28 Nov

French Customer Service?

Glenn Fleishman:

"So what I’ve been told is that it’s considered incredibly bourgeois to offer good service. It’s a lessening of oneself to be subservient in that fashion. This may be an interaction of culture problem, as the best service I receive in the States is service of equals: it’s a salesperson or server who acts as a partner in a transaction, neither currying my favor (although friendliness is part of what I want), nor pushing me into decisions I don’t want to make."

Many Europeans are is still stuck in 19th century thinking, class warfare and all. If you win, I must lose, right? What’s amazing is that all Frenchmen who go to the US are delighted by the friendly and professional customer service there. But we Europeans are so much more civilized we grew obnoxiousness into an art form, you see.

27 Nov

A New Kind of Productivity Application

O’Reilly:

"One of the off-the-cuff observations I made in the variant of my talk Watching the Alpha Geeks that I delivered at the O’Reilly Mac OS X Conference was that the iApps represent a new kind of productivity application. […] Apple knows that the new frontier of productivity is not a new spreadsheet, word processor, or email client, but rather, tools for managing a consumer’s growing array of digital assets: photos, music, and videos. […] So there’s a brave new world ahead, not only for Apple users, but also for Windows users as Microsoft and various other software developers get into the act."

If you comment on the Windows marketplace, it would be nice to actually know what’s happening in there, which is by design a lot bigger than what does Microsoft itself (yeah, this is not the Apple universe, there are actually more than a few ISPs working on top of the Windows platform). Look at Helium for a powerful mp3 metadata management application. Its first release is more than 18-month old. I don’t have enough pictures to really need something like iPhoto but I’d be surprised if no Windows equivalent existed. I’ll investigate when we’ll have bought our new digital camera (beside our webcam that does low-end photos and our camcorder that’s too bulky for practical non-tripod photo use). Anyway the point is that a strict Apple vs. Microsoft application comparison is irrelevant because there are so many 3rd-party programs to choose from.
These days many people pitch the Mac as a cutting-edge platform with unique applications without counterpart on Windows. It’s not only tiring, it’s plainly misinformed. It’s about as stupid as people who claimed five years ago Linux would take over the desktop. Where are they now? Right, nowhere. I’m still waiting to hear about anything you can do on a Mac you can’t do on a PC.
11/28/02 update: for good Windows photo apps, Carlos points to ACDSee ($50) for its management features, or the free FotoTime.

26 Nov

Some Media Do Too Much Meta

Look at this CBS Marketwatch article. All the options attached to company names (BUD: news, chart, profile) are (ARSE: news, chart, profile) overwhelming (OVER: news, chart, profile) and come in the way of readability. How about showing the links as a menu when the user hovers the mouse cursor on hotlinked names? Or putting some of that information as hover text, much like Trillian does with stock quotes?
Trillian Pro screenshot

26 Nov

Special Report: Peer-to-peer evolves

Infoworld:

"Peer-to-peer is becoming a foundation technology, weaving its strengths — including flexibility and better utilization of existing resources — into the enterprise technology fabric. The challenge lies in shedding the stigma still attached to the p-to-p name and carving out a foothold in the business world."

26 Nov

Reporters calling Jupiter for Commentary is Like Asking Enron About Business Ethics

Patrick Hurley, Salon:

"What is laughable is that anybody would listen or care what an analyst from Jupiter would have to say. Jupiter and its brethren were the ones that essentially predicted everything incorrectly as it pertained to the Internet. […] A good strategy would be to find out what Jupiter is suggesting and do the opposite. It seemingly isn’t accountable for its projections and simply "adjusts" them. And yet…newspapers still call Jupiter for commentary. It’s like calling Enron to ask for commentary on business ethics."

Much as I think Salon is in trouble, Hurley has a mouthful here. Jupiter analyst quotes is most often a mark of journalistic laziness, just short of the paramount sin: Rob Enderle quotes.

26 Nov

The “Evolution of the Monitor” — Microsoft’s Smart Displays

Sandy & Dave’s Report:

"While Smart Displays can handle most PC applications, they can’t handle wireless video. Video is not currently supported by the remote desktop protocol (RDP) which provides the link from the PC to the remote display."

