WeGotYourSite

I’ve been on a Startup Weekend kick this past year.  I’ve attended the 3rd Philly Startup Weekend, the first Philly Health Startup Weekend, the 4th Philly Startup Weekend, and the Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend, where my team working on an idea I pitched took 3rd place.  I had a blast at each one.

I also attended the Lehigh Valley Hackathon, where I took first and tied for fan favorite.  I’ve also had the pleasure of helping to plan and participate in 2 hackathons (called Hack’d) at the place I work: MeetMe.

My projects have included Autistic Touch and Special Places, apps centered around children with autism, or their families, shopping services, a music-profile site for bands, and then WeGotYourSite, a service for businesses that lets you use Facebook as your CMS for your website.

I’ve continued to work on WeGotYourSite after the startup weekend.  The team is still active, and we hope to actually make this work.  Sure, there are challenges, and but the basic premise was sound, and we are making good progress.

These events have done a lot for me.  They force you into positions that are outside your comfort zone.  You are forced to pitch in front of everyone, you need to form groups with people you don’t know, and you need to look beyond just the technical side of things.  You need to validate the desires of your customers.  Are you building something people would pay for?  You need to understand how you would go about getting those customers.  You need to understand what’s important, and what can wait.  You come to understand the importance of having a simple message.  You start seeing all the problems that exist in this world, and what we can do to get there.

Whenever I have a problem, I don’t see a problem, but instead, a potential pain-point in need of a solution.

privacy.txt

privacy.txt is last weekends project.  It’s a simple idea.  I’m currently putting together a parser in PHP.  I also want to see about implementing browser plugins for this as well.  A little plugin that will sit and run in your browser and make a request for privacy.txt on a page it visits, and alerts you if the site has a privacy.txt file.

I also put the project up on Drumbeat, Mozilla’s new project site, as well as posting it to Forrst to get feedback.  Anyways, I’m posting it here to get additional feedback from all my one reader.  Let me know what you think.

The Future of Apple Products

I’m calling it, yet again. Here.  I’ve made mention of this multiple times on Reddit and HN.  I’m putting it here.  The future of Apple’s Products.

First, if you look at their recent product line, their is one common theme.  Wireless.  Everything is wireless.  Wires exist if they have to exist, but if they can remove the wire, they want to. The next is size.  Everything is getting thinner.  Smaller.  Lighter.  Even the monster iMac is thinning down.  Next, mobility is key.  iPhone, iPods, iPad, the Air.  Finally, their big successes are appliances, not computers.  These aren’t things you open up, these are things they’ve created that you use.  The AppleTV is your big sign.  It’s exactly that: an appliance.  You buy it, you use it.  That’s it.  You’re not running around updating the RAM or adding more hard drive space (which is why they removed it from the second one).

So, what does this all point to?

A server/client setup.  It’s nothing new, but neither was the iPod, iPhone, or iPad.  They were existing concepts that Apple perfected.  So it will be with the future of home computers.  You’ll buy a computer.  It will be a box.  A white box.  You put it in the corner.  You plug it in.  No wires.  Just the plug.  It’s wireless.  It connects to your AirPort Extreme.  It has a screen it connects to, wirelessly though bluetooth.  You configure it with this screen.  It’s like an iPad.  Only it more of a dumb-client, so it’s ultra light and ultra thin.

Your AppleTV can connect to this computer and use it for storage.  Your iPhone can connect to this device and use it.  Your new Air uses this to do all it’s heavy lifting, leaving the Air to get lighter.  Less need for storage space, as the home computer can store it.  Don’t worry, gaming will get better.  Just look what OnLive can do.  So, you’re on your iPad, and you can access your computer and use a program.  Full screen mode on the Mac? What other OS uses full screen mode?  Oh right, iOS.  Suddenly, apps using Apple’s Full Screen mode can move to the iPad.  With the Mac App Store, Apple can ensure this is done.

Oh, we’ll still have big screen monitors for our desks.  They will be lighter, and connect the same way.  Wirelessly and with no effort.  Working on one screen, you can switch to another, and since both devices are connected to the same central computer, you’re work carries over.  Be working on an email on your iPad, then move to your computer.  Auto Saving features that apple has will make this even easier.

You’ll but this computer, and you’ll buy software from the App Store.  Apps on iOS devices and Mac’s will become indistinguishable.  Because the computing power is being handled by the central server, the devices you’ll use (the clients) will be even cheaper, meaning you’ll buy more for various needs.  Maybe all those digital pictures frames will connect into an iPhoto picture set.

Touch screens everywhere, wireless devices for input if needed, but overall, you won’t use a computer.  You’ll be doing something while using a computer, which is sitting in another room.  Oh, and of course all of this supports your typical family (if there is such a thing).

And because it’s all one computer, it’s easy to handle media.  I can buy the media on any device and stream it out to another without thinking about streaming.  I just play.

Finally, with MobileMe in place, everything is accessible via the cloud.  Leave home?  Connect your Air to your iPhone hotspot and link into your MobileMe.  Access the stuff in the cloud, or more likely, access files on your computer at home as if you were there.

What about people who still want a real computer?

Pro.

Mac Pro, and MacBook Pro’s.  They are pro, after all.  And even then, they’ll still be able to link into the main computer.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these “dumb” clients will still be able to operate detached from the mother ship, but I don’t think you’ll want to.  The real power will be that white box in the corner.

I could be completely wrong.  But Apple has everything it needs to do this, and it’s something they would do.

The Next Mac mini from Apple

Making a prediction here.  The next Mac mini’s will be really small.  Think, Macbook Air small.  Just sit and think for a moment.  Put in an SSD drive, remove the super drive, and you have a really small, tightly compact computer.    I imagine you could cut the size in half.  Just a bit larger than the 2nd generation AppleTV.

I’d love this.  An ultra small desktop computer that I can bring with me? A portable development server.  I don’t think this is unreasonable, what with Apple’s push toward making everything smaller.  SSD drives are getting cheaper, and they have that market locked tight.  With a move away from super drives, I can foresee removing them from the Mac minis.  You could always buy the external if needed, but I imagine they’ll suggest you won’t.  After all, media you get from iTunes, and Apps you get from Apple’s App Store for Mac.

So yeah, that’s my prediction.

What’s better then Kent’s GDrive?

Kent asked “Where’s my G-Drive?” where he pondered what it would be like to have your computer dropboxed (verbing the noun). He went on to dream of a time when your computer was essentially just a thin client connecting to a remote server run by Google, and a all your data was stored there. He listed off some really cool use cases, and then went on to explain why they weren’t a possibility yet. Bandwidth, privacy, space, etc.

But he’s thinking small. He’s also not ignoring some fundamental human concepts, and also why Dropbox is successful.

First, let’s look at why Dropbox is successful: automatic syncing. I can be on my computer, move to my iPhone, and still have all the files. Move to my laptop, and the files are there as well. You can even log onto their website into your account and access your files.

None of this is data backup. It’s all syncing. Once you realize *why* Dropbox is successful, you realize what you are actually looking for. You are looking for a device that intelligently syncs your data across all your devices without needing to sacrifice bandwidth, eliminating privacy concerns, and not requiring massive amounts of storage.

So, let’s move on, and discover what *the* service will be that takes the throne.

First, it will focus on syncing intelligently. This doesn’t mean syncing everything all the time, but syncing what you use. There are things my iPhone can’t open that I sync via Dropbox. It’s useless to download this. It’s also useless to sync this over the web when my phone and computer are on the same network. So, the idea is to sync, but only when needed. Sync-on-Read. Bandwidth here is an issue, sure. But only in speed, and frankly, when your living in an era when streaming HD movies is a reality and common place, it’s not a big concern. Let’s just say, Sync-on-Read is no more a problem then the current Sync-on-Save model currently in place. Also, once something is synced, it can be stored locally.

Next, since you only sync when you read, that means you need to connect to machine that holds the data. The downside here is that you need to connect to your home machine to access the data, and the machine needs to be powered on. But, I venture to guess that anyone using a system like this would keep their computers on anyways. After all, a computer shut off can’t sync regardless. Of course, you could also ensure that the system will figure out where it can get the file. If I have a file on multiple machines, and the main machine is off, the software can still grab the data.

The benefit to this is you still get to store you data locally. Local storage isn’t going away. People want their data. Sure, they want backups, but if their internet goes down, they don’t want to lose access to the data. And adding more data to the system is easy. Just add another hard drive like you do now. Also, the service provider need not store the data remotely. They just need to keep track of your various machines, and make sure machine A can speak with machine B. This eliminates privacy concerns. Instead of worrying how much disk space to rent, you just handle it yourself.

Essentially, you turn this from a push environment into a pull. You aren’t handed data, you ask for it. The service provider would manage things like figuring out which file is the latest copy, and keep track of local copies in case something changed and you didn’t want.

Kent’s original plan was “Install G-Drive, Tell G-Drive which files to sync, Wait 3 days for the magic to happen, That’s it.” In my plan, the idea can essentially be “Install G-Drive” and that’s it. Take your phone with you, and have access to the file. Technically speaking, it’s not incredibly difficult. It’s making the workflow easy. Dropbox easy.

Who will deliver this? Apple has the best opportunity to do something like this. They have the complete infrastructure, from hardware to software, to handle something like this. Controlling the entire pipeline, it’s really just a willingness on their part that is needed. Consider for a moment that they already have MobileMe which handles a lot of this. Microsoft can do this. Live Mesh and SkyDrive were initial attempts at this field, but still, it’s not a complete end to end solution like what I discussed. Google, if anything, is the one company farthest behind on this. They have various services, like Picasa, that already handle online storage. The problem is syncing everything together across the OS. MS and Apple both have their own operating systems and phone platforms they can use to bring it all together. Google is missing out (and while Android is awesome, it’s missing it’s older cousin, a Google OS that is actively being pushed).

Could Dropbox deliver? Maybe. At the software end, I think they could pivot fast enough and release a product like the one I discussed quickest. Will they? I don’t know. They’d have to charge for the service, and would someone want to pay for this? I would. A couple bucks a month to have all my computers synced like this easily would be nice.

I’d love to leave everything at home, and go, and not worry about forgetting to sync up the pictures this Christmas while I’m at my mother’s. If I want to show her videos, I shouldn’t have to plan that in advance.

Cloud storage is an excellent idea, don’t get me wrong. But I’d much rather have proper syncing first.

Crazy predictions for the next 5 years

Here are my crazy predications regarding the future of computing, at least as far as operating systems go.  At the moment, there exists three dominant operating systems out there: Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.  You could argue that OSX is a BSD, and say that Linux is just the kernel.  You’d have a point, but it misses mine.  From a desktop perspective, you’re choices are either Microsoft, Apple, or Open Source.  The problem with this, they aren’t the only players here.  In the world of computing, Microsoft and Apple are really only rivaled by one other company: Google.  Despite Google’s recent problems with Buzz, as well as past issues, they are still in many ways a good company.  They are also a smart company.  They also have lots of money.

Google will build a Linux OS, and make it user friendly.  I want to say they will buy Canonical, and turn Ubuntu into their OS, called Google One.  Wait? What?  They have their own OS…

For phones.

What about Chrome OS?

No.  Google isn’t dumb.  The operating system isn’t going away.  They know this.  Google realizes the power of controlling the environment.  They made Chrome for a reason.  They want people to use Chrome so Google can do all sorts of crazy things with the web.  Oh, it’s great for the web.  What they are doing is being a good neighbor.  But they are also doing it because it allows them to have the control they need.

Look, it’s really simple.  Apple has demonstrated what happens when you control everything.  You can make products people want.  Google realizes this.  So does Microsoft.  The thing is, of the three, Google is the only one who doesn’t control their environment.  Google is at the behest of Apple and Microsoft.  Google took the first steps with Chrome.  Android is another way for them to control a market.  But all of this ignores the one market that Google really needs: the operating system.  The interface to the web.  The interface to your applications.

Suddenly, instead of a Windows or OSX world, you’ll have Google thrown in, and that will be on top of Linux.  Why Linux? Because support for Linux is insane when compared to the other options out there.  Ubuntu has proven that with dedication, you can create a distribution that people will flock to for desktop use.  With Valve’s delivery of Steam and Source to Mac, a Linux client isn’t far behind.  With Google’s backing, Linux would finally become ready for the desktop.

In 5 years, there will be three desktop operating systems to consider: Windows, Apple’s new OS (whatever that is), and Google One.  And you know what?  In that time, developing applications across all three platforms will get easier, especially with the advent of HTML5 and next generation browsers.

Yes, it’s coming.

Bold predictions.  Let’s wait and see.  The benefit is if I’m right, it’ll be awesome.  If I’m wrong, no one will know.  Mostly because so few read this blog.