Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dear Apple,

I love your products in general and really don't want to sound like I'm whining, but I have a couple requests. The first is that the iPhone needs the ability to do unified messaging similar to the Blackberry. Yes, I'm sure you hate having your products compared to that of others, and I'd point out that the Blackberry isn't perfect at it. You can improve it. But it would be so nice to have the ability to configure SMS, email, Facebook, Twitter, AIM, etc to all "go" to the same place. Now that you have push notification capability this should be easy to do. But since the main requirement for this to make sense is email, well, you're gonna have to lead the way here.

We also need iChat for the iPhone. Sure, you can get an AIM application, but I want a full iChat. Please include voice and video chat capability, too. And the ability to direct message files like pictures.

Add "shake to reload" as an option in Safari for the iPhone.

That's it, nothing major. Just a few tidbits that will make the greatest electronics gadget ever conceived by man just a little bit better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where do we draw the line?

So, just where do we draw the line to be saved from ourselves by nanny-laws?

Okay, so the argument can be made that seat belt laws save a lot of lives. It can also be made that it saves us a lot in insurance costs. Okay, I get that. There's a line somewhere, and seat belts are way past it. I'm fine with that one, especially since I believe in using them. I suppose the question here, however, is does what I "believe in" matter? Should there be an arbitrary line? Should we at least be able to identify it for the purposes of discussion?

Why do I ask? Well, because it's becoming more and more common for nanny-laws to be introduced. North Carolina recently passed a law that will prohibit text messaging while driving, which a good many states have done. That's following on the heels of more and more laws about using cellphones at all while driving. Many states now require you to at least be using a handsfree device. Okay, so it's fairly easy to argue that those are on the other side of the big imaginary line. Fairly easy, anyway.

But how about this? Now a New Jersey legislator has introduced the first of its kind bill that would limit people from being able to input GPS information while moving with anything other than voice activation. Is there really any data that points to this being a problem? Particularly since almost all factory navigation systems disallow this feature anyway? It's only the portable devices you add to your car yourself that let you do this, basically. Yes, cellphones are adding the capability as well, so it will become more prevalent. But where's the data? Yes, I'm sure someone somewhere has been killed by a driver who admitted to being distracted because he/she was lost and putting data in their GPS. While that is a tragedy, a few isolated cases do not put this on the other side of the line requiring nanny-laws. People will continue to be killed every year by distracted drivers for all manner of things that we won't be legislating like simply dropping your tube of Chapstick.

Nanny-laws cost money to implement and enforce. They take away personal freedom. Many simply legislate common sense anyway. Look, we all take our eyes off the road from time to time for a variety of reasons. We always will. The key is to only do it when you can safely get away with it. We need to be teaching people how to be better drivers, not legislating how not to be a bad driver.

What's most annoying about this particular GPS law, as well as the legal pressure on the manufacturers of the built-in navigation units to build this "feature" in, is that there's no way to differentiate between a passenger and a driver by the unit. So if this kind of law were to happen across most of the country, the manufacturers of the portable navigation units would probably start making even those so that you can't input data while moving. Great, now even passengers can't do it for you! With built in navigation units they already can't, and that's incredibly stupid.

Friday, June 12, 2009

If I were the King of the Internets...

So, why does social networking "work"? Lots of reasons, but I think it mostly boils down to we all love keeping up with our friends, and our friend networks are large webs. We're all getting used to navigating a "web" on the 'net, and applying that to our lives in this manner is natural since our friend networks are really very web-like, too.

Twitter and MySpace are networks that default to a very open manner of publishing info. Unless you lock things, the default is for everyone to see what you post. Facebook, OTOH, defaults everything to locked unless you want to open everything up. I think that's why MySpace appeals to a younger crowd and Facebook a slightly older crowd. But both are similar outside of that, but the open nature of MySpace tends to lend itself to those who want to use it for self-promotion, such as bands that want to get music out there.

Okay, great. That's the state of things currently. What's next? My big problem with all the current social networks is that they own your data. What? How could that be? It's true. There's no way for you to mine what you've posted for info, no way for you to download the information about all your friends, etc. The reason for that? It's simple, really. If someone wanted to build a Facebook clone that was better and that info was available, well, it would be easy for them to write an application that made it easy for you to switch and invite all your friends to do the same!

As it stands now you have to sign up somewhere new and re-enter all your personal information. You have to manually upload any pictures and videos you want. Etc. It would be a huge pain.

