Desert Rocks Music Festival in Moab

Last Sunday and Monday I headed down to Moab, Utah for the Desert Rocks Music Festival.  It was really an amazing experience.  Some friends invited my girlfriend and I to join them to see a band – Kan’nal – out of Boulder, Colorado.

We all piled into their Winnebago on Sunday afternoon, and we took the 4+ hour drive down to Moab.  The event was out in the desert about 13 miles south of Moab at Area BFE.  It was a beautiful site, and the weather was great … not too warm.  We arrived as one of the concerts had just finished, so we broke out the BBQ and got dinner going.  As the sun set (which was incredible) we got our act together and wandered down to watch the Fire Dancers, and then head over to the main stage to see Kan’nal.  I was impressed … they rocked!

For those who missed the concert, in June you can go and see Kan’nal at the Salt Lake City Arts Festival.  I’m going to make sure to be there … it was an amazing performance.

Monday was the typical return trip … we got some sleep, hung out a bit, and then joined the masses of traffic returning to the Salt Lake City area.  It took a while, but was well worth the trip.  I’m thinking of going next year … and maybe even contributing to the Desert Rocks event with an outdoor light show … we’ll see!

My thoughts on Twitter … or ‘Opt-in Stalking’

I do love communications technologies. Communications is the foundation of effective organizations … communities. There are so many ways that we are able to virtually extend the various communities in our lives. If you reflect back on society 200 years ago, you can see how communities of people were limited to physical locality. There was no effective means of staying in contact – in anything close to real-time – with anyone more than a few miles away. With this communications infrastructure, there was simply no way for global distributed communities to exist.

Now … flash forward to 2007. Twitter appears on the scene. We already have the Internet and cell phones. E-mail and Instant Messaging have been around for over a decade and are now completely entrenched in society. Instant Messaging has even bridged to cell phones where many of the phones in use can also login to the various Instant Messaging networks. Oh, and blogs of course are everywhere. I am now able to communicate and keep in touch with all of my global virtual communities. People who I have not seen in years … who are not physically close … are still “close friends” as we have stayed in touch via IM or now Skype. Of course we also read each others blogs.

I was very skeptical of Twitter as first … not sure if I liked the idea of it. But just like any other new communications technology, I quickly began to see a pattern that I liked. When Twitter is used with friends, we can begin to gain insights into their lives.  Phil Windley and I have talked about this, and we both seemed to notice a similar pattern … we are gaining new perspectives of friends and co-workers who are using Twitter to post short updates about their daily lives.  I learned that Phil Windley takes bike rides, and also works on his yard.  I found out that Phil Burns is into hiking up the mountains in the area, and also ran his first 5k.

When I began to look at Twitter in this new light … as a way to allows others to know what you are up to on a daily basis, this began to expand a new dimension in my relationship to my global virtual communities.  The messages that I am getting on Twitter are significantly different from the e-mails, IMs, and blog posts that I am reading … these twits are crude updates about what these people are doing at various moments during their day.  When I began to see this, I realized that what Twitter has created is a globally distributed “opt-in stalking” system!

Anyone can now create a simple way to be stalked … by almost any anonymous individual with access to the Internet.  Twitter allows the stalked a variety of simple ways to update the world with where they are … or where they aren’t!  Twitter also provides the new generation of stalker to monitor the goings on in any Twitterers life.  People twit that they are out at a club, or home watching TV.  They will twit about going on bike rides, and when they are at school.  Stalkers now know when people are not at their home … hmmm, time for a burglery?  They also know when they are out at some other public place … hmmm, time for a confrontational visit?

Don’t get me wrong … I’m actually a growing fan of Twitter … however I have started to see a lot of things that I like and don’t like about the service.  It’s great as it is … and there is a lot of room for improvement.  I’m actually working on an alternative system with some friends … we’re pushing to get a beta out the door by June 4th.  It will provide some similar functionality, but also some new enhancements that can provide some privacy and control over who hears what.

