Friday, July 15, 2011


This Week's Tech Wish List

Okay, this is really more Joshua Kim’s territory than mine, but a guy can dream. Some tech developments I’d love to see in the very short term:

- A meaningful competitor for Comcast. Locally, my choices for home broadband are Comcast or DSL. Accordingly, Comcast acts like the monopolist that it basically is.

- A meaningful competitor for Verizon. Nationally, there are basically three telecoms with any significant mobile broadband capacity; locally, there’s one. Naturally, it’s the most expensive one. Given the barriers to entry, I don’t expect new competition to come along anytime soon. If ever there were a case for a disruptive technology, this is it. I would love to see some startup come along with a cheaper and better alternative, leaving Verizon in the dust, or at least forcing it to become more customer-friendly. The texting rates alone are indecent.

- A seven-inch ipad, weighing less than a pound and costing around 300 bucks. Something about the size and thickness of a steno pad. (I find the ipad size to be an unhappy medium: too big to carry easily, but too small to type well. No, thanks.) Failing that, maybe an Android version of the same idea, but one that doesn’t drop wifi connections or require a multiyear contract. (I’m too chicken to try rooting a Nook Color, though I’m told that would come pretty close.) Something basically kindle-sized, but with the ability to run apps and to annotate ebooks easily. Amazon, I’m looking at yooouuuu...

- Hell, while I’m at it, how about a webOS tablet that doesn’t suck? One that’s good enough that developers finally write some %^&#)^&#^ apps for it? Sheesh.

- Book publishers realize that if the hardcover is twenty bucks, the ebook shouldn’t be eighteen. If the book industry continues to behave like the music industry circa 2000, it will come to a similar end. Quantity, guys. Sell ‘em cheaper, and you’ll sell more. Scarcity is the wrong assumption with digital information.

- A voicemail system that lets me delete a message halfway through hearing it. Failing that, a voicemail system that only allots, say, thirty seconds per message. If you need to make a speech, write it in an email.

- Speakerphones that don’t sound like you’re under water.

- Plug-in hybrid cars that cost roughly what regular cars do.

- Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

- A “fashion victim” app. I could show it a given clothing combination, and it would tell me if, say, a particular tie works with a particular shirt. Sort of live-action garanimals, for those who remember garanimals. For the younger set, think of it as a GPS for the closet, steering you away from accidents.

- A roomba that cleans gutters. Someone will make big money on this. Hell, how about a roomba that mows lawns? Sort of an automated goat, but with better hygiene and less biting. Add leaf mulching and you’ve got a winner. Decorate it like R2D2, and watch it fly off the shelves.

- A search engine that works with actual paper. My desk would finally make sense.

Wise and worldly readers, what’s your short term tech wish list?

- A roomba that cleans gutters. Someone will make big money on this. Hell, how about a roomba that mows lawns? Sort of an automated goat, but with better hygiene and less biting. Add leaf mulching and you’ve got a winner. Decorate it like R2D2, and watch it fly off the shelves.

You want me to build a robot that has high speed cutting blades and the ability to move and than sell it to the public? The tech is easy, but there's no way to make it idiot proof enough to avoid the product liability.
It doesn't matter what your cable brand choice is when it's a monopoly. I've got Cox and would kill for Comcast...or at least to have a choice between the two which would include "local" stations which are actually, you know, local.
Both my home and cell phone (from different vendors) have a system where I can delete the message at any time.

Our campus system (what I assume you are complaining about) is even better: it sends the voicemail as a .wav attachment to an e-mail that includes the calling phone number if ID is not blocked. (That alone is a huge plus with mumbling student messages.) When the e-mail client knows the phone number (which is the case for every on-campus message AFAIK) you also get the name and e-mail address, making e-mail responses easy. This also makes preserving the message as an official record easy.

I hear you about paper. The best solution might be to bulk scan it, and use OCR to help index it, but that assumes I actually need to keep it.

My fashion victim app is called "my wife", but fails when she leaves for work before I do.
Lawn-mowing robots exist:

I hear ya on the competitor issue. We have multiple cell carriers, but once you get into a family plan, it's hard to switch. We have to wait until every one of us is out of contract.

I think your tablet device is coming--I suspect, actually, that an Android based device will come sooner than an Apple one. There are already multiple sizes on the market. I think the small-sized one is one that requires a contract. Which is stupid, of course. I give it a year.
IRobot, the makers of the Roomba, have been selling a gutter cleaning robot called the Looj for several years now. There's a couple different robots for mowing lawns, too, from other companies.
Your very complaint about ebook cost is why I refuse to go down that dark, twisty hole. I love my hardcopies. Virtual libraries aren't nearly as impressive as realy ones. That being said, I still buy CD's. I just like to roll old school.

My husband also needs the closet GPS. I do believe it exists. If you recall the class 90's film "Clueless", Cher has just such a system.
- A roomba-like thing for gutters already exists:

- Have you tried pressing 33 on your voicemail? On most systems, that will skip to the end.

- Dell Streak 7 is $299. Don't know about dropped wifi, but I think it meets the other wants.
DD, you want to research gutter guards or gutter covers. They will make your life so much easier!

I am sorry about the lack of choice in phone and internet/media provisions. We're in a fairly remote section of our province but we have a wide range of telephone choices with more than decent coverage and a not too bad set of alternatives for our internet/media, at least for now. Texting plans are vital if you've got teenaged kids with phones!

I love my Kindle. There's a tablet version coming out this fall. My sister in the states loves her Nook: I think the best advice there is to hold out at least another six months to see where the tech goes and maybe there will be a tablet that fills the gap for you!

Can't we just kill voicemail entirely? I'd be so there!
How about the Duo - a tablet PC which costs $400 but can function both as a PC with a Windows 7 operating system and a tablet with an android operating system. It has a small screen and keyboard. I think the only drawback with that device is the battery life (at most 4 hours) but I suspect that will improve next year.
Get Google Voice. Transcribed voicemail is awesome! The texting is free, and the outgoing / incoming calls are free if you can tolerate being rooted to a computer.

Nook Colors do not need to be rooted anymore, they have Android (limited) support out of the box.

The Nissan Leaf isn't hybrid, but it is plug-in, and costs was a normal car costs. I look at it as an example of everything that is right with car companies not named GM.
+1 for Monorail!
Something that will determine whether a call is from a telemarketer (heck, even from "number unavailable" would do) and then does not let the phone ring when it's a telemarketer.
I've been musing on this, and I've decided that if I'm stuck commuting more than 5 miles daily each way, I'm just going to buy a dune buggy for $2k or so and enjoy the 50 MPG earned the old-fashioned way, by being tiny.

Plus I can take more direct routes to work.
Amazon IS coming out with a tablet.

Verizon's iPad connection on it's network is _still_ thru it's mobile hotspot. Love my Kindle, love my iPad, but just ordered the newToshiba tablet. I want my USB port to connect my Verizon broadband card and to watch my Flash movies (note to Apple and Adobe: figure it out - we all benefit here. I can read my Kidle purchases on my iPad and my Mac, so . . .)

Re campus voicemail: I agree. My voice mail message tells callers : "For a faster response, please email me at . . . it is interesting to see who even listens to the message.
Re: - A “fashion victim” app.

This had some buzz about a year ago--looks like it might not be available any more, however.
I appreciate you sharing this! Interesting read. It's interesting to see what people talk about. Thanks for sharing!

Jason |
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