Manifest Prophecy and the Mini iPod
Tuesday, Dec 30, 2003
Following up on yesterday's post about possible forthcoming iPods, I point you to SpyMac's blurb about the transition from unsubstantiated rumor to unsubstantiated fact, where professional publications erroneously state that Apple 'has announced' products that may or may not even exist.

This reminds me of the early days of the Newton, some ten years ago, when someone would post a self-declared wishful prediction of a new Newton device on the newsgroup comp.sys.newton.misc and it would get rewritten on a Newton rumor site and it would get picked up by a trade magazine with 'industry insiders say' tacked on to the front, then the first guy would run to the newsgroup and say "look! MacWeek says there's a new Newton coming out, and it's exactly what I was predicting! Woohoo!"

Still, kernels of truth and all... I'm sure there will be some new low-cost iPod announced next week, and it's quite possible there will be a mini iPod, though I'm not certain that that smaller necessarily means cheaper. Doesn't usually work that way in the consumer electronic world.

Update: And now, of course, there's the requisite Slashdot article talking about how the mini iPod rumors have more certainty now, because a mainstream paper is reporting it as fact.

Tuesday, Dec 30, 2003
Dispophobia, the fear of throwing things away, can kill.

Read the tragic story of the Collier Brothers, dead when one of them was trapped under his own junk, and the other died of starvation. That was in 1947.

Today, thankfully for Patrice Moore, his neighbor heard his muffled screams after being buried in paper for two days, and the NYFD got him out.

Actually, to be fair Moore isn't strictly a dispophobic, since he made his living selling the papers he'd been hoarding for the past decade. He's just a man in need of a storage unit.

The Art and Evils of Powerpoint
Monday, Dec 29, 2003
I try not to post what everyone else posts, but when there's such a confluence of memes, it's hard to resist.

According to Edward Tufte, PowerPoint is evil. It helps speakers present and audiences tune out (in PowerPoint form). PowerPoint is responsible for the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia, and its principles can be seen in the destruction of the Challenger as well (in powerpoint format, ironically). In short, PowerPoint makes you dumb.

What if Lincoln had access to PowerPoint at Gettysburg? (by Peter Norvig who, in addition to co-authoring my undergrad artificial intelligence textbook, is also a fellow Googler)

David Byrne, however, has found a saving grace in demonstrating that PowerPoint can be an artistic medium. If anyone has a link to the actual content, I'd love to see it.

Monday, Dec 29, 2003
"To an Englishman, 100 miles is a long way. To an American, 100 years is a long time."
New Apple Handheld?
Monday, Dec 29, 2003
Brighthand talks about speculation of a new Apple handheld possibly to be announced at next week's Macworld Expo.

Now naturally I would wish that the rumor is true and this turns out to be the long-awaited iPad, but I'd be happy enough if it turns out to be mini iPods, based on Hitachi's 1-inch, 2- and 4-gigabyte drives. Toshiba's new 0.85" microdrive might be used in later models, but probably won't be ready in time for this quarter, or possibly even this year.

While I'd love for Apple to come out with an iPad, it'd be harder for me to justify buying one right now than it would be for me to get a smaller (cheaper?) 4-gig iPod for Reaver.

My 489th non-patent
Friday, Dec 26, 2003
I hate/love it when things I've thought-up and told friends 'I should totally patent that' show up in the marketplace.

Just ask Rachel. I wouldn't shut up about this idea last winter in Pittsburgh. Maybe I should have...

Jeff Bezos: You owe me one.
Friday, Dec 26, 2003
I'm about to make Amazon a whole lot of money.

As much as I like movies and CDs, the single worst part of the user experience of buying a CD or DVD, or being gifted with same, is the initial user experience: the packaging. Today I'll bypass my tirade about how CD jewel cases are the worst storage device since the mousetrap, and use the copy of Pirates of the Caribbean DVD I got from my mom, as an example.

First, the good. Amazon gets it part-way right. Unlike Costco, Target, or any number of dirtworld retailers, Amazon has done the consumer a favor and nixed the exterior cardboard packaging that serves only to make a DVD case the same height as a CD jewel case trapped within its in-store protective theft-deterrent plastic prison. (must resist CD tirade...) I would credit Amazon's customer-oriented approach here, except that clearly this is a deal Amazon hammered out with the manufacturers for their own sake. When you're selling in volume, volume counts, and the dead air and dead weight of the too-tall cardboard boxes weigh heavy on razor-thin margins.

