Another interesting article on an Electric Vehicle

Zero Motorcycles cranks out whisper quiet electric bike – Engadget

 This is another interesting concept. Unfortunately, I have a problem with the whole concept of electric cars – at least with ones with batteries which need to be charged from the electric power grid. In terms of a solution to our energy problems, or to global warming, these really make no sense whatsoever. All they are doing is moving the problem from one place (vehicles) to another place (the power grid), where the environmental impact is potentially as bad or worse. If even a small percentage of our vehicles were switched to electric, the impact on the power grid would be enormous.

While I admire the idea behind this effort, I believe the environmental advantages are largely illusory.

The Future of the Tablet PC (does it have one?)

Reading a post by Loren Heiny, Will the Tablet PC find a new advocate?, got me thinking (again) about the future of the Table PC – more worrying about whether the Tablet even has a future. I am worried that because of the complete mess Microsoft has made of marketing the tablet platform, without Bill’s continued visible support behind it, the Tablet will either disappear, or be relegated to a very narrow niche product.

I think I have mentioned (over and over) that I am a big fan of the Tablet PC. I think that in many respects it is far more innovative than anything to come out of Apple in the last 10 years or so. And in terms of the industry as a whole, it has opened up both a hardware and potential software market well beyond Microsoft (take note of that all you Apple fans – what has the ultimate closed source community at Apple produced that has benefited any business other than Apple?).

The problem now, of course, is that the Tablet is old news. It is 5 years old, has not lived up to early predictions that soon “every laptop sold will be a Tablet” (though in real terms has been reasonably successful), there is a shortage of really “tablet specific” or even “tablet aware” applications (notable exceptions of course are OneNote and MindJet MindManager). It has really missed the boat on the hype cycle it could have generated. And now, the primary champion of the platform, Bill himself, is no longer involved in day-to-day operations at Microsoft.

So, whither the Tablet PC? Loren makes a number of good points in the referenced article – and I will not repeat them here (hey, go read the original!). I agree whole-heartedly that the fact that those of us who support the Tablet PC have our work cut out for us if the momentum is to be maintained. I have been looking for projections about the size and growth of the Tablet PC market, but doing a Google search I do not see anything that is newer than about 2004. Are there any more current projections out there?

Another thought I had, beyond Loren’s observations, is around open source and the Tablet PC. The hardware specifications for the Tablet are fairly well defined. Unfortunately, the only software that supports it is Windows (not that I dislike Windows, but it means the entire Tablet PC industry is at the mercy of Microsoft’s decsions about continuing the platform). how about some of these really innovation open source types take the Tablet PC to new heights? Lets create a Linux-based (or not) OS, put a novel, Tablet-specific UI on it, and drive the Tablet market in that way? I know there are people out there who have put Linux on the Tablets, but I am talking more than just getting so it doesn’t crash, and works like a laptop with a funny shaped mouse. Something that really IS a Tablet computer. That would be a really innovative use of Open Source!

Thoughts?   

Vista Flops? I beg to differ….

I have been reading posts (blogs and in more traditional press) since Vista came out (well, since long before it came out, actually) about how bad it is, how unstable it is, about how nothing works, about how disappointing it is, and so on, blah blah blah….

Today, I came across this post Vista Flops, Users “Upgrading” to XP (there are number of similar posts in the same place, I will not link to them all).

I am rapidly coming ot the conclusion that people in the computer industry are the biggest whiners in existence – even worse then Canadians (just kidding – I AM CANADIAN). I have been using Vista as my primary OS since before the first release candidate. I use it on 5 computers (3 laptops, 1 desktop, and 1 Tablet). I have found it to be at least as stable as Windows XP (and more stable than many other versions of Windows in similar stages of their lifecycle). Performance is as good as I had under XP for most things. Overall, I have found it to be pretty good.

Are there things which I would like to have seen? Sure. Are there things that were in the original preview of Longhorn I saw at PDC 2003 that I wish were in the final version. Absolutely. I also recognize that features get cut and modified over the course of development, usually driven by the marketing department and feedback from those same whiny users.

The biggest complaint I have had about Vista is not against Microsoft so much as it is against the hardware and software community surrounding it. The availability and quality of updates to drivers and applications has been abysmal. A fair number of the devices I use (especially on my Tablet) were not supported when Vista was released, and some still are not and probably never will be. What happened – you guys get surprised by the release of Vista? Didn’t know it was coming. Come on – get with it. The same can be said for products from Apple (iTunes) and Adobe (Reader – the number one crashing product I have under Vista).

