Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My web-based application collection

I like a lot of my applications that I use to be completely web-based with no application install required; this is especially important as I try to interact with the web more and more via my Nokia 770.  Here’s the first version of my list, which I plan on updating from time-to-time as I make changes:

  • Bloglines — RSS/ATOM feedreader.  Yes, it has been having some problems recently and I have been “interviewing” alternatives, but on the whole I’ve been pretty happy with my experience.  This is a free service.
  • Gmail — e-mail from Google.  Lots has been said about by lots of people, but the simple fact of the matter is that it is a pretty great e-mail service with lots of storage and the storage grows incrementally on a daily basis.  This is a free service.
  • uReach — I’ve been using uReach since the service started.  Although I do pay a nominal monthly charge and the storage is pretty low for the price, I do like the toll-free number that allows people to leave me voicemails, allows people to send me faxes that go direct to my inbox, has a following function that allows people to reach me at various phone numbers through forwarding, and a bunch of other nifty functions.  There is a SSL login option, which makes me feel pretty good and the spam function seems to catch most of the stuff coming in.  This is the address and phone number that I use on my resume.  This service  is $6.99 per month.
  • Spongecell — Although I just started using this yesterday, it’s currently my social calendar of choice.  I will be evaluating other calendar services over the course of the next few months, so we’ll see if I stay with it.  This is a free service.
  • Flickr — I just like how Flickr works.  Granted I have yet to populate my Flickr account with lots of pictures, but it’s my choice for social picture sharing.  Once I have some time to run the iPhoto uploader, my Flickr account will be huge and I’m really trying to take some pictures to get up on the blog, which will be hosted on Flickr.  This is a free service.
  • del.icio.us — This is my social bookmarking service of choice and there’s really not much more to say about it.  There were some service issues as they worked through the absorption into Yahoo!, but I haven’t experienced any problems in the last couple of weeks.  This is a free service.
  • Google — This is and has been since it launched my search engine of choice.  This is a free service.
  • Technorati and IceRocket — I use both of these services equally to search blog content because they provide such different results.  Usually I’ll open up both of these in browser tabs and search the same topic on both.  Both of these services are free.
  • Blogger — This is the current hosting platform for this blog.  There is a WYSIWYG editor through the Blogger site and I generally haven’t had any service issues.  There are some key functions that Blogger does not include, but overall I guess I’m pretty happy with the service.  This is a free service.
  • Feedburner — This is my feed service of choice.  If I had it my way, I would go back to when I started my blog and would have encouraged everyone to subscribe to the Feedburner feed rather than the Blogger ATOM feed.  I like that I can view circulation and various other tracking mechanisms through Feedburner.  Further, I like the fact that my Feedburner feed address will never change even if I change my blog service provider.  Lastly, I really like all the tools that allow me to make my feeds more robust and easy to subscribe to.  This is a free service.
  • Squidoo — I have a couple of lenses on Squidoo.  You really have to go take a look at some examples of lenses to understand the purpose of the site, but it’s damn powerful.  This is a free service.

Stuff I’ll be signing up for next month:

  • Box.net — 1GB for $2.99 a month is hard to beat.  The more I look at the service, the better it looks and I especially like the RSS feed for files, I haven’t seen anyone else doing that effectively.  As I said, this service is $2.99 per month.
  • MP3Tunes — Once I have some time on a weekend, I’m going to upload my entire iTunes library to my locker.  I can’t wait to try this out streaming on my 770; I bet it’s going to be damn cool.  I’m also assuming that at some point they will upgrade the service to support video, so that’s something else to look forward to.  The premium version of this service is $40 per year.

I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I see this as a “living post.”

Getting paid for social bookmarking

If you want to monetize what you are doing with del.icio.us, then check out Simpy, which lets you run Google AdWords on the bookmarking site they are hosting for you and allows you to keep all the revenue from those ads and Raw Sugar, which pays between $25 and $500 per month to the top 20 most visited user bookmark sites.

I like del.icio.us, so I’m not planning on switching.

Online storage round-up

TechCrunch has a great round-up of all the new online storage services.  It seems that OmniDrive is getting high marks, but I have yet to receive an invite to beta test the service, so I guess I’ll just have to take TechCrunch’s word for it at this point.

Very useful and contains an easy-to-read comparison grid.


A far more public beta of IE7

Check it out — you can download direct from the link below.


Livestrong rubber bracelet + thumb drive = Imation Flash Wristband

Uncrate reports on the Imation Flash Wristband that is rubberized like the ever-popular Livestrong bracelet and includes a 256mb flash drive.  Ahh, the future is here.  Remember when the geeks used to say, “That will happen when I can wear a hard drive on my wrist.”?  Me neither, but apparently that’s what is about to happen.  No word on pricing, but the picture does show the bracelet in a blue and black color.  Seems like they should make it Livestrong yellow and donate some amount of the purchase price to the foundation.

I wonder how well this thing stays latched together on your wrist.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Russell Beattie lists his essential Windows apps

I don’t really use a lot of Russell’s list, but it’s interesting to look at just the same — to be honest, I hadn’t even heard of some of the applications.

Take a look, you might discover something new like I did.



SRQ means “Self Reference Quotient” and is defined as this:

. . . the blogger tendency to self reference

I had never read the term before reading it on Shawn Conahan’s blog, so I can honestly say that I cannot self reference back to one of my previous posts.

Shawn has some strong opinions about self referencing:

Let me say now that although you feel smart when you reference yourself, you actually seem lame to whomever you are quoting yourself, particularly when you are quoting your blog. Think about what you are doing when you refer to a blog post you made last month: You are asserting that you could find no more worthy source to quote than yourself, which makes you appear either dubiously confident or too eager to establish your position as a valuable source.

Additionally, Shawn questions whether your SRQ is inversely proportional to your IQ.

Please note that Shawn self-references himself in his post about SRQ and I have not self referenced myself in referencing Shawn’s post about SRQ, meaning that, perhaps, my IQ has taken a slight leap forward.

Go and read Shawn’s whole post as SRQ is just a small part of it.


More great posts from Guy Kawasaki

He’s just got a lot of knowledge to give.

Link — The Art of Bootstrapping

Link — The Art of Execution


I like the concept of Box.net, which is 1GB on online storage for $2.99 per month.  Unfortunately the service seems to be capped at 1GB per month, which is less than I would prefer if I was paying for storage; 3–5GB feels a little better for me and I would be willing to pay around $3 a GB for it per month (though I would hope that I would get a volume discount).  I guess I could get a few boxes to separate different files, which wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing.

I definitely like the fact that Box.net is a web application and requires no application download, making it truly platform-independent.  What I really like is the ability to syndicate files via RSS using what Box.net calls filefeed.

I’m still debating, but I’ll probably wind up signing up for the service, so stay tuned for future reviews.



Have you ever paid the same amount or more than the item you’ve ordered just to have it delivered via NextDay Air?  I haven’t since I joined Amazon Prime, but I will admit that I have in the past.  LicketyShip is a same-day delivery service that reminds me a lot of Pink Dot in Southern California.  Unfortunately, I don’t live in any of the test markets, so I won’t be able to post a review, but you should check it out and see if you can register (assuming you live in one of the test cities).


Does the coffee at Starbucks taste like crap to force an upsell?

To be honest, I’ve never had a plain cup of coffee at Starbucks, but Marketonomy has and the author thinks that the horrible taste of the plain coffee is designed to push the buyer into buying a more expensive coffee beverage:

When a Starbucks opened right next to my office, I found myself buying more of their crappy coffee, and then upgrading more frequently to a Latte just to avoid the torture. When I finally graduated completely from coffee to the poodle drinks, it struck me: Crappy coffee is an upselling opportunity. It's what everyone initially comes for, it's the cheapest thing on the menu, and it sucks. But for just a few dollars more, you get flavor. Any flavor you want. Any combination. And once you make the initial leap, a banquet of delights appears before you. Add a little chocolate, a little orange, a little cinnamon and whipped cream. It's just money. And once you buy a Starbucks' loyalty card, you won't even tally up the transactions any more. Just dump some cash on the card every payday and you're good to go.

Read the rest of the post because it’s an interesting take on Starbucks.


