Video Showdown: Crazy Cats

Cats and bloggers are a lot alike. Both keep strange hours, play with mice, and — given the right stimulant (catnip, caffeine…) — can stay active for hours on end. It’s no small wonder, then, that feline antics are a mainstay in the blogosphere. From the acrobatics of Annie, to cheezburgers, to kitten vomit, Felis silvestris catus has served the Internet procrastinator well. Now I’m not sure if I should be comforted or scared that we live in a world where a video of a cat pawing a piano gets over five million views, but the fact remains that I don’t even have a cat and I am blogging about other bloggers’ blogs about their cats. Woah, meta.
Enough marveling. Check out these two kitty clips and vote for your favorite.
The Mean Kitty Song

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Debunking 5 Business Myths about Second Life

NBA IslandRecently Forbes featured a widely-cited article (reg. req.) on marketing in Second Life that was so spectacularly incorrect, it inspired me to whip up this reference guide, as the errors there keep cropping up elsewhere. As someone who worked for Linden Lab, consults on and is writing a book about Second Life, I have an obvious personal and professional interest in the topic. But what follows isn’t metaverse boosterism; it may very well be that Second Life is over-hyped or ill-conceived for business purposes. Even if so, however, it’s not due to the five provably bogus claims. [digg=http://digg.com/gaming_news/Top_Five_Second_Life_Myths_Exploded]
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YouTube Comes to My Apple TV

This morning, Apple released a software update for Apple TV owners which added the ability to access YouTube videos, in addition to content already present in iTunes. Not one to wait around, I installed it immediately, and it works well, but I can already see limitations to the service that surprised me.

Upgrading the Software

Accessing the software update was simple. Navigating to the Apple TV’s Settings menu with the Apple Remote, I clicked Software Update and was notified an update was available. I opted to install, and it immediately began downloading, with the familiar “download in progress” spinning indicator being displayed. When complete, I was asked to reboot the Apple TV.

During the reboot process, my TV screen temporarily lost input, and was then replaced with an Apple logo and progress bar. When the progress bar was completed, the Apple TV rebooted again, and I was treated to Apple TV’s startup video, oddly reminiscent of TiVo’s famous boot-up sequence. And when that was complete, I was back at my home menu with a new option: YouTube.

Adding YouTube to the Menu

YouTube becomes just another menu item for Apple TV, in parallel with Movies, TV Shows, Music, Podcasts and Photos. Selecting the YouTube option presented me with a variety of still images, as album covers are shown in Music or TV Shows. And underneath the YouTube header, I had a few options, including Featured, Most Viewed, Most Recent, Top Rated, History and Search. Featured, Most Viewed, Most Recent and Top Rated mirror their same options you would find at YouTube.com.

Personal Viewing History and Search

The History folder tracks those videos you watch, and displays them in a descending column, with most recently viewed on top, as we’ve grown accustomed in Safari. Apple offers the ability to “Clear History”, but not to individually select clips to delete from that history, so if you’re watching items you don’t want someone else with access to the Apple TV to see, then you have to wipe the whole thing.

When it came to the Search function, I at first thought I might be yearning for a wireless keyboard, a la the ill-fated WebTV, but Apple, mirroring TiVo, makes it easy, with a navigable alphabet, selectable by remote. As I typed one letter at a time, the search results, on the right, would change immediately, without waiting for me to hit an enter or return button.

Quality and Questions

While it worked very well, finding videos of “beagles” or “fennec fox”, for example, I was surprised to find that instead of seeing the full array of results there, I only would be presented with one option, which match the first result from the YouTube site. It seems that the full library of YouTube is not yet fully available or searchable on day one, or the functionality is being limited to conserve bandwidth?

Watching a YouTube video was surprisingly clear on the 42-inch screen. While I expected more blurriness or grainy video, the quality was the same on the TV as it is on my laptop, thanks to a near-equivalent pixel count. Of course, given YouTube’s amateur video archives, the quality of the content and shaky camera work is not improved, no matter how big the screen is.

Conclusions

For a first pass at integrating the services, the YouTube/Apple TV relationship is off to a strong start. I believe with time we will see fuller search results, and maybe even an Apple channel on YouTube? Doesn’t it make sense to have all of Steve’s keynotes on YouTube as well as through QuickTime? Just a thought. While we’re still waiting for rented movies to make their way to my Apple TV via iTunes, YouTube is a great addition. Anybody who has an Apple TV today should make the time to update.

Demand Media Buys ExpertVillage

Demand Media has acquired ExpertVillage for an undisclosed amount, according to Reuters.

Click here for more on “Telekinesis Revealed: Learn Easy Magic Tricks Online for Free”

ExpertVillage commissions how-to videos, with more than 17,000 of them currently in stock. It has a strong open distribution strategy, gaining more total views for any single video on YouTube (more than 350,000 for “How to Get Away from a Carjacker“) than it has on its own site (nearly 60,000 for “The Floating Card Trick Explained: Learn Free Magic“.

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CNET reviews the hp tc4400: 6.6 / 10

Hp_tc4400Gotta Be Mobile caught the review over at CNET, which pegs the hp tc4400 at an average 6.6 out of 10. On the bad side, CNET cited the lack of a built-in optical drive; something I personally would rather not see in a Tablet PC. My thought is that if you’re going to ink in slate mode, why hold more weight than you need? Of course, the flipside is the potential need to carry an external optical drive, but I find that to be a very limited need these days; just personal opinion there. You can catch the full review right here and be sure to check Rob’s thoughts on CNET’s review as well.

Sonus: Good news, ahem!

sonusLogoSonus Networks’ despite being kicked off Nasdaq, largely because of some problems with SEC (which is like saying slightly pregnant) is having a good year when it comes to selling its products. Revenues for the second quarter of fiscal 2004 were $42.4 million up from $36.5 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 and $15.4 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2003.  Net income for the second quarter of fiscal 2004 was $4.9 million or $0.02 per share compared with a net income of $3.0 million or $0.01 per share for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 and a net loss of $7.3 million or $0.03 per share for the second quarter of fiscal 2003. A clear sign, that the VoIP remains a hot market, admittedly not a large one. With AT&T gettings its VoIP groove on and Level 3 getting aggressive, the upside doesn’t come as a surprise. Those are two big customers. I am sure the conference call would have more information.

Spring VoN impressions – Part One

The hype around a technology is directly proportional to the total number of attendees at a trade conference. Till last year, VoN, the Voice over the Net show was a fairly close-knit affair. It was easy to holler and greet familiar faces from across the room. Jeff Pulver, the organizer played the role of a genial host who is having a barbeque in his backyard.

Spring VoN 2004 has lost that homely quality, much like Jeff has gotten rid of those extra pounds and is looking fairly svelte these days. (Lets all hail the god of diets, Dr. Atkins!) The 2004 edition of Spring VoN was a fairly hectic affair. The general tenor of the show, the glistening shiny faces of the “show goers” reminded of the early days of the Internet World – sizzling, but still not hot. (Of course the fact that San Jose Mercury News was having a job fair along side VoN at the Santa Clara Convention Center did not help matters.)

So what did I gather from the folks I met at the show, and the products I saw. Actually nothing which cannot be summed up in a few bullet points.

* The industry is doing too many me-too products.
* Theme for this year is small business. (I ask you, do we need twenty different flavor of small business IP-PBXes)
* The number of SIP Servers, Soft Switches, and media gateways has multiplied manifold, and I suspect, that as long as clueless venture capitalists are willing, will continue to increase.
* The companies, which impressed me the most this year, are the ones that impressed me a year ago, and a year earlier.
* Veraz Networks, IPUnity, Sylantro, Microsoft and AT&T drew the biggest crowds this year.
* Plantronics, the headset people have figured out that the best way to overcome the quality issues with VoIP-based phone services especially for those using the soft phones. They have a USB-powered and Bluetooth headsets that are optimized for Skype and soon other services. Keep an eye on these guys for they have some really cool products coming.

I suspect, next year’s show is going to be even bigger, with more attendees and more exhibitors. Pulver.com will make a lot of money, but there is a little chance I will be attending the show.