MasterMaq

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Updated: 11 years 8 weeks ago

Xerox is working to reduce, reuse, and recycle

November 27, 2006 - 4:58pm

I suspect that for most people, the term "xerox" conjures up images of paper thanks to the American document management company of the same name. Xerox (the company) is more than just photocopiers and printers though - the company has a long history of research and development. And they are at it again, this time trying to apply the Three R's to paper:

[Brinda Dalal's] research is part of a three-year-old technology development effort to design an add-on system for an office copier to produce "transient documents" that can be easily reused. The researchers now have a prototype system that will produce documents on a specially coated paper with a light yellow tint. Currently, the process works without toner and produces a low-resolution document that appears to be printed with purple ink.

The printed information on the document "disappears" within 16 hours. The documents can be reused more quickly by simply placing them in the copier paper tray. The researchers said that individual pieces of paper had been printed on up to 50 times, and the only current limit in the process appears to be paper life.

The idea makes sense to me. Companies have already reduced the amount of paper they need to use, so Xerox sees an opportunity to help them reuse and recycle it too. The end goal is to try to reduce the amount of paper that companies actually use.

Those of you who know me fairly well are probably confused because normally I am championing the death of paper, not reading about ways to extend its lifetime. As much as I would like to have everything stored and presented digitally, I realize we're not there yet. And, as the article points out, a complete change to bits and bytes isn't likely to happen anytime soon:

"People really like paper," said Eric Shrader, a computer scientist who is area manager for printing systems at the Hardware Systems Laboratory of the research center, which is known as PARC. "They like the way it feels."

Until e-paper is perfected, this paper erasing technology Xerox is working on might work quite well indeed.

CNET News.com  
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Notes for 11/26/2006

November 26, 2006 - 10:23pm

Long time no post! I just haven't been on the computer much. Here are my weekly notes:

  • Just got back from dinner at 4th and Vine downtown. Every Sunday they show movies during the dinner, and tonight they showed Who killed the electric car? Dinner was quite good, but the movie could have been better. It felt like an extended commercial, and the people involved seemed like fanatical environmentalists. Oh, and when they realized they couldn't answer the question properly, they just blamed everyone.
  • I also went to the Edmonton Oilers Super Skills competition today. Rexall Place was nearly sold out, it was amazing. There was easily double the amount of people that attended last year.
  • All the wonderful technology we have at our fingertips is usually a good thing, unless you're a bad teacher.
  • Wow, it's been a long time since I've done trig. All I remember is SOHCAHTOA.
  • I was very disappointed this week to learn that the Xbox Live Video Marketplace is only available in the United States. Then with news of all the problems, I realized that it should have all the bugs worked out by the time it comes to Canada!
  • An article I read yesterday claims that tweens are the new teens. I would be surprised if this is the first time such an argument has been made.
  • Megan invited me to a performance of Macbeth at my old high school on Friday. It was pretty well done, and incorporated professional and student actors. It all came back to me with the line "my dearest chuck" which I incorrectly read as "my dearest chunk" in front of the entire class in high school. Good times!
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Thoughtful Discussions

November 22, 2006 - 8:29pm

I went for dinner earlier tonight with Megan and some of her family to celebrate her second University degree (today was the convocation). So first of all, congratulations Megan! You now have two degrees before I have my first.

The dinner was good (Olive Garden) but the discussion was better. We talked about all sorts of things, but almost all the topics were problems that we were trying to figure out the cause of. Do students do poorly in school because of their parents? Why can't you apply for a passport online? Things like that. I don't think we were able to agree once! The discussion was really lively and interesting though.

As I thought about it more on the way home, it occurred to me that maybe there would be less problems for us to chat about if there was more thoughtful discussion taking place. A lot of times it seems like decisions are made without any real thought or discussion going into them.

Anyway, something to think about. Time to work on the essay I have due tomorrow!

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Joel is wrong about Windows Vista's off switch

November 21, 2006 - 10:18pm

Normally I agree with what Joel Spolsky has to say, but not today. His latest article, Choices = Headaches, smells like a lame attempt to bash Windows Vista just for the sake of it. He takes issue with the "fifteen" ways you can shutdown Windows Vista, though only nine of those apply to non-laptops. Here's what he says:

I'm sure there's a whole team of UI designers, programmers, and testers who worked very hard on the OFF button in Windows Vista, but seriously, is this the best you could come up with?

Joel apparently doesn't think you can just press the power button - yet that's exactly what I'd bet most people will end up doing. You can read all about the power button in this CNET News.com article which, by the way, was published over a year ago. Here's a choice quote:

And with Vista, Microsoft plans to make it so that a PC seems more like all the other consumer electronics out there. Pressing the power button will give users the feeling they are either turning the machine on or turning it off.

