Saturday, 7 November 2009

Wave at the geeks and religous nuts.

Ok! I admit it. I am a try-hard early adopter. I'm not a real early adopter because the real ones will go out and "buy" something that brand spanking new gadget and I'll only partake in the free technological revolutions. That's why I love closed beta's because once you're in, your instantly popular because others need an invitation (possible from you) to be in the "in" crowd as well.

I persevered with twitter for a long time before I worked out how to make it useful, how to block out the spammers and how to develop meaningful conversations with strangers. Perhaps I'm getting less patient or perhaps I've just lost the need to be that kid with the newest pair of Air Jordon's but Google Wave seems a whole lot of something we've always had.

For about a week now, I've tried to make Google Wave useful. The problem is I don't have enough friends that use Wave. I've invited a couple of colleagues and I have a couple of friends that already have Wave accounts but even though I've made Wave my home page I can't see how I'd use it to replace what I already use. For instance, the collaborative nature of Wave at the moment is in a threaded conversation for most Public waves. Unless it's a closed bunch of friends that could happily use one of many instant messaging services, the open conversations just seem like the comment section of a blog. Sure it's in real time and collaborative but it just makes it all the more difficult to follow the conversation.

If you perform the with:public search you see a stream of waves that are open to all users. A quick scan of the topics and you will realise who the real early adopters are. Immediately you have wannabe bloggers (like myself) polling people about which is the best is the best new mobile, how to actually use Wave and my favourite, Ask a Christian. In essence doing this type of search is like watching the public stream on twitter.

In fact, I get the feeling that Google have let the lunatics (a.k.a. engineers) take over the asylum on this one. From the back end, wave really is revolutionary and like Facebook is a platform that will support the imagination of every computer science student in the world. It is a user interface that mashes up the potential to mimic every major SNS in existence. As developers take hold, someone will develop an incredibly addictive version of Mafia Wars for Wave. In fact there's already a collaborate Soduku clique in Wave. You can mimic a chat room, you can mimic twitter, you can mimic facebook, you can mimic instant messaging. The problem with a pimped up social site is the person driving that "2 Fast 2 Furious" vehicle is usually a wanker.

But seriously, I'm not brave enough to really predict that Wave is a flop especially since this is still a preview and Google has really really deep pockets but I've been trying really really hard. I like Google and I want to believe that Wave will be as successful as GMail but honestly I don't feel so confident.

I could go on about not being able to intuitively work out how to do anything or how a notifier that could tell me when my contacts came online (like when you use GTalk in Gmail) but I'm going to stop whining now and will keep trying to find function because I haven't given up on you yet Google. I will say though, Dr. Wave needs a Mr. Hyde to work on making UI easier to use.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Google Chrome OS will kill Windows.. but thats not the point.

I've written before about the World being taken over by Google and the latest announcement about Google's plan to launch their Chrome OS seems to be another step in that direction. What I am am finding though is that because of the OS aspect of the name, many commentators are automatically putting this dark horse in the race with Windows 7 and seem to be downplaying the Chrome aspect of the equation. (Other Chrome vs Windows posts here and here) If you take a scan down the list of products that Google have in their stables, you will find that generally anything that is released to the public is done with a great deal of forethought. For instance, when Gmail was launched with one gig of storage space, it wasn't because they were generous or charitable. It was a means to an end, and that end was to change the way we use email. Over the years since the launch of Gmail the way we related to email did change. No longer did we connect to our email account via a client like Eudora or Outlook and download our messages onto our computer, but we kept the emails on the Google server so we could store and search them in the future. Other players like Yahoo and Hotmail also followed suit to offer a lot (if not unlimited) online storage for emails online. As we became more internet reliant, we began to connect to our email account in more than just through our browser. We started to use our mobile devices and we are increasingly become less reliant on one machine that stores all our data but we can now access our data through any machine with an internet browser. The point is that who dominated the webmail market didn't matter for Google, all they wanted was for email users to be more reliant on an email storage service provider. They wanted us to begin to live in the cloud.

As time went on, Google not only developed their master plan through innovation but also through acquisition, buying up startups to build their empire. Putting in place the foundation for moving not only email but documents, spreadsheets, presentations, gps maps, images and video into the cloud. Bit by bit, Google has chipped away at how we compute. Where once upon a time we used to bulk up on processing power so that we could run applications on our machine, we are now slimming down to netbooks, iPhones and Androids that can do as much as what an average computer user was doing on their own PC. Google Chrome OS is therefore not only a clever move by Google but it is the only move.

From a business strategy standpoint, what looks like a move to go head to head with Microsoft is actually the finishing touches on a battle that already won. Google Chrome OS is not a new venture for Google but the end game for a strategy that has taken years to achieve. Google Chrome OS is actually a strategy to move downstream on the internet value chain. What does that mean? To illustrate, lets take a non-internet based example.

Imagine you make lemonade. You make damn good lemonade that people like to drink but you just make it and sell it to people who come to your lemonade stand. Other people in your neighbourhood also less lemonade but it's nowhere as good or as cheap as yours so over time, they come to you and ask if they can be bought out by you so that they can play a part in your lemonade superiority. Pretty soon all the lemonade that is sold in your neighbourhood is yours and the people that sell it work for you, but the stands from which they are selling from are not controlled. Some sell from crates on the driveway, some sell from refrigerated carts outside the shopping mall, some sell from dispensing guns strapped to the someone's back at football matched. Sometimes, the lemonade is perfectly served with ice cubes in glass tumblers and sometimes it's served warm into plastic cups. So the natural way to control the quality of your product is to start by vertically integrating your near-monopolistic business to supply all your lemonade through refrigerated mobile outlets. This is not about building a better mouse-trap but it is about controlling your supply chain.

The other strategy you could have considered was to start buying up lemon trees and sugar cane plantations but in the case of Google's supply chain, they already own the servers in which the entire internet is gradually being downloaded and stored. Comparing Google Chrome OS with Microsoft Windows is like comparing a lemonade stand with a chain for shoe stores. It's no comparison. Sure they both serve customers and sell product, in the same way that GCOS and MS Windows both let you work on a spreadsheet but one is providing you access to the "cloud" that Google has been building for the last decade and the other provides you access to the information that is stored on your computer.

Google Chrome OS for the time being has no competition. It is a browser that has decided that it no longer needs someone else's operating system to exist and to let it's users achieve what it needs to achieve on a computer. The closest thing that it really would compete with is Adobe Air or a browser app that is written in Java, and even these are only cross platform applications rather than something that does not require a platform at all. (on the assumption that GCOS is actually platform independent.)

Where will this all lead? I would imagine that sooner than we think we will be doing complex computing through devices that have the same built-in computing power as the Amazon Kindle that connects us to the computing power of billions of servers spread across the planet. I predict that as newspapers slowly die off in their current form, it will be gradually replaced by something that looks similar (and is equally disposable) but was evolved from the netbooks of today.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Justifying the GFW but nothing else

I was only 15 when things turned bad in T1ananmen Square on the evening of the June 4th 1989. A snotty nosed high school kid who's world did not extend beyond the confines of a Sydney suburban existence. I certainly didn't know then that twenty years later I would be living and working in the country that felt it necessary to turn its army on its own children.

My memories of that day are fleeting recollections of news stories broadcast in Australia but looking at what China has become since the deaths of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of students then (either by chance or design) I often wonder what would have become if the Government did not do what they did. Would I be living in a democracy now?

Before you read on, I'd first like to make one thing very clear. I do not support the actions the Chinese government took twenty years ago today. This is not a means to justify the use of deadly force against its own citizens. It is simply exercising the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

History tells us that dramatic social and political change often results in blood shed. From Alexander the Great's conquest of Asia Minor to the attack on the World Trade Center in defense against the infidel, there is nothing like the mass loss of life to change perception. When we look at events like 9/11 we naturally think of it as something that changed our concept of security. Even those of us who are not American begin to feel that because terrorism can strike anywhere, we are not safe. The bombing in Bali also brought this home to many Australians. When we look at China, many Chinese in the two generations before mine have a deep seeded hate for the Japanese because of what happened in the Nanking Massacre, similar to how an old English WWII vet might still feel animosity towards the Germans.

It is because of these atrocities that shape the way we as a society think and feel about nations and people. These feelings are not rational or logical but come from an emotional core that is passed on from generation to generation. I even have Chinese friends younger than me that still do not trust the Japanese even though the Rape of Nanking was before their living memory.

Twenty years after the T1ananmen Massacre, students in universities across China now would have been in diapers (or at least pants with an exposed bottom) when the anonymous man in the white shirt stood in front of 4 tanks with his shopping bags. What I see from afar is that this generation of students do not have the revolutionary drive of those left in exile from twenty years ago. They have been taught to know better than to offend the government and for the most part, the affect (from my perception) is that the generation of twenty-somethings now, the age group that throughout history is most vocal about social change, has become strongly patriotic.

Living in China, one rarely hears (or overhears) support for the Dalai Lama or people craving for democracy. In the back of my democratic, conspiracy loving, Orwellian, Australian educated mind I would love to think that this is because they fear what might happen if they harbour revolutionary thought but this does not seem to be the case. T-Shirts with 我爱中国 (I love/heart China) seem to be worn by people who do in fact genuinely love their country.

When the French protesters attacked the Olympic torch, the protests and boycotts in China were not organised by the government. They were organised by citizens appalled by the attack on a wheelchaired athlete. When news of the Great Sichuan Quake broke, normal citizens donated what they could to the cause of saving the survivors. When I think back at these two recent incidents, the only thing that I can think of is that I would do exactly the same thing.

Since the Cold War, and even so far back as McCarthyism the media loves to take the easy road of portraying good and evil. In the case of China, the easiest narrative used to be that the Chinese Government was an evil communist regime oppressing the billion peasant citizens. A narrative that Hollywood would love but by it's nature is flawed simply because evil has no motive. Evil people do bad things for no other reason than because it's evil, and for the last twenty years since the T1ananmen Massacre, there has been no motive to oppress the citizens of China. In fact there is more motivation to further support the Chinese people to succeed to undo some of the stupidity of Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Governing 1.3 billion people requires a huge political machine and throughout China there are abuses of power at various levels of authority. From the local police to municipal and provincial officials. The tragedy that occurred in Beijing though was not the result of these thing. The decision to open fire on protesters, as much as we would like to label this as evil, was not. It was an act of desperation by a government that was backed into a corner. It was about disowning and turning your eldest son over to the police for drug abuse to save the future of your younger son.

I want to reiterate at this stage that this is not a justification or a defense for what the Government did. In fact it is likely that the massacre was a decision made by good people without enough foresight to foresee a potential outcome until it was too late. Using the example again of disowning your elder son to save the younger, it can be argued that as a parent you should have educated and controlled your elder son when he was younger rather than allowing him to navigate the world without enough guidance. Sacrificing a son does not make you a good parent, in fact it makes you a bad one trying to undo a past mistake.

So as I write this post through a VPN (as I cannot directly access my blog, Twitter or YouTube) I am not really that pissed off. Why? Because I see this as the actions of a good parent. One that has learned from past mistakes and is committed to not making them again. And as a son, you know that I will continue to try to circumvent your Great Firewall the same way a real son, against advice and parental guidance, might still try drugs.

So today, the twentieth anniversary of the T1ananmen Massacre, I pray for the families of the dead and oppressed, but more importantly, I pray for the future of china because over the last eight years here, I too have learned to 爱中国。

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Battle in the Cloud

First of all, I'd like to apologise to my readers for not posting for quite a while. It seems that the good folk at the Golden Shield project have been working overtime after the Olympics because the internet freedom we experienced last year has all but been taken away from us poor sods based in China. For the last couple of months, we poor expatriates in China have been deprived of YouTube, Blogspot, Wordpress and it seems that even much of the stuff that is going to my Google Reader has been hobbled.

My plan to develop my own personal blogging empire has therefore been thwarted and I am reduced to posting via Posterous for all my blogs. Sigh!

A shame because in the internet world is in the brink of revolution. Well at least there is a concerted effort to do so. Only last week, the internets have been all a flutter about, Microsofts new search engine which I imagine is a serious effort by the Redmond gang to topple the reign of Google. So far I've seen that bing has had a mixed reception but it will be hard to tell until people start to adopt. Of course bing is much prettier than Google so some people might prefer it to Google as a start page in their browser.

The Google camp have in their strategic move announced Google Wave. My interpretation of this is it is essentially Google Profile on steroids. This could be seen as an attack on the MSN Live front. I won't go to much into this theory (because it's just too convoluted and I am continually interrupted by pretty girls walking by and the noisy table of Hongkies on the table next to me at the Coffee Bean in XinTianDi where I am writing this) but it seems to me that the two juggernauts of cyberspace are in for an epic battle for the evolving cloud.

I'll be first to say that when I first heard about cloud computing it seemed a little sci-fi and brought to mind images of The Matrix and the Lawnmower Man but as the months rolled on it has become more and more viable. As we approached the holy grail of decentralised processing power, the peaces are falling in place for our computing lives to go online and these latest campaign by the two major combatants indicate the changing winds.

Both Microsoft and Google are vying for the dominant position in the future of computing by assembling the battalions most suited to occupy the cloud when the corpses are buried and the gun smoke clears. Take Google for example. If you imagine how Google Wave will work when it is launched, it is an amalgamation of pretty much everything that currently exists. It allow you to post messages, images, video, much like Facebook, FriendFeed and to a lesser degree Twitter. It will then integrate documents for collaboration much like what Google Docs already does and I imagine it provides some kind of control as to how you share all this information which has the potential to replace every other social network in existence. By connecting various components of cloud together it can act like Google Profiles on steriods. The good thing though is that with a public API if Wave takes off it could create a whole new ecosystem of smaller online business that would plug into Waves functionality making Google the essential glue that binds the cloud together.

In the other corner is Microsoft. Almost hiding in plain sight is their Live suite. Document sharing, instant messaging, spaces, photo sharing, MS has been quietly amassing the firepower to create it's own cloud within the cloud. Now the culture of MS is not the most open source and should the victor come from the Ballmer camp then the future of the cloud could be dark, stormy and possible expensive. Sure all the MSN live stuff is free now but because of the closed nature of anything that MS releases, that could all change in a second.

So what does the future hold for the average netizen? On the one hand we may have a cloud occupied by many service providers but held together by Google that (if the wind changes) could tax the web businesses that rely on it to connect to the end user. I liken this to the Chinese government who provides you with certain freedoms but at a moments notice could "disappear" you in the middle of the night. The alternative is Microsoft. A fascist dictator who controls everything you own from day one.

My friends! Understand that your future under threat. Heed this warning because cyberspace needs a saviour. The internet is fast becoming a bipartisan organism with no geographic borders. Who will that saviour be? Who can we trust with our virtual existence?

Disclaimer: Please read this post as you would the scratchings on the walls of a prison cell of GFW penitentiary.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Monday, 11 May 2009

Will twitter become as ubiquitous as email or is it a fad?

I know blogging about Ashton Kutchner now makes me a late adopter when it comes to twitter goss but it's only recently that I've had a chance to take a good look at my psyche profile when it comes to twitter. 

Over the last year or so I've seen many blog posts and articles about the adoption process for twitter and unlike email, instant messaging and even sms where the benefits are obvious the one thing common to most of these writeups about twitter are that it takes a while for people to "get" twitter. Let me get back to this point a little later and jump to understanding who are the early adopters in twitter.

Apparently I joined twitter on the 3rd July 2007, or so I'm told by this site, which means that I've been using this service for almost two years. Sure, in the beginning it was on again off again but now it seems that I generally tweet anywhere between 7-10 tweets a day. Not a huge amount, and certainly enough to still stay connected with various other folk on twitter. When you look at the other people that were on twitter during that time, you'd notice that they fit a certain profile. One of the first people that I followed on twitter was @scobleizer who at the time raved about how it was a great way to tap into the minds of his then twenty or so thousand twitter friends. But if you look at him as an example, he is a tech blogger and it was his job to know what was the next big thing in social media. As I expanded my network I found that most people who were active on twitter were actually bloggers and much of the chatter was about social media (if not twitter itself). As time went on this group evolved into less tech related and through @christinelu intially, I also found people in China. Gradually my networks became less about geekiness and more about common interests. 

To cut a long story short though, I would consider myself on the tail end of the early adopters and as time went by, and the audience became more mainstream and certainly more interesting. This brings me back to my point about the first stage of twitter adoption.

When you look at the early adopters of Twitter it is not like the early adopters of email or instant messaging. When I used to chat up girls in other universities in the UTS computer labs, I used it because it made sense. I certainly wasn't going to pick up the phone and make an international call to flirt with someone whom I never met. It just made sense. Email is another example where it superceded normal post. It was a new way of doing something that we always did.

Twitter doesn't supercede anything unless you are in the business of broadcasting (in the journalistic sense) or blogging (which is really the evolution of the printed word). What twitter really supercedes is the newspaper seller on the corner shouting "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!"

I fully realise that I am over simplifying things and there are other issues related to engagement and interaction that I am ignoring but these other uses of Twitter are intiated by someone first tweeting something that someone else feels compelled to respond to.

That is why most people don't immediately "get" Twitter. Because the bulk of us aren't broadcasters. We don't feel the need to stand on a soap box and yell out our opinions. (The irony here is that DEDLOG is essentially my soap box.) For most of us we are quite content to just read about it and chat amongst our real friends. The early adopters who did "get" twitter were people who either wanted to be heard or are in the business of sharing information. 

Now about Ashton Kutchner, CNN and Oprah. What did they do to the twittersphere? They brought with them, through their influence and popularity, what looks to be the center of the bell curve. When these people who are doctors, students, accountants, brick layers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, joined twitter they did so because they wanted to know what all the fuss is about. When they actually get onto Twitter, they are greeted with pointless ramblings from various celebrities, news they can get from the TV or newspaper. In essence they joined a platform that provides them with junk. This pretty much explains why in a recent Neilsen study, they found that 60% of new twitterers dropped out after a month.

Will twitter become as ubiquitous as email? My feeling right now is that it won't, for the simple reason that not everyone needs a soap box. The same reason why not everyone who uses MSN Messenger has their own podcast. 

How long will Twitter last? It's likely that it still has a good three to five years to go before something better comes along (or Twitter evolves into something else) but give it another 12 months we will reach the tail end of the bell curve and people will realise that (unless they are willing to dedicate time away from real social interaction with this type of faux social interaction) Twitter will become another, albeit better, news and information source that is made up of bloggers, journos, advertisers and the those who manage to filter out the noise to get to the content.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Don't forget

Today, I was reminded that next week on the 12th May marks the anniversary of the Great Sichuan Quake. It doesn't feel like a year and even from the safety of Shanghai as I morbidly watched this disaster unfold , I was moved on a daily basis by stories of tragedy, bravery, unity and cowardice. I could not believe that such an event could happen and even now I cannot fathom how, so easily, millions of people were displaced and nearly 70,000 men, women and children lost their lives.

I still feel outrage at the disproportionate number of schools that crumbled and the loss of an entire generation of children. I am still impressed at the speed at which aid was deployed and yet disappointed at the governments refusal to accept all assistance from those with the equipment and know-how to save more lives. I still feel pride when I think of Chinese children breaking open their piggy banks to give what they could help those left homeless by the quake.

Most of all I am reminded that life is as precious as it is fragile and I write this to remind you on the 12th May to remember. To remember the humanity that this tragedy brought out in all of us and to celebrate life.

2.28pm, 12th May - Lean on your horn!

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Jury's still out on the Seesmic Desktop but it's chances are getting better.

If you've been following my twitter feed you'll know that since the Seesmic Desktop added Facebook integration and follow/ unfollow buttons on the latest version of their 'Preview" client I've made a concerted effort to give the app a fair go even though I've already said that I'm pretty much a Tweetdeck person. 

To give credit where credit is due though, the Seesmic Desktop is a really nice tool. Using it as my primary twitter client for the last couple of days I've found a number of features that are really quite useful that are deficient in Tweetdeck. 

First of all, the main reason I decided give Seesmic Desktop another chance was because in the latest update, it included the Facebook integration. As this was included in the latest Tweetdeck update too I wanted to see if it was a question of keeping up with the Joneses however the good folk at Seesmic have one upped Tweetdeck as it pulls not only status updates from Facebook but also wall posts and integrates images and screen grabs from links onto the window. Aesthetically it looks a lot more useful and informative especially since most people who only use Facebook (and don't update their Facebook profile via twitter) tend to update their status less frequently than they post links or images. 

The other area where Seesmic Desktop has one upped Tweetdeck is that it allows you to "like" a Facebook post. Tweetdeck so far only allows you to retweet a Facebook status update. I imagine the race is on to see which client will allow you to comment on posts via the client although I am not entirely sure this will be possible as the Facebook team still probably wants you to visit the site and click on their ads from time to time. 

Another feature I'd like to see is if either of the clients decides to integrate albums into the features then they will be delving into Orsiso territory which I still keep installed because it is by far still the most attractive way to view Facebook & Flickr albums all in one place. I imagine they won't do so though as it will just bloat the app too much.

The other feature that Seesmic have added in their latest update is the follow/ unfollow functions that appear in the "cog" icon when you roll over profile images which is a feature that I imagine was always on the cards but only just rolled out. All in all, as mentioned before, the Seesmic offering is much slicker than the Tweetdeck one and you'd think that switching over was just a matter of time. The problem that I come back to though is that aside from the features, I believe that for existing Tweetdeck users the issue is really desktop real estate. As you can see from the image, Tweetdeck still uses the entire screen for feeds but Seesmic has a left side column for the menu and the top side input box, both of which cannot be hidden at this stage. As a user who tends to squint at his 12.1 inch notebook from his bed rather than a 21 inch widescreen monitor, this little issue just makes Tweetdeck more efficient on the eyes. This would of course be much worse for people using netbooks with a mere 9 or 10 inches or screen space available.

So the jury is still out as to whether I will switch to Seesmic but I will continue give it a couple more days as my primary client to see if I can get used to it but the deal clincher for me will be if Seesmic Desktop will allow me to hide the input box and menus when I don't need it and which client will let me comment on Facebook first.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Apple Marketing Lesson 2: People don't want great products, they want sexy bad ones.

Not too long ago a wrote a post about the genius of Apple and the management of the product life cycle for the iPhone. This evening as I was skimming through my Google Reader, three of the best (in my opinion) gadget blogs, CrunchGear, Engadget and Gizmodo were running posts about the next generation iPhone having video editing capabilities.

Granted that this just is a rumour, but if this turns out to be true then I question whether Apple is actually that brilliant in their product management or are we, and the marketing departments every the other mobile phone company, completely retarded.

Video capabilities on the iPhone is only blogworthy because of it's absence in the current two iPhone models on the market. Both Sony Ericsson and Nokia's N-Series phones have had excellent photographic and video capabilities for years. Not that I see anyone carrying it around anymore but the Nokia N92 and N93i even looks like a camcorder.

As an amateur marketing critic, I can only conclude that if I wanted to develop and sell a product that will become the stuff of legends, the objective is not to design the best product that ever existed but instead to design something that falls just short of expectation, and then meet those expectations over an extended period.

Ive also realised that for Apple this is not a new strategy. Just think about other products they've launched in the past. Why didn't the old white MacBook have a full featured multi-touch touch pad like the MacBook Pro even though it could easily have been fixed with a software update? How many years did it take for the Mighty Mouse to come out and provide 2 button functionality? (even though loyal Mac users still continue to argue they don't need contextual menus)

Company's like Nokia or even Microsoft could learn from this valuable lesson.

Don't launch products that can do more. Design something that SHOULD be able to do more but don't and let the consumers pine for it.

Like I said before! Genius!

Monday, 27 April 2009

The future of Google and possibly life on this planet.

Just  yesterday, I got two invitations to connect via a social network. Not a big deal but that social network was Orkut. I can't remember when I signed up to Orkut but it must have been during my socialmediaholic stage. I first thought nothing of it but slowly but surely, like the liquid metal pieces of the evil android in Terminator II the pieces of Google's plot for complete internet domination is coming together.

I am a great supporter of a lot of Google's individual services. My main personal email address is a Gmail account and through that I can if I choose to use their GTalk IM service. I use Picasaweb along side Flickr and Photobucket. Some of the things that I don't use though are Orkut which sits in an odd market space. Not quite Linkedin but not quite Facebook either. Sort of like the poor cousin to Plaxo Pluse populated mostly by netizens from India. 

I use Google Reader religiously (mainly because it lets me read blogs that are otherwise blocked in China) and of course if you're reading this blog then you know that I also use Blogger which is also a Google Inc venture. At the back of your mind you know that this was all part of a huge strategy to take over the cyber-World but all these free services were just too damn convenient to ignore. Add to that Google Docs and you almost don't need to install any software on your computer.

Nothing seems new there but if you look at all these jigsaw pieces how would you put them together? Lets break them down:
  • Photo site with face recognition.
  • Blogging platform with blogger profile information.
  • Document/ spreadsheet manipulation and storage.
  • Social Network.
  • Instant Messaging (that includes Skype like VOIP)
  • Email (that can also support private domain names)
  • Google News.
  • Google image search.
  • Google Checkout.
and last but not least
  • Google Profiles.

Effectively this search engine company that promised us that they will "do no evil" has amassed the ingredients to completely control our online lives if it chooses to do so. To their credit, each functioning part of this online monster was launched and grown independently, like the individual arms and legs of a Voltron like manga robot but when they join together they appear to be some kind of undefeatable super robot. Imagine for a moment...

You check your Gmail, that is connected to your GTalk so you can be contacted by text or voice. Your news source also comes from the search aggregation of Google News that you get via your Google Reader. What you read is then shared with people who connect to you in Google Reader's shared items but also through Bloggers who follow your profile and whom you follow back. Eventually the people you follow join Orkut and put up personal information, photos etc like what people already do in Facebook. As the networks grow then become more interconnected. Your Google addessbook is the same as your IM list which then becomes the same as your Orkut friends who become the same people who subscribe to your Picasaweb albums. Oh and should I mention they probably have your credit card details too via Google Checkout.

Big deal I hear you scream. The danger is not the interconnectivity, it's the business that Google is in. Hoarding information. From Orkut it gets a piece of your personal information, from Picasaweb it learns what you, your family and friends look like and with geotagging they know where you've been. Your communications via GTalk and email are collected which is why you are given 7 Gig of storage space for free. Even Google Docs which is a better movement to public cloud computing than even Microsoft has out will be in the Google servers. Slowly slowly, bit by bit your identity from the smallest piece of sms to information on entire family trees will be collected, tagged and made searchable on Google's servers.

To top it all off, Google's new Profiles service lets you do all the hard work by linking all your social information onto one page.

All this story needs is a little bit of science fiction to make it scary.  

Remember when there was a little bit of hoo haa about adsense and context based advertising? Something that we now accept as the norm. The arguement against this was a privacy issue. We didn't want Google execs looking at our emails to put relevant ads into Gmail. Google told us only machines and algorithms were involved in the selection of contextual advertisements.

With so much of our information potentially hoarded by one company, how far are we really from developing artificial intelligence or at least those semi intelligent systems that form the basis of things like the Terminator, iRobot or Alien plot lines.

Don't laugh, when I was a kid, mobile phones were things that appeared in Star Trek and nobody knew what an email was. By the time my kids grow up, will the world be ruled by a machine?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Tweetdeck vs. Seesmic Desktop

Over the last couple of weeks since the release of the Seesmic Desktop, I've been pondering whether I would abandon the Tweetdeck and head back to the creators of Twhirl (my first twitter client). My decision is finally made although I'm hesitant to actually make any recommendations about the two clients for anyone who might come across this post. The reason is primarily because I don't think one is any better than the other. I feel that both clients tailor to a certain personality types and I happen to fall into the one that is more suited towards Tweetdeck. I will attempt to explain why.

Seesmic Desktop is a beautiful app. Nice colours, intuitive placement of clicks and buttons and the kicker is that it handles multiple twitter accounts. In addition to that it allows you to easily manipulate userlists, replies and DM's. With all this to offer you'd think that the Seesmic Racoon would be wiping the floor with Tweetdeck's Window's 2000 looking interface.

Thing is, although I've had Seesmic Desktop installed on my thinkpad for a couple of weeks now, when I want to take a stroll down Twitter street, I'll still invoke Tweetdeck.

I couldn't work it out. Tweetdeck is uglier, slower and harder to use. I thought I was becoming one those people who still still carry a filofax and coins for the phone booth, but when I took a look at the tweeps I follow, I found that a lot of them (folk who geek more than me and would definitely have access to the Seesmic Beta before me) are still twittering from Tweetdeck. This gave me peace of mind that I was not adoptively inept but also made me curious why I was settling for something that was less empirically appealing.

So why did I not jump ship to a much sexier vessel? I can only speak for myself but I think in comparison Tweetdeck has become (for me) the twitter client reflection of my personality. I don't know about you but my desk is messy. I am the kind of person who has no idea what to put into my desk drawers either. If you do see my desk and open one of the drawers you'll find a collection of old pens, some working, some not, lots of dust and mostly stuff I don't use. On my desk are the things I use every day, my working pens, documents and manuals I need daily access to as well as anything that I might be currently working on. This is a lot like the way I've configured Tweetdeck. I have a column for my China tweeps, a column for people I've actually met and a couple of searches such as #gfwlist or #shanghai. I know I can also achieve this with more efficiency and ease on Seesmic Desktop but it's not splattered on my screen the same way Tweetdeck does it. I know the horizontal scroll is annoying and the column view requires practice to include the vertical scroll bar but for me it's akin to looking for that document by scanning my desk rather than going to a well organised system of filing.

I have a feeling that I am not alone in living in a world of structure in the guise of chaos, as opposed to living in a chaoticly organised world. To me Tweetdeck represents my frame of mind. Everything on my desk and nothing in the drawers whereas Seesmic Desktop is the opposite. The Seesmic Desktop gives me what I need immediately and no more. If I want more I need to open a drawer. This analogy is further illustrated by the inclusion of facebook statuses, 12seconds videos and a host of other things that could happily sit in a drawer rather than on the desktop.

Having said all that I want to make it clear I am endorsing neither client and that I am simply telling you the insanity behind my choice. If you have more than one twitter account, Seesmic is the obvious choice. If you are an inherently tidy person (neat freak) then Seesmic is probably more appealing to you. If you are the kind of person who cleans, dries and puts away dishes in the kitchen while you're cooking then Seesmic is the client for you, but if you are like me and like large amounts information (relevant or otherwise) at the tip of your fingers instantly then more than likely you're a Tweekdeck person.

UPDATE: I have an old box at home that runs on Ubuntu and because there is no "alternative link" on the Tweetdeck site, I'm running Seesmic Desktop on it. I have to admit that I miss my Facebook Updates. I also installed Orsiso on the Ubuntu box and realised that my Social Circle syncs between my desktop and my notebook. Very cool!

P.S. @tweetdeck: If there is a non-flash download link, do let me know on @dedlam

UPDATE 2: Finally got Tweetdeck installed on my Ubuntu box. I must say that it looks and performs exactly the same as on my XP notebook. Seesmic has some rendering problems and is now idle on the desktop as a backup to Tweetdeck.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Rationalizing my personal blogging

I recently took a look at my blogging presence on the web and realized that the last couple of posts that I have echoed over my blogs have been, well pretty boring to be honest. Somewhat like being forced to watch a holiday slideshow of someone you neither know nor really care about. When I looked further back to some of my earlier stuff it was less personal and more insightful and actually better to read.
So in my effort to compartmentalize my cyber personality I have decided to separate my blogging over a couple of different places.
First of all is my Blogger blog. This as my first blog and even though it is the ugliest it shall remain about non-personal issues, be it technology, China or politics, it will most likely end up there. (
My other blog is which will I will try to turn into my mobile blog. Inevitably the posts will be shorter and will hopefully contain more dodgy photos from my phone and give you a peek at what I see day to day.
Lastly, as I try to improve my photography skills I have just set up (which is still under construction). Hopefully this will become like a gallery. Don't expect to see happy snaps there because I have Flickr and Picasa to fill those needs. Hopefully this will be more of an artistic experience rather than picture of my son's new haircut.
So that's my online persona rationalized. Eventually as my Chinese improves I'll make use of my Blogbus account but until then, depending on what you as interested in I'll be posting on those 3 personal spaces plus the occasional piece and of course random brain dumps on I realize this is a big commitment so bear with me over the next couple of post and I'll see you on the other side.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Easter Weekend in Beijing

Having spend most of the last nine years in Shanghai, I've taken countless trips to Beijing over the years, but this last Easter weekend was the first time I ever went there as a tourist....(If you want to see the rest of this post, click here. It just looks prettier there) 

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lady in a Red Jacket

Once again I couldn't resist taking a random iPhone shot of this woman
in the Metro in this bright red jacket. I hope you like my little
Photoshop Shake'n'Bake.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Skype on the iPhone. What's all the fuss about?

If you've been following me on twitter then you'll already know that shortly after Mashable announced that Skype for iPhone was on iTunes, I very quickly downloaded my own version. To my dismay though after installing it on my iPhone I couldn't get it to work. I was racking my brain as to why this was so. 

To be honest my first thought was that Skype had done the Pandora trick and made it exclusive to folks in the US but upon checking twitter, I found a tweet from @illuminateceo, who is Beijing who's said
Skype for iPhone 3G working fine 4 me from Beijing on WiFi. It's impressive, actually. Very iPhoney, very Skypey, and no wooop start sound
so that ruled out the regional restrictions.

My next was to look on Twitter Search (as you can see for issue such as these, I default to Twitter rather than Google). I found a comment that perhaps Clippy was the cause for my woes. So firstly I toggled off Clippy in from SBSettings. No Effect. Secondly I uninstalled it from Cydia. This also had no effect. Each time I tried to run Skype I would get the splash screen for exactly 5 seconds and then it would close and return to the Springboard. To cut a long story short (the long story can be found here) I ended up restoring my iPhone and starting with a clean slate. Having done so Skype worked "as advertised" with pretty call quality but not noticeably better than with Fring or Nimbuzz. It was only after I did all this did I discover from @eChinacities of a blog post by @zachnfine that explains that for Jailbroken iPhones I can get Skype to work in Safe Mode.

This leads me to the whole point of VOIP on the iPhone. The one thing that hobbles the iPhone compared to a Windows Mobile device (and incidentally makes the iPhone a lot more stable) is the inability for programs to run the background. Sure on a jailbroken iPhone you can install Backgrounder but it's really only a band-aid that doesn't really allow for multi-tasking. 

So for those who want to know, the Skype app is pretty good. The call quality is good and it includes all the features you'd expect. The main problem is that it can't run in the background so in the same way you'd use Skype on your computer or even on a Windows Mobile device, which put simply, if the device is asleep in your pocket, you can't receive calls. You can't keep it online to receive internet calls and if you want to keep your iPhone jailbroken you actually have to switch to safe mode to make a call. I'm not just talking about Skype. I'm referring to Palringo, Nimbuzz, Fring and any IM/VOIP app you might want to develop. Don't get me wrong, if you want to take advantage of the cheap calls/ free internet calls have to offer, then the Skype app will probably meet your needs but if you're looking for something that will enable Skype to be as functional on your iPhone as it is on your computer, then you're barking up the wrong device.

That's all I have to say at this stage. Now I have decide to break my iPhone back out of jail.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Saturday, 28 March 2009

I just love it when a mistake turns out great

This is a shot of my son with all the setting wrong on my camera.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Free VPN

Or it could be just a proxy but whatever was it worked. Click here to see what I am talking about

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Free GFW workaround

本文将提供一种一劳永逸的翻墙方式(ssh -D),实施之后,那道墙——对你来说——将从此透明。








下载并安装MyEntunnel,该软件全名为My Encrypted Tunnel。







为MyEntunnel创建一个快捷方式,将其复制到系统的【启动】(C:\Documents and Settings\当前用户名(需要修改成你自己的)\「开始」菜单\程序\启动)文件夹中,今后开机便可自动启动软件,并自动连接服务器。







点击立即安装,安装后,重新启动Firefox。然后你会看到如下对话框,选择gfwlist (P.R.China)后,点击确定。






随即出现如下画面,你会看到如GAppProxy、Tor和Your Freedom这样一系列代理服务器名称。









Monday, 23 March 2009

Off Tianshan Road

Being early for an appointment with a camera brings with it some
interesting opportunities. I had a meeting near Tianshan Road & Hami
Road in Shanghai. That part of town on the surface is all construction
and dust but, as with most of Shanghai if you look beyond the surface,
you find the lives under the construction dust.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Spring is in the air

Every year I look forward to the arrival of spring and the blooming of
flowers in Shanghai, something that either doesn't happen or I didn't
notice in Sydney. Here are some images of the first blooms of spring

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous