Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tom Peters Project '04

Just got finished reading the new Tom Peters book, Project '04.  You can get most of the components of the book from these various places:

The missing parts, I haven't been able to find them online:

    • Excellence: I'll Know it When I See It
    • Pity the Poor Brown

So what's the point in buying the book if you can download most of the parts?  Quite frankly, you can do what you want, but even though there is no real common thread to the book, everything seems to flow together as it has been assembled, and the book only costs about $10 (note: you are looking for an 8.5x11 spiral-bound book, not a standard hardcover or paperback).  As Tom says:

So ...

What is it/this?


My eleventh book was published in October 2003.  Book pubs are life's punctuation marks for authors.  Yet one does not lie fallow forever thereafter ...

Hence, what follows.

Badly organized.  (No organization at all, in fact.)  Yet "stuff" I needed to say.


Some "stuff" takes but a page.  Some goes on and on.  I am not displeased with the outcome.  (Why else would I have foisted it upon you?)

Most of the "stuff" is SUMMARY "stuff."  Draft efforts to s-u-m-m-a-r-i-z-e a lifetime's worth of observations.
(For better or ... for worse.)

Enjoy! (I enjoyed doing it.)

Here's my suggestion: Buy the book.  Read it cover-to-cover.  Repeat.  Send chunks of information to people that you think need it; use the links I provided above.  Extract some lessons and attach them to the signature of your e-mail; hell, copy one of the items below:

It's all about brand-you.

It's all about Me, Inc.

It's all about WOW projects. 


Keyword: Engage

The one-two punch for TiVo

As if it isn't bad enough that TiVo is cutting its own throat with the banner advertising, according to this post on Engadget, DirecTV is readying a release of its own DVR product.  According to the post, TiVo received fully 3/4 of their new subscribers last quarter from DirecTiVo.  From the post:

They wouldn’t say much about them, except that they’ll have all the same features that TiVo boxes have now (apart from the 30-second skip, which is technically a hidden feature on TiVo anyway), as well as integrated video on demand and pay-per-view features.

Gadget gift guide roundup

Gizmodo is listing links to a bunch of gadget gift guides to assist you in finding the perfect gift for your favorite propellorhead.  Happy shopping!

MERGE cellphone dock

Only have a cell phone and no home phone?  Do you get unlimited nights and weekends with your plan?  To make sure that you are getting the most out of your unlimited minutes, get the MERGE dock that allows you to use your Motorola cell phone to connect to a landline phone to make and receive calls.  Apparently the dock supports caller-ID, call waiting, call forwarding, and voice-dialing.  Although it doesn't make it extremely clear, it sounds like you can choose to make a call on your land-based service or your cell service simply by pressing the "#" sign on your land-based phone.  Cost of this?  Only $99!  Here's the compatibility list.  Thanks to this Engadget post for the picture and info.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Strange things are afoot on Target.com -

Target.com was first noted for selling the anal massage (note that this link may no longer be active) a week or so ago.  Now, according to this post on Boing Boing, Target is selling marijuanaCrack and MDMA.  Why is this happening?  Well, this Boing Boing post explains it:

"Mystery solved: A little poking around in the item information for Target's"Anal Massage item reveals an ASIN. This is because Amazon and Target are business partners and ASINs are the unique identifiers used by Amazon. So if you go to Amazon and search for this item's ASIN (B0002KPIBO) you learn that (unfortunately) the item in question is not an actual anal massage, but rather an instructional DVD called "Anal Massage."

I am sure that all of these blog reports are sending loads of traffic to the Target website, but it's probably not the kind of visitors that Target is looking for.

Seth Godin recently had a post asking a question as to whether or not IT guys should be running a business website.  He pointed to a frustration that he had using the Air Canada website, which was driven by a technical problem.  Similarly, based on the explanation above, the problems on the Target site a driven by a technical problem that is causing what I am sure is frustration for Target.

Is this ASIN sharing a problem that was anticipated by the programming staff for Target?  Probably not.  But it does beg the question as to whether or not others should have been involved in the design process to mitigate problems like this.

I switched to Cingular

To Cingular from Nextel.  Although I have been a supporter of Nextel for quite some time, they are simply too far behind where I want to be with my phone; the opportunity cost of not having a smartphone now outweighs the PTT Nextel functionality.

I lucked out in that I was able to pick up a Motorola MPX220 at Best Buy on Saturday for $349 less a $300 mail-in rebate; I also bought the Best Buy replacement policy for $39, which apparently was enough spending for them to give me a $25 Best Buy gift card.  What was especially nice about this deal was that I only had to sign a 1-year contract, rather than a 2-year deal (most smartphones require a 2-year deal to allow the carrier to subsidize the price of the phone).

They couldn't activate the date package for me at Best Buy, but I called today and activated the unlimited internet package and international roaming (another Nextel deficiency) with no problem at all, which is nice as I do travel outside the country sometimes.

I have yet to find a place where the Cingular signal is worse than my Nextel signal and in most places, especially in my office, the signal is stronger.

A few additional added bonuses to Cingular:

  • Being able to put my SIM card in any unlocked GSM phone.
  • Rollover minutes (I tend to use many more minutes in the summer than I do in the winter).
  • International service (yes, I know I already mentioned this).
  • Amazing customer service -- I have not waited any longer than 2 minutes to talk to a rep.
  • Free in-network calling to any Cingular/ATT subscriber -- I know a lot of people with Cingular/ATT phones.

The MPX220 sync'd very easily with Outlook.  I was not looking for push e-mail service, although Motorola is supposed to release a Blackberry client for the phone and, if my IS&T department allowed it, the phone syncs over the air with Active Sync that is built into the Exchange 2003 server.

