Analysis and rationality in a nonrational world

December 7, 2006

Google and the GTA-316 (or GIA-316) picture frame

Filed under: Blogging, Business — analysis @ 4:09 pm

(There is GTA-316 technical support information in this blog – really, there is. First, though, I do have to say nice things about the only people in the world who seem to distribute the digital picture frame in question – Google.)

Google is an interesting company. After single-handedly saving most of the enthusiast sites on the Internet, by making it possible for their publishers to take time off from work to bolster their sites – not to mention helping pay for the server bills on more active sites – through paying a fair advertising rate, they then thank their publishers, who are receiving ten to one hundred times as much money from Google as they would have from anyone pre-Adsense, with an annual holiday present.

Let’s make one thing clear. Before AdSense, Internet advertising was almost always awful. Some enthusiast sites had acquired ad contracts for banners from specific companies, but most relied on the agencies, who sold popups, popunders, sliders, and all sorts of other obnoxious ad forms for maybe a quarter to a dollar per thousand impressions. Some companies got away with paying pennies for their CPM (cost per thousand impressions). Sleaze pervaded the Web as webmasters were unable (financially or otherwise) to get rid of the many lottery and gambling sites, and many resorted to porn or semi-porn advertisers. Then AdSense came, offering about half of what they take in – we have no idea, really, what their take is. To put that into perspective, Goto/Overture was paying ONE CENT for each click into their search network, even as they had a MINIMUM five cent (later ten cent) per click rate, which often skyrocketed into dollars per click for even relatively obscure keywords. That is, they were paying between 1% and 20% of what they took in. Then they cancelled the program entirely for most web-sites because they weren’t making enough money!

A good web site can now earn well over twenty times what it did before AdSense. That means a webmaster can quit their day job or at least work part-time, or take a leave of absence now and then. It’s a HUGE difference for the Internet.

Google shows a good deal of grace. Even relatively small players get a present every year – a scarf, then a rather nice AM/FM radio (operated with AA batteries, and with a cute “put me on my side” switch, and a light show to boot), then an electronic kit (USB drive, portable Ethernet cord, USB light, USB hub, and some other goodies), and now, their least useful present, an oddly chosen digital photo frame.

What’s funny about the digital photo frame is how it contradicts itself and Google. The company is normally environmentally friendly to an unusual degree; packaging is almost purely recycled and recycleable, without the usual peanuts and foam. But the GTA-316 (that’s the reference on the front page; inside the instructions it’s a GIA-316) is in itself environmentally almost a disaster, at least partly because it’s such a lousy design. Reports of instantly-breaking units abound on the Web. It apparently can’t handle most JPG files. There’s no reference anywhere in the instructions or packaging to its maker or their web site, so you can’t get software upgrades, and you can’t install it if your computer won’t handle mini-CDs. The user’s guide is laughable English, probably translated using Google Translate – “For the first time to use GIA-316, please connect the unit to your computer thru the USB cable provided, then you will see two removable drive. … you will see four default Folders … Plesae (their word) move your picture to the Photo folder, your Mp3 music to MP3 folder, MP4 movie to Mp4 folder before your file can be play.” The unit’s power adapter declares, Warning! You may use a kind of plug only, and the others can’t be used.” Didn’t anyone at Google look at this thing before buying thousands of them?

Battery life is reportedly an hour or two; it has to be kept plugged in, with a DC adapter using a trickle of current that multiplied over all the recipients adds up to quite a large usage. Amusingly, the instructions say absolutely nothing about plugging it in; the two listed power options are USB cable and batteries!

Oh, and by the way – it doesn’t work on a Mac, at least, when you first plug it in, and advice elsewhere on the Net to use Microsoft Paint is hardly helpful to us. The mini-disc supplied doesn’t seem to load on Macs either – very unusual since normally we can read Windows only discs.

Using Parallels Workstation, I can read the disc and install the software. Apparently this thing is made by SunPlus. The software offers some sort of transcoding. A search of the SunPlus site yielded this informative display (why oh why do people insist on Windows?):

Active Server Pages ¿ù»~ ‘ASP 0126’

§ä¤£¨ì¥]§tÀÉ

/search/index.asp, ¦C17

§ä¤£¨ì¥]§tÀÉ ‘../inc/entop.asp’¡C

Now, for the high points. First, Google sent me a present! If nothing else, I have this cool Europower adapter that should work in Asia as well, four AAA batteries, and a mini-USB cable. Also, as a picture frame, the thing – once you get it to show photos – is really quite nice. It also acts as a digital sound recorder, and can be expanded (they say) with an SD card. Once you find a PC to use it with, the thing does work as predicted, but DON’T try using it with a Mac under Parallels Workstation – it’ll just annoy you. Perhaps it’ll work under Boot Camp?

Google remains a class act, but I sure hope they think more about what they’re doing next year… oh, and by the way – I regret that I’m not nearly as good a class act. I didn’t send them anything.

Addendum on the GIA-316 digital photo frame:

I did get it to work, without any software. What it needed was a simple “real PC” running Windows. It will not apparently work on any non-Windows system, but Windows ME is just fine. Then all you do is open your photos in MS Paint and re-save them, then copy them into the device (or re-save them directly into the photos area of the device).

The supplied minidisc (do NOT use it in a slot loading CD drive!!!!) contains a transcoder utility that saves you from putting images into MS Paint and saving them. That’s all it does.

The audio recording facility I simply could not get to work at all, plugged in or not.

Well, their present from last year was good enough for TWO years!

May 13, 2006

Stick to your guns

Filed under: Business — analysis @ 9:26 pm

Allpar has an interesting editorial on the costs of compromise and the value of sticking to your guns. There’s a fine line between responding to market needs and being wishy-washy and all-things-to-all-people. I really resonated with that editorial and think it’s worth your time, too. But come back when you’re done!

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