Another one gone: Best Buy buys Speakeasy

Got an e-mail today that Best Buy is now the owner of Speakeasy.

Speakeasy was one of the original local internet service providers in Seattle. Speakeasy always had character. Back in the day Speakeasy was a cybercafe in Seattle, and one of the first. They had text terminals, even. Located in an old building in Seattle’s Belltown district, just north of downtown. That was before Belltown became a hot new spot for gentrification. The original cybercafe was located above a pool hall. That sure was an odd crowd going in and out the front door: geeks going up the stairs and sharks and barflies going down to the pool room.

They used to have events there. I didn’t go to many, but I remember that the silent film festival showed there sometimes.

They were one of the local internet service providers in the old days. They offered dialup accounts along with their cybercafe offerings. I remember that there was a group of small local ISPs that tried to form a supporting organization. I tried to get Seanet to be involved, but Seanet was kind of the enemy to the little guys. Also, the sort-of owner was hostile to the idea of teaming up with that group; wrongly I felt. It was essential because the mom and pop outfits were already getting killed, and the telecom providers would have loved to off all the regional providers given the chance … the writing was on the wall if one paid attention to that sort of thing. The industry had expertise, but was living in a niche created more by ignorance and regulatory restraint than design on behalf of the large teleco providers.

DSL was the sea change. With the advent of faster modems, the technology on the ISP side became a treadmill into the abatoir. US Robotics did a great deal of damage to the industry with their high speed offerings, the proprietary X2 56k stuff, that required really expensive and unreliable equipment, and annual support contracts if there were any hope of support. US Robotics was heavy handed in their marketing too. They would target owners and route around the technical people who had a clue, building pressure from the PHBs to waste money on USR equipment and contracts.

Back then it was still cheaper per line to support dial-up on POTS lines than to aggregate them into thicker pipes to be served by T1 into Portmasters. But, aggregating lines was the beginning of the end. For DSL, enduser connections were moved to the ATM network, and therefore moved to a completely new environment with all kinds of routing rules and priorities that gave the Teleco more and more control over the service. POTS lines were heavily regulated, and so the Teleco really couldn’t do much to push the ISP off them. But, with DSL all the little ISPs were doomed. With each wave of new tech, the price of entry went higher and higher, so no new little shops were starting and the big shops needed to be bigger.

Eventually, I think most ISPs moved to leased infrastructure and became merely services that ran over the network, not even really necessary for the customer. Seanet was looking into that when I left and I’m pretty sure they moved all their dial-up to leased virtual lines. At that point, you’re just a (barely) value-added reseller for the Teleco, and that’s just how the Teleco wanted it all along anyway.

I did manage to make a case for the need, back when cities like Tacoma were trying to tax internet service to their citizens, that there needed to be an industry group with the power to lobby on behalf of our interests. That was back in the beginning of the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers. I notice that Speakeasy is a member, along with some old guard. Zhonka is there, but I don’t remember if the old Olywa was. Of course, Seanet dropped out a long time ago, I recall.

Then there was a fire. I thought Speakeasy was pretty much dead, and I think that’s around the time that I moved so I stopped paying attention. They re-opened, I think, and then closed the cafe …

Then Speakeasy really grew up and became something. They managed to make the transition to DSL, and they offered services that other ISPs didn’t. They really catered to the technical and geeky people, and the gamers. They also had a nice, tight marketing look and feel.

Anyhow, it’s sad to see them go and get purchased, especially by Best Buy. But, you know, the Geek Squad has the same kind of tight marketing look and feel. It’s just Best Buy seems so … K-mart. They look and feel cheap, but actually charge too much for what they sell.

Of course, the irony of the Geek Squad driving around in cars decorated like police vehicles and the rum-running connotations of the Speakeasy … there’s a whole Untouchables narrative there just waiting to be explored.

But, the thing that really gets me is that the e-mail said Best Buy wanted Speakeasy for their VOIP tech:

“One of Speakeasy’s core product offerings is Voice over IP (VoIP), which is becoming a popular choice for small businesses who seek efficient and cost-effective telecommunications services. Best Buy For Business’ mission is to deliver simple, reliable, and affordable technology solutions to small businesses. A product offering such as VoIP, which has immediate compelling appeal to most SBs based on cost savings and simplicity, is an attractive value proposition that allows Best Buy to round out its solutions menu for small businesses.”

