Yahoo! - Dream Team Offer Deadline Today

Just like the Democratic party, technology is witnessing the possibility of a dream team line up and merger between Microsoft and Yahoo!.  I personally like both companies and can credit both companies for providing services that have benefited my company and careers over the years.

imageIt strikes me as funny when the press drums the potential merger up with talk about Microsoft being something of an evil empire taking over a poor helpless Yahoo!, a tech giant in its own right.

I do believe that the two companies together could actually balance out the market that has lately become dominated far too much by Google.  An 800 pound gorilla itself that regularly straps on its skate shoes and speeds through the internet making or breaking companies as it so chooses.

Verizon Wireless Phone Updates *228 - Broken Technology Series

I am traveling on the road yet again and once again I am reminded about how much of a pain in the ear Verizon Wireless can be.  Like a Windows 98 PC, you have to run regular software updates with Verizon Wireless phones.  Unlike Windows, you have to do this manually with Verizon Wireless.

You have to dial *228 plugin your option, and let them send your phone some software to update it. 

The problem with this is, whenever I go from the East Coast to the West Coast, my phone becomes completely non-functional about 24 hours after my arrival until I run this update.  If I get a text message or email on my Treo the phone locks up and goes into fits, trying to resend (in the background) over and over again until my battery is shot.  I only notice a problem when my battery drains 10 times faster than normal on my new phone.

Well, I had that problem yet again today, in Laughlin Nevada just south of Las Vegas.  The phone worked fine yesterday when I arrived, but today it was fritzville until I updated the phone through Verizon.

More power to you if you can avoid networks that have this type of proprietary software loaded onto their phones.  I'm jumping ship on this phone back to T-mobile as soon as I can and that will probably save me a fortune the next time I get life insurance quotes.  Getting rid of this phone is sure to add 5 years to my life expectancy.

Saving Fuel with Flash Drive Movies on Airplanes

I was flying on a US Airways flight this afternoon from Charlotte to Las Vegas and noticed an area where the airlines could save some money on fuel.  As a former accountant, this is one of those abstract things that you tend to notice.  A little thing on one plane that when its repeated over and over again on a fleet of planes adds up to a lot of money.

This particular flight had an in flight movie (The Devil Wears Prada from 2007 and getting a little old.  This was probably the 3rd time I've seen it play on US Airways).

The point is that the plane played the movie with TVs and a VCR.  Not the flat panel TVs, and not a small little VCR, but big hulking metal jobs of TV's and a VCR that took up half an over head luggage compartment.

It struck me first off that the VCR probably weighed a lot and when you multiply that across many planes and factor in $125 a barrel oil, that's the type of thing that Richard Branson should pay attention to.  They simply need to replace the VCR with a small card reader that can play movies from a flash card and they would save a ton of space and money.

Once I noticed that then I started thinking about all those 14" tv's and how much they weighed.

Now, I'm sure a retrofit costs money, but its a simple enough equation for an accountant to figure out how much it would cost and how much would be saved with a lighter load.

I could complain about the bad movie, or the lines in the TV that makes you feel like you need low vision aids when you are 3 feet away, but instead I'd rather tip off the airlines in a way to save some money and keep in the air.  At $325 for a ticket to Vegas, I sure couldn't drive that distance for that kind of money, even in a Prius.

Cross Browser Compatibility - say it with me Cross Browser Compatibility

I have a small pet peeve.  Some very large and respectable corporations have websites that are not compatible with one of the most popular internet browsers, Firefox.  Others are not even compatible with IE7, which still has the largest market share of users.

Corporations need to learn that if they want their message to be heard, they should insure that their web designers insure and test their sites for "Cross Browser Compatibility."

I just received and offer from a company that I love, but I couldn't get the offer to work because the link was hidden in an html button in an email and when I clicked it, Firefox started (my browser of choice for security reasons) and their website failed to work.

