Friday, September 19, 2008

Extend Toner Life

It is outrageous that the printer manufacturers are doing this to us! From Slate:

To find out, I did what I normally do when I'm trying to save $60: I Googled. Eventually I came upon a note on FixYourOwnPrinter.com posted by a fellow calling himself OppressedPrinterUser. This guy had also suspected that his Brother was lying to him, and he'd discovered a way to force it to fess up. Brother's toner cartridges have a sensor built into them; OppressedPrinterUser found that covering the sensor with a small piece of dark electrical tape tricked the printer into thinking he'd installed a new cartridge. I followed his instructions, and my printer began to work. At least eight months have passed. I've printed hundreds of pages since, and the text still hasn't begun to fade. On FixYourOwnPrinter.com, many Brother owners have written in to thank OppressedPrinterUser for his hack. One guy says that after covering the sensor, he printed 1,800 more pages before his toner finally ran out.

Proffesionals Marrying Professionals

John Derbyshire:

our cognitive elites are increasingly inbred. Doctors used to marry nurses, professors used to marry their secretaries, business moguls used to marry starlets. Now doctors marry doctors, professors professors, moguls moguls, lawyers lawyers, etc. Those modest origins of our meritocratic elites are less modest by the year. We might be drifting towards a caste system, except that meritocracy requires some openness, some vacuuming-up of high-I.Q. outliers from the lower classes, some dumping of low-I.Q. duffers from the elites.

Product Design Idea: Improving the Grocery Cart

When I go grocery shopping for our hungry family of four, the cart fills up. I mean, really fills up. Although I start out putting the crushable stuff on one side, and the heavy stuff on the other, as the cart fills up, it all jumbles together, and some stuff at the bottom inevitably gets squashed.

A nice, pull-up divider would be a great solution. Keep the heavy nicely segregated from the soft stuff.

Observation on Test-Driven Development

With TDD, I think probably half the benefit is the process benefit of wrapping your mind around the problem and thinking through the test cases. As opposed to the tangible benefit of having the test cases in hand, and the test automation developed (which I think also is significant).

Launchy for Apps

A friend told me about Launchy. You just type a few letters, and it pulls up the apps whose name matches: W-O-R for MS Word, P-H for Photoshop, etc. That's great. I have wanted the same thing for Recently Used Files, for years.

I guess Vista, like the Mac, has this built in. About time. I also think it is an example of classic Microsoft. No improvements, the same festering shortcomings live on for years, until a competitor lights a fire under them.

Reagan's Impression on An Apparatchik

Aleksandrov was an experienced functionary of high rank who had met plenty of Americans in the course of his work. But years after he had seen President Ronald Reagan for the first time he still trembled at the impression. It was not Reagan's words or policies that grabbed Aleksandrov's attention but his manners. The day in question called for an umbrella. As the president and his wife walked in the open air, the president held one aloft to shelter her from the rain. Aleksandrov recalled his own astonishment. Soviet political wives were meant to avoid the limelight; the task of sheltering them was supposed to be discharged by some nearby lackey. For Aleksandrov, Reagan's behavior was chivalrous in the extreme—an example of an ease of social conduct that Aleksandrov was to witness on several other occasions as he became acquainted with the United States.

Elites

David Brooks: In the current Weekly Standard, Steven Hayward argues that the nation's founders wanted uncertified citizens to hold the highest offices in the land. They did not believe in a separate class of professional executives. They wanted rough and rooted people like Palin. I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn't just lived through the last eight years.

Social Security ROI

My father-in-law mentioned that he had a number of acquaintances who had unreported incomes for years, and now were suffering because they had reduced Social Security earnings. In theory, those tax cheats would have still come out ahead, had they just had the discipline and foresight to set aside some of their undeclared income for retirement. Of course, that is theory, it often doesn't work that way in messy human practice.

That got me thinking, though. 15 years ago I read that people currently retiring were, on average, getting the equivalent of a 30% return on their Social Security witholding, whereas people just entering the work force could expect a return of between -3% to 0%. 30% is quite a rate of return. Would those people seen a large NPV had they declared all their income, and payed into Social Security, and reaped that 30% rate of return? I'm too lazy to work the math, but it seems like they probably would have.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chat and other features in Webex

We use Webex a lot at work (daily). The chat feature--which nobody ever seems to use anyway--is dangerously designed, I think. As I have found in teleconference-intensive environments, there is often a fair amount of back-channel conversation ("they are exaggerating the impact of the problem...", "...that's another missed commitment...", etc.). It is natural to use some form of chat for that. Typically, from what I see, the vehicle is instant messaging.

Imagine trying to do that instead through Webex. The default in Webex is to send a message to ALL meeting attendees. WAAAY to easy to open virtual mouth and insert virtual foot. Ouch!

Monday, September 08, 2008

T-Mobile Faves and Conference Call

After 10 years with Sprint wireless, we switched to T-Mobile. A big part of the draw, besides the general appeal of being a new customer and showered with free phones, was the unique Faves program. That lets you select 5 numbers which you get unlimited calling minutes for. They can be almost any domestic number, even T-Mobile competitors.

That had 2 big benefits. One, it let me cut back from 2000 to 1000 minutes, saving $30/month. Two, I can make my company's universal conference call number a fave. I spend about half my day, at least, on calls, and I work from home 2 days/week, so that is a huge convenience. It also should allow me to drop by second line, another $10 saving.

Donate To This Political Ad

Dave Winer with yet another creative idea:
...put a Donate button on the ad. If I give you $100 you commit to using that money to run this ad.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Value-Added Packaging

I am a big proponent of "value-added packaging". Some recent examples I have come across in my personal, consumer life:

Coleman "wrap and roll" air mattress. This is the third air mattress we have purchased, but the first with this nifty little feature. It is as simple, and low-cost, as could be, but makes the job of storing the air mattress so much tidier. Great example of highly economical value-added packaging. (I think Coleman in general has a lot of VAP.)


MS Mouse 7000 snap-in bluetooth adapter. The bluetooth adapter, an easily mis-placed item, neatly stores in a cavity on the underside of the mouse.

LG Decoy Phone with Built-In Wireless Headset. I don't own this one, but as soon as I read about it I recognized a clear example of VAP driving product differentiation. In fact, I had a very similar idea, years ago, for a built in wired headset, with retractable cord.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Google Browser Incognito Feature

This article reports Google is going to launch their own browser, Chrome. One ground-breaking feature if Incognito: " a special privacy mode that lets users create an 'incognito' window where "nothing that occurs in that window is ever logged on your computer." This is a read-only feature with access to one's bookmarks of favorite sites."

Very clever. They should also implement an option for anonymous browsing.