PCMover -- a solution for switching PCs

Engadget is carrying a full review of PCMover, a $50 program (priced per migration, not for unlimited use) that moves all of your applications, data files, and registry settings to a new (or another) PC and even works when upgrading from older to newer operating systems.  Having done computer switches several times over the last few years, I can tell you that $50 is a small price to pay for the headache and pain in the ass of having to reinstall programs and customizing your system to how you want it (I personally have a lot of RegEdit stuff that I’ve done that I like to retain and have to duplicate when changing machines).

The Engadget post gives the software a fairly favorable review:

Every application on the new computer worked. All settings were intact. The issues that cropped up were pretty trivial.

You should read the full post about all of the tester’s experiences and some of the issues, but overall, it seems like a pretty impressive product; I’ll certainly be trying/using it the next time I have to switch machines.

It would be interesting to see a cost analysis on the $50 software cost vs. the effective hourly wage for an IT person at a company that performs these sort of services; my guess would be that the PCMover option is cheaper (if you look at a $30K per year salary, which is an effective hourly wage of around $15 not including benefits, and assume that it takes about 4 hours to do a migration — that’s about $60) and leads to a better user experience.


Mark Cuban's new movie distribution model: it's only changing the industry

Mark Cuban’s studio, Magnolia Pictures, recently released Bubble simultaneously in theatres, on DVD, and in 2 showings on HDNet Movies — Cuban even gave fair warning that he was going to do this in a blog post on January, 19.  Apparently some theatres are refusing to screen the movie because it is messing up what they perceive as their core business model.  Cuban recently posted about Bubble on the 25th and noted the following about theatre owners from big chains and theatre trade organizations prior to Bubble’s release:

NOT ONE stood up and said, “screw him, our product is great. We don't care what he does”. Not a single person said  “It could hurt our business, but we will just have to work harder to bring people in to our theaters”. Not a single person said, “It will make us have to work harder and create a better value and experience for our customer”

They stood up and indirectly said….OUR PRODUCT SUCKS WE CANT SURVIVE WITHOUT HELP.

Geek News Central did the math on Cuban’s new distribution model and essentially concluded that a $19.95 charge for a DVD not only makes the money go further, but leaves enough left over for a big screen tv so that you can watch the DVD in near-theatre goodness if you choose.  Check out the full math on the post and compare your yearly movie viewing to their numbers to see where you come out.

In related news, Lockergnome reports that movies 24 movies from Sundance will be released simultaneously in theatres and on IFC (the International Film Channel).

Link — Geek News Central

Link — Lockergnome


While I’m waiting for 30 Boxes to launch, I’m playing around with spongecell for comparison purposes.  I certainly like the statement on their main page:

Spongecell is a new kind of calendar for you and your friends.  We are focused on making it the most usable calendar in the ocean.

My initial impression is that spongecell is pretty cool — to be honest, I’ve only played with it for about 5 minutes.  The function I immediately checked was the import function: I can import iCalendar files with no problem, which is a format I can export my Outlook calendar to, but spongecell does not yet handle recurring events.  What I’m really looking for is some sort of conduit that allows real-time sync to their service from my Outlook calendar, with the ability to tag calendar events not to be displayed on the web service.  Plaxo currently had a conduit to my Outlook calendar, but does not allow me to share it and so does not allow tagging because it’s not required.

Whichever service comes out with the Outlook conduit will probably be the one that I use.


3000+ buttons for your site

Check it out.  Great for Blogger users.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Chewbacca is blogging

Steve Rubel caught it.

Link — Steve Rubel’s post

Link — Chebacca’s blog

Cleaned up my blog template

I think it looks a little better and a little cleaner and is the culmination of a lot of the other little changes that I’ve been making.

E-mail address change

I’m changing my e-mail address for my blogs.  Too much spam and too little storage space on the free account I’ve been using.

I have updated the e-mail address on my blog, but there may be individual posts that will still have the old address — please be sure to click the “E-Mail Me” link if you are trying to reach me to ensure you are using the correct address.

Flipping the Funnel

Flipping the Funnel is a new e-book by Seth Godin about how Web 2.0 can be combined with Ideaviruses and Purple Cows.  If you visit the link below for Seth’s post, you will find the companies version of Flipping the Funnel as well as a version for politicians and a version for non-profits.

Here’s a very small preview from the e-book:

Marketing is a funnel. You put undifferentiated prospects into the top. Some of them hop out, unimpressed with what you have to offer. Others learn about you and your organization, hear from their peers, compare offerings, and eventually come out the bottom, as customers.

What if we flip the funnel and turn it into a megaphone?

What if you could figure out how to use the Internet to empower the people who like you, who respect you, who have a vested interest in your success? I call this group of people—your friends and prospects and customers who are willing to do this—your fan club.

As with all of Seth’s e-books, you can freely download the e-book, post the e-book on your site for distribution, and/or e-mail the e-book to anyone (you just can’t change it or charge for it).

Link — Download Company Version Immediately

Link — Seth’s full post with education and non-profit versions


He’s got to be kidding.


NewsAlloy continued

Ok, so I’ve come back to check out NewsAlloy again.  I was able to get the site to load and logged in to find that my OPML file had actually fully imported.  Even better, NewsAlloy was able to read all of my folder information from Bloglines and keep all of my blogs categorized exactly how they are in Bloglines — this has been one of my major frustrations with other aggregators that I’ve tried.

Going back to my rant about Bloglines, I’d like to address how NewsAlloy meets what I was looking for:

  • I’m not really looking to install an application; I really like browsing on the web only.  NewsAlloy is fully web-based.  If I choose to go with NewsAlloy, I will lose the mobile version of Bloglines, but to be honest, I don’t use that at all right now — I much prefer to read my feeds on a full screen.
  • Ideally it would be a service that would retain the folders that I have things organized into on Bloglines.  That worked amazingly well.  In the past, I’ve totally abandoned even evaluating new readers because they couldn’t keep everything organized the way I had them in Bloglines.
  • Just like Jeremy, I like how Bloglines displays feeds as one massive page by folder.  NewsAlloy allows many different ways to look at feeds.  When you log in, your “Inbox” displays all new posts as a massive list — you can set the number of posts per page and whether to display headlines, summary, or detail.  It is important to note that because NewsAlloy does not use frames, if you set to a certain number of posts per page, you will have to click the next page arrow to continue reading posts.  Alternatively, you can read new posts by category simply by clicking on the Subscription category label, much like how I currently read posts in Bloglines.  Further, you can click the expansion button on your categories (just like Bloglines) and read new posts from individual subscriptions.

There are all kinds of view options and all kinds of tools that I have yet to play with, but I have to say that this is looking like a very viable alternative to Bloglines.  I love the fact that I don’t have to refresh anything and I don’t have to wait for anything to load because of the Ajax programming.  I love the floating tool bar that follows when I scroll up and down the screen.  I’m not sure that I’m used to having to click checkboxes and mark items as “Read” to get them to disappear as new posts, but it’s not at all different from using Gmail and doing the same sort of operations with e-mail.

It is important to note that NewsAlloy is still in beta (what isn’t these days?) and some of the service issues that I’ve experienced today are probably related to the beta status.  There are not a ton of users yet (you can see the total number of users any time on the main page), so hopefully the service will be able to effectively scale if they experience massive growth.

More to come, especially if I decide to make the permanent switch.


I just ran across NewsAlloy, which is an AJAX-powered newsreader.  In order to test the functionality, I signed up for an account.  The interface is great and somewhat reminiscent of Bloglines, but because everything is AJAX, I don’t have to wait for full screen or site reloads.

I exported my subscriptions from Bloglines (to do this, click on “Edit” in the left window, scroll all the way to the bottom and click “Export Subscriptions”, a new window will launch with the OPML file, and go to “File” and then “Save” and make sure that the file is saved as a complete XML file with an XML extension) and then tried to import it into NewsAlloy.  Unfortunately, although the OPML file was verified as valid, the subscriptions did not import — of course, I think that the whole NewsAlloy site took a big crap during my import process because now I can’t even get any of the site to load.