Here's the work around in case you have the same problem with Mindjet Connect Mindjet (MindManager) Connect Beta - How to Get Invitation to Work | Maven Mapper's Information

I see the same problem with Bank of America too.  If you are leasing office space Connecticut in you might be able to get away with a simple looking site, but as soon as you want to provide any type of dynamic functionality, you best make sure it works with both browsers and Safari and Opera while you are at it.

Comcast, Time Warner - No Shows at Net Neutrality Meeting

Michael Copps was a little dumb founded at the no show of the major ISPs at this weeks Net Neutrality hearing.  The ISPs have been fighting to lock down the internet and force people to pay for access to premium knowledge and information as the carriers deem fit.  We're not talking about websites making you pay for their content, we're talking about your broadband provider making you pay before you even get to those websites.

Well, those carriers were not able to make the debate and defend their attempts to chain the internet and suck more money out of consumers.


Copps followed Martin's apologia, all fire and brimstone. "Let's look at it from an inventor's perspective," Copps explained. Will the broadband pipes for which they develop applications be open to their ideas? "Inventors and creators need to know, up-front, that they have the right to innovate without going on bended knee to seek permission from a few who have amassed too much control in their own hands," he said.

The time has come, Copps declared, to beef up the FCC's 2005 Internet Policy Statement with an "enforceable principle of non-discrimination." Something that makes it clear that "we will not tolerate unreasonable discrimination by network operators," bolstered by enforcement rules "to make sure that anyone with other ideas isn't going to get away with them."

Big ISPs a no show at second FCC net neutrality hearing

I have no sympathy here for the ISPs.  They have created a technology like radio in its day that has given people access to a new plane of existence.  Back then it was radio waves or spectrum, today it is the mythical place known as the ether, but that place is shared in ownership by people all around the world and no company can harness it and claim ownership or prevent people from accessing it based on how much money they do or do not pay for the content.

The concept seems extra ludicrous as the economy starts to turn into a heavy recession with hints of the same problems that sparks depressions.  The concepts of charging people more when they can barely fill up their gas tanks or pay their mortgages, while corporate CEO's chuck around multi million dollar stock options like they were a Rolex President sales trophy just grates at the nerves.

MindMeister 2.0 Unveiled

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MindMeister is just unveiling its latest upgrade bringing on board many new features:

  • Task information on ideas

    As a first step to lightweight project management in MindMeister you can now add task information - priority, completion, due date and owner - to ideas. More to come!

  • Attachments on ideas

    You can now upload file attachments to ideas and preview images through inline thumbnails. This feature is for Premium users only, but everybody can try it out for 30 days.

  • WunderLink and WunderNote

    Try out these new functions to magically add links and notes to your ideas, using the wonders of the web. WunderLink gets its link from a little Yahoo! search performed in the background, while WunderNote uses a FreeBase database lookup.

  • Automatic text wraps

    Idea captions will now automatically wrap at a certain length to avoid overlong nodes (you can keep the old behaviour by adding manual line breaks with Shift-RETURN)

  • More Geistesblitz features

    In our constant quest to improve the Geistesblitz tools we have now added email support and a Geistesblitz Activity for Internet Explorer 8. With email support, you can send single Geistesblitzes or while mind maps just through an email.

  • Subsharing for maps

    New option to allow collaborators to invite others when sharing a map - this will also work for already shared maps

  • Print and export enhancements

    New option to center map on printout, PDF export of mind map now includes notes

  • Formatting and navigation enhancements

    Apply text styles selectively to child ideas, nicer formatting of first level branches, ability to expand and collapse levels

  • More note and link enhancements

    Advanced and larger note editor with more formatting options, new links widget in sidebar, "Show popular links" for idea

  • OpenID and Paypal support

    Support for signup and login through OpenIDs and Paypal support when upgrading to commercial licenses.

  • Other enhancements

    Nicer invitation and sharing emails, new user options, improved support for Safari and Opera, performance improvements through better script and image loading.

This online mindmapping service offers team collaboration online through mindmapping and for a great fee.  So whether you are working through processes with coworkers, researching a book, or writing a screen play with a team or even trying to hunt down the best price on the top wrinkle cream to ward off the aging process, its still a great service for a good price.

