Archive for June 2007

Facebook’s Take on the iPhone: Way More than 1%

Facebook has a polling feature they introduced a few weeks back. They allow people to vote on polls that show up on their home page if they match a certain demographic, as set by the poll creator. I just saw a poll titled:

Are you going to get an iPhone?

facebook-poll

The results of the poll was 7% said Yes. This is significantly higher than the 1% Apple is supposedly hoping for. This is especially amazing since the vast majority of college students are probably way too broke to be affirming any intentions on buying an iPhone.

At 18% answering Yes in the 35-49 age group, they account for half the people affirming intentions to buy an iPhone. The 18-24 and 25-34 age group each had about 7% yes responses among their age group. Males dominated Yes votes 3:1.

Yes votes jump up another 8% across the board if AT&T loses exclusivity on the iPhone (people really hate AT&T). Interestingly, 63% voted No, regardless.

The poll sampled 1000 users whom were self-selected, and is by no means scientific. Still, an interesting bullet point for future considerations on Apple’s success.

On DRM, Battery Life, and the iPhone

Did you know that DRM music files take more power to play than non-DRM music files? Approximately 8%! With the new iPhone coming out, I thought I would remind you that the move by EMI couldn’t have been at a better time. Hopefully, in the coming year, more DRM free labels will arise, making all of our iPods work an extra 8% longer. :)

For those of you holding out for a Zune phone, think about this: encrypted WMV files eat up 25% more battery life. Seeing as the Zune is already a brick compared to the iPod, it will sure be annoying trying to match Apple ounce for ounce while still living up to battery expectations.

The iPhone has been officially released now, and I can’t help but be amazed at the fact that people actually stood in line to get a phone. No other phone - be it the RAZR, Blackberry Pearl, or Chocolate - has ever had people lining up to get them. If I planned on getting an iPhone (which I would, if I didn’t have this company phone that uses T-Mobile), I would be in line out there too — and I own no Apple products. Yep, I gave away my iPod because I stopped using it when I decided having a phone, wallet, and iPod in my pocket sucked. 

And it’s not like Motorola, RIM, or LG have never released popular phones before: they each have a long history of phones that nobody has ever stood in line overnight to buy. They’ve had just as much time as Apple to build a fan base. Explain that.

If the RAZR can sell like hot cakes, why can’t the iPhone sell twice as well since it will have the combined marketing push of Apple and AT&T? 1% of the global handset market: that’s what Jobs wanted. I think that’s a low goal he announced so that in a year he can announce he blew through it. We’ll see, I guess.

Meanwhile, I need to find me a friend that bought one of those things… Or I could stop by an Apple store; they have them on display.

image

PHP/MySQL: The Escape Method Done Right

The issue is that PHP has some built in methods for escaping data. No, addslashes() is insufficient to protect you from SQL injection attacks (read: these get you fired). Here’s the solution for an escape function that does everything you could hope for. The @ symbols suppress PHP warnings so that I can use them to my advantage (newbies, please don’t try it at home). This goes inside a Database class.

/**
 * Escapes the passed value so it is ready to be inserted into the database. Takes magic quotes into
 * consideration as well.
 *
 * @param    string    parameter
 * @return    string    escaped parameter
 */
public function escape($value) {
    /*
     * stripslashes only if necessary
     */
    if (get_magic_quotes_gpc()) {
        $value = stripslashes($value);
    }
    /*
     * if this fails ($newValue is false), we know we need to fall back on the PHP4 way
     */
    $newValue = @mysql_real_escape_string($value);
    /*
     * if no connection handler can be found use this instead
     */
    if(FALSE === $newValue) {
        $newValue = @mysql_escape_string($value);
    }
    return $newValue;
}

Feel free to post suggestions.

iPhone: Which Missing Features Will We Download Later?

Why doesn’t the iPhone have chat, voice dialing, or MMS?

In a time where chatting is as important as the phone feature itself, why would Apple omit it? Given that Apple has iChat, why not have that installed on the iPhone by default? Why wouldn’t a phone that has no physical dial pad lack voice dialing? Since the iPhone has a camera, why can’t I take a picture and send it via MMS (picture message) when virtually every other camera phone can?

The answer: they ran out of time.

There’s a reason Apple doesn’t talk about their products before shipping, and that is because they can miss their targets and nobody would ever know. From the very beginning, icons have been moving around on that ever-famous iPhone interface. It seems there is now still room for four more icons on the final version coming out tomorrow (June 29, 6pm local time).

So which of these features should we see arrive in the coming months via iTunes sync update? Not chat or MSS. Apple may save those features for version 2 of the iPhone (which would come out late 2008 by my guess). Picture messaging and chat isn’t a big deal. You still have email, which replaces MMS, and chat can be done using text messages or web based chat programs like Meebo.

But I think voice dialing will come out later in a software patch. There are numerous problems with not having voice dialing on a touch screen device, most of all because dialing while driving becomes impossible — or extremely dangerous. At least with a physical keypad, most people can get to the call without looking down, but on an iPhone, it’s impossible to do without looking. This is one of the biggest usability requirements that has not been met on the iPhone, and because it involves the safety of the public at large, I’m pretty sure it will not be a feature they hold until version 2.

As an addendum, I also expect to see games come out perhaps in January. We probably won’t see songs as ringtones soon since that is a “political” issue (as in, carriers will hate the iPhone if it starts chewing up one of their cash cows). And flash support will likely continue to evade the iPhone since it was omitted for power consumption reasons — that is, until Adobe works something out with Apple, which they will.

Spotplex – A New Digg

A new site called Spotplex launched today. The premise is simple: automate Digg-like story ranking by putting the blog entries with the most views at the top. As in, a blog owner installs their tracker image and then Spotplex watches how many people read your post.

Update: see comments.

This model is flawed because small blogs will continue to remain small while big blogs will only get bigger. If a big site like Techcrunch were to try this out, every article they wrote would dominate the headlines. Right now, their #2 article has only 250 views – Reputable blogs get that in minutes.

Something must be done to their overly simple ranking algorithm to ensure the site doesn’t become an extension of larger blogs. For example, the site could handicap blogs that continue to spam the front page. Or perhaps the rankings could be based on daily net change so that heavy, but consistent traffic weighs less than smaller, but sudden traffic spikes.

Installation is a breeze: all you do is place their image somewhere in your blog template and you’re done. As an added bonus, it tracks usage history of your blog.

diagram 

The model is extremely attractive to blog owners, but I imagine the site has a while before any mainstream audience picks it up. In other words, right now, it is a traffic exchange network. Either way, I’ve installed it. :) I’ll watch my traffic over the next few days to see how many readers (other bloggers) it brings in.

How Digg’s New Comment System Should Have Been (Super Easy Fix)

Digg just rolled out a new comment interface, and it blows. The stupidest part is that the whole thing breaks without JavaScript on, making threads impossible to read on some mobile devices. Comment threads must now be shown by clicking “view replies,” which then uses AJAX to grab the replies.

view link

The solution is obvious:

  • The “view replies” link is a static link to another page with just that thread expanded (nothing else).
  • The AJAX could still work on left click so no functionality is lost.
  • This means middle clicking works.
  • This means I can send comment threads to my friends.
  • It would actually work WITHOUT JavaScript.

Bonus suggestions:

  • When a comment has only one or two replies, show the whole thread (like before).
  • Highly voted child threads should pop out of their parents to a top level thread.
  • Crappy buried top level threads are moved to the very bottom of the page to further discourage spamming.

The new system encourages spamming. There is less incentive for people to use the reply button since their comment will be hidden behind a “view replies” link. Additionally, the AJAX is slow. The link itself is a useless link back to the page you are on. 

And it’s extremely annoying when you hit “view” only to be greeted by a single grayed out comment that you must now click on “show comment” to see (I thought I just clicked that?):

buried

Digg messed up. The solution is simple: stop thinking AJAX is the answer to everything. In this case, it was used poorly.

Microsoft Surface – A Big Ass Computer

Yahoo Wants to Buy Myspace for 25% of Itself?

There is a rumor flying around that News Corp. is exploring the sale of Myspace to Yahoo — for 25% of Yahoo. Yahoo’s market cap is at $37.57 billion, putting the proposed sale at around $10 billion. Seeing as News Corp. bought Myspace for $560 million only a few years ago, this would be the most visible and largest return on investment of this era.

This is an awesome deal for News Corp — remember the saying: buy low, sell high. Myspace is #1 in social networking with no immediate signs of losing its crown, but this is the best time to sell. If Myspace begins to slip, its price will fall dramatically. Nobody can really expect more than $10 billion for a website in the short or mid term future — this is about as sweet as it gets.

Even if they did buy Myspace, the purchase only makes sense if it continues to grow. Even if Yahoo could kill that deal between News Corp. and Google, it wouldn’t do much to pay back the purchase price. Not to mention that Google deal is inked for another 2 years.

Yahoo is struggling. But they are still the single most visited site on the web. They might be sucking in search, but they have diversified their business across multiple fronts. If they sold a part of themselves, they’d be trading that enormous diversification of business units and web properties for one giant gamble.

For $10 billion, I’d like to think Yahoo would rather invest in one giant search gamble rather than on hype. For $10 billion, Yahoo could buy 500 startups for $20 million each and probably fair better in the long run. Let’s say Myspace grows another 20% over the next two years — that equates to Yahoo growing 5% because of this purchase over two years. 2.5% a year growth for 20% of your company sounds pretty stupid to me seeing as 20% sounds pretty ambitious from my point of view.

This is why this sale will never happen. But it’s an interesting rumor, nonetheless.

iPhone Will Support YouTube

Check it out, the iPhone will support YouTube. Or maybe it’s the other way around?

image

The iPhone was getting a lot of heat earlier this month when people realized it doesn’t support Flash. In fact, if that’s news to you, that might piss you off too. However, it seems the justification was battery life.

Thus, YouTube has begun converting over its video archives into an iPhone compatible format (h.264). What’s also interesting is that the smart folks at YouTube (Google) have managed to get their own little icon added to the iPhone. Damn!

Every video playing competitor to YouTube is in a world of hurt right now. I don’t know about you, but I am not expecting icons to appear on the iPhone from YouTube’s competitors (Break, iFilm, etc.) any time soon. So while it remains that you can’t play Flash games on your iPhone, YouTube will still be there for you during those lonely hours at work.

iPhone: 8 Hours of Talk, 250 Hours of Standby

Apple announced, today, that the iPhone will have eight hours of talk time. This talk time is 60% higher than the 5 hour talk time Steve Jobs announced in January. Wow.

Additionally, the surface of the iPhone has been upgraded to “optical-quality glass” to protect it from scratches. This addresses a major concern consumers noted when it was announced that the navigation required a touch interface, and dispels any notions that the iPhone will scratch as the Nano did.

Lastly, Apple has continued to exclude mention of a two year contract in its prices, raising suspicions that a two year contract is no longer required. When the iPhone was initially announced, it was a common complaint that a two year contract with Satan AT&T made the iPhone less desirable. However, none of Apple’s commercials or press releases since then have mentioned a two year contract, despite detailing the phone prices.

Along with the eight hours of talk time, a few other aspects got a notable upgrade:

  • 250 hours of standby time (over 10 days)
  • 6 hours of Internet use
  • 7 hours of video playback (two full movies)
  • 24 hours of audio playback

In this latest update, Apple has squashed some of the biggest hurdles the iPhone was facing. While the AT&T aspect is still in the air, it is good to see Apple doing whatever in their power to improve their most important product in the coming decade.