Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Bad Technology


Popular Mechanics has released its 10 Worst Gadgets of 2007. I don’t think everything on the list belongs there (like, why is everybody picking on Pleo, that cute lil’ robot dinosaur?), but some of them make you wonder — who is running these companies?

nabaztag-470-1207.jpgTake, for example, #6, the Violet Nabaztag:

Meet Nabaztag, perhaps the world’s first toy that purports to be a Wi-Fi-enabled rabbit that beeps, moves its ears, reads your e-mails, says snarky stuff and responds to voice commands. Of course, when we say “rabbit,” we mean a white plastic cone with plastic oblong ears that tend to fall off a lot. So if your idea of what a hare should look like comes from watching animals in the park, or even watching old Bugs Bunny cartoons, you will be sorely disappointed. Also, it often ignores your requests and kind of doesn’t work.

Nabaztag is essentially France’s answer to Japan’s alchemical ability to turn cute into cash. It costs $165, and getting it to actually read our e-mails was more harrowing than setting up a wireless network (our old Teddy Ruckspin could have done a better job). We’re honestly stumped why anybody would ever want a device like this to read their e-mail out loud. Most of our messages are along the lines of “Vi@Gra 4 Cheap!” and “Sounds good, see you at 7”—not exactly the kind of thing that needs to be spoken aloud by a frightening doll.

Or how ’bout Microsoft’s new version of the Zune music player, which comes in at #8: (more…)


Brad Pitt, Nanotechnology, and an Attorney Playing Himself on TV — Just Another Week on Dolan Media


First of all, there’s a new home for On the Record, the blog for Maryland’s Daily Record. Click here to read it and then click on the feed for your reader. It’s a widescreen blog with a great masthead and some useful new features….

To celebrate the new look, they’ve posted some good stuff lately. Like this post about a flamboyant Baltimore attorney who gets to play “essentially, himself” in the final season of HBO’s “The Wire.” And this one, about Baltimore being “the 46th safest drunken city” in a Men’s Health survey. There are a couple of excellent photos on this post about last week’s Pearl Harbor commemoration….

pitts-bourg.jpgNew Orleans City Business’ Ariella Cohen covers the Brad Pitt “Make It Right” plan to redevelop the Katrina’d Ninth Ward.

Rebuilding homes is Pitt’s top priority but replacing stores, banks and offices could be next, according to “Make it Right” Director Tom Darden.

“We went to members of the community and asked what they needed. They said, ‘We desperately need housing.’ But all of us here recognize the need for other development, too.”

Any commercial building would require funding and development partners, he said.

Homebuilding paves the way for retail development, experts often say.

“Retail follows rooftops,” said Rich Stone, vice president of the commercial real estate division of Latter & Blum Inc.

But in the low-income Lower Ninth Ward, even a relatively dense pre-storm population of 14,008 did not attract a full-service grocer. Instead, people relied on convenience stores, small, locally owned markets and gas stations. Shopping trips were done largely at Winn-Dixie or Wal-Mart in Chalmette.

(Photo by Frank Aymami, New Orleans City Business)

VLW, the blog of Virginia Lawyers’ Weekly, reports alumni are disappointed in the “hopeless” new College of William and Mary logo. Feathers were removed to terminate insensitive Native American associations, but the result is being compared to the logo for the trash conglomerate Waste Management

In an economic development move reported by The Journal Record, Oklahoma State University and OK state government have teamed to form the Oklahoma Nanotechnology Education Initiative to ensure the state will have enough trained nanotechnology technicians — people who can work with items fabricated on a molecular scale.

“First, we have to develop awareness and excitement among middle school and high school students about the enormous career opportunities this field will offer,” said (OSU-Okmulgee President Bob) Klabenes. “Then, we have to have sophisticated teaching facilities and labs so that students can have hands-on learning experiences with extremely complex equipment.”

Nanotechnology laboratories and classrooms will be in a new building on the OSU-Okmulgee campus. The facility will include atomic force microscopes, including specialized software for analyzing nanomaterials data, a scanning tunneling microscope and a fiber-optic spectrophotometer system.

So if your kid comes home from school one day and announces, “When I grow up, I want to be a nanotechnology technician!” remember you read it here first….

Enormous UK Privacy Disaster


A huge fiasco in England — Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs office (HMRC) mishandled and then lost two CDs containing private tax data on 25 million UK families. Alastair Revell, who blogs for IT Director, says this:

Apparently, the CDs were sent by internal mail without being registered or recorded in any way. It was clearly an accident waiting to happen.

Worse still, when they didn’t turn up, it seems from the statement made to the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling MP, that a further copy was sent by recorded delivery, which apparently he believes should not have happened either!

It needs a moment or two just to reflect on the enormity of what was done here, not once, but twice. Sensitive details of just under half the UK population were sent by internal post between two offices with little consideration for its security. It seems the first reaction of those who discovered that the data hadn’t arrived was to resend it, not to ask what had happened to it!

Furthermore, it seems that Mr Darling knew of the security breach on 10th November 2007, but did not instruct HMRC to inform the police for four days. Exhaustive searches have not found the missing CDs, although by their very nature, no comfort can be drawn from their recovery. They could easily have been copied at any time in transit, let alone after they had been lost. The data has been compromised!

The astounding reality is that just under half the nation’s personal and banking details have been compromised by employees of the government.

There is so much apologizing going on in London today, you could probably see the tears from a satellite. However, according to the trade site Government Technology, it happened before, and recently. (more…)

Holiday Slices of Dolan Media


Well, it happened. Rachel Paulose, the controversial young U.S. Attorney for Minneapolis, has left the frozen north and will return to Washington DC. Minnesota Lawyer Blog’s Mark Cohen has been getting a lot of eyes on his insightful farewell-to-Paulose post:

I believe that Paulose made the right choice in opting to end her often stormy tenure and accept a policy job in main Justice in Washington, D.C.

It has always been my belief that it was a management situation causing the disruptions at the office. Paulose has sterling academic credentials and a highly impressive resume for her age. But she had little real management experience.

Intent on impressing her bosses and no doubt deeply believing in her priorities, she plowed ahead and redirected the office without getting buy-in from the troops. She was also reportedly sometimes dictatorial in manner and abrasive toward subordinates. These are rookie mistakes frequently made by inexperienced managers. But when that manager is in charge of 100 talented individuals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and operating in a fishbowl, there is little room for error.

While I am not adverse to occasionally giving an important role to a highly talented young person and giving them a chance to grow into it, such a person needs guidance and support. As far as I can tell, such support was completely lacking from the problem-riddled Department of Justice.

Read the whole thing; and go back and read Minnesota Law Blog’s coverage of the Paulose story going back the past few months. It is much more than a just footnote to the DOJ controversies of the past year….

Deon Roberts of New Orleans’ The CityBusiness Blog is irate that the Crescent City is being passed over as a presidential debate site:

Who says we are “not ready” for an event of that size?

We hold Mardi Gras, for crying out loud. What about the Sugar Bowl, Jazz Fest and Essence Fest?

We surely could handle 3,000 journalists. What are they talking about?

One of Deon’s commenters, Wendy King, speculates the Republicans put the kibosh on it because they

would have to come down here, get a guided tour of the devastated parts of the city, and explain to their supporters why this city’s recovery isn’t on a faster track.

Now, this is awkward…another Dolan Media market, Long Island, is getting a presidential debate. According to LI BizBlog, the third one will be held at Hofstra University. If it turns out to be Giuliani vs. Clinton, I think we’re all going to feel left out….

A circuit judge in Virginia has ruled that property owners near Chesapeake Airport should get compensated for the diminution of their homes’ value due to noise, according to VLW Blog….

In Maryland, a biochemistry professor is about to get very rich, according to The Daily Record.

(Lawrence R.) Sita, a chemistry and biochemistry professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been working for the past eight years on a new method of making pure plastics without chemical additives.

The issue of chemical additives in plastics is a hot topic, with mounting numbers of product recalls and controversy over reform of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Suddenly, Sita, a lifelong academic, is seriously considering licensing his technology from the university and starting a company of his own.

Success would require catching the attention of the global plastics industry, including big names such as Dow, that produces 110 million metric tons of plastic each year.

That’s enough plastic to rebuild the Great Pyramid at Giza 44 times over, Sita said.

Maybe this guy will give Professor Sita a call….


Happy Thanksgiving….

Will the Writers’ Strike Make Hollywood More Like Silicon Valley?


Legendary tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen explains that the Silicon Valley way of creating businesses might be what its polar opposite, the entertainment industry, might turn into as a result of the WGA strike; and of the underlying issue behind the strike, the convergence of scripted movie and TV entertainment with the Internet.

The whole, very long piece is worth reading, but here’s the nut of it:

What would a new entertainment media company, producing original content, look like in the age of the Internet?

  • Starting from the end of the process: you know distribution is now nearly free. Put it up on the Internet and let people stream or download it.
  • Marketing is also free, due to virality. Let people email your content to their friends; let people embed your content in their blogs and on their social networking pages; let your content be searchable via Google; let your content be easily surfaced using social crawlers like Digg. All free.
  • Production is very cheap. Handheld high-definition video cameras cost nearly nothing. You can do almost every aspect of production and post-production on any Mac. Hell, you can even score an entire movie for free — there are hundreds of thousands of bands on the Internet who would love to have their music embedded in a new entertainment property as promotion for the bands’ concerts and merchandise.
  • The creators of the content are the owners of the company. The writers, actors, directors — they are the owners. They have a direct, equity-based economic stake in the company’s success. They get paid like owners, and they act like owners.
  • Financing is straightforward: venture capital, just like a high-tech startup. We live in a world in which financing a high-quality startup is simply not difficult — not for a high-quality technology startup, and increasingly not for a high-quality media startup. Modern financiers love being co-owners of a new company with the talent that will make the company successful — and that’s how it will happen here.

This is not a difficult thing to envision. And in fact, it’s already happening. Will Ferrell’s Funny Or Die, in which I am a minority investor, is one early existence proof of this model. And there are a ton of other such new companies either already underway, or currently being incubated, or currently being negotiated.


Electrifying News from Dolan’s Pubs


Here are a few interesting stories our reporters have picked up the past day or two….

Portland’s one of those towns with some tasty microbrews. In fact, its unofficial nickname is “beertopia.” Today we learn from the DJC’s Libby Tucker that three local breweries are investing–a lot–in energy conservation schemes, including recovery of the intense heat from the brewing process and using biodiesel instead of natural gas to run the boilers. Breweries are “big, dirty behemoths,” one brewmaster is quoted as saying…..

If you’re in Idaho, here’s a name to start remembering: Gateway West. That’s what Rocky Mountain Power and Idaho Power Co. call a 650-mile power line project they announced Monday, according to IBR. Conservation groups are worried, and ratepayers won’t like the effect on electricity bills. But utility officials say the rolling blackouts Idaho almost experienced last summer could loom again unless this new capacity comes on line….

FedEx was confused by the EEOC’s allegedly inconsistent way of notifying the company whether an employee has charged discrimination or not. So they filed suit. Today the case was argued before the Supreme Court, and from DC Dicta’s report, it sounds like the justices were not just confused, but annoyed….

This can’t be good. The Daily Record’s Jackie Sauter was out on the streets of Baltimore with a photographer and came upon a smattering of snow-like particles. Thanks to some construction workers, a building is shedding white foam, and the breeze is distributing it on the city’s west side. Some of the stuff attached itself to Jackie’s clothes. Where else is it going?

novint-falcon.jpgAnd can you guess what this is?→→→→

Go to LI Biz Blog to find out. A company in Port Washington, N.Y. firm makes markets them, and pretty soon, everyone will want one…..