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Showing posts from January, 2007

Digital Data, Analog Style

I've always been much more satisfied with analog displays than digital. They are somehow more alive, more vibrant than the cold displays of numbers on most LCDs or LEDs; give me a Nixie Tube any time over any of those. Certainly, my wishlist has always held a valued spot for the Ambient Office Dashboard , with it's delightfully analog gauges and punch card programmability, but it's a mere pretender to the throne when compared with The Device. The Device (it's full name is The Device Patented Process Indicator) is all I have ever imagined for a desktop widget of the first order. With 2 analog dials, a glowing beaker of liquid, and a bezeled red light, you can use the software to decide what 4 things you want to watch on each. Stock prices? Temperatures? Blog page loads? take your pick and take in all the information at a glance, in magnificent style. Courtesy of a link from Brass Goggles , The Device is almost on sale. As soon as it is, count on me as a very happy early

This Blog Just Saved Me $60!

In my recent posting about AT&T's VOIP Service , I wrote: "Yes, Vonage has a few more features I would like, and is $5 less;" To which, a commenter, the mysterious SamIam , kindly said: "AT&T CallVantage isn't $5 more than Vonage. Call them up and change your plan. The new plan (same as the old plan) is under $25 -- The FCC requires you change to the new plan!" Well, I logged into my CallVantage account today, saw a link to change my plan, and was able to switch it to the $25 plan instead. There is NO difference between the $30 and $25 plans; just different price. Thanks, SamIam: $60 a year savings, because of your comment!

Steampunk Fans, Unite!

I'm an unabashed fan of alternative fiction, where visionary authors look at key times or key events and wonder "what if this turned out differently?" From the books of Harry Turtledove , to the more obscure such as Richard Dreyfuss (yes, that Richard Dreyfuss), as well as the movies that attempt this (though usually with some annoying subplot of time travel), I'm hooked. One sub-genre that particularly gets my full attention is steampunk . In essence, the idea of many of our technical innovations today, powered by steam engines, usually set in the 1800's. Good examples are the works of Jules Verne, or Bruce Sterling/William Gibson's The Difference Engine . Unfortunately, when Hollywood tries it's hand at steampunk, it usually is abysmal. Take, for example, the painful-to-watch film version of the Wild Wild West , or the movie that drove Sean Connery into retirement, vowing never to appear on the silver screen again, the terrible adaptation of Alan Moore&

AT&T CallVantage: putting the Service in VOIP service

I've mentioned before that I ditched my landline some time ago in favor of a Voice Over IP (VOIP) line from AT&T, with their CallVantage service. $29.95 a month, with unlimited local and long distance calling, with crystal-clear sound quality. Uses your broadband Internet connection, and comes with almost every feature you can imagine: voicemail, caller ID, privacy time, and dozens more...all included. What I have not mentioned is why I think their service is the best thing going. Yes, Vonage has a few more features I would like, and is $5 less; yes, SunRocket will give you a deal for $199 for 2 years of service. What AT&T gives me is some of the best customer service I could ask for, as well as the best phone quality you can imagine: far better than any landline I ever had. Examples of their service: call them, and speak to a human, 24 hours a day. Try that with any other VOIP provider. Got a problem? They will patiently try to fix it, and, if all else fails, they FedEx y


Ok, before we start, the pics are all here. We headed to Tucson to see my mother's new winter homestead. Never been, but I love the desert, so we were looking to have some fun. She lives in the Catalina Foothills, with the city below. Tucson's population is, surprisingly, about the same as San Francisco's; it's also the home to the University of Arizona: I had no idea. While downtown is nothing to see, the landscape is stunning. First tourist attraction: the Wildlife Museum . Located way out in the desert, it's an open-air, self guided sprawling facility that covers all of the native plants, animals, and minerals of the Sonora desert. The cave tour was amazing: walk through the cramped passages, and see a wild open cave, along with gorgeous exhibits of semi-precious stones from the area. The native plants and cactii are stunning, and the feel of the place is decidedly unhurried and hands on. Lots of trails and paths to explore. The animals? WOW. A pair of mountain l

In Praise of the Palm GPS

Thanks to contributors to this blog, as well as my wife, I recently became the proud owner of a Palm GPS for my Palm TX. Consisting of a small (3"x2") Bluetooth GPS unit, a cradle that attaches to your windshield, and a handy cable that charges both the Palm and the GPS, this is TomTom on your Palm. Literally. It uses the TomTom software that you see in all the commercials, and your Palm. And, I'm thrilled to say, works like a charm. You load the software on your Palm, throw the maps on your SD card, and you are in business. The GPS grabs a signal within seconds, and you are good to go. Setup is done through a simple wizard on your Palm, one time, and, as Southwest says, you are now free to move about the country. To test it, I took it on my recent trip to Arizona. I programmed in my favorites: city, street address, and a custom name. Then, when I got in my rental car, I fired it up. In moments, I had a built in navigator, complete with a wonderful British woman's voi

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

It came to me in a flash across the screen in a tony eatery in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona, today. Finally, the day I had dreamed of, since blogging about it two years ago, this month: Bill Parcells resigns as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. We have all endured a terrible ordeal. Now, with this episode behind us, let the healing begin.

Snow in the Desert

Just a quick update: just got back from Tucson, AZ, where my ongoing luck of bringing bad weather wherever I travel continues. For the first time in 5 years, this desert city received snow. And for the first time in a decade, it was significant accumulation and stuck. I'll bore you all with a travlogue later, but for now, just a quick glimpse of the snow covered desert.

Movin' on up!

Loyalty Lab recently moved offices to 100 Pine St, on the 21st floor. I've mostly worked in low-rises on the Peninsula; our last office was the 7th floor. But this is a GREAT view of the city. Located in the heart of downtown, we see the Bay, the other buildings, and can see the icons of San Francisco, such as the Ferry Building and Transamerica pyramid. My office is wonderful, looking down on the Tadich Grill, a favorite restaurant of mine, and one of the oldest in San Francisco. From my desk, I can catch a glimpse of Coit Tower and still hear the cable cars, 200 feet below. A welcome respite from the cramped quarters we've had for some time. The strange thing about the building is the noise and vibrations from the elevators. Years ago, I visited a company in the Twin Towers in NY, and was struck by the din from the passing elevators, and the vibrations of the winds and elevators. It's eerie, being up so high, and feeling shakiness, especially in San Francisco, but it'

Bandwidth Anchors

I'm the kinda guy who has LOTS of betas, bleeding edge programs, and other sundry things on his computer, looking for the next great thing. I'm also not necessarily one who associates reduced performance with those programs. Good example: the Tab Effect I recommended a few days ago : great idea, but really slows down Firefox's performance: I ended up jettisoning it. Not quite ready for prime time. However, I recently found out about other such programs, sapping not performance of my computer, but bandwidth. Remember when I mentioned about my aborted efforts to move to DSL? Well, my nephew Jeremy read that post, and IM'ed me this: Hey know, Cnet's speed test is horribly inaccurate. Go retest with Speakeasy's. I get (on average) 5.7 megs a second....6.1 or so on good nights. I'd stay with Comcast, I've only had a problem maybe 4-5 times in the 3-4 years we've had it, and the reviews on Yahoo and Verizon

Free Headache Relief

I'm one of those "flirt with danger, laugh at hard drive loss" kinda guys. However, with the amount of photos, videos, and receipts I have been accumulating, I've got that little tingle that says I am just 1 Hard Drive crash away from saying, "if only I had backed up..." Yeah, backups. The ultimate unsexy topic. Might as well talk about actuarial tables. Why, oh why, with this age of broadband and cheap hard drive space, is there not an easy way to automatically back up your files? I'm talking, no paying attention, all security handled, personal-slave-that-does-my-bidding backup here. Um. There is. And, oh more thing? It's free. Yep, say it loud, say it proud: I love Web 2.0. Presenting Mozy, the online backup service, that will back up as much as 2 GB for FREE. Need more than that? How about Mozy Unlimited? $5 bucks a month, and no more concern. Ok, here's the scoop: you download a little program, choose the files you want to backup,

$1 Million says there are no psychics

It was 1981. That's Incredible ruled the TV landscape. On came a man who could move the pages of a phone book with his mind, complete with yoga suit. "That's incredible!" Fran Tarkenton cried out. Then, from backstage, out walked a man who looked like a cross between Santa Claus and a professor. He was introduced as James Randi, a professional debunker. He went by his stage name of "The Amazing Randi," and claimed he could duplicate any so-called psychic tricks with standard cons used by magicians. Even more, he said he could smoke out these people as charlatans, and proceeded to do so, live, to the "psychic". I would never take things at face value again. Over 20 years later, and I am still a skeptic, thanks to James Randi. And so is he: he is offering $1 Million to the high profile Psychics to just agree to be tested for their feats scientifically. He's spent years offering the prize to anyone, but the kooks come out. Now, let's see

The Chevy Volt: Sexy Hybrid

With the exception of the Tesla Roadster, is there a law that says electric-influenced cars need to be ugly? I mean, the Prius may be king of the hybrids, but sexy it ain't. Of all people, Chevy seems to be having a little design renaissance. For instance, the Chevy Volt is gorgeous, and gets somewhere between sixty and One Million Miles per Gallon. Design wise, it takes some cues from the new version of the Camaro, but it definitely improves on the experience. Now THAT'S riding the lightning!

The Clash said it best

Should I stay or should I go now? The quandary: I currently have Comcast for my broadband service; paying them about $60 a month. Speed, according to the CNet bandwidth measurement tool , is about 476.5 kbps. For my Phone service, I pay AT&T for their VOIP service about $30 a month: unlimited calls, great features. My router is starting to fail, so I'll get a new one, but it made me wonder: were there other providers that could do the job for me? Lo and behold, DSL has finally made it's way to my neighborhood. Looks like AT&T/Yahoo's system to determine if service is available at an address needs work. After a 45 minute chat online with a rep, she verified service is NOT available. Sigh. Read on for details for your research. AT&T/Yahoo will give me DSL that is 6 Mbps for about $40 ; 3 Mbps for $25 a month. Roughly half the cost of cable, and almost 10x the speed. Plus, they'll sweeten the pot with a $75 prepaid VISA. Potentially, I could save even more if I

Firefox: 3D effects on tab switching

On a lighter note, check out this amazingly cool Firefox extension. Firefox brought tabbed browsing mainstream, but this extension adds an incredibly cool 3D effect when you switch tabs. Requires a decent video card, but man, what a Mac-like experience it brings. And FREE!

San Franciscans Gone Wild

I spent a few years as a professional singer. A Cappella harmony, Barbershop, even a little Gilbert & Sullivan. Who knew this could get you physically assaulted, especially in the most liberal area of the country? Well, apparently, some of my fellow Bay Areans decided a group from Yale who sang the National Anthem on New Year's Eve deserved something in return for their patriotism, violence-style. I'm a firm Libertarian, and generally side on the Blue State aspects of the country, but this makes me see Red. This is despicable. Not only is violence like this absolutely abhorrent and intolerable, but to take violence against people making music, on a night of national revelry, in this's enough to make someone agree with Bill O'Reilly. San Francisco, specifically the people who did this: you should not only be ashamed, prosecuted, and punished: you should be publicly humiliated and pilloried. I'm ashamed to share the same country, state, and city with you

My Palm Is No Longer Top Dog

Yep, it's official: Steve Jobs has been reading my blog on the ultimate device, and went ahead and created it. This will serve as an epitaph for my Palm: ladies and gentlemen, I humbly yield my evangelism of my Palm TX as the ultimate multipurpose device, and give you the iPhone. Why is the iPhone the perfect device? Let me count the ways: - Apple (no longer Apple Computer; now just Apple, inc. - nice touch, Steve) understands that the killer app for a cell phone is...the phone functions. With Apple's clout, they were able to make the largest cell carrier innovate (visual voicemail: click what messages you want to listen to, rather than be forced to listen to them all), and promises more. Hell, they make making a phone call look sexy on this thing. - Perfect form factor. Slimmer than any other smartphone, to appeal to the sexy crowd. All screen: you can't mess up the buttons on this thing. The right size to talk on, watch movies...just perfect. - It runs Mac OS X. Read t

Wireless Power...finally here!

