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May 1, 2006

The Future Of TV Podcast

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Here are some thoughts about the future of TV.

April 26, 2006

Can copy-protection/DRM Be Done Right?

So in a month I'm planning to release a video game for the Mac platform that'll cost around 10 bucks. How can I best ensure people don't steal the game without hurting the non-criminals?

Here are some ways software companies have locked their stuff down:
- Software Keys (Serials), the most common
- USB Dongles, among the most evil
- Scanning for software that *might* be used for privacy purposes (EA used a piece of software to scan to see if your PC contained Alcohol 120%, a program great for handling the burning of CDs but also heavily used in copying games for illegal purposes).
- Online validation (like Steam provided by Value Software)

So all those techniques somehow are an inconvenience to the legal buyer, some to more degrees then others. Software Keys and USB Dongles, are easily broken. And the other two methods have ways around them. So to sum up copy-protection:

It costs money for the developers to put in place, it is a pain to the legal buyer, and the pirates get around it.

Everyday this statement becomes more and more known yet companies are getting progressively more aggressive. For example, DVDs had (what at the time was thought as) easy copy-protection that'd stop people from owning the movies to do anything with them but to watch them in DVD players (you can't backup or archive your copies, you can't them to your video iPod...) and now Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will be 4x more agressive with even harder to crack techniques that take away more rights from the consumer. Word on the street is their new copy-protection has already been cracked. If it hasn't, it will be soon.

But why are people working so hard to crack it? In the case of DVDs look no further then Linux. GNU/Linux is an open-source operating system used by some of the brightest as they get to control their computing experience. For DVD playback someone has to pay for the rights to decode the movie on that disc, and because Linux doesn't have any large companies like Apple or Microsoft willing to fork over the cash for each copy of Linux, Linux users are essentially screwed. Thus, legal buyers and non-pirates crack this stuff.

When will they learn?

This all is just the tip of the ice-burg, but I guess it comes down to a simple serial being all I should be concerned with.

April 19, 2006

Goods Based on Information

Coming on strong over the last decade, information based goods have changed the way we look up word definitions, how we find directions, and how utilize technology.

Only the great Internet could reinvent the way we connect with and understand information. The Internet's purpose is for just that, to connect everyone and everything in the effort to spread as much information as possible (some good, some quite that's perhaps a waste of space). The easiest way to break one of these new services, that could be great, would be to kill it with ads or make people subscribe. Not all services make sense as a platform to make a business on, so either get creative (like Google did with making a business around advertisting) or let the energic young adult create it.

The world is only going to move at a quicker pace from here on out.

April 16, 2006

Helios Health - Not Quite

A smart idea, sure, but something that can be deployed and successful in hospitals around the world? Not quite.

Not everyone wants technology creeping into every aspect of their life, and this is a good example.

Do you want to rely on your time in the waiting room to research what you might have troubles with?
How much would it help the doctor?
Is it a feasible way for someone to make money?

I argue it's important for a medical website to be in place for anyone with internet access to become better edcuated and help lengthen their life, but now isn't a time to wedge in more technology when it's it hard sell on everyone's end. On the other hand, supplying a machine that has access to that site on college campuses is where I believe the efforts should be spent.

April 3, 2006

My Own Competition To EA

This is why I've been staying up late and missing classes:

(sorry, because of the blog format you have to copy and paste in the URL to your address bar)
http://www.dereksucks.com/images/mountaintanks.jpg

EA As The Microsoft Of The Gaming Industry

...at least until Microsoft themselves started taking a run at the market. Alright, so now we have two Microsoft's in the market, that is two companies who buy up the little guys, who buy the popular developers, and buy their current day success.

I'm not arguing Microsoft or EA have always been evil, or that their owners see them today as evil, rather today they are hurting the people that matter. It is captialism at it's best boys and girls. First Microsoft took over the computer industry and now the gaming market, funny how they tend to screw over my interests. Anyways, back to EA.

KISS stands for keep it simple stupid, and it's important for making quality games. Creating a video game takes a great amount of time and care, espescially when it feels done, that's when you know it's time to test it hard. Nobody wants to ride a bicycle into a bus and get stuck to the bus, being forced to reset the game and having to start over. Polish makes or breaks a game. A game can be made about anything, as long as it's polished and well put together it can be fun. Shooting hookers and running over cops aren't the fun part (or rather, they don't have lasting appeal that an empire could be built from).

So how can the market thrive if larger and larger companies are putting more people on games and less focus is involved? It can't. It might be able to survive, but for only so long.

