Saturday, January 30, 2010

good enough

I think we are in the middle of an important change in our use of technology. The pieces are there but aren't being seen clearly yet. The recent economic unpleasantness has accellerated the trend.

Mp3 is lossy and imperfect, which gets audiophiles all in a tizzy. Hey, if the population wanted perfect sound reproduction they'd use .flac or .ape or something like that. But they don't.
Recommendation: record companies should give away very low bandwidth (64k?) music and sell the higher bitrate stuff. People might pirate 128k or higher, but I believe the public would sample 64k and buy what they like for acceptable listening. Same for movie companies and iPod-sized video. Use the low quality encodings to drive business to the "real" product.
Related prediction: increasing use of opensource .ogg. Increasing use of opensource firmware that plays open formats like .ogg and lossless formats like .ogg and .flac.

cheap netbooks
OLPC tried to do it, but it appears Google will actually end up creating very cheap netbooks like this ~$100 version. Heavy gaming? No. Business meetings? Probably not. But most of us don't need screaming (and battery-draining) CPUs and acres of diskspace. How many people buy a PC from Dell based on important-looking performance numbers then never do anything more cpu-intensive than email and Word? If you are rendering CAD, gaming, editing video, or writing compiled code you likely need a fast machine. Most everyone else does not.
Related prediction: increase in numbers of opensource-powered adequate hardware. More attention paid to battery life. Cheap/ugly solar panels on the PC lid?

Yaris, Fit, Hyundai, Kia
Simple cars that get us from here to there. Cars have become excessively marketed, positioned, overstyled and effectively inbred. Simple cars and effective cars (like the Prius) may be the new Model T.

Mesh and other narrowband wifi networks
I think there is a place for free, narrow bandwidth wireless networks. Enough to read webmail and do light (proxystripped?) surfing but not enough to run p2p, move nontrivial binaries, or stream video.
Recommendation: communities partner with their local cable or other utils to put up mesh networks for free, and offer higher, sexier bandwidth for the normal rate.

Ok, must make coffee now so I can make better sense than the above.


  1. I must be accidentally all cutting edge with my Prius and Ubuntu powered netbook.

    What the digital audio/video market needs is an ecosystem that borrows many features from itunes in terms of ease of use. Amazon has a decent, yet ugly store in non-DRM mp3 format, but like Apple their pricing runs .99 to 1.29 a track. Gee, I wonder how that happens when the costs of distrbution have dropped with electronic delivery? I smell "collusion in the restraint of trade" by our "friends" in the recording industry. How can physical CDs and digital media price out nearly the same with radically different cost structures? They still haven't accepted the truth that their business model is simply moribund.

    Maybe something more like artist direct distribution will win out, lower prices while offering artists a greater share of the fruits of their creativity. This of course would win out if the market was free and competetive. Big players, like members of the RIAA, simply hate the idea of a truly free market. You have to ask yourself what value middle men like them add? The sad truth is that free markets only work when rules are enforced to prevent abuse by powerful players. Markets aren't magic, they fail frequently when lacking sufficient regualtion. The recent banking mess is a good example of this.

    The great democratizing effect of technology is that without much know how an artist can setup a myspace page and directly sell (or give away) their own tracks and cut out the leeches at the record labels. I hope that this is what the future of digital media looks like. What's needed is an open standard for syncing digital media players. The problem is that this flies in the face of Apple, the current reigning 800lb gorilla in the market. They've repeatedly shown little interest in open standards unless they're given no choice by the market.

  2. You're one interesting fellow, Bert. Any chance I could convince you to start writing your own blog somewhere? Or just point us there if you're already doing it.

    You make more sense than 10 ordinary men. Keep up the good work.

  3. Got it; added your blog to the reading list on the right. Thanks!