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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best

I spend a lot of time (words) on this blog ranting about failures of tech, politics, and the assorted sundry of man's general idocy.   Today - the last of 2009 - I think I'll reverse that.  For one post at least.  

Hands down the best thing of 2009 for me was that I got to spend a bit more than 9 months with my sons.  This is a very big deal to a divorced father living 2000 miles from where his kids attend school.  It came about in a scary way but in the end turned into maybe the best year I've ever had with my boys.  I am amazed that sometimes the worst of situations can deliver such joy.  

I am blessed to have two of the most intelligent, loving, funny, caring, and tolerant sons that have ever existed.  Every day they do things that make me laugh and make me proud.  Sometimes they do things that make me cry.  Occasionally people and the world make me angry and protective of them.  All of it makes my love for them that much stronger.   I wake up every day excited to see what they will be up to.  

Over the last year I have also gotten to know my parents in a way that few sons ever do.  They have always been there for me.  This last year has been unquestionably the hardest of my life from many angles.   Dealing with the death of a dear friend.  The scare of someone I care deeply for being mortally ill and the financial burden brought on by several events and life choices to name just a few.  It's still far from over.  I wish the passing of another calendar would make that possible.  What I do know, my parents have been there for me - both as protective parents and as good friends.  They have been there for me in a way that I hope I can repay.  Probably only in doing the same for my boys.  Thank you Mom and Dad!

Another of the best things has been reconnecting with several of my good friends.  This year has been a goldmine for that and I will solidly give credit to technology in that arena.  Mostly to Facebook.  As much as I distrust it and really hate many of its features and annoyances it has brought me together with at least several friends that I don't want to ever loose touch with again.

Through the hardships of this year and mostly through the amazing good things I have crested yet another peak in the long mountain climb of life.  I understand myself better than I ever have.  Love more deeply than I ever have.  Enjoy each day more than I ever have, and now truly know what is important and what doesn't matter.  I'm standing on the top of that peak - looking at the climb to the next and this time I'm excited.  No matter what the future holds I know what is truly the best for me.

I hope that for anyone reading this that 2010 can bring you what is "the best" in your life and the ability to recognize what doesn't matter.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nuff Said.

http://albertoconti.posterous.com/true-odds-of-airborne-terror

iTunes Sucks


I just did battle with iTunes for second time and my tweets about it got a little attention.  With that in mind I thought I'd post on the whole experience to clear the mud as they say.

I've done this before but I forgot what a pain the whole deal is.   I got my youngest son an iPod Touch for his birthday in October.  At the time we just set him up to use the same account that I created for his older brother.  Now with the advent of things like iTunes gift cards for Christmas this was no longer acceptable from the eyes of an 11 yr old.

Set aside for a moment that it's ridiculous to require an account to download free content.  (My Droid did not require any such thing)

I began by attempting to set the account up directly on the iPod.  Dumb idea - who in their right mind would want to use a well designed handheld computer with it's own internet connection for such things...  (Really stupid from any angle Apple)  Then I went to the Apple website.  After two hours of searching and cussing the only thing I could do was to create the beginnings of an account with a user name and password and maybe apply for a credit card...  WTF?

Out of frustration I clicked the "chat with an expert" button and was greeted by a person named "Omed".  I asked "him" how I could change payment options for my iTunes account and "he" just sent me a link back to the website FAQ.  I told him in that case I would not be purchasing any more Apple products and wished him a pleasant evening.  What horrible, stupid customer service!  I would expect that from Microsoft (along with a bill for a few hundred dollars) but Apple?  

So over the last couple of days I've done some Googling and discovered the convoluted method of creating an app store account without a credit card.  (this does not appear anywhere in the FAQ that I could discover over my several hour battle)

So, even though I don't want it and will un-install it.  I downloaded all 90mb of iTunes and sat through the 20min install routine.  Telling it "no" to things like should it be my default media player, should it search my computer for media, etc. etc.  Upon running, iTunes apparently forgot that I answered "no" and found that I have a drive mapped to my NAS and 80gb of audio...  (maybe they need a "hell no!" option)

Two and a half hours later it had "found" all of the songs and had begun to calculate gapless playback info for them.  Thank (insert deity here) that iTunes lets you stop this process.  So I spent the next hour following the instructions on creating a credit card free account and discovering that even though I had not been able to complete the process from either the iPod or the website, that I had an account and could not complete the "hack".

In the end I gave up.  Logged in and added the remaining info and selected PayPal out of desperation to have this over with.  It sent me to the usual PayPal login where I accepted the payment agreement.  But iTunes would not continue.  Even though it launched the web browser session to PayPal it could not recognize when I had finished.  I had to make IE my default web browser and go through the whole thing again.  Then at the end I still had to enter a billing address - For a PayPal account. 

Dumbest - Process - of - the - Year!

F U APPLE!  I don't care how cool the tablet is!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Problem with Predators

The news this week was littered with reports of insurgents capturing the video from our UAVs and other aircraft.  Then I read the "Howto"on Wikileaks and found out that the drones are just broadcasting a direct MPEG II stream with embedded meta-data including the exact coordinates of the aircraft!  Not only the drones do this but many of our other warplanes!  Inconceivable!   This is the same technology used by direct broadcast satellite providers like Dish Network, DirectTV, and probably your local cable provider - only they use some (lame) encryption to make it at least difficult to steal programming.   It makes me want to personally hunt down and cockpunch the officials involved.   In this case simply broadcasting analog tv signals would have resulted in less damage because location data could not have been included with the signal.

All you need is a C band (the big old kind) satellite dish and software or hardware capable of playing mpeg II streams.  Save the $25.99. You could do it with windows media player and the correct hardware...

Encrypting this signal was no doubt considered but I bet it was thrown out by someone with stars on their collar or the title of congressman because they were worried about the keys or technology falling into enemy hands.  Nothing like the 3rd grade concept of encryption that the movies have led the public to believe. 

Simply setting up an off the shelf VPN with a reasonable encryption algorithm like AES and identity certificates from a central (DOD) CA would have solved all issues.  The encryption tech is openly available and unbreakable with good automatic keys and hashes.  Hardware to do this is available at Wall Mart for $49 in the guise of home network routers.

The identity of the drone and anyone receiving the connection could be verified by the certificates or a one time password system.  The certificates could be granted only for the duration of the mission at hand and revoked at any time.  Problem solved.  With off the shelf tech.  This could even be done for free using open source software.  And it would be completely secure.  Not even Hugh Jackman could break this encryption (with a gun to his head while getting a blowjob).

Instead I bet we are paying billions in pork to some senator's, son in law's company to develop a system any 13 yr old can crack by saying "It's Unix, I know this" and guessing three passwords... 

The real predator drones are at work right now.  In upper levels of our government.  Feeding off our tax dollars.




Update: One of my security heroes, Bruce Schneier has a post on is blog about this very subject. While he and I seem to initially disagree, his conclusion is much the same as mine. Commercial grade encryption is the solution. He is much less hard on "the man" than I, and definitely in a much more informed position in general. I'm still angry. My reasoning still stands. Based mostly on a fact I'm not sure he is aware of. Look at the analysis available on Wikileaks and you will see that there is actual position data in the MPEG stream. The exact location of the drone is part of the video. Assuming interception - this totally mitigates the reason for the drone. Why did we spend the money?

