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April 30, 2014

2014 Tech Theme -> Inclusion

Tags: Everyday Life — 10:33 am Comments (1)

Over the years, the tech industry has had some lovely tech themes: Killer Apps, the Web, Search, Portals and Vortals, Dynamic HTML, Personalization, Verticals, Everywhere, Web 2.0, Web services, mashups, Digital Divide, Mobile, Location, HTML5, the Cloud, Apps, and now we’re looking at “Wearables” and “Contextual”.

Mitch Kapor and seemingly the tech scene in Oakland are pushing for the tech theme of Inclusion and I’m right there with him.  Doesn’t have to replace our fascination with wearables or context (e.g. Siri or Google Now), but it should be one of the themes that we carry forward.

Who are we including as our customers, as part of our development team, as part of our projects, as part of our investors? Are we valuing diversity? Are we equipping minorities with the training, tools, access, opportunities, money/resources to thrive or lean in? The truth is we’re missing out on a lot when we’re not being inclusive.

(what diversity in tech should/could look like)

Look for “Inclusion” or #Inclusion or include or inclusivity, etc. Inclusion is a tech theme you can be proud to be associated with, to be thinking about, and a nice theme to move forward.



Home monitor/computer and Home storage device

Tags: Everyday Life — 1:37 am Comments (0)

*drafty*

In the next 5 to 10 years or so, we’ll have a “home monitor” or “home computer” and a home storage device as a part of our homes much like a thermostat, heater, A/C, etc.

Home energy storage is an easy concept — big battery is charged from the electrical grid or solar panels on the home and essentially runs the electricity for the house and helps keep the home off the grid or helps a home be more efficient by powering it up during peak hours. This is one of the reasons why Tesla seems to be more than just an electric car company. A Tesla battery in every home and business? Sounds pretty cool to me.

The home monitor/computer (needs a better name) is going to be a little bit harder to define and it can go a couple ways. The first way is as an extension of the NEST and becomes that connected device that monitors *everything* about a house, temperature, water usage, water quality, air quality, security, and electrical usage. The next is the ability to manage each (automatic turn on/off/regulate) for appliances and lighting, temperature, etc. But how great would it be to know air quality and water quality in your house at all times. I’d love that, I’m sure others would too.

We’re moving into the phase where there are connected devices doing that one thing and doing it really well like a NEST thermostat or smoke detector, or one of those smartphone door locks, or one of many connected security systems. There are devices that exist that already do some of the “smart home” functions — pricey though. And then you could even plug your car into the home monitor to make sure everything is running smoothly. Lots of possibilities.

The other way this could go is the home computer/home server where a home server manages all the computers and data for the home, all the photos, music, videos, documents, online accounts and entertainment that serves as the method to keep the main files, serve as a backup, and also as the intermediary to a cloud back up service. Some of this is available now but haven’t seen a clean Apple-like solution.

The home server feels like one of the cleaner ways to manage a household where everyone (2+ people) has a computer and a smartphone and possibly another device like a tablet and then another couple of tvs in the home and a few music devices. In a shared household environment, where’s the main file (that photo, that music file, that video, that contract) that everyone can use? Alternatively, those files could be all on Dropbox, Google Cloud, iCloud, SkyDrive, somewhere else in the sky?

Where’s the primary file? What device can I access it from? Can I cache/store it on that device? Is that file backed up? Is that file backed up to the cloud? Digital hoarding at it’s finest or just where we are these days with tech assets.

Going through the user experience is best when considering the most important files you own/store, so likely photos, music, videos, and certain documents.

 

 



November 26, 2013

cork floors

Tags: Home Improvement — 7:39 pm Comments (0)

L1020395

I installed some cork floors in our condo at Kirkwood this year (kitchen last year, living room and dining room this year). We bought the panels from Ecohome Improvement. The cork floors are manufactured by Qu-Cork (Carina) and it was a lot easier to install that I thought. Didn’t turn out too badly. Now we have to see how well they’ll last given the foot traffic of snowboard boots and ski boots.



