Wednesday, August 29, 2007

William Gibson Deja Vu

This morning I boarded a flight from San Diego to San Francisco. Two weeks ago, recalling one of my New Years resolutions, I realized that I hadn't read a book a month and am certainly in danger of probably only hitting half that number this year. In fact to be technical I think I resolved that the works be fiction and my last one was Paul Graham's Artists and Hackers. Certainly not fiction but definitely enjoyable particularly because one of our young rising star engineers kept citing passages from it I felt compelled to read it.

I had recently been chatting with Russ Beattie about the various Nokia Internet tablets and he mentioned off handedly that the N770 had a great ebook application and that he had found a full text copy of the Neuromancer he was reading and that led to a discussion about the new book from William Gibson, Spook Country. What? How the hell did I miss that! I have read every one of his books.

I immediately ordered the book and looked forward to the opportunity to read the book. This morning I cracked open the book and with the music of The Mortal Coil floating through my iPod began the read. It became an immediate Deja Vu on so many levels.

My mother died suddenly but not altogether unexpectedly back in 1985. That set into motion for me a journey I would characterize as the low point of my life in terms of where I was mentally and emotionally. The end of that approximately year journey sort of came to an end up in Seattle when I ended up bunking with one of my fraternity brothers for a week or so north of downtown. It was during that time that I picked up a copy of the Neuromancer and I spent the better part of a couple of days wandering around downtown Seattle reading the book on park benches and while riding the buses and taking in the rainy, misty Seattle days. The memory of that time has always been with me and the cyber future that Gibson portrayed would be a big part of my re-entering the digital world in the years to come.

The opening chapter of Spook Country is set up on the Sunset Strip with mentions of The Mondrian and the Standard Hotel and many of the clubs I frequented in my early 90s industrial/punk phase as well as during the last ten years of digital media wireless startup city hoping staying in the Ian Schrager, Tablet Hotel land hotels. It made me smile and put a wrapper on how funny life can be. I can't wait to see where this book goes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Anthem Goes Live on Virgin

We announced here that we have launched Anthem on Virgin Mobile with Black Planet, Asian Avenue, Mi Gente, Glee, Faith Base, Xanga, Vox, Live Journal and Rabble. We technically Rabble has been there a while but we have switched the underlying client architecture to a single client that interfaces with the above mentioned communities. More to come.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Helio Ocean Video Post Via Youtube


Last week I traveled to Boulder, Colorado to see the presentations from the techstars group. It was a great event and I will do a detailed write up today or tomorrow (hopefully) of the different teams products I saw.

An unintended benefit was my first visit to Boulder. What an amazing town! I have a number of friends who attended the University of Colorado and who raved about the city and the school. The setting of the school, adjacent to an amazing rock formation and surrounded by mountains can hardly be described. The town had a great feel as well as one would expect from a college town.

I think that beyond the content and the teams and products presented last week, it was quite a smart move by the folks at techstars to bring talent into Boulder through this vehicle. I believe over half of the teams that presented were from outside of Colorado and they now intend to set up their companies there. Beyond Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York, I think that the fight for talent can be tough, even in a city as big as San Diego. I think that a techstars type enterprise in San Diego and other cities would be a great thing to invigorate the local technology industries and give the entrepreneurs something to galvanize around.

Skateboarding Video Test from P990

Friday, August 10, 2007


As a follow up to the rambling wifi device post I made previously, I picked up one of the Tmobile Hotspot at home devices. Actually, that would be a phone and a router. For information check out their website here. The name is "The only phone you need." Hmmm.

The phone that comes as part of the kit is either a lower end Nokia or Samsung phone. The phones are both fine but aren't blowing anyone away with fancy features. THE fancy feature is a UMA chip. UMA stands for Unlicensed Mobile Access and what it essentially means is that you can use WIFI, at least in this implementation.

I am a long time Tmobile user for my personal primary phone. One of the bad things about Tmobile at my house is that there really is only one place in my house that gets good reception. I tend to overlook that because I try not to talk on the phone at home. With the new Hotspot@home phone, this issue disappears. What the phone allows you to do is to make phone calls using your wifi as the origination point. An added bonus of this is that for calls that originate on wifi, they don't count against your plan. Essentially they are free. An added bonus to this is that whenever you walk into a Tmobile hotspot, your phone also automatically routes itself to the hotspot for call origination/termination.

Ok, Derrick, so that's fine except I talk when I am driving in my car and last time I checked there isn't any wifi on the road. True and in this case the handset seamlessly transitions to the Tmobile network. Pretty nifty stuff. As an added bonus, if you start your call on wifi, and jump in the car and transition to their network, the call is still free. I have to say that I was really skeptical of the handoffs but upon multiple trials, I found that it is excellent. There are occasional issues, for example, when I walk out my house the Tmobile connectivity is bad and the handoff either gets mangled and sounds like hell or actually drops. In general though, that is the rare exception.

