Wednesday, November 28, 2007

google maps location hack on blackberry 8830

Very happy to see via GigaOm that the mobile version of Google Maps I've installed on my Blackberry 8830 can now closely approximate my location even though Verizon Wireless has crippled the GPS on my device.

Those brilliant developers over at Google Maps are using cell phone tower triangulation to approximate my location that, depending on cell tower density, is accurate anywhere from 500 to 5,000 meters. Given I spend the vast majority of my time in Silicon Valley/Bay Area, there are plenty of towers around.

I tried it out just now, and Google Maps on my 8830 plotted me within a block of my present location. At any time, I can ask it to relocate me (if I've moved) by pressing the "0" (zero) key to recenter the map on my location.

I can't wait to be able to use this along with traffic reports on my way to the Sharks game tonight in San Jose tonight.

Of course, I'd love it if VZW would simply uncripple the GPS on my phone, but I understand they're currently tearing down the walls (via WSJ: subscription required) around their network garden instead.

BMW 3-series subframe cracks: class action evidence?

If you own an e46 model BMW (a 3-series manufactured between 1999 and 2005), you may want to take a look at this investigation about subframe cracks that the attorneys at Wasserman, Comden and Casselman LLP are undertaking:

A class action lawsuit has been filed which alleges that the manufacturing and/or design defect includes a weak or insufficient floor panel in the unibody of the vehicle that causes, among other things, cracking in the floor pan and misalignment, cracking or the complete or partial failure of the rear subframe of the vehicle. Plaintiffs are informed and believe that the rear mounting points for the subframe rip out from their spots in the sheet metal because the rear differential transmits the torsional load from the engine through the subframe, then into the chassis.

The posting at WWC Law also contains pictures of the problem they've collected so far.

While I haven't yet had any problems with my own car (it's been a dream), this is a good opportunity for crowdsourcing of evidence that can help us all. If you have any evidence that might help in the case, please contact the folks at WWCLaw.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

quick and easy language translation on the web

The latent linguist in me is really geeking out this morning now that I've found lingro.

Lingro is a web-based tool that allows you to make each word on a web page clickable to be translated into one of a growing number of languages (English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish so far).

As an example, you can see this blog "lingro-fied" where clicking on any word in the blog will spring the translation popup into action and you can click on the flag at the top of the popup to choose what you want to translate into or from. Bonus feature: you can hear someone pronounce the word with a click of the mouse!

I'll find this most useful in reading sites in languages other than English where I need help with one or two words. Yes, there's room for improvement: idioms and the like, but that's the holy grail for on-the-fly translations, no?

Give it a try!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

clever Apple Guy/PC guy online ad re: vista

Note the clever use of the available ad space on this page:

Glad I haven't made any moves toward Vista yet (the only Windows machine in our house runs XP and is locked in the dungeon, aka the downstairs den). I wouldn't even dream of upgrading my Parallels install to run Vista. XP will do just fine thankyouverymuch.

interesting (ab)use of property rights in Colorado

Saw an interesting article about property rights today courtesy Boing Boing. The Daily Camera reports an Adverse Possession case that includes elements of (potential) cronyism and connections and serves as a stark illustration of how those with intimate knowledge of the legal code can one-up those who don't.

The gist of the article is that a man, who is both a former district court judge and a former mayor of Boulder, and his wife have successfully seized land that another couple has owned for decades by exploiting a hundred-year-old concept in property law known as Adverse Possession. The case is still on appeal, but that hasn't stopped more than 200 people from protesting vividly outside the former judge's home.

Here's the google satellite image of where I think the disputed lots are (gleaned from details in the story and a search on "Hardscrabble Drive, Boulder, CO":

View Larger Map

I'm rather appalled that the judge would do this, but I think it's another great example of why we need free up the legal code so that all can understand what's on the books rather than keeping it locked away for the privileged few (those in the legal system with the resources to pay for access).

Glad to see that Carl Malamud and the folks at Public.Resource.Org are doing something about this.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

arranging application icons on BlackBerry 8830

I'm happy to report I've finally figured out how to move application icons on the 8830!

Since I first got my BB 8830, I've been frustrated with the default themes and the arrangement of the icons on the Applications view. When I'd add an application to the phone, the icon seemed to plop down wherever *it* wanted to, not where I wanted to place it.

After asking a couple other 8830 owners how to change the icon placement, no one else seemed to know, either. So, I poked around and played with buttons and finally figured it out.

In the applications view of your theme (the view where you see ALL your icons in a grid on the screen), use your trackball to highlight an icon you want to move, then press the applications button  (the one immediately to the left of the trackball) and select "move" from the popup menu. You can now use the trackball to push the icon around anywhere you want it to go in the grid. Once you've moved it where you want it, press the trackball button and it drops the icon in place.

You'll notice as you're moving the icon around that all the other icons move to the right of where you're trying to drop the one you're moving. And when the icons can't move right, they drop down a row (far left), so obviously you're moving icons into a stack that flows from the upper left to the lower right corner.

To make your apps window even cleaner, you can create folders to move your lightly used icons into.

You make a folder by starting from the same applications view and clicking the applications button. From the popup menu, select "Add folder" and then name it, assign an icon and click OK. The folder now appears in the top-left corner of your screen, and you can move icons *into* the folder the same way you moved icons to different parts of the screen. When your icon's hovering over the folder, you see the "+" symbol and press the trackball button to drop it in.

I created a folder called "lightly used" and moved my email setup and voice dial and password locker and other apps in there. Ahhh, much better.

The only drag? If you change themes (I use BB dimension today), you have to do the re-arranging all over again.

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

video of how to turn a sphere outside in

Along the lines of my previous post on 10th Dimension, here's a great brain-bender illustrating how you can turn a sphere inside out (and outside in).

Lots of great instruction on how to think about turn numbers and circles and the effects of corrugation.

(while the video is 21 minutes long, you can see the payoff within the first two minutes and then the "proof" takes the rest of the time).

What's your turn number?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

ahead of my time: tracking the birth of our PT Cruiser

Listening to a panel of marketing poo-bahs talking all about how great the "my Mini" campaign is (build a car online then track the progress online as the same car is built in the factory), I'm reminded back to 2000 when LeftCoastMom and I purchased a PT Cruiser, sight unseen, at the height of the frenzy.

I used an AOL Hometown home page to update the status (this was in the pre-blog days), and with a little detective work, I found our 2001 PT Cruiser tracking page again.

I regularly updated the status of our car over the five months between putting our $500 deposit down and taking the keys from the dealer's paw. To get the data I had to use several techniques:
Sure, through the process, I learned a lot about the car manufacturing process, the rail shipping process and how difficult it was to get info along the way. But was that a good use of my time? I'm smarter for it, I guess.

Glad to see that the folks at Mini have made it a very transparent process now, and are celebrating the birth of each Mini as it makes its way to its new owner.

(We sold the under-powered PT within two years of buying it... ah, for those option-rich DINC days again)

how to manage your brand when customers control the message

One of the highlights of the Marketing to Online Communities 2007 conference is the session by Thor Muller on "How to Manage Your Brand When Customers Control the Message."

Thor is the CEO of Satisfaction, a startup delivering "people-powered customer service for absolutely everything."

He cited some great examples of episodes on the web that illustrate where a company was forced to deal with customers controlling the message (when the companies' fortress mentality was strained to respond):

"the Streisand effect": the JL Kirk & Associates blog post that kicked up a storm when JLK&A sent a cease-and-desist in response to the negative review of the poster's interaction with JLK&A. Is old news by now, but worth the repeat visit as a reminder of what not to do in this blog-enabled world.

YouTube videos illustrating good and bad ways to react to customer control of the message

Brilliant observation by Thor: "every company has a community, they're just trapped, bound and gagged, in the trouble ticket system."

How many companies are you trapped in?

AOL's approach to marketing to communities

Presented by Marcien Jenckes, VP community brands at AOL

Things critical to deliver to a community:
  1. Communities belong to their participants (not to publishers or advertisers). As hosts, you own the right to facilitate interaction, but the community belongs to the people inside
  2. Help with concept of identity: knowing who the participants are and giving them the ability to manage their identities online
  3. Ability to build/manage social graph: building a list of all the people important to you, who are relevant to the topics and interests to you
  4. creating facilitation platforms: communities are exchanges, facilitating liquidity between people to assist with the exchange of ideas (at AOL: via chat, blogs, discussion forums, etc)
AOL's Advice to Marketers
A. Know what you want to achieve in business terms first
B. Three buckets where can take advantage of commty
1. Get over yourselves, tap into the rest of the world -- use community to get leverage, organize around your brand/ideas important to you
2. Organize people around causes that they and (most importantly) you care about, and commit to it
3. Leverage the talkers and the multiplier effect: get into the viral effects of community by tapping into the power of the natural leaders/communicators within the community

Blogged with Flock

measuring marketing success

Watching David Dunne of Edelman PR present at the Marketing to Online Communities 2007 audience and he noted that the pent up desire for people to communicate is finally getting matched by the capabilities of technology and we're seeing the resultant explosive growth.