In any case … I am a big fan of this new form of communications … of having a new way to learn more about people who are virtually in my life.  I have long proposed Lemon’s Law of Effective Organizations:

The effectiveness of an organization is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the communications within it.

Twitter is yet another form of communications that can contribute to the breadth of possible communications.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you ought to!

iPhone … is theirPhone …

Well, it’s already turning into a bummer.  It appears that the iPhone is going to be locked down against 3rd party applications.  What a loss.  I was really looking forward to some sort of developer angle here … but it seems that Apple is going to lock things up tightly when it comes to applications for the iPhone.  From this article:

But it’s not like the walled garden has gone away. “You don’t want your
phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write
applications for it and potentially gum up the provider’s network, says
Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t
want to see their West Coast network go down because some application
messed up.”

In addition, I’m hearing more and more that they are locking the phone tight to the Cingular network … not allowing you to change to alternate networks.  David Isenberg comments on the same issues in his blog post: Apple blows it.  I agree with him completely … I’m shocked at the complete lock-in that Apple is creating around the iPhone.  Bummer.

My $0.02 about the iPhone

Ok … it’s cool. So far I like what I have read, except for a couple of things … which I expected.

  1. The price. Wow … that is a lot of money for a phone. I know that it is more than a phone, but ouch. I’m also a little cautious about the cost of the cellular plans also. I already use Cingular and the data plans are not the most aggressive.  The interesting part is that I already know they are going to sell as many as they can make.  Steve Jobs knows how to market.
  2. The storage.  This really caught me off-guard.  Only a 4GB and 8GB version?  I have become so used to my 80GB Video iPod that I can’t even imagine going back to only 8GB.  I really enjoy taking such a huge portion of my music collection – along with several videos and numerous podcasts – everywhere that I go.  I would really have to reset how I use my iPod if I was going to drop back to only 8GB.  Maybe I shift to using my phone … oops, I mean iPhone (trademark Cisco Systems) … for all of the podcasts, but still keep my Video iPod for my music, etc.
  3. Touch Screen.  As usual, Steve has outdone himself as the iPhone appears to have even further enhanced the user interface.  I have always liked touch-pads and touch interfaces, and hearing about some of the new multi-finger aspects really impressed me.  It has me thinking about how natural some of this is going to become.
  4. Application Support.  I’m also impressed with this aspect … it appears that this is OS-X and has support for the Apple Widgets.  If there is truly compatibility with the standard development environment for Widgets this is going to really open up development for the phones.  In addition, if Apple has truly opened up the iPhone and it’s APIs, then things are going to get fun.  When I last looked at some of the API limitations, I was unable to write an application that could access the camera, and even the text/SMS interfaces.  I’m hoping that Apple will break through these barriers.
  5. Battery Design.  I had heard about the two-battery design, and it makes complete sense.  Cool idea.  Now if I use my iPhone for music too much … I don’t kill the battery for my phone.  Nice.

I stopped by the Apple store here in Salt Lake City today.  They said they have no idea when they will see one.  It’ll be interesting to see when the iPhone begins to show up everywhere.  I’m sure that it won’t be too long.  It’s already the thing to be seen using …

Video vs. Audio … an iPod feature that I want!

This weekend I spent some time with some friends that are into podcast and vidcasting.  As we discussed the huge explosion in Internet video content, I started to think about some of the implications.  I actually think that the growth of video content is about to drive even more audio content.

My reasoning is that video is simply more difficult to consume than audio!  I can listen to audio almost anywhere, anytime.  I can listen while driving, working, skiing, etc.  Video on the other hand is a much more demanding sensory experience.  It requires that I commit far more attention to it, and I can’t do it when driving, skiing … well … any time that I have to be present to things that might kill me.  🙂

As I thought more about this, I realized that two things might emerge.  The first will be more attention being paid to the audio tracks being done for video content.  This will involve careful production of videos that can be listened to … audio only.  The second thing will be new generations of multimedia players – like the iPod – that allow you to turn off the video when “listening only” to a video.  So when I go skiing, I can listen to a video without burning up my batteries displaying content that I’m not even watching!

