Let the screwing-off begin:
The Giants' SBC Park in San Francisco is now a giant hot spot.
I tried it, it works well. With a Wi-Fi laptop or a PDA, a VPN client, and a cell phone, you can be at the ball game and quite conceivably convince everyone back at the office that you're out on a sales call or whatever it is you do. The biggest challenge will be explaining the cacophony they'll hear over the phone when Bonds breaks another record. "Yeah, I'm meeting the client at the airport. Thought I'd help the crew on the tarmac while I was waiting. Hello?"
It's 2004, and telecommuting still has the stink of laziness all over it.
However, it's 2004, and telecommuting still has the stink of laziness all over it. It's still tough getting managers to accept the fact that people don't have to be in the office to get stuff done. But I've become convinced it's generational. Today's lackeys are tomorrow's CEOs, and they won't even think twice about letting their people telecommute.
I'm lucky, I work at a place where telecommuting is more or less indigenous. But how about you? Did you have to warm up your boss to the idea? Let's start a little clearinghouse of rationales for deskbound folks to try on their bosses tomorrow.
Wiring third place
I'm writing this from Plano, Texas, ranked fifth-most kid-friendly city by, strangely enough, Zero Population Growth. It probably means that all the schools are built on Superfund sites. But I digress.
A group called the Internet Home Alliance (IHA) has just opened a place called Connection Court in a mall here. It's a 2,400-square-foot space with lots of wired and wireless connectivity, special Herman Miller work furniture, HP printers, and a coffee joint. It's all free, just drop in. The idea is to study what people do in so-called third places such as this--neither home nor work. The group's hunch is that this will take off where telecommuting from home largely fizzled. My hunch is that it will be overrun with bored teens.
Microsoft is one partner in this, and I can already tell the company what we need: Windows XP Public and IE 6 Public. The OS should be a version that doesn't retain anything about me after I've used it--no logon, no user folder, nuthin'. If you expect me to do serious work in a third place, I need that place to forget I ever existed once I get up and leave. Yes, XP can be set up this way today, but it's tedious, and it requires expertise.
My recommendation to leave your PC turned on got a lot of folks focused on energy consumption.
The browser should be similarly forgetful but also be able to import bookmarks and other online settings from my main PC, wherever it is. And rather than actually reaching to my machine to do that, which is clumsy, I want a consumer service that might be dubbed the "environment escrow" industry--Web-based caching of my PC environment through some protocol supported by Windows. Then the third-place machine will handle like my own machine after a short download.
None of this third-place stuff dampens my enthusiasm for all-places computing. Just give me my Treo with a charge and five bars; I can always find a place to sit.
In Q4, the IHA will release a formal report on what people do in this Connection Court. I'll get back to you then.
PC on-off redux
I touched a nerve last week, a green one. My recommendation to leave your PC turned on got a lot of folks focused on energy consumption. I must say I wasn't even thinking of that (which probably explains why I drive a car that gets 16 miles per gallon). But I do think about a bigger issue: standby leakage, which is not as embarrassing as it sounds.
Almost everything electronic is a damned liar. When you press the off button, it doesn't switch off at all but goes into standby mode. That means the thing is half awake so that it can respond to its remote control, do something it's programmed to, monitor its charge, and so on.
Alan Meier at U.C. Berkeley is one of the smart guys on this subject. He added up the standby machines in some typical homes and found that it's like leaving on a 60-watt lamp--for your entire life. With 102 million households in the United States, that's roughly a 6,120,000,000-watt level of standby draw.
Never mind CRT recycling and motherboard metals recovery--you do those every few years. This is the real elephant in the room when it comes to consumer tech and the environment, and it's standing right in front of you right now.
Brian Cooley doesn't really compute with earmuffs on--in fact, he's eager to hear from you. Tell him your gripes