Posted by: glennandert | 28-August-2014

Uber’s rape and pillage tactics are disgusting

I   WAS   an avid fan of Uber, that is until I read this:

In short, they are paying their own contractors to turn in bogus ride requests to Lyft, in an attempt to slow down their competitor Lyft. But don’t take my paraphrase, read the article yourself.

Personally, I think this is disgusting. Uber is using rape-and-pillage tactics to slow down a competitor. That was standard operating procedure back in the Middle Ages. Haven’t we progressed past that?

I wrote to Uber support, expressing my dismay. I got back the copy-paste response “We appreciate the feedback and will be passing it the team.” That’s customer support parlance for “delete, case closed”.

The worst part is that the people at the bottom that actually do the driving are the ones that suffer – spending their time and money responding to fake calls that don’t produce a fare and waste their fuel and time.

My “want” is for the world to respond like this:

– How can Uber drivers trust Uber? They should defect to Lyft.

– Do Uber employees really want to work for a rape-and-pillage company? They should quit, and find another employer.

– Do the VCs that voted with their $1,500,000,000 dollars in investment actually want to fund this kind of business practice? They should exercise their considerable control to stop this.

I will be doing my part. On my next business trip, I’ll be using Lyft, not Uber.

Posted by: glennandert | 1-February-2010

Microsoft buries the world in rubbish

Just installed Office:mac 2004. Yes, I know that’s an old version. Better than the new ones, I’m told. And cheaper too!

Anyway, the packaging is absolutely unbelievably over-the-top anti-environment and downright disgusting. Here is the unpacking sequence:

1. You remove the plastic wrap on the outside of the package.
2. This exposes the plastic box about the size of a dictionary. This box is strong enough to protect the wee CD inside from a grenade going off. But, you pry it open.
3. This exposes the plastic casing which is equally able to protect the CD from a Mack truck. Not as easy to get open as the box.
4. This exposes the totally bullet proof and highly reusable plastic CD holder.
5. Ah, finally, the CD.

Did I say this is disgusting? Oh yeah, I did already mention that.

Of course, it could be distributed via iTunes, with NO packaging. Hey, I’d be willing to go down to the computer store with my thumb drive and ‘fill er up’. Anything but this death by packaging please……

Posted by: glennandert | 21-November-2009

Cradle to Cradle

About half way through my first year’s sailing journey through the South Pacific I anchored in the lovely lagoon of a tiny island in the middle of nowhere.

A couple of days later I was walking the deserted windswept beach on the windward side of the island. [No, the boat didn’t sink  🙂  I was just exploring.]  Much to my disgust, the beach was littered with every sort of rubbish that floats, from tennis shoes to plastic bottles.  There was even a “Danger Wet Floor” cone in perfect condition perched upright on the beach.  Even though there is no land to windward for thousands of miles – this tiny ‘unspoiled’ island paradise in the middle of a vast ocean had been forced to become a ‘rubbish filter’.  And the tiny village on the island had no means to dispose of it.

Wind the clock forward a couple of years.  One of the people I met after arriving in Wellington was Nick Churchouse from the Dominion Post.

Nick gave me a book called Cradle to Cradle.  It’s been a year since I’ve read the book.  But the concept still intrigues me.  I’ve thought of two new businesses that were built on the foundation of the ideas in the book. So it has certainly had an impact on my thinking.

I’d like to tell you a story to illustrate one of the central concepts in the book.

You run a car repair shop and are constantly cleaning up grimy dirty engine parts to enable inspecting and repair of the part.  You’ve discovered that the quickest way to accomplish this is to soak the part in a grease solvent designed for this purpose.  You go through a lot of this stuff.  To keep your costs low and stay competitive, you buy the cheapest imported solvent you can find.

You know the solvent is nasty stuff – after all, you wear gloves when handling parts that have come out of the soaker.  What do you do with it when the solvent is saturated and is no longer effective at cleaning parts?  You know that proper disposal is an issue.  But you have enough problems to deal with running your business without getting a PhD in environmental studies to figure out what to do with this stuff.  You ran into this guy Tom that runs a small chemical disposal business.  He comes by once a week and takes it off your hands.  You pay him in cash.  He always says “don’t worry, I’ll take care of this properly for you”.  What does Tom do with it?  You don’t know, and you really don’t want to know.  But it might be that he simply dumps it in a ditch on a deserted road when nobody is looking.

This scenario is known as “cradle to grave”.  It replays itelf everywhere you look.  Let’s look a little deeper at how it works in our example.

The supply chain for the solvent manufacturer ultimately looks something like this:  Pump oil out of the ground.  Refine it.  Process it.  Add some other chemicals.  Poof, solvent.  Environmentally messy, and expensive.

The supply chain for the metal container (the packaging for the solvent you buy) looks something like this:  Big mining operation.  Dig minerals out of the ground.  Refine them.  Process them.  Truck them to the next step in the supply chain.  Stamp them into metal buckets. Paint the bucket with nice colors and the manufacturer’s logo.  Environmentally messy, and expensive.  You’ll thank me for ignoring the supply chain for the paint. 🙂

That’s the ‘cradle’ part.  Harvest the raw materials from the earth, and fashion them into the final goods.  You’re in the middle.  You buy it.  You consume it.  And ultimately… you dispose of it.  That’s the grave part.

The grave part is very ugly.  It doesn’t matter where you look, it’s a mess.  Here in New Zealand we spend tons of money to collect plastic bottles as part of our “recycling” program.  Ultimately, most of that ends up in China where they burn it, because the energy produced from burning it is more valuable than cleaning it, chopping it and blending it 5% with new resin.

That’s ‘the old cradle-to-grave world’.  What might ‘the new cradle-to-cradle world’ look like?

You don’t buy solvent at all.  You rent a service.  The service works like this:  You explain your application to the solvent company (strip grease off of car parts).  They choose the solve that they have specially designed for this application.  They deliver fresh solvent to your door in metal containers, and they take away the containers that are now filled with grease laden solvent.

You pay a fee for this service that’s essentially determined by the amount of grease that you remove from your car parts.  There are plenty of these solvent companies.  One of the dimensions that they compete on is price per unit of grease removed.  Another is making it easy – like door-to-door delivery.

You love it.  You get the exact product you need, easy as pie.

Because the solvent company’s revenue structure is based on price per unit of grease removed, and because their cost structure includes deliver and pickup, they have an incentive to make solvents that absorb the most amount of grease.

But the real kicker is that they aren’t selling solvent anymore, they are selling grease removal.  The solvent itself is now part of their cost structure.  And solvent is the major cost.  So, they figure out a way to extract the grease from the solvent, allowing them to put the solvent back in a can and send it out to you again.  That’s fine with you – you’re paying by the amount of grease removed, so as long as the stuff works, you’re happy.

Suppose the going rate is roughly $100 a can.  $60 of that is in the cost of the solvent itself.  So, a company that can figure out how to send the solvent around the loop a few hundred times can turn a $60 cost into a $0.60 cost.

What about those metal cans?  They go around the loop along with the solvent.  So if the can was $10 of the cost, they’ve just reduced that to $0.10.

The solvent company is a regulated chemical enterprise.  Their environmental practices are audited twice a year.  They can’t hide.  All that solvent that comes back has to be disposed.  That’s expensive.  Actually, it’s a nightmare.  That accounts for another $20 in the cost structure.  So, the company that figures out how to send the solvent around the loop a few hundred times just reduced that cost to $0.20 per can.

Let’s add that up.  You, the consumer, pay $100 per can for the grease removal service.  The solvent company’s cost structure is $60 for the solvent, $20 for disposal, $10 for the can and $5 for other overhead.  They make $5 in profit on each can.  When they figure out how to send the solvent around the loop 100 times, the cost structure becomes $0.60, $0.20, $0.10 and $5.00, for a total of $5.90, leaving $94.10 in profit on each can.  That’s close to 19 times more profit per can.

What’s the moral of the story?  If you’re an entrepreneur, a businessman, or a product designer, the book is an awesome read.  And in any case, tell your government to regulate enterprise in a way that encourages entrepreneurship, competition, and cradle to cradle business relationships.

Posted by: glennandert | 29-October-2009

The impact of PRT on your wallet

In the old self-drive system, you owned the car. You paid the $45,000 for it. You insured it. You maintained it. You cleaned it. You paid to park it. 

In the pod system, pods are owned and operated by a personal rapid transit company. There are enough of them to make for a competitive and efficient operating environment. You have no up-front capital costs, no maintenance expenses, etc. You simply pay by the passenger-mile, more during high volume times.

