Author Archive

Europe Gets Toyota Yaris SR with Dockable GPS

Feb 21, 2008 in Auto, GPS, Technology

Jonathon Ramsey:

The Euro-spec Toyota Yaris is a well-equipped little car. But things like the nine airbags, chrome exhaust finisher, and remote central double locking are merely gravy for the real show on this new SR model: a fully-integrated portable TomTom navigation system that doubles as a touchscreen interface for the car stereo.

Neat idea. I’ve been torn between whether I prefer an integrated GPS system or a more portable option. The integrated options tend to be better… um… integrated (duh!) with the operations of the car, primarily in the form of offering a single decent-sized screen for things like maps, audio system interface, and video playback.

On the flip side, the portable, after-market systems offer… um… portability (again, duh!). Like Ramsey, I don’t know if there’s much demand for taking your GPS with you to have walking-around directions, though I will cop to having checked Google Maps from street corners. The portable units really shine if you travel. Renting a GPS unit seems to run about $10/day. If you buy a portable system and then take 2-3 trip week-long trips, you’ve recouped the cost of the GPS by not renting a system from Avis or Hertz.

Depending on the level of integration between the Toyota and TomTom, the Yaris SR could well be the best of both worlds — a GPS system that augments the other systems in the car but which can also be tossed in a bag and help you find your way around unfamiliar locals when traveling for business or pleasure. If this partnership proves successful, I hope that other manufacturers will follow suit.

Apple TV, HDCP, and Good Customer Service

Feb 20, 2008 in Apple, Business, Digital Rights

Jeff Carlson:

I could have simply sacrificed the $4 rental fee and chalked it up as the cost of research, but $4 is also the cost of a pair of double-espressos and is therefore real money. So I did what I imagine few people do: I wrote to Apple. It took a bit of navigating, but ultimately I ended up at a form where I could contact iTunes Store support. I explained my predicament and sent the message into what I expected would be yet another corporate email black hole.

If you read on in Jeff’s post, you’ll see that his message did not go to an “email black hole” and instead resulted in a refund for the rental price and the sales tax.

In the past, I’ve written about both of my iTunes customer service experiences. In both cases, I thought “pff, contact form — I’m never going to hear back about this.” In both cases, I did hear back and, in both cases, Apple resolved the issue to my satisfaction.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t feel compelled to laud Apple for resolving their customer issues in a timely manner — the way Apple approaches customer service is the way all companies should approach customer service. Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. There have been plenty of stories about companies screwing customers over with DRM issues and I’m sure most of us have had support emails go unanswered (I’m looking at you, Orangeware).

When Apple first introduced FairPlay, there seemed to be a feeling that Apple’s DRM implementation was an attempt to make the best of sub-optimal situation. It appears that Apple has extended that strategy from the technical arena to the customer support arena.

Whither Cocoalicious?

Feb 15, 2008 in Mac, Programming

Buzz Andersen:

One thing I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time is talk a little bit about the state of my other popular Mac app, Cocoalicious.

I’m glad to see Buzz getting Cocoalicious up and running once more, and I’m not just saying that because I contributed to the next release.

Starbucks Picks AT&T for Wi-Fi

Feb 11, 2008 in Business, Technology

Glenn Fleishman

Starbucks is shredding its deal in place since 2001, originally with MobileStar then T-Mobile, to switch to AT&T as their Wi-Fi provider. That moves 7,000 locations from T-Mobile’s ledgers of nearly 9,000 to AT&T’s.

…and because it’s a write-up by Glenn Fleishman, he touches on the potential implications for Apple, given that the hardware maker (iPhone), retail location (Starbucks), and service provider (AT&T) now all have active business relationships.

I was just in a relatively deserted Starbucks (gotta love the side street shop as compared to the busy intersection shop) a little over an hour ago and I was thinking that it wouldn’t have a bad bad place to setup my laptop and do some work, provided I was able to get online without paying $10/day. Given this turn of events, I wouldn’t be surprised to an AT&T Wi-Fi account option added to the iPhone voice and data plans in the near future — if people are going to use their iPhones over Wi-Fi connections, AT&T may as well try to profit off the practice. This also opens the door for AT&T to market towards iPod Touch users, as well.

Update: Somehow, I missed the following in Glenn’s article:

AT&T says in their press release that all Starbucks Card holders, which is simply their value-storing swipe card system, will get two hours of free Wi-Fi a day.

Very cool. And I’m not just saying that because I won a Starbucks Card in building’s holiday raffle last December. During my MBA program, we examined Starbucks for several different classes. During the last, Strategic Brand Management, some of us had a chance to meet Gerardo Lopez, a Senior Vice President at Starbucks and a GW alum. One of the issues that came up was how do you make the Starbucks Card more attractive; why should people give Starbucks their money up front instead of charging purchases to a credit card and leaving their money in the bank for an extra few weeks. To us, the obvious recommendation was to offer free coffee credits for putting money on the card, say like $1 credit for every $10 of credit purchased. We were told this suggestion was a non-starter because Howard Schultz (and, thus, Starbucks) has a no-discount policy.

