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Showing posts from February, 2007

Ah, the Satisfaction of Recognition

Always nice to occasionally remember the biggest charm of the Web is to encounter people with like philosophies that you might not have ever encountered. Case in point, I blogged about Brass Goggles in the past, a British blog devoted to all things steampunk (think Jules Verne). I've enjoyed reading it, and dropped the blogger a line to let them know about a steampunk Yahoo Widget, Steam Gage . Imagine my joy to see that the wonderful blogger added a whole entry on my submission , and thanked "Mr. Tretakoff" for the information! My thanks to Brass Goggles for immortalizing me as such. I am honored.

The Workaholic Burnout Culture

Hello. My name is Josh. And I am a workaholic. Those words have been uttered by me since I was 13 years old. I preferred work over school, work over relationships, and work over fun. At 13, I was working, literally, 80 hours a week in the summers. In college, I had not one, not two, but three jobs, simultaneously. In retrospect, it seems fated that I would be drawn to Silicon Valley, where we have made an art form of transforming our social lives into our work lives...and feeling content with it. It never used to be this way. Sure we had the distorted view of the nuclear family, replete with images of "Leave It To Beaver" bliss. But remember the influx of happy hours, which fortified the men (since that was who was primarily working) for their familial obligations? As time went one, the happy hours went away, and the Blackberry took its place. The ultimate distortion of this came when I worked for Inktomi. Great company, great people. The culture was summed up in one phrase:

FutureCar: I Want One Now

Not sure if you have been catching it, but the Discovery Channel has been running a miniseries, FutureCar . I'm not all that keen on the editing, as they spend about 2 minutes on each cool car concept, then spend 10 minutes on a hydrogen powered go kart time trial. However, there was one car that looks to be on the cusp of reality that makes it all worth it: the VentureOne . 3 wheels. Cockpit style seating. Hybrid technology. All look spacey and futuristic. But here's the kicker: it leans into turns, up to 45 degrees! That makes driving this thing a combination of motorcyle, car...and plane. See, it takes the best of what I love about my all-wheel drive Outback Sport to a whole new level. The video section of the site really says it all: "This thing is so much fun to should have guns, or missles on it! I want to dogfight!" Rumor is, the VentureOne (the evolution of the Carver One featured in FutureCar and the videos) will come in at less than $20K and comar

I Feel The Need...The Need For Speed

Gentlemen, start your engines. As I blogged about before , if you want to know the speed of your web connection, SpeedTest has your back. But now, they have also introduced a new interface, making speed testing a downright participatory sport. Check out that interface to the left! But wait, there's more. Compare your results to those in the same state, or region, or with the same provider. Historical charts, averages of download and upload speeds, and the ability to customize how you prefer to have the information displayed to you. When you're done, you can post your results through HTML or email. Check out mine: Now how cool is THAT?

VOIP continues to pay me off

Did you know the IRS is refunding Excise taxes collected between 2003 & 2006 this year, if you have long distance service? Depending on how many deductions you claim you could get up to $60 back. Hell, $30 is there for the taking. Curiously, this new blog, Nextlust , was what turned me on to it, but they implied it was VOIP users only. My bad.

What Yahoo Widgets were meant to be

On my PC's, I am a big fan of Yahoo Widget Engine ; heck, at home I have an entire 2nd monitor devoted to 'em. Unless you want to get OS specific (Mac OSX Dashboard or Vista Sidebar), there are really only two Widget choices to use: Yahoo Widget Engine or Google Desktop Gadgets. Soon, I'll do a head to head review, and give you my feedback. I'll let you know I run both at home. :-) Check out this amazingly cool YWE widget, Neon Gauges :: System Info. It's every gauge you ever wanted, with slick neon reflection graphics, and smooth animation. Best of all, it's multiple widgets in one. Want to monitor the hard drive? Right click, and add it. Your battery? Right click. Best YWE Widget I have seen in a while, and adds energy, style, and functionality to any desktop.

The Danger of Public Windows

I've written (and showed photos) of how Windows error messages appear at the airport occasionally. Well, looks like I am not alone with this wry observation. The ever-improving Download Squad blog points out a whole flickr group dedicated to these. My favorite is that one to the right: the Vegas-style video billboard that is frozen for lack of a login screen. I want to see some from the Strip, or a football stadium: when those fail, it must be spectacular. :-) To be fair, the images are not just of Windows crashes/errors, but embedded systems and NT, as well. The reality is that, the more complex the technology, the more that can go wrong. As we move from dumb phones to cell phones, to smartphones, we had better keep this in mind. For instance, my Palm TX is clearly at the end of it's life: the programs I've loaded into it cause memory leaks, and the Palm OS behaves erratically...until it crashes. How to fix it? Rebuild the Palm (hard reset) and start loading the program

Outlook as your desktop

Another from the long line of "why the hell didn't this get thought of before?" Outlook is still the most used Calendar/Email/Contacts program (at least, until Gmail/Google Calendar gets sync down pat). However, it suffers from single window problems: you can look at your email, but you can't see your schedule without clicking into Calendar. And, if your Outlook is as bloated as mine, this can be a 5 second delay between click to display. No more. Enter Outlook on the Desktop . As Download Squad describes it, "It allows you to pick any one of the main Outlook views (Inbox, Calendar, Tasks, etc), and display it directly on your desktop." If you use multiple monitors, like I do, you can always see your schedule open without diverting from your email. Years ago, Berkeley Systems (venerable makers of the legendary After Dark screensaver) made a PIM program that did a similar thing: it turned your desktop into your calendar. Way before its time, it didn't m

Honesty is Good for Business

You can't have a worse week, as a company, than JetBlue had this week. You all know I'm a fan of the airline, but this week, they screwed up royally, stranding and inconveniencing thousands of passengers. Inexcusable. Why did they screw up so badly? A perfect storm of poor decision skills, bad weather, inexperience, and more. Essentially, piss poor planning. But something strange happened, as a result. They took responsibility. Think of it for a minute. Enron, Cablevision, United...the list of companies that have screwed their customers and investors reads like a who's who of bad customer service poster children. JetBlue came out, on the day this all happened, and admitted they screwed up and woudl do whatever it took to make it right. And guess what? They are doing what every airline has fought, every HMO has fought, every monolithic services company fights: they have introduced a Customer Bill Of Rights. Why is this so epic? They did not try to deflect blame. They took i

People Who Live In Straw Houses...

Most people, when undertaking a project to build a house, think wood, brick, concrete. Then there are the dreamers. The iconoclasts. The people who think they can make a real difference and blaze a new trail. They build a house from straw. Yep, you read it right. Meet Leslie Miley, the man of vision in question. I've had the pleasure to work with Leslie and call him a friend. But make no mistake about it: Leslie is a man of vision. He also is a man who is driven. Why, you ask, would a man of Silicon Valley buy a property in Paso Robles (in San Luis Obisbo county, about halfway from San Francisco to LA) and build a straw house? As Leslie says: In the year 2000 I started straw bale dream house that would be ecologically sound, environmentally friendly, and a place to finally call home. When Leslie explains it, in his uncompromising way, you actually get it. You believe it. And then you read the incredibly detailed blog of everything that went right, wrong, and in between. From the


The content for the right side of my blog is provided, mostly, by Widgetbox . It's easy: you pick widgets you want to feature on your blog, configure them, and voila: they appear. Heck, I've even created widgets: that IM one (plugoo) came from my hacking their Javascript. Needless to say, I like the flexibility and variety of Widgetbox, and I have been very happy to see them grow. Now, they've gone one step further: Blidgets. Essentially, you can take any blog and make it a widget. Then, you can put that widget on your blog: decide if you want headlines, articles, colors: you name it. For instance, I created Blidgets for Pete's Treough Blog , Lani's Fog Blog , and, of course, The Sports Guy . See them all on the right? Best of all, YOU can have them, too. Anyone can. Sign up for a Widgetbox account, and subscribe away. Already have one, and want to feature Tretakoff Musings? Got you covered:

Fantasy Sports comes to the Movies

It had to happen. Fantasy Sports is an ever-increasing popular obsession among sports fans, dating back to the Rotisserie Baseball that started in the 1980's. Constructed by bored sportswriters who were looking for ways to amuse themselves, they created a game where an individual player's stats gave him "points." You could assemble a team of players, and the points they earned for their individual achievements would be your total score. Soon, the concept spread from baseball, to football, to's now a HUGE business, and, with the arrival of the Web, it became even easier to manage a league, trade, etc. The problem? For non-sports fans, it's not only boring, it's aggravating. And, for fans of football (like me), who the heck cares about baseball, for instance? Many have tried to look at ways to make fantasy sports more universally appealing, but failed. Others, such as the Sports Guy, have made noble attempts to help, offering his legendary US

If You Get Tired Of Bashing Them, Join Them

Al Franken has been a lot of things in his unusual career. A Saturday Night Live writer in the heyday of the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players," he went on to become a performer and sometime actor. But he really hit a nerve when he became an author of Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot , and the absolute perfect Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) Fair and Balanced Look at the Right . Suddenly, the Left was not a meek hippie squawking about Greenpeace: Al was using the intellectual rapier of wit to combat absolute idiocy. He became the signature of Air America, the radio network that counters the Right's mouthpiece, Fox. I used to listen to his show, via podcast, religiously, as it was not only humorous, and fun, but an absolute taskmaster for the outright lies spewed by the likes of O'Reilly and Ann Coulter. His show was always spot on. I say "was," as he ended it yesterday, after a long success. Why did he end it? Al Franken is running for the Senate in

The Night is STILL Young

Courtesy of the wondrous Ms. P, I bring you the first new song from the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel, in a dozen years. While he has been busy touring, teaching (Yay Berklee School of Music!), and writing classical pieces, he has pretty much said he's done with the genre that brought him to the Rock N'Roll Hall Of Fame. This piece, written as a tribute to his wife, is a unique blend of Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Billy Joel himself. And a welcome throwback to a simpler time. Anytime you want an audience, Billy, we're all still here.

Random Thoughts

If Global Warming is such a "fact," why is most of the country seeing such unseasonable weather? Ask the people in upstate New York, who are looking at records of 100 inches of snow this year, if they are seeing global warming? Check out Michael Crichton's State Of Fear for a good perspective on this (and one of Crichton's better books after a loooong string of bad ones). This year's SuperBowl was the 2nd most watched one, ever. WHY??? Two teams that failed to capture the country's imagination, in a rainy, sloppy, mistake-filled event with some of the worst commercials in years? Hell, if it was not for the good company (Lani and Pauline), and good food, I'd have switched to playing Madden. After CES and Apple's iPhone, I think the gadget explosion has palpably subsided. It's eerie to see sites like Engadget and Digg so focused on other topics. The San Francisco Chronicle has amazingly improved. When I first moved here, it was the most execrable w

The Skies Are Getting Friendlier

After 9/11, the Airline industry seemed to be headed into a freefall faster than the buggy whip business after the invention of the automobile. Now, nearly six years later, we're seeing an unbelievable resurgence, led by upstart carriers who focus on profitable routes, low fares, and great amenities. While Southwest remains the granddaddy of them all, other airlines saw a way to offer the irreverent attitude of the country's most profitable airline, but add a little more entertainment and comfort. JetBlue , whom I have blogged about a few times before, is clearly the leader in this area. I still will fly JetBlue anywhere, when given the chance, and they continue to expand. Here in Northern CA, they now fly aggressively out of Sacramento and, starting in May, will complement their Oakland and San Jose service with flights from...gasp...SFO! Delta's Song , from all accounts, offers comparable amenities and service to JetBlue. AirTran continues their push nationwide, with XM R

The Killer Web 2.0 app...AutoCorrect

As I write this, I am using a Blogger form on my Firefox browser. Not a client app; a browser. Firefox is smart enough to recognize words I am typing as misspelled, by helpfully underlining them in red. Blogger helpfully includes a Spell Check function, before I post. Can someone explain why they can't just correct me? The one thing that has been holding me back from fleeing from the client app and embracing Web 2.0 is, quite simply, the ability to auto correct my spelling errors. It's the single biggest thing that prevents me from making GMail or Zimbra my platform of choice. It's the one killer feature that Outlook has (by way of Word integration), and keeps me tethered to the desktop. Now, Firefox goes a long way with the proactive identification of misspelled words, but, as it has the ability to observe and identify, why not correct? But even there is not enough; what about IM clients? The closest I have found is As-U-Type , which looks at EVERYTHING you type, and learn

Mamet and Tourette's

Do you know who David Mamet is? If you said no, stop reading this, and head straight for your Netflix account. Add Glengarry Glen Ross , State & Main , and The Spanish Prisoner to the top of your queue, right now. Watch. Come back here, after, and we'll resume. For those of you who are already enlightened to the miracle that is Mamet, you may not be aware that he has a series on television: The Unit . Crackling with a blend of Mamet dialogue, and a "Delta Force meets Desperate Housewives" feel, it's a must watch for the true aficionado. His episodes of The Shield were intense, and he keeps the energy going here (along with employment of his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon ). One thing about Mamet: he never shirks from language. American Bison set the tone, and it reached it's zenith with Glengarry Glen Ross . In fact, one clever director recut a new trailer for GGR, with this in mind. Note: this is NOT safe for work (language) and should probably only be played wit

Speaking of Apple and Superbowl weekend...

While this year's Superbowl is not a major attraction for me (Colts vs. Bears? Yawn.), I am looking forward to the commercials. The buzz is that Apple has a special commercial planned this year, possibly Beatles-related, so that's will be the Easter egg I'm hunting for. These commercials have become amazing, in their technical detail, their story, and their originality. For instance, I give you Michael Jordan, king of the commercial/sports pitchmen. Already a legend in basketball, sports, clothes, and commercials ("Gotta be the shoes" "Nothing but net"), Gatorade produced this stunning Superbowl commercial for his last major appearance, entitled simply 23 vs. 29: Some commercials have used famous directors, of course, but never made it to the screen, even for the Superbowl. Take this absolutely brilliant Spike Jonze-directed Gap masterpiece: However, this year's hype king is also the master of the Superbowl commercial. Let's not forget: it was A

Why my next PC will be a Mac

At the office, we have some seriously hardcore developers. Recently, I've noticed a strange phenomenon spreading among them. No, not the sudden burst of social skills or normal working hours (though those are eerily appearing, as well). It's the sight of monstrously oversized Dell laptops disappearing, being replaced with sleek, slim silver...Macs. How is this possible, in the hallowed ground of development, that the ultimate computer, forever associated with designers, is now a hardcore development machine, you ask? One word: Parallels . While Microsoft releases Vista and it's more refined UI, and Mac tries to shove more and more into the amazing OS X, the quiet revolution comes from an unlikely pair: Mac's switch to Intel chips and Parallels, which lets you run Windows in a window of your OS X machine, with no seeming loss of speed or quality. Sure, Apple's Boot Camp lets you run either Windows or Mac OS, but Parallels allows the simultaneous approach. While this