The good news comes in the form of another creation from Maxis (now owned by EA), with a tiny little game called [url=http://www.spore.com/]Spore[/url]. It's incredible. It's about fresh ideas, it's about taking chances, it's about what makes gaming fun. EA already knows they've got a hit on their hands, and they know it's the innovation that's going to give them a record quarter. They've realized they need to encourage more of their developers to rethink gaming and the ideas powering it.

The industry has been heading towards a wall given the lack of exciting new titles on the latest systems from developers and publishers such as EA. It has been heading toward a wall even though gaming isn't yet consider mainstream. Come on EA, show us what you're made of.

March 28, 2006

So That Guy Is Cringely?

Apple Employee #12...is that guy Cringely? That guy who hosted Triumph of the Nerds is Cringely?

Ignorant to his background, it is only a few months at a time that I can go without hearing his name in mentioned somewhere. He makes yearly predictions and regularly blogs about the industry, and often has some interestingly intelligent things to say. I've never known much about him, in fact I've always mentally associated the frog that's on his blog with him and his writing.

I'm glad to have discovered this personality, glad that he is around to challenge and guess. I've now got his site bookmarked and blogged. Whenever his name pops up in the future I'll be more attentive and interested.

March 19, 2006

The Force Of Microsoft

In middle-school I had found myself growing increasingly interested in all things technology. The trouble was each day I'd come home to my family's computer and remind myself why I didn't like technology, while our computer crashed and turned me away a disgust was building up inside of me. Around that same time Apple launched it's new Mac OS X operating system, I don't know when it happened, but I learned about the company and their offerings, finding myself intrigued and delighted.

The Mac was bought and my life changed. My days changed from watching television and playing video games to making movies and video games on my Mac. Everything exploded as my mind became the bottleneck as possibilities opened up and were being realized. Back then nobody knew who Apple was, and if they did they probably thought they were dying.

Before iPods and iTunes there was a group of us Mac users who gathered and made Steve Jobs God and Bill Gates the devil. We all discussed how Apple was changing the world and Microsoft was squeezing the life out of it. Apple was firing on all cylinders as new products and applications were being introduced for our pleasure (and pocketbooks), and we bought it up because it was great and cool. Microsoft, like they usually do, let their products slip and sit unchanged just after becoming the owner of the market. They bought all the good ideas in sight to stay in business.

Then something happened, we weren't the only ones owning the iPods and using iTunes, suddenly the world was. Our group rapidly changed as members were learning and understanding what we knew all along. The world is logging on and reading about what Microsoft is doing, and they're switching. Enough of the sloppy programming that makes everyone get infected and enough standing on a stationary train that reads innovation on the side.

After stealing from Apple they captured the computer market, after betraying IBM they keep moving on their own route. Oh Microsoft, those pockets will only carry you so far if all the companies that made you successful are now gunning for you to fall.

Come on Linux (that's you Red Hat, Novell, IBM, and Ubuntu) and come on Apple (now using Intel chips so users can still run Windows on their box to encourage people switch to the Mac), let's get people excited about technology again, let's knock Microsoft down off their pedestal so they have to always be improving their products and fighting for their position.

My name is Derek Arndt and I love technology now that I don't deal with Microsoft.

March 7, 2006

AIM Standards (Not IM Standards)

After reading the case write-up I was struck with one focused reaction, I was surprised. In about 12 pages of information and 4 pages of pictures, I learned very little and little in terms of story happened. Some smart people created IM, then a few larger companies got in the market, and then nothing happened. Here we are 7ish years later and the IM world hasn't changed significantly, so what are we analyzing here?

Fine, then let's discuss standards. Standards have been an after-thought for those with deep wallets looking to continue padding their pockets. Trillian has done a good enough job to ensure no matter which major network the user is introduced to, they can be talking to anyone else. Once again proving some places are better owned by the free and open developers....or at least not big business run. The IM world was stormed by a smart set of individuals and ever since those same people have been quietly doing their best to keep it where it should be. Thanks to the advent of Jabber the major companies should be able to save themselves a great deal of effort and focus on making their products better, but instead they're ignoring them and working on big ads. Big companies aren't evil, they just aren't creative like the many small companies that they keep having to buy out to stay on top are.

February 26, 2006

Audible: After The iTMS

With no specifics numbers or solid evidence of anything other then the fact that the iTunes Media (it's not just music anymore) Store is a popular source for downloading audio content, I call the iTMS has been the best thing to happen to Audible and Audiobooks since it's inception. Let's look at what we do know:

1.) The iPod is a massive success and attracting more customers and driving more sales on the iTMS every day.
2.) Audible is listed and advertised on the iTMS. (easy access and lots of exposure)
3.) Being on the iTMS, audiobooks are now not subscription based, but, much like everything else on the iTMS, bought per item. (now easy to try)
4.) Audiobooks integrate nicely with iTunes and the iPod. (become part of the easy Apple model that people already enjoy)

Given the information provided, I have a hard time not concluding Audible is doing better and better each day thanks to Apple's success in portable and online music.

