Saturday, September 30, 2006

If you thought Batman costume was a bit much...

Check out this guy:

The next step was to mount the claws to a ball-bearing track that could be hooked to the back of Nate's forearm. The track was created from a sliding keyboard tray. The slider on the track was modified to be much shorter, and use only 8 ball bearings. Bolts were put through the slider on the track and then some galvanized metal was bent and hack-sawed to make the right shape for attaching the first claw.

Full story here.

Link is worth clicking on. This guy actually made a home constructed Wolverine costume, complete with retractable aluminum claws. The slider/arm/weapon imagery reminds me of DeNiro's jury-rigged spring holster in Taxi Driver.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Creepy Machines

Hi. This is the qmail-send program at
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.


Yahoo!'s Mailer Daemon and Washington Mutual's ATMs officially take the cake for creepiest computer/human interactions. Runner up is when I was trying to leave a voicemail, and the machine on the other end said

We're sorry you are having trouble. Have a nice day. Click.

Of course I'm the problem.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Palm Made of Paper


Capturing Device - Paper

I use a Moleskine Lined Pocket Notebook as my main capturing device. I have tried other methods of capturing including a Palm Tungsten T5, my trusty Apple Newton MessagePad 2100 and Index Cards (Hipster PDA). No matter where I am I almost always have it with me and use it to capture all manner of action items, phone numbers, notes, calendar items, etc. I simply find the Moleskine the best device for me in terms of versatility, portability and speed. These generally all go in a running stream with a dash/plus system.

The dash/plus system goes like this. All items, no matter what they are, are treated as items to be processed. For instance, calendar items go into my calendar, phone numbers into my contact file, notes go into NoteTaker (see below), etc. Even though it is not a "next action" all items generally need to be processed in some way.The top of each page is marked with the page number and the date. The date is not used for anything other than the date the new page was started (i.e. I do not use it to track when things are added or completed, just a rough estimate thereof)...

There are a couple of other Moleskine Hacks that I employ. I do use a Post-it™ index tab to mark the page I am currently at because while the built in ribbon page marker is quaint I find it not as efficient. I also keep some small Post-it™ notes (the 2 inch square size) on the inside back cover opposite of the pocket so that I may have somewhere to write a note to pass to someone else.

Also, I also have a way to carry items forward that works for me. Every few pages I do carry unprocessed and undone items forward and add them to the current page. When I want to carry an uncompleted item forward I draw a circle around the item’s preceding dash (thus marking that it was not completed and has moved to another page). Then on the new page I write the item and provide the page number from which that item came.

Full Article Here.

Coincidentally, I recently found myself in an organizational jam of my own, in which digital to-do lists and calendars no longer served their purpose. At work I found myself spending way too much time trying to figure out how to best put to use the digital organizational tools at my disposal: namely, inbox, taskpad and calendar of Microsoft Outlook. I like computer stuff, I like organization, it just seemed to make sense. Until I realized that I was spending an excess amount of time trying to figure out where to sort my e-mails, or how to prioritize on the task pad, that I was losing the amount of time that I ought to actually be devoting to TASKS themselves. Result: stilted workflow, and a difficult time figuring out just what exactly it was I had completed in a day.

So when it came time for me to crack down on my organizational antics, and find the quickest, fastest way to simply get things done, I brought clipboard and bought legal pad and went to work. Going as minimally as possible, I simply wrote a number item for every task that I was given. When the task was complete, I'd cross it off. At a glance, away from desk or not, I could tell what needed to be completed. At the end of the day, on the subway home, I'd review what had not been crossed off, and copy it on to the top of the next day's list. I wouldn't have to kibbitz about where to sort tasks, I just wrote them down. And, though a bit hard to read, if I needed to recall info on a previous task, there it was, though under a thick pen lien or two.

Volume of tasks was also easy to gage in this manner. On a particularly busy day, I could have around 40 - 50 items that I had tackled. On a really slow day, I could have about 10. Not perfect, or as systematized as Patrick's system, or with as many tags, references or automatic reminders, but it's there, it's clear, and (knock on wood) it's all I need.

