31 Aug

Digital camera blues

Scott Rosenberg:

"The frustrating thing was, there was nothing I could do. "SYSTEM ERROR" was not even listed in the instruction manual’s "troubleshooting guide." I plugged "coolpix 775 system error" into Google and found this depressing list of user complaints on the Reviewcentre site. Seems that this problem is endemic to this camera."

I had the same experience when my first IBM hard drive crashed. A possibly useful application of the Google and Amazon APIs would be to parse the later product database, then run SKUs through Google queries for "problem" or "error." This is of course a very crude implementation, e.g. a page that says "Enermax power supply: no problem!" shouldn’t be counted as negative feedback. The challenge is to tap all this unstructured data and mine it automatically. Now when I research items I look for potential negative feedback to try and avoid bad surprises.

30 Aug

Why Tablet PCs will succeed

Anil Dash:

"Resting against the edge of a conference table, balanced on the knee of a crossed leg, tossed towards the middle of the table for emphasis, or slowly pushed across the table in a conciliatory gesture of resignation, that legal pad is a prop. […] And the Tablet PC is the first computer to recognize this essential bit of business playacting. Microsoft has for years been making hardware that recognizes human factors in a way that the Macintosh has, frustratingly, been amazingly unaware of. Mapping page navigation to a scroll wheel makes infinitely more sense than having a user target a tiny scroll button. Most bits of GUI widgetry probably ought to be represented in hardware, as well, if only to mitigate the Fitts of apoplexy induced by the high cost that current user interfaces exact for even the simplest of errors."

08/31/02 update: Anil follows up on Apple’s missed hardware opportunities.

30 Aug

Blog subscriptions

Henry Copeland:

"Newly launched Blog Network charges you $3 a month to access its stable of blogs and publish your own. Bloggers get 50% of the take in proportion to their traffic. […] If enough people joined, the math might work. Assuming 1000 bloggers and 9,000 subscribers join, bloggers get to split a pot of $15,000 a month. A power law distribution (the norm for site traffic distribution) would yield roughly these results: 1 blogger gets $4,000 (net $3997), 10 get $400 (net $397), 100 get $40 (net $37), 1000 get $3 (netting 0.)"

24 Aug

Lusting for more PC input gear (turning into the Enterprise Command Center)

Lately, I’ve been thinking of adding more ways to manage interaction with our PCs for multimedia consumption and creation. Here are some items I’m considering buying:

  • ATI Remote Wonder (review) to access DVD, divx and mp3 playback software why not at the keyboard. This could make the act of watching divx movies on the TV a practical reality (running between the PC and TV sucks, I don’t want to bother converting files to VCD, but this means my next TV will need to have an S-Video port, cause I’d rather not mess with Peritel adapters again).
  • Contour Design ShuttlePro (reviews) looks slick for video editing, and it could prove "useful" (some amount of irony here) for gaming as well.
  • Tascam US-428 Interface Controller (review), an integrated USB low-latency sound card and control surface, seems a good base to build my home studio around. It’s supposed to work for video editing too though it’s not its primary purpose, and I wonder if it could enable mp3 DJ-ing too (both through keystroke emulation support).
    The people who claimed that the PC would die by a thousand cuts inflicted by dedicated hardware had it all wrong. The exact opposite is happening. The PC is finally delivering on its versatility promise, and dedicated environments are migrating to it. As new powerful software makes its way on generic PCs, hardware vendors build specific interfaces to complement the usual keyboard and mouse combination (think of force-feedback wheels and joysticks as other examples, which I happen to already own, freak that I am).
    Moore’s law took time to deliver, and OS stability was of course an issue, but we’re getting there, and and it’s only getting faster in absolute terms. AMD just added 333 MHz to the top of their product range. New hard drives top previous models by dozens of gigabytes, while their prices quickly get down to the same level. You’re basically adding the power of a whole PC each time you change generations (every six months or so). The PC industry is so big that proprietary hardware solutions can’t keep up on price/performance, and more and more, on absolute speed as well. To take just one example, soft samplers (which play back digital sounds of musical instruments) are now simply more powerful than dedicated hardware solutions.
    Then there’s the ease of integration. Having all these tools on the same environment (networked PCs) makes it easier to, say, compose your music then mix it with your video, then integrate the result as an intro to your game mod. BTW, here I’m talking about PCs in the broad sense (including Macs), though I do think that Wintel PCs benefit most from these positive network effects.