When you bought that $45,000 SUV, it was all yours, including the entire down payment. Plus the full loan payment, including interest. The pod is far less expensive than your SUV. Plus we need a lot fewer of them. Instead of about 1 car per person, we need about 1 pod per 6 people. So, in effect, the cost of a pod is shared by the many people that share its use. That brings the effective retail price down to a few thousand dollars, on a per-person basis.

When the transit company buys a new pod, it clearly gets a better deal than you do – it buys them in lots of thousands, after all. The wholesale mass quantity price is considerably less than the retail price.

What are you going to do with that extra $40,000? Hey – send your kids to college so there is somebody around to maintain these things!

It should be obvious that propelling a small lightweight single-person pod will require far less fuel than that SUV you used to drive.

It is way cheaper for the transit company to maintain a fleet of pods than it is for you to maintain your one or two cars. There are relatively few models of pods, in comparison to the old self-drive system where there were literally thousands of models to be maintained. The transit company can benefit from modern factory methods  that keep the pods in peak operating condition, in comparison to the typical car owner that only fixes it when it fails the smog test.

What did you pay for insurance on that $45,000 self-drive car? Maybe $1,500 a year? You’re not crashing pods – so no collision premium. And because you’re not crashing into things, there’s no liability premium. And there’s no point in anybody stealing pods. That private automobile insurance is a thing of the past.

If you commute into the city, you are painfully aware of the cost of parking your car. You don’t park your pod – it’s busy serving somebody else when it’s not serving you. So that cost is now zero.

What about depreciation? A self-drive car that is maintained and operated as designed will run for many hundreds of thousands of miles. And for a lot of commuter cars, replacing the engine after a few hundred thousand miles is about 1/10th the cost of buying a new car. Of course, that’s generally not what happens. We generally don’t replace them because of metal fatigue – instead we replace them because they are no longer stylish, or they are ugly because we’ve abused them, or they are broken due to improper maintenance. So, we get many many more passenger miles out of a pod than we do out of a self-drive car.

What about that two-car garage that’s part of your house? And the driveway? How much of the value of your house is tied up in storing your self-drive car at night? It’s big. You don’t park the pod at your house – it’s still working for others, or being maintained, or stored in lanes that are idle during off-peak hours. So you get all that space back! What are you going to do with it? Convert it to another bedroom or two?

All those cops that were employed to give you traffic tickets can work on something else! And all those fine people in the Department of Motor Vehicles can too.

Let’s face it. We spend an incredible amount of money feeding our vehicles. The pod system puts a huge portion of that back in our pockets.

I’d love to hear from anybody that can offer more details on the financial analysis.

Posted by: glennandert | 29-October-2009

A bit about the PRT pod

A pod is designed for it’s exact purpose. The pod that takes you to your office in the morning is small. It’s light. And it uses the most appropriate propulsion technology for the job.

Making it smaller makes it lighter. Making it lighter makes it more efficient. So the motor can be smaller. Now you can remove structure, and it’s lighter again. At the design level there is a positive feedback loop towards efficiency. 

That’s the opposite of that big SUV you used to drive to work. Bigger meant heavier. Bigger engine. Now more structure required for the increased weight. Bigger engine. More structure. At the design level there was a negative feedback loop towards inefficiency. 

The pod that took the 3 of you to your afternoon meeting was necessarily bigger, and in fact was the 4-person pod.

 The pod taking you on an 8 hour drive to visit your relatives is designed to be efficient for long-haul inter-city work.

So, pods come in a variety of sizes and configuration to suit the purpose. 

Still, there are far fewer configurations of pods than there were cars in the old self-drive system. In the old system, fashion was handled by lots of different body styles, choosing your body color, style of wheels and other accessories.  In the pod system, there are a small number of standard physical pod configurations. Styling is done in Photoshop where you can create your own look anytime you want. Or, just pick from tens of thousands of stock designs already available in iTunes. 

By the way, I’m not talking about a monorail, or BART, or anything else that uses rails or other physical guides. Pods drive themselves on already existing streets. Yes, there are new sensors, mechanisms to keep people from getting run over, and other technical goodies. But the ability to operate on existing roads seems like an essential requirement.

We’ll come back to these details later.

