GPS Racing

A GPS phone racing game is probably not a good idea.

all you have to do is tell your mobile phone to start recording. The phone will capture your every movement using GPS. Set checkpoints to define the key parts of your track. Your future opponents will have to pass them and get information on their intermediate time.

They suggest using it for sailboat racing, but it would obviously be much more fun with a car. Hmmm.

Via We Make Money Not Art who also offers this link to other mobile LBS games.

Cingular shuts down AT&T LBS

Effective Jan 1st 2006 the old AT&T LBS system, including ‘Find Things’ and ‘Find Things Nearby’, is going away.

“Cingular has maintained this service for our mMode customer base as long as feasible even as we were merging our networks,” said Cingular’s Kelleigh Scott. “But now that our active number of subscribers that use this service on a weekly basis has dwindled significantly, we have determined that this is the right time to cease our LBS services on mMode.”

It may never have worked well, but it was all they had. Cingular has some work to do to catch up with their mobile rivals on this front so perhaps we’ll see some autonomous GPS handsets from them.

Meanwhile, Cingular is testing out new payment systems using near field networks. Pretty cool. Would be nice to be able to walk out the door without a wallet and eliminate those trips to the ATM. And perhaps one day a network of location-aware near field base stations could help Cingular figure out LBS.

Cable Monopolies

After three tries, Comcast finally hooked up my cable modem. It shouldn’t have been difficult since the apartment is already wired. The 1st service rep didn’t know how to access the cable box in the back of the building, and the 2nd rep’s installation of a bad cable modem happened to coincide with a local broadband outtage that made troubleshooting particularly difficult. 3rd time was the charm and I’m now buzzing along at about 1.3 mbps.

It wouldn’t annoy me so much if I had any choice for broadband service. After a discount period, they’ll be charging me about $60/month. At that price I’d have used my Verizon EV-DO card, but there’s no reception here. Given what I imagine to be the proportion of wealthy and closely packed Internet-using professionals in my neighborhood, it’s surprising that no one has set up a competing Wi-Fi or other alternative network. Someday perhaps FIOS will be here.

And a curious thing, Comcast forces you to run a “self-install kit” on your computer in order to register the service (after which you can use a router). Perhaps this is some mechanism to prevent theft of the service, but makes me wonder what they are up to.

Location knowledge freed

The government can track us…

In recent years, law enforcement officials have turned to cellular technology as a tool for easily and secretly monitoring the movements of suspects as they occur.

…but we can track the government:

Apparently, some planespotters are unintentionally aiding journalists and human rights groups by gathering info about the CIA’s “extraordinary renditions,” essentially the abduction of a foreign national to interrogate her or him outside of the law.

Interesting that technology is not only making our location more transparent but also that of the governments that track us.

Via NYT and CNET.

Column Width and Linespacing in Typepad

After many casual web searches over the last few months, I finally figured out how to modify my Typepad blog template to make the columns wider and decrease the line spacing.

I’m surprised that this kind of information is so hard to find through a Google or Yahoo search (almost as hard as finding an unbiased review of an electronic product). I eventually found it by clicking on every link in the ‘Design’ section. Of course, it would help if Typepad had a more intuitive interface and a better help section.

Anyway, being a product manager means I couldn’t help but document it. Here’s the flow:

How to change the width of the column on a Typepad hosted blog:

Weblog tab
‘your weblog’ link
Design tab
Change Theme link
Custom Theme radio button
General Page Settings (click button for Edit This Element)
Main Content Column
Center Column dropdown
Select ‘500 pixels’

How to change the line spacing of blog entries for a Typepad hosted blog:

Weblog tab
‘your weblog’ link
Design tab
Change Theme link
Custom Theme radio button
Weblog Posts (click button for Edit This Element)
Post Body
Line Spacing dropdown
Select ‘Normal’

Can't wait for those 4G phones

In an interview with CNET, Michael Mayer talks about the next generation of chips built for a 4G world:

Speaking of growth, talk about your acquisition of CommASIC. How will it help with your future wireless designs?

Mayer: It was important for us to acquire the capacity to include low-power wireless LAN in our designs because increasingly, mobile phones are going to be multimode devices. I mean, 4G (fourth-generation wireless) is really going to be full multimode. You’ll be able to switch between your network, your carrier, Wi-Fi, voice over IP, Bluetooth–whatever. To prepare for that, we needed to have a low-power Wi-Fi implementation.

This is the best definition for one of the G’s that I’ve seen. It’s not about a single technology or set of technologies, but rather the ability to roam between competing broadband services.

Via digg.

How to annoy consumers

Here’s a great way to annoy people. Just provide your users with a very useful free service for a couple of years and then summarily cut them off without warning.

I received the following email after the very rare occurrence of getting two eFaxes in a month:

eFax - Service Notification

Attention – your eFax® Free account has been suspended.

Dear Matthew,

Your account has been suspended and your eFax number 1-443-606-0312 is no longer accepting faxes.

Click here to immediately reactivate your account.

To reactivate by phone, call (866) 218-8349 from 5 AM to 8PM PST, Monday through Friday, and 8 AM to 5 PM PST Saturday and Sunday. Outside the U.S. & Canada: Call 1 (323) 817-3207.

If you do not reactivate by 12/12/2005, your account will be closed and your eFax number will be reassigned to another user.

The eFax Free Team

(If you recently upgraded your account, please disregard this

In order to provide quality service to all eFax customers, we
must limit usage rates of the eFax Free service. When you signed
up for your Free account, you agreed to the eFax Customer
Agreement, which states: “THE FREE SERVICE IS SUBJECT TO THE j2

eFax Plus costs only $12.95 (USD) per month. Received faxes are included, subject to the
Customer Agreement, and faxes sent anywhere in the US cost
$0.10/page. See international send rates.

If your business spends over $100 a month with eFax, please
contact our Corporate Sales team.

j2 Global Communications, Inc | 6922 Hollywood Blvd, Suite 500 | Hollywood, CA 90028

There’s no way I’m going to upgrade to a $12/month account for a service I use a few times a year when I’m too lazy to get to a fax machine. But I’m surprised in these days of runaway ad sales that they don’t see value in me as a user who is obligated to receive emails from them.

My guess is that eFax does make a fair amount of conversions using this tactic, but causes a much greater level of ill will than they receive in subscription revenue. And their business may soon go the way of the fax machine.

PDA or SmartPhone

I got into a debate today about the proper categorization for the Treo 650. Is it a phone? Is it a PDA? Is it a smart phone (or is that smartphone)?

Out of curiosity, I trolled some industry web sites which failed to clear things up:

Cingular (aka at&t) classifies the Blackberry, Treo, and iPaq as ‘PDAs’.

Verizon lumps every type of device under ‘phones’.

Sprint has a category called ‘PDA Phones’.

Palm has three categories of device:
– ‘Handhelds’ including the non-phone devices Z, Zire, and Tungsten.
– ‘Mobile Managers’ which should be in the singular since it only includes the LifeDrive.
– ‘Smartphones’ which is the Treo, their only device with a phone.

HP calls the iPaq a ‘Pocket PC with PDA functionality’. This seems obsolete since Microsoft now categorizes devices as either ‘Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC’ or ‘Windows Mobile-based Smartphones’.

RIM skirts the whole issue by creating their own category of ‘Blackberry Devices’.

For comparison, Flickr creates some interesting clusters of tags related to ‘Treo 650’:

palm, treo, sony, phone, cellphone, palmone, smartphone, gadget, tungsten, clie

hipsterpda, gtd, hipster, desk, lifehacks, office, gettingthingsdone, productivity, hacks

pocketpc, ipaq, mobile, pocket, hp, pc, moblog, keyboard, bluetooth, cameraphone

whatsinyourbag, apple, whatsinmybag, ipod, laptop, bag, newton, computer, ibm, powerbook

And the authorities at Wikipedia say that….

The Treo is a ‘combination hybrid PDA/cellphone … widely acknowledged as one of the most advanced smart phones’.

The Blackberry is a ‘wireless handheld device’.

The iPaq is a ‘Pocket PC and personal digital assistant’.

If nothing else, this exercise would seem to prove that terminology just can’t keep up with technology. I’m choosing not to worry about it too much as this issue will go away fairly soon when all phones become smart.