CTO Breakfast Report


Today's CTO Breakfast was a lot of fun. There were about 30 people there. I was afraid that with the day change we'd have fewer people, but not so. Any more and we'll have to get a bigger room. We talked about a lot of interesting things. Here are some pointers to some things people brought up or mentioned:

  • Ross Livingston couldn't come, but sent me a note about a company in North Dakota that's exploring the use of weather balloons to provide cell coverage. The idea is to launch the balloons on the west end of ND and then let them float to the other side where they release their payload (the cell radio) and drop it back to earth where people turn them in for a bounty. With a cell tower costing a quarter of a million dollars and the need for 1100 new cell towers in ND alone to cover the state, the logistics might be reasonable.
  • Scott Lemon brought up the PopTech! podcast by Dr. Todd Kuiken and Jesse Sullivan. I had listened to it a few weeks ago as well. Jesse Sullivan lost both arms to an electrical accident several years ago. Todd Kuiken build prosthetic arms that use non-invasive techniques to read the nerve signals from the nerve that used to be attached to the arm. You've got to listen to the podcast to appreciate how cool this is and how far there is yet to go.
  • Eric Smith said he'd recently bought a TeraServer from Buffalo Technologies to serve as a media server in his home. These devices have a TB of memory and a GigE connection all in one inexpensive box. Control4 (Eric's company) is creating a set-top box will play videos from a local server. Sounds like a great match.
  • This naturally led to a discussion of CRAP (formerly known as DRM) technology. A lot of people said they use DVDShrink for getting DVDs onto a server. On the Mac, I hear tell that Handbrake works well. Handbrake is multiplatform, so it apparently also works on Linux and Windows.
  • There was some discussion on thin and thick clients. Bruce Grant brought up the problem of clients on mobile phones. There are 80 different browsers on phones. AJAX simply doesn't work in that environment. This is a huge barrier to interesting mobile apps and companies.
  • We talked about NX, a protocol for remoting machines. The architecture is based on the X-Windows system. From the Nomachine Website: "It consists of a thin layer of server software that enables any Unix computer to work as a terminal server. Clients are also available for a wide range of platforms and operating systems. NoMachine has chosen to build the foundations of its NX Distributed Computing Architecture on the well known and widely used X-Window System - the windowing system that's behind the Graphical User Interfaces of Linux and the Unix Operating System." NoMachine apparently has version for sale and there's also FreeNX, a free version. This caught my attention because I found out about Clearcube, a company that sells blades that serve as remote workstations. Pretty cool idea for call-centers, student labs, etc. I wonder how cost-effective it is.
  • In a discussion of cell phones for kids, we talked about Boostphone and Firefly. As a parent, I'm a firm believer in cell phones for my kids. They think its a big deal that I'm giving in to them, but in fact, I'm enabling a kid tracking system that makes me more comfortable about having them out and about.
  • No one listens to voicemail anymore (especially anyone under 21). Send them a text message, however, and you're likely to get a response. Not many people have turned off their email yet, but it's bound to happen.
  • Speaking of voicemail, does anyone have a voice to text transcription service that operates in near real time? The idea would be to have voicemail come across as text. Scott Lemon proposed outsourcing it to India. I found SpinVox but apparently it's available in Britain.
  • VPNs are something that ought to be easier for regular folk to do without the support of an IT department or a deep dive into the SSH man page. Hamachi is a free VPN client for Windows and Linux (OS X client in the works) that sets up VPNs between a set of machines. The interface looks like an IM window.

Every month, I'm amazed at the topics that come up and the discussion that ensues. If you're interested in coming, you're welcome. Just sign up for the mailing list on the CTO Breakfast page and I'll send you a reminder before the meeting each month.

Update: Scott Lemon has notes from the meeting that capture some of the ideas and conversations I missed.