This is now an archive fans

After building and hosting my blog on my own server for many years, I decided to move things over to this space as an archive rather than have a dead and seemingly abandoned blog out there in the webspace.

I’ve since moved my online identity to Tubmblr which is more suitable to my blogging habits I’m working on going forward (which is nothing against wordpress which frankly is an incredible blogging platform that gets better every year). You can follow this at:

Or by just hitting my old domain:


My Steve Jobs Story

Figure I’d jump on the band wagon here with everyone lamenting the Jobs man as he’s moved out of his CEO role and into being Chairman and share a personal story. I actually worked at a number of Macworlds when they were in Boston as an audio visual tech. These were the days when the expo was huge and spanned the world trade center and Bayside expo in Boston. I was at the infamous keynote having worked directly with Jobs and his staff to ready his presentation where Bill Gates popped up on the screen causing cries afoul from the faithful masses. Still funny to see that reaction it got. I worked at most of the additional keynotes when they moved the expo to New York until Apple finally backed out. So here’s my story.

I’m at the Javitt’s Center in NYC, it’s the day before the keynote and Job’s is rehearsing on stage behind closed doors. I’m in the room as a digital projectionist and security is deadly tight but I had a special pass with the appropriate color coded apple logo granting me access. I had come and gone from the room many times over the days and once again entered the hall from the rear to see Steve stop mid-sentence and stare right at me. I continued to walk forward as he gestured to his handler who came rushing up to me. “Are you supposed to be in here?” he asked me all accusatory… Um, yeah dude. I’ve been here all week setting the gear up, I’m working. I looked up at the stage and saw Steve still looking at me, arms folded. I gave him the universal WTF gesture with my arms, his handler gave him the thumbs up and he continued rehearsing. After all he was getting ready to announce the G4 Cube.

A brush with brilliance? Well not right then and there but I’ll echo what I’ve read quite a bit of lately. The man was one of a kind and built a company unlike anything out there while inspiring a hell of a lot of people. I feel pretty lucky to have been there to witness the turnaround and wish both Steve and Apple well.

Progress in Mobile Payments as Starbucks leads the charge


Starbucks recently rolled out their mobile payment option for devices. Basically you can download a free app, add credit, and then display a barcode that will allow you to pay for your purchases using a third-party barcode reader at your point of purchase. This is a great step in the right direction by a major brand that will make a lot of consumers take notice of what mobile payments can mean, not to mention push the consumer goods industry toward further adoption. And Starbucks had a great case to try this out as 2/3rds of their customers are smartphone users. However, having downloaded and used it for a few weeks, there’s still a few issues from a customer experience standpoint where I’m not sold. Below are a few reasons:

  • I still have to download and install a specific app – Sure it’s free and easy to install, but I still need to go get it to use it and I should (though I’m sure many have no problem making the rest of the line wait) get it ahead of time and not right as I’m paying.
  • I have to have my device handy, charged, and ready – My device is habitually not charged all the way, out of my grasp, or not in hand, mostly because I’m with someone and yapping as I wait in line. I get the thinking here. Starbucks always involves waiting because their products are complicated and time-consuming to prepare, thus the downtime and propensity to pull out your phone. However, I rarely get coffee alone so that appeal isn’t there for me.
  • I have to give my payment info to this specific app – I’m not particularly shy or paranoid about this but it’s sort of a pain to enter the info, even if it is just once.
  • A gift card is just as functional – No secret to anyone, adding credit to a gift card at the register is easier, and then after that it’s a no thought transaction to pay. No waking up your device, finding the app, etc…

Don’t get me wrong, I like where this is going and Starbucks got a lot of PR out of it. But until a technology like NFC comes along to make this all a little easier I think I’ll probably go back to cash and cards when my credit runs out on the app.

Will NFC be a slow starter in 2011 or is this the year?

Near Field Communications

So we’re past CES 2011, and of the many mobile and tablet device announcements, none in particular has included any big announcements around NFC (near field communication) support. Wasn’t this supposed the be the year? Where are the goods?

Since the first time I saw NFC demo’d at a Nokia research center in Cambridge years ago, I was captivated by the potential it represented in all sorts of transactions. From offers, to payments, to location based check-ins, there’s loads of potential here with very little for the end-user to do to opt-in. No specific applications needed, no sign-ups, just tap and be on your way. When you think about it, it’s really the way things should be right? Even traditional media outlets such as Businessweek are starting to pick up on NFC so awareness is getting there.

