this works? Look at the pocket calculator, digital watch, telephone, television, personal computer and the cd player for examples. Each of these devices started life as very expensive options. Nearly all of them can be had for a few dollars today. Notably, the DVD player fell down this curve quicker than most. The idea being the later you buy technology, the more you get.

Here is where the value add comes into play. If a CD player is worth $20 and a DVD player is also worth $20, then a combination unit should be worth more than $20 right? The dirty secret is a bit different however. The combination unit is worth more than $20, but it also costs more to make. Something must give to make the value add worthwhile. Usually it is quality or capability.

So now we know why combo devices suck more than single purpose ones, what else is there?

Convergence mixed in with content delivery spells lock in like no other. Can you say pay per use? The media giants smell money in the content side of things. Rather than release content in open standards and formats, they prefer to keep it locked in proprietary ones. This way, they can continue to resell the content to you as many times as you think you need it. Nice huh?

We pay plenty today, why pay more? What can be done?

Stick with well designed single use devices that make good use of open standards.

Take a hard look at potential solutions with an eye toward actually solving real problems. Getting music on your cell phone is not a problem, but moving your music you already own to a new device is.

Avoid subscription services. Work hard at owning your content the first time so you can make as many uses later as you want.


There are only so many dollars to go around. The media companies are trying to steal more share from other interests you may have. Cheap devices tied to potentially expensive services only increase your monthly burden. If you are forced to spend more because of the hardware you have, you will also spend less doing other, more important things.

Don't be a part of it. --Decide what you need, be conservative about it and buy smart thinking about the future. You will be glad you did.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Almost did not post this, but then decided to post boldly anyway after writing to a friend. I spent the afternoon reading a good portion of "the Starchild Trilogy" by Fredrick Pohl and Jack Williamson and was intrigued by the concept of 'mechanise' --a high thoughput mode of expression between human and machine. Interestingly, the authors define the upper limit for human communication to be about 58Kbps!

This lead me to consider language for a moment. For what it is worth, here are my thoughts on the core nature of it:

--- We look for patterns, or better differences. This is a core element of our sentient nature. Without this key skill, we would lack the ability to deduce.

--- If something is irregular, we know there is meaning in the changes. Noise happens when we are either beneath the meaning, or there really is none.

--- Language is the expression of meanings learned done in a way that is more easily differentiated from noise....

Ever wonder at the curious look you get from a dog you are whistling to? They know it's not noise, but remain beneath the meaning --or more likely they lack the common meanings necessary for a connection. This suggests a grey area between noise and meaning. I believe this grey
area is due to a lack of commonalities in experience necessary for bidirectional expression.

Not sure what to make of that just yet, but thought it just might interest somebody. Thoughts, corrections, laughter, additions? Post away, I am all ears!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Radio, AM Stereo, Formats lost, etc...

On a lark, I happened to visit the PDX Radio Guide discussion forums. Lots of radio junkie talk there to read through. I found the whole thing interesting. Worth a look if you are in the Portland Oregon area.

I think we missed a big chance with AM Stereo. During the early 90's, Portland had a very nice AM Stereo Station called KBBT AM 970 The Beat. Played an interesting mix of alternative and 80's music mostly missed here in Portland. Their format really appealed, so I went out and found a Delco AM Stereo. (The kind found in the K car.)

To my surprise, the format was very listenable. AM Stereo had a number of advantages over FM, the primary one being very good mid to fringe area stereo reception. The noise floor would come up a bit, but you really got spoiled from the lack of 'fuzz' so typical of even strong FM stations heard on good equipment. Only a few stations broadcast today, due to conflicting standards and a mostly 'hands off' FCC stance.

If you enjoy talk radio, nothing compares to the quality found in an AM Stereo broadcast of a well produced talk show. The imaging and eq qualities AM has really does the human voice justice. You would think the talkers would push this, the additional fidelity makes for more compelling content production. Talkers sometimes use music today and it sucks. Could have been better I tell 'ya.

Thinking back to another failed format, FM Dolby Stereo. FM 105.1 KSKD broadcast it here in the Portland area during the late 80's. They used an interesting low talk adult format that respected the music. Few cutoffs, nice transitions, short imaging, strong station identity all combined with an interesting 80's mix format was addictive. (SAGA, FIXX, Moody Blues, After the Fire, Falco, Laura Brannigan, Buggles, Jefferson Starship... you get the idea.) Being the sucker I am, I also obtained FM Dolby gear. The distinct lack of FUZZ combined with first class pre-processing spoiled me early and led to me exploring AM Stereo.

I am all for loose regulations and such, but these two failed technologies would have really made a difference in radio today. Perhaps we need new rules aimed more at our interests instead of the broadcasters.

Those two radios still sit waiting for something to listen to...

Sunday, June 06, 2004


I find myself mostly happy in mid-adult life. Kids are doing well, days are filled with lots of activity. Sadly, time passes quickly. Our family is strong. My Wife is wonderful. I am thankful for each day we get together. Like anyone else, we want things, but actually need very few.

Despite all of this, another side of me remains restless. It is the side that wonders each day about far too many things. Things could be better, if there were only a bit more time. This side is greedy. It wants to do, change, act.

While I have no guilt over this, the tension grows strong at times. Knowing things could be so, is often more painful than the sweet bliss ignorance and distraction bring.

Why must we spend so much time on the little things?

It seems to me, most rational people I know, would consider this a selfish question. Why not spend time on the little things? They are, after all, those that matter most right? Somehow, here on this quiet Sunday morning, a part of me remains unconvinced.

Which part you might ask? The part that reads the news and wonders at the apathy most folks display over the trials our failed administration continues to bring, increasing corporate influence on our lives, the present day fight for digital freedom and the ongoing erosion of our values and culture --all for the mighty dollar. All of it apparently fueled by a growing movement to distraction.


A quiet battle rages within me each day. What is the future worth? What about the now? How many good ideas are washed under the ever changing sea of everyday life? Should we all work harder to stem the tide, or ride safely working to take best advantage of our present course?

From my point of view, the waters grow rough. Perhaps this is a matter of perception. If I were to spend a bit less time working to understand the issues, would perception then become reality? Calmer waters lie for those willing to seek them, but at what cost?


As a kid, I often heard the saying; "Pick your Battles." For years I have dismissed the simple wisdom inherent in such popular nuggets. The march of time and the color of experience brings a new clarity to these simple words hard to imagine as a kid. I wonder how I will explain what I understand today to my own? Will they remember and reconsider when the time is right for them?

There is no guilt in inaction, if all that can be done is being done. I tell myself this today, and believe what I say. Family first, then community, then nation, all under God --for those of us that applies to.


The selfish ones are those working too hard for their own gain at the expense of the rest of us. I remind myself of that when I look with envy on others with more than I have. My hope lies in the numbers. Perhaps their are enough of us to continue to make a difference where we can, working hard to find one another and find strength in that while we work to keep the ever growing tide at bay.