June 29, 2004
Precipice by Tom Savage
I am catching up on a bunch of books that I have read over the last two weeks. Alot of travel means I finished six! Most in the "light reading" category. Like . It was left at my house by Alex's father who consumes pulp detective novels like an Irishman and his Guiness. I tend to like suspense/detective novels that take place somewhere specific and include alot of local color. That way I can tell myself that part of the read is "educational" instead of pure fluff like an episode of . Oh, well enough schocking of my Amazon Associates links, lets get to the book.
Precipice is Tom Savage's first book. He was raised in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and this debut is set there. There is something slightly Jimmy Buffet about the characters. Very son of a son of a sailor. The idle rich and their sailboats. The plot has some nice twists to it though. Not completely transparent from the start. The story starts out simply enough as here are these nice rich people enjoying paradise. Kay, the rich widower, her second husband Adam, and her daughter (from the first marriage) Elle. Their nanny suddenly disappears as does Adam's deck hand on his sailing yacht. Into this gap comes a new deck hand and a new bored Harvard daughter of rich east coast money who takes the nanny job (Diana). As the plot goes on you find out that everyone has a past and everyone has an angle to be in this place at this time and it is not all as random as it may seem. Savage keeps you guessing almost to the end. Who is allied with who and what are the motivations. Of course there is a fair dose of killing and robbery along the way. And the necessary childhood damage that follows people around. On my one to 10 scale for detective novels, this one gets a 7. I may even read it again.
June 23, 2004
Recommendations for BioDiesel cars
A reader and I have been having an off-line conversation about BioDiesel and good vehicles to run it in. I thought I would share his recommendations here for everyone:
If you are interested in a relatively inexpensive diesel that will last forever I would suggest a 1980's vintage Mercedes Benz. We have a 1987 300SDL with over 175K miles and it still goes like it was new. A great car to drive. I have run many tanks of B100 through it with no adverse effects on the fuel lines or pump.
My other car is a 2001 VW Jetta TDI. It has a much more advanced diesel engine and averages about 47 mpg. I run various blends of biodiesel through it as well. When running B100 it is as quiet as any gas engine.
Check out www.tdiclub.com for lots of information on Volkswagen TDI's and other diesels. For Biodiesel information take a look at www.biodieselnow.com or for a more hands on look check out www.veggieavenger.com. The latter has lots of information on brewing your own biodiesel if you are interested in how the stuff is made.
I played with an OQO
I played with an OQO at the Future in Review Conference. Have been dreaming about it ever since. I used to have a Psion 3. An early PDA. Large screen, good keyboard, proportional font, good applications, fast processor for the time. Ever since, I have yearned for that form factor in a sea of Palm and CE devices.
Now the OQO offers that form factor with real power. 1GHz processor, 20GB hard drive, 256MB RAM, color display, integrated wireless, Firewire and USB ports. A truly novel part of the package is an interface cable that has about every format hanging off of it, serial, firewire, USB 1.0, USB 2.0 and bunches of others.
While I am generally a kermudgen on new form factors, this is one I would use. I would keep my laptop and blackberry for awhile. Chances are that this would replace my blackberry.
Ebay opens up APIs more
Want to start a company? Become an EBay ISV. All these guys are opening up their platforms. I need to start a company.
Enterprise IM dies
The big guys are out. AOL quits enterprise IM game | CNET News.com And Yahoo did earlier. They haven't built enough business and have found it is harder to monitize than they thought. I predicted something like this because AOL and Yahoo are not software companies. They don't really understand how to build software and deliver it to the enterprise. Glad I didn't invest in any of those IM companies last year. This is good news for Microsoft who DOES know how to make enterprise class software. Get ready to buy Microsoft's RTC server....
Summer Reading List
Well it is summer time again. I have three books I have read in the last week that I am going to review when I have time. In looking for more, I like the ones on NPR : Alan Cheuse's 2004 Summer Reading List. Will try to read most of them. Look here for the reviews.
Your next computer poll results
The votes are in:
What will be your next computer?
Desktop 17 % (5 votes)
Laptop 62 % (18 votes)
Handheld (Win CE, etc.) 0 % (0 votes)
PDA (Palm, etc.) 3 % (1 votes)
Multifunciton phone (Blackberry, etc.) 6 % (2 votes)
Game box (Xbox, PS2, etc.) 0 % (0 votes)
Make my own 6 % (2 votes)
Other 3 % (1 votes)
Total votes 29
Looks like laptops are going to continue taking share from all other devices. I am surprised that no-one said a game box. Guess not enough true geeks are reading my site. I am leaning toward make my own just for the fun of it.
New VentureBlog post on Entrepreneur success factors
Read my long-form musings on: VentureBlog: Thinking About Success Factors
Gadget of the week
Think you have it all? Not until you have the Swiss Memory USB. That's right, a Swiss Army knife with a USB hard memory stick in it. What is there not to love?
June 22, 2004
Loudeye bulks up
The Seattle PI has the news that Loudeye buys similar firm in Europe. Good to see Jeff making smart moves. Loudeye is the only public pure-play in digital audio/video distribution. The labels are finally cutting deals that are economic for the middlemen like LOUD. About time!
June 21, 2004
New site about North West Venture Capital
Having recently started posting on VentureBlog, a couple of us up here in the upper left hand corner got to thinking that such a forum would be useful to focus more locally on the North West Venture community and activity. Thus, NWVentureVoice was born. Just one post up there now, but there are a couple of people working on new posts. The idea is to have a place where North West venture capitalist can share longer form articles about our interests, trends, gadgets and other random thoughts. Don't look here for a list of events or a guide on how to raise Venture money in the North West. But do keep checking back here to get a feel for whitty insight into the Northwest venture community.
June 20, 2004
Surf and surf..really!
Intel has spent another chunk of it's massive marketing fund to create a prototype gadget near and dear to my heart. BBC NEWS | Technology | Surf the net while surfing waves. A surfboard with a touchscreen WiFi enabled computer in it! Between sets, you can check the surf at other breaks, your stock portfolio, or send web cam pictures back home to the jealous relatives. I gotta have one!
June 15, 2004
New blog on marketing
The Marketing Playbook is a new blog on marketing which is published by John Zagula and Rich Tong, my partners here at Ignition. Probably two of the smartest guys on marketing I know, especially software marketing. They are publishing a book in the fall, so the site is a bit of a lead-up to that, but has more real time useful marketing stuff.
June 14, 2004
Welcome to Vapor Rafe
Rafe Needleman in his latest Vapor Trail :: AO has discovered an "invention" that I wrote about last year.
Nothing new about the technology in his column. MSR (not surprisingly) slipped it's consumer version of the camp stove. Originally reported for this summer by Wired, the company now says they will have a camp stove out next spring. Still waiting!
June 9, 2004
blogsnow: what blogs link to has a new blogbot scouring the web for hot topics and serving them up in a nice graphical way. Don't know when I would go there though. They do have an interesting parse, which is by keyword like "CNN" or "Ebay". Click on those and get the posts related to those keywords.
Started posting on VentureBlog
I started posting as a guest contributor on VentureBlog. There are more lengthly and thoughtful posts about the Venture business and macrothemes. My first post here: VentureBlog: The Future in Review
June 7, 2004
Wimax will kill the WiFi star
Well more people are piling onto a prediction I made over a year ago that there won't be any profitable business in retail WiFi access points. Wireless VC Losses 'Max'imized :: AO. There are two forces conspiring against commercial WiFi. First is FREE. Why pay when there are 100x more free access points around? Converage of free access points in Seattle is now far superior to commercial spots. The second is the oncoming WiMax. WiMax access points will be $400 at Amazon next year. And $200 in 2006. Why slurp WiFi when you can get the firehose of WiMax?
RSS linked to radio...
The Doc Searls Weblog : Friday, June 4, 2004 points out a Nokia/HP program to syncronize RSS feeds with radio broadcasts. There have been a number of these attempts over time to get radio listeners more information in some sort of a datacast. Sony sells a little dongle thing that you can click when listening to the radio and when you are back at your PC, plug it into the USB port and get info on the song, buy it, etc. Apparently what Nokia is doing is trying to get radio stations to program RSS feeds syncronized with radio broadcasts. These would be received in mobile phones as either WAP or better, SMS. The user could answer questions, get more information, interact in a number of ways. This one actually has promise. I like the idea of driving to work listening to NPR. They have a story about something and ask for an audience poll. My phone vibrates and I vote SMS. Then hear the results. Pretty cool.
RSS is not just for weblogs anymore.
June 6, 2004
Spam becoming Mafia activity
The UK is ground Zero for phishing scams. Now they are seeing the Russian and Chinese Mafia enter since so much money is at stake. I recently read a study showing over 2M Americans have actually fallen victims to these frauds and handed over personal financial information. The success rate of these mails is greater than any other direct marketing. Because they look real! This is a true threat to e-commerce as we know it. A recent PEW study already shows that 30% of their respondents are using e-mail less due to these fraudulent e-mails. It is time for anyone with any business on the net to take notice.
Final FIRE Hot Spot comments
Here are my final notes that I used for my FIRE hot spot 5 year predictions last week.
Martin Tobias, FIRE 2004 Hot Spot comments...
Mark, thanks for hosting this great event. I really enjoyed the event last year. In fact for me it was the watershed event signaling Tech is back! Based on the number of imitators and the rise in the markets since then, I would say your timing was impeccable as usual!
Last year I stuck my neck out with some pretty specific predictions for the next 2-5 years rather than the Macro view that many have taken. Time for a report card on those and a couple of new ones. Out of my 10 specific predictions of things that WILL happen last year, my record is 6 of 10 right, 2 inconclusive and 2 dead wrong.
What WILL happen, last year’s predictions
1. The PC economics of commodity hardware will come to networking gear.
- Intel solidifying it’s lead in design wins here.
- IP Fabrics Alpha to customers in June.
- RIGHT On track.
2. The first meaningful products will be delivered to consumers from nano-technology.
- Nano-Care wrinkle free pants at EddieBauer.
- Gap, Old Navy, Nike, and Perry Ellis are also shipping products today.
- Defense will drive Metal Rubber from NanoSonic into the market by next year.
- RIGHT On track.
3. The interlopers who came to technology companies from selling toothpaste would leave.
- The last wave washed out.
- Quality of teams up.
- After the Google IPO more will come.
- This started in the right direction, but I am afraid will go backward again.
4. There will be VC bankruptcies.
- A few VC consolidations, some fund give backs, lots of partners “retiring”, office closures.
- Fund size down overall. Smaller funds mean smaller VC firms.
- Brobeck and VLG closed.
- Still have a couple years for the tail on many funds to stop wagging.
- RIGHT. On track (unfortunately).
5. Real broadband applications will be delivered and used in meaningful numbers.
- Last year 20M broadband households.
- In April Pew said 48M adults have broadband connections at home!
- For now, simple speed is driving.
- Itunes and this year video on demand, VOIP will drive broadband.
- RIGHT, on track.
6. SPAM will be a thing of the past.
- Well Bill Gates says he will take care of Spam by 2006.
- April was the first month ISP’s recorded over 80% of their mail SPAM!
- Wait for this afternoon and my Panel "SPAM and the future of e-mail as we know it".
- Boy was I WRONG on this one.
7. Instant Messaging becomes a real business application.
- Valuations on private companies are up, but real business applications are still lacking.
- Mostly compliance driven.
8. There will be no carrier model for WIFI.
- I apologized to Larry from Cometa for this one last year. Seems like it came to pass sooner than I expected at least for Cometa.
- Commercial hotspots went from about 12,000 in 2002 to 28,000 in 2003, but private hotspots are estimated to be 10X this number.
- No-one is making money and free sites are growing faster.
- Park Associates in late 2003 showed less than 5% of internet users have tried a public hotspot and less than 3% of THOSE have become subscribers. That is 15/100 of 1% subscribers.
- Joe Laszlo of Jupiter Research said it best: “Paraphrasing [Federal Reserve chairman] Alan Greenspan, the degree of exuberance about the revenue potential of public hotspots borders on the irrational”.
- RIGHT. I am right on this one.
9. Round 2 of telco bankruptcies.
- Can you say WorldCom? More to come.
10. There will be no IPO market for small unprofitable tech companies.
- I see lots in registration, all waiting for Google. I guess hope springs eternal.
- WRONG. I am wrong here.
Two NEW predictions that WILL happen in next 2-5 years.
1. Blogging software will gain significant share in the web authoring and content management business.
- >2.5M blogs now, growing double digits per month.
- Blogs have already made a meaningful impact on the Geocities and Yahoo hosted template business.
- Look for them to move upmarket into Enterprise.
2. Microsoft will NOT ship Longhorn.
- Already delayed it to 2007. I think it is 2009.
- Took out half the features including everything about WinFS.
- They may ship Indigo sooner.
What I HOPE happens:
Last year I had hoped to decrease technology footprint in my life. I completely failed on this one! I bought 7 new computers, 5 new digital cameras, two new camcorders, 5 music players, 8 new home entertainment devices and became an addicted blogger. Some things never change.
I only have ONE thing that I hope happens in the next year! I said it last year.
The next president should make energy independence the #1 national goal over the next 10 years. Just like Kennedy did with the space race. The economic and security benefits will lay the foundation for another century of American leadership. If we don’t do this, we risk being passed on all fronts except military.
June 2, 2004
The improving economy that can't get any respect
This WSJ article is about a month old, but I am astounded by the number of people who are still ignorant of the facts around the economy. And the way the press keeps spinning the outsourcing story and Iraq war as reasons for fear. There are reasons for fear up ahead, but the facts of the economy are not them. The economy in the last 12 months has grown faster than anytime since the early 80s, even faster than during the "bubble" of 1999. In outsourcing, the US is actually a net gainer in those jobs. The "misery index" is actually at a very low level. I hope this message gets through to more people. But I understand that bad news sells more papers than good. That is why I don't subscribe to the local paper or watch the local TV news.
The Dangerfield Economy
April 5, 2004; Page A18
Friday's report of roaring job numbers for March, along with the sharp upward revisions for the previous two months, was good news that even the chattering classes couldn't deny. Then again, give them a day or two and they'll have us back in Hooverville. Like Rodney Dangerfield, this is the recovery that can't get no respect.
By nearly every objective measure, the U.S. economy is strong and getting stronger. Just look at the Misery Index, the measure created by the late economist Arthur Okun adding the rates of unemployment and inflation. This may not be the most sophisticated of metrics, but it does capture the two greatest threats to household wealth and security. And it's indicating that, comparisons to the 1990s' bubble years excepted, the U.S. economy is doing very well.
Today's unemployment rate of 5.7% is close to the level Bill Clinton boasted about as he sought re-election in 1996. Meanwhile, inflation has fallen by a full percentage point over the past eight years. As the nearby table shows, the economy compares favorably by re-election standards and President Bush's policies should be enjoying at least a modicum of respect.
Instead, the media have done a terrific job of convincing everybody that these are the worst of times. A poll conducted by the American Research Group in mid-March found that 44% of Americans believed that the country was still in a recession. That's passing strange when you consider that the last recession ended way back in November of 2001, and for the last two quarters of 2003 the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 6.1%, the fastest in 20 years. Even more remarkable, the percentage of gloomsters was higher in March, when we now know 308,000 new jobs were being created, than over the previous three months.
The "misery index" in Presidential re-election years
YEAR INFLATION UNEMPLOYMENT MISERY INDEX
1976 Ford 5.8% 7.7% 13.5%
1980 Carter 13.5% 7.1% 20.6%
1984 Reagan 4.3% 7.5% 11.8%
1992 Bush I 3.0% 7.5% 10.5%
1996 Clinton 3.0% 5.4% 8.4%
2004 Bush II 2.0% 5.7%* 7.7%
*Unemployment rate in March 2004
Source: Club for Growth
The angst is also hard to fathom given that Americans are richer than they've ever been before. Household wealth recently hit $44.4 trillion, an all-time high. A big part of that is due to the stock market's 35% recovery last year, as well as rising property prices. OK, not everyone is convinced that the real estate market will hold up, and we're also concerned that price signals are warning that Federal Reserve policy has been too accommodating. Nevertheless, when a record 68.6% of households own their own homes, that should at least create a feeling of security.
And it's not just asset prices that are rising. Household income is up 4.1% year on year, driving even bigger gains in disposable income and consumption. Corporate profits also hit a record level in the fourth quarter of last year, and are expected to rise at a more than 15% clip in the first quarter of this year.
So why are Americans feeling so peevish? One possible explanation is that globalization has brought on increased job turnover, and the experience of losing a job, even if another one is found, can be profoundly unsettling. The only problem with this theory is that the "churn rate," the process of creative destruction by which declining industries shed workers and rising ones snap them up, has been falling since the middle of 2001.
That leaves the inescapable conclusion that the problem is perception. This pessimism is understandably fed by Democrats who want to retake the White House. But it's also flogged by a media that can't seem to admit that the real news of the past three years is how well the U.S. economy has weathered the shocks of a huge stock-market blowoff, September 11, business scandals and the long prelude to war in Iraq.
Contrast this to 2000, when nearly all economic coverage portrayed only sunshine even though the stock market plunge had begun in April of that year. The National Bureau of Economic Research now fixes the onset of recession at March 2001, meaning that the economy was heading down long before the Bush Administration took office.
This year's favorite bad news story has been the job market, especially outsourcing. Yet few bother to report that government data show that the U.S. is actually a net recipient of outsourcing jobs, and this surplus is widening. The growing trade in services helps the economy because American companies are market leaders in many high value-added niches.
For those who fear that the U.S. will somehow be stripped of high-paying jobs, consider how manufacturing, which was also supposedly in terminal decline in the 1980s, is again coming back. Last week, an important factory index showed a high level of hiring, and output is at 20-year highs. High productivity growth has kept American manufacturers competitive, even in the face of low-wage competition.
Speaking of productivity growth, it's worth noting how little positive coverage this is attracting. Throughout the Reagan years when job creation was strong, the critics complained that productivity was lagging. Now that productivity is surging but employment has taken longer to bounce back than in other recoveries, the good news is again lost in the noise of lamentations.
Still and all, by November the American people will have had ample time to figure out the good news behind this smokescreen of negativity. Sooner or later, the Dangerfield economy is going to command some respect.
Good summary of the current Saudi/US oil dependency facts
Also from The fall of the House of Saud.
Not all the wishing in the world will change the basic reality of the situation.
* Saudi Arabia controls the largest share of the world's oil and serves as the market regulator for the global petroleum industry.
* No country consumes more oil, and is more dependent on Saudi oil, than the United States.
* The United States and the rest of the industrialized world are therefore absolutely dependent on Saudi Arabia's oil reserves, and will be for decades to come.
* If the Saudi oil spigot is shut off, by terrorism or by political revolution, the effect on the global economy, and particularly on the economy of the United States, will be devastating.
* Saudi oil is controlled by an increasingly bankrupt, criminal, dysfunctional, and out-of-touch royal family that is hated by the people it rules and by the nations that surround its kingdom.
It is not just about oil
Check out this excerpt from The fall of the House of Saud.
"Just to make sure that no one upsets the workings of this system, perhaps by meddling in internal Saudi affairs, Saudi Arabia now keeps possibly as much as a trillion dollars on deposit in U.S. banks--an agreement worked out in the early eighties by the Reagan Administration, in an effort to get the Saudis to offset U.S. government budget deficits. The Saudis hold another trillion dollars or so in the U.S. stock market. This gives them a remarkable degree of leverage in Washington. If they were suddenly to withdraw all their holdings in this country, the effect, though perhaps not as catastrophic as having a major source of oil shut down, would still be devastating. "
So, no it is not just about oil and the price of it. We are dependent on those rich oil economies to prop up our stock markets and financial reserves as well (send the money back). Think 2000 was a bad year after the tech speculation bubble? Think about Oil nations not investing and in fact pulling out their money. In the 80's Saudi Arabia had about $120B in cash reserves. Today they have less than $21B. And personal expenses of the Royal family (their burn rate in VC terms) are more than doubling each year. This is unsustainable. They will need to keep prices high and start taking back assets to maintain their life style.
The truth about the Mid-East
I am not an alarmist. I tend to be a pragmitist. And to have faith in complex systems ability to fix themselves and be fairly resilient to attacks. The post-WWII world economy has been such a fairly resilient system. Until the OPEC oil embargo showed a major weekness. Then the cartel and the consumers reached a sort of compromise that allowed the wheels to keep on churning and the mid-east to get fantastically rich. But along the way, the governments that own those resources and control the cartel got very corrupt and got pushed to extremes to hold onto power and control their restless populations (especially the less fortunate ones). A recent article in The Atlantic The fall of the House of Saud. excerpts Robert Baer's 2003 book, Sleeping With the Devil. The short version is required reading if you are to understand how fragile the world economic system is. And why we had to go into Iraq. Remember what the Taliban did in Afgahanistan. They took away all modern conveniences and put the country back 1,000 years. Many of the extremist want to do that to the entire Mid East. To take away all forms of modern temptations and intergration with their neighbors. This includes the next guy in line to rule Saudi Arabia. It may be time to start getting a little paranoid.
Don't let anyone spin Iraq in the simple enlightened liberal western terms around human rights and the like. It is not as simple as "bring our boys home" and "I am against violence". I am starting to believe that these things have a material impact on the overall world economy. And that the adversary's objective is to blast as much of the world as they can back to the stone age. A truly frightening thought.
McAfee is granted spam patent
Tom's Hardware Guide: Tom's Hard News is reporting on McAfee being granted a spam process patent that they applied for in Dec of 2003. I gotta believe there is prior art. Well, here come the lawyers.
June 1, 2004
Interesting paper on collagorative weblogs
This recent paper talks about four top sites that are big collaborative Weblogs. The challenges of the model and what works/doesn't work. Good micropublishing insight. Kinda academic though.
Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President, MSN speaks at Goldman Sachs event
Want ot know how MSN sees the future? Check this out from the horses mouth... Yusuf Mehdi Address to Institutional Investors at Goldman Sachs 5th Annual Internet Conference
Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President, MSN
New poll service a bust...
BlogPolling gave me none of these problems. Sometimes simplicity is the best answer. I am staying with Blogpolling for now.
Looks like Kerry is the winner...
After a month, here are the results of the Presidential poll on my site. Thanks for your participation, please take the new one about what will be your next computer?
Who are you voting for?
George Bush 24 % (12 votes)
John Kerry 59 % (29 votes)
Ralph Nader 4 % (2 votes)
None of the Above 12 % (6 votes)
Total votes 49