However, technology is now giving consumers the opportunity to avoid marketers' messages as never before.

So, what should marketers do to reach their audience?
  • watch, listen and engage
  • become great storytellers
  • become great story gatherers
  • activate the evangelists (your biggest fans)
And, an innovative digital strategy requires an innovative approach to measurement:

Traditional measurements:
  • impressions
  • awareness
  • video views
  • media impressions
Today's measurements:
  • site traffic
  • time spent,
  • pages viewed,
  • repeat visits,
  • open rates (email),
  • click through rates,
  • registrations,
  • search engine visibility,
  • downloads
Future measurements:
  • share of conversations, 
  • frequency of mentions, 
  • participation of brand in forums,
  • ratings and reviews of products,
  • sentiment,
  • return on involvement

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

whole blood donation in less than an hour

I've been donating at the Stanford Blood Center for several years now, and one of my biggest challenges has been squeezing the donation into my schedule. Whether I'm giving whole blood or platelets, the time just doesn't seem to materialize.

Instead of planning ahead for this latest donation, I simply made an appointment for a same-day whole blood donation this week. The blood center was more than happy to take my appointment. In all, it took 90 minutes out of my day to make it to the center, donate and make it back.

Here's how the time to donate a pint of whole blood breaks down:

0:00 - 0:20 commute from Redwood City to Stanford Blood Center on campus
0:21 - 0:25 sign in, fill out the usual forms
0:26 - 0:35 form information reviewed, vitals taken (bp, pulse, temperature, Hgb)
0:36 - 0:40 vein check, iodine scrub, packaging prep
0:41 - 0:47 pint o blood goes from my vein to the bag
0:48 - 0:52 clean up, bandage up
0:53 - 1:08 wait in the canteen (2 cups of guava juice and a cookie) to make sure I don't pass out
1:09 - 1:30 commute back to Redwood City. Done!

So, why do I find it so difficult to fit that into my schedule every eight weeks?

Next challenge: finding a way to fit a regular platelet donation into my schedule. That'll mean tagging on an extra hour, but I can spend the hour reading a book, watching a show, or (hey!) even blogging since they've got wi-fi in the platelet donation room.

Monday, November 05, 2007

getting comfortable with the label "former motorcyclist"

I've had this nagging feeling over the last few months that it's time to hang up the motorcycle helmet for good and get rid of my 2004 BMW R1150RT.

Maybe that's why I'm suddenly noticing more and more content popping up that's making real what's always been at the back of my mind: the risks associated with riding. Heck, even the Doonesbury Sunday Comic weighed in this weekend.

While I do everything I can to manage those risks: always wearing a High Visibility Yellow - HVY- aerostich suit (the namesake of this blog) and helmet and gloves and boots, riding well within my comfort zone at all times, riding defensively, etc. I know the risks are still there.

Since I live within walking distance of work now, I no longer ride the motorcycle to beat the traffic (heck, I haven't ridden since my summer adventure up into Oregon). So, why, exactly do I have it in my garage?

I'll be blogging as I work through the decision process. If you know anyone looking for an RT in mint condition, let me know.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Schneier's point: A War on the Unexpected

Great to see Bruce Schneier hitting it out of the park again with his assessment of this war on terror the unexpected.

[A]fter someone reports a "terrorist threat," the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment.

Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to -- a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant -- now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it's a false alarm, it's not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he's wrong, it'll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he'll be praised for "doing his job" and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we're done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.

This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the U.S. and in other countries...

The comments are great, and I really like the way Jon puts it in the context of a feedback loop:

You're describing a positive feedback loop without any dampening, so that noise will dominate and mask any genuine signal. In economic terms, the cost of all error has been externalized, so there is no incentive to be accurate or minimize false positives; in fact error directly leads to additional positive reinforcement, resulting in news coverage, promotions, additional budget and fancy new gear.