28 March, 2008

Company unveils WalkingHotSpot software

It is a hated and well-known fact among smartphone owners that it is extremely difficult to tether a computer to a phone in order to harness the GPRS internet. Many people do spend the multiple hours getting it to work, though, and once it does work it is hugely useful- you can have internet on your computer anywhere there is cell reception (practically everywhere), for a fee of about $20/month.

But a company called TapRoot is making it easier. On Wednesday they unveiled their new WalkingHotSpot software, which is supposed to use the built-in wifi receiver on the phone to make it into its own wifi hotspot. The company is looking to release its software to network providers, who will charge customers individually for the service.

First of all, good job TapRoot. You have found the secret nirvana of software companies, the killer app, the problem that everyone needs solving but nobody has enough initiative to solve. Taproot will be very successful. This is how you start a software company that will make millions

24 March, 2008

Sony Retracts Bloatware Removal Fee

Several weeks ago, the Japanese soft-and-hardware giant Sony offered a new option for two of their high-end Vaio laptops, the Vaio TZ2000 and Vaio TZ2500, to remove all trial software for a fee of $50. About the program, which they call Fresh Start, Sony said,
"We want Vaio users to have the best experience possible with our PCs, and we believe Fresh Start will help ensure that happens right out-of-the-box"
This move caused great controversy, and now Sony has finally woken up and is now offering the program for free.
What I am wondering is, why was it such an unpopular move? The trial software was there anyway, and anybody who knew anything about computers could have very easily removed it without much fuss, and just not pay the $50. Could it be possible that the average person doesn't know anything about computers? Even if that were true, I don't think it would be the cause. I think it's the sort of "Don't even think about it..." kind of mentality, that the simple idea of charging $50 to remove software that makes them money, that they possibly shouldn't have even put there in the first place, is enough to make people revolt.

21 March, 2008

Apple's Involuntary Safari Update

Controversy is raging about Apple's customer-involuntary Safari "update".
Fairly recently, Apple put the official 3.1 version of their browser on their update channel, which comes with any version of iTunes or QuickTime. The problem with this was that it was put there even if the user hadn't downloaded the program. Millions of people all over the world will be clicking the 'install' button without looking at what they're installing. Mozilla CEO John Lilly called it "wrong, [bordering] on malware distribution practices"

"This is a problem because, by and large, all software makers are trying to get users to trust us on updates, and so the likely behavior here is for users to just click “Install 2 items,” which means that they’ve now installed a completely new piece of software, quite possibly completely unintentionally. Apple has made it incredibly easy — the default, even — for users to install ride along software that they didn’t ask for, and maybe didn’t want."

(photo courtesy of CNET)

In another blog, CNET's Tom Krazit argues that users should be thinking before they install.
But the real problem is not the user. The real problem is that Apple is breaking the trust that has developed between them and the user.

But this is not the first occurrence of a software company using automatic upload channels to force a product on a customer. All the major IM companies have tried it, Yahoo had several lawsuits filed against it in 2005 for it, etc. Still, that doesn't make what Apple did any less irritating.

20 March, 2008

Flying car readies for takeoff in New York

Milner Motors has taken the wraps off its flying car at the 2008 New York auto show. If you don't want wings, Milner also is unveiling its electric car. Milner Motors has a vision disturbingly similar to that of the infamously slow-to-go-commercial-with-ever-increasing-costs Moller Skycar. They see people driving to the airport, flying to wherever they fly to, and driving to the parking lot of the hotel. But this raises several questions:
  • What about the required pilot's license? Would people be willing to spend however many tens of thousands of dollars on something they have to go out and spend a year getting an extra license for?
  • Is it street-legal?
  • Is it air-legal?
  • Is it affordable?
However they plan to sell it, the AirCar is certainly very stylish and beautiful, and is a wonderful idea. I do certainly hope they manage to sell it.

Here's a link to the official AirCar site