Ric Bretschneider

My thoughts in your brain…

Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

The First Thing to Do to Your New PowerPoint 2013…

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Warning, I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to a garish design that I have to look at for hours at a time. I find it personally offending and I’m not going to mince words here.

Luckily there’s a quick fix for PowerPoint 2013, and I’m happy to share it with you before you suffer permanent vision loss…

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Written by ricbret

November 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

PowerPoint History, 25 years ago…

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This has to be quick.  Sorry for any typos or errors, but I’m packing, medicating, and generally running about today and this could not wait.

I got a very nice letter from Bob Gaskins yesterday. If you don’t recognize the name, here’s a clue: He’s the guy who “invented PowerPoint”. Quotes are there because 1) there were a couple of other guys involved in the birthing process and 2) I think the product gets reinvented with every new release. However it was Bob who built the vision for the product and made it happen.

Bob’s written a new book, called Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint. He wrote it specifically to celebrate the 25th anniversary of PowerPoint. And I’m reading it right now (along with preparing for two separate conventions and five panels I’m on this weekend, I did mention running about crazily, right?).  So I’ll do more of a review later, but wanted to get this out to you, dear reader, because you’re special to me.

I’m really excited about this. Bob left just before I joined the team, and notes that fact on page 14, saying

Ric Bretschneider (Wizard #77) joined just after I left, stayed with the group for 17 
years (twice as long as I stayed)…

And of course there’s more, but you’ve got to read it for yourself or wait for my later review.  OK, one more thing, how’s this for a blast from the past…
It's kinda like looking at cave drawings....

It’s kinda like looking at cave drawings….

What else does it say?  What’s all that Wizard 77 stuff?  Well, you’ve got a chance to find out for yourself because it’s available on Amazon right now, right here:  Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint

I can’t wait to see how it ends…

GoPayment Vs. Square – One More Thing, One Less Thing…

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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.

Intuit GoPayment System

Intuit GoPayment System

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.

Square and Devices

Both systems work across all major smartphone devices, but Square hires a better photographer for their ads.

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.

Written by ricbret

March 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm

QuickTechThought: Our Red Toaster

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Our pretty red toaster died this week.

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?

Written by ricbret

January 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The value of writing reuse…

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Every now and then I start off a blog entry with “I really don’t write often enough…”

But that’s not really true.  I write a ton of stuff, it just doesn’t always end up here.  The articles I write very rarely have to do with things I’ve written elsewhere.  (Irony, on reflection I see that the post just prior to this touts a review I wrote elsewhere.  I’m simply not paying attention. But I’ll write on as if I hadn’t noticed that.)

What I need to do is rechannel efforts, make blog entries about or completely repeating writing I’ve done for other sources – that is when it’s not against some standing prior agreement.  This does seem to be a factor in blogging success – let’s see if I can remember it.

Boring yet?  Let’s move on. 

So with that in mind, I invite you to view a series of articles composed of my pictures from Comic Con 2011.  Some of you may know of my association with the website Fanboy Planet.  I produce a weekly podcast and occasionally have prose pieces that appear there.  And every now and then, there’s a fun set of photos. 

So without further ado, some links for you to peruse. Can there ever be too many...

Comic-Con 2011: Celebrities, Creators and More!

There are likely a few more to come.

If you’re interested, you can follow me or Fanboy Planet on Facebook, or check back here to see when I update.

Now some of you may note that there are far more women in far less clothing in these pictures than there are men. 

There are two reasons for that:

1. There simply are more women in costume at comic con, and they do it so much better.  It’s a sewing thing I expect.

2. I’m a guy.

Enjoy.

Ric Bretschneider
August 12, 2011

Written by ricbret

August 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm

The Walking Dead…

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Just in time for Halloween...

AMC just released a new bit of advertising for the October 31st release of their “The Walking Dead” series.  That’s it over there on the left. The series is based on a comic by the brilliant Robert Kirkman.  The stark black and white art style and Kirkman’s brilliant character development over 75 issues has made it an acclaimed comic epic for some time now.  The quality and consistency of this book is amazing, so AMC has their work cut out for them to provide a similar television experience.

And it’s about zombies, did I mention that?

The trailer released this summer is quite graphic, not for the faint of heart.  Still, if you like such things… awesome.

Written by ricbret

September 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Resonate!

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UPS just rang the doorbell.

Package from Amazon on the doorstep.

Resist the urge to grab a video camera and do an “unboxing” video.  (Yes, I can sometimes control the truly dorky impulses).

And is it?  YES!  Nancy’s new book has arrived!

Resonate is in the house.

Nancy Duarte's new book Resonate arrives!

Nancy Duarte's new book is ready for consumption...

Congratulations Nancy!  Can’t wait to get started.  And now, I don’t have to!

Written by ricbret

September 21, 2010 at 2:07 am