So that’s why. I discovered it the hard way, when I tried to use Adobe Premiere through Remote Desktop. I hadn’t investigated why it wouldn’t work properly. I guess they’ll fix this in a future version of RDP.
I like the Mira concept, and I’ll probably get one once they reach $500 for 15". I hope they come with a stand and the ability to work as an additional monitor in an extended desktop environment. I’d hate to see it sit idle most of the time, because we’re spending a lot less time on the couch than at the desktop. Since my current Winamp setup takes 1,018×691 pixels (screenshot), it could almost use its own monitor (it’s taking a good chunk of my second monitor as it is.)
Right now most of my MP3s (80GB out of 100) and movies (60GB out of another 100) are stored on CDRs. I’m going to start storing some stuff on DVD-Rs, but when we have 1TB hard drives for $200 (3 to 4 years down the road) I’ll move everything back to a big fat media server. By trend growths, and assuming similar file sizes (i.e. no new revolutionary codecs), my collection should grow by 200GB every year, taking me to about 10,000 albums (up from 2,000) and 750 movies (up from 150).
In other words, by the middle of this decade average consumers will be able to own a tremendous music collection and a decent movie selection, all available at their fingertips. Too bad the current content industries fight hard not to enjoy the ride. Now the question is how to take the sound itself where you want it in the home. We should be able to choose from sets of speakers alternatively or concurrently served by the media PC. Maybe as an evolution of X10?
11/27/02 update: wireless Bluetooth headphones, wireless speakers would be nice too.

26 Nov

[Sandy & Dave’s Report] PRISMIQ – Media Appliances for the Networked Home

"But if you want to insert a DVD in your PC and watch it on the TV, the PRISMIQ system doesn’t let you do it. It’s not that Prismiq overlooked the capability. Rather it’s because the encryption mechanism on copyrighted DVDs prevents you from transferring digital information from the PC to another device over a network. That’s where those 5C and DRM acronyms start playing a role."
Believe it or not, I only discovered this recently while traveling away from home. There’s a video out on my Toshiba Tecra notebook, so I had taken a couple DVDs with me to watch at my inlaws’ place (they don’t have a DVD player.) Imagine my wrath when, after much fumbling with cables and all (their TV didn’t have front connections) I was able to view the desktop on the TV, but the DVD wouldn’t play!
Message to Hollywood: you’re thieves, plain and simple. I have every legal right to use a $3,000 notebook to watch DVDs on a TV. You’re stealing that right from me by crippling your product. Since the French judicial system is already swamped with far more serious cases they take years to (mis)handle, forget about legal recourse, DVDs will be obsolete by then (I’m not joking, it can take two years to eject tenants who stopped paying the rent, and criminal cases drag on for 5+ years.)
There’s no honor among thieves, so don’t come whining at the 100+ divx movies I downloaded for free. If store owners were that rude in front of their customers, they’d probably get punched in the face. The movie and music industries can get away with it only because their executives are safely shielded from the actual customer by several channel layers.
12/19/02 update: Sony NetMD doesn’t let you move files to your PC. "Go Create. Then Stick it Up."

23 Nov

Germany’s Jobless Racket

Newsweek:

"As long as the government is more interested in shuffling the jobless between useless projects and playing with the numbers instead of tackling real labor market reform, it will be a long time before Germany is working again. Absurd laws such as those passed last week only feed the vicious cycle, in which ever higher taxes to finance ever more spending and ever more bureaucracy destroys more and more jobs. For Germany the choice is stark: cut this monstrosity down to size, or pay the price of stagflation. An underemployed and overtaxed Germany will only drag itself down

21 Nov

Sweet Dreams

Context Mag:

"Accor, which runs economy and midmarket hotels, generated $90 million of revenue through online bookings in 2001, double its online revenue in 2000. Online sales so far this year are running at 3 1/2 times last year

20 Nov

See how they vote

Stephen Dulaney:

"YahooMegaVote an email subscription service where you provide your zip code and the service returns an email with the names of your representatives in Washington and how they voted on the recent bills."

The level of transparency in US politics keeps defying the mind of the continental European I can’t escape being.