I hope Speakeasy survives the corporate urge to take what they want and then trash the rest. And, it seems a little round-about to buy a whole service company in order to get just one particular implementation of a widely known technology. That’s a little like buying Sears because they really know their cash registers …

I can’t help but wonder if this purchase has anything to do with the trouble Vonage has been in with their conflict with Verizon over patents in VOIP calls to land lines.

Update @ 12:51am 28mar:

Wow. I just stumbled across an archived message to seattle.news talking about the very meeting back in 1996 I was talking about in this post. Crazy to see archives of activity that long ago still searchable, not to mention the nostalgia of it all, back when newsgroups were a useful and daily thing. Of course, most of my activity was in the private Seanet newsgroups, for which there’s no archives.

Forcing the clowns to break their fall makes high-wire act safer …

Here’s an example that shows that something is messed up in the way products are priced. The article “Slashdot | Apple Turning Cell Phone Market Upside Down?” observes:

Everyone assumed that Apple’s $499/$599 prices for the iPhone was subsidized by Cingular. But, it appears that Apple is not allowing mobile carriers to subsidize the iPhone. Why? Because when Apple comes out with the Touch iPod, they don’t want it compared in price to a discounted/subsidized iPhone.

This is a product that isn’t even on the market yet and the price is already being insulated from market forces through contactual obligation. The price of the goods is pre-determined and conditioned by contract to avoid devaluation. Further, just as in the way that cars are priced, the price is made static by pushing the fungibility of the market cost into incentives and rebates. Only this time, because a dominant market position for the manufacturing firm, like any good captain of industry that has consolidated power, is forcing the partners to assume an assigned role in the circus side-show that is the market.

Of course, partly the market itself is to blame, or rather the consumers who both demand the product and are willing to go along with the show because of a suspension of disbelief, or perhaps due to managed access to information or, moreover, because of a lack of real choice other than to step off the treadmill. The managed perception of the goods is part of the sale, just like any good brand, but more than just a brand. Because the hysteria around the product is managed to a fever-pitch, or, well, at least to a slow-boil, something that Microsoft has really never managed to do, Apple has given itself room to make a deal with a partner that includes for itself a 50% profit margin.

But, what will happen is that the bargain-seeking market will make demands from the end-vendor, the retailer, and the retailer is contractually bound to not pass that pressure up the supply chain to the manufacturer. That seems like an amazingly sweet position to be in, if you’re the manufacturer, anyway.

The image that comes to mind is the high-wire artist that wows the crowd by working without a net, but has convinced circus clowns in padded clothes to gather on the ground to break any fall. It all seems harmless until some clown gets crushed.

Update: 29jan07 @ 11am

There’s a note over at Ars about a USA Today report on the deal Apple shopped and the reaction from the cellular vendors: “Verizon kicked Apple out of bed over iPhone deal.” I note with some amusment the irony that Verizon “said no because of the strictness of Apple’s terms.” Yeah, those abusive, multi-year contracts sure do suck, don’t they Mr. Cellular?

People can’t remember URLs

Via an interesting article that reminds us all that “most searched” lists are PR driven, not data driven, “Business 2.0 BETA blog network” is this comment:

“They’re using search engines as navigation, typing website names or even URLs into the search box that automatically pops up in their browser.”

It’s a funny thing to me to watch people do that. They can’t remember an URL, even a short one, so they use search to find a place that they’ve even been to many times. A primary example for this is watching someone I know look for the This American Life page. Instead of remembering that This American Life is at www.thislife.org or thinking to head to the Public Radio International website … it’s easier for most users to skip over to yahoo and do a search for “This American Life” and sort through the results.

This kind of searching behaviour is, I suppose, similar to how I now behave with own documents. I use google to search through the papers I’ve posted to my website, and I use spotlight to search through the documents on my machine, and even use spotlight to get to applications instead of going through the finder.

But, it’s interesting to me that I retain information about actual URLs. For example, I still remember that the URL for Ultima Online is www.owo.com even though I haven’t played that game since … when? Nine years ago? Or, that the old URL for O’Reilly was www.oro.com (which gave me a turn because they appear to have given that up, because it’s now some Japanese site.)

I think from a user standpoint, the URL address bar should simply be a search input. I really don’t like the way that new browsers separate the address and search inputs. Why should a user have to pre-parse their input and decide which field to use? I realize that I miss the autosearch feature from IE, which is a bit of a shock to care about IE at all, but using a question mark in the address field turned the input into a search. That was nice. In Firefox, I can set up a keyword “?” which does a google search. Why can’t I do this in Safari’s address field? (Apparently, there’s an add-on that does add keywords, extending Safari, in the way that the old Mail.app was extended on NeXT, called Saft, but it costs money.)