He speaks to the difficulty of providing keys. I find this disturbing coming from Mr. Schneier. A simple certificate based PKI hosted at "drone control" combined with a one time password system (like Safeword for example) on the ground would allow finite control from a central location. At worst you would need to upload new certificates while the drone was being ground serviced. With the existing real time control link it should be possible to upload or revoke even during a mission. At this date it would require a re-tool of the electronics in the drone, new gear on the ground and creation of branch of command and control to issue access. The point is - this should have existed from the get-go.

I know next to nothing about the capabilities of Land Warrior, but assuming (always a dumb thing) that it has basic encryption and a secure satellite link - maybe the simplest method would be to just turn off the direct downlink from the drones and provide the video feeds via this system.

I know - crazy talk. That would make sense and save money. Never fly.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Eigenharp

When I first saw a photo of this thing I thought it was one of the instruments from the bar scene in Star Wars. Turns out it's a new mind blowing instrument from Eigenlabs.

The intro - shows you how it works...


Fantastic performance of the James Bond theme to show you what it's capable of.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm in Love with Pandora

Oh let me count the ways... Ok so I won't subject you to that. But really this is the best automatic mix system ever invented. I used to love the iTunes Genius but he's a weird long haired old man in a bad suit compared to the oh so lovely Pandora.

I know you've heard it all before but trust me on this. Go download Open Pandora (nice pun I know) and never need another mix system or radio station again.

There are also lovely clients for at least Android, iPhone and the Chumby that I know of.

Happy listening!

7 days with the Droid

Being the jaded IT guy that I am I'm not easily impressed by a gadget. The Motorola Droid however has completely blown my socks off! I've not been wowed by a gadget in years.

Beyond the flashy user interface and trendy apps, the android OS and accompanying hardware are spectacular. The android OS seems to know what you're thinking and the previously mentioned apps fly. Seemingly minor tasks like working in your contact list become wow moments. For example selecting a photo for a contact works as you would expect, except android automatically crops the photo to the face.

The screen is both beautiful and functional. Somehow it seems to respond only to the center of your fingertips. Madly flailing about with your thumbs won't work. Pressing even tiny links in the browser - does!

Despite some reviewers opinions, the keyboard is actually pretty good. If you weren't used to having a keyboard on your phone to begin with you probably won't have much use for this one. However, I've used it for several long emails and many text messages preferring it to the onscreen keyboard for these tasks. The on screen keyboard is also quite good, in fact probably the best I've used - handily beating the first generation iPhone keyboard that made me want to throw it against a wall. I find that I mostly use the onscreen keyboard for short entries like numbers and passwords. Beyond that I slide out the physical keyboard.

For my most favorite feature it's a tie between voice search and the window shade. Voice search works like you would expect. Touch the screen, immediately say what you're searching for, and the phone does it. There's no delay like other voice recognition systems and it's quite accurate. The window shade is awesome, If I'm doing something else, and receive a text message or e-mail for example, I simply get a notification on the top line of the screen. Then I drag down the line with one finger (like pulling down a window shade), select the alert, take care of the message, and return immediately to what I was doing previously. Brilliant!

All the other stuff you've seen on the TV ads and another reviews are equally brilliant. The only caveats are the physical design of the phone and the camera. The design of the phone is beautiful. The photographs don't do it justice. The problem is that I always felt like I was going to drop it. Even though Motorola did their best by putting rubber on the battery door and the sides. My first accessory purchases were a rubberized case and screen protectors.

Despite previous reports the camera is actually quite good. However, most reviewers, including myself were hoping the camera would replace a pocket point and shoot. Not quite. It's still a camera phone. Most of the problems seem to stem from the fact that you must half press the camera button to focus, then fully press the camera button to actually take the picture. Also, during autofocus (indoors anyway) the flash will briefly light giving the impression to most people that the camera has already taken the photo. I find myself having to ask my subjects to continue to smile so I can take the photo I intended. It's also anoying as hell that you cannot turn off the camera sounds. It makes a sound when you focus, and then makes a false shutter sound when you take the shot...

It appears the Droid has replaced my previous favorite gadget, my beloved Nokia N810. I haven't picked it up even once in the last week. High praise!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

24 with 7

My last installation of windows XP finally had a nervous breakdown, so 24 hours ago I installed windows seven as a replacement for XP. This is on my main work machine so it has to be reliable, and most definitely gets a work out. So far my impression is that it's pretty much XP with more eye candy. The most annoying things so far are the way Microsoft decided to hide certain directories, the annoying click sound, and the way they hosed up the control panel. I also don't like that I cannot select small icons on the desktop.

I do like the fact that it seems Microsoft now allows users to select when they want to be nagged by reminder dialogs. Most dialogs now give you the option to turn them off. Some other geek must have gotten the opportunity I've been craving, and that is to walk through the Microsoft campus with a clue bat.

I'm giving the system a full run for its money, in fact I'm even writing this posting using windows seven speech recognition. Had a few glitches getting my system up and running. Several of my applications require the very newest version to install. I had to search for a few drivers - and one of my applications, a python based system administration application, initially installed fine but could not download its online updates. The updates would fail with an access permission error. After the initial install I got the annoying little window at the bottom right of the screen telling me I needed to do things like enable the windows firewall (yawn) and find virus protection software. It also mentioned I needed to reboot to clear permission errors. After the reboot the application was able to download and install its updates. Weird.

So far however windows seven seems to be living up to its hype. For the last 24 hours it's been stable, not one crash. Pretty good for a Microsoft product. For now anyway, I think I'll keep it for another 24.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Lion Whisperer

For some reason I'm getting allot of animal stuff today... This Bloke is NUTS:

Big product week for the brain dead...

Nov. 17 is launch day for two huge brain (un) dead releases. First there is the much anticipated Left 4 Dead 2 Which will be filling all my free time for the next few months.




Then of course we have the horribly frighting :



Really Sara - TMI. Put the underwear back on - this time under the pants please.

Amazon - you are my hero!

Leopard Seal teaches photographer to hunt penguins

I've had incredible experiences with wildlife - like playing with Sea Lions, racing Coyotes on my motorcycle and swimming with sea turtles but this is amazing!

Friday, November 13, 2009

This is the Droid you are looking for.


Pretty much sums it up...

Freakin love my Droid BTW.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Microsoft didn't listen to me...

Hey Microsoft - In response to the "My idea" ad campaign. I told them that they needed an upgrade path from XP... Now you are actually giving customers a free pass to move to Mac or Linux. If I have to re-install everything, why not?

It's also time for Microsoft to release an "open cd". Let me boot from a cd and see if windows 7 will even run on my old laptop before I spend the (ridiculous) $200 on the "new" OS.

Last gripe. No one but businesses will pay $200 for an OS upgrade. I know you are in collusion with Intel to get people to buy new hardware - but do you have to be so obvious about it?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Passing of a Friend


I've just now learned of the passing of someone that many will miss. Lyle was a fixture at BMW motorcycle rallys. He has been at almost every one that I have ever attended. Lyle put in a million miles on his BMWs. Imagine that. Crossing the whole US is around 3k depending how you do it...

