Fire Eagle Developer Evening: this Thursday at Brickhouse

As Upcoming says: “The first in a series of developer workshops for people who are interested in building apps using Fire Eagle – the new geo-platform from Brickhouse. For people who aren’t familiar with it, we’ll be giving a quick overview of the service plus an introduction to the API, help with OAuth and a table completely covered in pizza!”

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Go sign up on Upcoming!

The SXSW plague of 2008: Shinerbockellosis

Update: it’s not a real infection unless it can follow you on Twitter. Check out SouthByScurvy’s first tweet: “collecting souls.”

This has got to be one of the sickest winters in my recent memory. It seems like everyone I know is battling something. The latest strain seems to be related to going to SXSW. Is this divine punishment for twittering too much about the event?

This latest wave made me think of the original conference-goers disease, the O.G. of conference-based bacterial infections, the only new disease spawned from gathering in a hotel for a conference: Legionnaires’ disease. Wikipedia tells the story:

The first recognized outbreak occurred on July 27, 1976 at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where members of the American Legion, a United States military veterans association, had gathered for the American Bicentennial. Within two days of the event’s start, veterans began falling ill with a then-unidentified pneumonia. They had high breathing rates and chest pains. Numbers differ, but perhaps as many as 221 people were given medical treatment and 34 deaths occurred. At the time, the U.S. was debating the risk of a possible swine flu epidemic, and this incident prompted the passage of a national swine flu vaccination program. That cause was ruled out, and research continued for months, with various theories discussed in scientific and mass media that ranged from toxic chemicals to terrorism (domestic or foreign) aimed at the veterans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mounted an unprecedented investigation and by September, the focus had shifted from outside causes, such as a disease carrier, to the hotel environment itself. In January 1977, the Legionellosis bacterium was finally identified and isolated, and found to be breeding in the cooling tower of the hotel’s air conditioning system, which then spread it through the entire building. This finding prompted new regulations worldwide for climate control systems.

Once the experts figured it out, the family of bacteria was assigned to the genus Legionellosis.

I hereby create the genus Shinerbockellosis (close runnerup to Lasmanitas-ellosis and Ironworks-ellosis). If only it could be cured with more Shiner Bock. . . . .

Get well, folks (I’m suffering along with you!)

Fire Eagle!

A big congrats to the Fire Eagle team for launching the developer beta of the service today, especially to Tom Coates who is standing on stage in front of me at eTech making the formal announcement as I write this.

While the magic of Fire Eagle is primarily on the backend where developers play, the Fire Eagle site itself is a true delight (just like the team that built it). Beautifully done. I’m really proud of the team.

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Ping me if you want invites. Those of you who have them, go forth and build some apps!

While we’ve been testing over the past few weeks, the FireEagle integration that I’ve enjoyed the most is the one done by the good folks over at Dopplr. After our announcement this morning, Matt Biddulph posted the details on the integration over at the Dopplr blog. If you’re a Dopplr user, read Matt’s post and link up with Fire Eagle here.

SXSW and eTech

Big week ahead. I’ll be stopping by eTech for about 24 hours (late Tuesday to late Wednesday — wish I could stay longer), then it’s back to SF for meetings on Thursday, then on to Austin for SXSW (arriving Friday night and heading back early Monday). We’re throwing a little Flickr / Fire Eagle party on Sunday afternoon from 4-8pm at the Iron Cactus — here are the details. See you there!

Review: Jawbone Bluetooth headset

Recently, I went through another round of a roughly annual “find a Bluetooth headset that actually works” exercise after throwing the latest failed attempt in the electronic junk drawer beside the cracked Palm V and the old SCSI Jaz drive. First of all, let me state for the record that I don’t consider myself one of those Bluetooth headset guys and generally observe a personal “only use in the car” rule. Also, when I’m looking at Bluetooth headsets, I’m definitely not looking for something that doubles as a fashion accessory, nor am I looking for something that fits comfortably enough to wear all day. I want something that works reliably with my phone, fits reasonably well, and doesn’t degrade call quality. While I generally do my best to be in a quiet place for calls, it’s inevitable that I’m out and about sometimes and need call someone from the car, in an airport, etc. Anyone who does many business conference calls knows that the guy calling from a car or at a busy airport gate can be a distraction to everyone else. “Can you mute, please?” is a common refrain in those situations.

Until recently, I used the Jabra BT5020 with my iPhone and even though Jabra claims “wind noise reduction” as a feature, a lot of my calls began with the person on the other end asking, “where are you, in a wind tunnel?” I tried the Samsung WEP-200 on Tim Bray’s recommendation, but had trouble pairing it with my iPhone (this seems to be common), and it fell out of my ear if I moved my head even slightly. In my latest round of research, all roads pointed to the Aliph Jawbone. (Disclaimer: just as I was about to go buy it, I serendipitously got an email from the PR firm representing Aliph asking me if I wanted to review the Jawbone, so I received a complimentary review unit).

After a couple months of using the Jawbone regularly, I can attest that it works as advertised and has exceeded my expectations. The online demo of the Jawbone’s Noise Shield technology seems too good to be true, but it isn’t — what a pleasant surprise. The Noise Shield works so well that I sometimes use the Jawbone in situations where I could actually use my phone without the headset, e.g. standing outside a restaurant on a noisy San Francisco street. This breaks my “only in the car” rule, but the noise reduction is worth it. I’ve tested the Jawbone in the car with the Noise Shield off (“you sound like you’re in the car”) and with it on (“wow, you sound like you’re in a quiet office now!”) In all cases, the caller on the other end comes through loud and clear, too. The battery life for my level of usage has been excellent, too.

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I do have a few minor gripes. The unit can be a little clumsy to get on and off of your ear. The variety of included earbuds and ear clips were impressive but I couldn’t find a combination that fit my ear really well. Still, the Jawbone fits well enough and its enthusiastic users have some suggestions to create a better fit. When the Jawbone is on standby, I have to turn it off and then on to re-pair it with my iPhone, but that is only a minor annoyance.

All in all, the Jawbone is an excellent product that delivers on its promise. Since I’ve been using it, no one has asked “where are you?” or “can you mute, please?” I never thought I would say this about a Bluetooth headset, but I love it.