Monday, June 15, 2009

The Web is Us/ing Us

An oldie but a goodie. This video is worth looking at again.

I've posted this video before. It was done by Michael Wesch from the University of Kansas and first appeared on YouTube Back in 2007.

Today, I came across a post by Scott Rosenberg that referred back to the video.

It's still worth watching, so I'm putting it up again.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

The time has come for an Iphone

I had planned to get an Iphone when they first came out. I knew they were going to be a good phone and I was ready.

But when they finally arrived, they weren't available in Canada. So while the tech press went wild over this new device, those of us in Canada just cooled our heels...waiting.

Last year, when the Iphone finally shipped in Canada, I was ready to buy. But when I saw the price and thought about what it would cost and compared that to how much I really needed one, I ended up talking myself out of it.

But I was able to convince my wife that she really needed one, and I got to set hers up and play with it and figure out how the thing worked. And as the year went along, I kept working at rationalizing why I could use one and how it would make my life a lot better.

E533524C-AAA7-445A-93C9-B0B2EEEFD5BC.jpgSo...last week was my birthday and guess what? Heather presented me with a brand new 16 GB Iphone 3G of my very own! Just one small glitch - two days before - something the folks at Rogers didn't mention to her - Apple had announced that they were going to start selling the new 3Gs phone on June 19.

So there I was, new (old) Iphone (still in the wrapping) in one hand, struggling to decide whether I should start using it or wait a week for the new one.

At first, I figured that the new stuff wasn't that big a deal and I'd just go ahead and use the one I had. But after looking around on the Web at the speculation - especially this comprehensive article from Macworld - I've decided to wait until the new one comes out.

As it turns out, it will only be another $20 to get the new phone. And it seems like it's worth at least that. So now I can start to get excited all over again.

Just one problem. We're leaving Victoria and heading back to our cottage in Saskatchewan on June 19th. So unless I can score one early in the morning on the day we leave, I'll be waiting another three weeks until we get back to get my hands on the new phone. Oh well...I've been waiting this long - another few days isn't going to kill me.

It just gives me that much more time to get excited all over again.

Google Search a powerful reference tool

That little Google search box at the top of most browser pages is a really powerful tool. But I often forget just how useful it can be.

For example, suppose you know something is 23 feet long and you're wondering what that is in metres. You could look up a metric conversion program or you can just type "23 feet =" (without the quotes) in the Google search box and voila.

But if you really want to find out how powerful and useful the search function can be, click on the "More about calculator" link that shows up beneath your results.

There's a whole lot of useful things that are worth noting, such as how to find weather for any city, sports scores, stock quotes, dictionary definitions, etc.

Here's the link to the Google reference page.

Thanks to Patrick Mead-Robbins from the Victoria Mac User Group for reminding me about this valuable tool.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Messenger project - some thoughts on building the perfect thing

If you've been reading The Daily Upload for awhile, you'll know that I have a soft spot for technology, which includes cool stuff that happens in space.

So that's why I'm pointing you to this cool collection of photos in The Big Picture about NASA's Messenger project, which is a mission to Mercury, the closest planet to the sun in our solar system.
It was visited by the Mariner 10 spacecraft twice in the 1970s, and about 45% of the surface was mapped. On August 3rd, 2004, NASA launched a new mission to Mercury, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging probe (or MESSENGER). MESSENGER is now in the last stages of multiple gravity-assist flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury, en route to an insertion into orbit around Mercury in March of 2011. In just two flyby encounters, MESSENGER has already greatly increased our knowledge about Mercury's surface features. As you look at Mercury in the new images below, keep in mind that it has minimal atmosphere, gravity about 1/3 of Earth's, and surface temperatures ranging from -183 C (-297 F) in some polar craters to 427 C (801 F) at high noon (Mercury's solar day lasting 176 Earth days)
Here's the link to the pictures:

As I was looking through this collection, I remembered a conversation I'd had about the inherent nature of creating computer code and whether you could build a bug-free program.

Bugs in software code are a fact of life. Think of all the security problems that we've had over the year with bugs in computer software being exploited by hackers. It's not surprising that people think that errors are inevitable.

But the truth is, if you have enough time, money and patience, you can create code without errors. And these space projects that NASA does are a good example. So are satellites that orbit the earth. They are built with amazing hardware, but the missions run with computer code. And there is no way that you can just fix the bugs that might pop up. They can't have any bugs - period. And they don't. When something has to be absolutely bullet-proof, they can build it. It just takes longer and it's really, really expensive.

The problem is that when you build something to be perfect, it is, by definition, only perfect when you build it. It may do exactly what it's supposed to, but it will not do anything else. So in a few months, or a few years, you will still have something that does exactly what it's supposed to do, but it will also be out-dated and unlikely to meet your current needs.

That's OK if you're a spacecraft floating through the galaxy, but it sucks if you're a business trying to keep your customers satisfied.

What technology companies have come to realize is that getting a product out to the customers, and letting them have a go at it (as with Google's BETA projects) is the way that things will work from here on out. No one really knows how a product will be used until people are out there using it. And the manufacturer needs to be able to adapt to those uses or face losing out to another product that can do it better.

That's the new mantra of the consumer economy. Companies will have to adapt and realize that their customers call the shots - not their engineers.

I still like things that were built to do one thing well - like typewriters. But I'm glad that we've got new toys to play with that can adapt to our needs, not force us to adapt to theirs.

I'm not sure how this line of thought links back to the Messenger project. But I'll work on it and if I come up with something, I'll let you know.

How long are your proposals?

If, like me, you often find yourself struggling over how much (or how little) information and time to put into a proposal, you might find this blog post by Jason Fried at 37 Signals interesting.

It's called "A reminder of how simple things can be when you don't make it complicated."

Jason finds a flyer for yard work in his mailbox and get some insights into preparing project proposals.

Read the whole post for yourself here. And check out the comment thread too. There's some interesting stuff in there as well.

Technorati Tag:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Starting your own MBA program

As always, the straight-forward Seth Godin continues to knock my socks off.

This time, the guru of marketing gurus reports on the results of his MBA program. The twist is that because he didn't think most MBA programs were up to speed, he decided to put one on himself.
More than 48,000 people visited the page that described the program and 350 really cool, talented people applied. I picked 27 finalists and all of them flew out to New York to meet each other. This was the most fun I’ve ever had at a cocktail party (it helped that it was at eight o’clock in the morning).

The conversations that day were stunning. Motivated people, all with something to teach, something to learn and something to prove. I asked each person to interview as many other people as they could. After three hours, I asked everyone to privately rank their favorite choices... “who would you like to be in the program with you?”

After they left, I tallied up the results. It was just as you might predict: nine or ten people kept coming up over and over in the top picks. I had crowdsourced the selection, and the crowd agreed. (It turns out that the people they picked were also the people I would have picked).

On January 20th, the most selective (one in 40 got in) MBA program in the world got started. Since then, they’ve never failed to live up to my hopes.

It's a good story. I recommend you read the whole post and follow some of the links.

Here's the link to the post:

Friday, June 05, 2009

Let the sun shine in...

We had a little excitement here last weekend at the (new) old homestead in Victoria. The 40' cedars in our front yard started smoking, thanks to the branches getting all tangled up with the power lines running through them.

Fortunately, our tenant, who was (ironically) enjoying a cigarette beneath the trees, heard some funny noises up above and noticed the smoke rising. A call to BC Hydro brought a truck out to investigate and a tree pruning crew to clean up the mess.

But when they arrived, their advice was simple. The trees were badly overgrown and presented a very real danger during windy, wet weather. They make excellent conducters when they're wet and if you happened to put your hand on a tree that was carrying a charge during a rainstorm, you stood a good chance of becoming a conduit for the electricity to get to the ground.

We had already been considering getting the trees removed, so when they offered to take them out for no charge, we said yes. My wife, Heather, snapped a few pictures of the process, which I've posted below.

As luck would have it, the day they took the trees down, the temperature took off here in Victoria. We've had record-setting heat every day since, which the extra sunlight in the morning hasn't helped. But although the house is a bit warmer, we like the light and the way it looks from the street. Now we just need to get the front yard landscaped...and maybe take down the cedar beside the house...and...the list goes on and on.

The only real negative out of all this is that now we're "those neighbours that moved in and chopped down those big cedars!" We'll never live down that rep!


Here's the job half-complete. We had three trees like the one above.


We went from 3 trees to a lot of stumps.


Roxy didn't know what to make of the change. But there might be rabbits in those things!


These guys were great. Nice bit of product insertion in this shot. I expect a cheque in the mail.


You wouldn't believe how fast free firewood gets grabbed by people. It was amazing.


And now, for the first time in about 40 years, you can see the front of our house from the street.

A sober look at the Mexican drug trade

Linda Diebel, a former Latin America bureau chief for the Toronto Star, has a sobering article up today on her blog Political Decoder. It's the story of how she learned the facts about the Mexican drug trade - and why she has no hope that it's going to be cleaned up any time soon.

Reading her account about how the trade will thrive because its too lucrative for both the dealers and the corrupt officials who benefit from it, I can't help but wonder why we believe that we're immune from that kind of corruption here in Canada. As we're seeing daily in Vancouver, our misguided attempts to control drugs by making them illegal only fuels the attraction of the business for the bad guys.

And while I don't believe that Canadian public officials are corrupt, one can't help but wonder whether the huge profits flowing to the gangs that control the business aren't finding a home in the pockets of the people we have put in charge of catching the bad guys.

Here's the link

Mad Avenue Blues

A brilliant look at what's been happening over the past year in the advertising game.

If you work in this business, you'll be all-too-familiar with what's being talked about. And if you don't - well, just enjoy this brilliant re-working of Don McLean's famous "American Pie."