The Age of the Beta Consumer Electronic Gadget – Probably Sucks for Consumers

Google recently leaked a code road map that indicates that we can all expect the real Google Android mobile phone to launch sometime between January 26 and April 2009.  The G Phone that is offered on T-Mobile networks was always basically a beta gadget. 

Google loves to do beta’s on the internet and typically offers them for free, so why not offer a beta gadget and charge for it no less!

That appears to be exactly what they did.  You take on part, early adopters, 4 parts semi-developed good ideas, mix it up with some out-sourced manufacturing and give it a healthy over dose of Google aps, and you basically have the G-Phone.

The only thing is that the G Phone was never really ready for prime time.  Google just charged people to beta test it for them, so that they could perfect the device a bit more before launching the ‘real’ G Phone now known as the G2, as in ‘Geee We get to buy 2!’

image Now, the first G Phone was a decent looking device (in the age before touch screens.  Plus, it had that stupid slide up access to the Qwerty keyboard.  Why not just have the hole face slide up?  There’s nothing important about those buttons on the right, why leave them in the way of your thumbs?  Despite the stupid slide up thingy, it was seriously missing one important feature.  It lacked  video camera capability. 

You’d think the owners of YouTube might have had a better grip on the importance of video?

The G(eeee)2 has a 5 megapixel camera and a VGA video camera that should not only support video messaging, but video calls (and presumably live video streaming via services like QIK.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a good feature to add, but WTF was Google thinking launching the G1 without it?  Launching the G2 with video capability is far from ‘brilliant’ its just the bare minimum necessary for Google to stay in the game.

So for all you non-sucker early adopters that wanted to pay Google to beta test their phone that wasn’t ready to come off the drawing room table, the real G Phone should be launched sometime soon.  If Google really has there stuff together, they’ll launch to this new phone to the CE industry in 2 weeks at CES in Las Vegas.  If they can’t make that launch date, then we can all probably expect a late summer launch to the actual public.

Why Does My Verizon Wireless Aircard Always Have to Be Updated When I'm Pressed for time?

Yes, its been a while since I had the opportunity to talk about Verizon Wireless.  I have been fortunate and have not had to use their services in a couple months until today when I was traveling.  Of course, as soon as I tried to connect to VZW, I get the nasty message that my air card needs to update.

image

These silly updates can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 30 minutes. I was lucky this time, and it was only about 4 minutes, but these always seem to happen when I’m in a hurry.  That goes double for those times when I’m in a hurry and I’m traveling!

How do they know I’m on the road, when I do not have a Verizon Wireless cell phone?

Must be that blasted air card.  ;)

Economy Problems Making it Hard to Buy New Laptops

So the other day, I made plans to go to my local Best Buy and purchase a new laptop.  I had it all figured out based on a Best Buy ad that I had received over the weekend.

Video of me talking about my plans for a new laptop with blootooth capabilities.

Unfortunately, when I got to the store, all of the laptops on display were old models.  You see there was one thing that I couldn’t trust to specs and ads.

My initial reaction when I couldn’t buy a laptop.

The Keyboard!

I have had a toshiba for almost 2 years now and its a great computer, but the keyboard has sucked since day one.  I say sucked because it has caused me grief from the early days with keys that stick, and an impact level that jars my poor sensitive finger tips (yeah, I’m whining a little bit, but when I pay a thousand dollars for any whiz bang gadget, I don’t expect it to cause me physical pain!).

Best Buy is sometimes called the

Image via Wikipedia

So this time around when I wanted to upgrade, I hoped to buy another Toshiba, but only if they have better keyboards.

Well anyway, they didn’t offer the new laptops on display just some very beat up old models (which might not even be in stock)??

When I tried the old models of toshiba on display, the small laptops 14 and 13 inch screens, they had great keyboards.  But the 15” and 17” laptops had keyboards that felt worse (looked better) than my own two year old toshiba

Can I get a WTF?

So today, I have resolved to head back to Best Buy.  I’m going to buy one of those laptops on sale in the flyer, site unseen(nice oxymoron that one!). 

I talked with my wife and she has volunteered to be a guinea pig.  You see we were looking to get 2 laptops.  One for her and one for me.

So she is going to try it out, if she likes it she will keep it.  If not, I’ll take it back and Best Buy and Toshiba can deal with it.

If I like it as well, then I will go back and buy a second one.

Its a stupid way to shop, but that’s the way it is …

As a side note, I looked at the BlueLabel Toshiba on display.  It had a great keyboard, but only 2 USB slots.  That seemed pretty stupid.  My current toshiba has 4, and that doesn’t seem like enough most of the time.  The bluelabel laptop they had on display was also not the same model that they have on their website. 

Double Doh!

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sVideo Streaming Your Kids Soccer Game to the Grandparents

Today, I’m sitting at a soccer field waiting for my son’s soccer game to begin.  I brought my laptop to catch up on a few things during their warm up before the game begins.  While I was sitting here I had an idea that I’m going to try out next week.

I’m going to try and stream my son and 2 daughters soccer games to my parents (my kids grandparents).  My parents live about 800 miles away in Illinois and can’t make it here for the games.  They do have a good internet connection and I have more gadgets and connectivity than is really good for a person.

So here is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to bring my Panasonic video camera, set it up on a tripod near my car.  I’m going to power my laptop and camera off of a DC inverter taking power from the car battery.

Then I am going to connect my computer via my Verizon Wireless Air card.  I’m probably going to use either Ustream or Mogulus to then broadcast the game live to my parents.  They’ll be able to watch the game like a TV show on their computer.  If I use Mogulus, I’ll even be able to save the recording for a download at some point in the future.

I’m going to have to work on the logistics plan just a little bit, but all in all this should solve several problems.

  • My parents will get to see the games
  • They won’t have to wait for me to create a DVD and fedex it to them (which almost always takes too long, gets delayed and doesn’t happen)
  • My parents will feel more immediately engaged and can then talk to my kids soon after the game about how it just went.
  • I’m sure there are some other benefits as well, such as my other family members can watch also if they want.
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Free Conference Call Options – Transcription and Recording Available with Paid Version

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Since I left the corporate world, I've been working as a consultant and publisher for several years now. I used to keep a standard web conferencing account which I would utilize for all my conference calls. But these days, I don't need conference call services quite as much and when I do, I need to be flexible and often times have to use a number of different services.

That usually means a lot of last-minute downloads and installs, which can clutter up my desktop pretty quickly. That said, when I need a conference call service, I oftentimes forget which one to use and I can never seem to locate them at my fingertips.

Recently, just because of the name, I have been able to easily remember the service freeconference.com. They offer scheduled conference calls and conferences on demand for free. If you want to make a toll-free conference call that does cost money and a rate of about $.10 per minute.

These days with Skype and unlimited cell phone minutes, I rarely care about toll-free calls. Below are the details of the two free services that they offer.

For publishers like myself you might also be interested in their ability to record a phone call and transcribe the text of that conversation.  This is not an à la cart option and is only available if you use the paid version with the toll-free number at $.10 a minute. 

I know a number of consultants and trainers that use this type of service to great advantage as they cover all sorts of topics on things as diverse as business intelligence systems to writing books and getting published to podcast that help people troubleshoot problems with their cars and find cheap auto parts.

 

Web-Scheduled Standard  Snapshot

Maximum size:
150 Callers

Maximum time:
4 hours

Dial-in Number:
Long distance number assigned during the online scheduling process

Access Codes:
Participant Access Code assigned by us or created by you

Organizer Access Code assigned by us, changeable on the 'SETTINGS' page

Begins:
When first caller enters the conference

Ends:
When last caller exits the conference

Reservationless Conferences

Reservationless Standard

Reservationless Standard is a free telephone conferencing service† that can be used instantly and securely without the assistance of an operator. To get a reservationless number, sign up and receive a dedicated dial-in number and access code. You do not have to provide us with any information regarding your conference, including the date and time, estimated number of Participants, Dial-in Number, Participant Access Code, etc. Everyone who calls the same Dial-in Number and enters the same Participant Access Code at the same time will be connected together

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gPhone Spotted in the Wild!

T-Mobile is not rolling out a new 3g network in the Charlotte area any time soon that I know of having just completed the purchase of Suncom and still winding that into the company through the end of the year.

utterli-image
Yesterday, I teased some decently photos of the gPhone spotted out in the wild, and today I deliver. The official release date of the Android-powered T-Mobile Dream is the 23 of this month (a day quickly approaching - http://mashable.com/…ember-23/).

One of my super secret spies at Google just happened to trade contact information with someone who admitted that the phone in his hand was the fabled Dream.

Most of the details of the plans and specs are publicly available in various spots around the blogosphere, as are some leaked photos, but it would appear that there are a few of these roaming the wild and in regular use, as the fellow in question appeared to be his primary phone.

On the larger image, zooming in shows a bit of a peak at the interface, but from what I can tell it isn't significantly different from screenshots I've seen elsewhere.

Who's excited to grab one of these? At a price point fabled to be under $200, I know I am.

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That said, I think I am going to be in the market for Google's phone. Seems a lot more practical than an LCD HDTV or something, and compared to the iPhone it at least has a real keyboard!

Ergonomically Incorrect But Sexy

People will do weird things to look sexy.  They will wear uncomfortable clothing, shoes and more.  They'll go through strange procedures and act un-natural.  For years I spent a great deal of time training people on good ergonomics and posture.

image

Today, I received some stray email for BitDefender that must defend my computer from stray bits  . . .  or pieces.

I really could care less, but I did notice their ad image that accompanied their offer for two reasons, but before I mention the reasons I should mention that I am a male and I do take notice of attractive women.

That Caveate Aside, I noticed that

  1. This is really bad ergonomic posture
  2. If there were no computer involved this would be a sexy picture

As an ergonomic trainer, the image actually turned me off the product, and that made me pause.  The conventional wisdom in marketing (for right or for wrong) is that using attractive models in images with products can help sell products.

But in this case, the image despite conventional wisdom does the opposite.  The pose is just too unnatural.  Not in a Cirque de Solei contortionist moving pianos into moving trucks while standing on their hands bent backwards and in half with the piano balanced on their toes unnatural, but just from a reality test kind of way.

I can't imagine ever seeing someone sitting on their knees on a tile floor typing on a laptop.  So from that perspective, I suspect that this image and campaign might not go anywhere so you better watch out for those flying bits and pieces.

Candidates as Agents of Technological Change or Maybe Obstacles

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This afternoon I wanted to share an excerpt from a conversation that is still evolving over at Utterz about John McCain, his war injuries and either his inability or unwillingness to embrace technological solutions for productivity, like email and voice recognition.

The conversation unwinds with the titles below as JFMunger on Utterz mentions (War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet)  that people should not pick on McCain for not using email.

The Reason:  McCain's war injuries prevent him from typing.

I personally don't buy that excuse.  John McCain is an American, I'm an American and us Americans don't let things limit us.  If we face an obstacle we work to overcome it so that we can advance.  That is doubly true when it comes to using technology to help us get past an obstacle.

Which prompted me to write the response, "Someone Give That Man a VR Crackberry!"

imageSo here is the thing, maybe McCain has not heard of voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking.  Maybe he doesn't know that you don't have to type with your fingers.  Maybe he doesn't realize that VR can help you to type at 150 words per minute.  That's all fine, but its not fine to sit back and use the same excuse for a few decades.  Its not fine for the people and friends around him not to point out that there are solutions that can enable him to lead a more productive and full life. 

We're not talking about a person reluctant to don a Halloween costume and head to a party, we're talking about a person that chooses every day to be less connected to the people around him and to inefficiently hire people to read, interpret, and respond to his personal communications.

He needs to do this not only to be more efficient and effective but to be more in touch. 

Original Conversation Series

  1. War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet
  2. War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet
  3. War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet
  4. Someone Give That Man a VR Crackberry!

War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet

This is the initial commentary that kicked off the conversation at Utterz and the insight into what might make John McCain a better candidate and more productive American.
Barak Obama criticizes John McCain because he does not use email. Really cheap -- and stupid--- shot. War injuries prevent McCain not only from typing on a keyboard, but also tying his own shoes or combing his hair. See the Boston Globe article by Mary Leonard on March 4, 2000. Move on, to something real, Barak, and quit embarrassing yourself.

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Note its not like we are asking John McCain to go out and get a job or something in this conversation. We're talking about a person that does not utilize one of the most popular forms of communication in the world today, possibly even more popular than the telephone. Email is not that difficult, it should not be that intimidating and its not like we are talking about weight loss pills, viagra, or some chemical fix for an ailment. We're simply talking about not utilizing people as buffers of communication for a person that might take control of the most powerful country in the world.

War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet

There are many voice recognition softwares. Also what are the 100's of assistants good for if they can't read him his email?

