Jevon has already beaten me to it with a post at Startup North, but I wanted to mention Idee Inc.’s new iPhone app, which I got a sneak peek at earlier tonight — it is seriously cool. It doesn’t take a lot to explain it: you take a photo of a CD cover (or record album cover, if you still have any of those) with your phone, and then click a single button to submit it to TinEye, the image-recognition engine that Idee recently released into the wild. Within seconds, you are taken to the listing for that album at iTunes, where you can listen to and/or buy tracks. Pretty slick.
Came across a good column by Jonathan Kay at the National Post (yes, I read the competition) about the string of victories — depending on how you define the term — involving political blogs and the current federal election campaign. As Jonathan describes, there have been half a dozen cases just in the past month or so in which bloggers have pointed to behaviour or commentary by candidates and other party staff that raised questions about their judgment: a Winnipeg blog called The Black Rod broke the news that a Liberal party candidate believed in 9/11 conspiracy theories; Big City Lib wrote about a Conservative candidate’s inflammatory comments on the Greyhound killing and gay activists; and bloggers turned up anti-Semitic comments from a Green Party candidate.
Jonathan notes that some people believe these kinds of events make the blogosphere more important than the mainstream media, but he doesn’t think that’s the case (and I agree). As he puts it:
When reports first came out about a month ago that Real Networks was launching a DVD-ripping software application called RealDVD, a number of people — including yours truly — wondered what on earth the geniuses at Real were smoking. How could such a product not get sued? Even though the software uses its own digital-rights management controls to prevent sharing, burning, etc., it seemed obvious that the movie industry would have a conniption when they got wind of RealDVD. And guess what? They’ve gone ahead and launched a lawsuit against the company.
Real’s lawyers tried to get the jump on Hollywood (or rather, the Motion Picture Association of America) by filing a lawsuit against the organization first, asking the courts to rule that RealDVD complies with licensing agreements, but that’s the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass at best. But if Real is dumb for ever thinking it could launch such a product, the MPAA is even dumber for opposing it. If the app includes DRM controls that prevent users from sharing and burning, then why not let DVD buyers make copies that they can watch on their computers? Seeing any kind of copying as a crime hasn’t done the industry any favours so far.
I often think that Zoho doesn’t get enough credit for the work it has done building a Web-based, Office-style suite of apps. As TechCrunch is reporting (and others have mentioned in the past), the company has launched an application marketplace where developers can host apps that they create with Zoho Creator, an Ajax-driven platform that makes it easy to put together small Web applications. The launch is just the latest in a steady series of releases from Zoho over the past year or so.
Developers who sell applications through the marketplace get 100 per cent of the revenue from anything they sell, which is a nice change from many similar Web stores, and hosting apps on Zoho’s database service will be free for small applications (those that draw a larger crowd will pay a fee, the company says). “We are trying to be the IT department for small and medium-sized businesses,” a Zoho evangelist told InformationWeek. The marketplace joins the Zoho family of Web services, which includes a mail application, word processor, spreadsheets, a presentation creator, a CRM app, a chat service and several other services.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Richard Stallman is a legend in the programming world, and his opinion is worth listening to. He was one of the brains behind the Free Software Foundation and other initiatives, and has been a force for freedom and open source and all of those other good things for many years. He also has a real guru/holy man kind of hair and beard thing going on, which clearly works for him, and I admire that. That said, however, I think his Chicken Little routine with regard to “cloud computing” is a little over-done. I know RMS would rather that we all program our own operating systems and use software that we whipped up with vi and a programmable calculator, but that just isn’t going to happen.
The fact is that people want their computers and software and so on to be convenient, and to let them work faster and easier. Yes, it matters that things are free and open and that monopolies are resisted, etc. But at the same time, reality means that lots of people use Windows and so they are already trapped to a certain extent. From that point of view, moving to a “cloud” model — even if it does involve storing all their files and mail and photos with The Great Google in the Sky — is actually a good thing. Is it any better to have your email trapped in a .pst file that can only be read by a very expensive version of Microsoft Office? No.
I don’t write about the stock market much any more — mostly because I wrote about it every day for about 15 years and kind of got sick of it, to tell you the honest truth — but today was one of those days where it’s hard to pay attention to anything else. Like many people, I spent much of the day hitting the refresh button on my browser to see how low the Dow and the Toronto stock indexes were going to go. I never imagined that some day I would watch the TSX come within a hair of a 1,000-point drop in a single day, or the Dow plummet more than 750 points.
On days like today, it’s tempting to use terms like “bloodbath” and “catastrophe,” and all those muscular-sounding adjectives that headline writers use to really pump up the hype, and plenty of media outlets were doing just that. Others were trumpeting the fact that this was the biggest-ever drop on the Dow and other indexes — but of course, that only applies if you’re looking at the number of points that they fell. If you look at it in terms of the market’s percentage decline, then it was definitely a bad day, but a long way from the worst ever. In 1987, the Dow fell by more than 23 per cent, while yesterday it fell by less than 7 per cent.
This video has been making the rounds for awhile now, and every time I watch it I find myself amazed, and torn between admiration for these two skateboarders and a sense that they are insane and risking certain death, riding at high speed down a mountain road in the middle of the day, wearing nothing but powder-blue suits and carrying an HD video camera. Estimates of the speeds they reach are in the 50 to 60 mile-per-hour range. It appears to be a publicity stunt for fashion designer Adam Kimmel.
Montreal-based artist Michel de Broin created a hot tub out of an old commercial dumpster for his work Blue Monochrom. Found via the Make magazine blog. The artist’s site is here, and he’s also the creator of a number of other interesting works, including one called the Shared Propulsion Car, which consists of a 1986 Buick Regal sedan that has had its engine removed and been transformed into a pedal car for four people. Pedaling it around the streets of Toronto has gotten the artist into a little bit of trouble on occasion. There’s YouTube video of the car in action.
Someone named Dan Kimerling, writing at TechCrunch, has some simple advice for developers who are upset about Apple’s opaque approval process for the iPhone app store: Quit yer whining, or as he puts it “don’t complain, just keep coding.” Dan — who, at least according to his LinkedIn profile, doesn’t appear to have any development experience, either with the iPhone or any other device — argues that a) it’s Apple’s store, and therefore the company can do whatever it wants, and b) given the popularity of the iPhone, you have to develop for it whether you like it or not.
Both of those statements are undoubtedly true, at least to a certain extent. Apple is well known for its attention to detail and its firm control over the design and use of its devices, software, platforms, etc., so it’s hardly surprising that it would take the same attitude towards the app store. And there’s no question that it is the hot mobile platform at the moment, and so most developers — those who don’t decide to quit Apple and develop for the Google Phone — will grit their teeth and develop apps for it regardless of how the company behaves. Fair enough, I suppose.
Apparently, Jason doesn’t want his email newsletters posted any more because he “doesn’t want to give the haters a platform,” according to a Twitter message. The text of the email has removed from both Silicon Alley Insider and TechCrunch, but you can still find it.
Jason Calacanis, the diminutive entrepreneur behind Weblogs Inc. and the “people-powered search engine” known as Mahalo, seems to be attempting to transform himself from just a scrappy CEO into a Web 2.0 cross between Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins. It’s actually been coming for some time, but really kicked into gear when Jason stopped blogging and started sending out an email newsletter to a select group of followers. Of course, his missives routinely show up on various blogs anyway, which is a nice way to have your cake and eat it too. Which is great, because it means that none of us is denied access to Jason’s words of wisdom.
In his latest missive, Jason gives each of us the benefit not only of his years of startup experience but also of his bachelor’s degree in psychology, both of which taught him a number of key lessons about how to succeed even when everything is going against you. I’ve read through his newsletter several times and extracted some of those key lessons: