Updates from March, 2010 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Hober Short 5:30 pm on 31 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    This graph is an exclamation point to our earlier discussions about successful companies coasting, and particularly your dire predictions, Dad, about the iPhone’s future.

    First, notice RIM’s tanking market share. They’ve been trying to stay relevant with the Storm (and rapidly iterating on the platform to produce the Storm 2 a year later), but it just ain’t working. Blackberries are still very much a cell phone for Suits. You don’t buy one, you get chained to one.

    Ditto Windows Mobile.

    But the impending confluence of the “Android” and “iPhone” lines on the graph should give us all pause.

  • Pat 1:02 pm on 31 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Thanks to the Great White Snark, we now have a Venn diagram that defines the differences between dorks, geeks, and nerds. I think it’s reasonably accurate. What do you fellows say?

    • Hober Short 3:33 pm on 31 March 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Works for me.

  • Pat 12:16 pm on 28 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Check out Ed Driscoll’s interview of actor Adam Baldwin. He talks about the political climate in Hollywood, why he likes Twitter, and how his political views have evolved over the years. Stanley Kubrick, R. Lee Ermey, and Ronald Reagan are mentioned.

  • Hober Short 6:11 pm on 26 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Some physical recalculations have shown that Apollo 13, had it been unable to make its course correction on the return trip to Earth, would have spent weeks in an eccentric orbit before burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, somewhere over Cuba.

  • Pat 9:30 pm on 25 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    That’s pretty much the way I’m thinking about Palm these days. On the most recent This Week in Google, Leo Laporte delivered what amounted to a eulogy for the company. Everyone agrees that WebOS is great, but Palm brought the WebOS phones to market too late. At this point, the iPhone and Android dominate the smartphone market, with Blackberry and Windows Mobile dividing up the leftovers. Palm isn’t going to regain any of that lost market share by delivering phones that are merely as good as the iPhone and Nexus One. They need something that’s much better, and they don’t have it.

    Engadget recently laid out a recovery plan for Palm, but I’m not optimistic about the company’s chances.

    If you ask me, TiVo and Palm made the same mistake. They established themselves as the leaders of their respective markets by offering products that no one else could match — and then they coasted for a decade, producing only minor and incremental improvements to those products. While they were being complacent, their competitors overtook them and then left them behind. Now the product that was revolutionary in 1999 is old and busted in 2010, and the fans who have been loyal for all those years are losing patience.

    I hope Steve Jobs is paying attention. The iPhone still is the dominant smartphone, but it’s now three years old, and its updates also have been minor and incremental in nature. Yes, the newer iPhones are faster and have more memory, but the design and user interface haven’t changed significantly. Apple will need to innovate more aggressively if it wants to hang onto the market share it currently owns.

  • Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. 11:35 am on 25 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    I hate to say it, but I think I’m falling out of love with TiVo. I don’t have any complaints about my current TiVo HD, which (mostly) works fine; but I’m beginning to doubt that my next DVR will be a TiVo, because I’m losing faith in the company.

    Engadget has posted their review of the new TiVo Premiere, and while they have some good things to say, the review can best be summarized as “too little, too late.” While the new model has a nicely designed UI, it turns out that the overhaul is superficial: only the top-level menus have been redesigned. Worse than that, the UI is laggy (at least in the initial release), and the essential QWERTY remote isn’t included.

    When you consider the fact that the new UI is pretty much the only thing the Premiere has going for it, this is quite disappointing. Meanwhile, I’ve still heard no firm information about how or when TiVo will address more important issues like compatibility with cable on-demand services.

    I think this passage sums up perfectly the reality that I’ve been unwilling to consider:

    TiVo has almost always defined itself as the shining alternative to garbage cable company DVRs, so much so that its customers willingly give up video on demand to use its more reliable and flexible recording interface. But TiVo’s also historically been the only real alternative — no other company has ever entered the mainstream DVR market with a great product at scale and at a competitive price, and that means TiVo’s never had to really compete against anything except its own extremely popular products. That’s a recipe for timid incremental change, which is exactly what the Premiere feels like — TiVo says it’s reinventing the DVR, but all it’s really done from a consumer perspective is add some nice new (slow) menus to the TiVo HD. The problem is that moving at such a snail’s pace has allowed the cable companies to catch up and consumers to move on; if cheap / free cableco DVRs were TiVo’s greatest existential threat of the past decade, the combination of cheap / free / good cableco DVRs and the online-only content customer might be the fatal blow of this one.

    Brand loyalty is one thing, but as one commenter pointed out, TiVo is not a charity. When it comes time for me to consider my next DVR, I’m going to have to see what else is out there.

  • Hober Short 6:31 pm on 24 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    A couple scientists have gotten creative and tried to document the effect that pretty women have on men in sticky situations:

    Researchers looked at the risk-taking behaviors of 96 young adult men, with an average age of nearly 22, by asking them to do both easy and difficult tricks on skateboards.

    First, the young men performed the tricks in front of another man, then in front of a young, attractive female.

    . . .

    As the researchers expected, the skateboarders took greater risks in the presence of the attractive female, even when they knew there was a greater chance they could crash. Along with this increased risk-taking, the young men had higher testosterone levels when they performed in front of the female than when they did their jumps in front of another guy.

    Note that I say “document” instead of “prove”, because I’m a believer just from personal experience.

    But things like this have always been the nagging voice in the back of my mind against sexually integrating potentially deadly professions like, say, the military. At the very least, it’s worth thinking twice about something that can be shown to make soldiers noticeably more reckless.

    I’m entirely with the idea that we live in an enlightened society that does away with gender roles and stereotypes. But biology will not be ignored. No matter how enlightened you are, it would seem, for a young male, women correlate with testosterone.

    Add bullets to the mix, and it seems like you might get more dead soldiers. On the other hand, a Medal of Honor recipient must have “distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life”. Maybe that’s what we’ll get more of.

    • bxojr 11:23 am on 25 March 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I think biology is on the wrong track here, though: it sounds like the presence of women makes men more likely to indulge in the kinds of activities that are least likely to impress those women. It’s hard to see what this accomplishes, unless there is some adaptive advantage in inducing female eye-rolling.

      • Hazel 1:21 pm on 25 March 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Well sure, it doesn’t make sense now, but it makes perfect sense evolutionarily. Back when there was enough immediate physical danger, the men who could take higher risks (and survive) would have been far more highly valued by women for the purpose of protection. If this didn’t happen, one or both members of the couple died, making reproduction significantly more difficult.

        Don’t ask me why men still try to follow this instinct while women seem to find it futile, but that’s my supposition. Or maybe we still secretly give points for trying and just don’t admit it… hmm…

  • Hober Short 12:11 pm on 23 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    In today’s Technician, a surprising letter to the editor:

    The 2010 Census is more than just a survey. It’s absolutely critical to deciding how to fund our schools, where to build new hospitals, roads and businesses, and how North Carolinians are represented in all levels of government.

    In fact, for every North Carolinian who goes uncounted, North Carolina loses more than $1,500 each year. Every dollar and every Census form counts, especially in these tough times.

    In North Carolina we should receive our 2010 Census forms by March 22. It only takes about 10 minutes to complete the 10 questions, and your personal information will not be shared with any government agency, business or individual.

    My husband, Bob Eaves, and I will fill out the Census form and return it, and I’m asking everyone across the state to do the same. It’s easy, it’s important and it’s secure. The future of every community in North Carolina depends on it.
    Bev Perdue
    governor of North Carolina

    But aren’t most college kids counted on their parents’ census form? So Gov. Perdue’s not actually trying to convince us college students.

    I guess she’s hoping we’ll take these talking points and convince our parents? But then, why advertise in the student paper? Just because it’s free?

    • Pat 12:50 pm on 23 March 2010 Permalink | Reply

      That letter was probably shotgunned to every newspaper in the state. And the Technician printed it because they have space to fill. Everyone involved knows that it’s pointless, but they don’t care.

  • Pat 2:15 pm on 18 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    It’s almost as if Mur Lafferty was listening to our discussion last night about the difference between wannabe writers and real writers. Today she posted this item about a real writer. And by that I mean “a writer who isn’t deterred from writing every day by cancer and chemotherapy.”

    Reflecting on yesterday’s discussion, it occurred to me that someone really should have mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule (from Outliers, which I believe Ben has read). If you’re not familiar with it, Gladwell proposes that the secret to success in any endeavor is to put in about ten thousand hours of practice. If you do that, you will become excellent in whatever it is that your doing. Persistence = success.

    That certainly fits the point I was trying to make about writing, which is that the wannabe writers need to stop dicking around with trivialities like books about writing, writers’ groups, and fancy notebooks or pens . . . and instead just put their butts in chairs and write. Sure, a lot of that writing will be crap, but it all counts toward the ten thousand hours.

    But it also means that Mandy was right. If you stick with your piano lessons and practice diligently, you will become a skilled pianist. And it doesn’t actually matter whether you do this because you’re self-motivated or because your parents forced you. All that matters is that you put in those ten thousand hours.

  • Hober Short 1:24 pm on 17 March 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Today’s Penny Arcade is a fairly obvious illustration of the implications of the Pokewalker. Although I rolled my eyes when I heard a new Pokemon game was coming out with a formula virtually unchanged in twelve years, that was because no one told me about this.

    In short, the Pokewalker is a Pokemon-themed pedometer that rewards the wearer–with in-game benefits–for every step they take throughout the day. Every hour spent outside running around equates to more in-game experience, items, and Pokemon. To quote Tycho from Penny Arcade,

    As a peripheral, no sale. As a pack-in [with the Pokemon DS cartridge], it’s a manifestation of tactical prowess so stunning that it borders on precognition. Young people benefit on multiple fronts, surely – but parents? Brother, we get paid for days.

    On a related note: I spent yesterday home with my girlfriend playing Super Mario Galaxy with her while she recovered from dental surgery. This is a game with a fantastically asymmetric multiplayer component that allows a second person to help collect in-game currency by pointing at it on the screen. It is a cooperation that is both devilishly simply and amazingly strategic. Let me just say I was most distressed when I had to manage both aspects of the game (platforming and collecting) by myself after my cohort went to sleep.

    Also, despite Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine being in 3D, they are not recognizably similar in gameplay. This is a game where virtually every level involves navigating the surface of spheres, cylinders, spheroids, and cubes. Except, that is, when they decide to put you on a manta ray and have you race around a course of water hovering in space, held there by the magic of stars.

    Is anyone really in the same market as Nintendo? I like Modern Warfare games as much as the next guy, but comparing the gaming experiences of the Wii and DS (including things like the Pokewalker) to anything else the competition can cook up seems fundamentally dishonest at this point.

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