Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/26/2011 - 13:40
According to the LA Times, eighteen years after the commercialization of the Internet, folks in Hollywood have determined that their might actually be something to that InterTubes things.
What brought about that revelation? A 40% decline in the sale of DVDs, a Hollywood cash cow, caught their attention, many many years after I and probably hundreds of other people predicted that Blockbuster was not going to turn out well. But after I read the article in its entirety, I came to the conclusion that the Hollywood moguls probably still don't really get it. The article goes on in some length to describe the horribly complicated schemes for trying to extract every last dollar from a movie. Boiled down, it tends to go something like this:
Nothing like a lack of respect for the customer. Here's an idea: Two months after the theatre run, make it available for 5 bucks on every streaming service on the planet. And watch the cash roll in.
Submitted by acohill on Sun, 09/25/2011 - 07:50
Passafire is a Savannah, Georgia based band with some roots on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their most recent album, Start from Scratch, has zoomed to the top of the iTunes reggae charts to take the number two spot behind perennial number one Bob Marley. What is interesting about this is that the band does not have a contract with a major record label (and "record" is an anachronism these days). Passafire has their own Web site, sells CDs online, but relies primarily on iTunes for their music sales. Oh, yes, and they actually play music in affordable venues. In short, these guys love music, and are able to make a living doing it, because the middle man, the record labels, have been cut out.
Even ten years ago, the members of Passafire would all have been working day jobs and loading a beat up van on Friday and Saturday nights to play a few local gigs. It is only Apple, with its visionary iTunes music store, that has allowed the band to connect with millions of fans in a way that was impossible just a few years ago.
And while some moan about the loss of jobs due to disintermediation, what the whiners forget is that iTunes has created tens of thousands of new jobs, and I would bet that the net jobs in the music industry has increased, and is spread far more equitably around the country, starting with what must surely be thousands of jobs at Apple just running the iTunes store. Then you have all the musicians that can actually market to a worldwide audience via iTunes, increasing their income and for some of them, turning their love of music into a full time job.
Bring the disintermediation on; it creates more opportunity by decentralizing economic power. Next up: the disintermediation of the TV and telephone industries.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 09/23/2011 - 07:59
Facebook rolled out an updated interface and a bunch of new features yesterday, and I spent some time yesterday evening looking at what they had did. There is much buzz about a new music-sharing service, but to me, the most significant change is the addition of "lists," which is the equivalent of Google+ "circles." The concept is identical: you can group your friends and contacts into sets, and you can look at only what is going on in that set of contacts, rather than having to plow through every item that gets posted to your wall.
If you have lots of friends, this is a major improvement in usability. And it probably would not have happened if Google+ had not built a better mousetrap. Facebook was forced to respond, and they did. I have seen some grousing about how long it took Facebook to add the new feature, but as an old applications programmer, I'm impressed that Facebook rolled it out in just about three months, to 750 million users. That's good software and version control management.
Facebook has also changed the way you set your privacy options, and to me, it is also a big improvement--it's much easier to understand now who can see what.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/22/2011 - 09:06
Executives at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta are probably breaking out the bubbly (2 liter bottles of Coke) and toasting themselves. No longer will the New Coke be considered the dumbest, most asinine product roll out in history. Netflix will now be a source of business case studies in MBA programs for the foreseeable future.
Not only did Netflix hike prices dramatically without warning customers or explaining their rationale in any, um, rational way. To "fix" the problem they created with the price hikes, the president of Netflix, Reed Hastings, wrote the most condescending letter in the history of commerce, managing simultaneously to look stupid, imply that his customers are stupid, AND make the problem much much worse by splitting Netflix in half and creating two completely separate services (Netflix for streaming, Qwikster for DVDs through the mail).
The split of Netflix into two completely separate companies requires customers to now have two bills, maintain two accounts, and completely destroys one of the best things about Netflix--the ability to browse the entire Netflix TV and movie catalogue and effortlessly move titles back and forth between your streaming queue and your DVD queue.
But I say, "Good for Netflix." Netflix has been the 800 pound gorilla in the living room of video on demand, and they just shot themselves, not in the foot, but in the head. Customers are already fleeing for the exits, and new video companies suddenly have marketplace opportunities that did not exist two weeks ago. Competition is a wonderful thing. We will all benefit with better service options, better pricing options, and more choice.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/19/2011 - 14:18
I'm tweeting the Net-Workshop (9/19/11) in real time if you want to follow it (@designnine). Net-Workshop is a one day meeting of community broadband leaders from around the country.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 09/19/2011 - 13:08
This infographic highlights the huge current and future impact that broadband is having and will continue to have on job creation and economic development. This should be sent to every elected leader.
Submitted by acohill on Fri, 09/09/2011 - 11:07
The San Diego power outage may be responsible for the Microsoft Office 365 service (a "cloud computing" offering) being down. Other Microsoft cloud services like Hotmail and Live were also affected. The company is not saying what actually caused the problem, but the article notes that as many as 365 million users were affected.
You can't put all your data eggs in one cloud basket. Cloud services are terrific when they work, but what is your plan B when they don't work? Community-owned broadband facilitates the growth of local cloud service offerings that allow businesses to host data nearby, where they could actually get physical access to the data if they needed it.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 08:10
Rich Swier of Startup Florida has a nice short article on Google+ and why he thinks it is a big improvement over Facebook. Google+ is still mostly a geek/early adopter phenomenon, but is probably the only competing service that has any chance of unseating Facebook.
Swier makes the point (and I agree) that a key advantage of Google+ is the ability to designate certain content only for certain folks in your network--the "circles" concept. You can create circles and put friends and family in them, and then when you post stuff, you can tag which circle or circles it is for. So instead of blasting everything to everyone (the Facebook approach), Google+ allows targeted posting and cuts down on the dreck.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 14:32
I was driving to work this morning, listening to the news on the car radio. The local station used the CBS syndicated news feed, and during the news break, there was an ad for the CBS iPhone/iPad app that "delivered all the breaking news from CBS," or something like that.
If I can get news feeds and programming directly on my computer or mobile device, why do I need an overpriced cable TV subscription. Netflix and Hulu provide virtually all of the movie and TV show programming, and a few iPad apps fill out the requirement for breaking news.
Cable and satellite TV are dead.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 14:28
I had a conversation last week with a new college grad who had just started a new job and had moved into a new apartment. The young woman had a couple of questions about her Internet connection, which she had purchased from the local phone company (DSL). I asked if she had considered a cable TV/cable modem package.
She said, "No, I never watch TV. I can get whatever I need from the Internet."
In a nutshell, the customer base of the cable TV industry is getting old and dying, and they don't have a plan to attract younger customers.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 13:34
The National Security Agency has released a very nice set of tips for managing desktop computers and home and small office network devices like routers and wireless base stations. Here is the link, and I have attached it to this article.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/25/2011 - 09:49
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave."
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
No, wait, that was William Shakespeare. I'm trying to take a little vacation this week, and so I set an auto-responder on my business email account that automatically sends out an email to anyone who emails me, noting that I won't be in the office until next Monday. But I forgot that my only lightly used Facebook account has my business email address.
I also did not know notice that when Facebook sends you an email telling you someone has posted something of interest, that you can just reply to that email, rather than logging in to Facebook. Facebook takes your reply email and posts it on your wall or as a comment on someone else's wall.
Two handy little pieces of code, each handily doing their own thing. Until the two pieces of code meet each other. In a thread about my upcoming high school reunion, almost a dozen of my "I'm on vacation" notices have been posted in the last three days. Everytime someone comments on that thread, I get an email, and my vacation auto-responder responds, and my vacation notice gets posted yet again.
The fix was simple enough. I changed my Facebook email to my personal email account. But the complexity of our software continues to grow, and occasionally produces unpredictable results. Good testing of software is more important than ever.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 19:22
What do Lowe's, Home Depot, PacSun, and Nordstrom all have in common? All these major retailers are starting to deploy iPads in place of cash registers. The firms are finding that putting iPads in the hands of customer sales reps roaming the floors of the store increases both the average size of a sale and increases the number of sales processed per day per employee. The increase in worker productivity is so substantial that the cost of making the change to iPads pays for itself very quickly.
Expect to see even relatively small retailers begin to use tablets in place of cash registers, and as this kind of automation becomes more common, highly reliable, affordable business class broadband will become even more important than it is today.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 14:41
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 13:30
Design Nine has been working for the 47 towns that make up the WiredWest region of western Massachusetts since early 2010. Last week, 22 of those towns officially formed a municipal coop, as allowed by state law. This is the first step towards the WiredWest vision of fiber everywhere in western Massachusetts.
Design Nine helped the WiredWest steering committee with financial planning, organizational and governance planning, network architecture, and funding strategies.
Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/23/2011 - 13:26
United Airlines is replacing paper-based pilot flight manuals and charts with iPads. Each iPad will replace 38 pounds of paper distributed to each pilot over the course of year, amounting to some 16 million pieces of paper.
Submitted by acohill on Thu, 08/18/2011 - 08:53
Back in 2006, with the help of Design Nine, the City of Danville made the decision to open their city-owned fiber for commercial use. The first customers were connected in 2007. The self-funded project has grown slowly, has spent carefully, and manages more than one hundred and fifty miles of fiber with just two dedicated staff. The City had an early advantage because Danville is an electric city--they own many of the utility poles, and electric utility line crews have done much of the construction and maintenance work. Some specialized work, like fiber splicing, is still outsourced.
This article in Virginia Business highlights the slow but steady changes that the municipally-owned fiber have brought to the community.
nDanville's early focus has been on serving businesses, and every lot in all five business parks in the area are passed by nDanville fiber. Many other commercial areas of the City are also passed by nDanville fiber, and all the substations in the 500 square mile electric service area are managed with nDanville fiber. But the project has just announced their first fiber to the home initiative, starting with a 250 home pilot project.
The City of Danville, which once had the highest unemployment in Virginia, now looks like the best place for a technology business in the Commonwealth. What other Virginia community can offer:
City leaders have taken the slow and steady approach on a wide variety of economic revitalization initiatives, but it is fiber that has, quite literally, connected the dots for Danville.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/17/2011 - 07:34
The Harvard Business Review says that Groupon is failing. The half price coupon service has apparently burned through nearly a billion dollars in venture capital and needs just a measly three-quarters of a billion to keep going. Apparently there were some VC folks and business managers who learned nothing during the dot-com era. Groupon apparently spent on growth without attending to a fundamental business requirement: you actually have to make money. So they outspent their revenue by a large margin in the naive belief there is no top to their market opportunity.
Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/17/2011 - 07:26
Business Insider reports that the HP TouchPad is a dud. Best Buy has more than 200,000 unsold tablets from Hewlett-Packard, and they want to return them. Meanwhile, Best Buy can't keep Apple iPads in stock. In our local Best Buy, I chatted up one of the sales people, who said they don't even bother to keep a demo unit on the floor. He told me the stores get a weekly allocation of usually an unknown but small quantity, and they sell out within hours. It's too bad, actually, because the software that powers the TouchPad, WebOS, is pretty good. HP bought the software from the old Palm. HP has a long history of designing excellent products that are priced wrong and/or lack the sales and technical support needed to make them successful.
Submitted by acohill on Mon, 08/08/2011 - 12:47
Skype has rolled out HD videoconferencing for Macs--it's been available on the Windows platform for a while. Here at Design Nine, we just upgraded our own business videoconferencing software to include multi-party video. We use Skype videoconferencing daily for internal communications in our three geographically distant locations, which saves us money on our landline phone bill. We use Go To Meeting for client meetings, and find the screen-sharing particularly productive when trying to discuss something like a spreadsheet financial model. If you are interested in making more use of IP video, don't scrimp on the Web cam. We have found that the better cameras, with integrated, high quality lenses and microphones perform much better--plan to spend $80 to $100. You won't regret it.
Required broadband comment: If you want to make good use of the HD quality, you'll need symmetric bandwidth of at least 1.5 megabits. What does that mean? It means it won't necessarily work as well with asymmetric services like DSL and cable modems.
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