Technowanderlust - frequent readers of this blog know that I like technology and gadgetry in general. Well, here are some of the things that I'm working on in my laboratory. I got a Sony Clie for Christmas, and it has Wi-Fi capability. One thing I found out right away is that browsing on a PDA, even one with a large bright screen is limited by the browser. We tend to take a lot of what goes on in a browser for granted, but the sophisticated nature of a browser becomes apparent when you have to use a PDA.
Speaking of browsers, I recently saw a segment on TechTVs Screensaver program where Patrick Norton gave a quick pitch on why he prefers the Mozilla browser. Fresh from my PDA experiences I thought, well why not try out Mozilla? So I downloaded it. First impressions: it's noticeably (but perhaps not significantly) faster than my Internet Explorer. But it has some nice features. You can use the URL field to fill in search terms and then click the search button and it will perform a search. And if you make Google your designated search engine you're all set. This eliminates my need for the Google toolbar that I had to load into IE, but which periodically seems to get expelled from the toolbar. The other thing that I had to load into IE was roboforms. Well it appears that Mozilla has a form and password filler built in. That's nice. On the downside Mozilla doesn't seem to work so good as an editor for Radio, but that's okay (now I won't get confused when I browse for links and then accidently lose my pending post, which many of you Radio users will understand, but no one else will). But there is only one issue that would keep me from going to Mozilla if my experiments continue to prove successful. I need to see if I can make Activewords use it as the default browser for websites. If so, then I'm set to make the plunge. Oh, importing your bookmarks from IE is a piece of cake.
Lastly, I just finished reading Neal Stephenson's In the Beginning Was the Command Line, which is making me seriously think about testing out Linux. I tried it once before, but it was a really half-hearted attempt. If nothing else, I'd like to see what all the fuss is with eMacs as a text editor. Stephenson calls it a "thermonuclear word processor." So I guess my attempt to possess it would mark me as a member of the Axis of Evil.
Karl Rove's Blackberry - What did the man who is credited with engineering the Great Republican mid-term election success do with his Blackberry? "During meetings -- even ones with the President -- Rove would constantly spin the BlackBerry's dial and punch out text on its tiny keyboard. "Sometimes we're in a meeting talking to each other and BlackBerrying each other at the same time, "says a colleague." [via Smart Mobs]
Portable E-mail messaging is here to stay. It is now de rigueur for lawyers to carry these devices and to use them in meetings. Mostly, it's because people depend more on E-mail to communicate, and the asynchronous nature of E-mail makes it easy for people to respond to E-mail (or at least certain kinds of E-mail) from a portable device. Phones are synchronous and disruptive. You could call your client back while you were in a meeting but everyone would overhear your conversation and you would disrupt the meeting. Portable E-mail doesn't suffer from that problem. So if you think you've seen a lot of people using these devices now just wait another year or two.
In two years almost everyone who uses E-mail in any fashion (students, professionals, teenagers, maybe even grandparents) will have one of these devices. The question is whether you will have one that is separate from your phone. To quote Bartleby the Scrivener, "I would prefer not to."
I have a Treo and it lets me send and receive E-mail from my corporate account and any other POP3 account that I have. The nice thing is that I don't have to carry a separate device. An even nicer thing is I don't have to pay for it. Right now the pricing for Blackberrys is about $40 per month just for the service. On my phone it's about $10 more per month because it's tied to my cellphone contract. The people who are paying $40 a month for a dedicated device are, in IMHO, getting hosed. The only thing that the Blackberry did that my phone didn't do is alert me when an E-mail came in. With the Treo I have to tell it to check for E-mail. That is actually better because I don't want to have something in my pocket that is constantly vibrating and then when I read the E-mail it's some spam announcement.
Anyway, we've gone afield here. The point is that big wigs everywhere are using these devices. The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, uses one, and I'm sure that we'll see other heavyweights carrying them around. Just another sign that constant wireless connectivity is our certain destiny.
Universal Health Insurance - Scott Rosenberg points to a WSJ op-ed that argues for universal health insurance. He's surprised that the WSJ would argue for that, but then notes that "the president of Johns Hopkins pointed out that the advent of genetic screening will make the old model of health insurance untenable, as insurance companies' business imperative to refuse service to people who test positive for major disorders clashes with society's moral imperative to provide health care for as broad a population as possible. 'Genetic testing is health insurance's iceberg.' The piece is online here."
I agree that we need to seriously consider moving to UHI. The role of government is changing in the modern world. The government is too bureaucratic and foot-stumbling to deal with certain things (i.e. FCC and spectrum regulation) that would evolve better with less government intervention. But health coverage is one of those areas where it is increasingly important for government to step in. Genetic testing is going to continue to improve at astonishing rates, and if there is one thing that insurance companies know how to do well it's data-mine their pool of information and build exclusions to maximize their profit. It may be a task of choosing between two evils, but in this case I would seriously consider choosing the government over private insurance.
Cellphone Form Factors - Dave just bought a new cellphone, and is reevaluating the new capabilities of current phones. He likes his new phone's speaker-phone capability, but then asks "why not make them just a teensy bit bigger and put a real qwerty keyboard on the darn thing and let me type into it like a human being."
Well, you can do this. Buy a Treo. It has a speakerphone and a qwerty keyboard. It does E-mail, and has a browser. And it incorporates all of your Palm contact list into the phone. Want to dial a contact? Flip open the phone and start typing the letters of their last name. By the time you've typed 3 letters your usually there and you just push the jog wheel to dial. And if anyone in your contact list calls your cellphone their name appears on your caller ID. Ask anyone who has a Treo how cool they are. Rick just got one, and he is experiencing the same epiphany that I did.