All in all, I have to say that I am very satisfied.

Great Review of Mirra Personal Server

Looking for a low-cost back-up solution for your home or small office?  The Tablet PCs Weblog has a great 4 part review of the Mirra Personal Server device: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.  There a lots of screenshots and lots of personal advice as this is a hands-on review of the device.  The Mirra certainly seems to be worth the cost based on this review.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

TiVo's quarterly results call

Engadget has a post that details the views of a listener to TiVo's Quarterly results call yesterday.  Here are some of the highlights from that post:

  • TiVo to Go should be out before the end of this year.  Certainly much more quickly than I expected it.
  • The TiVo/Netflix partnership on demand video service should be out in the next 12 months.  I am sure that TiVo is hoping they'll still have enough subscribers to utilize this service.
  • 80% of TiVo users have broadband in their home.  That's extremely interesting.  Now why can't you set up a TiVo over the internet?  Why do you have to plug it into a land-based hone line for initial set up?  I guess this ties into the bullet above regarding video on demand: it will obviously be coming through the boradband pipe.
  • TiVo receives ad revenue from both their stand alone and DirecTiVo units.  Not surprising and I am sure that they will receive even more revenue from their banner advertising.

Some items directly from the listener:

  1. TiVo seems to be placing a great hope in the future of the TiVo/DVD recorder combo. Personally I think that this hope is misplaced. Although it’s a nice feature, ultimately with a 4.7 gig maximum storage space on a DVD you’re limited. I don’t think people really care about this and I think the longer-term sales numbers will be disappointing. Of course TiVo had to mention this as it is important to a number of their hardware partners.
  2. A more interesting area is the whole concept of TiVo to Go. TiVo to Go will allow users to get content off of their TiVo boxes (although I’d imagine not off of the HDTV DirecTV unit) and transfer the file to a PC or a laptop for remote viewing. The exciting thing that came out of the conference call was that CEO Mike Ramsey said to expect before this before the end of this year. Yikes! That’ s coming up quick. I’m looking forward to seeing this roll out.
  3. My personal favorite - the standalone HDTV TiVo DVR. In Ramsey’s words, they have seen “huge” demand for the DirecTV HDTV unit currently on market. This demand is causing TiVo to reconsider coming to market with a standalone HDTV DVR. Not exactly an announcement but it’s nice to know that they are thinking about this.
  4. Broadband content delivery. Ramsey said that the Netflix deal is real and not just a general agreement or hype. He said to expect a rollout of this deal within the next 12 months and sees this as the starting point of a longer initiative of delivering content via broadband. TiVo envisions a living room that has content inputs from both broadband and broadcasts and wants to own the machine in the living room (as does Microsoft of course).
  5. Although not as pressing of a priority right now, the last priority mentioned was continued development of the cable card.

Suspiciously absent from this is any mention of the banner advertising.  of course, that could be due to this:

. . . it’s really only selected analysts that get approved to ask the questions on these calls and they were pitched some fairly easy balls by their analyst friends today.


Engadget has a serious tutorial on how to use RSS and BitTorrent to automatically download TV shows.  Seems like a great alternative to TiVo if you have the patience and resources.

Buy a 2005 BMW Z4 for $5000!

So when I received the e-mail with that in the subject line, I immediately assumed it was spam.  However, I checked the sender and realized that it was an approved address from American Express; I opened the e-mail and was directed to this page.

Turns out that American Express is running a promotion that allows American Express cardholders to purchase high-ticket items at significant discounts for the next few days.  There are various quantities of different items available for purchase at 12PM, 4PM, and 9PM EST.  The items remaining for purchase are as follows:

  • Today -- Panasonic D-SNAP SV-AV50 video camera.  Retails for $400, but you can buy it on the AMEX site for $150 and there are 335 available.  This camera got a "fair" rating on its CNET Review.
  • Tomorrow -- Williams-Sonoma Baker Collection.  Retails for $170, but you can buy it on the AMEX site for $50 and there are 495 available.  This would probably make a good Christmas gift for someone that was into baking.
  • Friday -- The Art of Shaving engraved, nickel-plated shaving set that includes a stand, razor, and badger hair brush.  Retails for $770, but you can get it for $150 on the AMEX site.  I actually use an Art of Shaving brush myself and I have found that I get a much closer shave with less irritation by using the brush.  It would be nice to have the full set and the razor uses Mach 3 blades, my brand of choice.
  • Saturday -- Sigerson Morrison leather bag.  Retails for $860, but you can get it for $200 on the AMEX site and there are 250 available.  I have never heard of this brand, but I have asked a couple of people that I know about it (people that are into coutere) and they were pretty impressed.
  • Sunday -- NBA travel package for two to see the Heat vs. Lakers in lower level seats on Christmas Day, including round-trip first-class air and a 5-star hotel.  Retail price of the package is $5,400 (probably varies a little depending on where you are flying from), but you can get it on the AMEX site for $1000 and there are 10 packages available.  I am not a huge basketball fan, but this would be a really cool gift for someone that was into the game.
  • Monday -- this is the big ticket item!  A 2005 BMW Z4 3.0i roadster including round trip air fair to go pick the car up in South Carolina and attend the BMW Performance Driving Course.  Retail value of the package is $42,500, but you can buy it on the AMEX site for $5000 and there are 5 available.  I am certainly going to take a whack at trying to get it, wouldn't you?  I am certain that the odds on this one are horribly against me, but I've really got nothing to lose.
  • Tuesday -- this was just recently added: Treo 600 smartphone.  Retail for the phone is $450, but you can get it on the AMEX site for $150 and there are 300 available.  Unfortunately this is not the new Treo 650, but it's still a really good price for the 600 at this point.  I am assuming, based on the color of the phone in the picture, that this is an unlocked GSM model that you could use with T-Mobile or Cingular/ATT or any other GSM carrier (note that the AMEX site makes no mention as to whether or not the phone is carrier-locked).

