Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Advanced Technology circa 1994

Originally uploaded by brikmaster.
During my digitization of old photos I found this gem. This was the first computer I used to access the Internets. At the time of this picture I think I was using it primarily for BBS services but I made the jump to AOL and then Netcom fairly quickly after that. Oh, and I upgraded the computer and the modem shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


There have been a number of things over the last couple of days that are interesting although nothing that has driven me to post. So here are the notable ones:

30boxes turns a year old. Congrats.
Ning relaunches their social networking in a box platform.
Tellme is rumored to be acquired by Microsoft. Wow.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tivo HME

I haven't been able to do a whole lot with the Tivo as free time has been spare, but this morning I was tinkering around with the device while I was drinking some coffee and ran into the Tivo HME materials. HME stands fr Home Media Engine. It is an open source platform for Series 2 and PC development. It seems kind of like software hacking for your Tivo. I will definitely dig deeper but trying to get a quick bang for the time I checked out the site to find some 3rd part HME apps. I had an aha moment when I set the service up on my Tivo and saw that MP3tunes locker control was available. Michael had shown me this a couple of months back and now I got to add it to my home TV. I also added in one of the Flickr browser apps which is pretty slick. Do check it out if you are a Tivo owner.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rabble on Virgin Mobile US

Last night Rabble rolled out on Virgin Mobile. We have known the Virgin folks for a long time and are excited to welcome Virgin into the Rabble community. Check it out on your Virgin phone.

Tivo, Directv and my PSP

I have been itching for some kind of new tech toy for a while now but nothing has been jumping out at me. No gadget has raised my interest level. I have been looking at some of the cool Japanese stuff for the PSP like GPS and a Video camera attachment but they are only available as gray market products and honestly besides the nerd factor neither of those have much appeal for me. Ok, maybe the video camera.

The one thing that I have been slightly intrigued by has been the Tivo To Go offering that allows me to take my Tivo shows with me on my PSP. When I had first heard about this I thought it was pretty cool and I checked out my Directv account to see if they offer the Series 2 Tivo, which is a requirement. Not. There is some historical battle between the two that I am not too familiar with with the result being that they don't offer the newer boxes. Because of that, and my undying devotion to Directv, I let that idea float out of my mind.

Recently however, Amazon announced the Unboxed program which will allow people to do pay per view on their Tivo of new releases over broadband to their television. That sounds pretty promising if only because I can now expand the offering beyond what Directv offers me. This new data point combined with the desire to play with a networked Tivo device got me to take the plunge. I picked up the cheapest Tivo Series 2 and eagerly started my exploration.

Right off the bat I hit a pretty substantial snag. The Series 2 Tivo allows you to record two shows at once. My HD DVR from Directv is supposed to do that as well but how it does continues to escape me. On the coax from the satellite I had to install a splitter from the satellite with one end going into my receiver and then other end going into my Tivo. Seems easy enough. For some reason, which I am still investigating, this just doesn't work. My sense is that there is some power issue or some drain on the signal that makes this not work and results in no picture. When I looked at the signal levels there isn't enough strength.

I ended up just plugging one connection into the receiver. This worked but renders my Tivo unable to change the channel on the satellite. Actually that is not entirely true. It sometimes changes the channel but it seems like there is in fact two channels being dealt with. I need to dig in more and my next step is to get a powered splitter. I have a hunch that this will solve the problem. There are a number of other smaller problems around the guide and my need to manually switch channels but with the television on the NFL channel, I am getting a pretty good chunk of off-season programming to help me through my post football grief.

So with my first step at least partially accomplished I went back to the reason I went down this path, to put movies on my PSP for long flights. In order to get content off the Tivo and onto the PSP I have to first get the content off the Tivo and onto a PC or Mac. In the PC case this is easy with the free version of Tivo desktop that you can download from their site. In the case of the Mac, the software from the website allows you to connect your Mac to the Tivo device which allows you to show pictures from your Mac on your TV or to play music from your Mac. While certainly cool, the inability to download and play shows on the Mac is a bummer.

At this point there are two purchases that have to occur, or rather at least one. If you want to get the movies from your PC to your PSP you have to purchase the Tivo To Go software. This is around $25 and allows you to transfer shows to your PSP and various Windows Mobile and other devices. On the Mac front, you can buy the Roxio Toast package that lets you play the shows on your Mac, transfer them to portables, or even burn DVDs. Nice, although the price tag is around $100. Ouch.

For now I have passed on the Mac piece although with a house full of kids you can be sure I will be burning Thomas The Train and Barney before you know it. As far as the PSP piece goes, once you transfer a movie to the PC the software automatically converts the show into a format that is compatible with the PSP. After that you have to connect your PSP to the PC and use the PSP Media software to move the files across. All in all that is pretty labor intensive but the end result is worth it. With my largish frame, sitting in a middle seat on a cross country flight is brutal. Opening a laptop up to watch a show makes no sense. On the other hand firing up the PSP and watching the NFL network or Jackass Number Two is a no brainer. Duh.

So clearly there is some more work to do on my side but I think there are some items worth considering beyond the mechanics I just outlined above. First, the idea that I can time shift and place shift my content is immensely powerful. I can stream live television to my PSP with my Location Free server or package it up for non connected consumption on a long flight. Second, although there are a number of steps and theatrics involved in moving the content around, this can only improve with time. For example, all the devices mentioned, PC, Mac, PSP and my Tivo all have Wifi and in some cases broadband connectivity. Once the mechanics are smooth I'd love to see my PSP talk to my Tivo and grab some shows while it is sitting in my computer bag without me having to do cartwheels.

There are a lot of follow on items to consider when thinking through the various ways this plays out over time but one thing is certain to me and that is that the user is increasingly in charge og what, where, when and how their content is being consumed and independent of any other force, this one is truly out of the bag and how the media companies choose to address this from an economic perspective will be one of the great stories of the coming years. I plan to watch with great interest.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Photostream Noise

On President's day Jessica and I locked ourselves up in our office at home and cleaned it. I had turned the closet into a rats nest of books, technology parts, and old tapes, betacams, DV tapes etc. from the TV show I worked on. Cleaning the room had been a nagging to do that fortunately we both agreed to sit down and power through.

One of the best by products of that was the discovery of a bunch of photos that had been put away that I had been looking for that chronicles some of my adventures pre-marriage and in early marriage. So rather than risk losing them I piled a big stack on my desk at work and every so often I scan another one. Periodically I dump them to Flick.

I realize that fortunately for me and my generation Myspace wasn't around or there would be a bunch of embarrassing pictures we would have to explain. I don't want to edit too much but alas there are a couple that wont make it up but certainly there are some funny ones. Excuse the personal flashback. Hopefully there are some good laughs that need no explaining.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Valentines Blizzard

The video below is a picture I shot from the backseat of a car that I was being driven in from Philadelphia to a small town about an hour away. My driver was a very interesting Russian guy who would only take cash. Enough said.

I had flown into Philly with the intention of driving to my meeting and then continuing on to Manhattan for several other meetings. Yeah right. I arrived about the same time as a most interesting winter storm that ultimately shut down much of Pennsylvania. I ultimately made the decision to have a local drive me as the roads were in fact super scary. The video was taken while I was following a caravan of 4 snow plows on a semi rural road. While it was a terrible storm, it was pretty cool to see rural Pennsylvania covered in snow.

So after some cars, trains and subways I arrived in Manhattan to probably the grossest conditions I have ever experienced in NYC. I have to confess that I am weather sissy and am really glad to be back on the west coast.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How I Spent Valentines

Rabble Wap

Sometime last summer we rolled out a read only version of WAP kind of as an afterthought at the time but primarily to look at offdeck conversion opportunities. In addition to the read only Rabble site we also experimented with some promotions with big artists at and were toying with some indie artist stuff at

So early this week we rolled out a full WAP version that can do just about everything our thick client can do within the limitations of WAP. You can check it out at We are pretty proud of how well we have been able to capture the look and feel of the Rabble 2.0 client. A couple of caveats. First, we haven't rolled out international registration yet. It shouldn't be too far off but we made the choice to get something live sooner rather than later. Second, there are some style improvements we will roll out shortly as well.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day to my wonderful wife Jessica. She is the most amazing, woman, mother and partner and I can't wait to get home to share some special time with her. If I could just get out of this nasty storm in Philly...

Anthem and 3 UK

Today we announced an agreement we just reached with the carrier 3 in the UK. The press release can be found here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Biz San Diego - Interview

I was interviewed last year by a Local Magazine called BizSanDiego for an article about young entrepreneurs. Since I was on the high side of Young I got moved to this month's issues. Check it out here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Casa Moderna

I met this guy while working at by the name of John Diaz. When I first met John I asked myself, "What the heck is this wacky rocker dood doing at a high tech company?" It made no sense to me. Six months later John became an older brother of sorts as I realized he shrewdly understood technology as it relates to content and media and understood how to navigate the relationships at play in the content world. I have had a ton of fun knowing John and Nancy and I really value their friendship.

Because we both are working on new companies, we haven't seen each other in a very long time. In fact, one of the last times I saw John was right after they had bought this amazing lot that was of normal width but extended back in an area approximately three houses back. John told me they had bought this lot to build a home to replace their home in Santa Monica that was a three story Frank Gehry loft. That house was amazing. John had survived a horrible airplane crash while at and he needed something that didn't require him to go up and down all the time. As he described this new home, I only could think who difficult it would be to replace their current home.

Today I was in Los Angeles and had a chance to swing by their knew home that was featured in this story in the LA Times. All I can say is insane. You must look at the pictures. This house is one of the most amazing I have seen and John accurately described it as a modern aztec hacienda. I can't wait to go back and actually hang out with John for more than a half an hour. If you are a friend of Diaz and haven't said hi, drop him a line. Oh, and he was on Oprah last week...

Chumby, Woot and Attention

I was fortunate to get one of the first Chumbys through a friend (thanks Steve). My Chumby was a bit autistic and recently I had to have it 'operated' on which resulted in a much better performing Chumby. While I still owe Steve a Rabble widget...I thought it would be cool to stick the Chumby in my kitchen near the spices and the wine bottles.

I wasn't sure why I decided to do that when it would make a lot of sense perched on the bookcase near my computer but for whatever reason there it was in my kitchen scrolling through Flickr pics of my family, an occasional Woot ad, Digg headlines and ESPN sports news. Periodically I would find myself walking over to see what was on Digg. Worse, I would remind myself that I need more pictures of the kids posted for grandma and grandpa. Even worse still I found myself walking over early in the morning to see what gadget was on sale on Woot. I don't know how it happened but I am now a Woot addict. I have yet to buy my first gadget, but I know it is coming. I can feel it coming.

My wife Jessica commented that she thought the Chumby was cool but she wanted some of her stuff. I think for Steve and crew this is really good. You just need more stuff for woman who don't read Slashdot. You know something that has the headlines from Defamer or better yet People magazine. I clearly don't relate to the news reading habits of the my age female demographic but if Woot gets me excited in the morning what kind of man am I?

As I have for the last 8 months I find these sorts of moments bringing me back to how Attention is the currency of the future, hell the currency of now. The small reminders of what I have seen on the Chumby has had a impact on me over the last several weeks where I switched from reading my regular blogs to reading Techmeme and Digg on a daily basis while surfing my Sidekick for Woot when I am on the road. I struggle with how I can properly filter my attention and focus on how I spend those rare moments not dedicated to the family and to the business. When I figure that out I will be glad to share with you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Strange Marketing Decisions

This last week I received a very bizarre email from a development firm. The email told me that they can get me to market faster with my products and they have top tier venture backing and they itemized a bunch of technologies that they are expert at that we of course don't use. Normally I would delete this kind of email but for some reason I felt compelled to ask the question. How can you help me really?

So I fired off an email because I was surprised that they didn't really spend anytime trying to figure out what we do. I asked the person who sent me the email, Bob Jones, to explain how they could help me. (Bob Jones wasn't the name used but it was a similar generic sounding Anglo name).

Bob fired off another marketing speak email that was equally as useless as the previous one but he asked me to just take 10 minutes to talk with him and his VP and he could explain. I thought to myself that he should probably take 10 minutes and figure out how he can help me before I did that but I sighed heavily and picked up the phone. I called Bob. Bob answered and I was surprised to hear that he had a distinctly Indian accent. Bob Jones? Now I have to say that we have worked with outsourcing companies in the past and liked some things about it and didn't like some other things. You know, kind of like family and friends. You get some good and you get some bad. In the future if it makes sense I am more than happy to send work where it makes sense.

I resisted the urge to ask Bob what his real name was and we spoke for a while. They did in fact have some ways they might be able to help me but he told me he was just an inside sales guy and he needed me to speak with his VP. I told him that I would get back to him when I have some time.

I forgot about this until I was driving from San Francisco to Silicon Valley today and Bob called me. I told him to have his VP call me ASAP and that I would chat with him. We had a friendly chat and I am not sure if there is something to do with them or not but I told him that I didn't think Bob was his real name. He laughed and said that in fact it wasn't. I told him that I thought it was pretty strange to me that he would say that was his name when he had a pointed accent. I wouldn't have been any more or less inclined to speak with his company and that I thought it reflected poorly on them that they would do that. We have several Indian and Chinese employees in my company and I can't imagine ever encouraging them to go by the name Richard or Sally or frankly anything other than their real name. Hell, my last name is pretty ethnic.

In an world where the global borders are getting smaller, engaging customers in real conversations and getting them to understand each other as who they are seems like a better goal to doing business and creating real relationships instead of playing silly marketing games that are transparent. All that said I think this company is a fine company but I would hope that in the future they think twice before leaving a lasting impression like they did with me today.

Friday, February 02, 2007

On Being Candid

A young friend, whose name I won't mention, hit me on email the other day. He writes a newish wireless blog and had the opportunity to interview a fairly high level executive at a larbge handset OEM. My friend works at a wireless company and although these two companies don't directly compete on most days, there are certainly environmental tensions between them given how they fit into the entire ecosystem.

My friend had sent a series of thoughtful questions and asked my opinion on them. I thought they were good questions and I was thinking of several others that were even more provocative before he sent me a follow up email saying that he had been persuaded to not go forward with the interview. This of course was very good advice for a couple of reasons, one which some immediately to my mind involves a slight slip I did many years ago.

I started trolling around Usenet groups towards the end of 1994 and I spent a fair amount of time on the alt.cyberpunk board. At that time I was working at Sony Pictures. It is hard to describe my glee when I got the opportunity to help work at the premiere of Johnny Mnemonic given my interest in William Gibson and all things cyberpunk. After seeing the show I posted some comments on the board (which I can't seem to find now) about what I likd about the show, etc.

Later that same day I was emailed by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times by the name of Amy Harmon. She asked me if I would be willing to do an interview. Naive as I was I said sure. The next day I was aghast when I read the less the glowing comments that I had made about the movie that was just opening up. Of course later that morning the head of the studio called my boss to find out what drugs I was on.

I have certainly learned a lot about the press since then and consider myself a much more cautious person as it relates to the press. Beyond this example for me though I think it is important to say something else about blogs and the desire to be candid. If you are a journalist or a pundit I think you can freely say what you want. If you work in an industry I think you have to be extremely careful about what you can and cannot write. Certainly the things that I currently have the most insight on today are related to mobile communities and the wireless industry and the various players within that framework. And in general a reader of this blog will find that I try to avoid any comment, editorial or opinion. Most tragically from my perspective is that I don't really get to share any of the learnings that we have accumulated with Rabble over the last several years. Maybe sometime down the road.

Instead my blog is mean to capture a few things, what technology I am playing with, what I see as important in user created media, and as a communication vehicle to keep in touch with my friends I see infrequently. For me there is plenty to talk about with getting sideways or opening yourself up to misinterpretation by others.

Helio Discount

A while back I posted a link to a Helio review and for whatever reason I get high Google love for a couple of Helio posts from when they launched. Apparently one of the folks at Helio added a comment to the post that shows a discount code you can use. So if you are interested check it out on this post here.