May 9, 2007

Motorcycle Blogging

Filed under: Motorcycling — Tom @ 1:48 pm

I’ve decided to create a blog focused on motorcycling called MotoBrief. I’ve reproduced my few moto-related posts there and probably won’t be discussing moto stuff here in the future.


May 1, 2007

Ballmer Says iPhone Has “No Chance”

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 1:24 am

The Unofficial Apple Weblog reports that Steve Ballmer has pulled out his crystal ball and made another prediction of iPhone failure. He said there is no chance the iPhone will achieve any significant market share, adding that, “They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.”

If you remove his total speculation about Apple’s chances, it looks like all he’s saying is that he’d really rather see 780 million Windows Mobile devices sold than 26 million. This is the kind of bold thinking that Microsoft needs. Sell more! Of course! Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?

I have no doubt that Steve would prefer that 60% of smartphones were Windows-based — recent numbers show Microsoft a distant second with 14% of the worldwide market. Symbian continues to dominate with a 67% market share. (I’ve seen a variety of percentages reporting, all citing the same Canalys data. I’m going with what’s quoted at the site above, but recognize that these numbers may be off somewhat.)

There seems to be plenty of room for Apple. Symbian’s market share is split between different versions of its OS. The software to synchronize my P800 and P910i with my Windows computer was a disaster — a hodgepodge of different applications that would sometimes lose track of whether my phone was plugged in or not. (Maybe it’s an omen that the best syncing experience has been — take a guess — once I started using the P910i with my MacBook Pro. I haven’t had any problems using iSync.) Both phones ended up with trips back to Sony Ericsson for service. The software on the phone has its fair share of quirks — I’m particularly irritated by the oddly short fields in the calendar application (vital information is always getting truncated on the phone) and the terrible web browser. As much as I love my P910i, there’s enormous room for improvement. And it made the iPhone’s pricing look like a bargain.

Palm — now called the Garnet OS — could also be an easy target. Incredibly innovative when it was first introduced, the Palm OS is now looking a bit tired. They just haven’t kept up and their market share shows it. Garnet OS has an enormous catalog of applications available for it but they trail with a paltry 5% of the market.

I’ve had only limited exposure to Windows devices and RIM devices. Windows Mobile seems to have come a long way from the early, crash-prone Orange SPV I saw years ago. And the Blackberry interface drives me crazy. I know many, many people love these things but they’re not for me.

There aren’t many people — least of all Apple — claiming that the iPhone is going to take over the mobile market. Apple does say that they think they can carve out a small chunk of the existing market. There’s a lot that says they can — I don’t need much convincing to give up poor syncing, awful email programs and unusable web browsers. How far can they ultimately go? We’ll have to see how well that multi-touch display works. I’m pretty used to dialing one-handed by touch.

April 29, 2007

BMW Motorcycles and Helmets

Filed under: Motorcycling — Tom @ 2:32 pm

BMW riders are some of the most likely to be wearing a helmet — and some of the least likely to have a place to put it. I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of a helmet lock for my bikes. Lately I’ve been trying the Helmet Guardian and it’s become one of my favorite gadgets. It’s kinda boring (I’d rather add a GPS or something else fun) but it does the job. It’s pretty inconspicuous and securely holds two helmets.

Here’s an action shot from Cycle Gadgets — the bike I have mine on is a bit torn apart right now.

Helmet Guardian

April 27, 2007

Another Thing That Never Happened in Chicago

Filed under: Art, Portland — Tom @ 11:15 pm

The SculptureI didn’t really know my neighbors in Chicago. We had some interaction because we were all members of a self-managed condominium association, but we weren’t what you’d call close. And I certainly didn’t have cool artist neighbors who let me display their work in my home until they sell it.

But here in Portland one of the people on my block is Samir Sankari, who does some fantastic metal sculpture. Most of his work can be displayed outside and his pieces can be seen all along our street. The piece shown here is a bit different — he incorporated some driftwood he came across and it’s one of the few that needs to be indoors. Fortunately, he offered to let me hang onto it until a buyer comes along.

March 28, 2007


Filed under: Portland Traffic — Tom @ 5:28 pm

Here’s something that definitely never happened in Chicago. My trip to work today was blocked by a landslide.

Landslide on Highway 26

Up until now, I’m pretty sure my only exposure to landslides was in Speed Racer Episode 50, The Trick Race. And Speed just jumped over them with the auto jacks.

