sunnuntai 28. kesäkuuta 2009

Next gen television/video

It's happened so fast. Isn't it just yesterday, that we were sitting at the TV, watching recorded Knight Riders from VHS tape? Suddenly DVD came (in 1996) and conquered. DVD enabled better quality picture, and also things like extras and multiple language subtitles. When things became essentially all digital, the possibilities were totally different from the analog era.

But there's still scarcity; and I think it's annoying. When I go to a movie rental, it has a certain number of copies about each movie title. I was looking for the Quantum Solace, the newest Bond film. But my rental had about 10 copies, all gone at the moment. So I drove in vain; well, truth be told I did pick another movie and it was great (The Valkyrie).

Still I'd like to be able to see a movie (that I know exists) whenever I choose. This is technically possible. It's going to require some adaptation from many parties. Some don't like the change it brings. Video on demand (VOD) is the term used to describe a system in which you can have your movies anytime you want. It differs from ordinary broadcast systems in that the demand part is really an active trigger for the movie to start streaming home. In broadcast, the station is constantly pushing its own content, without a regard to what the receivers want.

It may be that these limitations will never budge, but I'd be quite surprised then. Because the value of information is in its adundance. If movies get out and are seen more, the culture of moviegoing also excites and the revenue stream should increase. We are already diluted by media, but I think VOD is one move towards more intelligent viewing habits.

VOD will compete with peer-to-peer and other free content from the Internet. Although it can be claimed that amateur videos will never beat professional ones in "objective quality", it remains to be seen how the market share settles. Youtube videos are wildly popular - it's those 1-5 minute clips that make people stick to the computer for a significant period of time.

Apple could enter the videoplayer market; it has sleek design, a great reputation,
and I think the electronics manufacturing process is good quality. Apple's
roots are part created by the gizmo guru Stephen Wozniak. I was surprised that the company did have an experiment in set-top boxes (STB), called Apple Interactive Television Box.

A key decision for the consumer will be: whether take an allround PC entertainment system, or dedicated gadgets for viewing the on-demand video. I think we will probably go to the turnkey solution, since PCs don't have a reputation of being user-friendly. It's simply so much easier to have a ready-made solution, in which someone has spent countless hours designing it to be easy to use.

keskiviikko 24. kesäkuuta 2009

To synch or not - that is the Question!

Sometimes you need a specific thing. One of these for me is a synchronization
software between my Nokia e71 and Google calendar. Then I'd like to have
Roboform play with Chrome browser. And... and... (Roboform is a catchy
utility that stores passwords and feeds them into your browser when you need
them).

In this story I describe how I spent an hour doing "installation" instead of
actually using the software. The plain need to have a software on my phone
turned out into an adventure where passwords, websites, ftp programs and what
not play a big part. Having moved on from the software based solution into
a web-based one was no help. I kept receiving synch errors.

It actually brings light to the bigger problem of these
giants (Nokia, Google) not being able to co-operate enough so that users
would benefit from the situation. It seems Nokia phones don't have a decent
software for calendar synchronization. Please correct me! I would so much like
to be wrong in this case. What my experience tells is that trying to search
for good software and getting it right is sometimes a horribly frustrating
experience.

Each one of the installations is an adventure. You can never quite be sure
you will reach the target. It took about 20 years for Windows software
installation process to settle down and get standardized. Mobile phones have
a head start. What I've gathered is that there are some sort of standards
right from the beginning for eg. Symbian installations. I really liked exploring
the Nokia e71 right from the beginning, since there were much pre-installed
software. I liked Widgets. -ED. It turned Ovi.com, me not like! I haven't digged into it but I really do miss the ease
of use of Widgets.

I'm probably the only one on this planet to be specialized in doing things
the hard way. Or then tech really is complicated. I want Calsync60 on my
Nokia phone. It's available on the network, and I'd like to just download
it directly to my phone, since I don't have the sync cable nor working bluetooth.

Well, turns out I can't find a .SIS installation package on the whole net.
All articles point to this one location, which has a .zip file. It contains
two things: the real installation package (a .sisx) and an information file (text).
It's plain irritating that software installation is this laborious.

I next need to install Filezilla to get ftp connection. So downloading yet
another 3.8 megabytes. After installation, I connect to my own site in order
to store the installation .sisx there. Need login information, which I rarely
use. It's on another machine, stored in the Filezilla profile. Well, a couple of
minutes later I had my installation package on my server, ready to be downloaded
to Nokia. I took it. The download went fine. Then, it opened the .sisx into
notepad
. And crashed (jammed). The phone didn't respond to power off anymore.
So I took out the battery, and booted that way. It's amazing I'd spent approx. an hour trying to get a single software into my phone. This must be on the hot agenda with
Nokia. They're really in trouble with software installation usability. It ain't
satin smooth exactly, as this story has revealed. I hope they get it right with whatever the solution is. Because it's getting more important by each day.