I’ll keep you updated on my further experiences, but it looks like I may have found a replacement for Bloglines.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bloglinker is gone

I’ve removed my Bloglinker links on my page because of the objectionable sites that have been linking to me.  Sorry to those folks that came up with Bloglinker because I initially thought it was a really cool service, but I just can’t link to the kinds of sites that are showing up in my list and I don’t have the time to be the human filter.

Strategize Feedburner vs. ATOM feeds

I know a lot of you are subscribers to the ATOM feed to Strategize and I have no plans to shut that feed off.

All of the above having been said, I really think that the Feedburner feed for Strategize is a bit more robust, displays things better, and has a lot more features than the ATOM feed.

As I said, I am not shutting off the ATOM feed, I’m simply suggesting that you think about switching to the Feedburner feed.  From the selfish side of things:

  • The Feedburner feed is blog host independent, meaning that I could change my blogging service, and you would still receive my feed seamlessly.
  • The Feedburner feed allows my to perform some analytics on reading and subscribers, which ultimately helps me develop content.

Clicking the icon below will allow you subscribe to the Feedburner feed.

Small site changes

I’ve done a few more things to my blog site:

  • Added links to some more of my content
  • Further modified references to my e-mail address to cut down on spam
  • Removed the full blogroll from Bloglines and just provided a link.  The length of the blogroll on the page was getting crazy and making the site look too busy.  If you want me to add a HTML link to your blog, just let me know and I’ll be happy to.

I’m just trying to make everything look a little bit more clean and tidy.  If anyone has any further suggestions, please feel free to leave me a comment.

TiVo and DirecTV's XM channels

Let me preface this post with the statement that this is just something that I was wondering about and not something that I am encouraging or condoning.

DirecTV replaced all of my digital music channels with XM channels sometime late last year; I assume that they did this because:

  • Hughes owns both companies
  • It was a way to move some money between the 2 companies
  • It was a massive stated number of subscriber boost for XM in the face of serious competition from Sirius

Ok, so I have a TiVo (not a DirecTiVo) hooked up between my DirecTV and my television.  I can set my TiVo to record any channel, including XM channels — chances are good that I could probably record a XM channel until I filled up all 80 hours on my TiVo.

Here are some pretty good instructions on how to get video from your TiVo onto your iPod, so I would question why you couldn’t just use these instructions to convert the audio.  I’m assuming that you would be carrying a whole lot of extraneous video information, but I’m also assuming that there are some programs out there that could strip the video data and simply preserve the audio tracks.

Alternatively, it would seem that you could hook up a computer with a sound card to the audio out jacks on your TiVo and use any sort of audio recording program to record the audio that you want.  Sure, you could probably just hook up a computer with a hard drive directly to the audio out on your DirecTV receiver and just record, but with TiVo, you would be able to use the fast forward function to skip songs that you don’t want to record down to your music library because of the graphical changes on the screen that tell you what is playing when the songs change.  Yes, I do realize that with a nice DirecTV receiver, you could get an optical audio out and run that directly into a nice computer sound card, but I would think that RCA outs from the TiVo into a good sound card would provide a perfectly acceptable song recording.

Surely I’m not the first person to think of this. 

Apple is not killing the album/CD business

There are tons of stories about how the iTunes Music Store is killing the album/CD business because everyone is buying singles (go search on Google News if you want to read one of the stories).  In order to combat this, labels are locking popular singles and requiring people on iTunes to purchase the whole CD to get the single that they want — this probably makes people go steal the music and doesn’t engender a whole lot of good will towards the artists or record labels.  Furthermore, labels want to charge a lot more than $0.99 for top singles in order to recoup what they are losing in full album sales.

Here’s the simple fact of the matter: if record labels were scouting talent and investing in and backing artists that could produce more than 1 good song, people would do the math and probably buy a CD.

I’m already from an older era (and I’m not really that old) where I am used to hearing one song and buying the entire CD.  I used to buy CDs at Tower during high school — CD singles that had between 1 and 3 songs were usually $4.99–$5.99 and the whole CD was usually $9.99–$11.99, so it made sense to me to just spring for the whole thing.

When iTMS launched and all the CDs were $9.99, I was perfectly happy to pay $9.99 for the whole CD — I figured that I was saving the record company production and distribution costs, so it made sense for a constant $9.99 price.

Today I went to download the new POD album on iTMS — I liked the last POD album, so I figured that I would check out some of the 30 second clips on some random songs and, based on those samples and the songs I had already heard, I would probably just buy the whole album.  Unfortunately the album is priced at $13.99, which is probably exactly what the CD would cost at any retailer.  A little disenchanted, I went to check out the new Yellowcard album — the last album that I bought from them was $7.99 on iTMS — and found that it was $11.99, which, after listening to some of the songs, didn’t seem totally worth it.

Here’s what’s going to happen: the record labels are going to cause me to turn into a consumer of singles rather than a consumer of full albums.  Sure it will be a little difficult for me to change my buying behavior, but I bet it won’t take too long — chances are good that I’ll probably even wind up saving a bunch of money over the course of a year.  Oh, and by the way, I haven’t heard a single in a long time that was worth $2.99.

Bob Lefsetz has one of his rants on this very issue and if you’re interested, you should read what he has to say.

INGDirect TiVo offer gets you $25

For those of you that use TiVo, INGDirect is running a promotion where they will give you $25 for opening a new savings account.  Follow the link at the bottom of this post to get to the TiVo promo page, but note that you will need to provide the last 4 numbers of the phone number registered on your TiVo account, your zip code (I’m assuming this needs to be the zip code in your TiVo account), and the reference code from your TiVo service.  This promotion is valid until 4/3/06, but I’m not sure where I can tell you to find the promo code; I noted it when it first showed up on my TiVo screen — perhaps they’ll run it again in the next few months.

Here’s the great parts of this promotion:

  • It’s essentially free money and starts earning interest as soon as the account creation is complete (you can’t withdraw it for 30 days, but that seems like a small trade-off).
  • ING’s current savings yield (no minimum balance required) is 3.8%, which is an amazing return rate on a normal savings account.  Chances are really good that you are not getting even close to this rate from your current bank — maybe you can get it with a CD or money-market, but none of the restrictions associated with those kinds of accounts exist with ING.
  • This is the best part: ING is running a “Winter Save Up Sale” that will pay 4.75% on all deposits made between January 19, 2006 and April 15, 2006.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Hindisghts from Guy Kawasaki

If you haven’t read the original Hindsights post, read it before following the link below.

Kawasaki has posted Hindsights II, which brings the original post up-to-date.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Your life in cache

As I go into Google News to get this link that will take you to all 222 (at the time of me writing this post) stories related to Google fighting with the Feds about releasing search history, I am creating a cache trail.

Om Malik probably has one of the better-written posts about this subject and I encourage you to follow the link below to read the whole thing.  Probably my favorite quote from Malik’s post is this one:

“You have zero privacy anyway… Get over it.” — Scott McNealy , CEO of Sun in 1999

As Malik points out, every time we interact with something that has the ability to track us, it’s going to track us and save that cached data somewhere: from iTunes purchases and listening habits, to TiVo recording and viewing habits, to what we search for on any search engine, to this blog post that you are reading right now, everything is being cached and stored.

We have traded privacy for convenience and lack of cost for so long that we tend to forget that we have done so.  It is important to remember that nothing is really private any more.  In many cases it is easy to remember because so much of what we are doing now is public: blogging, posting pictures to Flickr, posting bookmarks to del.icio.us.  Bear in mind that your work e-mail is not private, that your other e-mail accounts (for the most part) are not private, and that for the most part, we do not have to worry about the fact that some of the things we think are private actually are not.

The simple fact of the matter is that more and more useful features on free sites are going to depend on you logging into the service and giving up even more privacy in exchange for the cooler stuff.

As an aside, you can read this post on BoingBoing about how you can use some tools to maximize some of your privacy on Google.

Link — Om Malik

NBC and ABC saw ratings bumps for programs that they sell on iTunes

TVWeek.com has the full story.


What is going on at Starbucks these days

Lots of posts about Starbucks partnering with Lions Gate Films to promote the movie Akeelah and The Bee.  Ok, I had never heard of the movie prior to reading some of these posts and I haven’t seen any merchandising or advertising in my local Starbucks.