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It was this response by AlwayaAMama at Utterz that helped to give me the insight that John McCain may be stalling stubbornly with an excuse as opposed to embracing technologies that could benefit him, his campaign and the country. Not to mention if he were to overcome yet another one of life's challenges it would be a hell of a story for the campaign. Its not like John McCain is trying to get some sort of settlement through a South Carolina injury lawyer so that hey can hang out and drink beer in front of the TV for the rest of his days. Obviously, that is not the type of guy John McCain is, but somewhere between the hero that held out against his Vietnamese tortures and the man that refuses to use a productivity increasing communications tool like email, we find the candidate that might run the country in a few months.

War Injuries Prevent McCain from Typing/Internet

You do not need fingers to read/type email.

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Someone Give That Man a VR Crackberry!

Very true, I use Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 myself and it is amazing.

I think the wider point here, is that McCain is demonstrating an inability to adapt to new times and new technologies.

America did not work its way forward in the world by resting on our laurels and using the same old technology over and over again. If we were, my great grandfather would have taught me how to plow a line with a jackass and brass plow. In fact, not even my great grandfather was so limited as to not adapt to new technologies.

We have people losing jobs as new technologies and cheaper labor replace them. For those people to have a chance at making a living, taking care of their families, and keeping their self respect high and moving forward with all other Americans they have to find their way with new technology and productivity tools.

I'm 35 and I've had 7 careers already. I've designed my way out of jobs to get promoted, creating solutions that automated my own job into oblivion. I didn't do that out of a protectionistic sense of trying to keep the buggy whip industry afloat with government bailouts. I did that because that is exactly what Americans do.

We find better, faster, cheaper ways to achieve our goals no matter what the obstacle, no matter what our disability or impediment.

We are a land of underdogs and over achievers.

McCain has a number of qualities that I like, but this is not one of them. He needs to see the technological light and he needs to do it this month.

He showed extremely savvy political leadership by exploiting Barack Obama's weakness in judgment. McCain picked a woman for the ticket when Obama regressed and picked a safe old white guy (that I like by the way).

McCain showed that he's not some tired old dude that doesn't get it, and he showed that he still has a lot of potential as a leader. But good leaders adapt to the entire changing landscape.

Exploiting a political weakness of an opponent, might win you the battle, but adapting to changes in technology and exploiting those new technologies with savvy, that will win you the war and in this case, will keep America progressing as opposed to stagnating.

So will someone please stand up from John McCain's computer, sit that old dude down and get him to work taking care of his own email?

Give him a crackberry with voice recognition capabilities too while your at it.

ATTENTION MCCAIN CAMPAIGN

Any McCain PR people out there, call me! I've got a Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 preferred promotional products license that I'll donate today and McCain can get to work typing his own emails at 150 words a minute.

I'm not offering that up to help McCain win, but to help one more American (and fellow veteran) take a positive step forward towards independence for himself and all of us. We Americans can't afford to waste resources having someone else type our own emails.

My Name is Brett Bumeter and I typed this message myself. . . .

You can see some of my reviews on Dragon Naturally Speaking at

http://softduit.com/…peaking-9/
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Can You Really Mod a Prius to Improve Mileage?

That is the question I asked myself when I saw this video Thunder's Prius EV mod install guide and commentary.  This 15 minute video tutorial walks you through the process of mounting a Toyota Prius.

JuicedHybird.com

This step-by-step tutorial looks like something that your average person could probably do, but would your average person actually do it?

The actual device featured in the video cost somewhere between $70 and $90.  That's not a lot of money if you're trying to save big bucks at the pump.

Add to that cost, 15 to 20 minutes worth of work on your car, and it doesn't seem like a big deal. That is of course if you don't electrocute yourself first, void your warranty on the car, or somehow managed to short out and kill your car altogether.

That said, next to driving cars, working on cars and making them run better than they do off the factory floor is probably just as American as apple pie and drag racing.

This particular device is supposed to allow you to switch your car into electric only mode, which is supposed to increase the efficiency of a vehicle.  It's also supposed to be a common feature on the Toyota Prius when it is not sold in America .

That's right, this is one of those deals where the rest the world gets the benefit from a technology, plus Americans have to suck it up and deal with some governor like device it doesn't slow the car down,it does decrease its efficiency. 

So after you install this device, you're supposed to basically get the same benefit that people around the world get when they drive same car.

Toyota Prius EV Mode Features

  • Easy Installation - In a few minutes this OEM option replication will activate the electric only feature from Toyota to drive for short distances such as around town or in parking lots to save fuel.
  • Fuel Efficiency - By limiting the use of the gas motor your Prius will have improved MPG.
  • Performance - Operating the electric motor at low speeds you will notice a bit more torque under acceleration.
  • Environmentally Friendly - No gas engine means better for the environment while EVMODE is engaged.
  • Step By Step Instructions - The EV Mode kit is designed for ease of installation and includes the step by step instructions. No cutting of wires.
  • Runs Seamlessly - The electric only feature can be turned on and used up to a speed of around 34 mph at which time it will automatically turn off and the car will operate as usual. Quickly and easily activate and/or turn off the electric mode when desired.
  • Maintained battery Life - Battery is prevented from going below 3 Bars by Toyota software in the Prius.
  • Engine automatically restarts when the battery needs to be recharged or if you need to accelerate quickly
  • EVMODE will improve your fuel economy. Results will vary based on driving conditions, geography and how aggressive you drive.

 

I have to admit, I do not fully understand the caveat that states "up to 34 mph with increased efficiency"

I do not know if that means that this will help your car run in only electric mode up until it hits 34 mph and then it switches into engine moderare burning fossil fuels,or to mean something else.

Plus I don't fully understand how this is different than what the car does by itself.That said I am very curious as to how many people might actually be making these types of adjustments to their car.My brother has installed new chipsin his own cars in the past as he's worked on a troublesome Camero dozens of years ago.  Even my father, a very gifted mechanic, was looking at a couple of different devices that would and enable a person to reprogram the chip in their cars so that their car could burn gas more efficiently.Something akin to acarburetor tuneup in the old days I suppose.

In all truth, this doesn't look any more difficult than installing the power wire for the car stereo.  But our society is increasingly moving towards more and more specialization to the point that your average person doesn't seem to work on cars very much these days.

So what do you think, could you envision yourself paying $70 for little device that helps you save some gas at the pump?  Would you trust yourself to install this?  Or would you even trust a mechanic to install this if you paid for the part?

The days when people only had to worry about developing a lead foot are long past.  These days we are more likely to develop Plantar Fasciitis of the foot while sitting at a red light waiting for traffic, but that wait can burn a lot of gas, even in a prius without this type of mod.

