Cars

Baby Man loves cars. He drives them around in the bathtub. He drives them around in his bed. He points them out on the Auto Trader when we walk past a news box in his breathless and inexplicably Boston accent (“Itsa cahh!”). He’s even learned to play Need for Speed and its ilk on our computers. And probably the only person in the world that has been forced to watch the film Cars more than my wife is Pixar director Andrew Stanton.

Still, I suppose it beats loving bugs. That is, those not made by Volkswagen.

The ring that was heard around the world

Canada is still waiting (patiently, as Canadians are wont to do) for Apple’s iPhone, but analysts suggest it’s the iPhone’s spectre that has made Bell and Telus quietly drop their prices for data in the past six months:

Apple is squeezing carriers to chop their data rates to boost demand for its handset (or in Grant’s words, to set “plans that aren’t ridiculous,”) which has led to speculation that the reason iPhones aren’t sold here is Rogers’ reluctance to fall in line.

Prices are still absurd compared to those down south in the States, but both Bell and Telus now have 1GB for $100/mo. plans. Bell also now has a $75/mo. “unlimited”plan for their 3G wireless modem, and is selling an unlimited $7 data plan for the upcoming HTC Touch smartphone which is probably the closest Canada will get to an iPhone — for now.

Desperately seeking Sabia

The Globe and Mail has a well-written article showing a behind-the-scenes look at BCE and CEO Michael Sabia, and a blow-by-blow account of how the BCE privatization went down. Other topics include his stint in Ottawa in his younger years crafting the GST, Project Galileo, the 2005 bid to take over Fido, and why Telus bowed out of the bidding war:

According to Sabia and the BCE camp, no such agreement was ever struck. “Telus’s position, for instance, on antitrust remedies?” asked Sabia. “Snowball’s chance in hell.” Currie, who added to the bad blood following the auction when he described Entwistle and his team as “amateurs,” has since toned it down, but only by a notch. “The requests that Telus made of us were absurd,” he says.

Having correlated the presence of Sabia with the flatlining BCE stock price, many Bell employees do not have particularly positive feelings about his tenure at the helm of Canada’s largest telecommunications company. However, he as a person was always personable, he could respond effortlessly in English and French, and he was a straight talker – he didn’t beat around the bush. He always seemed to be trying his best, whether the stock markets thought it was good enough or not.

I had the chance to shake Sabia’s hand once, on the tarmac of a private airfield in Mississauga. And yes, he was wearing his conservatively-cut, signature red wool sweater.

Disruptive innovation: 10 years later

It’s been ten years since Clayton Christensen published his seminal business book “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. I had the good fortune to read it three years ago.

Newsweek sat down with Christensen this week to answer some lingering questions, discuss how the word “disruptive” has been used and abused over the years, and probe his predictions on whether Apple iPhone would disrupt the wireless market.

Apple is leaping ahead on the sustaining curve [by building a better phone]. But the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won’t succeed with the iPhone. They’ve launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: It’s not [truly] disruptive.

Branding in the digital age

Globe and Mail today talking about how the Internet can cut both ways for brand management and discusses how public relations can mitigate issues:

First, actively monitor the messages out there. It is an extension of something marketing experts have been advising for years: Listen.

Second, use the observed ideas and messages to inform your continuing marketing and communications plan and actions. You can react indirectly to negative or incorrect messaging.

Third, be careful about where, how, and when you take action. Consider the size and reach of these online forums.

There are still many companies out there who believe they control the medium and message. They are wrong. Any free blog, online video or social networking site can make the citizens’ voices louder than any billion dollar TV spot.

When cells were called “cellular telephones”

We moved offices last month, and while everyone was in the throes of “Last Flight Out of Saigon”-type packing, I stumbled across these ancient beasts from the memory hole:

SSPX0046%20Old%20School%20phones.jpg

It’s a pile of Motorola MicroTACs and MicroTAC Elites and two Sony Clearnet models from the late 1980s, garnished with a relatively new Qualcomm 2700 (one of the best Qualcomm ever made) and a Samsung N400.

Oh the irony that their photo was taken by a current generation cellphone, one-quarter their size and weight!

CTV dips its toes into Internet TV

CTV is currently streaming CTV News, Corner Gas, Canadian Idol, and other primetime shows. This follows on the heels of the BBC digitizing their video archives, and the recent explosion of video services such as YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo! Video, AOL Video….have I missed anyone?

CTV already features RSS feeds (albeit they kind of hide it and stick it with a legalese) like most other Canadian television and newspaper companies (but only The Toronto Star has dared to dabble in podcasts), so it’s nice to see Canadian Big Media continue to think outside of the boobtube box.

Because it’s ad-supported, CTV prevents those with non-Canuck IPs from viewing the videos. I suppose they figure if they can’t advertise Kraft Dinner to the world market, they aren’t going to show Canadian content either…

DIY wireless

One of the things I’ve come across in my work is the incredible hassle it takes to get a wireless network up and running – regardless if it’s Joey Napster trying to get Internet access in his basement, or large scale WiFi hotspot usage. From the user perspective, the technical details are rarely well explained, the wireless Layer 1 is fickle and unstable by nature, and software is generally no help in diagnosing errors or giving suggestions on how they can get the best signal they can possibly get. In light of this I’ve found a few fun and interesting resources on wireless networking:

For some good technical information that makes good bedtime reading, check out a free PDF entitled, “Wireless Networking in the Developing World”. Don’t judge this book by its title.

Commercially available directional antennae:
Both Linksys and DlInk has bigger, higher gain antenna available.

Do-It-Yourself Antennae
This is for educational purposes, or intrepid people with some time on their hands.

A commercial directional antenna often costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, but it’s reasonably easy to make your own with common household materials and some handyman skills. These could also theoretically help amplify the Wi-Fi AP signal in homes with poor reception.

* How to Build a directional Wi-Fi antenna out of a soup can: This inventor boosted his dBm by four orders of magnitude.

* How to Build a directional Wi-Fi antenna out of an old satellite dish: This inventor was able to access APs from eight miles away!

The caveat is, the antenna must be pointed virtually straight at a known wireless AP to pick up a signal. Obviously a clear line of sight is an asset.

Property tax

Mother Jones has a short article listing some of the stranger side effects of today’s intellectual property laws in the United States.

NEARLY 20% of the 23,688 known human genes are patented in the United States. Private companies hold 63% of those patents.

RENTAMARK.COM makes money by claiming ownership of 10,000 phrases, including “chutzpah,” “casual Fridays,” “.com,” “fraud investigation,” and “big breasts.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.’s estate charges academic authors $50 for each sentence of the “I Have a Dream” speech that they reprint.

Although I must say, they’re wrong about the Bettman Archive: it isn’t buried underground to deny the world its treasures, but to preserve it. But the other examples are sadly true – yes, most people have never heard “I Have a Dream”, unless their school downloaded it (illegally, according to copyright laws).