Another release of our videoWrapplet

I’ve been working on my videoWrapplet some more, and just added a few new features, and fixed some bugs.  I’m really restructuring the internals of the code to prepare for some of the bigger features … more flexible playlists, and preferences.

With the new version the videos will automatically advance to the next video if they can (the Flex video player events are pretty hosed!), and I’ve also added a video info button next to each title to see, and copy, the URL of the video.  All of this to make it easier to put videos into your playlist.  And yes … I’m working on a way to do a one-click add of a video into your playlist … stay tuned!

Also … Scott has been jamming on the home page of NuMe to show the users who are getting the top plays, and who have recently updated their playlist!

Heading to Apollo Camp!

Ok folks . .. time for Apollo Camp!  I’m going to be heading out there to participate, and some of our G3 team members from mediaFORGE are going to be there with me.  If you aren’t yet familiar with Apollo, you ought to be.  I’m very impressed with what Adobe is doing, and we are fully committed to Flash, Flex, and Apollo development.

Apollo, IMHO, is going to truly alter web applications beyond what Ajax has done … and I’ve been working with Ajax for quite some time.  My issues with Ajax are that the most popular web properties on the Internet will not allow you to embed Ajax in their pages … but they’ll allow Flash!  Apollo now adds to that since it allows the Flash applications to be “installed from the web” … so now cross-platform applications can be created and distributed through embedded web objects.

I’m really looking forward to this evening … and if you’re there, we might even demo some of the projects that we’ve been working on!

Microsoft Robotics

I know that some people are going to say that this is old news, but today I came across some very cool software from Microsoft … the Microsoft Robotics Studeo.  Where the heck have I been?  For all of my life I have loved the interaction between computers and the outside world.  I remember writing my first code that controlled a floppy disk drive, and it was fun to use keyboard commands to control the heads … stepping them back and forth and returning them to track 0.

I came across this offering from Microsoft while looking for information about White Box Robotics back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I’m going to be taking a vacation back to Pittsburgh this summer, and am lining up various things to do.  I want to stop over and check out what White Box is doing, as they are looking pretty impressive on the level of research and development that they are doing for “home” robotics.

White Box Robotics was founded in 2001 by Thomas
Burick to fulfill the vision of changing the world one robot at a time.

We remain committed to the ongoing development of the
PC-BOT, a new class of networked mobile robots that delivers exceptional value
and ease of use. This achieved by leveraging mature PC technologies, adopting
open standards and creating a plug and play environment that allows just about
anyone to build exciting PC-based robots.

The White Box Robotics
laboratory is based in Pittsburgh PA and is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Frontline Robotics Inc. Thomas continues to pursue his vision as the company’s
Chief Robotics Officer and now is part of a new enlarged team of
multi-disciplinary and highly experienced engineers. This team delivers the
depth and breadth to catapult this technology into the rapidly emerging market
for personal, commercial and security robotic applications.

What I really like about this is that there are a number of vendors all working together to create some standards for the platforms.  The Microsoft Robotics Studeo press release lists an impressive group of companies and researchers in the robotics field.

I’m reading … and I think I’m going to download this for my new laptop tonight!  Cool to see robotics making some good jumps!

Sending E-mail from Cingular SMS Text Messages

When I got my new Nokia E70, one of the things that really disappointed me was the different way that e-mails were sent from the text messaging. No matter what I did, I was unable to figure out how to send an e-mail using the “basic” SMS text message. Instead, I was forced to use the “multimedia message” … which I quickly found out was being charged to me per message, even though I was just sending simple text. 🙁

So why do I really care about this? Well … I have formed the habit of using SMS text to e-mail as a way to send reminders to myself that I later will find in my e-mail inbox! If I am out and about, and away from my computer, I can quickly jot a message on my phone and e-mail it to myself. When I get back in front of my laptop there are my reminders sitting in my inbox! Also … I’m working on a cool SMS text messaging site that I have had under construction for years now … and I am sending messages to it also … for purposes to be announced soon. 🙂

With my older Nokia phone, I could easily send a basic SMS text message, and specify an e-mail address … the phone handled dispatching a properly formatted message to the SMS e-mail gateway at Cingular and everything worked. With the E70, although I am able to add e-mail addresses to my contacts, when sending a basic SMS text message, I am unable to pick an e-mail address to send to! Instead … I have had to use the costly “multimedia message” format, and then I get a pick list of numbers and e-mail addresses to send to.

