Geoff Moore talk on Open Source at OSBC

Here are some notes from Geoffrey Moore’s talk at OSBC last week on Ross Mayfield’s Weblog.

Commoditization takes all the earnings of the industry down. Managing core and context is center stage. Core is what you choose to be different about. If you are Dominos, the Pizza is context, 30 minutes is core. If you are Chuck E Cheese the Pizza is context and the animals are core. Tiger Woods competitive capabilities are core, the rest is context — focus on the game! What ever you have that is core, however, becomes context over time.

We are horrible at managing less differentiated goods. Scarce resources get tied up in context. Context build-up: what once made them great now leads to weakened competitive performance and lower returns on invested capital. Need more healthy processes to extract resources from the context to the core.

Open source’s most important role is to commoditi[ze] context [and] processes so people can extract them and re-purpose them for the core.

“What ever you have that is core, however, becomes context over time. ” The really hard part for a lot of interesting ideas at the moment, is that many of them are absorbed into the open source “context” before they have a chance to be a profitable “core” aspect of a business, with a differentiated lifetime of only weeks or days before needing a new innovation to add to their “core” proposition.

Look at what Redfin has been working on (real estate listings with maps and photos), vs something like Craigslist on Google Maps. This is either a great opportunity for folks like Redfin, or a major headache.

Interview with Barry Schwartz on The Paradox of Choice

Came across an interview with Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice.

Excerpt from the interview:

Q – What can customers do to avoid the paradox of choice?

Most importantly, learn that “good enough is good enough.” It’s what I call “satisficing” in the book. You don’t need the best; probably never do. On rare occasions it’s worth struggling to find the best. But generally it makes life simpler if you settle with “good enough.” You don’t have to make an exhaustive search – just until you find something that meets your standards, which could be high. But the only way to find the absolute best is to look at ALL the possibilities. And in that case you’ll either give up, or if you choose one, you’ll be nagged by the possibility that you may have found something better. We have evidence about this, by the way. People who are out to find the very best job (“maximizers”) feel worse than people who settle for good enough. We’ve tracked them through and after college. Maximizers did better financially – they found starting salaries that paid $7,000 more than satisficers’ starting salary. But by every other measure – depression, stress, anxiety, satisfaction with their job – maximizers felt worse.

Continue reading Interview with Barry Schwartz on The Paradox of Choice

Zopa – eBay for money?

Corante has a podcast interview with the founders of Zopa. The idea is to build an eBay-style marketplace for individuals to participate in lending and borrowing, using eBay-style reputation scoring.

Some of this seems like a good idea, possibly in matching up people who want to provide funds to communities that don’t have a pool of loans available to them, but would otherwise be a reasonable credit risk. (Something like Grameen Bank’s microcredit program.)

For other situations, this seems likely to end up with many of the same reputation-gaming problems that turned up on eBay. From a risk-management viewpoint, it might be useful to find a way to build credit pools rather than individual loans. This is essentially what the banks do already, but the reputation scoring system might allow a better handle on the creditworthiness of the borrowers, and turn the individual loans into a portfolio, so a bad loan doesn’t become a disaster for the creditor.

There does seem to be a need for something in this space. The ongoing consolidation of banks in the US has generally eliminated local control of most banks, meaning that individual branches don’t usually know their customers well enough to know if they would be a good credit, other than looking at a credit score, and don’t usually have the discretion or interest in making a loan to someone that doesn’t exactly fit their loan profile. If you want to do something creative, you probably need to work with a private banker, or have wealthy friends.

This might also provide a mechanism to form relatively small pools of capital for niche markets. An eBay-style model implies a huge amount of effort on the part of the participants, compared with what consumer banks would typically do. This might make smaller loans more interesting. Otherwise, why not stick with writing super jumbo mortgages at $1 million each for the same amount of work.