Think this will cause people to go out and sign up for American Express cards?  I am sure that's what they're hoping and, if one of these gifts is on your list for someone, it certainly seems like a better deal than signing up for a store card to receive 10% off (assuming that you are lucky enough to be able to purchase one of the items above).

I'll let you know if I get to buy one of the BMWs or if I am successful in purchasing any of the other items.  Also, this promotion runs until December 21, so I'll try to update new items periodically as I see them pop up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

DVDs = disruptive technology for Hollywood

Read an interesting post on Brand Autopsy on how DVDs have totally disruptive the old "standard" business model for Hollywood.  From the post:

  • For consumers buying DVDs, 30% saw the movie in the theater, 30% saw it on cable, and 40% have never seen the film.
  • Despite being a critical purchase factor for consumers, the DVD extras (actor commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, alternative endings, etc.) are only viewed by 20% of DVD buyers.
  • ‘Eventize’ is the marketing idiom du jour being used in Hollywood. Eventize … as in, “We need to eventize the hell out of this release.”
  • Studios generate around $9.00 cash flow per DVD sold. [COST BREAKDOWN: Studios incur about $6.00 in costs (from production to marketing to royalty fees) to produce one DVD and they charge retailers a wholesale price of approx. $14.95 … leaving slightly more/less than $9.00 as positive cash flow per DVD sold.]
  • Given the profitability of DVDs, an unnamed Hollywood executive referred to DVDs as being, “… the corporate A.T.M. machine.”
  • Mega retailers dominate the consumer sales of DVDs with Wal-Mart capturing 22% of all DVD sales in the US. Best Buy, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, Circuit City, and Blockbuster combined are responsible for 42% of DVD sales.
  • With greater frequency, more films are receiving only a two-week theatrical run and then disappear only to reappear on the DVD market to exploit the ‘home-cinema’ market.
  • The emergence of the ‘home-cinema’ market is having a profound effect on how consumers experience motion pictures. Mark Rance, a DVD producer, explained this effect by saying, “What we’re used to is the 19th century theatrical experience: you go to a theater with a large group of people, you see a movie and enjoy it with a crowd. That’s being replaced now by, like, 20 people in your living room, like a book club watching a film they might not have heard of.”

Also from the post, and perhaps the most telling: ". . . DVDs now claim 63% of a film’s revenue (as generated through wholesale DVD sales to retailers) while box office receipts only account for 21% of a feature film’s revenue."

I rarely watch any of the DVD extras; if I do watch them, I only watch them once and I find many of them to be very disappointing.  It is interesting that everyone subconsciously feels the quick release cycle of DVDs -- I hear a lot more people saying, "I thought that was just in the the theater" than I have in the past.  However, I really wonder how sustainable DVDs are as a media.  Personally, I think that within the next 24-36 months (probably sooner for those of us on the left side of the chasm, but I'm talking about the general public), most people are going to be downloading their movies or simply viewing them on demand.  Steve Jobs seems to have been right in saying that people want to own their music (at least for now), but I don't think that people necessarily want to own their movies (with the possible exception of Disney DVDs that only are "released from the vault" every once and a great while).

Color lasers encode machine serial number in pictures

At least it's happening according to this post on BoingBoing:

Colour laser printer manufacturers encode each printout with the printer's serial number so they can trace it back to you if you are counterfitting bills. They can trace it back to you for anything else as well.

The reason you probably haven't heard much about it is because it (AFAIK) is only used by the Secret Service to trace counterfeit documents back to their source machines, and the Secret Service doesn't like to talk too much about means and methods.

For what it's worth, true or not, it's certainly interesting to consider (not that I am advocating counterfeiting of anything) how you could be tracked by a printer output.

The Perfect Wine Pour

Business 2.0 has this article about the Enoround automatic wine dispenser at VinoVenue in San Francisco.  More information from the article:

Each of VinoVenue's $20,000 Enoround carousels holds 16 bottles, and above each spout is an LED displaying the price per pour. Customers use smart cards to pay for their drinks. As the dispenser fills a glass, it replaces the lost liquid in the bottle with argon, an inert gas that seals the remaining wine against oxidation. That innovation preserves even white wine for as long as two months and allows VinoVenue to serve more than 110 vintages by the glass -- about three times the offerings of most wine bars.

Monday, November 22, 2004

TiVo update by way of Fast Company Now

Fast Company Now had this post following a conversation between Lucas Conley at Fast Company and TiVo PR:

I spoke with a member of TiVo's outside PR this afternoon - here's what we discussed:

  • TiVo will be serving up advertisements.
  • The advertisements will appear on recorded programs when you fast forward through commercials.
  • Advertisements will take the form of "small tags."
  • These tags will appear for about four seconds, or however long it takes to fast forward the commercial.
  • Users will be able to click the ad to learn more about the product or service.
  • Once they've clicked through, users can opt in and pass on their contact info.

I like the plan that I found on this post at Micro Persuasion:

Jackie Huba is tracking a big TiVo crisis brewing in the blogosphere over the ads they may insert over fast-forwarded advertising and says they could be the next Kryponite. She also tells the company it's not too late to act and offers a  sound four-point plan of PR attack...

1. Start working the media.
2. Monitor the blogosphere like an air-traffic controller.
3. Launch a program to include influential evangelist bloggers in your response.
4. Make rapid plans to launch a blog.