Automatically Mind Mapping the Context of Web Pages - Context Organizer

For the last year, I've been following the development of a software program called Context Organizer from a company called Context Discovery Inc.  I started beta testing this program out 18 months ago and it had the opportunity to review its development over that time is a has worked towards achieving the goal of enabling people to automatically run a program that mind maps a webpage into MindManager.

I should add the disclaimer that might mapping is not its center functionality, just one that interests me the most.  The program actually focuses on reading the actual sentences are present on a webpage, determining their context and in summarizing that context.  Along the way they tend to eliminate a door or reduce the emphasis of short textual phrases that appear in meta tags, images, buttons and other navigational areas and even advertisements.

This enables the mechanical eye of the program to review the actual sentences insurgent group goes into arrangements that would make sense to an actual person.  It's the summary or the final output that can then be mind mapped.

There are in a lot of ways it can use this type of program, but I like to point out the generic example that might he faced by many people.  Let's say you're doing some light research and you stumble across a New York Times article on soccer.  Now if you're looking for the information to describe what this article is about, or what a particular page of the articles, summarize and have it written into a MindManager mind map. 

Now, you probably don't care about any the advertisements on that same particular webpage and so you would want to see an advertisement about soccer trophies that happens to be in the lower right-hand corner of the website.  This program can strip out that advertisements text and help you ignore it and focus on the actual information on the page.

Context Organizer enables users to instantly find the most significant content on web pages, Outlook e-mails, Google search results and in office documents. Context Organizer version for MindManager automatically generates Mindjet MindManager maps. With seamless integration into Microsoft Office applications the product helps to reduce information overload by helping users find critical information quickly when browsing or searching. Users can easily drill down on important keywords to quickly focus on the most relevant information.

Henry Lewkowicz, Context Discovery's CEO says: "It's all about context and focus. One of our main objectives is to pierce through the data on the Internet and instantly zoom on the core information. When information is presented in context it becomes relevant and we don't suffer from information overload. M-Urge specializes in distribution of knowledge management products and is a recognized leader within the UK in providing tools and solutions for businesses and educational organizations. Context Discovery and M-Urge are exceptionally well suited to offer their customers effective productivity tools that reduce information overload." 

Context Discovery Inc. Announces Strategic Partnership with M-Urge to Sell Context Organizer

Video Editing with Pinnacle + Green Screen in 90 minutes

This weekend I tackled what I thought would be a very difficult project with a big learning curve, but it turned out to be very very easy.

I learned how to create a green screen effect with video.  Green Screen (or blue screen) technically known as Chroma key is the method in video where a foreground image or video is overlaid on a background image or video.

You film the foreground image with a back drop that is all green or all blue.  This was commonly used in TV news with weather maps (blue) and later used quite a bit in Hollywood to film movies like the gollum scenes in Lord of the Rings.

I learned how to do it in about 90 minutes.  I was going slow actually, because I didn't want to miss a step in what I assumed would be tricky.

I was using a great software program (also very cheap) called Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Ultimate.  It cost $150 (with cheaper version available).  That's cheap compared to many video editing programs that run from $400 - $2000, and Pinnacle is considered one of the better programs for the PC.

I was rapidly able to transplant my video image onto a number of settings from sitting in a SouthPark class room to sitting in front of the Pyramids in Egypt to flying on a fake bird to providing a narration of a trip I took to Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.

This was a very easy process and the software I purchase actually came with the green screen included along with cords and a device for converting video from my camcorder to my laptop via usb. (can also grab video off of TiVO or DVRs and send it to your laptop as well). Very easy to use.

It delivered great results, but the user manual is a little difficult to read. It seems that a great deal of work was put into the actual product but not the manual or users guide. That was part of the reason why I expected it to be harder to learn how to do, but the software was easy afterall. So who knows the next time you see my mug, it may look like I'm in a formal setting or underwater or flying or something while in reality I am relaxing on a chair on my wifi fishing dock by the lake. (Looking at upgrading the bar stools from metal to teak furniture sometime soon btw).)

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