Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

I've found a great little science fiction ebook to recommend called Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It's written by Cory Doctorow, a writer, blogger and Outreach Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The story is interesting because it combines recent technological breakthroughs and potential technological discoveries, then extrapolates how they might find practical application in the future. The story's setting is a future where cloning and brain backup are commonplace, direct wireless connections to the Internet are installed in people's brains and where ad-hoc groups working for Whuffie, a type of peer recognition, have supplanted corporations.

Disneyworld (The Magic Kingdom) is the backdrop in which we find two ad-hoc groups battling for control of the park. The narrator tells the story of this epic battle from his own perspective, revealing the history of the world he's in bit by bit. To me it seemed to have the humor and feel of writing by Douglas Coupland (Microserfs) and Carl Hiassen (Lucky You), two of my favorite writers.

Even cooler, Doctorow has decided to offer his ebook as a free download in a multitude of formats for desktops (ASCII text, PDF, HTML, etc.) and for PDAs too (Palm Doc, PalmReader, iSilo, Mobipocket, etc.). Apparently this idea of sharing his work electronically has been a very popular option. Of course, the paperback book is available for purchase if you prefer that format.


Silicon Boys Follow-Up

Silicon Valley BoysWell, I've completed The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams this week and am pleased to report it was a good read. I got a little glassy-eyed in the 'Profits' chapter about venture capital, which was not terribly interesting to me, other than describing how venture capital works. But then I'm not an accountant either. :-)

The Epilogue chapter provided an interesting contrast to the prologue, though it didn't really cover the change in a post Internet-boom Silicon Valley as I'd hoped it might. I suppose I'll have to find another book to learn more about that phase of life in Silicon Valley. If you can suggest a good book on this, let me know.

One thing is sure -- Silicon Valley has more than its share of wacky people. But maybe that's why they're willing to take the risks and start companies... they're just crazy enough to think their ideas will work!

Verdict: If you're interested in a good general history of Silicon Valley peppered with some funny stories and insights on what life is like there, I can heartily recommend The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams.

Enjoy your weekend!


PalmGear's New Download Policy

Just today I've come across a tidbit on CliePlanet about PalmGear now requiring visitors to become "members" via a free sign-in screen, in order to download software from their website. I suspect as this new policy becomes widely known in the Palm community there are going to be many unhappy campers.

I suspect some of the reasons behind this policy change at PalmGear may be related to high bandwidth costs (related to all the downloads they serve), a desire to pinpoint who is downloading software and as a way to build up an opt-in email database for promotional mailings.

I think this is a mistake. I believe the all-or-nothing membership requirement is not the right way to go about managing bandwidth, tracking downloads, building mailing lists or whatever PalmGear is aiming for. Requiring visitors to become a member is a hassle, and one that many will avoid unless it is shown to be truly beneficial to them, especially since downloads did not require membership last week.

I would have rather seen PalmGear use a positive approach. Why not make membership an option that's so attractive, frequent visitors would immediately want to join? Attractions might include chances to win cool software or hardware, access to members-only promotions and discounts, and access to a MyPalmGear feature with custom app lists and other exclusive features. Make membership a special privilege rather an obstacle for your visitors to overcome.

In fact, Handango, PalmGear's rival software site, already tried this approach a few years ago, only to make membership an option a short time later. I guess we will see how things go for PalmGear.

Meanwhile, if you want to get software from PalmGear but do not want to become a member to do so, I've found a nice workaround posted at CliePlanet by a reader named Brian:

"You can still download items from without having to register with the site. If the item you want to download can be StreamLync'ed, just right click on the StreamLync icon, select 'Save Target As...' (In IE), and change the file extension from *.pgz to *.zip in the resulting dialog box before pressing enter. It will download without requiring you to register, and the resulting file is a valid *.zip archive. Enjoy."

Be aware that this workaround might soon disappear.

Here are some alternate Palm software sites: VersionTracker, EuroCool and FreewarePalm. I also like to use Google once I know what an app's name is. I just enter the criteria "app name+palm" in the Google search field to locate the developer's website directly. Works great.


Modular PDA Sync and Charger

HotSync Cable & ChargerI really like modular design solutions, so this HotSync and charger cable suite caught my eye. At the center of the system is a small, light USB HotSync cable for traveling. However, when you add the optional AC wall and DC car charger adapters (which connect directly to the USB end of the HotSync cable) you can also charge your PDA at home, in the office or in a car. This makes for a perfect travel system, since it's much smaller, lighter and more flexible than my OEM cradle and charger cable... and it works in the car.

I found the cable, AC wall and DC car adapters that work with my Clie N610C at Proporta, however my father located a similar suite for his N710C at CompUSA, so I suspect these can be found in many places if you look for them.


One View On The Future of Technology

Last week, a good friend sent me a link to a very comprehensive article written by tech consultant Andrew Grygus. The article discusses technology trends of 2003 and beyond, with analysis and references that provide a view of what the future for technology might be. Grygus' piece specifically addresses Microsoft's role in the future, because they are now so deeply intertwined with the technology industry.

Now, I admit I'm a Mac user and have always been a little suspicious of Microsoft's plans for the future, just based on how they've dealt with competitors and their users in the past. I do realize that there are many Windows users out there and that Windows does a fine job for many people and businesses, which is great. Further, I use some of Microsoft's products on my Mac and really like them.

However, after looking at this in-depth overview of where Microsoft is headed, I must say I'm very happy that I'm a Mac user with an alternative to Windows and Microsoft applications. I had always felt Microsoft's general approach tended toward restrictiveness and exclusivity. The facts presented in the Grygus article really made clear what could happen if Microsoft were left unchecked.

Now whether you love or hate Microsoft (or are ambivalent), I strongly suggest you take the time to read through this article. I was a bit surprised to see what amounted to Microsoft moving completely to a forced subscription system of dealing with Windows and Office that could require users to get on an upgrade treadmill like nothing ever seen before.

It's possible that these predictions are not what will exactly happen, especially since there are alternative options like Linux and Mac OS X and those who would challenge Microsoft. Whatever the case, I always think it's wise to be fully informed. In this case it seems especially critical if you're a Windows user contemplating what the future may hold for your computing needs.