Posted by: glennandert | 27-October-2009

Introducing Personal Rapid Transit (PRT)

Introducing Personal Rapid Transit (PRT):

The alarm goes off.  From decades of experience, you know you’ll be ready for pickup at 6:15am. You pick up your iPhone, and start the Charlie application. Charlie, the computer voice, says “Good Morning Julie, when would you like to be picked up this morning?” You answer “615”. Charlie says “Let me check for you, it will take me about 15 seconds”. Charlie’s very punctual, so you can handle the wait. Besides, you’re looking for your new boots while you’re waiting. Charlie comes back with “I can have a pod at your house at 6:17. That will put you at work by 6:46, give or take a couple minutes. Will that suit you Julie?” And you answer “That’s great, thanks”. And Charlie replies “cool – see you in 57 minutes”.

[Notice that Charlie defaulted your departure location from your GPS location, and your destination from the fact that you make this same trip M-F at roughly this same time.]

At 6:07 while brushing your teeth, you hear Charlie’s voice on your phone saying “10 minutes till pickup”. And at 6:15 while you’re putting on your fancy boots, you hear “2 minutes till pickup”.

You walk out the front door of your apartment building. There are two pods waiting. That’s interesting, somebody else in your building is leaving at the same time. Anyway, you know which one is yours, because the exterior skin of the pod is gleaming with that cool raspberry swirl design that you created last weekend in Photoshop. [When the pod was scheduled to come pick you up, it read your default pod skin design from cloud storage and transformed itself to your design just as it came to a stop outside your apartment building, sort of like an octopus.]

When you approach the pod, the door magically opens and Charlie the computer voice greats you with “Hi Julie. Your pod awaits you”. [The pod knew who you were, because it sensed the RFID chip in your iPhone.]

As you settle in your seat, you don’t even notice that the seat is set to the exact same ergonomic position as yesterday. [The pod read the RFID chip in your phone, and read your default pod environment settings from cloud storage.]

You appreciate that the temperature is just the way you like it, and it’s playing a track from the same album you were listening to on the ride home yesterday. When you created you new pod skin last weekend, you also designed a new vanilla scent with Smell Maker (one of your favorite iPhone apps). And the scent is working great this morning – so you’re very happy.

You relax for a few minutes as the pod automatically begins the journey to work.

After your brief rest, you adjust the tint in the windows to bring in just the right amount of light, and say “Charlie, table please”. A thin table emerges from the side of the pod. You adjust it over your lap. You touch the surface of the table and login. [The entire surface of the table is a touch screen computer interface that works pretty much like your iPhone. Since all your personal files and your company files are stored in the cloud, they are all accessible right here, using the pod’s built-in mobile broadband.]

You have a meeting with the rest of the team at 7:00. So you’ve got just enough time to read over what your teammates have put on the agenda, and to double-check the slides you put together for your presentation. 

Reviewing slide 6, you realize nobody is going to “get it”. So you quickly incorporate some new statistics which you just found, thanks to Google. After a 5-minute review via Skype with Fred (in his pod, coming in from the other side of the city) and Mary (already in the office) the new version of slide 6 looks awesome.

At 6:43 Charlie announces “We’ll be at work in 5 minutes Julie”. You push the table back up, and it disappears into the pod’s wall, re-adjust the tint in the windows for optimal viewing, and you spend the next several minutes watching your arrival at work. You’re checking out the skins of the other pods. You smile as you realize that you’re new raspberry swirl is very cool! 

Your pod pulls up outside the front door of your office building, the door opens, and Charlie says “Here we are. See you tonight for the ride home Julie”. You say “See you Charlie”, pick up your purse and your iPhone and step out of the pod. You see Sandy’s deep cobalt blue pod pulling up and decide to wait for her.

[You didn’t have to present any payment tokens because your payment settings direct the pod system to simply keep track of your mileage, and automatically charge your credit card at the end of the month.]

[As you depart, the pod closes it’s doors briefly while its internal vacuum system cleans the interior. It then changes it color to a jet black in preparation for it’s next user, who is just about to arrive.]

So, let’s review this relative to the requirements. 

#1: It has to be fast

Today it took 31 minutes to get you to work, door-to-door. In the old days it took a total of 65 minutes. It took a few minutes to clear the snow off the windshield and warm up the car. The commute traffic used to be horrid – you’d rarely get over half the posted speed limit. And then it used to take 7 minutes to find a parking place.

And the great thing is that Charlie gets you there exactly as he predicts, plus or minus a minute. In the old days, if you had a morning meeting, you’d have to leave 15-30 minutes early in order to make sure you made it on time.