NeXT machines used to spy on people too

Noticed a post “Slashdot | Apple Closes iSight Security Hole” which talks about iSight being used to maliciously spy on a user. But, this isn’t new to Mac OS X hardware. In fact, it’s a problem that’s been around since the black box NeXT days.

When I worked at and ISP that used old NeXT machines, I used to tape a wad of paper to the mic on the monitors because it was not unheard of that someone could listen in to whatever conversations were happening in the room. This was a security hole that existed when a machine was configured to allow remote machines to display their application windows on a local machine.

I used to farm TTYs from other machines, primarily in sales because they didn’t use many terminal sessions, because there was a kernel limit on the number of TTYs a machine could use. So, I would remotely run additional Terminal.app instances on remote machines but display the windows on mine. This was so I could stay logged in to all the various terminal servers at the same time. Half of my screen used to be filled with tiles for open terminal sessions minimized.

So, I had my machine configured to allow remote apps to display on mine, and that’s the way the security hole worked. As a precaution, I taped a wad of paper over the mic. Funny to think about it now, but I had no reason to trust it wouldn’t happen that I would be listened to that way. When you work for an ISP started with Russian mob money …

Even funnier, in a sad way, is that the next ISP had a group of immature wannabe gangsta geeks who were just as likely to do stupid and unethical things, too.

Ah, the warm memories … actually, more of a burning … in my stomach.

Phishing goes local

In a post to TESC Crier, there’s a note about a phishing scam that targets Washington State Employee Credit Union members:

Two new email Phishing scams are targeting WSECU members.  The email appears to come from WSECU. In fact, it comes from an fraudulent source shown as (Inbonline@wastatecu.org) The two e-mail subject lines are: Enroll in “Challenge Questions” Authentication Now and Changes coming to online banking!

Phishing isn’t new. Banks being the target isn’t new. What strikes me about this is that the bank isn’t a national bank. It’s a smaller bank, on a more local scale. So, the scams are moving down the food chain toward the small banks, apparently.

This, to me, seems like a big deal because the smaller the scale of bank the more damage, overall, a service interruption could become. And, the smaller the bank, it seems to me, the less Internet fraud detection and recovery infrastructure there will be in place.

On the other hand, the smaller the bank the more likely there will be clues in the scam that give it away as not being genuine. At some level, the social engineering used by these scams requires that the individual not recognize there’s something wrong. So, the larger, more formal, more distant communication from the institution usually is, the easier that is to spoof. However, for smaller, more personal banks, one would think they would have more unique communication styles, perhaps more personal, that, if missing, would offer a clue to the individual that there’s a problem.

But, it’s still very interesting to see that a smaller, more local bank is being targetted by phishers. I suspect that the availability of e-mail addresses for the state colleges and universities, harvested from websites and list archives, makes state employee credit unions an easy target.

If the trend were to continue, I could imagine that Evil Personâ„¢ might harvest e-mail addresses off of local Olympia blogs, like Olyblog, and try phishing with fake e-mail from even more local banks, like South Sound or even Tulip. There’s a point where one might pass the point of diminishing returns, but then there’s also the fact that for every local bank here, there’s banks in other places on the same scale … so there’s an economy of scale to phishing lots of smaller banks, I suppose.

It will be interesting to see how the push of spam and phishing goes – if it goes more and more local, more and more targetted.

What if instead of random text, a spam tool used keywords or maybe even just the target e-mail to google up some related text and parsed that into the e-mail? It would be like being spammed by a million monkeys on typewriters, and could become a really surreal experience. It would be like personalized engrish, or a daily personalized message from Wm. S. Burroughs! Now, how cool would that be?

Welcome to a taste of post-abundance

The PSE outage line reports 700,000 estimated without power in their service area, and days if not a week to restore power to everyone.

… but, you know, at least that power generator you bought for Y2K is useful now … as long as your gas supply holds out. Get your syphon ready to pull gas out of your car’s tank!

Funny things:

  • I can’t go to the bathroom without a candle. Stupid design!
  • It took me 1/2 hour to get candles and search my old equipment for a phone that actually works without power.
  • My nifty camp stove that burns twigs, but requires a 9v battery seems a little oxymoronic to me now.
  • I have way more candles in this house than I realized.

And, best of all, the 3-4 hour battery life of this laptop I use … while awesome that it’s got a battery so I can use it at all … is really short when there’s no power main to plug into. Which is just insane that my computer is my main priority … you know, at least, until I get hungry and realize I can’t cook anything … Wait. What?