Brand Autopsy posts on the upside of this deal for Starbucks:

The financial upside for Starbucks with this partnership is tremendous. It’s my understanding Starbucks is paying Lions Gate NO MONEY. Instead, Starbucks is trading real estate space in its 5,500+ North American stores to promote this movie. By placing signage in-stores ranging from posters, to coffee cup sleeves, and placards alongside muffins in the pastry case, Starbucks will receive a share of box office sales, merchandising revenue, television rights, soundtrack sales, and DVD sales (including sales at non-Starbucks locations). We are talking about Starbucks potentially receiving millions upon millions of incremental dollars that can go directly to the bottom-line.

And they also post about the downside:

. . . violating the trust of customers and store employees. Customers and employees have come to expect Starbucks not to treat them like tools in the marketing promotional game.

I haven’t seen any of the advertising yet, so it’s hard for me to how invasive it is or isn’t.  However, I agree with Brand Autopsy that Starbucks thus far has been very careful about how they market non-Starbucks products and seem to be moving away from that to chase dollars.

Then I saw a post on Church of the Customer that provided more information on how invasive the advertising is going to be:

. . . you plan to advertise movies on cup sleeves, offer trivia games on chalk boards, and feature words from films in the pastry cases

Wow, that’s sounds a lot like McDonald's to me.

I especially like this quote that Church of the Customer offers up:

The underlying foundation of this company is not about growth. It is about the passionate, soulful connection we have with our people, [and] our customers...No matter how many avenues [we pursue], and now matter how much we grow, our fundamental core values and purpose won't change.

Captures the essence of exactly why Starbucks shouldn’t be doing this, doesn’t it?  I bet you might not be able to guess where it’s from.  It’s from Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schulz, CEO of Starbucks.

Link — Brand Autopsy

Link — Church of the Customer

Post dump

So many things to write about, so little time:

  • All kinds of Web 2.0 goodness from TechCrunch:
    • Top 10 Sources, which is a blog index that is edited by humans.  Pretty good stuff on here, but it’s causing a controversy by fully copying blog posts.
    • BillMonk — keeps track of IOUs between friends with all kinds of fun notification features like e-mail and SMS.  Lots of built-in intelligence that allows you to fully track what people owe you (an, of course, what you owe others).
    • bluepulse — the “meebo of cell phones”.  Enough said.
    • FeedXS, which goes straight to the core of RSS as a simple syndication method.  It’s easier to see than to describe, so take a look.
    • nuvvo allows educators to create courses with Ajax.  In addition, there is a payment engine that allows educators to charge students for courses.  Further modules allow educators to create tests, post grades, etc. — all the things you would expect from an online education engine.  Interesting stuff.
  • Tom Peters Wire Service reports on Adam Kalkin’s push-button house that essentially involves a shipping container with motorized walls that fold down to reveal an amazing interior.  I think that this even cooler than some of the fold-out semi trailers that I’ve seen and it’s much more ADA-accessible.
  • HispanicTrending reports that Busch series car racing in Mexico City is becoming more and more popular in Mexico and is creating opportunities for more and more Mexican drivers.
  • the[non]billable hour provides a list of all kinds of things that companies and people have given away for free and how that has resulted in increased sales.
  • TabletPCTalkNews provides instructions on how to boot your computer without a CD drive.  This is great for users of tablets and other computers that do not come with CD drives built-in.
  • Bleezer is a free blog authoring application that works equally well on Mac, Windows, and Linux.  I haven’t switched over yet, but I will within the next month.
  • Nokia is testing running a web server on a phone.  I’m not sure why this is practical, but I guess it’s cool to conceive of.
  • Yahoo Local Maps are providing traffic reports.  I’m guessing this will shortly be available on Google Maps.
  • I loved the bathroom pictures in the men’s room at a hotel when I first saw them, but Steve’s Nude Memphis blog has re-posted the picture to make it easy to find.
  • On Thinking By Peter Davidson there is a post that details the GoGoKidz TravelMate that is no much more than a luggage carrier specifically made for child seats.  For those that have had to travel with a car seat in the airport, this is a great thing.

A thought on terrorists purchasing nuclear material

The United States spends tons of money on all kinds of programs.  What if the United States simply made a worldwide statement that we would pay top dollar for all nuclear material?  In this way, anyone with even trace amounts of nuclear material would approach the United States first because it is far more likely that we would pay and that we would pay well (as opposed to dealing with people that might kill you during the transaction).

Just a thought.  Probably applicable to biological agents as well.

Anonymous internet browsing with Tor

Tor helps you anonymize the following:

web browsing and publishing, instant messaging, IRC, SSH, and other applications that use the TCP protocol

Essentially the Tor software bounces communications around to a variety of what they call “onion routers” and actually allows you to decide whether or not to identify yourself when you communicate.

You’ll just have to go to the site and read more about how people are using Tor to really understand it.

Tor is available for Win, Mac, and various Linux builds.


CNNMoney reports the best time to buy everything

Airline tickets, televisions, houses, and more.


Need to do a domain search?

Try instantdomainsearch.com that starts matching as you type.  It only matches for .com and .net right now, but it’s still pretty cool.

Link — found on this post at evhead

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Judge a website in a blink of an eye

That’s what most of us do according to Nature.com:

Like the look of our website? Whatever the answer (and hopefully it was yes), the chances are you made your mind up within the first twentieth of a second.

This is relevant to anyone with a website.


Great posts on Guy Kawasaki's blog

Instead of trying to write about them individually, here are some of my favorites from the last couple of weeks:

Link — How to Get a Standing Ovation

Link — The Art of Branding

Link — Hindsights  This is really good if you are a young professional or just graduating college.

Link — The Art of Innovation

Link — The Art of Intrapreneurship


Is BellSouth making a big mistake?

Apparently BellSouth is planning to try and charge internet content companies for using bandwidth on their networks.  I first saw this story on Om Malik’s post and was trying to figure out exactly how BellSouth was thinking they were going to pull this off.  As Malik points out:

. . . Apple maybe asked to pay a nickel or a dime to deliver the song. Yahoo will have to do the same for its reality TV streams. I wonder what is the ramification of this? Will it mean increased price of songs on the iTunes store, hence slower sales of iPod, and hence the slowdown of that ecosystem. . . . if there is no money out of consumer pocket, fine. Silicon Valley is still going to pay the price!

Then I read a post on Geek News Central that clarified even further exactly what BellSouth is doing:

The Bells are loosing ground and they are not happy about it. In return they want to start charging a two way toll on the net connected lines. First they charge Joe Customer for Internet access, second they want to charge companies like Google for driving so much traffic through their network lines.

Finally, I read Jeff Pulver’s advice for Google, which I find to be extremely viable — essentially, Pulver suggests that Google put BellSouth in the penalty box for their outrageous scheme:

Given the market power that Google has today, they are more relevant to the Internet community than BellSouth. Given that, if I were running Google today, I would choose to implement a BellSouth Boycott and stop offering access to Google to BellSouth customers and would start advertising Cox Cable service on any requests that came from BellSouth customers in their regions. I’m willing to wager that by Q3 2006, BellSouth’s DSL group will feel the effects of their grave error in judgment.

It will be interesting to see what actually transpires in the near future.

Installing Windows unattended

I once had to update about 20 Windows machines.  Luckily I was able to use a cloning program on 1/2 of them that were exactly the same machines; on the other half I had to install Windows from the CD, then install Office from the CD, and then run Windows and Office Updates through about 30 restarts before the machines were ready to use.  Suffice to say that I was pretty excited to find instructions on how to build a Windows install CD that includes patches, updates, and even applications.


How to add Google Maps to your site

Easy to follow instructions.


How much Blackberry stopping service in the US would cost per user

BBHub reports the it would be $845 per user, which factors in $300 for new equipment, some amount of money for accessories, 4 server hours per user for switch over, and productivity losses.  Read the post on BBHub for more details, but it’s interesting to see that at least someone has tried to quantify the potential service stoppage.  Based on your company’s Blackberry deployment, how much would this cost you?  I bet it’s an awful lot of money.