The good working solution was to do installation of PC Suite, and then install
the .sisx package from a local directory.
Because PC Suite makes your PC understand
the file extensions, thus it identifies the file correctly and you can install the
software to your phone. I should've known and skipped all the extra steps, but you
never know unless you try. :) But wait. The story goes on. I had to tweak my phone's
date and time back to 2008, so that the Calsync60 didn't expire. And thus the calendar functions of course deteriorated. Putting it back into proper date,
the software wouldn't play ball anymore. I was stuck.

Back to software business..

I dream of a system where I could just tell what I want, and the right software
would be offered
. Today it's a lot of googling around and checking the details
when you need something. And there's often a big negative surprise about an
installed software: it has some viral marketing, crippled functionality,
time limitations, and most often functional mismatch. But I don't know whether
software could be put into a feasible property matrix. Like: I need sync between
Nokia e71, and Google Calendar, no limits, free of charge. The system would weed
down possibilities according to my criteria.

And please, make installations easier. Away with the certificates hassle, away
with searching all day along, and coming up with strange circumventing. I don't know
how, but installation of software should be completely free of location, circumstances, whatsoever. It should be as simple as breathing.

I would just like plain software, nicely packaged, easy to look it up, so that I could enjoy it as soon as possible. There, the challenge has been thrown!

EDIT: on 25th June 2009, in the morning, I got GooSync.com to work with my phone.
The previous systems error (not giving much clue) was due to the lack of connecting
my profile with my Google Calendar. So perusing the user interface at Goosync I noticed there was a kind of to-do list of things to do, so I filled in the information and thus authorized GooSync to access my calendar.

tiistai 23. kesäkuuta 2009

iTouched the iPhone

Been there! Done IT!

The iPhone is way cool. I took a short test ride today, on 23rd June 2009. The authorized Mac reseller in Helsinki downtown had one these gems, that everybody
has been buzzing about for.. ages? I'd seen the gadget live twice before this. But never actually got a feeling for it.

The phone is visual. It's very visual; nice contrast, good resolution, and the
navigation (since the keyboard is virtual - onscreen keyboard) is done completely
on the screen. Only a back-button exists, which you can push to get one level up in
the menu hierarchy. The functions (Stock, maps, photos, etc.) responded quickly - this is what I really like. It makes the user interface much more usable, when you don't
have to stare at silly progress bars telling you the wait time.

The virtual keyboard is pretty nasty. I couldn't do fast typing with it at all; a thing that I've accustomed to with ordinary computer keyboards as well as the Nokia e71 keyboard.

Would I take an iPhone? You bet! Waiting for my current mobile lease to unleash me. Perhaps it's going to be the 3rd gen iPhone then.

lauantai 20. kesäkuuta 2009

Exposing your data!

Open source and open standards are a major thing. For some, it's the antithesis to commercialism and modern capitalism. But I think that's quite a shallow and biased view. In the media I've caught glimpse of placing Europe as the old, industrialist nation that wants to protect its citizens from unfair competition by slapping US companies with hefty fines. I don't know if this can fairly be said. Law is very abstract for me; especially that of continent-wide competition and international issues.

Internet Explorer's place in Windows can well be justified. If I said that Internet was merely an obscure backyard that people would seldom visit, I'd be red in my face. Of course you want to surf the net. Only the most recluse writer or professor could stay out of the global network of thought. The decision to withhold IE from Windows 7 feels like an ATM vendor would be obliged to only supply the hardware but let each person choose their own user interface for the money withdrawal.

But let's get to the point. I'm writing about open source and service components, and
the possibility that the services would have open interfaces. Facebook, Twitter and
many other new media services are exposing their data, intentionally. These tools
increase their usefulness by letting other developers take benefit of existing
technology. People can write client programs to make Twitter look different, in
radical ways.

What we have currently is a highly evolved world wide web. There's pictures, animation, sounds, videos, text, functionality; complete programs, etc. A lot of things, that is. You can start to really live your life online. Doing spread sheet, word processing, blogging, messaging - it's possible on WWW. So there's an immense
amount of data, both well-organized and chaotic. But what we don't have are open interfaces (APIs) to this data. They are actually increasing in amount, but we're still infants on this area. Google has a good
supply of open interfaces; so do the aforementioned messaging/social services.

What's often available is a certain service, like a bus schedule site. It's evolved over time, and contains everything you could think of. But you can't use the site
programmatically - through another piece of code. In other words the site doesn't expose its database to any other user. Imagine how neat it would be to be
able to scrape the schedules, and use them in connection with say, a calendar software. If you received an email from a friend, and it contained an identifiable place+time combination ("let's meet in W 42nd St and 7th Avenue, New York, on 21st June"), your personal assistant program would instantly lookup possible methods to getting there, plus the weather! You wouldn't have to navigate in a web browser, search the screen, click on several selections, and then get the results. No, you'd instantly get several useful pieces of information regarding the meeting.

