Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Miscellaneous Notes

Here's a good idea-!

Airline ala Carte

Skybus Airlines is the future of air travel, then the future won't cost much. Nor will it keep you hostage on the tarmac. The company's chief executive, Bill Diffenderffer, has rethought everything from the cost of onboard refreshments to how and where passengers check in. The result, he claims, is an airline that can charge as little as $10 for a nonstop flight without delays or lost luggage. (Procrastinators pay more, with last-minute tickets costing as much as $400.)

The guiding vision for the Columbus, Ohio–based company is simplicity. Launched in May, Skybus promises to get you to your destination on time, but it has no 800 number, no customer-service representatives, no TVs, not even free pretzels. (Your flight attendant will be happy to sell you a can of soda, though—she's being paid on commission.)

Passengers can buy tickets online only and must check in by automated kiosk. To board, you'll need to travel to smaller airports in places like Chicopee, Massachusetts, and Burbank, California, but in doing so, you'll avoid the air-traffic headaches that dog so many major hubs.

So far, Skybus is flying five 144-seat Airbus A319s on just a handful of routes. If all goes as planned, by 2012, 80 Skybus A319s will serve dozens of cities across the U.S. We caught up with Diffenderffer, who explained to us how an airline that sells a ticket for the same price as a plate of meatloaf intends to fix our air-travel woes.

read the whole interview...

Before 9/11, I was running a small all freight airline. We had plans to move intoa passenger and freight configuration flying between small airports around major cities and lots of small towns roughly 4+ hours distant. Our target market was the large number of business, medical and goverment people traveling out for a day's work and back home at night. Driving 4 hours for a 6 or eight hour work day and then a 4 hour drive home again is very demanding. Most wind up spending the night or cutting short their visit.

9/11 changed the business model. We couldn't find pilots. Investors didn't want to know about airlines or transportation. Insurance rates went through the roof. Aircraft prices spiraled and fuel skyrocketed... (That's a mixed bag of metaphors-!)....

It's nice to see that somebody has found the right equipment, right market and right start-up capital. You can go through $1 million very quickly in starting an airline.

There are thousands of small air bases and air fields around the nation. Many municipalities have struggled to find a use for these facilities. This business model and the coming wave of air taxis will open the skies. At most, the cities will need to build a secure fence and hire some security personnel. Being able to walk off an aircraft, across the small terminal to a waiting rental car will make business travel so much easier. Check in screening will mean shorter lines and your baggage within eyesight all the time.

Of course, the airlines will struggle to find passengers for each end point, pilots and flight attendants to work the expanded network.


"Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon."

Peter Lynch

Miss The Lunar Eclipse-? Watch the video

Hundreds of Bay Area folks - both stay-up-laters and early risers - watched a colorful total eclipse of the moon before dawn Tuesday as foggy skies cleared and the moon's bright white surface slowly turned to coppery red and brown.

The eclipse was on full display even in parts of San Francisco - along Market Street and in the Mission, for example - but fog over the Sunset and the outer Richmond disappointed anyone who had hoped to watch the event.

As scheduled, the Earth's shadow started covering the moon's face at 1:51 a.m. and the eclipse became total at 2:52 a.m. By 4:22 a.m., the moon emerged from the shadow, and by 5:24 a.m. the show was over.

Eric Zeeman of sends an eMail asking: "Does Unlocking your iPhone Really Change Anything?

The last 5 days or so have seen a spate of announcements from basement-dwelling geeks all around the planet who claim to have unlocked the iPhone. Some have used hardware and software mods, others have just used software. What does iPhone unlocking really amount to?

Not much, if you ask me. In most user satisfaction polls I've read about the iPhone, the $500 to $600 device scores high approval ratings. Do users who are already happy gain anything from unlocking the iPhone?

True, I guess it means they could ditch their AT&T contracts and switch to another carrier (most likely T-Mobile in the U.S.). But that's not necessarily an improvement, especially when you consider the fact that you're losing certain functionalities of the device, such as visual voicemail. And guess what, the iPhone is still restricted to the same EDGE network on T-Mobile as it is on AT&T. It is restricted to EDGE no matter what network it is used with.

Detaching it from the AT&T network is one thing. But total software control is another. Apple misstepped when it made the iPhone such a closed system. While I can see Steve Jobs' point of view (that he wanted users to have a stable experience and third-party applications could cause potential issues for the iPhone), I don't think it is an entirely valid argument. Sure, there is a lot of potential for some cool iPhone applications. We've already seen some interesting workarounds via the browser. I trust Apple to develop good applications itself, however, and pass them down to the iPhone when they are ready.

Another thing to consider, are there really that many people waiting to buy an iPhone that is unlocked, free of AT&T's network, and free to be modded and hacked? How much is it going to cost? Will the unlocking software (which assuredly has value) be available for free or will people have to pay for it? AT&T legal has already contacted several of the groups who've claimed to unlock the iPhone. What legal pitfalls will people be treading, and do they even care about them?

Since none of the groups who've unlocked the iPhone have made the software widely available yet, they have to care at least a little bit.

In the end, I think unlocked iPhones will only satisfy a small minority of users.

Me and Fidel Sorta-Kinda Agree On This One

HAVANA (Reuters) - Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro is tipping Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to team up and win the U.S. presidential election.

The word today is that an apparently unbeatable ticket could be Hillary for president and Obama as her running mate," he wrote in an editorial column on U.S. presidents published on Tuesday by Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

I think they'll be the Democratic Party candidates... Unless Hillary goes for John Warner to get a Southern Hawk on the ticket.... He's been posing as a VP for a few months now.

I don't think/hope they will win the White House. I think it would be a very bad thing for this country and the world were either of them to move into the White House. The world is a dangerous place and they are children on the freeway with guns.



While the Queen of Mean left a kennel full of cash for the plenty-pampered female pooch, she also left potentially billions of dollars to charity, court papers show.

The will leaves a total of $50 million in bequests to Trouble the dog and three family members, and instructs that the remainder of her personal fortune - which Westchester Surrogate's Court documents estimate to be valued at between $4 billion and $8 billion - to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Make up your own bad jokes from here....

GIZMODO... iPhone Touch Screen manufacturer Gets Order for 8 million units

GIZMODO... Steve Jobs and VW talk iCar


Burning Man is burned too soon - arson arrest Namesake of annual festival goes up in unsanctioned flames 4 days early in Nevada desert

The climax of the annual Burning Man bacchanalia in a Nevada desert was scheduled for Saturday, when the 40,000-plus attendees were to gather around the 40-foot-high man-statue and watch him burn.

Instead, the effigy went up in flames four days prematurely early Tuesday, and a San Francisco resident faces felony arson and destruction-of-property charges in connection with the crime of burning Burning Man too early.

Make up more of your own bad jokes from here

Travel Perspective

I travel. Sometimes I travel a lot. Usually by airplane and rented automobile. I believe that good things happen when you just show up... Woody Allen said something similar years ago. I know that being willing to appear several thousand miles distant on short notice changes the dynamics in many situations. As Yogi Berra said "You can see a lot just by looking"...

When on airplanes, I love to watch people. The world has changed since I made my first flight on a Lockheed Constellation. Ladies and gentlemen seldom dress for travel. There is no lounge in the rear for adult beverages.The passengers may as well be going for an oil change or a quick six-pack and chips as London, Paris, Cairo or Buenos Aires... There is no longer a sense of adventure, no sense of magic about hundreds of thousands of pounds of metal, fuel and hundreds of humans leaping into the air and traveling across the world... I am amazed every time it happens.

The folks over at, led by Guy Herbert have been ranting in that superior smug way that only the Brits can about the evils of our "Security Theater." They find the inconvenience of being inspected an affront to their particular person. They see the randomly asigned dreaded "SSSSS" on their boarding pass as signifying some certain malevolent intent by the Minimum Wage Minions against them for some perverse delight. They cannot imagine that "It Happens" to all of us at one time or another...

I always enjoy watching the well educated and wealthy when faced with delays, frustrations and conditions beyond their control. The truly rich, and truly well educated persons make the best of the situation for themselves and those around them. The ones who demand special attention and special treatment are usually just poseurs who are wearing leased clothing, driving a company vehicle and living in leased apartment.

God puts snow on the ground and airplanes for everyone. TSA makes their regulations for everyone. The line workers are trained, grilled and trained again to deal with the public in the nicest possible way. They have been given instruction by the folks at Disney who have decades of moving large numbers of impatient children, cranky grandparents and insolent teenagers through the rope lines... I think they do a good job... We Americans like to see our security at work. Also, being an American, I am not shocked, amazed, or even concerned that the police are carrying a firearm. The Europeans and Australians always notice the weapon.

Given the above recent exchanges (go see the comments at Security Theater) it was a pleasant surprise to see on Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Front page, Center Column this tale about an airline pilot. This guy is like the ones I grew up flying with. He is a throwback to the people who built airlines, who cared about the customer, who enjoyed their job and loved the daily miracles of a safe departure and landing.

I quit flying United years ago. I disliked their whole attitude of milking the passenger. I refuse to fly American Airlines because of their decades long running gun battle between the flight crews and management. As a passenger, I was paying a lot for the privilege of being an "innocent bystander" or pawn, depending on your view... If United has these kind of guys running things, I may go use some of my miles and buy a few more...

To a United Pilot,The Friendly Skies Are a Point of Pride
Capt. Flanagan Goes to Bat For His Harried Passengers; Still, Some Online Skeptics
August 28, 2007; Page A1

Capt. Denny Flanagan is a rare bird in today's frustration-filled air-travel world -- a pilot who goes out of his way to make flying fun for passengers.

When pets travel in cargo compartments, the United Airlines veteran snaps pictures of them with his cellphone camera, then shows owners that their animals are on board. In the air, he has flight attendants raffle off 10% discount coupons and unopened bottles of wine. He writes notes to first-class passengers and elite-level frequent fliers on the back of his business cards, addressing them by name and thanking them for their business. If flights are delayed or diverted to other cities because of storms, Capt. Flanagan tries to find a McDonald's where he can order 200 hamburgers, or a snack shop that has apples or bananas he can hand out.
Read the whole thing...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

iPhone Round-Up

"A man always has two reasons for what he does--a good one and the real one."

John Pierpont Morgan

That seems a wise statement worth remembering... in all times not just these.

It's been almost two months since the unveiling of the Next Great Thing.... Lots of words have been written. Here are a few bits you may have missed....

Businessweek Why Apple Can't Stop iPhone Hackers

AT&T and Apple may face an uphill battle prosecuting hackers who untether the iPhone from the AT&T wireless network.

Apple (AAPL) and AT&T (T), the sole authorized supplier of the iPhone in the U.S., are doing what they can to make sure that legal clearance never comes. The two companies have put their lawyers on the case, applying pressure on hackers involved in unlocking iPhones to try to get them to stop. Much is at stake. AT&T has been hoping that as the exclusive provider of the iPhone, it will see a surge in new customers and monthly service charges of at least $60 from each one. Apple is supposed to get a cut of the revenues. If iPhones are unlocked, they can be used on the wireless networks of rivals like T-Mobile USA—and AT&T gets zippo. AT&T wouldn't comment for this story, while Apple didn't return a request for comment.

Fuzzy Laws

So will Apple and AT&T's legal action deter hackers? Hardly. Individual users are already allowed to unlock their own phones under an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that the U.S. Copyright Office issued last November. The exemption, in force for three years, applies to "computer programs…that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network."

What's less clear is whether companies and hackers can legally unlock the phones and then sell them to others, or sell unlocking software. "The law here is unclear," says Jonathan Kramer, founder of Kramer Telecom Law Firm in Los Angeles. "There just isn't any case law in this area for us to figure out how it plays out."

Experts believe that AT&T and Apple will point to the DMCA's section 1201, stating that "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title." They will claim that a phone lock is just such a technological measure that protects copyrighted work: namely, cell-phone software.

Frustration over locked iPhones is showing up in the courts as well. A class-action lawsuit filed on Aug. 27 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York tells of an iPhone buyer who racked up $2,000 in charges because he couldn't use a different carrier's network while he was on a trip to Mexico. Filed against Apple, the suit claims the plaintiff didn't know that iPhone was tethered to the AT&T network.

Many hope that the legal wrangling will, eventually, result in major shifts in how the U.S. wireless industry operates. For one, a case could pave the way to making all wireless networks more open to unlocked phones. In the next five years, 10% to 15% of U.S. wireless users could move to unlocked phones, figures Andrei Jezierski, founder of venture consultancy i2 Partners in New York (see, 12/4/06, "Motorola, Nokia Set Cell Phones Free").

WSJ- Catering to Couch Potatoes at the Ballpark
To grab the attention of multi-tasking, gadget-addled Americans, sports teams are rolling out devices that allow ticketholders to watch live action or play trivia. But some diehard baseball fans struggle to understand the appeal.

GIZMODO -iPhone Gets Hebrew Support


Yes, this post is about the iPhone but don't worry, it's not about yet another unlocking so put down those stones slowly. This morning's false alarm by a Israeli newspaper only had one nugget of truth: The hackers were able to enable Hebrew support, but not on the interface, just on Safari and Mail. You can check the screenshots after the jump

Apple Demands High Price From European Carriers To Offer iPhone

Apple is said to be asking for 10% of the revenue from iPhone voice and data usage in Europe, a deal that would make other handset providers green with envy. By W. David Gardner InformationWeek August 24, 2007

Investment analysts have estimated that Apple cleans up financially with its exclusive contract with AT&T, reportedly making $3 a month for each iPhone subscriber and $8 for each new subscriber, according to analyst estimates. Apple may do even better than that with the European cellular networks that are negotiating to offer its iPhone.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is keeping the European wireless world on edge as he lets the suspense build as to which service providers will get exclusive rights in their respective countries to market the hot phone. Apple is said to be asking for 10% of the revenue from iPhone voice and data usage in Europe, a deal that would make other handset providers green with envy.

WSJ $500-iPhone, $1,100 Case
August 4, 2007; Page P3
[iPhone Gear]
(Top to bottom) Louis Vuitton alligator leather, $1,120; monogram, $225; Orbino crocodile case, $319; Incase neoprene sports case, $34.95.

First came the hype. Then came the phone. Now, everyone from big designers to tech-gear makers are selling cases to cradle Apple's iPhone.

At the high end, Italian maker Orbino has one made of caiman crocodile for $319, while Louis Vuitton will stock $1,120 alligator cases in its stores in October.

For those feeling more frugal after plunking down $500 for a cellphone, other cases cost about $30. In addition to leather versions, sports models have armbands and some have UV protection.

GIZMODO-No Good Cheating Girlfriends iPhone For Sale
According to Paul, he bought his girlfriend an 8GB iPhone because she wanted one. He then found out she was cheating on him with a guy from church and now he is selling her iPhone. If the advertisement up on Craig's list is true to fact, our man is quite at a loss. In my books any boyfriend willing to buy their other half an 8GB iPhone, no less, needs some sort of 'Best Boyfriend In The World' award. What he does not need is to be cheated on at any point and salt in the wound; losing his once beloved to a guy from church! (NSFW)

Man, I hope God was existing and watching the whole affair; a fellow from his own abode causing such heartache is out of order and the pair should have to pay. We think he just might have to, too. That demanding ho of a girlfriend of his is going to want a new iPhone before she succumbs to spiritual perdition. (He could possibly negotiate a price with Paul). Fortunately for the sinning pair, reception is good in hell, as that is where AT&T is based. Now ladies, hit the link, call Paul and secure a date; if he bought his last girlfriend an 8GB iPhone, imagine what he will get you on the rebound (NOTE: being originally a posting on Craig's List a grain of salt should be taken with this tale)

GIZMODO- iPod and iPhone Media Download Kiosks Coming January 2008

digitaldiner9.jpgAlthough the "upcoming" Zune music kiosk download feature seems obvious thanks to the player's Wi-Fi capabilities, being able to download music onto your iPod or iPhone on the go seems less obvious. However, 22Moo has just announced a date for their iPod- and iPhone-compatible internet kiosk station that lets you download movies, videos, games and music onto your player when you're on the go. The launch is planned for January '08 at CES and MacWorld. (Where will YOU be in January? CES or Macworld? Or Both? )

WSJ-Analysts Ponder iPhone Sales Forecasts

Apple’s announcement last week that it sold 270,000 iPhones in the product’s first 30 hours of availability popped the bubble of several excessively exuberant analyst reports. Many publications (including the Journal) reported that Wall Street was disappointed because analysts had expected sales as high as 700,000.

People get emotionally involved in the product and start thinking it’s going to be a bigger number than it actually is,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. Mr. Munster initially projected sales of 200,000 over the first two days. But after he and colleagues measured sales rates at flagship Apple Stores in Minneapolis, New York, and San Francisco, he raised his estimate for first-weekend sales to 500,000 — with 355,000 of those expected in the two-day period that Apple would be reporting as part of its quarterly results.

“We definitely overshot,” Mr. Munster said, adding: “The part we’re definitely guilty of is building an estimate from three people visiting three stores over a three-day period.” He projected those sales to hundreds of other Apple stores and nearly 2,000 stores for AT&T, the only carrier to offer the iPhone.