Category Archives: Technology

Video On Demand

We’re no where near having video on demand! I’ve recently had two experiences that were really disappointing. The first experience was when I was in search of a movie. I had a friend coming over that wanted to watch Top Gun. I didn’t have it, but I figured how hard could it be to get. I have cable broadband, BitTorrent, Comcast OnDemand and there are a dozen other services on the web. So, here’s what I did. I needed the movie fast, so I went first to Comcast OnDemand thinking that would be the quickest download of the movie as the last time I used it the movie loaded almost instantaneously. However, when I went to the movie list, there was no Top Gun. In fact, there was a disappointing list in total. Next up, google… I did a quick search for “video on demand” to pull up some of the web options such as Movielink, Vongo, etc. I was on Mac Mini though, which is connected to a HD projection LCD (perfect for movies). None of these services either a.) worked with my Mac, b.) were easy to figure out what to do or c.) allowed me to just get one movie quickly and on demand. I think this is the key to these services being truly successful. I should be able to get a movie going without too much hassle. Let me start it with nothing more than entering my credit card. Don’t make me sign-up for a full account or require me to install a ton of new software. In the end, I went to the tried and true, BitTorrent. It’s slow as molasses, but I haven’t yet not found what I was looking for.
My second video on demand experience that was disappointing was purely due to a poor UI. A few friends of mine have told me that I have to watch this new HPO Series. Since I have Comcast HBO, I also have access to most of the HPO content on demand. This is a pretty good experience, but someone needs to sit on a couch and use it before it’s rolled out to the public. As I was watching the show, I had a phone call that I had to take. I put the show on pause and took the call. During the call, the pause kicked off and it went back to the main menu. At first I was really frustrated expecting that I would now have to fast forward through the show to get back to where I was. Luckily, it has saved where I was, but required me to clumsily go back through the menu to get back to the show (btw, have you noticed there’s no “back” button on these remotes!). The other issue I have with this experience is it leaves me at a screen that shows my “saved programs”. First of all I didn’t “save” them and don’t care to as I’ve already watched them. Secondly, make it easier for me to watch the next episode!
It’s slowly coming together though. We have the bandwidth, we have the technology and we have the content. The keys to getting it all to work are going to be a.) making it easy to access and b.) priced to sell.

Software Testing Resource

A software testing resource for IT Managers and Software Engineers.
Software testing has been my area of focus as an IT consultant. I have managed large software testing efforts and developed and implemented software testing strategies for large companies. Recently I have focused on outsourcing software test organizations leveraging resources globally. Having built a software testing center of excellence in India for a large software company, I have learned to adapt many software development and testing processes to meet the specific needs of my clients. This software testing related website will focus on helping IT managers understand how to improve their existing software testing processes and organization as well as what to consider when outsourcing software testing. I welcome comments on any of my entries and I will certainly adapt knowledge capital shared.

PowerPoint Search

The power of desktop search programs such as those by Google, Apple and Microsoft are impressive. I am a very organized person with a folder structure that usually allows me to find what I am looking for quickly. Yet, I have found myself gradually moving away from the depth of my folder organization structure to using the desktop search to pull up the same files. However, the major gap is non-text content such as images and video files that remain challenging to find over time. Yes, you can spend your life adding enough meta data to your image and video files to allow for better searching later, but I think it would be easier if an application allowed me to quickly scan available images or videos. One specific application I have for this tool is to be able to scan all the PowerPoint slides I have on my machine. Often, when I am putting together a PowerPoint presentation, I have an old design in mind. It could be an old deck that had a similar message or maybe just one slide that had graphics or a layout similar to what I intend to make. I’d like to see this capability today as I need to find the slide that has a pyramid representing different layers of an organization. 🙂

Revolution of the Digital Home Entertainment System

After seeing Microsoft’s offering for the living room at the Consumer Electronics Show this year in Las Vegas, I was actually sad when Macworld (held the following week) did not announce a similar “living room experience”. It was anticipated that they would announce a new Mac Mini, but the conference came and went.
Yesterday, on the verge of Apple’s 30th birthday, they finally released the new Mac Mini at a private event. In typical Apple style, it was a secretive, invite only affair that everyone wanted to be at. At it’s core, the future was displayed in the upgrade to the Mac Mini product line, which is less then a year old. The new Mac Mini, not only leverages the new, faster chip set from Intel, but provides a truly digital, home entertainment system at a price point that seems unimaginable (when compared to the stereo components and computer it can replace). The new Mac Mini, smaller than a box of Kleenex, connects to your TV and stereo system allowing you to surf the web, edit home movies, watch DVDs, and email from your couch.
I have the first version, which didn’t include the remote control capabilities or what is known as “optical outputs” for the latest technology in sound output. It’s been the most pleasant computing experience of my life. It simply works. It maintains itself and provides more things for me to play with than I have time for.
For those of you that don’t yet have a computer hooked up to your TV, this is the one you want! While most of my blog entries are focused on my own ideas, I had to write about this event. We are finally to the point where computers are leaving the office desktop and showing up in our living rooms, pockets and cars. They will connect us to everyone and everything in a time frame that will seem faster then the advent of the Internet. I imagine that within a couple of years, most of my dreams of an integrated multi-media lifestyle will be available. Broadband in the homes, Wi-Fi in every coffee shop and soon to be city, third generation cellular networks, all provide the communications platform for these new devices to share all of our personal media with us anywhere we are. Watching your TiVo’d episode of your favorite show will be just as easy on the bus as it is in the home.