One thing this doesn’t calculate (at least I don’t think it does) is the sunk cost of the Blackberry server and the cost of either buying Good or activating ActiveSync on an Exchange server.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Run Windows cheaply on a new dual-core Mac

Check out OpenOSX WinTel 2.0.  $25 for the basic package is much cheaper than Virtual PC.


Google Talk = "Open Federation"

Google has announced an “open federation” between Google Talk and other IM services.  Essentially Google is trying to combine disparate services to create a seamless instant messaging service similar to what e-mail is now.  For the techies, Google is federated with services that operate over the XMPP protocol. Interestingly, if you click the open federation link, you will find that Google Talk also plans to support SIP, which is very interesting from a VOIP perspective.

Very interesting.


Newton running on 770

This is very interesting.  As you are probably aware from my blog, the Nokia 770 is built on an open-source Linux OS.  There is a beta Apple Newton emulator that you can load onto the Nokia 770 available here.

Andy Diller actually got this working on his 770 and has complete pictures on his post.  What is not clear is whether or not any of the PIM functions work.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Alaska Air to begin charging $10 for reservations made by phone

Effective Jan. 18 and non-refundable $10 non-refundable fee will be charged for tickets purchased through their 800 number or at the airport.  My wife pointed this out to me today when she went to purchase a ticket through the 800 number, so I called myself and the message is played before you enter the IVR system.  The message further directs you to visit AlaskaAir.com where there are never fees and the prices are usually lower.

There is no information about this change on the Alaska Air website, but, as my wife pointed out, this change does not affect anyone using the website, so there’s no reason to publish it there.

I’ve go to tell you that I don’t have a problem with this new system except for 1 instance: the reason my wife was calling today was to change a ticket that I had purchased and not used, which already comes with a $50 change fee.  Does this now mean that because there’s no way to change a non-used ticket on their website that it would have been $50 + $10 + whatever the difference in fare is?  Not cool to direct people to use your website for everything if you can’t do everything on their websites.

If I had to pay $10 for ticketing on Alaska and I knew it before I called the 800 number, I would expect to speak to someone in less than 30 seconds.  After all, if I’m funding the call center, then I would expect immediate service, not an IVR system.

It will be interesting to see how Alaska implements this fee structure and what customers’ reactions are to it.  In the hypercompetitive airline business, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable program to me — everything else being equal (i.e., I could fly at about the same time for exactly the same price) and I wanted to book over the phone, I would never choose Alaska.

Call the number yourself — 800–252–7522 and you can hear the announcement.

Bonus miles or gifts if you fly United out of Denver

I’m sure that this is to help retain loyal flyers with Southwest having started their service on January 3rd, but United is offering bonus miles for flying out of Denver from January 11, 2006–December 31, 2006.  There are all kinds of nifty prizes or bonus miles that you can choose from, but note that flights need to cost more than $150 (so you’ll have to decide if you want to spend $150 on United to go to Vegas or if you want to spend $88 on Southwest).

Oh, and double credits are available on select routes through April 11, 2006; all of the routes seem to mirror the places that Southwest services out of Denver — imagine that.

Mileage Plus number required to register.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

The sympathy quote

I was reading Secret Sanction by Brian Haig and this jumped out at me:

. . . that timeworn phrase about “sympathy” being found in the dictionary between “shit” and “syphilis.”

Think about it.

Coca Cola is made differently in Mexico

And therefore it tastes differently than American Coke.  And therefore, it stands to reason, that Mexicans in America are looking for that different flavor profile.  The simple fact of the matter is, that unlike American Coke that is made with high fructose corn syrup and bottled in plastic bottles and cans, Mexican Coke is made with sugarcane and bottled in glass bottles.

Reveries is reporting that Coke is prosecuting truckers that are “bootlegging” Mexican Coke into America to sell as it is negatively affecting the Coca Cola bottlers in the US.  Read the whole post on Reveries because there’s a lot more information there along with an interview of someone selling the Mexican Coke at a premium in the US.

The interesting thing is the Coke has no plans to actually cater to the Mexican taste profile and re-work their lines to cater to demand.  Instead, Coke would rather spend their money prosecuting.  It’s my understanding that the Hispanic/Mexican population is only supposed to increase in the US, so it seems very short-sighted to not cater to this population.  Perhaps Coke knows something that the rest of us don’t.


Google Mobile Homepage

It’s awesome and you should go set one up.  This is almost tempting me to move my feeds from Bloglines to the Google Reader so that all of my stuff (search, maps/directions, e-mail, and RSS) are unified and mobilized.


Load Windows XP before you log in

BrainFuel provides the full details on how to do this and I’ve linked to the post below.

Allow me to explain why this is useful:

  • It is only useful if you use the Windows secure login; if you don’t use secure login, then this is not for you.  Secure login is when you have to press ctrl-alt-delete to login, so if you just lick a pretty icon to get to your desktop, you are not using secure login.
  • If when you login to Windows you set there for a minute or more waiting for your background and applications to appear, then this is for you.  My machine at home loads in less than a minute, so I would not apply this to my machine.
  • If you use a machine in a corporate environment where they push a bunch of policy, scripts, etc. during login and it causes you to wait several minutes before you can see your desktop and/or use your machine, this is for you.  Be aware that your network administrator may not be super-stoked about you applying this method to a company machine and you may potentially be violating your company's usage policy.

Note that the methods described in the post direct you to download a .reg file to merge into your computer — for many users this might be ok, but for those in a corporate environment or those that have already made many changes to their .reg file, you should follow the alternate instructions on how to use regedit to change your .reg file yourself.  Should you choose to regedit yourself, be aware that you can do big-time damage to your machine if you do it incorrectly.


In 1997, Michael Dell proposed Apple be shutdown and monies refunded to shareholders

Om Malik remembers that Michael Dell said that, just like I do.  So, take a look at the post on Malik’s blog that shows how Apple has just past Dell in market cap — $72B for Apple vs $71B for Dell.

There are some other great points in Malik’s post that analyze revenue vs. profits vs. market cap that are worth reading.



Think del.icio.us meets clipmarks — social clipping.


Friday, January 13, 2006

My impressions of IE7 beta 1

I finally got a chance to play with Internet Explorer 7 beta 1, which is currently only available to MSDN subscribers (I am not a MSDN subscriber).  Here are some of my observations:

  • After having been accessing Outlook Web Access through Firefox for the last several months, I had forgotten how much more robust it is to access OWA with IE.  There is nothing specifically different about accessing OWA with IE6 vs. IE7, but I figured I would through that out there.
  • Tabbed browsing is nice, but it’s no fundamentally any different than tabbed browsing in Firefox.  Sure, the interface looks a little different, but IE has not done anything fundamentally different than what’s been available for a long time in Firefox.
  • There is an anti-phishing filter that runs constantly, verifying sites that you visit against some sort of MS database (I’m guessing).  I did not visit any sites that prompted any sort of warning.
  • The current version of Google Toolbar seems to work just fine in IE7, which is weird because browser upgrades usually break the Toolbar; I did verify that it was the IE6 version of the Toolbar being used, not some sort of IE7 beta upgrade from Google.
  • The whole interface seems a little more rounded out; sort of in the style of screenshots of seen of Vista.
  • There’s a “Delete Browsing History” window that essentially functions in exactly the same way as “Clear Browsing History” in Firefox, so that’s not real different from what we can do now.  I’ve heard that Administrators can disable some of these functions for users in a Windows environment, which I do not believe is an option in Firefox.
  • It breaks Trillian and other multiple service instant messaging programs by installing some sort of new MSN files.  I think that if you disable your MSN sign-on in Trillian that you are ok in to use it with other services, but I’m not sure.  Trillian has no plans of patching until there is a public beta or final release of IE7.
  • In order to install IE7, you have to go through the Windows Genuine Advantage certification.  It’s not clear if this is just for the beta or if this will be required for the full version as well.

For lots more information, check out the IEBlog.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

iTunes is not spyware

At least according to an Apple spokesperson it’s not spying on us.

Ok, check out this Knowledge Base article (and note that it was created on Jan. 4, 2006, which is the same day that iTunes 6.0.2 was released and a day before everyone started freaking out that iTunes was transmitting data back to Apple).

