Who can save Flash? Adobe of course

Posted in Design, Tech, Web at 11 pm

This whole tempest-in-a-teapot over Flash on the iPad/iPhone platform is silly.

1) Any site that shows a ‘missing plug-in’ error is seriously behind the times. Planar.com’s Flash banner drops back to a JPEG with a clickable image map. Anything else would be criminal. (But, don’t look at our Control Room site just now…) The same fallback plan should be made for ANY plug-in: SilverLight, QuickTime, Java.

Mantra #7: If it’s not HTML + IMG, then it should have some back-up in case the content isn’t available.

2) Adobe makes money on authoring tools, tools of creation. When Robert Scoble asks Can Flash Be Saved he left out a crucial distinction: Flash the Authoring tool (and Flex, I suppose) vs. Flash Player the plug-in software for a multitude of platforms. All Adobe needs to do is re-target the Authoring tool to put out Canvas-based HTML 5/SVG/SMIL/JavaScript.

Suddenly they are free from having to support the development of the Player. Maybe they can even volunteer to A) Contribute to the open-source toolkits that would improve the H5/S/S/JS stack to the point where it reaches parity with Flash’s current features, B) add that support directly into the Flash Plugin for IE8, thereby removing one hurdle to getting that stack adopted universally.

Adobe can save Flash, that’s who.


Super Sale at Amazon

Posted in Tech at 12 am

And the kicker is that I actually ordered this when I saw it.

Amazon listing for a hard drive, list price of $18,545. On sale for $69.99.

Amazon listing for a hard drive, list price of $18,545. On sale for $69.99.


Interconnected publishing

Posted in Media, Meta, Web at 6 pm

I’ve been working on getting my WordPress/Twitter/FaceBook spaces working together and I think I’ve hit on a pretty good system.

It comes down to two sides: how do I publish things and how do other people read and stay up with that stream (as underwhelming as it is.)

For the first side of the coin, I like to publish three different types of content: Super short stuff and pithy comments which obviously fit into Twitter’s paradigm quite well. For timely commentary on things and longer thoughts, WordPress is a good choice and is the latest in a long series of journaling and blogging software tools that I’ve either used or built myself. Finally, longer form pieces essays or research or archival stuff seems to make more sense as web pages on my personal site.

For the audience side of things, I’m seeing 4 or 5 different methods that people use to keep up with individuals. Web site reading from bookmarks would be one (Hi Mom and Dad!). People who do a lot of web reading might use an RSS feed reader (Hi Micah!). Others may rely on Twitter to keep up with me and some others may want to keep an eye on things only through FaceBook. There are other channels like MySpace, but the ones I’m listing here seem to be the right ones for my audience.

So what have I connected? 1) I’ve connected FaceBook to Twitter using Twitter’s application. Next I added TwitterTools to my WordPress install and that takes care of cross posting between Twitter and WordPress entries. So now I can post tweets and they show up in my FaceBook status and they show up in WordPress on a once daily basis. (This might be annoying to some, so I’ll have to keep an eye on this and perhaps reduce the re-post rate to once a week or so.)

As for research and essays, I’ll post them to my site and then make an annotation here (as I’ve usually done over the past few years.) So if we follow the chain, 1) a page added to my site leads to 2) an announcement on my WordPress blog, which 3) triggers a Twitter tweet, and then finally 4) updates my FaceBook status.



AT&T 3G downtime in PDX?

Posted in Tech at 10 pm

After a quiet day, too quiet, I was unable to check mail or Twitter away from work or home. Tonight I switched off the 3G network and went pure EDGE, kickn it oldskool as they say. Suddenly text msgs, voicemails and other stuff comes flooding in. Was this just me?


Retrocool Product Idea of the Day

Posted in Media, Tech at 11 am

You’ve seen adapters that allow SD cards to fit into CompactFlash slots or even into PC Card/PCMCIA slots. I remember seeing adapters that would play regular cassette tapes in track players and an mp3 player that was shaped like a cassette tape that would play music off of SD cards. Well I want:

An adapter shaped like a vinyl LP that would let you play CDs on a turntable. That would be pretty awesome, me thinks.


