Thursday, March 24, 2005

Apple Wireless?

BusinessWeek is runnning an article summing up why the iPod Phone from Motorola has taken so long to come to market. No surprise here, the big wireless carriers like Verizon and Cingular want to hold you captive to their: digital music (ringtones) store, the phones they approve of, and a contract for the phone subsidies they offer. Aren't the big wireless companies already closed systems? The article hints one way around the iPod phone problem is Motorla/Apple selling them to consumers direct through retail, for around $500 (cna you say $499). If the article hints at this, I guess it's possible, but the common thinking is that you have to use a "Verizon approved" phone for their network, it's not like POTS or a TV you can just connect. Or is it if you are willing to pay? Sometime to research... But I have a different suggestion for Apple. Buy T-Mobile and turn it into Apple Wireless. If the big wireless players are going to view you as a competitor to be rejected, then take the fight straight to them. The business model is one you have used and pioneered, especially the end-to-end solution that is iTunes/iPod. I think there is tremendous pent-up demand for a wireless provider that serves customers some of the time, not fleecing them at every turn. I have used all the big (except Verizon) and some small wireless providers, and they all do the same thing. Buy a ringtone, $2-3 for 90 days. Sorry thats a rental, and its ridiculously overpriced. You can't buy a game, again, you rent, for a limited amount of time. Wouldn't matter if it were cheap, but its crazy. My latest carrier was Sprint. Want to send a picture, that will be an Internet access and airtime fee. Want to send some text, that will be another fee. Want to maintain a contact list on anthing other than the phone, good luck with that. Apple solve all these problems, and I think make a killing. First, phone has to sync with the Mac just like the iPod does right now. PC sync needs an upgrade, primarily that means some address book sync. You can use any sony you own or rent as ringtones or ringback tones. You buy time on the network, doesn't matter how you use it, phone, text, email, sending photos. The devices themselves are key. I'll brainstorm on something latter.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Teflon, Latest Corporate Medical Disaster

I know this isn't my usual blog post, but my wife just sent this Medical News Today article to me and I am just floored. The article is from 11/2003, but I haven't heard anything about this. Apparently DuPont has known for over 20 years that the chemical compound, called C-8, used to produce Teflon, seperates from the Teflon coating on pots and pans at normal cooking heat (think cooking a piece of bacon), and ends up in the bloodstream through inhalation and digestion. If you get too much C-8 in a short amount of time, you get a Teflon "Flu", which means you feel sick like have the flu. The EPA released an article 1/2005 warning that there is risk from bloodstream contamination, and one of the side-effects is that your cholesterol and triglyceride level could be elevated by the chemial. Here is another article from 8/2004 intended to assit organic farmers on selecting to use Teflon based products or not, good background information. Non-stick pots and pans: If it's to good to be true, it usually is. Time to switch to stainless steel.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

OS and Browser Share

Take a look at this graph of OS market share on this blog: Now look at the browser share: A few things come to mind looking at these charts:
  • Windows XP share has dropped below 50% for the first time since I started this blog
  • Firefox 1.x (26%) and IE 6.0 (29%) are almost in a dead heat
  • Safari 1.x (22%) is pretty close to the Big 2. Given the mostly Apple focused nature of this blog that isn't too surprising
  • Mac OS X share is 29%, so Firefox is taking share from both Safari and IE, probably because of people that are using both Mac OS X and Windows.
  • I have a hard time believing anyone reading this blog is using Windows 98, NT, ME, or OS 9
  • Unknown OS must be lumping in a lot of different systems, but I bet Linux makes up the majority
This is going to be a very interesting year to see how these numbers change.

Thoughts on Stephen King's Dark Tower Series

I have been reading Stephen King's Dark Tower Series my whole life, and tonight I finally closed the loop and finished the last book in the 7 volume series. This is a long post, so if you read this blog feel free to skip this, this is just something I have to write. For those of you that don't really know The Dark Tower series, it is a unique (to my knowledge) synthesis of westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. In a nutshell it's King's magnum opus. This story, this universe, nearly all of his fiction revolves around, though he says he didn't always know it. King published the first book, The Gunslinger, in 1982. Subsequent volumes came in 4-6 year intervals until the last 3 books. He wrote these in quick succesion after the accident that nearly killed him, even going back to The Gunslinger and expanding on the original work. He says in either a new forward to reissued books 1-4 or in the afterwood to Wolves of the Calla he felt obligated to finish it before he died. Which was great news because I, like I think a lot of King fans, had given up hope that he would ever finish the story. Two thoughts came to mind when I heard the news he got hit 1) I hope he survives because 2) he MUST finish The Dark Tower. When news hit that he was finally going to complete the series, I was elated but a little bit apprehensive that after all the time had passed since the last book, Wizards and Glass, that he could get back on track. I reaquired the first 4 books in the series and started the task of rereading them, it has been a long time since I had thought of Roland and The Dark Tower. I hardly ever read fiction more than once, but I felt obligated to go into book 5, Wolves of the Calla, with the story fresh in my head. This is going to sound weird, like all thoughts your not sure anyone else shares and are afraid to be looked at strange for asking, but subconsciously, I would periodically think of the opening line from The Gunslinger and wonder when or if King would get back to Roland's world: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." That sentence has always felt like magic to me, just as much as "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away". Imagine my surprise when King started to reveal that a lot of his work is cross-linking to The Dark Tower. This was something I had long suspected after reading The Stand after I had read The Wastelands or Wizards and Glass. I eagarly read through Books 5 and 6, Song of Susannah, and was completely engrossed. True, I thought a little too much time was spent in Calla with the town folk. This was the first Dark Tower story in 6 years, and here we are camped out in this backwater town, let's get to the Dark Tower! But King ended the book extremely strong, and he of course had to lay some foundation for books 6 and 7. I thought Song of Susannah was great, though I was skeptical of King including himself in the story. And then Book 7, The Dark Tower, was released in Sep. 2004. I rushed out and got it and promptly put it on my bookshelf. Like Roland on final approach to the tower, I simply wasn't ready to know yet. I was afraid the book would consume me and I wouldn't be able to do anything else until it was done, it has happened before with King books, The Dark Tower in particular. But with a long bus commute into NYC now, it seemed like the perfect time, and I relished every page. Now into the actual plot: Spoiler Alert! I loved the ending of this story. It was truly something I didn't expect to happen through all the pages, characters, and plot twists. As Roland steps through the door at the top of the tower with his name on it, and loops back around to chasing Randall Flagg across the desert, I just thought that was brilliant. Not at first, but once I let it sink in, I am completely satisfied. Especially since this turn of wheel of ka is different, that is true since Roland has the horn that Cuthbert dropped on Jerico Hill in the the version of the story in the books. Are all the loose ends wrapped up? No. Should they have been? I don't think so, stories that try and accomplish that usually feel to me like the writer is just dotting the i's and crossing the t's. The Dark Tower has always felt out of control, like life itself. King in the story and his afterword talks a bit defensively about including himself in the story, but I think it was a bold move. Roland's anger toward Stephen King's laziness regarding getting the story done hit a real nerve with me, it felt like King was channeling the frustrations of Dark Tower fans and telling us he got it and he was sorry he took so long. The deaths of Eddie and Jake, I am not kidding, made me tear up a bit. I felt like I was part of the ka-tet, so when they died I felt like a piece of me was gone too. Once the story moved on from there, I anticipated a real confrontation with the Crimson King. This was my only real disappointment in the book, Patrick Danville. This character comes out of nowwhere and just erases Rolands mortal enemy, send Susanah off to another universe with different but of course connected Eddie and Jake's, and then walks away from the tower with no explanation. I am not angry, as I write this I think of possible meanings here, like was Patrick Gan, and his suffering at the hand of Dandelo a metaphor for the suffering of the Beams and the Tower itself? Perhaps, or maybe King didn't know what else to do so he invented Patrick so he wouldn't have to kill Susannah and end the series in total death and with Roland back in Mid-World seeking the tower. I loved the Mordred tension, and I thought completely apt that Oy sacrifice himself to this monster for Roland's sake. So to sum up, I think highly worth the investment in time, especially if you like any previous stand-alone (to your knowledge) King books. Or think Lord of the Rings with a whole lota twistin', and I think most geeks can get into The Dark Tower. Between this, no new Star Trek (big or small screen) after May for the first time in my life, and the last Star Wars film (at least by George Lucas) coming out in May, closure has come or will finally come on adventures I have been living with a long time. In truth, you give a part of yourself up to the stories you find yourself pulled into. I will miss the anticipation of seeing what these universes hold, but a part of me is also looking forward to reclaiming the emotional investment from these long running tales for new adventures, both real and imaginary. Perhaps I'll see you out there...