Friday, December 29, 2006

MindManager and FastTrack

Here's a sweet little thing I just noticed: interoperability between FastTrack, the cross-platform project management program, and MindManager, the mind-mapping program. So GANTT charts can become mindmaps and visa versa.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

JawBone is the best Bluetooth earpiece


I've used a few Bluetooth earpieces. Either they're too bulky, can't product enough sound volume, don't fit right or all three. But the just released and beautifully designed JawBone is IT.

JawBone used to make a wired earpiece that made use of their bone induction technology that senses the vibrations of your voice through your jaw and uses that to improve the noise canceling features of the microphone, all but eliminating background sounds. But it only worked with a limited number of phones, none of which I had or wanted. Now they've dropped that product and just a few days ago launched a Bluetooth earpiece making use of the same technology. It's right now sold exclusively through Cingular stores, but soon on the JawBone website as well. (Only a pewter color through Cingular. Soon a black one and the red one shown through their one site.)

This thing is the best. First, sound quality is great. Volume great. Very small and light. And, contrary to Walt Mossberg's mostly glowing review, it fits my ear like no other earpiece I've ever worn before. Should fit your ear too because it ships with two different sizes of ear clips (actually four of these in total because they're shaped differently depending upon what ear you use). And included are five different earbuds to fit the size and shape of your ear. This is a device that is intends to sit deep in the ear and hug the side of your face.

There are a few other earpieces that make use of bone induction, including the cool one pictured above, intended for SWAT teams. But they're much more expensive that this new JawBone. The JawBone is $120 at Cingular--not too much when you think of all the crummy earpieces you've had to trash because they haven't worked. And this one is the nicest looking of them all.

UPDATE: Go here for my latest links to JawBone2: LINK

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Recent trip photos

Here are some photos of my recent trip to Vancouver. Click the photo to launch the photostream.

Great headset for Skype


This is a wonderful headset made by Logitech. Great for Skype as well as music. Relatively portable.

Monday, December 11, 2006

More on the personal blimp

Dan Nachbar's personal blimp is profiled in yesterday's Sunday NYT Magazine. I mentioned the blimp earlier on my blog, here. It tickles me that this is being developed in my backyard, literally a block away from my house.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Toyota pedal car


Here's a hopeful little thing, a Toyota pedal concept car from the recent L.A. show. (via various places including AutoCult)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Displays of environmental conservation in Vancouver

Two shots from my evening run in Vancouver. On the left is a bicycle parked next to a natural foods store. It's got electric assist. On the right is the little four door hatchback version of the Toyota Yaris. In the US we just get a sedan. And I could have shot any of many two seater SMART cars. And the Prius taxis. The point? It's just a little easier here to spot a conscious connection between transportation and conservation. These two images illustrate the visual prop you receive in Vancouver for the city's image as especially environmentally conscious. But of course these images represent a tiny seed compared to overall consumption, even here in "Lotus Land". Downtown Vancouver, and especially West Vancouver, are wealthy cities, and there's a generous and obvious share of V12 Mercedes and fast Ferrari's flying around. In reality the tipping point seems far far off. What products are needed to shift overall consumption more significantly? In terms of vehicles, will those few that produce even modest reductions in fuel consumption ever be more than niche sops to vague feelings of concern for the environment? And will any fuel efficient cars ever substitute for the display of power that cars provide? Because that's a large part of what fast and luxury cars are, the biggest, most obvious way that we can display our feathers for all the world to see. Strangely, though I've been looking, I haven't spotted here any of the Lexus hybrids (450h or 400h) that I often see in Massachusetts. But I would expect my first sighting of the new ultraluxury 600h to be here.

New cool bike briefcase



Here's a very cool new bike briefcase for the hip commuter bike geek, the Ortlieb Office Bag 2. I have the original Office Bag but this one is hard sided and instead of hanging like a pannier, clips horizontally across a rear rack. Unlike my Office Bag, this one has recessed fasteners so it can function more effectively off the bike. Available here, with more information here.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Starbucks and Home Depot Make a Village


This is probably where "Main Street" is headed.

The combi- nation of Home Depot/ Starbucks/ Main Street is a new addition to Park Royal, an upscale shopping mall at the entrance to West Vancouver, Canada. The small picture shows the "Village" in which this Home Depot and Starbucks are located, looking down Main Street into the mall. Note the faux lighthouse, done in what looks to me like a New England style . . . though this is on the other coast, 3,000 miles away, and though near the ocean, still at least several hundred meters away and blocked from the ocean by those trees you see in the background.

Prior to this "Main Street" being created, I don't think there was a street named such in this town. The real main street is Marine Drive which runs all along the coastal part of this Vancouver suburb. Marine Drive begins with Park Royal, which opened in 1950 as Canada's first covered mall. With this new "village" addition, it reverts to an outdoor concept, supposedly modeled on the Whistler ski resort shopping experience, according to the Wikipedia entry. The commercial section of Marine Drive beyond Park Royal, into the heart of wealthy West Vancouver, consists of small, independent shops plus the usual chain gas stations and banks.

Nissan Snail

Here's the Nissan Escargot ("S-Cargo") for sale (used) for $10,000 in West Vancouver, British Columbia. Cute thing.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Airborne and the scientist lobby

I flew JetBlue last night and was surprised by the prominence of quack medicine, in the form of Airborne, the best selling supposed cold remedy. See this wonderful post for more on this quackery. Not only were free samples being handed out but it was one of the more prominent ads being played on the TV sets that are on the backs of every JetBlue seat. An airplane is such a marvel of scientific ingenuity that i made me mildly nervous to see this boldly displayed hoax. And I wondered with a tinge of paranoia whether it was an indication of any other lapses in rigor by JetBlue. Or was it just cynical opportunism? Either way it made me, for one, feel a little negative about an airline with whom my experience so far has been entirely positive. Probably my reaction is so anomalous they could care less.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Parasites!


We've announced Parasites Unleashed! the new game from Zygote Games. Not ready to ship yet but you can see a teaser quantity of information about it at Zygote Games.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Move to Chaos

An article in the NYT today describes a military briefing today with the graphic below. According to the NYT: "The slide includes a color-coded bar chart that is used to illustrate an “Index of Civil Conflict.” It shows a sharp escalation in sectarian violence since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February, and tracks a further worsening this month despite a concerted American push to tamp down the violence in Baghdad."So what's the option? A good editorial in the Economist (subscription but they offer free day passes) discusses the various options, such as pulling out, and concludes that the only option is for the U.S. to stay in, essentially as peacekeepers between warring factions or the chaos we're seeing now will be nothing like the chaos we'll see in the future. They say: "Leaving now stands a fair chance of plunging Iraq into an enlarged war and a far bigger bloodbath than anything seen so far." And they conclude: "Even if it was a mistake to blunder into Iraq, it would be a bigger mistake, bordering on a crime, for a nation that aspires to greatness to blunder out now, without first having exhausted every possible effort to put Iraq back together and avert a wider war."

Not sure if we have any good options. Seems chaos in every direction.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Diebold Variations


(c)2004-06 Rand Careaga/salamander.eps

This is an amazing set of parody ads: "Diebold Variations". Click the image for many more.

Via Apophenia

Personal Blimp makes its maiden flight


This start-up is based in Western Mass- achusetts. And believe it or not, there really is a powerful business model behind this. Who says Silicon Valley gets all the cool start-ups? This one's two blocks from my house!

As Dan Nachbar the founder and inventor of Sky Yacht said of the maiden voyage of the first Personal Blimp, "For the first time ever, there is a small blimp that can both control its lift (because it uses hot air rather than Helium as a lifting gas) and be easily steered (previous hot air blimps have had very poor steering.)"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Quote about Concentration and Productivity from Neal Stephenson

Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can't concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can't do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.