You can also read this post on Boing Boing that has lots of information from an Apple “source” (that is rumored to be Steve Jobs himself) who states that any information sent to Apple is discarded.  There’s a lot more information on the Boing Boing post with lots of updates, so read up if you feel like it.

Is it ok that iTunes 6.0.2 installs MiniStore by default without informing you that it is transmitting information? No.  Is it ok that this is not specifically addressed in Apple’s privacy policy? No.  Is it ok that you have to access a Knowledge Base article to figure out what is going on rather than having it clear and obvious on the main iTunes page? No.

You can also read the post on MacWorld’s blog about iTunes 6.0.2 and the statement issued by Apple.

What’s the moral here?  People are smart.  Smart people have the instant ability to publish their findings on the web in real time.  Other people will pick up on what the smart people have found and greatly accelerate the dissemination of information.  Transparency is absolutely critical.  If you have designed a “feature” that potentially could cause concern and/or that a smart person can detect and construe as doing something malicious, disclose it and give people a way to disable it.

iTunes 6.0.2 does iPod compatible video conversion without Quicktime Pro

Just right-click and make a selection.  More on the post by TUAW.


30 Boxes

As the name implies, 30 Boxes is a web calendar client.  Currently 30 Boxes is in beta, but Om Malik posted some information about it, stating:

. . . it is safe to say 30 Boxes will be to calendars what GMail was to Email.

If I get a beta invite, I’ll post more information; for now, go read Malik’s post.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some amazing facts that I extracted from the keynote at MacWorld

You can read full coverage of the whole keynote on Engadget, but here are some interesting figures:

  • 26 million visitors to Apple Stores in the holiday quarter
  • $5.7billion in revenue in the holiday quarter
  • 14 million iPods sold in the holiday quarter (that’s more than 100 every minute, if you’re trying to do the math); over 42 million iPods sold worldwide to date
  • 850 million songs sold to date on iTMS with the expectation of hitting 1 billion in the next few days (maybe they’ll run a 1 billionth song promotion)
  • iTMS has an 83% market share
  • 8 million videos sold since launch on Oct. 12, 2005
  • 40% of cars sold in 2006 will have an iPod integration option



So the new Macs with Intel processors are out in the wild

Who’s going to be the first person to get these to dual boot with Windows XP?

Anyone want to buy my “old” 15inch Powerbook?


Is it just me or is Bloglines starting to suck?

I seem to be having more and more problems with Bloglines and I’m guessing that it’s not just me.  Although I have been using the service for a long time, server outages (you know, when the plumber shows up or when you get the “There is a problem with our database” message), weird formatting of My Feeds on some computers (it seems like sometimes Bloglines displays the mobile version on a regular computer), and clicking on feed folders only to have no feeds show up, I’m starting to get pretty frustrated.

Oh, looks like Jeremy Wright is having the same sorts of problems and frustrations, but he has solicited advice on what feedreader to switch to — 20 comments at the time of me writing this post, so I’m going to check out what others have to say.

Please feel free to leave me comments with any alternative feedreaders, but bear this in mind:

  • I’m not really looking to install an application; I really like browsing on the web only.
  • Ideally it would be a service that would retain the folders that I have things organized into on Bloglines.
  • Just like Jeremy, I like how Bloglines displays feeds as one massive page by folder.

Link — Jeremy Wright’s post on Bloglines

I started wearing a helmet while skiing

After much griping and resistance, I started wearing a helmet while skiing.  I ski instead of snowboard and got a fantastic deal on a Leedom helmet (like $50 instead of $120).  Due to a pretty advanced ventilation system, the Leedom kept my head pretty cool even in 35 degree weather and probably would have worked better if I had removed the earpads.

Lots of companies are introducing or have introduced earpads that are Bluetooth enabled or that have inputs for iPods or cellphones or both.  If you ski/snowboard, I’m sure you’ve ridden on a lift with some person that was either tuned out on their iPod or talking very loudly on their phone.  I must say that 2 of the things that I am not looking to do while skiing are listen to music or talk on my cell phone, but, hey, that’s just me.

Link — Leedom

How to know when it's time to quit

The Business Opportunities Weblog has posted this set of guidelines that help you know when it is time to quit:

  • None of your closest friends or relatives has invested a dime — or even expressed any interest
  • The total amount you’ve been able to raise is less than $25,000
  • No one wants to join you in your madness and work for free (or stock)
  • No customer has been persuaded to buy your product or service
  • Your intellectual property attorney said there was nothing worth patenting
  • The last investor you presented your idea to asked if you were joking
  • You’ve been doing this for more than three years and still can’t support yourself or the company hasn’t hit break-even

Common sense stuff, but nice to see in an easily digestible bulleted list.


Full-featured PBX for less than $1,000

It’s a little hard to believe that you can get a PBX for less than $1,000 that does the kinds of things that $10K+ systems do, but Fonality can provide you with just such a system.  Fonality uses Asterisk, which is an open-source PBX software and installs it onto a low-cost computer.  Note that the $1,000 does not include any handsets, but that Fonality is compatible with all kinds of different IP-based handsets from various different manufacturers.

If I had a small– or medium-sized business looking for a PBX, I would take a hard look at Fonality.


A few thoughts on GM/Chevy

I’m just going to call GM and Chevrolet “GM” for the purposes of this post.

I went with my wife on December 30 (prior to January 3rd, which is when the Red Tag promotion ended) to look at 2005 Chevrolet Tahoes.  We have some amount of negative equity in my wife’s current car, but based on the research I had done, it seemed that with red tag pricing and 0% financing, we could come out to a place where we felt ok.  The dealership that we went to at least 50 (but more like 100) 2005 SUVs — Tahoes, Suburbans, and Trailblazers on the lot.  Long story short, apparently we didn’t read the fine print that you either choose Red Tag pricing or 0% financing, but you don’t get both.

Now here’s the thing: I’ve driven by the dealership and it doesn’t seem like they moved too many of the 2005 new vehicles that were on their lot, nor does it look like they moved too many of the 2006 vehicles that are on their lot.  The 2007 Tahoes, Yukons, and Suburbans either are on dealer lots, or will be within the next few days.  So now a dealer like the one I went to has a whole lot of 2005 models that are new, a whole lot of 2006 models that are new, and is taking delivery of a whole lot of new 2007 models.  Compound that with the fact that the 2007 models include a gas-saving feature that shuts down 4 of the engine cylinders when they are not needed and in my humble opinion, dealers might be in real inventory trouble.

As if everything in the last paragraph isn’t enough, Autoblog reports that GM just announced a hybrid Tahoe/Yukon for 2008, which is supposed to deliver a 25% fuel efficiency over the 2007 model.

With the car my wife drives now, a 2005 Tahoe/Yukon would be a vast improvement in gas mileage if the price was right.  I’m just waiting to see what GM does with incentives and financing to help dealers move the 2005 and 2006 models.  Currently (expiring 1/10/05), GM is offering $8,000 cash back or 0% for 72 months on Tahoe + option package discounts; I’m just waiting for $8,000 cash + 0% + option package discounts before we pull the trigger.  Hey, if you’re a car dealer out of state and can get around residency restrictions, etc. and want to offer me the deal, I’m sure we can work something out prior to the 10th, otherwise, I’m content to wait.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cuban's investment advice

None of this is anything new.  It is very likely that you have heard this advice before.

