Not so Zune.

Microsoft released the Zune player this week to widespread yawning. The reviews I’ve seen have said it is pretty much as good as the iPod. But it certainly isn’t an iPod killer. And the battery life is much worse that the iPod.

In typical Microsoft fashion it’s a pretty basic1.0 model. To show that Microsoft just doesn’t understand hardware they are actually telling people that future models will have more features. So why bother to buy now?

It only works with Windows XP. No Mac support. And not even Windows Vista.

I’ll be sticking with the iPod thanks. The choice of criminals everywhere.


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The power of one.

Think you can’t make a difference? Think again.

A little over three years ago, as a result of some appalling decisions, a friend of mine was unhappy with the caliber of politicians in municipal office in our town, as well as the fact that they were often acclaimed. He decided that he would attempt to recruit more candidates, and run debates so that citizens could get to know the candidates and what they stood for. He recruited about ten people including me into a group called the Voter Support Committee, a group with no political bias, but a desire to inform.

For the municipal elections three years ago, on a shoestring budget, we put together a website and a series of debates. Citizens came in droves and got informed. They turfed all of the incumbents, electing all new councillors. And the Voter Support Committee gained some credibility.

So three years later, for this election, we did it all over again. Sponsors were more than willing to fund us and help us out. Out debates were run even more smoothly, often attracting more people than televised debates put on by the local paper. Coverage in the local paper of the debates was excellent. There were excellent candidates, no acclaimations, and people were again informed.In fact, our debates gave one mayoral candidate the chance to shine, and she won.

Last night the council went from all male to 50% male/50% female, with a few upsets. Because people got a chance to know the candidates, and to ask them questions that were important to them.

Because of one person. Because one person can make a difference.


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From my cold dead hands.

According to Doug Morris, chairman of Universal Music, I’m a criminal:

Yesterday, Microsoft agreed to share revenue from Zune sales with record labels and artists. Forcing the issue was Universal Music Group, which at deadline is the only label named in the program. UMG refused to license its music to the Zune unless it could receive a percentage of each device sold, in addition to standard music licensing fees for downloads and subscriptions.

"These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says. "So it’s time to get paid for it."

Well Mr. Morris, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I purchased every bit of music on my iPod. I’ve never stolen a thing. You got paid for my music.

However, I’d like you, and all of the artists on your label, to know that I will never purchase another item from Universal Music. And I urge all music fans to do the same.Don’t license your music. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll just buy something else instead.

You won’t get another dime from me unless you pry it from my cold dead hands.

Via Boing Boing.


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Letting the users do the work.

It wasn’t until I read Ross Mayfield’s comments on the New York Times Web 3.0 article that I realized the silliness of this piece:

In Flickr, for example, users “tag” photos, making it simple to identify images in ways that have eluded scientists in the past.

“With Flickr you can find images that a computer could never find,” said Prabhakar Raghavan, head of research at Yahoo. “Something that defied us for 50 years suddenly became trivial. It wouldn’t have become trivial without the Web.

Flickr doesn’t help you find a thing. It is the work of users who tagged the photos that lets you find them. If Web 3.0 depends entirely on the work of users, without any ability to infer meaning, then it won’t be machines doing the work.

Something that defied us for 50 years? What? Asking users to add metadata?But asking the users to do the work is so Web 2.0.


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Just when you were tiring of Web 2.0.

Web 3.0 comes along:

Web 2.0, which describes the ability to seamlessly connect applications (like geographic mapping) and services (like photo-sharing) over the Internet, has in recent months become the focus of dot-com-style hype in Silicon Valley. But commercial interest in Web 3.0 — or the “semantic Web,” for the idea of adding meaning — is only now emerging.

And the hype cycle starts anew – on the front page of the New York Times no less.

I look forward to the idea of extracting meaning from the web, but I believe that a lot of the old HTML web may prove to be difficult to extract meaning from. But microformats hold a lot of promise for the future.


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We value you. We just don’t trust you.

Today I went into Zellers, a Canadian discount department store, which looks a lot like a poorer cousin to Target with lower quality merchandise and higher prices. Zellers is a division of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Canada’s oldest store, which is now owned by an American.