The productivity equation is a non-linear one, in other words. This accounts for why I am a bad correspondent and why I very rarely accept speaking engagements. If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time, and that will, with luck, be read by many people, there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.

thanks Apophenia

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Breakdown

This from the NYT:
A quarter or so of a typical Iraqi unit is on leave at any one time. Since Iraq lacks an effective banking system for paying its troops, soldiers are generally given a week’s leave each month to bring their pay home.
We know that there's so much in the United States that we take for granted. But it's hard to comprehend the multitude of challenges that have dramatic cascading effects on the ability of an organization to function effectively.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why Americans Don't Do Green

Here's a long post by Joel Makeover about why Americans don't do green. It's a summary of a report presented by ecoAmerica which makes these points:
  • There is no common agreement on what environmental concern means or what to do about it.
  • Libertarian values are gaining over communal ones.
  • Environmental complexity is paralyzing.
  • Pocketbook environmentalism is powerful.
I knew some of this a decade ago when I helped with a venture called Ecotrek. We were selling outdoor products made from recycled polymers but knew that we couldn't sell them as "green" and that we had to meet or exceed the performance standards of conventional outdoor gear. And we did, with founder John Fabel getting a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice award for his designs. Even among outdoor-oriented people who you think would buy green, we realized that while it may be part of building a brand, ultimately you can't compromise performance in a product.

(Thanks TNR)

Monday, October 23, 2006

To Stand or Fall in Baghdad: Capital Is Key to Mission

According to the NY Times:
Military commanders here see no plausible alternative to their bedrock strategy to clear violence-ridden neighborhoods of militias, insurgents and arms caches, hold them with Iraqi and American security forces, and then try to win over the population with reconstruction projects, underwritten mainly by the Iraqi government. There is no fall-back plan that the generals are holding in their hip pocket. This is it.
"There is no fall-back plan." Wow. That's pretty strong stuff. Again, we're going to have to go through the abyss and back again before we can renew our faith in ourselves.

Halloween + Steven King + MoveOn is small stroke of marketing magic

Whatever you think about our President, you have to admit the recent combination of Steven King and Moveon.org is a small stroke of marketing genius. From an e-mail I received "from" Steve King.
If I know anything, I know scary. And giving this president and this out-of-control Congress two more years to screw up our future is downright terrifying. Thankfully, this national nightmare is one we can end with—literally—a wake up call.

My friends at MoveOn.org Political Action are organizing pre-Halloween phone parties this weekend, Oct. 28th & 29th. We'll be calling progressive voters in key districts who may not turn out unless they get a friendly reminder or two.

Network insecurity

I often wonder about whether a hotel network or a public access network is secure. If you wonder that too (and you should be wondering) click the title above and read the post from David Strom about insecure hotel network access. He also references a report that concludes that in its review it found only the for-pay networks I-Bahn and T-Mobile to be truly secure.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Basecamp




More stuff to buy . . . This is the new Airstream trailer intended people who have an active lifestyle and want a fancy home for all their stuff while on the road. Designed by Nissan Design America plus Kelty. I don't even want to know the price but it will certainly add up to multiple kayaks+skis+bikes. At the Airstream site at the moment you unfortunately can only get more info by downloading the brochure.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

U.S. Says Violence in Baghdad Rises, Foiling Campaign

Our hubris has gotten us into this mess and it's that same hubris that makes us great. Being an entrepreneur is having the faith that you can change the world. The same faith that someone like Paul Wolfowitz displayed with Iraq is the same faith that Martin Luther King had and the same faith that allowed Steve Jobs to create Apple or Sergey and Larry to create Google. It's hard to accept that no matter how right it was to attack Islamic-Fascism, our strategy with Iraq was utterly wrong from the beginning. And that's the problem with faith. It's two edged. It helps you break through into new worlds. But it also helps you tunnel into oblivion, looking for the light that will never come at the end of the tunnel, just digging yourself a bigger hole and ignoring the increasing darkness. I think we're going to have to go through a crisis bigger than anything we've ever known in order for us to be reborn on the other side.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Food Blog!

