Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff

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Oct
27

Bought an iPhone. I hate Myself.

I hate myself for loving you,
Can’t break free from the things that you do.
I wanna walk but I run back to you
That’s why I hate myself for lovin’ you.”

– from the song, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” by Joan Jett

After my good friend and fellow iPhone detractor/commiserator, Shawn, caved in a bought an iPhone a couple of weeks ago I felt alone in the world – the last iPhone holdout and bastion of defense for all those trying to avoid the Apple consumer electronics vortex.

But alas, late last week I succumbed to His Steveness of the mighty land of Cupertino and handed over my self respect and a wad of cash to acquire an iPhone 3G (black, 16GB).  I love it and I hate it all at the same time.

I hate it because . . .

  • First and foremost, it’s a totally closed environment – both hardware and software.  You can’t change the battery or add memory.  You can add any program you want to it, as long as Apple approves of it and the developer gives a piece of the action to Apple.  Oh yeah, it can’t compete with anything Apple provides and you have to download it through their exclusive portal (iTunes).  Hey Steve, you might think of seeking some help for this control obsession.
  • It only has partial Exchange support.  In a typical Apple too-weird-to-be-true fashion, the company decided, after paying Microsoft for an ActiveSync license, to only support some Exchange functionality.  Not only are Tasks and Notes completely ignored, but basic functionality like message status (sent/reply/forward) is never set on the server and categories are totally absent.  See The iPhone Exchange Issues List for more.
  • The iPhone assumes that’s it always connected to the internet and, as such, acts alone and abandoned when a signal can’t be found.  Some apps just wait around forever, calling home in their best E.T. fashion, some crash, and others just don’t work as expected.  Why, for example, can’t I read my email when I’m not tethered to the ether?  Because the mail app only downloads a few lines of a pushed message.  You don’t get the rest of the message until you select the header and you only get that if you have a current connection.  Doesn’t anyone at Apple fly on planes?  They’re really not a bad place to read email.
  • The phone’s OS can deal with precisely one task at a time.  At least from an application level.  Want to download email and check stock prices simultaneously?  Buy two iPhones.  3G is nice, but even when you can get a 3G signal, it’s not instantaneous.  Viewing a complex web page can take time.  Why can’t I go do something else while it loads?
  • It lacks some little stuff that other mobile phones have been doing for a while.  There’s no cut/copy and paste, no landscape email, and no Flash.
  • The virtual/on screen keyboard (or whatever Apple calls it) is only redeemed by the truly amazing dictionary function that corrects the word you are typing while you type it.  Otherwise, recipients of my email would think my messages are from “qo;k” instead of “Will.”  A physical keyboard is way better.
  • Did I mention it’s completely closed?

So, if you made it through all my whining, you’re asking yourself what could have possibly redeemed the iPhone enough to make me purchase it.  In the end, it’s mostly the lack of competition and my crack addiction-like need for new gadgets.  If there were a Windows Mobile phone (a Mobile OS that has been around for a while and has none of the flaws above) that had a big screen, a touch UI that worked with adult fingers and a great or rapidly growing infrastructure like Apple’s App Store, I would never have even considered the iPhone.  Similarly, if RIM (who knows business phones better?), which is aggressively pushing into this segment with the Blackberry Storm, the Blackberry Bold and their own app store were to finally deliver the devices and clean up more of their UI act, I would happily go that direction.

In the mean time, the popularity of the device and the cool apps being added on a minute-by-minute basis (many of them exclusive to the iPhone) make it marginally functional as a business phone and exceedingly interesting as a toy.  I’ll be thrilled when someone steps up and unseats the current king from its thrown.  Android/Google, Microsoft, RIM are you listening?

. . . I will not become an Apple or iPhone fanboy . . .

. . . I will not become an Apple or iPhone fanboy . . .

. . . I will not become an Apple or iPhone fanboy . . .

. . . I will not become an Apple or iPhone fanboy . . .

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 October 27th, 2008  
 Will  
 Gadgets  
   
 24 Comments
Oct
22

National Motto for the US

Our national motto ought to be: Since 1620, anything possible, indeed likely."

– from Boomsday by Christopher Buckley

I read this book a while ago, but recent events made me go back and look up the quote which I vaguely remembered.  To me, it’s perfect.

I’ve always believed that what makes Americans great is our desire to almost blindly try new things and virtually ignore obstacles.  While the rest of the world often looks at this as ignorance or stupidity, and sometimes it truly is, it’s the mentality that built this country into the world’s latest and greatest empire.  Yeah, sometimes we do things that look really bad in retrospect, but we mostly learn from our mistakes and move forward – they are rarely a reason to sit on our laurels or to delay our progress.  And, for the most part, as a result of our driving and exploring culture, the vast majority of things the country does are good and right.

My fear is that this approach and attitude have been waning over the last decade.  I feel like Americans have become more fat, dumb and lazy than lean, aggressive and driven.  My hope is that this is because of the dearth of leadership that the people of the US have had over that period and not because of some fundamental societal change that has taken place.  But I really don’t know . . .

All empires eventually fall.  I’d like to believe that this one is still on the incline and that new leadership in this country can move us further and faster in a positive direction.  I just don’t know if a new president, alone, is sufficient.  A new president won’t be able to change how things are done in Washington directly.  All I can hope for is that the new president will be a strong enough leader to get 300 million some-odd people behind him to drive a larger scale change – at least enough to get everyone to believe that anything in this country is, indeed, possible if we make it happen.

