Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Wired News: That's Billion, with a 'B'

Something is seriously wrong, here. The world-wide sales for ringtones last year was
US$3.5 BILLION. Ringtones! All that money spent on something that causes people to want to destroy your personal property -- particularly when you leave your cell at your desk and your coworkers have to listen to that same stupid 10-second clip playing over and over and over... >:Þ

Monday, December 27, 2004

Techno Musings: SPOT off

I blame Dick Tracy. For years, manufacturers have been trying to cram more than just timekeeping capabilities into the venerable watch. Back in middle school, a classmate had a watch that doubled as a calculator. An appealing thing until you actually tried to use the miniscule keypad on the darn thing.
Then, in 1995, Timex came out with the "Data Link" watch that flashed lines on your monitor to synchronized the watch with their proprietary PIM software on your Windows PC. The original was limited to 70 entries; newer models (yep, Timex is still producing these puppies) store several hundred entries and use USB, but the software is still proprietary.
Fast forward to the height of the PDA phenomenon, and a few daring watchmakers sold models running the Palm OS. The initial models were pretty bulky; even though later models got the size down to something more reasonable, the fact remains that -- for all of these attempts -- the wrist-borne form factor is lousy for input.
So here we are in 2004 and Microsoft comes out with the latest generation of their MSN Direct (née SPOT) technology and watchmakers have hopped on board. The watches themselves look pretty cool, and if you're lucky enough to live in one of the ten cities MS supports and you shell out $40 a year, one of these watches can display information MS broadcasts over a special FM station.
Actually, Microsoft was surprisingly close to getting it the right, but they overshot a bit. After all, this is MY watch. It's probably a few years off, but when we finally see a useful digital wrist whatever, it will be a way for your other digital gear to let you know what's going on. Instead of playing a damn ringtone, you'll be able to set up your cell phone to trigger the watch's vibrating alert and display the caller's ID. Your PDA or laptop can send you reminders about appointments you're about to miss, and your Blackberry or mobile IM device could send you the kind of information that MSN Direct is pushing.
The point is that the watch would be a display device. Sure, it might have the ability to send back a simple response to the originating device such as dismiss or snooze, but the point is that it really wouldn't know much other than something to identify it as yours and to store some basic personal preferences. Other things that this watch will need to be successful:
  • Platform agnostic -- it shouldn't care who made the device that is trying to communicate with you, just that it's conforming to a set of open standards.
  • Secure -- your devices will need some way to ensure that it is your watch they're communicating with and, possibly more importantly, there will need to be some way to prevent spammers from overloading your watch with useless junk.
  • Low power -- whatever wireless method is used to communicate with the watch (Bluetooth, wireless USB), it can't be so power hungry that you need to haul around a car battery to keep your watch running.
  • Easily rechargeable -- I really don't want to have to "dock" my watch every night. There is some promising work being done on "mats" that can recharge any device placed on it without having to have the device plugged into it. Again, an open standard would be needed.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Not always as clear as you'd like to think

We went to lunch at Panera this afternoon and Ki noticed the celophane topped toothpick in my sandwich. "Why do you have a stick in your sandwich?" he asked.
"It holds the sandwich together until I'm ready to eat it," I replied.
He mulled this over for a second, then asked "Why do you eat the stick?"


Forgive me, reader, for it has been many days since my last blog.
We've had a few changes in our family and, while I've thought about posting, by the time I had a breather to do so, I was usually too wiped out.
It's an interesting challenge to deal with a newborn the second time around. It's accompanied by the usual sleep deprevation and complete lack of a predictable schedule, but as an added bonus, you have to try to keep life as normal as possible for the elder child. All I have to say is that you really need to have good communication with your spouse. No matter how composed you think you are, you will inevitably reach the point where your very last nerve is no more. It is critical that you have a spouse who recognizes this in his/herself and can understand when you gaze at them twitchy and bleary-eyed and grunt something like an extra from the "Beer Bad" Buffy episode: "need... break... now."
We're were lulled into a bit of complacency the first week. DD was going four hours between feedings during the night and DS seemed to be taking his new role as big brother in stride. Foolish humans. DD is on the more expected "whenever I feel like it" schedule that can run anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours between feedings. DS still adores "his baby" but he's not too thrilled with his parents right now. Normally a reasonable lad when it comes to parental guidance (bedtime, picking up toys, etc.) he's become rather obstinate. It didn't help that the poor guy came down with an intestinal bug last Wednesday.
So at this point, we're in "survival mode", trying to maintain the barest semblance of sanity. The worst part is that I have to head back to work on Monday. Another week at home would be so much more helpful.