Thursday, October 27, 2005

White House finally discovers The Onion

Took awhile, but there we go: Bush has discovered The Onion, arguably the US's best satyrical news source. Ever. And he doesn't like what he sees.

The Onion, home of such headlines as Bush To Appoint Someone To Be In Charge Of Country and Bush Nominates First-Trimester Fetus To Supreme Court has had a field day with the Bush Administration ever since it came to power.

Looking back on those five years, it's amazing that it took so long. But then again, the current White House occupant freely admitted two years ago in a Fox TV interview that he doesn't read newspapers because he gets "briefed by people who have probably read the news themselves."

So apparently Bush finally got briefed by a White House staffer who probably read The Onion himself. How I would've loved to be a fly on the wall of that briefing room!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

We fired our workers. They got too clever

Adage has discovered that everyone's reading blogs nowadays. Probably tagged onto it since Neil French's public execution the other week (see 'Death by Blog')

So on a rainy New York afternoon an intern at the editor's office jots down a few calculations on the back of a beermat and comes up with 551,000 lost man-years.

Why do I get deja vus when I read page fillers like these? A few years ago somebody realized that email had become an indisposable communications tool and presto! came up with a calculation that the world was about to implode because a million man-years were being 'lost' doing email.

Informed workers are more productive workers. Of course a balance has to be found between doing work and reading up. Give it another year or two. Has anyone read any recent articles about how much time is being wasted on email?

Which Internet mismanagement would you prefer?

Interesting post on Good Morning Silicon Valley, my favourite Internet column (which is now called blog since columns are getting out of fashion).

GMSV talks about the Internet community being losers as long as ICANN stays in place. Granted, ICANN can't exactly be accused of doing a heck of a job (sorry Dubya) and additionally there's increasing criticism in the international community why one ringleader (the US) should rule them all.

So what's the alternative? The ITU? C'mon, gimme a break. The ITU fosters a great legacy of standing in the way of innovation in order to protect the interests of telcos and other obsolete monopolists. And to add insult to injury, a powerful number of its members have their own definition of Internet mismanagement: keeping a lid on freedom of expression.

Would anyone with the smallest regard for civil liberties have the likes of China and Iran among those in charge of what happens on the future Internet?

Personally, I'm torn here. There's no rational reason why one state should mismanage the Internet, as opposed to an international organization that represents the entire world. However, that boils down to a choice between ICANN (mission statement: "We can, really. At least we try") and the ITU (mission statement: "We can't. Have to protect telcos and other obsolete monopolists. Plus, with 200 members we're guaranteed to fail to keep up with technology").

So perhaps having US control and ICANN mismanagement is the lesser evil.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

eFashion revisited: Borgs 'R' Us

You see them increasingly in the streets: Borgs. Fiendish creatures, eternal opponents of Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series. Borgs can be recognized because they are part human, part machinery. Bluetooth headsets sticking out of their ears, if you're unlucky with a boom mike along the jawline.

If you think that's the worst of it, try the WristPC Keyboard. PDA in your eVest pocket, LCD projection glasses on your nose, and a keyboard on your sleeve. Don't forget your solar-powered backpack, or you'll drop dead before you reach a power outlet.

Culture Clash

Listening to Dutch news on Radio 1, the best mix of news, background and music I've ever heard on a radio station. Or maybe I'm biased.

Anyway, two news items, seemingly different but illustrating the same. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot (yes that's his name) is pissed off because the US have neglected to appoint a new ambassador to his country for six months now. The intended appointee is a crook but also a Bush crony, so this has to be sorted out and that takes time. The WHO is pissed off with many Asian countries because they don't prepare enough for a possible flu pandemic. There's a distinct threat, everybody is planning for it except the Asians, who'll probably be the first to suffer and transmit to the rest of the world.