A gadget lover's dream: no more cradles or wires. Just drop your phone, Palm, iPod, etc. on this special plate, and it recharges wirelessly. Finally. Y'know, my Sonicare toothbrush has had this for years: just get near the cradle, and it starts charging. I'm amazed it took so long for this to come out. However, call me convinced: another good purchase for next holiday!

Gadget Time of Year

With the International Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas in full swing, followed by tomorrow's Mac World, it's a good week to be a gadget lover. For instance, CES has already yielded some great announcements, including: - Microsoft is bringing IPTV to the XBox. Want another good reason to invest in this gaming platform? It already can play some of the best games, is a kick-ass DVD player, and offers wireless connectivity to allow you to download movies and games right to your TV. Now, add the ability to subscribe over the Internet to your favorite TV channels, and it's goodbye cable. Add in DVR functionality, and the battle for the living room is over. - The Tivo Comcast announcement. I shall say no more. - The now-near legendary rumor of the iPhone from Apple gets more legs, as the Wall Street Journal leaks that Cingular is rumored to be providing a private cell network for Apple, and iChat has already been updated...stay tuned for the Reality Distortion Field at 9AM t

Tivo...almost on my Comcast DVR!

So close, I can almost taste it. Today, at CES, Comcast finally demo'ed Tivo on their DVR. As I have this miserable piece of crap excuse for a box, with it's sluggish UI and hit or miss recording ability, I miss my Tivo every day. Will I be willing to pay a few bucks more a month for Tivo's UI, reliability, and great features on my already bloated Comcast box? YES. Now, when's the date? Rumor is, I'll be able to update the existing box instead of getting a new one. Seems unlikely, as Tivo's Thumbs Up/Down buttons aren't on the Comcast remote. Still, I'll keep you posted!

Been waiting all week for Saturday night

Live blogging my Dallas Cowboys, back in the playoffs...finally! This game comes down to the talent of Romo and Julius Jones against a team with heart, the Seattle Seahawks. In the 1st quarter, both teams look sloppy. Romo is throwing too low, and the defenses are setting the tone. Need a big play. Q2: C'mon, Romo. More low throws. He scrambled; that's when you need magic! Q2: Penalties! What the hell, Boys? You aren't the Raiders! Q2: Madden is right. Romo needs to settle down. He's dangerous when he scrambles, but he's throwing erratically. Where's that poise he got to the Pro Bowl with? Q2: I've never been a Parcells fan, but nice to see him fired up. About time. Q2: Goddam Owens. Most overpaid asshole in the game. Drops, drops, drops. Earn that pay. Q2: TOUCHDOWN! That's the Romo I've been waiting for! Q3: More penalties, and the Hawks are looking much sharper. Don't let them back in... Q3: Seahawks TD. Good Seattle drive. They definitely are

New Year's Eve

We welcomed 2007 with a cruise on the Bay, courtesy of Hornblower Cruises. A luxurious windowside seat, with a decadent 4 course dinner of Tiger Shrimp & Scallops, followed by duck, with a main of Filet Mignon, and a Cappuccino Napolean for dessert. Charles and Karen arranged the trip, and we had a wonderful time, punctuated by a great fireworks display and a Zino Mouton Cadet #3 on the cool deck air, as we passed under both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Lloyd and John turned us on to Hornblower, years ago, with the fabulous lunch cruises, and the dinner aboard the California Hornblower was absolutely memorable. A reserved table, open bar with premium selection, seated on the topmost Captain's Lounge, with a jazz duo playing 20 feet away, was just the way to start the new year off right!

Kodak Gets It

Kodak, the venerable institution of Americana, clearly is in a state of transition. With both savvy acquisitions and organic growth in the digital space, they have carefully moved into a position where they are on the cusp of being the fastest growing digital imaging company in the world...again. But, despite that, that's not what I am posting about tonight. As a company, as a culture, they have definitely understood the world is changing, and want all of their employees to understand they GET IT. This video, originally produced for internal use, is absolutely the best example of how a large company, steeped in tradition, can inspire the energy, the passion, and the fun of the changing world they live in: Now, tell me THAT is not a company you would love to work for! A company that can poke fun at itself while paying homage to their legacy, and showing a whole new side...MAN. Remember, this was for internal use: they used this to show the vast, longtime employees of Kodak that not