Monday, 23 April 2007

Minibar 20 April: Izimi, Truphone, Rememble

The Minibar on Friday night was interesting. I arrived late, in the middle of the Canonical presentation of the Ubuntu 7.04 aka Feisty Fawn, the latest Ubuntu (Linux) distro, so I can't say much about that. I did catch the other presentations from startups, though.


Truphone was intriguing. I'm very interested in telephony, as some may know from previous posts (LG Chocolate computer connectivity, Java and troubleshooting, LG Shine phone, Gmail setup on the Nokia 7710, WidSets, ConnectMeAnywhere, etc).

Free or cheap mobile calls via wi-fi with better than Skype quality with your own dedicated Truphone number seems an excellent idea. It involves a download to your phone. The steps seemed a bit involved from the demo I saw but that could be the very noisy bar being distracting. It's available in the UK, US and theoretically more generally too - so no harm downloading it and seeing if it works, if you live elsewhere (but you only get your own unique Truphone phone number if you're in the USA or UK, at the moment).

Calls between Truphone-enabled phones via wi fi should be free, but they make money from charging people who call a Truphone number. Calls via wifi with Truphone are free to local landlines till end June 2007 but not to certain countries, and at what they say is a competitive rate to other countries.

It's telling that T-Mobile, O2 etc recently disabled the ability to make VOIP internet calls on handsets that you get through them e.g. the Nokia N95, and though Truphone have complained to UK communications regulator Ofcom, for now it seems you need to use another network (unless they block it too), or buy unsubsidised a compatible phone that's unblocked.

I couldn't quite get clear from Alexander Straub's presentation in exactly what circumstances you could call or be called via Truphone and what it would cost you or the person calling you in each instance. They do have what seems to be a decent FAQ though, I haven't had the chance to look at it in detail yet.

If you're not near a wifi hotspot and someone calls your Truphone number, it'll be routed through to your normal mobile number instead (or voicemail). I've no idea what you do if you're not near a hotspot and you want to make a call via Truphone - I suspect you can't. They do suggest you can use Truphone via wi fi from home or work of course, and benefit from free or cheaper mobile calls from there.

At present you can only get Truphone for E-series Nokia phones (compatible phones info) but they've started working on making it more widely available starting with the Nokia N-series.

Truphone has potential but given that wifi isn't exactly widespread in London never mind the UK, it'll be interesting to see how popular this becomes. I shall give it a go myself - once I get a wifi-enabled phone! (I'm overdue for an upgrade, haven't decided what to go for yet).


The founders of Izimi, which they bill as "the future of Web publishing", have raised about $5 million of funding so far, which is pretty impressive.

The idea is file sharing direct from your computer - any kind of media: photos, music, videos etc. You get a special URL off them for a file on your hard drive, give it to others and they can access it direct using that URL. So your computer is the Web server, effectively.

But of course people can only access the file while your computer is (a) on, and (b) online. If not, well I can see some people getting mighty frustrated. So, it's not for me. Paranoid, over-careful, too "oooh turn off lights" eco-conscious, maybe, but I don't even leave my PC on all the time, let alone powered up and constantly connected to the Net for bad guys to try to hack into. They did say they'd thought about security and were addressing it, but of course they would. I'm just not comfortable with the general notion of people grabbing stuff off my hard drive. Possible hassles with copyright infringement lawsuits were also raised, I think with good reason.

Maybe when almost everyone in the world is on broadband and can truly rely on being safely and securely connected 24/7, something like this'll take off. Until then, personally I think it's an idea before its time (as was e.g. the Tivo, sadly), but obviously the venture capitalists think otherwise, and good luck to them and the Izimi team.


Now Rememble is something I'd like to explore more, and I've signed up to be considered for the beta. The idea is "clotheslines for digital memories". I assume they won't mind my hotlinking to their pics for review purposes, so here they are:

You add your "digital memories" (which they cutesily call "membles" - like emails, SMS texts, pics, audio, video etc) to a "timeline". I like the attempt to integrate different sources and media types: they're talking not just stuff stored on your computer but also what's on your phone, digital camera, Flickr etc. I think it's innovative, but also sensible and inevitable with increasing convergence. Rememble might just catch the wave at the right point.

You're supposed to be able to tag, comment, filter by media type etc, even share. Indeed, they said that they were particularly aiming for the social aspect. But you should be able to keep certain aspects private too, if you wish. The vertical height of a line represents how often you look at something and therefore how significant it is to you.

The mechanisms to be employed for adding media, and their ease and flexibility of use and customisation / personalisation, as well as striking the right pricing level, will be vital. I wasn't too clear how e.g. you upload SMS text messages. I gather it involves forwarding of texts etc. from which they'll make a bit of a turn. I know lots of people want to be able to backup or save texts, so if they can provide an easy and inexpensive way to do that online, that alone could really drive takeup.

There's minimal info on their website at the moment. If I get accepted for the beta testing, I'll report back. I want hierarchical categories as well as tags, though, or at least grouping or bundling - I'm still not giving up on my search for the ideal note-taking software and something like this might well do if I could add and easily categorise notes too.

BBC Innovation

Someone whose full name I didn't catch - Priya? - from BBC Innovation also spoke briefly, but unfortunately by then the noise level had got a bit too much. That bar is big so good for a large crowd, but the PA system probably needs turning up a whole lot more. Anyway, they're inviting new media pitches for some pretty exciting sounding projects, good on the BBC!

I've always been a big fan of the BBC, who aren't afraid to expand the boundaries of public service broadcasting to cross over to the Net in keeping with increasing media convergence, which is exactly what they should be doing - and it's not just because they let me take part in the BBC iMP or BBC MyPlayer trials. (I've recently been invited to join the BBC TV Test too, which is a systems trial beta testing the new design and infrastructure resilience of the planned successor to the iMP - the only public page I can find on the BBC TV Test is here, not sure I'm allowed to post the link to the sign up form so I won't). I'm looking forward to the official launch in May or early summer of TV downloads via the new BBC iPlayer, assuming they don't change the name again. But I do hope they'll focus as much on content as means of delivery - content being king and all that. Apart from New Tricks I confess I don't watch a huge amount on BBC at the moment, and when's Medium coming back eh?


Open Business also launched job board Considerati, for tech jobs of course. They were offering free job postings at the Minibar. Businesses pay to advertise, but job seekers don't. Seems to be mainly Dutch or UK, at the moment. I don't see any openings for tech journalists /writers at the mo (or even manual writers, a big bugbear of mine seeing how incomprehensible and unuser-friendly too many user guides are), but you never know, I might try my luck sometime...


I didn't speak much with many people I didn't know already, though it was great to finally be able to have a proper conversation with Drupal guru Robert Castelo of Code Positive, a more music than techie talk for a change. Any Drupal people wanting to keep busy, never mind Considerati, you could do a lot worse than look Robert up (see, and I'm not even asking for a recruitment commission!).

It was good to see London Copyfighter Becky Hogge again, with James Casbon. Not too long ago Becky took over the executive directorship of the Open Rights Group, which is doing great things to raise awareness and lobby to protect digital civil rights in the UK.

I had an interesting chat too with BBC Backstager and Geek Dinner organiser extraordinaire Ian Forrester and Josette Garcia of well known publisher O'Reilly, about the relatively low profile of UK and Europe in technology and how it needed to be raised; O'Reilly's new European blog O'Reilly GMT will hopefully help to change that, do check it out.

O'Reilly will be co-sponsoring the next Minibar too and, prior commitments permitting (I'm not sure when in May it'll be on), I plan to be there.

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