Dear TiVo.

You are getting slammed in the blogosphere; immediately follow the plan above.  Do not assume that getting information published in high profile blogs like Fast Company Now is going to solve your problems; do not assume that posting in the TiVo Community news groups is going to get the information to everyone that is concerned about this issue (I don't have a TiVo, so I am not a member of those groups).  Start a blog and start talking to the public directly -- you need to communicate with those that are already paying for your product (not me) and those that may have been interested in paying for your product (me). 

You are getting killed out here.



Drinking Pepsi Spice until Christmas

That's what this guy is doing and documenting on his blog.  Let me give you some of the choice quotes:


Pepsi holiday Spice Consumed:
24 (12oz cans)
1.5 (2 liters)

Health Effects Noted (If Any): Sneezing, extreme itching on neck area..looks like dry skin.

Pepsi holiday Spice Consumed:
24 (12oz cans)
4(2 liters)

Health Problems Today (if any): Itching Neck Vagina, Mild Bloody Nose, Diarrhea.

Pepsi holiday Spice Consumed:
24 (12oz cans)
6.5(2 liters)

Health Problems Today (if any): Mild Itching Neck, Mild Diarrhea, Mild desire to molest illegal Mexican worker.

Funny and disturbing at the same time.  With the advent of blogs, you no longer have to wait to get national attention for experiments like these.

Friday, November 19, 2004

For those of you that have not changed your default password on your network equipment . . .

. . . be warned!  Click right here to find the most comprehensive default password list for network equipment I have ever seen.

Go change the default password on your equipment right now!

"tivo banner ads" by Technorati

Do the search on Technorati and you receive this result:

Sorted by Most Recent 111 posts matching tivo banner ads Query took 0.545 seconds

That's up exponentially from when I searched early in the morning yesterday and got about a dozen results.  Lots of people are taking notice and very few of them seem to be happy about it. 

TiVo comments

Here are some comments from TiVoCommunity.com by way of this post on Church of the Customer:

I bought a TiVo because it allows me to skip commercials. I HATE commercials. I will do anything possible to circumvent commercials. I have a TiVo to block TV ads. I have an iPod so I don't have to listen to ads on the radio. I have a bunch of filtering proxy software in place so I never see ads on the Internet. Now you're telling me that while I am SKIPPING commercials I am going to be forced to watch commercials FROM TiVo? I don't think so. I refuse.

Years ago I bought a 40 hour Phillips SA [Stand-Alone TiVo]. I loved it and evangelized it to everyone I know. I then bought a DTivo [DirectTV TiVo] and evangelized THAT to everyone I know. I have PERSONALLY sold five DTivos and three SA Tivos. I also planned to buy a SA unit for my girlfriend this Christmas, until now. I will wait and hope that Tivo does the right thing here before condemning the company, but with all the recent changes at Tivo, I no longer actively evangelize them. If this comes to pass, I'll make sure I steer people AWAY. This is customer hostile, pure and simple.

I know Tivo is out to make money. But I don't think I am being naive saying that Tivo USED TO be one of those companies that was looking out for us. I can't say that they are anymore. There's lots of dollars to be made by selling out to Hollywood and TV, and I understand Tivo is trying to avoid getting sued, but by screwing us in the process they might find that their loyal subscriber base disappears. Will Tivo's advertising partners be so eager to pay for ads when Tivo's subscriber base starts shrinking? ... This is selling us out."

Here's another commentary, again by way of Church of the Customer:

I used to be a vocal advocate for Tivo. I recommended it to many many people. I really love the product. Unfortunately things at Tivo are changing in a bad way. This announcement coupled with the announcement that they will only allow [Pay Per View] recordings to stay on the Tivo for a certain amount of time have forced me to reevaluate my position and Tivo's value to me.

.... I cannot continue to endorse Tivo to everyone I see. I may even start telling people to avoid Tivo."

Getting away from anonymous sources, here's Scoble's comment:

Jeff Sandquist unplugged his Tivo yesterday. I'm unplugging mine tonight (read Jeff's post to see what I'm picked up from Comcast). Gotta get home. Halo 2 and new electronic toys.

This will wind up being a case of customer evangelism turned against the company that they used to evangelize.  The whole reason that I was finally ready to jump into the market and buy a TiVo was because of the overwhelming number of people that told me that I was missing out by not having one.  The interesting thing is that I am usually an early adopter and massive evangelizer for products that I enjoy using (those of you that read my blog frequently know that I will always post a review of a product and heap praise on products that I love).  Not even being a TiVo subscriber/user, simply someone who was intending to buy, I still am jumping on the bandwagon of reverse evangelism.

It is an interesting experience to be a reverse customer evangelist; to steer people away from a product that I have never used.  The simple fact of the matter is that TiVo was a company that inspired absolute passion in the people that used their product.  That passion, now turned against the company, is what inspires me to reverse evangelize the product.  I admit: I have not seen the new advertising scheme.  But I don't care!  I really don't care -- the passion exhibited by people that I don't know that heretofor (nice word, huh?) were massive supporters of this product is enough to involve me in their reverse evangelism against this product.

TiVo, welcome to the global community of instantaneous customer feedback and subsequent distribution.  They say that any press is good press; I tend wonder if that "they" has ever had really horrible press, especially really horrible press from their own customers.


I just installed one of the iPod2Car adapters in my GMC truck.  Installation was extraordinarily easy -- the kit comes with the correct plug to go into the back of the factory stereo CD changer input, a black box with dip switches to configure for the particular make and model of the vehicle, and an extremely long iPod 3G or 4G adapter cable that both provides audio output to the stereo and power to the iPod.  The trick is to ensure that you provide power to the yellow cable that is left hanging out from the harness; the instructions say that this does not need to be done for my vehicle, but it does indeed need to be done for the unit to work.