Get off it people – if you do not like Vista – do not use it. But please, stop whining about it!

"3D" browsing and searching

Came across a post today called Exploring the 3D Search, about an application called SpaceTime (www.spacetime.com). It is a browser and search front end, which presents the results in a 3D “stack”, and allows you to scroll through them in that way.

While I like the initiative of trying a new visual approach, as I have discussed previously, this is really just another way of presenting a list. It is a start, but still not what I am looking for in a really new, “next generation” search visualization.

It is definitely worth checking out, though.

Second Life: What’s the Big Deal?

Ok, so I have been thinking about this post for a long time. There is a constant stream of hype around Second Life and the opportunities which abound in that world. It is very hard to look anywhere on the web without someone raving about Second Life. Am I the only person in the world who just does not get it? I understand the concept – I mean I have spent time over the years in various online collaborative environments, ranging from IRC, text-based MUDs, web-based chat rooms, IM (hey, I had a 5-digit ICQ number), helped build a voice over IP conferencing system, and wasted ridiculous amounts of time in online games like Ultima Online and World of Warcraft. I have often thought about the integration of collaborative goals with the immersive environments like WoW. I think there are definitely possibilities, and the success of Second Life seems to be proof of that.

My problem with Second Life is with the implementation, not the idea. I have been on Second Life quite a bit in different spurts over the last year, having spent I think enough time there to get a good feeling for how it works. To be really blunt, I found the graphics in it to be really clunky and laggy, and not visually compelling at all (as one of my kids said, “so last millennium”). The interaction with the virtual world is very frustrating (largely due to the lag, I would guess). I wonder how much of the draw of users to this world is driven from the hype OUTSIDE of Second Life, and not by anything inside, because I saw nothing inside to bring me back.

Maybe if someone were to create a better implementation, with the graphics most people have come to expect, without the lag, I might come to believe in the model. Until then, all I see is hype driving yet another wave with little behind it.

I have a lesser problem with the idea of trying to replicate the real world in a virtual environment in order to improve collaboration. I think it is a far better idea to create immersive environment which does not imitate reality, and which takes advantage of this to enable collaboration.

Am I the only person who thinks that the emperor has no clothes?

A Quick Update

I have been unable to post the last couple of weeks as I have been tied up with a bunch of stuff for work (don’t you hate it when work gets in the way of blogging?). Anyway, I have a couple of posts which I have been working on which I hope to post this weekend – one is a followup to my previous post New Product Ideas – How hard can it be?, and will talk about some thoughts I have on actually generating and selecting new product ideas. The other is just some ramblings I have on Bubble 2.0 – questioning whether we (the tech world) and the whole “Web 2.0” community are blowing another bubble, complete with silly valuations, ridiculous buyouts, and not much real business sense. I have not finished writing it yet, so I do not know what my conclusion will be – you will find out when I do (or the other way around).

Things that should just work – my smart phone

Ok – so I got a new toy this week: a Palm Treo 700wx smart phone. I have never been a really big fan of the whole smart phone/blackberry kind of thing, mostly because I am rarely away from a computer long enough to need another eMail device. But, the company was upgrading our cell phones, and since I do not really use a phone much (I think I get about 4 calls/year), I decided to go for something that could do something other than talk. I also figured it would give me a chance to do some Windows Mobile development experiments. I have had the device for 3 days now, and I really like the form factor/engineering of it. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to do much else with it, other than look at it.

Our provider has not yet figured out how to hook it in to either their voice or data network (even though they supplied the phone).

So, while I was waiting for that to work, I decided to play with it from the local side, by hooking it up to my PC. That is when I hit another problem. The install kit for the phone does not recognize Windows Vista (which I am running). After a bit of digging, I realized that I do not need to install the ActiveSync software, as Vista has the Windows Mobile Device Center. So, I download that, get it installed, and plug my phone into the USB port. Windows recognizes the new device on the port and proceeds to install the drivers. All seems happy. I launch the Mobile Device Center. Unfortunately, my phone does not show up as connected. I spent a significant amount of time playing with it yesterday – working through various troubleshooting guides I have found. Still no luck.

This should not be this hard. To me, this is in the category of “things that should just work” – especially since both devices are running versions of Windows. Maybe I expect too much.

I will repeat myself on this…

This should just work!

PS – anybody who has made this work, please leave me a comment with any suggestions you might have!

 PPS – why are data plans so insanely expensive in Canada, compared to the US? It cannot just be market size – is it just because they can get away with it?