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  • peliom 12:25 pm on November 10, 2009 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , lifehacking, ,   

    Zaggle Gets You There with Personalized Event Newsletter 

    Over at the Zaggle Togetherness Blog we have a very important announcement :-)

    Our new personalized email newsletter aggregates all the events your friends are attending into one simple email digest. You can set the email frequency anywhere from once per day to once per week. Here is a short example of what the email might look like, most emails will have more events than this.

    Example of Personalized Zaggle Events Newsletter

    If you think Zaggle is useful, please help spread the word by posting this link on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else with lots of friends: http://bit.ly/zeemail

     
  • peliom 12:22 pm on September 27, 2009 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking   

    Apple Tech Support: Secret Tricks of the Apple Fanboy 

    Even though Apple makes the best tech stuff in the world, that doesn’t mean their products are free of bugs. Far from it :-) As a former employee of Apple Computer and a buyer of many tens of thousands of dollars of Apple products, I’ve seen a lot of Apple from both sides of the corporate wall. Friends and family often ask my advice on how best to resolve these issues. The following hints at getting your Apple needs met are actually neither tricks nor secret, just observations on the alignment of incentives between consumers and the mega corporations they depend on for cool gadgets.

    Behavior

    I generally wait about 2 months before upgrading Mac OS X or my iPhone firmware. This allows enough time so that the most egregious issues are suffered out by the masses, and by the time I update most issues are resolved. Understand though that if you are a power user, there will always be issues when you upgrade, and the longer you wait to upgrade, the more issues there will be. Such is the life of technology. This is more a law of entropy than the fault of Apple. I’ve noticed a lot of the time after I upgrade when I’m upset about a “bug” it’s usually just a different behavior that I’m not used to or that I don’t like. It’s best to just move on from those issues.

    Use Case

    The most important factor in resolving a technical issue is: how many other consumers are encountering exactly the same issue? The more people that have the problem, the faster the issue will “fix itself” because other whiners will get Apple to move their ass. Consider the product you are using and why it was created. Is this free software from Apple like iMovie? In that case, forget about it, this issue will never affect Apple’s bottom line. Did you pay money for the product that is having issues? Take a number, it may be months before your issue is resolved. Is your usage of the product outside of the mainstream? If so, you may want to reconsider. The fewer people that are encountering the exact same issue as you, the more energy you will have to exert in getting Apple to help resolve your issue. If your use case is inside the mainstream, google the error message. The first result will explain in detail how to resolve this problem since everyone else runs into the same situation.

    Generally Annoying Bugs

    These are general system software problems that affect everyone who has the version of the software that exhibits this issue. Recognize that no one individual person at Apple can mobilize to resolve this issue. It will take days before a developer even finds out that the problem is a problem, it will take more days for a developer to find and fix the issue, and it will take weeks to actually ship the software update. Software updates are extremely risky. Only critically important bugs are addressed in software updates. All other defects are dumped into the next major release of the operating system, which could be years away. What is critically important? … very simple … only issues that put Apple’s brand or bank account at risk are critically important. Be mindful that unless the bug results in data loss or some crazy bad problem, most consumers won’t even notice. If they do notice they will fault themselves before they fault Apple, a fact which all corporations use to their advantage.

    It is possible to file bug reports, but it is time consuming. Instead I recommend incenting other consumers to file the bug reports so you don’t have to. Recall Apple doesn’t even allow consumers to search for duplicate bugs in the interest of protecting trade secrets of third parties, etc. But if you really want to file a bug, here is the place: http://bugreport.apple.com.

    Your Time is Valuable

    As a consumer, your time is valuable. Therefore as with any good corporation trying to maximize shareholder value, Apple implements processes designed to waste as much of your time as possible. The goal here is:

    • customer gives up and doesn’t care about the issue anymore
    • customer resolves the issue on their own
    • customer resolves the issue on their own, posts the solution on forum (best case!)
    • customer moves to another vendor

    This last case is interesting. Note that it is not beneficial at all for Apple to keep you as a customer if you are costing them more money than you are paying them. You might be suprised how much support calls cost Apple. Then again, You may also be suprised how much your time is worth. When I’m deciding whether to interact with a corporation I pretend my time is worth $500 per hour. Note that this is a pretend valuation of my time, but it helps me make better decisions about which battles I fight with technology.

    Resolution

    So you’re still running into this issue that affects a lot of people, but not enough to be a big deal, and you have some time on your hands, you want to put some effort into resolution. The best way to mobilize Apple is to convince people to call Apple phone support and waste a bunch of their time. Each time the call center picks up they bill Apple $20-30. Nothing grabs corporate attention like hemorrhaging money. Being so expensive, the top issues are tracked and resolved quickly. If you can pull it off, brand-damaging negative publicity also gets attention. However keep in mind that Apple is the genius of tech marketing. They have sophisticated processes in place for damage control. Unless you have the resources to file a significant class-action lawsuit, using normal consumer channels is probably your best bet.

    Hardware, and Real Resolution

    The most legitmate issues are those that happen as a normal course of business and are specific to the physical piece of hardware you actually own as opposed to the product in general. Statistically speaking this generally ends up being a laptop with a dead hard drive / lcd screen or a dead iPhone. Smaller defects are not addressed unless egregious. For example, your laptop screen must have five dead pixels on it before Apple considers it to be “defective” .. this really sucks for those who have dead pixels, I feel lucky it’s never happened to me. If I did receive a screen with dead pixels, I would return the laptop and buy it again, probably eating cost of sales tax and/or shipping. Why would I make that concession? Look, give these guys a break. Consumer products are manufactured to high levels of quality which are industry standards, for example ISO 9001. The bargain we make as consumers is that large volumes of products are created which lowers prices to near zero. Quality is kept high, but there is still a non-zero probability of defects. If the defect happens to end up in your device, take your lumps, it is “an act of God” … Or do what I do, pay the incremental cost of returning an getting a new unit, move on with your life, and live peacefully knowing you have the best technology society can offer.

    The Genius Bar

    When the Genius Bar first started, it was awesome. It was almost as good as Apple’s internal repair facility in Cupertino which is excellent and can fix almost any Apple product in a day. But even for Apple employees, sometimes a problem is severe enough that the unit needs to get “sent to texas” … phone support will try to “send you a box” into which you pack your laptop and ship to texas and get your laptop back two weeks later. Whenever possible I try to make the Genius Bar do this nonsense for me. It’s much easier to drop off the laptop at the Apple Store, have the Genius ship to texas, and then pick up the laptop at the Apple Store again. When you go back to pick up the laptop, make sure it is fully functional before you leave! Bring everything you need for testing, including a power adapter and any accessories. And yes living without a latop for two weeks is damn near impossible. Why doesn’t Apple do something obviously helpful like transferring your data over to a loaner laptop while your own laptop is repaired? It’s too expensive, and apparently consumers aren’t demanding this service even though having a loaner rental car is standard in almost any car insurance policy.

    So you have an issue, and after 5 minutes of googling still broken. Make a clear decision about what you want the Genius Bar to do for you and how they are going to do it. Are they going to replace the unit? Fix the software? Explain the situation? Write these goals down! At the Genius Bar it will be noisy, chaotic and frustrating. Having a written list of tasks helps keep both you and the Genius focused on resolution. Once you decide on goals, make an appointment at the Genius Bar and don’t leave the store until you achieve resolution. Various geniuses will ask you to “sit over here” or “step aside while help another customer” … be very polite, but stick around. Stay within the field of view of the Genius and make frequent eye contact. Smile a lot. If you are a tech genius and you “know what’s wrong” … for goodness sake play dumb. The Genius wants to feel like a hero, just like the rest of us. The Genius has to stand around all day listening to bitchy, whiny, or stupid people (or all three) … have some compassion. Here are some tactical suggestions for the Genius Bar, in order of efficacy:

    • Choose your time wisely. Pick a time where the Genius will be happy and stress free, likely to be a weekday morning like Tuesday or Wednesday. Choose your store wisely, an Apple Store in a rich neighborhood shopping mall that doesn’t get a lot of traffic is good. Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store in New York is generally unwise (3am graveyard shift might work though)
    • Make an appointment. Often the next available appointment won’t be until tomorrow
    • Be Prepared … I cannot stress this enough. Have your software updated to the latest versions, battery fully charged. If dealing with an iPhone issue, bring your laptop and everything you need to backup/sync your iPhone. Think of every excuse the Genius might have to send you back home and plan for it.
    • Show up early
    • Be polite, but firm. Remember your goals for this visit, which you decided and wrote down beforehand. Choose your battles
    • Do what ever they say patiently, project composure and calmness. If they want you to re-install OSX, sit there and do it. Remember, you are going to be cooperative and eventually will be leaving with your needs met. Play dumb.

    After following these steps, you may have to escalate to a manager and start all over again. Patience here is key. It also just depends on who you are working with, study up on well known techniques Social Engineering and try to leverage them. If you are working with a Genius that is having a bad day or just has it in for you, go home and make another appointment, perhaps at a different Apple Store.

    When Purchasing, Buy Refurbished

    While I’m thinking on strategy for Apple consumers, a quick note on saving a few hundred bucks. A lot of people know about the “friends and family” discount offered to Apple employees. Truth is I almost never use that, I can usually get a much better deal buying a refurbished unit. These deals on are the apple online store near the bottom of the page, here’s a picture:
    Picture 6
    Other third party sellers of Apple products also sometimes have lower pricing than the Apple Employee Discount. The Discount is more of a means of social control to help the Employees feel special, and to incent otherwise intelligent Fanboys to get jobs and slave away at Apple.

    Refurbished products are excellent deals for several reasons:

    • Refurbished products were returned because of a defect. The defect was repaired and the unit is brought up to the same quality standards as a new unit. Statisically speaking, that same defect is unlikely to happen to this particular unit
    • Refurbished units have the same 1 year warantee as new units, but the refurb unit, statisically speaking is less likely to have problems
    • Almost all hardware issued to Apple employees for their day-to-day work consists of refurbished units.

    Finally, whether you buy a refurb unit or a new unit, beware of buying the first in a series. For example when the very first Titanium laptops came out, they had some manufacturing issues that were resolved after a few months. Refurb units are typically a few months out of date, if not more, look closely at what you are buying. Generally speaking a Fanboy willing to own Apple hardware that 6-12 months behind the hardware release cycle can save about $1,000. That’s enough for two fixed gear bicycles :-P

     
    • sonya 7:44 pm on October 30, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Thanks for all the tips. My how times change; i remember the far-off days when your “is this worth my time” analysis used $50/per hour as the imaginary top-end value….

  • shag 9:34 am on July 20, 2009 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , lifehacking,   

    the rocket experience 

    snoop dogg, talib kweli, and buzz aldrin, together at last.  just heard the song on the radio today.

     
  • peliom 4:07 am on July 8, 2009 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking,   

    Zaggle: A Social Calendar For You and Your Friends 

    Zaggle

    Well, here it is, the first rough cut of a Facebook Connect website that gathers all your Facebook events into one handy place. Check it out! and let us know what you think …
    Zaggle Preview Screenshot

     
  • peliom 3:43 pm on May 3, 2009 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , , lifehacking   

    Mind Tricks: Ancient and Modern 

    My new favorite little book. It’s got all kinds of helpful funny things. One of the ideas is to map letters to numbers, then make up nonsense sentences to remember strings of numbers (combination lock?). Of course I used a unix command to come up with the most frequent initial letters in the english language. Then I massaged the results a little.

    cut -c1 /usr/share/dict/words | tr "[:upper:]" "[:lower:]" | uniq -c | sort -nr

    Here is the resulting map … let’s go memorize some long strings of numbers!!! oh wait … we have cell phones, nobody needs to remember anything any more :-)

    0 s ero
    1 u on
    2 t wo
    3 r ee
    4 d oor
    5 a live
    6 m ix
    7 h eaven
    8 b ait
    9 p ine
    

    93 68 59 79 45 47
    please remember milk, bread, and please help piggy drain all drinks hai!

    Author Steven Saunders has an eccentric little consulting company but I found this paper ABOUT EMERGENCE an interesting Sunday read.

     
    • Jamie 7:28 pm on May 7, 2009 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think ‘u’ is over-represented in that dictionary due to all the words that start with ‘un’. Similarly with the letter ‘i’. I nominate ‘e’ for the number 1 instead, to be remembered by the word ‘eon.’

  • rajbot 11:27 pm on November 6, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , , lifehacking, , , QuickSilver   

    QuickSilver Now Open Source 

    QuickSilver is now open source! Check it out on Google Code..

     
  • peliom 9:02 am on October 8, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: lifehacking,   

    “The System” … 2007 



    After 9 months of putting it off, I’m creating new folders and filing everything I have in my “To Be Filed” inbox …. I don’t know what happened but … 9 months … geez.

    Here’s a little tip when real life presents a bulk-insert task like this … when you’re trying to find something it really helps to have the papers sorted chronologically. On the other hand you know that you will probably never look at these statements and receipts again … this is a good case for using Lazy Evaluation. I just dump everything in the proper category (e.g. Bank Statements, 2007) and then don’t order them chronologically until I actually have to find something like a specific charge on an old credit card statement.

    Link to some interesting GTD stuff

     
    • Adam Rosi-Kessel 2:56 pm on October 8, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I’ve switched nearly all my bills to electronic-only-delivery, and save things in a fairly straightforward folder format. I also enter everything financial into gnucash and throw away the paper (at least in the case where gnucash can capture all the information that was on the paper). It sounds like Lazy Evaluation is a good step toward cutting administrative overhead, but I recommend getting rid of paper altogether as possible.

    • Morgan 1:39 pm on October 25, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Damn boy, you is messy.

  • peliom 1:26 pm on July 15, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: lifehacking   

    Neck Stretches for a Happy Life 




    Hola, hello from Peru!! Some people think I came here to see Machu Picchu but no, I came here to blog.

    UCSF Physical Therapy offers an ingenious program where they engage their ergonomics staff in some very helpful side jobs. At Bakar Gym just past the weight area they have a fully decked out physical therapy room complete with funny looking exercise machines. Weird straps make the machines look like torture devices. Anyway, stop by from 5-7pm for a free consultation. After the consult I signed up for four one hour sessions at the ridiculously low price of $140 (total). Given my experience with wrist, knee and now cervical (uh … neck) pain, I was easily willing to pay five times that amount. Stefanie, the physical therpist, has 30 years experience in physical therapy.

    This service from UCSF is more or less perfect for me: I need someone with some occupational experience that can tell me what I’m doing wrong and what exercises I can do to fix my problems. I’ve got a set of six neck stretches that are helping my undo 10+ years of bad posture.

    • turn head to the left as far as you can, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat towards right. Repeat 3x, both sides.
    • lean head left, ear towards shoulder. Repeat towards right. Repeat 3x, both sides.
    • This is harder to explain, but a great stretch. Lean head forward, while forward lean head left 50%, now while holding all that rotate head left 50%. My PT describes this as “putting your beak beneath your wing like a bird” … repeat on RHS, repeat 3x.
    • Anterior Scalene: lean ear towards shoulder, now rotate your head so you are looking at the ceiling. Repeat RHS, repeat 3x
    • Posterior Scalene: lean ear towards shoulder, now rotate head so you are looking at the floor. Repeat RHS, repeat 3x.

    So doing all of that is going to take about 15 minutes. But if looking over your shoulder has gotten annoyingly painful, it’s totally worth it.

    I also received some useful suggestions for wrist stretches and strengthing muscles around my knee to keep the patella up off of the knee joint area. Yay for UCSF!!

    Link to UCSF Physical Therapy

     
    • rajbot 2:17 pm on July 15, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      turn head to the left as far as you can, hold for 30 seconds. Repeat towards right. Repeat 3x, both sides.

      I was told by my Tae Kwon Do instructor that that you shouldn’t turn your head from left to right, but rather roll it left->down->right, and then roll it back to the left. This is apparently better for your neck.

      Talked to bob this morning.. he said he would be at your hotel tomorrow!