Once installed, I found that I could shift through tracks using both my stereo and steering wheel controls.  The only thing that's really missing is the ability to cycle through playlists and the ability to see the ID3 tags on the stereo display.  Aside from those small shortcomings, the sound quality is amazing -- if you have the means to purchase one of the direct input kits, I highly reccommend it over a FM modulator.

New iPod Updater

According to this post on the Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple has released an iPod Update for clickwheel iPod Minis and clickwheel iPods that updates the following:

New features of iPod mini Software 1.2:

  • Compatibility with iTunes 4.7 and iTunes Music Store
  • Shuffle and play song library with one click (using the Shuffle Songs item in the main menu)
  • Create multiple On-The-Go playlists
  • Delete songs from On-The-Go playlists
  • Select reading playback speed for audiobooks
  • Hear Click Wheel clicker through headphones
  • Sync and go with improved disconnect performance

New features of iPod Software 3.0.2 provides:

  • Compatibility with iTunes 4.7 and iTunes Music Store
  • Improved USB 2.0 connectivity

I know a lot of people that have been having issues with their clickwheel iPods and a smaller amount of people that have been having issues with their iPod Minis.  Hopefully this update fixes a lot of those issues.

And I thought CRT was dead

Turns out I was wrong.  Philips and Samsung, according to this post on Engadget, are both racing to produce 16" depth CRT monitors.  Engadget is reporting that they won't be quite as slim or as easily wall-mountable as plasma and LCD screens, but the price should fall somewhere between traditional (read "huge") CRT monitors and comparably-sized plasma and LCD monitors.  From the Engadget post:

TiVo responds to marketing during fast forwarding

According to this post on Engadget, TiVo's marketing department posted to the TiVo community boards about their plan to market during fast-forwarding.  From the post:

. . . the marketing person wants to make it clear that the ads will not be full-screen and that they’ll be similar to the “thumbs-up” you sometimes see during commercials right now that’ll ask you whether you want to record a TV show.

In my opinion, the size of the ads simply do not matter; the fundamental problem, and I am echoing the words of the Engadget editor here, is the fact that TiVo users have to pay a monthly or lifetime fee for the TiVo service.  I would be a lot more open to this if TiVo were using the advertising revenues to subsidize the monthly service and equipment fees to enable to TiVo to provide their service and equipment free to me as the consumer.  Again from the post:

It’s like if we started having to listen to a little ad every time we wanted to check the voicemail on our cellphone—it’d be one thing if they were giving away the service for free, but we’re paying for this, you know?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Looking to do a startup?

You can find a list of things not to do in this article on Entrepreneur.com.  Might as well benefit from someone else's mistakes.

Treo 650 Review

For the fans, here's a review on Yahoo News.  I'm mighty tempted to pick up one of these phones, but I keep waiting for the Sprint Store in my area to get one in for me to go play with.  If anyone has a good reason why I should hold out for a GSM version of the phone, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

RSS advertising

According to this article on Wired, Feeburner has pilot program going that allows advertising content to be inserted into RSS feeds.  There are 2 sides to the issue of advertising in RSS:

  1. Many people say that RSS is a syndication format that is not designed for ads.
  2. Many people say that RSS is simply another kind of delivery mechanism that is ripe for advertising.

I write my blog and distribute its content via RSS because I choose to; I am not in this for the money.  Lots of the content for my blog comes from other blogs and if the RSS feeds of other blogs that I read becomes too invasive to my reading experience, I will probably stop reading them.

There are lots of blogs out there that are already non-invasively advertising on their RSS feeds.  Take Engadget, for example, that adds a small text-based advertisement to the bottom of each of their posts that looks like this:

Weblogs, Inc. RSS feeds brought to you by
iPod®. Meet Bose. Introduce your iPod® to Bose, then listen to the new SoundDock.

The kind of RSS advertising like that pictured above I do not find invasive enough to stop reading the blog.  I will be very interested to see how the Feeburner advertising looks in a RSS reader; to see how intrusive the advertising really is.

It certainly makes me wonder is one of the points of differentiation for a RSS aggregator will wind up being a RSS advertising blocking function.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Cool gift idea for wine lovers

I recently bought a whole bunch of Riedel O wineglasses from Amazon ($17.99 for a box of 2, but if you look around, you can normally find a $25 coupon if you spend $125 in Home and Garden).  So what is so special about a wineglass?  Well, Riedel makes some of the finest wineglasses around; many high-end restaurants will not serve their wine in anything but Riedel crystal.  The O series glasses are a twist on the traditional design in that there is no stem on the glass, rather they are wine tumblers.

The interesting thing about the O design is that the glass becomes a conversation piece.  Furthermore, it adds a trendiness to drinking wine that does not necessarily come from drinking from the traditional stemmed glass; many of the wine bars that are popping up tend to favor wine tumblers to add to their general atmosphere.

Many people that I know tend to find wine drinking and especially wine selection a little intimidating.  My suggestion on the perfect gift set would be 2 sets of O cabernet tumblers (about $35) and a bottle of a Beaulieu Vineyards Coastal Cabernet (around $12, but you can usually find it on sale for $8-$9).  If you are looking to impress someone and spend a little more, substitute a bottle of Beaulieu Vineyards Georges De LaTour Cabernet 1997 (this could run you $100-$115; I have seen the 2000 on sale at Costco for $60, but it is a little young and 1997 was a spectacular year).  Of course, you can always substitute white wine glasses and wines as you see fit.