No, my beef is with the stupid sticky plastic labels designed to prevent us from opening the DVD 'keepsake case'. "SECURITY DEVICE ENCLOSED" scream labels on three sides, adhered securely along the three edges of the case to ensure that we not only know that there is, indeed, a security device enclosed, but that we'll have to sit down and have a tete-a-tete with a tooth or nail before we can break in to the case and see it. In truth, RF-tag or no, the labels themselves are security devices because they inhibit would-be five-fingered fraudsters from easily opening cases in the store and making with the discs, sans-case.

Of course, Amazon's DVDs and CDs never see the inside of a store and now, well into paragraph five, we get to the point: Inventory control (err, shoplifting-prevention) is an important part of the K-mart experience, but Amazon? What kind of security are we talking about? Is there a swordbreaker or small shield in the box, to help keep me safe from the movie? What kind of security device does Amazon need to cozy in next to my DVD, so volitile that it has to be sealed inside this sanctum by a snap-case with three security labels (one with a hologram) and a skein of plastic-wrap to ensure the pristine state?

"SECURITY DEVICE ENCLOSED" rings about as false on an e-commerce customer's ears as does 'Provided by the Management for Your Protection' does on a toilet-seat cover dispener. "What Management? Protection from what? Umm. thank you?" I can almost picture a senior VP coming in to the bathroom stall after working hours to replenish the supply, smug in the knowledge of a rectally-protected workforce.

This kind of anal-retentive mindset can be recycled when trying to contemplate exactly how forcing you to remove stickers from a plastic case is actually the consumer doing their part in preventing crime as if to say, "if this sticker is missing, then the terrorists have already won."

Is there a posterior ulterior motive at work? Within the "flagship sticker"'s hologram, is there a microscopic EULA binding my soul to the merchandising and marketing goals of the movie therein and all possible forthcoming sequels?

Jeff, as your company inches toward its first profitable quarter while struggling to differentiate itself from bricks and mortar book warehouses, how 'bout if you wield your mighty influence to change the small things that everyone will thank you for. Get rid of the 'peel here to reveal next protective device' stickers.

Picture next year's gift-giving season when Timmy unwraps the DVD Star Wars 6-pack and in place of eighteen prophylactic devices standing between him and his entertainment, he sees a small sticker that says, 'No security device needed. Thanks for buying from Amazon!'

You're trying to lead the world in a marketplace of fungible products. Grab on to any differentiator you can, especially the ones that make your customers' lives easier.

Oh, and while you're at it, see what you can do about those big red FBI warnings. Really, in today's world aren't there more important ways for the FBI to instill fear in the people?


Kevin Fox

Third Wish?
Wednesday, Dec 24, 2003
You find a botttle, monkey's paw, wish coupon, what have you. You get three wishes.

What's your third wish?

Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, Dec 24, 2003
Happy holidays to everyone! Ugh, so much to do. Holiday shopping is all but done, with hyoooge props to Rachel, for taking on more than her share of the joint gifts!

I'm sitting in the 'old house' in Carmel, typing in what is essentially a renovated stable, bought by my uncle 30 years ago and serving as the base for the 'main house' built a decade later. It's after 1am and I'm sitting in front of the TV watching Runaway Bride, sitting next to my cousin Ingrid who's talking on the cellphone. After 11pm or so, this is the only place in the house for the night-owls to congregate.

So now I'm rambling. The feeling here in our 18-year tradition of Christmas is clearly different for my dad's passing nearly six months ago. He was a ringleader, an instigator. His absence has created a bit more chaos, a bit less coalescence of activity. Of course, such words don't tell a tenth of it, but that's not what I want the post to be about.

We got DSL here in the house for the first time this year. Without even a second phone line, past years found the techies in our 30+ person group up after midnight to camp out on the dialup line. Now thanks to DSL and a wireless base station, the 6 or so of us with laptops, for better or worse, are wired. Now Christmas doesn't offer a respite from email. Well, maybe I'll have some sort of moratorium tomorrow.

I'm about to go to sleep, but I just wanted people to know I'm still around during the inevitable holiday slow season.

Oh, and I want to give shouts out to Mutant and Blub, holed up at home. I hope you're not floaters by the time I get home.

Return of the Bladder
Friday, Dec 19, 2003
One of the best-written, informative fluff pieces I've read in ages, is this article about the necessity and tribulations of bathroom breaks during movies (especially Return of the King) in today's SF Gate (nee Chronicle).
excerpt: "While it may be no big tragedy to take a few minutes off from "The Green Mile," a bathroom break during "Return of the King" becomes a pisser of the highest order -- not unlike having to take out the trash in the middle of losing one's virginity."

Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at since 1998.
I can be reached at .

I also have a resume.


I'm co-founder in
a fantastic startup fulfilling the promise of the Internet of Things.

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Find out more.

We're also hiring.


I post most frequently on Twitter as @kfury and on Google Plus.


I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

©2012 Kevin Fox