Oyster theft case cracked

Jack London popularized the phenomenon known as Oyster Piracy in his early writings about life on San Francisco Bay at the turn of the 20th century, and the term has always conjured up some romantic vision of stealthy clammers plundering an oyster bed with muffled oars under the darkness of a new moon. Sadly, the practice has hit Cape Cod’s commercial oyster farms from the Marstons Mills River across to the northside of the Cape from Barnstable to Dennis. The total losses are estimated at $40,000, rewards have been posted, stakeouts and security cameras have yielded nothing, but according to the Cape Cod Times, a culprit has been identified and being reviewed by a grand jury.

“Police say they know who stole more than $40,000 in oysters and equipment from beds in East Dennis and Barnstable last summer, but they’re not quite ready to publicly name the culprit.

Barnstable police Lt. Sean Balcom, who heads the Barnstable Street Crime Unit, called the anticipated end of the five-month investigation by multiple public safety agencies “the result of police work and the rewards” that were offered. The street crime unit was tipped to the identity of the poacher by one of its informants, Balcom said.”

Anyone who has ordered a plate of oysters in a restaurant knows how much these things sell for. While I don’t know what the market price is, I wonder who bought the “hot” clams. Is there a “clam fence” somewhere on the Cape? Whoever ripped off the oysters from the Mills River was selling pretty nasty clams that usually get relayed to cleaner water before they are safe to eat. A little hepatitis or vibro anyone?

Cape Cod Times article

Cool Tools

If you want hours of fascinating, informative fun, buy a copy of Kevin Kelly’s massive tome, Cool Tools.

Cool-Tools-Badge

Most everyone over 50 remembers the  Whole Earth Catalogue of the late 60s and early 70s. A big bible on counter-cultural tools that covered everything from yurt construction to VW engine repair,the Whole Earth Catalogue was the book to have hanging around for hours of stoned obsessing. I can remember hanging out at my hippie cousin’s shack in Cotuit and spending hours going through that book (I was 12 and was not stoned!).

Kelly, one of the original editors of the WEC along with Stewart Brand, went on to co-found Wired and has been a leader of the DIY – Maker movement. His passion for the best in tools and gadgets has come together brilliantly in this lavishly illustrated, well designed, brilliant compendium of the best stuff in the world. Best vest? Filson Mackinaw (I own one). Best tweezers, best chainsaw, best book on chickens, best productivity applications ….

I have seen the future and its name is Chromebook

Six years ago Google began positioning it’s excellent browser, Chrome, as a operating system for so-called “cloud PCs” — computers that achieved full functionality when they were connected to the internet. At the time, when I was working at Lenovo, the concept was pretty far advanced and garnered some skepticism, especially inside of Lenovo which was deeply wedded to the Windows-Intel world of traditional computing. I was part of the advanced project team under Peter Gaucher and Peter Hortensius working on our own cloud PC, a gorgeous little Richard Sapper design called the Skylight which went on to win best in show at the 2010 CES but never was sold because the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor was too feeble to give the kind of user experience the newly launched iPad delivered.

I was a big advocate for Lenovo to make the Skylight a Chromium-OS machine, but we went our own way with a proprietary operating environment. I remained fixated on the notion of a browser-centric user-interface and OS, and ported Chromium onto a Lenovo S10 netbook with pleasing results.

Lenovo didn’t jump onto Chromebooks (they do apparently have a education-focused offering in their catalogue, but nothing for consumers) the way Acer, Samsung and Hewlett Packard did.

I ordered a C720 from Acer via Amazon a few weeks ago and have been using it as my primary portable PC. I have say the thing is remarkable for the price; $250, offers near full functionality, and is incredibly well integrated with my Google account (as one would expect). It’s fast, based on Intel’s Haswell architecture, and is the best crappy computer I’ve ever owned.

