On the Value of Plans

Now, bear in mind that as I write this, a few years ago I was absolutely sure my next big project was going to be a two-book science fiction series told as oral history, and even signed contracts to that effect, only to have Max Brooks come out with World War Z, and corner the market on science fictional oral histories. Two years ago, I was pretty damn certain that I’d be in the middle of a five-book YA series right about now, but then things fell apart when it came time to negotiate payment, so now that YA series lives in one of my office drawers. One year ago,Fuzzy Nation wasn’t on any publishing schedule anywhere, and now it is.

So when I say to you that I have book plans that stretch out through 2017, that doesn’t mean any of it will actually happen. It just means I have plans. However, plans are useful. You at least have some idea which direction you’re going.

John Scalzi

Thought it was worth sharing.

Quotes of the the Day

The first comes from David Weiss’s blog:

"Engineering is the art of modelling materials we do not wholly understand, into shapes we cannot precisely analyze so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance."

– Dr. AR Dykes, British Institution of Structural Engineers, 1976.

To echo what David said: If this doesn’t accurately describe software engineering, I don’t know what does.

 

The second comes from Jeff Atwood’s post on Coding Horror: The Vast And Endless Sea:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
– Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Seriously I’d go and read the whole post. If I were teaching Introduction to Programming, this is the sort of quote I’d use on slide number one. Since thats what I’d be doing.

@Arrington and the Crunchpad.

The internet is awash with the news that the CrunchPad is dead. More accurately, dead on arrival.

I won’t regurgitate all the original details, which you can find here

crunchpadfinal

This morning (or this afternoon, depending where you are), Mike posted an update.

The letters attached make for interesting reading (even if they are long on legalese).

Originally I wrote a couple of long paragraphs before confusing even myself.  But I’ll quote Mike:

There is just no way to argue that TechCrunch is not the joint owner of all intellectual property of the CrunchPad, and outright owner of the CrunchPad trademark. The CEO of Fusion Garage has spent nearly six months this year working from Silicon Valley and our offices. Most of the Fusion Garage team has spent the last three months here working with our team on the project. And our key team members have spent time in Singapore working directly on the hardware and software that powers the device. Fusion Garage emails and their own blog, before it was deleted, acknowledge this. We have also spent considerable amounts of money creating the device, paying the vendor and other bills that Fusion Garage wasn’t able to.

What’s even more absurd is the idea that we somehow knew about Fusion Garage’s intentions to break off the partnership before a couple of days prior to the device launching. Until November 17 we had every reason to believe that Fusion Garage was our trusted ally in creating the CrunchPad. We received nearly daily emails confirming that everything was on track. Raising funding for the project was a goal but wouldn’t have been necessary for some time; besides, we had U.S. investors lined up and ready to put money into the venture. Fusion Garage admitted to us on November 18 that the news of them pulling out of the partnership was “out of the blue.”

There is quite simply no way we will allow this company to move forward on this project. The extent of their fraud is only now becoming clear to me. The audacity of their scheme is staggering. We believe that they engaged with us until the last possible moment to get press attention and access to our development resources and cash, and then walk away hoping that we’d do nothing.

Other Options

 

Disclaimer: What I’m about to do here is be incredibly naive and view the world for a moment the way a programmer does: neat, ordered and sensible.

I wonder what solutions there are to this mess (besides legal proceedings). One is to throw money at the problem. And no, I’m not suggesting mike buys the company, or the rights.

Its interesting that Mike planned to have ChromeOS running on the CrunchPad at the launch. Although the CrunchPad predates the relase of ChromeOS, it is the the very epitome of the types of devices the creators of ChromeOS envisioned running ChromeOS on.

So I think that Google, indirectly, has a stake in the success of the CrunchPad.

So, and this may seem un-orthodox, but I suggest that Google should buy out FG. Google has the money, after all.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Mike gets on with his Crunchpad. Google gets a posterchild for its ChromeOS (plus being able to contribute significantly to the device software to make sure the Google Experience is up to standard).

ChromiumOS is opensource. The crunchpad started out is short life as an opensourced, crowdsourced project. I can’t imagine a better match.

There is a market.

There is a market for that device, even with the iTablet looming on the horizon. I.e, Me. I’m sitting on my couch right now as I type this. A CrunchPad would be much easier than my Dell Laptop. 

Knowing Apple, the iTablet will be expensive (even if its a contract device). The CrunchPad will be far cheaper (between $300 to $400 as far as i know).

Besides the price issue (and the little matter of a global recession), rumour, as well as logic has it that that Apple will impose an App Approval Process for the iTablet. And an App Store. The pros and cons of a such a move are for another post when we have more substantial information.

This stands in stark contrast with the CrunchPad

Mike says that the CrunchPad can be hacked to run Windows 7 (that would be awesome) and ChromeOS (and by extension any Linux based OS including Android).

(Actually I think Mike should have a version with no OS preloaded)

I’d much rather buy a Crunchpad I can write my own apps for. And before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy (since I like the App Store), I will not tolerate an App Store for anything approaching a work machine.

And after all the problems developers are having with the App Store, I have no intention of writing Apps for the iPhone (Apple does have the chance to change this, mind you).

Not being able to write apps for my iPhone frustrates me to no end. There are too many roadblocks.

However, with the promise of the CrunchPad, I drool at the App possibilities. Being a totally open platform, the possibilities are endless. Whether one uses ChromeOS ( more properly, ChromiumOS), Linux or Windows 7, the underlying hardware will be exposed for the developer to use.

Public Opinion is heavily in favour of the CrunchPad. Public Opinion is squarely behind Mike Arrington (yes, this includes me).

Hopefully it will live.

PS. For a fascinating discussion on the CrunchPad, listen to MacBreak Weekly 169: This Is What Happens Larry

Quote of the Day

This is funny enough for me to share, but too long for a tweet.

Wil Wheaton is playing Adventure on Atari:

Nolan: "You realize you’ve gone into that dead end five times, right?"

"Quiet you. This is how we did it back in the 80s."

Nolan: "You ran into the same dead end over and over again?"

"Yes, it was part of Reganomics.

See the rest here.

Favorite Tweets/ FriendFeed Comments of the Day

Ok, quickie post here. I’m still alive but busy on university projects and studying for exams :(.

In no particular order

  1. FF : Ian May posted “My wife said, "Whatcha doin today?" I said, "Nothing." She said, "You did that yesterday." I said, "I wasn’t finished."”
  2. FF: Stupid Sleepy (aka Tina) asked: “Caption, please!”

    sumocaption.png

    See the suggested captions at FriendFeed here.

  3. FF: BreakingNewsOn – Tweeted:

    “Statement from Israel on boat collision involving former US Congresswoman McKinney: http://www.bnonews.com

    To which Evan Brown commented: “Thankfully, McKinney is no longer in Washington screwing things up. Unfortunately, she is now oversees screwing things up”

  4. FF: Stupid Sleepy (aka Tina) posted this story:

    Mr Fixit’s Emily Newton, left, and Sara Cooper are ready to make the Taste toilet experience more enjoyable.

    I beg you to read the hilarious comments on FriendFeed here.

  5. And finally, while there its not funny, theres a twitter/Friendfeed effort to get Robert Scoble an interview with Steve Jobs of Apple. See here (FriendFeed) and here (Scoble’s original tweet) and here (@joshaidan’s response).

To be honest, emailing Steve Jobs is a bit daunting. But I will get round to it.

So come on,  help Scoble get an interview with Steve Jobs: email Steve: sjobs@apple.com. @joshaidan says to make it personal.

Writers Block

Critics search for ages for the wrong word, which, to give them credit, they eventually find.
  – Peter Ustinov

Right. There is no denying it. I am suffering through a period of writers block.

Granted, blogging, tech news, commentary and open source software aren’t my main priorities in life.

I’m even having trouble fitting in the photography and the photo editing.

So what’s up man??? I’m not going into it ( I have no wish for things to pop up in Google searches for the rest of eternity), but suffice it to say that its easier being lazy than getting on with it, at the moment.

The 7 habits ( which I really think it is a great book) don’t get followed religiously. However, the 7th habit itself, sharpen the saw says the essentially we need to look back at times and get our heads right, the previous 6 habits right before we can more forward. At least that is my interpretation of it. I’m a great fan of the notion that you have to win the private battle before you can tackle the public one. This acknowledges that fact that the public and private can be very different sometimes. And the fact that we can retreat into our shells sometimes.

So while I’ve absolutely no intention of giving up blogging, FriendFeed, my RSS feeds, I’m also not declaring a hiatus. I’m just saying that posts may not come thick and fast, but they’ll come.

I have ideas, I have things I’d like to do. But just can’t get round to them.

So. Who has tips for getting things jumpstarted?

The Boom is Over

It is all over Techmeme and FriendFeed: Sequoia Capital (the venture capitalists behind Yahoo and Google, to name just two), have called off the tech boom and told their companies to start preparing for the worst.

image

Lets think about this for a second. Is the technology sector as a whole vulnerable to this downturn? Yes, but probably not that much.

Consider Google as an example. Google gets bundled with every install of Firefox ( and if memory serves, some OEM PCs as well). And Google is pretty much the homepage of the Internet. So Google’s traffic probably wont suffer that much.

However, Google make money off ads,and it requires advertisers to buy those ads (or be charged for them). Now this could be very bad or very good depending on the industry doing the buying.

For example, Jeremiah Owyang just said on FriendFeed:

“The economic downturn is a good thing for social media, it’s going to force innovation, revenues, and productivity benefits –the other tools will fall by the wayside. Agree or disagree?”

So either ads will become more aggressive in an effort to lure ever reluctant consumers into the open.

Or they will cut back. Some ads just don’t work as well as traditional methods.

My bet is that, as Jeremiah said above, the online space of ads and social media will be leveraged to an ever greater degree and firms try their level best to stay above water.

So why did Google’s stock drop yesterday? Again, I think that investors are nervous that Google, while having a very broad range of services, hasn’t spread its revenue streams widely enough.

Google need to figure a way to monetize Youtube ( for starters), rapidly. Youtube gets millions of views per day that Google earn $0 from.

I’ll tell you what Google should do. They should go to Adobe and license that audio-to-keyword tech in CS4 and run every video on Youtube through it.

Gmail is another one. Personally I have never EVER clicked on a link from the Ads in the sidebar. Sure they are accurate and frighteningly well targeted, but I have never clicked on them.

For the tech industry as a whole, software is integral to the lives we now live. It ain’t going away anytime soon.

iPods, Touch Screens and the Future

With the release of the 2.0 software update for the Touch, Apple has made a mockery of every smartphone on the market as well as the DS and the PSP.

Short of an iPhone, it is quite simply the indispensable gadget to have on you at all times.

I have no Exchange servers to connect to and haven’t tried MobileMe. But I have been in the App Store. And boy, have been buying.

I’m a Crash Bandicoot fan from the dark old days of the PS1, so the first game I got was Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart Racing 3D. And it does not disappoint. The tilt controllers make it a compelling game, as well as a challenging one. And one you will strive to master. Just play it standing still as the tilt sensors are sensitive. 

iPint is hilarious. For a free app its brilliant. I’ve been generating laughs with it all weekend.

I installed DutchTab as well. Thought I’d get a chance to use it over the weekend, but it didn’t present itself. Calculating how to split the tab is difficult so I usually don’t bother, just leave an unusually large tip. This should change that.

However, not all the applications in App Store are iTouch compatible. GPS and Camera apps naturally will only work on an iPhone.

This makes the iPhone 3G a really compelling device to get.

There has been lots of discussion over on FriendFeed about how this changes the nature of personal computing ( see here, here and here for a selection). The basic idea is that it changes personal computing in a big way.

I’d also say that the idea of ubiquitous computing comes closer as well. With a device like the iPod Touch and the iPhone, we take computing power where ever we need it – it seamlessly integrates with our lives. We take the web with us as well, fulfilling the dream of constantly connected devices. Push email is not  a new idea – Blackberry owners have had it for years. But Apple had taken it to a whole new level. Using the touch screen, ur interactions with our devices become so much more natural and compelling. A keyboard and mouse reminds you of what you are using, a touch screen uses the human mediums of touch, feel and gestures to communicate.

This is where computing is going in the next few years. I prefer using my Touch for web browsing because of the touch screen – its feels more natural. Windows & will have touch screen built in, and Microsoft Surface is already capitalising on the naturalness of the touch screen to re-definite the way we interact with computers – and redefine computers themselves.

As science fiction writer William Gibson said:

The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet