Friday, April 22, 2011

This article pretty much nails the Trump "candidacy"

The developer has put together epic deals, but several of his companies have endured bankruptcy — the latest just two years ago — and he's a front man with just a slender stake in a significant number of the casinos and buildings that bear his name. This particular messenger is a showman at heart.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Spare Battery for Every Smartphone

We have 4 Android phones in the family now, and they are all battery hogs. No surprise there. It usually troubles me the least, since I work from home. But while traveling on vacation, I have found it convenient to have a spare battery (which I lucked into via a warranty return). All of which leads me to propose that every Smartphone should come with a spare battery. Or, better yet, with a spare extended battery. 

Serif Fonts Acceptable on Smartphones

Serif fonts, like the Times family, look great in print, but not so great on computer monitors. That is because even very good monitors pixel density falls far short of the minimum print standard of 300 dpi. I have noticed, though, that Times looks just fine on my Vibrant smartphone, whose pixel density very closely approaches 300 dpi. I imagine the same is true of the iPad, though in a much larger form factor. I think that, almost as much as the form factor, helps explain why the iPad has been such a successful reading platform. Same for Kindle, sans color.

Macro Buttons

In our conversation, I told him that so little information could be displayed on the watch's face - there is a small, scrollable window at the top and another one at the bottom - that it seemed nearly useless. But he said it would be enough for alerts, able to notify the wearer, for example, "when you've got 4 more e-mails, 3 Facebook updates and 10 Tweets." He said buttons on the watch could be programmed to dispatch canned responses. Mr. McKinney, who is 50, said that young consumers who are unaccustomed to wearing watches would still find the MetaWatch appealing. They'd use it, he said, for purposes other than timekeeping. "I hit a button and - boom - I'm checked in at Foursquare," he offered as an example.
I started this article totally skeptical, but the one touch button, to perform certain well-defined functions is an interesting concept. I've written before about the need for a physical button to perform macro-like functions.

Florida Toll by Plate

I thought Smartpass tolling was advanced, but in Florida we experienced toll-by-plate

Yelp Found Moderately Useful

I've been a bit of a Yelp skeptic, but I did find it mildly useful for looking up local restaurants and the like while traveling.

Open placebo

While Sandler and Ted Kaptchuk, lead author of the irritable bowel syndrome study, say that while their so-called "open placebos" don't hinge on deception, they do employ some sleight of hand. A doctor who uses an open placebo is like a magician. The trick is performed with full disclosure that it is, in fact, a trick, but it still requires a subtle form of deception to execute. For the placebo to work, the patient must suspend disbelief at the doctor's urging. Kids in the ADHD study were told that, "the mind and body work together in interesting ways and placebos are known to work sometimes but no one knows why"

Very clever. The placebo effect is surprising, the "open placebo" effect is dumbfounding.

A Sharing Society

I really like the sentiment of this time article, "Today's Smart Choice: Don't Own. Share". In fact, I've written about this topic several times . There is also a book out: What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. (In that spirit, I have just reserved my copy from the library.)

This could be nice

Polycom teleconferencing app for the iPad...could be a step in the right direction toward robust teleconferencing software, as I have wished for.

Asus Transformer: Tablet + Keyboard

I think this is the perfect form factor. I just bought my first netbook, for my wife, because she travels to client sites during the day, and takes a lot of notes. MS Office support and good keyboard input was a must. I know you can get an aux keyboard for an iPad, but lugging those two things around and connecting them defeats the point.

I am guessing the first iteration price point will be too high. To me, a good price point would be no higher than the current iPad. Given that the competing tablets have had trouble achieving that--without the fancy transformer capability--that may be a challenge.

Outlook Communicator

We use Office Communicator at work. In typical M$ fashion, it is minimally adequate to the task, it is conveniently available and it is free, but it really is quite lacking.

I have a wide screen monitor. It offers more width than I need, most of the time. I would like to use the right-most 5" for OC. I would like it to be tabbed. I would like the newest conversation to pop to the top. Is that so much to ask for? No, of course it isn't. But with no serious competition nipping at their heels, of course M$ does nothing, nada, zero to make the product incrementally better. Blech.

Credit Cards and Traveling

How annoying. I've noticed in recent years that I get more "fraud detection" messages left on my home answering machine, when traveling and using credit cards. And I know when traveling overseas, you need to give your credit card issuer a heads-up. But during our recent vacation to the Florida Keys, our cards were flat-out denied. Not because of a big purchase, or lots of use, but the very first time we tried, for $40 in groceries.

Such a minor pain to call and get it authorized. And, for Wells Fargo at least, no way to do that on the web. Dumb.

Smartphone Marketing Idea: Attack TI Calculator Franchise

TI has a lock on the school calculator market. It's ridiculous--a big, bulky, low-res-display TI graphing calculator costs $100. The price has been stuck at the same level for years. Why? Because they are an entrenched, de facto standard. Sure, you can buy a functionally equivalent Casio for half the price, but TI is what the teachers will "support".

Because I hate all things that are over-priced, I abhor this situation. I think it might be a good angle for a smartphone vendor to attack. Provide subsidies and seed units to get your hardware and calculator softare out into the education market. Make it really good, so the teachers and students like it. Provide good support. Undermine TI before they know what hit them, and before your competitors catch on. Establish your brand as the education brand. 

Monday, April 18, 2011


I weep for my country, that some would, even for a moment, consider Donald Trump to be presidential material.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Problem of the Rifle

I just re-read the poem "The Highwayman"  for the first time in years, helping my sophomore daughter with it. I enjoy the poem, but I found myself wondering--exactly what is the deal with the rifle?
They had bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say, 
Why specifically did the soldiers tie it beneath her breast? It is certainly instrumental to the plot that it be there:
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers! 
The tip of one finger touched it, she strove no more for the rest; Up, she stood up at attention, with the barrel beneath her breast. She would not risk their hearing, she would not strive again, For the road lay bare in the moonlight, Blank and bare in the moonlight, And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain. 
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear; Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear? Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill, The highwayman came riding-- Riding--riding-- The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still.  
Tlot tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot tlot, in the echoing night! Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light! Her eyes grew wide for a moment, she drew one last deep breath, Then her finger moved in the moonlight-- Her musket shattered the moonlight-- Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him--with her death. 
But it seems way too contrived. It just doesn't add work for me. The best theory I can come up with is that the soldiers thought The Highwayman would embrace her and cause the rifle to discharge. But that seems less than half-baked. Am I missing something? Because I hate to be a spoil-sport[1], but to base such a central plot element on such an illogical circumstance just undermines the whole enterprise.

(I think Noyes could have achieved the same plot effect with more plausible details...she could have tried to wrest a gun away from one of the redcoats, and been shot in the struggle.)

[1] Okay, those who know me will realize that I don't actually hate being a spoil-sport in questioning things this way, it is probably more fair to say I thrive on it...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Beating the NYT Paywall

There are so many ways to defeat the NYT paywall. Some common ones are:

  • Use multiple browsers, on multiple computers
  • Read via aggregators
  • Find the article you want, then go search for it

But I think I have just found the best one. All I have to do is add an article to my beloved Read It Later (or use Readability, pretty much the same thing), and it bypasses the limit. Oh yeah, and it also bypasses the ads! Talk about self-defeating...