Ok, here’s Mark Cuban’s investment advice:

  1. If interest rates stay where they are or go higher, look at 5 year or shorter maturity vehicles. It doesn't matter if its a bank CD, a money market fund, a tax free fund, treasuries or combinations there of. Bottom line is this, 4plus percent taxed, or up to 6 plus percent tax free equivalent (depending on your tax bracket), is not a bad way to go. If rates go down, do the same thing, even if you earn a lower rate. At the end of the year, you are guaranteed to have more than you started with.  Interest rates at ING Direct are 3.8% with no minimum.
  2. Evaluate your lifestyle. People forget that sometimes the best investment they can make is in wisely buying things they know they will use. If you track what you use and consume, whether its gas vs bus fare, buying bulk quantities or other discretionary spending, you can save more and earn a far greater return than you could in the stock market. If you can save 10pct per month on a hundred dollar per month budget, thats 120 bucks you can put in the bank. Thats the equivalent of earning 12 pct on a 1k dollar investment. If you can cut 100 bucks per month off 1k dollar monthly budget, thats like earning 12 pct on 10k dollars. Thats pretty darn good.  Spend smart, put your savings in risk averse, interest earning offerings.  Stop smoking and put the money in a jar.  Stop eating out for lunch every single day.  Cut some of the premium channels from your cable or satellite subscription.  See?  It’s pretty easy when you think about.
  3. Invest in yourself. Do the things that can get you closer to your goals and dreams. It wont come from a brokerage commercial. It will come from preparing yourself ,  working hard and standing apart from your competition. You Inc is the best stock you can ever buy…if you are willing to do the work.

Read Cuban’s whole post — lots of interesting information about brokerage houses.



Ok, here’s what Guy Kawasaki’s DICEE means:

  • Deep.  It’s not just the window dressing, the whole damn thing works and anticipates what you need.
  • Indulgent.  It’s luxurious and special and rewarding all at the same time.
  • Complete.  Every part of it is important, not just the “it.”
  • Elegant.  It works how you think it should work.
  • Emotive.  It is a call to action and creates an emotional attachment.

So exactly what is “it” that Guy is talking about?  “It” is the product.  Product is a broad word.  A service can be a product if you work somewhere that does not produce widgets.  You might be “it” — brand you, Wow! projects.  Use DICEE to evaluate all of the “its” that you are involved with.


Do you know your mission statement?

I don’t because it’s too long and I’ve never taken the time to memorize it.  Guy Kawasaki points out that a 3 or 4 word mantra is probably much more effective and if you feel strongly that you need a mission statement with all kinds of buzzwords, you can use the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator.


Ah yes.  What’s my blog mantra?

Useful blog content.

Simple as that.

Business 2.0 content is now free

The good news?  I don’t have to pay a subscription fee anymore because I used to read the magazine online anyway.

The bad news?  Any links in my blog to Business 2.0 articles no longer work; they just redirect to the main site (that is now part of CNNMoney.com).  Small price to pay.


Google video is pretty cool

I’ve been playing around with it.  Pricing is flexible depending on content and there are lots of download options with PSP and iPod included.



egoSurf basically lets you, well, do an ego search.  Enter your name or descriptor along with your URL and egoSurf will measure your hotness.  Kind of fun to play with.


The Engadget interview with Bill Gates

It’s certainly an interesting read. 



Barriers to chnage in an organization

Great post (including graphics) on Dave Pollard’s blog — when you first vie the post, see if you start assigning names of people in your organization to the graphics like I did.



Russell Beattie shares his thoughts about and experience with Vongo, which is the movie download and streaming service from Starz.  I tried to visit the site and got a “Flash Failure” because I’m not running Flash 8; then I tried to access it with my Mac and that didn’t work because Windows XP is required.  Basically at this point I gave up because I was going to have to close and restart Firefox and I didn’t feel like it.  Russell seemed to dig the service though, so if you are interested, check out what he has to stay.



What is “acq-hire”?  It’s what Google’s doing when it buys web technology companies on the cheap and absorbs those companies’ staffs into the Google organization.  It’s no longer “build, sell, repeat”, it’s now “build, sell, work at Google.”  Om Malik posts some more information about this.


Interesting CES tidbits

All from Engadget:

  • AuraGrid extends WiFi all over your house using existing coax (television) cabling.  Unfortunately homes with satellite tv cannot use satellite and AuraGrid on the same network, but it’s been my experience that lots of satellite installers put in a separate grid, so you may be able to make something work.  If I was Comcast, I’d bundle this if you signed up for a year of cable internet and cable television, but that’s just me.
  • When you “upgrade” your Verizon phone to use the new Verizon download service, you will no longer be able to listen to MP3s on your phone due to an agreement between Microsoft and Verizon that only allows the phone to play songs in the Microsoft media format.  If you don’t like your “upgraded” features, you can complain to Verizon and get an older version of the firmware.  This is just weird.

From Gizmodo:

  • DirecTV has partnered initially with FX to allow you to pay to watch shows before they actually air on the network channel for about $3 each.  In addition, you can pay $1 to watch shows 6–7 days after they aired nationally.  Future content will be coming from other major networks.  Of course, this only works with a DirecTV-brand PVR, which means that you will need a land-based phone line for $30–$40 per month.  I thought this was a great service until I read the part about the DirecTV PVR — I’m not paying for a phone line just to be able to use the service.

Link — AuraGrid

Link — Verizon Music Store

Link — DirecTV and FX deal

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Safeway's new inventory control change and how it affected me

The family went went to Safeway tonight to pick up a few things, specifically things for dinner.  Aside from the things that we actually went to purchase, I noticed that Glaceau Vitamin Water was on sale at $1 a bottle, which is a pretty good deal, so I loaded up a flat of 24 of my favorite flavors/colors.  When I got to the checkstand, I handed the checker one bottle to scan and multiply by 24.  She informed me that I would have to put the whole flat on the belt because there was a new inventory rule that Safeway had implemented that required her to scan every bottle.  At this point there was no one in line behind me and I wasn’t necessarily in a huge hurry, so I simply observed.

The checker proceeded to grab a bottle of each color (there were only 2), count the quantity of each color, and scan the barcode of each color as many times as the quantity she had counted; I wasn’t paying much attention as I was scanning my Safeway Card and swiping my credit card.  In order to verify what she had done, the checker then printed a receipt and proceeded to count the number of bottles that she had printed and came up 7 short, so she scanned 7 more bottles; this was the point that the line started forming and by this point all of the rest of groceries were loaded in my cart.

In order to verify, yet again, that the quantity was correct, the checker printed another receipt and counted.  Because I had now done everything required of me to complete the transaction, I was watching her (albeit from an upside-down perspective) and noted that she had not counted 7 bottles that had printed on the receipt — essentially she had missed 7 bottles on her initial check and had scanned 7 bottles more than I had for a total 31 bottles.  Not to be deterred, the checker then grabbed a bottle and started scanning the barcode (one swipe at a time) to void 7 bottles — at about the 4th bottle, the register timed out and required her to void the entire purchase.  She told me that a manager could override and proceeded to call the manager on the PA system.

The manager arrived, scanned his manager card, and proclaimed that we had to re-scan the entire order.  We started from scratch, unloading all of the items in the cart from their bags and then scanning each bottle of Vitamin Water individually (the checker insisted on scanning the 2 different flavors separately while the manager told her just to scan 1 bottle 24 times — this becomes important later).  Luckily this time, now that the line was 5 deep, we all agreed on the correct quantity. 

At this point, the checker went to give me my receipt.  Safeway has a promotion where you receive scratchcards for various different reasons.  Apparently the various combinations of things that we had purchased made us eligible for 9 of these scratchcards.  The unfortunate part of the scratchcard process is that the register sounds and alert every time the checker is supposed to hand me a scratchcard and the checker must hit a button to clear the alert and verify that the card has been given before the register will print a receipt — for those doing the math, that meant that there were 9 instances of this sequence before my receipt would print.  Had I not been there with my wife and daughter, I probably would have left long before round 3 of the scanning.

Here are my thoughts:

Obviously Safeway decided that they had a new inventory control process for whatever reason.  This new process was communicated not only to the store management, but probably also to the union, both of whom communicated it to the checkers.  The checker was following the new process and while it was a big pain in the ass for both her and I, I find it a little hard to fault her for doing her job.  The manager, a non-union employee, instructed the checker to violate the new process to speed up and diffuse the situation, which I find interesting because he works directly for the corporation that came up with the process.

The whole inventory control process is silly for both sides: the consumer and the checker.  Even if we had gotten things done correctly the first time, it would have been much easier for the checker to scan one bottle and enter the quantity than to have to continuously scan the barcode.  If that can’t happen, then, in the case of Vitamin Water, put a SKU on the skid that rings up 24 bottles.

