Thursday, December 21, 2006

No more TIVO, DVDs, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray!

From NewTeeVee:
Michael Arrington is breaking up1. With Netflix, and switching loyalties to Blockbuster, the video rental store which conjures up late fees and bad customer service in my mind.

2Mike is making good arguments for switching to Blockbuster, but for me the future of video is not Netflix or Blockbuster. Instead it is Akimbo and services like Akimbo.

Ever since going pro with GigaOM3, my life has become extremely hectic, forcing me to prioritize the health and future of the company over frivolous activities like watching television. I have given the cable TV premium package the heave-ho, and ever since the Yankees embarrassed themselves, I have not turned on the television.

Whenever I feel like watching some entertainment stuff, I often go to the iTunes store and download a couple of episodes of Monk or some show I actually care about.

But last week, Josh Goldman, CEO of San Mateo, Calif.-based Akimbo, convinced me that I should try the new RCA Akimbo Player. He said I would get great programs and movies and still wouldn’t need to watch TV in the traditional sense.

“You have now have five out of seven major studios supplying movies on this box,” he said. “There are 15,000 videos on it. It is not a cable replacement, it is like a DVD player or a DVD rental service. So you have to really see it.”

An hour later, one of his people dropped off a box. Now I actually had to play with it, though I was dreading the idea of setting it up, mucking around with network settings and what not. Typically such boxes take about three hours to get working properly. It was late at night, but I unpacked the box anyway. A handful of cables, a remote control, and that’s all.

One of the tricks I have learned with any network device is that you are better off using a wired Ethernet connection than trying to get wireless settings to work. I know it is not pretty! I turned off the modem, and the switch, plugged the wire into the back of RCA box, and connected the S-Video and audio cables to my LCD TV. And then switched everything back on, and turned on Akimbo.

It took me to the set-up screen, only to find that the network was configured, and there was a list of channels to chose from. I quickly went to the Movielink channel, and queued up four movies; went to BBC to download Fawlty Towers, and a bunch of Bollywood programs. The whole process took less than 30 minutes.

The downloads started pretty fast, and I could have started watching the movies right away if I wanted, but this being the first time, I decided to wait till next morning. I kept adding items to my queue, including new movies, and by the weekend there was nearly 24 hours worth of movies, television programs and Rocketbooms - stuff that I actually wanted to watch. This is television… exploded4.

Damn you Josh, you just distracted me from work!

My initial impressions of Akimbo are - from a usability stand point, it gets full marks, but its user interface is well… like Kate Moss without makeup. The picture is not as crisp I would have liked it to be, but you can barely tell the difference between a DVD and the download. The biggest issue is that of price: a monthly subscription and then per movie downloads can get awfully expensive pretty fat. Nevertheless, I am getting used to watching the television programs that are all good — so, Akimbo is staying with me for a while. No DVDs, no envelopes, no visits to the store, just click and add to the queue. What’s more, no PC necessary!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Awesome Emergency Landing Without Gear

The Hole - video powered by Metacafe

Freakin Funny- Game demo Hell

He pretends to be giving a LAN game demo, but every moment of game footage being shown was crafted & pre-recorded in advance, and everything he does is entirely scripted -- but looks as though he is demonstrating the game live. The audience, of course, is totally unaware of the fakery . . . and are slowly dragged through game demo hell. The original performance is over twenty minutes long; these are the highlights.

Amazing excavator unloading

13 year old hockey player with ridiculous goal scoring skills

How to Fake a Rubik's Cube Stunt problem with your feet

2006 Tech Year in Review

The year 2006 began with Microsoft playing second fiddle to Google but promising big things in the not-too-distant future.

The year finished up much the same way, with Microsoft--again under pressure from Google, but still making big promises about breakthrough products over the horizon. In between, the past 12 months added up to a transitional year for the computer business as new technologies and new business models further scrambled the industry constellation of forces.

While Microsoft struggled to ship its already much-delayed Windows Vista operating system, the spotlight turned to the scores of new consumer Internet companies loosely grouped under the Web 2.0 banner. While Google tended to garner most of the attention, these no-name start-ups accounted for the biggest burst of Internet entrepreneurship since the heyday of the dot-com bubble era.

The increasing shift toward Internet-centric technologies also played out in Microsoft's reorganization in the wake of Bill Gates' announcement that he would slowly step out of day-to-day decision making over the next two years. Even as Microsoft continues to generate the bulk of its revenue the old-fashioned way, the company took steps to deliver more of its software as part of a stream of Internet services.

Silicon Valley also had its eye on the search for alternative energy supplies. As the cost of a barrel of crude oil touched record highs by mid-year, a political and business consensus grew up around the idea that the status quo is untenable. So it was that the venture capital community began sinking even more money into start-ups exploring ways of generating energy from non-fossil fuel sources. No breakthroughs were reported, but there also was no shortage of ideas. Maybe 2007 will be the breakout year everyone is waiting for.

In the meantime, 2006 was also the year of a bizarre high-tech whodunit as Hewlett-Packard became embroiled in a corporate spy scandal. An internal investigation designed to ferret out the source of a boardroom leak to the media ultimately forced the resignation of several top executives--including its chairman--and the filing of criminal charges by the California state attorney general.

As the year drew to a close, the game community had ample cause for excitement as it could now choose among next-generation consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. This was much more than a competition for bragging rights. With huge investments at stake, the pressure to win this competition became ever more intense.

--Charles Cooper

Video: The Joy Of Handbrake Parking

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

War Games 2 — The Dead Code

Sequel to the classic hacker movie, "Wargames":
Matt Lanter (”Heroes”) will star in the sequel to the 1983 film starring Matthew Broderick “War Games 2 — The Dead Code,” Stuart Gillard directs from a script by Randall M. Badat. Lanter plays computer hacker Will Farmer, whose world gets turned upside after playing an online terrorist-attack simulator game against a government super-computer designed to profile potential terrorists. All hell breaks loose when Homeland Security is convinced that he’s a terrorist intent on disrupting the fabric of society. Production starts November 20 in Montreal.

Illumio lets you search other people's brains

From Mercury News:
Imagine if you could search through the information in your colleagues' heads and uncover unknown areas of expertise and serendipitous connections -- like a mutual interest in organic gardening or open-source databases.

That's not a search you can do on Google. But it is one you can do thanks to the Internet and a free application called Illumio developed by Tacit Software of Palo Alto.

Illumio, which was released last month, is a new approach to the challenge of ``social search,'' finding information that other people know but haven't uploaded to a Web page.

3D tech will search for just the right photo

From ZDnet:
Start-up Polar Rose plans early next year to launch technology designed to more efficiently search for photos on the Web.

The Swedish company essentially takes a two-dimensional photograph and extrapolates it into a 3D model. A computer then takes the 3D model and searches for photo matches on the Internet and in public photo sites like Flickr.

The 3D model, although virtual, allows a computer to filter out differences related to the lighting, the camera angle, and the angle of the subject's face in two or more photos. Such differences can otherwise throw off search results. By filtering out differences, the search results are more accurate, according to Jan Eric Solem, founder and CTO. Even if one photograph is a direct head shot, Polar Rose's search engine can turn up three-quarter and profile shots.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

2007 Technology Predictions From One of the Best

Analyst and futurist Mark Anderson, author of the influential Strategic News Service newsletter and blog has made a career out of making correct predictions. He claims a 93.5 percent success ratio over the years he's been doing annual predictions.

2007 Predictions:

-ePhones Go Mainstream: "Next year will see the first market acceptance of ePhones in the US," Anderson said. "And the ePhone is a phone where you use it to pay people. It's mobile commerce, mobile transactions, what Bill Gates calls the Wallet PC. But it's not a PC, it's a phone.

"Go to a Safeway, swipe, pay. Go to a gas station, swipe, pay… The phone guys are ready this year, now you will see it coming out in this country. One thing – who's the banker? Visa? Mastercard? If I'm AT&T I'll take that 4 percent, thank you very much. There's a lot of money involved, a lot of float involved. The old guys will be very upset. Visa and Mastercard are in their [Verizon, ATT, Sprint, etc] sights.

I say that yes, this will happen. But I don't think next year is when it goes mainstream. And I'm not alone. Even Joseph A O'Neil, who wrote a very bullish newsletter for Mark touting this technology, thinks he's overreaching. "Three to five years", he confided in me, as the event wound down. But yes, you can kiss your wallet good bye soon. Your phone will do it all.

-Authentication Everywhere: "We're going to see ever larger amounts spent on authentication, saying 'you are you'," Anderson said.

"You better have a swipe on that phone, something that says there is a live thumb on the phone, and that the guy that bought that phone is the same guy standing in front of me. It's easy to do; the part costs nine dollars."

Yes, I buy this one. Identity theft is growing in leaps and bounds, and it's now cheap enough to really authenticate everyone. The privacy issues, though, for both of Anderson's points, however, could derail these in the short term.

-Electric Cars: Led by Tesla Motors, this will be the first year of the electric car. Elon Musk and the boys from Google are backing it, there is serious money involved. If this actually happens and they ship (the Tesla Roadster) on time, zero to 60 in four seconds, 139 miles to a gallon, I am sold.