I remember sitting in the shade by a creek at a rally in South Dakota a couple of years ago. Friends from Germany, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, and all over the US enjoying the company and beautiful day. We were playing a game with Lyle where we would describe riding a road and he would tell us the number, and where it went. Or the opposite - name a road number and he would tell you a story about riding it. None of us could stump him.

I'll always remember Lyle with several friends in tow among the bikes and tents or surrounded at dinner by wannbe's like me, eager to hear his stories. He was always smiling and laughing.

Lyle actually passed in August near his home - riding his motorcycle. He will be missed.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Format Tinkering

I decided to get in touch with my feminine side and redecorate. Repainted and moved some of the furniture around. Probably more to come. Get over it - at least the youtube embeds fit now.

I'm so getting a Droid!

OMG! Calling the new Google maps navigation app for Android 2 "Slick" (as some of the press is doing) is the understatement of the year. I think we are finally seeing the true convergence of the internet with mobile devices. Read about it here or just watch the video below:

This week's gadgets:

This week's gadgets:

Ok, Ok, most people that know me and my gadget proclivities know that I've had smartphones since they first were invented and am currently in the market for something new - plus they would also know that I'm deeply, totally in love with my Kindle.  So this week has basically been really annoying.

First the smartphone issue. I'm a corporate IT guy (duh) so for me phones and PDA's are tools.  They are about as sexy to me as a torque wrench is to a mechanic.  What is sexy to me is how they function.  I don't care if the album covers flip past in a really pretty/smooth way.  I care if the music app plays Ogg files and if the device will connect A2DP to my bluetooth headphones.  I don't care if the device shows pictures of the caller and plays their favorite auria as a ringtone.  I have about 5k entries in my address book and I need for the phone to be able to handle that without hanging or crashing.

Because these things are tools to me - I'm a Verizon subscriber.  In my experience they have really awesome customer service (I've put this to the test. Believe me) and lest it be said again.  THE BEST NETWORK hands down.  No one even comes close.  Even with that in mind I've been pissed at them for years with their crappy phone offerings.  I've been a Palm user since they first came out.  I think I've had 8 different devices running the PalmOS.  5 of them have been smartphones.  Only one was what I would call a "great" device.  The others have all been a compromise.

I love the utility of the PalmOS.  It's simple, elegant and reliable in a way that makes even Apple's stuff seem clunky.  I have gobs of apps I've purchased over the years that I use many times a day.  Things like an IP subnet calculator.  A conversion utility (converts from pretty much any measurement to annother).  An app that lets me keep notes and passwords safely encrypted.  And yes, a few really good games and a media player that does play my .ogg files and connect A2DP.  The device itself has been able to handle my massive contact database with ease from the first day.  It's always been able to send MMSMS, capture video, cut and paste, and multi-task.  I've had these features FOR YEARS!

The problem is that the hardware has been fragile and clunky.  I went through two Treo's and I really need to replace my year old Centro as it's buttons are starting to fail.  This is why I'm in the market for a new phone.

I was hugely excited for the PRE.  Being a Unix snob for the last 20 years I've been in a state of anticipation for the Linux based OS successor to appear.  WebOS looks wonderful.  But I fear that Palm is circling the drain.  They just simply took too long in development.  The Pre is their last gasp and I think Sprint is letting them wither.  Add to that it seems Palm forgot what made their platform the one to beat for so long - and now fuels the current leader.  Availability of apps.  You have to make it worthwhile and easy for the developers to make things for your platform.  Palm didn't even get the developer kit out until months after the PRE hit the shelves...  To date there are only around 300 apps for the pre.


Enter Android.  It's open.  The way Linux is meant to be.  Currently there are around 10000 apps!  This is dwarfed by the iphone app count I know, but I don't think that will last once the Droid is released.  An Android based phone on the best / largest carrier - oh my!  I may just be in line on November 6.

The other thing I've been getting asked about.  My Kindle - and the release of all the competitors.  Mainly the Nook from B&N and the rumored tablet from Apple.  I've had everyone from close friends and family to people in airports / planes ask me about this.  Here's my opinion.  The Kindle is a single use device.  It's excellent at it.  So good that I pretty much only purchase novels on the Kindle.  If it's not available - I simply don't read it.  It's awful at reference books and newspapers.  It must be horrible for text books as well.  The Kindle is ideally suited to the long form narrative.  The E-ink is fantastic.  The delivery system has (so far) not been matched.  The inventory of available books is also unmatched.  Any electronic attempt at making a reader do reference/text/newspapers in their current form will fail.

I think that the Nook will be a worthy competitor.  Mainly because it's a copy of the Kindle with a few tweaks.  It uses the same E-ink "display", Has wireless delivery and an inventory on par with Amazon. It has some incremental improvements over the Kindle but as we all know - that won't last long.  

I'm sure that in the end, current B&N customers will choose the Nook.  Amazon customers will continue to stick with the Kindle.  The other devices will go the way of the Dodo.  As far as the Apple tablet.  It will see use as a book reader for a percentage of tablet owners - the same way the ipod / iphone are currently used.  The Apple tablet will be "ok" as a book reader since it will be a multi-function device and Amazon will win either way since they already support the ipod/iphone as Kindle readers.  I love my Kindle.  You would have to pry it from my cold, dead, fingers.  I'm sure the Nook owners will feel the same.  There is room for both.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The face of a biker

Yet another avoidable collision. This gentleman was lucky enough to survive his bus vs motorcycle encounter and in this video from the Casper Star Tribune tells the story here:




Friday, September 18, 2009

Target Practice

Get in some practice before the apocalypse with these handy shooting range targets:



Available from Law Enforcement Targets, Inc of course.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beethoven's 5th - visually.

Just try to stop watching this...

The Unspoken Truth about Managing (and understanding) Geeks.

I was thinking of writing (again) on this topic just this morning and then one of my colleges forwarded this article to me a few hours later. The link leads to a Computer World article by Jeff Ello who puts the whole problem into some very eloquent words. Much better than I think I could.

The only problem is that the title does not do the article justice. It's not just for those that manage geeks - the article is great for anyone that has to deal with an IT department. It's also super for the upper "C" level executives in any organization. Total read time ~10min.

http://tinyurl.com/lm9yb7

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Zombies, Zombies, Zombies

Ok - so my son got me hooked on Left 4 Dead. IMO it's enough reason in itself to purchase an Xbox 360 (another story in itself). I've had a history of talking about zombies on this blog in the past and lately the campy movies that were once a guilty pleasure have become a real diversion for me.

I recently finished a really fun novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. And as I mentioned, staying up into the wee hours playing Left 4 Dead

I guess I'm not alone. I think these are great:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Skeletool Hack


I'm a knife and multi-tool nut. I'm not sure how many multi-tools I own but I'm sure it's more than 10. Gerber, Leatherman, Victoronox and many off brands. I even have the original hand made Leatherman. I've yet to find the perfect one but I think I love the search more than anything.