You typically get in 20+ minutes of productive work during your 30 minute commute. Most people do work in their pods during their commute. So your boss recognizes that, and subtracts that from the amount of time you are expected to be at your physical desk.

So, in effect, it cost you 10 minutes to get to work, compared to the old 65 minutes!

The actual drive used to take 55 minutes and Charlie does it in 30. How did Charlie do it 25 minutes faster? The simple answer is no traffic jams and minimal waiting at intersections. All traffic is computer controlled by a central scheduling system. This avoids overloading the roads, which is what creates congestion. A savings of 15 minutes comes from the fact that Charlie is driving the whole way at the speed limit, instead of jammed in traffic. The other 10 minutes of savings comes from the fact that you don’t have to wait close to 3 minutes at the 4 major traffic intersections between your house and work.

#2: You travel where and when you want

No, the system doesn’t have enough capacity to get everybody to work at exactly 8am every day. However, because the scheduling system eliminates congestion, the system has more throughput than the self-drive world. Plus, the pods are very space efficient in comparison to the 4×4 3/4 ton SUV that you used to drive to work, by yourself. Taken together, Charlie gets about 5 times as many people to work at exactly 8am than the old self-drive world.

Plus, Charlie makes the logistics easy. Suppose you have an important meeting at your customer’s site at 2:00 pm. You simply let Charlie know that you have to be there by 1:57. The latest he can get you there might be 1:52. So that’s 5 minutes less than perfect. But , he’ll tell you exactly when he’ll pick you up, and be accurate within a minute at both ends. In the old self-drive world, to ensure you didn’t get nailed by traffic and parking, you’d have to leave at least 15 earlier than this. And, you’ve got your iPhone with you. So during that extra 5 minutes before the customer meeting you can catch up on some of that industry news you need to read anyway.

A pod can pick you up anywhere and take you anywhere, door-to-door. So, unlike a bus, subway or train, you can pretty much go anywhere.

Peak travel times are a bit more expensive – like air conditioner usage during peak power times. But the automatic payment system takes care of that for you, and informs you in your monthly statement how much you could save by shifting your travel times a bit.

#3: Privacy

Notice that on your morning commute into work, you had a private pod. That suites you just fine during your commute – you like getting some work done, and getting a jump on the day.

During that 2:00pm trip to the customer site, two of your colleagues came along. Charlie brought a pod that fit the 3 of you, so you could talk about strategy on your way.

No BO. No bad music. Just the conversation you want. 

#4: Comfort

 The pod is always immaculate when it arrives, and everything is adjusted just how you like it from seat ergonomics, temperature, lighting and  music, to even the interior smell and the pod’s skin design. If you’d like a rest before you arrive home after a hard day’s work, the seat reclines into an shape perfect for a nice 20 minute power nap.

#5: Safety 

The old self-drive system killed and maimed an astonishing number of people every year. But pods are driven automatically. They don’t crash. Alright, nothing’s perfect. There might be the occasional crash. The old self-drive system would kill at least 50,000 people every year in California. The automatic pods do suffer a ‘crash’ every now and then. But it’s only about 5 per year in California. And the self-drive system has a tendency to kill people. Because of all the safety features in the pod system, pod crashes rarely result in death or serious injury. 

The old self-drive system was so deadly that people actually passed laws to force people to wear seat belts. The pod system is so safe they don’t even have seat belts.

#6: Fun

Going to visit the relatives on Saturday? Mom and pop can go in one pod. Mom uses her desktop touch screen to admire the latest pair of sexy boots from her favorite shoe designer, while pop has a snooze. The two munchkins are in another pod playing the latest double action adventure game with all the explosions at full volume. Oh, and the kids can load up the pod’s skin from their latest cool design that they just purchased on iTunes, play their favorite music (that drives you crazy), etc. The inter-pod communication system allows you to monitor what’s going on in their pod, including the internet sites they are accessing.


Charlie meets all the requirements, and more. In the posts that follow, we’ll be exploring various aspect of the system, including how to build it, pay for it, and gain adoption.

Posted by: glennandert | 27-October-2009

‘Mass Transit’ that works – what would it look like?

I assume a lot of us care about global warming. And I assume we all see that the automobile is a major contributor to the problem.

I’m lucky to be living where I do in Wellington. On most days I can get wherever I want to go by just putting on my shoes and walking there. That’s awesome. I prefer the walk, even when the whether is miserable. When I have to use the car, the traffic is frustrating. And I hate driving around in circles looking for a parking spot in the city. Those moments keep sending me off to thinking about the ‘mass transit’ problem.

