Category Archives: Misc Tech

Weekend Reading: Is HTML5 Hot or Not?

Scribd is ditching Flash for HTML5, but Tim Bray says HTML5 ain’t all that big a deal.

Apple Shutting Down Lala, Another Great Startup Obliterated

First: I Was A Lala User
Second: Why Do Good Companies Ruin Startups?

I Was A Lala User

I’ll give Apple credit for giving a month of advance notice, but on the other hand (that first part was the first hand), why are they shutting down Lala before they launch iTunes.com? I must conclude that it means they’re going to change the business model and neuter features available on Lala.com and they don’t want to have to deal with migrating current users of the outstanding service. How very Apple of them. Not supporting legacy anything is a good deal if you can swing it. And – unfortunately for me – they can get away with it.

Now, I hadn’t bought all that many web songs on Lala, but it was not exactly a trivial investment – especially for someone like me who used to open up multiple BMG accounts to get 10 CDs for the price of 1 and 4 extra for “referring my friend.” I’m happy to give artists money when I feel they deserve it, and that’s precisely why I loved Lala so much. I could listen to every song on there – the full song – and then decide whether I wanted to buy it. For me at least, I think that probably led to more purchases than I’d made in a long time because I got sick of paying for music that I’d never heard and wasn’t sure if I’d ever want to hear again.

Now, I will get an iTunes store credit for the web songs that I’d purchased on Lala… better than nothing, but it kind of feels like buying stock and then having it exchanged for 1/10th of a share in a new company with the same stock price. I’ll use it, because it’s there and I hate losing money… but… then what? Use the new iTunes.com? Or…?

ReadWriteWeb evaluates a few alternatives including MP3tunes, MOG, Napster, and Rhapsody. I’m also going to check out eMusic since I supposedly have 35 free MP3s there… but, in terms of how I use Lala, I think that a combination of Pandora and Amazon will have to fill the gap… With Pandora, I can listen to unlimited full songs for free, and then when I find something I like, I can go over to Amazon and get the MP3. (I could do buy the songs from iTunes as well, since they do sell DRM free MP3s now, but I can’t help but want to avoid Apple since they are the ones who interrupted my music consumption system in the first place) The only issue with my new system is that I can’t just scan new releases, add them to my queue, and then buy the web song for any songs that I want to hear again.

Why Do Good Companies Ruin Startups

I never used Dodgeball so their acquisition and subsequent shuttering by Google didn’t really affect me. But then they took over Jaiku (My posts tagged: Jaiku) and basically shut that down (yeah, it’s still there, but there’s no real support for it any more). Now Apple has bought Lala and is shutting it down. Why?

The obvious answer is: talent grab. Everyone knows that these big companies are basically rewarding the talented developers who started the companies by purchasing their whole company for a significant sum of money. I can’t blame the developers for taking it. And I guess I can’t blame the companies for doing it. That’s just the way the business works. It just sucks for consumers who end up with a crappier end product (eg: Jaiku vs. Google Buzz) because the big company seems to restrict and/or slow the development of the new imitation products. As I mentioned above, the fact that Apple is giving people iTunes store credit for the web songs that they’d purchased on Lala is almost a guarantee that the web songs will not exist on whatever web version of iTunes Apple launches.

Another example: One of my favorite features of Jaiku was the ability to unsubscribe from specific feeds from specific people. So, if I follow someone on Twitter and don’t want to see their imported Twitter feed duplicated in my stream, I could unsubscribe from that and only get their other updates. I have not yet seen that in Google Buzz, and if it’s there, I haven’t seen a place to do it.

It’s tough because, on the one hand, I am very happy for the developers and I do think that they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. I just don’t understand why, if a site is so successful that it warrants being bought out, it doesn’t continue to be run in that successful manner. Okay, I actually do understand why. I already said it in the second paragraph of this section. The big companies want to pull the talented developers off the successful site to recreate the site for them. So really, what I don’t understand is why the big companies don’t continue to run the successful site and do a better job of integrating it and turning it into what they want instead of just shutting it down and rebuilding.

As the iPhone evolves, so does Gmail

But none of the recently announced innovations are making my eyes light up like a kid first gazing on his Easter basket.

First, from the Gmail Blog: Nested Labels and Message Preview. The Nested Labels thing actually did have me excited as though it were a chocolate egg or perhaps a Peep. But then I read this:

Please note that this lab doesn’t play nicely with the “Hide Read Labels” lab. You might not get exactly what you expect if you have both labs enabled; for example, the collapse/expand icons won’t always appear when they should.

and all the twinkle in my eyes was snuffed out. I tried it out and found it to be true. It didn’t work.

Honestly, the “Hide Read Labels” lab experiment is more important to me than sub-labels ever could be. Since I make extensive use of the keyboard shortcuts, I can navigate to any label I want with a simple “g + l” or “/” and the name of the label. I use the “Hide Read Labels” so that I only see labels with unread messages, which gives me a visual indicator of what has been filtered out of my Inbox and placed under another label for later viewing. Thus instead of viewing 44 labels, I can collapse my chatterbox (which I don’t use anyway since I have Trillian) and see my Calendar Gadget. Viewing Unread Messages and Upcoming Events is easily of more value than being able to have labels under other labels. Of course, the whole labeling system was designed so that you don’t really need nested labels at all. I know there are people who have not given up the folder hierarchy mindset, but it’s too bad that they’ll have to give up their hidden read labels in order to get it.
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Let Me Pay With My Phone!

ReadWriteWeb says it’s already common in Asia.

I told me wife when we got our iPhones last year that some day we’d be paying with our phones instead of credit cards. She wasn’t entirely convinced, but I think the only real argument she had was that if you lose your phone you lose not just your contacts, calendar, apps, etc, but you also lose your payment device. I don’t really see how that’s any more of a problem than losing your credit card… All you do is call your company and cancel it.

The argument I see is that if your credit card bill melds with your phone bill, we’ll probably stop getting the same kinds of rewards from credit cards. I’ve been able to save quite a bit of money for retirement simply by using cards that provide rewards with companies where I have my IRA accounts.

Of course, the RWW article doesn’t say if the charges on an NFC-enabled phone accrue to your phone bill, or if it can simply be used with an existing credit card account.

This Is What Happens, Netflix.

So, apparently, Warner is letting Netflix know what happens when you, well, you see the pictures. It would seem that giving in to Warner’s demands that they not send out movies within the first 28 days of their release bought Netflix a ramrod straight from behind. It’s as though Warner said, “Oh, did you think we were going to screw over all rental companies with that deal? Nope, if they sell DVDs, then it’s totally fine.”

As TechCrunch has repeatedly pointed out in their coverage of this charade, the internet-streaming-movie cat is out of the bag. Trying to shove it back in at this point is only going to get you some wicked claw marks (and by claw marks, I mean pirated movies).

Or, to put it yet another way (because I love analogies), Warner Bros. is Walter, mistakenly bashing the hell out of a car because he thinks it will get him what he wants. Walter knows that Netflix has got some of his money, but he’s smashing up the wrong car.