Firefly will virtually rise again

Via Slashdot, Wired News: Firefly Reborn as Online Universe says:

“Like Capt. Mal Reynolds stumbling in after a bar fight, the short-lived but much beloved sci-fi series Firefly will soon make an unexpected return, not as a TV show, but as a massively multiplayer online game.”

Okay, but the FAQ for the Multiverse demo client says Windows only, meh. No Linux or Mac.

And, they’ve only licensed it so they can get someone to develop it using their tools. So, it’s pretty far from being anything.

Hello, I must be going …

I had completely forgotten about Hula. But, I see Slashdot reporting, “Novell Dumps the Hula Project.” There couldn’t be any quid pro quo going on here as part of the Novell-Microsoft deal, could there?

I remember being pretty excited about the Hula server being released as Open Source, but it fell off my radar. The promise was decent server side support for calendaring and e-mail, where so many clients existed without the server component.

It’s not really dead, of course. It’s open source, so the code lives on … although without downloading it I’m not seeing any mention of the GPL. I honestly don’t know how relevant this could have been, but it seems like it could have been a contender.

2.0 is the new 1.0

Reflecting on Slashdot | iPod Has Nothing To Fear From Slow-Starting Zune, I have to wonder about the vicious cycle Microsoft may be caught in. Here’s my thinking: It has become mythic that 1.0 products from Microsoft are shoddy and bad. So, from a company standpoint, if the perception is that 1.0 is bad, why waste resources and time on 1.0? Why not focus that on 2.0 and hope to catch people when they are going to pay attention?

Microsoft basically re-packaged a Toshiba device. So, instead of doing the work, they phoned it in. The first Zune isn’t even what they could have done if they’d actually tried. Zune 2.0 will, in fact, be Zune 1.0. It’s all a shell game.

There’s the vicious cycle. You see, Zune 2.0 will suck as bad as Zune 1.0 would have, had they even made it. And, if 2.0 is the new 1.0, then 2.0 will inherit the mythic failure … and we’ll have to wait until 3.0 before quality happens?

Update ( 29nov06 @ 10:46 am):

I just remembered that the Dreamcast was a kind of Xbox 1.0. The Dreamcast console had Windows CE as an option for developers to use in the stack for porting games, but it didn’t work well at all and very few games actually bothered. So, there’s another example of outsourcing 1.0 to someone else, like repackaging the Toshiba player as the first Zune.

The wikipedia article goes on to say that the ability to use a VGA monitor with the Dreamcast was “was shunned by the public.” Really? I loved that feature. What I hated was the memory cards that had the battery life expectancy of a gnat, and then lived an annoying undead life of beeping at me to remind me that it was dead.

And, one more thing …

In a previous post, I speculate about some products and topics related to Apple. But, I forgot one of the features I have realized I want in Apple’s iTV product more than anything else: party shuffle of video playlists.

I want to be able to set up playlists or seasons or collections of shows and have the iTV play them like the party shuffle works for music, but output to a TV. So, in otherwords, I want to program my own network.

One idea I had was to watch several shows on the day of the week they originally aired on TV. But, having the ability to set up a playlist of shows and having the iTV shuffle through them indefinitely … now that would be pretty cool.

I haven’t played with Front Row yet, so I suppose this idea could already be in there … This is the major missing feature of the DVR and DVD experience. One of the greatest advantages of setting up a music player with tons of music is not having to futz with changing CD after CD. A replacement for TV and DVD, whatever kind of DVR-like device it may be, needs to have a cool way to program and randomize video content in the same way that music content can be currently.

Freeing the content is only part of the deal. Freeing the user to program their own network is about ordering and making sense with that content.

What is up with Zune graphics, anyway?

So, apparently, I ‘m not the only one to notice there’s something strange about the graphics that are being used with the Zune, because Boing Boing notices some installer zen, and some other reader’s comment is linked wondering about the very same porno image I posted about earlier.

I know that crappy ads stick in our minds more than decent ones, but if a graphic design makes you just … bliss out on the bizarreness while the only thing that runs through your head is Lewis Black’s voice moaning, “WTF?!” … can that be a good thing?

I certainly don’t feel compelled to buy a Zune and probably even less so now. It’s just embarrassing to watch. It’s like the socially inept getting a rare chance in the spotlight but really screwing it up. All I can think of is getting as far away from the Zune as I can so that none of the ick rubs off on me.