My request to Apple … please give me an option to turn off the video display on my iPod when I want to … so that I can listen when I can’t watch!

Converting DVDs and Videos for the Video iPod

I have to admit that it has been harder than I thought to find a free
solution for converting DVDs and various other digital movies into the
right format for the iPod … on Windows.  Yes, yes … I know …
if I was using a Mac then it would just be there.  But I’m not …
yet.  (NOTE:  I’m seriously interested in buying a iBook,
PowerBook, MacBook at some point soon … and I will.)  For now,
my primary laptop is running Windows, with Linux in Virtual PC. 
My Tablet PC is also running Windows.  So I want a Windows
solution.  There are a number of commercial application that look
good … but I wanted to see what I could find for free.

I bought an iPod Video a while back, and have been doing most of my
experimenting and research on the audio side of things.  I moved
from the music and smart playlists into podcasts.  I’ve learned a
lot, and see some very interesting ways that this platform can be
leveraged into new businesses and business models.  So what about

I’ve had a long experience with video and video editing … starting
with 3/4″ tape decks in the late 70’s … and all the way up to my
current digital video editing set-up.  I wanted to know how to
easily take a DVD, or existing digital video content, and get it
converted to MPEG4 format and moved into my iPod.  Here’s what I
found that seems to work:

  1. For doing the conversion of content I’m pleased with Videora and their Videora iPod Converter.  Based on the Open Source FFmpeg
    project, this is a clean – and free! – application.  It installed,
    and was easy to figure out and use.  Once you install it, you can
    do “One Click” conversions, or create a queue of conversions and just
    allow your machine to run all night.  Videora has an insteresting
    add-on that I might look at which is their automatic downloading tool –
    Videora.  So that is the solution for converting video to the proper format.
  2. For grabbing video from a DVD, I found the Open Source DVDx
    project at SourceForge.  I’m going to test this tonight, however
    the claim is that it will rip a DVD to various digital video formats
    … which I can then feed into my Videora iPod Converter.  It
    appears to work easy enough, and there are other people using this tool
    for this same purpose.

So I’m about to jump into really using my Video iPod and seeing what
might be interesting to take on the road.  In my initial test, I’m
impressed by the size and video image … I’ll have to watch a few
videos to really see if I like it or not.  In either case, I now
have two key tools to be able to get content into the right formats for
the iPod!

Phil Windley’s CTO Breakfast

This morning was the November/December CTO Breakfast that Phil Windley
together. The breakfast started with a question about hiring good
talent. One of the employees from Canyon Bridge
said they have been looking to hire some good engineers, and have been
finding that few can answer some very simple questions. The
example that they gave was about reversing the order of a linked list.

There was a lot of talk about how to alter the hiring process, and also what types of questions people ask: What do you do outside of work? What Open Source projects do you work on?
There was also a lot of talk about how to gather names. Examples
were leverage your existing employees to get the names of “known good”
co-workers. The problem with this approach is that you can
quickly run out of references.

The conversation went on for a long time before it finally went over to the CP80
issue. CP80 is the “Clean Port 80” initiative to create laws
which forbid certain types of content to be delivered over port 80 …
the standard port used by web browsers. It again becomes an
interesting way to attempt to legislate morality. In the end, it
will not be technically possible, but could give lawyers a way to go
after the producers of “unacceptable” content. Yeah …
“unacceptable” to who? ([tags: ])

The conversation at one point moved to downloading content from the
Internet, and the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM). 
Several sites were mentioned where you could get free content –  Pandora (which is a very cool streaming site – part of the Music Genome Project), and one of my favorites Epitonic. ([tags: ])

There was a brief exploration of the whole area of Wikis and the
inability of the “average” user to use “yet another markup
language”.  I have to admit that it truly aggrevates me that the
various Wiki platforms have subtle differences … and most do not
provide WYSIWYG editors.  and we spent some time discussing the
fact that there is a not a really good – Open Source – AJAX/WYSIWYG
editor.  I mentioned the fact that my parents can use Microsoft
Word, but that having to learn a whole symbology wasn’t going to
happen.  It reminded me of a great Podcast by Robert Lefkowitz @ OSCON 2005 … I’ll have to blog about that one!  ([tags: ])