There are some desperate attempts to "rob" information from sites. It's called scraping the web. But this is quite a heavy method, and if the site presents its data in another way, the scraping program has to be accommodated in accordance. So it means constantly watching for changes in the source web page and staying abreast.

Databases are at the heart of business logic. They feed the systems that work on the data. So that's why it's so easy to do the decision to lock down access, and only offer results derived from the base data. It's the "traditional" point of view to business. The new wave is to make components, which can be used by other developers. Of course as we're talking about entrepreneurs and companies, there still has to be
some business logic in this behavior - it has to be justified and rational.

Exposing data has one more major thing: when you do that, developers will surely
start to bombard you with questions, reporting inconsistencies, etc. This can be
very demanding on the company. No matter what kind of AS-IS statements you make,
you still get a lot of communications. Wise companies take benefit of this
instant and free feedback, while old-school companies possibly even withdraw their
offer and seek asylum.

When I used to work for a map-making company, I was quite horrified by the license costs of map data. Individual people would often like to use a piece of map, just for a passing opportunity - advise friends how to drive to their birthday party, or show where their cabin is. Legally this requires a license. So the response on people's behalf was to draw maps themselves, scan telephone directory maps, and what not. I mean it was really creative how the licensing was avoided.

But, that's not true anymore. Google Maps has made it possible to link to a clear piece of map, and not have to pay any license fees. And I think it's great! But it brings to front the question, what kind of information should be made free? And can governments play a part in this? Should they? What is Google suddenly decided to change the terms of service? Let's say 50 million people had made homepages with a map link, and suddenly the terms changed and said it wasn't legal anymore. Even though I don't believe this to be likely, it's possible. Do companies have some liabilities about the terms they provide, or is it ok to change them arbitrarily?

I have to say there are more questions than answers in this article. If you
know more about the legal issues, especially regarding terms of service and
the process in how they can be changed, feel free to contact or leave a comment
here! Thanks.

Stuck in old Metaphors - better times coming




Do you know what (search, connect, wait, wait, open, login, wait, select, accept, check) means? Why, it's uploading your best photos from the phone to a public place like a web album. Sounds pretty complicated though, and that's exactly what is currently is. We often don't do things because the steps are taking too much time. It's like having to brush your teeth when you were kid. It was inevitable, yet you lingered until it was forced.

In the example you first search for the USB cable (Bluetooth isn't reliable enough, anyway). Then you connect your phone to a Windows-based host, which takes ages. Then you open the management software for your phone, which enables picture uploading. You login into a site, where you will be publishing the pics. You wait for the site to respond. Then you select the pictures for uploading, and accept the transport. You finally check that everthing went as was expected.

We're stuck in old metaphors. Old ways of thinking what bits represent and how they should be transformed into new meanings and places. But there's constant change, and I think we're headed for much smoother waters. Since cellphones start to be quite mature in hardware, there's a craving for better user interfaces. We might soon forget the times that functions were deeply buried in layers and layers of menus. Context-sensitive menus and buttons will probably be increasing. There's always the balancing between limiting what a user can do, and trying not to make the user interface too confusing by including all possibilities.

A central tenet to user interfaces has been the direct manipulation of objects. Instead of burying things into hierarchical systems, the designer presents instantly graspable objects which users can alter, move, resize, etc. In phones, wouldn't it be nice to just tap on the pictures, and send them instantly into a shared place?

I'm slightly inclined to Apple attitude in these. Nokias kind of have the old world scent in exactly that things are hierarchical and a bit out of date. It's still very interesting to see how the competition turns out. I don't know about Apple's production strategy or platform strengths, but Nokia has a history of producing a lot of things on its own, so I think it has a key strength in here. And both parties are learning from each other just like in the operating system wars.

In the web world (see, we gotta still separate mobile from the web, for practical reasons), the channels are split. If you're on Facebook, it takes some effort to get content into some other system. But there are pipes which let people share their most interesting experiences into other social networking platforms and data drains.

The familiar phenomena is this: You hear about a new medium; let's say Twitter. You take a couple of moments to think about whether to join. You Google some arguments
about the service, ask friends, look up the traditional media, and then make up your mind. Eventually, you'll probably at least take a test ride. Registration is usually quite light.

The first steps in the new medium are crucial. If the experience is good, and you find it useful or fun, you'll probably stick to it. For example, I started using Twitter, but then there was a pause. It was barren. There was no relevant content, no friends. Later on I found this great client called TweetDeck. The tool instantly boosted my twitter usage. I started to see a lot more of it, and could stay in power by adjusting the windows, and having a constant and quick access to
the control buttons.

The interesting question is, whether these technologies will come together, or stay as islands of their own. The typical setting is that I sit down at my computer. It takes me some 5-10 minutes to get all necessary apps and services running and logged into. At the end of the day, logout takes some time and I have to think about what apps I can leave running, which I should turn down. I'd like to transport this desktop into my phone, as-is. Currently that's not possible. I have to make decisions and a lot of manual work to carry some of the services in different gadgets.

The IT department faces a lot of decisions, too. They have to be updated about what's available on the markets. Often there's a slight overflow of information. And the new systems planning is not the only chore running. Basically keeping old systems up and running and secure is taking its share. So for all of these reasons the decisions are usually very conservative: Let's stick to the old and known. And keep things simple. That's a good decision, in a way. But it also limits the company(=employees) from gaining true benefits from new technology.

keskiviikko 17. kesäkuuta 2009

Unified Comms for everyone?

It's interesting to see how communications tools are evolving. Almost everyone has a mobile phone, and an email account. Some use MSN, IRC, Twitter, Facebook, and other web sites. But to pull it all together in a sensible manner, that's a challenge. How many times you've got an angry call about not having responded to an SMS? How many times you've picked your mobile from your pocket, and found out that somebody put an important message and didn't call after you.

These are lost chances. They're things that could have gone better. Much better.

It's amazing how much Murphy's Laws dictate our experiences with communication. A wise professor said, that communications succeeds - but only by chance. I can't but agree!

There are some fundamental points in communications.
- People don't try to initiate comms for an infinite amount of time. They get exhausted or frustrated.
- You really do communicate both by being active and by being passive. These are signs. If you answer, you indicate an interest in messaging. If you don't answer, no matter what the real reason is, you give out an image of not being interested. We interpret things; we don't see things as they are.
- The message is always context-sensitive. And this is especially important in faceless net communications. A joke or sense of irony is often misinterpreted.

What I'd like to see, is a unified communications system for everyone. Some companies are exploring the possibilities. I got the spark today, after installing a Twitter front-end called TweetDesk. It gave me a whole new view on using Twitter.

UC essentially means that you carry on messaging, no matter what the situation and available equipment. For some this is a red flag, a no-no. But the truth is that the experience can only be understood by trying it. UC sometimes does raise one to the shoulders of giants. There's a feeling of kind of surfing on top of all communications; you don't miss things, or at least you have knowledge of what you are missing. Because basically currently we still live in the information dark ages. Email is read a couple of times per day - sometimes once in 3 weeks. Of course this varies a lot by person. Some occupations require much more speedier communications - take journalists for example. I've followed the life of a 4-team editorial for 7 months, and it was very interesting.

Unified communications requires a couple of things. A good infrastructure is necessary; good-quality, low-lag, country-wide wireless network coverage. It also requires user education into the tools. And the resilience from the user to really utilize the tools.

And for us users, it requires a lot of configurating. There are no silver bullet, turnkey solutions that I know of. You do the building by enabling system after another. And the result might be that you end up jumping from application to application, sometimes having to log-in at times that wouldn't suit you well.

As of writing this, I'm dropped out of a WLAN at local cafe. This happens every 1/2 time I'm here. And at home, my own WLAN regularly drops me once in two hours. This is the magic of tech. It's always in need of configuration, and sometimes you're not in charge. So the technological resiliency cannot be overstated. To have a successful UC requires extremely robust solutions. Perhaps even having instantly switching backup systems.

Tweetdeck - excellent!

Thanks to some preview problems, I ended up losing my 3 paragraph text about TweetDeck. (Goddamn stateless web ;)

Today I started out in an ordinary fashion. BEEP, BEEP. Stepping up, going to toilet, taking the orange juice; clothes on, and getting out. The bus came as usual, on time. Had a good chat with my neighbour on the way work.

After he left, a bit earlier, I took out my laptop and started browsing the World. Wide. Web.

Some news were mainstream. Then I stumbled upon Techcrunch, and caught the name Tweetdeck. No idea what is was. Reading an article about the company raising some venture capital, I gave the program a try. Sold! I had met something extraordinary.

Anyway, cutting the story short, check it out, TweetDeck is an excellent client for using Twitter. You'll love the new experience compared to using twitter via web. I installed it this morning, and after 3 minutes of usage I was sold. There's just beauty about it. It's mesmerizing. I think the program will have a great future.

Information comes in much more usable form via TweetDeck. With Twitter, it was so 1-dimensional. TD allows you to configure the windows like you want it. You can scroll horizontally if there's too much to fit in one screenfull. And one of the best things is an audible alarm when a message comes through, if you have TD in the background.

TweetDeck

perjantai 12. kesäkuuta 2009

my AdmiNEXT

Since administering a computer system is always more or less Excel files, papers,
and all kinds of fuzzy stuff, I came up with a draft of an integrated system (a computer program) which would put some of these things together. It would make the process of administering much easier, by relieving the admin from remembering where he has stored bits and pieces. We admins often run too much. Running is bad in work sense - it means the process is unpolished.