Anderson's take: "The hell with hybrid, why not just plug it in? Go 250 miles and plug it in [again]. Seventy-three percent of oil imported into this country is used for gas. This is all electric… They will start building cars (like this) in this country and outside."

Tesla is really exciting, I think. Sure the cars cost around $100,000. But if they can make electric cool – and actually ship them in some sort of volume in 2007, this could be a turning point. According to Mark, lithium-ion battery technology is good enough here. And if we really can power most of our cars with our existing electrical infrastructure, then we have a reasonably quick way out of our dependence on foreign oil. Too bad our government isn't leading the way here.

-Energy: Oil prices move up, not down, returning to $70 to $80 a barrel, continuing an unmatched wealth transfer. Solar goes mainstream with multiple subsidy programs, according to Anderson.

I hope he's right about solar. I'm also intrigued by the recent breakthrough, which could lead to 40 percent efficient panels.

• b>Advertising: Online ad spending will increase between 20 to 30 percent, probably on the high side of that, according to Anderson.

I think he's low here. I'll bet online advertising goes up closer to 40 percent.

-Dollar Woes Continue: The dollar falls further to the euro and the yen. The dollar will be in the 105 to 110 Yen range," predicts Anderson.

"This is a real war, but we don't pay attention to it," he said. "The Saudis control a lot of money. They moved about three billion that was being used to buy American dollars into yen and about two billion into euros. That is a small number, but they are just getting going. I think they'll move 10 to 20 billion into foreign currency next year, a major move out of dollars into euro, into yen. Japan is an export country, so they will spend between 500 billion and 1 trillion in 2007 to intervene in the market to maintain dollar/yen ratios where they want it. That will be tough. It will be the largest intervention ever done."

-New Russia: "This will be the year when the new Russia emerges, dragging a new Cold War right behind it," Anderson said. "Here's how you negotiate in Thugland. I give you five billion dollars, you give me two-thirds of an oil project, and then I say to you "give me a third back". That happened to Shell today. I'm concerned about every level of Russia, and Putin, excuse me, Stalin.

"People are being killed in cold blood – there's no shame in murdering folks," Anderson added. "The thing is just completely out of control. Cutting off the gas supplies of Europe. We are dealing with a guy that we'd like to think is a refined, hopeful, smart internationalist, who is really just a thug, in the best Stalin definition of a thug. He's willing to burn refineries, which he just did, whatever it takes to get the best price. The world is not ready."

-Multicore: "This is the year when XY computing takes off," Anderson predicts. "Put it sideways and run it in parallel. We are going now. Intel is doing quads, AMD has been leading the way. It's been ten years waiting for this. Remember Sequent and Thinking Machines?"

He's right. The day of the single processor is over and the multi-processor age is upon us. But how will programming adapt? The old, linear approach just isn't working. Anderson hinted about a new image-based programming model that he promised he'd delve into another time.

-Flash Chips: "This will be the year of flash wars," Anderson said. "There are seventeen different fabs coming online and they are mostly NAND flash chips. Get ready for flash computers. Anything that is a computer will be a flash computer. Samsung is bragging that you can have a computer without a disk drive now. It'll be more rugged, faster, and I'm looking forward to it. We'll always use disks for certain things, but we're about to see a huge tectonic change between how we use disks and how we use flash."

Wow. Although I still have some of the first flash computers – remember the HP Jornada 780? – if this works out, it'll change mobile computing. But I wonder if we'll really see the cost per gigabyte of flash approaching a hard drive. I don't think so. And with computer users storing more and more huge video and photo files, we'll still need lots of rotating storage. But Vista makes good use of flash with ReadyBoost and ReadyDrives, so I know we're going to put all that flash to good use.

-Apple Decline: "iPod maintains its dominant position compared to Zune, but by the end of next year, iTunes looks kind of sick," Anderson said. "The licensing terms of iTunes are shortsighted. Microsoft and Sandisk are more open arms, compared to iTunes. They realize that you want to play your thing on whatever it is you have."

Yeah, iTunes seems to be running out of gas. Sales per iPod have fallen off, at least according to Forrester, and we could see big problems as users upgrade their systems and players. A disaster waiting to happen.

Anderson closed up with four bonus predictions:

• The European Union will reject Turkey.

• ChinaPan (China and Japan together) will be recognized as a new integrated manufacturing center.

• Everyone in Europe is going to the right, because of immigration, but Ségolène Royal will be the next premier of France anyway.

• Boeing will do 25% more orders than Airbus

His last words: "Resist generalizations, and we'll all be smarter, richer and thinner. 2007 will confuse one-line pundits, and only you know what is really happening."