Large Hadron Collider Inspires Death Threats Against Scientist from People Fearing World Ending Black Hole Creation

Imagine someone flips a switch, and within seconds or minutes planet Earth is consumed and swallowed into a black hole. Sound like something straight out of science fiction or a B movie.  Well it's that scenario that is prompting a number of people to send death threats to scientists are preparing to flip the switch and turn on a large Hadron collider.

This supercollider or particle accelerator, will be the world's largest, and some people feel that when launched a could trigger a worldwide cataclysm including the creation of a black hole that could destroy the planet.  The collider will be 27 km in diameter and scientists hope to unlock a few new mysteries of the universe with this massive tool.

However, despite its great promise, many people worldwide have protested the construction of the particle accelerator, believing it could end the world.  Many are fearful that the collider could spawn black holes, which they worry could devour the Earth.  The creators of the LHC, some of the world's foremost scientists, say such concerns are unfounded and convey a lack of understanding about the project.
According to Professor Brian Cox of Manchester University, the public animosity is so severe that American Nobel prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has received death threats.  Professor Cox, typically sedate, adds irritatingly, "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t---. "

DailyTech - Large Hadron Collider to Go Online This Week Despite Death Threats

so this kind of raises the question, who is it that has oversight over scientists. Who is it that knows enough and has enough wisdom and given situation to confirm whether or not a scientific experiments could actually cause irreparable or life-threatening damage to planet Earth?

Unfortunately, anyone with half a brain knows that the human condition creates people even scientists, that do not always act in a way that is beneficial for the planet, for other people, or sometimes even for themselves.

I personally do not have enough information about this collider one way or another to know if it's a threat or not. From what I know about chemistry and physics, I suspect that it is not terribly threatening. That said, I have had a great deal of experience with Murphy's Law, and I know that things do go wrong and sometimes unexpected results to occur even with the most tried and tested tools. So who is to say that this particular tool might work as it is expected to work, or might fail miserably, or may even fail spectacularly.

When a developing country such as Iran attempts to create scientific experiments to help build up its own nuclear technologies, many people in Europe and the West turn a critical and harsh it to that endeavor. We do so often times because we do not trust the people controlling the tool. But we seem to turn a blind eye to ourselves when we do even your experiments with even less knowledge than a country like I ran that is simply following in the footsteps of many other countries.

We are breaking new ground, and don't really know where we will end up. We have hypotheses, but that doesn't always mean much, sometimes those hypocrisies can fail miserably and people will suffer the consequences, and sometimes those hypocrisies can fail and we can actually end up succeeding in strange and twisted ways, just ask just Christopher Columbus.

I don't know where this one's going, and I'm hoping for the best. That said, you might want to take pause next week is the flip is about to be switched on and consider your place in the universe. I'm not saying anyone's going to die or the plants going to implode or disappear, but it can't hurt for us to reflect on where we are today, and where we are going tomorrow before a few scientists handle some pool floats and throw us into the ocean of the universe.

Mythbusters Censored by Credit Card Companies

utterz-image

The above screencap comes from an Engadget.com post which you can find here: http://www.engadget.com/…company-l/ and it reports on Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage's admission that the Discovery Channel caved under pressure from the credit card companies not to air an episode profiling the extreme hackability of RFID chips that are now appearing in credit cards.



The story originally comes from a video posted on Wired.com here: http://blog.wired.com/…ch-my.html which was previously posted on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch



So, now the truth is effectively been banned. This kind of thing pisses me off to no end--as the Engadget post points out, rather than spend money on finding a more secure solution to RFID's problems, these companies would rather spend money on lawyers to stop people from talking about RFID's problems.



In other words, rather than keeping our money safe, they'd rather be able to advertise the latest bell and whistle to get more customers.



This is why I don't have a credit card. This is why I wish I could function without a bank account--because banks aren't keeping my money secure. Remember that company that made a bunch of electronic balloting machines that were super easy to hack? They used to be called "Diebold" and guess what other kind of machine they make: Automated Teller Machines. Yep, the company that couldn't prove they could count our votes we're trusting to count our money.



Meanwhile, banks think RFID is the wave of the future. However, it's anything but. While the credit card companies won't let Discovery Channel show that Mythbusters episode (or let them even MAKE the episode), Engadget.com previously posted a video that details how easy it is to hack RFID. I reposted it here: http://thepete.com/…vulnerable



I'm all for technology (DUH!), but anyone who thinks that technology can be trusted not to fail hasn't used technology enough to know what they're talking about.

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Comcast Bandwidth Cap Sucks for Shareholders

Comcast this week blundered their way into a decision that will likely go down in internet history as being blindly ignorant.  Like IBM giving away the farm to Microsoft in the early 80's and Yahoo! giving away the farm to Google in the late 90's and TimeWarner giving away millions for AOL, Comcast just made a collosal mistake which is going to have terrible implications for its shareholders.

image

Comcast has chosen to limit bandwidth for its cable internet users.

Many Internet providers reserve the right to cancel the service of the most excessive users. The 250-gigabyte cap is Comcast’s way of specifying a longstanding policy of placing a limit on Internet consumption, and it comes after customer pushed for a definition of excessive use.

But on the Internet, consumer behavior does not stand still. As the technology company Cisco stated in a report last winter, “today’s ‘bandwidth hog’ is tomorrow’s average user.”

New York Times article

Now, this would presumably block people from downloading large files and 'slowing down the internet for other users on the block'.  But if you look at what types of files make up large downloads, that is currently video.

Aha!  They are trying to protect their own business of enabling people to watch video via cable.  No good, enabling your customers to watch download movies via netflix if that cuts into PayPer View or On Demand downloads and sales.

But consider that Comcast has added an entirely new business line in the form of Cable Internet on the infrastructure it had already built for cable.  They made the pie bigger, and now they are going to chase away customers from eating that bigger pie. 

Why would a consumer opt to go with a service that blocks them from getting the full advantages of the internet?

They won't.

As an example, I today get cable internet from Time warner and actual Cable from Direct TV. 

If I were still a comcast customer and they tried to pull this crap on me, I'd drop the cable internet and go with someone that didn't block me from getting what I wanted.

By making this move they have just taken away the value proposition of one of their hotest new business lines to save an old business line with a short life expectancy.  Its kind of like selling someone Grohe faucets and then telling them that they can only dring 250 glasses of water.

