Larry Page Thinks the Time Has Come for Flying Cars (Don’t we All?)

I do believe there will be a place for flying cars, but they will be nothing like in the Jetsons.

Bloomberg is reporting (and here) that Google co-founder Larry Page is backing two flying car startups. He’s invested over $100 million in Zee.Aero and is also an investor in a competing company called Kitty Hawk. (Love that name.)

The 12 readers of this blog know that in 2008, I decided to post items about flying cars, a topic that I thought was somewhat whimsical, but that has been a standard feature of “the future” in science fiction literature.

flyingcar2008-20081211-222926My project lasted one year and ended with my wrap-up of that year’s 10 best posts about flying cars.

Since then, however, I often get pinged by those who see stories about flying cars. And so, from time to time, I’ll post items about the topic.

For the record, my favorite “post-2008” stories are about a company called Terrafugia. Nearly every year since 2008, the company has made some sort of announcement that suggests a commercial version of their concept will be on the market “next July.” They continue to make announcements and videos.138438.strip_39

For the record, despite being a bit tongue in cheek about the topic, I do believe there will be a place for flying cars, but they will be nothing like in the Jetsons. I think they’ll be more like drones.

(Update on July 11, 2016 due to change in theme design.)

Google Maps Lakeside View



In Nashville, a city that is in the midst of an unprecedented building boom, a prime piece of property has not participated in the boom. Instead, it became first, a giant hole and then, one of the most expensive lakes a person can imagine. However, Google Maps isn’t a person and it had no problem imagining it. Google Maps has spent the past several years codifying the creation of the giant lake on West End Avenue.

Read more “Google Maps Lakeside View”

Is Google a black hole for companies it acqhires?

On May 11, 2005, I first used the term “acqhire” and was so amused with myself that I appended the post to define it: “When a large company ‘purchases’ a small company with no employees other than its founders, typically to obtain some special talent or a cool concept.” That post was about Google, then a mere $64 billion company, purchasing the two-person company, Dodgeball.com. (Ever heard of it? Didn’t think so.)

Earlier this week, Slate ran a story that picked up a theme written about often — that small companies Google acqhires often end up in a black hole. I have no personal insight into what happens at Google and I can’t say I agree 100% with him, but Jason Fried — whose company, 37 Signals, has probably had plenty of opportunities to be acquired — has a great quote in the article that is worth repeating:

“You take great talents and you put them in this big company and they get drowned out by all this policy stuff,” Fried argues. “Putting a small company in a big company kills what was good about the small company.”

Here’s a MyBusiness magazine story I wrote about Jason in 2006 that explored his preference for keeping his company independent. From the time I spent interviewing him for the story and from being a user of his company’s products ever since, I’m glad he provides a balancing point of view to the notion that the only reason to start a business is to flip it. In the narrow niche that is covered by the tech blogosphere, that may be the goal, but for most small businesses in the real world, the magnet is independence and the opportunity to see an idea realized.

There will be no pity from me for those who have sold their startup to Google, only to see it sucked into a blackhole. Their product dreams may have been dashed, but they left with a lifetime’s worth of parting prizes. Next time, they’ll know better what matters.

Tour de France via Street View — And a suggestion to the Google Maps Team

Tour de France

Google has created a street-view map of each stage of the Tour de France (which some Americans my be surprised to learn is still held each year, despite Lance Armstrong’s retirement). I continue to marvel at the powerful ways in which stories can be told with Google Maps.

When I see a project like this, it reminds me of the awe I felt when seeing a demo of the first such street-level “hyper media” I can recall, the Aspen Movie Map, a project that celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall. I recall seeing it on a laserdisc sometime in the late 80s. It was, in essence, a “street view” map of Aspen, Colorado. An early project of the MIT media lab, it was criticized at the time by Sen. William Proxmire who awarded it a “golden fleece” for the the way in which it was an example of how government research funds were wasted. Far from being a “waste of funds,” not only did that project lay the conceptual groundwork for such things as Google maps street-view, it also provided the foundation that has led to technology that today saves the lives of American soldiers.

Out of curiosity, I clicked over to Aspen on Google Maps and discovered they haven’t yet created a street view of the town. It would be nice of them to create by this fall (to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the start of the project) an update of the Aspen Map Project to honor its role in providing a glimpse into what Google maps street view has become.

Image via Wikipedia

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Your address book is your social network

The Important Part: The people at Facebook describe your list of “friends” (contacts) as being your “social-graph.” Others use the term “social network” to describe in broad terms, your network of connections with other people. Chances are, you call that list of connections your “address book.” In the previous century, you may have called it your Rolodex. Your ability to export that list of contacts from your computer out to web services (geek word of the day – “portability”) is one of the building blocks of a future web where you can go onto any new site or service and instantly discover everyone using it who may be a friend of your second-cousin, Herbert. Today, Google announced that the newest update of the Mac operating system includes a preference in the “Address Book” program that will keep the Mac address book synch’d with the contact list on ones Google G-mail account. Why is this significant? There are lots of really smart people and groups working on standards and practices related to how someone “asserts” their online identity and their connections with others — and how web services should respect how individuals utilize such personal data. However, until the day comes when all of those standards and practices are worked out, your personal e-mail address and your phone number are serving as a form of “de-facto” identifier of who you are. Likewise, your list of e-mail contacts are filling the gap on identifying your social network. And until the powers-that-would-like-to-be all agree upon what your portable “social network/graph” is going to be and how it’s going to work, your address book has become a stand-in. That’s why, when you sign onto a new social networking site, they ask if you want to allow them to bounce your e-mail contact list up against their list of registered users. That way, you can discover who among your contacts are already using the service.

Take Away: For Apple Address Book users who used to have to “export” and “upload” your contact list manually, you now have one-click portability (and on-going syncing) to your Google G-mail contacts list of your most important “social graph.” And from your Google contacts, you can blast that social graph to infinity and beyond (or whatever Google Friend Connect is).

Related rambling: About a year ago, I talked about the concept of e-mail address as universal identifyer in a lengthy post.

[Photo credit: jcroach, Flickr.]