I've been casually wondering about where the food blogs are. Here's one that probably others have known for a while but it's seems great: Slashfood! (For those non-techies it's off of Slashdot, which is the classic news for nerds site.)

A real SUV



Here's a real SUV, the Tout Terrain Panamerica, sold soon by Peter White for what will I'm sure be lots and lots of $. I want one. Innovation? Integrated-with-frame rear rack for off-road touring.

Really Personal Computers

HP has a new ad campaign that Slate says is of the quality of an Apple ad. The campaign emphasizes the personal nature of computers, as objects which are an extension of ourselves. It's a powerful, appealing and subtle message. Computers, for at least some of us, are the most personal objects we own, well beyond our clothes, our cars, or any other objects because they really do contain large components of ourselves--our journals, our pitches, our photos, our intimacies.

But HP is still lost! They don't get that the fetishization of these commodities has to extend beyond the ad. You want to be able to get as close to touching and feeling these objects as possible. When you click beyond the ad, you're left with the same dull website, where the pictures of the objects of desire are minuscule and of poor quality. So in the end, you're unfulfilled. Still amazing to me that after all these years, Dell, HP etc. just don't get it. Haven't they ever looked at the Apple website where you can actually see the computers in all their full featured beauty? Completely amazing to me that these Dell, HP etc. people are living in the same universe.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Spitzer's backbone and principle

Whatever you think of gay marriage, you have to admit it takes backbone and principle to take a stance like this:
Mr. Spitzer, who is running for governor and holds a commanding lead in the polls, made his strongest declaration yet in support of gay marriage in his remarks to the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s leading gay lobbying group. He told the audience, “We will make it law in New York.”
quote from the New York Times

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is Apple finally taking workplace collaboration seriously?

From a press release that's been virtually unreported:

For the first time, Mac OS X Server will [with Leopard] include a calendar server for users and groups to coordinate events, schedule meetings, reserve resources and use time more effectively. iCal Server uses the open CalDAV standard for integration with leading calendar programs, including iCal 3 in Leopard, Mozilla’s Sunbird, OSAF’s Chandler and Microsoft Outlook. Leopard Server also includes a wiki server to make it easy for teams to create and share information through their own shared website and provides web-based access to shared resources such as team calendars, weblogs and Podcasts. Spotlight Server is the fastest way to search and find content on servers within a network. Designed for workgroups with shared documents, projects and file archives, Spotlight Server works with Leopard clients to deliver quick, lightning fast searches of content stored on mounted volumes across the entire network.
But how will it work with my Blackberry?

via CalendarSwamp

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tourism vs. Revolution

Tourism and revolution . . . "the two poles of modern consciousness--a willingness to accept, even venerate, things as they are on the one hand, a desire to transform things on the other." -- Dean MacCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class.

Carbon offset: hurt or help?

Here's a good summary of the argument about whether carbon offset programs hurt or help.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is Microsoft a consumer company?

When the Zune competitor to the iPod was recently announced, and photos were given to the press, I briefly tried to find information about Zune on the Microsoft site. All I found was the press release. Perhaps there was more there, but it should have been obvious. This is a company trying to market to consumers?

Then I noticed an item on Gizmodo, including a YouTube video, about Ellen DeGeneres discussing the Zune on her show. And then she gave one away to everyone in the audience. Looking at the audience, this is a very different audience than one thinks of for a music player: at least 3/4 women who appear to be all over 30, perhaps mostly over 40. And Gizmodo said they couldn't get a version into their own hands. Perhaps Microsoft knows more about its target demographic than I'm giving credit. Perhaps it's going after a different demographic than Apple. Or perhaps . . . this is a company that doesn't know how to market to consumers in today's market. They've done great with X Box but . . . who's paying attention over there?

