The Years Techno Status
Symbols"> Techno status symbols. Every year, several gifts appear that can bridge the barrier between the digital tech-savvy crowd and the masses who imbibe our mainstream pop culture. Of course, with the transition from an analog culture to a digital one, the distinctions can be fuzzy. For example, "everyone" now has an iPod, so a tech-savvy person cant be distinguished by everything associated with digital audio or video. Or when Grandma backs up her notebook to a terabyte NAS at home, the size of storage can no longer be a cutoff point for this selection process.We are surrounded by visual brands and mass-produced products. Everything we buy today seems to have a brand displayed on it, from shirts to notebooks. To personalize these mass-produced products, vendors offer a wide range of covers, holders and skins, often with yet another piece of branding. I put my iPod nano in an iSkin orange "carbon blast" iSkin Duo cover, which is both colorful and functional, since it glows in the dark. But could there be a deeper kind of personalization for tech devices? When I read a Make: magazine how-to blog article on laser etching notebook covers, I saw the light. The results look fantastic. Still, the $15,000 to $20,000 price tag of laser cutters are out of my reach, but I knew we would shortly be seeing this etching process offered as a service to individuals. Now, its happening and coming to a town near you. p> Adafruit Industries in late November, started offering laser etching services in New York. You bring them an EPS or Adobe Illustrator file, and Adafruit etches your item. A notebook costs $100 to etch, and a smaller device such as a cell phone or iPod costs $30 to etch. The companys Web site says it will be expanding to San Francisco in early 2007. I like that its personal and permanent. A real tattoo for your gear. On the other hand, some folks find the messengers of technology intimidating. They perceive computer hardware as cold and unfriendly. They perceive us as cold and unfriendly. And sometimes, they may be right. Thats why Im intrigued by Violets
Nabaztag wireless robot. The name means rabbit in Armenian. Go figure.
The device sits on the desk and can "speak" the text of various data feeds such as stock market results or alert you if you have e-mail in your in-box. For $5 a month, you can customize the service to read your favorite RSS feeds or individualize the mailbox alerts based on sender.
However, theres a whole movement of programming for this device happening around the world. The company offers the APIs for the Nabaztag as open source. For example, SourceForge now has a project of Nabaztools, including Java, Perl and Ruby modules.
Perhaps the little Nabaztag can create a social situation or shared situation that IT staff and nontechnical people can bond over. Or it can be used as a less-threatening vehicle for interoffice messages and warnings from the IT help desk. I mean, the bunnys ears move. Thats gotta mean something!
Finally, I express weariness with the continuing stereotype that technology-aware persons must be Star Trek fans. Of course, theres nothing wrong with that.
For example, at the Burton Groups Catalyst conference in June, each of the IT attendees was handed an invitation to a Novell party. On the cover was an outline of Spock doing the Vulcan salute, along with the following tagline: "Live Long and Prosper: Prosperity and profitability come to businesses and organizations that tap into the power and flexibility of Open Enterprise from Novell."
Would my knowledge of the Vulcan mating ritual, the Pon Farr, push get me over the hospitality suite for open-source tools? Or maybe it might be the free food?
Still, I must admit that the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Phaser looks good to me at this holiday time.
Health and prosperity to all in the New Year. Live long and prosper to us all.
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This year, I point to two products/services: laser customization and an interesting robotic wireless toy.