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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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Entries by Mike Rohde (864)


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!


Palm Art Gallery

Palm ArtYesterday, I received a nice email from Karen Larson (a Tipsheet reader and fellow graphic designer) about, her new gallery website of Palm-created artwork. I stopped by for a look and was impressed with the color and quality of the pieces on display, all of them created on Palm handhelds!

Now, I dunno why, but I've never spent much time using my handheld as an art tool. What's worse, as an artist, I have no good excuses! So, I've grabbed copies of a few different Palm-based drawing tools: TealPaint, Mobile Paint, DrawIt and Scrawl so that I can begin work on a portfolio of Palm artwork to submit to Karen's site.

If you're an artist (or you just play one on TV) the gallery accepts submissions and even has a tech info area to help you transfer your Palm art to a Mac or PC for submission. To submit, drop Karen an email with your art attached, your name, city, state, country, hardware and software used to create the art and artwork title and/or inspiration.

Even if you choose not to submit anything to the PalmArt gallery, why not grab a drawing tool for your Palm handheld and have a bit of fun making art? :-)


Hacker Tales from the Underground

Underground I was reminded today of an excellent non-fiction e-book I read about a year ago and had forgotten until recently. It's a great yarn called Underground written by Suelette Dreyfus. "Tales of hacking, madness and obsession on the electronic frontier" is indeed a perfect description of this book.

The story follows several computer hackers in the US, UK, Australia and Germany back in the days of old computers and BBS systems. If you're thinking to yourself that a non-fiction book about old time hackers sounds incredibly boring I'm here to tell you that you're wrong!

Now I'm not sure how I came across this book, but after getting into the story was very glad I did. I was amazed at the flow of the story and how interested I became in the characters. Suelette's writing voice is nicely transparent to the story itself, and the background information seems very well researched. I was amazed at how hard it was to put this nearly 500 page book down. In fact, after reading the book I sent in my $12... it was that good!

So, rather than go on about the book, I'll just direct you to the download page where you can grab a copy in one of many different formats, including Palm Reader, iSilo, Doc and Plucker to name but a few. Give this book a read -- I'm confident that you'll enjoy it.


AvantBlog Arises!

AvantBlog Arises!
AvantBlogWell, much to my surprise it turns out an offline blogging tool that's compatible with actually does exist! It's called AvantBlog from DentedReality. Thanks to Vlad Campos (of fame) and fellow PalmBloggers Yahoo Group member Sergio Lima for the tip!

Anyway, it's a simple concept: just add the AvantBlog page as a custom channel to your AvantGo account and HotSync. You must first log in once and then sync. Then, the Palm side is logged in when you next open AvantGo. Just start posting offline in AvantGo on the Palm side and the posts will appear after the next sync with the AvantGo servers.

I tried to get it working with iSilo, but had no luck as the two very necessary form fields on the AvantBlog page didn't render correctly. If you have any tips on this let me know.

So, it's back to my old PowerBook and Mac OS 9 to try with AvantGo...