Transitions to the future

Posted in Meta, Tech at 1 am

I’m slowly getting all of my personal publishing moved under my RossOlson.com domain. This will include this journal of course, but also the appropriate pages from OrderSomewhereChaos.com. I’m hoping to have this done in the next year or so. Obviously I’m trying to do this as quickly as possible and only making small amounts of headway.


Wireless publishing

Posted in Media, Tech, Web at 8 pm

It seems that by adding a little extra code to my .htaccess file was all I needed to finally get the WordPress app running on my iPhone. The answer was in a thread on the WordPress support site. This applies to v2.7.1 at least in my case. This thread titled xmlrpc.php 403 Forbidden error noted a (now closed) MSN Groups thread with the answer. Fortunately ‘mkenney’ the OP included the actual code:

[Files xmlrpc.php]
SecFilterInheritance Off

(Just change the square brackets to angle brackets and slip this into your .htaccess file)

My efforts were complicated by my web host who turned off access to the file but made it look like a “404 File not found” error rather than the real error: “403 Forbidden” which sounds far more ominous.

The way to discover this for was to open the URL to the xmlrpc file directly in Safari and then bring up the Activities window which showed the text “forbidden” that was otherwise hidden from view. What tangled webs, indeed.


TiVo, Portland, Comcast and Digital, oh my

Posted in Media, Tech at 3 am

[Originally posted to the TiVo help forums.]

If you are in Portland Oregon and are missing channels 32-99 of your extended Basic (analog) cable through your TiVo, continue reading below.

On Friday March 6th, your TiVo’s guide was told that Comcast’s Analog Channels had been reduced to channels 2-31. You may have gotten a TiVo message saying that ‘Channel 32 (Versus) has been dropped’.

This schedule change has happened about 4 months too early. Comcast is planning on removing the 32-99 channels from analog and broadcasting them ONLY in digital. (Note: this is a different transition from the one that is going on with BROADCAST channels.) Most all of the cable companies are going to digital transmission on their own networks. Comcast in Portland is planning on doing this during the summer of 2009. Comcast is offering two free DTAs (Digital Transport Adapters) to every subscriber. I picked up one at the office on NE Sandy.

Because the guide information’s publisher jumped the gun, you are now stuck with a TiVo that thinks it only has channels 2 – 31. In order to get this fixed, you will need to do one of the following:

A) Wait until the guide is fixed. (TiVo and Tribune Media have been notified, though adding your voice may speed up the process.) I was told the updates to the guide data only happen after 4 to 5 business days. Considering the issue was reported on Friday, I’m guessing that the earliest we would see this fixed in Thursday, March 12th or as late as Monday, March 16.

B) Get the DTA converter box. This box is meant to provide the digital equivalent of extended basic service to your television. You don’t get the On Demand stuff or the music channels, but you do get your full channels 2 – 99 back. You can re-run the Guided Setup to get this box configured. (Takes about 40 minutes if you do everything right the first time. A lot of that is waiting for the guide data to come down.)

If you get the DTA from Comcast and try to set it up, be sure to select “Comcast Digital Converter” as the name of the box. NOTE: In other threads you may see this referred to as manufactured by Pace. While this is correct, you cannot use Pace as the Set-Top Box manufacturer in the guided setup. Read the TiVo’s screen very closely: “What is the name of the company on the front of the Set Top Box?” That name is Comcast, not Pace. I thought I was being smart by using Pace, but that’s exactly wrong. You must use the “Comcast Digital Converter” as the name/manufacturer of the converter box. I spent the better portion of 6 hours trying to get the (****) thing to work before realizing my error.