Some social networks have embraced others. For example, there is a Facebook application you can install that will let you link Twitter to Facebook. So if you "tweet" something it also appears as a Facebook status update. That's nice, but I'm not sure there's any way to go the other direction (and if you could, and you did both, well, you could create a serious feedback loop!).

Twitter is a huge sub-set of Facebook and MySpace with one exception, the txt-message gateway. With that you can "follow" your friends via txt-message if you like. That is an incredibly handy way to "chat" with friends about their status. For example, if you "follow" your brother via txt and he posts a status update, you get it immediately as a txt-message to your cellphone. If you have the capability on your phone (and most do), you can respond in public or private right from your phone through the normal txt-messaging interface. No need for special applications or clients or browsers or even fast network. Facebook does not have this, and I'm pretty sure MySpace doesn't, either.

Another cool application out there is Google Latitude. With this, you can "publish" your location in real time via your cellphone (if you have a compatible smart-phone such as a Blackberry or iPhone) and your friends can "follow" you with the same application on their phones (or via the web) and know where you are at any given time. This is cool, but not seeming to take off in any serious way yet. The limitation for needing a smart-phone is one problem while the other is the security angle of people not necessarily wanting everyone to know where they are at all times. I think the latter is less of an issue, however, as most people probably don't care if their actual "friends" know where they are and given that the client can be told to stop publishing (or even lie!) at any time.

Another big reason it isn't happening is that Google has no social networking base of customers built (at least not yet) and as such people aren't looking to go have to sign everyone up they know via some other new service. I think if you could do it via Facebook then you'd see a MUCH larger adoption rate.

But on to the "If I were the King of the Internets..." What would I do? I'd create an open source based social networking site. I'd figure out a way to fund it, but it would be owned and governed by the users. The user would own his/her own data. The user interface would be fully configurable. It would include most of the functionality of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Google Latitude all in one. It would be fast, easy, and fun! It might still be funded by advertising, but I remain convinced that advertising done properly isn't evil. Not only is it not evil, but it CAN be done so well that users might, oh, like it! Seriously. I think this model could pull that off, and it would have to as just because users own and govern everything, it still would require a good bit of real money to keep running. It would require serious server hardware, storage, txt-message gateway, and bandwidth...all of which cost real money. Oh, if only I were King...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tax rant.

Okay, we can argue till the cows come home about flat taxes versus making the rich pay more yada yada yada. I think we'll be having that debate until the end of time. But I can't help but skip that one and point out two other flaws in Obama's tax plan to pay for healthcare. These come from this article in particular.

My first problem is this quote: "Obama also proposes new taxes on securities dealers and life insurers, and to raise revenue by prohibiting certain estate-planning techniques." Great. As it stands now, no matter what bracket you fall into, when you make money you pay taxes on it. If you invest it and it makes you more money, you pay taxes on THAT, too. Makes sense. I have no problem with that. Pay taxes as you make money. What doesn't make sense is that when you die your estate has to give the government as much as HALF of it all AGAIN. No leaving it all to your kids. There are some ways around some small percentage of that, and this is the kind of thing they want to block to try to make sure they get their half of you now that you're gone. Ugh, I just don't get that.

The other problem I have is that Obama says he doesn't want to tax the poor or middle class, but then goes on to say that to pay for healthcare we should tax things that are unhealthy "including new taxes on soda, beer, and wine." Since the rich make up such a small percentage of the population, there's no way this "vice tax" will hit the rich harder than everyone else. This is a tax on everyone, pretty much. And it'll hurt the working class folks more than the rich, obviously. Say one thing, do another. I love politicians.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

She started it!

Alisa started the old building thing here, so I'm going to see her old building and raise her one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Things you see in Greensboro...

The photo speaks for itself, though I would like to add that this scooter was not tagged yet could still take off with traffic and keep up to 50MPH with no problem whatsoever. You have to be 50cc's or less and there's no 50cc scooter that can do 50MPH that I've ever seen. Mid 30's at best. This thing had to be hopped up big time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Movie Review

I had no idea what to expect going in to this one, but let's say this. Do not expect a blockbuster. Do not expect hilarity. Do not expect action. Do not expect suspense. Do not expect romance. You will not be thrilled, chilled, or distilled. You might even get a little bored at times. But stick with it because what you will be is moved. If you give it a chance. I almost turned it off, to be honest, but I'm glad I didn't. I think you will be, too.

It's called Elizabethtown.