At Fon, we are currently designing the retail box of the new Fonera SIMPL. We already sold over 1 million of these wifi routers wholesale to mobile operators. We will soon go retail with this product in Europe and the USA.
Now what we would like to do is to illustrate one side of the box with a comic strip that explains what Fon is in something like 6 squares and in English. We are offering a €300 appreciation prize to the fonero who draws the comic strip that makes it to the box.
So what is Fon? It’s in our web site. Some say, “you share a little WiFi at home and you roam the world for free”. Basically, a Fonera SIMPL is an 802.11n router (connects faster and farther than wireless g) that allows users to connect to WiFi themselves via an encrypted and secure SSID (WiFi signal), but that also has the unique capability to create a second FON SSID that allows people who live nearby or pass by your home to connect to your router and use a small portion of your bandwidth. In exchange for opening a second SSID, you get two major benefits, one is free global WiFi roaming at well over a million hotspots around the world, and the second is that you can make money selling WiFi passes in the Fon network to those who do not have a Fonera (fon router), and therefore do not share their home WiFi, and so have to pay to connect when they find your signal. You keep half of the money and Fon keeps half. Notice that you are selling access to the whole network not just to your router. Another benefit of the Fonera SIMPL is that it auto-connects to iPhone and Android smartphones.
Ideas? Somebody suggested a comic strip telling the story of a lonely WiFi user who had no friends with his conventional WiFi router until he got a Fonera router and then had lots of friends and traveled the world connecting for free. Somebody else added that now he has money and travels the world (clearly a joke as very few make the kind of money you would need for a trip, though many do make enough to subsidize the cost of their broadband). We are open to any ideas that describe the benefits of Fon in a comic strip. Please send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
update: we already have one that we are likely to use.
I would like to apologize to all visitors to Portugal and Portuguese Foneros because Fon is down in Portugal today. We are down because the routers that Zon@fon uses in Portugal were sending us so many requests that they were bringing Fon services down around the world. This is why we had to disconnect Portugal for a few hours. We are working on a fix for this and we should be up and running. We are very sorry for this inconvenience. As CEO of Fon these situations pain me.
Why is Spotify so good? Because it starts from iTunes and improves it. It is like Apple, but better (except that is not yet available in USA). Why is the Zune a bad experience? Because it is not at all like iTunes. Like it or not Apple is the standard in music. Just as the whole world has been educated to use Windows, and a few to use Mac and Linux, in music, the whole world is educated to use iTunes, and a few to experiment with the alternatives. So Spotify built a great platform that is intuitive to use. It is like iTunes, but the songs are free and the Genius is your friends. Huge success. But Zune is just…. obscure. I try most WiFi gadgets, and this afternoon I spent a couple of hours trying a Zune out. My rating is 2 stars (sorry to use Apple again). The Zune is beautiful as a device, the graphics are attractive, original, but it is incredibly slow to load songs, the monthly costs at $15 are out of the market, and using the Zune software which is, not surprisingly, only available for Windows, is too complicated. I guess Microsoft has a hard time admitting that if you enter the music field you have to be like iTunes but better, which also means to start looking kind of like iTunes. It is hard for people to learn another language. Apple should know that, they have a better product than Microsoft Windows in OSX and market share gains are slow mainly because people are afraid to change. If I had anything to do with Zune, I would leave the gadget as it is and would do a new version of the software that is more intuitive, more like iTunes, that allows you to import your lists from iTunes, that basically clones iTunes as Doubletwist does. Or wait! Maybe Microsoft should buy Doubletwist and make it work with the Zune.
Yesterday I learned how to do Time Lapse Photography. I am sure that Jonan Basterra only taught me a fraction of what he knows in a couple of hours but the basic technique is simple enough for me to share it with you. First start with this tutorial. If you know something about photography you will be amazed at how quickly you can be doing Time Lapse. Indeed for me the worse part was to get Apple to accept my $30 for the upgrade to Quicktime Pro. For some reason Apple was not accepting my key. But other than that the rest was easy. In order to do Time Lapse photography you need to change the settings of your camera from raw to jpeg as you will be taking tons of pictures. Take them at a low speed to avoid images to look jumpy. If light is changing as the Time Lapse evolves shoot in P or auto. When you have the thousands of pictures import them into Quicktime Pro selecting “open image sequence” and then export them as a .mov file cropping the top and bottom cause the picture format is different from the video format. My homework? Here it goes. Life at home. You must watch it in HD.
I would like to thank Jonan Basterra who was kind enough to teach me the Time Lapse technique.
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I carry a Nexus One and a Blackberry Bold. The iPhone I mostly leave at home. It is too slow. If it was as fast as the iPad and it had multitasking I would probably take it instead of the Nexus One. But what defines what I take out with me in the end is the way information is input in the device. The iPad, the iPhone are spectator devices. People who have to frequently express their views prefer devices in which input is easier, like Blackberries.
I thought that you could not download rare movies with Vuze, that Bittorrent clients were for very popular movies. But I was wrong. You can actually download movies even if the torrent has, say 5 seeds. So these are the films I downloaded (in Spain we pay a tax on storage media and it is legal to download movies for personal consumption).
Amreeka, Revanche, Seraphine, Shake Hands with the Devil, Chidren of Heaven,Eastern,The Sweet Herafter,The Messenger,Food Inc,La Meglio Gioventu,Secretary,Afghan Star and Crazy Heart.
All these films were recommended to me by Netflix. The paradox is that I pay my monthly Netflix fee but Netflix does not allow me to stream these movies in Spain. So I use Netflix recommendation engine to know what I will like (Netflix is 90% accurate with my unusual taste for movies) and I complement it with free downloads from Vuze. I am also paying Witopia to show me with a US IP but it works with Pandora, Hulu, HBO and not anymore with Netflix.
In 2007, I met fellow serial entrepreneur Daniel Ek and was very impressed with him and Spotify, his new music service. I blogged about it, calling it the Joost for music. Unfortunately, since then, Joost has faded away and as a small investor in the company I lost some money. But the concept of Joost lives on in Hulu. I should have called Spotify the Hulu of music, but in 2007 Hulu was not around yet. And, in any case, Spotify is so famous now that people are calling the all-you-can-eat, $10 per month, streaming service of Netflix the Spotify of movies. And we are all waiting for Spotify to launch its own movies service.
Two years later, in January of 2009, I blogged that Spotify was coming to Spain. The response was great. Many readers asked me for invites. Spain took off nicely for Spotify, becoming an over represented country in the Spotify community. This I found very interesting because over here music downloads are legal, nobody needs to pay for music, and yet, Spotify has done super well. Indeed Spotify in Spain thrived despite competing with free. That people would either pay or put up with advertising is just another proof of how great Spotify service is. Or most people I should say, because until today I was not one of them. Even though I pay for Last.fm and for Grooveshark, I could not get myself to pay three times as much for Spotify Premium. And because I hate commercials I was not using the free Spotify. Instead I had Last.fm in my Sonos, Grooveshark in my Android phone and in my Blackberry, and both services in my computers. These service are around $30 per year instead of around $150. So I became this unusual person in Spain who first promoted the hell out of Spotify and then failed to use it. It would have helped had Daniel gave me a free premium account, but I guess he is as cheap as I am, and did not volunteer. 🙂
So, no Spotify for me, until today. Today Spotify introduced a €5 per month service that is not as good as the premium, but good enough for me to join. It does not allow you offline playing nor mobile playing, but it gives you all the songs you want for less than I used to spend in a week on music when I was in college and used to raid Tower Records, spending $100 or more per visit. Now Spotify costs twice as much as Last.fm or Grooveshark, but not 5 times as much.
If you don’t have Spotify you are probably wondering what makes Spotify so great. Or why it’s the only web service in the world that Americans seem to be truly sad that they don’t have. Here’s a list of what it does:
It piggybacks on iTunes and makes all your iTunes music and lists available to you, even all the music you have without copyright (which is not a crime in Spain to download).
It blends incredibly well with Facebook. You sign up, connect with Facebook and have instant access to your friends’ iTunes and Spotify lists.
As opposed to Last.fm and Pandora, you can play the song you want when you want it. This, btw, is where Spotify can lose their shirt because licenses for radio playing are much cheaper than song on demand licenses.
The quality of the music is great and the speed at which a new song that you asked for plays is remarkable.
On the negative it does frequently happen that you go to a friend’s list, want to play it, and you get a message that says “this track is currently not available in Spain”. The solution? If you are in Spain, go to Vuze, Limewire or simply to a friend, get the music, upload it, and then Spotify considers it your own and plays it off the list of your friend. But, Grooveshark for example, does the same thing for all your computers. Spotify, probably more closely watched by the rapidly vanishing music labels, actually check if you have the music in your library at that computer before it plays it for you. This forces you to use Spotify from computers with huge hard drives to avoid the “not currently in Spain” label and that gives an advantage to Grooveshark. Especially on netbooks and mobile phones.
If you are willing to pay €10 per month, the offline and mobile playing should be great.
Lastly, I would like to say that I think the two best user experience entrepreneurs in Europe are Janus Friis and Daniel Ek. They both went into crowded fields: VOIP/Chat and music players, and outdid everyone else.
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We were trying to get to London from Madrid in my plane to attend Google Zeitgeist. As I insisted in going there, and as the airports reopened, my pilots alerted me to the fact that the trick airlines are using to avoid the ash cloud is to fly long distances at very low altitudes.
This is something that I haven’t heard in the media. Flying long distances, at say 3000 feet, may be good to avoid the ash cloud, but it’s terrible for the environment. Aircraft consume twice the fuel to fly the same distance, and in general it is less safe. While most people think that low and slow may mean safety, the opposite is true in aviation where high and fast somehow works better.
We did not go in the end. We did not think it was safe to fly long distances at low altitude. And we did not know what effect that would have on the range of our small Citation Jet.