Lots of noise in the air today after Dell introduced (well, showed) a mininotebook at D6. I think the category is… interesting(ish), more a novelty than anything else. I’m sure there are some people who look at these laptops as their ultimate solution for computing, and others who scoff. Either way, the space is getting crowded, and unfortunately, I feel it’s crowding up in a boring way. Here’s a short video with my thoughts:
Monthly Archives: May 2008
Quicken Online makes it easy to track your finances, at a price
Intuit’s Quicken Online purports to offer a simple, all-in-one control panel that lets you easily monitor and manage your monthly finances. For the basics, it succeeds, but users who need complete control may find themselves wanting more, especially for $2.99 per month.
What’s your problem? I use four different sites to manage my finances online: one for my brokerage accounts, another for my 401(k), one for my credit cards, and yet another for my checking and savings accounts. Because 90% of my online financial activities requires nothing more than a quick balance check and a look at recent transactions, I’m on the hunt for an easy, secure application that I can use to aggregate the information without having to hop from site to site to site. I’d also love integrated budgeting features, so that I can compare my spending vs. personal goals.
Enter Intuit’s Quicken Online, which I first came across through Lifehacker’s personal finance tips (full disclosure: I have nothing to do with Lifehacker). The promise was there – a simple, one-stop interface that lets you easily monitor all of your financial accounts, and a breakdown of your expenditures in a monkey-couldn’t-get-confused-by-it pie chart. I’d used Intuit’s online TurboTax for years to handle my tax returns, so Quicken Online also offered something that is an absolute must for any type of bank account aggregator: security that I can trust (I hope).
As the video on the Quicken Online site promises, setup was a snap. Sign up for the 30-day free trial ($2.99 per month after that), enter your bank names and login information, and the application automatically retrieves the last 90 days’ worth of transactions. Once all your data is available, you’re presented with the home dashboard, which features the most basic look at your finances: three boxes representing your income, your expenditures, and the differential:
Confirmation of my profligate spending, complete with pastel Web 2.0 gradients. We’re off to a good start.
The dashboard also provides a quick look at all your account balances, broken out by bank, and a customizable list of bill alerts, which sends a “pay your bills” reminder to either an email address or mobile device via SMS.
The site features two other main categories: My Accounts, which lets you add, remove, and otherwise manage your account settings (which we will totally ignore for now), and Track Spending, which is where you’ll spend most of your time.
Track Spending offers the aforementioned pie chart, which breaks your spending down into both pre-assigned and user-created categories (such as rent, travel, paycheck, etc.). You can also view all the transactions that contribute to each category.
The pie chart breaks down your expenses by type…
And the menus allow you to drill down in each category…
Which lets you see how you spent your money. By the way, if you’re ever at the Atlantis, try the Leap of Faith water slide. Just trust me on this.
Quicken tries to automatically assign your imported transactions to one of its pre-defined categories and, for the most part, it does a good job. It did initially list a number of transactions as undefined, such as my monthly rent payment, but you can easily reassign those wayward expenditures and deposits to their proper categories.
The one big gotcha I noticed with the initial setup is that Quicken Online, in Costanza-like fashion, double dips expenses – it interpreted both the purchases I put on my credit card and the payments that I made from my bank to my credit card companies as expenses, so it looked like I had spent twice what I had actually paid. The fix involved a transaction type called “Transfer Out,” which you use to classify a payment that shouldn’t count towards your total expenditures. Fixing the double dip was the most difficult part of setting up the account, and it took a total of about five minutes.
Since setup, managing the application has required very little maintenance – switch a random uncategorized transaction here and there, make sure that my bank’s web site allows Quicken to refresh account balances, and that’s it. I can say with some reliability how much I’m spending on what, and whether or not I’m hitting that magic threshold of living within my means.
For support, users have access to the Quicken Online blog and User Community forums. The blog is updated regularly, but the forums tend to be filled with unanswered questions, and aren’t much use. You can also contact Intuit support directly.
Sounds like the perfect solution! So far, so good. But Quicken Online isn’t perfect. As an anal control freak, one of the biggest problems I had with the service is that you can’t split transactions; that is, designate multiple purposes for a single expense. For people with mortgages, who need to differentiate interest from capital for tax purposes, or for people who just want to say “I split that $100 ATM withdrawal among dinner, drinks and White Castle at 3 AM,” this lack of functionality could be a deal breaker.
