Films now on iTunes!

June 5, 2008

iTUnes films!

Wow!  Imagine my excitement this morning when I opened my inbox and Apple told me I could now download films from iTunes.

Kiwis – don’t get too excited.  This was for my iTunes UK account.   Bah!

First impressions?   Well, there’s plenty of films in there to download, but they are priced pretty much the same as DVDs.   Add in the size of the downloads and the cost per GB for traffic on our fantastic broadband, and it weighs in slightly more expensive!  So why would you?   You can even rent movies too, but that again equates to a similar cost as popping down to your local Blockbuster

The saving grace is that there’s a good selection of TV shows, most of which you can download particular episodes.  And kind of like iTunes music, it’s great being able to pick and choose the odd gem you’re after without having to buy the whole boxset/album.

I’ll be buying the odd classic show and maybe the odd series you simply can’t get here.   But for other mainstream stuff I’ll just rent or buy it from the DVD store.

Call me an old fart, but if I like a movie or an album, I’ll go and buy it.  I like something I can touch and feel.  I like the cover.  I can rip it.  It’s not DRMed, and it’s automatically backed up.

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PS3

I’ve been maxing out the credit card recently, so was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I had accrued enough hotpoints for a brand spanking new Playstation 3!

I’d been itching to get an AppleTV, but when I found out about the media capabilities of the PS3 I was sold.  I’m a keen, but amazingly crap, gamer too!

Here’s my first thoughts.

Getting Physical

The packaging ain’t gonna be Apple, but I was up and running in no time at all.  The PS3 is pretty heavy, much more so than I expected.  And it also felt a little fragile.   It’s certainly not like the original PS1 and PS2s – which have undergone “one hell of beating”.

The SimAxis controller is great though, and whilst it feels no different to the original PS2 controllers, there’s actually some motion sensors inside!

Starting Out

Ok – so you turn the box on in eager anticipation!   You get a nice string quartet playing the startup jingle!  Lovely.   But then it says “you need to update your system”.   Gah!!!   SIXTY minutes later – it finally did it.  Yes folks, you buy a PS3, and needs to go off for an hour or so to update the firmware.   You can, of course, opt out of this, but it was a disappointing start.

Gaming

I’d held off the PS3 deliberately until some solid titles started appearing.    But then GT Prologue, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, and Grand Theft Auto IV (out tomorrow) are now on the scene.   I can’t speak for the last one, but the quality of the games are incredible.

I gave the online gaming a shot (which again frustrating involved downloading updates to games – another sixty plus minutes).  OK, but not brilliant.  Not sure if it’s the internet connection or not.   Plus, compared to the whizzkids out there I’m crap – so I get hammered every time.

Media

So, I have an iMac at home with a 500GB hard drive attached.  Lots of photos, lots of music, lots of movies and UK television!

I tried installing a couple of different media servers:

First up was TwonkyVision.   I found this good enough for pictures and music, but awful for video.

Next up was EyeConnect.  Good for video and pictures, but not for music.

Interestingly, I only appear to be able to stream avi formats.   The mp4 format most of my movies and tv are in streams, but stutters every 3-4 seconds.   Aaarrrgghh!   Help would be much appreciated.

PSP Remote Play

Here’s a cool wee feature.   You can hook up your PSP to access content remotely (from anywhere in the world) over your PSP.

I was accessing content from my PSP, which was being served via my PS3, that was sourced from my iMac!!  Photos, videos, music – the lot.   And apparently there are some games coming out that are PS3 and PSP compatible.   Pretty amazing stuff.

Only issue here is that the streaming was a bit slow so the videos weren’t great.

In Summary

In summary, once those bloody downloads were out of the way, the PS3 has been a good experience.  Not great.  But good.   I now have a home media server that is almost exactly what I needed – I just need to nail the mp4 streaming.

Only thing now is that I need a nice big HDTV.

Which means the missus will want a nice new sideboard to put it on….

Sigh.  Technolust is never ending.

One Year On…

April 8, 2008

Phew!  It’s been one year on since a couple of colleagues and I set up YouDo.

Here’s some thoughts:

  • I’ve never enjoyed work so much in my life
  • I’ve never worked as hard in my life
  • I’ve never found balancing work and life harder in my life
  • Everything you do in your first year of business matters.  You cannot afford to have a bad day
  • You never realise how safe you are as an “employee” until you take a peek from the outside
  • Running a business takes time and effort.  It’s not just all about “doing work for customers”
  • It’s hard to balance product development vs chargeable time.  Be realistic about your goals.
  • SaaS apps are your friend: Basecamp, Campfire, PlanHQ, Xero are but a few…

We must be doing something right!  Our customer base is growing, our profits are healthy, we’ve almost secured some awesome premises, and we’re even hiring!!

Here’s to another successful year!

A Stroke Of Insight

April 1, 2008

I’m a huge fan of TEDtalks and regularly tune in to these massively inspirational talks.

This one you just have to watch.  It blows your mind.

Also available here.

Time: My Precious

March 31, 2008

I’ve mentioned a few times now how hard you have to work when you set up a new business.  So it stands to reason that you really have to plan your day and prioritise effectively.

I used to hate the daily commute to and from work, but now I have grown to love it.   It’s pure “me” time – without disruption, in my iPod cocoon on the number 23 bus!

In the mornings I use this time to plan what’s ahead for the day, prepare my first five or so emails for the day, and also to get a download from Roger, our now UK based developer.   The Blackberry Curve is an awesome gadget and with Google Talk, I can choose to be connected anytime I want.

In the evenings, I use the bustime to quickly check-in with everybody and get an update as to where they are all at.   That helps me have a good think on it overnight, ready for planning the next morning.  The evening commute is also a great time to tidy up that inbox.  I’m still trying to maintain Inbox Zero!

Since I’ve gotten into the habit of spending 30 minutes at the start and end of each day I’ve noticed that my days really do seem to be more structured, organised and productive.

Make the investment in yourself and your time.  It’s well worth it.

Phew! It’s been quite a while since my last post and I’ve been busy busy busy.

The IT market is really tight at the moment if you are looking for worker bees, so when you find good people you need to accommodate their needs. Also, as a founder of a startup business, I’m always keen on keeping costs down. So I thought we’d give remote development a shot. Six developers, one of them the other side of the world. The bulk of them working in their “comfortable” development pits they call home.

It’s working!

There’s certainly no substitute for face-to-face interaction, but distance and space away from others certainly has its perks. It gives headspace to get stuff done. But the communication is incessant:

  • we use continuous integration techniques to not only ensure ongoing code quality and confidence, but also to see what progress we are all making
  • we make gratuitous use of instant messaging
  • it’s mandatory we gather round our group IM, Campfire
  • we document things as we discuss them on our Wiki
  • we like the telephone
  • we meet up every week, or when we need to

Depending upon where we are at in the project, sometimes these constraints actually help build better software. It forces you to write certain things down you might haven’t otherwise. You have a good audit trail. It enforces a little more rigour.

But at other times it can be tough. Particularly with the knarly requirements that only a good old whiteboard session can solve. But that’s when we meet up face-to-face.

It’s certainly not for everyone, and you need a certain breed of developer for this to succeed, but remote development can work.

We truly are a global marketplace.

After Webstock 2008

February 16, 2008

WebStock


Webstock 2008 is now over.   The brainwaves have subsided and the hangover ended.   A massive thanks should go to the Webstock team for organising what can only be described as world class event.
 
Whilst many would have seen some of these talks or content before (especially the podcast nuts) – there’s simply no substitute for taking two days out to talk face-to-face with some of the most respected dudes in the business.  You get two days to let it all soak in – and you get to see many angles over the course of the conference.   It was a great investment of my time.
 
Here’s some of the stuff I got out of Webstock 2008.
  • Tags and Taxonomy.   Free tags are like leaves.  A gazillion of them, but eventually they all fall off the tree, rot, and end up feeding the tree’s structure (the taxonomy).   Tags are for quick learning.  Taxonomy is long term.    A great session from Peter Morville.
  • Continuous Integration, Release and Ops Management at Flickr.   It was great to hear from Cal about how the Flickr team run their shop.   Talking to him post conference, I found out Flickr has about 2,500 servers!!  Yikes!  In short, they do everything to make their lives easier, make them more agile, and to reduce risk.  You know, things like continuous integration, continuous deployment to “pre-production” servers, release flags (i.e. flags in the app to turn functionality on/off – to reduce branching), running tests on their software every hour, and building a whole plethora of “one-click” tools to manage all this stuff.
  • Achieving Flow.   There was one diagram that Kelly Goto put up, which really hit the nail on the head as to why people get in the flow.  See my (keynote) scribbling below:
          Flow
  • Primal Software Development and Managing Design.   I really enjoyed Michael Lopp’s presentations. Fascinating to hear that at Apple, they start their product process with 10 pixel perfect mockups, which they then reduce to 3, then to 1.   Also – a key take away I got from his sessions was that you can build software many times, but you only build culture once.  Go check out his blog, particularly this post – which captures nicely his first presentation.   
  • How good design helps tell the story.    Jason Santa Maria showed a great example as to how design helps to augment the story, and how the transition from print to web often loses this.  In short, give your site some “context” sensitive design.  If that kinda makes sense?
  • Blending the real world with network data.  Tom Coates gave a great presentation which really opened up my thought processes.  In short, the web is not so much of a collection of web pages, but more a massive collection of data that manifests themselves as web pages (of which is only one form)!   Your product is not your site! (it’s the platform).  And once your size of data gets too large, forget hierarchies – they will collapse under the weight.
  • Eloi vs Morlocks.   Remember that our users are Morlocks and that we, the Eloi, must make their lives as miserable as possible.   Seriously, though, this was a great presentation by Damian Conway, who rightly advocates that we must remember that most internet users are just like Grandma.  So design for them, not us.
  • Feel their Pain.   The brilliant Kathy Sierra says that we need to actually experience the pain our users feel so that we can “mind read” them.   Seriously.  There’s  theory that it will more effectively trigger our “mirror neurons”.   When you’re usability testing, look at peoples faces.  It’s the feelings that you’re after!  Another great tip when building your help.  Document exactly the questions your users ask in the usability sessions. Exactly how they ask them.
All in all, a brilliant conference.   
 
Thanks Webstock Dudes!