Share Original Photos with Friends

How many times have you received that email from a friend with a link to an online album of all the wonderful pictures taken on their camera from an event you attended? I am so frustrated by the difficulty that exists in online photo sharing. In the age of digital cameras, photo albums are larger then ever. Unfortunately, most of the pictures you want are from someone else’s camera. Yes, this is not a new problem and I do remember the day when one had to ask, “Can you make a copy for me?” I realize that was much more difficult then the process today where at least I can purchase a printed copy of the shared photo. But!, I want to have the original so that I can keep it forever and maybe modify it myself in Photoshop.
I have reviewed the major online photo services out there and have yet to find one that does not charge both users a large fee for this convenience. Now, you may be thinking, “where is the business justification for them providing that service?” Well, here are my thoughts on that:
1.) Unique differentiator
2.) Increased “eye balls” on your site as customers spend more time clicking through images and choosing, which ones to download. You could for example allow only one download at a time, after which you present a splash screen trying to up sell on other products.
3.) Bandwidth costs could be shared with the consumer by leveraging a peer-to-peer technology such as employed by Bit torrent.
Latest News – Service providers that DO allow downloads of the originals:
Google’s Picasa

Service providers not allowing downloads of the originals:
Kodak Gallery (a.k.a., Ofoto)
Simple Star
Yahoo Photos
Now, there are a few ways to share the originals (e.g., uploading them onto your own web server). However, they’re too cumbersome. Another alternative is to use Hello, which is part of Google’s Picasso application suite. It allows you to share the originals, but your computer and your friends have to be online at the same time for the exchange. PiXPO does the same.
If anyone knows of a service that solves this problem, please let me know!
P.S., during the course of writing this entry, another friend of mine sent out pictures from a trip this summer. Argh! I want the originals!
September 8, 2006 Update: Finally!!! It’s arrived. Thanks to Google we will soon all be able to share original photos for download with friends. It’s currently in “test” as it looks like they haven’t committed to this product, but I’m hoping they do. Imagine when we all won’t have to sit through camera after camer during group photos because everyone will be rest assured they can get the original file off of one of the cameras! And, it’s FREE!
– A free download of the Picasa software for uploading your photos to the web in one or two clicks.
– Your own shareable Picasa Web Albums homepage showing all your public albums.
– Enough free storage to post and share approximately 1000 photos (an option for upgrading to more space is also available).
– Big, high-resolution pictures that set a new standard for online viewing. You can even download friends’ photos off the web to print at home or view a full-screen slideshow.
– Fun easy-to-use online tools, like captions, comments, rotate, and zoom.
Learn more about what’s new in Picasa here:
Update: Snapfish allows sharring an original photo for download. It costs $.49 a pic.
Dear Snapfish Customer,
Thank you for writing to us.
Please find below how to download FREE pictures from Snapfish to your computer:
Images available for free download are of lower quality than the high-resolution versions we have stored on our computers. The High Resolution scans are used for making reprints when you order them, for creating Photo CD ROM’s, and are available for purchase in direct download form as well.
You can use free images where you would view them with a computer, but they won’t print high quality photos.
For Free downloads, we recommend that you download a picture from the “slide” view, as opposed to the “entire album” or “thumbnail” view, as the slide show view has larger images. Instructions are below.
A little technical information for customers who need it: the resolution of the “Slide View” photos is 384×256 pixels and the resolution of the thumbnail view is 96 x 64 pixels. The high resolution scans provided in high resolution download or with a Photo CD are 1536×1024 pixels.
All photos are in “JPEG” or “.jpg” format.
The instructions below cover FREE downloads for both Windows and Macintosh Computers. Please check our site for information and instructions on High Resolution Downloads at

Brainstorming software

I wish I had more energy to chase building a company right now, but this just doesn?t quite interest me enough. Maybe later, I?ll build this, but for now I?m just going to share the thoughts. Imagine brainstorming with a large group of people, but you don?t have to listen to anyone talking, especially not the ones that overpower groups anyway. But, imagine you get a high amount of collaboration and ideas generating off of other ideas. What if it was just a piece of software? Now, imagine you have people logged in to a piece of software that doesn?t look much more complicated then a chat, but instead of streams of peoples conversations linearly floating up the screen with their name, it?s anonymous bubbles floating upwards like under the sea. As you see an idea, written inside one of these bubbles it makes you think of one, and you write it. This could go on for 15-20 minutes. Now, connect a reference database to it so that images started floating up replacing some of the words users are typing. You could add sounds as well, ultimately providing a visual experience of brainstorming. At the end, all the ideas are captured in a report and could even tell you who came up with each.