So the below system is a client-server solution; the clients being very lightweight programs run on each workstation (or laptop) which is to be administered. The server is the command-issuer; the admin is connected to a server, and this can be done from any IP location. As long as the administrator has connectivity to the server, and the server can see the client, the system works.

A big benefit which I haven't come across, is that AdmiNEXT would also include the possibility to make maps: of networks, of actual workstation locations, etc. There's a lot of remembering in a big office space, and especially when there's someone new doing the installations, they run into problems with locating stuff.

My dream system for user and computer administration (AdmiNEXT) would include:

* a state and machine register, for easily seeing what installations have been done
* the above would be shareable by RSS, web, calendar, text message, mail - to admins
and other interested parties
* a command line interface to controlling AdmiNEXT (in addition to GUI)
* shell mode for running Windows commands directly
* possibility to run 3rd party installers and other tools
* a chat, for communicating between admins and also end users
* project view: easy overview of the whole project currently underway; workhours, efficiency, and piecharts of what is taking time
* all functionality and user interaction is logged
* a AdmiNEXT client program is run in each workstation; this executes the work
* superClipboard for storing all those little snippets of information, that usually are written on PostIT notes
* ability to run patches to both Windows and 3rd party software
* lightness! AdmiNEXT should itself be very lightweight, so that it will be used.
* visuality: everything from the ground floor plans of buildings to network topologies could be visualized, perhaps even on maps
* expiry dates for operations and objects: you will be reminded when to renew

Currently IT is being handled in a variety of ways. Users suffer. Bad decisions
are everyday; like taking away necessary tools. I've seen cases where people couldn't
read intranet anymore, since it contained documents made in a proprietary format,
but to which the users didn't have a license. It was bad judgment. Saving in the
wrong place. Also made me appreciate open formats and free software. There is
software and there's software. Document reading is a basic human right. You shouldn't
have to pay for that. A complicated SAP system is not. I understand the royalties
there.

Btw. I wonder if running stops. Not only that, we could be swirling in these
nice little caddies around the office. Noiseless, environmentally friendly,
good looking surfpads on wheels. They'd perhaps have a screen, very thin and cool,
showing you a radar-kind view of the office or other premises. You'd see targets
like computers, switches, routers, and others. No more wondering where your
work target is. Yes, it's the Blade Runner inspired scene. :) And of course
walking is healthy. But I'm a utopist.

keskiviikko 10. kesäkuuta 2009

Tech gone bad - travel card kludgism



This article contains two main branches. First I'm going to talk about
the misjudgments somebody made in the design of a Finnish traveling card,
and in the latter part I'm ranting about tech in general, but mobiles
and new services in specific.

Sometimes it's pretty obvious when something has been designed badly, or
in a user-hostile way. I was renewing the trips in my electronic travel
card. To my surprise, there were a couple of things:
- I could only select 22 or 44 trips
- the trips would have to be consumed in 59 days (by 9.8.2009)

The back limit to my trips was that the card would receive some kind
of update (a product code update). So what? It's not my problem!
It's good to make people informed of what is happening, but that
a product code update should affect the way I use my trips - that's
unacceptable. We should be riding the technology, not be pushed by
it.

It's funny that I am affected so much as a consumer by the apparently
kludgy choices somebody made during the design of the card. Did the team
think about people's true needs? Like flexibility and the freedom to travel
when appropiate. I don't think the bits are going sour - they last practically
forever. So why the 2 month time limit? I've no idea at all.

Why I'm writing about this is not that it would shade the sun and
shatter Earth. It's because this is pure abuse of technology. Tech is not
meant to limit people's freedom of movement and their choices. It's
supposed to do the total opposite: liberate!

We could have the liberty to do trips and pay by the kilometer. Or, if there's
a campaign, take advantage of it. Whatever. But not like this: you're
given 2 options, and forced to use your trips in due time - or else you
lose direct money.

It may be that the inflexibility of the electronic card is actually inherited
from the underlying system. When I go to the travel agency selling these things,
I can't but notice how akward all the filing folders and papers seem. They have
tons of tables about the cost of specific trips. Based on location, length,
age group, and who knows what other factors, the whole pictures become
unnecessarily complex.

I think specific travel cards will perish some day. Because simply there's
no idea at all to make people carry tens of different cards. Ok, currently
they are a splendid way of branding something, and perhaps we really
don't yet have means to make universal electronic payments, thus we're
stuck with these cards. Cellphones are one candidate to take the place of
cards. They do have some problems though: one is the possible lack of
power. If the battery is dead, and you're supposed to beam up some kredito
to the bus, how are you going to do it?

What happens when traveling is difficult? Of course in a bigger picture the
traveling has gotten a lot easier during the centuries, but we're still
quite far from the optimal. Because every country, region and even bigger
cities have a proprietary, customized traveling card system! Why couldn't
we parametrize traveling universally, and start doing it using a single
system? Just like TCP/IP protocols are the backbone of the whole
communications revolution, I think traveling could also have much simplified
and unified structure.

The design would have to encompass a lot of questions. First a survey of
all the major travel systems; what exists? Thinking through the user's
point of view (what is it we are after: easy, affordable, sure travels)
and of course the implementor's side.

Many travel agency offices seem to be a collection of quite a pile of paper, strange
obsolete stamping machines, and other oddities. In a world, very old-fashioned.
I can't imagine any reason why this kind of paper, scissors, and ink combination
would beat information technology. What I mean by that is that putting the
information into chips, and effectively provisioning the bits in what ever places
necessary would be an improvement over the current system.

Just recently I waited 15 minutes at such an office. 11 people were buying tickets
before me. What was my need? To renew 22 trips into my electronic card. So I'd
need about couple of kilobytes of data on the card. For that I really did wait
one quarter of an hour. There was nothing special in my service request that would have
required an officer. It was completely routine case. Some people had left from the
queue, not persistent enough to wait. That was lost business opportunnity to the
travel company.

But let me put everything in perspective. This is a small manifesto of my
future society, what comes to the technical side (the dark social side
and bombing manifestos are left for further writings ;).

First of all, tech will evolve in "obvious" and non-obvious ways. The obvious
is increase of network speed, decline in latency, increase in memory capacity,
processor speed; then there are industrial design issues, which make computers
and gadgets look damn hot.

Non-obvious change aka the interesting stuff



But one of the most important factor is usability and sense. There's still
so much plain dumb technology;
literally tables of data are poured on the users lap, and he feels flooded,
frustrated and angry. Apple is doing a good job in leading into the
right direction; they have time and patience to do the details.

Learning and changing



When you
invent something, it's only the 10% of the whole thing. You then have to
make people change their habits. To learn to think in your way. I'm ranting all day about Google Maps, how great it is
in my mobile. Still I think maybe one person has taken it into use from my
ranting. It's because I haven't been effective as a spokesperson!

There's always some friction in learning. In mobile world, there are various
methods which vary by manufacturer. Nokia is putting up the Ovi portal right now.
Apple already has their very successful iStore. I've tried Ovi quickly - but
I loved widsets.com, because the application installation from there was a
real treat. No fuzz, always working. And the apps were free (ok, we're in heaven
now). The searching, downloading, installation, configuration and troubleshooting
are all steps that take away users. Some turn back, some continue the journey.
But I think that these problems can be solved. It's a matter of investigating
the best practises, and really thinking
the whole scenario from the end user's point of view.

Amen. Be not afraid. Things settle, always :)

tiistai 9. kesäkuuta 2009

I love trains. It's not because of my mother's side of the family has been working on railroads in various forms, but using a train simply feels so smooth. Luckily I have avoided most of the schedule problems, and read about them only in the news. It might be that my view would be completely different then.

It's the capability of these monstrous big machines to inspire me, while the traveling is much smoother than taking a bus or a taxi (I know, having been on both sides of the wheel). The tracks are fascinating, since they're like classic decisions trees in computer science - there are branches, and nodes (stations). And I used to play Railroad Tycoon for thousands of hours as a kid.

Today I got enticed by the penny category of a local games shop. Took Rise of Nations (Big Huge Games) to the test. I'll be examining it piecewise, until I either drop it or drop into it. The thrill and possibility for addiction is always present. Nowadays it funny, I don't have a clue about what games are good. I used to be reading all the games news with a magnifying glass in the 1990s. Then I just kind of lost interest in gaming; probably because of entering the army and starting studies.

Games are excellent thing. They've given me so much. And yet some think that playing games is dangerous and should be prohibited. I think it's a lot about placing limits. I never had limits with those, but that didn't make any different. My imagination
is quite vivid, and games of course spawned new worlds into which I could dive into. It was so much fun. Sometimes the thing went a bit over, have to admit :) Playing just Civilization for 8 hours straight might be considered non-rational behaviour.

One more thingy - being without electricity really sucks. I was today in a situation
where my laptop and mobile had run out of juice. I felt handless. Really! It's
through negation like this that I understand exactly how important gadgets have
become. The power supply politics should be better planned. Nowadays it's not even
such guaranteed you can run into some shop and power from there. I thing small power
parks within cities would be really cool. Advertisers? Anyone out there knows
of this kind of idea been implemented already?

maanantai 8. kesäkuuta 2009

really nice feature in Google Maps mobile: Save as contact

I already love the Google maps on my mobile phone. Now it got even better, since I discovered that after doing a search, and clicking on a search result, I can save the contact information directly to my phone's address book. Too many times in similar situations people have to resort to manually typing all data in, but this is great!

perjantai 5. kesäkuuta 2009

The next killer app for mobiles?

