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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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June 29, 2007 7:34 PM

Would you like fries with that iPhone?

Posted by Brier Dudley

There was a surprise for people who waited in line for hours to buy an iPhone at the AT&T store on Capitol Hill - you couldn't get one unless you also bought a minimum of $50 worth of accessories.

People in line found out when it was loudly (and profanely) disclosed by a few of the first buyers when they emerged from the store after 6 p.m.

Everyone still seemed happy and excited about the new gadget, but the bundling and the slow checkout process toned things down a bit. I saw a few tense jaws as people waited for the bogged-down systems to approve their unexpectedly full shopping bags.

The clerks said you had to buy a case and a car charger. The cheapest case was $19.99 and the cheapest charger was $29.99.

I protested, and the clerk had a ready response. The case is "ultimately going to protect your phone" and "you'll want a backup charger,'' which sounds ominous.

She also confirmed that I can bring them back for a refund within 14 days, which is absolutely going to happen.

Was it really worth the extra bucks to dampen the mood? It seems to me that the surprise bundling will cost AT&T some good will with all these new customers.

Altogether it cost me $706.74 to get out of the store with an 8 gigabyte iPhone. Next I have to activate the phone and choose between AT&T service plans that range from $59.99 to $219.99 a month.

I joined the line at about 3 p.m. and was 19th. The first batch of people went in right at 6 p.m. (a security guard in a suit let people in a few at a time as spots opened up), but the purchasing was going slow and I didn't get in until 7. The process sent you to an adviser/greeter doing demos while you waited for a salesperson to become available. That took another five minutes, and I finally got out of the store at 7:15.

The device feels a bit like one of those old lighter-fluid fueled chrome handwarmers. I'll write more after I've fired it up.

For people wanting to buy one immediately, the Capitol Hill store had about 100 phones and when I left it sounded like it would all be taken by the people who had waited in line.

You can go to the stores until 10 tonight and through the weekend, but you'll probably have to place an order and have the phone sent to your house. They'll take about three days to arrive, according to the clerks.

It will be awhile before AT&T stores, or at least the one I visited, will have more iPhones to buy and carry out. There are more in the warehouses, but they are going to be sent first to the people placing orders for phones to be delivered. After those orders are fulfilled, the stores will get more stock, a clerk told me. Maybe next week, maybe later?

If you don't have one by now, don't be sad. You've got a little time to shop around and choose whether or not you buy the extras.

Comments | Category: Apple |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 29, 2007 3:59 PM

A Capitol Hill iPhone moment

Posted by Brier Dudley

At the corner of Broadway and Pike, where about 40 people are waiting outside an AT&T store to buy iPhones, a woman with dreadlocks and tatooed ankles showing beneath a vintage skirt, walked by pushing an old 10-speed bike.

"Are you guys waiting in line for a phone? That's weird,'' she said.

Then she hollered at the top of her lungs: "I love geeks!"

For the record, they're not all guys in line, but mostly. I wonder if I'm seeing an accurate reflection of the demographic of early iPhone buyers.

Of the 40 or so people in line, most are white guys between the ages of 25 and 45 and more than a few are wearing jeans and black shirts, just like Steve Jobs.

(I'm wearing a hot purple raincoat I bought at a used clothing store around the corner on Broadway for $5; I wasn't prepared to be out in the weather, and it was that or a burgundy Member's Only jacket for $16.)

Approximately 10 of the 40 are women and maybe eight are black or Asian. There's also a chihuahua.

The word from management is there are more than enough phones -- even 8 gigabyte models -- for the assembled crowd.

An AT&T guy just carried in a stack of Domino's pizzas that they'll munch during the 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. closure when they'll prepare for sales to begin at 6.

That's just crazy when you're a block away from Via Tribunali.

Comments | Category: Apple |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 29, 2007 11:20 AM

Another take on Microsoft bloggers

Posted by Brier Dudley

I didn't like the headline I put on yesterday's blog entry about Microsoft bloggers.

If you read the whole entry, you may be left with the impression that at least one of those bloggers writes some interesting stuff. That was my intent but it may have been too subtle, or overwhelmed by the snarky headline.

Here's what I think about blogs written by Microsoft employees.

If you're looking for breaking news and real dirt on the company, look somewhere else.

But if you're looking for technical information, Microsoft perspectives on technology trends and a better understanding of the people who make up the company, they can be great.

I agree with Penny Arcade's Jerry Holkins that you have to be skeptical about the source and question how much the blogs are influenced directly or indirectly by the Microsoft politburo.

On the other hand, Microsoft should get credit for loosening up and giving employees latitude to blog on and off the clock. It employs lots of smart people with interesting ideas that would never be shared with the world if they had to be channeled through the traditional PR machine.

Despite hits like Holkins' blog entry, it seems to be a clever move to allow the blogging. It engages and humanizes the company and it tells employees that the company trusts them to be responsible.

The blogs also create opportunities for the general public to influence the company and potentially the design of products they'll end up using by communicating directly and publicly with employees. How many big companies make it easy to discuss products with the people building them?

You can say their message is diluted by association with Microsoft, but I think it's refreshing to know exactly where those bloggers are coming from.

I get tired of trying to figure out the alliances and business relationships of high-profile tech bloggers. Are they influenced by their own circle of cursed megaliths? You can't always tell, so you have to be skeptical with all of them.

I'm not clarifying yesterday's post because I was influenced by anyone or biased for or against the company. Nobody said anything to me about it, other than the voices in my head that are always debating the lameness of what I've written.

For reference, here's a small sample of blogs emanating from Redmond that I think are informative and/or fun:

Doug's World
Charlie Owen
Don Dodge on the Next Big Thing
Fimoculous, by Rex Sorgatz
John Lam on Software
Kim Cameron's Identity Weblog
Jason Matusow's Blog
Charles Fitzgerald's Platformnomics
The Microsoft open source lab's Port 25
Adam Barr's Proudly Serving My Corporate Masters
Sean Alexander's Addicted to Digital Media
Somasegar's WebLog
Windows Vista Team Blog

Comments | Category: Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 28, 2007 1:21 PM

ShackPrices.com gets serious

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Seattle online real estate startup changed its name today to Estately.com and launched a real estate agent referral service.

