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November 30th, 2009:

So Much for the Arrington Crunchpad

Damn. Like, well, damn. Michael Arrington just announced that, probably no more than a week or two before shipping boxed product, the Crunchpad is dead. I rarely post two entries on the same day, but I happened on this just a few minutes ago, and it’s important enough not to hold until tomorrow. The problem seems to have come out of nowhere and is shaped something like this: The CEO of Fusion Garage, the firm tasked with manufacturing the Crunchpad device, just popped up in Arrington’s inbox and basically said, We don’t need you anymore and will be making and selling the device ourselves. WTF? And WDHTHIA? Barlennan?

What happened probably happens a lot in certain tech partnerships between small and roughly equal entities: One who thought they held more of the cards wanted a bigger cut of the take than the original agreement gave them. And because both Arrington’s group and Fusion Garage have joint ownership of the various pieces of IP involved, neither can just move ahead and release the product on their own. (Why Fusion Garage doesn’t recognize this is obscure.) Unless this is an extremely clever way to simply kill the project without admitting technical failure (a possibility, but not something I’d expect out of Michael Arrington) the project may be dead on legal grounds.

Or maybe it really was the problematic 12″ capacitive touchscreen that has given these guys pure hell from the outset. Doesn’t matter. I had high hopes for the gadget, which (screw the Web!) would have been a spectacular ebook reader. I dislike the physically small, low-res e-ink readers we now have, because they don’t display technical art well, nor color at all. Comics people have the same gripes, albeit for a different kind of art. There’s no physical law saying that all ebook readers must be the same color-and-resolution-limited, coat-pocketable thing. Books are different.

Again, if the fail was really technical, and all this huggermugger a smokescreen, we won’t see anything out of the ashes. But I do hope that if we’re just seeing tantrums here, something can be worked out.

(Still, is it just me…or did Arrington fold perhaps a little too quickly?)

More here later if I can find it.

Odd Lots

  • Here’s a great graphic strongly suggesting that the much-denied Medieval Warm Period really existed, and was indeed a global phenomenon. (For further evidence, read The Little Ice Age, which predates the worst of the current Global Warming hatefest and thus may be considered reasonably reliable.)
  • I had not heard this before: The imminent Nook ebook reader from Barnes & Noble will have a Wi-Fi connection, allowing owners to browse free ebook previews that are only accessible through store hotspots. This gives people a reason to come into physical stores, Nooks in hand, spend time, drink coffee, browse the print collection, and leave with a bag full of print titles that aren’t available as ebooks. Assuming it’s true, as a marketing gimmick, it’s brilliant.
  • The Nook has a slot for a Micro-SD card with a capacity of up to 16 GB. Assuming a typical text-mostly ebook file to be 500K in size (which is very generous; most fiction titles I’ve seen are about half that, or less) a Nook is capable of storing about 30,000 books. If you read a complete book every single day, that will last you for…82 years.
  • I’ve already seen the Nook e-reader referred to as the “Nookie reader.” Which it will be, trust me.
  • People are quibbling in the comments that it’s not a self-propelled model train, but screw it: This guy made a Z-scale model of an N-scale model train layout, working effectively at a scale of 1:35,200. He gets serious points for, well, something, and the video is very cool.
  • And at the other end of the scale, here’s the world’s largest model train layout. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.) Makes me want to go back and work on The Million-Mile Main Street, positing a 1:1 scale model train layout that covers an entire planet, where the trains (each a sort of AI hive mind) run things, and the people are hired actors.
  • Researchers at Purdue have demonstrated ALICE, a new species of rocket fuel consisting of aluminum nanoparticles and…water. Larger aluminum particles have been used in rocket fuel before (they’re part of the formula in the Shuttle’s strap-on boosters) but the smaller the particles, the more efficiently they burn. As aluminum is common just about everywhere, if you can corner enough solar radiation to smelt the aluminum and dig up some water (guess where, Alice!) you can go places.
  • Pete Albrecht sent me a link to SeatGuru, which provides detailed floor plans for all major aircraft on all major airlines, including where the power ports and extra legroom are. If you fly a lot, it might be worth a close look. Here’s a good example of a specific aircraft.
  • This insane vampire business has evidently begun to affect the cosmetics business; the Daily Mail reports that pale foundation and powder are pushing their tanner competitors right off the market.
  • I stumbled upon the above item after stumbling upon this, which may be the most inexplicable Web site I’ve seen in the last several years. They pay people to put that together? And what kind of organism from what planet reads it?
  • Word must have gotten out that I’m a liturgical conservative. I therefore find this funny, in a slightly painful kind of way. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)