One interesting aspect is if Apple might one day decide to cut off Audible and handle the online book distribution themselves. Would Apple do that? How much money would Apple be able to make by cutting out the middle man? How would their business partners see the move?

February 21, 2006

Why Napster Was Successful -> Why iTunes Is Too

At the rate technology is changing, companies and consumers are bound to miss innovations in markets technological advances allow for. Nobody knows for sure how often the boat was missed, but often times when the foundation and pieces are in place, it takes a chunk of time before someone puts them all to use. And then there is Napster, an innovation in how the infrastructure of the internet could be put to use while doing so in a manner that violates copyright laws.

It started in a college dorm room in the late 90's where Shawn Fanning had an interesting idea, use the power of the internet and the technology of Person-to-Person sharing to create a network for sharing files with others. The internet wasn't new, neither was P2P (person-to-person), but they hadn't been harnessed for the masses. Being a software programmer, Shawn created his own music P2P program so he and others could find music without the traditional hassles of finding them on the 'internet underground'. Well Napster worked, and rather well, as it spread like wildfire. Napster was free, it was easy, and it provided a wealth of content that was only a few keystrokes away. Before long not only nearby college students knew about it, but the rest of the nation did. Before long the RIAA (the record labels) sued Shawn and took down Napster. Since the fall of Napster, many other P2P networks have rose up and provided similar functionality, even a basic P2P application has been written in five lines of code proving any programmer could make one, showing P2P couldn't be destroyed.

After being exposed to such a convenient network internet companies and users around the world have been working hard to harness the power of distributed computing and easy internet services. Tech savy music customers have seen the potential of the convenience of the internet for getting their music and are salivating for more. With the success of the iPod, Apple has jumped on the bandwagon making a similarly easy music buying service. iTunes is becoming successful (just like Napster) because of it's ease of use, the combined and convenient jukebox, and the halo effect from the iPod. Napster was great as it showed how P2P and music downloading could be done over the web, and even though it's been sticky for the record labels, it'll be part of their future distribution scheme.

February 13, 2006

Apple: Reviving Quality

It started with a bright, young Wozniak. Woz and Jobs formed an instant bond through their similar interests in practical jokes. Woz worked for HP while Jobs was getting into Atari, while both were interested in technology, Woz had the technical gift while Jobs was a smooth talker.

Combining the two aspects (and adding Ronald Wayne to the mix) the Apple I was born. It was a machine without a bunch of random switches rather a keyboard, and it could perform quick tasks. The platform was further rocking it toward a revolutionary future as Woz spent his time crafting the amazing Apple ][ while Jobs was trying to keep up with current orders. While Woz and Jobs were strapped for cash as they were reinvesting in Apple, Wayne took his chance to get out of the company as he saw the two of his friends getting into quick debt. The Apple ][ was released and Apple soared.

Overnight billionaires were made, personal computers were becoming a reality, and Apple was the king of the space. Seeing a project Jobs had great confidence in, Jobs headed the Macintosh department and allowed Apple to now try and beat themselves. Wanting software for this platform Jobs ushered in a bright eyed Bill Gates to create a spreadsheet and word program to beat all others. Interested in the details about how the Macintosh could work so remarkibly, young Bill asked and Jobs slowly filled in how it could function. The Mac debuted and the masses rejoiced, the future was bright. Backstage things quickly changed as Jobs had discovered Gates had stole the concepts of the Mac and resold them to IBM.

Because of interal conflicts Woz left the company and Jobs was nearly forced out some time after too. Jobs went on to form a new company, NeXT, which would focus on a brand new, and high quality platform, Apple went on to stagnate and lose direction. Come the mid-nineties Apple was in desperation, they were in talks of buying a new operating system to retry being a profitable company. Seeing Apple was heading for trouble early on, Jean-Louis Gassee left the company to form Be inc. and too create a brand new and killer OS. Being in serious talks to acquire Be inc, Jean squeezed Apple for as much money as they could spend to show his stronghold over Apple. Jobs on the other hand had a smoother approach, walking in he swiftly convinced Apple to buy NeXT and use their software platform instead.

Jobs returned the company he had once created, now with a new vision to revitalize Apple. In almost no time Jobs was granted CEO of Apple and projects were slashed and focuses were found again. At the same time the development of Mac OS X (based on NeXT's software-platform) had begun. Time passed and Jobs' vision was seeing fruition and in 2001 Mac OS X was introduced to the public. Devices such as the iMac and the iPod were introduced and once again Apple returned to it's proper place of being able to innovate and create the future of computing.