Is agency the next big thing?

Tags: Everyday Life — 4:18 pm Comments (0)

I was going to write this last week but it looks like the concept might be coming up again given this article per Mozilla’s new hire and the concept of smart agent.

Basically the idea is this: the web is moving towards becomes a better agent. It takes the concept of the web browser as “user-agent” and really becoming an agent that works for you much like a real estate agent, travel agent, concierge, financial adviser, etc. In order for this to happen though, there needs to be a deeper relationship, the agent needs to know you better in order to give better advice and ultimately act for you.

Early Realization

Google Now, Siri, Pandora’s results matching, Amazon’s recommendations are all early implementations in the realm of personal assistant. Motorola Assist is another example as it knows when you’re driving, having a meeting, or going to sleep in order to make recommendations for you. The initial phase is gathering the information, finding out what people are doing, and then building services around those actions. When the agent can actually act for you, buy that product for you, book that flight for you, make the reservation for your  wedding anniversary dinner at your favorite restaurant, that’s when we might have something.

Evolving from…

Where is this evolving from? The concepts are “personalization” which we’ve seen with My Yahoo!, iGoogle, NetVibes; recommendation engines from services like Pandora, Amazon, and loads of other web sites; the notion of likes and having a “likes” database that could power better recommendations; avatars and the creation of mini-me type experiences on the web; if this then that type of services; identity, signing into a web browser and knowing history and bookmarks; and, web services in general that are talking to each other and they’re letting us be our own real estate agents and travel agents. The next step is better recommendations, actual transactions, and then our interaction with our agent is maybe just the confirmation of the transaction.

For example…

tbd…and that’s why the concept of a “real” agent is hard. But a real agency works when you have a deep relationship with your agent and he/she knows you. Can you take that to browsers, the web, and do you want Google, Apple, or somebody else developing the agent that’s really going to work for you?

And ultimately, I’d love to be able to give my “agent” $1,000 and have it make me some money (should’ve bought some bitcoins)…

 



November 19, 2013

test

Tags: Everyday Life — 12:06 pm Comments (0)




November 12, 2013

Tesla Model S

Tags: Cars — 11:29 pm Comments (0)

Tesla Model S

2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year

The two questions are: should you buy a Tesla car (yes) and the second, should you buy TSLA stock (also a yes)!

For the latter, I look at market cap, product line, ability to deliver, future revenue opportunities, leadership/vision/intangibles (and balance sheets of course). Tesla makes a damn good looking car and they’ve only really made one (and they got into the NUMMI plant for a song). If you think they’ll make more and better cars to more markets around the world and that they’re just beginning and that they’re market cap of 16.7BB is low compared to Audi, GM, Ford, or Toyota, then you should buy their stock.

Telsa is limited by product line and production, not demand. That’s a good position. My target for TSLA stock is $250.



November 8, 2013

Firefox or Chrome, what’s the difference?

9 years ago

Lifehacker has an article Which is Better: Chrome or Firefox?  It’s funny because my kid  asked a similar question two days ago.

What’s the difference between Firefox and Chrome? And this is more or less what I told him:

The way the Web and browsers work is you can choose any web browser you want. With the Web, you choose what application you want to make web pages with and choose whatever you want to view it, that’s just how it works or supposed to work. Great right?

Browsers consist of the backend, frontend, and services. Firefox is based on Gecko, Chrome is based on Webkit, same with Safari, and other browsers have different browser engines. The different browser engines have different components to parse through the HTML, images, JavaScript, etc and they build the Web page. Some browser engines render pages faster than others, some do it more “correctly” to the Web standards, and others have experimental features. That’s why I like using the Nightly builds of Firefox, and I’ve been using Nightlies since 2001 so neither Firefox nor Chrome for me.

Next part is the front end and that’s all the features and look and feel that help you browse the web. Some of these features are like tabbed browsing, or bookmarks, a download manager, or add-ons. So if you think the browser backends are more or less equal, you can choose from how the browser looks and what features you might like better.

Finally, these browsers integrate different services. Chrome integrates a lot of Google services and some people like that so they choose Google (if it’s actually a choice and not shoved down their throats some other way). Firefox doesn’t have as many services tied into the browser as Google which can be either good or bad depending on what you like. Firefox is more feel good and more about the Web where Google is more of a Google-centric view of the Web.

For what it’s worth, I worked on Firefox (and shipped 9 years ago tomorrow) but feel free to choose what you want.

 



November 7, 2013

Veblen Index

Tags: Everyday Life — 1:48 pm Comments (0)

Placeholder.

Thinking about a Veblen Index, companies that maximize the theory of the leisure class such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay etc. In essence, these companies are middlemen, they don’t really make anything (physical goods), they don’t have any inventory, but they facilitate transactions like nobody else.

Companies that maximize middleman transactions.

The alternative is a Veblen Index that looks at companies that make “Veblen goods” or luxury goods.



October 9, 2013

better with use

Tags: Everyday Life — 11:11 am Comments (0)

[placeholder]

“Better with use” should be a bigger theme and a greater emphasis/focus within the tech industry. The components of “better with use” are there with the concepts of personalization, history, recommendation engines, identity/single sign-on, “sticky” features like bookmarks but the feeling of better with use hasn’t crystallized. Part of the issue is the need for the industry to innovate and to show newness (to sell more stuff and to IPO/flip and IPO again) and it’s hard to show age and wear with software when you’re continually redesigning and introducing new features at a rapid rate. It’s also just hard to show age/wear with software in general.

Products that are Better with Use

There are lots of products that become better with use such as: cast iron skillets/cookware, woks, leather saddles (other leather products like bags, baseball mitts), denim jeans, suits and other clothes, shoes, linen sheets, musical instruments, and cars.

Some products need to be “broken in”, some build a patina that can help protect the product and give it some character, other products when used look better than new. And sometimes new products are created to look used and worn because the worn/used look is valued more like designer jeans.

Software that’s Better with Use

Installing the Concept



October 4, 2013

evaluating solar panels

Tags: Home Improvement — 9:17 am Comments (0)

As much as we want a solar panel system for our house, they’re still not currently priced where it makes economic sense for us — solar panel systems are still too expensive for the amount of energy that we use. I’m hung up on solar because they’re really cool and it just feels like the right thing to do (invest in). But it’s really hard to justify given their current expense.

We received a quote a couple years ago for 16 175 Watt, BP solar panels which would generate 3,529 kWh a year or 294 kWh a month average. We fluctuate between 170 to 360 kWh but we usually stay under 300 kWh a month and average in the 240-250 kWh range for the year. Homes of our size are in the 400 to 600 kWh range so an average of 500 kWh.

On the finances side, we’re looking at $36 a month electricity bill or $440 for the year. The cost estimate for a 16 panel solar system was $20,000 which would go down to $14,000 after the state rebate and Federal tax credit.

I like 7 – 10 year break evens which would mean the cost of the solar panel system would have to be in the $3,000-$4,000 range which is in the range of installing an HVAC system or tankless hot water system so not far fetched that one day it’ll be this cheap to install. The $14,000 is about $10,000 more than we could financially justify. From a “save the earth” perspective, our efforts to continue to conserve energy (LED lights, insulation, programmable thermostat, efficient windows, efficient appliances) is still the better way to go.

It’s possible that we’ll increase our electricity usage and of course we’re at risk for electrical rate increases, but at this time solar panels still need to go down in price unless we make it a DIY project and buy and install solar panels ourselves. For $3,000, DIY would make sense. Given the interest in solar companies though, solar panel systems will get cheaper as more panels are available and made cheaper and more companies are available to install them.

Some links:



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