I told co-founder Galen Ward that I sort of liked the old name. His response:

ShackPrices was fun, but in an overly polarizing kind of way, especially for those who didn't fancy their "shack" being on our site.

Comments | Category: Startups |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 28, 2007 12:25 PM

Debating lameness of Microsoft blogs

Posted by Brier Dudley

There's a great crosstown conversation going on between Penny Arcade's Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, who ranted yesterday about Microsoft having bad marketing and lame blogs, and David Weller, community manager of Microsoft's game technology group.

From Holkins' blog post:

As for their blogger phalanx which encircles the web, their position as explicit partisans dilutes their message automatically. Unless you are searching for quantifiable facts like release dates or raw platform orthodoxy, their editorial content is understood to emanate from that circle of cursed megaliths in Redmond.

Weller fired back with a definitive treatise on the mindset of Microsoft bloggers. It probably applies to a lot bloggers who appreciate candor but value their day jobs more than scoring bonus points in the blogosphere.

Weller's piece could be used by companies developing guidelines for employee blogs. He ought to turn it into a book on how to blog in a big company.

Samples from Weller's response:

Plain and simple: I'm in an "at will" relationship with my employer. At any time, Microsoft can simply say, "Your services are no longer needed" and walk me out the door. They don't even have to say, "We're offended you used the word 'poop' in a recent blog post." Frankly, that's not something a middle-aged guy like me relishes, so my first thought about my blogging is, "Will this significantly increase my odds of getting fired?" If so, then it's best I probably don't blog about it. Sure, you can say that makes me some kind of corporate whipping boy, but unlike the popular perception about Microsoft employees, the truth is that I'm an underpaid employee with a mortgage and family responsibilities. That tempers what I say no matter where I work. Many times, I envy your ability to hurl f-bombs with biting humor, and get paid in the process of doing it (well, I'm assuming you get paid :-). I know for a fact my career would be short-lived if I blogged like you do here at Microsoft. But it'd be equally short-lived if I was at Nintendo or Sony too. I'm in a glass house, so I think I've wisely replaced all the rocks with nerf balls. I think you would honestly do the same.

Weller also offers tips about how to give Microsoft constructive criticism:

It's difficult for me to figure out how I can take action on, "Man, your Xbox 360 sucks!" versus, "I really enjoy X experience on the PS3, I wish your Xbox would do this."

Describing his cautious blogging approach, he sounds like a lot of Microsoft employees I've talked to online and off:

Don't ask us to give away confidential information. It doesn't work. I love my job more than I love giving you the "inside scoop." But when I _can_ talk about something that excites me, you can bet I'll blab about it as soon as I can!

Weller also defended Microsoft blogging in general:

Keep in mind that we're a LOT more open than our competitors. Microsoft literally has thousands of bloggers showing their passion in their own voice every day. Yeah, there's a few blogs that are what you could call "benign marketing blogs," but it's an incredibly small number. Compare us to Nintendo, Sony, Apple, or Google. We win in transparency, hands down, but we seem to be held to a higher standard. Still, I'm more than willing to meet that standard.

Now that's a penny for your thoughts.

Comments | Category: Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 28, 2007 11:52 AM

Rockstar Games should hire this guy

Posted by Brier Dudley

I've found the perfect spokesman for Rockstar's upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV: Jesse James Toro II.

Despite his awesome name, Toro doesn't sound like a criminal and he didn't steal anything. But he's got the skills.

At the very least, Rockstar should give GTA a Toromobile: A White Cadillac STS, with Glockmarks.

Jamieson's piece today describes a scene right out of the notorious game series:

The two vehicles tore down Denny Way, then headed north onto Aurora Avenue. Toro reached speeds over 100 mph. The Ford, a sport utility vehicle, struggled to keep up.

Moments later, Toro, who has a concealed weapons permit, took aim and shot out the tires of the officers' car.

Whoa. That's better than the new GTA trailer.

Comments | Category: Games & entertainment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 28, 2007 10:58 AM

AMZN vet to run News Corp/NBC YouTube killer

Posted by Brier Dudley

Jason Kilar, who launched Amazon.com's video business, will run the YouTube killer hatched by the old guard media companies.

NBC announced today that Kilar, 36, will be the Los Angeles-based venture's chief executive, reporting to NBC Universal President Jeff Zucker and News Corp. President Peter Chernin.

Chernin's quote in the release:

"Jason's product and consumer expertise in the world of e-commerce is arguably unrivaled in this business and gives him a great insight into what it takes to create a superior user interface. We already have access to world-class content and near ubiquitous distribution, and the next step is marrying it with the features and tools that will help define the ideal user experience for video content on the web. We think Jason is the ideal person to lead that effort."

From 1997 to 2006, Kilar rose to vice president and general manager of Amazon's North American media business that includes sales of books, music, video and DVDs. The release notes that Kilar "originally wrote the business plan for Amazon's entry into the video and DVD businesses."

NBC's release said the video service will debut later this year with "thousands of hours of full-length programming, movies and clips from myriad networks and two major film studios and with an unparalleled reach. With distribution partners AOL, CNET, Comcast, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo!, the new venture will have access to 98 percent of the monthly U.S. unique users on the Internet."


Jason Kilar.

Source: NBC Universal

Comments | Category: Amazon.com , Digital media |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 27, 2007 5:06 PM

No fallout from UW's Apple iPhone blog post

Posted by Brier Dudley

A few commenters suggested last week that UW technology integration architect Tony Chang be flayed for sharing information about developing iPhone applications, but it's not going to happen.

Chang caused a minor flap last week when he shared information from Apple's recent developer conference. After being told that the information was secret, the UW removed the blog post, but not before it was spotted.

There were no repercussions. Chang's job is safe, and Apple hasn't said anything to the UW about the transgression, according to Chang's boss, Oren Sreebny, executive director of the school's emerging technology group.