Volcanic Microbes



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MindManager Pro7 FileExplorer Tool Doesn't Sort File Types in a MindMap

Today, I was digging in a little bit into the new and improved version of MindManager.  It comes in the version of MindManager Pro 7 and among many other things includes an upgrade to one of the tools that I have consistently used the most in MindManager.

Its the File Explorer tool.  In the past, you could establish a link to a folder on your PC, then click the file explorer button.  MindManager would dig through the file list of that folder and create individual topics of all the files, with links to those topics.  This was amazingly useful for managing project files of all types.

NEW VERSION UPRGRADES

In the new version, you no longer have to create the link on a topic first, just hit the file explorer tool first, browse for the destination folder and wallah, you have your list.  Very Cool.  :)

Even Better, the new tool has a refresh option, so you can refresh the file list in the mind map and see an updated list after you have added, changed or removed a file.

What's Missing from this Great MindManager Tool Still

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MindManager still does not provide a useful of way of sorting and organizing topics in an automated fashion.  You can filter, but not sort and organize.  This tool would be much more useful if it brought those files in under different sorting options including:

  • Sorting by file type (Word, xls, pdf, wmv, etc)
  • Sorting by file Date
  • Sorting by File Name
  • Including excluding specific file types

MindManager is a great software tool and I highly recommend it.  That said, the evolution of this software has been painfully slow over the last two years.  They have done some interesting things with MindManager making it more stable, but they always go half way with their evolution.

User feedback is addressed (eventually) but they never really go above and beyond taking the user feedback and doing something even better than asked for.  Mindjet gives 100% and not 110% in this way and it could be one of the reasons why their growth recipe has lost the momentum that they once had with versions 4 and 5.

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Where's Utterz Going with Upgrade? Broken CSS?

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I'm seeing several broken css styles with the rendering on Utterz today.



Plus, the query to start typing what I'm doing (as opposed to typing a title) and then to actually type what I'm doing in the body section, is down right confusing.



When I first saw this, I thought Utterz had added one of those mood ring like tools found on Facebook. (ex. Brett is Happy today. Brett is soaking wet from rain today or Brett is lost in a social media design today. :) or Brett is . . . yada yada yada)



I'm seeing text input boxes that do not fit with in the theme for the body section of Utterz.



Also, the Add Audio Pic Video buttons seem a little buggy as well.



I have a feeling that there was an attempt to make things wider and address some of the feedback requests of the past, but something definitely seems to be wrong in the execution.



I'm browsing in Firefox 3 on a 17" laptop with resolution set at 1080 I think.



As to the text prompts to kick things off, I think using verbage that sounds Facebooky is a mistake for several reasons.



1. It limits Utterz capability.

2. There are facebook connotations here that will mess with people and make Utterz feel like a bit of a knock off, which it isn't.

3. three, three, . . . I forget what three was for, but

4. You can't see the body text box, when you start the title text box, and that is just confusing up front and on the back end when it does show up.



In general, this just doesn't feel very tight. Maybe that's an execution thing, but aside from the wider boxes, the purpose of some of these changes seems mis-directed.

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Introducing Document Management. Go Green!

Document management is the conversion of paper documents into electronic images on your computer. Once on your desktop, these documents can be retrieved effortlessly in seconds.

Thousands of organizations around the world use document management every day instead of paper filing systems. The reasons for this change are simple:



Document Management:

• Prevents lost records.

• Saves storage space.

• Manages records easily.

• Finds documents quickly.

• Makes images centrally available.

• Eliminates the need for file cabinets.



The steps necessary to introduce document management:

Documents are scanned into the system. The document management system stores them somewhere on a hard drive or optical disk. The documents then get indexed. When a person later wants to read a document, he or she uses the retrieval tools available in the document management system. Which documents can be read and what actions performed on these documents is dependent on the access provided by the document management system.

A complete document management system comprises five elements:



•Scanning

Major advancements in scanning technology make paper document conversion fast, inexpensive and easy. A good scanner will make putting paper files into your computer easy.



•Storage

The storage system provides long-term and reliable storage for documents. A good storage system will accommodate changing documents, growing volumes and advancing technology.



•Indexing

The index system creates an organized document filing system and makes future retrieval simple and efficient. A good indexing system will make existing procedures and systems more effective.



•Retrieval

The retrieval system uses information about the documents, including index and text, to find images stored in the system. A good retrieval system will make finding the right documents fast and easy.



•Access

Document viewing should be readily available to those who need it, with the flexibility to control access to system. A good access system will make documents viewable to authorized personnel, whether in the office, at different locations, or over the Internet.

If you've got a good idea of the basics of a document management system, you'll find our in-depth overview of document imaging and document management software a useful resource.



for more information please visit:http://www.laserfiche.com/

danita's Mobile post sent by brettbum using Utterzreply-count Replies.

Introducing Document Management. Go Green!

I've had to do this several times for companies I have worked for. I started actually with a scanner to scan in some old spread sheets that someone had printed. Then I converted them back into spreadsheets with Omnipage (8 or 9 back then).

A couple years later, I started scanning all customer contracts and account documents and mapping them out with MindManager to keep things organized.



These days I have my own company, so everything gets scanned. I use PaperPort for document management and I use OmniPage 16 these days for OCR purposes.



I've got a three hundred dollar Brother scanner/copier/fax/laser printer that I keep on the dock that is fantastic. I just drop a pile of papers into the document feeder and scan away.

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Facebook Status Broken Today

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I was just noticing today that Facebook comments, that little question that asks you what you are doing or feeling right now.

This little update function can be temporarily addictive, like wearing the latest fad or something.

Unfortunately, this outage caught me right in the middle of my own susceptibility to the fad, and now I look at my status updates with the 'upgraded' facebook and all I'm getting is a bunch of strings of code.

Now all of my 'friends' are going to think I'm in a super technical mood, or just being geekily weirder than I actually am.
"No, those strings of code are not how I was feeling yesterday!"
It was hard enough explaining to my mother years back that the google ads showing up on my site referring to baby bedding, did not actually imply that we were expecting another child, just some automated code from Google.

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Pay It Forward - Verizon Sucks?

I have been toying with the notion of what I should do with my brand new Treo 700P from Verizon Wireless. I'd really enjoy your thoughts on what you think I should or shouldn't do here. The more creative the better as I am stuck. In regards to my feelings for the Treo 700P, I hate it.

I love Treos, have loved them for almost a decade, but Verizon Wireless changed all that for me.

I bought a new Treo from Verizon Wireless last August, a year ago, and the phone was unable to work with email like it was supposed to. I took it back (I had 30 days money back + I was paying $6 a month for a warranty.) Verizon gave me a replacement phone in the store, and it was dead out of the box.