The looking glass is smeared with grease, and Alice didn’t “fall” in … she got duped and was tripped as part of some high school hazing during her freshman year …

Update (16nov06 @ 12:55am):

Jeff Reifman, or some cohort of his, over at Idealog thinks these ads are designed to get people to talk about the Zune by using crappy ads that get people talking about the ads instead of about the product. The trashbin of advertizing history is full of campaigns that made that mistake.

But, could it be some devious strategy? Okay, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe, folks. However, if a pipe is … suggestive, then let us ponder the notion that it is not a successful strategy to be laughed at in scorn. Just ask anyone that’s ever been in high school about that.

However, let us also ponder that I am not the target audience for ads that reek of sweat and cheap beer and passing out in a pool of … I don’t want to know what. Maybe that does work for someone; someone not me. I just hope they wear protection … who knows where that product has been, and with how many partners. Yuck. I hope there’s current STD test results in the box along with the abusive EULA and BSDM DRM. And, why would anyone want the kind of partner that refuses to negotiate a safety word?

I might feel sorry for the underdog in the market, but I sure don’t have much sympathy for the sloppy drunk that spills beer on me trying to get to the front of the stage only to fall down when everyone is looking.

Update (17nov06 @ 6:26am):

Oh yeah, let the spoofing begin. BoingBoing is on this one. You know, the slightly sepia toned pictures connote nasty nicotine and coffee stains, old and busted, and used up.

See also: How to get ahead in advertising.

EarthLink trots out MindSpring as re-branded VOIP software

Interesting to find that Earthlink has brought back MindSpring as a re-brand to some Internet phone software, previously called Vling, which used to be based on Pingtel opensource software. Seems odd to take a swallowed brand that had some cred in the olden days and cast it onto some different service. Well, it’s Windows only so, blah blah meh. It’s just sad to see the name being yanked off the dead like fur off a trapped mink.

Speculation on Apples

It’s not just a hobby, but a professional sport. However, I’m going to step up as an amateur and speculate about some things that Apple might be doing, or at least that it should be doing.

So, iTV has an HDMI port. But, no Apple monitor has HDMI or HDCP support, even over DVI, I think, yeah? (Not even to the integrated screens in books and iMacs, right?) Yet. I expect that in the new year. At least one external model will get HDMI with HDCP support. Also, there were comments about the odd size of the iTV, but I think it’s pretty likely that the size was changed so that it would fit under a monitor. Because, until that support is there, there’s not much chance of either HD-DVD or BD-ROM movies on a Mac in HD, and if there’s no HD what’s the point?

I’ll tell you the number one thing I want in the iTV however is that it function as network attached storage. I want to be able to store all my music on the iTV and then sync between that volume and other machines in the house. Frankly, I want iTunes to recognize the iTV on the network and then seemlessly integrate that music into my iTunes library. The iTV should be the consumer level xserve.

(If only an iPod could be a realiable portable home folder, too. But, if you’ve ever mounted one person’s portable to another machine, you’ll see that there’s a clash between unix user IDs … That patent application about portable home folders had what looked like a possible solution, didn’t it?)

Oh, yeah, and about that hard drive. Let us all recall that Disney was testing out a set-top box for content delivery, which they pulled. I’d bet a dollar that the Disney box got a midnight visit from the black mock turtleneck wearing ninjas. The moviebeam service was supported by a set-top box that included a hard drive pre-loaded with 100 movies and would add 4 per month. The specs are surprisingly similar to what we know about the iTV so far. The set-top box was supposed to cost $199, when not rented. Well, Disney’s service was delayed, closed, but was thought to retool and come back again with HDTV support …. as part of the iTV offering, I wonder? Could iTV be one of the target embedded partners? No antenna that we know of, however, is part of the iTV.

And whither Moviebeam itself? Still alive on the web, anyway. They claim they will send me a box for $99, to which I can add an HD kit for another $40. And, do I get this right, there’s no subscription fees, just paying for the movies one wants? Kinda like iTunes music and movies, yeah? I also note that only a few movies are actually available in HD, and then only in 720p, which is … meh, okay.

Back in ’04, CNET quoted someone saying:

“These guys are all hovering about the same space–they’re thinking, ‘How do we push content to a disk drive and get it onto your TV set?'” said Kaufhold, who expects Disney to announce a new partner later this year.