So it really is as easy as Joel would like. And for crazy people out there like myself who want all the shutdown options, they are still there, tucked away neatly in a little menu.

I guess Joel's main problem is having too much choice. Personally, I'm a fan of choice. The research I have come across is pretty divided on whether choice does more good or more harm. That said, Chris Anderson's The Long Tail certainly makes more choice seem like the way to go. His newest catchphrase - the economics of abundance - conveys this idea really well too.

Note: I haven't tried Windows Vista since the early betas, so I don't know if the power button functionality has changed or not, but I haven't come across anything to suggest that it has. Joel doesn't say anything about it in his post either.

You can read more about this story here and here.

Joel on Software  
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Passports required for U.S. entry starting January 2007

November 21, 2006 - 8:16pm

I guess this means I am going to have to get my passport renewed. Today, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary revealed that the United States will start requiring travelers entering the country to show passports beginning January 23rd:

The department had been expected to institute the passport requirement for air travelers around the beginning of the year. Setting the date on Jan. 23 pushes the start past the holiday season.

The requirement marks a change for Americans, Canadians, Bermudians and some Mexicans.

No more driver's license or birth certificate to gain entry. The article mentions that only about one quarter of Americans have a passport. I wonder what the numbers are like here in Canada?

Yahoo News  
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Edmonton Technology Startups

November 20, 2006 - 9:03pm
When it comes to technology startups, it seems as though Edmonton can't hold a candle to Toronto, Vancouver, or even Ottawa. Very rarely in my travels, physical or virtual, do I hear about really interesting tech things happening in Alberta's capital city. Yet I know there must be. I mean, surely we aren't the only ones, right? Nah, there's others...we just need to help each other become more visible. So the first step is to identify all the interesting tech startups (or established but relatively small companies) based in Edmonton. I've started tagging some, such as Zigtag, Nexopia, and ProExams, at del.icio.us using the tag edmontontech. I encourage you to do the same! Or, if you're not into the social bookmarking/tagging thing, leave me a comment or email me with your Edmonton-based tech companies. I suppose step two would be getting together with some of the companies to see what kind of interest there is in making our neck of the woods more visible to the rest of the world. I'd like to start changing Edmonton's image with respect to tech startups. We have a great economy, relatively low living expenses, and lots of smart people. We're just not regarded as all that great a place to start a tech company. But first, step one. What Edmonton-based tech startups do you know about?
Categories: Attendees, Speaker

Edmonton Technology Startups

November 20, 2006 - 9:03pm

When it comes to technology startups, it seems as though Edmonton can't hold a candle to Toronto, Vancouver, or even Ottawa. Very rarely in my travels, physical or virtual, do I hear about really interesting tech things happening in Alberta's capital city. Yet I know there must be. I mean, surely we aren't the only ones, right? Nah, there's others...we just need to help each other become more visible.

So the first step is to identify all the interesting tech startups (or established but relatively small companies) based in Edmonton. I've started tagging some, such as Zigtag, Nexopia, and ProExams, at del.icio.us using the tag edmontontech. I encourage you to do the same! Or, if you're not into the social bookmarking/tagging thing, leave me a comment or email me with your Edmonton-based tech companies.

I suppose step two would be getting together with some of the companies to see what kind of interest there is in making our neck of the woods more visible to the rest of the world. I'd like to start changing Edmonton's image with respect to tech startups. We have a great economy, relatively low living expenses, and lots of smart people. We're just not regarded as all that great a place to start a tech company.

But first, step one. What Edmonton-based tech startups do you know about?

Categories: Attendees, Speaker

What's a Yahoo! to do?

November 20, 2006 - 7:08pm

Almost every day now I read something about Yahoo! and its "problems" and/or "options". Those are in quotes because it seems people are very divided on Yahoo! - some think it's in trouble, others don't. I've been a Yahoo! user since the days of the grey page-background, and if you count sites like Flickr and del.icio.us, I'm still a pretty active user. Allow me to put on my Yahoo! pundit hat for a moment.

I guess Yahoo!'s main problem is Google. Now that there's a search-media company consistently outperforming Yahoo!, it makes them look old and stagnant. It's actually pretty unfair, because let's be honest, no one has the kind of growth that Google does. Yahoo! actually does pretty well in terms of search traffic, advertising dollars, and all that other stuff, but where they seem to be lacking is in respect.

