I’m surprised

When I wrote Discarded Tech a few days ago, I mentioned the virtual uselessness of floppy disks.

An Silicon.com article from today echoes this sentiment, but includes a statistic – which, if correct – is very surprising to me:

The global market for floppy disks has been in decline since the late 1990s, with 700 million estimated to have been sold last year compared with more than two billion in 1998.

Floppy disks to disappear from PC World, Silicon.com. Jan. 30, 2007

The surprising part – to me – is that so many floppy disks were sold last year relative to the peak: 0.7 billion this year vs. 2.0 billion in 1998, a peak year.

Sure, a 50% plus decline, but my personal experience is about a 99% decline since 1998.

I don’t even use Zip disks, which – for a few years – supplanted the floppy disks.

Now it’s USB thumb drive, burn to CD or DVD disc, FTP, G-mail and so on.

I carry a floppy in my briefcase at all times (and a Zip drive and a thumb drive); haven’t had to replace it anytime recently.

Those stats sound suspect to me…

Random Thoughts

Anand Tucker, director

Based on a Steve Martin novella, this adaption – starring Martin, Claire Danes and Jason Schwartz – is a disaster.

Maybe it was trying to be true to the book (I haven’t read), but there were too many “What the hell….” moments, too many voice-overs by Martin to explain what was obvious, and no true explorations of the characters.

I like Martin and Danes, but I’ll never watch this again, that’s for sure.

This has the flavor of the movie Martin succeeded with – L.A. Story – but everyone stumbles badly here. (I take that back – Danes was pretty believable.)

All movies

The following is just an eclectic firing of neurons that have occurred over the past few days; nothing worth more than a sentence or two.

  • Presidential elections?: We’re barely two months past the mid-term elections, and already the presidential candidates are lining up. And most of the folks running currently hold public office, but are running around the country making speeches and so on; great – our well-oiled government machine at work.
  • iTunes random play isn’t: If I’m on random play and jump down to a Lou Reed song, for example, I’ll hear three or four more Reed songs over the course of the evening. I’ll hear 0-1 Reed songs on an average night.
  • The web is getting boring: I’ve mentioned this before, but I still say it’s true. Even fuckedcompany.com – a must-read site during the Internet boom – is a shadow of its former self. The infrastructure is in place and Pud just publishes a few fucks a week. Whoopee….
  • DRM is dumb: I understand the argument for DRM (digital rights management), I just don’t agree with the argument. I understand the argument for horses to pull horseless carriages, I just don’t agree with the argument.
  • Blogs as abstracts: Back in the day of peer-reviewed science journals, abstract journals – magazines that gave the synopsis of select papers from various disciplines – served a valuable function: No one can read everything (unless an abstracter, and then it’s your only job), so these Cliff Notes of sorts help separate the wheat from the chaff, as well as point out what one may have otherwise totally missed. Blogs – and sites like Google News – serve the same purpose in many ways. While Kottke is way less interesting today than it was a year or two ago, he still has an impressive list of links – with short comments – that give one an overview of what one may have missed; what you might like/not like to read. That’s valuable. A lot of politically oriented blogs work this way, with quick comments on a MSM article, with link to full article. Powerful shit.
  • WWW: You’re Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Do you ever wake up at night and shout, “Holy crap – I can’t believe I began all this!”?
  • Macs are too damn expensive: I like Macs, I love (as a Linux dweeb) the BSD underpinnings (it has built-in SSH!), but the boxes are too damn expensive. To outfit a decidedly lower end Mac – the Mac Mini – in a configuration (more RAM, bigger drive) that makes sense for me, it’d be over $1200 for only a single 160M drive. Ouch. I’d love it, however.

Vista Launch

Vista – Microsoft’s latest bet-the-company product, will finally be released to regular (i.e. non-business) users tonight at midnight.

I could care less, but it’d really not be worth in the effort.

Related: Vista DRM Cracked by Security Researcher (via Slashdot).

It’s going to be an interesting year for DRM makers to stay ahead of the crackers. And I don’t envy Microsoft the task of protecting this new honeypot of an OS – everyone is going to try to hose Vista.

