Waileia in 2009: A New Year Brings New Focus

Waileia’s been around since 2003, and the number of posts has dropped cataclysmically since then.  It’s particularly embarrassing to note that I had exactly two posts in 2008 (this is one of them), yet paid DreamHost over $125 for the privilege of keeping this blog up and running.

In 2009, I’m going to try something new—and I refuse to make it a new year’s resolution, because those are so easy to break.  In the past, my focus seems to have been writing about current news from the perspective of technology, and occasionally other topics.

Many people in my life have told me that I have a gift for teaching—perhaps more specifically, for explaining tough technology concepts in a detailed, all-encompassing way, but in a fashion that’s easy for them to grasp.  I take this as high praise, especially since my profession doesn’t involve much of this on a day-to-day basis.

In 2009, my vision is to turn Waileia into a resource, taking tech concepts that aren’t understood very well and explaining them in a way that makes sense.  I’m no longer under any delusions of grandeur—I don’t expect any human being to read this the week it comes out, for example—but perhaps one day, you, gentle reader, will have stumbled along from Google or the next big search engine with the goal to understand a problem you’re dealing with a little better.  I hope Waileia will be of service.

Razor & Blades

The business model for Amazon’s Kindle is very interesting to me.  It’s one of few products I can think of that offers free access to the cell phone network, even if you are using it to line Amazon’s coffers just a little more.

The wireless market is so proprietary and inaccessible in the US that any way of utilizing it that doesn’t involve a two-year contract looks like a breakthrough.  We’re also seeing little pinpoints of light in Verizon’s open data network and unlimited calling plan.  Of course, pulling off iPhone’s Visual Voicemail was also a jaw-dropping accomplishment, even if the concept was blindingly obvious to everyone who ever hears about it.

Are we nearing the end of the wireless phone carriers, and (finally) heading to wireless data pipes, as we need to?  Once we unbundle the device from the network, I think we’ll start to see lower prices and better availability.

Then, the real fun begins.

Media Management: Still a Hard Problem

I’ve spent the last couple of months working on evaluating CMS solutions for a large intranet project I’m a developer on. I think our goal is fairly straightforward: let web publishers edit the content of their pages without having to worry about knowing any HTML. However, what seems like it should be a simple problem is surprisingly complex.

We are close to standardizing on ExpressionEngine since it gets us 85% of the way there. It gives us the flexibility of defining forms to allow complex data sets to be represented cleanly, but there’s no WYSIWYG editor built in.

But by far, the most conspicuous absence has been an open-source, comprehensive image asset manager. I’ve searched long and hard for a system that makes it easy for a media organization to handle images flexibly, with no success. I’ve looked at Gallery and Coppermine, as well as the built-in media managers in WordPress, Movable Type, Joomla, and more.

Here are the basic requirements:

  • Open source
  • Preferably built in PHP (that’s what the rest of our code base is)
  • Web-based UI when it’s feasible to do so
  • Importers from the variety of packages our photographers use
  • Extensive metadata support
  • Derived images that are linked to a master original
  • Automated scaling and crops according to a specified image size, using focal points to automatically crop a picture off-center
  • Version control
  • Easy exporters to integrate with a variety of CMS packages.

Am I missing something obvious? Why hasn’t a tool like this achieved greater market share?

iTunes Plus Launches (to Unexpected Success?)

There’s no way for the public to know for certain, and I’m sure they’re not going to say a word until WWDC, but the success of iTunes Plus—Apple’s DRM-free music offering with EMI announced last month—seems to be too much for the iTunes server cluster to handle. Even late into the evening, navigating through the iTunes Store is taking much longer than usual, and song previews are frequently stalling while waiting for the servers to catch up.

Honestly, I don’t know if I’d have it any other way. The geek community’s been demanding DRM-free content for years, and it looks like the recording industry and electronics industries are finally starting to listen.

Ars Technica noticed similar iTunes slowdowns while reviewing the new service. I suspect that music upgrades will work more smoothly as Apple increases server capacity and/or the rush slows down somewhat.

In other news, Apple parted $9.99 from me for my first online music purchase ever. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

$ong ¢ontest

Kamehameha’s 87th annual Song Contest has been airing for a little more than half an hour now, and I must say that I’m somewhat disappointed. This year marks the first year KGMB 9 has picked up the broadcast, and I’m somewhat disappointed by the noticeable increase in commercials.

Song Contest has had commercials for as long as I can remember, and it’s not the ads per se that bother me. What’s new is that they are now clearly and obnoxiously separate from the body of the program. Jack, I love you, but I really don’t care that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Song Contest used to be a package deal, but apparently the tasteful, soft commercials — spots that were about image, not commercialism — weren’t profitable enough.

Hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of LOUD BLARING SPOTS for the remainder of the evening.