One piece of advice: don't buy wine based on price; the most expensive is not always the best and may have a more complicated taste profile that some folks may not enjoy.

Want a XGA projector for around $300?

You can find the instructions on how to build one right here.  All you need is a used overhead projector and an old LCD monitor.  Pretty cool stuff if you don't care what your projector looks like; I guess on the upside, you can try out your transparencies at home. 

MSN Desktop Search

Everyone's getting into the desktop search market, including Microsoft.  You can see screenshots of the test product here.

E-mail Marketing to Mom

This image is from this post on Wonder Branding:

More from the post:

  • 67% of mothers say they check their email 3 or more times a day
  • 66% of mothers spend more money with companies that send them useful and relevant e-mail messages
  • 71% think e-mail messages influence their buying decisions
  • 67% of mothers go online to do product research and 55% look for coupons or discounts online

What's your mom e-mail marketing campaign look like?

I was going to buy a TiVo for Christmas . . .

. . . but there are many reports today about how TiVo now wants to put banner advertising on screen when you fast-forward through commercials and track your viewing habits to target that advertising.  From an article in the LA Times:

By March, TiVo viewers will see "billboards," or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads. If a viewer "opts in" to the ad, their contact information will be downloaded to that advertiser — exclusively and by permission only — so even more direct marketing can take place.

By late 2005, TiVo expects to roll out "couch commerce," a system that enables viewers to purchase products and participate in surveys using their remote controls.

Perhaps even more significant is TiVo's new role in market research. As viewers watch, TiVo records their collective habits — second by second — and sells that information to advertisers and networks.

The very thing that attracts people to TiVo is drastically changing; reports about there being a paradigm shift in television advertising were absolutely correct: TiVo was disruptive enough to change television advertising forever.  What nobody really contemplated too hard in the past was that TiVo would provide the platform for the new world of television advertising.

My problem with advertising on TiVo when trying to avoid traditional television advertising is the fact that I would be paying monthly (or would have paid $299 for lifetime service) for the service.  If I have to watch ads, it seems that part of the advertising revenue should be subsidizing my monthly or lifetime fees.  I would hope that TiVo would offer a premium, totally advertising-free service, but I unfortunately am not optimistic that they will.

Looks like I will be looking at media center PCs instead of TiVo.  I figure that the cost of media center PC would run me about the same as the 140gb TiVo with lifetime service and a wireless internet adapter.  Media center PCs have much of the same TiVo functionality without monthly service fees or pop-up advertising.  Add to that a Sling Box and I would be able to watch any of my media anywhere I have an internet connection (yes, this will work for TiVo as well).

Any comments from anyone?  Anyone have a media center PC that they want to reccommend?  Anyone want to persuade me back to TiVo?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

X1 Version 5.0 Beta

This is a major upgrade for X1 that adds a ton of features that make the software significantly more valuable and useful.  The full least of improvements can be found here on the X1 forums.  Additionally, I've noticed that X1 seems to be playing around with the pricing; others have also noticed prices bouncing around -- looks like they are trying to test price sensitivity against the free search tools such as Lookout and Filehand.

Monday, November 15, 2004

iPod Tricks

Here is a well-written article about all kinds of iPod tricks including:

  • Recording Internet radio and listening to it on yur iPod
  • Podcasting
  • Playing music on your Mac from your iPod
  • Working with music files on your iPod
  • Locating and copying music out of your iPod

It's a great primer if you need it.

Bootstrapper's Bible for FREE

Seth Godin's The Bootstrapper's Bible can be downloaded for free here on ChangeThis now through December 30!  Retail price for the paperback version of this book is $13.80 (and takes 1-2 days to ship from Amazon), so consider this you holiday Free Prize from Seth.

The full title of the book is: The Bootstrapper's Bible: How to Start and Build a Business With a Great Idea and (Almost) No Money -- the title pretty much gets to the heart of the content of the book.  Have fun exploring Seth's "Nine Magic Rules of Successful Bootstrapping."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

What does your brand sound like?

Check out Top 100 Voicebrands to see what the brand of their voice sounds like.  It's very interesting to hear the autoattendant recordings for many of the top companies in America.

What's your resume look like?

Scoble posted about this unique resume and I strongly recommend checking it out.  Although the author does not have an overwhelming command of the English language, the resume is a Flash animation with a singing soundtrack by the person who is looking for a job.  In a world where resumes are traditionally either piles of paper on heavy bond and increasingly print-out reports from Monster submissions, this resume is certainly unique.

Gmail POPs

Gmail is phasing in POP access to its account holders.  This is great news for those of you that use any sort of smart phone device, such as a Treo.  In fact, I am tempted to set up autoforwarding from my work account to my Gmail account so that I can access my e-mail via POP (my company has not activated POP, IMAP, or OWA) and be able to very easily search all my e-mail without having to use a third-party application that crawls through all my PST files.