I should have recognized a big problem at that point, but I was in a hurry to get to Blogworld, so I had them give me another new Treo out of the box and I flew to Vegas for the show.

The phone worked, kind of. It was very problematic with lots of problems that I have detailed in my writing over the last year.

Long story short (for that part) they had to send me another replacement treo 700p on my warranty plan in June.

I tried the replacement for a week and it was susceptible to the same problems as the previous phone. (Didn't receive calls, lost voice mail,crashed regularly, and was unable to roam on networks other than Verizon Wireless)

Another long story short(ok, so I just can't tell a short story, I would have never made it as a serial writer in the 19th century!) I canceled my Treo off my gargantuan Verizon Wireless Plan (paying over $300 a month) That brought my monthly plan down to a more (less) reasonable amount of $200 a month. [I paid $100 a month for the same plan at t-mobile without a hitch ever].

I then picked up a little nokia phone from tmobile, and have been very happy. (except it doesn't have email)

The thing is I have this brand new Treo 700P, the latest replacement. I don't trust it myself, and would never dream of selling it on ebay or something, which is exactly what Verizon Wireless told me to do 5 times despite the fact that they admitted it would be morally the wrong thing to do.

I'm not as big of an ass as Verizon Wireless would have me be.

That said, I'm not completely free of that syndrome and have been trying to think of what I can do with this brand new phone that cost me almost $700 ($500 for the phone and $150 to cancel the Verizon Wireless plan).

I will be running a contest soon, offering up a great software program license(or multiple licenses) and I'm thinking about offering my new Verizon Wireless Treo 700P as a booby prize along with maybe a months supply of diet pills, and used pooper scoopers(something equally as valuable to my treoo 700P). The contest entrants will be bloggers and podcasters, and I'm thinking that if I give them the Treo 700P as a booby prize it might give them a lot of material to write about just how crappy the device and Verizon Wireless are in working with it!

That does seem like a mean vindictive thing to do to Verizon Wireless, but keep in mind they basically sold me a lemon and cost me $700 so I feel like they have ripped me off significantly. (not to mention I helped them stay in business 8 years ago, when they needed $1 billion, I gave it to them~no exageration, they used to be my customer and during their merger/formation their finances were very screwed up and I helped to prop them up and keep them in business long enough to get through the merger.

Mobile post sent by brettbum using Utterz. reply-count Replies.

Pandora Had Me Until Disco was Mixed with Seventies Rock

This afternoon I was turned on to Pandora an old(even though many people haven't heard of it before) internet radio station company that reinvents itself on a regular basis.

I've read about them dozens of times in magazines like Wired, but never gave them a try. Today I was doing a few things in FaceBook when I was given the quick ability to give them a try.

I was hooked.

I was rapidly finding some music that I liked and that was virally pointing me to some new music I hadn't heard of before.

Then Pandora's Box must have come completely off its hinges. Before I knew it I had Journey getting mixed into play on channels that were supposed to play disco, Peter Gabriel was following hard rock on the Nine Inch Nails Channel and for dozens of songs in a row I was stuck listening to garbage!

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I was in Internet Radio Hell!

Pandora is supposed to look at your musical tastes, compare those tastes to other people and with the music selections that the music experts at Pandora use, make music suggestions to you that should help you keep your groove on.

But when it goes wrong and sends you a series of songs that you don't like, you can skip through two or three until you get a message stating that their license does not allow them to let you skip through more music until you listen to some more (crap).

From a Facebook perspective I rapidly ran into some problems as well. I was able to subscribe to some of my favorite groups and singers. However, I rapidly learned that many or most of them only had their most current albums listed in Pandora. So I could not really get in there and share or list my favorite songs by my favorite singers and groups.

The most annoying thing about the service though seems to be the fact that once it gets off track, you can't redirect it. Its like having a friend come over to your house, jump in to your music collection and suddenly pull out a bunch of really bad music that you received for christmas from a distant aunt that has no clue what music you like and then having that person play that music over and over again.

You can't hit stop, you can't hit skip, you can't tell them to turn that crap off or play something in a different genre.

That last word is the key here. There appears to be no genre of music on Pandora to help get the service guided back on track. So if your resident Pandoran expert chooses unwisely (for you), you are stuck with their suggestions and can't say, "Hey you fool, that's not rock n roll, that's not funky dance music, that's techno dance music, that's not acid house that's house, that's not rap that's R & B, that's not hip hop, that pop. You can tell it song after song that you don't like the song, but that doesn't seem to register quick enough to improve the next song in the play list.

Maybe even more important, if you want to hear 'more' from an artist, you just can't. This is (internet) radio and they don't really play requests like that. You can buy music anytime you like, knock yourself out. But if you suddenly get the notion or reminder to listen to this great song by an artist you're just hosed.

For those of us that have lived for decades now in the instant gratification world of MP3 files, digital cameras and mobile email, this is a real bummer. The introduction to new music is nice, but be prepared to take a deep breath before diving through the chaff.

The service has some interesting potential, but it just doesn't seem intelligent or responsive enough yet to really live up to its true potential.

Comcast Executive Care?

Last week I blogged about a Comcast outage. A Comcast representative commented on my post and ask me to contact them. You can see it here: http://aaronburcell.typepad.com/…ng-me.html



In a follow-up email, I asked the commenter if there were some alert system that provided an eta on outage recovery -- a system like Pacific Gas and Electricity's phone tree. I didn't get an immediate response.



This morning I took a call from Comcast Executive Care. The contact apologized for the inconvenience, asked for multiple bits of contact info. He then indicated that someone from his group in the Bay Area would be calling me. So far, I'm not all that impressed, but I'm curious to see what transpires next.

AaronB's Mobile post sent by brettbum using Utterzreply-count Replies.

Comcast Executive Care Part II

AaronB at Utterz kicked off an interesting discussion about cable providers and their response times and possible processes when their services go down. Now if you are like me you would rather volunteer for human trials to have teeth extracted by an elephant or eat at McDonalds for 90 days straight in order to develop a nice case of acne for the sole purpose of then testing suppository treatments for acne before you ever would want to call a cable providers 800 number and get put through the ringer asking for help.

That said, this discussion could prove enlightening and save you the time and trouble of dealing with them, as the conversation will partially confirm what you, I and the rest of the US already suspect, the phone call is a waste of time! :)



I spoke with Sandy (sp?!) at Comcast executive care tonight. To recap, I suffered a significant outage, Comcast owned up the issue through a comment on my blog, and have been trying to explain themselves ever since.

