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Entries in interview (7)


TDL Profile: Elyse Porterfield, or "Jenny" of dry erase board fame

For those who missed it, a quick recap on how the rest of us know the star of this week's TDL Profile. Last month, (could be NSFW) posted the story of a lovely young assistant who had enough of her sexist, lazy boss, and she quit, but not before sending an email out to all her co-workers with a series of dry erase messages aimed at her boss. The internet loved it, and it spread faster than you can say viral. Of course now, though, we all (well most of us) know it was fake.

Elyse Porterfield was hired for a one-day photoshoot portraying "Jenny," the girl who decided to tell her boss off on the way out the door. Today though, you never know when a brief flash of fame online will open the door to other opportunities. In our video interview, Elyse talks about what's happened in her life since the prank, and tells us her philosophy on social media and connecting with fans:



Retro Tech Tuesday: Robbie Bach and the Xbox 360

We're not setting the wayback machine very far for this week's retro tech voyage. No, we're just headed back to the summer of 2005 as then-chief of Microsoft's Xbox, Robbie Bach (Now in charge of all entertainment devices at Microsoft) laid out the future for the soon-to-launch console. Would people pay to attend tournaments to watch others play games? What other prophecies were right and wrong? Here's a look:



Interview with Star Trek Tribute Band Warp 11

We have Star Trek on the brain today, getting ready to kickoff Star Trek Saturday tomorrow. So it was only natural that we talk to two members of Warp11, the country's premier Star Trek tribute band. (Any other bands want to vie for the title? They will clean the floor with you!) Warp 11 mixes clever and uber-geeky references to the show (mostly The Original Series, and Next Generation) along with sex and drugs. Make no mistake, this is a rock band, through and through, that happens to be made up of some of the biggest Star Trek fans.

They also happen to be playing at MacWorld this year, so what a perfect way to show the mindmeld of Apple fans and Star Trek fans. Here's Captain Karl Miller, and Chief Science Officer Kiki Stockhammer, from Warp 11:




Interview With Macsurfer's Darren Mahaffy

Macsurfer has been covering the Mac rumor and news scene for years. In fact for everyone here, Macsurfer was one of (and for many, the first) Apple-related site we checked out on the web. I recently had a chance to do a Q & A with Darren Mahaffy, one of the Macsurfer editors. Try to remain calm when you hear what system he uses to work on Macsurfer...

For those who are newer to Macsurfer, give us some history of the site.

Well, MacSurfer was started by Phil Pearson back in 1995. He filled a niche of providing a one-stop-shop, so to speak, for Apple news, troubleshooting helps, reviews, and more.

Phil broke down the news of the day into categories. Rather than a chronological view of the news, he organized it by editorial importance.

So it has continued to this day. I've been working with Phil going on 6 years now. 

What changes have you/the site seen in that time? Specifically, the changes in interest in Apple during the iPod launch? iPhone?

MacSurfer has always aimed to present a simple layout without all the complications present in many of today's mainstream sites. So the site remained pretty much unchanged until a couple years back when MacSurfer underwent a revamp, moving to a PHP backend and adding features for subscribers, and more.

As for changes to MacSurfer induced by Apple, yeah, you could say there have been some. The iPod and iPhone added a new coverage category as has AppleTV, and who knows what else (Tablet?) coming down the pike.

These devices have put Apple products into the hands of people who may or may not own a Mac. People Google for news, reviews, rumors, etc., on these products and in many instances come to MacSurfer for the first time and end up visiting regularly for the latest news and info.

The interest in games is particularly high for iPhone and iPod touch. I've had a number of readers write in about game coverage. There's no end of material from Touch Arcade, and many other sites on that front.

It seems that interest in the iPod itself has waned a bit even with the new shuffle. On the other hand, the iPod is now ubiquitous. Until the iPhone hit the scene, iPod news was plentiful. I imagine that once the iPhone is loosed from AT&T's grip it, too, will become ubiquitous.

But I suspect Apple will always keep the pot fresh, thus keep the news flowing.

How has mainstream media coverage of Apple changed over that time?

Going back to the late 90's, with one foot in the grave, media coverage was reflecting such sentiments... and was mostly negative.  Then Steve Jobs came back and turned Apple from a company at death's door into the underdog everyone wanted to root for.

I think the news is still largely positive; however, there are critics. Criticism of Apple ticks some people off, but I think (some of) it is good for the Apple ecosystem. It can serve to sharpen an Apple fan's understanding of the products and limitations, while at the same time sharpening skills to respond to those critics in a reasoned fashion.

Pertaining to coverage since iPod/iPhone releases, I'd say coverage has been largely positive. The proliferation of apps for the iPhone is enormous, and news coverage reflects that.

Has the increase in people owning Apple products led to an increase in interest in the site? Are casual users interested in mac news/rumors?

Definitely. We've had Mac converts write in and thank us for the site and usefulness. If my own personal experience counts for anything, the answer to your second question is certainly yes. People who know me will ask me about something they heard on the news, or read on the web about some exciting product rumored from Apple. They may or may not have read the report on MacSurfer, but chances are we're on top of the report(s).

Macsurfer works as a news aggregator of sorts for Apple news, but you don't often voice your opinion on Apple/Apple decisions. Anything you want to get off your chest?

LOL. Well, I do have a personal blog but don't get to it very often. It is over at

I was fairly vocal about MobileMe on my blog. As an original iTools guy, I had my ".mac" address and all that. There was a certain pride that went along with the whole package that set one apart. Like the "crazy ones", like those who "think different".

But when MobileMe hit the scene, IMHO, Apple geared the service toward Mac/iPhone owners specifically. I'm a Verizon guy, so no iPhone (for now). Anyhow, I was thoroughly disppointed in the online versions of apps ... still am. I don't like the name of the service, either. But that's neither here nor there, just my opinion. Right before MobileMe debuted I decided to give Google Apps a try. My wife and I found Google Calendar to be fantastic, Gmail as well. We saw no reason to keep forking over $100+/year for a service that was not meeting our needs in the way the free Google service did.

As for other gripes with Apple. I don't like the premium pricing (but as an investor in AAPL, I do). I'm not one who can afford to run out and buy new hardware. Once upon a time I could, but no more. 4 kids, house, etc., make sure that doesn't happen. So I'm stuck in PowerPC land (aging 1.33GHz 17" PowerBook G4 with 2GB RAM), and that's becoming an exercise in frustration on a daily basis. I hit hundreds of sites every day, and web sites are using more technology that seems to strain the PPC. I watch processor usage, RAM usage on Safari, Firefox, and Camino, and after a few hours, my system begins to drag.  I know Intel Macs are speedy. I've played with 'em. I'd be all over one if I could.

And much to the chagrin of many who will read this, I will use my IBM NetVista (Pentium 4, 512MB RAM) for work because it is so much faster. And that with Windows XP SP3. It is more of a backup system in case my PowerBook should drop dead. Unfortunately on Windows I cannot replicate the AppleScripts I wrote for the job on the Windows platform. I use MacroExpress (good, but not AppleScript), and EditPlus. Firefox 3 on the PC is SO much faster than Firefox 3.x, and Safari 4 beta on my PPC Mac.

And for the record, no, I do not *love* my PC. I am a Mac. OS X eats XP for lunch. I'm a power user of both. My PC is a tool that works faster for me even though AppleScript is something I have a hard time doing MacSurfer without.

I would love to make the NetVista into a hackintosh, but time forbids, and conscience quivers. There I guess is another gripe. I'd love to see OS X box sets for regular old hardware. But as an Apple investor, I see that as being a potential problem.

Lastly, my other gripe(s) at this stage of the game is with Mozilla for breaking AppleScript support in Firefox 3.x. I've been vocal (on my blog) about this.

I just downloaded 3.5 b4 and things are still broken. The newest nighly builds 3.6a1pre have better support - but glaringly omit a way to grab the URL. So things still are not fixed. It boggles my mind that Mozilla has not fixed this yet. I realize they are busy ... but when you break something that worked in a previous version (2.x), shouldn't you fix it post-haste in the new version? But I digress...

Our thanks to Darren for taking the time to do our interview, and for being candid in his answers.



Anatomy of a Killer App: Taxi Magic

We've reviewed hundreds of iPhone app reviews, and to be completely honest, there are far, far more misses than hits. Taxi Magic though, could revolutionize getting a taxi. Depending on your city and location, getting a taxi can be daunting, Taxi Magic allows you to use your iPhone to take the headaches out of hailing a cab.

We recently interviewed Ridecharge co-founder Toby Russell to find out the details of this transit revolution:

First, tell us a little bit about Ride Charge, the company behind Taxi Magic.

RideCharge was founded in 2007, is based in Alexandria VA, and started by providing technology to corporate travelers. The technology made it easy for business travelers to book taxis, pay by credit card and get expense documentation for travel reimbursement.  In late 2008, RideCharge launched a consumer version of the technology to allow anyone to take advantage of the 'secret sauce' -- RideCharge's Direct Connect Taxi booking and electronic payment engine.

This came in 3 flavors--, RideCharge technology that powers taxi company websites (e.g., and Taxi Magic for iPhone and Blackberry -- smartphone interfaces. 

Give us an overview of the Taxi Magic app.

There are four value propositions to Taxi Magic:

1) BOOK--Taxi Magic makes it easy to book a taxi instantly without making a phone call.  People have been very excited about the instant taxi reservation with just a tap.

2) TRACK--You can then track the car to know when it is coming, because Taxi Magic connects you directly to taxi computer dispatch systems, and gives you real-time GPS information about when the car is on the way.   It is very cool technology and extremely conveninient for people who don't like wondering whether a cab will come.

3) PAY by Credit Card / CHARGE: No one likes carrying cash to pay for taxis, so Taxi Magic makes it easy to pay for the taxi with a credit card, right through the application.  It's the fastest, most secure way to pay for taxis. 

The app is free and booking with the app is free.  If you pay by credit card, there is a small fee ($1.50) added to help support development of the application. 

You get an electronic receipt by email for the amount paid.  And, if you're traveling for business, or need to keep track of your receipts, this is particularly convenient because tracking paper receipts is a real drag. 

Take us through the workings of the app for the end user. Is the app intended more for an immediate need for a cab, or a scheduled pickup later? How does the payment system work? How does the cabbie  confirm you've made a payment?

The Taxi Magic app was originally designed to get a taxi fast-- 'right here, right now'.  When a user opens the app, it uses the iPhone's location based services to present the user with local taxi options.  In the major US taxi cities, the top of the list has direct-connect options, aka 'Magic Booking' options that you can tap to book directly in the taxi company computer dispatch system.  It works 24/7 and is instantaneous-- faster than making a phone call.  

Then you choose how you'd like to pay for the taxi at the end of the ride-- A) hand the driver cash, or B) store a credit card and pay through the app.    With that, your reservation is submitted to the taxi dispatch system.

You get back status updates on your taxi -- when it is assigned, what the car number is / driver name + how far away it is.  Very cool stuff.

When you're in the cab, and if you chose to pay with credit card through the app, at the end of the ride you just enter the amount you want to pay into the app + it sends a message to the driver's computer screen in the front telling him how much you've paid.   It's SUPER fast and a really neat experience.

You're done and you get a receipt emailed to you automatically.

What kind of volume are you seeing from iPhone users?

In terms of iPhone usage, it has definitely exceeded expectations.  There's been a groundswell of downloads and usage with very fast growth-- tens of thousands of downloads in just the first few months, and consistent ongoing usage.

What are some of the challenges to implementing this system?

Some cities, e.g. Miami don't yet have taxis with technology in them, so when you open the app, we present local phone numbers for taxi companies that you can call by tapping the options.

Can you take us through development of the app. How long did it take? Did you develop in-house, etc.

We did all the development in-house and the heavy lifting was integrating to all the different computer dispatch systems of each taxi fleet in each city.  That took many months.  Development of the first version of Taxi Magic (1.0) for iPhone took a few months, and is ongoing.  We're adding new features like the ability to schedule a future reservation. 

Any feedback you can share from the taxi companies? How about cabbies?

Taxi companies have been very excited about Taxi Magic.

A quote from a press release we did when it went live in Dallas Texas is: "With Taxi Magic, our customers can now quickly book a cab and pay for it with just a few easy clicks of their phone. Customers no longer have to wait in the ever changing Texas weather for a cab to drive by. Now anyone can book one of our 1,400 cars simply by punching a request into their iPhone or Blackberry -- now that's convenience!"
-- John Donor, Manager of Dispatch Operations, Dallas Yellow Cab. 

Cabbies have been excited too-- recently we got word from a customer that a driver had said Taxi Magic was game changing for his industry.

How do you get Taxi Magic?

iPhone users can download Taxi Magic from iTunes, and Blackberry users can download Taxi Magic from Blackberry App World, or just send a blank email to for download link and instructions.