December 17, 2004
Airline security, in-flight cell phones and knitting needles
I've traveled every week except for one since about mid-October, and I've got a few observations. A couple of days ago I heard a news story that cell phones had been approved for use on airplanes by the FCC. It is expected that they could be allowed by the FAA by 2006. I'm a pilot, though not current, and I still read the aviation newsletters. There does seem to be some anecdotal evidence that cell phones and other devices have caused problems with navigation systems, which is why they were banned in the first place. Some say they were banned to protect the airphone revenue, but I do believe there was some legitimate concern for safety. Which brings me to airline security. If a cell phone could potentially bring down a plane, why are the airlines letting us on with our phones, laptops and PDAs, but making us throw away our pin knives?
I've always thought that much of the security efforts in the airport are there just to make people feel better about traveling. Brian Doherty wrote a great article on John Gilmore, a multi-millionaire (Sun Microsystems employee number five) who is suing the government to try to protect our rights to privacy. Here is an email from John Gilmore describing how British Airways ejected him from a flight for wearing a button that said "Suspected Terrorist". (As I write this a flight attendant is standing next to me in the aisle and I'm wondering if even writing the word "Terrorist" could get me ejected from the flight.)
I wouldn't mind the extra security measures if I thought they did any good, but what is the logic in taking away a person's safety razor but letting the young woman board with 12" anodized aluminum knitting needles? They are definitely on the list of things my Mom warned could poke my eye out. I've noticed this twice in the past couple of weeks and the flight attendants see them, so they are being allowed.
We've also seen a couple of stories lately about the crack security teams losing their training bombs. In the Newark case the bomb was fake, but in the Paris case it was real explosives that went missing. The article mentions that in tests the screeners in Newark missed one in four bombs planted in luggage. Can you imagine getting home from a trip, opening your suitcase and finding a real bomb? How do you explain that and who do you report it to?
I see that Lufthansa is now offering wireless internet access on their flights out of Denver. Has anyone tried using a VoIP SIP phone on their laptop to make what would probably be a legal call from the air? By the way, I'm not in favor of allowing people to use cell phones in flight. Travel is tough enough without having to sit in the middle seat listening to somebody yak about whatever it is people find SO IMPORTANT that they just can't possibly wait until they have some privacy.
I guess I'm done. The woman in front of me just leaned her seat back into my lap and since I'm up against the back bulkhead, it is really awkward to type. At least she isn't talking on the phone too.
December 04, 2004
TelePodcasting Part 2
In my previous post I said "I think I've invented something - comments please!" I went on to describe an idea I had for making it easy to create PodCasts using nothing but an ordinary telephone. Maybe the term TelePodcasting is new, but others have clearly thought about this already.
Daniel Gerges left a comment saying that his company had developed a capability to post MP3 files to their website. I found a few other references to this, so wrapping them up in RSS is just a slight improvement that makes it possible to automatically turn the recordings into PodCasts. I like to check out the websites of people who comment and got a real treat at Daniel's blog.
Daniel has written Should you open source your ideas? and he used my TelePodcast post as kind of a case study. Open Source Ideas - check out Daniel's post. I felt like a rock star when I realized he had also picked up on my post about vacations.
Jim Curry of Whole Wheat Radio pointed me to OpenPodCast.org who has had a call-in capability, though it doesn't seem to be in service right now. I spent a couple of hours this morning listening to Whole Wheat Radio. It's great, and it is another example of how the Internet is changing the world. Jim's inspired me to figure out how to stream music throughout my house because I kept listing to "just one more song" and didn't want to leave my computer this morning.
So what have I learned? When I was a developer I learned to not be too quick to blame another's code, because as sure as I did, I found the bug in MY code and looked stupid for pointing the finger at someone else. I *may* have come up with a new term, and a slight twist on other good ideas. I don't think I've invented anything. The idea may still be worth pursuing and my first experiment with Open Source Ideas has been great.
At Gold Systems we focus mostly on applications, though we do have one product that is more of an infrastructure product. I think the power of TelePodcasting will be in the applications that can be built with the concept to solve real problems. That's what I'm going to be spending my time thinking about.
December 03, 2004
I think I've invented something - comments please! I was playing with PodCasting earlier this week. PodCasting is RSS with an attachment, in this case an mp3 file. Rather than read the blogs, you can, if you get everything set up just right, automatically download recorded blogs in the author's own voice directly to your iPod or MP3 player. If blogging is personal printing press, PodCasting is personal radio broadcasting with TiVo.
Engadget has a tutorial on how to create a podcast. It assumes the reader has a Mac and that they are willing to use three or four different pieces of software, a sound card, microphone, etc., to make a PodCast. It's not rocket science, but it is far from easy. (No offense Engadget, it's a great tutorial; I'm just thinking there could be an alternative that would be easier with only some sacrifice in sound quality.)
What I've come up with is what I'll call "TelePodcasting". The idea is really, really simple. To create a PodCast, rather than sitting down in a studio, you simply call in your TelePodcast post using any telephone. This is the very first ever recorded TelePodcast. If you clicked on the previous link, you should have heard me talking - if not, maybe your speakers aren't turned on? The script wasn't very well thought out and I could have spoken clearer, but if I had redone it, then it wouldn't still be the Very First Ever recorded TelePodcast, would it?
The point of PodCasting is not really to listen to the recording directly, but to take the RSS feeds and use them to automatically grab the audio and download them to your iPod or MP3 player. If you are ready to try that, than this RSS feed should do the trick.
If you haven't encountered PodCasting before, you might be wondering "what's the point?" Lots of people prefer audio to visual, which is why Books on Tape and Audible are popular. But there are a lot more uses. How about politicians delivering their speeches in their own voice to your inbox? Or State of the Company addresses, or Sales Team Updates - all delivered from any telephone and distributed automatically and instantly. PodCasting seems to be growing as fast as blogging and surely a lot of the people would like to have an easier way to update their sites.
I'm not ready to go into how this works exactly, but it is easy to make a post. You dial a phone number from any telephone, you're prompted to record your message and then magically it appears on the blog.
I think there is something to this. I'm not sure if it is a potential product for my company, Gold Systems, or a neat idea or a dumb idea. What do you think?
December 01, 2004
Take a vacation already!
One of the first blogs I started reading was by Matt Blumberg, the CEO of Return Path. His post on Why Entrepreneurship is like Windows made me smile. If you are an entrepreneur you'll get it and if you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur make sure you think about what it might be like to be in screen saver mode most of the time. I'm a big believer in vacations, though it took me about five years before I didn't feel guilty about taking them. (I still do a little)
If you only take a week at a time, I think you're only getting the mental benefit of about one day off. Think about it - the first three days you're still thinking about work. You get one good day and then spend the next three days thinking about going back to work. I think it takes two weeks at least, consecutive, with little or no thoughts of work to really recharge.
Your employees could probably use the break too, and they get to prove that they can run the business without you. If you must think about work, keep the thoughts big and bring back a good idea or two.