I've cut myself off Twitter and political web reading today so I can save the suspense of the speech for tonight when I view it at a party!
January 15, 2009
Since I got back to work after New Year's, it has been absolutely crazy. Mobile World Congress is less than a month away now, so our push to announce JavaFX Mobile is in full effect. I've got a blog post to write about my amazing time at CES, will hopefully get to that and other thoughts this weekend. Twitter will be my voice until then.
January 03, 2009
When my good friend Ben Betts sent an email to a group asking them about their process for building a home media server, I figured it was time to document my environment for my blog.
- Take all of my CDs and DVDs and store the discs far away from the media room. Reduce clutter!
- Watch or listen to any piece of media I had wherever I was, in a consistent format that every device in my house could play.
- Easy enough to use that my daughters could flop on the couch and get something playing within 30 seconds.
I've encoded all of my CDs in Apple Lossless format. I debated FLAC v. ALAC for some time, but there were almost no portable players that could handle FLAC, but every recent iPod handles ALAC. I would have preferred the open FLAC route, but it was not to be.
I use iTunes on my Mac Pro. My music is stored on a separate internal drive. My music collection is about 220GB in size, and grows pretty rapidly due to ALAC. I sync backups of this drive and the iTunes Music folder onto my ReadyNAS NV+ 4TB (see backup section below).
My kids have their own iTunes setup much like mine, with much smaller music collections. iTunes doesn't support multiple user environments, so we're forced to maintain our own collections.
My Mac Pro is connected via optical (Toslink) to my Onkyo receiver in my office, which has 5.1 speakers attached via in-wall wiring. It sounds great. I've got an AirPort Express in my living room, so I wirelessly feed that receiver and the 5 speaker setup in that room. I use a iPhone 3G 16GB for portable playback, and have a copy of all my non-ALAC music on my PC so I can feed my Microsoft Zune 30GB. The Zune was refurbished and therefore cheap, plus I can develop games for it ;-)
I recently stripped the FairPlay DRM off all of my purchased iTunes Store tracks, and will not purchase music from Apple again until they stop putting DRM on music. I'm buying from the Amazon Store now. 256KB MP3 songs for less money than Apple's Store. What's not to like about higher quality for less price without DRM?! I buy about three singles a week and a couple of albums a month. I love music!
The problem I'm dealing with now is that I've had the iTunes database corrupt itself twice over the last two years. I've got ~11,500 songs, and have personally cleaned most of the metadata and added cover art (>= 500x500 pixels) and some lyrics. When the database goes south, I lose metadata not embedded in the song file (play counts, rating, last played). Been thinking about reviewing the ID3 spec to see if there are fields for this that Apple isn't using, or using a custom format that I embed in the comment field to store this data. I realize Apple and other music app vendors don't want to embed this data in the music file to prevent me from moving between Music (Store) apps quickly (customer retention), but when you lose data, portability seems like the least of your worries.
I recently started encoding all of my DVDs for digital storage. I've been using Handbrake on my eight core Mac Pro, which easily hits over 110fps on most encoding jobs. I make two digital transfers of each DVD, one for iPod/iPhone playback and one for TV playback.
I encode video in H.264 with a .m4v/.mp4 container, targeting ~2000Kb/sec with two pass encoding for TV playback. I chose that data rate based on playback quality and ability for 802.11g to wirelessly stream that stream to remote receivers. For the iPhone, I encode using Handbrake's standard iPod/iPhone preset. For TV, I encode using a derivative of Handbrake's Xbox360 preset, adding a second AC3 audio track. I want to protect the high quality audio, though I can't find a media receiver that can decode it (yet). Hint, hint, Xbox guys ;-)
The iPod encoded movies come in between 550MB and 700MB, and the TV encoded versions come in around 1.7GB.
My video files go to a ReadyNAS NV+, which then serves up the files via uPnP video service. My XBox 360 in my office is hardwired to my Gigabit switch, so I've got plenty of network bandwidth to stream files from the ReadyNAS to the 360. I watch all my movies digitally now in the office. I've got another 360 and a Playstation 3 in my living room, with a AirPort Express (802.11g) extending the range of my network. I wirelessly stream movies to both the 360 and PS3, but in this respect I'm having problems. I still have significant bandwidth issues via 802.11g, and the PS3 is all but useless in streaming video. I could upgrade to 802.11n, but the 360 and PS3 are both 802.11g based.
I've got a large collection of HD-DVD movies that I can play on my Xbox 360's HD-DVD player, and recently transitioned to Blu-ray discs for my PS3.
We dropped DirectTV about six months ago, mostly so I could experiment with OTA HD and Internet content delivery. The other factor was I hated the DirecTV interface. With the coming Tivo DirecTV box, I'll probably go back. I've got a eyeTV hooked up to my Mac Pro for OTA recording, and that works pretty well. I don't get NBC due to antenna issues, so we watch those shows via Hulu on the Xbox 360 via PlayOn!.
The MacPro is the master source for all music. I use ChronoSync to keep a backup copy available on the ReadyNAS. I know I could serve the house from that backup using the ReadyNAS's iTunes Media Server service, but haven't done that yet. I keep another backup of the tracks and ITunes Music folder on a backup disk in another location in the house, and a final copy on a offsite disk that is updated twice a year.
The master source for video is my ReadyNAS. I keep another copy of my Hollywood movies on a drive in my PC.
I just got a second generation Drobo to attach to my Mac Pro to back up the ReadyNAS NV+. I debated attaching it directly to the ReadyNAS via USB, but my previous backup system used a single USB drive attached to the ReadyNAS and the USB transfer performance was terrible. I'd rather use Gigabit Ethernet (jumbo frame enabled, ~40MB/sec write and ~50MB/sec read between ReadyNAS and Mac Pro) and Firewire 800 to backup the ReadyNAS. I've got tons of older SATA drives lying around, so Drobo was a natural upgrade.
I'm waiting for MacWorld next week for Apple to hopefully announce a new Mac Mini. If they do, I'm tempted to get one and attach it directly to my office receiver and TV, so I can try out Boxee. I really like the XBox 360 streaming capabilities, but a Mac would even be better ;-)
I've tried displaying photos on my TV, and it only works so well. Might experiment with this again in the future, but no current plans. My photo architecture would be the subject of its own blog entry ;-)
I'm looking at either a hardline Ethernet connection or Powerline connection to get more bandwidth to my living room so I get skip-free playback in that room.
I'm still trying to find the best OTA HD antenna. I've got a problem because the Bay Area has two TV towers that are 180 degrees apart (opposite sides of the Bay). I get perfect reception from one, which has every channel but NBC, and no reception from the other, which has NBC. Still working on this...
January 02, 2009
New Year's resolutions. Amazing what being at the "start" of a year causes people, including me, to do. Think. Plan.
Part of planning is looking back. On December 31, 2003, I wrote the following passage:
Imagine you get two calls on the same day:
- You've received $20 million dollars in your account tax-free
- You have an incurable disease that won't cause significant discomfort, but you'll drop dead in the next two to three years
- What would you do differently?
- What would you STOP doing?
Which led me, at the time, to the following questions for myself:
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What are you "genetically encoded" for; what activities do you feel you were "meant to do"?
- What makes economic sense; what can you make a living doing?
Damn, I was quite trite that day! That's an age-old scenario, and unfair because life often delivers #2 (unforeseen bad situation) without the benefit of #1 (unsolicited mana from heaven).
Looking back on this entry, I recognize that the real value in the question comes from asking it every day. Goals gain efficacy when they are rooted in past experience, but they are even more effective when they remembered and refined every day. While yesterday was a great day to set goals for 2009, today is an better day to remember those goals and live in the moment...
I'm a huge fan of Threadless and other ventures that express the hilarious, frivolous, and politically incorrect on T-Shirts. Self-expression for the upper torso and back.
My daughter Emmy and I are always trading ideas for T-Shirts to submit to Threadless. I have the artistic capacity of a stump, so all I end up with is ideas. Here's one of our silly ideas. You always see those silly "angel on one shoulder, devil on another shoulder" images, and I wanted to play with that on a T-Shirt. Humorous yet a serious question. You make the call.