Google?s indexing the universe

While Google is happily indexing everything they can crawl to, I?m left wondering why all those brilliant mathematicians and marketers can?t come up with a better return then a laundry list of miscellaneous web sites that have words on them that match what I asked for. How many times do you scan, click, scroll, return, and repeat until you finally find what you?re looking for? It?s painful. Here?s a thought. Why not take all the intelligence gathered and change the paradigm. I noticed the other day that when I was playing around with the keywords associated with an AdWords campaign I had built, Google was able to recommend other keywords. It seems to me that based on my key words it knows something about them, which leaded me to wonder if it knows enough to categorize my results so that I can more easily find what I am looking for. Here?s a simple example. When I search for ?Montana fly fishing,? I am returned results for sites that provide informative information about fly fishing, places to fly fish, etc. Additionally, I?ll find sites for fly shops in different parts of the world. Another key category is fly fishing guides and outfitters. So, why can?t Google take all the results, categorize them as best as possible and then show me a relationship representation so that I could drill down only on those pertaining to fly fishing guides, which was what I may have been looking for in the first place.

System Execution

In today?s society, we are constantly surrounded and dependent on systems. Some work well and protect our lives and others well, let?s just say someone didn?t do enough testing. The one that gets me every week is the Seattle train system that moves me from the N gate back to baggage claim. After the train has taken off, it suddenly accelerates. The funny part is that this startles everyone, every time because the message, ?Please hold on? is delayed by about one second, just long enough to not warn you until it?s too late. It?s all about execution of a good system, not just the idea.

Wireless Trends I’d like to see

There are trends driving both the wireless technology and adoption depending on the market (e.g., Japan, UK, US). However, instead of looking at the trends, I think the wireless carriers need to step back and figure out how to increase their definition of service. Today, wireless carriers focus on subscriber growth and gross revenue per user. Yet with an increasingly saturated market and an almost unwillingness to pay for extra services in the US given the expectation created by the Internet (i.e., most service is free – news, entertainment) I think they need to move to new models. For example, why is it that I pay a bus fare in cash, struggle to get my credit card transation to process in the taxi and usually come up short at the vending machine? Wireless carriers have 2 key assets, there transport ability and their billing ability. This should be used in new ways to develop more revenue. So, below are my thoughts on what trends I’d like to see.
1.) Increase data speeds to allow more functionality to be delivered to the end user such as web access and video phone (essential in US market getting use to broadband)
2.) Clearinghouse function created to rival Visa/Mastercard (e.g., to be used for vending machines, mom/pop stores, government, movie tickets)
3.) Business to Consumer/Business Applications (e.g., point of sale systems, kiosks, supply chain management). Leverage the network in new ways. Provide transactional processing charges vs. all you can drink.
4.) Increased reliability (reach the 5 9s of wireline) ha!
5.) Social networking services (e.g., friendster in realtime and based on your location; find out the person sitting next to you in Starbucks is friends with your friend Joe; receive a “flirt” via SMS from a girl in the club that hasn’t yet met you, but your profile popped up as a match on her phone when you walked in the place)
…oh, and I still want to have my phone tell me where the nearest gas station is when I need one.

RFID and meter maids

Finally finding a parking spot after driving around endlessly can be life saving depending on how elevated your blood pressure got. Finding out you have no change for the meter can almost push you back over the edge. Think about how many times you’ve dived into a local store to buy something in order to get some change, or worse decided to just take the chance and return to a $35 ticket (I live in San Francisco). I’ve seen that there is an effort to put in these giant, most likely costly, electronic meters that have a keypad for account entry. I’ve only seen them around the motorcycle spots in the city. I imagine it’s a pilot to determine the benefits and cost associated with this new kind of metering. Well, I think there is a better answer. I drive through toll booths skipping lines with a little unit in my car that debits an account. I believe all it contains is a small Radio Frequency Identification Tag (RFID), which is becoming increasingly more popular in supply chain management. I think the government should put a tag on each license plate so that I don’t have to worry about having change for the meter. I would just pull up and it would debit my account. Of course this would most likely also mean I would be immediately debited for the parking ticket when I park somewhere illegally. Now, I am as big of a privacy concerned citizen as any. Most of my friends know I go so far as to make up names for things such as grocery club cards, but I do think there is more promise to these RFID tags then just letting Wal-Mart know it’s out of Gillette razors.