Sreebny said the positive outcome is the group learned to be more circumspect on its blog.

I was glad Chang made the post not just because he shared timely information gathered on the public's dime, but because it introduced me to the emerging technology group.

It's a three-person unit started in January to look at upcoming technologies and help the school's computing and communications IT group prepare and strategize.

Sreebny said they're looking "just over the horizon at what's coming soon that's likely to be useful in our environment."

The group is helping push out the campus wireless network, exploring online services and studying whether the school ought to create its own social networking service.

It's also monitoring hardware needs. Recent surveys indicated that about 20 percent of faculty and staff are using Web capable devices such as smartphones and Blackberries, a number that Sreebny expects to grow to more than 50 percent within two years. Student usage of Web capable devices is lower and probably limited by cost.

As for computer usage on the campus, the group found that about 20 percent of the faculty uses Macs and even fewer students use them. Students are price sensitive, which is also why Sreebny's not expecting a huge takeup of the iPhone at the school.

Sreebny said that while students may have laptops and wireless network access, they often opt to leave the computers in their rooms rather than lug them around.

Comments | Category: Apple , Education |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 26, 2007 6:03 PM

More to life than the iPhone, apparently

Posted by Brier Dudley

Check the most-read story lists at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times this evening, after they posted the first reviews of the iPhone.

From the WSJ:
1. Poison Ivy Becomes More Potent
2. Testing Out the iPhone
3. Summer Flying Turns Ugly
4. Accident Sparks Concern Over Chinese Tires
5. Commentary: Roberts Rules

From the NYT:
1. Rome Journal: Rome Welcomes Tourism Con Brio, but Not Too Much
2. Study Says Chatty Doctors Forget Patients
3. From a Few Genes, Life's Myriad Shapes
4. Study on I.Q. Prompts Debate on Family Dynamics
5. Humans Have Spread Globally, and Evolved Locally
6. Essay: Darwin Still Rules, but Some Biologists Dream of a Paradigm Shift
7. Op-Ed Contributor: Chocolate Fake
8. State of the Art: The iPhone Matches Most of Its Hype
9. Defenders of Secrets, Unite!
10. Editorial: Three Bad Rulings

Apparently people care more about healthcare.

Update: I spoke too soon. Today the iPhone reviews top the charts. If the most-read lists are a reliable indicator, people care more about the iPhone than healthcare, troubles in the Middle East, etc.

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June 26, 2007 5:27 PM

Mike Slade's not the only 777 VC birthday boy

Posted by Brier Dudley

Rustic Canyon partner Jon Staenberg will also be celebrating his birthday on July 7, 2007.

It sounds like Staenberg will be celebrating his 47th somewhere in the 707 area code -- the California wine country that includes Napa Valley -- while Mike Slade rocks out at the Showbox.

What I want to know is if there are any Boeing folks with 777 birthdays.

Comments | Category: Entrepreneurs |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 26, 2007 3:44 PM

Mossberg and Pogue like the iPhone, but ....

Posted by Brier Dudley

In the first reviews out of the gate, the iPhone received somewhat mixed reviews from the two highest profile Apple fans in the country.

Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal's influential columnist and avowed Apple fan, called the iPhone a "breakthrough handheld computer" but said its typing feature doesn't work as well as a BlackBerry.

New York Times' reviewer and Mac enthusiast David Pogue said it's great but also flawed:

As it turns out, much of the hype and some of the criticisms are justified. The iPhone is revolutionary; it's flawed. It's substance; it's style. It does things no phone has ever done before; it lacks features found even on the most basic phones.

Pogue gushed about the screen and the device in general, but his comment about the phone functionality really stood out:

Making a call, though, can take as many as six steps: wake the phone, unlock its buttons, summon the Home screen, open the Phone program, view the Recent Calls or speed-dial list, and select a name. Call quality is only average, and depends on the strength of your AT&T signal.

It looks and feels great, Walt said, but he was critical of the "pokey" AT&T EDGE network. The phone also has built-in W-iFi, Mossberg and co-reviewer Katherine Boehret wrote, "But this Wi-Fi capability doesn't fully make up for the lack of a fast cellular data capability, because it is impractical to keep joining and dropping short-range Wi-Fi networks while taking a long walk, or riding in a cab through a city."

The device is "simply beautiful" and Walt overcame his skepticism about the touchscreen, though it's not perfect:

In general, we found this interface, called "multi-touch," to be effective, practical and fun. But there's no overall search on the iPhone (except Web searching), and no quick way to move to the top or bottom of pages (except in the Web browser). The only aid is an alphabetical scale on the right in tiny type.

There's also no way to cut, copy, or paste text.

And the lack of dedicated hardware buttons for functions like phone, e-mail and contacts means extra taps are needed to start using features. Also, if you are playing music while doing something else, the lack of hardware playback buttons forces you to return to the iPod program to stop the music or change a song.

Keyboard: The virtual keys are large and get larger as you touch them. Software tries to guess what you're typing, and fix errors. Overall, it works. But the error-correction system didn't seem as clever as the one on the BlackBerry, and you have to switch to a different keyboard view to insert a period or comma, which is annoying."

Most interesting to me is how Walt's review focused on the device primarily as a pocket computer.

Also, the concerns about call quality and the touchscreen typing will probably raise enough concern among CIOs that they'll wait before authorizing too many iPhone purchases at their companies.

Although the reviews are generally positive, the niggling concerns of Mossberg and Pogue could also make a lot of consumers think twice before making the big investment that an iPhone requires.

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 26, 2007 2:00 PM

Google antitrust complaint ends with a thud

Posted by Brier Dudley

After all the hoopla over Google's antitrust complaint against Microsoft, today's court hearing was absolutely anticlimactic.

The feds and the state attorneys general had disagreed on whether Google's complaint was significant, but in the end they all accepted Microsoft's offer to modify Vista and be sure PC makers can preload them with Google's hard-drive search tool.