My latest love is the Skeletool from Leatherman. There is just no description as to how handy and cool this tool is. The only problem is that I got one of the early ones. They have this annoying habit of loosing the screwdriver bits. To date I've replaced 3. The newer ones don't do that. Leatherman will "fix" the problem under their lifetime warranty of course. I don't want to be without my tool for that long and being a somewhat DIY - self proclaimed life hacker if you will...

Here is my hack:



After I cut the chunk of metal I realized you could just use a standard staple. This won't keep the tool from letting go as you work but it will keep the bit in the tool when it's in your pocket. That's when mine tend to go MIA. (oh and sorry for the picture quality - the cam/phone doesn't have a macro mode.)

Terrorist Idiots

5 Most Ebarrasing Terrorist Moments.

Funniest thing I've read in quite some time. Stick with it till #1 and pray you aren't drinking anything.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Total PayPal Fail

I've used Paypal for years. I really like the browser plugin - even though it slows down parsing of large pages. I use the service for allot of recurring charges - like those to my web hosting service and domain registrar etc.

Recently for no apparent reason charges to my Paypal account started to fail. Vendors reported that charges were being "declined" but logging in to my account not only did not show declined charges - it didn't show any activity at all. I was mystified.

Then as I was online and purchasing some crap I totally did not need - I decided to use Paypal and see what would happen. Standard web vendor that redirects you to Paypal so you can log in and authorize the payment. I did and was presented immediately with a form to update the expiration date on my registered credit card.

Aha! Here was the issue. Misery solved! My bank had issued me a new card some months back in an effort to combat fraud. I had forgotten to update my account with the new info. Makes total sense - except:
  1. I have never used the credit card as a source of funding for paypal purchases. It's only in the account because they require it for some features. Why should this stop recurring charges?
  2. I was never notified in any way by Paypal that I needed to update the info. Never an email and there was never a notice or even a recorded declined charge in my account when I logged in trying to investigate.
  3. The form that Paypal presents when you attempt a charge will only allow you to update the card's expiration date and ccv number. Not edit or change the account. I had to cancel the transaction and log into Paypal separately to complete that.
Why am I blogging this? Because there is only one way to discover the problem and even though I have used this service for years - I almost stopped because of it. I'm sure others have fallen into this and stopped using Paypal because of it. Also because when I attempted to send feedback to Paypal about the problem - they have NO FEEDBACK mechanism on their site. I eventually resorted to sending in a "question" to their help system. It made me classify the problem and did it's best to send me back to their FAQ. I persisted and discovered that I had a limited number of characters to describe the issue. I wrote a terse and hopefully understandible description and sent it off to the powers that be.

I haven't heard back yet. If the response (assuming one is forthcoming) is useful, or humorous or otherwise interesting I'll add it here... Hope this sheds some light in this dark hole for someone else.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Hot Waitress Index

http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/58195/

(personally I use the Speed at Which Contractors Return Calls Index)

Friday, July 31, 2009

'Birthers' must be stopped - Los Angeles Times

'Birthers' must be stopped - Los Angeles Times

Posted using ShareThis

Another Black Day.


Another Black Day for the Motorcycle World.

According to stories published in both the paper and electronic versions of the Casper Star Tribune an icon of the motorcycle world died Thursday in western Wyoming. Bruce Rossmeyer set a very high example and would easily be considered a pillar in any community. Yet he died as a result of something as simple as a bad choice on an afternoon ride.

Again I plead with any driver reading this. Look twice. Look again. Never use your phone while in motion.

Bikers - Please ride with the belief that you are invisible to most and that those who can see you are trying to kill you. I know it's easy to let yourself return to being a 16yr old when you are on the bike - lord knows it happens to all of us but do your best to resist.

The Star Tribune seems to have two different stories but the comments in the first one sheds a lot of light into what really happened.

http://tinyurl.com/mcqpck

http://tinyurl.com/n3blyq

The following link is from Mr. Rossmeyer's website. Please read this so you understand the loss we have all suffered. It's easy as a driver to dismiss the "biker scum" but you truly never know who might be riding that bike in the next lane.

http://www.brucerossmeyer.com/t-brucerossmeyer.aspx


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Maker and Manager

The Maker and Manager's Schedules.


Wow!  I love it when I find a piece on the net that eloquently describes something I've been trying to explain or get a handle on for a length of time.  Today the "honor" goes to Mr. Paul Graham and his writings on the Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule.  He hits it right on the money. 

Gina Trapani sums it up on her blog: "creative types–need half or whole days to produce anything that solves
complicated problems. Managers schedule out their workdays in hour-long
blocks. When managers schedule makers into midday meetings, they kill
creative productivity in real but not-obvious ways
."

I have always gravitated to the maker's schedule.  Even when living by the manager's.  I used to do (sometimes still do) the same thing Graham mentions - work two days for every one.  Daytime running on the manager's schedule and then hitting the makers - in the evening / night.  Lately I attempt to pull off the office hours trick.  I limit my manager's schedule stuff to the afternoons of two or three days out of the week.  I even block the time on my schedule - hoping that others will see me as busy and not schedule me into those one hour meetings during my maker periods.  So far results are mixed.


Town Square

Town Square

Over the last several years I've attended quite a few functions at an area around the art museum in the middle of our downtown area.  There are concerts, festivals, and for the last couple of years a weekly farmers market.  After spending a little time at the market last night and having some conversations (in person and online) I realized something interesting.   This kind of thing is getting to be very common in most cities and large towns.  We seem to be returning to our roots a bit. 

There was a time when cities and tows were built around a central square that was used as a market and a place for public performance etc.  This evolved into downtown business areas and then as cities sprawled outward - moved to malls.  Now there seems to be a trend to return to the town square.  At least a little. 

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tron Legacy


Watch the High Def version if you can. There is some awesome cool detail in there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How to deal with bankers

This story reminds me of purchasing my first new car. I was in my early 20's at the time - took my mom with me as a co-signer since I didn't really have any credit.

Even though my mother could have written a check for several of these cars, the loan officer was asserting his "power" and playing the usual intimidation games with me. When he started acting like he was going to turn me down, I informed him that I had the funds on deposit with his bank to purchase the car outright (I did) and that it was his choice. Make the loan and earn the interest, or lose the deposit.

He reached across the desk and congratulated me on my new loan.

I vowed to always work with a local bank and to always have leverage of some sort when I did. It's worked well for me so far. Now if only my car payments were closer to that original loan...

Via BoingBoing:

Artist takes $190,000 out of bank because they won't give him a mortgage


Monday, July 20, 2009

40 Years Ago



40 years ago today I was with my great grandfather in the playground across the street from my grandmother's home. She had called to him several times because even at his age he was still climbing the slide and playing on the swings with me.

The last time she called we went running back to the house. He pulled that ugly green chair up about 3 feet from the screen like he always did. He fished out the brick of tobacco he kept snapped into his chest pocket and cut off a hunk. I remember the pocket knife he used had been sharpened so many times the brown blade was curved a little. He used the blade to pop the tobacco into his mouth. I was about to ask about it and he shushed me as the voice of Walter Cronkite announced the events unfolding live.