And before you ask “what about QR codes” forget about it. Despite many publishers and marketers piloting QR code implementations, it’s clearly crashed and burned before it ever got off the runway with NFC coming. Think about the user experience of QR codes in this hypothetical scenario:

Customer see’s a QR code in a display or printed advertisement. Assuming that the customer both knows what it is and what to do next they pull out one of the many devices on the market, most which ship without software to read the codes. Ok, let’s assume the ad tells them the name of one of many campaign specific QR code readers out there and the customer is willing to search it out and install it. Several minutes later (if they’re patient and have a good connection), bam! They’ve successfully scanned the code to what must of been a pretty compelling and clearly articulated value proposition.

Now replace that whole experience with a simple tap of a NFC supported device. The customer sees the logo at the top of the post, knows what it is, and taps away. The customer doesn’t need to think to opt-in, and they can review or fulfill any of the thought process steps involved later at their convenience.

So is the year for NFC? It’s early and I think there is plenty on the horizon. But if anything, Google’s recently released Samsung Nexus S with built in NFC support should be an industry driver, just like the features that the Nexus One bore a year before (faster processing, more memory, etc..). NFC is an eventuality, it’s how soon it gets here is what remains to be seen.

Touch Gestures with Adobe Flex, Adobe Air, and the iPhone

Lee Brimelow just posted a great tutorial illustrating how easy it is to make multitouch applications with both Flash CS5, AIR 2.0, and Flash 10.1. But what it you’re a Flex guy and don’t play well with (or have) Flash? And what if you don’t have a touch interface that supports gesutures? Well if you have an iPhone or iPod touch here’s a workaround that will allow you to test your gesture based air apps.

Here’s what you need:

    Apple iPhone/Ipod Touch
    iTap ($3.99 iTunes App store) There are plenty of mouse apps out there but this one was the only one I could find that supports gestures which is indeed different than multitouch. Just having multitouch won’t do it.
    Adobe Flex
    Air 2.0 Beta
    Air 2.0 SDK

As I said, in my example we’re using Flex. Open it up and create a new AIR project. Now since we’re doing this all in Actionscript we’re going to create a new Actionscript file in our project and give it the same name as the project/MXML file that was created as our default application file. Now, right click this new Actionscript file and make it the the default application and delete your default MXML file. Now you’re ready to code.

The code from Lee’s Flash version ported over pretty cleanly so I’ll only outline the differences, please see Lee’s tutorial for the breakdown of how the gesture listeners work. The main difference in Lee’s version and mine are the squares and the the way we setup the stage parameters.

The reference to stage is a bit different since Flex doesn’t pass the NativeWindow class to AIR automatically the way it does with Flash. If you don’t use NativeWindow your app will be blank and you won’t see anything. We set up the window this way.

//Set up fullscreen, need Native Window for Air using Flex Actionscript Project	

var mainWindow : NativeWindow = new NativeWindow( new NativeWindowInitOptions() );
mainWindow.stage.displayState = StageDisplayState.FULL_SCREEN_INTERACTIVE;
mainWindow.stage.scaleMode = StageScaleMode.NO_SCALE;
mainWindow.stage.align = StageAlign.TOP_LEFT;

The squares are simple, a quick drawing API snippet to draw them instead of using a MovieClip from the library in Flash.

//Draw a blue square with white stroke

var square:Sprite = new Sprite();, 0xFFFFFF, 1, false, CapsStyle.SQUARE, JointStyle.MITER);, .5);,0,200,200);;

Now when your app is complete, you’ll want to test it. Load up the iTap app on your iPhone and free server software on your PC/Mac to use the multi-touch functionality like my son Bob is demonstrating at the top of this post (he’s pretty sharp for 10, already know how to compile apps in Flex.)

With AIR for mobile on the horizon for touch devices it’s pretty exciting how Adobe has embraced multitouch and gestures. Thanks to Lee for the inspiration and code for poor-man’s touch gestures testing. 😉

You can download the AIR project for use in Flex here!

Glad I was right about Chumby


Right in time for the holiday season, Chumby Industries released the Chumby 1, a newer and cheaper version of the original Chumby that came out a few years back. Like it’s predecessor, it offers a large amount of free widget content including access to web based services folks use on regular basis: Facebook, Pandora, and Gmail to name a few. So why does the new Chumby offer a glimmer of light to what could be the start of some mass appeal? Because (in my opinion) they did a few of the things I pointed out in my post from two years ago aptly named “The Chumby Dilemma

First they made it cheaper. The original used to be $180 bucks, this new one is $120 shipped. I actually bought two of them on holiday promotion for $99. They’re right there on the price threshold now, $99-$120 is more than reasonable for all the great things the Chumby does.

Second, they changed the design of the enclosure making it seem like it belongs in rooms other than the bedroom (was never a fan of the pillowish enclosure). They put a battery case in it (battery sold separately) so you could take it around the house. Basically, they made it feel like a hell of a lot more than an internet alarm clock, which it is.

So while I’m sure this cuts into their margins a bit, they made the product more enticing and salable by changing the easiest things. The brilliance is truly in the software and Flash based channels and I hope they focus and continue to grow that. So go buy one, it’s a fantastic device that has a special place set aside on my kitchen counter.

By the way, people are doing some really cool things in hacking the Chumby. You can see a list of all sorts of mods and hacks here on this wiki page. A favorite is this one recently featured on Hackaday:

It’s not the devices, it’s the gaps


So now that the iPad craziness has blown over, want to comment on yet another disruptive product from Apple. This time we’re in a “tween” segment, or somewhere between your desktop/laptop, your mobile, your e-reader…. Wow, a lot of devices to carry right? And where does the iPad fit, or for that matter, where do any of your current devices fit in relationship to it?

There is a lot going on these days with companies abstracting the traditional PC experience away from devices to create targeted customer user experiences. Sometimes this is due to hardware restrictions in smaller underpowered devices (phones, e-readers), sometime it’s due to creating more portable entertainments platforms for folks to consume content with (netbooks, litl). The problem is, each of these devices meet only some of a customer’s needs at a premium price. Some customers don’t want a to use a PC for glance content, but may prefer the litl for it’s large format, channel content delivery. Some customers won’t read a book or watch a movie on their iPhone, but the iPad might be perfect for that. Some folks want to run Word or Blog, but prefer a keyboard rather than a tocuhscreen. So you have all these different devices that do these things at a different efficiency level. To many devices and too many segments/needs to serve.

In essence, it feels like the iPad will be a niche product, but falls far short of a convergence device. The good thing about it is that it will force the carriers to adopt more affordable data plans. It will also force the lower end devices like the Nook and the Kindle to become cheaper. Frankly, both these devices look overpriced compared to what you get for your $499 iPad. Either way it still feels like we’re in the days where you needed to carry your laptop, pda, mp3 player, and camera. Too many to devices to serve all your needs.

Nokia N900 – Two Paragraph Review


With Nokia jumping into Maemo for their future device offerings, there is certainly a lot at stake in terms of closing the UX gap between their competitors as well as enfranchising developers with an open and performance-able platform they can grow their Ovi store offerings on. And with the Nokia N900, they do not disappoint. The device is a huge leap forward in terms of usability and a pleasant device to use and develop for. Nokia used to throw around the term “mobile computer” when describing offerings like the N95 and the N97. This is the first device where this really seems to hold true. The update and firmware repositories in terms of both available content and frequency of updates has been superb. They are truly nimble in this way for the first time, a trend that must continue as they go forward.

One thing that sticks out is that this particular device still caters to the hacker, or maybe what was the early adpoter smart-phone users of the mid-2000’s. The folks who were okay with hacking, installing, tweaking etc… If they mature this platform with this device and bridge the learnings onto a future (and a little thinner 😉 ) mass-market offering, they have really positioned themselves well in the future. Bravo Nokia, great phone!

Ode to the Old School: Dial-up BBS’s

var FO = { movie:”rt_bbs.swf”, width:”500″, height:”400″, majorversion:”8″, build:”0″, bgcolor:”000000″, quality:”best” };
UFO.create(FO, “rt_bbs”);

I was cleaning out some of my old files from an archived hard-drive which is long gone with the computer it came with (original Apple G4 tower I think). This was in a folder called “Skunk-work” and was one of the first projects that I really started to get the hang of Actionscript. Coolest part is that it’s a throw back to my original computing experiences with my Commodore 64 and AT&T 386 PC.

I tell my 9 year old son how we used to use land-lines to dial in (we haven’t had one for half his life, no concept of the home phone number but he has had his own email address for a few years). We wouldn’t call in to an ISP to access the internet, but to a specific computer in someones house. We’d actually war-dial neighboring towns to discover these Bulletin Board Systems (BBS’) and play “games” that we’re all text and ASCII based. He’s both interested and incredulous at this concept, and I explain that we would spend just as much time (maybe more with the slow connection) then on the computer as we do now when there really wasn’t that much to do. I keep waiting for him to tell me how lame it must of been, but I think he gets it and would have been as interested as I was back then. It was all about the pursuit and it still is today even with a million times the resources.

Wonder what things will be like for his kids in 20 years?

Submit your mobile app to the MAX Awards


So your a mobile software developer/publisher working in Flash Lite and want to go to Adobe MAX, the leading conference in rich internet applications, creative and design solutions, and killer parties. But you live really far away and need a little help and incentive to get there. Well guess what? If you submit your mobile application you have a chance to be selected as a finalist and get a free conference pass!

I’m an industry judge for mobile and devices and expect to see some high-quality offerings like I have and years past. Please enter your app, all entries will be considered so don’t hold back, deadline is July 31st. I’ve heard on the Twitter-verse there are going to some game-changing announcements concerning mobile so this is not one to miss.

Don’t miss the party! Enter your app here.