So what's a Yahoo! to do? Here are the most commonly suggested strategies I have come across:

Replace CEO Terry Semel
This suggestion is actually fairly new, and if you read Eric Jackson's open letter to Yahoo!'s founders, it starts to make sense. Seems to me this is a relatively short-term fix though.

Buy AOL
Apparently Yahoo! has approached Time Warner about purchasing AOL. I think this would be a good deal for Time Warner, and a not so good one for Yahoo!. It would bring the failed AOL Time Warner merger to a complete end, but it would only provide a minor increase in Yahoo's traffic and advertising, all things considered.

Buy Facebook
This rumor has been floating around for months actually. It might bring some more eyeballs to Yahoo!, but it would do nothing to help transform or improve the company. And besides, from everything I've read, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) is no Caterina Fake (Flickr founder).

Merge with eBay
The two companies might seem complimentary because of their completely different focuses, but that might present a problem rather than a solution. I agree with Fortune: I think this one is unlikely, because I think integrating eBay and Yahoo! would prove extremely difficult.

Sell to Microsoft
This one is my favorite, and it has a long history too, first appearing in June. Microsoft certainly has the cash, and it turns out that the two companies are fairly well-aligned - Yahoo! has made heavy investments into IE7, is a PlaysForSure supporter, and has hooked up with Microsoft on a number of initiatives ranging from Sitemaps to Instant Messaging. According to the latest comScore data (released today), a combined Microsoft-Yahoo would have around 40% of the search market compared with Google's 45%. Of course, there are some easy to spot problems with this deal - mainly that Microsoft has invested heavily in Live Search and adCenter already. That's not a total deal-breaker though.

Stay the course
The people that don't view Yahoo! as floundering like this suggestion. Sure Google is #1 for now, but it can't stay that way forever, right? Seems like this is Yahoo!'s currently preferred course of action. If they could somehow turn around their disappointing sales and profit numbers, this one might be the best option after all.


The Microsoft option is especially appealing to me, because it would have extremely broad ramifications for the industry. It also seems somewhat unlikely, given Microsoft's huge investments in their online properties (MSN, Live.com, etc). That said, purchasing Yahoo! would instantly make them the leader on the web, a position they have long sought after. I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo! ended up staying the course though, and in the end, maybe that's better for everyone - Yahoo! included.

Update: Here is more excellent commentary on Yahoo's current situation.

Categories: Attendees, Speaker

What's a Yahoo! to do?

November 20, 2006 - 7:08pm
Almost every day now I read something about Yahoo! and its "problems" and/or "options". Those are in quotes because it seems people are very divided on Yahoo! - some think it's in trouble, others don't. I've been a Yahoo! user since the days of the grey page-background, and if you count sites like Flickr and del.icio.us, I'm still a pretty active user. Allow me to put on my Yahoo! pundit hat for a moment. I guess Yahoo!'s main problem is Google. Now that there's a search-media company consistently outperforming Yahoo!, it makes them look old and stagnant. It's actually pretty unfair, because let's be honest, no one has the kind of growth that Google does. Yahoo! actually does pretty well in terms of search traffic, advertising dollars, and all that other stuff, but where they seem to be lacking is in respect. So what's a Yahoo! to do? Here are the most commonly suggested strategies I have come across: Replace CEO Terry Semel This suggestion is actually fairly new, and if you read Eric Jackson's open letter to Yahoo!'s founders, it starts to make sense. Seems to me this is a relatively short-term fix though. Buy AOL Apparently Yahoo! has approached Time Warner about purchasing AOL. I think this would be a good deal for Time Warner, and a not so good one for Yahoo!. It would bring the failed AOL Time Warner merger to a complete end, but it would only provide a minor increase in Yahoo's traffic and advertising, all things considered. Buy Facebook This rumor has been floating around for months actually. It might bring some more eyeballs to Yahoo!, but it would do nothing to help transform or improve the company. And besides, from everything I've read, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) is no Caterina Fake (Flickr founder). Merge with eBay The two companies might seem complimentary because of their completely different focuses, but that might present a problem rather than a solution. I agree with Fortune: I think this one is unlikely, because I think integrating eBay and Yahoo! would prove extremely difficult. Sell to Microsoft This one is my favorite, and it has a long history too, first appearing in June. Microsoft certainly has the cash, and it turns out that the two companies are fairly well-aligned - Yahoo! has made heavy investments into IE7, is a PlaysForSure supporter, and has hooked up with Microsoft on a number of initiatives ranging from Sitemaps to Instant Messaging. According to the latest comScore data (released today), a combined Microsoft-Yahoo would have around 40% of the search market compared with Google's 45%. Of course, there are some easy to spot problems with this deal - mainly that Microsoft has invested heavily in Live Search and adCenter already. That's not a total deal-breaker though. Stay the course The people that don't view Yahoo! as floundering like this suggestion. Sure Google is #1 for now, but it can't stay that way forever, right? Seems like this is Yahoo!'s currently preferred course of action. If they could somehow turn around their disappointing sales and profit numbers, this one might be the best option after all. The Microsoft option is especially appealing to me, because it would have extremely broad ramifications for the industry. It also seems somewhat unlikely, given Microsoft's huge investments in their online properties (MSN, Live.com, etc). That said, purchasing Yahoo! would instantly make them the leader on the web, a position they have long sought after. I wouldn't be surprised if Yahoo! ended up staying the course though, and in the end, maybe that's better for everyone - Yahoo! included. Update: Here is more excellent commentary on Yahoo's current situation.
Categories: Attendees, Speaker

Murdoch Cancels O.J. Simpson Book & TV Special

November 20, 2006 - 2:57pm

Besides providing fodder for the late night television shows, nothing good could have come from the book by O.J. Simpson, titled "If I Did It", nor from the related television show that was to air on Fox. Faced with incredible outrage over the project, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch announced today that both book and TV show are canceled:

"I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," Mr. Murdoch said in a statement. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson."

If O.J. Simpson really wanted to confess, why not just come out and say so? There's no need to make a mockery of the legal system and drudge up old wounds in the process. I applaud Fox for choosing decency over profits. I'm all for free speech, but there's no need for anyone to profit from Simpson's pseudo-confession.

NYTimes.com  
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Murdoch Cancels O.J. Simpson Book & TV Special

November 20, 2006 - 2:57pm
Besides providing fodder for the late night television shows, nothing good could have come from the book by O.J. Simpson, titled "If I Did It", nor from the related television show that was to air on Fox. Faced with incredible outrage over the project, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch announced today that both book and TV show are canceled: "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," Mr. Murdoch said in a statement. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson." If O.J. Simpson really wanted to confess, why not just come out and say so? There's no need to make a mockery of the legal system and drudge up old wounds in the process. I applaud Fox for choosing decency over profits. I'm all for free speech, but there's no need for anyone to profit from Simpson's pseudo-confession. NYTimes.com  
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Notes for 11/19/2006

November 19, 2006 - 8:19pm

Here are my weekly notes:

Just finished reading: The End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. Sachs
It took me quite a while to read this book, because I did so very slowly, reading only a few passages every now and then. Despite being an enjoyable read, there's a lot of information to digest. Professor Sachs at times seems narcissistic, yet at others seems genuinely passionate about his work. All in all the book gave me much to think about, and left me with a sense of optimism.

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Microsoft likes municipal wi-fi too

November 18, 2006 - 8:48pm

By now you've probably heard about the wifi network that Google built in San Francisco with partner Earthlink. Now Microsoft wants in on the game, and has partnered with MetroFi to blanket Portland in wireless Internet bliss. The deal is more than just a "me too" reaction:

Content providers who capture the growing municipal Wi-Fi market will be in a better position to enjoy higher traffic to their sites and greater customer loyaltyand, as a result, grab a greater share of online advertising dollars, expected to reach $16 billion in the U.S. this year, according to consultancy eMarketer. "It's a battle for eyeballs," says Matt Rosoff, an analyst with consultancy Directions on Microsoft.

I could care less what the battle is about, as long as they keep building these networks. I have to agree with John Battelle:

All I can say is, please, keep up the competition. I'd love a chance to select from three different Wifi carriers in every major city, each of them free/advertising based.

Entire cities covered in free wireless Internet access can only lead to goodness. Bring on wireless everywhere!

BusinessWeek  
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Podcast: Making a Quiche

November 17, 2006 - 5:52pm

If you think I can't cook, think again! I'm an absolute whiz with the microwave! Heh, but seriously, a few days ago my friend Sharon and I got together to make dinner. She suggested quiche, and I said what? Haha! It actually turned out pretty good. We took a bunch of pictures of the cooking process, mainly because we don't cook with any regularity. The next day it occurred to me that I could turn this into an interesting podcast episode!

It turns out that I rather like the format of this episode, so I intend to use it for future episodes. I am calling them photo stories, for obvious reasons. Have a suggestion for a topic? Let me know!

Enjoy!

MasterMaq's Podcast  
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Amazon.com could power the new web

November 17, 2006 - 1:31pm

I have become really interested in Amazon.com over the last little while. The stuff they are doing with their web services platform is just amazing, and it is already having a huge impact on how web businesses are created and operate. We are using Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) in Podcast Spot, and I absolutely love it. Taking the guts of Amazon and making them available as services to other companies was a very smart decision in my opinion, despite what the investors on Wall Street might think.

Here are some excellent resources if you'd like to learn more:

I'm definitely watching to see what else Amazon launches because chances are, it'll be useful. So far companies like Yahoo and Google have received far more Web 2.0 attention, but I think that will begin to change, and people will realize that Amazon.com is actually one of the most interesting tech companies around.

Categories: Attendees, Speaker

Amazon.com could power the new web

November 17, 2006 - 1:31pm
I have become really interested in Amazon.com over the last little while. The stuff they are doing with their web services platform is just amazing, and it is already having a huge impact on how web businesses are created and operate. We are using Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) in Podcast Spot, and I absolutely love it. Taking the guts of Amazon and making them available as services to other companies was a very smart decision in my opinion, despite what the investors on Wall Street might think. Here are some excellent resources if you'd like to learn more: I'm definitely watching to see what else Amazon launches because chances are, it'll be useful. So far companies like Yahoo and Google have received far more Web 2.0 attention, but I think that will begin to change, and people will realize that Amazon.com is actually one of the most interesting tech companies around.
Categories: Attendees, Speaker

How could Zune's software suck so badly?

November 16, 2006 - 12:11pm

Perhaps you've heard on the news recently that Microsoft's new digital media player, the Zune, is hardly flying off the shelves. I guess that's not too surprising given the early reviews the device has received. Now I know Microsoft is pretty good at hardware (Xbox, mice and keyboards, etc.) but they are still a software company. How is it then, that they could have screwed up the software side of the Zune so badly?

Now I haven't seen or tested a Zune, so I can't say I have had similar experiences. And granted, not all of the reviews are so negative (indeed there are quite a few positive ones), but still. A software company should have gotten the software part absolutely right, don't you think?

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Coming together to support Sitemaps

November 16, 2006 - 11:27am

As much as I enjoy reading about how Microsoft plans to defeat Google and how Google has trumped Yahoo and started on their way to ruling the world, it always gives me a good feeling when I read about the three giants working together. Sitemaps are the latest technology that Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have come together to support:

The goal of this effort is to improve search results for customers around the world. This protocol enables site owners everywhere to tell search engines about the content on their site instead of having to rely solely on crawl algorithms to find it.

Interested in the gritty details? Read more about the Sitemaps protocol at the official website: http://www.sitemaps.org.

As I understand it, Sitemaps do not replace they very common crawling algorithms, but instead augment that data and help improve the crawlers. Seems like something that should have been developed a long time ago! It's amazing what can happen when you work together isn't it?

Oh, and the coolest part of all - Sitemap 0.90 has been released under a Creative Commons license.

Live Search Blog  
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Website Changes

November 14, 2006 - 10:10pm

Unless you read my blog in an aggregator of some sort, you probably noticed an updated color scheme and picture on my website today. I was getting bored with the blue so I decided to change it. I also tweaked things a bit so that it's easier to change this sort of thing in the future. Thanks to everyone who has commented on the look already - some of you like the changes, some of you don't. The picture is a little too formal for my tastes, so my Dad has agreed to take some new ones for me when he's in town in a couple weeks.

I also added a find me online feature recently. Basically it's a list of links to my various profiles around the web. I haven't done it yet, but I am going to clean up the sidebar as well. It's horribly out of date, and I think I could be using the space better.

Any other feedback, suggestions, or requests?

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Startups don't need to be ruthless

November 14, 2006 - 6:55pm

Greg Linden asked a very interesting question today: Is ruthlessness the key to success for Web 2.0 startups? He cites examples of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and others using spam, porn, or other "ruthless" means to become successful. While the idea might be intriguing, I think it is far too simple.

First of all, being "ruthless" is relative, right? What's ruthless to me might not be ruthless to you. More importantly, I'm pretty sure Facebook and the others did a bunch of other things that contributed to their success. Saying they became huge by "spamming Harvard students" makes for an entertaining article, but probably avoids the more boring reality of why they are popular.

Secondly, the idea doesn't hold true in all Web 2.0 startups. As was suggested in the comments on Greg's post, there a bunch of other companies that did not rely on such ruthlessness to make it big - Flickr, del.icio.us, and 37signals, just to name a few.

It's pretty common to hear that you need to be ruthless to succeed in business, but I don't think it's the kind of ruthlessness that Greg is suggesting. Perhaps instead of porn and spam making them ruthless and thus successful, it's working long hours, making sacrifices, cutting costs, and being creative that made them "ruthless" in the pursuit of their ideas.

Greg Linden  
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