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ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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McWireless: Would You Like Wi-Fi with That?

No, seriously! McDonald's is actually planning on offering an hour of free wireless internet access (Wi-Fi) in their restaurants in three US cities, according to this story on Yahoo! News. The free one hour of Wi-Fi deal will come with an extra value meal; additional hours can be had for $3 each.

I think this move by McDonald's is very interesting. If successful, this could turn McDonald's into a place where laptop and PDA users know they can go for a quick fix of Wi-Fi and something to eat. I imagine if the service proves popular, McDonalds may even sell Wi-Fi access sans the food requirement, banking on the scent of freshly cooked french fries wafting past visitor's noses as they surf.

Less than a year ago, I was a kinda skeptical about Wi-Fi. I thought it a frivolous nicety I'd never really use. Surprisingly, I became an enthusiastic Wi-Fi proponent after getting our two Mac PowerBooks wirelessly connected to each other and to the Internet through a Netgear Wi-Fi router. Now I enjoy the freedom of Wi-Fi net access all over our house. Our little Wi-Fi network has proven more useful than I'd imagined. With a new son to spend time with, it's great to access the net or our Mac network wherever Nathan is, rather than being chained to a computer in the basement.

I'm happy to see companies like McDonalds, Starbucks and Schlotzky's Deli all offering Wi-Fi "Hot Spots" in their establishments across the US. Soon, I can imagine a myriad of eateries, bookstores, malls, hotels and airports all offering inexpensive Wi-Fi access to their customers.... that would be cool by me. :-)


Blogging Gone Mainstream?

Today I read an interesting article at CNN, talking about blogging going mainstream. More of these kinds of articles seem to be appearing lately, following Google's recent purchase of (Blogger is a company which is popular for its free and paid blog services).

I find it intriguing that a phenomenon like blogging can be happening below the radar for quite some time, until a singular event (like Google buying Blogger) brings it to the attention of the media and general public. This process seems similar to the way musical acts are "discovered" even though they've been doing local or national tours for years and years.

I had a friend ask me what I thought the real deal with blogs was. He wanted to know if I thought were they just a fad like pet rocks, or if I felt there was something of substance to them. My answer was both.

Blogs do seem to have a momentary faddish aspect to them. In fact, many are starting blogs with great enthusiasm that will probably stop posting once they discover nobody is reading their work. As an example, check out this Wired article about weblogs abandoned by their owners.

On the other hand, there are many useful blogs that provide journalistic-level coverage on current events, some that specialize in research on very specific topics, and still others updated by developers, who share details of their development process with users and colleagues.

I think just as email, web browsing and chatting have all grown up and settled into a groove, blogging will settle into its own niche too. Once the fad has run its course, blogs will find their place in the web and become another staple for those who use and enjoy them.

I think the biggest problem facing a world of blogs is the sheer number and variety of them. There are just so many resources out there, no one reader will be able to see them all. Over time I think the better, more dedicated and more focused bloggers will prosper while bloggers who lose interest in blogging will falter. This is the normal way of things -- the best naturally rise to the top.


Sony Inspired by Handspring?

Clie TG50
I was surprised when I saw the new Clie TG50 had been released, not because it's Sony's 3rd OS 5 device, but rather, because it seemed oddly familiar. After contemplating my deja vu, it hit me -- the TG50 looks like Sony's version of the Handspring Treo!

If you don't believe me, check out the graphic I've pieced together to make my case, showing how the similarity between the Treo 270 and Clie TG50. For instance, compare the styling on the lid hinge: both the Treo and the Clie use a smooth cone-shaped hinge corner cover that's strikingly similar. The two devices also both feature a built-in thumboard and no Graffiti area whatesoever (though one could install NewPen on either device for on-screen Graffiti capaility).

Treo-Clie?Even InfoSync seems to see the resemblance, mentioned in its news blurb announcing the Clie TG50. However, there are many differences between these two devices: the Sony runs OS 5, has a hi-res screen, Bluetooth and its thumbboard looks harder to use than the Treo's. Meanwhile, the Treo 270 is a PDA and GSM phone 'communicator' and is much smaller than the TG50. Still I see an interesting resemblance... don't you?

The new Sony TG50 will retail for $400 and ought to arrive in the US soon. Check out reviews at Brighthand and Clie Club (Japan) for more details.


The Silicon Boys

The Silicon Valley BoysWhile I and the family were at the library this weekend, I picked up a book called The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams, by David A. Kaplan of Newsweek. I wondered if the book had dropped out of a timewarp, as it was written way back in 1998, published in 1999 but was listed as a 'New Non-Fiction Book'. I can understand books taking while to get through the system, but 4 years? Whatever the case, The Silicon Valley Boys has turned out to be a great read and I've not even reached the 100th page yet [1].

The book is the story of Silicon Valley, its history and events surrounding its movers and shakers like Jerry Yang (Yahoo!), John Doerr (Venture Capitalist), Gordon Moore (Intel), Marc Andreessen (Netscape), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple) to name but a few.

Before Kaplan gets into the story itself, he offers a glimpse of Silicon Valley culture in the prologue, which reads like a journal of the rich, famous, and the geeky weird! Money flows in Woodside, the residence of most Silicon Valley CEOs, and so does quirky behavior and arrogance. Of course this was written in the midst of the Internet bubble, so things may have changed. Kaplan offers a short epilogue on post-bubble life on Silicon Valley (I peeked) so it should be interesting to compare this section to the prologue.

The story then moves to a historical overview of Silicon Valley starting with Sutter's Mill and the gold rush of 1848-49, Stanford's beginnings, Lee de Forest and the invention of the vacuum tube amplifier, the invention of transitors, Hewlett-Packard's garage startup and the advent of personal computers. I can imagine the story continues on to the exapnsion of the Internet, IPOs and excesses of the late '90s. I found this historical view very intriguing -- I'd not connected the links between what made the area flourish and the hi-tech revolution that began there. Of course I've only read about and visited the area a few times, so this is all news to me, a Midwestern boy.

I'm currently on page 84 of 331, in the middle of the Steve Wozniak story, so I still have a bit of reading, but so far I really like the story's flow. Kaplan has a great dry sense of humor and pays attention to historical details and their relationships. Based on what I've read so far, I can already highly recoomend this book if you're curious about the history of Silicon Valley. I'll report back here once I've completed the book with a final update.

[1] My 100 page rule states that if a book cannot draw me in by the first 100 pages, it's more than likely not worth completing.


Hard Times for Handspring

Palm Art Well, I'd have never guessed that Handspring would fall on hard times, but they are in some tough straights at the moment. To get some background on their situation, have a look at this excellent article Handspring holding on until Treo gets a grip by John Fortt.

I and my wife both owned and used Handspring Visor Deluxes for several years and really loved them. Family and friends still use Visors and love them too. Our Visors were nicely designed and tough and the Springboard Backup module was a real lifesaver at times. Handspring seems to really have a good feel for the consumer -- smart marketing, very nice packaging, clean website, solid products, the works.

But tough times have arrived for Handspring. They've had to buy out a multi-million dollar lease on a manufacturing building they've built but can't use and have put all their eggs into the PDA/Phone "communicator" basket with the Treo. The Treo is a great device with excellent software and hardware integration. I just fear the Treo was maybe a bit too far ahead of its time.

I do hope the market for communicators will catch up with Handspring before they run out of cash. It would be a pity if they had to close up shop with such great people and products. Hang in there Handspring!