Day 32: Tech to the Rescue

What I’m Thinking About: Tracking Through Tech

I’m really interested in the privacy implications and the technology behind how we track people who have recovered and keep track of those are infected as we will need to do to get back to our lives. Without doing this, this shelter-in-place will just continue until a vaccine arrives – which is just too damn long.

Google/Apple have formed an alliance that will help track people that are infected. The way it works is:

An app on your phone will pass a random and anonymous code to all other phones within a few yards of you, wherever you are (and vice versa). If you test positive, you tell the app, and every other phone in the region checks the codes they’ve seen in the last 14 days, and if there’s a match they can say ‘you’ve been exposed’. This is anonymous and automatic.

This is very cool, but am skeptical that it’ll ever happen because it really only works if governments mandate it and I just don’t see that happening.

On a related note, there’s a new San Francisco company called Onfido that is working with European governments to develop phone-based “immunity passports” for those who have already recovered from COVID-19. This is happening in Europe and is similar to what’s in China. Oh, and just yesterday they raised an additional $100 million.

At My House

We’re digging into the remote learning more deeply this week as our school is starting to get more involved and attentive to what’s happening at home.

That only takes half the day. The other part is spent enjoying the great weather we’ve been sent


One of my friends sent me this today. I’ll be joining him:

I do one plank a day during the pandemic, holding it for as long as I can. Have made it to three minutes the last three days. Join me.

… and then I make myself a cocktail almost immediately afterward.

Other Stuff

Now this is a great use of modern technology. Here we have a Twitter account that is judging people’s video call background. Just what the world needed (thx Lizzie)

Thanks Jackie!

Check these out. Might as well keep safe in style:


New York added two thousands deaths to their list who were people they hadn’t tested:


Only 64 more days to go


Google Duplex

If you haven’t seen this demo from last week’s Google I/O

Sundar says,

Our vision for our assistant is to help you get things done….A common theme across all this is we are working hard to give users back time. We’ve always been obsessed about that at Google. Search is obsessed about getting users to answers quickly and giving them what they want.

Google really wants to start doing things for you and Duplex was super impressive. It is, literally, a computer talking on the phone for you.

Check it out.

YouTube is Huge and Sketchy

I wrote a few weeks ago a post about just how massive the site is.  I listened to a good interview with Jason Calcanis recently where he shared his experiences working with them as a potential partner.  

The short of it is that YouTube has not been at all interested in accommodating any partners because of their size and scale.  One thing that i found interesting in this talk was just how powerful the future of YouTube is. Some interesting points:

  1. Cash. They have an amazing amount of cash at $50 billion  (Forbes)
  2. Nobody’s in charge. Google is great at this in general.  It is very hard to identify who is setting the direction and strategy for each group and the company as a whole.  Because of this, they can’t be critiqued for lack of execution or for being evil. 
  3. Avoiding Anti-Trust. They can’t buy any large players due to the fear that the government would block it for anti-competition reasons.  
  4. They are copying competitor’s strategies.  These competitors are getting lots of video channels around a niche and selling ads around it.  YouTube is now doing just that and will probably do more. 

The cool part of this is that YouTube could have bought Netflix or something similar.  Thus, they are just going to buy lots and lots of content and put it out for free.  My prediction is that You’ll see NFL and other sports content available there along with full tv shows – and it’ll be SWEET for all of us.  

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: A Rant

I recently heard someone talk about what a bad move it was for Apple to release their own Maps app on the iPhone.  I’ve heard this maybe half a dozen times lately and I couldn’t disagree more.  We should all be happy this happened.  Here’s why…

About a year ago when there was no Apple Maps, the situation was this:

  • The default map app on the phone was Google maps
  • Apple had repeatedly been negotiating with Google to have them provide turn-by-turn directions and voice navigation in their app on the iPhone.  Google had turned them down time and time again so they could promote Android phones and claim some level of superiority.
  • Apple had no alternative but to accept that Google was sandbagging their iPhone app

Fast forward to today.  Apple releases Maps which has turn-by-turn directions that are way better than the old Google app.  Google was rendered to be an optional app on phone and because of this fact they stepped up their development efforts and made the Google maps app way better than their previous app.