Google Hacking for Penetration Testers

Google Hacking for Penetration Testers (Review at Slashdot)

author Johnny Long pages 448 publisher Syngress reviewer Corey Nachreiner ISBN 1931836361
summary Google’s dark and dork sides exposed; despite the title, useful for everyone who’d like to get the most out of google

Most Web surfers don’t realize the sheer amount of extremely sensitive information available for the harvesting on the Internet. In that sense, Google Hacking is eye-popping. Do you want to find misconfigured Web servers that publicly list their directory contents? A quick Google search does the trick. Or, suppose you found some new exploit code that only works against a particular version of IIS 5.0. Submit a quick Google query for a helpful list of possible targets. Do you want to harvest user logins, passwords (for example, mySQL passwords in a connect.inc file), credit card numbers, social security numbers or any other potentially damaging tidbit that Web users and administrators accidentally leak onto the Internet? Google Hacking shows you how, with highly refined searches gleaned from the community contributing to the Google Hacking database (GHDB) found on Long’s Web site.

Haven’t read this particular one, but it sounds fun. There are a bunch of these books and articles on interesting uses for Google and other web services coming out lately. I’m still trying to stay mostly in book-reduction mode, having donated 90+ boxes of books to the library last year to clear out some space.

Plumpy’nut – peanut butter based milk replacement for developing and rural communities

Today’s Wall Street Journal had a front page feature about a peanut-based nutrition paste called Plumpy’Nut, manufactured by a company called Nutriset, in France.

Its name is Plumpy’nut, and as its use becomes more widespread, this whimsical-sounding product is helping transform the treatment of malnutrition in children. Each packet, the size of a small juice pouch, weighs less than 100 grams, but packs 500 calories. After several weeks on a diet of Plumpy’nut –brought to the camp by Save the Children, a U.S. aid organization — Sadi was able to stand and walk again. When she spied the silver-and-red packet in her mother’s hand, she said “Plumpy,” stepping forward on wobbly legs and reaching out her hands.

The product is similar to peanut butter or Nutella (a hazelnut spread, popular in Europe), but incorporates a nutrient mix based on previous recommendations for powdered milk. The problem with powdered milk is the absence of sanitary water supplies to mix the powder with. This means that infants and children receiving powdered milk generally need to stay at or near a health center of some sort, rather than at home.

The peanut butter-based product comes in packets, which can be stored (like peanut butter) without special handling, and can be consumed directly, rather than needing to be mixed with water. Even better, the children like it, so it’s easy to get them to eat it.

The product is apparently made in France for around 35 cents per packet before shipping. The WSJ article mentions that there is interest in setting up local producers in the areas that actually need these products. Not sure what’s involved in adding the nutrient mix (milk equivalent) to the peanut butter, but it seems like a great response to the absence of clean drinking water.

The founder, Michel Lescanne, was previously involved in work on theraputic milk-based products based on the F-75 and F-100 formulas from the World Health Organization, which address malnutrition in children, but aren’t easily distributed in the field (and apparently taste bad when mixed into chocolate bars).

Buzztracker.org – Mapping Google News

Buzztracker.org is another interesting tool for presenting mapped views of information, in this case Google News. Not plotted out on Google Maps, though. (Via Slashdot.)

Craigslist meets Google Maps



Here is another great proto-application by Paul Rademacher
based on Google Maps (via MetaFilter). It displays the filtered search results for housing ads on the map with clickable location markers. (Image, in case the site becomes inaccessible, it seems to be getting slow)

Having web service interfaces both open (documented, reachable) and free (without charge) is allowing a lot of previously impractical applications to bubble up from the combination of various services and software, plus relatively limited quantities of new code.

5 months post-LASIK, 20/20+

I had a another periodic post-surgery eye exam today. I keep meaning to collect and post my notes on my experience with wavefront LASIK, which I had done on both eyes last November. Starting out at 20/80+, I am consistently doing 20/20 to 20/15 on the vision chart and have essentially no discernable vision artifacts, and no problems with dry eyes.

In the meantime, I am happy to recommend my eye surgeon, Dr. Edward Manche at the Stanford Eye Laser Center. There are places that have trendier decor, and other places that are much cheaper, but he’s the guy with his name on a lot of the clinical trials for laser eye procedures and lives and breathes this stuff. As an added bonus for me, his office is 10 minutes from my home.

It’s not for everyone, but if you need a good laser vision surgeon, look him up.

Disclaimer: I have no afflilation with Dr. Manche or the Stanford Eye Laser Center other than as a happy client.

$62.25 to fill the tank!

It’s been around a month since the last time I filled the tank, since I don’t need to drive much and we’ve been away on vacation. The price of gasoline has gone up quite a bit in the meantime. $62.25 is a new personal high mark for a tank of gas, at least in the US. This would still be considerd a bargain in most countries.

The Arco gas station on El Camino Real in Palo Alto has prices of $2.56, $2.68, and $2.78 per gallon. This was mentioned on KCBS today as one of the lowest prices in the Bay Area.

This is a also a test post to see how things work with the (very low resolution) camera in my Nokia 6820 phone, and using Flickr.


Update 08-23-2005: See also Big tank, skinny wallet

Tech Review pulls articles on Carly Fiorina’s departure

Interesting…Technology Review has retracted the Carly’s Way and Carly’s Gone. HP Celebrates article as of April 7, 2005.

These articles were widely noted several weeks ago, including by me. At the time, I couldn’t come up with a guess about who the Hungarian-born imaging and printing person was, but I figured I hadn’t worked at HPL for some years now.

Carly’s Way
By As Told to Michelle Delio March 4, 2005
1 of 1
Retraction

Technology Review, Inc. cannot vouch for the accuracy of “Carly’s Way,” by Michelle Delio, published online on March 4, 2005. Nor can we stand by “Carly’s Gone. HP Celebrates,” also by Delio, published online on February 10, 2005. We regret publishing the stories.

Jason Pontin
Editor-in-Chief
Technology Review

Now I’m curious about the author, Michelle Delio. Did she manage to do a Jayson Blair? These articles weren’t exactly neutral, so the background story here has to be interesting…

Update: April 7, 2005
Found a some articles with a negative view on Michelle Delio at Free Republic, original sources here and here.
A more sympathetic opinion here.
Mainstream coverage from USA Today

Looks like the actual retraction came on or around March 22, about the time I started to unplug for vacation.

Google Sightseeing Blog

Google Sightseeing Blog – assorted landmarks and interesting places via Google Maps Keyhole imagery (via waxy.org)

Here’s where I went running last week (Diamond Head).

Google Maps Hacking Links

Here are some interesting/useful links I have found while looking into methods for integrating GPS data with existing mapping tools.

Here is a screencast of a walking tour of Keene NH, put together by Jon Udell at Infoworld, using Google Maps to display GPS waypoints. It also provides links to still and video imagery of various locations, along with Google queries about the location. This is a bit like the Virgil demo that Andy Fitzhugh showed me a while back, but with additional media types.

Here’s the background explanation of the interactive tour

Here’s more fun stuff.

Google Maps Live

Google Maps Live is an extension for Firefox 1.0 that allows you to feed latitude/longitude data to Google Maps and have it tracked in realtime. The extension works by listening for the data on a socket.

Mygmaps.com

myGmaps enables you to create, save and host custom data files and display them with Google Maps.

This site is “alpha” quality–while we will endeavour not to delete your account and data there are no guarantees. There are a limited number of accounts available for testing purposes. At present each user can create approximately 10 maps with 10 locations each.

myGmaps is not an official or authorised Google service.

Google Maps Standalone Mode (only works in Firefox at the moment)

Did you ever wish you could display a Google Maps map view—with custom data—on your own web page? No? Well, maybe you should go take up geocaching or something. On the other hand, if it sounds like something you’d like to do, read on…

Google Maps Hacking and Bookmarklets (at sourceforge.net)
Assorted Google Maps Hacks now moved to wiki
Google Maps Hacking Wiki
Google Maps Hacking discussion forum (at sourceforge.net)
Moving Map using GPS and Google Maps
Pretty-printed and cleaned up source code for Google Maps

Update on Training for Big Sur 2005

Time for a followup. I received my “Last Minute Instructions” from the Big Sur Marathon today. It’s on April 24th, a little more than two weeks away, so it’s time to take inventory and start planning. One of the things I like about marathon training is that 26.2 miles is far enough to require a bit of humility and honesty about oneself. In a 5K or 10K there are many naturally athletic individuals who could muddle through the event without training properly.

In a marathon, any number of things can randomly go wrong during training and the actual race, but there’s also almost no way for someone to simply show up and finish the event without putting in the time on the road. You can’t fake your way through a marathon.

This training cycle hasn’t been terrible, but it could be going better. Compared with last year, I’m probably in better running condition. Given time and scenery, like in Maui a couple of weeks ago, I don’t seem to have any trouble knocking out 9-12 miles for a daily run. I also got through 18 miles out there in rain, wind, heat, and more rain with only one gel, after extending a planned 12 mile run.

I also noted that on Oahu, I was able to run the ascent on the Diamond Head loop with relative ease compared with last year. The ascent at Hurricane Point on the Big Sur course starts at mile 11 and is around 2 miles of 5% grade, with a bit of 6-7% near the end. Last year I recall that part as being easier to deal with than the smaller hills at around mile 22-23. I really need to go take a look at the course map and see where and how long those last few hills are.

Last year I felt better prepared, putting in 3 20-mile runs and weeks of hill and pace intervals. This year I’ve done some hill intervals and some pace intervals, no 20-mile runs, but lots of longer easy runs and a few longish LT runs, something like 30-60 minutes at 7:30 to 8:00 pace. I think I felt like I was working harder last year, partly because I was, but also partly because many of the scheduled runs were more difficult for me to complete last year. I used to routinely bring water and gels on any run over 6 miles last year, and this year I have only taken gels on runs over 10 miles, as I simply haven’t needed them.

My main concern is that I haven’t put in the really long runs this time around. Endurance training isn’t exactly something you can do at the last minute, either. On the plus side – I’ve done many more 10-16 mile runs than on the previous training cycle, and they have all gone far easier this year. On the minus side – I don’t have any current data on how my body will hold up beyond 3 hours, which is distracting.

I think I’m going to end up aiming for something like 8:45 to 9:00 pace for the beginning until I see how things are going. That’s well below what the pace predictor says I might be able to do, but I’m not planning to take much downtime after the marathon either. That would put me somewhere around 3:45 to 4:00 hours at the finish. Assuming the weather cooperates.

New India Broadband Blog

Tripped over an interesting blog on broadband in India this evening, written by one Dr. Abhishek Puri, who is an actual M.D. finishing up his studies in India. He apparently started writing a few months ago for an Indian site called TechWhack, and just recently set up his own site, which is also published as the TechWhack Broadband Blog, and appears to have started posting weekly reports to Om Malik’s site as well.

There is no shortage of business and trade press coverage of the Indian telecom and broadband market, which has been growing and evolving rapidly. However, there’s some good and entertaining commentary posted here, and the perspective he offers is refreshingly direct at times, especially compared with the Indian business press. Hope he keeps writing for a while in between his day gig doing surgery and orthopedics.

This post outlines some of the same issues for rural telecom and networking services identified along the way during the Kuppam i-Community program in Andhra Pradesh, including the problems with network quality of service, the demand for education services as a driver for network traffic, the value of open source systems, and the need for domestically sourced technology products to bring down the costs.

Another post describes life as a internet customer in India:

I have been a subscriber of BSNL for as long as I can remember. The fact is that I never had any choice. Apart from high access charges (one of the highest in the world for dial up – Is TRAI listening?), the whole thing is bundled with lousy customer support. Admittedly, I have come far from the days when it took ages to connect on to the server wasting my calls in the process. Those days I had to use my connection like a sucker because I was afraid of having huge telephone bills. Repeated complaints to the “customer care centre” brought about no resolution and it was frustrating enough to bear the insults of some dead wit moron sitting at the other end.

One more aspect of Bangalore feeling a bit like a replay of Silicon Valley in the mid-90′s?

More on Google/Keyhole satellite imagery

Here’s some mainstream coverage on the new Google Maps satellite imagery feature I wrote about earlier, which highlights the privacy aspect of making the data available.

As mentioned in the CNN article, the image data isn’t live, but typically 6 to 12 months old, and doesn’t have timestamps, which should eliminate the privacy concerns for most people. It won’t let you hide a major construction project in your backyard, but no one’s going to be able to check whether your car is at home or not, and even at the maximum resolution provided it would be hard to make out a car at all.

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has unveiled a new feature that will enable its users to zoom in on homes and businesses using satellite images, an advance that may raise privacy concerns as well as intensify the competitive pressures on its rivals.

The satellite technology, which Google began offering late Monday at http://maps.google.com/, is part of the package that the Mountain View-based company acquired when it bought digital map maker Keyhole Corp. for an undisclosed amount nearly six months ago.

This marks the first time since the deal closed that Google has offered free access to Keyhole’s high-tech maps through its search engine. Users previously had to pay $29.95 to download a version of Keyhole’s basic software package.

It might be useful and a bigger privacy concern if there were a link next to the satellite image to purchase higher resolution, more current, or live imagery. I suppose you could already patch something like that together using the lat/long data from Google Maps, a subscription to one of the paid services, and some web services glue.

Digital Cinema coming to South African Villages

(from Variety via BoingBoing)

Starting in September, Shout Africa will roll out 20 digital cinemas around the country where facilities are most lacking, to make the movies affordable and accessible. Shout Africa chief executive Lance Samuels says that for local producers, these cinemas will provide another distribution outlet as well as the opportunity to build new audiences.

Locally produced films in indigenous languages and English will be shown alongside foreign features, with subtitles in the vernacular language of the region of the cinema.Besides the usual popcorn and soft drinks, popular traditional township foods such as maize porridge, spicy sausages, samp (hominy), mealies (corn on the cob) and fried chicken will be on sale to help make the d-cinema experience more African.

Here’s the original Shout Africa press release dated February 15, 2005 from Sithengi Film & Television Market.

This program addresses the same film entertainment niche for rural communities that we have begun exploring as part of the Kuppam i-Community program in India. The Shout Africa program sounds a bit more elaborate, since it’s apparently intended to run in fixed venues rather than as part of a mobile unit, but focuses on the same aspects – making popular entertainment content locally accessible to the rural communities at an affordable price, with food and beverages available.

It sounds as though the stability of the electric power supply isn’t much of an issue for the Shout Africa project. Running a 1 to 2 kw digital projection system for a couple of hours in a power outage requires either a small generator or a very large set of batteries, either of which is sort of manageable if the location is fixed and secured. A generator also works better for a scenario in which the viewers are indoors, away from the noise, rather than outdoors with the generator.

Google adds Keyhole satellite imagery to Maps

Google Maps was already very cool, using Ajax to build a responsive scrolling, zooming, draggable map using XML and current browser technologies. The addition of satellite imagery takes it to another level altogether.

Here’s Palo Alto, CA as a conventional map.
Here’s Palo Alto, CA as a satellite image.
Here’s the lower Manhattan construction site where the World Trade Center used to be.

At the moment, there are some limitations on the available imagery. There is good coverage of the San Francisco Bay Area and other major metropolitan areas. However, rural areas seem to have relatively little coverage, such as this satellite imagery for Brownville Junction, Maine.

Google Maps doesn’t provide data for regions outside the US, so there’s no imagery for non-US locations either.

Nonetheless, this is another great web application from Google. Other than adding coverage for more regions, perhaps we’ll see a Digital Earth-style flythrough next.

Notes on Building Asterix and SIP Express VOIP PBX

Last updated: April 5, 2005

Here are some notes on building multi-site VOIP PBX services using Asterisk and SIP Express Router.

General approach:
1. Use Asterisk for PBX functionality at each site
2. Use IAX for inter-site traffic to minimize NAT-related issues
3. Use SIP Express as a front end to SIP clients at single sites

Platform technology:
Both Asterisk and SIP Express Router run on Linux and don’t require very powerful hardware. SIP Express in particular can handle hundreds of calls on a small generic Intel-compatible server. Asterisk provides more extensive functionality, including voicemail, transcoding, and conferencing, and requires somewhat more server resource. For a small office scenario, any current Intel-compatible server should be adequate. In the recent GeekGazette article Kerry Garrison implements Asterisk on a Pentium II/450MHz/386MB RAM/12GB HDD/48x CD-ROM/Intel 10/100 system combined with a generic Intel Winmodem card for line access.

The Asterisk@Home project packages a pre-built CD image for Asterisk running on Linux

SIP Express Router installation is simple, and it can easily be downloaded and run nearly out of the box, especially if call accounting is not required.

Continue reading Notes on Building Asterix and SIP Express VOIP PBX

Broadband at the Westin Maui, Moana Surfrider, Spring 2005

Some notes on network access during this most recent trip to Hawaii…

This was a vacation, so I didn’t spend much time with the computer, and even less online. However, I did take a few notes.

The Westin Maui has free broadband service included with the rooms. (Well, actually, it’s bundled into the $18 daily resort fee). There also appeared to be wireless service of some sort available around the pool and lobby areas. I didn’t try this myself, leaving the notebook packed up except for checking e-mail once a day. There were a few people at the hotel who were either there for work or just couldn’t bring themselves to unplug, they seemed to spend most of their day sitting around outside with their computers. There were also a surprising number of people plinking away at their Blackberries while sitting in the pool.

At the Westin Maui, there is no charge to use the broadband service, but you still need to click through the service agreement and it manages the access in 24-hour chunks from noon to noon. Their system runs via a captive portal application which traps DHCP/DNS/HTTP requests to redirect new users to their registration page. The physical installation appears to use Cisco Long Reach Ethernet technology, including an RJ-45 plug at the end of a cable on the desk in the hotel room, so you don’t need to bring your own. The network there assigns real IP addresses, such as 12.36.110.76, which is registered as 1028host76.starwoodbroadband.com. Ping times to the continental US are something like 80-100ms.

Continue reading Broadband at the Westin Maui, Moana Surfrider, Spring 2005

Cheap Power-over-Ethernet adapters for wireless and VOIP

One of the nuisances of installing wireless access points, VOIP phones, and other small networked devices, is the need for power in the vicinity of the device. This can be a major challenge, if you’re building a small wireless ISP using an access point on an antenna mast, which is why wireless user groups have come up with homebrew POE hacks. In the past, power-over-ethernet support has been for relatively expensive equipment geared toward commercial, large-scale installation, such as rolling out a building full of Cisco 7940 IP phones.

There are a some cheap power-over-ethernet adapters available now from Linksys and D-Link:

D-Link DWL-P200 (5V or 12V, list price $39.00)
Linksys WAPPOE (5V only, list price $39.99)
Linksys WAPPOE12 (12V only, list price $49.99)

The 802.11af standard for power-over-ethernet has been published, so products are beginning to come onto the market that can directly accept power and ethernet over a single RJ-45 connection, without requiring a power splitter at the device end. I would be happy to see all the little power cube transformers under my desk go away sometime in the near future…

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