Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Helium is improving

For the past few months I have noticed more and more Helium ads around the net (especially on small blogs). The idea and market position is relatively simple, pay users for content they produce. If it gets pageviews and clicks on adverts the article has value(I am sure a healthy portion of it goes to Helium), but not much if any different than the blogging phenomenon.

Make content
get views
get click throughs

Relatively straight forward, and in theory with a large content trove, and high CPM (because of high traffic) content on Helium has the potential to make the authors a little money. The benefit to authors is they don't have to wait the obligatory 6mos to get picked up by Google's spiders, and the work to get started creating content is much lower than getting hosting, installing blogging engine, registering domain names, and then producing content (or using blogger what ever floats your boat).

The problem with the business model is the same as Squidoo's model, spam. Last time that I looked over at Helium, the content was mostly mediocre. It seems that time (and maybe some editors?) has turned that around, at least on the section front pages. From the 30 or so articles that I browsed on the sections main pages there where some thoughtful and well written articles. Almost all written in the casual voice, readable, and telling personal stories, or offering advice.

None of what I found was so compelling I might have paid for it, even if it only cost as much as a newspaper, but the opinion section for topical items in the news was as interesting to me as most letters to the editor in the Seattle Times so they where at least coherent, and not vile. I plan on writing something, just to see if it sticks and will report back with experiences.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Xbox 360, meh?

For the geeks on the internet the entrance of Microsoft to the console arena a few years ago was a blessing and a curse. It challenged Sony to get off their collective ass, and gave Nintendo continued reason to innovate (well hello Wii, wanna stop by my place later for some multi-player?). In all Microsoft was the grown up coming to the cool kids party, sure they had lots of money and bought you beer(Halo) to make you think they where cool deep down you knew they wanted to use you(for money you sicko), and you where using them to have a good time. On the whole during the last console round this I-wanna-use-you-while-you-use-me relationship worked but I was in college and roommates/dorm mates made Halo(and MarioKart64)better it was social and fun. I never got into the XboxLive and doubt I would enjoy it for the same reason I don't enjoy WoW, yelling at people is more fun when your spittle has the potential to contact them.

Where does this leave the Xbox360 for me? Well I am married, and my wife was never any good at FPS game play, or really anything that isn't frogger. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all have identified that gaming is increasingly social, each attacking that value proposition from a different angle. Microsoft in typical Redmond fashion aims to suck every dollar they can from that potential revenue hole with the large and looming Xbox Live infrastructure and content delivery platform. They want to own the living room with your Xbox as the portal. From the ecosystem perspective, I see how this could be a successful endeavor if only I didn't feel so shackled by it. I am not only on board the Media Center bus, I also drink most of the koolaid they hand out, and yet I resist the urge to buy a 360. It would fit nicely in my home theater setup, is one of the cheapest HD-DVD players the market, has lots of games that let me shoot and destroy things, and once that movie content distribution system thing gets worked out beats having to go get someone else's Set Top Box.

Still I resist. I don't have a great set of reasons for it, but I do have a few.

  • I don't actually have all that much time to devote to gaming any more, it is an excessively antisocial (yes talking to strangers you meet on Xbox live still counts as anti-social) hobby

  • I own a home and projects to improve that take precedent over entertainment

  • Married, and want to stay that way

In order of toys I want Everun, Neo1973, 42-52" LCD, a Core2 Duo or Quadro pc (I'm easy) , then a Wii, then Xbox360. Sure the 360 is on my list, but it is like $6000 dollars down the list.

If Microsoft wants to climb my list they could do a few things

  • Make the internal drive HD-DVD

  • Fix the reliability issues (few people like having to RMA things)

  • Make it cheaper (this should be a no brainer)

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, July 20, 2007

Media center woes again

If you read my blog, you likely know that I am a little bit of a media center fan. I might even be called fanatical, in my support of the product line that really inspired in me a feeling of hope for the greater Microsoft universe. In 2004 is was bad enough that no one should have used it, but in 2005 and after the update roll up 2 later I thought that Microsoft might have gotten their groove back. Though divergent specialized sku's for products likely caused a few headaches internally I was a fan of having a support team that was focusing on making the Media Center a fantastic must have product, so naturally I was leery when I heard that MCE functions had been rolled into Vista proper. I have been running MCE2005 on several different hardware platforms for the last couple of years and feel that I have a firm grasp on the potential, and short comings of MCE but my most recent (re)install because of a failed hard drive has been far from worry free. I have managed to damage my install discs and was using a XP SP2 disk to give the installer any of the files that it was having trouble reading from my Media Center Disks. The moral of the story is that this was not a good idea, and the machine is very unstable. It records flawlessly, but frequently hangs during playback of recorded and live TV. Restarts were required basically every 8 hours of watched TV.

My setup is on a Gateway 901 Home Theater PC, with a All-In-Wonder 2006 special edition 256mb agp TV tuner/video card and a Hauppauge 500 dual tuner. This special setup required some registry hacking to get working (2 analogue tuners are the official limit) but is well with in the capacity of this 3.2ghz Pentium 4 machine especially with the 1.5gb of ram I have installed. Finally the whole bit is run off of a 500gb Maxtor with 16mb cache. Certainly there are better boxes out there, but this should be a more than adequate Media center setup. It is very sad that my setup is unstable, so maybe I will either follow this Instructable or pull a torrent of iso's, maybe even look into Vista. Whichever way I go something needs to be done to fix this situation before the other members of the household take it upon themselves to kill me for breaking the TV.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What is your value in the work place

The value of IT is hard to quantify sometimes because of the way we identify, and fix problems. Much of my works begins with questions posed by the users I support.

From cutting login times from over 5 minutes to less than 1, or improving the performance of a SQL server (more ram, and turning off hyper-threading) or just improving the queries being used. These are small improvements, but if all you do all day then drops in the bucket should add up.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Social sites, Finding the ties

Since joining Pownce I have noticed that by design it limits some of the anit-social social behavior. With fewer pictures, and the ability to have your posts only shown to friends I feel like the stalking you see and hear about on Myspace that disturbs me so much is slightly limited. However the annoying trying to have everyone under the sun as a friend habit is not. This guy is already at in on Pownce.

In mildly related news Techcrunch reminded us that Myspace is still number one in the social site standings, and traffic is growing. First off, they certainly have achieved the tipping point so it is very unlikely that they will die anytime soon, even with a significant mis-step they are likely to continue to have strong traffic volume. The whole phenomenon is rather interesting on the micro-scale in that fundamentally the site is driven by personal connection. Users still love this, and the people that haven't created profiles yet that are coming to the site and starting into the community are still grabbed the way that many users where when Myspace started to get hot.

There is something profound about whole personal connection, especially the opportunity to reconnect. For instance I am going to a wedding this September for two people that knew each other in High School and lost track. Both had changed, and they reconnected on Myspace. That is some of the magic that will make those to strong supporters of Myspace, and I am sure they are not the first or the last to find romance. This type of reconnection used to happen through the community process that has virtually disappeared in the physical world. Friend of Friends meeting years later and finding love is neither new nor germane to the online world.

The downswing of these sites it is does require situational/information awareness in social interactions. Certainly this is not different than the physical community interactions in my opinion, so image control translates to the virtual world. The main difference is the reach, individuals knowing about your indiscretions vs indiscretions posted in a searchable and open to any eyes that go looking for it.

In spite of the inherent dangers of reach and overexposure the use and utilization of social networks is continuing to grow, and could be the key to rebuilding the community that news media bemoans as dying. The internet at large can still be about community, that I have a Name and choose to use a pseudonym doesn't prevent individuals from building trust in my moniker any more if I used a real name and that is something you can hang a hat on, maybe a coat too.

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No one is talking about the NEO1973?

One of the O'Riley editors griped that no one was talking about the NEO1973 being on sale now.

First off to say that no one is talking about the Neo1973 is a slight mis-characterization and not in tune with reality.

Gizmodo Again
Mobile Technews
Tux News
Cellphone Beat

Sure this level of coverage is nothing compared to the iPhone hype, but these are different markets. Apple wants any schmuck with money and the Developer release of OpenMoko's Neo1973 is looking for hackers to prep the phone for phase 2. Michael Lauer reminded everyone of this: until the release for general consumption happens in October, thanks for your interest, but sit on your cash unless you are a developer.

Tags: OpenMoko, Neo1973, Anti-iPhone, iPhone, Hype