In this video I show a fantastic experiment called the WiFi Flowers. They are metal structures resembling flowers that have solar panels attached to them that generate electricity so people who sit around them can have both free internet access and electricity.
Disclosure, I shot the video but did not test how well the flowers functioned.
In this video, shot a little while ago at Serafina´s, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Tom and I compete for “the stupid idea of the meal.” I present the Facebook Cemetery, which would be a Cemetery in Facebook where all of those who die are virtually buried and their money is distributed through their Facebook Will to their Facebook friends. Tom then replies with Shoveitall, a new revolutionary product that would fit into your throat and accelerate meals to accomodate to the perils of American life on the fast lane.
Video was shot in a Nokia E71. Shooting videos and taking pictures is the only thing that a Nokia E71 does better than an iPhone or a Blackberry.
During the month of July, spent traveling around USA all the way from Miami to Hawaii passing by California, Idaho and New York, whenever I could, I took time to test wireless gadgets. Here are some random observations:
-The new iPhone software update makes it impossible to use pre-paid ATT data packages on iPhones. This is silly because on unlocked iPhones you can use the data packages of, say, T Mobile. So why would ATT want to drive its customers to their competitors?
-I loved the Peek. It is like the poor man´s Blackberry. Of course a Blackberry is much better. But Blackberry service is at least three times as expensive. The Peek costs $20 and the unlimited email monthly charge is $15 and no contracts. The negative though is no Facebook, no Twitter, no web browsing, no attachments. But the Peek is the perfect alternative to foreigners who don´t want to be ripped off with roaming charges when they come to the States or for Americans who just want email for work. And while you can´t Tweet or Facebook, you do get the email notifications.
-T-Mobile has an amazing Blackberry offer that gives you free global roaming for $70 per month. This offer is not available from European operators, so getting a US T Mobile Blackberry is great for global travelers. But they’ll kill you with the voice calls both in USA and abroad, so forget about using it as a phone. But considering that Vodafone charges me $14 for every day I use my European Blackberry in the USA and T Mobile charges me nothing when I use their Blackberry in Europe, Asia and Latam, it is clear which one is the better deal.
-I tried a new phone from Kyocera that Virgin Mobile sells for only $90 but was not impressed with either with the phone or the service. The service has something absolutely annoying; their data package does not include email and they charge you 10c to send or receive an email as if it was SMS (the rip off champion of the wireless industry). The service itself, which goes over the Sprint network failed most of my tests and the coverage was awful. And the phone has the most primitive interface. If you buy it you will experience a serious case of iPhone nostalgia.
-I was fascinated by the MIFI. Saw it with Verizon and Sprint but did not buy one cause it is super expensive. The Fonera can do what the MIFI does but the MIFI beats the Fonera because of its simplicity and size. Of course there are tons of things that the Fonera does including creating a global shared WiFi network and uploading and downloading pictures, videos, films, games on its own from the Internet that the MIFI does not do but if converting 3G to WiFi is all you want it pains me to say as CEO of Fon that it is better to get a MIFI.
-ATT has the best pre-paid service in America. It is great because it combines pre-paid data, with free calls to any ATT number with a $1 a day 10c plan that is perfect for visitors and occasional phone users. T Mobile has the same but the coverage is worst and there are less T Mobile users. Did not test Verizon.
– It is amazing how many subsidized, no contract prepaid phones you can buy for nothing in USA. Obviously the carriers believe what Fon wrongly believed at one point, that if you give hardware for free, or close to free, you will make money with the service. Maybe. But in the meantime as a visitor you can try tons of gagdets and buy them at prices which are clearly lower than their manufacturing costs. Nina, now my wife, kept laughing at the amount of $15 to $100 wireless gadgets that I accumulated during the month of July. The Samsung A177 is a good example.
-I bought a MacBook Pro 15 inches and while it´s much more expensive than a PC with similar characteristics it is by far the best Mac I have ever had. 500GB hard drive, 2.8Ghz processor, 4GB of Ram and a few compromises with the non Apple world such as an SD RAM card reader. I still believe that Jobs should make a deal with HP, Dell and others and license OS X in order to avoid becoming too boring. I can imagine Putin entering an Apple shop and thinking, “one phone, one laptop, one desktop, this is how the Soviet Union should have worked out”.
-I had the perfect plan to avoid roaming charges. I gave Nina our Blackberry and tried to survive for a month using the iPhone and the Nokia E71 with a $20 prepaid data plan from ATT. I suffered a SERIOUS case of Blackberry envy and frequently ended up asking her for the Berry. Why? Well first I made the mistake to upgrade the iPhone to the latest software and that killed my ability to use it with prepaid ATT data. Secondly I tried and just HATED the Nokia E71. And interestingly I did have a chance to meet with Nokia´s CEO during this month and tell him this in the nicest language I could find. The Nokia E71 is a PAINFUL product that tries to do everything and does everything BADLY. As you see I am getting excited here using capitals, and all but it hurts me to see the number one European tech company producing a product like a Nokia E71 that won´t do IMAP email well (the email client doesn´t download emails till you go one by one), their push email stopped working and I could not fix it, writing in the crammed keyboard is worse than the iPhone – now improved with landscape mode, the music app is non intuitive, my conclusion with Nokia is that either they completely revamp Symbian or they die. In the meantime, during July, I saw my Nokia shares go down in an up market which made me realize that traders who buy Nokias agree.
-I love my Sanyo Xacti Full HD camera. At $349, it´s the best of its kind. The quality is superb and it is so easy to use. I don´t understand why America is in love with the Flip Camera. Yes, it´s simple, but you can´t compare a video done with the Xacti with a video done with the Flip Camera whose quality resembles that of the high end mobile phones.
-As I get more and more into photography I decided not to take sides, clearly an expensive proposition and double up going BOTH for Nikon and Canon. So now I have a Nikon D90 with a Sigma 18 200 and a fixed 85mm 1.4 and a Canon 5D with a Canon 12 200 zoom and a fixed 85mm 1.2. The verdict is not out yet but I have a strong sense that other than in convenience and weight, (Canon equipment is bigger and heavier), Canon will win. Here is my first Canon test.
-Gmail finally made it possible to to send email from Gmail with YOUR email address. This helps the Android phone. Yes, I have been testing that one as well. The HTC Magic. The integration with Google is phenomenal. But it is lacking in iTunes. That´s where the iPhone beats all. In entertainment. Google has to learn how to make people smile, to appeal to their hearts, not just their brains.
-A trend that keeps growing in America is people who watch TV with their laptops connected over wifi or with their smartphones, or with their game consoles and both watch TV and play games, Facebook, IM, etc. The USA already had the lead on how many hours people spent in front of a screen, a time that in Asia, Europe and other places people spend with other people. But now, the USA will have the lead on time spent watching more than one screen at a time. Not sure it´s a great record to have.
USA is in pain. Serious pain. But after spending all of July travelling around this country visiting places as different as Miami, Sun Valley Idaho, San Francisco, Kona Hawaii, New York City and Southampton in Long Island I think that USA is implementing the necessary changes to get out of the slump. Living in Europe I just don´t think the same can be said about the Old Continent. I don´t think USA will recover sooner because it is implementing a flawless plan while Europe is not. I believe to the contrary that USA will recover sooner because what I saw in the middle of the deep real estate crisis of Miami, in the painful cuts in the tech companies of Silicon Valley, in the restructuring of the mortgage and hedge fund industry in New York, in the reinvention of tourism in Hawaii is that what gets Americans out of whatever mess they get in, is their trial and error mentality. In the middle of the crisis I saw innovation everywhere while in Europe I see paralysis, unwillingness to change, unwillingness to try, unreasonable fear to fail. And without constant experimentation there is no way out. It´s as simple as that.
Yesterday I spent half a day at Jack Hidary´s office in Midtown Manhattan. While the visit was mainly focused on Global Solar Center, his new company, I happened to be there when Jack got the news that the Cash for Clunkers Bill that he had sponsored in Congress through his not for profit called Smart Transportation had reached its 3 months goals to give out $1bn in incentives to buy more fuel efficient cars in only one week. Jack Hidary himself tells the story in an article in the Huffington Post this morning . The Cash for Clunkers story is a remarkable example of what a motivated and well connected citizen can do to promote change in America in an area where USA is the world´s laggard. It is also a story of an administration, the Obama administration, and a Congress, that is willing to listen to the best ideas of their citizens, especially when proven elsewhere in the world. This is a welcome change after the Bush Administration who took pride in its go at it alone global policies. In Jack´s case we are talking about a simple idea, already used in Germany, of giving a cash incentive to people to trade in their old, highly inefficient cars for new cars with much better MPG standards. According to Jack, there were many people in government who thought that the program would not be very successful, that the cash incentives were small and that as usual the government was going to be a poor communicator of its strategy. But what Jack successfully argued to politicians and turned out to be true is that if you leave it to car dealers, the cash for clunkers story would be told by the most powerful advertising machine in USA. And that´s what happened. Until yesterday you could not turn the TV in the States without watching some ad of some car dealer offering you the cash for clunkers program. That is how the $1bn that the government had allocated between this week and November ran out in a week. It is also worth noting that the old cars are not being sent to LDC as it usually happens with the export of used cars. They are being recycled into more efficient cars. Now the challenge is that tons of people were left out of the program. Will the American government be able to shut down a program that so efficiently allocates funds to reduce oil consumption and helps the car industry? My bet is that somehow more money will be found for it.
Now what is Jack´s next challenge? To convince Americans to save energy in another major way: installing solar panels in their homes. For that purpose he created Global Solar Center. Global Solar Center is as he puts it the “Salesforce.com of the solar energy industry”. After spending time with Saleforce founder Marc Benioff in Hawaii last week I can say that Jack is on to something there. What Salesforce.com did to provide an online alternative to Oracle and SAP software package products Jack may do for the Solar Energy Industry. The Solar Energy industry suffers from a chicken and egg problem. How do you communicate to the American people that there are billions of dollars of government incentives available for them to generate their own electricity when installation benefits vary so widely among home owners? Jack´s answer is the creation of an online tool that is available for everyone on the internet and gives home owners a free and quick answer, something that until now required visits from solar panel installers and studies that could cost in the thousands. This tool, which was recently launched, combines the power of many mapping and photographic databases coming from Google (maps) and Bing (pictures), with precise information of USA´s solar footprint to give solar panel installers and the average citizen a quick answer as to how much it would cost to install solar in her/his home, what programs are available to subsidize the installation and the return on investment. While his results have not yet been as impressive as Cash for Clunkers, probably because solar panel dealers are poorly organized and have not managed to communicate the government incentives available to them as well as the car dealer industry, Jack has managed to generate $6 million worth of orders obtaining a 3% commission on each one in a few weeks. So as opposed to his efforts in Smart Transportation an NGO Global Solar Center is a for profit company and may actually be one of those rare companies that both do good and make money.
First the news: Hawaii is so big that you can spend the whole day going on a road trip and do half the island. Then the confusion: watch this senseless video.
Nina and I got married for the simple reason that after being together over 2 years we love each other more than ever.
But we got married in Hawaii, a place that is so far away from our home in Madrid, thanks to the help of friends who we would like to thank after last night´s wonderful ceremony: Michael Dell and Marc and Lynne Benioff.
We would like to thank Michael for suggesting a few weeks ago in Sun Valley, that we change our original plans of getting married in NYC for a wedding at the most beautiful hotel in the world, the Four Seasons Hualalai. We would like to thank Michael and his incredibly attentive staff who helped us put the wedding together, with very little notice and yet paying attention to every detail. They are not only great, they are sensitive something that is not common in hotel staff. At the Hualalai we would especially like to thank Scott Cairns, Patrick Fitzgerald and KJ Rhee. I would like to thank Jim Major for lending me his bike 🙂
But concerning the wedding itself the ceremony would not have been the same without Marc and Lynne. Not only were they kind enough to be our witnesses but they hosted the most amazing dinner of our lives together last night at the Kukio.
In short thanks to Michael and his team and Marc and Lynne, a wedding that was going to be basically about a couple eloping and getting married at the beach, turned out to be just perfect. Unexpectedly all the key elements of a wedding were there one after the other. The photographer (the pictures below are mine although his are coming soon), the music during dinner, the Hawaiian symbolism during the ceremony. Marc and Lynne paid attention to every detail and made the event wonderfully complete.
We would also like to thank Keoni Atkinson, the officiant who married us in the Hawaiian tradition and who exceeded anything we could have imagined about making our wedding by the ocean special. Keoni understood us very well after an afternoon meeting and was able to summarize a great deal about how Nina and I feel about each other.
As we spend our last two nights here, now married, we remember last night´s ceremony with a great deal of love for all of those who made it happen.
Nina Wiegand and Martin Varsavsky are getting married today at the Four Seasons in Hualalai. The ceremony will be Hawaiian style and will take place at 6pm Hawaiian time. Friends and family, no reason to dismay at this surprise wedding here alone so far away from you. There will be a weekend long celebration to be held in Miami starting Friday Oct 23rd in South Beach. In the meantime we would like to extend special thanks to Michael and Marc for helping make this wonderful event happen.
Here´s the announcement video. You can also watch it in HD.
You will not imagine it like this.
Or at least Nina and I did not. If you live in Europe like we do. And you are used to vacation in the Atlantic as we are, then Hawaii is kind of like Tenerife meets Jamaica..but better. But that may be a meaningless description for you. And we don´t really know all of Hawaii. We know The Big Island, also known as Hawaii, but not all the other islands that are jointly known as Hawaii. And we only know the North of the Big Island. But just the North is three distinct landscapes. A volcanic desert on the North West, grasslands in the North, tropical forest in the North East. In a very small area you go from sea level to 4200m. This island is a lot of landscapes and climates put together. Sometimes it even snows at the top of the volcano and we are at 8 degrees from the Equator. The Big Island is not huge but it is big as they say. Probably somewhere between Majorca and Sardinia in size. But it is empty by European standards. Very little development. Huge open areas. Vast views. I kind of had the wrong idea that Hawaii was touristy like say Florida. It is not.
If you can make it, it´s worth the 12 hour jet lag from Europe. I will add more pictures and videos.
I would like to thank a very special person who hosted us today but he has asked us not to blog about him and we will respect that. It´s a pity though because he is one rare combination of wit and kindness.
In my last post written yesterday I shared with you our Sunday in Tokyo. Well now, a day later but still on Sunday, I am sharing with you our Sunday in Hawaii, more precisely in the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. I always knew that if you crossed the Pacific from West to East you would gain a day. But what I did not know is that I was going to be able to spend such two special Sundays in my life, one after the other one. The Four Seasons Hualalai is certainly one of the best hotels in the world.