Friday, February 20, 2009

Major Influences of Mine: Netscape Time & Marc Andreessen

While I was at college the internet boom was exploding. Everyday it seemed I would read about another technology IPO that I had missed out on. "Pets.com raises over $80 million", what!?

I wasn't jealous though. Mostly I observed the news in awe. The world of Silicon Valley, start-ups and IPOs was still completely foreign and intangible to me. It was something I just skimmed headlines about. I could hardly imagine what my own life would be like after school. A 40 hour a week that doesn't involve slicing meat or serving sandwiches?

Then one day a PhD student I worked with with gave me a book and demanded I read it. For better or worse it changed my life. It was called Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft. For the youngins out there Netscape was the first hugely successfully web browser and it ultimately led to Firefox.

I started the book that night and didn't go to sleep until I finished the next morning. The book details the incredible rise and fall of Netscape Corp. The team consisted of several recent computer science students (like me?) led by co-founder Marc Andreessen. Together they worked extremely hard to create a software product that would change the world. And as if bragging rights for doing that wasn't enough they all became multi-millionaires after Netscape had its historic IPO on Wall Street.

That night I was bitten, hard, by the start-up bug.

Single-handedly the book gave me my first peak into a world I had only vaguely known existed. It gave me a new dream. Of course I don't have illusions of a Netscape life (well, not anymore!) but the concept of owning equity in a company and working really hard with a great team to build a cool product appeals to me at the deepest possible level.

After reading the book, Marc Andreessen became a bit of a hero of mine. I linked to him from here once before. Surprisingly though I had never heard him speak. That is, until last night. I was thrilled to tune into Charlie Rose and see that he was the guest for the hour.

When you have the time check out this terrific interview.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Worst Cab Ride Ever

Last night a man in Somerville, MA (my neighborhood!) got shot in the leg and then got himself arrested for car jacking a cab, kidnapping the passengers, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and reckless operation of a motor vehicle after he crashed into a man he now alleges was the shooter.

Check out the news video coverage:
http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/18668898

Should I Get Dual Citizenship?


My grandmother on my mother's side was born in Ireland so despite my German last name (O'Vosseller?) I am in fact more Irish than anything else (except perhaps American!).

Anyway a few years back my parents returned from a trip to the Emerald Isle with exciting news. They learned that Ireland offers citizenship to anyone with a parent or grandparent who was native born there. Most importantly (to me at least) is that there is no need to give up U.S. citizenship because both Ireland and the U.S. allow dual citizenship with one another.

Now that Ireland is part of the EU, citizenship there offers some especially tempting benefits:

  • Freely travel throughout the EU (no long lines at immigration anywhere in the EU)
  • Free to work in any EU country (no special work permit needed)
  • Free to live in any EU country
  • Free to purchase property in any EU country
  • Benefits that come after living in EU for some amount of time include: health insurance, pension rights, voting, social service, discounted college tuition, unemployment compensation, etc.
Another important benefit is that getting this done before having kids will make them eligible as well.

As the world flattens and international business grows in the coming years I think that dual citizenship could become quite valuable. I haven't acted on this sooner because for several years I was working at a defense contractor which prohibits it. Now I'm thinking about it again.

I'm writing this first to let others know about the option. If you have Irish roots look into it here and contact your local embassy/consulate.

But really I want to ask if you know of any reason why I shouldn't do this? The only reason I can think of is that it would limit my ability to return to defense work. Am I missing anything? What else should I consider?

Reducing Principle to Tactics

This morning on This Week Robert Reich accused Republicans of voting against the near $1 trillion stimulus/spending package for political self interest. Reich said he believes the economy is unlikely to be better in two years than it is today and accused Republicans of voting against it only to help themselves in the mid-term elections.

George Will responded elegantly:

You are reducing to tactics what is actually in this case a matter of principle and philosophy.
Politicians of all parties often cast their opponent's actions as "playing politics" but one can't effectively do that when those actions are in line with their stated beliefs.

A better case of Republicans "playing politics" would be the last 8 years of unprecedented spending which I think was an attempt by them to maintain power at the expense of their philosophy and our economy.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Animusic

A while back a friend shared an impressive video by Animusic.

Animusic creates original computer animated music videos which you really have to see to believe. I can only describe it as a unique blend of music, art, computer science, and fantasy. Here is part of how they describe it:

Both our graphics and music are entirely digitally synthesized. We “invent” imaginary Virtual Instruments by building computer graphics models of objects that appear to create the sound of the corresponding synthesized music track. Virtual Instruments range from being reminiscent of existing instruments to arbitrarily abstract.
The best experience is to download the full HD video and watch it off your computer. Right click the following link and choose "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" : http://www.animusic.com/downloads/Animusic-ResonantChamberHD.mov. It is a very large file (280 MB) so be patient.

See their other downloads here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Zeemote JS1 Featured on The Gadget Show

The Gadget Show in the UK featured the Zeemote JS1.

Watch the video and jump to 4:10 and 7:30 to see what they say.

Pretty cool.


Gadget Show UK - Zeemote Rules from Glenn Kiladis on Vimeo.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Last.fm


Over the last few weeks I've been trying out the music streaming service Last.fm. I love it and it has changed the way I discover and listen to music. This will be old news to you if you've seen my friendfeed (via Facebook or the new sidebar of this blog) because it reports my recent activity there.

At its core Last.fm builds and delivers an internet streaming "radio station" customized to you based on your music collection, listening habits and preferences. It can also suggest additional music that you are likely to enjoy and best of all, it actually works! I've already found some good stuff I had never before heard.

It learns and predicts what you like in a number of ways. First it provides software that plugs into your media player (like iTunes) to see what music you have and how often you listen to each track. You can also manually "love" or "ban" individual songs through the web interface or with Last.fm player software. Once you ban a song it will never be played to you again. Brilliant! I love banning songs. It is mischievously powerful.

The magic of the site stems from its database of 20 million plus user profiles because it allows them to make good suggestions to you based on what people with similar tastes enjoy.

This level of interactivity and customization can't be matched by more traditional one way broadcast medium like AM/FM or satellite radio. I've been a subscriber to Sirius XM satellite radio for a few years now but I'm very close to canceling. The satellite coverage is spotty, the web streams are just re-broadcasts of the satellite stations, and they just recently announced that subscribers will soon need to pay an additional fee for web access.

There are only two reasons I haven't canceled yet. The first is because there isn't Last.fm player software available (yet) for my phone (currently Blackberry), so I can't listen in the car. The second is that there are one or two non-music stations (talk & news) that I enjoy which aren't easily accessible from my phone either. Neither reason will keep me from jumping for too much longer.

Satellite radio has billed itself as the terrestrial radio killer so I found it ironic to learn that while Sirius completed its $5 billion (that's billion with a b) acquisition of XM, Last.fm was purchased by none other than CBS Interactive, a sister company to CBS Radio, for $280 million (with an m).

The future of music is definitely personalized and interactive streams over the internet. I recommend you try out Last.fm. I hear Pandora offers a similar service but I haven't tried that one out.