Tonight, while experimenting more with my phone I realized something … that I could reply to a e-mail that was sent to my phone as a “basic” SMS text. If I could do that, then I figured that there must be a way to properly format a basic SMS text to send as e-mail. By searching Google, and remembering some obscure settings, I finally figured it out. So for anyone interested here it is:

To send a SMS text message to an e-mail address on the Cingular network:

  • Address the message To: “0000000000” (ten zeros)
  • Write the text with the format “{e-mail address}({subject}) {body of e-mail}

Now the exact format has to be followed. An example would be: came from my phone) I figured this out!

The key points in this are that the e-mail address and subject are separated from the body of the message by a space! Do not put a space after the e-mail address … it must be the e-mail address, then the subject – in parenthesis – with NO space between them. Then a space before the body of the e-mail message. If you want to, you can leave out the subject and the parenthesis, and just get a message with no subject.

Now I do have to admit that I am still very disappointed with Nokia, in that I can not find how to get the e-mail address from a contact to appear in the text message … so I end up having to type this EVERY time. But the cost of these messages is included in my plan … so it’s worth the extra effort!

What is up with Firefox Updates?

For the last while, I have been aware of the Firefox v2.x release.  What has really surprised me is that the Firefox Update check has never told me to go and get it!

Just today … for the last time . .. I launched Firefox, and then went to the “Help -> Check for Updates …” menu.  The dialog that appeared stated “No Updates Found.  There are no new updates available.  Firefox may check periodically for new updates.”  What?  No notice at all that there is a whole new generation of the browser?

As a general marketing rule, it seems to me that you always make sure to let the customer know about products that you want them to use!  I can’t believe that Firefox would not tell me that v2.x is now out there and available to download.

P.S. If people want to tell me about the difference between an Upgrade and an Update … or that v1.5.x is a different product from v2.0.x … I don’t want to hear it.  This is all about marketing and getting the word out.  For the general population that doesn’t follow the tech news, Firefox would benefit the most from making these blatant announcements!

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.

The mediaFORGE videoWrapplet …

For the last six months I’ve been working with mediaFORGE here in Salt Lake City, Utah as CTO. It’s been a fun place to work as we have been combining some interesting back-end technologies for doing viral marketing analytics. As we began to work with Internet Videos, we started to think about some new ways to embed more than just one video within a portion of web page real estate.

As we were developing some other solutions for our customers, I worked with one of my developers to create a basic video player that we call our videoWrapplet. This little Flash application can be embedded in almost any web page, and provides a simple way to maintain a playlist of videos, and embed them into your home page, blog, Myspace page, or other website. What is fun is that you can create your account through this widget, and then login, edit your playlist, and get the HTML codes to embed in your page through the widget also. You can add any .flv flash video into your playlist, and so we support videos from a wide range of sites – YouTube, Google, Myspace, etc. You can also resize the player to be any size you want down to 200 pixels wide, and up to a full page width.

We also created a web site called cinemaFORGE where you can check out the videoWrapplet, and also where we aggregate some of the analytics about what videos people are playing in the videoWrapplet. We’re about to add some analytics on the popular playlists also.

To get your videoWrapplet for your page simply click the “login” button on the videoWrapplet to the right, and then click the “Create an Account” button … you’ll pick a username, password, and provide an e-mail address and that’s it!  Once you confirm the e-mail address you can then login through the Wrapplet and begin to populate the playlist with your own videos.  While logged in you can click the “Put this on your page…” bar and it will open revealing the codes to embed in your page.

I figure that some folks will think of some cool things they can do with this, and I was hoping to see someone use this to embed their vidcasts into their blog page. I’m about to do exactly that. If you check it out, and think of some cool ideas that you would like to see, then please visit our forums … they are linked to by the graphic at the bottom of the player. We have a lot of ideas on where we want to take this … I want to hear some of your ideas!

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 …

Second Life … still controlling the (virtual) world!

Wow … what a quick reaction … but not quite enough, in my opinion. Linden Research quickly announced the release of the Second Life client into Open Source. I actually love the name of this blog post by phoenix linden … Embracing the Inevitable.  It announces the release of their client software into Open Source, and where to go and get it.  There is an issue though … they are still holding onto the control of the virtual world by not releasing the server software … yet. As David Kirkpatrick at Fortune reports:

While this initial step will open up what is essentially the user’s
window into Second Life for modification, it will leave Linden Lab in
control of the proprietary software code for all Second Life’s backend
services – the server software that makes the world exist. However,
executives say that the company’s eventual intention is to release an
open source version of that software as well, once it has improved
security and other core functions. They say they have been preparing
for the open source move for about three years.

Yes … this is not enough to provide a free and open platform for virtual existence. I do see where this is a prudent business move to create even more of a lock on the entire market though. Linden seems to now be pushing to create de-facto standards of their client APIs and protocols by creating a group of developers who write to this environment.

