Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Bike Tree is secure city bike storage

Filed under: — adam @ 1:09 pm

That’s very cool. It locks up your bike and suspends it high above the ground, away from thieves and rain.

Of course, in NYC, that would probably just mean there would be a rash of clear-cutting…

13 things in science that make no sense

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 pm

Tivo lives!

Filed under: — adam @ 10:39 am

Apparently, Tivo has signed a HUGE partnership deal with Comcast, stopping the Tivo Death Clock. The initial term of the deal is seven years. This is great, and I hope they sign a similar deal with the other cable companies. The idea of anyone out there using a Scientific Atlanta DVR and thinking “this is what it’s all about?” gives me the shivers. Congratulations to Tivo!

“On March 15, 2005, we entered into a non-exclusive licensing and marketing agreement with Comcast STB Software DVR, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, and Comcast Corporation, as guarantor of Comcast STB’s obligations under the agreement. Pursuant to our agreement, we have agreed to develop a TiVo-branded software solution for deployment on Comcast’s DVR platforms, which would enable any TiVo-specific DVR and networking features requested by Comcast, such as WishList^™ searches, Season Pass^™ recordings, home media features, and TiVoToGo^™ transfers. In addition, we have agreed to develop an advertising management system for deployment on Comcast platforms to enable the provision of local and national advertising to Comcast subscribers.”

The life of the converged device

Filed under: — adam @ 10:34 am

Chris Justus writes:

“Hundreds of companies – big and small – are all racing to replace your cellphone / MP3 player / digital camera / video camera / PDA / PC / gaming platform / etc with a single device. I’ve been waiting years for this device to emerge, and it finally occured to me that it is not ever going to happen. When did this epiphany occur? I was reading Wired magazine a month or two ago and somewhere in there, they recommended that small and/or home based businesses should go get combo fax/scanner/printers.”

He goes on to explain why converged devices inevitably fail to be really good at any of the converged functions, particularly multifunction printers.

I have to disagree. I recently bought a multi-function printer (Brother), largely because it seemed to be the cheapest way to get a sheetfed scanner for filing contracts and sending faxes (which I do on the computer anyway, not directly, as I have no land line). It’s no substitute for a good laser printer, but the ink jet performance is pretty impressive. Granted, I don’t ask much from it, but it works perfectly well.

However, that’s not really my point. Getting convergence to work well is probably one of two things:

  1. A shoehorn problem to stick together two things that don’t belong together (because they have different ideal form factors or different usage patterns or different failure rates)
  2. A design problem to work out the issues and present the proper functionality to the user

I think the TV/VCR combo fits into the former. People look at these units and say “what happens when the VCR breaks?”. The shoehorn is really an insoluble issue – these devices don’t belong in one box together. I’d much rather the entertainment industry focus on standardizing the AV connections to make components easier to connect.

The latter problem is a more interesting one. There are devices that go together, but there are “minor” issues to resolve. The multifunction printer/fax/scanner is actually, I think, a great example of three devices that should go together. A fax machine is just a scanner with a sheet feeder and a printer – so why not be able to use any of the functions independently, and make them better than you’d expect out of a normal fax machine? I think this is just a matter of getting the components cheap enough so that when you buy all three, it’s still cost-effective (and we’re just about there, now that the still-usable-but-still-pretty-crappy bottom of the ink jet and single-page scanner markets are around $30-$40). Complaining that the multifunction fax machine doesn’t give you adequate feedback about the fax is a design issue, not a convergence failure.

I’m reasonably happy with my Kyocera Palm/Phone. Granted, there are some design issues, but a palm and a phone should go together. I want to have my calendar and contacts with me all the time, and the fewer devices I have to carry, the better. With a decent set of headphones, there’s no reason why this can’t be an MP3 player, too (although I have a standalone one from wayyyy back which I’ve never felt the need to replace). I’ve never been terribly interested in portable video, so TV on my phone seems like a bit much, but I think a standard KVM connector for portable devices would be really handy – so you can use the same machine through whatever kind of interface you have handy, but it all lives on the device you can take with you.

Maybe it won’t be the next big thing, but there’s value is getting our devices to not just do as many things as possible, but also to do them all well. For many applications, I see no reason it can’t be possible.

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