There inside the front door beside the shopping carts, which were locked up, was this sign:


Please note that our shopping carts require a dollar deposit. The dollar will be returned to you when you return the cart.


We value you. We just don’t trust you.

I didn’t have a dollar, so they just lost any purchases I might have made. I wonder how many other people made the same decision as a result of the inconvenience?

I can understand their desire not to lose carts. But this is approximately the same logic as running a self serve cafeteria and charging for the trays. You want to make the shopping experience as simple as possible for customers. You don’t want to start throwing up roadblocks the moment they enter your store.


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Being more than you can be.

I currently live in the town of Waterloo, Canada, which has a modest high technology sector including RIM, makers of the BlackBerry. Local politicians like to refer to the area as Canada’s knowledge capital.

It isn’t.

But that isn’t intended to be a negative comment. We’re up against a city of five or so million people like Toronto, or Ottawa, home of Nortel Networks, which has spawned numerous startups. An area of 500,000 people just can’t compete with that. I understand that you want to set the bar high, but unreasonable expectations are hard to meet.

Waterloo Region does not meet the criteria for a technology center. It is not a big city. It isn’t near a large body of water. The weather isn’t always beautiful. It is not a huge cultural capital. It does not have a vast selection of restaurants. And don’t even get me started on the lack of a decent Mexican restaurant.

And still it succeeds despite those issues.

What is rarely mentioned is that research from a single place, the University of Waterloo, has created a technology powerhouse that makes people around the world aware of this relatively tiny place. And as a result of that success we have groups like the Perimiter Institute, CIGI, and the Institute for Quantum Computing.

A recent article in the local paper The Record (which will probably be behind the firewall by the time you read this) suggests that research spending in the region is average. So what. An arbitrary measure such as the amount spent on local companies for R&D is a poor measure of what the region has been able to accomplish, especially when the area is still dominated by public sector groups and insurance and manufacturing companies.

What the area needs to focus on is how far they’ve come and how fast. It is the accelerated pace of change that makes Waterloo a success. It isn’t about how much you have. It’s all about how fast you get there, and how much faster you’ll get there in the future. It’s about your ability to change, and to deal with that change.

I went to university in Waterloo. Later we moved away, eventually to Boston. We moved back a couple of years go to a very, very different Waterloo. A more "grown up" Waterloo, with a few growing pains, but still getting better.

Let Toronto or Ottawa be the knowledge capital of Canada. That implies a perch from which they can fall.I’d rather be the folks they’re always looking over their shoulder at and worrying about. I’d rather be the center of constant change and growth, always being more than people expect of you. Being more than they think you can be.

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The paperless society.

Fifteen years ago I worked with a company that was going to revolutionize the office environment by making it paperless. We would scan everything and store only digital copies that could be searched and extracted as needed. Your office could be paper free, with attendant savings in paper and storage costs.

In fact, every company I’ve worked with since then has used the same "reduce paper and save paper and storage costs" as part of its value proposition. But the truth is that people feel more comfortable when they have a paper copy readily accessible in a filing cabinet somewhere.

This truism is proven by a recent study by Statistics Canada:

The arrival of the personal computer gave much talk to the "paperless office". However, between 1983 and 2003, consumption of paper for printing and writing alone more than doubled, according to the study, entitled "Our lives in digital times".

In addition, professional travel has most likely increased during a period when the Internet and videoconferencing technology were taking-off, while e-commerce sales do not justify fears about the demise of traditional retail.

Now personally I’ve been virtually paperless for years, keeping only copies of receipts and invoices I need for tax purposes. Everything else I capture on my trusty Macbook, which is always nearby. I do keep a notebook in which I jot down the occasional thing that I want to remember. But I rarely print anything and don’t keep vast files of things.

And I must admit that the government has improved as well, allowing electronic filing in several instances. But it doesn’t seem that we’ll become a paperless society anytime soon.


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Thanks to wireless technology I am currently sitting in a restaurant having a glass of wine while blogging. And while the wine is infinitely preferable to the laptop, I do occasionally sit and think about how far we’ve come from the days when I needed to plug into a phone jack to connect to the net.

Or even worse, the time before the internet.

Now I can browse the web wherever I happen to be. Or I can just choose to be disconected and enjoy life in realtime. Which I’m going to do right now.


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