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The Most Dangerous Man on the Planet

Donald Trump scares me.

Actually, to be more precise, the people who support Donald Trump scare me. I clearly understand that there is a portion of society that is racist, xenophobic, bigoted and hateful. What let me sleep at night is the notion that these people were generally quiet in their beliefs or vocal to a small extent, knowing that the general public did not share their opinions. Donald Trump has now provided a platform for these individuals and groups and empowered them to be more vocal. 

The hateful rhetoric of Trump has given the hateful a platform from which they can now publicly and loudly proclaim their message. Trump obscures the underlying hate with slogans like "Make America Great Again" or "Take Our Country Back". The subtext is clearly that minorities, foreigners and liberals have taken over and need to be vanquished. Trump's America is a sea of white, middle to upper class men with their loyal wives at their side and their 2.5 kids. 

The danger in Trump's hate rhetoric is that it is emboldening the fringe element. It is empowering them to be more vocal and unfortunately more physical in their expressions of anger. He's tapped into the deep-rooted racism and hatred of these people and struck a chord that they relate to and use as a marching order. 

My fear is that win or lose, he has lit a fire that will not extinguish quickly.  

 

Boys 2 Men

Simon's 12th birthday just passed. As he and I sat in the car on the way to my apt, I had a short chat with him about growing up and how he's transitioning from a boy into a young man. We discussed some of the added responsibilities he would have and how more would be expected of him in certain areas. He seemed to take it all in stride.

As I watch my boys grow into young men, I have such mixed emotions. For example, Elliot telling me recently that he was NOT going to sit on Santa's lap this year for a picture because Santa "isn't real" and "only babies do that". As the words came out of his mouth, I could feel myself deflating. 

Visiting Santa was something I did my entire childhood and something I presumed my boys would do until they were, well, at the age they are now I suppose.

As he approaches 10 years old, I guess Santa isn't relevant in his life anymore.

I guess what I fear the most is that the things that accompany childhood don't get left behind. Things like wonder, joy and imagination.

They have their entire lives to be cynical adults. At this point in their youth I hope they never lose the sense of endless possibility and magic.
 


The lost art of browsing

Being in the technology business, I am very often on the bleeding edge of anything shiny and new in the tech world. Partly out of my own curiosity and partly to be able to intelligently answer questions clients may have, I very often jump on new technology as soon as it's available and test it thoroughly.

As an avid music fan and musician, I was a very early adopter of CD conversion into digital music files as well as peer to peer sharing services like Napster and Limewire. I had previously been a voracious music collector and owned several thousand CD's at that point. Being able to convert them to digital format and carry all those many thousand albums in my pocket was a revolutionary concept that consumed me.

Ditto for ebooks, digital audiobooks and movie streaming. I think of a movie, book, song or album and within seconds, I can enjoy it.

It's a wonderful idea and I take full advantage of it on a regular basis.

So why do I miss Tower Records? Why do I miss Strand Bookstore?

I found myself walking around a Barnes and Noble store the other day with my boys and very quickly realized how much I enjoyed the concept of browsing. I became nostalgic for the feeling of scanning through a shelf of books, grabbing one and flipping through it. Amazingly I had that same nostalgic feeling as I wandered into their music section. I would probably never buy a CD again, but I sincerely enjoyed walking through the aisles and browsing through the different genres of music. I looked through the Jazz section and flipped through all the John Coltrane CD's they had along with other Jazz musicians I had never heard of. 

The highlight of the browsing experience was in the DVD section. Again, I would probably never buy another DVD again, but I found myself smiling broadly as I browsed through the Classic TV section. I couldn't help but smile as I scanned through the shelf of titles like Sanford and Son, Gilligans Island, Three's Company and so many TV shows I grew up on. 

All the books, music and movies I browsed through could have been searched for and located online. That's not the point though. The simple act of browsing through the physical media gave me a feeling that I had not had in quite a while and realized, I sincerely missed.

Walking into Kim's Video on St. Marks Place in the early 90's and looking through their obscure films and their "Recommendations" rack is an experience that simply cannot be created online.

And that's a very good thing.


iPad 2 - Evolution, not Revolution

As I unboxed my iPad 2 this morning, I kept thinking to myself how many Apple products I actually own and how much money I’ve spent over the years on said products. It’s not that I jump to purchase every new device or updated model that Apple launches into the mainstream. I happen to like their products very much, and when I feel compelled, I buy them.

That brings us to the iPad 2. When originally announced, I was instantly debating whether to get this second iteration of the device or to wait for a more substantial one a year from now. Then there was also the Motorola Xoom that had intrigued me as well as the yet-to-be announced flood of Android tablets that will be landing in the coming months. After a few days of deliberating, I decided that the thinner, sleeker device along with the faster processor was enough to entice me to jump. I carry the iPad with me every day and, while not heavy, the thought of a slimmer, lighter device was definitely appealing.

And now my review.

The Good – The first thing you notice about the iPad 2 as compared to its older sibling is how truly thin it is. In my opinion, this is what the original model should have looked like. It’s easy to hold with one hand for reading and, although only slightly lighter according to specs, it feels much lighter in the hand. Some of that may be psychological due to the thinness. Unlike the original model, the iPad 2 is tapered at its underside similar to the iPhone 3G/3GS. It makes the device appear even thinner than it actually is.

The screen appears to be slightly brighter and with more vivid colors. As I compared the two models side by side, the difference was obvious in some games and in almost all photographs. There appeared to be more detail and a sharper image based on my unscientific tests.

It’s fast. Loading apps is noticeably faster. Games run smoother and web pages load much more quickly. Frankly, I never had any speed complaints about the original iPad, but side by side, you notice the speed difference. This will be helpful for some apps that push the processor. It will also  allow developers to build more sophisticated apps.

The Bad – There are three major issues I have with the device. Two are with this model specifically, and one is with the iPad line in general. The camera on the iPad 2 is simply adequate. It’s nowhere near as good as the camera on the iPhone 4 and is rather disappointing for still shots. For video it appeared about as good as the iPhone 3G/GS camera. I don’t plan on using it to take still photographs and even Apple’s own commercials depict people taking video with the iPad2 rather than still photographs. That being said, if they were going to put a camera there, it would have been nice if it were a good one. The iPhone 4 camera would have been perfect, but instead they settled for a lesser camera most likely with the intentions of keeping the cost down. Understandable. My other significant gripe with the iPad 2 is the storage capacity. Apple decided to keep the range of 16, 32 and 64GB. Almost all the speculators had assumed that we would see increased storage with the new iPad. Seemed logical as that is how Apple generally progressed with their products over time. I find myself constantly having to manage the content on my iPad and remove things regularly to make more room. a range of 32, 64 and 128GB would have been wonderful. My third complaint which is with iOS in general is the lack of Adobe Flash…still. While Apple may believe Flash is on its way out, there are still many sites that use Flash as their base and not being able to view them on the iPad is annoying. Apple claims it’s to spare battery life and processor speed. I believe there are also polotics involved. Either way, keeping Flash off iOS devices is a doing disservice to Apple’s customers.

The Ugly – Because Apple used a tapered bottom to the device, the sync/charging port is now at a slight angle. This may not seem like a big deal, but so every time I’ve attempted to connect the device to the cable, I’ve missed and scraped the end of the cable against the connector. It’s at an awkward angle as opposed to being on a flat surface directly at the bottom as every previous Apple device has been thus far.

My overall impression is that this is a very evolutionary update to a revolutionary product. There are logical progressions in size, weight and speed. The addition of cameras on the front and back are nice, but essentially keeping up with competition. The lack of a progression in storage is disappointing, but not a dealbreaker. Bottom line is that if you are thinking of purchasing a tablet, this is the one to get. If you already have an original iPad, there’s a lot more to consider here. If size, weight and speed are compelling factors in your decision making than the iPad 2 is for you. If not, I would probably wait and see what Apple has in store for 2012.

 

Falling far from the tree

As Steve Jobs announced his latest medical leave to his team and to the world, media speculation immediately began regarding the severity of this latest episode.

Steve Jobs is Apple and Apple is Steve Jobs. They are synonymous. The bigger question will be how will one survive without the other. In the years following Jobs’s ouster from Apple, the company reeled and was (by many accounts) weeks away from bankruptcy at one point. Apple had lost tremendous market share and the brand had become an afterthought. It took a Shakespearian return by Jobs to help turn the company around and restore its image.

Not only did he bring Apple back from death’s door, but he pushed the company into record sales and solidified it as one of the most recognizable and admired brands in the world.

His failing health has not seemed to deter Jobs from his passionate goal of providing users with “magical” devices and “incredible” user experiences. The overwhelming sales figures have been the evidence.

With Jobs at the helm, Apple has reached new heights and he has placed the company in a very advantageous position. What remains to be seen is, in his absence, how long will the company stay in that position. The trepidation that Mac users feel at the hint of a Jobsless Apple is matched only by nervous investors. Apple’s stock is at an all-time high, but ambiguity about the future of Steve Jobs health and his role at Apple, will certainly impact the stock price negatively.

Apple has never been forthcoming about a succession plan. Actually, Apple has never been forthcoming about anything, but they’ve consistently refused requests to make public a succession plan should Jobs pull away from the company. Perhaps it’s a direct order from Jobs himself or perhaps it’s a coping mechanism to keep everyone in denial about the severity of his health issues. Either way, leaving users, shareholders and customers in the dark is not something that bodes well long-term.

At some point Apple is going to have to face the music and admit that their fearless leader is not going to be at the helm forever and that they need to plan for a future without him. With this new announced medical leave, that plan should start today.

New Beginnings

Simon started his first day of camp today.

As I walked him to the bus stop at our corner, I could see the nervousness in his face. He didn’t outwardly express any concerns, but I could tell he was a little apprehensive about the whole scenario.

He would be taking the bus with a friend from school, so that would soften the impact of the hour long bus ride to Rockland County. Or so I hoped.

As we waited for the bus to arrive he began to pepper me with a series of probing, but relevant questions about the bus ride and the camp itself.

“How do we know what the right bus is?”

“What is the bus drivers name?”

“What if they’re late?”

After I answered the fourth or fifth question, the short bus arrived. He gave me a big hug (a rarity) and held my hand (even rarer) and led me towards the idling vehicle.

He stepped up without hesitation and sat in his seat. He then gave me a quick, nervous smile and waved as he descended into the unknown.

He’s much braver than I was, am or ever will be.

 

The Frog is sweating

The old adage is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death slowly without realizing it.

This is a perfect analogy to what’s happening to your privacy online.

There was a time not too long ago, where people feared the openness and reach of the internet. Things like entering your personal information or (god forbid) credit card information into a website would have been unthinkable. The frog would have leapt out of that boiling pot. Now it’s the primary method by which many of us make our purchases.

As the internet began to grow, companies began to realize that besides having information at our fingertips, another compelling aspect of an interconnected world began to develop. They called is social interaction or social media. Basically they realized that while online, people enjoyed sharing things with friends and family and sought easy and safe ways to do that.

The fact is that there are currently a slew of online services that will track the following -

Your entire financial portfolio and account information (mint.com)

Your health history and status (google health)

Your incoming and outgoing email (gmail targeted adwords)

Your exact location and recent stops (foursquare and google latitude)

Your recent purchases (blippee)

Your employment history and education (linkedin)

Your personal photos, family ties, religious/political beliefs and interests (facebook, myspace)

There are two compelling reasons for the massive growth and popularity of these services. They were social and they were free. They allowed us to communicate and share with our friends and family and it was all free, baby. There were always some catches to that like we had to put up with a little bit of advertising and possibly agree to some cryptic privacy agreements, but nothing too hairy.

The problem is a strange thing happened on the way to this flat, interconnected utopia. The companies providing these free services began to realize that there was a tremendous inherent value in the personal information you agreed to turn over to them. They realized very quickly that advertisers were drooling to gain access to that information so they could better target and deliver their ads to you. The more they know about you, the better they can tailor an ad to you.

Let’s say I input into facebook that I’m a 21 year old guy who plays sports, likes horror flicks and loves baseball and hip hop. That information is invaluable to companies like Nike, Sony, ESPN etc.

The frog is now getting warm.

Facebook recently made major announcements regarding their new strategic plans moving forward which will allow users to share more information about what they like and be able to access and exchange that information with more resources online. Sounds good, right? Now when I go to Pandora, it already knows what music I like based on what I’ve already told Facebook. Here’s the catch. While Facebook is telling Pandora what music I like, it’s also sharing that information with advertisers, marketers and other interested parties.

Part of agreeing to the terms of service with Facebook is that you agree to relinquish that private information. Another significant problem is that Facebook makes it incredible difficult to “turn off” those sharing settings. It’s setup that way on purpose. Trust me. They don’t want you to be able to disable the privacy settings.

The frog is starting to sweat.

What has gotten people bent out of shape is that Facebook is essentially forcing these new privacy settings down your throat. They’re not just making it hard to opt-out, but they are being very clandestine about how and when these new policies are being applied. Their model is that the less you know about it the better.

In the past, your online privacy and security was of utmost concern in the hopes that your personal information did not get into the hands of the bad guys who were going to use it illegally. Now the biggest problem is that we are willingly turning that same information over to the “good guys” who are using in shady and distasteful ways for their own financial gain.

Like the frog who’s water is being boiled slowly, we have been systematically trained to give up some personal privacy in order to utilize these free services. It’s gotten to the point where we almost expect to be subjected to a certain level of openness and forfeiture of privacy for the privilege of using the service.

Here’s an excellent article I encourage you to read about why people are deleting their Facebook accounts.

It’s a tradeoff that more and more people are starting to question and decline.

Poetry

My 6 year old son Simon has become enamored with poetry and the creative writing process.

The simplicity and clarity with which he approaches life is something I admire.

I often use as a personal reminder to not take everything so seriously.

 

My email exchange with Steve Jobs

On a whim I decided to email Steve Jobs last night about an ongoing issue we’ve been having among our clients at Templeton.

I was shocked to see a reply a few minutes later.

Stay tuned.

Sent from my iPhone

On May 2, 2010, at 8:50 PM, Tony Ricciardi <tony@templetongroup.com> wrote:

Mr. Jobs,

I own a Macintosh support and consulting firm here in NYC.

For the past 13 years, we’ve been providing Mac support and consulting services to companies of all sizes including several Fortune 500 firms.

Over the years we have struggled with finding a robust and reliable calendar/contact system that would serve our clients.

Nothing available on the Mac platform seems to be adequate.

With the demise of NOW Software, it appears as though our options have become even more limited.

I have been hearing rumblings about Apple making a significant push in the Business area and that an Enterprise-class contact and calendar solution via OSX Server could be part of that initiative.

Could you shed any light on this situation?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Me:

Mr. Jobs,

I own a Macintosh support and consulting firm here in NYC.

For the past 13 years, we’ve been providing Mac support and consulting services to companies of all sizes including several Fortune 500 firms.

Over the years we have struggled with finding a robust and reliable calendar/contact system that would serve our clients.

Nothing available on the Mac platform seems to be adequate.

With the demise of NOW Software, it appears as though our options have become even more limited.

I have been hearing rumblings about Apple making a significant push in the Business area and that an Enterprise-class contact and calendar solution via OSX Server could be part of that initiative.

Could you shed any light on this situation? Thank you for your time and consideration.

- Tony Ricciardi

 

Steve Jobs:

Stay tuned.

Sent from my iPhone

Me:

Always have, always will.

Thank you, sir.

Stay healthy.

 

Steve Jobs:

Thanks.

Everybody Wins

Earlier today, HP and Palm announced a merger deal in which HP would pay 1.2 billion dollars to acquire the assets of Palm, Inc.

The deal essentially keeps Palm alive. For now.

What HP is really buying in this deal is webOS. The linux-based Operating System developed by the Palm team has proven to be a wonderful mobile platform and has lots of potential.

HP has tried their hands in the smartphone arena in the past with little or no success. They have made some nominal attempts, but have never really had any serious presence or mindshare in the business. That could all change with acquisition of Palm. It immediately give HP the largest presence in the smartphone market they’ve ever had. It also gives them access to the intriguing webOS platform. The hopes are that with HP’s cash reserves and engineers, they could propel webOS to even greater heights and continue its ongoing development.

On paper, this looks like a perfect marriage and a win-win deal for both firms. On paper. There are still problems that need to be addressed.

1. The Palm Pre has not sold nearly as well as Palm originally hoped or forecasted meaning it has not captured the imagination of enough users.

2. HP has taken swings in this business before, and failed. They have proven that either they don’t understand the space or simply aren’t devoting enough resources to be successful in it. Either way, they will need to step things up.

3. The smartphone market is already incredibly competitive and getting more competitive every day. HP will now be competing directly with Apple, Google and HTC for a slice of the pie.

This deal is intriguing on many levels. Personally I’m glad to see Palm survive, even in a diminished capacity. I sincerely hope HP’s resources and Palm’s innovation are a good match. The smartphone market just got a little more interesting.