As expected, the judge basically said she doesn't want to reopen the case against Microsoft and favors the compromise. Google and the states are still making threatening noises and some details have to be worked out, but this episode is over.

Bottom line, Google made a stink about Microsoft, raised the Netscape bogeyman and won a concession. (Just like Microsoft raised a stink about Google's DoubleClick acquisition and got the feds to investigate whether it's anticompetitive.)

But what about the consumers that these antitrust proceedings are supposed to protect?

They'll continue to get extraneous software stuffed onto new PCs by computer companies hawking desktop real estate to the likes of Google and Yahoo!

There's already a backlash against the "crapware" cluttering new computers. It was strong enough that Dell last week began letting consumers decide when configuring a new machine whether they want all this extra software.

Still, Dell isn't giving a consumers choice when it comes to Google add-ons. The search company paid Dell $1 billion to preload its software onto new PCs from 2006 to 2009.

That must be another reason Google was trying to get prosecutors to extend Microsoft's antitrust oversight. The last of the oversight will expire in 2009, just as Google's deal with Dell is up for renewal.

It seems the onus is now on Google to make its add-ons so compelling that consumers will seek them out and download them willingly after 2009.

Doesn't that seem like a better approach than paying PC makers to thrust potentially intrusive software onto consumers with the blessing of antitrust regulators?

That competition should push Microsoft to keep improving Windows so consumers will feel like they're getting a complete package for their $129.

Consumers would benefit the most if the government let rich software companies fight their own battles, and directed antitrust regulators to go finally go after oil and telecommunications companies.

I guess we'll see what happens in 2009.

Comments | Category: Google , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 25, 2007 4:35 PM

Hypeless in Seattle: No Craigslist iPhone trend here

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mac priest Leander Kahney threw a bone to bloggers desparate for iPhone tidbits, saying on Saturday that fanatics are hiring people through Craigslist to wait in line for iPhones.

CNET amplified the story today with a sample of iPhone line ads.

I'm not sure if it means anything, but there's practically none of that silliness happening in the Seattle area.

Probably motivated by Kahney's post, someone in Olympia posted an ad on Sunday saying they would wait in line, with bids for their services starting at $150.

Apparently there wasn't a lot of demand. Today what looks like the same person posted another ad offering to wait in line for a flat $120.

If the price keeps falling at that rate, the iPhone line waiting service will only cost $30 on Thursday and nothing on Friday when the phone actually goes on sale.

I e-mailed the person to get more information but haven't heard back. Maybe he or she is already out at University Village, where there's a handy water feature outside the Apple Store for iPhone campers to perform their toiletries.

Launch lines are feeling less like a sign of grassroots enthusiasm and more like a predictable component of major consumer product launch marketing plans.

Remember how Krispy Kreme openings used to get big lines? The company whipped up the frenzies and staged the events, before its stock crashed.

More recently we saw game console campouts stoked by giveaways, celebrity appearances and the promise of quick resale profits on eBay and Craigslist. The last one I covered was actually at University Village, for the PlayStation 3.

I'll bet the iPhone lines will be more subdued because there's not the same opportunity for gadget flippers. It will be harder, more expensive and riskier for people to resell the phones since they're sold with a two-year service plan.

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June 25, 2007 10:27 AM

Annotation for today's iPhone column

Posted by Brier Dudley

For a great history of touchscreen computers and devices, check out the illustrated history prepared by Bill Buxton, a Microsoft researcher I interviewed for today's column on the iPhone's interface.

I didn't do justice to the research and broad comments provided by Buxton or the University of Washington's James Landay or Stanford's Scott Klemmer, but they all have Web sites with more information on the subject.

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June 21, 2007 11:52 AM

Mike Slade's lucky day

Posted by Brier Dudley

I'm not talking about today's sale of Rivals.com, an online sports service that the Seattle venture capitalist advised before it crashed in the downturn.

No, I'm talking about July 7, 2007, the upcoming date that has numerologists and the superstitious in a tizzy.

There's a rush of nuptials planned that day since it's supposed to be lucky -- for everyone but those trying to find an available hotel room or party venue.

But Slade beat the rush and rented the Showbox concert hall on 7-7-7, which happens to be his 50th birthday.

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June 21, 2007 11:47 AM

Microsofties vent about 520 traffic

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft programmer Adam Barr blogged about question and answer session the state Department of Transportation held on the Redmond campus yesterday:

At the brown bag today people were getting a bit irate when it was pointed out that even if things go smoothly and voters approve a large "Roads & Transit" tax package this fall, it will probably take 10 years before a new bridge opens (the DOT has a project website if you want more info on it). A couple of people made the comment that this was going to start hurting Microsoft, because people will quit to avoid having such a nightmare commute (although Google has basically the same commute).

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June 20, 2007 3:06 PM

Superfast Internet2 making progress

Posted by Brier Dudley


Internet2 Networks

The superfast Internet2 network reaches across the country.

This has been a month of milestones for Internet2, an 11-year effort to build an ultrafast fiber-optic network linking research institutions, including the University of Washington.

Today Level 3 Communications reported that it has finished a new national backbone for the system.

A few weeks ago, the network was extended from coast to coast, when nodes in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Kansas City finally connected to Seattle.

Chris Robb, an Indiana-based engineer working on the project, humanized the milestone on his team's blog:

Yeah, so Internet2 made my 3-month-old daughter cry this afternoon.

More to the point, I made my 3-month-old daughter cry when I leapt for joy at seeing the Salt Lake City to Seattle OC-192 come up. I still blame the OC-192.

We've been fighting with this one for the past week or so, getting jumpers run and the appropriate patches in the fiber meet me room at the Westin Building. In the end, all worked out well and Internet2 has SONET connectivity from the burroughs [sic] of New York to the shipping yards of Seattle.

(OC-192 refers to a 10Gbps segment of the network and SONET means synchronous optical networking.)

Was it bring your daughter to work day? Building a superfast Internet is impressive. Doing it while taking care of an infant is truly spectacular.

Comments | Category: Education |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 20, 2007 1:05 PM

UW discloses, then withdraws, iPhone details

Posted by Brier Dudley

The University of Washington emerging technology group briefly posted details from an Apple developer conference session on writing Web content for the iPhone, but took it down out of concern it would violate Apple non-disclosure rules.

That horse is out of the barn, however. Computerworld caught wind of the posting and published highlights today and a link to the material is still in Google's cache.

I hope the UW didn't remove the blog entry because it had sassy comments like this:

"No flash and No Java of course this means no Microsoft Silverlight"

Since it's already out in the wild, I might as well share the rest of the entry here:

Apple WWDC iPhone Development, Tony Chang, 18 Jun, 2007, published in Uncategorized

The intro slide for this session is called Designing Web Content for the iPhone. Notice it doesn't say developing iPhone client applications for the iPhone. So the first thing the speaker says is that developing for the iPhone is easy as cake, just develop for Safari. A web browser that no one uses and hasn't been in the wringer like IE7 or Firefox in terms of security vulnerabilities. Steve Jobs touts that Safari is the fastest web browser in the world by running a precanned demo of one website.

So what does the iPhone offer for websites. Lets take a look at what Apple has to say:

1. developing websites for the desktop and in most cases it will just work on the iphone
2. browsing the web with iphone is easy thru Safari
3. scroll using two fingers
4. double tap for zoom in on content
5. the page view feature lets you look at multiple websites and documents by scrolling thru them one after another
6. full support for PDF

The speaker goes thru a bunch of popular websites to show that many websites are already good to go for the iPhone so ideally only limited tweaks are required. However I dont know if those sites have already been prepped to work well with iPhone prior to the WWDC.

Pageview is a feature in iPhone to help you view webpages and documents. Since the iPhone does not have windows it uses page view to allow users to see the content.

The speaker then talks about Safari and its capabilities.

-- it supports all latest internet standards
- WHATWG
- HTML5
- 10MB max html size for web page
- Javascript limited to 5 seconds run time
- Javascript allocations limited to 10MB
- 8 documents maximum loaded on the iPhone due to page view limitations
- Quicktime used for audio and video


No flash and No Java of course this means no Microsoft Silverlight

Good design practices for iPhone:
- separate html and css
- use well structured and valid html
- size images appropriately dont rely on browser scaling
- tile small images in backgrounds
- dont use large backgroung images
- avoid complicated framesets, better yet dont use framesets at all
- iPhone supports both EDGE and WiFi. EDGE pipe is smaller then WIFI pipe so think about bandwidth when developing.
- XHTML mobile documents supported
- stylesheet device width:480px
- apply different css for the iPhone. For example displaying a one column page for iphone vs a 3 column page on a desktop.
- there are no scroll bars or resize knobs. the iphone will automatically expand the content
- framesets
- avoid them if you can
- scrollable frames are automatically expanded to fit the content
- frames exploded to the full scale and then fit to the screen

Safari User Agent for iphone:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU like Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/420+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0 Mobile/1A538a Safari/419.3

Without any addition coding on your website the iPhone automatically offers these features to your website.

- double tap for zoom in
- one finger as a mouse used to
- pan page
- press and hold to display the information bubble
- two fingers as a mouse used to
- pinch content to shrink - zoom out
- pan page
- scroll wheel events
- new telephone links allows you to integrate phone calls directly from your webpage. remember this is only on safari.
- built in google maps client for integrated mapping from your website

Encode content for iPhone: (Sorry guys I know almost nothing about video and audio stuff so I tried my best just to jot down stuff verbatim but it might not make sense to everyone)

H.264 baseline profile level 3.0 up to 640 x 480 fps

bitrate
- with iphone content can arrive over net
- bitrate determines whether playback will stall
- iphone screen size 480 x 320
- encode move size 480 x 360

Exporter encoding
- Move to iphone
- Movie to iphone (Cellular)
- Movie to ipod
- Movie to MPEG-3

Reference movies types
- list of urls for your movie on your website and create a decision tree to pick them
- detect the bitrate and choose capabilities of the device

- iphone with media playback requires byte range support from http server
- supported by most http 1.1 servers
- also known as content-range or partial-range support

May need MIME types for .mp4, m4v, .3gp

Embedding Video into webpages

- embedding quicktime on webpages link to article on apple websites

Links to movies on a web page will take users directly to video full screen playback

- Use new quicktime exporters
- provide low-bitrate versions of content
- use reference movies to auto stream best verson
- setup your media server to support byte-range required
- use poster jpegs
- provide direct links to podcast episodes

Here is some information from David Cox to shed some light on what this means for UW servers.

There is a little more info about the requirements of the iPhone, and it has me thinking about an old issue.

It looks like the iPhone will NOT support streaming media from the streaming media servers (at least at launch). They will require the media to be installed on HTTP accessible servers (such as Homer or Dante). But I don't think Homer or Dante are going to work very well under their current configuration.

The problem is that these systems do not know the mime type for most of the file types that the iPhone will be able to play. I am guessing that the iPhone will have the same issue that Safari has when this happens. Safari does not assume that it knows better than the server when it comes to file types. If the server says that a mimetype is not known, then Safari will not try to figure out what to do with the file extension. Rather, it will try to show the data as a text file, or download the file, depending on what the servers "default type" is (for homer and dante, it shows the links as big text files).

The iPhone (as well as Safari on both Mac and Windows) should be able to handle .mov and .mp3 files on homer and dante, as the mimetypes seem set for those media files. But .mp4 .m4a .m4b will probably result in a long wait followed by a large page of text being given to the client.

When I have mentioned this in the past, the feeling was that the Streaming Media Servers were the place for such files, and that the HTTP servers were NOT the place for such files. I can fully see the tech reasons for this, but I wanted to point out this new data point (a high profile media centric device that will NOT work with our media streaming servers) before we see them in the wild.

As a quick work around, users can create .htaccess files to provide support for these mime types on a site-by-site instance (as people have had to do to support individual download options for 'non-mp3′ podcasts hosted on depts/staff/student accounts for a while now). It is not ideal, but a good work around :).

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June 18, 2007 4:48 PM

Brochu to Mercer Island's GMI, a sale in the works?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Global Market Insite, a market research firm, announced today that former Loudeye boss Michael Brochu will be its new chief executive.

Given Brochu's track record of developing and then selling local companies, I wonder if GMI will be next.

Brochu was previously president and chief executive of Loudeye, which sold to Nokia last October. Before that he led Primus Knowledge Solutions from 1997 through its sale in 2004.

Earlier, he was president and chief operating officer at Sierra On-Line, which was sold on his watch in 1996.

GMI investor and chairman Enrique Godreau III was upbeat in the news release:

"With the appointment of Mike as CEO, GMI has secured a successful, experienced and highly capable executive who will build on GMI's already impressive growth of 2,008 percent in five years to expand GMI's leadership position in a global market research industry worth $24 billion ... Market research authority ESOMAR predicts that online research will continue to revolutionize the industry for years to come. GMI is extremely well positioned to remain a leading catalyst of this transformation."

Sounds like a buyout pitch to me.

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June 18, 2007 4:24 PM

Muse hunting in Microsoft's Building 34

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bill Gates isn't the only Microsoft boss to fret over a big speech.

Apparently Steve Ballmer had a tough time with his Software 2007 conference keynote last month.

From a story about Ballmer's "hardest speaking assignment" that appeared in conference organizer Sand Hill.com's newsletter today:

"The breadth and depth of the Software 2007 audience threw Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a loop. In preparing for his keynote address, Ballmer described creating several versions of his speech before arriving at one that would speak to the wide variety of viewpoints held by the software and services executives in attendance."

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June 18, 2007 4:13 PM

Daily deals: Widevine, Isilon

Posted by Brier Dudley

Widevine: Sweeps Canadian IPTV content-protection market, now has contracts with all providers north of Bellingham and east of Ketchikan.

Isilon: Wins European Web analytics contract.

Comments | Category: Digital media |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 18, 2007 3:58 PM

Cellphone radiation: Danger or not?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's an interesting but inconclusive story on how cellphone radiation has been covered. I still don't want my kids using cell phones.

Comments | Category: Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 18, 2007 10:51 AM

More of the iLike story

Posted by Brier Dudley

There wasn't enough room in today's for all the details I had about iLike's breakout moment.

Also cut for space reasons was my speculation that iLike may be acquired before the Partovis need to worry about profitability.


iLike / Brew Media Relations

Hadi Partovi

One comparison could be Last.fm, another social network/music discovery service, that was acquired by CBS last month for $280 million.

That's more than 10 times the capitalization of iLike, which now has nearly three times the audience. Last.fm had 2.3 million unique visitors last month, according to comScore's survey, while iLike is now reporting 6 million users.

Seattle tech blogger Mathew Johnson brought up Last.fm in a conversation we had today, after he made a good point on his blog about my Rhapsody comparison.

Rhapsody is a paid service and iLike is free, so it wasn't apples to apples, but I was trying to show the scale that iLike has achieved in just a few weeks.

Some readers may also wonder why iLike didn't turn to Amazon.com's Web services to handle its surge.

Hadi Partovi said that wouldn't work because iLike is too query intensive, and performance would suffer if part of the system was offloaded. But they're talking to Amazon about changes that would make the hosted services work in a situation such as iLike's.

Some may also wonder how iLike was able to pounce so soon on the Facebook platform. That's also an interesting story.

Hadi has been a longtime advisor to Facebook and caught wind of the platform opportunity in February. He had it confirmed directly by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and iLike was one of about 50 companies invited to preview the platform.

From there, it was like a LeMans start, sort of. Here's how Hadi put it when we talked last week:

"We were in the group, but it was an incredibly cowboyish process -- there was no documentation, no samples, just a mailing list where people would ask questions and get confusing answers. We had to read the tea leaves and figure out what the system would look like."

Yet Partovi is still a big fan of the Facebook platform. He said that's where he'd build a new company, if he was just starting now. The new platform "is a game-changing kind of thing where it's a paradigm shift, not a one-time fad,'' he said.

But as the old saying goes, the lead dog has the best view.

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June 14, 2007 2:46 PM

Quick, get Charles Simonyi on the line

Posted by Brier Dudley

Russian computers on the International Space Station are having what appears to be a software problem.

Maybe it's time for Charles to suit up for a return trip to help fix the problem.


AFP / Getty Images

Can Simonyi provide the necessary tech support for this problem?

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June 14, 2007 2:29 PM

Local show better than "American Inventor"

Posted by Brier Dudley

Last night I stumbled across ABC's new "American Inventor," a show that has inventors competing for funding, and I had a sense of deja vu.

I was a judge in a similar show last week in Seattle, the MIT Enterprise Forum's Startup Demo 2007. Six local entrepreneurs gave demos of their inventions and were judged on the quality of their presentation.

Ballpark Classics, a company making a tabletop baseball game, just barely eked out online music remixing and sharing service JamGlue.

Just as impressive as the presenters was the turnout. I didn't count heads but the One Union Square boardroom was filled to capacity with people interested in the demos.

Unlike the ABC show, MIT's event didn't have celebrities or cash awards. But it also wasn't larded with gagging sentimentality.

Organizers said they'll probably have another Startup Demo in Seattle later this year. Maybe I'll bring a video camera.

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June 14, 2007 2:03 PM

Smartsheet upgrades product and funding

Posted by Brier Dudley

Smartsheet, a Bellevue online spreadsheet/task management service provider, received $2.9 million from Madrona, bring its angel and first round funding to $4 million.

Word of the funding first appeared in PE Week yesterday. It was going to be announced Monday when Smartsheet is also rolling out a major upgrade to its service, keyed to the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

Chief Executive Mark Mader, one of the former Onyx execs who started the company in 2005, said pricing won't change, but attachment storage capacity on paid versions will be increased significantly.

Other locals at the Enterprise 2.0 conference include keynoter Derek Burney, general manager of Microsoft Sharepoint; Renton Web application company Etelos and Portland RSS company Attensa.

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June 12, 2007 5:08 PM

The Bill Gates Podiumpalooza

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft's chief statesman spoke at Harvard on Thursday, then St. George's School in Spokane on Friday.

Now Bill Gates is spreading his inspirational message to the Indian tech industry, in an opinion piece published today in CXO Today, a Mumbai-based business magazine. An excerpt:

"It seems to me that the India miracle, if you will, demonstrates the wisdom of sustained investment in the primary asset of any modern economy: people."

Comments | Category: Asia , Bill Gates |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 11, 2007 4:52 PM

Google's antitrust complaint: Time for transparency

Posted by Brier Dudley

The New York Times ran a nice story about backstage jockeying to get Google's antitrust complaint about Vista onto the front burner.

Those negotiations seem to be the story, not some newfound sympathy that the Bush administration has for Microsoft -- they've been kissy for six years now.

It's also old news that Microsoft has learned to lobby and make nice with the government. What will be interesting is seeing how gracefully it can make the leap to the next administration.

Meanwhile, Google seems to be asserting its newfound political influence.

But the spat over Google's toolbar seems inconsequential compared with the way the administration has sided with Microsoft in the European Union's antitrust case and swung for Microsoft in China, Korea and India.

Does that mean the Department of Justice is going soft on the toolbar issue? It's hard to tell with the amount of information that's been provided; so far all we have is the Microsoft-Netscape specter being raised before the specifics are disclosed. (That also seems really outdated; isn't Google doing an end-run around the PC?)

One thing that is known is that the feds and states are going through the routine process of writing a status report for the judge overseeing the case. It's a six-way process that has Microsoft, the feds and five states all trying to spin the report their way.

These reports have been prepared for years, but this may be the first time one of the sides has tried to change their composition through newspaper stories. (Microsoft will often offer background briefings to help reporters "understand" what the reports say, but after the reports have been written.)

Did the DOJ act differently this time by suggesting the toolbar complaint isn't worth pursuing? It's not the first complaint that has been rejected.

How much of an issue is the Google toolbar on Vista? I thought most consumer PCs sold in the U.S. were now preloaded with either the Google toolbar or with Google search as the default setting in Internet Explorer.

Could the heightened attention on the toolbar be payback for Microsoft complaining to antitrust regulators about Google's DoubleClick acquisition?

I hope we're not seeing a trend. Next will we see Microsoft and other software companies complaining about Google's apparently exclusive deal to provide third-party applications on Apple's iPhone?

Inside baseball aside, this is a great opportunity to ask Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to consider making Microsoft's antitrust compliance process less secretive. I know it's late in the game but why not set a precedent?

The public should have an opportunity to review the complaints and remedies of conduct that are allegedly hurting consumers. That would also make it harder for attorneys general to negotiate with innuendo and let their constituents have a say on what's important. It would also help people decide whether public servants are doing their best to protect them or corporate interests.

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June 11, 2007 4:32 PM

Feedback on the Google food story

Posted by Brier Dudley

Seattle University's Melanie Apostol provided the best response so far to today's story on life and lunch at Google's Kirkland offices:

I've read and heard enough about the Mountain View perks, and was curious about the local benefits in Kirkland. It was definitely good to read it as I sit here at my desk having my late lunch -- a dry P & J sandwich, a can of coke, and a fattening "low fat" granola bar and a banana for "dessert." Whoop de do. Talk about drooling over a menu....

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June 7, 2007 11:40 AM

Could Google tap Isilon to store digital books?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Interesting question asked by a reader in Minneapolis.

He's wondering if Isilon is involved in Google's book digitization project, which leapt ahead yesterday when a consortium of 12 major universities signed on.

I'd think Google would go it alone but perhaps a third-party storage provider like Isilon would help the company keep the project apace. It could also increase the comfort level for libraries nervous about storing everything with Google.

Isilon's spokesman wouldn't comment, saying he couldn't tell me anything about any such deal until it was formally announced. He wouldn't deny there's a relationship with Google, either, but I don't want to insinuate too much.

"Technically I can't really say anything because if it hasn't been discussed I can't coment on it,'' spokesman Lucas Welch said.

So will he deny Isilon's working with Google?

"At this time Isilon has no comment on Google's book digitization project."

Hmmm.

I've asked for Google's comment and haven't heard back yet.

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June 7, 2007 11:29 AM

Geeks gone wild at Microsoft's Tech-Ed conference

Posted by Brier Dudley

Doug Mahugh's party pictures from the confab this week in Orlando are worth a thousand words.

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June 7, 2007 10:07 AM

Zillow hosting Seattle Lunch 2.1

Posted by Brier Dudley

The inaugural Seattle Lunch 2.0 networking event at Wetpaint last Friday was apparently a success.

Instigator Josh Maher has already set up the next edition, at Zillow on July 11.

Seats are filling fast; when I checked this morning the 50 spots were half-full, or half-empty depending on your perspective.

There are also rumblings from Eastside entrepreneurs hoping someone will sponsor Lunch 2.2 on the other side of Lake Washington.

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June 6, 2007 3:54 PM

Will Microsoft buy or bury Cozi?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft is apparently going after the "kitchen PC" market again with a special version of Windows Vista and a set of online services.

Reporter turned blogger Mary Jo Foley said today that Microsoft is developing a "kitchen computing environment" that includes a family calendar, recipe center, entertainment features and a shared bulletin board.

That sounds exactly like the software and services developed by Cozi, a Pioneer Square company started two years ago by ex-Microsofties Robbie Cape and Jan Miksovsky.

Cozi developed a custom desktop for kitchen PCs and a set of services that let users access their calendars and shopping lists from mobile phones and remote PCs.

When I interviewed Cape for a story that ran in February, he told me Microsoft had been working on a kitchen PC/services product with a 50-person team but the project, code-named Ohana, had fizzled.

