China Visa

It’s about time to get a Visa for the April trip to China.    Hey, this is more than a Passport!   And what’s up with the pricing – $130 for Americans and less for *everybody else*.  Hey, I thought ping pong diplomacy worked!? 

Number of Entry


Citizens of other countries

Single Entry  



Double Entry 



Multiple Entry for 6 Months



Multiple Entry for 12 Months



Multiple Entry for 24 Months



Intel Booth, CES 2008 Pic #225

Intel Booth, CES 2008 Pic #225

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

I’ve posted a lot more of my pictures from CES at Flickr. I was uploading from my Treo before, but these were taken with a decent camera.

Intel had one of the largest and most impressive display setups, complete with this “green screen” booth where they’d create special effects on the screens.

The carnival style booths at CES where the companies did some creative thing were a lot more interesting, though some of the gimmicks were pretty lame. Parties and concerts probably gain a lot more attention for a company than booth babes or silly actors, though the ROI on many of the CES events would be hard to measure because much of CES is devoted to schmoozing customers or representatives rather than making actual sales or even brand building effects.

Google’s reinclusion nightmare

John Honeck has an excellent piece about the challenges with Google’s site reinclusion process, a virtual nightmare of inconsistency and confusion.     I’ve seen the benefits and pitfalls of good and bad Google rankings and indexing at many sites, and “inconsistency” is the only clear pattern.    On the one hand I don’t have enough information to fully “blame” Google for the problems.  They have their hands full deleting junk or deceptive sites created by extremely sophisticated spamming operations around the globe, but as I noted over at John’s blog:

This is an *excellent* set of observations, and with all due respect to my pal Matt I’ve always been totally unmoved by Google’s suggestion that making the reinclusion and webmaster information process more transparent would somehow jeopardize Google’s ability to kill spammers.

In fact from my observations over the years I think the lack of transparency, along with initally vague webmaster guidelines (now fixed), have caused many if not most of the spam problems as both spammers and regular web folks vie to push the limits of the rules while staying in Google’s good graces. The big problem now is the profound inconsistency in the way sites are indexed, and the fact that it’s very difficult for webmasters to get much feedback from Google.  Google would be well advised to consider better automated or customer pays routines to examine websites for problems and allow reinclusion, because the frustration is building more than they realize in the webmaster and small business community.

Current TV filing for $100,000,000 IPO. Initial PE ratio = infinity!

Today Current TV, with Al Gore a prominent investor, is filing for a big IPO.    But there is a problem.   They lost a lot of money “making” their 64 million in revenues last year.     Will they ever be profitable?  Global warming or not, I’m guessing they will be profitable about the same time that hell freezes over.

I still just don’t get it.  I understand why video clips are fun and a significant development online, but I don’t get those who express *economic* enthusiasm for online videos produced by … you and me.   As I’ve noted before about online video, I don’t understand why people think video sites can make money.   Youtube cost Google 1.6 billion but doesn’t make money.   Podtech had a brilliant, well executed, forward vision of the online video landscape.   They even had the ultimate forward looking blogger spokesmodel Robert Scoble (who has just moved to and is right now hanging in Davos with the uber-economic-elite).  Despite this Podtech failed to deliver on the promise of monetizing quality content to the larger user base.   I had a chance to talk about this with John Furrier at CES.   John told me he’s still very bullish on video, but Podtech is going to focus more on a model where they’ll be producing company videos for corporate clients, helping them to leverage social media advantages.   We also talked about how hungry many big companies are for those who understand social media and want to leverage that power to their corporate advantage.    This, in my opinion, is where you’ll see most video and podcasast production efforts moving over the next few years.   The money is in leading corporate clients into the uncharted social media waters rather than trying to build website visitation and monetize clips.   The latter is a very dead end in my view.

So, should you invest in Current TV’s IPO?   Sure you should, right after hell freezes over.

Yahoo carnage coming at conference call.

As a Yahoo enthusiast and shareholder it’s been hard to watch the company struggle so hard over the past few years only to lose ground to Google, especially because Yahoo’s social networking efforts and web 2.0 initiatives have in most ways been superior to Google’s.    Flickr is the best example of a superb Yahoo application that is more used than Google’s Picasa (which is also excellent but was late to the scene so most early adopters are sticking with Flickr, which is somewhat better anyway in my view).  

Henry Blodget at Silicon Valley Insider is reporting that Yahoo will proceed soon with the drastic layoff scenario – rumored to be some 1500-2500 people.

Human issues aside, this will likely be very good for the stock price and company’s future prospects.    Google learned early on that the key to profitability was scaling up systems without comparable scaling up of staff.   Google thus leveraged the incredible efficiency of computers to generate more profits.   Yahoo, on the other hand and especially with Terry Semel in charge, sees themselves as more of a media and content producer with all the labor intensiveness and lack of internet efficiency that approach entails.    Google was right, Yahoo was wrong.    Even Google’s own Youtube, a masterpiece of creating cheap content without staff, is struggling to monetize all the content and traffic.    

I’m oversimplifying the relationship of content production to profit here, but in general terms I continue to believe that the expression “content is king” was *never* true on the internet, and that in many ways sticking to this mantra cost Yahoo a big part of the ballgame.    Yahoo actually used Google search as Yahoo’s search tool for many years, and could certainly have aquired Google in the early days for millions of dollars rather than becoming eclipsed by Google which now has a market capitalization of about five times Yahoo.   Why didn’t they do it?    Google was “search”, not “content”, and Yahoo foolishly believed content was king.    

Content is a pawn in the big online chess game, and don’t forget it.    

No Country for Old Men * * *

This finely crafted film has been judged by many to be a masterpiece, but I think this over-rating is simply because it offers a “different” approach to the genre – something critics who have seen far too many films enjoy a lot more than they should.   No Country for Old Men is another quirky vision of America from the Coen Brothers.  It’s a grim, gray, and violent vision of the Western landscape.   Mostly centered on a psychopathic murdering rampage by a the seemingly indestructible Anton Chigurh, the film’s characters stand as stark metaphors for various features of humanity. 

I read Roger Ebert’s glowing review and still don’t see why he loved the film so much, but clearly I’m in something of a minority to suggest that a film like 3:10 to Yuma is a better movie in both style and treatment of the theme of morality, violence, and moral ambiguity.

Gutenberg + 550 years = Our ADDd Internet

John Naughton, writing in the Guardian, has a nice piece about the reading revolution inspired by Gutenberg and the uncertain future of our online equivalents to the books we have held dear for several centuries. 

Studies are noting how fleeting our attention has become, especially in our young folks.   In terms of “total enlightenment” I actually favor the quick skim to the in-depth read because I believe retention is better for the short bits of information as well as better for the “key concepts” that you get quickly from surfing on a topic.  

Thus if I read a carefully crafted work I’ll be moderately informed but then lose most of the information over the years, where if I jump around to 20 sources I’ll be similarly well-informed but will retain it better.

All that said, I’d agree with internet critics who suggest we may be losing our ability – to the extent it was ever there – to quietly and deeply reflect on topics.    Also I’d agree we don’t know the consequences of this shift, though from the national dialog about politics, religion, and other things I’d say we aren’t really falling back or making much progress.   We are a modestly contemplative primate, and we can’t escape that fate regardless of how we input the information.

Bill Gates’ Critics – they just can’t handle the truth!

I get so tired of reading the innane drivel criticizing Bill Gates’ excellent vision of global prosperity through more innovative approaches to global capitalism.    Gates is right on, and this should be obvious to those who care about capitalism OR who care about bringing prosperity to the billions who suffer in developing countries.

Over at TechCrunch people are ranting irrationally about bootstrap prosperity in the selfish and foolish way US technophiles often do, oblivious to the causes and circumstances of poverty in the developing world and without any compassion for the *hundreds of millions* of children mired in poverty around the world.  

Here’s how I vented over there:

Bravo to Gates. Many of the comments here floored me with their lack of insight.
First, to suggest Gates is not sincere is nonsensical. His record of philanthropy is clear, focused, and brilliant. Whatever you think of Microsoft’s history of sometimes ruthless corporate dominance you simply are not paying attention to think Gates vision of global prosperity is not genuine. I’d even go so far as to suggest Gates fortune was made largely through the purchases of other affluent people, and now he’s giving most of it to the poor. That is a virtuous cycle if I ever saw one.

Second, the notion that unfettered capitalism is the most expeditious way to feed the poor and improve the infrastructures of poor countries is naive and dangerous. Even Adam Smith noted that types of intervention are needed to preserve the integrity and power of free market forces. In nations that suffer from corrupt or short sighted leadership and cumbersome bureaucracies (that is to say, all nations), we need to bring modified capitalism to bear ASAP if we want to stabilize prosperity and lift the billion+ people who are simply out of the virtuous globalized capital loop. Gates point is that more innovative approaches to capitalism will benefit everybody, and he’s spot on.

Meanwhile Open Sourcer Matt Asay is conflating open source issues and Microsoft with global development, seeming to suggest that the fastest way to global prosperity is to bring Open Source to the world and kill Microsoft.   Here’s what I wrote over there:

No. Emphatically. You are correct that Open Source is great, and also that Microsoft has strategically fought against open source. But Gates is correctly working to reallocate personal and corporate responsibilities. He’s saying that more of the big profits and big innovation should be focused on improving the lot of those in the developing world. This is a profound approach and a virtuous one.

I don’t think it is reasonable to ask Microsoft to be a key player in dismanting decades of their corporate dominance, even though I’m happy to see that fade. It’s also unreasonable to suggest the benefits of Open Source development will necessarily flow to the world’s poorest people. More likely they’ll flow to those of us in first world who are able to take advantage of them. I’m big on Open Source, but hardly think Microsoft should be a leader in that space. I’m even bigger on focusing attention on developing world problems and the kind of conflation of issues here simply confuses people.

Gates is speaking today at the Davos conference.   It would be nice if  people actually listen to what he is saying.

Bluetooth prosthetics for US soldier

A Double amputee will walk again thanks to bluetooth enabled prosthetic legs which can walk naturally in part thanks to using the wireless signals.   News report.   

I find it frustrating that  people are on the one hand very comfortable supporting great technologies like this for those with disabilities, but as soon as somebody suggests we should also use technology to enhance our own “normal” and feeble abilities people seem to get worried and object.       There will be an inevitable trend to enhancing out lives using technologies we place in our bodies, and this is nothing to fear.   We’ve used *external* technologies for many years (e.g. specatacles) and many people already use many internal high tech devices (heart stints).   

So, bring on the brain chips!