One of us

I’m disheartened at how many working-class people are still out there that have been deluded into thinking that McCain, the multimillionaire with seven house, is one of them, while Barack Obama is a “Harvard elitist” who doesn’t understand the “real America.”:

Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., maintained last week that, "Liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish and achieve." Such notions get traction quickly in today’s age of instant communication. Walk around Durango High School, where the crowd was waiting for a McCain rally to start, and people spoke glowingly of the Vietnam hero’s kinship with "real America." "It’s something Barack Obama can’t possibly know, because he’s not one of us. It’s like the way (Richard) Nixon was able to talk to the hard hats," said Jim Wilson, a district attorney.

Is Barack Obama a real American or a Harvard elitist? |

Actually, liberals work. I work. I’ve got daily wage-slave job just like everyone else in my tax bracket. These people clearly don’t know or don’t want to know that Barack Obama was raised by middle-class heartland folks in Kansas, that he and his sister once only got by because their mother was able to get food stamps to buy groceries. That he comes from beginnings as humble as any American. He made it to Harvard by working for it, by getting scholarships. Obama’s story is the American dream, working his way up through diligence and hard work, and being rewarded for his effort.

But something tells me that’s not the real story here. When people opposed to Obama say “he’s not one of us,” are they really talking about him being elitist? Because anyone who’s read about Obama for five minutes knows that can’t possibly be true. Or is it code? When they say he’s not one of us, are they really saying he’s not white?

The roots of racism run deep in America. It took a hundred years after the slaves were freed before they could practically vote, and blacks in Ohio and Florida will tell you that’s not necessarily even the case here in the 21st century. In my own state of Colorado, the secretary of state is being sued for illegal purging of the voter rolls. I can pretty much guarantee the people purged off the rolls and denied the right to vote weren’t rich white folks.

What do you think? Is the current of us-versus-them “real Americans” about class, or is it really about race?

Need more proof McCain doesn’t understand the middle class?

The Wall Street Journal (a pretty good source of information if you avoid the editorial page) has an interesting breakdown of the economic policy changes proposed by both presidential candidates.

To respond to voters who want immediate economic help, both candidates have proposed specific plans on how to jump-start the economy in 2008 and 2009. Sen. Obama proposes a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to families ($500 for individuals) and penalty-free withdrawals of 15% from 401(k)s and IRAs up to $10,000. He also wants to temporarily suspend minimum distribution requirements for retirement accounts. Sen. McCain proposes cutting the capital-gains rate on stock held for more than a year to 7.5%. He also would increase the amount of stock loss that is deductible against ordinary income from $3,000 to $15,000, and would tax withdrawals by seniors from IRAs and 401(k)s no more than 10%.

Obama vs. McCain: It’s About Your Money –

So Obama will offset your energy bills by up to a grand, which will help working families a lot this winter, and allow you take up to 15% of your 401(k) out to keep in the bank for paying bills without penalty. Not bad.

McCain… really doesn’t suggest a damn thing for working people. All of his suggestions center around stocks and making owning stocks more lucrative. Well, that’s great for people who own stocks, but what about the rest of us, John?

I have to admit I watched the Wall Street implosion over the last few weeks with no small amount of schadenfreude. I don’t own a lick of stock, so beyond the overall impact to the economy, I really don’t care what the stock market does. I may have lost buying power due to the inflation we’re in for, but I personally didn’t lose a dime this month. Because I get 100% of my money from wages, the stock market doesn’t mean much to me.

That’s the key difference anymore between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are the party of people who work for their money. Republicans are the party of people whose money works for them. If you get the majority of your income from wages, as most middle class families do, Democrats are the party for you. If you get most of your money from investments, then Republicans are more your speed.

So, “thanks but no thanks”, John. Cutting capital gains taxes doesn’t do a damn thing to put more money in my pocket. Your ideas don’t help me at all. I’m voting for “that one.”

Thick or thin

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been trying a new experiment. Now that I’ve embraced the “netbook lifestyle,” I thought I’d see what this cloud computing thing was really all about. While I have Microsoft Office 2007 loaded on my HP Mini-Note, I thought I’d try Google apps instead.

The way I see it, there’s two different paradigms to use with netbooks.

  1. Thin client, or web-based. Using web-based applications and living out of the browser. This has become much more feasible than it used to be, and others have made a pretty good go of using only Firefox for all their computing needs. And thanks to Google Gears, you can even work offline (albeit with some pretty significant limitations).
  2. Thick client, or what used to be called client-server computing. Here you use traditional desktop software and either store your data in the cloud or sync your data through the cloud to other PCs.

Technically there is a third option, just using the netbook like any other computer and not using networked data at all, but where’s the fun in that?

The most popular option, at least among the technorati, is option one. Google’s office suite (Gmail, Docs, Notebook, Calendar) does a pretty good job of replacing heavier client-side apps like Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. And if you’re using a computer designed to be online all the time, why not use online tools?

Supplementing Google’s suite with a few additional services like Remember The Milk for task management and ScribeFire‘s Firefox plugin for blogging, I tried this out for a week. I even ditched Exchange on my Treo and used GooSync and MilkSync along with Gmail’s IMAP service to use Google services on Windows Mobile (which works, but not as well as Android, alas). I used Gears to allow offline use in RTM, Docs, etc. And it worked, sorta.

I tried to like it, I really did. And the integration between Google Docs, Notebook and iGoogle is pretty compelling. I was able to keep my documents online and editing them was fast and easy. I expect I’d like Google Docs a lot more if I was doing any active collaboration, it looks really good for that. But the limitations got to me. You can’t create a new document in Google Docs when you’re offline, among other things.

Because that’s what really made the decision for me. It’s easy to get online with a netbook, but it’s not a given. I’ve found that WiFi hotspots are far more common that I would have suspected, but they’re not everywhere. I can tether my netbook to my Treo pretty easily, but that involves a cable (I can’t seem to get it working with Bluetooth or WiFi, even with PdaNet), which means a stable setup where I’m going to be for a while. For quick work, jotting something down quickly (10 minutes or less) setting up a cellular internet connection is too much of a hassle. And as a result, I wasn’t using my netbook as often as I could have.

If I was using an even smaller netbook, like the Asus eee 700 series with just 4GB of flash and pretty much instant-on Linux, I’d be more inclined to make web-based apps work. But I have an XP-based netbook with a 120GB hard drive. I have the ability to use local storage, local software and the full power of Windows. Why not use it along with the best of cloud computing? (and yes, there is a vision for more, but I’ll get to that in another article)

So instead of living in the clouds, I’ve got a core group of local software that ties into the cloud for storage and sync, allowing me to work offline with no compromises when I have to, but have all the benefits of the net when can. I’ll detail my set up soon, but for now, how are you using cloud computing?

The eyes boggle

I’m sitting at Chipotle putting the finishing touches on an article about deciding between using thick clients (Word, Outlook) versus thin clients (Google Docs, Gmail) on netbooks, and a guy walks up to me and stares until I take out my earbuds (one of the reasons I love writing at Chipotle is that between my hearing damage and my –20db headphones, it’s actually less distracting here than at home).

He points at my HP Mini-note. “Where do you get a computer like that?” He explains that he needs to get a PC for his daughter in high school.

I tell him that for a high schooler, I wouldn’t actually recommend the HP, as it’s a little pricier than the competition. I tell him about the Asus eee 1000, which has a 10” screen, comes preloaded with XP and could run all the stuff she needs for school. Then I tell him he can find it locally at Best Buy for $399.

His eyes nearly pop out of his head, and he starts grinning widely. I make note of this, and he says, “Wow, that’s such a great deal.” He booked out of the restaurant and I’d bet dollars to donuts he was headed straight for Best Buy.

I see this sort of thing all the time. I’ve talked before about my 12-year-old niece’s netbook-lust, and the other day when she brought her friend over while I was at my sister’s for the Broncos humiliating defeat by game against the Patriots, her friend was also star struck at the possibilities afforded by a computer of her very own that she could take anywhere.

Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte discussed netbooks in this week’s Windows Weekly podcast (along with soundly thrashing Windows Mobile) and dismissed them as a temporary bridge between traditional laptops and future smartphones running desktop-class operating systems. While I like the idea of a Windows smartphone running the same Windows kernel as the desktop version, using the same API for programs and having binary compatibility with desktop Windows, but using a user interface optimized for mobile use, that doesn’t obviate netbooks.

I’ve used mobile phones for years as stand-ins for ultra-mobile PCs, and the problem isn’t the operating system or applications. As evidenced by the popularity of not only netbooks but devices like the Celio Redfly, form factor matters. A clamshell device with a larger screen and touch-typable keyboard is just better for some things. I post blog entries and read Google Reader from both my Treo and my Mininote, but I read ebooks exclusively on the Treo and write longer form work exclusively on the Mininote. It’s about using the right tool for the right job, and it’s becoming increasing obvious every day that netbooks are the tools a lot of people have been waiting for.

A plague of netbooks

Spent most of the day running around with my dad looking for netbooks retail. Best Buy has the Asus eee 1000HD and the MSI Wind, both running XP, along with the older 7″ Linux-based eee.

The eee 1000HD is actually pretty impressive, and would be a contender if it weren’t saddled with a last gen Celeron M processor. Granted, my trusty HP Mini-Note runs on a Via C7-M, so who am I to criticize, really. Keyboard’s nice, though.

The MSI Wind, on the other hand… I can see why this seems to be the runaway success of the netbook set. It’s nearly indentical in size to my HP, with a comfortable keyboard, a spiffy Atom processor and even one more USB port than I have on my HP. It’s impressive, and upgradeable to the capabilities of a “real” laptop, given that Josh just upgraded his to 2GB of RAM and a 200GB 7200rpm hard drive.

There’s a reason this is the only segment of the PC market that’s actually growing. Should be interesting to see what Microsoft has to say at PDC this week about how Windows 7 will run on lower-power PCs.

Maybe if it weren’t so freaking ugly

With Amazon’s Jeff Bezos pushing the Kindle like it’s chicken-fried Jesus and media heavyweights like Oprah on board, ebooks are finally getting some respect in the mainstream media.

Perhaps with Oprah’s help and a new and improved version due next year, the Kindle will achieve escape velocity and Amazon can stop showing me the annoying Kindle ad and disclose how many units have been sold. As for eliminating physical books from the warehouses, books are lagging music and video. The end of print is not near, but the writing is on the virtual wall. The economics of the Internet, as well as technology innovations such as improved virtual paper, instant translation, and always on, fast connections to a universe of knowledge indicate that Bezos is on the right track, just as he was in creating a virtual shopping mall for physical goods in 1994. And, he will have lots of company, or competition, as the digital age gets into full swing.

Amazon’s Kindle obsession: Bury the printed book | Outside the Lines – CNET News

I’m on record, many, many times, as saying standalone ebook readers are a dumb idea. While I haven’t yet seen a Kindle “in the wild” I have seen several Sony readers and I remain unimpressed by e-ink technology. I read more books on my Treo, I’d wager, than even the most avid Kindle fan. And eReader on the iPhone has become the most widely used ebook reader on the market (what the heck, the iPhone may as well be good for something).

But I was predicting the end of print over a decade ago, and that was before a whole new generation was introduced to Harry Potter. While I don’t have much use for them myself, printed books aren’t going anywhere for a long time, and the Kindle, for all its advantages (e-ink, great battery life, built in EVDO connection for buying and downloading books directly) isn’t going to get bibliophiles like my mom to stop lugging tree pulp around.

As for me, I’ll stick with smartphones. I like the look of the rumored second generation Kindle (and was it intentional to name this thing after paper used to start a fire?) but I’m already lugging around a smartphone, netbook and all the associated power cables, sync cables, batteries and whatnot for those. I have room to add a Kindle to my Scott e-Vest (seriously!) but I don’t honestly see the point when I can read perfectly comfortably on my phone.

Blackberry Blah

While I will concede that Blackberries have become real smartphones rather than the uppity pagers of yore, I have to wonder at the thought behind this particular announcement.

AT&T Relevant Products/Services is preparing for a Election Day sales surge on Nov. 4, when Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Bold will launch at AT&T’s stores nationwide for $299.

Communications – BlackBerry Bold Set for Election Day Launch

So they’re releasing a new product on the same day as the most important election in many of our lifetimes? Because that won’t be a distraction.

There have been rumors floating about for a while that RIM has some serious problems with the Blackberry Bold, among them heat and battery life. Despite the hopeful, happy tone of this press-release-masquerading-an-article, I have to seriously wonder if RIM/AT&T picked this date in hopes of turning what had been a hotly anticipated launch into a safer, lower-profile “soft launch” in hopes that any early adopter complaints would be lost in the hubbub around Obama’s election. And if there really isn’t anything wrong with the Bold, why choose to launch it on a day when absolutely no one will be talking about it?