Phil Burnes through out comments about Flock … a very cool Mozilla-based project, I brought up a very cool article that a friend sent me from Make
… it was about Mologogo
… which is a very cool mash-up of Cellular phones with GPS and Google
Maps giving you a very cheap “real-time” geopositioning/geolocation
system.  We wrapped up on one of my favorite subjects … wearable
computers.  We didn’t spend a lot of time on it … I’ll have to
bring some of my toys to one of the next breakfasts!  ([tags: ])

On the way out, Phil brought up a good point.  His gatherings
bring together an incredible group of people with diverse interests and
experience.  It is the level of experience of some of the people
that really brings a great spin to the whole conversation.  We
ended up going almost 2.5 hours … and it was a great conversation the
whole time … and we could have gone longer!  I’ll look forward
to January!

Jabra BT250v

Every now and then you buy a product that really just works.  I recently bought a Bluetooth headset for my cell phone – a Jabra BT250v
– and I have to admit that I am truly happy with this product. 
I’ve always used a headset, but the wired type.  When I upgraded
cell phones and bought a Nokia 6820
one of the features that I wanted was Bluetooth for a wireless
headset.  But I stuck with wired headsets for a year or two.

After destoying the wired headset for the second time by jerking the
headset out of my ear or catching the wire on various things, and
having to untangle the wire one too many times, I broke down and bought
the Jabra.  It is now something that I would not go without. 
The sound quality it great, it has a ‘vibrate’
feature so that I have now turned off the ring on my phone, and the
buttons on the earpiece allow me to answer a call, and change the

I have had two problems with it over the last month that I have had the
device.  The first I was warned about … if I am outside and
there is any wind, the people I am talking to immediately complain
about the wind noise.  I have learned to mute the phone, or warn
people that I am talking with.  The second was that one time the
headset locked up and would no longer communicate with my phone. 
The on-line support indicated that I would have to ‘reset’ the Jabra,
and that meant re-inserting it into the charging base … which was at
home.  That did piss me off.

One other thing that I have learned is that every now and then it will
‘disconnect’ from my cell phone, for example if I set down the phone
and walk away with the Jabra on my ear, or hooked in the neck of my
shirt.  Its easy to ‘reconnect’ by simply clicking the button on
the Jabra.  Likewise, if I switch my phone to speakerphone, and
then back to ‘normal’ the Jabra will be disconnected.  One quick
click on the Jabra button and it reconnects.  I have to say it is
one of the best investments I have made related to my cell phone. 
A very nice design, and very easy to use.

Pandora … music by the masses

Ok … this is a cool web site: Pandora

I know that it might be old, but I just found it and it’s pretty
cool. You enter a artist or song and it begins to stream music to
you that they feel fits that “sound”. The best part is that you
can then vote if you feel that a song applies or not … so that your
feedback continues to mold the genre of music.

I’m listening now for a bit. It would be cool if they did a “custom podcast” that I could download.

iPod is an experience, not a product!

I now own an iPod … and I can now understand a lot of the buzz about
them. It really is amazing. Not the product, but the experience
that Apple has created. I have to admit that I underestimated
what Apple has created. I kept thinking “Yeah … another MP3
player, but a little cooler looking.” But after having it and
using it for one week I am thoroughly impressed.

I’m working on ways to integrate the iPod with our product, and so I
got one to begin to do the research. I wasn’t sure if I would use
it much or not, but I am now hooked. It is so well thought
through … again, not the iPod device,
but the entire solution of iTunes and the iPod. I am now using
both of these on a daily basis, and the synergy between the two
products is well thought out and polished. Apple has done a lot
of thinking about all of the details.

I do have a few complaints … but they are very few. What I did
like is that I can now add iCal and vCard objects to my iPod and they
are accessible via the UI. I found a lot of information from this link about iPod synchronization sent to me by a friend.

Anyhow … expect me to post more about my iPod experience … so far it’s amazing!