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  • 24 Aug

    Honey to my ears…

    Ah, the fretless bass of Carles Benavent playing along with Paco de Lucia (Right now, I’m listening to Solo Quiero Caminar). If you love rhythm, you gotta love flamenco.
    Meanwhile, commercial radio could confidently work under a "five nines" SLA. You’ll get 99.999% of crap, guaranteed, or payola-paying record companies will get their money back.

    23 Aug

    The Weblog Candidate

    Derek Willis:

    "[blogging congressional candidate Tara Sue] Grubb may be an excellent person, and I wish her luck in her race. But bloggers are wrong to anoint her the "Weblog Candidate," which demeans the rest of her campaign […] and actually could mark a setback in the use of weblogs in political campaigns."

    23 Aug

    Reports of Affiliate Programs’ Death Are Greatly Exaggerated


    "Private labeling? Syndicating? Reselling? There are different ways of looking at this changing affiliate business space.
    But the true bottom line to your business and you is this: When you start putting your partners and customers first, then you will truly become successful. Affiliate programs are evolving into ongoing joint ventures. They’re not dead, they’re just growing up."

    Affiliate marketing is a lot closer to channel management than advertising. Amazon has lately been doing several things in that direction (affiliate discussion forums, commissions on third-party sales, the API), while such an understanding isn’t clear at all from Commission Junction (e.g. text link support is rather limited in programs from Half.com or eBay).
    If your goal is to get advertising space at very low or no cost, publishers will see through you. You have to support your affiliates to do some actual selling, which needs context and works best with text links. I won’t give your banners and brand exposure a free ride hoping for accidental impulse sales, because I know they won’t happen. Dell affiliate buttons? As if. People do research before they buy computers, so it’s very unlikely the actual sale will be closed through such links, unless the merchant tracks the contact’s origin even if the first touchpoint occured weeks ago (some merchants use long-lasting cookies, I don’t know the specifics about Dell).
    Bookseller Alibris just migrated from CJ to Linkshare and it’s been hard for them to get the flexible link format I (and probably others) requested, but they eventually made it. It’s strange though that they initially proposed a linking format that couldn’t be automated to support my database of SF&F authors and books, which hints of an advertising mindset, where you build your links manually.
    05/30/05 update: What’s Wrong With Affiliate Marketing sounds like something I could have written.

    22 Aug

    See how record companies handle retirees

    Glenn Reynolds:

    "When [R&B singer Sam] Moore applied for his pension, he was told that he had benefits coming to him. What a relief, he thought. Then he got the bad news. AFTRA was all set to pay him a whopping $67 a month. This is the same AFTRA that now boasts a $1.2 billion surplus."

    To keep in mind next time you hear another moralistic preach by one of these crooks (notice how this designation instantly comes to our minds when we think of record company execs?) who, you know, claim they "do it all for the artists."

    22 Aug

    Overture on the Offensive; Buys Keyword Ads on Rival Google

    Venture Reporter:

    "Paid search listing provider Overture has started advertising its services on rival Google’s website, reports WSJ.com. Overture has bought ads on some search terms relating to the word "ad," as well as the names of some of its competitors, such as Looksmart and FindWhat."

    Excellent! When I saw Google advertise its own system on Overture queries a few months ago (I don’t see that at the moment), I wondered whether Overture might sue, but I didn’t expect this. And they’ll know the system inside out by using it for themselves.