I have a few more Gmail invitations if anyone is lacking an account, just drop me an e-mail with "Gmail Account Request" in the subject line and I would be happy to send an invite. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Widget Hunting

Just as I did when I first installed Konfabulator on my Mac, I went widget hunting today.  Here are a few of my favorite widgets (I think all of them can be used on Mac or PC, but the links below are for the Windows ZIP files):

  • Mini everything (most of the default widgets are too big for my Tablet PC screen):
    • Mini iTunes Remote -- nice small version of the remote that displays playlist and track information.  For some reason I was having problems with the normal iTunes remote widget that came with the install, but I like this one better anyway.
    • Mini Digital Clock -- nothing wrong with the analog clock that comes in the initial install, but I have one of those (about the same size) on my wrist and this one is smaller; I like the analog for quick glances at the time on my screen.
    • Mini Battery -- does the same thing as the big one, just smaller.
    • Compact AirPort -- smaller, vertically oriented, a little more information about what you are connected to, and some cool animations
  • DHSLevel -- this widget displays the current Homeland Security alert level; I monitor this because of what I do, so it's convenient to have it on my desktop in a compact form.
  • Gmail Check -- does exactly what it advertises: displays the number of messages in your Gmail account; you can even make it only appear when there are messages.
  • Waste Basket -- I downloaded it and can't find it again on the site.  Anyway, I put the widget in the bottom right of my screen and the Recycle Bin in the bottom left; I drag items to delete to the widget and the widget tells me how many items are in the bin and I use the normal recycle bin to retrieve items as necessary.

Remember that you can use the F8 key to bring your widgets to the front of the application you are working on.  Search through the gallery at Konfabulator yourself to find widgets that will help you on a day-to-day basis.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

IBM SHARK Text Input for Tablet PCs

This article on theabletpcweblog provides a link through to the IBM SHARK Text Input program, which is a free, Java-based application that is supposed to dramatically improve text input.  I haven't had any real problems with the Tablet PC OS recognizing my handwriting, but I'm always willing to try something new.  I'll let you know how it works out.


I've been thinking about joining my local Toastmasters club in to help improve my public speaking abilities.  Anyone belong to Toastmasters or not belong Toastmasters for a specific reason?  I'd love to hear your thoughts; feel free to leave me a comment or send me and e-mail.

So what is killing the music industry?

According to this article on The Economist a study by one of the major labels yielded the following results:

. . . between two-thirds and three-quarters of the drop in sales in America had nothing to do with internet piracy. No-one knows how much weight to assign to each of the other explanations: rising physical CD piracy, shrinking retail space, competition from other media, and the quality of the music itself. But creativity doubtless plays an important part.

That's interesting, isn't it?


Want an interesting way to look at the news?  10x10 pulls pictures from relevant news RSS feeds and provides news stories by clicking on the picture.  Pretty cool technology.

Firefox officially hits 1.0

No more release candidates -- the 1.0 version of Firefox is available for download on all platforms directly from Mozilla.

Note: Mozilla's site is getting slammed, so you may want to try downloading directly from this mirror site if you can't get through.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Screwy stuff with XP and the solution

So I had these 2 seemingly unrelated problems with XP on my tablet:

    1. I couldn't put JPG wallpaper on the desktop (very important stuff as I am sure you would agree)
    2. The right-click menu did not bring up any of the "new" options, such as "New Folder" (much more frustrating)

I was able to find a solution here on WinXPTour.com; turns out that both problems are caused by the same issue.  Visit the site for a REGEDIT fix (be careful using REGEDIT!) or use the GPEDIT described below (this does not require you to restart your system or mess around with your registry):

  • Click Start/Run and type GPEDIT.MSC
  • User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Desktop | Active Desktop
  • In the right-pane, double-click Prohibit Changes and set it to Not Configured
  • In the right-pane, double-click Disable Active Desktop and set it to Not Configured

I am not totally sure what caused this issue on my Tablet, but I somehow suspect the Nvidia video card driver software because I had the option on right-click to change the Nvidia nView properties.  Anyway, if you are having similar sort of troubles, hopefully this helps. 

Konfabulator for Windows

It's finally out!  Probably the most useful utility for Macintosh is not available for Windows at konfabulator.com.  Konfabulator puts a bunch of "widgets" on your desktop that allow you to monitor critical system items and perform numerous tasks without having to open applications.

Check it out, I'm sure you love it; especially those of you with Tablet PCs.

Note: be warned -- the Konfabulator site is running really slow right not because of the number of hits it is getting.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Star Wars Episode III Trailer

For the fans out there, here you go.

Should we be turning Japenese.

Anita Sharp over at Worthwhile posted about shaking hands and the flu season:

With flu season approaching, a growing number of people, myself included, are getting kind of Howard Hughes-like when it comes to shaking hands.

One health writer suggests nodding at people you are introduced to and not offering your hand. I tried that once, but the person I was greeting failed to take the hint. Another writer suggests carrying hand-wipes with you and cleaning your hands after each shake; somehow, that seems to negate the friendly gesture.

Our culture is based on shaking hands.  I certainly start to inform an impression of someone based on how they shake my hand; a limp shake with a sweaty palm does not impress me at all.  The Japanese, on the other hand, greet each other with a bow and, in my experience, are not necessarily comfortable with shaking hands.  Certainly it would seem that a bow is a much greater deterrent to the spread of the flu, but there would need to be a cultural revolution for people in the United States to feel comfortable bowing rather than having flesh-to-flesh contact.

The biggest thing that health providers tell you to prevent yourself from getting the flu is washing you hands.  Unfortunately, as Anita pointed out, using a sterile cloth after shaking someone's hand could be very offensive to the that someone. 

Here are my suggestions to aid in preventing yourself from getting the flu:

  • Wash your hands when you can.
  • Buy a cleaning cloth for your computer keyboard and use it at least twice a week.  Definitely use the cloth if you have let someone else use your computer (do it after they've left and can't see you use it).
  • If you are at a social function where there is food being served, be conscious about shaking hands.  Eat food with your left hand and hold your plate in your right.
  • Keep your hands full at social gatherings if you can get away with it.  If you have a plate of food in one hand and a drink in another, you are most probably in a situation where someone might accept a nod in place of a handshake, especially if there is nowhere close to put down your drink or plate.
  • Do not touch your eyes or face area with your hands if you have not yet had a chance to wash your hands after shaking hands.  This is the hardest to remember and even if you do and are focused on not scratching your eye, you will always have an itch.

