Scripting News for 11/20/2006

Doc Searls: “As a photographer, I have a relationship with Flickr. Not with Yahoo.” 

Ethan Zuckerman, a former colleague at Berkman, on a yesterday’s outline of a “Bronx Science for Adults.” Maybe this should be a Berkman spinoff. Not kidding about that. A deliberate attempt to congregate creative people in a collaborative fashion is something worth revisiting, now that we have an Internet.  

Mike Arrington: “Great late-night conversation with intelligent people is a lot more interesting that the hallway chatter at the latest conference.” Amen. 

I like Sunday Brunch conversations with intelligent people more than late-night conversations, morning person that I am. πŸ™‚ 

BTW, over the last month I’ve watched all the previous episodes of Entourage and am now in the middle of season 3 of The Wire, two fantastic and reality-altering HBO series. I find the world of inner-city Baltimore so captivating, but I’m glad to be watching it from this side of the LCD.  

A question you can’t easily ask the Internet today. “Where can I buy firewood as a function of price and distance from where I am now?” I invested in Confabb because it’s that kind of no-nonsense obviously useful idea that the tech industry so often overlooks. Another one that I’d invest in, in an instant: An easy accounting system for small business or home users. I want to be able to pay bills (already can do this at my bank), and categorize the expenses, and have the same data available through the web, to my accountant. Same with income. When I describe this, people say “Quicken.” But geez come on, it’s not web based and it’s not easy. I want to be able to enter an expense no matter where I am. That’s the secret for detail-averse people like myself, make it painless.  

Another example of the relative information poverty we live in now. There’s no easy way for me to get a list of all the local shopping malls and the stores within. You have to ask friends for that information. We’re still living in the word of mouth era. Yeah it’s a lot better than it was ten or twenty years ago, but we still have a long way to go. 

Too bad they don’t still make the Cobalt Qube. I could really use one now. Maybe the Mac Mini is as close as you get these days. The cool thing about the Qube was that you really didn’t need a keyboard, mouse or screen to make it work. Here’s a picture of the back of the machine. The little LCD readout was used for one thing only, to set the IP address of the box. They could have even done it without that, by booting up with a DHCP-determined address, and then letting you enter the IP address in a web form (probably causing the server to reboot). That one little accomodation to user input was all it needed. Here’s a picture of a man holding the Qube, to give you an idea of how small it was.  

Valleywag: “Netscape visitors, most of whom only stuck with the neglected portal out of habit, were the worst subjects possible for Jason’s radical experiment.” 

Another reason why college papers are worth reading — they aren’t owned by media companies.  

26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ben on November 20, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    If you turn on apple remote desktop by checking it as service iin System Preferencees->Sharing. Then download the free chicken of the vnc

    or any vnc client you can then run the macmini with nothing but power. (network over airport or ethernet)


  2. “Another one that I’d invest in, in an instant: An easy accounting system for small business or home users”
    I’ve been working on a similar project that is sliding into the above arena due to the synergy. I can’t say I’m ready for commercial use but the details have been in work now for six years and to try to get me to the next level I am offering free accounts for a year duration. Email me for further details, URL is referenced above.


  3. Having used a Qube I agree they were great. I use a couple of Mac Minis today without keyboard, mouse or display and they work well, but it does take a keyboard and mouse to set them up easily.

    From looking at the manuals for the Qube it looks like it did work with DHCP and that the screen was only necessary for manual configuration if DHCP wasn’t an option:


  4. Posted by billc on November 20, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Dave, buy a Garmin Nuvi 360 and you can find the local malls, obscure Dairy Queens, etc. without asking your friends. For a frequent traveler it is really worth its weight in gold. Instead of buying a new car with navigation I kept my old one and bought the Nuvi and I have been amazed at how much driving stress it has relieved. Also fits in your pocket and works as a handheld. Even works in my house most of the time which is great for entering new addresses or for setting up a trip.


  5. The Cobalt Qube was OK in its day, 8 years ago, but today the Mac Mini blows it away. The Qube only had a 300-450Mhz processor, 128MB-256MB RAM, 10MB to 40MB of disk space and was priced at $1,000 – $2,100.

    The Mac Mini is less than half the size, half the price, you can run Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows XP on it at the same time, and it is more upgradeable to boot.

    It comes with 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi and you can get it with a DVD SuperDrive burner. Come January you can use it with iTV as a media server.

    As Ben said, turn on VNC and you don’t need a keyboard or mouse to admin it.


  6. Two Mac Minis with Intel Core Duo processors will fit in a 1U rack mount case, with a terabyte of storage.

    Then set up the Mac Minis with ISP in a Box – found here…

    Then have it hosted at macminicolo here …


  7. Why don’t supermarkets have computers (at the end of every isle) that would enable me to type in, say, muffins… and give me a little map of the store showing exactly where the muffins are located. They could even show me the muffins that are on sale. Maybe let me print out a coupon for a muffin. They could charge the vendors for featuring THEIR muffins and I’d be okay with that.

    Why not let me password in and see a history of things I’ve purchased (a la Amazon) at the store.

    They could let me request items that they don’t currently stock.

    You get the idea. I would drive across town to shop at a store that offered this feature.

    Hope this didn’t stray too far from the topic.


  8. Posted by Jeanne on November 20, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    I’m glad to read that someone besides me thinks that Quicken is difficult. I tried Microsoft Money as well and it’s is similarly difficult. I tried to track investments as well and it just took too much time. Something much simpler would and accessible would do the trick for most home use.


  9. Posted by Timothy McClanahan on November 20, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    The Mac Mini as Qube replacement is an interesting idea. Apple could make a version without an optical drive, but WITH an eSATA connection. Make it default to remote desktop & DHCP, and offer a 7200rpm drive option. That’d work for me. I’d also put some more status lights on the front, like network connection & activity.


  10. Sun opensourced their Qube 3 and Raq 550 software, and it lives on now at .

    Might be possible to install CentOS onto a Mac mini and load it up with thr BlueQuartz Qube3 payload…


  11. Posted by Morton Sbotnic on November 20, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    If you only need the qube for storage, then you should check out the Infrant ReadyNas NV+. It’s just as easy to configure as the Qube.


  12. Posted by Speed on November 20, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    Firewood near Berkeley. Sorry no prices but here’s a map with phone numbers. Another two minute job.


  13. Posted by Speed on November 20, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    “SBA Workspace. With the SBA Workspace you can share your business’s important Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting file, as well as other types of files, with your accountant β€” all in a password-protected location.”


  14. As a resident of Baltimore, I too love The Wire. Watching it has given me a completely new appreciation of the city. Yes, we have 300 murders a year. However, as long as you are not “in the trade,” the city doesn’t feel at all dangerous to live in. It’s a beautiful place: an East-coast city with a 300 year history, fabulous neighborhoods (especially the restaurants!), access to the ocean/bay, hills/mountains (to the west), great weather, fresh crabs, a large african-american population in power positions, etc. Baltimore is becoming a bedroom community for DC, because B’more housing is cheaper than DC (it can cost $1million for a bungalow in Alexandria, VA – sheesh! It’s the new silicon valley! But more like the defense/homeland security cess pool). But even with the influence of the suit-wearing lawyers and lobbyists, it’s a great place to live.


  15. Posted by Kenny on November 21, 2006 at 4:57 am

    On the accounting software. For my small business, I’m using QuickBooks online.
    * Organize your finances in one place
    * Access your accounting from anywhere
    * Work together from different locations
    * Automatic data backups
    * Easy to learn and use


  16. Your “mission statement” to recreate The Bronx School of Science strikes me as heartfelt and direct. I would encourage you to formulate that as your new logo. This wish, to create and operate in a like-minded community, underlies your efforts in blogging, podcasting, etc.

    In some ways Talmud study is a model for this. I am not suggesting that you get yourself to a yeshiva, but the constant study, conversation and interpretation are an interesting model.


  17. Reading the comments, it’s amazing how completely people don’t get “it.”

    So what if the Mac Mini’s hardware specs blow the Qube’s out of the water, the Qube wasn’t just a small computer. It was a compact and reasonably priced server appliance that could be put to work pretty much out of the box. So what if you might be able to install CentOS and BlueQuartz on one to make it easy to use as a server appliance — that is not being easy to use and ready to be put to work out of the box.


  18. I didn’t want to say it but I’m glad you did. The Qube was a package of simplicity, a web server, mail server, every other kind of server, all behind an easy web interface. The instruction manual was one sheet of paper that explained how to plug it into the wall and enter the IP address using the LCD display on the back. That was it. The rest of it was on its web server. A thing of great elegance. The the blue cube shape with its backlighting was also beautiful.


  19. I love the Qube concept, and your posts from ’99(?) influenced me to buy one one on ebay – so your post got me all nostalgic. And a lovely coincidence, a pal just sent me a link to ‘the Bubba’ – it’s basically a Qube, but in a rectangle form…cheap(ish), low power/noise and abuilt in torrent client and media server πŸ™‚ – whaddya think – a Qube for today?


  20. Dont know if that is what you are looking for , for personal finances, but this has just launched, in France:


  21. The Initiative for Innovative Computing at Harvard is trying to do this bringing together of good minds ( Its concentrated on computing for science rather than computing for geeks, but they are interested very much in the crossover topics of science explanation and visualization and collaboration.

    Perhaps folks at Berkman and IIC could join hands…


  22. I saw a couple of Qubes on ebay. About $50 when I looked. If you’re after one.


  23. Each new version of Quicken/QuickBooks makes importing/exporting data more difficult. Major vulnerability long-term. May they wise up or dissolve.

    — stan


  24. Posted by Dean on November 30, 2006 at 7:08 am

    I know this is a comment on an old post- but wanted to put it where it belonged. Matt Howie wrote about a personal finance app that he’s fell in love with – Here’s a link to the software –


  25. Dear Dave

    Please give Folksomoney @ a try

    Cheers, Kishore.


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