Wednesday, January 31, 2007

BMW European Delivery

People have been asking me why I decided to take European Delivery of my new car. I originally wanted to buy the car in California and found that dealers were not willing to negotiate on price, even if you were to offer them cash (which I wasn't). With BMW's ED program, you get close to a 10% discount off the sticker price of the car.

So, you save more money on the more expense cars. And, I had already been thinking it would be fun to take a wine-tasting trip through Europe. So, it was a benefit in more ways than one. Over the coming weeks I'll be sharing photos and blogging more about the adventures of the trip. It was quite the adventure.

Most of the European manufactuers offer some form of ED program. If you have a chance to do it, I highly recommend it.

To see just the posts from this trip, click here.

Safe dating

At the recent CES show, I managed a small booth on the show floor to talk about the benefits of using the Jangl service to share your mobile phone number with people rather than giving them your real number. People wanting control over their incoming calls, revocability (i.e. call blocking), privacy/anonymity, etc. are typical adopters of the Jangl service.

While we have a distribution deal with dating site, we were assuming that at CES we would encounter other possible business use cases for Jangl. One thing that became immediately clear was how useful Jangl can be for anyone in the dating market. Specifically, we heard a lot of people talk about teaching their daughters how to date responsibly. Having a daughter myself (not dating yet!), I was keenly interested in this subject.

What I learned was that a lot of people meet each other online and are very nervous making that transition from online relationship to offline (i.e. face-to-face) meetings. Parents want to teach their daughters how to do this safely in the same way they are already coaching them to call home, watch their drink being poured, etc. It seems like Jangl can be a great solution for protecting your mobile phone number from unwanted calls and/or messages. Phalking (phone stalking) is a very real problem, and Jangl can help. As a parent, that feels pretty cool.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Beta testing

One of the benefits of working on consumer products in the valley for so many years is that I meet a lot of great people who go on to work for other great companies. A friend of mine went to work for Dash Navigation. Better still, he put a good word and arranged for me to be one of their beta testers. This means I get early access to their system and can't tell you anything meaningful about their product.

But, I can talk about what's publicly known about their product. Besides the CES awards, the live Yahoo! linkup and real-time traffic information, what's really cool about the Dash system is the mesh network (via built-in WiFi) it will be able to create in populated metropolitan areas. This means a network of Dash devices in the Bay Area will be able to pass live data from car-to-car (and from car-to-car-to-car). Once you have a network like this in place, the possibilities are truly endless.

I can't say much more now, but stay tuned. It's a great product already. I'll share more when I can.

Balls to the wall

I always thought that Balls To The Wall was a phrase that derived from historic steam engine usage. After acting smart when explaining this to a friend, I decided to checkup on my facts. I discovered a site, that states the following:

The phrase balls to the wall, meaning an all-out effort, comes from the world of aviation. On an airplane, the handles controlling the throttle and the fuel mixture are often topped with ball-shaped grips, referred to by pilots as (what else?) "balls." Pushing the balls forward, close to the front wall of the cockpit increases the amount of fuel going to the engines and results in the highest possible speed.

And, to top it off, the site follows with this "mis-conception": ... it arose in railroad work. A speed governor on train engines would have round, metal weights at the end of arms. As the speed increased, the spinning balls would rise--being perpendicular to the walls at maximum speed. But there is no evidence to support this story.

So, I guess I got duped on this one. But, at least I've got the real story now.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Practice safe calling

Since October, I've been working with a great group of people at a venture-backed startup called Jangl. The Jangl offices are located in Pleasanton, which is a really nice benefit. It's the shortest commute I've had since I lived in Palo Alto and worked at Silicon Graphics.

Jangl was founded by two guys, Michael Cerda and Ben Dean. Both are veterans of the networking and telecom worlds, specifically voice-over-IP related products and services.

With Jangl, you share a personalized Jangl ID rather than your real phone number. People use your ID to get your phone number. Then, Jangl gives you a control panel that lets you control all incoming and outgoing calls. If you want privacy, Jangl lets you be anonymous. If you want control, Jangl lets you decide when and if you want to talk. It lets you have the same kind of control over your phone that you have with email.

As an example, if you wanted to call me, you could just click on this link:

You'll be taken to a site where you enter the number you'll be calling me from, and Jangl will give you my number in return. The first time you call me, you'll introduce yourself so that I know who's calling and I can choose whether to take the call. From that point on, we can use the Jangl Number to call each other and we can both enjoy the service benefits of Jangl if we want.

Big news at GMSV

I've been a huge fan of Good Morning Silicon Valley for the past few years. Whenever I meet someone who I think will appreciate their fantastic blend of technical news reporting and tounge-in-cheek style, I always send them a referral to GMSV.

The main guy behind the wit, John Paczkowski just made a big announcement today. He's joining Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher to produce what sounds like an online extension of their D: All Things Digital conference. D is an exclusive event that attracts the best and the brightest of today's business and technical world.

I eagerly await the launch of their new site, scheduled for March.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Be who you are

Over the years, I've worked with a lot of different personalities. The one thing I've really come to respect is people who are true to themselves. Even if they're jerks, it somehow seems comforting to know that they're jerks at work and in their personal lives.

I find it sad when people act one way to you in person, and another way behind your back. You expect that from people in high school, but when you're cruising through the business world it seems reasonable to expect more from people you meet and work with.

Recently, I had the chance to work with someone who doesn't seem to get this (age is not an excuse here). They'll say one thing to my face, and a completely different thing behind my back. It seems so childish, but I won't go there myself. I guess it must bother me on some level if I'm even bothering to write about it. But, I won't let it go any further than that. I don't want to give them the satisfaction.

I just hope when they look in the mirror they can take a good look. There's still time to make things right. In the immortal words of Monty Python: "But I'm not dead yet!"

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Munich, July 2006

Wandering Munich during the heat wave of July 2006.

A great use for a camera phone

In general, I've been pretty disappointed with the quality of pictures that come out of my camera phone. I'm on my 3rd phone that came with a built in camera, and they're still piceces of crap. Crap-cams.

But, I've found one great use for the camera in my phone. During the course of my business and personal life, I'm fortunate enough to get to enjoy many different types and kinds of wine. Instead of taking manual notes about the wines that I like (which tends to be rude at a business dinner anyway), I take a quick picture of the label with my camera phone. I dump all of these pictures into a folder on my computer and refer back to them later when I'm feeling experimental. What was that wine the sommelier recommended at Emeril's last month? Ah, I remember. I took a photo of it.

And, I only do this for wines I like, so I don't need to do anything more. It's not wine spectator, but with my aging memory, it's better than writing on a scrap of yellow paper I carry around in my wallet (wink to my dad on that one).

Friday, January 26, 2007

A hot day in Munich

Last summer I traveled to Europe to take European delivery of a new BMW. I've been meaning to document the trip, so here goes. I arrived in mid-July during the middle of a pan-European heat-wave. Can you say Global Warming? I think you can.

My friend Ken came along on the trip, but wasn't scheduled to arrive until the next day. So, I decided to explore Munich a bit. I had been there before on several occasions, so I decided to just walk around and enjoy the weather. I exited out of the subway into the middle of a street fair. Awesome.

The picture attached to this post is a bottle of Cuban beer I enjoyed during the fair. Everyone seems to know about Cuban cigars, and that you can't buy them (legally) in the U.S. Not many people seem to know that beer is affected by the same embargo. It was actually a really tasty beer called Cubay. I'll be uploading some other photos from the street fair and general wanderings around Munich during the awesome weather.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What will happen to TiVo?

When people find out that I worked at TiVo for 6 years, I seem to always get the same question. It goes like this: "Now that DVR has been comodotized by Microsoft, Comcast, Echostar, DirecTV and others, how will TiVo survive and even thrive?"

Since before I left, my answer has been the same, but I've gotten better at delivering it. And, Forrester has re-inforced my thinking with a study they published early last year: Brand_Report In this report, they show that TiVo is one of the strongest brands in the PC and Consumer Electronics business, and (with Apple) has managed to see their brand score rise in recent years.

So, my answer is this: "Embrace their brand strength and monetize it. Stop raising DVR prices to monetize a service for people that can afford an over-priced piece of dedicated hardware in a continuously shrinking market. Take a variety of ODM designs from China/Taiwan/Korea and use their product and usability design mojo to build some great products under the TiVo brand.

In a way, they did this with their 802.11G network adapter. It's a very cool design that has some really unique functionality. And, it works great.

Do the same thing for a TV, a DVD player, a portable media player, whatever. And, don't try to jam a DVR into it. Just keep doing what made you successful in the first place. Make great products with great design, great documentation, back it up with great customer support and charge a slight premium. Go ahead, you've got the brand. You can do it.

Let's give this another try

Like many people, blogging is always one of those things that seems to stay #4 on my list of things to do. If you know me, you'll know that I'm the kind of person who focuses on the top 3 things on my list and tries to avoid being distracted by anthing that's not in the top 3. I know it sounds like an excuse, but that's really how it's been. So, my new friend Shel has convinced me that putting myself out there again will be worth the effort. So, here goes. I'll try to be a bit more active contributing to my blog. And, hopefully I'll get some comments back sometimes. Is anybody out there?