After returning Sandy's call, she was a bit confused as to why I called, and eventually found her files before addressing my basic questions about why Comcast could not communicate information about their outages before, during or after outages.

Here is a recap of the convo with Sandy today:

* Sandy believes that the IVR is supposed to read the phone number via caller ID, and give me regional outage information. Unfortunately, if you're a triple-play customer, you can't use your home phone to call in. Fortunately, my wife's mobile phone is the number associated with the account -- we called from that number, and only received information that there was an outage "in the area" and were provided no estimate on service restoration. Nothing. In reviewing my case history, Sandy recognized these facts.

* On that last point, when I pressed, Sandy advised that Comcast always encourages customers to talk to a live person about outages. I asked where they provide this advisement -- in the IVR, their site, the online billing site? Sandy said, she was providing the advisement in the call I was participating in, and that's generally where they advise customers... customers without voice or cable services. Yeah, I laughed too.

* After this line of conversation, Sandy contradicted herself and stated that she believes the IVR can't be prompted to give me an update on outages. So, the phone number a customer is provided on the site and via the EPG on the set-top box is useless. That's something everyone should know.

* Sandy says the call center system provides support folks with an outage board and give notes indicating what the issue is if they're available, and Comcast general does not update the IVR regarding regional outages. Sandy explained that most of the time, the outages aren't provided updates from the field. And, again, Comcast is advising that customers call support, talk to a person, who is rarely informed from the field, and not provided updates on specifics of the issue impacting your service. Yeah, I laughed again.

So, at this point, I confirmed with Sandy that she is not provided updates from the field, and the IVR can't be updated with outage info, but that I should call the 800 number and ignore the outage info prompts in the IVR and speak to a support person who is probably not going to have field reports on an outage. Sandy had a cute voice. She giggled in response to my question.

I pressed on, focusing on the subject of planned outages. Sandy shared more nuggets of confusion and humor:

* When there is a planned outage, there is a message provided to customers via the set-top box in the EPG menu under the message tab (WTF?!), and a red light appears on the front of the box to let you know that a new message has arrived. I didn't think to ask, but I wonder if this is the same red light that indicates one of my two tuners is recording a program. Yeah, that message-related red light couldn't be confusing or misinterpreted at all.

* Sand says that a customer is also notifed of planned outages in "most cases" via direct mail to customers, sent as a separate snail mail, aka a letter other than your bill. Sandy was a bit confused about whether or not this was an insert in your bill or a seperate mailing -- she described both instances, but eventually settled on a seperate mailing as the standard. Sorta like the IVR issue, Sandy was a bit confused, and just sorta picked a direction and went with it. I love Sandy.

* So, for everyone that ignores their statement and pays online -- you're not going to know about planned outages, unless you check your messages on your set top box. I asked this question. Sandy confirmed that it is probably that you'll not see the mailings regarding planned outages.

So, to review to this point, as a Triple Play customer, Comcast has your phone number, your email address, and a portal from which to communicate planned outages, or apologize and explain unplanned outages. None of these channels are utilized, according to Sandy in "executive care escalation". Instead, you might get a letter in the mail.

So, I pressed on regarding un-planned outage 00 the descriptor for the outage I experienced. After asking a series of additional qeustions, Sandy began to break down and make a series of revealing confessions. Here they are:

* Even after aknowledging my assertion that someone in NOC probably knows which houses are impacted by an outage, Sandy says that Comcast does not automatically credit customers for an unplanned outage. Instead, they only credit customers after the customer complains.

* Comcast does not snail mail or provide any follow-up with on un-planned outages. Sandy noted that most customers don't even notice that there is an ouage, especially in my case, where the outage was primarily during business hours. Interesting logic.



Ultimately, Sandy gave me a one-week credit ($42.10) at my current Triple Play rate. For her honesty and the credit, I'm eternally grateful.

Early in my career, I worked on WebTV, which was effectively an ISP for a TV-adjacent computer. We sweated outages and product issues, and we answered phone numbers and tried to over-estimate outages so that we didn't take on the additional costs of call-backs. We made light of MSOs (multiple service operators) and their lack of service commitments. As bad as cable was, we always felt that the phone companies were worse than cable companies.

But, tonight, I'm starting to wonder if "Big Old Expensive Phone Company" is better than Comcast. I might just decide to find out.

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Comcast Executive Care Part II

To echo Michael's sentiment, I opt for several layers of redundancy at home these days. I keep a home office and being disconnected isn't really an option.

I have a landline through At&t, whom I despise and would almost rather chop off any body appendage on the left side of my body rather than do business with them, but redundancy is important.

I have DSL on the At&t line as well. This is my first level of redundant backup. Its too slow and quirky when it comes to a number of applications (like email). But its better than nothing.

TimeWarner's Roadrunner is my cable connection. It is pretty fast most of the time and only goes down for a few hours every couple weeks.

I get cable through DirectTv. Just maintaining momentum here. Don't like nor dislike them.

Then I have an air card through Verizon Wireless which can power my 3g Wireless Router and create a WiFi network at the house or anywhere when DSL and Cable internet are both down. So far that has only happened once this year since I set up the additional layers of redundancy.

I am none to happy with Verizon Wireless as they just ripped me off for $500 last month. They sold me a lemon of a phone, replaced it 3 times under the warranty I was paying for and none of the replacements worked. They would not take the phone back, give me my money back or give me a different model of phone (presumably one that worked).

Their only advice to me over the phone was to sell my lemon of a phone on ebay to some poor sucker out there. (They did not use the word sucker directly. But when I asked them if they admitted that I had a lemon of a phone, they agreed. When I asked if it was right to sell a lemon of a phone to someone, they agreed that this would be bad. When I asked what I should do with the phone? They said (again) many of our customers sell their (lemon) phones on ebay, you could sell yours on ebay. But it is a lemon of a phone that doesn't work. How can that be right? I ask.

They agreed and said that would be wrong, but that's what Verizon customers do.

I said, I did not want to harm someone else with a lemon, not to mention harm my own name, or even cost Verizon more money for the tech support calls they would receive from the poor sap that would purchase my phone. Verizon thanked me for that.

So I asked again what I could do with my lemon of a phone. They said, You could sell it on ebay. (I'm not kidding or exaggerating. They told me 4 times to sell my phone on ebay during the same conversation with the same rep, who agreed with me that it would be just wrong to sell the phone on ebay knowing that it was a lemon myself and with Verizon having documented the fact that it was a lemon in their own system.)