My worry is if it took them three years to get the client out to Open Source, how long will it take them to get the server software out?

I believe that the pressure is mounting as other well-funded companies continue to explore the space … as this quote from IBM demonstrates:

IBM Vice President for Technical Strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a
close student of Second Life, heard about the impending move toward
open source from a Linden employee. “They have the right thought,” he
says, “which is that open source things work with the marketplace. But
this is a field in its infancy that will be very competitive. Linden
Lab might end up with a huge leadership position in a certain class of
tools for virtual worlds, but those might not be the right tools for,
let’s say, a surgeon learning a new procedure in an immersive online
environment. Second Life can be wildly successful, but so can others.”

I do not think that IBM and others are sitting still. Neither am I. I’m heading over to download the APIs reference materials now … 🙂

P.S. I just thought of an interesting “client” to create for Second Life. What if there was an “augmented reality” client that was created that would overlay the Second Life world onto the real world? Maybe create someplace in the desert – like at Burning Man – that would allow you to have GPS tracking on yourself, and then wearing augmented reality goggles you would be seeing some portion of the Second Life world? As you wandered around the desert, your view would be augmented with the terrian of Second Life, and the other people wandering around in reality would be overlayed with their graphical avatar. Hmmmm …

Open Source Second Life

It’s really not a question of if.  It will happen.  It’s just a matter of when.

Second Life is gaining more and more attention, and more and more users.  As I write this there are now 2.3 million user accounts, with 20,000+ users now on-line.  It’s really impressive … but another lock-in application.  Once you join and begin to pay … you are captive forever.  This is obviously a good deal for Linden Research, Inc. – the owners of Second Life – but not the way that the Internet likes to evolve and develop.

For those not yet familiar, Second Life is a very impressive virtual world.  The kind of place that was forecasted and imagined by authors for decades … the kind of place described in Snow Crash.  In Second Life you can create an avitar … a character … to represent you in the virtual world.  You can wander through a wide range of virtual land, buildings, boats, businesses, and fantasy objects.  If you want to, you can purchase virtual property, and “own a home.”

The problem is that it is all a huge lock-in right now.  You are limited to their servers, their designs, their tools, and their rules.  Oh … and you pay their rates.  Want to buy some land?  Here is how to buy land in Second Life.  Want to buy a private island?  Here is how to buy a private island in Second Life.  Wait!  What is going on here!  These rates are even higher than my real-world property taxes!

So what can I do about it?  Nothing.  Right now, there simply is not a Open Source Second Life solution.  Let’s call this Third Life.  (Of course that domain name is already taken …)  What has to emerge is the Open Source platform that I can download and install on my own hardware and bandwidth.  Where I can set the rules, and define how things work.  Of course, as my server would only represent some small parcel of land, I would have to work agreements with others to create portals to travel between my land, and other peoples land.  So maybe several of my friends and I might join our servers together to create a larger landmass.

There are even some other interesting ideas that could emerge from this … such as using a commercial for-pay service like Second Life as the “connector” between private servers.  What if there was an apartment building in Second Life, and when your character comes to the door of my apartment in Second Life, I actually have the option to connect my server to the other side of that door?  So entering that portal transports you from Second Life to my private server.  To me, this is the inevitable future for virtual worlds … one that is open and interconnected, freely allowing people to pay to use “hosted virtual worlds” like Second Life, or to choose the option of hosting their own.

Their are two possible solutions for this to occur … one is for Second Life to open their platform – and source code – to the world to use.  The other is for the next generation of virtual worlds to emerge from the Open Source community.  I hear rumblings of Second Life/Linden Research and what they might do, however it appears to be to push the business model and “open standard” more than Open Source.  Of course, there are other people like Glyn Moody who also see Why We Need a Open Source Second Life.  Even Ben King at The Register articulates the value of Open Source Second Life in his article Open sourcing Second Life.

The most impressive Open Source solution that I am now seeing is Croquet.  Croquet is being developed by some brilliant minds, and is already out there and working.  I’m about to install the lastest versions and begin to experiment, however much of the core is in place.  As the networking layers solidify, we’ll see how quickly you and I can get our own Croquet servers up and running, and begin to link them together via portals.

What is interesting is that I am beginning to see a parallel between this, and the beginnings of the World Wide Web.  Instead of Web Servers, we have Croquet Servers.  Instead of hyperlinks, there is now the world of TPostcards.  And unlike the World Wide Web … the client and server are the same.

I can’t wait … and I know it will occur.  It’s all just when …