Software, Digital Content, Geopolitics, Economics & More from of a Libertarian Serial Expat and Entrepreneur
I haven’t posted on this blog for a long time, mostly because we’ve kept ourselves quite busy hunting for, then buying and renovating a house in Concón, Chile. After 5 months of remodeling, we finally moved in last month and we’re very happy to have made that choice which satisfies both our heads – we’re convinced it’s a great investment over the long run – and heart – outstanding direct view on the ocean, lots of space, our kids love it. There’s easily two or three years of additional work ahead to get our dream home out of it (and home office – did I mention we’re across the street from the Pacific ocean?) but we’re starting to be nicely settled already.
On the web publishing tech front, we’ve been working with ExpressionEngine for a bit more than a year. We like it for the most part, but still have several unresolved issues: Read the rest of this entry »
I just bought a prepaid data package from Claro, one of the three mobile telcos here in Chile. After fumbling with their settings (their APN for prepago banda ancha is bap.clarochile.cl, not bam.clarochile.cl) I’ve just completed a successful call with my Teliax account on my Nokia E71 to my Vonage account. The chain involved goes something like this:
Nokia SIP call -> Claro 3.5G network -> internet cloud to the US -> Vonage -> more internet cloud back to Chile -> Tutopia DSL -> Cisco ATA 186 -> Philips VOIP841 wireless phone (for whom Vonage is my “landline”, I also have Skype running on it).
There’s probably 20,000 miles worth of roundtrip involved, with data packets going through air, copper and fiber. Try to visualize it. Read the rest of this entry »
Quick notes on apps I’m using with my E71 smartphone:
doesn’t do push. I’m not able to push the new tasks in Gmail yet, but email/contacts/calendar is quite nice already.
I’m planning a trip to the US in April/May (Denver and Miami) and want my phone to support me as much as possible during the trip. I usually rely on a good old piece of paper with all the necessary addresses and phone numbers and what not, but I hope it will act mostly as backup from now on.
Update: I’ve set up Teliax and made a couple test calls, seems pretty good so far. Vonage has seemed on the brink of extinction since pretty much they got started and Skype has never worked quite as well for me (some calls are great, some are crappy, it’s always been more uneven in my experience). Plus, Vonage’s soft phone is not cheap and I’m not sure there’s even one for smartphones. More options means more resilience means less headaches and downtime.
Also: E71 tricks.
Update about push email: Seven sends SMS to the UK in a kind of sneaky way behind your back, and it doesn’t work seamlessly with Devicescape Easy Wifi (at least for me). Not sure it’s going to be my long term solution, especially given it won’t work with messages stored on external memory. I tried Emoze but it doesn’t seem to manage folders, at least not the free product. Next: Profimail.
Gmail + Gears if finally happening. The pieces are really starting to be put together by Google here. Good move.
To help other people from being sold a device that’s not going to be maintained by its manufacturer, let me warn you that some versions of Nokia’s E71 smartphone sold in the US (aka E71-2 NAM) have not received any firmware update since the product was introduced on the market last year. Meaning, known bugs have been fixed for some customers, but I and others are left hanging dry. That’s rich for a $400 unlocked phone sold by one of the biggest ecommerce players in the consumer electronics world (Newegg.com). It’s not like I bought the phone for cheap from the grey market and unlocked it with an unsupported hack.
Nokia is aware of the problem but doesn’t even have a deadline to fix it. I thought they finally meant to be a competitive player in the US but it seems I was wrong. Also, apparently Nokia is too poor to py for decent upgrade servers.
Looks like Palm is back in the game so if Nokia doesn’t get their act together I’ll be on the market again soon for an unlocked phone that can work worldwide and is actually properly supported by its vendor.
02/15/09 update: proceeded with the finally available update. Going through applications to see things are working fine, Gmail settings didn’t make it even after backup/restore (since the E71 doesn’t save user settings through firmware updates – yeah it’s stupid at that price range).
After Zoho, Google. Now we’re talking: System Status Dashboard, Quota Details Page, and a Billing Sneak Preview. These quotas and billings make me think Google must have hired someone who used to work in the mainframe business at IBM. There’s a pretty decent roadmap and feature release log too.
Someone knows what they’re doing in this Google department. If they manage to stay aligned with Salesforce.com, the Google Apps/Force.com combo could really threaten Microsoft and Oracle a few years from now.
Google Apps + App Engine + Gears + Chrome + Native Client + network investments, they’re not toying around. There’s a deliberate web application strategy at work here with more chances to succeed than Netscape ever had in the 90′s. This is a much, much better direction for Google than weak wiki-based offerings or pondering whether to buy Digg.com. I’m starting to be excited again by a refocused Google that seems to gain from the pressure brought by the recession. It helps that Yahoo and Microsoft have been more inept at search marketing than I thought was possible, but Google is starting to show fresh vision and good execution outside of Adwords.