For $2.99/month, I also would have liked even rudimentary budgeting features, such as alerts when my monthly spending in a specific category reaches a pre-determined limit. These shortcomings are especially problematic for Intuit because competitor mint.com offers split transactions, comparable security and, most importantly for many people who are looking for a cheap budget/finance tool, the service is free (although it is ad-supported, which Quicken is not).
So what’s the bottom line? Quicken Online does what it says it does: it presents you with an easy-to-read view of your financial transactions. Setup is easy, maintenance isn’t a problem, and if all you want to do is get the bottom line, Quicken Online does it. The only reason I have a hard time recommending it is the price: even at $2.99/month, the service is overpriced for what it does.
Competitors offer everything that Quicken Online does, plus personal budgeting features (a feature that Quicken’s blog claims is coming soon), and it’s free. Quicken Online is better than manually updating a spreadsheet to track your spending, and easier than using the full offline version of Quicken, but if all you’re looking for is something to give you a quick overview of your finances, and maybe some basic planning functions, you might be just as satisfied somewhere that doesn’t ding you with a monthly fee.
How-to: Use Twitter and FriendFeed without being massively disrupted at work
Short answer: You Can’t. They are inherently distracting services, regardless of whether or not they are useful or relevant to you in a work capacity.
Exception to the above rule if you are one of the following:
- you are a full-time blogger – in this case, odds are being more exposed to “the noise” may actually help you.
- you are someone whose job does not depend on linear work – if you don’t spend hours at a time writing huge documents or lines of code or some other focused task, then you can probably tweet away. Odds are that you probably have a pretty cushy job too. 😉
- you are Robert Scoble – if you are Robert Scoble, then the normal rules simply do not apply.
For the rest of us, it’s noisy and distracting. And it doesn’t matter if you have notifiers on or off, because using either communication stream effectively requires participation. Sure, you can just read a series of streams, and that’s better than nothing, but not by much. Part of the point of it all is being engaged.
I think the best analogy I can come up with (and its a bit of a dramatic one, so take it with a grain of salt) is trying to do all your work in a Starbucks filled with friends, colleagues, and all of their friends and colleagues. And everyone is yelling, and there are no headphones available. And every now and then, someone yells something that you feel the need to respond to. So you do. By yelling.
The next-best solution? Wait for Twitter to be down. (ooh, cheap shot, I know!)
Okay, time for the “real” how-to. It’s a combo of the technology AND the mindset. It isn’t too hard, technically, but it may be a crazy strain on the brain.
- Tech: Turn down/off your notification settings (I recommend the same for email, btw). Anything that can pop up over your actual work should go away.
- Mind: When you are working on a serious project, close your tabs and anything else with Twitter/FF visible.
- Tech: Create a bookmark folder with FF, Summize, and Twitter all ready to go, so when you are done with work, you can quickly pick up what you missed.
- Mind: Don’t worry that you are missing something. Odds are really good you are not. Anything important will be there when you get back. I promise.
- Mind: Seriously, stop it! Close Twhirl and Twitterific, and leave it alone for a few. The world keeps on turnin whether or not you pay attention to it.
- Mind: Breathe… it’ll be okay.
- Mind: Remind your coworkers and colleagues that they can call you should something important come up.
- Tech: If you are working on something *really* important, turn off your ringer too.
Good luck to you. When in doubt, just remember: there was a world before FriendFeed, Twitter, Email, Cell Phones, and even Facebook (yes, it’s true). There were no tweets, pings, chatrooms, and ringtones. Nobody used to get sheep thrown at them nor did they have to decide between vampires and werewolves (vampires!). And Gary Coleman was once a star, dammit, a big star!
Lifecasting may well lead us to Crime 2.0
This is something that’s been bothering me for a while: with all the push toward lifecasting, should we worry that criminals are going to get a little smarter? I saw a tweet today that really got me over the edge to write this post.
I first got antsy about TMI online when I was reading Scoble’s blog. He wrote a post a few years back divulging his home address (at the time), and I for one thought he was a bit nutso to do it (that nutso quality is probably a part of why he’s so likeable). I see tweets from him (and others) constantly revealing two important pieces of information:
- The fact that they are not at home.
- An easy tie-in to a specific location/event they have recently attended.
Both are better bait to criminals than personal injury videos on YouTube are to drunk college kids. They are basically open invitations for bad people to do bad things. Break-ins. Thievery. Identity theft. etc. I totally understand the desire to lifecast private details, and I occasionally slip myself. It’s easy, and I think the more in a rhythm you get of publicizing your information, they more you get “sucked into” doing it.
- Robert Scoble in NYC yesterday
- Tom Raftery in Barcelona right now
- Me a couple of weeks ago
- Alec Saunders just as I began to write this post
My recommendations to anyone and everyone who tweets, pounces, jaiks, friendfeeds, blog posts, facebook statuses, and any other form of lifecasting is to think twice before you write. Recognize that your message is going into the public, in a permanent and very findable manner.
I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see tweets like “just got home, where the F is my plasma?!?” It sucks to think this way, but it’s giving me a little wakeup call myself. Guess we may all need crowdsourced home security one day.
Now signing off from an undisclosed location. I hear there’s a car nobody’s watching at SFO…
16 Simple Ways to Improve FriendFeed
Despite my initial skepticism, I am enjoying using FriendFeed (“FF” from here out). I find interesting stories & news articles from my friends, I hear about news from colleagues, and am able to interact with them all in one place. I also like hearing from “related strangers” and finding new “friends” (Internet friends, that is) through the process. Below is my list of some simple things FF could do to easily enhance the overall experience.
- Subscribing to Subscribers – Right now you have to manually go subscriber by subscriber. FF should add a button next to each person’s name for instant subscribing (like on the “recommended” tab). Also a “subscribe to all my subscribers” would be nice
- Find my Friends – I should be able to point at my Plaxo/LinkedIn/address book, and have FF automagically add whomever’s in there into my subscribers list (should also allow me to choose which ones specifically)
- Use “interestingness” more – The current list of “who’s subscribed to me” is stagnant, calculated by some ranking. Use the info from the stats page to show a more dynamic list.
- Nested comments – no-brainer.
- Re-ping my Subscriptions – I have friends who I am subscribed to who were surprised to find me on FF. There’s no way for me to easily renotify people I exist.
- Add to the “like” feature – I think a “dislike” button would be interesting (even if the results were hidden) as it could help add to the interestingness meter. Also, I’d like to see “Agree/Disagree With” as options, since they are very different from “like”.
- De-duplicating redundant entries – if I write a blog post then mark it in Twitter or Delicious, FF should be smart enough to remove the extra entries (or group them). This could be crowdsourced as well, in case the automatic version is too hard to build.
- More 2-way data sharing – if I like it on FF, then favorite it on Twitter. If I comment on a discussion, send it to Disqus or the blog comment system. Etc. Edit (per a comment on FF): this should be an option for the user.
- Surface the interesting features more – the ability to see stats, discussions, etc is very cool, but the features are buried away.
- Enable auto-TinyURL in posts – all URLs should get Tiny’d. Edit (per a comment on FF): this should be an option for the user.
- Create filters – I’d like to be able to filter out terms completely – for example, I have no interest in hearing anything political on FF, so would happily filter out Obama, Hillary, McCain, and other terms.
- Add “friends of friends” as a main tab – in addition to “me”, “friends”, and “everyone”, I’d like to see the feeds of my friends’ friends. This would be especially handy when I want to filter them out from my main feed.
- Make history more relevant – how about a timeline? how about seeing all the stuff of mine that other people have commented on? how about seeing my most popular stuff?
- UI clean-up – I read Louis Gray’s post on using the hide function, and while it’s extremely helpful, it just shouldn’t be that hard! Don’t agree? Go read tip#5 in that post again, and you’ll see how unintuitive that process really is.
- Make a control panel – too many things going on (this is really an extension of #14) in too many places. Give me a single place to make all my settings happen, and I’ll be a happy camper.
- Fix the glaring typo on this page. Here, I’ll make it easy for ya…
That’s it for now, hope to see some of these happen!
Thoughts on the Netflix box
Bringing you up to speed: Netflix announced a $99 device that hooks up to your TV and streams movies (free to Netflix subscribers) from your queue straight to your set. This is not the first “Internet set-top box” to come out, nor will it be the last. But it’s definitely one of the more interesting ones to discuss. Here are my thoughts on it, in a semi-organized manner:
What I like about it:
- Price point: under $100 is great (under $50 is perfection), especially in conjunction with free movies.
- Netflix brand extension: the company’s followers tend to be fairly loyal (I’ve heard an estimated 5-10% churn before, which isn’t too bad considering the space they are in), and have the financial resources to make a $100 box a near-no-brainer purchase.
- K.I.S.S.: the pictured remote only has a few buttons, and they aren’t making an “all in one killer box” (which would be much harder to market than a specific, focused product)
- HDMI: absolutely essential.