I’m going to write a series of posts on ‘mass transit’. Along the way I hope to shed some light on why today’s mass transit doesn’t work, what it needs to look like, and how we might get there. 

Do you actually enjoy sitting by yourself in traffic for 45 minutes to get to work? No. Then why do you do it? Because there is no effective alternative. An alternative has to meet these requirements:

Requirement #1: It’s faster than using your car

You’re busy. There’s more to do than ever. Work takes up more time than ever. If you’ve still got your job, you’re doing your work plus that of your comrades that were made ‘redundant’. If you lost your job, you might be doing multiple part-time jobs now in order to pay the mortgage and keep food on the table. You’re both working now. Yet somebody still has to go to the grocery store, get the cars serviced, take Johnny to sports, etc.

You’ll never use a form of transportation other than your own car unless you’re going to get there faster. That’s right, faster. Let’s face it, it’s going to take a lot to get you out of your car.

Let’s evaluate current alternatives in light of this requirement.

How about taking the bus to work? How do you get from home to the bus? Let’s call that a 5 minute walk.  If the bus comes on average every 15 minutes, there is about 7.5 minutes of queueing delay. Buses try, but rarely arrive on time. Not to mention that buses stop all the time, and therefore travel slower. Let’s be kind and call it 30 minutes extra every day to take the bus. Will you do it? Highly unlikely. You won’t do it even if it’s only 1 minute slower. 

How about walking or riding your bike? That’s takes even more time. Subways are mostly like buses, so we’ll lump then into that category. And trains typically have even bigger queueing delays.

How about car pooling? You’d think that car pool lanes would work – after all, once you’re a car pool, you get to travel in a lane that is less congested than the others. But, there are still queueing delays. The driver has to get from his house to yours in the morning – most likely an extra distance. And then he has to wait for you to be ready, or you have to wait for him to arrive. How long is that? Another 7 minutes? It’s starting to look a lot like the 30 extra minutes, again. Will the increased speed in the car pool lane make up for an extra 30 minutes? Maybe. But probably not.

Requirement #2: It goes anywhere anytime, and at your command

You’re life is chaotic. There are no noodles for tonight’s spaghetti, and no milk for tomorrow’s breakfast. So, you need to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Or, your wife Mary called and while it’s normally her night to pick up Johnny from sport, she has a late meeting that she can’t get out of – so can you please do it. This is a nightmare on a bus or a train. And if you car pool, now your commute partner becomes your chauffeur. This is one of the main reasons you stay in your own car – your car takes you where you need to go, and you have the keys.

Requirement #3: It gives you the privacy you want

You’d enjoy having friends you chose accompany you on your drive to work. But on a bus you have to sit next to somebody you’ve never met before, and who won’t look at you. And on the subway ride home you’re staring at an armpit that smells like it hasn’t seen a shower for a week.

Requirement #4: It’s at least as comfy as your private car

In your car, you can set the music, control the temperature, adjust the seat, etc. You’re in control and you can adjust it the way you want. What would it take for you to trade in the comfort of your own car for the opportunity to stand in a hot sweaty bus next to those armpits that haven’t bathed for a week?

And what about the groceries, or all the baby stuff? How do you handle that on a bus?

Requirement #5: Safety safety safety

You drive a big secure SUV. In a crash, you win. No weird looking or smelling people around. No foul language. You’re not worried about your purse. And you’re not worried about who’s going to say or do what to your kids.

Requirement #6: Fun

A lot of time you’re car isn’t fun. Like when you’re stuck in traffic. Or when it breaks down on the very morning when you are already late for a meeting with a major customer. But, it sure was fun when you drove it off the new car lot. And it sure is fun when you take it for a drive to the beach, or take your girl out on Friday night.


Let’s face it, mass transit as we know it isn’t going to have a significant impact on private use of the automobile, no matter how many billions you spend on it, no matter how expensive you make fuel, and no matter how high you pile guilt on the consumer.

Come back for our next edition where we explore an effective alternative.

Posted by: glennandert | 20-October-2008

Vodafone cracks me up

So Vodafone sends me the nice txt message inviting me to free txt BAL to 777 to check my balance, which is updated every 20 minutes. Every 20 minutes? They don’t feed those computer gremlins enough muesli? OK, I’ll bite, so I send BAL to 777. They send me back a sweet message saying “Sorry, unfortunately we are unable to process your request at the moment.”     Good for a morning laugh.

Posted by: glennandert | 19-October-2008

Crinoid, crinoids, crinoids

Sorry, can’t help it, they are so cool….

The photo below shows a crinoid perched atop a rock.

The flowery head is the part that waves around in the current filtering food out of the water. The part at the bottom that looks like an upside down Minerva’s head is how Mr Crinoid attaches to the substrate. He can hold on really tight with all those legs. Anyway, at the bottom of those legs you can see a small little crab holding on to the crinoid. Don’t ask me what kind of crab it is – because I have no idea. But it’s amazing what an ecosystem exists on and in a crinoid!

Check this one out. Not so many legs. It’s high tailing it across a big coral.

Like many of my earlier postings, these photos are taken during a night dive on the outer reef of Mana Island, Fiji.

Posted by: glennandert | 19-October-2008

The iPhone powered laptop

Remember a while back, I mentioned that the obvious future for the iPhone is a way to dock it with a device that includes full size keyboard and big screen?

Tim de Jardine pointed me to Olo Computer’s concept mockup for having an iPhone control a laptop. Go take a look. No, its not real. But it just adds to the point that people are thinking about it. Actually, I should say “thinking about it again”, because Palm developed a product called Foleo in the same vane, but cancelled it in 2007.

There are lots of technical issues: Can the iPhone support the required connections, does it have enough horsepower to drive a big screen, does it have enough memory to replace a traditional laptop, etc etc. My guess is that it will take until iPhone version 3 or 4 before it’s technically viable.

I’ll say again, it appears that Apple is repeating the history of the PC. With the iPhone, they have the best product, hands down. But they are keeping tight control over the platform and using that control to prevent competition – witness using control over the Apple store to prevent developers from bring out applications that might compete with Apple’s own roadmap.

This “iPhone running a laptop” scenario is a perfect example of where openness would allow the market to quickly develop in epidemic fashion, and be stiffled otherwise.

So, maybe not the iPhone. Maybe the gPhone. And god help us if it’s the mPhone 🙂

How should the product work?

Mail, contacts, calendar, etc are stored in the cloud (like on Google). The phone is just an access mechanism. Caching on the iPhone is good. Explicit synchronization is never required. That’s the status quo with mail using gmail, iMap, iPhone, Thunderbird, etc. Same is true for calendar. Same needs to be true for contacts.

Documents are stored in the cloud. gDocs, Zoho, or whatever. Ditto photos, music, videos, etc. Caching on the iPhone is good.

With all the stuff stored in the cloud, my essential data does not have to be backed up (a serious problem with laptops and becoming so with phones).

Yes, all my personal phone settings are also stored in the cloud (yes, yes, yes a few things like whether 3G is enabled are unique to the iPhone).

Yes, all software is loaded onto your phone straight from the cloud, including the operating system, and without the need for iTunes. Your personal and complete configuration information is stored in the cloud. And complete and automatic restoration is available from the cloud, without a PC, without iTunes, and without DLL conflicts. If your phone is mission critical, who wants to be dependent on a PC somewhere to restore it? In fact, you should be able to walk into any store that sells an iPhone and have them be able to restore your complete state onto a replacement iPhone in less than 15 minutes.

So what good is the storage on the iPhone? It is essential as a cache. It means that my important information is available to me instantly, and even when I am not on the network. But explicit synchronization is never necessary.

There is no need for synchronization between the iPhone and the docking station. The station runs off the user-specific settings on the iPhone. If the station has a processor, hard drives and the like, it’s transparent.

The idea of a “laptop powered by iPhone” is the wrong concept. Docking station is a better concept. A laptop simply has poor ergonomics for this application. Docking stations exist at home, on your desk at work (assuming you have one of those), in your car, in coffee shops, business centers in hotels, first class airline seats, business lounges in airports, etc etc. You can dock when and where you need.  When we fix the transportation system, your private delivery pod will have a docking station!

Many of the above locations have unique ergonomic considerations. So just think docking station, not laptop.

The user interface of the docking station needs to be pretty much identical to the iPhone’s. So that means that big screen needs to be touch driven in the same way. If the screen itself is not touch driven then the remote touchpad needs to make it seem so.

I’m sure at least a thousand people have already written these same words! The only open question is whether the phone in question is an iPhone, gPhone, mPhone, or ???

See you in the future.

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