Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Google Maps Adds Street View to Austin


Google debuted Street View in Google Maps last May, but it arrived in Austin yesterday along with 12 other cities and Yosemite Natl. Park. Click here to go to the map of Austin. The blue areas (or blue outlined streets) are the areas where Street View is available. I just looked at my house. Creepy!


The dial-tone was buzzy and full of static and then it disappeared altogether. This was Monday at 9:00 am; it returned at a little before 5 pm yesterday. That makes over 24 hours without a land-line. And yes; I’m a laggard when it comes to adopting technology, which means it’s POTS or nothing. And let me just say, that the lodgings that promise Internet access don’t always have it up and working or working well. I blame only myself for any Luddite tendencies, but I blame the torrential downpour, aging infrastructure, and the telco for the problem. One variant or another strikes many neighborhoods south of the river from time to time, making life especially unpleasant for businesses. But that’s another story.

It’s South by Southwest, remember, and school’s out and lots of us are taking breaks from work to entertain visitors from far and wide. Here’s what I found when I sought a way to check in. I did not try the City’s free WiFi in the same building, but I did stop in at the Austin Java now serving as a cafe and more in City Hall. The tables are sturdy, the chairs are excellent, and the people are friendly. Even though attendance at SxSW this year seems to be a little light, going by street presence of people with lanyard i.d., there were plenty of attendees at Austin Java. The connection’s good. Food and coffee are available beginning at 7 am (great for early birds!). I know someone who’s returning to try the Eggs Benedict. Acoustics aren’t good, but that’s the only drawback.

For the extremely reasonable cost of a cup of coffee and some pastry or another beverage and an ice-cream cone from the cafe, Ventana del Soul came to my rescue another time during the POTS outage. There, also, I found out-of-town SxSW attendees. This is a great place for people to keep in mind for meetings, formal or in- and large or small. The signal is strong but a little slow; it’s great there there are so many electrical outlets. The natural light is a plus, and the people are always very pleasant. Those waiting may read some of the many up-to-date magazines, and there are board games, too. Supporting Ventana del Soul supports its mission.

Best of all was the Howson branch of the public library. Howson is a reader’s place and so was exceptionally quiet for working. Sign-up for access was quick and simple, with no need to possess or show a library card. Desks aren’t that many, but I worked at one. The height was ergonomically correct, there was sufficient work surface, and the electrical outlets were on the desktop. The signal was strong and downloads were instantaneous. I’ve never taken a laptop to the library, but I certainly will again. Next, I think I’ll try Carver and Ruiz branches.

Wooldridge Square is on the network serving the APL system, I see; when the day is sunny though, even Wooldridge shade probably won’t help with screen visibility. I don’t know what’s the best on-line directory to free Austin hotspots. The ones I tried were just ones I remembered hearing about. So this was my first adventure. Of course, an on-line directory is of no use when it’s needed for the reasons I needed it; nevertheless, it would be very helpful to bookmark a few directories for the future. The directory of access points at Auscillate is extensive; I wonder whether there’s one even better.

Eestor: Don’t believe the hype?

A local startup, Eestor, has been generating a news buzz lately. The question is whether or not it’s warranted.

Wired picked up this AP story today and I found mention of the company’s patent in posts going back over the past year or so, including this Engadget post and a post on an energy blog, Clean Break. Both the AP article and the comments on Clean Break mention a healthy dose of skepticism about the company’s product and the company itself is very tight lipped. The comments on those two posts alone are educational.

Paper or Plastic or Neither

A month after San Francisco became the first US city to ban plastic shopping bags Austin’s own city council toyed with the idea of a similar ban.

Whole Foods Market and Wheatsville Coop already give you a 5 cent credit on every bag of your own you use. Reusable bags, although they are available for purchase from many supermarkets in Austin, currently garner as much loyalty as a third-party candidate in a presidential election. Compare that to England, for example. When I was there last year, I noticed most shoppers stowed groceries in canvas boxes that fitted easily into the trunks of their cars without falling over.

Now England has upped the ante in the eco-bagging trend with morsbags–sociable guerilla bagging. The idea is to get a group of friends together, take some recycled material (curtains, bedspreads), make shopping bags, and GIVE them away. Currently 79 Morsbag groups have sprouted up all over the UK and the idea is spreading around the world. There is one in the capital city of packaging waste, Tokyo. And there is even one in Las Vegas, (the last place I’d expect any eco-consciousness; trust me, my family lives there.)

While the politicians are debating whether to mandate change and while people are arguing about which truly is more environment-friendly, perhaps Austinites should extricate themselves from still another either/or choice. Maybe the answer isn’t paper or plastic.

Apple and Alamo Supply Free Summer Kid Fun

Now that school’s out, it’s time to find something to do with all of that free time. If you haven’t already booked your kid from morning to evening with activities, the two local Apple stores and Alamo Drafthouse have some free stuff for you.

Alamo South Lamar continues its Free Summer Kids Camp this year. The free films are Mon.-Thurs. at 11am. Admission is free and seats are first come first served, so you’ll want to get there a bit early. The series kicked off this week with Sky High. Here’s the list for the rest of the summer. See their site for details.

6/4 – 6/7 – Muppets Take Manhattan
6/11 – 6/14 – Monster House
6/18 – 6/21 – Zathura
6/25 – 6/28 – Wallace And Gromit
7/2 – 7/5 – March of the Penguins
7/9 – 7/12 – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
7/16 – 7/19 – Iron Giant
7/23 – 7/26 – Holes
7/30 – 8/02 – Nanny McPhee
8/6 – 8/9 – Howl’s Moving Castle
8/13 – 8/16 – Heavyweights
8/20 – 8/23 – Harry and the Hendersons

Apple Barton Creek and Apple Domain are also sponsoring the Apple Camp again this year. You need to register through the site. The workshops are from 9-11:30am and are recommended for kids aged 8 -12.

7/9 and 7/17 – Podcast Workshop
7/10 and 7/19 – Garageband Workshop
7/11 and 7/16 – iMovie Workshop
7/12 and 7/18 – iWeb and iPhoto Workshop

SXSW Monday: Panels

Mobile Applications Panel

I spent the Monday of SXSW Interactive attending panels. I went pretty geeky this year.

First, I hit Mobile Application Design Challenges and Tips. The panel was moderated by Kevin Cheng of Yahoo!. It included Simon King, who works on ZoneTag for Yahoo! Research, John Poisson of Radar, Matt Jones from Nokia and Anita Wilhelm from Caterpillar
. I personally haven’t done a lot of development for cell phones. I’ve watched the mess that is J2ME and the consensus on this panel was that things are still a bit of a mess. It’s difficult to deal with the carriers. There are still a lot of problems with compatibility. I learned that there’s a version of Apache for Symbian 60 phones called Raccoon. The consensus also seemed to be that Flash Lite is no good for applications on the phone. Matt Jones seemed to be a bit of a comedian. I did like his mention
of the carriers as a “proud pipe”. I remember Russell Beattie mentioning Anita a couple of years ago as someone to pay attention to for mobile application design. The panel assembled a group of smart people with a lot of experience in mobile application design. I think it could’ve been moderated a little better though and kept a bit more focused. Small Surfaces was mentioned
as a good mobile design site and more than one person mentioned that Brian Fling’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Mobile Web…but Were Afraid to Ask. I’ve been hoping a podcast of that one would appear, but it hasn’t yet. You can watch for it here as well.



SXSW ignites

I thought that national SXSW print coverage has been light this year, although there have been features illuminating little-noticed corners of the event (the AFE showcase at Jovita’s, e.g.). The current (April 2) Business Week, in “Twitter: All Trivia, All the Time” (byline Heather Green) reports:

Twitter really caught fire, though, at the South by Southwest music and digital conference, held Mar. 9-18 in Austin, Tex. Obvious cleverly prepared the ground, setting up two 51-inch plasma screens next to the conference registration desk and in a hallway where panels let out. As the techie crowd milled around, they began paying attention to the scrolling updates from bloggers about hot parties, panels, and restaurants. “You would go into a panel room and 20% of the people would be staring at their phones, sending out or getting updates,” says Narendra Rocherolle, an early Twitter user.

The Twitter FAQ page is a bit on the enigmatic side. I know there are at least two Austin Metbloggers on Twitter and I’m not one. Can anyone who’s a member say what prompted you to join? Do you plan to stick with it? Anybody?

“Quixotic” and “far-fetched”

These are just two of the adjectives employed in a feature called “Austin Power: In Quest for Cleaner Energy, Texas City Touts Plug-In Car” (today’s WSJ, byline John J. Fialka). This is a long front-page feature and may require sign-in. Prominent in the story are Will Wynn and Roger Duncan. Plug-In Partners is touted. The City’s electric utility company devotes much Web space to promoting this scheme. It appears that PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) will be an oft-employed acronym in 2007. We’ll be seeing more of “V2G” under discussion, as well; “vehicle to grid” is envisioned as a means of drawing stored electricity from idle plugged-in vehicles. Eight thousand individuals and companies are said to have signed pledges to acquire a PHEV when they become commercially available. I always think that I read the local daily fairly closely, but I missed this one: the article reports that in 2006 the city council voted to spend $1 million “to mount a national campaign to drum up support” for plug-in cars. Mr. Duncan, who’s with the electric utility company these days, was sent on the road with a PowerPoint presentation. I’ve missed this one, too: Wynn told the WSJ reporter that the city council “has already set aside $1 million to fund rebates for the first 1,000 residents to buy plug-ins.” Rebate or no, I think we’ll be sticking with our current household vehicle, which uses an entire tank of gas about every three weeks.

SXSW Monday Night: Nuclear Taco, Metroblogging Meetup and more parties

Metroblogging Meetup

Since there were so many possibilities for a meetup during SXSWi, I decided to declare Nuclear Taco the Metroblogging Meetup location for this year. I’ve always meant to attend and never made it over there.


SXSW Sunday Day: Rock N Romp and Screenburn

420600247_63424c914c_m.jpgOnly having managed a day pass for Monday, I had to get creative with my participation in this year’s SXSW Interactive. I decided to hit Austin Rock N Romp, relocated to Mohawk from the usual Ruta Maya, with my two kids. Page Maguire, who organizes Rock N Romp and also writes for Austinist, has a recap on her blog. Neal Pollack, who read from his new book Alternadad, elaborated on the audience participation of my eldest.

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