And what seems like a non-sequitur, Ford's missing the small stuff too. Autobloggreen reports that, "There are sprinklers running watering the lawn at a local Ford manufacturing facility almost daily, rain or shine (including a couple of particularly rainy days earlier this week)." And they've attempted to create a face as an environmentally oriented company, with a renovation of their Rouge River plant by the high priest of green architecture.

Not suggested that Zune=Sprinklers, therefore Microsoft=Ford, therefore Microsoft will go bankrupt too but, it's these sort of details that indicate a lack of cohesion within the organization and a loss of attention at the top.

And speaking of which, I continue to be amazed that Dell can sell virtually everything online when their website continues to be so frustrating. Don't they ever look at Apple's site? My main example: it's impossible to find decent, reasonably sized pictures of a Dell laptop on which you're about to drop $2k plus. Why is that??

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Horsepower Interpretations


A friend said to me the other day that he was thinking about getting a Mazda5 but that he'd heard it was underpowered (review on Edmunds and see quote below). Underpowered is an assessment not a fact. The car in the US has a 2.3L gas engine with 157/148 horsepower/torque. In the UK the car varies from 113/122 to 141/266 (those last numbers with a diesel that of course we aren't allowed to have over here). TopGear recommends the 2.0L petrol which is rated at 143/137. Are US road conditions really so demanding that we have to have much more powerful engines? This is all interpretation based on culture.
Easy to drive and perfectly adequate scooting around town, the 5 loses some of its flair on the highway, however. When traveling the speed limit, it has nothing left for passing. It offers a quiet, comfortable ride but is at a slight disadvantage in the raging L.A. freeway culture.

During acceleration tests, our best 0-60-mph time was 10.1 seconds and that's without a full load of passengers. We managed our fastest times in "D" rather than manually shifting. Compared to the much larger, much heavier 240-hp V6-powered Honda Odyssey, which managed 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds during our 2004 Minivan Comparison Test, the Mazda 5 is underpowered in the minivan market. -- Edmunds

Friday, September 15, 2006

Is Tech Improvement Ever Done?


Is technological improvement ever complete? Does technology ever reach a level of perfection, after which more is too much? I think I've reached that point with my Blackberry. My 7290 had, I was starting to think, developed a little beausage. The metal frame around the screen was a little burnished. I liked this device. Then I dropped it in a puddle and despite application of air from a hairdryer, it didn't work. So, lured by the gorgeous screen and other features like a speakerphone, I purchased an 8700. Three things are bad about that new device. First, it sucks batteries dry about 3-4 times faster. Whereas with the 7290 I had to recharge every 3-4 days, with the 8700 it's every day. That's because the older model has a reflective screen. Not as visible but a miser. Second, the 8700 has a screen that gets oiled by your face when you use it as a phone. The 7290's screen is recessed. And third, the 8700 is made of much cheaper plastic. The 7290 is solid, black plastic. The finish on my 8700 was worn within days, and it wasn't the wear that's beausage. So, I made a trade back to a 7290, a trade with someone lured by the 8700's screen (easy matter). I'm back to the 7290. Is this enough? Is this a device on which improvements are actually compromises? Is this just enough tech, a functional enough plateau? Probably not, but it's nice to think that occasionally technology can approach the level of a craft object where it's quality and functionality are good enough to be sufficient and where simplicity of a sort makes it better than its more complicated successors. (I saved my original 7290 and turned it on the other day. It had finally fully dried out and is now working fine and in the hands of a co-worker.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

When will bikes = cars?

Will bike-desire ever be as common as car-desire? Perhaps it is in the Nether- lands. Never having been there I don't know, but some pieces I've read suggest this, with bikes a fashion item like cars are here. But it's going to take a while. Here's the bike I'm proud of, geek accessories and all.

The waterproof briefcase pannier is a German Ortlieb purchased from Peter White.
The red waterproof pannier is from Mountain Equipment Coop.
The bike is a cyclecross-style Bianchi from Wheelworks.
And the light (hidden in the red bag) is from JetLites who might be headed out of business because their website currently lists their products "from 2005".