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 October 22nd, 2008  
 Will  
 Misc Thoughts  
   
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Oct
20

Checkin’ Out Photosynth

When I saw the coming out demo of Microsoft’s Photosynth technology done at the TED Conference over a year ago, I was totally blown away.

Photosynth automatically assembles a set of individual photos of a particular subject into a three dimensional, explorable universe of the scene. The more photos, the more detail and the more explorable the final “synth.”  It differs from stitching – the process of aligning and joining several overlapping photos to create a single larger image – in that the resulting image is a space rather than a flat 2D image.

When the public beta was introduced a couple of months ago, I was all over it.  I played with other people’s synths and was impressed.  But, of course, I had to give it a go myself.  I decided to throw what I thought would be a difficult scene at it – one with trees.  Trees always give stitching programs fits and, as it turns out, they do the same for Photosynth.  There are just a whole lot of edges to align.

I took 144 photos of a location (you don’t need to take that many, but I wanted to see how complete a scene I could create) from every angle I could get to.  Photosynth cranked on the photos for a while and broke the scene into many different views.  There should have only been one, but the program couldn’t match up the views to form a single synth.  The results are below.

Photosynth reported that my 144 photos were only 23% “synthy.”  Basically, Photosynth could only make heads or tails of 23% of my photos in creating the final synth.  If you look at the synths on the web site, you’ll find excellent ones that are >90% synthy like The Boxer.

The user interface for creating synths is very simple and the program creates synths with virtually no user intervention.  Exploring synths is a different matter.  The browser interface is a bit strange to me.  I’m never sure what the arrows and buttons are supposed to do, even after trying them.  I may be using it to its fullest, but I may be missing the point entirely.  A few more tooltips might be helpful.

You need to download the Synther, which runs on your PC (no Mac support yet).  The Synther will upload the synth to servers in the cloud.  You’ll need a Microsoft Live ID to use the service.  For now, all uploaded synths are public.  Everything is free.

I think this technology has tremendous promise and I plan on playing with it a lot more.  Of course, I’ll report back on my findings.  In the mean time, you may want to give it a try.  It’s easy and very cool.

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 October 20th, 2008  
 Will  
 Photography  
   
 4 Comments
Oct
20

Red Sox Leave 600 Men on Base, Lose ALCS Game 7

Sorry fellow Red Sox fans, it needs to be said . . . the better team won the ALCS last night.  The Tampa Bay Rays are younger, stronger, healthier and probably better managed than the Sox.  The experience and broad skills of the Red Sox almost overcame those factors, but just fell short this year.

The series was excellent.  Great games, great pitching and clutch hitting.  Last night’s top of the eighth inning was indicative of it.  The Sox loaded the bases and Joe Maddon, manager of the Rays, masterfully used five different pitchers to get his team out of the inning unscathed.  The Red Sox certainly had their chances in the deciding game of the series, with men on base and even in scoring position several times – only to be left stranded by a combination of good pitching by the Rays and less than optimal hitting by the Sox.

Lest I seem cavalier or uncaring about the loss, as a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation, I’m distraught.  To see Big Papi flailing at low pitches and Jason Veritek basically useless with a bat in his hands makes want to cry.  After losing three games straight in the series, I tried to dismiss my team to avoid an emotional breakdown.  As usual, the Sox roared back and gave me hope only to make me have a bigger breakdown after the eighth inning last night – when it was clearly over.

In any event, thanks to the Boston Red Sox for a fun season.  The team is always a blast to watch and Red Sox games are a centerpiece for my summer activities.  I look forward to another successful season in 2009.

Was that the last time we’ll see Jason Veritek in a Red Sox uniform?

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 October 20th, 2008  
 Will  
 Red Sox  
   
 7 Comments
Oct
13

A Letter to Bill Belichick

Dear Coach Belichick,

You know I love the Patriots.  I have been a season ticket holder for a long time and from the last weeks of August to the first weeks of February every year my life somewhat revolves around watching my Pats play football.  But after last night’s performance, I have come to accept the fact that the team simply . . . sucks.

I would have never have guessed how much one player, Tom Brady, meant to a team that I thought was well-rounded.  The defense looks horrible, but it’s hard for me to tell how much the total and complete lack of offense has on the psyche of the defense.  In any event, the entire team seems totally broken.

So, given this situation, it surprises me that you stick with Matt Cassel as your quarterback.  I realize that you believe that getting the entire team behind a single QB is critical to the motivation of the team, the QB’s confidence and the positive mentality of that chosen quarterback.  But Cassel is simply not worthy.  He has tunnel vision – he can only see the designated receiver – and misses wide open optional receivers and defensive lineman bearing down on him.

If you’re going to stick with Cassel, which I believe is a stupid idea, at least open up the game by having him make more 10+ yard passes even if he throws an interception now and again.  The offense is probably going to turn the ball over on downs, anyway.  If you, like I, suspect that he can’t throw that far, take him out of the game and give Gutierrez or O’Connell a shot.  What’s the downside?

Clearly, Cassel isn’t a long term keeper.  You can’t rely on him to make it happen.  How motivated are Randy Moss and Wes Welker to get their asses kicked every week with Cassel as their QB?  At least shaking things up might give the other players some hope which, after the debacle in San Diego, seems to be the most important thing you can offer your guys this season.

Sincerely,

A respectful and ever grateful fan.

 

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 October 13th, 2008  
 Will  
 Patriots  
   
 5 Comments