One of the cool things about Amazon’s Kindle is that you can carry around hundreds of books in a device the size of a single paperback. But what if you’re still wedded to ink on paper (or don’t want to spend $399 for a Kindle) and want a similar level of convenience? One option could be Tom Stoppard’s portable bookcase, which the playwright has hauled around for 30 years. According to The New York Times , the steamship-era case from luggage-maker T. Anthony is “no bigger than a breadbox [and] holds a small shelf of books.” Sure, the case weighs a heck of a lot more than a Kindle, but it’s definitely a conversation starter (imagine pulling it out in a cafe and casually choosing some reading material from your mobile library). And the fact that it doesn’t hold quite as many tomes as its electronic counterpart isn’t necessary a real issue. As Stoppard points out, “If I am on a journey where I only have time to read one-and-a-half books, I never know which one-and-a-half I’ll feel like reading. So I bring eight.” If eight books are enough for a voracious reader like Stoppard, it should work for most other readers as well. Alas, the mobile library is even harder to get than a Kindle; it was discontinued in the 80s, and appears to be completely unavailable on eBay or elsewhere.
Archive for January, 2008
Paramount has begun what will eventually be a multimillion dollar marketing juggernaut behind the new Star Trek flick. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at StarTrek.com, the studio’s official site for the franchise. After a reorg late last year left the site basically staff-less, it’s essentially been in sleeper-ship mode, with a static home page promoting, not the new movie, which rolled out a teaser trailer last week, but an episode of the animated Trek series, circa 1973. The site’s news page was last updated December 18th (with a plea to “keep the conversation going on StarTrek.com boards”) and the page of the site designed to promote the new movie was last updated in early December (even worse, the landing page for the new, multi-city “Star Trek: The Tour” promotion is blank!). Of course, Paramount hasn’t given up completely on the web; a new “under construction” site at paramount.com/startrek has been launched to promote the movie, and a banner on the legacy site points to it. Still, the essential abandonment of the startrek.com domain at a time when the brand is due for a major revival deserves a raised eyebrow from Vulcans and experienced web marketers alike. StarTrek.com should be the go-to site for news and info about the new movie, and its current status as a ghost site that shows that, in the immortal words of Chancellor Gorkon, Paramount has a long way to go before it really gets the whole Internet thing.
1. MacBook Air is cool, but I can’t see spending $1,799 on what is essentially a secondary or tertiary computer. Hello, Eee.
2. Apple TV seems poised to finally be a solid platform, and free upgrade rocks (especially compared to item #3, below). I’m going to upgrade mine tonight, and may even pick up a second one for the bedroom.
3. Upgrades to iPod Touch are fine, but not worth $20.
4. Does Time Capsule support Windows? If not, I’ll stick with Buffalo.
5. No 3G iPhone. I’ll stick with my jailbroken Touch.
I had to give a presentation at a meeting today and didn’t have a laptop with me. The solution: I grabbed a nearby Mac Mini (yes, I left a sticky on the display warning that the machine had been borrowed and would be returned), hooked it up to a projector, and the meeting was saved. But the experience got me thinking: Why aren’t there dozens of cheap, small PCs on the market? And by cheap, I mean about $100. After all, the parts required to produce such a PC are dirt cheap, and Linux is free. But most of the options in this class, like the Zonbu, are at least $200. In fact, in the sub-$100 class, there’s really just one option as far as I know: the decTOP. With a 10GB hard drive, mouse and keyboard included for just $99, this one seems like a steal, despite its underwhelming specs. And you can actually buy four for the price of three, getting the price-per down to $75 (or $87 with shipping). That’s a deal I may not be able to resist. What will I do with four of these puppies? I have no idea. But at least I know the next time I need to do a prezzo and don’t have a laptop handy, I can have one of these ready to roll on a moment’s notice.
You know that sinking feeling you get when you buy something only to have the price plummet when the manufacturer releases a new model or just decides it’s time to slash prices. Well, imagine how it feels if a product you’ve paid for suddenly goes free. That’s the case with Newsgator, which just made all of its pay products, including Feed Demon and Net News Wire free. I happen to own paid versions of both products and have used them for years. And when I heard that they were going free earlier today, instead of getting that sinking feeling, my response was, yeah! Because these apps really are the best RSS readers I’ve used,* and now more people will try them out. Why do I like them so much? Mainly because they’re fast, well-designed, cross-platform and can seamlessly sync your feeds across multiple computers and platforms. And, as someone who subscribes to over 200 feeds and uses 4-5 computers and other devices on a given day, that syncing function alone is worth paying for. So, right on, Newsgator. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to download the Blackberry and Outlook versions, which I didn’t spring for when they were pay products.
