Wanted: An E-reader for Comics

Although the Apple tablet has yet to prove itself as fact or fiction, I hope the new speculation about tablets for periodicala will include the thriving comicbook and manga businesses. Websites like Zuda and Marvel successfully translate the comic reading experience to the web but to be honest, the last thing I want to do is read a comic book on my laptop. I want to be able to read them in the bed, in the back of a cab or on a plane. As the seats in planes shrink (or I get bigger) my 13" Macbook has proven to be too large, while any netbook has too small a screen to be useful.

There’s some pretty cool readers for the iphone like Comic Reader Mobi (above video) but the iphone isn’t really a good medium for reading an entire comic book. Unless the art is reduced to a panel by panel reduction, the screen is simply to small. I haven’t purchased comics regularly in a decade but I can actually see myself getting back into them if I could purchase with the click of a button on a store like itunes. However, I’m not impressed by the stuff Apple is doing with motion comics at all. Comics are comics because they’re printed, animation is animation because it’s animated. Does the world really need an in-between?

Google Your Google on Your Google With Your Google

If there were ever a company that had a real chance of becoming Skynet, it would be Google. Let’s hope that ‘don’t be evil’ mantra still permeates the company in twenty five years when Google AI robots are cooking your dinner or tending to other things. Today Google announced it’s own alternative DNS resolver. Google’s not the only company to do this by any means, there’s even sites dedicated to it like OpenDNs. However, it’s a little scary just how much of the world’s information ecosystem one company controls.

Want to call someone use your Google Phone (Motorola Droid) and Google Voice to ring them up! Want to find their website? Pop open your laptop, outfitted with Chrome OS and Chrome Browser and search to your hearts content. Want your news? Google Reader is there aggregating feeds from FeedBurner. Click through to the website and Google is there with AdSense. Sick of cable? No worries, Google’s YouTube will soon be a fair substitute. Use your Droid to get directions to a job interview, Google the company and find out what their pagerank is.

There’s even a Google internet bus!!!

On Silicon Valley, Changing the World and Pizza

I just came across a great article by Nathaniel Whittemore at change.org about whether or not Silicon Valley can really change the world. I have no doubt in my mind that there are some fantastic people in the Valley that, can will and are working towards doing just that. But I also know those are rarely the startup success stories that find attention at Tech Crunch, Venturebeat or similar blogs. Not to say that these blogs don’t do a great job at what they do, there’s certainly no obligation for them to cover any company other than what they deem editorially worthy. It’s just that (like Nathaniel astutely puts it) ‘it’s not even the same sport’. In other words, groups that are literally working towards social impact using technology aren’t even on their radar.

What I see is a Valley that’s somewhat oblivious to what it can actually do to change the world. Whether that be the startups that it could support or the entrepreneurs it could put forth as success stories, I really just don’t see enough people who actually are given enough credit for doing it in a way that doesn’t look like an Amazon or a Google. And yes, Amazon, Google, Zappos, Twitter etc. all changed the daily lives of people all over the world TREMENDOUSLY. But so have Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, Open Data Kit and Samasource etc. It’s not a question of who’s changing the world more, it’s who’s world is being changed and how.

So now I can call up companies that don’t even sell pizza, order a pizza, and they’ll still deliver it to me. Great. (Editor’s note: really happened.)

But when it comes to offering people who’ve never in their lives had any sort of income, jobs via mobile devices, it barely registers.

Secondly, most companies that end up changing the world do it by accident. I’m sure when Twitter was invented, Jack Dorsey and company had no idea a young Ugandan would use it to microblog his way through a riot, bullets whizzing past, and tanks rolling in. Likewise, I really doubt Sergey and Larry dreamed of all the things Google would one day be used for. Nor, probably, did Tim Berners-Lee when he laid the groundwork for the web.

Finally, I’m not sure Silicon Valley needs to worry about changing the world. They’ve done such a good job of doing it without actually trying that change will inevitably come. With so many brilliant, successful people in such a small area, they can afford to not even think about it. Saying ‘we are here to change the world’ while not really supporting the claim comes across as a bit shallow if you ask me. If you want to really do that, great. But if you’re there to pocket a few million before you hit thirty, nothing wrong with that either.

The motivation of people around the globe looking for innovative solutions to the worlds biggest problems (or smallest), should be to create the same energy, enthusiasm and optimism that exists for whatever reason in Silicon Valley, wherever they are in the world. Whether that be Namibia, Bangalore or Lost Springs, Wyoming.

Feedburner: A Service Yahoo Should Own

So today, I intended to triumphantly return to the world of personal blogging with this blog but I failed. My first post pushed out today was actually this one below from 2008:

Screen shot 2009-12-02 at 7.12.30 PM.png

Arg. How did that happen? It turns out it’s a problem with Feedburner. Feedburner was an awesome service for about 5 months (after it reached critical mass in 2007 but before Google bought it later that year). Since then it’s stagnated and for some it’s just gone down hill:

Screen shot 2009-12-02 at 7.16.10 PM.png

Aside from things not working, mystery outages, epic mailinglist downtime and non-existant customer service, Feedburner is simply no longer innovating at the pace that it used to. I mean look at it’s competitors: MailChimp, Feedblitz, Feedity, Rapidfeeds. Okay, its competitor Mailchimp because the others are either way too boring (Feedblitz) or too young (Feedity, Rapidfeeds) too appeal to me. Mailchimp, however is pretty damn awesome. It’s a service that that allows you to push an RSS feed out as a newsletter, styled or unstyled. Pretty useful for any blog with an audience or marketers. Secondly, most of these other services offer some basic things that Feedburner doesn’t:

1) exporting your subscriber list

2) pushing to Twitter and Facebook without a third-party applications

3) customer support by humans

oh, and how could I forget…

4) uptime

Those are three things I’m happy to pay for that Google Feedburner still doesn’t offer after two and a half years of owning the service. As much as I dislike Yahoo, I will say they have some awesome products that actually work…even acquisitions like Flickr and Delicious still work even if they have also suffered from corporate cryogenic freeze. Beyond that, most of their premier services have great customer support. Especially the ones that actually have revenue streams attached to them (lord, knows they need that revenue!) But even the things not directly related to revenue have great support: Pipes, BOSS, YUI etc. They seem to value the ‘utility’ their apps offer their customers and the brand loyalty that that builds. Honestly, I’d rather have a mediocre service like this that just works versus 20 Google projects that aren’t quite there yet.

With Feedburner, I fear Google may have another Dodgeball on their hands. A service that’s great and upcoming prior to acquisition only to become boring, buggy and frustrating after.

P.S. To anyone wondering what the issue was, my feed validates perfectly in every service under the sun (I tried many), but in Feedburner I get this message:

Screen shot 2009-12-02 at 7.38.29 PM.png

Yet, even Feedburner’s recommended validation service tells me:

Screen shot 2009-12-02 at 7.40.20 PM.png

What’s the deal?

GosDot Reborn

After many moon and many suns, I’ve decided to reactivate my personal blog. Once upon a time I used to write photoshop tutorials, graphic design tips, etc and prior to that this was my travel blog as I backpacked around Europe. Now it’s where I’ll talk about everything I don’t write about over at Appfrica.net. I’ll also write about some of the stuff going on with TED and the other projects I’m involved in. Thanks for reading!

Locked out of BBPress?

So I just spent the last fifteen minutes trying to hack my way back into my BBpress forums at code.appfrica.net. The problem was that BBPress doesn’t consider admins the ‘super users’ of the account. The ‘administrator’ rank just allows you to moderate the forum, not it’s look or anything else. To do that you need to be what’s called a ‘keymaster’. Keymasters can do anything while Administrators can do ‘almost’ anything but that almost is pretty useless when you want to change the look of your forum!

For the sake of others out there who might run into the same problem, here’s how I did it. It’s pretty simple but no one has published anything as straight forward as this, yet (or at least I didn’t find one in my Google searches).

  1. Log into your MySQL database via PHP Admin
  2. Find the ‘xx_usermeta’ area.
  3. Find the username of the account you want want to make the ‘keymaster’.
  4. Look for the area that looks like this a:1:{s:13:"administrator";b:1;} and replace it with a:1:{s:9:"keymaster";b:1;}.
  5. Log-In to the account to make sure everything worked.
  6. Pat yourself on the back buckaroo, you’re done!

If you know hacking, you know that having an account with the username ‘Admin’ can be a security risk. I got locked out of my account after changing my name from ‘Admin’ to something else to make it harder for potential hackers to get into my forums. Then I deleted the account called ‘Admin’ because I thought it was enough that I promoted my new username to administration status. The BBPress manual doesn’t mention the fact if you delete the Admin account, you’re deleting the sole keymaster effectively locking you out of the real administration of the back end of your site!

This technique should fix everything…at least for BBPress 0.9.0.2, the version that I used this on.

Hahlo or Twitterific To Follow Summize Acquisition

twitterific

hahlo

Now that Twitter has purchased Summize and corrected some seriously boneheaded moves, their next major moves need to be in the mobile spaceVentureBeat makes some interesting points on this very subject. If I were the powers that be at Twitter I would be looking to snatch up all of the best thirdparty applications using the API.  This would Include Hahlo and Tweetdeck, or possibly Twitterific (which has the feature-set of both).  Rather than spend more money and time trying to compete with these existing products, why not bring them into the fold? In addition, they need to take a hard look at the functionality provided by TwitterFeeder.  I use TwitterFeeder to announce that I’ve updated my blogs.  Without it, I have to do this manually. 

I’m not suggesting TwitterFeeder in and of itself is worthy of acquisition (the staff at Twitter could write this code in a heartbeat) but the functionality would be useful to Twitter users. It would also allow them to compete more directly with FriendFeed and Tumblr.

T-Mobile/USA Hijacks Open Ports

If you’re a developer who likes to go to coffeeshops work with people around, stay away from some places that offer Wifi on T-Mobile. This is pretty silly because T-Mobile is one of those wifi providers that you still have to pay for. Yet, I’ve got less functionality than most free alternatives. I didn’t realize this until today when I was trying to connect to my django host using Terminal.

Normally the opening Terminal results in a default window that looks like this:

username_macbook:~ username$

Now let’s get a list of all our open communications ports by typing ls /dev/tty.* This command normally returns something that looks like:
dev/tty.BTRS232 /dev/tty.Tigoe6630-AppleAgent-1
/dev/tty.Bluetooth-Modem /dev/tty.Tigoe6630-Dial-UpNetwor-2
/dev/tty.KeySerial1 /dev/tty.modem

When I was at borders today I opened this and noticed something odd…

250:~ username$

I’m not sure exactly what that 250 means but I assume it’s got something to do with taking over my open ports and filtering them through whatever T-Mobile device is used in-store. To confirm this I typed /dev/tty.* again which returned:

/dev/tty.Bluetooth-Modem /dev/tty.Bluetooth-PDA-Sync

This essentially means I have no open ports except these two Bluetooth ports.

Now, we know T-Mobile does this because they don’t want to be held liable for hackers attacking users of their networks. Unfortunately that means from now on when I need to do real work I’ll just stay home instead of spending money with them.

Testing Out Blog Networks

Blog Networks

Blog Networks is a social networking application that esentially turns Facebook into a massive database of blogs not unsimilar to Yahoo’s MyBlogLog.  The idea is to encourage reading by the casual reader.  I just signed up GosDot and Appfrica which you can check out by clicking the links.

Push Button Publisher

I promise there will be some regular updates to this space soon. Due to my increased level of work with Appfrica I’ve been neglecting this blog but don’t worry updates are coming soon.  I recently started blogging/writing for a pretty big magazine out of the UK so I expect to focus the direction of this site on two areas: Graphic Design and Web Development/Design

All my social media discussion can be found at the Appfrica blog as it relates to work there..

So if you’re confused, where can you find Jon Gos on the WWW these days?

Appfrica.org
Smashing Magazine
Imaginepublishing.co.uk
Developertutorials.com
weworkforfree.net

I never expected to be a professional blogger but with the increasing amount of gigs I’m getting, that might just be possible.