Best of luck and feel free to share more of your best practices with me by e-mail or comment; I'll publish everything I receive.

Retraction re: Fast Company Now

Seems that problem with advertising that I was having yesterday has been resolved; I guess I just hit the site and encountered a programming error.

I do apologize for blasting Fast Company Now a bit for what seemed like a very uncool practice, but it does bring up and interesting question: Is it ok to run lots of advertising on the web interface of your blog with the assumption that the people you really want reading it will read it via RSS?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Fast Company Now

I normally read all my blogs with a RSS reader, however, today I went to go look at blog entries on Fast Company Now as I have been very briefly reading them over the past few weeks and wanted to catch up.  Let me say that I am a big fan of the content that Heath Row and other provide on the Fast Company blog, but I was dismayed when I went to the site to see the middle of the page taken up by a large advertisement and no normal blog entry page.  Even after reloading the page several times, the ad did not disappear, so I clicked on the ad thinking that it would then allow me to the main blog page; it did not.  Recent entries to the blog were available to the left of the ad, but that it is terribly inefficient to read a blog entry-by-entry rather than having the opportunity to peruse posts and drill down deeper by clicking on those that interest me.

I am a very big fan of getting people to read blogs via RSS.  However, I certainly would not replace the main page of this blog with a large advertisement and only allow you to read my posts by clicking through the recent entries.  There are 200-300 people that read my blog daily by visiting the site directly (I still can't track RSS readers) and I don't feel that I could, in good conscience, attempt to profit from those of you that opt into viewing my blog via a web interface.

On consulting projects I have learned that the primary driver of magazine revenues is their advertising, and the Fast Company blog is certainly a component of the Fast Company magazine.  That said, I'm sure that there are thousands of people that choose to view the Fast Company blog via a web interface and it seems somewhat counterintuitive to drive advertising revenues by effectively punishing the people that don't use RSS by forcing them to view advertising every time they land on the main page.

Perhaps this is a programmatical mistake and I just caught the site in the middle of some sort of error or programming transition; I would like to think that I did.

Just my $.02.

If you pay attention to the plane you are flying . . .

. . . then you should probably check out SeatGuru.com.  The site provides you with information about the best seats in the plane as far as leg room, view of the video screen, and space, which seats to avoid, and other useful information about power outlet locations, seat pitch, etc.  It's very simple to use the site: simply look at your airline ticket confirmation, select the carrier from the menu on the site, select the type of plane from the carrier list, and mouseover the seat you have been assigned to receive information.

I'm definitely going to use this the next time I'm checking in at a kiosk or printing my boarding pass at home from my computer.  I would imagine that you could probably access this site from any smartphone with a bowser, but I haven't tried it myself.


Courtesy of the Gapingvoid.  Apparently John over at Inluminent is going to order a bunch of these with his name and e-mail address on the back to use as a conversation starter at parties.  Let me know how that works out for you.

What do you make?

According to this post on The Occupational Adventure:

Looking for happiness through financial success? Wondering what is the magic number that equals satisfaction? It's $40,000 a year.

In fact, the rule is well established in research: The first $40,000 makes a big difference in one's level of happiness. After that, the impact is much smaller. The difference between someone making $40,000 and someone making $15,000 is far greater than the difference between $100,000 and $1 million.

 If you think about it, $40,000 vs. a lower salary makes perfect sense.  When I came out of college I was making $40K per year.  I was able to afford a car payment, an apartment payment with utilities and cable, and still have some money in my pocket to go out to eat and go to bars.  I can't say that I was saving an extraordinary amount of money on a monthly basis (I think I was contributing 1 0r 2% to my 401K), but I had shelter, food, water, and wheels: the necessities of life.

Gift Guide for iPod Freaks

If you are looking for a gift guide to conveniently leave on the coffee table with items circled in Sharpie (and you have a lot of ink in your color printer), head on over to the iPodLounge Buyer's Guide 2004.  The Buyer's Guide is in PDF and is actually very well laid out and produced for a free catalog.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Getting Music off your iPod

Engadget has a great post on how to get music off of your iPod in both a Macintosh and Windows environment.  Specifically, the post directs you to two different pieces of software that will help you retrieve music from your iPod depending on the OS you are running.  I have used both pieces of software on my Mac and my PC, and both work equally well albeit with different interfaces.  I do have to say that if you use a Mac and you have found iPodDownload to not be working after upgrading to iTunes 4.7, you should follow the tip outlined in my previous post to get iPodDownload functioning again as it is the most user-friendly Mac program that I have used.

There are other methods for retrieving your music from your iPod under both platforms; a simple Google search will provide you with many different methods, but the Engadget post and software recommendations are certainly a good place to get started.

I travel a lot . . .

. . . and after abandoning my Blackberry because it was ruining my life, it has become a lot more important to me for to stay at hotels that provide high-speed wireless access in their rooms.  To that end, I was excited to see that Gizmodo has a post that links through to this list on HotelChatter that lists out the 5 best hotels for free WiFi.  The following is the top 5 list:

    1. Kimpton
    2. Omni
    3. Marriott Residence Inn
    4. Best Western
    5. Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express

I'm a little surprised that Wingate Inns did not make the list as they offer both free wireless and wired Internet access in every room.  In any event, this list will certainly be helpful in my travels and will keep from having to call hotels and ask if there is a Starbucks close.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bummed that iTunes 4.7 disabled iPod Download on your Mac?

Never fear, you can find the solution right here.  Follow the instructions carefully as you do have to use a Hex editor to get things done correctly.

Best of luck.