Heh, new partner, yeah. By the prickling of my thumb, something Steve Jobs this way comes …

There’s one feature I want more than anything else in an iPhone: internet connectivity for my laptop. If I could toss Qwest for phone service and get reasonable Internet connectivity for my laptop on an iPhone, I’d jump in a heartbeat, unless there’s some other wild show stopper. If not good for connecting, then I’ll skip it. The only thing cooler than an iPhone would be an iTablet / Newton Unbound device of some kind …

No one seems to have commented on the odd naming of Filemaker, Apple’s database, when the new versions were introduced. If “Filemaker” became “Filemaker Pro” and “Filemaker Pro” bacame “Filemaker Pro Advanced” then what is the new “Filemaker”? I don’t think it dropped off the map. Anyone else think that a basic version will appear in iWork come the new year, along with the expected spreadsheet application?

(Has anyone built yet a wrapper around the CoreData framework to create a face for the built-in data storage now in OS X? Could the entry level FM be just that face?)

The only thing missing, if iWork adds spreadsheet and database and one accepts Pages as both layout and word processor, is the app for creating graphics to match the Appleworks package, I think. With CoreImage and other frameworks now available, a graphic tool might be in the future too.

(Can I hope for support of Openoffice and Open Document formats, too?)

Back in the day, Steve Jobs owned Write Up, a word processor, which ran on NeXT. What happened to that code, I wonder? I’ve wondered that since forever. I vaguely recall it was a nice package, certainly not perfect. I just don’t remember what happened to that.

As far as graphics go, there’s some stellar stuff out there. The whole Omnigroup quite of tools, including the new OmniPlan, have always been amazing. But, I have to wonder about the old Lighthouse apps that Sun swallowed in order to get at the Java code they had. I recall those apps as being quite nice as well, and frankly the inspiration for OmniGraffle is clearly in the lost Draw app.

(I still want to know if anyone has tried to run an old Intel NeXT binary on an Intel-based Mac. Anyone? Mac OS X recognizes apps, fails to show their proper icon, but when run simply compains that the binary is for a different architecture. When I asked someone at the Genius Bar in Tacoma, they didn’t know.) [cf]

If you use DSL, you’ve already lost …

I’ve been meaning to write something about this for a long time. This won’t be a perfectly thought out piece. It’s been years since this stuff was in my head, so it is what it is.

In thinking about net neutrality, I was remembering back to the early, early days of DSL. At the time, I was a system admin, jack-of-all-trades at one of the largest regional ISPs in the Puget Sound, based in Seattle.

The thing I realized as we were all discussing whether to get into the DSL business was the fact that DSL traffic was being routed over the ATM network. Any packets on the ATM network from DSL were not given priority and could be dropped. This was in the contracts that the ISP had to sign. The data to and from ISP customers connecting via DSL were the least important data on the ATM network and if there were any congestion, that data could be killed.

I remember realizing that this was the big dirty secret. Not only could the big teleco get dial-up people off the wire with their long calls and need for decent quality, but by moving the customers of independent ISPs on to the ATM network the big teleco could do all kinds of prejudicial and nasty routing of that data.

So, my point is this: independent ISPs were forced by the big telecos to give up network neutrality when they started to offer DSL services back in the 90s. And, individuals connecting to the Internet via DSL also lost network neutrality silently in the same moment.

Big telecos might be so cavalier about net neutrality these days because they know they’ve been winning that war for years already. They’ve always been trying to monetize the data both ways, and now that the independent regional and smaller ISP is pretty much irrelevant … who’s left to be vigilant if not the individuals themselves?

How to get ahead in advertising …

Okay, so, I keep seeing these ads for the Zune. Other than that there’s a kind of pathetic quality to the ads themselves which just shows how uncool Microsoft is at heart, I swear to you that every time I see this ad I catch myself wondering why [insert mainstream site] is running ads for pornography.

I mean, seriously, just look at this ad and tell me what she’s doing isn’t bow chicka wow wow. Which makes the headline on this post an unfortunate pun. (Then again, is there any other kind of pun?)

But, back to being uncool, these ads are like others I might expect trying to sell cheap beer. Then, again, that segues quite nicely back into the conversation of porn in advertising.

Oh, don’t even get me started on the phenomenally sexualized Halloween costumes for children that were being advertised this year … I don’t care how much hormone those kids are getting in their milk these days, it’s just wrong to dress kids like hookers. (If I were more uncouth, I’d point out that it’s also false advertizing. You know, there ought to be a law against falsely advertizing for illegal services.) Might as well just go all out and buy them pole dancing kits for Christmas. And, no, a hooker costume that comes in children’s sizes is not a category error (unless it’s for Munchkins which is just bait-and-switch, another example of nasty business tactics!), although that pole dancing kit looks like fun, yeah?