Kudos to Zoho for introducing a detailed dashboard monitoring the health of their online applications. I’m very pleased to see more and more web app vendors delivering on transparency I advocated as early as 2001 for online apps and services.
At Watershed we have our own mini health portal with tabs for our internal and external apps. Most of our vendors now at least have some sort of blog keeping track of scheduled downtime and unforeseen issues. We’re lobbying those who still don’t so they get on board. And this is part of my default checklist each time I’m considering potential online software vendors.
Off-topic notice to the non-existent readers mourning the long-gone days when I used to blog more often. You can get more frequent Olivier fixes on Twitter. One liners work well for me as I rarely find the time to research and write longer blog posts anymore. Speaking of micro-blogging, we’re also satisfied Yammer users, which is really filling a gap for distributed teams.
Jon Udell just experienced some of the practical limitations getting in the way of sharing and representing structured data easily that I’ve been running into myself. To produce an entry about Circuit City’s store closures, I had to spend a lot of time massaging the source data (coming from a PDF) in Excel so that it was properly mappable and chartable. Tasks that add little value and should take 5 minutes easily balloon into hours of menial work to renormalize and restructure data that should have been published as csv or xml in the first place. “Fake” digital content is going to get in the way of publishers for the foreseeable future. The challenge is to optimize workflow to get a decent production cost/time for enhanced news coverage. It’s all about making things replicable.
In: web apps26 Sep 2008
I’ve looked at online databases and spreadsheets rather extensively a couple of months ago, and DabbleDB had hands down the most powerful yet usable user interface of the bunch, significantly ahead of what Zoho or Google (among others) have to offer. Too bad DabbleDB is right now heavily focused on private use. Its dynamic features cannot be embedded in a high-volume public site though it’s on their roadmap to support such scenarios. All you can share publicly are static snapshots which don’t reflect the added value of what their UI does in the backend. Their pivot table-like functionality and mapping integration not only show the way of what modern intranets should embed – this is also what professional online news publishing should be about.
Now, look at their snapshot archive. It’s a calendar-based interface (no doubt inspired by Windows Restore) that lets you roll back to older versions of your online database. This is, again, a level of control that most web app vendors don’t even think of, let alone execute properly. Go go DabbleDB, you stand above the crowd!
I’m thinking of buying an unlocked Nokia E71 (about $400 at Newegg, the Blackberry Bold isn’t really available unlocked yet at decent prices, and the iPhone has half a dozen dealbreakers for me). I want a device for use in various countries in South America, North America and Europe to have easy voice, email and web access while traveling without constantly needing my laptop. From what reviews report, the E71 can run Skype among other VOIP options, has a real keyboard, isn’t a brick, is a decent email client, mp3 player and GPS, and an OK web browser and camera. I want to avoid at all costs the total rip-off that are overpriced contracts and international roaming, and I just want to own by own damn device without bending backwards to keep it unlocked.
So right now I’m trying to figure out what’s available in the US, and let me tell you, Sprint, T-Online, Verizon and Sprint are competing to win the Most Useless Website award. So I’m begging you, dear reader, to email me with info on how to get 3/3.5G access in the US (most importantly, New England) without a damn yearly contract (ideally, without any sort of contract at all, as sometimes I just spend three days in, say, New York and don’t go back to the US for six months so even a month-to-month PAYG contract is overkill).
Any help appreciated (email, twitter or IM, comments here are broken). Progress, if any, in my quest, will be updated here.
Update: bitching on my blog unlocked the right google query which led me to this, which looks like a winner. Update: or not as it looks like a loophole, but hey AT&T don’t bother even listing PAYG data plans in your GoPhone pages, right? Medianet Unlimited is “unlimited” only if you use a phone without a full-fledged keyboard. Jokers/crooks. But then you have iPhone 3G users doing it. Seems worth a try buying one of the $10 GoPhone.
Update about the E71, it works in Europe and the US because it’s quad band GSM, but 3G is an either/or proposition:
- Europe: E71-1 RM-346 = GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 900/2100 HSDPA
- US: E71-2 RM-357 = GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 850/1900 HSDPA
Well at least Chile is running HSDPA 1900 too, and I don’t go back to Europe much these days. Can’t have it all I guess, but what a headache.
I'm CEO of an online trade publishing firm in the marketing and defense verticals. We try to make news and data digestible and useful in an environment that is more noisy each day. This personal blog mixes my thoughts and interests on politics, business, software, and more, based on my business and personal experiences. Over the years I have posted items that turned out spectacularly wrong, and a few posts that stood the test of times better. Personal views only.