40 years ago I sat on the floor next to an old cowboy sitting too close to the big Zenith. Next to a man that came west as a boy in a covered wagon and saw the world from the back of a horse for most of his life. I sat there wide eyed, less than 50 years from that first flight at Kitty Hawk. I sat there 40 years ago and watched with the rest of the world stunned and amazed.

Incredible!

Start Seeing


It's riding season and the fatalities are happening. I didn't know this man but I'm still taking his needless death quite hard. I'm so terribly sad for his family, and for those in the car that hit him too. They will travel with that moment for the rest of their lives. As a "biker" I'm all too familiar with this issue. I've been cut off and put my bike down. I know first hand what pavement feels like when it takes your skin. Almost daily someone turns left in front of me or changes lanes into or directly in front of me. Assuming I'm invisible and that everyone is out to kill me are the only reasons I'm alive today.



Most drivers think that motorcyclists die on the highway or that those shirtless idiots doing a wheelie on the freeway are the number one organ donors. According to the NHTSA 50% of fatalities involve another vehicle and of those 38% (in 2005) were turning left as the bike was moving straight or overtaking. That is - the biggest killer of motorcyclists are drivers turning left in front of an on coming bike or worse - turning left from the right lane! They all say the same thing - "I didn't see him".




Every person involved in a wreck are a father, brother, daughter, wife, husband, mom, sister, boy or girl friend to someone. If you turn without looking and kill another person. Imagine living with that.

This last video is fairly shocking but exactly illustrates the problem.



Starting with your morning or evening commute today. LOOK for motorcycles. LOOK before you turn. Double check that "opening" in traffic. LOOK before you change lanes. Put down the phone!

If you are a fellow rider. Please wear the gear. Assume you are invisible at all times and take the MSF course. Even though I had to pick scabs for 6 weeks - I'm convinced it saved my life and I'm going to go back for the advanced rider course.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Insurance Company VP Tells all to Bill Moyers




Every voting American needs to spend 30min and see this interview.

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07102009/watch2.html


Related:

Painful Socialization: My original posting on health care. (Warning - it's loaded with actual facts and references.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to never go over your minutes again


A little trick with Google Voice can keep you from using almost any minutes on your wireless plan, that is if you are with a carrier that lets you register frequently called numbers for no cost calls. Plans like "Friends and Family" or "My Circle".

How it works: First register your Google voice number with your carrier as one of your choices. This way calls to and (usually) from Google voice will be free. Next go into your contacts list and add a new number for each contact in this form - google voice number, pause (usually commas), 2, 10 digit number of your contact, #

That's it. Just use the new number whenever you place calls. Assuming you have issued your google voice number to your contacts as your "new" number you should almost never have the need to use any of your wireless plan minutes.

A gift from me to you...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Wyofile

Why did it take me so long to find this site?...

http://wyomingreview.com/



Whats even more interesting is that I did a little digging and discovered that they are hosting their servers with a Wyoming based data center that is entirely green.

http://greenhousedata.com/

Monday, June 08, 2009

Cutting the Cable


Cutting the Cable

Part of my six months of exile I've run a little experiment. No cable TV. I know, I know, my friends that are used to discussing the latest episode of Lost or Heroes or Battlestar with me will find that hard to imagine. Me without cable! What's even more amazing is that where I'm at is so rural that you also cannot get TV over the air. The only thing the idiot box has been used for is video games and DVDs.

How did I do it? All hail the Internet!

I'm here to say - it is possible. Thanks to Hulu, TV.com, the various network and channel sites that stream and of course Netflix. Someone in the cable industry recently said something like "we offer all the content you can get on your computer - with a more comfortable chair". Pretty much true. I've kept up on all the shows that really matter to me. Basically a day (or more) behind their first run on TV. Here's my summary of the experiment:

The Pros.

  • Free!
  • Better than a DVR since you don't even need to set it.
  • Networks well represented.
  • Internet only content. Stuff you can't get on your TV. There is LOTS of this and I'm not counting Youtube.
  • Really good picture quality on modern monitors. (get rid of the CRT)
  • Did I mention Free!
  • Surf while you watch (small window)
  • Limited and sometimes zero commercial interruption.
  • If you have a multi-monitor setup you can surf while you watch full screen

The Cons.
  • Most cable channels like FX, Food, Discovery, Fuse, SciFi etc do not offer ANY content.
  • Unless you have a multi monitor setup you cannot watch full screen AND surf or do anything else. Of course doing this with the TV requires your computer so this one doesn't really count.
  • Pay networks like HBO do not offer content - with the exception of Itunes and even then it's dated and limited.
  • If you have a slow connection (and everyone does from time to time) - you are pretty much hosed.
  • Most content is available at least a day after the original air date so you have to avoid the water cooler.
  • You probably aren't sitting in your la-z-boy.

Conclusions:

The overall experience has been that I am more active in what I watch. When I do watch, it's time set aside for it - like reading. There is little to none of what I call being a "drive-by couch tater". You know - when you are bored and just turn on the TV and watch whatever catches your eye. I think it's been great. I am really torn about hooking back to that constant feed when I return home. I'll most likely do it though. The only real Internet service in my 'hood is cable so I'll have it anyway. (Plus Trueblood is about to start.) I will most likely setup a media center pc of some sort and hook it to both cable and the Internet. Now I'm eyeing low end PC's and the Mac Mini for just such a purpose.

In the end I think that cable TV as we currently know it is starting to circle the drain. There are only a few things stopping a mad rush to Internet TV right now. Someone needs to come up with a way to make getting standard broadcast / cable content at least DVR simple and the hardware to cost less than $300. Internet TV needs some standard to allow users to string it together. Like RSS has done for podcasts and blogs. The networks/cable channels need to pull their collective heads out and offer shows at the same time they air and the pay services need to realize that the same model will work on the Internet. For example your ISP or media center vendor could charge for your ability to stream from HBO. Broadcast channels (and some Internet only channels) are already finding that companies will purchase advertising on their sites and shows in a similar fashion to broadcast tv. The last thing blocking the rush is the usual fraction of the population that dislikes change - or at least doesn't deal well with it. For these folks we will see conventional stations and cable hang on pathetically - like standard telephones and dial-up Internet are doing today.

I'm sure this won't happen for at least 10 years though. The cable industry will surely follow the record and movie industry in trying to preserve it's outdated business model. Time Warner is already at it with it's attempts at download caps. In the end - like always the consumer will suffer but eventually win the battle. 10 years from now an ISP won't be able to do business unless it offers a min download speed (likely to be at least 100mbs) with no caps but for now we will have to shake our heads at the coming wave of stupidity.

It's almost there folks - for now if you are a person that doesn't watch much TV or only follows a few shows you can probably do it without much fuss and with fairly substantial savings. If you consider channel surfing an activity in itself... Hold on to your cable - for now.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Picture of the year



Winner and runners up here: http://tinyurl.com/d8cbau

Monday, June 01, 2009

Funny Shoes

Funny Shoes


Dude, What's with the Gecko feet?

In the category of "Stuff I like" - my Vibram Five Fingers shoes. For the best explanation I've seen (and the post that ultimately pushed me over the edge to buy the silly things) visit this post from Tim Ferriss (yes the author of The 4-Hour work Week)

Loss of Adventure.

Loss of Adventure.