I've gone into a similar Luddite direction with my planner. I got a hgue kick out of using Google's online calendar (because, it looked like outlook, and maybe, professional-ish or PDA-like or whatever), but when it gets down to business, if I can't update this thing as I'm walking down the street or someone calls and gives me some info, it's practically useless (unless I want to make a note to add it later, and then again, we're being redundant). So, $8 and about 45 min. spent in the planners section of the Barnes & Noble, and I have replaced Google calendar.

Maybe if in the future I get rich and get some sort of phone/digital organizer thing, I'll get back on that wagon or trail (on more than one occassion, having cut and pasted address or contact info on my iPod calendar has been a useful thing). But until I get something that totally covers those bases and lets me add info on the fly, pen, paper, planner are all I need.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Amazon-- it's just so...personal.

Dear Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in The Fantasticks: The Complete Illustrated Text Plus the Official Fantasticks Scrapbook and History of the Musical by Harvey Schmidt have also ordered The Color Purple: A Memory Book of the Broadway Musical by Oprah Winfrey. For this reason, you might like to know that Oprah Winfrey's The Color Purple: A Memory Book of the Broadway Musical will be released on September 28, 2006. You can pre-order your copy at a savings of $13.60 by following the link below.

Thank you, Amazon. But I think I'll make it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dear Facebook: Just do what you're good at.

Facebook has had a lot of curious things going on lately. First, the "news feed" that gave all your friends a live update of your facebook activity (writing on walls, friending people, joining or leaving groups), and then something about expanding the "regions" of facebook...I guess where you search and find people. I only know about the latter, because for the second time in about two weeks, my facebook homepage had a "Letter from the Creators" responding to objections to where they were taking the site. There was also a link where you could put in suggestions, so I wrote this one and sent it to them. I'm wondering if anyone else may agree with me on this point.

(to preface, I think the header they put in for your message was "My Idea", hence my response in the first line):

or even-- something of a lack of an idea. Though I understand the need to expand, add new features, widen the breadth and appeal of the site, I find myself less interested, the bigger facebook gets.

What I liked about facebook in the first place was, a directory/public space of all sorts of people that I see at college, as well as a way to keep tabs ro get in touch with people who I used to know from high school. And taht's pretty much it, and that's what I value it for now. I use groups, friending, walls, and haven't made use of things like notes or news feed much, except for sake of satire and parody.

What defines facebook is that it is THE social networking site for college students. is generic, broad, big and ugly. I would suggest that instead of trying to expand in a direction that, like it or not, will seem like Facebook is trying to become myspace-- why not try to expand INWARDS. Focus on what sort of social networking tools are most useful for college students and only college students (or high school, if you're into that, but I was never involved in facebook in high school, so I wouldn't know).

I can't think of ideas of "expanding inwards" off the top of my head, but I trust that you can. Know your market, know what you're good at, stick to that, and continue to improve upon facebook as a college directory and social networking site. There is no website better this for that exclusive purpose.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple news...some neat stuff probably.

The iPod iPod got upgraded with a few new features. Much brighter screen, longer battery life, bigger model is 20GB bigger, at 80GB. Disappointing was the absence of the awaited "real" iPod Video, with the display taking up the full surface of the thing. At this point, the large screen iPod video seems somewhat overdue, even by a company that rarely announces products and release dates. Most exciting thing is probably the cost-- $249 for the 30GB. This is apparently a price drop, but I don't know what the original 30GB price is, so I can't say what this does for me.

Interestingness of products increases as it goes down the line. iPod Nano has been redesigned. Basically, they took the look of the iPod mini and injected that into the iPod Nano (w/ expected increases in memory capacity). So you've got the size of the Nano, plus the colors and aluminum finish of the mini, minus all the scratches that was all the fuss last year. By some feedback on digg, some like it, some don't, but it mostly depends on how minimal you like your products. I think this is just fine.