I wish more T-Shirts engaged the viewer both front and back. You'd know you got someone's attention when they were so intrigued that they left their normal walking pattern and orbited around you for a brief moment to get the whole joke or story.
And on the topic of knowing that someone got your T-Shirt, I've been thinking a lot about what happens when our glasses move from passive to active data discovery. When we look at a person and not only see them (passive data) but also see their social graph status floating about their heads (active data). It would not kick ass if someone looked at your T-Shirt (wardrobe) and they not only got the passive data, but an active response stream? They see another part of the joke, perhaps? A wink of appreciation? And of course, I as the viewed would get an active response above their head letting me know that they looked at my shirt. Little problems emerge like determining the duration of the viewing (glance versus actual consumption), but our glasses will soon deliver much more than what the physical world offers in terms of data, and I want my T-Shirts in on the action!
If a navigation system knew you were on a route that was familiar to you, couldn't/shouldn't it lower the verbosity (frequency, repetition, volume, etc.) of its voice navigation commands? It's rather annoying that my Dash and Garmin devices both treat me as if every drive I ever make is the first between the source and destination.
I'd love my navigation device to fade into the bckground, so to speak, when I'm driving a routine route, then come forward when I traverse into the new and unfamiliar.
Based on the date (022706), I created this entry when I was starting the Product Marketing group at Dash. Previous experience starting at companies taught me I needed a place to start an assessment of a company's marketing capabilities. Ground Zero, so to speak.
I've been adding to this list ever since, but here is the first iteration of my Ground Zero document. I use a refined version of this document whenever I deeply evaluate a startup for an advisory or investment role. It's not that a startup has to have all of these, but you'd better have a plan and the qualified people to get to most of them quickly.
Yes, this is Marketing 101. Amazing how many companies, big and small, don't have a grip on all of the fundamentals...
Product Marketing material
- MRD - Marketing Requirements Document
- Customer Segmentation (demographic, psychographic, affinity brands) - also known as the personas
- Market sizing and research
- Go To Market (G2M) - Messaging kernels for customers, channel, partners, Branding, distribution strategy, pricing models
- Detailed business model for three years
- Competitive Research
Product Management material
- PRD - Product Requirements Document, aka the feature list, in/out/deferred
- User experience fundamentals - tone, look and feel, what is their capability to intuitively speak to the personas/customers?
- Out of Box experience - don't fixate on the word Box, focus on UE, packaging, documentation, product, etc.
- Roadmap, see feature list, competitive research, market dynamics, etc.
- Customer Service and Support plan - how do you support customers and make them evangelists. Think offense, not defense
- Logistics for physical product
- User Experience testing plan
- Accessories - think what is the upgrade path for the product. What can the customer buy/add to the product if they like it
- Weighted Use case scenarios for the product, should be in the PRD, but...
- Competitive Feature set grid for all major products in segment
January 01, 2009
Working at Palm on the first Bluetooth implementation for PDAs, I was constantly thinking about applications that could take advantage of our new technology. One of the first things that came to mind was taking Assassin to the next level. Assassin is a game where a group of people draw names from the common pool of all names in the group. The name you draw is your target, and your job is to find the person out in the world and "assassinate" them, aka sneak up to them and tag them. They give you the name they are carrying, and the game continues until there is only one person left.
I always thought it would be fun to use Bluetooth in the seek portion of the Assassin game. Given Bluetooth's 30 foot range, it was like a short range tracking device. You could also use Bluetooth as a virtual tag, but at 30 feet it would take the social aspect out of the game. Virtual tagging at 30 ft would make Assassin a sniper game, and we all know that games with nothing but snipers suck!
After you make the virtual kill, you could use BT to transfer the next target from the recently deceased player. Would be a great way to extend your social graph, as you could in essence get an updated business card with full social graph info from all the players in each game. Address Book integration ;-)
This idea assumed your device was in active mode all the time (kiss your batteries goodbye), but given today's WiFi, BT, GPS, etc., I'm pretty sure this idea and associated games have been taken to their logical conclusion?
Idea from July 29, 2002
Update Feb 3, 2009: Take a look @ YouCatch from JOYity for the Android platform! Idea realized!!