Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Financial Times iPhone App Worse Than Trialware

The Financial Times released its iPhone app Tuesday, touting it as free. But the not-so-small print reveals that this is severely crippled trialware app that could very well be useless in first few minutes you use it.

Until the clock starts again in 30 days, that is.

(Continue reading on wired.com's Epicenter blog)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Want My Mmmmm ... TV

Update, Feb. 19, 2010: I review the Slingbox iPhone 3G app on Epicenter: "Hands On With the Slingbox 3G iPhone App: Ahhhhhhhhh…"

For me Independence Day came a day late but not a day too soon: like my forefathers I have exercised my right, my duty to throw off the shackles of terrestrial television.

That is to say, I finally got my Slingbox iPhone app working. It took a long holiday weekend to get to this task, even though I was among the first to buy this shamelessly overpriced bit of software.

My love affair with the Slingbox and all that it represents began at the discount table of a Staples many years ago, where I scored what is now an ancient device which seemed to offer greater freedom than proprietary alternatives which were in great numbers then, particularly one from Sony. My model SB220-100 has served me well, as has the company (in the main); last year, when the device was well out of warranty (even if it ever was for me) they sent me a replacement power supply that went missing in a move, no questions asked.

Slingbox tells me when I fire it up on the iPhone for the first time that the device is "unsupported," but it does work, and we knew this. The company's poor handling of the rollout of the app is well documented, but in brief registered owners were told a few weeks before the app was available that they would have to upgrade their hardware to the latest and greatest they had to offer, and they offered a $50 discount. That, to put it gently, was less than truthful.

I have always been fascinated by and addicted to television, an genuinely disruptive media which continues to disrupt as what we now have to describe as live streaming video. Our first family TV occupied a full cubic yard, received seven channels (a relatively large number; we lived in New York City), took time to warm up (um, just like HD ...), was black & white only, and was actually worth repairing when a tube blew.

When I was a kid, I marveled at the Sinclair portable TV — I never got one, but you can still find them I think, and it remains an engineering marvel even in a world which is no longer impressed by the Sony Watchman (which I do have).

But what a world we live in when a single device can be the platform for what was impossible, difficult and certainly required bespoke hardware. If everything can be normalized through software and connectivity, really, what are the limits?

I'm now set up for remote viewing, and with a jailbreak app which fools the Slingbox into thinking it's in a hotspot and not just a 3G network, can watch live TV just about anywhere, with no recurring fees.

If this is not freedom worth celebrating, then what is, I ask you?

(Photo: CNN on the Slingbox iPhone App)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Three Cheers for the Lori Drew Acquittal, But Not for Drew

The directed acquittal of Lori Drew is the only sensible disposition of a depressingly sad case in which the suicide of a 13-year-old girl was linked to the bad behavior of a grown woman, the mother herself to a teenage daughter.

Drew could be ostracized, she can be sued for damages in a civil proceeding, she can become a pariah. I would not like to know her.

I am not a lawyer, but for the state to deny her liberty for lying when she created an account on a social network would be excessive and chilling and imperil hundreds of thousands of people who, while doing the TOS version of jaywalking, set themselves up for selective prosecution if some chain of evidence or events can associate them to someone else’s tragedy.

(Continue reading on Epicenter)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

We Drive the BMW Mini E

WHITE PLAINS, NY — The BMW Mini E is a solid little electric ride that provides a comfortable, effortless driving experience with all of the usual small-car perks, plus an ultra cheap operating cost and a carbon footprint approaching zero. But as a $50,000 two-seater with no head-turning quotient, the pitch for this first cousin of the Mini Cooper won’t be so much to our inner rock star as our inner Al Gore.

Tooling around a busy interstate and the city streets of White Plains, it is easy to forget this is a pure electric vehicle, and something of a prototype at that: There are only about 450 Mini E’s on the road, driven by an unusually generous band of volunteer beta testers who pay $850 a month for the privilege of helping BMW work out the kinks before the car’s anticipated launch in 2012. They have no dibs on their cars and will not be allowed to buy them when the lease ends. All maintenance, and car insurance, is paid by BMW.

And, of course, nobody pays for the gas.

(Continue reading on Epicenter)