Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh, yeah.

From Berlin

A geotagging update:

After a number of false starts, fruitless efforts, software installation, software removal, uploading, re-uploading, etc., I finally worked out the geotagging magic.

I've got two galleries of shots from my Berlin trip, pretty much all geotagged and mapped, on Flickr and on Picasa. I used a GisTeq PhotoTrackr, with the (horrible, confusing, designed by aliens) GisTeq software used to (finally) associate the correct time/location with the correct photo. That took several tries.

Next, it turns out that there's not one, but two checkboxes you have to click on to get location data uploaded to Flickr. First, you have to share EXIF information. Then, you have to save any location data provided. Flickr is another example (at least in configuration) of non-intuitive design...

In between the inability to get Flickr working, I pulled down IrfanView (to verify that the location data was getting correctly stuffed into the EXIF), and the latest version of Picasa (which allowed me to verify that, if I had location data, it was possible to upload it someplace and take a look at it...)

Anyway, it works. I'm going to have to look for alternatives to the GisTeq software, at least for anything other than pulling the tracking data off the device (which is likewise horrific); anyone know of any projects working on this, e.g. associating NMEA datalogs with photographs, especially graphically...?

Not Getting It at Techcrunch

Dan Kimmerling, over on TechCrunch, advises would-be iPhone developers to sit down, shut up, and learn to live with Apple's rules. In doing so, he manages to completely miss the main point that people have been complaining about.

Writing software is work. Sure, people do it for fun, but people split logs for fun, too. In any case, people do this sort of thing expecting a return on their investment of time and effort. The problem that Apple has created is that developers are in the position of having to make the entirety of their investment up front--thinking up and developing an application--and only then can they submit it to the iTunes Apps Store and find out whether they're going to be allowed to sell it or not.

The problem here is the complete lack of anything like a free marketplace. Apple not only owns the grocery store here, they own your pots, pans, sink, refrigerator and kitchen stove, and you can only use the recipes they've pre-approved. If you can't sell your application on the Apps Store, you simply can't sell your application. You could try to market it to the owners of "jailbroken" phones, but those are getting fewer and farther between; Apple keeps making efforts, with every software update, to close those opportunities as well.

(One of the coders whose app was rejected by Apple "for duplication iTunes functionality" found a backdoor through a mechanism used to distribute beta versions; Apple quickly slammed that door shut, too.)

That's a lot to ask of a developer: "make your investment up front, and we'll let you know after you're done whether the last six months were a complete waste of your time." That's a very bad proposition. When you add the limitations of the SDK in terms of what you're not allowed to do, and then you add the truly draconian terms of the NDA associated with the SDK, it starts to look like something which won't really incent the development world to put in major effort.

What organization is going to commit to a 10,000-man-hour project for the iPhone when they'll have no idea whether they'll actually be able to sell the fruits of their labors? Dan is right in this: Apple is certainly entitled to run their business as they please, but I hope they're not counting too much on the notion that their position is unassailable (although, based on my experience working there, I'm pretty certain they are counting on exactly that notion). The same thing will happen to the iPhone as happened to the Macintosh in the mid-90s.

Early adopters are fickle people. As soon as there's something else they can adopt earlier that seems shinier than what they have now, they're off like a shot. That--and hubris--is what took Apple's market share from 22% down to 2% ten or fourteen years ago.

Apple's setting themselves up to see exactly the same thing happen again.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going Less Proprietary with Multimedia...

Up until now, I've kept my CDs on an iPod, and carted along a DVD drive and a case of DVDs with me when I travelled, playing them back on my laptop. I had a really interesting experience on my flight from San Francisco to New York last week, which (along with some other fortuitous timing) has encouraged me to replace the iPod.

I managed to snag a seat in business class, and discovered that United has been playing around with the Archos 7xx line: they're handing them out, preloaded with a couple of dozen movies, to folks sitting in business for the duration of the flight. Aside from some minor screen calibration problems (it was difficult to fast-forward reliably using the movie's timeline), I thought it was an excellent experience.

The Archos 7xx are pretty big units, though. Happily, Archos is just releasing the new Archos 5 line, which comes in at about the size of a 3x5 card and only half an inch thick. I ordered one from Amazon, with a 250 GB hard disk yesterday, I expect to receive it within the next month.

I also started playing around with solutions for converting DVDs to MP4, and was pleased to discover that AnyDVD from Slysoft will not only allow me to get past the flavor-of-the-week copy protection they slap on DVDs (and it's worked in every single case except one), but it also gets around the regionality of the DVD drive so I can now use non-region-1 DVDs without the driver complaining.

I'm using Nero 8 recode to do the conversion. Movies take a little less than real-time to convert, but the size (for cinema quality) is excellent: they seem to come in at around 3/4 of a gig, or less.

With the 250 GB on the Archos, that means I get get my entire CD and podcast collection, as well as a selection of as many as a hundred or so movies at any given time, onto the Archos (once I've managed to convert that many, of course.) Frequent-flying-horror-movie-enthusiast heaven!

While a 3x5 screen sounds small, holding an actual 3x5 card (well, a Moleskine notebook, which happens to have almost exactly the same form factor as the Archos) up at arms length completely covers the 32-inch monitor in my living room, and then some, so that winds up being effectively a larger screen than the one I watch at home.

And, oh yeah: the Archos runs Linux (Qtopia, to be specific). Not that it does me much good--you can hack the older Archos devices (at a cost of some loss of functionality, something Archos should help the community to correct, if they're wise), but not this one so far.

So, adios, Apple. My last G4 Cube blew up a while back (necessitating a significant amount of inconvenience in reconstructing my MP3 collection, which I had to back-synch from the iPod), and now it looks as though the iPod's days are numbered, too...

Friday, September 12, 2008


This is terrible. It's been more than a month since I've posted anything here.

One of the reasons is that I've been busy, busy, busy. On currently in New York City for the weekend, on my way to one of the things I've been busy with, the Open Source in Mobile conference, which is taking place in Berlin next week.

I've been particularly busy coming up with fiendish questions for the ACCESS-sponsored Open Source in Mobile Pub Quiz, which is shaping up to be quite an event! We going to be having ten (!) teams, beer, and questions galore, hosted by yours truly.

I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

On a not-really-related note, I'm taking along my GiSTEQ GPS data logger to Berlin, so I should be able to do some experimenting with geotagging photos. On another, my friend John Kreuzer has a video posted of me demoing some Netfront widget stuff at Linuxworld...

I'm also reading quite a good book now, which offers some interesting explanations of why "feature checklists" are wrong and how companies fail to grapple with what their customers actual needs and experiences are: Subject to Change by Peter Merholz, Brandon Schauer, David Verba and Todd Wilkens (O'Reilly)...