Category Archives: Uncategorized

More Free Business Models

Yes, I know – ideas don’t count for much these days. Continue reading

New Monthly Newsletter

I’ve been thinking of doing a newsletter for the past three years.

Its time to finally do something about it (no use thinking about wasted time).

I will be including interesting posts that I’ve found elsewhere, plus some unique content that will only be available via the newsletter.

If you’re worried about subscription management, I will only be sending this out once per month, and the list will be managed via MailChimp, so you can always unsubscribe if it sucks!

Please feel free to subscribe via the form on the right hand side of the page (only if you’re interested).

Social Search

Google is getting a lot of blowback for its efforts to integrate Google+ results into search.

Several people have asked me my opinion, so here goes.

1. I’ve made a habit of always logging out of Google services before searching. Not that I really care if they have a connection between an actual profile and my searched (after all, they have my IP address anyhow). I just think its none of their business, and as such I’m not going to make it easier for them. Based on what I’ve seen so far of the G+ modifications, I’m going to continue doing just that. The quality of the search results with G+ content included is poor. Google is either going to need to tweak this feature substantially in order to make it usable – or more likely they’ll quietly make it disappear in a few months. Continue reading

All New and Improved

I finally switched the appearance of the site. I was rapidly becoming tired of the old theme, which was too dark, overly imposing (which detracts from the content), and hard on the eyes.

The new theme, in case anybody is interested, is a heavily modified version of WordPress’ Twenty Eleven theme. It takes surprisingly little time to modify it to look completely different than it does out of the box.

I also used a number of typography cues from a web marketing site called Social Triggers. You can see the specific post here. The goal was to make the site easier to read, which I hope this accomplishes.

Who wants to be a Trillionaire?

International Pile of Money - Flickr Creative Commons -

One standard piece of advice given to startups is to pick an industry that will permit scale, so that it is at least feasible that somebody in that industry at some point in time could build a large company doing it.

I saw a video on Yahoo Finance a while back where somebody claimed that Apple will be the first trillion dollar company (barring a brief stint by Cisco during DotCom).

Obviously it is hard to tell right now whether that’s true or not, but an industry that can support a trillion dollar company sounds like a good place to start, doesn’t it?

We know that this is possible in consumer electronics then, but what other industries would make this feasible? The goal here is to list industries that are big enough to support large companies (possibly even trillion dollar ones), and yet are still at least somewhat feasible for startups (potentially requiring substantial – but not unfeasible – capital). Continue reading

Another solution for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

From Flickr Creative Commons - emilymcmc

I’ve briefly mentioned the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here before. It consists of a vast quantity of particulate plastic, floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (there’s similar ones in other oceans too).

There’s a lot of people out there who have come up with ideas for cleaning it up, including several with ideas to build floating islands out of recycled plastic.

I just came across something that might be easier and cheaper to implement.

There’s a substance called pykrete which is ice mixed with sawdust (or some other kind of fibre). You may have seen the episode of Mythbusters where they fired bullets at it (they bounced off) and then built a boat of the stuff.

Materials like pykrete can be made out of a wide variety of substances (in this case small bits of plastic) suspended in water and then frozen; the results can be stronger than concrete, and (obviously) lighter than water. The only problem is keeping it cold.

My idea is as follows:

Build a mold in the shape of a pipe. Use plastic particles dredged out of the ocean and filtered pure water to make a pykrete pipe from the mold. The result will look like a PVC pipe (except colder).

Freeze the pipe into the middle of a larger cube of pykrete.

Join frozen blocks together so that the pipes connect.

A small amount of infrastructure can then keep the pycrete cold, even in hot weather:

  • Attach a pumping station and refrigeration unit, and run low temperature brine through the pipes to keep the whole thing cold.
  • The pumps can be run by solar panels sitting on top.
  • Once the platform is large enough (and thick enough), put on an insulating layer and top it off with a few meters of topsoil. Then build on it. Or plant crops.

I haven’t looked at this in detail, but I think it can be made into a self-sustaining system fairly easily, once the platform is large enough to support a water recycling system, a refrigeration unit, a pump, and something to power it all. I don’t think it would be particularly expensive to bootstrap a project like this either.

For reference: there’s estimated to be around 5kg of particulate plastic per square kilometer of water in the Gyre. A boat with a large dredge and a small water filtration system could make a few big blocks of pykrete per day. Within a few weeks, it might be possible to build a big enough platform to move all of the equipment over, and to continue operations from it instead.

UPDATE: I’d like to try building a small scale model to see if this is feasible. Location would be a lake somewhere in Southern Ontario (if someone has a cottage that could work, please let me know). I’d be interested in hearing from anybody who wants to help out – particularly if they have access to a refrigerated shipping container.

Miscellaneous Updates

A few random items of interest:

  • The Polish IT security magazine hakin9 has published an article of mine on the topic of BitCoins. I believe there’s a free download off their website. The magazine is published in English. I don’t speak Polish, sorry!
  • I’m working on several mid-length posts for the blog, but have been very busy with work the past few weeks. Upcoming topics include an update to the “how to make money online” post from 2009, a few thoughts on SEO (yeah, I don’t usually like talking about that), a couple of interesting projects I’ve been working on, and some more business strategy stuff. Feel free to request topics as well.

Farewell to the Space Shuttle

I remember reading as a child about NASA’s amazing plans for a reusable space shuttle. My uncle sent me a book with cut-outs that could be used to build a detailed cardboard model of the shuttle. I watched the first test launches on TV at my grandparents, awestruck. And then there were the disasters, Challenger and Columbia, moments captured in time, never to be forgotten. If the weather cooperates, this week is the final launch. End of an era. Amazing how they made space seem – almost – routine. I just wish I had had the opportunity to see a launch.

What should Microsoft do with Skype?

The recently announced purchase of Skype by Microsoft wasn’t something I would have anticipated at all – but it actually does makes sense.

Aside from blocking some of its competitors from making the same purchase, this has some interesting strategic implications. In recent years, Microsoft’s profit has come from two places – games (i.e. XBox), which is what the consumer notices, and the enterprise market (which it dominates).

Look for Microsoft to do three things (aside from increasing advertising) to fully utilize this purchase:

1) Expand Skype’s enterprise functionality – Skype has some teleconferencing capabilities, but they could definitely be improved (I can think of several competing products that are superior in this area). In addition, better integrating this functionality into the Outlook / Exchange / Sharepoint stack could be very beneficial for corporate customers. This might imply that they eventually kill off some of their in-house software, i.e. Live.

2) Improve Skype’s APIs – allowing games to use embedded voice and video chat via APIs could be a powerful enhancement for the XBox platform.

3) Bring back Skype for Windows Mobile (which also makes sense vis-a-vis Microsoft’s alliance with Nokia).

Time to buy Google?

Google’s share price has taken a beating lately, due to escalating costs (primarily R&D) and the CEO switch. About a year ago I wrote that Google, while a well run and highly profitable company, was too expensive. At current (8 April 2011) P/E under 20, and with both increasing revenue and forward thinking R&D, I think its now time to to reverse course, and call GOOG as a buy and hold.

Please note: the author does not currently hold a position in GOOG, and is not making a recommendation regarding other people’s investment activities!