You know what? Mobile software is not about bits, coding and all that. It's about understanding trends and what our motivations, problems and limitations are. I don't really know can you say that there's been a killer app since short messaging (SMS)... That's one thing that got adopted by a huge majority of mobile users. It's pretty obvious, just take a walk in a city, enter the traffic terminals, shops - keep your eyes wide open; observe. It's real fun! You can sense what people are looking for, at least you get some tips about it.

Where I see possibilities for new software & services is:
- logistics. Very easy to use, intelligent routing of people point-to-point
- exploration: satisfying our curiosity for getting more information; when you're at certain place, you can download text and images of that place
- meeting people. Dynamic matching, getting to know casually. Business partnering, dating; all done with the help of a mobile. Currently we have basically listings of people and pictures, but there's no geographical info. And no dynamism: the systems do not yet keep you updated about what really going around you, right now!

Logistics applications will be a major hit. Why? Because they are extremely useful. They really bind the code into real world, and make a big difference to the way we live. These applications can really suggest optimizations to our daily patterns. And there's even more interesting genre of logistics apps: the ones that utilize our movement, and that of others; matching people with the same mission ("Do you want to suggest to Dave you share the car to work? You both have the same route.").

The success of a system is of course the sum of all parts: the device, the network, applications software, and the operating system the phone runs. When all click into place, voila! Oh yeah, and add one more ingredient: the users! Without, you can bath in your private shampagne, but the skeleton needs some live meat to make it tick.

What we currently have, is a machines, more machines!! -phase. We get all these new mobile models, probably several each month. It's good, this is a necessary thing for mobile evolution, but it's not the hardware itself that should evolve.

The mobile world is an interesting one. I'm looking forward to getting some of those apps. I know there are legions of coders at work on the subject. So it will be anytime soon that someone blows the bank.

I haven't tried yet, but would certainly want to get my hands on iPhone. Saw couple of those here in Helsinki / Finland. They're not very popular yet. But all the things I saw convinced me that it's going to be a pop machine. I really liked the large screen real estate. I think it is something that transforms the use possibilities in a major way. Instead of having a Web page rendering on a tiny backyard, you can now have it basically without modifications.

Have a good weekend! :-)

torstai 4. kesäkuuta 2009

VICE - a Commodore 64 emulator running on (even) Windows Vista



What joy the good old Commodore 64 (CBM C=64) brings when it's on my laptop's
desk. I downloaded and installed the VICE emulator. It can do a lot things,
but of main interest are loading (playing) .d64 and .t64 images. These are
binary representations of disks and tapes, respectively. So in plain English
you can download the good old games and play them on your PC.

You can also install a SIDPLAY, which lets you play Commodore tunes!
Check out Almighty C64 site for all the
stuff.

First Dell certification; and thoughts about JVC Everio video production

First Dell cert went through! It was about current laptops and their maintenance. The basics, but a good start.

I remember once just taking a laptop apart, cold without any training. The piecing together took an hour! And it wasn't nice to do the circus in front of a customer waiting for the seemingly simple fix.

...and to other news:
Video publishing is still quite hard. It's a thing I have to always think "Wait a sec, how is it done?". Usually things are soon embedded into our subconscious, when they become routine. This is the optimal level of learning. But not in my camera scenario:

The cam I'm talking about is a JVC Everio (a harddisk drive model) -- and yes,
it's a quick-shop souvenir from a lovely Thailand trip. It's cool, but the internal video format is some obscure one, which has to be converted into mainstream ones. This is one good example of a process creating a barrier to activity. I would publish more, if the process was more agile. If I just didn't have to wait for my Vista to boot up, slowly; then opening the video editing software, choosing upload from my cam, converting the video, and saving it. Then publishing into a site. Even for a small clip, this might take 10 minutes. It's a bad ratio!

I remember how me and my wife were trying to gather information about different video cams. We were staying at Bangkok for the last evening, and thus I think we had around 1-2 hours to make the decision. A budget limitation was also one factor to chew in. The cam is a good choice what comes to ease of use (of the cam itself), and I like the 34x optical zoom. The harddisk is relatively spacious, with a capacity of approx. 7.5 hours.

keskiviikko 3. kesäkuuta 2009

added Reuters News widget on the right hand side

I'm trying the free Reuters news widget, which runs on the right hand column
of this page. Tell me what you like of it. It's an experimentation for time
being.

tiistai 2. kesäkuuta 2009

joined the Finnish Pirate Party

I joined the Finnish Pirate Party. I feel the cause is just, and there are many
things in digital rights management that could be handled in a more elegant and simple manner. The current situation is confusing and overly restricting. People who think they have bought ordinary digital content like songs, can easily be surprised by cranky devices not willing to play the pieces because of DRM mechanisms.