I wonder if Mary Jo is hearing about a resurrection of Ohana or a new effort. Would Microsoft start completely from scratch on this kind of project?

A kitchen PC may sound weird, but I think it makes sense if you think of these machines as a console/command center for families. The idea is to have a computer that's always on in a central place so families can check and update calendars, coordinate schedules and activities, plan meals and leave messages for each other -- in other words, a digital version of a refrigerator door covered with notes.

They can also be used to display photo collections, control a digital music collection and play TV if the systems have a tuner.

Cozi also sees the kitchen PC as an opportunity to target ads at homemakers, suggesting products for their shopping lists and menu planning, for instance. That's surely part of Microsoft's plans as well.

I think there's a lot of potential for kitchen PCs, but so far the hardware has held them back. PCs are usually too bulky, especially for the kitchen, where counter space is at a premium. I've said the kitchen PC will take off when it's a touch-screen device that can be hung on the wall like a picture frame or a small flat-panel TV.

That may be where Microsoft is heading. Mary Jo said the kitchen project is being done by the Tablet PC team, which has already helped computer makers produce thin, slate-like computers with touch-screen input.

I wonder if Cozi's founders will try to sell the company to Microsoft, form a partnership or duke it out with their former employer.

UPDATE: News of the Microsoft project was apparently a surprise to Cape, Cozi's chief executive, but he doesn't sound too worried.

Cape noted that Cozi has a head start and 175,000 families registered as users. From his response:

"The sad truth is that this vision is not new; the industry has been talking about this for years and years. The question is: who is executing towards the vision successfully?"

Cape said it takes several iterations to get new products ready for mass-market consumption. With the kitchen PC, HP's TouchSmart has started that process on the hardware side, he said.

"On the software application front, our goal with Cozi Central has been to begin that iteration cycle. We are on a mission to understand the dynamic of the family better than any other software company; we set out to build the most appropriate design and experience, addressing the core family needs ... In this space, history has shown that it all comes down to execution."

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June 6, 2007 3:25 PM

Having fun with Amazon.com developer services

Posted by Brier Dudley

Amazon.com's latest developer newsletter called out Pictogame, a French company using S3 storage to host its "user-generated" game widget.

I had to try it out and build my own game:

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June 6, 2007 3:04 PM

Comparing bubbles: The dotcom and real estate

Posted by Brier Dudley

Blogs usually aren't chilling, but that's how it felt reading a post today by Henry Blodget, the former Merrill Lynch analyst accused of hyping Internet stocks in the last boom.

Blodget said he "can't help but note the similarities between the dotcom-crash rhetoric/predictions back in 2000 and the housing-crash rhetoric/predictions in the last 12 months."

All the way down, we kept revising forecasts (read: cutting estimates) to previously inconceivable levels, and each time we cut them, we reiterated our expectation that the inevitable trough and upturn was about six months away. It wasn't until two years after the shakeout began, when half of online advertising revenue had evaporated and more than 75% of the companies in the sector had keeled over that the downturn finally ended.... And by that time, most of us were so demoralized that we'd stopped predicting that there would ever be an upturn.

Housing obviously won't experience as deep a correction as the dotcoms did, but I haven't heard a single persuasive argument explaining why this downturn won't look like every previous housing downturn: i.e., will last a lot longer and drop much farther than most people think -- until price/rent and price/income ratios return to or below their long-term trend."

Blodget ran into trouble in part because he was publicly upbeat about companies like InfoSpace that he criticized in private, internal Merrill e-mails.

I hope real estate market analysts keep Blodget in mind.

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June 4, 2007 3:03 PM

I'm not getting sued, yet

Posted by Brier Dudley

A spokeswoman for Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, said the company won't sue me for copyright violations after today's column on the Journal's "D: All Things Digital" conference.

Phew.

If you still want more from the conference, David Geller, chief executive of Seattle's Eyejot, has a nice gallery of photos at Flickr. The set includes a few candidates for the next Fake Steve Jobs caption contest.

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June 4, 2007 2:52 PM

Another reason Cray's down today?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Could it be that investors are worried Cray is going into the low-margin furniture business?

Check out Gizmodo's gallery of nursery furniture made from old Cray supercomputers. They came from a site that's now overloaded with hits.

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June 4, 2007 10:12 AM

Google's love for Wikipedia

Posted by Brier Dudley

Tech savvy users may be annoyed by Wikipedia's prominence in Google search results, but the collaborative encyclopedia can be useful for average folks looking to answer a question, said Matt Cutts, head of Google's Web spam team, which works on search quality.

Cutts spoke this morning at the sold-out Search Marketing Expo at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle.

During a Q&A session, he was asked by someone from Edmunds.com why a search for the make and model of a car returns Wikipedia before his authoritative automotive site.

Cutts didn't say exactly, but his answers implied that the search engine is weighted to favor results that appeal a general audience and Wikipedia fills the bill.

"It's a fairly good result most of the time,'' Cutts said, explaining that Google is designed for average users like his mom as opposed to the search experts at the conference.

"Regular users do like Wikipedia a lot,'' he explained. "That said, Wikipedia is not always the right answer."

Cutts promised to "go back and look" at how Google handles the make and model searches called out by Edmunds.

That had to be worth the price of admission for the Edmunds Web optimizer.

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June 1, 2007 4:55 PM

More tech gatherings on tap

Posted by Brier Dudley

Local events next week include the sold-out Search Marketing Expo Monday and Tuesday at Bell Harbor and a new event geared toward nonprofits, called NetSquared, or Net2, that's debuting Tuesday night.

Organized by TechSoup, a venture providing tech assistance to nonprofits. Net2 is intended to "create an ongoing peer-driven community event for the development of social software and real world applications in Seattle,'' according to a note I received from co-organizer Jeff Reifman.

Net2 starts at 6:30 at The McLeod Residence and is intended to be held the first Tuesday of each month.

Farther afield, Microsoft is holding an encore presentation of its sold-out Mix07 conference on June 22 at its Silicon Valley offices. It's called ReMix07, of course.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.