This last week I had a couple of shocks to my adventure circuit. I've always been mad about experiencing the world. I thank my parents for that. They liked to travel - never owned expensive toys (until recently) like boats, rv's or atv's. In fact I'm sure that we were pretty much the last family to get color TV, a VCR, and most certainly a microwave oven. I spent most of my "off time" as a kid either riding around this great country in a VW Bus, traipsing around some other country or continent or climbing all over the Rockies. Habits I've continued, and will until they hopefully end me.

I was just the other day experiencing my regular "adventure wave". This is something that happens to me fairly often. I start to think about all the things I've done and it just fuels the fire for more. Then I soon find myself out searching. Sometimes in a plane or my trusty Xterra but more and more on the back of my beloved motorcycle. Shortly I will embark on another cross country drive so I'm trying to channel that spirit towards the trip and not let the wanderlust take me in the meantime and derail my well laid plans. Ask me how it worked out in a few weeks...

Anyway the first part of the shock came when I was talking to a friend that had just returned from Mexico. A country where I've had some really great experiences. Diving in caves, Snorkeling in sink-holes, being a drunken blister on the beach, pushing my luck in the bad part of town, and climbing the pyramid at Chichen Itza. My friend had just visited what sounded like really familiar spots including the great pyramid. The shock came when he told me that you are no longer allowed to climb.

A little part of me died that moment. Realizing that the US "pussification" had at long last made it to our southern neighbor.

When I was a kid we would play until dark, walk to school, play chase, get in fights, jump our bikes and swim in the river. Now as parents we live under the constant threat of someone turning us in to DFS for letting our kids play in the front yard with toys not made out of foam all while wearing DOT approved helmets. We used to be able to hike, climb and look over the edge of just about anything. We would cross rope bridges just for the thrill of spitting into the river below and stand on the edge of the cliff for the view and holler to play with the echo. Now we cant get anywhere near these things unless there is a stainless and plexi fence and we pay an entry fee. Oh and the rope bridge is closed for our protection (and to keep loogies out of the river).

Then I had a second shock. This time it went the other way. My kids had been asking to go to a place called "Green Springs". This last Saturday we went. This place is every modern parent's nightmare. It's basically a collection of old splintery wood and dock pilings held together with rusty nails in a shallow part of the river. There are several levels and a tower. Several rope swings, a couple of rope bridges (the kind with a rope above and below - like in boy scouts in days past) and even a rusty zip line. There is no lifeguard, no admission fee and no concession stand selling diet soda and low carb snacks. And you know what. IT WAS A BLAST!

While we were there kids were running (gasp), swinging and doing flips into the brown river water, jumping off the top of a 40ft tower and laying in the sun without sunscreen (OMG!).



Afterward we had Pizza and Cheeseburgers. What a great day!

My plea, if you are reading this. Do what you can to keep adventure alive. Take your kids to wild places. Not just the sterile - safe for the masses amusements. Don't sue because you got a splinter in your pinkie. Teach your sons that not only is it important to wash your hands but that it's also important to not pee into the wind. Occasionally - duck under the rope and see where it leads you. And when you run into a long haired, over-fed, leaping gnome - buy him a beer and listen as he stokes the fire by recounting tales of Kenya, Ecuador, and Wyoming...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thank You

Ghosts of the Koren War. Taken on my trip to DC in April.

Today is a day for remembering the sacrifice our uniformed men and women and all those around them have made for our country. Having visited the memorials for Vietnam, Korea and WWII in the past few weeks and being so strongly moved by them. The report of this trip really struck home for me.

Thank you also today to those that made it possible for these heroes to visit their beautiful memorial and feel the gratitude of their nation.

http://tinyurl.com/ocneah

Friday, May 22, 2009

This just in...


Senator John Barraso (R-WY) presents WWII vets with jelly dildos!

*Not really - but this photo was in his weekly GOP propaganda spam and I just couldn't resist.

Monday, May 18, 2009

NYPD tells officers photagraphy is legal.

All my years carrying a camera - I never thought I'd see the need for a government to tell police that taking pictures is legal. If you are going to be in NYC it might be worth printing this and sticking it in your wallet...

http://tinyurl.com/q2qa8x

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How to keep a geek up all night:



Simply amazing! The first computational knowledge engine. The possibilities as Alpha grows are staggering.

Now go play and don't say I didn't warn you!

http://www.wolframalpha.com/

Friday, May 15, 2009

Muni Don’t Take My Kodachrome





I know this borders on political and I pledged to put that kind of thing on my Daily Kos page but hey, It's my party and I can't resist. I hate the infringement of any of our constitutional rights. Stopping photographers is absolutely ludicrous. I sure wish the Obama administration would take interest in restoring the bill of rights.

The hilarious (and bogus) id above is courtesy of Matthew Williams and his blog. Has several good resources for photographers interested in not going to jail. Who knows - one of these might work with a cop or guard idiot enough to try and enforce non-existent laws. His full posting can be had here: http://tinyurl.com/owyhlh

UPDATE:

Since I posted this originally (yesterday) the id card has disappeared from the original blog posting. Not just the image but any mention of it. Unknown as to the reason.

UPDATE:

Had some email with Mr. Williams and he confirmed that took down the card due to legal reasons. It appears he has gotten some legal advice and the card is back on his site - along with a rather serious disclaimer. http://tinyurl.com/owyhlh
View the details in the large image here http://tinyurl.com/r7fdus

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Kindle II



Kindle 2

A geek review.


I've had my Kindle for about 2 weeks now. Long enough to fall for it. There it is. You need read no further if all you are looking for is a recommendation. Assuming you are still reading here are my impressions and probably some stuff you haven't read anywhere else.

The un-boxing. Out of a possible 5 point score - I give it a 3. At first blush I was impressed with the packaging. Like any good tree-hugger I loathe over-packaged products. I think that there should be a tax on every layer. Increasing by 100% for each successive layer and set initially by the material (Styrofoam and plastic bubble/clamshell pack starting in the $100 per ounce range). We have all seen the glamor packaging of Apple's sexy products. The kindle in many ways falls into that glamor hardware category so I was bracing myself for some flashy acrylic display quality thing. Somehow the package for the kindle manages to hit the just right mark for this aging hippy, with one large wart - while still being suitably impressive and keeping the unboxing experience fun.

I expected it to arrive, like most electronic shipments - by itself a box big enough to hold a Jack Russell and two soccer balls - and for the books I had also ordered to show up separately. Amazon ships the kindle signature required. Very annoying if you are having it delivered to your home. I suggest having it shipped to your office if such things are ok with your employer. To it's credit UPS did call me the day before with a warning that they would be attempting a "very important" delivery. Being that I'm currently a home worker made that OK but I generally find signature required shipments to be a really huge pain in the ass.

To my surprise, the total shipment showed up in a box that would almost hold two 2l bottles. In it - the kindle in a box the size of a largish hard cover. The three dead tree editions I had also ordered and a couple of those low impact balloons to hold everything in place. The Kindle box was sealed. Interesting since I had heard that they custom setup your kindle and register it to your amazon account before it ships out. There was a nice zip pull on the side - that actually came off neatly in one pull.

(Here's a slide show of my unboxing photos )

Inside of that is a glossy black paper board package - also with a working zip pull. The paper board turned out to be just a wrapper holding a recycled, pressed cardboard (like an egg crate) black tray and it's lid together. Removing the lid reveals the Kindle - in a cradle of plastic. Hard plastic that could be the same stuff as the kindle case itself. The plastic tray has a big recycle logo pressed into the back that identifies it as polypropylene. This is the stuff that makes up the lid of a soda bottle. Almost no recycling centers take this stuff. This is the big looser of an otherwise great package. Amazon, this tray should be made of the same pressed cardboard as the rest. Under the tray you find a "getting started" pamphlet and a really nicely designed power adapter / usb cable.

The device ships with a getting started page displayed on the device itself. This is your first introduction to e-ink. Since the display does not require any power to hold an image Amazon can set it and leave it. After plugging it in to charge the device wakes up and you can begin playing. It comes with a users guide and a welcome letter from Jeff Bezos on the unit. It is physically smaller than I expected. It's about the same height and width as a paperback from Penguin or Oreilly. It's about the same thickness as a first generation Iphone.

Controls - at first I was a little put off with the controls. They seemed clunky and hard to press. Especially the 5 way "stick". Users of touch screen devices will find themselves trying to touch on-screen buttons. In fact, I still catch myself doing that even after a couple of weeks. You quickly realize however that having a touch screen would be a bad thing on the kindle. Whenever I've accidentally put a fingerprint on the screen I'm immediately "huffing and buffing" to get rid of it. Also when you inevitably fall asleep reading in bed - the kindle usually falls to your chest screen down. With a touch screen you would end up god knows where in your latest book.

The controls eventually won me over. You rarely use anything but the page turn buttons that are nicely placed and by far the largest buttons on the device. The page turn buttons require a firm press and click nicely when you do. A frequent complaint from the version 1 users was that it was too easy to turn the page when picking up, setting down or handing the device to someone else. I've managed to do that only one time in two weeks of reading on the II. Now I mostly put the device to sleep when I set it down or carry it, avoiding any chance of a miss-press.

Use - It's not entirely intuitive. Most anyone should be able to get the basics without reading the manual but there are things that bear some investigation and RTFM. Using the kindle store is quite simple. The only complication I can imagine would be payment method - this is tied to whatever your default address's 1-click payment method is set to. Even if you don't use 1-click. Changing this on the Amazon web page is not the simplest thing to do. The second is that it's fairly easy to purchase a book even when you don't mean to do so. Amazon does give you a second chance - immediately after you mistakenly click the purchase button. After that - you own the book.

Other things like putting your own documents on the device bear a quick read of the sections that cover those topics. Amazon offers a nice service that will convert common formats like .doc and .pdf to work on the kindle. There are two ways of going about this. One will cost you a quarter for each document. The other is free. The difference is which email address you send the documents to. One will convert the document and automatically send it to your kindle wirelessly. The other will convert it and send you an email with a link where you can download the converted items. You then need to transfer them to the kindle yourself via USB.

Putting your own stuff on the kindle is simple via USB. The kindle shows up as a standard USB storage device to any modern operating system. If you are still running windows 98, OS9, or a Linux distro older than 5 years - you have no business owning a kindle. Besides the kindle format it can handle about 5 other e-book formats (without DRM), MP3 files (player is in the "experimental" menu) and two formats of Audible books. For those of you that don't know - Amazon actually owns Audible.

Whispernet - it works. It runs on the Sprint pcs network but Amazon has apparently worked out roaming agreements. With the Kindle II it's available in most areas of the country. Even very rural areas without Sprint coverage (I've tested. Belive me). While we are on this subject - there is now an experimental web browser on the kindle. It's serviceable. The kindle screen is only capable of limited grey scale. Not sure if it's 16 or 64 shades. Most photos don't render very well. It's enough to read most blogs or to do a quick google though. I understand the experimental stuff is NOT on the version 1 and that the wireless coverage remains only in sprint covered areas. Not sure if this will change with future software updates.

I've not tried the mp3 player as it seems mp3 players are the new digital clock. The come on everything. Plus I don't want to fill space on the Kindle with music when I have devices that are dedicated and much more pocketable. The text to speech is interesting. I guess if I wanted to continue a book in the car for example I would make use of it. It's not going to threaten good audio books at all. It would be useful as an accessibility tool if it worked in the menus but it doesn't.

What the Kindle does - and does really well is work as a book reader. I've read books on various PDAs - phones and even laptops over the years. I really like e-books but this is even better than paper as far as novels are concerned. Convenient page turns, nice size, readable non-glare screen. At least as portable as a small paperback. You can write notes. Highlight passages. Look up unknown words in the built in dictionary and even search Wikipedia directly from the Kindle. You can carry pretty much your whole library with you (about 1000 books) and the best thing - you can get new stuff RIGHT NOW. Instant gratification! Better than overnight or going to the local bookstore and almost always for $9.99 or less. You don't even need that stupid little hunk of toilet paper as a bookmark (you know you do it).

The downsides are that you can't line shelves with books and you can't loan what you have read to friends. It also isn't particularly great for magazines and newspapers. Most people don't read papers and magazines in a linear format. Also photographs in magazines don't translate well and if you are interested in the ads - they are usually absent. The Kindle is is only marginally better than paper for reference material as the search function is a little clunky. The main advantage is in portability.

Overall you will have to pry this gadget out of my cold dead hands. A device that indulges my ADD (having a lot of selection), my impatience (Immediate delivery), and my insatiable appetite for reading material - WOW!

Many user photos of the kindle including menus / notes / the dictionary etc can be seen on Amazon's user photo page: http://tinyurl.com/cyflcz

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cross Country Adventure

In June I'll once again be driving across our great and beautiful country. This time however I have more than the 3 LONG days I had last time. This time I'm traveling with my sons and want to experience as much as we can.

So far my oldest has requested a visit to Graceland. My youngest - The St. Louis Arch.

Between North Carolina and Wyoming there is an awful lot of country. So I'm asking the collective. Where should we visit? What should we not miss?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The new conciousness.

The new consciousness. 

I really hate to post yet another blog mentioning the importance of twitter.  Actually twitter is just a part of my topic. After seeing and participating in twitter during the election.  Following along as thousands reacted to the various debates and events as they happened.  As the former standard twitter newbie I started to see some use for this weird tool.  Then months later I learned about an earthquake on twitter - hours before it hit the regular news feeds.  In the begining, hearing first hand experiences from people that I know or follow.  Then following # tags and twitter searches.  Not only was I watching just the text stream, but photos and video.  Posted from phones, tablets and laptops on the scene.

I realized at that point that twitter (and whatever is coming next) plus the vast penetration of hand held devices is something new.  Something never before in existence.  I thought of the sci-fi writers visions of societies that are all connected via some kind of implant of telepathy.  I shivered a little I think and realized we are seeing the birth of a new kind of collective consciousness.  Phones, video cams and laptops have made all of us on-scene reporters.  The wireless infrastructure - connected to the internet becomes a kind of global sensor net.  




I thought about this allot.  You have a generation now that has never seen paper encyclopedias and think that phone books are something only old people use.  They move about inside of their social groups no matter where they are.  Unlike those that came before them, never leaving these groups in fact.  I used to leave mine when mom called me in for the night - or when we went on vacation.  Now the new generation never exits, except for the occasional shower or sleep.  Plus these groups have no boundaries.  In fact my own sons maintain friends across the country.   And it's not a passing thing for them.  They have done so for years. Dealing with freinds in a digital manner is totally normal for this generation.

At a moments notice these social groups will spring on anything happening.  Like white blood cells called to an injury site they swarm and twitter / txt / email / video / photograph every little part of it.  Connected groups pick it up and it moves accross the globe in no time.  Just like a large organism.  An earthquake happens in California.  I know about it - as it is still happening - in North Carolina.   Just like the brain knows you just stepped on something sharp.

This net goes further however.  If I need to know, say the best route to take from JFK to an address in midtown.  I'm one 140 character message away from answers that only local would know.  I can't think of a good name for a new pet - I shoot a photo of the new puppy and the net answers with 50 really great possibilities.  I can't make the regular meeting of the coffee clutch tonight - I shoot out another message and moments later the meeting has been re-located and re-scheduled.  Amazing what a collective consiouness can accomplish.  This is happening in a very viral way too.  First I get sucked into txt messaages with my kids.  Hmm start liking that.  Shooting little bits of info around.  Then a freind talks me onto facebook.  Forward a few months and now I find myself chatting with a freind from junior high over coffee every morning.  Another that I worked with 10 years ago meets me at my desk and keeps me company as I slave over my keyboard.  Then as the sun moves along - my best freind from high school comes online.  After dinner I sit down to chat (sometimes face to face) with any of several other freinds old - and new.  Some on other continets.  Some litereally in the next room.

Ok so those of you reading this - how many have used a txt message to call the kids to dinner?  Used IM to chat with the person in the next cube?  Used IM or txt messages to carry on a side conversation durring a meeting - or sent live updates about a concert or even a convention or trade show out via twitter?  Or even just changed your status on facebook as the day wears on.  See how it's grown into your being too. 

How does it feel to be a neuron?  I kinda like it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Writers block

Really falling down on my blogging the last couple of weeks. Had two weeks of of 7 to 7 on-the-phone kind of workdays. When it finally lets off I'm so sick of the keyboard I can't even look at it. I have had some really good ideas though. Stay tuned. Hopefully the ideas will bear fruit.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I hate April 1st!

I HATE April 1st! The worst day of the year for people that live online. It was bad enough when I was a kid. My parents would short sheet the bed or replace my drinks with something else. Friends would make lame attempts at fooling me with stories about upcoming albums or video games. Yawn.

Now with the Internet everyone has to be a joker. Even sites that a person normally trusts, think they are oh-so-damn-funny with fake news stories. Online catalogs put up fake crap you can't order. Your favorite sites put up fake pages or announce they are being bought out for huge sums. I'm betting this year the fad will be that they are filing for bankruptcy or applying for a bail out. Or somehow changing the business model due to the economy. The worst is that every person in your contact list send you emails trying childish things like attempts at rickroll gags or tricks to get you to view disgusting photos.

All of which is normally funny. When no-one is expecting it. Just NOT on the same fraking day that the billion or so other idiots with Internet connections think they are the only ones that can pull a prank. Read my lips. YOU ARE NOT FUNNY.

This year - be original - be different. Don't be a lame ass internet joker on April 1. Surprise me - Please!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Star Trek Punk!

Sorry to keep posting Youtube stuff but this is just awesome!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Non Sequitur

I guess I'm the cranky geek this week. Continuing the theme setup by my distaste for the Iphone and said fanboys - I have a rant on a behavior that drives me little by little closer to the edge.

Since changing my working situation a couple of months ago I have set about many things. One of the more minor is changing the flavor of ham that makes it way to my mailbox. (Three descending kinds of email. Bacon, Ham, and then the dreaded Spam) As an IT manager I was on all manner of mailing lists and got stuff from many vendors and a ton of newsletters on the full gamut of IT related topics and vertical industry stuff.

In my new role my interests are much more focused. So most of the stuff I used to get I'm now unsubscribing from. Most of the senders get it. I click the link to unsub and that's it. A few however seem to think that this is a good time to send me yet more unwanted mail. Like the confirmation web page isn't enough. They need to send me an email saying "we've received your request". Then another with "We are reviewing your request", Then yet another with "we have removed your name". Often followed by yet another that has links in case I ever change my mind. Wait didn't you just say you removed my name? WTF?

All you have done, my seemingly lonely e-friend, is make sure I never give you any business. Stop it.

This is as stupid as companies that insist on the telephone follow up to an email query. If the customer had wanted to waste time talking to a sales drone - he would call one in the first place. Take my advice. Be logical and return the communication on the same channel it began on. You will significantly increase your chances of making the sale.

Case in point. The last time I went looking for a new vehicle. Like many savvy modern car shoppers I did my research online. I knew the exact car I wanted. Knew it's real dealer cost. Had my personal budget planned and knew what my trade-in should bring. I contacted several dealers via their web sites inquiring about price and availability of the specifics I was looking for.

All but two of them simply added me to their mailing lists. Down to two possibilities. Of those two, one refused to get me any information via email - said I should "stop by" and they would answer all my questions. Even when I pointed out that "stopping by" a dealer 300 miles away was really impractical they refused. Down to one.

The last dealer not only answered my questions but let me know when they got in a 1 year old trade in that met my specs. Of course as a used trade it would save me a ton of money. They even gave me an estimate on my trade. I told them I was interested and setup an appointment. After I purchased the vehicle I searched out the dealership management and told him that I purchased from them due to the way their "online sales manager" had responded.

Similar story on my motorcycle purchase. I also have pizza delivered only from stores that take online orders. You see as a customer I made a choice of communications channel. I thought about it. Every time I order on the phone I get something I didn't want. Online - I click "repeat last order" and 30min later I'm happy. The next time I want to play roulette with my order I'll call you - thanks. Gratefully, these places seem to get that.

When a customer tells you to stop. Stop. When a customer emails a question - email a response. If you need a phone call to truly answer, use email to setup an appointment to talk. Consider that the customer might work nights and calling him in the middle of the day will really put a lid on any sale you might make. Simple - whenever a customer contacts you it's a good thing. Don't blow it being dumb. Are you listening IBM? Hello?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why the Iphone sucks


Who isn't sick of the smug Iphone owners? I played with one at the Apple store when they first came out. After about 5 minutes of trying to like it what I really wanted was to do was throw it at the wall. Just like a supermodel it's all beauty on the outside but a vacuous bitch on the inside. Try typing on that stupid on-screen keyboard. Try texting an Iphone user your number or anything important and watch them scramble for a pen to write on their hand...

Now all the fanboys are rubbing their hands together over tomorrow's pending os 3.0 release. Hoping that the damn thing will finally have the features I've had since 1995 on my Kyocera smartphones and Treos and Centro. This posting lists off the shortcomings in full detail. http://tinyurl.com/d53xto

Hey Iphone boy - Save $300 and drop $49 on a Centro. Get all of those features - plus a real frackin keyboard - and STFU!