The rights and laws are crafted by parties that have huge (vested) personal interests in these matters. Nobody asked the big audience. This is one major problem. End users, you and me, are paying a high price for the errors. They range from minor annoyances to real pests like trying to fool the computer or other player do its job. Technology has been used in the wrong sense, with a "because I can" attitude. Sure, tight and obscure crypto can be used to make system which are almost impossible to penetrate. But I yet again ask is this purposeful?

Piraattipuolue

Truly Disruptive

You know what they mean by disruptive? Mobile phones are one example of disruptive
technology - something so significant that it really alters the scene and makes
new emerging social behaviour rise. But what I thought today about disruptive:
take the payment cards for example. They really disrupt the routine of doing
shopping, or going into a bus. Take a look at the individual steps that using
these cards require; first you dig them from your wallet - no insignificant step!
I often have the cards in "wrong" order, so it takes from 5-10 seconds to
get to the right one. Second step: hand over / insert the card into a reader,
and *wait*. The minimum time is 2-3 secs, but you can sometimes witness well over
a minute! Then you enter a PIN code or sign the receipt. You get the card back,
and put it into your wallet. In the "good old" times the magnetic stripes started
to deteriorate, and so the contact between the reader and the card was poor - this
resulted in several re-entries.

Is this significant? Well, let's take a guess. 85% of people over 18 own at least
one card. They use it twice a day. It takes 15 seconds on average to do the
transaction. That does 105,000,000 seconds overall for Finland. That's
29166 hours - or 3,3 years of cumulative waiting -- each day!

On an individual basis, who cares if you wait a minute each day for the
processing of your payment. But it's quite an amount of time spent on a national
level. And, this is the point: it's superbly annoying to stay stil, just because
a machine is keeping you captured!

an executive blog - affecting everyday life?

Today's tasks included the first solo installation of a customer laptop. Whee :)
It was fun, although somewhat complicated also. I'm learning the way of the house
little by little.

My real reason for writing today:

Tell me how many company executive blogs you read on a daily basis? I'd say zero for most of us. I can't claim that I'd follow any exec blogs regularly.

I know one enthusiastic CEO, and by that I mean he seems to have an eager and honest passion for writing a blog. It's Reuters' Tom Glocer. He keeps a regular blog and I find the ideas refreshing. It's a down to earth and speculative (in the kind
of, "Why is the sky blue" -style). He wants to question things and get answers.

The net has made a lot in democracy. And it hasn't, you could say. We still think first who's writing, then apply the prestige and expectations, and then we turn on our brains for really digesting the message.

I know many people in general don't have the opportunity or privilege to blog. After all, it does take quite some time to produce an article, and many of us bloggers don't
want to start tweeting in the wrong place. A blog entry should convey some interesting, fun or useful content.

When I start writing an article, it's pretty easy. I just have these thoughts,
usually after a work day, and put the initial few words on my Blogspot site.
Then everything starts to roll.

Having somebody to write your thoughts is faking. Blogging has to be done
by yourself. I don't give much value to ghost writing, especially in this area.
Of course I understand that if you have both hands crippled or have some other
kind of impediment, it's plain necessary to have someone help you.

But let's get back to the question, why do so few CEOs really blog? Because
they're spending all the time traveling, reading reports, sitting in meetings,
and generally representing the company. I can believe it's a fulltime job.
I get sweat on my forehead for just thinking of all that. But I think they
might benefit from blogging.
- It clears the mind!
- Gathers people from all walks of life, and they have a freedom to comment
- Creates a possibility for a unique connection between the audience and the writer

I've written about 170 articles so far. It's been a year's worth of work and
leisure. The first comment came only this late, on May 24th 2009. It felt good! :)
So far I've been mostly flooded by spam bots, trying to get outbound links from
my site and thus stealing audience.

The writing journey will continue. If you have thoughts about similar or dissimilar
experiences, your comments are really welcome.

Until the next time,
YT

maanantai 1. kesäkuuta 2009

Goddamn Murphy!!

It started innocently: waiting for my bus after work, at 4:30PM. Nothing happened for 45 minutes, even though the bus was supposed to be arriving in approx. 15 minutes. So I phoned a friend, in hopes of reaching him so that he could check the Internet for timetables. No answer.

I phoned my wife next. NETWORK ERROR. I couldn't call out.

Another attempt: She answered, but our net was down at home. *sigh*

Ok, I checked out Google Maps for traffic planner. No go: there was no information
for this particular location.

Finally I got the information that there was going to be no bus lines any more. All gone. Great. So a walk into the nearest stop, about 1.5km

Wait. There's more. In the evening, my ordinary bus for home: it broke before the
journey started.

I wasn't pissed off at the end of the day. I was amused and afraid how thin our information society is. Really. If you stay in the swarm and exchange information
orally, you're fine. IF you dare stay 1/2 hour later at work, and start doing
things your own way - relying on technology - you may be in it quite deep. Test
before you "buy".