Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Anywhere Network

The Yankee Group's Open Letter

Every once in a while, stuff happens that makes geeks proud to be geeks. I don't care how corny it is, the Yankee Group's open letter to Obama about an Anywhere Network definitely made me proud to be a geek. It's not perfect, but it's backed by a lot of great principles, and I relish the opportunity to spread its good word.

First of all, the Anywhere Network is a fairly new concept of (ask you can probably guess) being citizens and governments being connected via a unified front of normal broadband and mobile platforms (i.e. your PC and your cell phone). Broadband penetration (i.e. the number of people with broadband Internet access) in the U.S. is bleak compared to a lot of other countries, though no one seems to agree on where we fall (almost never in the top 10 though). The reason that it's important is that we're at an ideal time to overhaul a lot of inefficiencies in our daily lives and in our governments. Weren't you pissed when you had to wait in line for 4 hours for your driver's license or license renewal or license transfer? How many times do you drive somewhere rather than take a bus because reliable information isn't readily available as far as when the next train/bus will be by? Did you know that ordering a hamburger is more technologically advanced (typically) then getting a check-up from your doctor? Wouldn't having online advisories with nurses using a webcam help reduce the number of people who go to the hospital for benign issues and probably increase the number of people who talk to a health professional who hate going to the doctor's office? Fortunately, I don't face this problem at Amazon, but how much could we save in traffic congestion and employee happiness if more people could work from home regularly and, hence, spend more time with their family?

Having everyone on the Internet doesn't fix all these problems, but it creates an impetus and helps a lot indirectly. Some people argue that those in rural areas don't feel like they're missing out on much, which I think is more of an argument for how desperately we need to get people connected. There's more to than Internet than Facebook and YouTube, there's a wealth of information and a digital marketplace. We can't ignore the fact that our economy has spent the last couple of decades gradually becoming more and more of a service economy. Protecting our manufacturing doesn't make sense when we should be fostering our service industries to create new jobs, and the infrastructure you can build online inexpensively for small businesses is pretty awesome. However, we need more people that are computer literate and online-literate. In some instances, we also need more users for these great sites and online businesses.

I could go on and on about this, but the fact of the matter is that we could and should be doing better. While only 1% of the stimulus package is going towards shoring up our broadband network, we need to commit to making firm plans so that we achieve the goals I outlines above and more. To be honest, I believe that technology is going to play a big role in getting us out of this economy. It's one industry where a little investment can go a long way, and the hardware only gets cheaper and cheaper. Microsoft is even going to start offering free tech training online - if more unskilled laborers who need work could get online and access training like this, it would probably lead them to a decent job with a bright future where maybe previously they had no hope. I'm really excited and hopeful that we'll see this Anywhere Network in the next few years and a revival of interest in building up this country's economy the right way.

Oscar Hangover

I was watching the Ultimate Trailer Show last week and ran into a trailer for a movie I totally forgot about: Quentin Tarantino's 7+ year project, Inglorious Basterds. I'm pretty stoked about this one. The trailer may be off-putting to some, but I can see the scene snippets going from weird to really awesome with some more context. How can you really go wrong in a movie about a group of Jewish-Americans killing Nazis? After watching There Will Be Blood tonight I realize that I've moved away from straight serious movies to enjoying more of the stuff that's off the beaten path, even if it is ridiculous or unrealistic.

Reuters ran an article I thought was kind of funny last week about all the Oscar snubs in exchange for all the Slumdog Millionaire praise. I only heard of the movie at first from an episode of the Totally Rad Show and never thought it would get this much acclaim. The Curious Case of Benajamin Button won in only 3 of its 13 nominations, Doubt and Frost/Nixon were left in the cold (no pun intended), and I'm sure that plenty of people were shocked to see Mickey Rourke lose Best Actor to Sean Penn. Very interesting year for Oscars, but it always seems like plenty of people get snubbed.

Blu-ray licensing has finally gotten easier: you just need one instead of dealing with 18 separate companies. That's right, 18 companies with different Blu-ray related patents. I'm impressed that Sony, Phillips, and Panasonic managed to get them on board together, but it is necessary if they want to actually turn a profit on the fledgling format. That article I linked was focusing on whether or not Apple would jump on board since they were reticent due to licensing issues, but now they're free from that restriction. I don't want to debate that point much, but I think Apple's future lies in completely dominating people's living rooms (especially in an economy where people are heavily relying on home entertainment for their escapism fix), unless they're satisfied with putting new paint on old technology. Blu-ray is incredible and its only worthy competitor is a sudden influx in high-definition digital movie downloads (which requires more people having broadband and less caps on how much you can download in a month through your ISP, as opposed to just renting the Blu-ray disc). I never thought I'd say this, but I can hardly watch my DVDs anymore because they're so comparatively disappointing.

More on the Kindle 2

Our fearless leader, Jeff Bezos, was on The Daily Show last week and I loved his interview so much that I have to share:

I think he handled Jon's subtle jabs pretty well and I think it's great how he can be so good-humored and yet very committed to making the right business decisions.

There's also a really good review in Wired that's not loading for me right now but has a great rundown of all the pros and cons to the new Kindle. It's the best, most balanced review I've read of it and highly recommend checking it out if you're interested in it at all. Price notwithstanding, I think it's a nifty device. When you see it in person, it really is pretty impressive.

Massive Credit Breach and More Security Randomness

One of the nation's biggest credit card processors had a massive security breach that spans multiple states and has compromised the credit cards of an undisclosed number of people. I don't know if they know yet who did it, but I couldn't find any other details on it. Heartland has been named by several people, but they deny it. Please, be careful. Check your credit card transactions online daily for now, and then you can lower the frequency down to every few days after you're sure you weren't affected.

Meanwhile, Xbox 360 users are becoming the targets of Denial of Service attacks from sore losers on Xbox Live. I don't know if I've ever heard of this before, but it's funny how the immature kids out there get more advanced with each generation. At first, it was just text chat, and then there was the boom of forums, and then voice chat, and now to see malicious attacks like this is disturbing. The attack doesn't sound Xbox-specific so I don't know what Microsoft can do, but hopefully something to help contain it.

This isn't heavily security-related, but definitely watch out for what you download on P2P networks. This prank proves how things aren't always what the seem. Trying to download a bestiality video could get you a clip of Billy Idol.

Final Notes

I'm sorry to do this, but I've had a terrible day. To avoid stretching this post out another evening, I'm going to have to wrap it up now with a quick rundown of my remaining stories.

Windows 7 is going to include native support for .mov files, so I'm guessing that they finally actually want Windows Media Player to be at the center of your multimedia. If you forgot about the other new features in Windows 7, this is a good list of them.

Steve Ballmer claims that Linux is a bigger competitor to Windows than Apple after looking at the distribution of market share across the operating systems. While this may sound ridiculous, you have to consider how important Linux is for enterprise users, a market that Apple has always struggled with. Ballmer says a lot of crazy stuff, but that wasn't one of them.

TV.com is now streaming CBS and Showtime content directly to the iPhone in the wake of Hulu giving Boxee the cold shoulder (see last week's post).

The RIAA has been hit hard by the economy and their massively incompetent campaign of suing people, and so they're now having to lay off a lot of people. I hate to see people get fired, but there are consequences for irresponsible choices so it was really only a matter of time. Oh, and despite what you may have read, Last.fm never supplied them with user information.

Flexible touchscreen displays, they're coming. Someday.

Google has had so many outages recently that they've come up with a dashboard so you can keep up with all their failures. I don't know how much happier that's going to make users if they assume carte blanche status to have outages without dealing with root causes.

If you like Twitter but hate the UI, you're going to want to read this. It's a roundup of alternative faces to Twitter, and I've fully switched to Tweetree since reading it.

Mashable has a great article putting together some great resources to help you find a job. It's a good read even if you feel safe in your job, just for future reference.

If you ever have to do web development, you know how painful it is to get cross-browser compatibility down. This is a great roundup of sites to help you do just that.

I hope you have a better week than I've been having, everyone!

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