Cats Behaving Badly

Who, me?

Ah, Friday night. Throw the work week under the bus (for a night) and just enjoy.

Perhaps, just cruise the web.

But there is cat barf on the mouse, next to the keyboard, freezing a CD to the desktop.

I hate when that happens.

Yes, it’s Taylor spitting up grass.

And that’s her “Who, me?” look in the picture…

Bad News

By bad news, I mean news that has no business as so-called News.

Ripped from the Web (see highlighted in yellow item):


Is this NEWS? (highlighted in yellow item)

How often the new Speaker of the House blinks?





Is this the Onion or a real news channel?

Apparently, neither. Ouch.

Look at the other headlines (OK, sorta weak) – but is a politician’s eye movements equal to more serious issues??

State of the Union

As I type, President Bush is giving the country an insight into the current state of the union.

I’m not watching. Too political, and – mainly – too painful.

We – the US – has now gots some serious problems, none of which this speech will really address.

Too many rants….

Discarded Tech

Looking around my office, I’m struck by the tech things no longer needed, as well as those that are now essential.

No longer needed:

  • Floppy disks – When is the last time you needed a floppy? To build a boot disk?
  • Mouse pads – Ah, all those funky mouse pads that helped users show their individuality and gave companies another useful give-away that would keep its brand in front of users. Optical mouses have made them useful as potted plant coasters, and not much else.
  • AltaVista searchAltaVista was the first powerhouse search engine; even after HotBot came along and did better search, more power users leveraged AltaVista (weenie users were all about Yahoo!). Then came Google, and the world changed. AltaVista is now an Overture product.
  • CRTs – Yes, the cathode-ray tubes have given way to flat screens in a big way. The flat screens weigh less, have better resolution, use less power, have a smaller footprint and have more features (landscape/portrait; speakers; inputs for more than one computer). And the cost is not crazy. What’s the downside to this trend?
  • Computer books (for techies) – I have a huge collection of computer books – I used to love them. I’d use them as references. I’d get to a point in programming where I couldn’t remember/simply didn’t know how to, for example, get the length of a string in some language. I’d hit the book. Now, I hit the web. I can’t remember the last computer book I’ve purchased, but it’s been over two years, that’s for certain.
  • Zip drives – For years, they ruled as the fast, simple way to move large files around in a sneaker-net way. Now, with fast connections everywhere, USB thumb drives and services like Gmail, which replaces FTP with simple e-mail, Zip drives are a thing of the past. I have a couple here at home – in computers/attached as external drive – I have not used in years.

Essential (or – at the very least – very common):

  • Wireless connectivity.
  • Tabbed browsing – Even Microsoft has embraced this model (after people saw Firefox and embraced same).
  • Social Networking – With MySpace, FaceBook, Friendster and all the other knock-offs, it’s getting more and more difficult to find people who don’t have a page on one of these sites. Good or bad, this is the way things are today.
  • iTunes – I hope this doesn’t need any explanation.
  • Big, honkin’ hard drives – We store music, images from digital cameras, video and more on our drives. My first hard drive was 20 meg. My current drive is 250 gig – and in a RAID (two 250 gig drives; mirrored for redundancy).

In the future, I expect (hope!) more wires to disappear (Bluetooth/wireless chips), as well as more intelligent backup solutions (pretty much all today are not “can your mom use it?” ready).

But the most fun will be the stuff you really didn’t expect, like iTunes and flat screens. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

The Future of GPS

Dave Winer had an interesting looking-into-the-future moment regarding GPS devices.

It mapped a route for him, one that he though odd – but GPS is still imperfect. Anyway, along the way, he had to make a turn at a convenience store.

And here was his flash:

There’s no way the GPS knew there was a convenience store there (a national brand, btw), but in five or ten years, I’m sure they will. And further, Toyota will make a deal with the chain to direct traffic by their store, as opposed to their competition. …. That could be much more valuable than advertising. It’s not about impressions, it’s about delivering customers. Literally!

Scripting News, 1/20/2007

Somewhat frightening, yet entirely possible. Ditto for Google Maps and other such applications. It’s so obvious (now what Winer’s pointed it out) that it seems inevitable.


2007 Prognostications

I was sick this week, which delayed me putting these up, but also because I was trying to take a closer look at the matters that would really matter to the average user, which I didn’t focus on in my 2006 prognostications.

Last year, I focused more on big-picture stuff (No real Linux gains on desktop, Google everywhere etc.).

This year, I want to focus more on the issues that will affect the average user – the non-geek – as well as matters that will effect only the geeks/tech financiers this year, but will affect the Average Joe down the road.

Without any further ado:

  • Google, Google Everywhere: This will be another big year for Google, and this has a significant impact on regular web users: As more and more articles recently are pointing out, Google – due to its omnipotence – is becoming less a company and more of an environment users find themselves in. Look at it this way: AOL was famous for their “walled garden” approach to the “web” – yet, if you were forced to, you could almost live in a Google walled garden. Get mail on Gmail, open attachments and modify with Google Documents. Blog with Google’s blogger. Store, modify, upload picutes with Google’s Picasa, upload videos to Google’s YouTube.com Make purchases through Froogle/Google base – but if you had to use a third party (clothes from Land’s End, for exp.), you could use Google checkout to actually purchase the item (which you found, of course, via Google’s organic or AdSense search results). Getting the environment picture? On a more immediate level, Google will continue to consolidate its products so single logins are the rule. Will this become the dream of Microsoft’s Passport?
    Update 1/6/2008: I think I’ve pretty much nailed this one, not that this was a tough guess. But with Google in all their old stuff plus getting into cell phones (700MHz auction; Android software), they are everywhere.
  • Apple will continue its winning ways: Expect an Apple phone, some damn fast laptops and potentially an Itunes agreement with Apple records – yes, the Beatles. Apple will also stumble in one major way, either due to a flaw that exposes its now largish base (for its OS X software) or a new product/update that just, basically, sucks.
    Update 1/6/2008: Again, not a tough one, but I got it – the iPhone appeared (to great fanfare), and Apple did mess up: The OS X Leopard update created lots of problems for many people.
  • Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD wars continue: Everyone is losing on this battle: Consumers are either waiting (deprived of HD) or buying into a format that may not make it. This is keeping sales down/non-existent, which is hurting studios and electronics manufacturers. The three fixes proposed thus far — Studios support both formats; dual HD disc players; a a combo Blu-ray/HD-DVD disc — are not solutions. All add costs/complexities that will be passed along to consumers. As the web has taught us, standards are cost-effective and lead to higher adoption rates. I just don’t see a standard (either Blu-ray or HD-DVD) by the end of 2007, but I’ve been wrong before. (Side note: In the past, I’ve predicted Blu-ray winning the battle; today, I see HD-DVD having the upper hand. I think a lot depends on which media center finally catches on, and which format it supports.)
    Update 1/6/2008: This is a wash, I’d say, because just a couple of days ago – after the New Year – Warner announced exclusive support for Blu-ray. This, to me, effectively ends the format war.
  • Flat-screen TV sales rocket: Flat-panel sales will do better – as a percentage increase – in 2007 than in 2006. One downside: The technology is still confusing. People will buy any FLAT screen TV thinking it’s High Def; people will buy actual (low-end) 720p HD TVs and then wonder why the 1080p (capable) HD player/disc looks so much better at the store than at home…
    Update 1/6/2008: Another no-brainer that’s correct.
  • E-mail continues to be a disaster: I live and die by e-mail, but I only fire up my home e-mail every other day or so. I gather roughly 1,000 spam messages for 10 good ones, of which only 2-3 are non-newsletter/Amazon ads per day. E-mail is still necessary, but it definitely a necessary evil at this point. It’ll get worse this year.
    Update 1/6/2008: I’ll call this a wash because it doesn’t seem worse per se, just still sucks. Still broken.
  • The Net Stays Neutral: While the debate will continue, the toll booths will not be erected in 2007. This is due, in part, to the ATT mergers: I believe part of the merger approvals were tacit aggreements by the telcos to not touch this subject for a year or two (all conjecture, by the way).
    Update 1/6/2008: While there were, uh, incidents (Comcast “shaping” traffic), for the most part things continued as they did in the past.
  • Wireless Gets Interesting: Although the 802.11n spec is not yet ratified, companies have said they are going to start making chips for these. This will have the greatest impact in notebooks and – especially – phones. (For desktop networking – home or office – b or g suffices, for the most part).
    Update 1/6/2008: I got this wrong. With the exceptions of the wireless capabilities of the iPhone and Amazon’s Kindle, wireless was pretty boring in 2007.
  • Some major store will stop sending out paper catalogs: We get Penny’s here – the big ass ones, not the 32-pg Spring Mailer or what have you. For example, I get a nice, thick glossy catalog from B & H Camera about four times a year because I’ve ordered from them. Nice catalogs, fun to quickly thumb through – but I toss into the recycling bin after five minutes. If I want to buy from them, I’ll do as I have in the past: Search online and buy online. Faster and easier. I expect some major catalog sender to put an end to the big dead-tree distribution.
    Update 1/6/2008: Righto – Penny’s now sends a postcard telling you you can pick up the catalog in store. I can’t speak to other retailers, but this is the start of a big change.
  • Blogs play a huge roll in political campaigns: I know, we’re only a couple of months past the 2006 elections, but no on seems to have bothered to tell that to the potential 2008 candidates (will be larger in 2008, obviously, but we’ll feel the disturbance in the force in 2007). Blogs will make a big difference in the elections, in two ways: More candidates will embrace the web/blogs in a meaningful way (not just having a blog to have a blog), and the political blogs – right/left/middle etc – will receive huge traffic. I see mash-ups using Google maps to follow the candidates and provide informational balance to the campaign. I also see mash-ups creating a new type of political blog/wiki – a virtual scorecard of the candidates: For example, which Presidential candidate has come out in favor of/against abortion? List by rank, drill through to videos/transcripts/releases supporting same. Updated in virtually real time to show changes in stance and so on. Do that nationally to see how your representative feels about this subject, how your senator does, how they’ve voted, pointers to MSM and blog stories etc. Powerful.
    Update 1/6/2008: While Josh Marshall (in particular) and others have influenced MSM reporting and kept on stories that would have otherwise been ignored, what I thought would happened hasn’t yet. It still may before the election, but I’m not seeing it yet. I’ll say I missed this one.
  • Cell phones expand functionality; remain unusable (for these fancy-ass features) to masses: Much like Linux on the desktop, phone makers have done a great job of adding features; a really crappy job of making it easy to use said features. If Apple does (as I’ve predicted above) come out with a phone…it’ll be interesting. Take that Mac usability and integrate with phone. I think this is very doable – right now, the rush in phone upgrades is to add more features, instead of adding features you might like or have a frickin’ clue on how to find/work. UI is hard; Apple is very good at UI.
    Update 1/6/2008: Righto
  • Zillow will be purchased: Zillow is one of the best-kept secrets in the mash-up world. The Average Joe has no idea Zillow exists; the savvy web user will use Zillow and thank public data/APIs. Google is the natural purchasers of this property; a dark horse is the National Association of Realtors. Think about it — it makes sense.
    Update 1/6/2008: Nope, and the company received additional funding this year. I’m still surprised….
  • Big legal year for the Net/Software: The impact of this year’s litigations may take a spell to affect the average user, but I think this year will be rich in the various types of legal issues: DRM, copyright, software patents, privacy issues, who is legally responsible for content (ex: kiddie porn – who shot it, who participated in it, who’s parents of the kiddies, who posted it, who hosted it, who saw it, who downloaded it and so on – and who did so unwittingly or not. What are the rules?)?
    Update 1/6/2008: Oh yeah. Litigation seemed more the rule than the exception – and it doesn’t look like it’ll get any better in the near future. Probably worse.
  • No cyber-terrorism: Sure, some sites will be DOSSed and hacked, but no pulling down of the Net.
    Update 1/6/2008: No cyber-terrorism to speak of.