Today Bill Gates stands as the richest man in the world as he road a platform someone else developed, even today Windows is struggling to match the feature set of Mac OS as every few years a new release hits and new Apple innovations are introduced. If you want to look toward the future, looking into the eyes of Jobs. If you want to see the future of Microsoft, look at what Apple releases a year or more in advance, then add a blue screen of death.

February 7, 2006

The (Near) Future of the Internet

Back in the early nineties Steve Jobs said something along the lines of, "The intenet is great simply because Microsoft can't control it.". Indeed the internet is so great because theoretically nobody *should* be able to control it. Originally the internet was designed to consolidate some military machines that couldn't exchange information easily, and today the internet is used for entertainment, and information exchange. Since the internet is capable of so much, where can we spot some upcoming trends and the next "big thing" for the internet to bring. It'll anyone to create a radio or TV show.

Today you can already create a podcast which is essentially your own radio network. With digital video cameras cheap and everywhere, pretty soon there are going to be ways to make a good deal of money off making your own TV show which everyone can watch. Instead of a few guys controlling the majority of media, the consumers will control what they want to watch and what they provide to eachother. With video podcasts you can already create your own TV show, there just isn't yet an easy payment system behind it for people to start doing full-time. Soon this little change will change television, Apple and others will make streaming content to your television easy, and you'll not be forced to watch just a small selection of content that only comes on at a certain time of day.

Beyond that new web technologies will make websites dynamic (such as wikis) and we will further and further spend our time online. It has been argued most people don't use Windows, but rather use Unix or GNU/Linux because they're spending their time online on websites powered by servers running those operating systems. In this reguard internet technologies have already out-valued what's on Windows machine (notice I didn't include Mac OS).

The internet is a great set of technologies that can provide a better democracy then anywhere else.

January 29, 2006

Real's Rhapsody

Let's say there were two players in the music download business, Real and Apple, one with Rhapsody and one with iTunes. Let's also say that their services were equally as good. So then, who would win?

Before you jump up and proclaim whoever has the iPod would win, allow me to get to why. To win in that battle you'd have to get the users on your software, your jukebox application. People don't in mass switch applications because they hear about this music store, they want to just have it appear in the music application they're already using, and who use Rhapsody? Now how many of you use iTunes? A large number of online music store buyers already have iTunes (because they have any iPod and they work so nicely) and it works well enough that iTunes is and will win.

Now, back to a non-theoretical situation, Rhapsody has something different, a subscription based model. Could that be enough to sway enough users? No, I'm quite sure it doesn't. Music is a simple item that lasts a long time, you pick it up and listen to it for months, or even years. I won't argue that subscription would be great for a movie based service as people don't watch TV shows or movies over and over again like they do music.

Sorry Real, sure you got there first, but iTunes got the proper exposure thanks to the iPod and the recent resurgence of Apple. Now what did Real's founder say about Apple making a closed system which was a mistake? I would be mad too if Apple showed me how to run the business.

January 24, 2006

The Music Industry (then, now, and BKR)

So it started back in 1999, CD sales started to drop, the internet was connecting homes, and the RIAA refused to change their business model and adjust to change in the marketplace. A little program called Napster was quickly spreading to fill the apparent void in the current market and the RIAA, rather then do the real work to change their game they dispatched a hoard of laywers to criminalize the consumer whom lives in a world of modern technology. From a dead grandma to alittle girl, the RIAA did everything their thick pockets could to beat and barrage thousands of individuals. Their efforts have had mixed results.

Then came Apple, a company now revered for spending large amounts of money, time, and energy to craft a product that works, generally very well. The online music market was wide open, and they simply pounced on the chance...not because they saw easy music download money, but easier iPod sales. With Jobs at the wheel he got enough labels on board to agree to a simple pricing scheme. Why not a variable pricing scheme? For two reasons:

a.) it's easier for the consumer.
b.) (the important one) you can keep the record labels from charging more and more for the popular songs people download (remember Apple wasn't expecting it'd make any money off of the music download business alone) which would quickly make the deal less attractive and scare away consumers. Jobs has publically said the record labels are just plain greedy in their variable pricing schemes, and of course didn't want the business to die at his feet.

The consumers finally got what they wanted and aren't getting sued for getting online music. Some minority are annoyed or locked out from the iTunes Music Store due to the DRM in the files and the audio quality, but to please the RIAA and best penetrate the public domain Apple had to make some sacrifices.

Unfortunately the RIAA is still suing people that can't use the iTMS and look elsewhere, and they're also still giving fractions of pennies to the majority of the artists making music for them to distribute, but, it's a start.

A New Parallel

In the spirit of more is better, I've created this parallel blog to document what else I should be saying.

You can see my still main blog at dereksucks.com