Scratchcard promotions are great and I’m sure that some person in some office realized that the only way to ensure that scratchcards are handed out was to interrupt the normal process with a verification mechanism.  Unfortunately, this person with the brilliant idea never tested it in the real world.  I have no idea what I purchased to get my 9 scratchcards (I only spent around $50 and $24 of that was in Vitamin Water), but I could not believe how hard it made it for both me and the checker.

Friday, January 06, 2006

TiVo Series 3 with HD capabilities revelaled at CES

Check out the post on Gizmodo for full details and pics, but here are some of the interesting points:

  • HD recording
  • Still need an external USB wifi device, which will no doubt spur sales of the TiVo-branded one
  • Support for an external drive.  The pictures show a TiVo-branded drive and it’s not clear if it’s open support for all kinds of drives or even how the drive connects to the TiVo.
  • Base hard drive of 250GB.
  • 2 CableCard slots — that means you can record one program while watching another.  What’s the status on CableCards anyway?  I wasn’t aware that DirecTV and Comcast were really supporting these, but maybe I’m behind the times or don’t know what I”m talking about. 

UPDATE: I did a little more digging and found more information on the whole CableCard thing.  Here’s the deal from TiVoLovers:

  • To clarify, it supports analog cable, even any digital cable channels sent in the clear, without CableCARD. You only need CableCARD for any protected digital channels, to handle the descryption. And since all digital cable systems in the US *must* support CableCARD - it is an FCC mandate - then it should work with all cable systems, analog or digital.
  • the unit is dual-tuner - actually, like the HD DirecTiVo it can use any two of the tuners it has, and it has six. 2 cable tuners, 2 ATSC tuners, and 2 NTSC tuners. Yes, it supports digital and analog cable, digital ATSC OTA, and analog NTSC OTA.
  • And on the subject of outputs, since it was in the article and is an annoyance with Series 2 boxes: For output it has HDMI, Component Video, S-Video, and Composite Video. It has optical digital audio out, as well as RCA stereo out. Like the Series2 units it has 2 USB ports, and it also has a 10/100baseT Ethernet jack built-in.
  • External drives apparently attach through a SATA port.

Link — Gizmodo

Link — TiVo Lovers

Google Pack

You can now download basically every free application (Windows only) that Google produces and some bonus free applications in one single installer complete with an updater.  If you use all this stuff already, the updater install might be worth it.  The pack includes:

  • Google Earth
  • Picasa
  • Google Pack Screensaver
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Toolbar for IE
  • Firefox with Google Toolbar
  • Norton Anti-virus (free 6–month subscription to virus updates)
  • AdAware
  • Adobe Reader 7


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mossberg blasts the Treo 700W

Read his whole review, but essentially it boils down to this:

The Treo 700w will appeal to some Windows Mobile fans, and to some corporate IT staffs. But for everyone else, I advise sticking with the Palm-based Treos.

Hey, a 650 at 1/2 the price of a 700W appeals to me even without the review.


Put polls on your site easily and for free

dPolls let’s you do it.  You can create your own poll and download the code from the dPoll server and then view the results.  Here’s the catch: any poll that you create in the free service is searchable by keyword by anyone that uses the dPoll site (i.e., the results are public), which may not be so much of a “catch” at all unless you are scared of your poll’s results.

Pretty cool.



Have you ever been frustrated when trying to e-mail a really large file and the person you are trying to send it to can’t receive it because their e-mail single message size limit is really low?  YouSendIt allows you to send files up to 1GB to anyone you want by storying the item you are trying to send on their servers and simply sending your recipient a link to the message.

I looked at the Privacy Policy and it does not appear that YouSendIt can view or read anything you post onto their servers.


PathSync is more robust than SyncToy

I wrote some time ago about Microsoft’s SyncToy, which I have been using, but have also found lacking in some areas.  Recently I cam across PathSync, which seems to do everything that SyncToy does, but is far more configurable and robust — PathSync is also free.

Give it a try.


Dolby is showcasing new technology

It’s called Audistry and you can sample it on your computer.  However, to sample it on your computer you need external speakers and headphones; I don’t have either, so while I was able to get the sample to run, I couldn’t tell any difference on my built-in computer speakers (not that I was supposed to be able to, but I figured I’d try).

In any event, if you are so equipped with speakers and headphones, give it a try.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Are Bluetooth headsets finally getting to be the right form factor

I ranted in March of 2005 about how damn ugly Bluetooth headsets are.  Although I have seen some headsets that are smaller since then, everyone using one still looks like a cyborg.  I was surprised (happily) to see this Bluetooth headset from Motorola on Engadget:

Although I’d like to see a picture of this thing on someone’s head, it seems to be going the right direction.  As would be expected, without the boom mic, the device picks up your voice from inside your ear canal; this tends to work better in noisier environments than a boom microphone unless the boom is specifically noise cancelling.

This is supposed to be out sometime in early 2006 and there is not pricing detail yet.  As with any speaker you stuff in your ear, please read my views.

Link — Engadget post

Link — Motorola product details

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Nokia 770 review cont'd

I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail about my 770, so here are a few more points:

I primarily use the 770 for web browsing.  To some extent I use the IMAP/POP client, but not extensively.  The item I am most excited about, but have not yet installed is the VNC viewer so that I can remotely access my machines at work and at home.

I have not experienced an sort of annoying boot lags when launching the web browser.  That said, I have experienced low memory errors when I inadvertently left to many instances of the web browser open.

The web browser works great, but I have so far been unsuccessful in installing Flash and some other plug-ins; this is strictly due to a lack of trying on my part as I am sure that it is possible.

I actually have 2 770s — 1 stays at home in the living room and is used extensively by my wife and 1 is carried around by me primarily for work stuff and as an alternative to lugging my laptop around.  Here are my observations of how my wife uses the 770:

She learned how to use the device fairly quickly once I showed her how to use some of the basic functions; she even took it with her to show to her brother at a coffee shop and easily connected to unsecured wireless networks around the coffee shop so that she could show him the online functionality.  Although she did not initially have any experience with pen-based computing, she is getting better and faster at entry with the pen; I think that she mostly uses the keyboard input panel as opposed to handwriting (i.e., ink) recognition.

Mostly she uses the device for web access and to play Mahjong (ok, she’s addicted to Mahjong), which is a game that comes pre-loaded on the 770.  I have offered to set up her e-mail accounts so that she can access them through the mail application, but that doesn’t seem to be a huge priority for her as she has web access to all of her accounts.

The portability of the device, the instant-on, and the battery endurance all seem to be useful things to her.  Additionally the battery on our Sony laptop that we leave in the living room is completely dead, so it is much easier to walk around the house with the 770 than to shutdown the laptop, unplug it, plug it back in, and reboot.

I have not tried to load pictures or videos on the 770.  All of that stuff is generally handled by my iPod or on our Apple computers at home.  All of my cameras (video and still and Treo) use SD cards, so it’s not as if I can take pictures or videos and easily load them on to the RS MMC card that the 770 uses.

Here are a few wishes that I have for the 770:

  • Ability to use SD cards (probably not a likely conversion of the units that I already own).
  • Ability to use the USB port to pull data on to the device.  It would be very cool if I could plug my still camera, video camera, or Treo into the 770 and use the screen as a portable viewing system.  Further, it would be cool if I could dump data (i.e., pictures and videos) onto the RS MMC card when traveling to open up some space on my SD cards.
  • Vonage VOIP software.  If this existed, I would probably up my plan to the $24.99 per month and most extensively use it through the 770; I might even pay a small extra fee per month for the privilege.
  • Skype software.  I might consider dumping Vonage if this was available.

There is a firmware update for the 770 that is supposed to fix some of the things that others are griping about that I have yet to install on either of my 770s (probably do that this weekend if I think about it), so all of my reviews above are based on the original firmware.

10/20/30 Powerpoint rule

Guy Kawasaki shares his “rule” for effective Powerpoint presentations, which I will paraphrase below:

  • “10” is the optimal number of slides.
  • “20” is the number of minutes it should take to give the presentation
  • “30” is the minimum font size that you should be using (i.e., no smaller than 30)

Lots of other tips for those that a creating presentations for venture capitalists in Guy’s post, but the 10/20/30 rule is universally applicable.