What do these two have in common? Different cultures, talking to each other but not connecting. Calvinist Dutch Ben Bot doesn't understand that in the US finding a way to reward loyalty to a President-Elect is more important than diplomatic traffic with another country. And the Western-dominated WHO doesn't understand that Asian reality is always more complicated than the best scenario planning in the world.

Who said the world was getting smaller?

4 Years hasta la Vista

Today is Windows XP's anniversary: it's 4 years old now. I'm a stickler for that kind of thing, must be something to do with my youth.

What happened in those 4 years? Google came, and OSs went from first tier to second tier. Nobody cares what their PC runs on anymore, everybody just wants to go where the info is. Apple has figured this out and now makes music players and sells iTunes. I guess once Steve Jobs has got his head around computers again (you know he will - he has this cyclicity about him) he'll come up with an iPod equivalent for mailing, blogging and voicing as well.

Incidentally, 'telephony' is out. It's now called 'voicing.' Voicing is part of the communication process, which in turn is dominated by those who provide access to information. Google, Yahoo, and Apple are the stars of the moment. Telcos are the dogs. Microsoft and Cisco are the plumbers, so they won't have to worry about losing their job. It's just goodbye to the limelight.

So by the time Windows Vista finally arrives, OS launches have become non-events. Guess I won't have to make note of the launch date, then. Hasta la Vista, baby.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Online around the world, cont'd

10. Minneapolis Airport: wireless network, a local affair by something called 'Concourse Communications.' After 3 days in Minnesota, I'm surprised it isn't something called 'Viking Networks' or 'Taste of Scandinavia.' Fortunately they have a partnership with T-Mobile so I don't have to take out a new account. The Red Carpet Lounge - like all Red Carpet Lounges - has no wireless access of its own. Concourse reaches into the lounge but only barely. Result: a slow and fragile connection, completely in synch with the Red Carpet Lounge experience.
11. Denver Airport: apparently T-Mobile has got the US airports covered. Brand new terminal, brand new wireless network, brand new Red Carpet Lounge. This time the network covers the lounge as well. Probably because all three were built at the same time.
12. Los Angeles Airport, Tom Bradley International Terminal: checking in for the looong (18hrs) Singapore Airlines flight home. SIA has a small lounge here but it has its own wireless access - as all SIA lounges across the world have, without exception. Take that, United! Lounge wireless is a small local affair by a company called Neptune Networks. Couldn't get it to work at first but after the Singapore Girl rebooted the Singapore Server, access was a breeze.
13. Flight SQ 19 from LAX to Singapore: pity that the Airbus 340-500 that drives us all the way to the Merlion City still doesn't have the internet access that SIA has promised to roll out across the entire fleet. Ah well, 20hrs without internet still causes only minor withdrawal symptoms.

Next instalment, Asia.

First episode of 'CSI: Silicon Valley' written long ago

It's one of those newspaper articles where you first check the date (April 1st? No.), then the publication (Washington Post? Erm, OK.), then the article itself again. Printouts going back at least a decade contain secret codes, beknownst only to US law enforcement agencies. Xerox, HP, and all the other major printer manufacturers are in on it. The general public isn't. Until last Wednesday, that is.

It seems even law enforcement agencies outside the US were clueless. Conclusion: between the domain extension system, the printer codes, and the databases of credit card companies and major airlines, the US Government rules cyberspace. With the exclusion of all others. Some would call this world domination.

And they searched my luggage, too. The difference with the above is, they left a note. Polite world domination, then.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

eFashion finally getting somewhere...

Definitely the uncoolest thing on the Planet is wearing your mobile phone on your belt.

But thanks to the crowd at Karrysafe, for girlz no more. The garter-like Body Safe even respects low riders, a must for the It Girl. (not to be confused with the IT Girl.)

It also sends a powerful message to the makers of the Scott eVest and solar-powered backpacks: mend your geeky ways and get real! eWear can be fashionable too, you know.