I hung up with the feeling that there was a supervisor standing behind her telling her to repeat the company line "Sell your lemon Verizon Wireless phone on Ebay" "No Refunds"

I learned my lesson with Verizon Wireless. Their warranty, $6 a month, is garbage. They just replace lemons with lemons. They might as well offer customers t shirts stating, "I paid $500 for a garbage phone with a service plan that cost $325 a month and all I received was 45 hours on the phone with tech support and a paper weight shaped treo 700P".

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Comcast Executive Care Part II

So, now you understand why I've decided that Comcast gives me my internet connection, and Verizon gives me dial tone. I can miss a TV show once in while, but I don't want to be without dial tone. Whether you like them or not, no matter what the weather, time of day, etc., in power outages or storms, Verizon gives us dial tone. Comcast is more likely to be a blue screen or some sort of error message. Can't even count the number of errors before or during PPV movies, HD service is cranky and sometimes just stops for no reason, etc.

MichaelBayer's Mobile post sent by brettbum using Utterzreply-count Replies.

Another Wireless Mouse is Junk

I am increasingly beginning to think that no manufacturer can create a decent wireless mouse.  This week I have witnessed the demise of yet another wireless mouse. A laser optical mouse that I paid $50 for just 4 months ago.

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This mouse sucked down close to 12 AAA batteries a month and truly was not worth the total cost (after batteries about $100).  If I can find one, I am from now on going to utilize a wired mouse, both to save money on batteries and to save landfills from more batteries.

More importantly I will make the switch to save myself the hassle of utilizing equipment that fails to work when I need it.  It may make my work while traveling or staying in Mykonos villa rentals or in a Howard Johnson or even a Holiday Inn Express.  Lugging a wired device seems a bit like packing up too much of the desktop to go on the road, but when you count many of the devices that plugin via USB to communicate with the actual mouse, traveling with a wireless mouse can be even more bulky than a wired device.

The trick is likely to find a mouse that has a cord that is manageable and does not make a mess of all the other packed devices and cords in your bag, backpack or briefcase.

Google and Viacom - The Fight That Had to Happen stays as Civil as Possible

Google and Viacom have agreed to keep the identities of all those people that Viacom would argue illegally shared their content on Google's YouTube video sharing network.

Google said it had now agreed to provide plaintiffs' attorneys for Viacom and a class-action group led by the Football Association of England a version of a massive viewership database that blanks out YouTube username and Internet address data that could be used to identify individual video watchers.

"We have reached agreement with Viacom and the class-action group," Google spokesman Ricardo Reyes said. "They have agreed to let us anonymize YouTube user data," he said.

Reuters

But Viacom does not necessarily want to upset its consumers any more than they already have by not enabling their content to be uploaded on to YouTube, especially shows, such as The Daily Show.

So after taking Google to task for buying YouTube, a company with a serious content ownership flaw in the business plan, they are now delving through the class action lawsuit with kids gloves, hoping to protect their content rights while keeping their viewers (and advertisers.)  With this level of civility, you would almost expect lawyers from opposing sides to send each other personalized gifts along with evidence and data.

Improving Technology Series - Hot Tub Covers with Ambience

This weekend as I took a short time to relax, I found an interesting new product that makes an improvement on the technology of hot tub covers.  This improvement did not come in the way the covers work, or what they are made out of, but how they look when your hot tub is - uncovered.

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I've owned several hot tubs over the years and most hot tub covers are not terribly sexy nor relaxing, especially their under bellies.  In fact, underbelly is exactly how most hot tub covers look on the under side.  They look like the belly of a giant slimy cat fish and when you are trying to relax in a hot tub, staring at a glaring white behemoth, well its just not terribly relaxing nor peaceful.

Well, this company called SpaScenes.com has come up with an easy to install screen that attaches easily to hot tub covers with a special adhesive resistant to hot tub environments and chemicals.  It can add a great looking scene that will definitely be more peaceful and relaxing than the giant white underbelly ambience that comes standard with hot tubs today.

spascenes-hot-tub-cover-screen-prints

The price on these massive hot tub cover murals goes for a little over $200.  Your average hot tub cover itself can cost anywhere from $350 - $600 plus accessories like lift arms, so adding an accessory to deck your hot tub out like you are in a resort or spa could definitely be worth the investment.  Plus, if you look at these for what they are, a massive water proof/ chemical proof mural the price is likely a great deal cheaper than a mural would be if you tried to install it on an ordinary wall.

imageNow, personally, I prefer to keep my hot tub outside.  I enjoy relaxing under the stars and the trees.  The beauty of these hot tub covers is that it can help to quiet down the light that would normally reflect off your hot tub cover and help you to focus on your environment and nature instead of staring at what looks almost like a big bright screen.  After looking at it, I can't hardly imagine going back to my old hot tub cover where I'll probably always think of a blank Microsoft Word Document from now on until I upgrade my cover.

$70 per Year for Microsoft Office?

You might have missed this deal announced by Microsoft and Circuit City just before the holidays.  They are going to sell Microsoft office and Circuit City stores for $69 a year through a subscription plan.  This is part of Microsoft's effort to try and keep up with Google who has offered Google documents as an online application to compete with Microsoft office which is notoriously been rather expensive over the years.

 

At about $70 year, Microsoft office would not really seem all that expensive to many people especially those people they're buying a new computer in looking at a teaser 30 or 60 day trial offer of Microsoft office.  Paying $70 to get another year of Microsoft Office versus paying a few hundred dollars is a whole lot easier.

 

That said I don't think Microsoft is going to be terribly competitive with Google based on this one item.  It will definitely help sales but it doesn't assume to make product any better or any more competitive with Google documents.  People that use Google documents justify the use with the price but they tend to make the choice based on lifestyle and culture.  Necessity does come into play at times, but it doesn't seem to be the overriding concern of many buyers.

 

Regardless of seems like pretty good idea for a soft, it's a solid baby step in the right direction to stay competitive and keep their army of software engineers gainfully employed and out of the unemployment lines looking for IT jobs.

The strange thing about this product offering is the choice of channel.  Offering this deal exclusively to Circuit City is a little peculiar.  Most people that run in that situation where they need to buy Microsoft office, for example when they're 30 or 60 day trial has just expired, need the software right away.  It would seem that this model would work a whole lot better if Microsoft sold it directly from their own website as a download as opposed to making people jump into their car and pay $10 to drive a car across town to pick up some software and Circuit City.

I can deftly understand why Circuit City jumped at this deal, but Microsoft seems to have made a misstep in their choice of partner.

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