(Reminds me that a bunch of people I know are talking seriously about taking a pole dancing workout being offered by a Pilates studio in Oly … Now, if only someone had thought of making porn an exercise program decades earlier, just think of all the culture war we could have avoided. Oh, and, yeah, I know someone did think of it, really.)

And while we’re at it, just to get our minds off the subject of costumes, what’s with the space invader chic over at Honda? Check out the background image they are using on their Fit pages:

Must be awfully hard to drive, what with having to avoid the earthbase laser cannon fire on the highway … Wow, talk about road rage. It’s relentless, wave after wave of small Honda cars! PANIC!

Whither sprynet now?

Time to track the ownership of sprynet again? Last time I looked it was back in ’99. I sent out an e-mail:

So, it’s been fun watching where Sprynet had ended up over the
last couple years. Okay, so let me see if I can get this right:

Sprynet was purchased by Compuserve
Compuserve was purchased by AOL
AOL sold Sprynet to Mindspring
Sprint purchased Earthlink
Mindspring was purchased by Earthlink
Sprint is purchased by MCI-Worldcom

So, the current score card says that Sprynet is owned by
MCI-Worldcom, in case you were trying to keep track … it’s kinda
like playing Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon. How many mergers does it
take before Sprynet has been owned by everyone in the industry?

So, the last time I tuned in, it was at the time when MCI-Worldcom and Sprint announced a merger in 1999. I think I took too long to pay attention. With the Sprint Nextel merger, and MCI merging with Verizon I think it’s finally too much time past to trace Spry any longer. Even the domain spry.net appear to have been re-registered by some other entity (a Texas law firm) since 1999. I seem to recall that spry also used sprynet.net and that’s registered by someone apparently in Korea since 2000.

I suppose a copyright and trademark search might show something of who could be called the holder of spry now.

On the topic of crazy mergers, here’s news that AT&T and BellSouth are looking to combine. If the only thing to stop it is if the feds step in, then clearly the trend is that the less regulation the more consolidation there is. That means that monopolies, or cartels in an economic homeostasis, are the end result of this economic system without regulation. Free markets do not result in pervasive competition, but rather a process of consolidation and concentration towards economic homeostasis. This balancing loop then tends to resist change and to destroy overt competition whenever possible in order to maintain the status quo.

Where to keep movies? Everywhere, of course.

I don’t know who asked, “If you had everything, where would you put it?” However, my answer has always been, “Everywhere, of course.”

So, almost under the radar, I find that iPhoto version 5 imports movies. I assume version 6 does also. Also, iTunes holds movies. And, there’s a movies folder which is where neither iTunes nor iPhoto stores the movies that it holds. iMovies uses the movies folder. Also, iTunes may import music when downloaded via a browser, but movie downloads are placed in the folder for downloads in preferences, which defaults, I think, to the desktop. (I’ve set mine to my documents folder.)

This is some very confusing design which suggests that the strategy for movies is either not very well thought out or the various teams at Apple are in competition over how to handle movies. It also means that users are given confused messages about organization.

One of the things that I don’t like about iPhoto is that there’s no clear distinction between pictures that one has taken and pictures that one has collected. There’s context menu option to put images from the browser into iPhoto, but that confuses what purpose people should use iPhoto for. Is iPhoto for storing all picture assets? Maybe, but it’s not well defined.

One might hope that spotlight is a snapshot of a future where the filesystem and metadata fully unified, and there’s a universal interface to all the kinds of files. When all these applications are developing different file management systems, in addition to the filesystem management in the Finder, things are bound to be implemented in different ways by different teams.

In the future, using metadata tags, each application might merely show the spotlight results for files that the application can handle. Where ever a file shows up on the filesystem, or when, an application would have files it can manipulate show up. Perhaps there would be an unsorted folder for files that had no application specific metadata added. When a file is moved to some collection, this would be reflected in metadata, which could then be used by other applications to re-create the same collections.

In this vision, creating a collection of movies in iPhoto of, say, my trip to Ireland would add metadata to the movies that could be used by iMovie, iTunes, Quicktime, etc … to show those files in a folder.

Smart folder are then just saved searches, which can be used by any application to show smart collections that include files that application understands. Smart folders / saved searches should also be available across application.

Another thing I’ve noticed which is annoying is that normally burn folders contain aliases to the originals, but if one drags a file from iPhoto or iTunes to a burn folder the entire file is copied. There’s no good reason for that since the files are still located in the filesystem in locations to which an alias could point.

And, all of these applications would have immediate access to files across additional drives, including external or archived sources. One could put collections on a removable device and have items reflected in their applications when those devices where available. This has been an annoyance for me with both iTunes and iPhoto. Why can’t I have multiple locations so that I can have my portable collection on my laptop but store the bulk of my files externally?

Jeeves, I’ll miss the way we used to talk …

Via Technology – Industry News, Policy, and Reviews, “Jeeves, You’re Fired“:

“NEW YORK I grieve for Jeeves. The butler mascot of the Ask Jeeves search service got the boot yesterday but will always remind me of the pre-Google era when searching online still intimidated most people. Back then, the cartoonish Jeeves helped humanize the impersonal search box by encouraging…”

It wasn’t the mascot, actually. It was the option to do natural language searching, which in the days when Altavista was search king, was a big deal. That was a time when search engines had very different views of the Internet, often having completely different result sets, Altavista at the time being, in my opinion, the best. It was a long time until I switched to using Google primarily.

If it isn’t useful, then what is it good for anyway?

Writers Block Live » Blog Archive » The HD Boycott Begins Now

“Under pressure from Hollywood, they are engineering a complete removal of the concept of fair use. They are setting up systems that will completely control how, when and where you can use content that you buy. Even worse, they can retroactively change the rules!”

Here’s an interesting discussion of the strategy and implications behind the transition to digital content delivery that I’ve mentioned before.

The way that this transition to digital is being used to destroy opportunities to use content in my own time-shifting, room-shifting way, a la Tivo, is a primary reason that I have been avoiding the technologies, such as HDTV, etc …

If the media companies put too many restrictions in the way, I will likely decide to forgo their content entirely and I suspect that many consumers will also realize they are being taken through the doors of a prison with gilt bars. It’s bread & circuses, after all.

Much like the software industry, movies and music will be licensed, never sold, and subject to perpetual restrictions and ever under the threat that what little rights are available will be revoked.

What happens when a studio finds that it needs to make money to satisfy investors? What would stop a studio to issue a new release, say with nominally new features, and revoke use on the previous edition? You think the double dipping of special editions and extended releases is bad now? Just wait until your entertainment library, which is a library of culture, after all, is subject to going dark when someone decides to end-of-life the copies you have.

It’s exactly the disassociation presaged in 1984, where the newspapers are the only record of the past, and they are re-printed with changed content, at the whim of isolated, authoritarian, and hierarchical controllers outside the ability of the public to influence.

Here is a primary reason that the notion that everything should be owned, the marketization and privatization of everything, is a heinously, cataclysmicly mistaken.

The people for John Kriscfalusi; democratized media; sense of virtual place

Via all kinds of stuff, “George Liquor Stories 1“:

“So listen, next step is to get as many more people (not repeat persons, but new people) to comment AND I just found out that the more people who link to me, the better chance I have to get sponsors-and when I do I will make NEW cartoons for you! I have more crap to show you, so as soon as I hit 400 comments…”

John Kriscfalusi, the artist behind Ren & Stimpy, is discovering the power of popularity on the Internet. His blog was linked at Boing Boing on the 15th, and elsewhere on the ‘net, and he’s been surprised by his reception, apparently.

The amount of traffic necessary to make direct marketing between the producer and consumer is significantly less than when there is a oligonomy determining the prices offered to producers and costs to consumers between them and filtering projects out which have significant appeal to the long tail.

This is the spring from which hope flows for the future of popular properties that the media conglomerates do not support, such as Firefly and Dead Like Me, to name only two that have been significant to me recently.

On the cusp, where projects like Rocket Boom meet the public demand and are rewarded, of a new world of media. The print revolution put democratized the transmission of knowledge. The computer democratized publishing. The Internet has been trying very hard to democratize radio, television and cinema. Internet radio failed to survive the legal onslaught of major media, once they awoke to the fight. I wait with baited breathe to see if podcasting will survive being co-opted by major media. Although it is not completely out of the woods yet. It does seem there are new platforms for distribution and creation almost daily. Perhaps the next step will manage some kind of victory.

This pattern of democratization brings to mind the democratization of virtual space, such as the place of MMORPGs in increasingly player-driven games. I’ve been thinking about all the waves that have attempted to provide a topology to the virtual world, and just a little while ago I thought to include the MMORPGs in this. These virtual spaces have routes and sights and crossroads wherein many of the activities of socialization occur, but bound by a geography.