There's no market for copiers. Carbon will do just fine

Today exactly 67 years ago, Chester Carlson made the first xerox. In today's world it may sound unbelievable, but the good and great such as IBM and GE thought there wouldn't be a market for copying.

Carlson's biggest mistake was not to hire an ad agency, of course. Had he done that, he wouldn't've called his invention 'electrophotography.'

It took Carlson 10 years and a professor from Ohio State University to find a client for the technology, and a name. The Haloid Company of Rochester bought the invention, and the professor of classical languages came up with 'xerography', Greek for 'dry writing'. Another 10 years later Haloid renamed itself Xerox.

Message to inventors: try not be ahead of your time, and find a catchy name.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Blogs? No I don't do those any more. The splogging got too bad

Here you are, a proud blogger. You diligently create your posts and lo and behold, hardly have you posted them or the comments come pouring in (see 'Death by Blog'). They even say nice things like "Your blog is the best I've seen so far," although the commenter doesn't mean it. How do I know that? The connection to online loans, cheap viagra and poker games are a giveaway, I s'pose.

Interesting to see how especially Google is targeted by the sploggers. Google is truly becoming the new Microsoft. Innovative leeches no longer target Windows or MS IE; they now go for Google's products. How long before we receive our Google patches every second Wednesday of the month?

UPDATE: no need to look up previous posts. (I deleted most of 'em anyway.) Just open the comments to this one...

Dinner tables in our coffee shop? Yeah, needed them to accommodate the laptops

Sitting in a local Dunn Bros. Coffee Shop in suburban St Paul, Minnesota. Great connection but no elbow room. The reason? I'm surrounded by gigantic PowerBooks and Qosmios. Laptops are getting bigger, people seem to want the screen real estate.

Personally I don't think screens can become big enough. In the office I use a desktop with an nVidia graphics card driving two 19in screens with the desktop stretched across both. Works great for research and publishing work, I find myself missing it on the road.

Wonder when someone will come up with a dual screen laptop. Shouldn't be that difficult - twin lids, top and bottom. Screens have built-in little stands to prop them up. Connected to main unit with a small extendable cable, or preferably even wireless although I think that wouldn't support enough bandwidth.

Qosmio H50, Toshiba? PowerBook Duo, Steve? Come on guys, show a little creativity!

Online around the world

Ten days now since I left Singapore on my 10th around-the-world trip. First time travelling West, by the way. So now I can recommend everyone: if you do this, travel East - much less jetlag.

Anyway, one has to stay online. What did I do to achieve that? A small list of the last few days:

1. Departure on Singapore/Changi Airport: excellent wireless connection. Paid access, unless you're in the Singapore Airlines lounge where it's free. They use the same network but provide you with a user name and password.
2. Netherlands: staid with Marcel, a good friend. Marcel has broadband, I travel with my wireless travel router. So within 5mins of arrival Marcel's house had a wireless network.
3. Singapore Airlines flight 26 from Frankfurt to New York: SIA is rolling out internet on board, and this flight is one of the first ones that has it. SQ26 is a daytime flight so this is a Godsend. Quite a decent connection, too. Can't wait till the whole SQ fleet has it!
4. "W" Hotel, New York: terrible hotel with dcesigner interior featuring black walls in the corridors. Suppose it goes well with the Madison Avenue clientele's wardrobe but it's a hellhole to wlk into. Decent broadband in the rooms, though.
5. La Guardia Airport: took a temporary T-Mobile subscription. They have a lot of hotspots and I have some destinations to go in the US. Not terribly fast but doable. Needed it, too - flight delayed for seven hours!
6. Atlanta Marriott: you can't send faxes abroad (see previous post) but at least they have broadband in the rooms. As always, wireless router enables me to move around in the room. Terribly slow connection, though.
7. Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center: big convention center, paid access. No T-mobile, unfortunately. Too bad.
8. Chicago's O'Hare International: T-Mobile once again. Nice and fast, too. I also finally send my fax, the one the Atlanta Marriott couldn't dial abroad, three pages: $10.45!
9. St Paul, Minnesota: great connection at local Dunn Bros Coffee Shop. Glorious sunshine, fresh tang in the air, trees in dazzling autumn colours, good coffee, speedy wireless: what more can you want?

