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Universal Newsreels with Mr. Inside & Mr. Outside from West Point

Was poking around the net today looking for random things and came across the Universal Newsreels archive.  Here is a neat clip of Doc Blanchard (Mr. Inside) and Glenn Davis (Mr. Outside). Have to love the highly descriptive stories that go for longer than most current network news clips and certainly are more enjoyable to listen to than the current crop of ADHD news blips.

Here’s the full list of Universal Newsreel videos available (without copyright too).

Wild week for Silicon Valley’s top leaders

Monday we had Steve Jobs announcing another medical leave of absence (get well soon).

Thursday we had Eric Schmidt of Google announcing a change in focus as he steps down from the day-to-day.

Also on Thursday we had HP announcing the resignation of four directors and the appointment of Ebay’s Meg Whitman to the board.

Quite a shakeup for one week.  One wonders if this Friday will bring anything else.

I also still wonder about the future of the Valley.  Many of the older school leaders in Silicon Valley remember when there was still Silicon being used in the Bay Area.  Now it seems SV stands for “Social Valley” with all sorts of startups surrounding the social networking sphere.  There was quite a bit of tech involved, whereas much of the new ‘social revolution’ really smacks me of just a ‘publishing’ revolution that is occurring on top of the technology of built last decade.  Some (European papers) are even rubbing their hands with glee that perhaps the luster has worn off in Silicon Valley.  Not quite yet I think, but who knows what will come in the next decade.

Macbook Air vs. iPad? Which should you buy?

With the arrival of the Mac Book Air, a debate has arisen amongst my geeky friends, and some more serious questions have likely emerged by potential purchasers of those two machines.

First the silly question:  Which is cooler?  Geeks always go for the new new thing, and the Mac Book Air is an incredibly beautiful device, but is, after all, still a laptop (which is very old school).  The iPad, also an incredibly cool device, is now a geek trend age of 7 months, which is pushing it a bit, and there are rumors of a new iPad sometime next Spring.  So if you are trying to decide which machine you should by to impress the crowds, I’m afraid I don’t have an answer–they are both pretty impressive.  The iPad can be used on a subway train to wow non-geeks, so maybe that’s point extra in the iPads favor.

But now for the more serious question:  Do I need a laptop or can I get by with an iPad?

Really it comes down to your Internet usage patterns:  Creation vs. Consumption.

The iPad is a great consumption device. Checking emails, reading books and magazines, surfing the web and Facebook. Add watching videos and Youtube and even listening to music. The iPad is simply amazing for these functions. Some of the apps are an experience in their own right.  I’ve spent way too much time on some apps and my kids are addicted to some as well (Dr. Seuss is a nightly ritual it seems).

You can do some creative stuff on an iPad, but it’s not easy given the keyboard issues.  The keyboard is not necessarily small but there are definitely problems in typing certain words (the ‘ mark for example is not as easy as on a full keyboard, nor are other common punctuation marks).  The lack of a tactile feel on a keyboard is difficult for some to master, and the spell checker becomes really an essential function as it guesses what you should have been typing had you been pounding the keys.  My accuracy rate for typing is say 99% on a real keyboard and probably 90% on the iPad.  In more simple terms, I’ve never typed more than two paragraphs on an iPad without having a spelling error.  This can be eased by carrying around Apples sexy bluetooth keyboard, but that’s another device that you have to schlep with you.

But if you are more into creating stuff, such as writing multi-paragraph emails or a spreadsheet or a word document, or editing some photos and emailing them to friends, than you really want a tactile keyboard and something with a little more power like a laptop or desktop.  The Mac Book Air is powerful enough for most events that the average computer user would endure.  I would probably recommend an external disk drive or a home server in conjunction with the Mac Book Air for storage of photos, docs and other items that will quickly tax the relatively small storage capabilities of the MBA.  I also would be hesitant about an MBA if I was editing videos, primarily because I want the most powerful machine I can find to handle that relatively complex task.
I have a desktop I use for most of my creation (and a laptop as well for when I’m away from my home and need to do something major). I have the iPad for most other things. If it is an either or thing with you–either a laptop OR an iPad (and no other computer in the house) than you probably would want the increased functionality of a full computer/laptop. If this is a second device in your house, say you already have a PC in the house and this is a second machine, than the iPad would be a great option.

I only recommend the iPad as an “only” machine if you are an extremely limited net user, just checking email, browsing the web, etc. We bought one for my mother-in-law just for this purpose–so she could see pics from the kids without having to boot up a bit complicated computer.

Since I got my iPad, I haven’t used my laptop at all. It’s sitting here collecting dust waiting for that time when I need to do something more powerful away from my desk. I do carry my laptop to some business meetings but generally I use it around the house for entertainment purposes. It’s great in bed for reading a book without disturbing the other person or even for watching a movie when someone is sleeping.

So in the end, how do you plan on using whatever you want to buy? Answer that question and you’ll know which machine to pick.

FWIW, if I had the need for a traveling desktop (i.e. I had a job that put me on a plane for extended periods of time, I would probably buy the MBA for those events.  But right now, with little travel > 3 days long, I just can’t justify it with the desktop and iPad at home).

Japanese hologram concert and music videos

Was poking through the LA Times when I came across this interesting story about hologram-based pop stars. So I followed the links over to Youtube and was floored. Some pretty amazing technology involved in presenting a “live” concert with real musicians, singing fans, and a totally computer generated singer named Hatsune Miku.

Actually like this next song a bit better–> Just be Friends by Megurine Luka (I say it is by her but she basically exists only in a computer).  I may need a shrink soon.

How to motivate an intelligent workforce (hint: bonuses are dumb)

Pretty fascinating video about recent studies of what motivates workers in today higher-skilled information-based workforce. Many of the simplistic rules of management and motivation seem to bounce up against the reality of studies that show people cannot just be bought or led around by a horse collar. Worth a few minutes, if not for the message than at least for the funny animation that follows.

Interview with a Chinese iPad smuggler

Strange things were afoot at the Starbucks.

Two men next to us were sitting at a Starbucks table in Times Square, not a cup of coffee or even a bagel in sight. They were surrounded by stacks of paper, boxes, and empty shopping bags piled high. Next to them were several carry-on suitcases stuffed to the breaking point. And there in front of the one man was an iPhone 4.

Now if this was an airport or a train station or any other place on any other day, you’d probably think nothing of their setup. But today was iPad day in Hong Kong, and we were just about 100 feet and 1 floor up from one of the largest resellers of iPads (with the longest lines) in the entire city. Something just didn’t seem right.

Photo from neonpunch.com

One of the men looked up quickly when a gaggle of teenage girls cautiously turned the corner. They gave a quick nod over toward him and he jumped up immediately. He walked over and they handed over plastic shopping bags with large Apple logos on the side–two bags per girl, along with the receipts. In exchange each girl got $100HK (about $12 US) per bag. The girls promptly blended into the crowd of other shoppers and the man was busy stuffing boxes into his luggage. He then rolled his suitcase back to the Starbucks where it was stacked with other luggage, looking quite like a traveller ready to go on a journey.

“Dude” I whispered to my friend. “These guys are iPad smugglers.”

We had seen the mules in the line. Folks wearing masks, sunglasses and hats who were very shy when it came time for photos. People kept turning around, hiding under newspapers, even opening umbrellas to shield us from our cameras. The Bloomberg reporter told me “those kids are Triad members (Chinese mafia) who will be selling their iPads later today in Mongkok”. With that bit of warning we were both a bit hesitant to talk to the guys in the Starbucks, fearing they may be the ringleaders of some violent Ax Gang from a hard life council flat in rundown Kowloon.

“I wonder if they could get me an iPhone 4” I thought to myself.

The man came back from the girls with eight bags filled with iPads. His partner pulled out a legal tablet and made some check marks. The page was filled with dozens of check marks. 16gb, check, 32 gb, check, 32gb 3G, check, check.

Of course, looking over to our table was probably just as confusing for the two smugglers. We were frantically busy uploading video of the iPad launch to Youtube and had two Mac laptops, a mifi, an iPhone 3G, a Sony HD Camcorder, a Canon Digital SLR and a dried out danish. They noticed us noticing them or we noticed them noticing us (I can’t remember which came first) and finally I just had to break the ice.

“Do you like the iPhone 4” I said with a smile, sliding over to get a better look.

“Yeah, it’s great” he said with barely a hint of an accent. “The screen is great”.

So we started chatting about the phone and the screen and whatnot. He got it in China he said, but it was originally from the UK. I finally got around to the meat of the matter and said “pretty crazy day” pointing over to the reseller nearby.

“Yea, I’m going to be here for hours”

“Getting an iPad for your friends?”

“More than a few friends. I have $2 million RMB I have to spend today (about $300,000 US). My boss sent me down here and we’ve got dozens of people in line. There are five other guys in other parts of Hong Kong doing the same thing.”

“Good business I guess”.

“Yea, but it’s not our main business. We have a factory in China making (this and that). That’s our core business, it’s just this opportunity arose and the boss wanted to take advantage of it. It’s much cheaper for us to get the iPads here in Hong Kong than flying over to the USA and bringing them back.”

“Are those people in line friends of yours?”

Photo from neonpunch.com

“No, we hired a ‘hat gang’. One guy is the top hat and he goes out and recruits all the kids. We pay them $100HK per iPad, and some of the kids will go to another store later today to get in line again. Better than them doing nothing all Summer just goofing around.”

Just then a runner came down, a skinny kid in a crooked oversized baseball hat, and reported to the other man some news. After he left I returned to our conversation.

“Was that the ‘top hat’?” I asked.

“Ha,” he said. “The top hat is VERY big and watching the kids closely.” Each kid was holding essentially $10,000 HK in cash ($1,200 USA) so the top hat was to make sure the kids didn’t get any funny ideas.

“How are you going to get these into China?” where the tax rate is about 20% on imported items like this.

“Not my problem” he laughed with an expression that said ‘thank god’. “I’m to take these to a shipper in Hong Kong later today and he will deal with that. You know China–a bit of money to the right person can open up a channel” he said. “Only about 50% will go to China. The other 50% will go to folks in Hong Kong who couldn’t be bothered to wait in a line.”

“I actually have two cars down in the parking garage right now.” he said. “When the first is full it will head over and I’ll take the second one later tonight. I think I’m going to be here for five hours or so.”

“All your men are at one store. Why don’t you use the other store (which had significantly shorter lines) just around the corner”

“That store opens the box before they sell it to you, ripping the plastic and making the iPad less valuable on the resale market”.

His phone rang and he hurried to answer it. After a few words in Chinese he hung up and turned back to us.

“The order has changed. Originally it was the 16gb wifi–the cheapest one that we were supposed to focus on, but now the boss says get whatever we can. I guess it’s selling out pretty well all over Hong Kong.” He then turned to his friend who had to communicate the order back to the gang leaders and their underlings still in the line.

We got up and said our goodbyes. It was a pretty fascinating look at the process of smuggling, from the outsourcing of the lower end jobs (line sitters) to the handoff of the significant risk (the cross-border entry). With a markup of about 100% for the street price in China, this guy was going to bring in about $200,000 US in profits for just a couple days work sitting in a Starbucks.

Maybe we’ll see him again on Friday when the iPhone 4 goes on sale.

Here is the video Neonpunch.com shot showing many of the mules who were waiting in line.

Spending the afternoon being surrounded by hot models

Yea, just another day in the life…

Actually I was helping a friend by videotaping the launch of the AR Drone / iPhone helicopter project. We headed over to TST where they had a press conference with quite a few models and Hong Kong celebrities in tow. I spent most of my time behind the camera, and most of the weekend is now being spent hacking it together (with varying degrees of success). iMovie is quite a headache when dealing with HD video.

Here’s a snippet. More to come from neonpunch.com.

Smallest USB drive, that I own

USB drives to me are kind of silly. I have been living in the cloud when it comes to data for a number of years now and regard USB keys as sort of a throwback to the era of ‘physical media’ when you had to burn something to a disk to transfer it from one party to another. However, due to some business demands, I’ve recently had to go USB drive shopping to pass along about 10 gb of data (that could and should be done server-to-server but that’s another story).

So I went down to Wanchai today to look at drives. I managed to find this little 16gb TDK drive buried in the depths of the computer center. I originally wanted a 32gb drive but then priced out two of these 16gb drives at less than the cost of one 32gb drive. The guys I bought from, who have cut me 10-15% discounts on other items before were able to offer me a wopping $3HK discount per each drive (which is about $0.36 US). Oh well.

Anyway, take a look at this next to some random items on my desk. The drive is currently being loaded with a number of database files and other documents for a pending transfer in the next 48 hours (provided my contact meets up on time). Too bad it’s not shaped like a button or a cufflink–that would give the whole transfer a modicum of coolness a la James Bond.

Not sold in the US just yet but available throughout Hong Kong and Japan.

Buying a Chumby or Sony Dash in Hong Kong = No Joy

You would think that a place like Hong Kong, which is only miles from the gadget factories in Shenzhen and benefiting greatly from a massive demand for consumer appliances and essentially no customs duties on imports, would have the latest and greatest devices from around the world easily available at the various Computer (grey) markets around town. But yesterday I plodded through one of them with stares of disbelief and wonder, and not just because I was speaking English and showing them pictures on my iPad.

The Chumby and the Sony Dash (which has the guts of a Chumby inside) are two Internet appliances that I couldn’t find in Hong Kong.  Both are in heavy use in the US, with the Chumby being out for several YEARS now.  Chumby is now expanding into multiple devices.   But try as I might, I couldn’t find one in Hong Kong.


Part of the reason might be usage–most people in Hong Kong are on mobile devices and the thought of a stand alone, sit at home (in your small house) Internet appliance isn’t that appealing.  I’ll confess that after having my iPhone next to my bed for a few weeks, I rarely used my Chumby for anything besides an alarm clock.

But now that I’m stuck with no iPhone pending the release of the iPhone 4 and no FM radio since we left all of those back in the States, I’m in the market for another Internet device to help soothe my younger son to sleep every night with classical music from Venice, Italy (a station we use because they have no annoying commercials).  Unfortunately, these were two gadgets I just couldn’t find anywhere despite looking pretty hard.

Perhaps there’s a business opportunity here…hmmm…


Mifi in Hong Kong

I was on dialup a fifteen ago. How things change.

This is my new “my-fi”

It’s about the height of say 8 credit cards stacked atop one another and not much bigger than an iPhone.

You may have heard of them as many first adopter geeks are starting to use them. This is wifi internet access from anywhere on the Earth, basically.

The mifi devices connects to the 3G telephone networks just like a telephone. It has a SIM card inside it and you have to sign up either for a monthly data connection plan or some ‘pay as you’ go system (I have the latter). The device then takes the 3G internet signal and converts it to a ‘wifi’ network, allowing you to connect your laptop, iPad, iPhone, Playstation, or other wireless internet device to the net.

The thing is pretty amazing. It has a battery life of only about 4 hours though, but it’s enough to browse from a remote location should you find yourself stuck without high speed internet.

Basically I’m using it as a solution to my non-3G iPad. I can go remote with my iPad anywhere in the city without having to pay a monthly service charge. It’s also a backup for our home, when the Internet goes down I can still get online. I will also have high-speed Internet at hotels without having to pay ridiculous hotel Internet prices.  It also utilized the GPS from the 3G signal so you can check-in via your wifi iPad wherever you are.

Here in Hong Kong you have a few different options for mifi devices.  PCCW will sell you a monthly plan, Smartphone / Vodafone will also. 3HK offered me the options I really wanted.  No monthly contract, and pay as you go as you need, basically.  My plan tops out at $28 HK a day ($2hk per MB upto $28).  It maxes at $298 a month.  If you want a non-contract monthly plan, you can pay $200 for unlimited data.  Or you can just sign up with a full formal plan and get a mifi device for basically nothing (they will use a different model, the Huawei 5830).  I bought my DLINK unlocked (i.e. no SIM lock) from the Wanchai Computer Center in Hong Kong and then walked into a nearby 3HK store for my SIM card.

The only negative I got was a business decision by DLINK when I was commenting in another forum about mifi devices.

I liked the DLINK and was going to buy this. But if you look closely at the serial number of the device (also on the sticker on the box), I think you will see that it ends in “3GA”. This means that it is locked to the 2100mhz frequency. This is fine for Hong Kong, but not some other countries.

DLINK also make other variations of the same model, such as the “3GC”, which is tri band 850/900/2100 (for most European countries), and the “3GF” which is tri band 900/1900/2100.

I got in touch with the DLINK HK distributor but they told me only the single band 3GA is available in HK.

This is why I went with the Novatel 2352 because it is tri band HSDPA and quad band GPRS/Edge. It is a truly international model.

Right now the Novatel is sold out everywhere except maybe Smartphone, Netbook, Laptop and Accessory Store – eXpansys Hong Kong. I am also in touch with the distributor for this device and they have completely sold out in HK and waiting for another shipment. I want to buy 3 or 4 more of these for my company.

Most of Europe is supporting 2100 for 3G service, so I’m ok there.  If my World Bank work takes me to Africa though I’m probably out of luck as most of those systems, while GSM, are based on 900mhz signals.

Pretty cool to think a device as big as a calculator from 1995 is now able to connect to the high speed Internet remotely. And 10 years ago we were all on dial-up modems.

Download Youtube videos via Safari Extension

Safari has added a new feature in the Version 5.0 release called “Extensions”. If you have Safari running version 5 (relatively smoothly, as there have been more than a few problems) you might want to take a look at some of the new extensions you can add:

http://mac.appstorm.net/

By far one of the most exciting is the Youtube downloader extension that lets you save a local copy of the content you are watching on Youtube. Quite a bit of fun. It’s on that list at the bottom of the page.

note: many people have reported problems with Safari 5 so you may want to wait until version 5.1 is available and sorts out some of the issues.

Swedish Royal Wedding on SVT.se online comes to the rescue of hopeless romantics everywhere.

Normally, it doesn’t take much to get me to watch pretty much anything on the net involving Swedish women.

So things were a bit stretched last night when I found out this was a Swedish woman who was now off the market as she was getting married, but pretty much everything else on TV was worthless so we dove in headfirst to coverage of the Princess of Sweden’s wedding on SVT.se, the Swedish broadcaster.

SVT was pumping a very high quality stream out LIVE of the Royal Wedding, and though we had some buffering issues thanks to our subpar ISP, we managed to get through most of the wedding without too much hassle.

But for those who missed the wedding ceremony, you can go to the archives on SVT.se and find coverage of the arrival, first kiss, dance, cake, horses and Royal Yachts and all that.

SVT Royal Wedding Coverage.

Of course it is in Swedish so listening to it makes about as much sense as reading the product inventory of an Ikea, but you’ll get the general idea here and there.