Archive for February 2006

I Wish You’d Been With Me When I Took This Photograph

I Wish You'd Been With Me When I Took This Photograph

Ambassador from the 12 Galaxies, Meet the Ambassador from the Jolly Roger

Ambassador From 12 Galaxies, Meet The Ambassador from the Jolly Roger

Today at lunch this crazy butt naked pirate was running around Market St. He didn’t really seem to be a viral marketing thing or anything, he was just running around yelling at everyone and talking all pirate crazy like.

As luck would have it, while he was doing his thing at the corner of Market and 1st, who comes sauntering across the street? None other than his excellency Frank Chu himself. Frank agreed to pose for a photo with the pirate and the pirate kept yammering on in pirate talk about 12 Galaxies the whole time.

To learn more about Frank you can catch an interview that he did here.

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Apple Closer to Getting it Right — Initial Thoughts on Apple’s New Mac Mini Announced Today

Mac Mini

Last October I wrote about the fact that Apple had released Front Row but that they had released it with the wrong PC, the iMac. The iMac is a computer that has a built in monitor that I did not think would be the choice of folks who wanted to consume digital media in their living room. While it might work well for a kid in a dorm, Apple left a lot on the table. Well this is quickly changing.

Today Apple announced their new version of the Mac Mini with their Front Row software which is claimed to be 2.5 to 3 times faster than their pervious version of the Mac Mini, runs on an Intel chip, and is somewhat cheap.

From CNET: “Jobs announced two models of the Mac Mini. One, for $599, has a 1.5-GHz Intel Core solo processor with a 60GB hard drive, combo drive that plays DVDs and burns CDs and 512MB of memory. The other, which goes for $799, has a 1.67-GHz Core Duo processor, an 80GB hard drive, 512MB of memory and a SuperDrive that burns CDs and DVDs. Both will be available starting today.

The new Mac Minis go from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet and has double the number of USB ports, said Jobs, who stood before the audience wearing his trademark black mock turtleneck and jeans. The Mac Minis will also come with Apple’s Front Row software for watching movies, listening to music or viewing photos from across the room using a remote control. Consumers will also be able to view shared videos and photos.”

So what has Apple got right so far? They’ve got the name right(Front Row is so much better than Media Center Edition or Vista Home Premium). They’ve got the form down (the small Mac Mini looks great). They’ve got the music and pictures down (mp3s only for me of course, no iTunes DRM, wink, wink). It’s got a DVD player. What the product still needs though is TV (and real TV not low quality iTune video downloads) — which is why I say they are closer to getting it right.

Television still is the critical missing component that Apple needs to make this product a hit. The product needs both a PVR and especially a PVR that does HDTV. With your only options for TV being DVDs or low res quality video iTunes (which might look ok on a small handheld device but will look horrible on those 43″ plasmas that everyone’s buying), this product still lags behind Microsoft’s Media Center PC.

Of course, throw in an Apple buyout of TiVo and put a high definition TiVo in the box along with Front Row and you’d have the hit of the decade. How does that old song go? Oh yeah, “You’ve got the brains, I’ve got the looks, let’s make lots of money.”

The comments on the announcement are flowing at Engadget.

JupiterMedia Analyst Michael Gartenberg adds the following: “Hey Thomas, keep on eye out here. This is going to be evolutionary with Apple not revolutionary at the moment. Think of all your issues with MCE and how it handles HiDef and CableCard. I suspect Apple understands these issues as well and is working on solving the problem one part at a time and delivering value as part of the process. Be interesting to see how both these platforms look a year from now. Be even more interesting in two.”

Has Microsoft Partnered With Claria to Build a Search Engine to Rival Google?

Relerank

Update: Per a Microsoft spokesperson, Microsoft’s new Relerank technology is in no way related to Claria or their RelevancyRank technology.

Disclaimer: The following post is pure and utter speculation on my part. Do not take it for anything other than this.

Last week on a tip from Dave Zatz, who seems to live for scouring public documents, I came across a February 15th trademark application by Microsoft filed for Relerank. Relerank is described as “computer software for organzing, displaying and managing search results from computer search engine software.”

So it got me thinking about what Relerank might be. Maybe it’s nothing, but surely Microsoft had some reason for trademarking the term and technology. And then I thought back to June of last year when that whole rumor came out regarding Microsoft buying Claria (remember, your friendly folks at Gator?) Claria has a search technology that while not called Relerank is pretty close — it’s called RelevancyRank. Here is a link on the technology (it was announced last June about the time that Microsoft was rumored to be looking at the company).

Claria describes relevancy rank as: “a patent-pending search technology that ranks Web pages in a revolutionary way. It goes beyond analyzing links to pages and hypertext matching, and instead evaluates what searchers do once they see the links displayed.

The technology analyzes what happens after a search results page is displayed, incorporating metrics such as the location of each listing on the results page, click rate, and post-click consumer behavior – such as time spent viewing a site, number of pages viewed at a site, and number of return visits to a destination Web site.

By using behavior as the true measure of relevance, RelevancyRank can filter out irrelevant listings that don’t provide the information that people are looking for and create a list of ideal search results for selected keywords that Internet users have found to be the most relevant.”

Claria also claimed that in an initial study developed in conjunction with Harris Interactive, RelevancyRank search technology proved to be equal or better than Google and Yahoo! search results over 85 percent of the time in terms of both satisfaction and relevancy.

On June 30th the New York Times reported that there was a $500 million deal on the table for Microsoft to purchase Claria. In July several sites subsequently reported that the rumored acquistion of Claria by Microsoft was off. Speculation was that Microsoft was concerned about the PR fallout over Claria’s former behavior as a much despised little adware company called Gator. But was what Microsoft eyeing all along this RelevancyRank technology that Claria had developed? And might the Claria search technology be *that* good? And could Microsoft still have structured (or be structuring) a partnership with Claria now to develop this search technology for the Microsoft platform? It is interesting that they would be licensing a search platform term so closely linked to Claria’s existing technology.

It is also worth noting that eWeek reported shortly after the rumored talks with Microsoft and Claria that Microsoft had, “quietly downgraded its Claria detections.” “Prior to the recent tests, Microsoft’s AntiSpyware tool detected Claria’s products and presented users with a recommended action of “Quarantine.”

A public beta release for the Claria’s search technology was reportedly planned for launch in Q4 2005 and to the best of my knowledge we’ve yet to see it. After playing runner up to Google for so long, if Claria’s search technology really is as good as they claim, it would be easy to see why Microsoft would want this.

As a reminder again, in all caps this time, THE ABOVE POST IS PURE AND UTTER SPECULATION ON MY PART. DO NOT TAKE IT FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THIS.

What Happens When an A Hole Tries to Sell an A Hole — MPAA Tries to Push it’s Crippleware to Tech Execs

Boing Boing: MPAA exec can’t sell A-hole proposal to tech companies.

Cory has a post up over at Boing Boing about the MPAA’s latest attempt to con their tech partners into playing ball with their latest scheme. Basically, Hollywood would like the tech community to cripple your electronic consumer devices so that if a watermark is present on a broadcast that your device does not work. The MPAA’s Chief Technical Officer Brad Hunt presented on February 22nd to the tech executives.

While Cory mentions that this could be a great way for you to miss videotaping your child’s first steps if there happened to be a TV playing in the background, the Hollywood’s A Hole proposal also misses the mark when it comes to fair use.

What if I want to parody something that I see on TV or use a small piece of footage for a news related piece? These would seem to be legitimate fair use and yet Hollywood is asking the tech community to cripple my hardware.

The tech community responded to Hunt’s lame proposal with the skepticism that it deserved. From Variety Magazine: “The final question summed up the problem: “This is a room full of people whose living depends on this working. You’re getting pushback to the point of hostility. If you can’t sell this to us, how are you going to sell it to the target 16-45 demographic?”

Well they in fact won’t sell it to me because I’d never buy a piece of hardware that contained Hollywood’s new crippleware and I hope the tech companies that we know and love and sometimes hate feel the same way in the end.

By the way, this Hunt character seems like a bit of an A Hole himself. While I’ve never met this Hunt guy, Cory describes him as something of a bandwidth hog.

From Cory: “This Hunt’s an interesting character. I once was at a meeting with him where we had no Internet access, so I went and got the conference center to turn on an Ethernet jack. Before I could get hooked up to it and turn on a WiFi service for the room, Hunt grabbed it and hogged it for the rest of the afternoon, refusing to turn on connection sharing so that a room full of TV, electronics, and film people could get online too. Taking advice from him on how public-interest policy should be set would be like putting Scrooge McDuck in charge of the local soup kitchen.”

I remember Hunt better as that guy who didn’t want you to have your Media Center PC back in 2002 when the product first came out. This is what he said back then:

“We have some real concerns about content that enters an unprotected input into a personal computer, where the rights associated with the content are not being obeyed.”

Glad he didn’t win over Microsoft back then either.

I Think of Her Often and Hope Whoever She’s Met Will be Fully Aware of How Precious She Is

I Think of Her Often and Hope Whoever She's Met Will be Fully Aware of How Precious She Is

TiVo vs. Windows Media Center

digital501

� TiVo vs. Windows Media Center: Digital501.com has a pretty accurate post comparing a Series 2 TiVo with a Media Center PC and concludes that:

“WMCE currently has more features than TiVo, though TiVo is catching up. WMCE requires a large cost up front, but no monthly fee, while TiVo is a lower (or no) cost up front (for basic models) but has a monthly service fee. MCPCs can also be used as home computers. Finally, TiVo is much easier to install. So based on this, if you need a home computer anyway, you might as well get an MCPC, that is, if you can put it near your entertainment center (else you need a Media Center Extender, which is about the price of a TiVo). If you have cash to spend up front, an MCPC is probably a better value. But if you are looking for something that is initially inexpensive and easy to set up, TiVo would be best for you.”

They did not mention HDTV which I think is one of the most important considerations, so I will add a bit on this in.

Media Center can record HDTV, but only through over the air transmissions, TiVo Series 2 cannot record HDTV at all.

On the other hand, the DirecTV TiVo can not only record satellite premium HDTV (which MCE cannot) but it has four tuners (two HD, two standard def). This is the unit that I personally own and watch most of my TV on at the present time. Be careful with this unit though in the longer run as DirecTV very well could stop supporting it someday or force a trade in as they have recently begun a move from MPEG2 to MPEG4. The DirecTV HDTV TiVo supports the outgoing MPEG2.

Both Series 3 TiVo and CableLabs approved Vista Home Premium machines will record HDTV coming up later this year. Comparing a Series 3 CableCARD enabled TiVo with a Vista Home Premium CableCARD enabled PC will make for a very exciting comparison when the time is right.

I wrote a piece comparing Media Center with the DirecTV HDTV unit back in July of 2004 here.

I Want to Run and Tell You the Thoughts That Are in My Head, But I Don’t Think You’d Believe a Single World I Said

I Want to Run and Tell You the Thoughts That Are in My Head, But I Don't Think You'd Believe a Single World I Said

Blinded by the Light

Blinded by the Light

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemondrops

Where Troubles Melt Like Lemondrops