Next stop Denver, Colorado. Then LAX, and the new nonstop SQ plane to Singapore. To be continued.

'Can you put the bullets in a separate tray, please?'

Americans are funny people. Air travel means going through the most cumbersome and seemingly thorough security measures in the world. At one point I even arrived at the airport to find out I'd spontaneously been put on a later flight because I'd been selected for an extra thorough security check!

And then, amidst all that security mayhem, there's a sign that tells you to unload your firearm before you declare it to the airline...

Of course. How stupid of me. We want to avoid planes being hijacked and search people to the bone. But under no circumstances shall we be forbidden to arrive at the airport unarmed. Sic transit gloria mundi.
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'Death by blog'

Blogs are good. Politically correct is bad. Neither one was much help to WPP's now-ex Creative Director Worldwide Neil French, who used his speech at an industry get-together to reinforce his reputation for being outspoken, opinionated, and as politically incorrect as they get.

Interestingly, French's reputation is widely known so no-one present at the event was very surprised. Although one has to admit that you rarely hear a speaker referring to women in the workplace as 'babes', bitches', or 'slacker-breeders' who always disappear 'to go suckle something' before they achieve anything of significance.

So what did Neil in? According to himself in an interview with AdAge, 'death by blog.'

He should've known. Advertising executives may not be front-runners, but they are early adapters. In an audience of several hundred of them, there are inevitably dozens of bloggers. I bet there were quite a few unamused 'slacker-breeders' among those...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

US sleeping through 30 years of telecomm's revolution

The Atlanta Marriott. Big hotel, giant atrium, thirty balconies with countless rooms tower over three floors with conference centre, restaurants, shops. All rooms offer broadband internet.

Until you need to send a fax. 'Sir, what kind of number is this?' It's a number in Hong Kong, why? Well, because in that case we can't send it. Can't send it, why on Earth not? Turns out, the fax doesn't accept international numbers. 'We can send faxes to every desination in the U.S. of A., Sir. But not outside. You see, it's very expensive so we can't allow it.'

This is a flophouse with $200 rooms. They cannot send a fax outside the country. Weirdest thing is, this is not the first time this happened to me. Americans are still provincials at heart.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wynning Proposition

The DMA Annual Conference is the high point in the DM season. Doing the keynote for such an event is not a little thing. Except for Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts, apparently. Steve obviously spent ten times more time on his perfect suntan than on the contents of his speech. 'Trust' was his self-chosen theme. Evidently this is an important point to make if you're in the gambling industry. Steve thought so, and supported it with the claim that he sold 140 Ferraris in Vegas in twelve months' time. See here most of the content of his speech. Oh, and his resorts are the best so please visit. 'Trust me.'

Atlanta's urban jungle

Today is the opening day of the US DMA's Annual Conference. Easily the world's biggest gathering of DM professionals, a three-day travelling circus that's held every mid-October. Last year was New Orleans (just in time!), next year San Francisco. And this year it's Atlanta.

Strange city. What I can see of the centre consists of big building blocks lacking any form of character, alternated with empty lots. There's a nice suburb, more like a second downtown, that looks a lot better except it has name that ends with -uckhead.

This year's conference theme is 'Initiate the Conversation. Learn to Listen to Your Customer.' Well, I guess it ain't easy to think up a new one every year...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Engrish in Hong Kong

Nice example of Engrish in a Hong Kong shop window. 'Wanna buy 2, Mister?' Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Welcome to my blog

First post. Experimenting with posting pictures. Tried to get this one into the 'About Me' sidebar but couldn't figure out how... Took one from the site instead.
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