Although I’ve tended to be a Dropbox fanatic when it comes to cloud document storage, the Chromebook is pushing me back to Google Drive, even though Dropbox is perfectly usable through its web interface on the machine. The device plays movies beautifully, has great sound, a decent keyboard (not great), and a trackpad that does what it needs to do. I find myself touching the screen out of habit born from my Nexus 7 tablet, but for notetaking, quick blog posts, and looking stuff up, the machine is probably the single best technology purchase I’ve made in years. Sure the build quality is a little plasticky, and the cover is too stiff to pop open with one hand, but the battery goes for nine hours, the thing is thin and light, and will be toting it to London tonight and leaving behind my monster corporate issued Dell notebook with no regrets whatsoever.

Yes, the machine wants an internet connection to thrive, but I can use Gmail and the Google apps offline — on a plane for example — without much problem. This is my leave-hanging-around-the-house PC.

If I were Microsoft and trying to get traction on Surface, or any of the traditional PC companies hoping to hang onto hardware margins, the Chromebook category would give me the willies. These things now account for 10% of corporate and consumer PC purchases, literally coming out of no where. At the $250 price band they become semi-disposable — all the personal data is essentially in the cloud if they are lost or stepped on —  and are far lighter to tote through an airport than a traditional notebook.

Local community networks – Nextdoor trial for Cotuit

The “local” internet has been a tough nut to crack for publishers, community groups, towns, bloggers, etc.. Lots of local groups and institutions have created their own online presence, discussion forums, email mailing lists, but no great solution has emerged to allow neighbors to connect with neighbors (that assumes neighbors even want to talk to their neighbors in this era of “bowling alone”).

Civic groups have long provided an online meeting place or hub for themselves and their agenda. My Cape Cod village of Cotuit is served by:

  • the website of the Town of Barnstable (Cotuit is one of seven villages in the town)
  • a Barnstable sponsored issue forum provided by a third-party vendor, called iForum
  • the website of the Cotuit-Santuit Civic Association; a community organization
  • the website of the Cotuit Fire District, the official governing body of the village’s fire and water departments as well as its prudential committee which oversees budgets and infrastructure like the village meeting house — Freedom Hall — and other essentials like street lights.
  • and a ton of other group pages for the Cotuit Library, the Cotuit Center for the Arts, the Historical Society, the Cotuit Athletic Association (sponsors of the Cotuit Kettleers baseball team), the Cahoon Museum, the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club .,… and on and on.

There’s no umbrella site like a “Cotuit.com” — no digital hub — there may be a Cotuit Facebook page (I don’t use Facebook). I know there is a Wikipedia page.  Something may be missing. The online equivalent of the bulletin boards inside of the library and the post office and outside of the the Kettle Ho and the Coop — a place where there’s a master calendar of events, contact information, a place for neighbors to offer stuff for free or for sale, discuss crime issues in the neighborhood, etc. etc.

The Cape Cod Times doesn’t really have a Cotuit specific area, and they have a subscription model. The weekly paper, the Barnstable Patriot, occasionally covers Cotuit. There is a Patch.com site for Barnstable-Hyannis.

I don’t know, the digital needs of Cotuit may be very well served. But in my new job as editor in chief of an internet yellow pages company started in the UK called hibu, I’m looking very closely at the digital tools and services for local merchants and consumers.

One solution I am looking at is called Nextdoor, an online tool that allows neighbors — not politicians or officials — to define their neighborhood, invite in members, and create a shared space for documents, events, classifieds, etc. The various groups in a neighborhood can have their own Nextdoor group, and one neighbor can invite another via email into the perimeters of the neighborhood. I don’t see this as a replacement for say the Historical Society’s website, but a common place that the members of the society could promote their calendar of events, and drive traffic to their own online destination.

nextdoor

I started the Cotuit neighborhood on Nextdoor last week and  spammed about 50 people in my Gmail address book with invites to join, 2o+ have accepted. The library has already posted a Valentine’s Day event, so there are already early signs of life.

We’ll see how it goes. I DO NOT want to be the administrator of the thing, and was pleased to see as members I invite accept, they in turn can invite others.

So far I see no advertising and so I don’t understand Nextdoor’s business model. They are a venture capital darling, have a lot of investment and high growth numbers.

If you want an invite, send me a mail to david AT churbuck DOT com. You need to have an address inside of Cotuit  village (not Santuit, I left that alone for some Santuit resident to create a second neighborhood — Nextdoor seems to allow adjacent neighborhoods to cross over).

The real unsung heros of Forbes.com

Adam “Shattered Glass” Penenberg, one of the original writers at Forbes.com in the mid-90s, yesterday said I was the “unsung hero” who had the vision that eventually became the business news behemoth Forbes is today.

Whatever. It was more of a case of being in the right place at the right time and being the first to raise my hand. I’m flattered and I share Adam’s opinion that we didn’t know what we were doing, we ran the Digital Tool as pirate ship, and had a one-in-a-lifetime experience experimenting with online journalism. He was also too modest to say he put us, and digital journalism on the map as a force to reckon with when he and Kambiz Faroohar uncovered Stephen Glass’ record of deception at the New Republic (hence the movie “Shattered Glass” that featured a very idealized concept of our rodent infested newsroom). He wrote:

“Being an online journalist 17 years ago was a bit like being stationed in Siberia. We’d publish story after story but had no idea if anyone actually read them. There was little glory in it, and print reporters looked down their noses at us, viewing us as a marauding band of upstarts who couldn’t possibly have their skills and ability. Nevertheless, we persisted, experimenting with form and structure, largely because there were no best practices at the time. Should we mimic print’s inverted pyramid or adopt a more conversational and informal approach? Should we write short? Medium? Long? Should we concentrate on offering “tools” like financial calculators and de-emphasize original journalism, or go all in on providing news and analysis? Over time we evolved, but in the beginning we treated the site as one grand experiment.”

Not to blush with false modesty, and not to second-guess what Forbes.com has grown into under Jim Spanfeller and Lewis D’Vorkin, but I want to say that two people are the true unsung heros behind Forbes’ high valuation as it is about to be sold by the Forbes family and Elevation partners (most likely to a foreign buyer).

CEO Tim Forbes embraced the digital future with no reservations, immersed himself in it, and knew — as clearly as Adam and Om Malik and me and everyone else involved — that one day the online version of the brand would be bigger and more valuable than the printed one. He drove us, he made it happen. He wrote the checks, put up with our shenanigans and he told the nay-sayers to shut up and get on board.

The second unsung hero was Jim Michaels, the legendary editor of the magazine, my mentor, a crabby, colorful and keen editorial genius who had our back and encouraged us to take the risks and make the mistakes that led to our success. He knew we were killing off the world he had lived in for forty years, and I hope in the years ahead I can be half as curious and accepting of the future and wrenching revolutions of new technology as he was.

As the Forbes family let’s go of their namesake,   there is a merry band of original Forbes.com alumni who should take a bow: DeWayne Martin, Om Malik, Charles Dubow, Dustin Shephard, Stacy Lu, Vicki Contavespi, our copyeditor Eve, John Moschetto, Greg Zorthian, Miguel Forbes, Michael Noer, Sabina Forbes, Stephen Johnson, David Minkin, Paul Caparotts, Nathan Washburn, Kambiz, and of course Adam. Apologies to all the others I’ve forgotten who were there at the beginning.

A blast from my Forbes past

I couldn’t resist feeling nostalgic for the golden era at Forbes in the late 80s when  Jim Michael and Bill Baldwin and Laury Minard were at their peak and the plague of of the Internet hadn’t yet trashed the grand old magazines of the past.

forbescover

This was my first home run, my second cover story for Forbes, one born from an offhand discussion with Sam Whitmore, my old PC Week boss, who returned from a demo of the first color copier at SIGGRAPH with a hysterical story about trying to persuade the Canon rep to scan a $20 bill.

I’ve told the back story of how the article was written, but after some searching, found a copy of the original and scanned it. Forbes never put its archive online and I figured screw it — I asked their reprint department for permission to post this and they wanted a gazillion dollars. So, in the spirit of information wants to be free, here is how I forged my paycheck on a Mac. PDF below.

desktopforgery