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Macbook Pro Retina a treatise in patience


So what’s all the noise about this new Apple laptop? For me it was more about modern processors, better video processors, and well memory.. 16GB of memory to be exact. The realization that my 30″ Cinema HD display could really get it’s game on. So what’s the reality?

The waiting process, baseline estimates of 3-4 weeks with delivery dates in the 4-5 week timeframe. Payed for expedited shipping only to have Apple refund that after complaining about the waiting and poor communication. Apple also gave away super drives (a $78 value) to those dedicated customers who ordered early and complained.

Laptop arrived and I found several things to be fascinating;

1) The Macbook Pro Retina does not appear that it was ever intended to run OSX Lion, as basic things like USB3 did not work when shipped. (More on USB3 later)

2) If you have the Apple 30″ Display it really does matter if you have the dual-link dvi connector versus just the mini-display to dvi connector. With the later you only get 1024×768 and on that display its quite awkward.

3) 16GB of ram really does matter.

4) I am still core dumping from time to time with hard resets or lockups. Seems mostly I/O related. Doing heavy lifting with iPhoto… iPhoto crashes from time to time.

5) USB3 is really a great alternative to Thunderbolt. While most cost effective drives don’t have throughput over 5Gb/s, USB3 does 6Gb/s much better than USB2 that does 480Mb/s. Thunderbolt is overkill with it’s 10Gb/s+ ratings. My 7,200rpm drives do just fine (screaming fast) on USB3.

6) It’s all about the Retina, well not really.. I am concerned about Retina actually it seems that the GPU is maxed with the resolution requirements, and while that never really bothers me the main issue is the drives don’t really let you decrease resolution. So yes, you get really great built-in screen but there is kind of a so what factor. I was greatly disappointed that there was not a matt screen option for dealing with usage in direct sunlight. While the Retina is not as bad as the old glossy displays on the MBP, by no means do they match the Matt displays.

7) I am most disappointed in the lack of a Thunderbolt hub and firewire (yes I know Firewire is dead but I still have an old external iSight). The Thunderbolt to firewire is due out in “July” or so the stores don’t really know but thats the online rumors. I have yet to use my Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet. And my initial attempt at using HDMI for an external display resulted in using the Mini-display to DVI cable instead for a much better picture.

Overall, I am excited for the release of the Mountain Lion on July 25th, 2012. It is my expectation that this was the intended OS for the Retina and we should see little annoyances go away. With the incremental patches from last week many annoyances (like USB3) already have been fixed. The upgrade using a Time Machine backup was pretty easy (as have been recovery in the past). I did have a problem where I had to manually restore the Applications directory but that was the only hiccup.

So far Time Machine backups on a GoFlex using USB3 has made backups much faster. I find myself more productive with the new capabilities. A common remark among friends that rings true… I never realized just how slow my old laptop really was and just how much that slowed everything down.

Netflix Increases Prices 76% in past year!!

It was back in January that my Netflix prices increased 18% from the increase a year earlier. An email earlier this week (July 12, 2011) from Netflix indicated that September 1, 2011 prices were increasing again, this time an additional 50%.  The real news is that Netflix is basically doubling their prices from January 2011. Currently I pay a standard rate for 4 DVD out-at-a-time plus streaming, starting on September 1, 2011 Netflix will increase and standardize their prices to split them into the Mailer services and the Streaming service. No discounts if you combine the two they just add both services together. This to me feels like a great deal of arrogance on the part of Netflix and frankly I assume this is more a move to encourage people to cancel the Mailer service and replace it with the streaming service. A little bothered by this email I called the phone number provided in the email, only to get a recorded messsage, “We are experiencing high call volume, please try your call again later <CLICK>.” A little frustrated, I wrote and email. The auto-response returns “Your email has reached an automated mailbox. Email sent to this address does not reach our Customer Service team and will not receive a personal response.” So I venture onto the “Contact Us” portion of the website where I find a different 800 number and call it with my special “I’m a customer” number and over 10 minutes later on-hold, I get to a speak with a representative. After explaining that I had a been a customer for a while, it takes him a few minutes to determine I have been a customer for over 11 years (Netflix started offering their services in 1999, do the math!). I proceed to say that this increase is outrageous and that I was not feeling appreciated as a long time customer. I admitted that if Netflix could not show me some appreciatation I was not going to cancel one or the other plans that I was intent on cancelling my entire account the rep only replied, “Well that’s your choice.” He later tells me he can cancel my account in only a few seconds. Outraged not, I ask to speak to a manager a few moments later I have a new person on the phone who basically tells me there is nobody else to appeal to, this is the policy, they don’t care if I want to cancel. It would seem that Netflix thinks they have it all figured out and that they have proven to me they have zero loyalty to existing or long standing customers. Their customer service is pretty horrible and this latest move is pretty arrogant. I am sure some product manager thought all of this was really great; and for their corporate goals that might be the case. What they failed to understand is that I I have Cable, a Tivo, and subscribe to Amazon & Hulu and that acrosss the libraries there is much overlap. I have enough devices that have integration with multiple services that at some point price and quality of service will be the differentiation,  NOT size of content library (as is the case right now). Sadly, because of the poor customer service, arrogance, and a 76% price increase in less than a year, I will cancel this service later this year and stop supporting a company I once admired for their technical excellence and innovation.

Signal to Noise in the Social Web and the viability of the river of news with advertising

I came to a small realization this weekend; this is big, traditional media is dead!

Gone the way of the dinosaurs. Twitter is breaking more news these days than CNN or the Wall Street Journal. The news papers or bleeding life. Subscriptions are down. Pew Internet studies state that younger generations are going online to get their news and dont read traditional publications. Here’s the rub, social web and social media still lack a proven business model.

The real question is business model; Web 2.0 witnessed a resurgence of advertising. In the late 90s we used to laugh at new web portals coming to market with the idea that they will just sell some ads on the site to sustain their business. Interestingly, networks like Google and others brought ads to the little people. Or more appropriately it is the ad networks that became outsourced ad sales forces that could be easily consumed to enable even poor monetization on a web property. It has amazed me at how many new ideas are not betting the farm on Google’s ability to sell ads into their channel. Let’s not forget the death of Google AdSense when Google enabled the advertiser to opt-out of the Google publisher network. This killed the revenue for many publishers (side note: the quality of these publishers is in question but that’s another topic).

If we look at ad effectiveness; why is it that we always see mortgage ads, even after I just refinanced my house. It’s because the ad networks have access to their traffic data which by itself suggests that certain ads performe and monetize better than others. We say profile based ads in the 90s become contextual of the early 2000s. And now we have behavioral being all the rave. Behavioral is really just taking the profile and applying as context over time. If I read the front page of ESPN a lot, perhaps I like sports related stuff. So even as I am reading an editoral page on a remote site or a blog, I still might be intereted in sports. We have found time and again that behavior and profile dont always work. Advertisers are still struggling with how to get their signal through, when they are surrounded with all of this noise. It is this ratio of signal to noise that determines relevance. With the flood of information; relevance is dying. It is becoming harder and harder to find what you want on Google through all the cruft. Does Google search have a similar fate to that of AltaVista? Excite? Inktomi?

Enter’s the world of social media and the socail web. MySpace (the trailer park), Facebook (hey look at me), YouTube (check this out) and the many others all embrace our primal needs to network and congregate especially in a virtual world. We still have yet to see advertising in these new mediums find true success. Frankly, most of the ads on Facebook are terrible.

It is my feeling that advertising is not going to be as effectiven the social web or social media as it has been in pure search. There I said it. Traditional online advertising in social media does not work. Many may ask why, its mainly because there is too much noise and the message gets lost. Long gone is the billboard, radio ad, or TV ad that big brands have been built on over the past 30+ years. 

Once again that turtlehead called relevance is poking its head out again. With so many social updates, in a modern world with a river of news; you can either

a) only see what flows by you when you decided to engage or
b) find new ways to parse, sort, and consume the massive amounts of information being fed through a fire hose.

The river of news which was once a babbling brook is now nearing a class 4 rapids. Strap into your wooden barren and hope for the best as the information sweeps you away. Niagara Falls here we come! 

Returning to the arguement of business model. If users do not want to be engaged in a traditional commerical mechanisms; how do you get the message out? Do I want to friend a brand? Should I be a fan of a brand? More practically will injecting ads within the stream work? Along side of the stream? or will ads even work in this space.

Why do most ads in search either find labels of “Sponsored” or “Advertisement” or “Paid Listing” – Let’s not forget that women still buy beauty magazines for the ads. This is a perfect example of how relevant advertising when wanted; is considered content. What a novel idea? How do we make advertising more useful and content-like?

The answer lies somewhere in the idea of joining the conversation. What are the many conversations relevant to a brand? a consumer? a product? a company? and other interested parties?

Its funny the resurgence of advertising on the web, build it and they will come… great traffic strategy, bad business model. We are on the eve of needing something new. We need new leaders to usher in new innovation in business models to support this new method of information dissemination.

We are all witnessing the precursor to this business revolution… What’s next?