Today iPhone users have two great options for maps and both options are way better than they had a year ago.  If Apple hadn’t done anything, we’d probably still be stuck with a second-tier version of Google maps.

So, Apple’s probably pretty happy with their decision.  The iPhone mapping capability is at the very least comparable to Android, something they couldn’t claim a year ago.

Ok, i can now go back to work.  Thanks for letting me rant.

May 2015 Update: 

Looking at this latest report you can see that 84% of cell phone users get turn-by-turn navigation while driving.  Looks like Apple made a good call to really shake up the platform to get that functionality in there.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 9.44.41 AM



When Google Glass Wins

I don’t really like Google Glass as it is now.  There’s no way that the look of it will ever let it go mainstream. However, i do like:

  1. how you can just click a button and video record everything you’re looking at
  2. Take a picture of what you’re seeing quickly and easily
  3. Overlay a map on top of whatever you’re viewing

What i want to happen is for them to build just these three use cases into normal looking glasses.  Get a few versions of Warby Parker that have Glass integration into them.  Then it’ll be sweet. I want to wear regular-looking glasses and go about my day and if i want just touch something and have it start recording.  That’s when Google Glass wins. 

A Bet For Self-Driving Cars

I’m a huge fan of self-driving cars.  Google’s effort to make a car that drives itself is pretty awesome. If you have read about them, read the Wired article here.  Just think of all the time and productivity you would earn if you could have a car drive you everywhere.  For all the minutes you’re in a car, you could now be doing something else.  It’ll be found time.  It’s glorious.

Because of my enthusiasm, I made a bet a few weeks ago here at work.  I’m betting that a self-driving car will be available for me to purchase before 3/1/2023.

Some details:

  • The car has to be on the road and legal to drive somewhere in USA
  • It must cost under $150k

I’m taking the under for $200 against Keith.

[poll id=”3″]


Microsoft vs. Apple

There’s been lots of talk about how Apple’s market cap is about to equal Microsoft’s.  People love to discuss this because of the battle the two companies have fought over the past 3 decades.  Microsoft famously beat out Apple for PC dominance in the 80’s and 90’s by being open while Apple remained stubbornly closed.  Today, many people look at the Android/iPhone battle in the same light: one company with a superior product (Apple) and another that may be less polished but open to be used on other people’s hardware (Google’s Android)

I’ve heard quite often over the past year how Apple is crazy to go down the same path again.  However, i read a good summary today by Mark Sigal on O’Reilly’s blog about why this isn’t the case.  His five main points are:

  1. Retail Distribution: During the PC Wars, everything came down to distribution and presence on limited retail shelf space. To be successful, you had to be on the shelves of retailers like ComputerLand, CompUSA, Circuit City, Office Depot and MicroAge. Given the wide variety of hardware OEMs making Wintel-based PCs, both shelf-space for Macs and the technical know-how to sell them were severely limited, making a differentiation story like Apple’s a hard sell. Today, Apple Stores drive a superior environment for consumers to experience hardware hands-on and get educated about the full breadth of Apple products. An aside, this is a consumer touch point that Google absolutely lacks.
  2. Pricing overhang: A primary reason for Apple’s crushing defeat by Microsoft was Apple’s misguided notion that it could charge grossly higher dollars for Mac products than Windows-based PC offerings. Contrast this with the present, where Apple is consistent in their assertion and awareness that it cannot and will not leave pricing overhang (i.e. a sufficient pricing gap between its products and the competition). This avoids the past dynamic where consumers saw picking Apple products as an either/or decision, in terms of price vs premier experience. iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad all have followed this course.
  3. Developer ecosystem: It is a truism that in platform plays he who wins the hearts and minds of developers, wins the war. In the PC era, Apple forgot this, bungling badly by launching and abandoning technology initiatives, co-opting and competing with their developers and routinely missed promised milestones. By contrast, Microsoft provided clear delineation points for developers, integrated core technologies across all products, and made sure developer tools readily supported these core initiatives. No less, Microsoft excelled at ensuring that the ecosystem made money. Lesson learned, Apple is moving on to the 4.0 stage of its mobile platform, has consistently hit promised milestones, has done yeomen’s work on evangelizing key technologies within the platform (and third-party developer creations – “There’s an app for that”), and developed multiple ways for developers to monetize their products. No less, they have offered 100 percent distribution to 85 million iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, and one-click monetization via same. Nested in every one of these devices is a giant vending machine that is bottomless and never closes. By contrast, Google has taught consumers to expect free, the Android Market is hobbled by poor discovery and clunky, inconsistent monetization workflows. Most damning, despite touted high-volume third-party applications, there are (seemingly) no breakout third-party developer successes, despite Android being around two-thirds as long as the iPhone platform.
  4. Consumer technology adoption: During the PC era, large enterprises essentially dictated the industry winners by virtue of standardizing on a given vendor or type of solution. This created a winner-takes-all dynamic, inasmuch as consumers would ultimately buy the same solutions that had been blessed by large enterprises. By virtue of its conservative nature (remember the motto, “No ever got fired for buying IBM”?), staid Microsoft always felt like a safer choice than crazy Apple. And besides, accounting could solicit bids from multiple hardware vendors, which they liked. By contrast, today’s breakthrough adoption begins in the consumer realm and filters back to enterprises, not the other way around.
  5. Microsoft-like resilience: I remember too well the Microsoft mantra “Embrace-Extend-Extinguish,” which basically meant that any segment worth owning Microsoft would ultimately dominate by the 3.0 version of its competing product.  They were ruthless in squeezing the lifeblood out of competitors through any means necessary. But, give Microsoft full props for manifesting an unyielding resilience to keep working its product offering and market assault until victory was at hand. Considering Apple’s rise from the ashes to re-create a very profitable Mac business — the dominance it has created with iPod and iTunes; the powerhouse iPhone and iPhone platform and the ambitious, and already well-regarded iPad — does anyone wonder about Apple’s resilience? By contrast, Google remains almost completely dependent upon search and advertising, despite launching so many new product offerings and seriously pursuing M&A over the past several years. Arguably, Google’s famously loosely coupled structure leads to a lot of seeds being planted, but so too, it seems to a less than laser-like focus on seeing those seeds to cultivation and full harvest. It begs the question, “Can a tiger change its stripes?”

I carry around both an iPhone and a Droid so I’m witness the battle every day when i pull both out and decide which to make a call or text on.   They are both good phones.  The Android phones get refreshed every month when a new manufacturer comes out with the latest, whereas i have to wait a year for each new iPhone.  That said, the iPhone is better and because of points 1-5 above, i suspect Apple will clean house for at least a few more years.

My Moments of 2009

2009 was a fun year.  I traveled to 42 cities, 4 countries and logged over 100k miles.  I also found time to stay at home and do stuff.  Looking back on the year, some things really stand out.  For instance:

  • Up’s tear-jerking silent vignette. With each new film, Pixar finds some way to top itself. The marvelous innovation inUp was the wordless sequence near the beginning, set to Michael Giacchino’s wistful score, depicting Carl and Ellie’s entire life together — including the sad fact that they can’t have children. Who else would dare to try that? And who but Pixar could pull it off so gracefully?
  • I Like This Song.  I started a little experiment in May of placing a good song i like every day to the blog  At first it was easy because there were so many songs i was bursting to share.  But as the year wore on, i got more selective and paid more attention to what i was putting up.  The real treat, however, has been the followers of ILTS who have sent me new music and tunes.
  • The Android OS. I went to the largest mobile phone conference in the world last February and saw thousands of phones that were running Windows Mobile OS that was vastly inferior to the iPhone. I came away from there thinking that the iPhone was going to crush everyone for the next 10 years.  Luckily Google’s OS has grown up and is the real deal.  This is the year when the race for the future of mobile actually started
  • Brett Favre.  Say what you want about him, but for me he has transformed the Vikings from a team that drove me crazy to watch to a team to be proud of every week.  He was inspiring and regardless of how early we go out in the playoffs (i’m thinking first round) i’ll always remember this season because of him.
  • Zach Galifinakis and The Hangover.  Zach G. had slipeed under my radar until The Hangover which was this summer’s must-see movie.  I thought he made the film and i was even more delighted to see that his webepisodes of Between Two Ferns prove him a true comedic talent
  • Death of Old Media.  Magazines crumbled.  Newspapers folded.  Online usage soared.  People who were in the print business ran scared.  Some tried to adjust their print properties.  Others just wove a white flag.  It become evident this year that online is where the users are and if you’re not moving your media business there, you’re either going to downsize or disappear.  This was of personal interest to me as i spent lots of 2009 looking at the advertising piece of this at Buzz and looking at the opportunities this new world creates with Tobes.
  • In-N-Out burger.  I ate so much In-N-Out in 2009 that this could very well be the year of the Double-Double.  Thanks to JT, Pedro and JStreet for coming with me time after time after time.
  • eReaders / Kindle.  The Kindle came on strong this year and The Nook is looking like a solid competitor.  While neither may be long solutions with their closed formats, they have gained serious attention and sales.  I also read my first books on electronically this year and i can easily picture a future when books are primarily sold without paper.
  • Obama.  He came out of nowhere.  We were about to elect someone into the Presidency (Hilary) which would have had two families (Clinton’s and Bush’s) control the office for over 24 years.  THis was not the America i was down with and i was just about to write off the political system for good when Obama came along.  Sure, you can complain about different things he’s done in office thus far but he’s engaged me and he’s made me pay attention. I respect his reasoning.  That word, “hope,” is a strange one and it was a big part of 2009 for me due to him.
  • Avatar, Star Trek and Sci-Fi. This year was an incredible year for sci-fi. I thought Star Trek was awesome, the little indie flick District 9 was refreshing and extremely well done, and of course James Cameron’s epic, Avatar – the film that needed new technology just to complete it – rocked the end of the year. These films showed that sci-fi is alive and kicking and isn’t some little repetitive genre reserved for geeks and nerds.
  • A Personal Stream of Information From Friends.  Before 2009, my RSS feed dominated my web browsing experience.  Twitter and Facebook worked their tail off in ’09 to change the web landscape.  Their impact has been incredible.  The personal stream of information is how many people are now receiving their news and media.  What this means is that the web (and possibly life) won’t ever be the same.  I can’t wait to see where it leads
  • D Wood.  Last and most importantly it’s D. Say what you will about LA but it brought me to Diane and more than anything it will be a year remembered as the year i met her.  That one little meeting has changed everything.

Happy 2009 everyone. It’s been a fantastic year and I wish you all the best in 2010.

Droid vs. iPhone Grudge Match

Rdroid-vs-iphoneaduchel recently did a post that inspired me to speak up as I’ve been carrying around both an iPhone and a Droid for the past few weeks (since Droid’s launch) and comparing the two.  I’ve set the Droid as my main phone so i’m forced to use it more and get used to it. My main findings are:

– In general the iPhone kicks its ass in usability.  Typing on the droid sucks so much that i find myself not wanting to send texts.  This is especially true in the car. I can text and drive fine with the iPhone but the Droid will cause a crash.

– Having your phone be an iPod is a huge benefit.  This is such a major differentiator for me as i listen to a ton of music and listen to podcast every day while driving.  The media players on the droid are a joke.

– Google Voice is awesome and i really wish it was on the iPhone.  Being able to sync calls and text messages with the web is really useful.  There are other GV competitors but they don’t compare for me

– The voice reception and quality on the Droid is heads and shoulders above ATT.  I can actually get calls at work and inside my home.   I’ve never been an ATT hater but the Droid is making me a Verizon lover.

In general, i think the Droid is pretty great and definitely a competitor to the iPhone but the slickness/enjoyment of the interface and iTunes will keep me on it – at least for the near future.