March 27, 2007

Pumping Your Own Gas

Filed under: Motorcycling, Portland — Tom @ 8:43 pm

If there is one thing that completely drives me crazy about Portland, it’s Oregon’s ban on pumping one’s own gas. For those of you who haven’t been here, it’s one of two states in the Union that prohibit motorists from fueling their own cars. (The other is New Jersey.)

This gas thing is a disaster, both here and in NJ. Gas station owners don’t want to have to provide full service. These gas attendents exist solely by government edict. So the stations only have one or two guys working at a time. You’ll see big gas stations with five or more islands, most of which are blocked off with orange cones since they’ve only got one pump jockey. So you get in line behind the other cars and gaze longingly at all the open (but verboten!) gas pumps. When I lived in Virginia and had to make trips to New Jersey, the lines on the New Jersey Turnpike went on forever.

What’s the point of all this? The idea was that back when these laws were passed, filling your tank was a dangerous exercise that only trained professionals could handle successfully. I mean, look at the havoc that’s occurred in the other 48 states where untrained auto owners pump about 100 billion gallons every year. I myself lost a close, personal (well, fictional) friend to a bizarre squeegee accident in ’71.

Today? Who knows. Certainly there’s the argument that removing the ban would throw thousands of gas pump attendants out of work. (Cars, buggy whips, blah blah.) Some also seem to think that motorists in their state are just too stupid. From a USA Today article last year:

Bill Dressler, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline Retailers Association and Allied Trades, says there are safety concerns. While attendants are trained, many motorists would be novices. “It could be put in the wrong container,” says Dressler, whose group represents about 2,200 of the state’s 3,800 gas stations. There could be “somebody getting out and smoking and they didn’t turn the engine off.”

Um, is Bill really concerned that people are going to put gas into the wrong hole? Or is he talking about somebody trying to fill up a milk carton or something? I’m not sure. The part that gets me really riled up, though, is the talk of “trained” attendants.

In New Jersey, the attendant would routinely ask if I wanted him to “top it off” — which you probably know you aren’t supposed to do. Even after I said no, there were a couple times when my refueling professional would fill the tank until the gas ran out onto the ground. I’ve never seen anyone top off their tank, anywhere, except for the highly trained New Jersey guys.

Environmentally conscious Oregon is no better. In June, 2001, Oregon granted motorcyclists the right to pump their own gas — but the pump still had to be operated by the gas attendant, handed off to the motorcyclist, and handed back to the attendant. Every time I ride up to a gas pump, while I’m taking off my gear, the pump attendant helpfully comes over and drains the all the fuel from gas hose onto the ground!. I rarely get a chance to stop them. Again, just like topping it off in New Jersey, I’ve never come across anyone who does this except for the guys that Oregon requires to handle the pumps. Every motorcyclist I know is more than capable of filling the tank without spilling gas on it.

If the biggest environmental hazard coming out of pumping gas is the ban on self service, maybe it’s time to drop it. But it’s a surpisingly volatile topic — I’m constantly surprised at how locals who have lived here their whole lives hate the idea of self-service gas stations.

And, of course, there’s always the logic of out-of-touch New Jersey politicians. From the USA Today link:

Assemblyman Francis Bodine…. says, “If I’m in a tux going to a black tie (event), I don’t want to stop and handle a gas pump.”

Yeah, Francis. I hate when that happens. My limo driver always ends up smelling like gasoline.

March 20, 2007

Apple TV Now Shipping — No, Really

Filed under: Apple, Media, Technology — Tom @ 8:54 am

After my ridiculous mistake where I thought my Apple TV had shipped last week, I got my e-mail from Apple today letting me know that it was on its way.

(For those of you who want the short version, Apple had broken my order into two shipments. I thought it was the Apple TV and posted that it was on its way. Minor confusion ensued at a few discussion boards.)

I’m really looking forward to checking this thing out. As I posted before, I think I seriously underestimated the potential impact of the Apple TV. I’m looking forward to watching my enormous backlog of video podcasts on my television and seeing what else Apple can do with this platform.

March 18, 2007

Apple TV Shipping – Follow-Up

Filed under: Apple, Media, Technology — Tom @ 11:17 am

Shipments are happening and my Apple TV is already in Portland, according to FedEx. Woo! It should be here tomorrow.