What I don’t like about it:
- Price point: seems like they could’ve found a way to make it free with a committed subscription. I personally pay $17.95/mo for my Netflix subscription, I have to think there’s a point ($25.95?) where I’d upgrade my service for the box. This is how the cable companies “get ya” and I think should be considered by the company.
- Roku’s brand: it’s effectively nonexistent with the masses, which is who this product is targeting. I don’t feel Netflix gains much (other than possibly having complete control over the product, a la Apple)
- It’s a box: like Thomas Hawk said, people don’t want more boxes in their living rooms.
- Competing with cable companies: Comcast offers me dozens of free HD movies per month (hundreds of SD ones), and lots of PPV content to boot. I’m concerned that for $100 I don’t really feel I get much extra, and as I state above, I now have to deal with an extra box in the mix.
Other misc thoughts:
- Initial reviews seem positive, I’m hoping to try it myself soon. I think for the box to succeed it has to be better than “easy to use”, it has to be “compelling to use”. A slam dunk would be my wife not just using it, but loving it enough to tell her friends (which was not true of VuDu, and only partially true of Moviebeam). The process of selecting movies to watch and the actual playback have to work great (think TiVo). Ditto for setup.
- According to CNET, HD content is coming soon, and I think this is a questionable move. I believe launching with HD would make a huge difference in the marketability of the box. Also, it seems that it doesn’t offer upscaling on the SD video, which means I’ll be watching content that looks less good than a standard DVD.
- I wish they had taken a page from the Apple playbook and made a more interesting/attractive product. Either that or follow the Slingbox “purple cow” approach. I totally understand the reasons for the generic gray consumer electronics product, but I feel it’s a tactical error in this case. Netflix has always stood out from the crowd, and I think their box should do the same.
- Their biggest competitive threats are, in order: nothing, a digital cable box, a DVR, a computer (media center or not), an Xbox 360, and maybe an Apple TV. I don’t really see anything else currently on the market as actually competitive.
Back in January I voiced my concerns over this exact product. I like where they’ve gotten so far, but still have a lot of concerns over market viability. I believe with some polish and evolution, combined with paying a lot of attention to early adopters’ feedback (different from beta testers!), and great marketing, they might be able to turn this into a big hit. I’ll definitely be watching!
I don't sound so stupid now, do I?
Six things you should know about Grand Theft Auto IV before you commit to a work week’s worth of gaming
The epic stories of early reviews of Grand Theft Auto IV are already legend: stalwart game reviewers, shipped to hotels in undisclosed locations, are given nearly a week of time with the most hotly anticipated title of the year. They spend dozens of sleepless hours inflicting upon themselves the sins of protagonist Niko Bellic and the depraved Liberty City.
When they emerge, tired and unwashed, and with a nagging feeling that their next ride is only a broken window and a couple of twisted wires away, they rush to compile glowing homilies to their week-long captor. The results, Legions of perfect scores, could fuel a multi-year study on Stockholm Syndrome. Were the scores on metacritic posted in the same way that the Boston Red Sox use to update their scoreboard at Fenway Park, we’d be suffering a national shortage of green placards that read “100 OUT OF 100!”*
“These scores – you make them good, OK?”
(Source materials from mlb.com and gamespot)
To their credit, and I speak as a veteran with 28 hours of play time and a 42% completion rate, the glowing reviews aren’t just hyperbole. Grand Theft Auto IV presents by far the most immersive environment ever rendered in a video game. There are few other gaming experiences that I can recall that had characters this well-written, a story this clever, and an option to just putz around that, in many cases, is a lot more fun than the actual storyline.
For those who haven’t made the purchase, it’s natural to be skeptical of the unprecedented outpouring of love for GTA IV. There’s good reason for it, because as great as Grand Theft Auto IV can be, there are plenty of things that players, sucked in by the lure of the golden reviews, should know before hopping off the boat with Niko. Disclaimer: these should not be considered reasons NOT to buy the game, but just a friendly “heads-up” to my fellow gamers who may not quite know what they’re getting into. Minor, non-story related spoilers abound:
- Do you have a fear of commitment? There’s a geek syndrome that I call “Mulderscullyphobia,” the fear of getting trapped by the latest X-Files-ripoff TV series. The new show usually features a massive conspiracy/mystery that you KNOW you’ll have to follow every episode, whether the show runs for one season or ten, because once you start, you NEED to find out what happens. GTA IV inspires similar fear. Even though most reviewers say the game will take 40 hours, plan on a lot longer, especially if you’re new to the series. At four hours a night (you don’t have a job or family, right?), you’ll be in for at least two solid weeks of playing. And trust me, you’ll be stuck – this game is the epitome of “just one more mission, and then I’ll come to bed.”
- The immersive, expansive world is not immediately all available: Like with most GTA games, the most tantalizing locations are initially out of reach – all the bridges heading west are barricaded and protected by the Liberty City PD. I tried to run the barricade, and they called out the Special Forces. I tried to sneak through (hint: get your car on the El train track), and they called in Special Forces. I even tried to swim across the equivalent of the East River, and they called the Coast Guard to take me out. You’ll be able to cross eventually, but not until you put in 13 – 14 hours.
- You’re going to spend a lot of time getting places: It’s Grand Theft Auto, and it follows the standard Grand Theft Auto scheme: get a mission, drive across the map to the mission, fail mission, retry mission. After the sixth time around, you’ll manage to succeed, and then drive all the way back to where you started. Even with a built-in GPS map, it gets very tedious very quickly.
- But what about my needs?: Your virtual criminal buddies are all like insecure high school girls: pay them enough attention, and they’ll love you. Turn down requests to play darts a couple of times, and all of a sudden you’re out of the club. And since it’s in your best interest to keep them happy, you get to spend plenty of time with awkward bowling, darts, and pool simulators. And that doesn’t even include managing your in-game love life, which requires constant calls, dates, and wardrobe changes (my real life significant other’s favorite part of the game, incidentally). Nothing gets you in the gangster mood quite like choosing between the Russian hat and the Army hat.
- Didn’t I just do this mission?: Kill drug dealers/mobsters/bikers in a shootout that becomes disgustingly easy when you find somewhere to take cover. Chase someone in a car (or motorcycle), and shoot him. Perform a coup de grâce on a major mob boss. Lather, rinse, repeat.
- How am I supposed to finish the game when I can both watch TV and surf the internet in the freaking game?: I was even clicking on links in the spam, for God’s sake.
Daddy, please don’t play the hooker game again tonight!
(Source materials from www.azmortgageguru.com)
No darts? How about pool? Bowling? What about a strip club? Why won’t you LOVE me?
(Source materials from amazon.com)
If you haven’t bought Grand Theft Auto IV, and think that you can handle the time commitment and repetition, then it offers the best action and story combo since Bioshock. Just don’t be blinded by the brilliant gleam of all those perfect 100s – you’re going to have to work to get everything the game has to offer.
*For those that notice, yes, I know that metacritic adjusts everyone’s score to a scale that tops out 100, even if the reviewing site only rates on a scale of 1 – 10 or 1 – 5.
Editor’s Note: this is written by Dan Rubin, one of LIVEdigitally’s new reviewers. I’ll have a “welcome” post up soon enough, but in case you miss that one, welcome Dan!!
MacBooks will take 50% of notebook market share within a year
I saw an interesting blog post this week regarding how Apple is immune to the innovator’s dilemma (for those unfamiliar with the term). First, I don’t think the company is immune at all, I think that OS X and MacBooks ARE the innovation relative to Windows Vista and PCs. Second, there’ve been tons of recent articles regarding the company’s climb in market share. Finally, in the interests of full disclosure, I am personally a (small) AAPL stockholder.
Consumers are turning increasingly to their peers, friends, and family for recommendations of products. I’ve personally referred four people to purchase Panasonic plasmas after buying my own (of course, they all got the newer model, but no, I’m not extremely bitter). In each case my friends actually made purchases on nothing but my recommendation. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for a word-of-mouth referral. While there’s constant debate on the “power of influencers” there’s almost no question we all like to have a friendly opinion to back up a purchase decision.
Today, when buying a new notebook, I’ll make the following two statements that I believe are true:
- Virtually all MacBook owners will recommend most MacBook models when asked
- Virtually no Vista notebook owners will recommend most models from any given manufacturer when asked
The second point is probably the more debatable one. I’m not saying there’s *no* PC worth recommending. But, even a person happy with, say a Dell, cannot make a blanket statement “all Dell notebooks are worth buying.” Further, this situation worsens, not improves, over time. A year ago I’d have recommended a Vaio hands-down. Today I cannot (despite mine working quite well now – thanks again Ed!), because I simply don’t believe that all configurations are recommendable. So I’d have to say “Get model XX, with the YY screen and the ZZ video card” and even then, still leave a lot to chance. I wouldn’t be able to personally vouch for it, the cornerstone to any recommendation.
MacBooks do not have this issue, despite the occasional glitch here and there. They are almost completely recommendable, all of the time (although I’d never personally imagine buying the SSD version of the Air, but that’s more a budget/performance issue than anything else).
Also, I think there is a bit of a “trickle-down” effect happening. When I decided to make the switch, virtually all of my peers and industry thought leaders I read, know, and respect had moved to Macs. I had lunch with a VC friend of mine today, he confirmed that well over 90% of the startups who pitch him come in with MacBooks.
I truly believe this is a “perfect storm” for the MacBook (regardless of whether or not there are new models coming):
- Vista is just a disaster (I can count on one hand the number of people I know personally who think it’s a step up from XP), and there’s no solution imminently on the horizon.
- The PC manufacturer’s are caught in an Innovator’s Dilemma moment where the thousands of configurable options on a PC are what their customers have asked for, yet don’t truly want.
- The price point of an entry level MacBook is on par with a Windows notebook.
- Finally, and possibly most importantly, the introduction of BootCamp and Parallels have enabled the “tentative” customers to make the leap, knowing they can run Windows for anything they miss (Outlook!)
It’s not about the 3, 4, 6, or 12% market share they may or may not have across all computer sales. That’s almost irrelevant to address, since desktops have so many types of uses. But notebooks are much more telling of the shifting trends. Notebooks are for both personal and professional use, they have their place in the office and the home (and everywhere in between). Notebooks afford us more choice in the computer we choose to purchase and use.
Will I be wrong on the timing? Time will tell. Is this a slam dunk? Not at all! Can the PC guys do anything to stop it? Absolutely. But all the signs on the walls I read point to a very dominant iFuture.
Updated: a point I forgot to mention was production capacity (thanks yoshi). As was stated there, it’s pretty unrealistic to think that Apple could possibly ramp production up to the capacity that would be necessary to accomplish the feat. But then again, that’s what my friend Peter calls a “high class” problem to solve…
It's Okay To Pitch Here
Short post, just wanted to draw attention to the fact that we’ve put up a “how to pitch us” page. Why, you may ask? Well, first of all, we get a lot of pitches, and frankly, many of them have nothing to do with what we blog about. Enterprise pitches. TV shows. Viraga (and viarga and even v i a g a r a). You get the drift. So I wanted to help add some focus.
Secondly, I believe it’s the “right thing” for bloggers to do. I put up a post on my marketing blog implying as such. It’s not really fair for me to just say “here’s my email” if I don’t tell you what I want to know about.
Lastly, if you’re noticing I wrote “We” above, well, there’s a few new folks joining the team to help write more reviews. I’ve become a little too entrenched into too many different people/organizations to be able to effectively write reviews much anymore. Either I know the person/company behind the device or the PR firm (or both), and I feel way too conflicted way too often. So expect to see some fresh blood showing up in the next few days!
A Weekend of Making
Overall (with one glaring exception, which I’ll write about tomorrow), it was a great weekend down in San Mateo for the 2008 Maker Faire. As far as events go, it’s almost the anti-CES. Instead of expensive, polished booths, most exhibits were on foldout tables. Instead of a team of well-trained booth staffs, the typical demonstrator was the individual or small group who personally built whatever it is that’s on display. Instead of overpriced, greasy, carnie food, we ate… oh, well, I guess some things are universal.
I spent the bulk of the days at the Bug Labs booth, where we were showing quite a few demos of the BUGbase and modules in action. Our plan was to spend much of the time creating new gadgets, but there were so many visitors that the team only created a small handful of new applications. I really liked the “digital level” application, because it was such a great conceptual explanation for the power of the crowdsource-enabled gadgets. The digital level on its own worked just like any other (although Angel, a Bug Labs engineer, coded it in about 8 minutes using the motion sensor/accelerometer module!), but it’s the future of many “connected digital levels” that is so interesting. Still not making sense? Think of it as a globally connected, yet distributed seismograph. Again, not necessarily important on its own, but its the concept that is so important.
The show was a lot of fun. Much bigger than I was anticipating, I heard over 100,000 tickets were sold! I saw some amazing demos and products, including an open-source version of Rock Band, a digital foosball table (yes, I played, and managed to beat the guys who built it – sweet), a killer room of Lego town, warring battleships, DIY everything, geekdad.com RC airplanes, a homegrownremote control R2D2, and, of course, BBQ chicken on a stick. Check out some pix from Laughing Squid and Scoble’s video too. My pix are all here, but these are some of my favorites: