May 2009

Latest Plastic Logic E Ink-based reader

TechCrunch has a nice video showing off Plastic Logic’s new prototype e-reader based on E Ink. Plastic Logic’s main advantage is their plastic backplane (rather than glass) which is lighter and less fragile. They’re also pitching their interface to focus more on business use — in particular the ability to annotate documents (using a touchscreen) and a sidebar that allows them jump to different pages more quickly.

This is just a prototype and so probably an unfair criticism, but I do note that when the demonstrator selects a different document and says “we are able to quickly move from any of the last five documents you’ve been reading” there is an 8.5 second delay before the new document comes up.

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Thoughts on Prop 8

I’ve mixed feelings on California’s State Supreme Court upholding our constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. On the one hand it means same-sex couples have to wait still longer before being granted the basic human rights every m/f couple enjoys today in our state. On the one hand it gives us, the voters, one more chance to do the right thing by overturning this knee-jerk throwback to a previous era.

It’s a sobering thought that, if my wife and I had been born into our grandparents’ generation, it would have been illegal for us to be married in California, because she’s Asian and I’m Caucasian. That ban was also overturned by the California Supreme Court, who in 1948 declared that our anti-miscegenation law violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Only that time there was no way that 52% of the voters could overturn that right simply by passing a ballot measure.

Fear and ignorance always bring out the worst in us, and the rights enshrined in a democracy’s constitution are there, in part, to prevent a majority from acting on those base emotions in a way that tramples a minority. In this case, the State Supreme Court has declared that we voters need to grow up and do the right thing ourselves. I hope we do it soon.

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Gitmo shutdown

What with all the apoplexy about keeping Gitmo detainees in prison on US soil, I have to wonder… which sounds like a more secure place to house suspected terrorists?

  1. A US supermax prison
  2. A prison in, say, France or Jordan, outside of our jurisdiction or control
  3. Ninety miles off the Florida coast, in a country with whom we have no formal diplomatic relations, which as recently as 1980 emptied their jails of thousands of criminals and encouraged them to smuggle themselves into the US

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Amazon asking for 70% of newspaper subscription revenue?

From an interview with Jim Moroney, publisher of The Dallas Morning News, with Brooke Gladstone at On the Media:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, you testified about your negotiations with Amazon regarding the Kindle electronic reader. Could you tell us about that?

JIM MORONEY: Somebody was bringing up the Kindle as the solution we should all be focused on. And I love the Kindle. I read books on it all the time. My problem is that after negotiating and negotiating and negotiating, the very best deal we could get from Amazon was to split revenues for whatever price we decided to charge. We could get 30 percent of that money. They get 70 percent.


JIM MORONEY: I could have probably lived with that, but there was another clause in there that they would not give me relief on, and that said that they have the right to relicense my content to any portable device, not just an Amazon-owned device, any portable device. In essence, I was giving them a complete licensing agreement for nothing for all of my content, period.

I’m sort of – that’s – give away my future, you know.

If Amazon came back – I thought maybe they’d call today – and said, do you know what, we’ll give up on that little clause about the relicensing of your IP, I would have said, okay, you know what – I’ll try this thing at 70/30 and see if it works. But nobody called today, as far as I can tell.

Compare that to Apple, who keeps about 35% to 40% of the price of the 99-cent purchase price for a song sold on iTunes. Of course, Apple’s main business model is selling iPods while Amazon’s main business model is selling content, but even so I’m surprised Amazon is demanding such a high percentage for what still amounts to an untested market. Maybe they figure (probably correctly) that newspapers are desperate enough to go for it?

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Video killed the MP3 download?

I missed Obama’s press conference on Wednesday and wanted to listen to it on my long commute home yesterday. To my surprise, it was easy to find full video and typically a full-text transcript of the conference from sites like The Huffington Post and as well as YouTube and directly from the White House Blog, but no audio-only sources. Eventually I had to use Farkie, a free online video-converter to download the Youtube video and convert it to MP3.

Am I missing some obvious source source, or has video made such headway now that nobody even bothers making audio-only versions available anymore?

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