So I like it. Now what? Well when I thought it through, to me the benefits of this service are mainly two. First, this kills those companies that are trying to magnify the cell signal in your home. If carriers adopt UMA configurations like this and consumers happen to have broadband, then this is a great way to ensure that you have good cell coverage at home. I guess that's why they call it The only phone you need, which I assume is a reference to the need to have a landline at home when your cell doesn't work.

The second benefit is the extension of free minutes for consumers. In my case that doesn't do much since I have a 5000 minute plan, but I get the value for people who have broadband, which I think is an important distinction. The reason I point that out is because the phones they deployed in this package are pretty underwhelming and given my perceived demographic skew of users who have broadband, they are probably not phones that more affluent customers would want.

What I anticipate though are future devices that are similar to my smartphone. The benefit of the UMA access would be great to use as a web surfing device, for file transfers within a local area and some of the other things you see with the Apple Phone. The questions this raises though are around cannibalization of existing business models and possible breaks in the closed or controlled nature of the networks. My bet is that several of the carriers will approach this in a thoughtful way that will ultimately result in a wow kind of consumer offering. I am not entirely sure what that is yet but I think that one can see some of the elements beginning to form and how they could possibly be joined.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I am kind of on summer blog vacation. Not entirely by choice, but the combination of a really busy work schedule coupled with a couple of long weekends with the family has made me disappear for the last week.

Last Thursday night I drove up to Los Angeles and then flew out the following morning to Arcata, CA. The last time I had been in Arcata was in 1984 at a debate tournament in college. I remembered that it was a nice place although slightly rustic, but that was about all.

I have to say that I was totally blown away by the trip. We spent a bit of time around Redwood National Park north of Arcata. We did a little hike through the Lady Bird Johnson grove which was beautiful and timely given her recent death. The highlight of that part included sighting a pretty good sized Black Bear that ran across the road just in front of our car.

After a small lunch we went up a bit further and visited Fern Canyon which was the setting for some of the scenes from Jurrasic Park 2. It was really unbelievable. While there we saw a really Big Elf buck that was grazing near the canyon entrance.

On the way back towards Arcata, we ran into a whole herd of Elk that was grazing in a field. There must have been 40 or so.

The day before I left there was an editorial article talking about how eco tourism hasn't taken off the way people expected so far. I blurted out that the reason I saw was that there really aren't a whole lot of accommodations and getting there is still a pain. Hopefully that changes with time as I think that the north west corner of California is up there with Yellowstone and some of the other beautiful national parks. Ok, now I will get back to technology. I will have some pictures of the above on my Flickr page if you are interested.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

13 years

Monday was my 13th anniversary. Jessica and I had planned to go to Switzerland this summer for a week but we got caught in the passport nightmare and decided to punt. Before we had done that we planned on spending our anniversary hiking in the mountains around San Bernardino. Even though Switzerland was out we decided to do the hike anyways as hiking was something we did a lot of when we were dating and during the first chunk of years of our marriage.

Our target for the hike was Mt. San Jacinto, which is the second highest peak in Southern California. I had forgotten that it was also the first real big hike I had taken her on. Back then she wore tennis shoes. Not a good idea.

As a hiker who hasn't hiked in a while I forgot all the important things. Things like packing enough water. Packing moleskin for the inevitable blisters. Not entirely freezing your water bottles. All the good stuff.

The hike we chose was via the Palm Springs Aerial tramway to Long Valley, Round Valley and then up to the peak. About two miles in, I realized that 1, I hadn't worn the right socks and 2, I didn't have moleskin. We thought long and hard about turning around but ultimately ran into a guy who graciously gave me some moleskin.

After that it was steady going towards the top although I have to say I was sucking wind pretty hard. I can maintain a consistent pace without much stopping but the altitude and the relative shortage of water took a bit of a toll. About 3/4 of the way up we stopped and had a lunch i made that was homemade pesto from the garden on ciabatta with brie and heirloom tomatoes grilled on a panini grill and wrapped tightly to keep it from drying. It rocked. The basil has been exceptional this year in the garden.

We eventually made it to the top where some other hikers snapped this photo for us. Coming down Jessica realized that there was a tear down my pants about 18 inches long that left my "full seat" exposed. I told her it was simply a equipment malfunction and that it was a good idea to create an a$$ vent for hikers. I am sure I looked very foolish.

Before leaving the top we signed the book and then headed back down. The entire day was a great flashback of the foundational years of our marriage and it was an awesome day spent away from kids, startups, and outside distractions. Each step reminded me how lucky I am to be married to such a wonderful woman, mother, life partner and friend. I can't wait to head back up there with her in another 13 years or so.