Thus chastened, we tossed around a few other ideas, but most seemed like they might be too disruptive to store operations, particularly in larger stores.1 As far as I remember, none of us mentioned a Wi-Fi promo, but it’s really cool to something evolve in area my classmates and I identified as an issue.

  1. Though one of the ideas was to store a preferred drink on your card and simply scan the card into a portable card reader like the credit card readers used in Apple Stores. We thought that might be a bit ambitious, but it could end up looking rather short-sighted if anything ever comes of Apple’s wireless ordering system. []

The Giants Played a Hell of a Game

Feb 04, 2008 in Football, Sports

What can I say, the Giants played a hell of a game last night, particularly on defense. I talked plenty of smack about the Pats this year (not so much here, but plenty pretty much everywhere else) and I fully expect to hear about it from certain friends and others over the next few days-plus.

Alright, when do pitchers and catchers report?


Jan 12, 2008 in Internet

Fresh off of the recent tweetup, Aaron Brazell (technosailor) has set up the dctwits group on Twitter. It’s similar in practice to the c4 backchannel that Alex Payne enabled for c4.

I followed along the c4 backchannel during the conference and thought it was pretty interesting, both from the conference and twitter perspectives. I’d hoped we’d see official, permanent, support for that sort of feature at some point. Hasn’t happened yet, but thanks to the Twitter API, Aaron was able to develop a similar solution to meet our needs.

Follow along to find out what’s going on in the DC twitter-verse — the more people using this service, the greater the potential benefit.

Update: Aaron’s posted the source for DCTwits so you can easily setup your own Twitter group.

1/10 DC-Area Tweetup

Jan 11, 2008 in Internet, People

Last night, I attended the DC-area Tweetup at Jimmy’s Tavern. As the name implies, it’s an opportunity for DC-area folks who’ve chatted on Twitter to actually meet up in the real world. This was the second time I’ve attended one of these, which I helped make the evening even more interesting — I got to see some folks I’d already met, meet some folks I only knew through Twitter, and meet people I hadn’t previously known.

1/10 DC Tweetup

Events like the tweetups bring together some of my favorite aspects of both being on Twitter and living in DC. DC has a decent technology and entrepreneurship community, though its often overshadowed locally by the political community and nationally by places like Silicon Valley and New York. Twitter’s made it easier to find out about the interesting work that local folks are doing and the tweetups (along with other tech-oriented events) help us extend the relationships started on Twitter.

Last night, I was comparing the experience of meeting 20+ people at the tweetup with occasionally meeting the folks I’ve worked with at ATPM. Due to the geography of ATPM, I’ve only met a handful of (past and present) staffers over the years. Some, like Chris, I’ve met by traveling to Macworld (sadly, not this year). Others, like Evan and Michael, I’ve met socially, and Tom and I actually live near each other. As much as I’ve enjoyed meeting them, large-scale gatherings are rarely, if ever, possible, which is too bad.

Like I said, he had about 20 folks last night. If I’ve missed anybody, I apologize:

There are random pictures from the event floating around folks Twitter streams, including George’s photos and Nahum’s mug-shots.


Jan 11, 2008 in Internet

Quick note, just cause I don’t think I’ve actively called it out on this-here blog: I’m up on Twitter as well, where I can be found as jablair. I thought I’d call this out separately instead of bundling into my next post, which will follow shortly.

Dealing in Vegas

Dec 05, 2007 in Baseball

Will Carroll:

Umm, Vegas anyone? You know, the Bellagio is the site of next year’s Winter Meetings.

As of right now, it seems like any Johan Santana trade is on hold and may not be completed by the end of the GM Meetings in Nashville. As Will points out, next year’s meeting in in Las Vegas.

I give it a 17% chance that The Sands will end up owning an All-Star caliber player after one baseball’s more mediocre GMs uses him as collateral at the roulette table.

Automating the Amazon MP3 Downloader

Dec 02, 2007 in AppleScript

It’s Amazon day at, as I finally got around to trying Amazon MP3 and the Amazon MP3 Downloader app. At first, I wasn’t seeing the downloader launch automatically, then it dawned on me that said behavior was probably tied to Safari’s Open “safe” files after downloading preference.1

Between security concerns and general annoyance, I’d turned this feature off some time ago. In Amazon’s case, I actually wanted this functionality. A short AppleScript later and I had a working solution.

on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving added_items
    repeat with item_ in added_items
        tell application "Finder"

            if name extension of item_ is "amz" then
                open item_
            end if

        end tell
    end repeat
end adding folder items to

Save the script to ~/Library/Scripts/Folder Action Scripts/. In the Finder, navigate to your downloads folder, select Attach a Folder Action… from the contextual menu, and locate your newly saved script in the resulting file selection dialog. Now, whenever you download a new amz file from Amazon MP3, the Amazon MP3 Downloader will launch. Nothing earth-shattering, but I found that it improved the shopping experience.

Should you at some point activate the Open safe files… option in Safari, I’d recommend disabling this folder action. I haven’t done any testing, so I don’t know how well using both would or would not work.

  1. Yeah, putting “safe” in quotes sounds really reassuring. []