* As always, all opinions expressed herein are mine and mine only. Got it?
There were a number of nice moments in Bill Gates’ corny, gently self-mocking CES farewell keynote presentation and video (though the big plug for Silverlight on the MS site isn’t one of them), but for me the sweet spot was his plea to join the Democratic presidential ticket. Not only does this represent the culmination of a political turnaround by someone who once saw Republicans as his key allies (former Washington Senator Slade Gorton was nicknamed “the Senator from Microsoft” thanks to his close ties to Bill’s company). But it also featured a slam dunk by Barack Obama, in which the candidate managed to join the Bill-dissing party, slap his main competitor and show off his geek cred in one fell swoop. When BillG calls Obama, he introduces himself simply as “Bill.” The senator’s response: “Shatner?” Gates responds in the negative, and Obama’s second guess is, of course, Clinton. Way to go, Big O. I’m still rooting for yet another Bill, but if he doesn’t make it, you’ve got me energized.
From Kara Swisher’s latest “Boomtown” blog entry:
“First, after almost eight months of daily blogging for this site, I think it is safe to say that I will probably never write another thing professionally for a print publication and will spend the rest of my career–such that it will be–publishing online only.”
That’s great, Kara. Really. Welcome to the nabe. However, there’s just one problem with this approach: This business is about the content. The web, newspapers, magazines, cellphones, TVs, etc., are all just distribution channels. Each channel has its own strengths and weaknesses, and content developed for one channel doesn’t always work out all that well on others (which is why newspapers and magazines are finally turning their web sites into unique products, rather than just conduits for repurposing). The web is great at interactivity and immediacy. TV’s great at, well, video. And print is good for, um, something or other. But there’s no reason to swear eternal fealty to a single distribution channel. And, yes, I say this as someone who started in print, but has worked online-only for well over a decade. I may never write for a print publication again, either. But that doesn’t mean I’m online-only forever. If the right magazine, TV, radio, newspaper or cerebral implant opportunity comes along, I’ll go for it, especially if it provides a chance to create exciting, compelling content that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of the channel.
Since everyone else has already compiled their “Best of 2007” lists, here’s mine, in no particular order:
Without Karl, Ralph or the Supremes in his way, the winner of the 2000 presidential race sailed to a well-deserved victory in Sweden. Of course, it remains to be seen whether his prize helps influence policy on climate change.
Nick Denton will never be confused with Colston Warne, but as the force behind The Consumerist, he’s shown that he’s capable of actually helping people other than gossip-hungry New Yorkers and Valleyites. Featuring everything from recall news to guerilla support tips, Consumerist is the new face of consumer advocacy for Gen Y.
Google Docs may get all the glory, but Zoho feels a lot more like a real word processor, and includes such niceties as a tabbed interface, ad-free environment, and, most impressive of all, a seamless offline mode—powered by Google Gears, which has yet to make an appearance in its parent’s online editor.
I buy stamps. I lose them. I find them five years later and have to buy extra pennyweight stamps if I want to use them. Not anymore. I can buy as many stamps as I want, lose them for decades, and still be able to use them to mail my pleas for cash to the Social Security Administration.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
Alt-history, Chandleresque suspense and the “frozen chosen.” What’s not to like?
OLPC XO GOGO
I’ll leave the hardware reviews to the experts. But Nicholas Negroponte’s “Give One Get One” ploy was pure genius, and managed to change the public perception of the XO from a well-intentioned failure to a cool way to be philantropic and get a free gadget at the same time (or even make a profit, as some eBay merchants have managed to do.
Plug-and-play RSS mashups for the masses. Users have created pipes that do everything from add a category-specific price-watch service to craigslist to the most recent “interesting” flickr photos, except for those that feature flowers. And, of course, all scripts can be copied, merged, altered and further mashed as needed.
The union movement in the U.S. may be a shadow of its former self, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely toothless. The ongoing strike has brought one of the country’s most powerful industries to its knees and, like the Tasini lawsuit a half-decade ago, serves as a reminder that companies that control content don’t have a unilateral right to use it “in any medium yet to be invented” without compensating its creators.