Neatest product upgrade was the iPod shuffle, which does not even quite look like the iPod Shuffle anymore. It has also received an aluminum case, in silver, and perhaps more resembles Apple's FM receiver accessory than the original shuffle. With it's silver brushed metal design and built in clip, it is a huge improvement over the plastic white pack of gum that was the original shuffle. Moreover, while the new shuffle was pictured clipped to a pocket of a pair of jeans, I find it just as likely, if not more, that the very same device will be seen clipped to dress shirts or suit jacket lapels. It looks good enough to be able to get away with that. Or at least, much easier than having the white stick of gum hanging around your neck with a lanyard attached to it.

iTunes 7 got a bunch of new stuff, neatest was an "album flow" sort of cover. iTunes will now download all of the album art for your CDs, including for albums that you did not by off of iTunes, and there are a fwe new views to shuffle through them (including one that looks rather inspired by the Windows Media Player 11...but Apple's album flow is sufficiently innovative to trump this little bit of copy catting).

For movies, resolution has gone up to 640 X 480, in "near" DVD quality. I can only guess that this is somewhere between VHS and DVD, and that's ok. I probably don't have high enough resolution of any sort of display that this'd make a huge difference (though I wonder how wide screen movies will appear on the still-square iPod). Movies available now from all Disney labels, new releases will be $12.99 during preorder and the first week, but they will then jump to $14.99 immediately thereafter. I smell compromise with film studios.

On the more interesting end, though, it's $9.99 for most older films (that is, not recent). I think I kind of dig this. I didn't think I would, but when I think of the number of times that I've thought-- man, I'd buy this movie if it were $9.99 at a Walmart or something...and then have been disappointed not to find it....then I think I can justify this movie store existence, to fulfill that particular need of mine. Now to get it to my TV, though...the cost of a DVD to burn it on...and the hassle of burning it...could be an offset. But what could sell me on it a bit more, is the thin silver box that will make it possible for your TV display menu to look like this:

Product codenamed "iTV" was announced for 1st Quarter 2007. Looks like a flattened Mac Mini that'd attach to your TV. Which would allow you to access all media on your computers running iTunes, and stream it through to your television. So I could by my $9.99 iTunes edition of the original "Superman" or "Batman" (2 titles that fit into the, I'd buy it only if category...), go to my TV set w/ this box attached to it, cue it up, and just sit on the couch and watch it. The video never had to be burned to a DVD, it's sent wirelessly over my home network to my TV.

There are reservations here. The display of the movie is contingent upon the wireless network in your home being fast enough. And then there's the business of buying the "iTV."

If we look at the Mac Mini as any sort of reference guide (which...might work), we'd see the low end model at $599 (it was the Mac Mini that was originally rumored to be Apple's gateway into the living room, but if anything, perhaps it was the first step towards developing the "iTV" product). So, Mac Mini is at $599. By contrast, other set top devices go from $70 - $200 for a DVD plaer, TiVo goes $30 to $130 models. Blu-Ray or HDVD takes it up there to the $500 - $1000 range, but this is quite an exception. So perhaps we may be able to look between $99 - $549 as my crude, slightly educated guess. This, of course, works under the assumption that a use-specific device, like a media hub box for your TV should cost less than a desktop computer. But perhaps it's too early to say.

My favorites, from what I saw, (webcast cut out on me), the new enough I'd almost buy it...and the $9.99 movies. I'd almost buy those, too. Runner up in interest, the new Nano (nothing shocking, but stil kind of neat). iTV...ok...not bad...but it's far enough away that it doesn't do much for me, and I'm not too impressed with such an early product announcement from Apple. I can't quite imagine why they'd announce a product that is going to come spefically AFTER the holiday season. "Hi, Honey! It's spring time! Time for you to shell out the cash to buy that gadget that you would have much rather received a few months ago at Christmas for free!" Can only push so far though, still, so close to the Christmas buying season, why bother telling people. At the very least, though, the announcement won't cannibalize sales, except for perhaps those of Mac Minis whose perspective owners would be interested in getting one during the holidays to hook up to their TV.


NOTE 9/13 9:52PM: I watched the rest of the webcast yesterday and saw that they actually did reveal their price point for the iTV device: $299. I kinda don't think that's so bad. And I found myself trying to make up reasons to get it. It'd be great to be able to stream content and movies from my computer, but I don't ahve a lot of movies on my computer...but I could. I do also have bunches of DL.TV or Diggnation video podcasts, I think I'd really enjoy the opportunity to watch those from sitting on a couch, or to show them to friends.