Velomobiles!


The 3rd Annual Human Powered Vehicle Rally is being held Columbus Day weekend at one of our two local co-housing places. As the HPV website boldly states, "As velomobiles are to cars, cohousing is to housing." What's a velomobile? "A velomobile is a fully enclosed recumbent (usually a trike) that is designed for use in all weather." Above is an example, in this case a Leiba.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple's video strategy

Here's a well reasoned argument for why Apple isn't launching its set-top box ("iTV") yet, that they pre-announced yesterday. (Roughly Drafted Via Powerpage).

Cars and Art


Are cars art? Are cars birds? Two reasons I love cars: they are art objects, the most visible around us everyday (or some of them are). And they're like birds, or at least they engender the sort of classification instinct that is part of the draw of twitchers to birds. (And also they can be used as a canvas, as this BMW at left, but that's not really my point.)

Travel coffee mugs

I have yet to find a coffee mug that I like. The metal ones I've used change the taste of the coffee. Apparently this one doesn't. It's a French Press mug with a canister at the bottom for extra coffee. It's available from Liquid Planet and reviewed here at the wonderful Coffee and Conservation blog.

Standard Cross-Platform Business Suite

From time to time people ask me about what is the best cross-platform business suite of software. Here's the list:

For write, spreadsheets etc. it's still got to be Microsoft Office. Though if you want to pretend you're Steve Jobs, you'll have to make the final presentation in Keynote.

Calendars. If you're in a cross-platform environment, and can afford a Microsoft Exchange server (though there are now hosted options for a reasonable monthly fee) the best way to do calendaring within a group is still Outlook on the PC and Entourage on the Mac. I know there are other options, some documented on this blog. But none have the features that Exchange provides. Of course, you could get everyone in your company to convert to GMail and even sign-up for the Beta of GMail for domains.

Mail. I love GMail, despite any privacy concerns. It is the only mail program that I know of that treats to and from messages all together in conversation threads instead as disparate messages. Beyond GMail, I'm not particular, though I always seem to crash Outlook.

CRM. Customer Relationship Management software is what a contact manager should be. To me the basic distinction is that contact managers, like Outlook or Apple Address Book, are just flat files without the ability to create much if any in the way of relationships between records. CRM's, by contrast, let you interconnect and associate contacts in all sorts of ways--referrals, opportunities, projects, companies. At the small business level, the best product that I've seen is DayLite. It is far and away the best interface and besides, it's relatively inexpensive. But it's only Macintosh. On the PC side you're left with the horribly outdated GoldMine, as well as ACT. At our company we've been using what is the only cross-platform solution--a web-based CRM. In our case, this is Salesforce. It's expensive (we bought during a very good promotion). And very unfortunately, it only syncs to your computer if you've got a PC. If there was ever a reasons for businesses to scrap their PC's entirely and move wholly to a Mac platform, Daylite is that reason.

Mind Mapping. See previous post. I use Mind Manager.

Project Management. I think there's only one choice for cross platform and that's FastTrack Schedule. It's a good program, though with some quirks, notably some limitations in printing and zooming. Microsoft Project is such a big and expensive clunker and it's not cross-platform. They abandoned the Mac long long ago. Another option is the web-based Basecamp.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Cross platform mind mapping

A friend asked me about mind mapping programs. These are programs that help with brainstorming and outlining ideas. Since I last looked into these programs, they've all become cross-platform, which is nice to see.

The standard, I think it's safe to say is MindManager.

A simpler and more visually pleasing program is called Nova-Mind.

And the third one, also cross-platform, is Inspiration. Their website is oriented at schools and kids, but don't be put off by this: the product is very good. It's the least complex of the three and I find it to be sometimes the easiest choice for created the easiest maps.

Though Inspiration maps aren't as visually pleasing as NovaMind nor is the program as powerful and extensible as MindJet, I find it easiest, often, to create what you visualize.