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LunchGeeks Tomorrow (Aug 30th)!

August 29, 2007 4 comments

Wanna come geek out over the best Mexican food in Silicon Valley? LunchGeeks is on tomorrow. Sorry for the late notice – almost didn’t realize August was over until the Wall Street Journal mentioned us today.

Here’s the Upcoming event. Add yourself at Upcoming, on the LunchGeeks blog, or right here so I know if you’re coming.

I promise I’ll try to give more notice for September. 🙂

Categories: personal

I am 68% Optimus Prime

August 20, 2007 4 comments
Categories: personal

iGot iPhone Part 2: The Phone

July 2, 2007 24 comments

My twins with their iPhones

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke

The iPhone is magic.

The very first time you flick your fingers to scroll something, like your address book, I dare you not to grin from ear to ear. Many dozens of people have played with my iPhone over the weekend, and every single one gets a huge, goofy grin on their face the first time. The videos do not do it justice – the user interface is beyond amazing.

It’s perfect. I don’t use that word lightly – anyone who knows me will tell you how anal I am about word precision, especially absolutes. But the touch interface isn’t just great, it’s not just nearly perfect. It is perfect. The speed and acceleration at which things scroll when you flick them is so perfectly timed that you resonate with it on some sub-conscious primal level. It feels like a dream.

And almost everything else about the phone is in nearly the same ballpark. This phone is an earth-shaking game-changer, and exactly what everyone has wanted for a long long time. Not a single person I’ve ever met has actually liked their cell phone company, and this is the first step towards a device-centric world rather than a network-centric world. You and I win, because every device maker on the planet will get to build better phones because of this one, not just Apple. Competition rules.

Now, on with my breakdown of the magic, the mundane, and the wishes:

THE MAGIC

  • As I said, the touch interface is perfect. Scrolling, pinching, stretching, sliding – it’s all so buttery smooth you won’t be able to stop doing it. I dare you to put the thing down.
  • Speed. The phone never hiccups, stutters, or pauses. Clicking on an app or an action is instantaneous at all times. Smooth fades and transitions make the device a joy to use, unlike every Windows Mobile and Windows SmartPhone I’ve ever used.
  • The battery. I’ve been using Bluetooth, WiFi, Maps, Safari, and YouTube like crazy and the battery just doesn’t drain.
  • Syncing. I long ago switched to Address Book and iCal (plus Spanning Sync!) for my contacts and calendar needs, and iPhone just works with them. Awesome.
  • The screen is drop dead gorgeous. It’s huge, the colors are vibrant, and text is super-readable even at tiny font sizes. Rotating for a widescreen view is just brilliant.
  • Super easy to use. My wife and mother-in-law are a strange combination of technology lovers and user interface haters. They get frustrated faster than my car goes from 0 to 60, but I haven’t had to tell them a single thing about the phone or any of its functions. That’s unheard of in my family.
  • WiFi. There’s WiFi almost everywhere I use the phone heavily (home, work, friends houses, etc), so the EDGE speed hasn’t been a big issue for me at all. I’ve been shocked, to be honest, because I was really bummed when it was confirmed to not do 3G. Not any more – it works great with WiFi. Oh, and Mountain View has free WiFi city-wide – thanks Google!
  • The keyboard. Steve says you need 5 days to get used to it. It took me about 5 minutes. If you forget about mis-keys and just trust it, it works brilliantly. It’s better than any Treo, Blackberry, or SmartPhone I’ve used – at least for what I do. SMSes fly back and forth faster than ever now. (I haven’t done email seriously yet – still trying to tame my Inbox first)
  • Web browsing. Internally at SmugMug, we’ve always referred to Safari as Suckfari. It’s been slow and a real pain to write software for in the past. On the iPhone, it’s like a dream come true. Every web page (unless it uses Flash or Java) just works – no need for a crappy mobile version. Web browsing is finally a non-frustrating experience on a phone – a first. (On a related note, we’re in love with the new Safari 3 Beta. It’s super-fast. The Suckfari era seems to be ending!)
  • Music. Duh.
  • Headphone interface. Squeezing the bulge on the wire to answer, having your music fade out gracefully, then fade back in to exactly where you left off after you’re done, works perfectly.
  • Activation – when it works! – is a pleasure. No more hour-long wait in a store or on a phone with a clueless rep just twiddling your thumbs. 2 minutes and you’re done. Now if only it worked every time…. Which brings me to:

THE MUNDANE

  • AT&T & Apple: Business accounts can’t use iPhones. I’ve blogged about this before, and we went through hell all weekend to get ours working. I’ll blog about exactly how to do this shortly, but the bottom line is: disconnect your phone # from your business account. Which sucks. Money quote from AT&T rep on the phone? “We had no idea this many corporate accounts would want iPhones!” (after telling us how swamped they’ve been with these requests). Ya think?
  • Apple: The SMS tone is too quiet and too short. I rely on my phone to page me when there are problems with our site, and the tones aren’t loud or long enough for me to notice reliably when I’m awake, let alone asleep. (I thought this was just a business complaint at first, but coming into the office this morning, all of the employees who just use SMS for fun are complaining that they’re missing messages cuz they don’t hear it in their pocket too). Please, Apple, let us configure the length & volume of the SMS tone. Better yet, offer a “don’t stop playing until acknowledged” option for us network geeks / doctors / on-callers out there.
  • AT&T: Shipping on a Friday night when most of your staff is at home on the weekends. Um, did you really not expect tons of calls about these things? According to every rep we could get on the phone, that’s the case – most of the company was off for the weekend and those that were on were swamped. Poor souls.
  • Apple: No drag-and-drop in iTunes to your phone? I can drag music/movies/tv shows onto my iPods, but not my phone? Why not? Most of us have libraries >8GB, so picking & choosing is the best way to get the good stuff onto our phones.
  • AT&T: None of us have been able to browse EDGE here in Mountain View all day. Lots of phones without connectivity until we hop on WiFi. I’m not complaining about EDGE speed – I realize the limitations there, and I’m ok with them. I’m talking about getting any data whatsoever.
  • Apple: Some fields do spell checking and others don’t. Very awesome when they do, very frustrating when they don’t. Confusing when you come across one that doesn’t too – jars you out of the experience. Why not do it everywhere? One great example: Entering a new contact, why doesn’t it know that there are lots of “MacAskill” names in my contacts already and recognize it as a word? It does when I’m SMSing, afterall.
  • AT&T: The error messages when activation isn’t working for some reason aren’t human readable. I realize these are being displayed in iTunes, but it’s clearly not Apple’s fault – their writers always write with humans in mind. Some non-human wrote this stuff and it’s terrible. Almost like having to deal with some clueless sales rep again.
  • Apple: IMAP folder support is iffy. Some folders show up, some don’t. You can’t subscribe/unsubscribe on the phone.
  • Apple: Can’t send SMSes to multiple recipients. wtf?

THE WISHES

  • GPS. Maps needs it, photos need it, the phone needs it. If you can’t do GPS, do cell tower-based triangulation. Or if that’s too tough, use something like Skyhook. WiFi’s already built in, so why not? Charge me more for it – I’ll gladly pay.
  • A “keep beeping until ack’d” setting for SMSes. See above.
  • 3G. I thought I’d want this a lot more than I actually do, but hey, if wishes grew on trees…
  • Videos. It has a camera, it has storage, why isn’t this here?
  • .Mac syncing. Why can’t my phone sync “with the cloud” like my desktops and laptops already do?
  • 3rd party apps. Not AJAX web apps – that’s a cop-out, and I’m saying this as an AJAX web app developer. Flash would be a good first step, but a real development platform is what we all need.
  • IM. iChat, GChat, whatever. I love the SMS-as-conversation metaphor, but it’s still not IM.
  • Better Bluetooth. It works great in handsfree & headset modes, but it’d be nice to Bluetooth sync with my Mac when I get close, without docking. And I already miss sharing things like contacts via Bluetooth, something I did often.

Bottom line: This phone is at least 100X better than anything else I’ve ever seen (including plenty of prototype phones coming out that you probably haven’t).

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest store and buy one.

Want more? Read about how we got our phones (and where the pink hair comes from).

Categories: business, personal

iGot iPhone Part 1: The Event

July 2, 2007 11 comments

My twins with their iPhones

Yes, I got one.

In fact, we got 14 of the 8GB models. I love it, and as you can see, my kids love it too. 🙂 We got those ‘iGot iPhone’ shirts (with “iWas there – 6-29-07” on the back) while waiting in line at the Palo Alto store on University Avenue. This is that story – I also have a review written up.

I apologize that this isn’t technical, or even particularly well-written, but I wanted to get a brain dump of the event out so I could remember it. 🙂

The whole event was a blast, as I knew it would be. We (lots of SmugMuggers) showed up in Palo Alto on Thursday around noon. Robert Scoble and his son, Patrick, were already there, along with two others. We decided to get some lunch first and then get into line. 30 minutes later, we came back, and the Zooomr crew was in the house along with a handful of other people. We decided things were getting serious and hopped into line with numbers 16-20. (The numbers were written on some great Zooomr stickers).

We had a blast hanging out with Robert, Patrick, Kristopher, and Thomas immediately. Geeking out comes naturally to us. We were all wearing our red SmugMug hats, and people started asking us for some, so we sent a few SmugMuggers out on errands: get some hats to pass out, more chairs so we could have guests hang with us in line, a generator in case our power went out, etc. Soon enough everyone in line was sporting SmugMug hats and Zooomr stickers – how cool!

Pretty soon things started to get crazy and we had over 70 people in line. A few encounters with the police (who were very polite) later, we relocated around the corner of the store, instead of in front, where we were seriously obstructing University Avenue. Lots of press were there, from CNBC to the Palo Alto Daily News. Diggnation did a broadcast, too. I was pretty busy getting interviewed, but we also managed to get some coding and lots of testing done in line, which was fun.

People were getting hungry in line, so we called down the street to Pizza My Heart and bought pizza & drinks for the whole line. There was a real community feeling going on, and we were happy to contribute. Pizza My Heart gave us some great pizzas and a great deal.

Later in the evening, my father bumped (literally) into an old friend: Bill Atkinson, he of HyperCard and MacPaint fame, from the original Mac team. He’d come down to the store just to make sure the line wasn’t crazy, but we quickly convinced him both that it was crazy and that he needed to camp out with us. He called his daughter and asked her to bring camping gear and food, then settled in to regale us with some hardcore discussion about the AI work he’s involved with at Numenta. Turns out he’s literally helping to bring about the singularity, and it sounds amazing.

The dude is still freaking brilliant – I’m blown away every time we chat. He’s possibly the smartest person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and possibly the best photographer, too. There were lots of old Apple tales told, too, as you can imagine, including two of my favorites: the “I swore I saw windows re-drawing under other windows” story, and the “dolt” story. I don’t see them up on Folklore, so I’ll see if I can get Bill or someone to write them up.

The night went on, and we had a blast meeting new people, sharing ideas, and talking about the iPhone. Even Bill hadn’t played with or seen a real one yet, though he had a homemade one in his pocket. The day Steve announced the iPhone, Bill took a piece of wood and made a mock-up to the same exact size specifications, complete with rounded corners, printed out a high-res shot of the user interface, and glued it on top. He wanted to play with it in his hands to get a good feel for how it would work early on. The line ate it up, as you can imagine, and we all passed it from hand to hand.

Sometime around 1am, I realized that with the light and noise, we’d be lucky to sleep past 6am, so I busted out my sleeping bag and curled up next to Bill on one side, and Lee on the other. The streetlamps turned out to be the worst part – they were like laser beams boring into our eyes all night. The line started to compare notes on ways to “hack” the problem, including some suggesting shimmying up the lamp posts, but strategic hood usage from our hooded sweatshirts turned out to be the best solution.

I made it until 6:30am, so I did pretty well. Most people were up and awake by then, though, and I heard from plenty who got no sleep. Guess I was lucky. 🙂 By this time, the line was well over 120 strong and growing – and they needed food.

So we wandered down to Noah’s Bagels and told them we’d need 180 of them. The employees freaked out, and actually seemed upset with us. We nearly cleaned out the store, and the customers in line behind us weren’t so thrilled – but they could have just walked two blocks and gotten all the free ones they wanted. 🙂

Meanwhile, other fun people had been coming by. David Hornik, a smart and funny VC from August Capital, came by on Thursday night and Friday morning. Bruce Gee brought both his Segway and a SnoCone maker. And mid-afternoon, another old friend and original Mac team member, Andy Hertzfeld, showed up. We were all lamenting that Woz had gone to the Valley Fair store instead (it was closer to his house) because then we’d really have an amazing amount of early Apple talent on-hand.

Andy had actually played with an iPhone for an hour, and regaled us with tales of both the things it did great and the things that weren’t so great. We all talked about whether Steve would show up, but the rumor was that he’d gone to Manhattan for the first sale, so we guessed not.

My wife and kids came by for an hour or so, which was awesome. I missed my kids, sleeping on the street, and everyone in line loved seeing and playing with them, too.

Finally, the moment arrived. About thirty minutes before the store opened, we’d packed up all of our gear in one of our cars, and the line massively compressed – hundreds of people were basically hugging each other in line as we pushed to the front of the store. An enormous crowd of people not in line was gathered, and inevitably a few tried to sneak into line. But since we’d all been together longer than 24 hours, everyone knew their neighbors and the community easily took care of the problem. 🙂

We all counted down from 10 to 1 just like it was New Years Eve or something, and doors were finally open! Patrick went in first, to great cheers from the crowd and Apple employees alike. And then the rest of us streamed in. I’m not sure how many they let in at first, but I know we were in that batch, so it was probably 30 or so. We were screaming and cheering as we went up to our Apple sales rep and told him we’d like 14 phones (we had 7 people at 2 phones apiece). A few quick swipes of barcodes and one credit card and we were done – we had our iPhones!

After perusing the accessories for a few minutes, we figured we’d better leave to give other people a chance to get in the store. Bad move – Steve showed up literally a minute after we left. Dang. We’d gotten a chance to chat at D a few weeks ago, but my father and Steve haven’t seen each other in years and it would have been a blast to see them say hello again after so long.

And that’s it! We had a blast in line, bonded as a team, got our phones, and were a part of fanboy history.

(Oh, and the pink hair on my kiddos? My wife’s pregnant with a girl – and I started a family tradition of dyeing our hair to go along with the sex of our upcoming babies last time. The tradition continues!).

Want more? Here’s my review.

In line for iPhone in Palo Alto

June 28, 2007 3 comments

A bunch of us SmugMuggers, Robert Scoble, and Kristopher & Thomas from Zooomr are here in Palo Alto on University Avenue waiting for our iPhones. Kevin Rose from digg was here for awhile, broadcasting, but I’m not sure if he’s gonna broadcast anymore tonight. Zooomr is, though, on ZooomrTV.

Come on by and say hi! 🙂

(We still don’t know if we can actually use the iPhones we’re gonna buy, but we’ll try our hardest.)

Categories: personal, smugmug

No iPhones for corporate accounts?!

June 27, 2007 31 comments

Holy. Crap.

I’m so bummed. We’ve got our sleeping bags ready to go so we can get iPhones for the SmugMuggers. We even have SmugMuggers who flew in from out of town so they could join the party on University Avenue (click that link, it’s worth it). Like most companies, we have a corporate plan with AT&T so we can share minutes, save money, etc etc.

They won’t sell us iPhones. Not one phone, not twenty phones. For any price. At all. Neither will Apple.

Why on earth isn’t anyone covering this? Isn’t this a big deal to anyone but me? Yes, ok, I realize I’m coming across as a fanboy, but I’ve hated my mobile phone for decades now. I think there may finally be one that I don’t hate – only they don’t want to sell me one.

*sigh*

UPDATED 6/28/07 9:15am to answer some questions:

– No, this wasn’t some clueless rep at an AT&T store. I asked our AT&T business account rep, our Apple business account rep (we spent over $500k/year with Apple), and even some Apple VPs. They were very clear – if your account isn’t “personal responsibility” (you pay the bill, your Social is on the account), you’re outta luck.

– No, I’m not hoping to get business discounts on the phone. I’m fine paying full market rate. Heck, I’d even pay more. Just let me buy one for heaven’s sake! Better yet, let me buy them for my team!

Categories: business, personal, smugmug

LunchGeeks this week

May 21, 2007 2 comments

Going to eat at La Fiesta and geek out again this week on May 24th. Come if that sounds like your thing!

Don’t forget about all the Lunch 2.0 events this summer, too. (It must be intern season!)

Categories: personal

WordPress – an overnight success!

May 10, 2007 5 comments

Sorry, Matt, I couldn’t resist. 🙂

Seriously, Matt’s post entitled Meaningful Overnight Relationship really hit home over here. For whatever reason, we’ve started getting the “Wow, you’re an overnight success! How did you do it?” questions a lot here at SmugMug lately. (Answer: “Work really hard for 6 years and maybe, just maybe, people will start to notice” … of course, that leads to the inevitable “Wow, you were so young!” line of questions that Matt is still getting…).

Sam Walton probably said it best when talking about Wal-Mart: “Like most other overnight successes, it was about 20 years in the making.” But Matt says it extremely well, too. I think his story, and Ben & Mena Trott’s, and Howard Schultz’s, and SmugMug’s are much more exciting than a typical get-rich-quick story. These are the kind of stories that power lasting successes and this list is long. Most of your favorite brands these days have a story like this behind them, rather than a “I sold to Yahoogle” story.

On a related note, we’ll send you a free copy of Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul if you’re interested in these sorts of stories. The book is full of great ones from lots of “overnight successes”. 😉

And finally, we do love WordPress. You’re reading a WordPress blog right now.

Categories: business, personal, smugmug, web 2.0

Going to D? Wanna give me a lift?

Found out a friend of mine got a lift to D: All Things Digital last year. On a VC’s private jet. Lucky duck.

Right now, I’m planning on flying coach into San Diego and driving to D, like last year, but let’s see just how powerful this blog thing is:

Do you have access to a private jet? Are you going to D? Give me a ride! I’ll let you pick my brain about any business or technology I know anything about (SmugMug, bootstrapping to profitability, Amazon Web Services, datacenters for startups, LAMP, whatever) the entire trip. Come on, no-one was going to sit in that extra seat anyway!

Oh, and if you know someone who’s going who fits these criteria, pass my plea along. 🙂

Send all jet offers to don-AT-smugmug. Thanks!

Categories: personal

Geek out while you pig out

April 4, 2007 1 comment

I just started something called LunchGeeks. Basically, a bunch of geeks get together for lunch once a month, and self-organize into small groups to eat and compare notes. I’m hoping it’ll be fun for everyone. If it sounds like your thing, by all means, come and tell your friends. 🙂

Categories: personal
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