    • may 9:54 pm on July 16, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      yay, i’m glad you’re stretching! now if only we could get you to stop typing on your vacation :)

    • Ray Toronjo 1:46 am on January 5, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Great advice – I’ve been suffering a terrific pain in my neck, shoulder and even muscles in my right arm. I’ve had my neck stretched and it seems to have helped. I’ve been looking for exercises to help keep the pain away and these look pretty straightforward. Thanks – Ray in Thailand

    • tina 7:33 am on May 12, 2011 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      this really works even if you don’t do it as many times as it says thanks!

    • Timothy 5:59 pm on January 4, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I am a 20 year old singer in NY. THANK YOU. these stretches rock. i was sooo tense

  • peliom 10:41 am on June 7, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking   

    Personal Maps 

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words … it’s closer to a million for this map I made illustrating where my college friends live:






    I’ve known forever that I’m somewhat bicoastal, but I’ve been lazy about flying and I hate airports. But looking at this map a few times reveals the undeniable truth: I’m bicoastal forever and there is no way for me to be happy without traveling a lot. In terms of center-of-social-gravity, it looks like NYC is the place to be. Luck you New York friends! That’s where we’re gonna party ….

    Link to Friends map on google maps

     
  • rajbot 10:15 am on June 3, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking   

    Simple Timer for OS X 

    Jess needed a simple timer that would beep after 10 minutes, and asked if one shipped with OS X. Sadly, there isn’t one, and my first thought was to search VersionTracker for a timer. But I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to have to test 50 different crappy timers written in RealBasic and another fifty MyFirstCocoaApp projects. Also, I was feeling too cheap to shell out $50 for EnterpriseTimer.jar.

    My next thought was to just echo ^G (the beep character) in Terminal after sleeping for 10 minutes, but how was I going to explain to Jess that you have to type ‘echo control-v control-g’ to put the beep character on the command line? So on a lark I tried typing ‘say beep’ on the command line and it worked.

    So here is your absolutely free 10 minute timer for OS X. Launch Terminal, which is the Utilities Folder inside your Applications folder, and copy/paste this line into the command line:

    sleep 600; say beep

    Hit return to start the timer. When it’s done, you can start another one by hitting the up-arrow and then hitting return. 600 is the number of seconds to sleep, and you can change this to be larger or smaller.

    From across the living room I occasionally hear Jess’ mac saying ‘beep’ in the Vicki voice. It’s very cute :)

     
  • rajbot 2:20 am on May 26, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , lifehacking,   

    Words to live by… 

    Bob, Shag, and I made this SkyMaul-inspired remix of this Attribution2.0-licensed image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nantaskart/61707032/

    fmfu

    Hang it in your office!

     
  • peliom 10:36 pm on April 11, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking, ,   

    The ECONO BIN EB-200 !!! 

    I’ve always been looking for some way to store, display, see and manage my maps so they were stored out of the way but not hard to get to. And no folding. I hate folding. This has been for years and last week I threw up my hands and just decided to order the first thing I found on the internet.

    I had to back down off of that because the first thing I found costs $1249. It was then that I began to understand that this might get a little pricey. Even finding poster display hardware was a pain. Google search “poster display” and let me tell you … you’re not going to find anything that helps you display your posters.

    So I opted for the EB-200 “Econobin” at a mere $200. I know as soon as I post this someone is probably going to tell me I can get the same thing at IKEA for $79.99, but whatever …. I like the industrial look. And this thing is built to last, it’s going to be the only thing left in my apartment after The Big One

    Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!


    The ECONO BIN arrived wrapped in so much packaging I had to play like a field medic and cut it all off. It’s made up of decent square and round powder coated steel tubes.

    Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!


    Here is The BIN assembled with the copious packaging in the foreground. I bet the UPS guy was glad I came downstairs to meet him and drag these boxes up myself.

    Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!

    And here are some extremely organized maps. Shown here are the SFBC Bicycle Map, The NYC Subway Centennial Map of 2004, and the AAA Baja California Travel Map.

    Host unlimited photos at slide.com for FREE!



    Naturally I was kind of smoking crack when I bought this thing. It’s way too big, awkwardly shaped and doesn’t fit anywhere. But I like it and I’ll get to see my maps a lot more now. And I have a map bin in my house !!

     
  • peliom 7:53 pm on March 24, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: lifehacking   

    Price Hacking 




    via Money Magazine, you can decode the pricing status of items at some retailers.

    • At Target, prices ending in “8″ means the item is on its markdown cycle. Prices ending in “4″ are as low as they will go.
    • At Gap and Radio Shack, prices ending in “7″ mean clearance price.
    • At at “office superstore” an employee says to wait until the price ends in “.04,” which is the lowest price.
    • You can learn more about price hacking at consumerist.com

    Alas, Amazon.com doesn’t have everything. Until they do we have to deal with these crappy retailers.

    Link to Consumerist.com

     
  • may 7:54 am on March 6, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking   

    Zojirushi Electric Dispensing Pot 

    zojirushi.jpg

    Peliom’s last post on a tea-making-robot reminded me that I need to write about this electric-hot-water-making-thingy that I got a couple months ago and absolutely LOVE. You’ll find one in almost every household in Japan, China, and most other asian countries. I used to wonder why …i mean, how hard is it to make hot water, right? Compared to a cuisineart or an espresso machine, it’s not particularly glamorous or impressive sounding. But there is something incredibly gratifying about pushing a button and getting hot water instantly. especially since I drink a lot of tea (about 6-8 cups a day!) I also use it to make hot chocolate, oatmeal, basically anything that needs hot water.

    Anyways, these things are still hard to find in U.S. stores. I went to a place called Kamei Restaurant Supply on Clement street to find one – it’s $100 there, so if you live in SF, you can get one for less than you’d pay on Amazon…there are also less expensive models but this one is supposedly best and I’ve been really happy with it so far.

     
    • shag 10:53 am on March 6, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      another variety:

      http://www.amazon.com/Sunbeam-Hot-Shot-Beverage-Machine/dp/B00006IUZ5

      it’s $20, for the bachelor on a budget…

    • rajbot 6:18 pm on March 6, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      If you happen to be stuck in an office where they make crappy coffee, I’ve found that bringing in a french press and a water boiler can save the day =)

    • rajbot 6:35 pm on February 4, 2008 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      We just got one of these at the archive, to replace the 10-year-old elcheapo electric kettle we had that was permanently encrusted with weird deposits.

      Tea and coffee taste so much better now.. I wonder if that is psychological, or if the old kettle was making the water taste gross..

    • may 5:48 pm on February 6, 2008 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      a 10 yr old kettle with weird deposits probably would make water taste pretty gross.

      this thing is still my favorite kitchen appliance :-)

  • peliom 4:08 pm on March 5, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: lifehacking, ,   

    We can use this technology to make the world a better place … robotic bar!! 




    Link to Robot Makes Tea on CNN

     
    • rajbot 7:07 pm on March 5, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Those giant poofy robot hands are completely redonk..

      I’m planing a robo-shaker-pourer thing as the first piece to a robot tiki bar.. Wanna help me plan it out on Wed night @ tronix?

    • Travis 10:44 pm on March 5, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      That is totally amazing! Although the robot looks a bit clunky and probably would not do well in a crowded with crazy bar hoppers…

  • may 9:41 am on January 27, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking, ,   

    Don to Earth 

    donaldCrowdis.jpgOne of my favorite blogs lately is Don to Earth, written by Donald Crowdis who at 93, is one of the oldest bloggers around. I rarely come into contact with people who are older than 80 in my day to day life so I love reading his thoughts about things. He writes a lot about life and death. You’d think that would be morbid but he makes me laugh and I always come away feeling a little bit more grounded.

     
  • may 10:19 pm on January 8, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: lifehacking,   

    get human 500 database 

    getHuman.gif
    Do you hate dialing customer support with some terrible pressing problem only to get strung along by endless automated voice prompts? Here’s a great database of numbers for 500 companies (give or take a few) with instructions on how to get directly to a live human when calling for support.

    The gethuman project is a consumer movement to improve the quality of phone support in the US. This free website is run by volunteers and is powered by over one million consumers who demand high quality phone support from the companies that they use.

    A tip that I’ve been given to get the best support from a cell phone carrier (but haven’t tried yet) is to call and request cancellation (rather than tech support). You’ll get sent to a “retention” specialist who is trained to do whatever he or she can to keep you as a customer, so your problem will get routed to the right person a lot faster.

     
  • may 5:50 pm on January 8, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking,   

    bugme2.gif BugMe is quite possibly the most ingenious mobile app ever. It’s simply a digital post-it-pad that lets you scrawl a note and attach an alarm to go with it. You can even record a voice note to go with each scribble.

    The alarm can be set for a specific interval (i.e. in 1/2 hr, 1 hr, etc) or for a specific date and time and when your phone alarm rings, it’ll flash your scribbled note to remind you of what you need to do. I use it to remind myself to move my car for street cleaning, feed the parking meter, call people and other random things that I always forget to do. Setting a reminder is just as easy as jotting a simple note, except now, they don’t get crumpled in my pocket or lost among all the other notes on my desk.

     
    • peliom 11:17 pm on January 9, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Ahhh … that is sweet. I wish there was a Java version for my Black Pearl (Arrrrrr!). Another nice feature would be to have recurring reminders (like to call my mom every wednesday). This turns the todo list into a kind of calendar … I’m not sure what the difference is at this point.

    • may 1:25 am on January 10, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      yep it does let you set recurring reminders on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. It also lets you change the background color for your notes so you can use different colored notes for different types of things. It’s the hipster pda + an alarm clock! (except the hipster pda doesn’t run out of batteries so i guess there’s still something to be said for paper :-)

      bugme3.jpg

  • peliom 10:47 pm on January 4, 2007 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking   

    I Wish Every Email Had a URI… 

    Why? Because that way I could refer to any email I have sent or received when I am writing notes into a text file.

    I’ve been playing with my new Blackberry Pearl and it’s inspired a bunch of very exciting research into topics of Calendar, Task, Email, and Memo. (little joke there on the exciting part). Whenever I think about this stuff, I’m amazed that we are well into the 21st century and still these “smart” phones are about as easy to use for notes as a 3 foot pencil on a piece of sheetrock. Nevertheless, being able to email digital notes and blips around can be very handy if one is able to come up with a workflow that isn’t totally annoying.

    A case in point is the bug db system Trac. This has nothing to do with smart phones except I have been using it at work to organize my work items. The good part: it’s free, doesn’t crash, doesn’t corrupt data, and has a feature-set that allows for tracking tasks (in my case, I’m not really using it for software bugs at all). The Bad? It takes an ungodly number of mouse clicks and/or keyboard entry to create a new task and/or file an existing task.

    Imagine I grab a sheet of paper and a pen and I write “buy bananas” on it. If I’m set up right that’s going to take 2 moderate hand movements and then some minor hand movements to write the text. And boom, I’ve got a piece of technology that will help me remember to buy bananas.

    Consider the requirements to achieve the same result in Trac. I need to find and click the image button labeled “New Ticket” (this may require scrolling to the top of the page I am currently on). I need type “buy bananas” as the title. Trac also requires I type a description. I don’t like the defaults for the “Component”, “Assign To” and “Milestone” fields, and there is no way for me to change the default values. (I’m using Trac in a shared environment, and someone else manages those defaults). So that is several mouse clicks to set each of those fields using a pull down menu. Not all of the Trac “New Ticket” page fits on my 1024×800 pixel screen (vertically), so I have to scroll down, and click “Submit Ticket.”

    Still with me? Yeah, I know, it’s a lot of operations. And that is only half the story! Now I have to generate some kind of report and print it out, because chances are Trac is not going to be with me when I am in a good position to “buy bananas.”

    I’m not trying to bag on Trac, it’s a great system and I would much rather use Trac here at work than any other bug DB I’ve seen. And obviously I am trying to Trac in a problem domain that is way outside the bounds of expected usage. But I was just noticing these things as I was thinking about how to replace my Hipster PDA with a smart phone. Suffice to say the Blackberry Pearl has a bunch of neat features, but I find that using the features requires a bunch of awkward button clicks and trackball movement that I would rather not do. Unfortunately there is no easy way to configure and change the behavior of the application menus or UI elements.

    Still, this Pearl thing is growing on me, the benefits will likely outweigh the annoyances for me, and I’ll post more later.

    So back to this email thing. Filing these Trac issues for myself, for a lot of the tasks the “Next Action” is to email somebody and ask them for help or tell them something is ready to go. It would be very hand to paste in a reference to that email so I don’t have to dig through my old emails when coming back to the task. And it turns out I can do this … with a minor hack. First prerequisite is having Squirrelmail set up. Probably other web-based mail readers could work as well. The problem is that Squirrelmail refers to email messages using an integer whose value is relative to the other messages in the folder. So their program works, but it would be helpful and more extensible if they were pointing to the unique identifier for the email message. So here’s the other prequesite: this will only work if you use the Empty Inbox philosophy. I started doing the Empty Inbox thing last year and it changed my life (for the better). So I highly recommend it anyway.

    So here you go, you are using the Empty Inbox. This means (for me anyway) that you have a non-inbox folder with all of your old mail in it. I call mine “__Archive.” Because the integer indexes that Squirrelmail uses are monitonically increasing, the URL for it will stay valid (as long as you don’t delete old email!!!!). Here is an example (fake) Squirrelmail URL for an email message. The HTTPS URL keeps the message from prying eyes, which is a bug or a feature depending on whether you want people that are not you to be able to read this particular message.

    https://mail.foobar.com/src/read_body.php?mailbox=__Archive&passed_id=32311&startMessage=1

    Phew … now I can paste references to email discussions into my Trac bugs and um … keep track of everything. It’s pretty ghetto though, hopefully in a year or two something more solid will crop up. Or (more likely) one of you lovely readers will leave an informative comment explaining how out of the loop I am and I should just use package BlahBlahBlah for email URLs :-)

    Link to a review of the Blackberry Pearl
    Link to Empty Inbox on 43 Folders

     
    • may 2:11 pm on January 5, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      hmm, you might actually like the touchscreen on my phone then b/c it lets you scribble things in your own handwriting (i can show you later…it actually works pretty well).

      if only it didn’t require you to do *really* dumb things (like clear the browser cache regularly so it doesn’t run out of memory and crash)… that’s what was causing me to lose my hair!

    • peliom 5:16 pm on January 5, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Step Right Up Folks! That’s right, a dozen bananas for the first person to figure out cron script that will clean house on her *cell phone* :-)

      That’s pretty funny. There are quirks to the Pearl as well. It’s a Java phone. My cell phone has a “spinny wheel of death” just like Mac OS X. Except it’s not as pretty on the Java phone.

      It’s crazy watching applications swap RAM to “disk” on a cell phone….

  • peliom 6:34 am on November 17, 2006 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , lifehacking   

    More Random Twitter Friends 

    Vale94 requested to be my friend on Twitter

    Who would say no to this???

    Vale, not only do I want to be friends with you, I want to fix your laptop.

     
    • Travis 1:18 pm on November 17, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      She’s not real she’s part of a viral marketing scheme! lol RUN!

    • may 3:23 pm on November 17, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      she asked to be my friend too, but i figured she was probably a guy. what’s weird is that i never said yes but my pic still shows up in her friend list.

  • peliom 3:34 pm on November 3, 2006 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking,   

    It only takes a few minutes…. 




    Deep wisdom from LifeHacker about the oh-so-corporate task of digitizing whiteboards….

    This is a trick I picked up when I was working as a consultant. This process quickly and efficiently sends out notes from a working session to all the collaborators. The steps are:
    1. Capture whiteboard notes with your cameraphone.
    2. Send your images to your laptop/PC via Bluetooth (or email).
    3. Use CutePDF to “print” them to a PDF file.
    4. Email PDF to all collaborators.

    This sounds like a lot of steps, but Dan says it only takes about 5 minutes, depending on how many images you’re distributing.

    Not that I capture a lot of whiteboards, but I like my way better.

    • Step 1, buy a MacBook or a MacBook Pro
    • Step 2, Open lid of MacBook and press power button
    • Step 3, Point the MacBook’s built-in camera towards the whiteboard as you snap a picture with PhotoBooth

    I know it’s a lot of steps, but you only have to do the first two once every year, and the third one only takes about 4 seconds, depending on how many images you’re distributing.

    Now that Scanr thing they are talking about that converts your whiteboard pictures into PDF and then emails them back to you … that’s pretty neat.

    Link to “The MacBook Family”
    Link to Scanr

     
    • NewtonAlumnum 2:01 am on November 4, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Actually, the mobile copy technology and concept you’re describing was first pioneered and showcased in 2005 by an innovative European company called Realeyes3D. They have launched a service in the US called qipit (www.qipit.com) during DEMOFall 2006 last september. With qipit you can use your camera phone or digital camera to turn pictures into documents in seconds. You can then easily share the black and white or color clear crisp digital copies with anybody from or store them online in your private, secure document center.

      I did try the service and can tell you it works in almost any lighting conditions and delivers very good quality copies, provided you have a decent camera phone (1.3 + Mpixel w/ autofocus)

      And it rocks just great on my AluBook (sorry, no MacBook upgrade yet, will switch to Mac Book Pro some day)…

  • peliom 3:55 pm on November 1, 2006 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking,   

    We Make Money, Not Friends 

    Over at epigone (does anybody know what the means?) kmarks opines Don’t use Wells Fargo as your bank. While can’t vouch for Wells Fargo’s suckitude being worse than, for example, the torture of CitiBank, I have a funny tech story about this.

    According to an engineer I work with, a friend of his who worked at Wells Fargo came up with the following clever hack to make more money flow from you pocket into theirs. Say you have three bounced checks with values of $21, $34, and $152. Now let’s say you, for whatever reason, only have $82 in your account at the time those checks are cashed (and I believe there is a minimum 4 business days for clearing a check). Well the hack is that they cash the checks starting with the highest value first. So first they process the $152 check which takes your account to $-70. Boom, that’s a $33 penalty fee *and* your account is now negative even though you had enough money in your account to cover those smaller checks. So guess what, $99 in penalties when only $33 is mathmatically necessary.

    Link to Vanguard, the only financial institution that doesn’t suck

     
    • okken 1:46 pm on February 2, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I agree that Wells Fargo is a big vulsure! They exract from the elderly!
      My advice stay as far away from the heat as you can, so as to not get burned as I did

    • Seadog 10:17 am on October 6, 2007 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Your logic is flawed. It is irresponsible to write bad checks. If you believe a bank should cover your check until you have posted sufficient funds why would you want to bank there? The bank that would cover your check until the funds are there would be out of business rapidly taking any funds you might have in deposit as they file bankruptcy. Does anybody recall the Savings and Loan scandalls?

  • peliom 2:20 am on October 27, 2006 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , , , , , lifehacking, , ,   

    RSS is the New Email: A Polemic in ObjC 




    About a month ago I was going on about trying to use a newsreader to keep up with all the RSS flying around. I tried Google News Reader, hated it. I tried about 10 other RSS readers, both web based and client software (mac)… I felt like they all missed the point.

    When I’m reading RSS, I actually don’t give a monkey’s tail about the RSS. RSS is stupid, unformatted, unstyled text with no soul and even less information. The way to consume RSS coming from websites is to read it in it’s richest form: from the website itself. Some client newsreaders go a short way down this path by giving you button to open the article in your web browser. But this is totally lame. I mean, a drunk dog could open up a web browser and sit there through the World Wide Wait and sift through the blink tags and advertisements and try to read the article.

    I am happy to make the first public mention of TikiRobotReader, a Mac OS X application that (eventually) will handle RSS in a way that is not totally dain bramaged. TRR is Open Source, a Cocoa application, and a work in progress.

    The basic idea is that for a given Article, TRR will download the link to the article’s web representation and convert it to PDF so the articles are all nice and shiny and ready for your skimming pleasure, no waiting required. Here is what I want TRR to be:

    Principles of Operation

    • Simple keyboard commands everywhere. Should be operable one-handed while eating lunch.
    • RSS is disposable content. It’s not critical like most (personal) Email.
    • Read the content as presented by the website, not some random choice of Font and Color.
    • Blog posts and status messages from friends are way more important than Yahoo/CNN headlines.
    • Streamline the reading process. No nagging feelings of “should I delete this article or save it?”
    • Download and cache web pages as PDF. Zero latency when switching articles.
      • PDF loads immediately, vs 1-5 seconds for an HTML page to render
      • PDF is a static page, no blinking and bouncing flash ads and animated GIFs
    • RSS is a source of content. Provide easy hooks for the sinks: Sharing and Research.

    The current release is ugly as hell, but functional. At this point TRR is best enjoyed by running out of XCode so you can debug crashes and implement nifty features. I will be using it as my daily news reader in this fashion. But the nightly builds are functional and get the idea across. Feel free to contribute! Design ideas are helpful and code contributions are always a good thing. TikiRobotReader is meant to present RSS the way you, the discerning TikiRobot! blog reader, think is best. TRR will be a great place to implement all those Web 2.0/client features we want but can’t get anywhere else.

    Link to TikiRobotReader nightly build
    Link to TikiRobotReader SourceForge page

     
    • jamie 5:11 am on October 27, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Very nifty. I think I would prefer real HTML to PDF though. It be nice to be able to click on links in articles, as well as on the site itself.

    • rajbot 7:31 am on October 27, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Yay!!!!!!!! Congrats on the first release :)

    • may 8:42 am on October 27, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      hooray!

    • rajbot 11:21 am on October 30, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I added code to decode html entities and char codes, because I didn’t like those &8217s that were showing up.. I also made it strip html tags.. BUT

      How would html tags get in the RSS anyway? They would have to be escaped I think.. which means I have to do the html entity decode before running the strip process, right? If so, I have more stuff to do..

      Do you have an example of html tags in an RSS feed? I’ve only heard about this, but haven’t come across any..

  • peliom 11:52 pm on October 9, 2006 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: , lifehacking   

    Where Are My Python, PERL, SQL, Ruby, JavaScript, CSS and DOM Flash Cards? 

    There are flash cards for anything from simple math to Gross Anatomy and Legal Procedure. Why not for programming languages and software platforms? One side of the card would have the name of the function, and a description of what the function does is on the other side. This bidirectional mapping models reading and writing code: when you are reading someone else’s code, you need to be able to see a function call and understand what it does. Otherwise you have to look it up. When you are writing code, you are thinking “hmmm, I need to reverse this list of lists and then get every third element of the sublists.” If you don’t know which functions will accomplish that task for you, you have to go look it up. Or even worse (much worse), you don’t know the API is available, so you end up “rolling your own.”

    Platform fluency is like Thai Iced Tea: if you are fluent, you are knocking out features like a code ninja on speed … and having a great time doing it. If you’re not fluent, you are constantly flipping open books and asking stuff like “how can I make this div overlap this column by 10%?” It’s these reverse mappings that are the more difficult, which is why it’s easier to read someone else’s code than to write your own. Looking up a function call in google or a book index is straightforward. Looking up an an abstract idea of how to achieve specific functionality is not.

    The only “python” flash cards I could find was this set for learning animals in Hindi.

    So I’m going to have to print my own flash cards. blah. That means formatting all the documentation I want to study so that it fits on 3×5 card, buying a printer, and actually getting the thing to print. Everyone knows that printers never work. OK, well, they work like every other day.

    Luckily the GTD/Hipster PDA weenies have taken the issue of printing index cards to task. The consensus of CoreNerd was on the Canon Pixma iP3000. This presents a couple of problems. First off, the 43 Folders Post is from 2005, ancient history in consumer electronics land. They don’t even make that printer anymore. Second, it’s a drippy, sticky, gooey inkjet printer.

    I hate inkjet printers. I want them all to die.

    The all-knowing amazon told me the Brother HL-2070N was a similar printer, and dirt cheap at $89.99. But I didn’t see index card printing listed in the specs. So I’m thinking the HP LaserJet 1320n Monochrome Network Printer is the way to go. It supposedly prints index cards, and it sounds like a pretty serious printer. Incidentally, the LaserJet 1320 is also available in “Government Edition”, with a different model number.

    I don’t know how the government’s printing requirements differ from my own, but I don’t want to have anything to do with it.


    Update! kmarks notes that the Terminal command pydoc -p 7777 && open localhost:7777 gives you some nifty Python API documentation (including locally installed libraries), and recommends the Python Cookbook for reverse-mapping. Good stuff!

     
    • rajbot 9:08 am on October 10, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I have a Canon Pixma ip2000, which is similar to the ip3000.. it lacks Canon’s cool CMYK ink tanks that the 3000 has.. but it prints index cards just fine. Feel free to use it! Also, please print some of those Hindi flash cards for me :)

    • may 10:26 am on October 10, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I made these flash cards a while back for learning the chinese words for various food items – I put the character on one side and a photo of the food item with its pronunciation on the other and also color-coded them by food group. It’s handy when traveling in china b/c I just point to a picture of what I want to eat at a restaurant (this also prevents me from inadvertently eating things like turtle butt which I accidentally did once thinking it was going to be chicken)

      I printed the cards on my Epson 1280, which is an inkjet but a really nice one! I’ve had it for a while and it works beautifully.

      flashCards1.jpg
      flashCards2.jpg

  • peliom 4:01 pm on October 2, 2006 Permalink | Log in to leave a Comment
    Tags: lifehacking,   

    You Need to Get This Done Right Now! 


    Picture 1
    Over at 43 Folders today there is fantastic post about how to prioritize all the crap going on in your life without getting stressed out. This is the core of the GTD philosphy and if you don’t feel like reading the book, at least read this post. Dig on this quote ….

    Let’s look at a few challenges that, over the past six months, have faced a notional Worker Bee, leading him to generate high-priority tasks.

    • You learn you got a citation from those choads in the Homeowner’s Association, and they declare that if you don’t remove that El Camino from your front yard today, they’ll start fining you $200 a day.
    • Your favorite client emailed you a freakin’ week ago, and you still haven’t responded. You fear that your relationship will be permanently damaged if you don’t respond this morning.
    • Your bank account is overdrawn and you have to make a deposit or else the late fees and penalties will go up and up and up.
    • Your sister leaves a voicemail saying that if you don’t pick up the crap you left in her garage, she’s throwing it out tomorrow. Your Boba Fett action figure and Dungeon Master’s Guide are in that garage, and you can’t bear the thought of losing them.

    What to do? What to do?

    Link to “Priorities Don’t Exist In a Vacuum”

     
    • may 9:36 pm on October 2, 2006 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think I would do this (or I think “I think” I would do them in this order…but whether I would is anyone’s guess)

      (1) deal with client
      (2) deal with bank
      (3) deal with HOA
      (4) deal with crap in garage

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