Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Sometimes we have to put the tech, and the presenting and the other stuff geeky aside and just enjoy a glass of wine.
But maybe we can combine a few of these. The latest tech in wine storage. The geeky flavor of an impromptu unboxing and demo. All on a Friday afternoon.
I’m a big fan of books. Not just the stories, but the book construction as well. From bindings, paper choice, typeset, typography, layout, it’s all interesting to me.
Mark Z. Danielewski is most famous for House of Leaves, an inventive experimental work of layered stories and typographic morphing of most everything we think of as the printed page.
In this video I do a short review of House of Leaves for those who are not familiar with the work (and to allow those familiar with it to berate and chastise me for “getting it wrong” I suspect) and then do an unboxing of his latest work The Fifty Year Sword, which comes in a unique box and exhibits some of the same traits found in House of Leaves.
I hope you enjoy, and I hope those trying to make a purchase decision on this book are aided in their decision making.
Stunned, I have few relatively important thoughts this morning. This is the primary one.
Civilized people know they do not need “a militia.” The time for that has come and gone.
The retention of this false assurance is maintained by deluded fools, and arrogant liars. Neither of these should be allowed to hold any power in our society.
I signed up for Intuit’s new GoPayment card system yesterday. Thought I’d share a few thoughts.
GoPayment is a way for regular folks to take credit card payments from other regular folks using your cell phone or tablet. It’s advertised pretty much like the Square system, the first credit card device and service for regular folks. The major benefit is that it’s cheap, no monthly payment, and it has a cute device that plugs into the phono jack on you device that you use to swipe the card. Both GoPayment and Square charge a very low percentage per transaction (Are you listening PayPal?) lower than commercial rates, and no monthly fee. GoPayment is so much like Square… well I haven’t seen any written description of it that hasn’t included a reference to Square. I’ve liked the Square system, but was curious about Intuit’s entry. Given it was free, I figured what the heck, give it a try.
Haven’t got the reader yet, but already it’s coming across as a whole lot more in my face than Square.
I got a big follow-up annotated bill in e-mail this morning with a lot of line items and $0 due notations. Like that’s supposed to make me feel good? My first reaction was “WTF? A bill?” OK, maybe that’s just the three cups of morning coffee talking.
What really bugged me was GoPayment had this “hidden” credit card they issue you as a way to get your money. That wasn’t at all obvious until I got the confirmation that I’d ge getting the card in the mail. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need or want another credit card. Not for SkyMiles, not for Dinner Credits, not for an additional 5% off on my purchases. It’s already hard enough to track my intentional spending, and if I was the victim of identity theft I want to make as few calls as possible if it becomes necessary to shut things down. So I try not to have a lot of credit cards, especially specialty cards.
Of course, after a call to their customer service, it turns out I don’t have to use or keep the card. I kept saying things like “So when I get the card in the mail, I can destroy it immediately and not have that affect my GoPayment account?” The guy was a bit unnerved about that, suggesting I activate the card first, then call in to terminate it. Um. Yeah. That makes sense.
You can still get the money transferred to one of your accounts, just like Square does, but they default to using the rechargeable credit card. But how many people are really going to rebel like me? So many just accept that “well this is the package, guess I’ve got a new card to monitor.” And we all know that terms on cards can change when the bank thinks it’s not getting enough profit on your business. Right? It’s just another thing to monitor, reading all the bland, poisonous notes in the monthly statements. And I hate that.
If I was going to devil’s advocate their design decision here I’d guess they found that most people were unable to complete their process if it required the banking codes necessary to do the direct deposit dance. Issuing a credit card was much easier, just requiring an address, social security number, and a couple of additional personal data chunks. Probably, but that’s a big part of what’s wrong with the credit industry in general. I’m not going to dig in on that speculation, it’s not the real devil that I think is in play here.
I’ll probably give it a whirl when it arrives, but I expect I’ll be dumping this. Square stays silent until I use it. So far it hasn’t tried to sign me up or send my info along to other companies. I’m not feeling the same warm fuzzy about Intuit.
Update! We replaced with the same model, this time in purple. They were out of red.
Frankly, the toaster market is insane with technological innovations. There are models that slowly lower your toast into the chamber, any number of digital displays, warming buttons, angled slots (which if they don’t actually launch onto the plate… well that’s just a missed opportunity!) and any number of additional innovations to the act of browning bread that trying to satirize the product is ultimately futile.
Most expensive model we “considered?” $140. And when I say considered I mean Deb continued to talk to the salesperson while I faked an aneurism.
Final cost of the same model. $29.
There, story is complete. You can sleep at night again without worrying.
Sunbeam Oster. It wasn’t even three years old. I know, I know, they don’t make things like they used to. But it’s just a toaster, it’s supposed to be pretty fundamentally simple. Remember the toaster in Red Dwarf? The joke was they had put all the crazy AI and voice tech in the toaster such that it drove the user crazy suggesting that “now was a great time for a piece of toast.” Well, this one just has a bunch of buttons for various preset bread types, and a dial for darkness. Nothing terribly cutting edge. (Wait a minute… bread type settings?)
Reading up on this brand I see comments about failures and people opening it up to find “scorch marks on the circuit board” and how they really didn’t think they had the components to fix the board themselves. Which lends to three questions:
1. There are people who consider trying to fix the circuit board in a $40 toaster?
2. How did we get along for decades with toasters before we had integrated circuits?
3. And why doesn’t this thing connect to our WiFi so it could have downloaded an update that might have prevented the scorching, or at least a security patch?
Feeling a little weird about disposing of the toaster too. I guess it goes on the pile of outdated or broken tech junk waiting for a tech recycling day at the local middle school. Given it has circuits it’s likely there are components that shouldn’t go into landfill. And it’s still so shiny and pretty, it feels wrong to dispose of it just yet. Maybe we can rip the guts out and make it into a planter. Isn’t that the solution for so many of these problems?
Last Friday I installed a new thermostat in the house, the first one since we moved in.
Now the prior thermostat was programmable, hourly and daily you could configure it to heat and cool as you like. It made a lot of sense at the time, but so did parachute pants. Yeah, it’s been a while. Unfortunately programmable thermostats don’t take into account when you’re gone, you have to remember to override the programming (time-consuming and bothersome) or turn the thing off (and come back to a frozen cat.) But it was better than the manual option of course.
Now a company called Nest has come out with a Learning Thermostat. One that tracks your use, and presence, and uses that information to anticipate the best settings for you at any given time. It’s also a green device, and will help you try to use less energy while staying comfortable.
I’m not going to rewrite their web page (which you can view here) but wanted to show you a little walk-through video I made to answer all my geeky friends questions. Click here to enjoy the video on YouTube.
Chris Garcia did an amazing thing.
He invited, then managed contributions from, over 300 people for the 300th issue of his Hugo Award Winning fanzine The Drink Tank. James Bacon helped, and gets his share of the credits, but Chris is the one I want to focus on for a moment.
Chris won the Hugo award for best Fanzine this year at the 2011 World Science Fiction Convention. He’s been nominated more than a dozen times, and all his friends hearts swelled as one when we heard the news. Some of us had the pleasure of being in the audience, and watching our favorite fanzine editor and computer historian dance about the stage like a crazed Quaker. You kind of had to be there to understand.
This issue is a bit of a download, but I hope you’ll give it a look. There isn’t a table of contents, per se, but instead a series of numbered bits. Mine are 72, 73, 132, and the two page picture comic that’s in the middle of the Bios section, about seven pages from the end of the issue. That last bit might go a ways towards explaining that whole crazed Mormon thing.
Just got notified that there’s a Silverlight update for the Mac. OK, I’ll update, what’s the…
Wow. The instructions are so dense with unnecessary text, and eventually tell you to first uninstall any previous version, which necessitates removing half-a-dozen files from the Macintosh library manually. Confused? Of course you are! You’re not supposed to have to go mucking around in the Macintosh Library unless you’re a developer or you’re trying to recover from a poorly written application that has screwed up your settings at a very base level.
Of course you can watch a video on how to do this. By the way, the video is a WMV, Windows Movie file – guess it would be too awful for MSFT to provide a system native Quicktime for the Macintosh-specific instructions. This is starting to feel like it was written by someone who wanted the user to break their Macintosh. And the video conflicts with the written instructions on the web page which show many more files to delete than the video does.
Did I mention that telling people to go into the Macintosh library and manipulate files is like telling Grandma to wet solder a circuit board – just not supposed to happen.
Really? Really? Are you trying to be a self-parody of a clueless conglomerate with lazy developers?
I’m no longer defending Microsoft when people accuse them of not “getting the Macintosh.” I’ve done so for many years, saying how many people in the Mac business units really do know and enjoy the Mac. But this has made me so embarrassed to have been involved with developing multiple applications, both on the Microsoft Office team and at eBay, that were dependent on this tech*.
By the way. I stand by my prior statements that there are hundreds of Microsoft employees who appreciate, understand, and like the Mac. They live and die by the quality of work they do in making applications like PowerPoint really useful for those trying to co-exist with a predominately Windows business world. I have nothing but respect for those individuals.
Not so much for the Silverlight team.
– Notes –
* While developing the Web Companion for PowerPoint at Microsoft, I was the PM for the team that used Silverlight to render the slide show in a window that would scale the slide interactively when the window was resized. Without Silverlight installed the image would be a static fixed size. When I joined eBay I took over the Simple Lister project, a stand-alone Silverlight application that experimented with creating user product listings in under a minute.
Well, everything old is new again.
Today the Microsoft PowerPoint Team Blog did me the honor of pointing out one of my posts from earlier this year, The Blur Trick, with an invitation to write more later.
I had the fun of writing a re-introduction for myself, for the blog I got started and which still contains entries I hope continue to help customers.
Hi, I’m Ric Bretschneider. You might remember me from…well, the very first entry in the PowerPoint team blog back in 2006 and a lot of tips and tricks articles after that. I left the PowerPoint team and Microsoft about a year ago, but I’m still very involved with helping people become better presenters, and make better presentations.
I’m very pleased that the PowerPoint Blog team invited me back to share an article, written earlier this year on my personal blog, calledThe PowerPoint Blur Trick. You can add texture or blur the background of a picture using the Artistic Effects feature in PowerPoint 2010, leaving the foreground crisp and clear.
If you missed it before, hope you enjoy it today. And we’ll see what I can come up with later.