Minimizing the Problem

Posted in Tech at 10 pm

The issues with the ongoing miniaturization of electronic devices leads to a situation where if the device is to continue to evolve, it must make one of two leaps:

A) Integration: Integration is the path that we see the iPhone taking us down as many other tools are doing. You can’t hardly find a cell phone that is only a phone now. Your average digital camera has audio playback of MP3s. Your average MP3 player also plays videos. My phone is a combination address book, note pad, camera, photo album, movie player, music player, weather reporter, stock ticker, scoreboard, text messenger, pager, flashlight, and watch.

B) Wireless interfaces or control at a distance: voice-activated interfaces are the most common way of dealing with miniaturization or other situations that are hands free. Remember, operating hands free can be by choice, not dictated by the situation as with phones in automobiles. The advances in voice-activated dialing from cars has migrated to Bluetooth headsets. Once we get used to talking to our appliances, everything will be more easily controlled. Think of microwave ovens with an interface you can tell “cook this for 3 minutes” and you don’t have to figure out which particular combination of buttons that specific model uses.

Car keys are evolving into key fobs that simply unlock a car as you approach with the fob in your pocket or handbag. By why have a fob-sized device when you only need something large enough to hold a battery. Or take it a step further with an RFID-based sliver of silicon that uses radio wave itself to power the transmitter.

Every mainstream video game console today comes with wireless controllers. The next big leap in connecting home entertainment systems is wireless using W-USB or WiFi. Network Attached Storage like Apple’s TimeCapsule take the storage of digital information and put it in the back room, away from the physical interface elements entirely.

In my next post, I’ll run through some of the effects that these changes will have on some of our current devices and see what the future might bring to them as well as what additional devices may appear.


Observations on miniaturization

Posted in Tech at 10 pm

Most electronic devices shrink until they reach one of two minimum sizes. 1) The size of the removable medium they play or 2) the size of the necessary physical interface.

Example #1: the Mac mini from Apple. The dimensions of the physical box are largely the size of a cigar box, squared-off. The width and depth of the device are largely dictated by the minimum size necessary to contain a CD/DVD removable optical disc. The height seems to be the minimum necessary to stack all of the ports and connections on the face opposite the slot-loading drive. The Nintendo Wii also is hardly larger than optical disc drive.

Example #2: the Apple iPhone and its clones is largely a screen with a phone, web browser, music player stuck behind it. The physical dimensions are largely dictated by the size of the screen. There’s a bit of room at the top and the bottom that’s not screen that could be removed, but there’s no room left to right. The depth of the phone is seriously minimal, but even that could be reduced—as Apple recognized when they brought out the second generation model where the only physical dimension that was changed way the average depth of the device.

Example #3: Televisions are largely the size of the display area. Some of them add more for speakers and control buttons, but they are nothing like the old ‘console televisions’ that have been gone a long time now. The vast majority of the human interface for these devices has been transferred to the remote controls (which are like a plague of locusts in our living room).

Example #4: The portability of a medium has been a factor in terms of it’s length of adoption. This is mostly driven home by the movement of 12″ vinyl records and LaserDiscs out of the mainstream formats, replaced by the hand-sized optical disc. But going back even further we can look at hard drives (which started as 24-inch platters in the IBM 350) or floppy disks (starting at 8 inches). Even removable Flash RAM started out at at PCMCIA/PC Card size which is just larger than a credit card and are currently available as MicroSD cards the size of the fingernail on my pinkie finger. I don’t see a need for SD to get much smaller since after a certain point, it becomes too difficult to grasp onto, much less manipulate such a small piece of plastic into a slot.

William Gibson talked about ‘microsofts’ in his early fiction, which were essentially memory storage in the form factor of a toothpick. The smallest-volume item that is made for consumers that I can think of are Tic-Tacs. Can you think of something smaller?

For media, there is no minimum requirement for the size since the physical interaction is with the device that used the media, not the media itself.

So what does this tell us about upcoming electronics? What are the ways around this miniaturization limit? I’ll talk about that in my next entry.