Got a Flash New Laptop? Make sure you allow loads more time to get through security when you fly – as the security staff are sure to stop you to check it out in detail. Have a read of Steve Jobs Made Me Miss My Flight for the story of what happened the first time Michael Nygard travelled with his MacBook Air. Hat tip to Scoble for the link.
Things seem to be moving on in the calendar synchronisation arena with the release today of an official Google solution to synchronise Outlook calendars to their online Google Calendar.
In reporting the release, whilst he said it seemed good, Scoble suggested that Plaxo was a better option as it synchronised to a whole raft of other platforms too, rather than just a single platform – he is apparently using Plaxo to link Outlook through to his Mac, and keeping his iPhone in sync too – almost the same setup that I am trying to get going. Now if you’ve read my blog recently, you’ll know that I’ve found a pretty big problem with the Plaxo synchronisation of recurring appointments – my assumption is that Scoble doesn’t have any recurring appointments in his calendar, or that he hasn’t noticed the problem…
Anyway, from my point of view using the new Google Outlook Sync on the PC end and Spanning Sync which a Mac owning friend has recommended on the other would accomplish what I need and get my calendar across, so I thought I’d give the new Google option a go.
Unfortunately the first attempt doesn’t look good. I installed the software onto the PC end, and set it going. The software has a nice little tooltip that keeps you informed as to what it is up to. The number of appointments that it was synchronising seemed about right, and it claimed to have synchronised them – unfortunately when you took a look at the result on the online Google Calendar the view for March only had three appointments of any sort – considering that this month includes Easter, there should be nearer to fifty. My first thought is that maybe there was some sort of problem with the appointments – one of the other tools I’ve tried used to run into problems if certain punctuation characters appeared in any of the text fields of an appointment – but the Google Sync didn’t report any problems.
Suffice to say, as with Plaxo I’d recommend backing everything up, and carefully looking at your calendar if you give it a try – as with any synchronisation solution it has the potential to really mess things up! I guess I might take a look once it goes through a couple of revisions, but for my current task, it’s not really up to the job.
You say ‘electric car’ to most people in the UK, and the majority will think of the frustration of following a slow milk float in traffic. Certainly the milk float has contributed to the opinion that electric vehicles are generally pretty slow – indeed the production options for electric cars in the UK such as the G-Wiz, are really only viable as city cars – with top speeds of 40-50mph – quite apart from concerns over their safety in a crash. As a result, the environmental options for a car in the UK usually focus on hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius or the competing Honda Civic Hybrid, both of which pair an electric motor with a regular petrol engine.
However, once you look in a bit more detail, you realise that in terms of performance, an electric motor has way more torque than a conventional engine – the problem with electric cars has always been the trade off between the weight of the batteries needed, against the range, against the performance, and in general range wins out resulting in slow moving electric vehicles. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Over in Silicon Valley, it’s not just computer companies getting the attention. Over there is a company called Tesla Motors that is trying to disprove the ‘slow electric car’ moniker, with a British built electric roadster. The look will be fairly familiar – especially when you bear in mind that Lotus were involved with the design, and assemble the car in their factory in Hethel.
If you want to see one in action, Robert Scoble got a ride in the first production model, driven by Tesla Motors chairman Elon Musk. Needless to say he got the whole thing on video, and covers a lot of technical details about the car – this is the one to watch to find out how fast it goes, how cheap it is to run, what the range is and of course how much the thing actually costs.
What you don’t get with that of course is much of a view of the car in action. To get that, you need to watch a video recorded at the same time by Jason Calacanis as he struggles to keep up in a Corvette. The camerawork on the Calacanis video is a lot more wobbly – but there are some moments when you can quite literally see the Tesla roadster disappearing into the distance despite Calacanis having his foot to the floor trying to keep pace!
Over the past couple of days, there has been somewhat of a debate going on, with various blogs slamming people like Robert Scoble over the fact that they haven’t mentioned the current situation in Kenya. Scoble has his posted a response which is essentially that as a tech blogger, it doesn’t impact the area he has chosen to blog about. Having said that, as a counterpoint to that, one of the items that came through on Roberts link blog earlier in the week shows just how politics and tech do touch each other.
The posting I picked up on initially was something by Tim O’Reilly, called “What We Have vs What We Want“. In that article he was quoting from an article in The Times describing a business venture in India, where using the remains of an old plane, an entrepreneur is making successful business out of providing the airline experience to the poor of India who could never afford to go on a plane for real. This is the full works apparently with the safety demonstration, stewards and so on – except the plane never leaves the ground. However, the article to which the O’Reilly article was a counterpoint is perhaps even more interesting.
The original article, “The Rest of the Rest of Us” is a very interesting read, and is written by Dale Dougherty a technologist working with O’Reilly, challenging the mantra of many technologists that technology will change the world, looking at some of the political problems that the US is facing, and asking whether technology is really changing the world for everybody.
The main point of the article is that in the US, for all the hi-tech jobs, and advances in phones, entertainment or whatever, at the bottom of the pile are a group of people for whom this sort of thing is just irrelevant or unobtainable.
The example he gives is of Winston-Salem in North Carolina, where the economy used to be built on textiles, furniture making and tobacco. In the past, a 16 year old could drop out of school with no qualifications and walk into a factory involved in one of those industries and live a reasonable life. It is different now, those kind of factory jobs have gone to the far east, and in a situation that you can find repeated across the UK as well, there are fewer and fewer of those kind of jobs, and leaving school without the most basic qualifications. Indeed, a recent Institute for Fiscal Studies report in the UK reported by the BBC showed that behind the oft quoted rise in living standards in the UK was a more worrying trend – increasing inequality in British society – whilst the majority of the population have seen incomes rise a little, the top earners have seen a significant increase, whilst the low earners have seen their incomes fall. In a world where we’re told that most people have more technology in their mobile phone or in their TV than was in the Apollo Space Programme, there is a whole group of people who aren’t getting any benefit from our burgeoning hi-tech economies.
The whole article is well worth a read, and is equally true for what is happening the UK as for the USA. The final few paragraphs however sum up what Dale Dougherty is trying to say – and poses some big questions for technologists:
Is the high-tech world indifferent to the problems of the poor? Do we have any competence that matters in helping them find a better life? Or are we just making “the happy few” that much happier?
What is a social network if the people facing the toughest problems are not part of it? They don’t need more signs that tell them that they are on their own. The have-nots don’t do networking. It doesn’t get them anywhere.
Whether it’s the latest from Web 2.0 or Apple Computer, do we need to ask what it means for those who aren’t able to take part? Does it help them catch up or put them further behind? That calculation is part of the social cost of any new technology. We might think of it like we’re starting to think about our oversized carbon footprint and its impact on the physical world. Is there any way to offset the negative social impact of the technology that we’re so busily developing?
It’s a challenge for the “best of us” to address.
O’Reilly’s counterpoint of course is that if you look beyond our own backyards, the problems pale in comparison – whilst the hi-tech economies are moving further ahead, other places are struggling with more fundamental problems – and all the points above can equally be applied when we look at things on a world level.
Both articles are available on my link blog.
Looking at new contact photos on Flickr this morning there were a load of new pictures on Robert Scoble’s stream heralding the arrival of Robert and Maryam’s new baby earlier today. We’d just like to say a big congratulations on the new arrival.
Perhaps one of the most interesting places to observe the current skirmishes is over on Scobleizer, the reason being that Robert Scoble has been using and enjoying an N95, but having queued with his son to get an iPhone, and then compared the two phones, is coming down in favour of the Apple.
Letâ€™s just stop here. The iPhone is superior in almost every way to the Nokia N95. The battery life is better. The contact management is better. The Web browser is better. The photo taking experience is better. The screen is better. The wireless management is better.
After that, he does then take a pot-shot back at the Nokia fans.
However, what is happening is what has happened with the iPod before, the fans of other smartphones are quoting feature lists – highlighting that there are a number of key missing features with the iPhone – things like a GPS, 3G support and so on. The thing is though, that as with the iPod the purchasers (of which there have been over 0.5 million in the first weekend alone) are going for looks and basic usability over the feature list.
The iPhone scores highly by being cool, and by doing a few things and doing them well. True the Nokia N95 has a better camera, but the software that drives the camera, which is the same as on my Nokia N73 is lousy – certainly there is no chance of taking a decent picture quickly as you have to fiddle with all the settings every time you open the camera as they always reset to default. Based on comments around the internet, as expected the iPhone is scoring points in usability, an area where the current crop of smartphones often fall down. However much the fans of the other phones quote feature lists, whatever toys a phone has, basic usability is where it matters – I know numerous people who have never worked out how to use even the basic features of their phone – even changing a ringtone.
As to whether I’ll get one, without 3G or the ability to take a decent picture, I’m not keen. Get that sorted out and maybe I’ll take a look – of course it could all go out the window when I eventually get to play with one. Whatever happens though, I’m hopeful that having Apple at the party will give the competition a good kick in improving the usability on their models too.
Pretty well as soon as he moved over to the site, Robert Scoble’s blog Scobleizer has been at the top of the blog list of those hosted on WordPress.com. However last week, came the shock news, he is no longer top! The current top site pulls in 500,000 visitors a day, and about a third of all files served by the WordPress.com servers are from the site. So what’s the content? An entire blog filled with cat pictures… (which Beth certainly is enjoying…)