FedEx Apple TV Tracking

UPDATE: Based on a number of skeptical posts over at Investor Village, I went back to my order on the Apple website. Apparently, they went ahead and shipped some accessories — the Apple TV is still showing Tuesday. Bummer. I was so excited about the Apple TV that I forgot I’d even ordered anything else.

Thanks to the Investor Village folks for getting me to double-check this. I apologize for the confusion. Let the virtual comeuppance begin.

UPDATE: Damn. Now I’m officially classified as a rumor-monger — and an unreliable one at that. CouchApple.TV picked up this article. As of now, it hasn’t picked up my correction.

FINAL UPDATE: As expected, today FedEx delivered… my component video cables. That’ll teach me to look twice before I blog about something.

March 17, 2007

More iPhone Talk

Filed under: Apple, iPhone, Technology — Tom @ 11:15 am

Seth Godin’s new blog for his upcoming book talks about iPhone pricing. His point is that Apple had to get through the resistance to paying much, if anything, for a great mobile phone.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of the iPhone. I think Seth’s right and that if Apple really has created the best mobile in the world, the high pricing (and let’s face it, nothing’s final until these things hit the stores) isn’t going to be a major issue.

I think I’m going to buy The Dip. (This is a sponsored link — you can also find links directly from Seth.)

March 16, 2007

Apple TV Shipping

Filed under: Apple, Media, Technology — Tom @ 12:45 am

As in my Apple TV is shipping!

I’d been wavering on this. Then g-whiz posted that it had started to ship. And for some reason I headed over to Apple’s site and put in my order. By 9:00 p.m. Apple had sent me an e-mail that my Apple TV was on the way.

Why this sudden, dare we say impetuous, purchase?

Apple TV

Here’s the deal. When Steve announced the “iTV” last fall, I was really underwhelmed. It fell way short of my expectations. There’s no input? It doesn’t do DVR? Come on, Apple, I thought, make this something I need! You don’t even need to start from scratch — go buy TiVo, port their software to OS X and create the ultimate media center. And include their subscription service as part of .Mac, so it will be more than an overpriced e-mail/file-sharing service. (Yeah, iWeb is cool, but it creates ridiculous URLs and I’d prefer to host a website under my own domain.)

So while I thought the Apple TV would be neat, I didn’t see why I’d want one. Over the intervening months, however, my thinking started to change.

First I found a bunch of new video podcasts to get hooked on. I was already way behind on GeekBrief.TV and Strong Bad Email, and now this! Four Eyed Monsters and TEDTalks and Amanda Congdon! Then Videomaker Presents and Mastering Videography. And on. And on.

There’s some great content out there. And pretty soon, I was finding that I’d rather watch podcasts than anything offered on cable. Hmmm. Sure would be great if I could just watch them on the TV.

Then I started to rethink cable. It was already terrible. In fact, I think my cable bill is higher because it’s terrible. The movie channels rehash the same stuff over and over so much that we subscribed to absolutely everything to try and get more movie options. But we’ve really ended up just TiVoing a handful of shows each. And stuff I really wanted, like Race To Dakar, didn’t even make it to cable but is now sold as a download.

Wow. Cable sucks. And my $1,200+ a year cable subscription would buy a lot of iTunes season passes. (Heroes? Check. The Office? Check.)

I’m not ditching my cable this week. Or even this year, probably. But Apple may be onto something and I very likely underestimated the appeal of the Apple TV. I wanted it to fit into what I thought watching TV should be. But I just didn’t get it.

There’s a whole new world of media out there that’s got nothing to do with that hunk of coax coming out of the wall. I’ve been a believer in this stuff for a long time and I still didn’t get the Apple TV.

So if you aren’t exploring what’s out there, do yourself a favor. Fire up iTunes and go search through the video podcasts. Or go to PodShow and check out some channels there. Go visit iFilm. Download an episode of Race to Dakar. Check out the Internet archive. You can even go keep an eye on the guys in Washington. (But C-SPAN, I’m not installing that damn Real player. Get some H.264 versions up and dump Windows Media and Real.) And there’s always YouTube. Geez, just install the Democracy Player and get it all.

I promise you’ll find something that blows you away. And maybe a year from now the only place that coaxial cable goes is to your modem.

Update: Sorry to the Windows users out there. I didn’t realize that the apple symbol isn’t a valid unicode character. I’ve replaced all my “[apple symbol]tv” references with the more traditional “Apple TV” wording.

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