Thursday, October 30, 2008

daylight savings time

I think it is funny, my boss was late to work on Monday because his alarm clock automagically reset itself to daylight savings time on the old schedule. Which starts 2 a.m. the First Sunday in April and lasted until 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended one month and begins at 2 a.m. on the Second Sunday in March and lasts until 2 a.m. on the First Sunday of November.

I wondered about the original idea behind Day Light Savings Time, and the best I can figure is that other than Benjamin Franklin first bringing up the idea in the 1780's, as a smart ass essay about the French sleeping until noon, and the Department of Transportation getting the authority to make changes to time regulations the history of DST is boring. Really some people that get to stay out later with an hour of additional sunlight during the summer months, but other than that we waste incredible amounts of money trying to know what day it is we have to juggle the damn clocks. Radio DJ's announce it, many companies send out an email and post notices, hundreds of blog posts and News Paper articles are written about it every year, if there is or ever was any energy savings it is very unlikely to be realized and would be more than offset by having tv's that didn't draw so much power when they are not on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Abusing Google Trends

This is a little stale, but still bothers me. Michael Arrington wrote a post about big name sites that are using their general relevance and Google Trends to snag some extra traffic by posting hastily about the trend words regardless of the relevance to the general content of the site. I have been looking for the last few days and no major sites (that I read anyway) have been showing up in the trends that they don't belong in, but I will most definitely keep an eye out for odd posts from blogs I read.

One site that has consistently been in the top of the blogs that appears to be specifically gaming the system is I don't want to help their Google juice, but man splogs like this and seem to be abusing this system extensively. You would think that smarties at Google would have away of trending how often your site posts a trended search as a post.

The algorithm isn't completely broken though. is the blog of the actual Green Bag lady, and is the number 2 result for blogs on that story.

Any where there is a buck to be made I suppose, but still just fills the internet with crap that links to other crap with no value added, no thought, and it only serves to get shady individuals more ill gotten gains. I imagine bonnet operators also engaged in splogging as a hobby between writing quick attacks for newly published vulnerabilities, and crushing baby kittens.

Questionable Content

I just devoured the entire compendium of Questionable Content in about 4 days (give or take 1262 comics as of this writing) and wow is it a great web comic.

If you are bored and need a new web comic that is updated 5 days a week, give it a go. Do yourself a favor and start from the beginning though, the latest comics hardly even make sense without at least 20 panels of pre-story. Try to stick with it, the early art wasn't nearly as good as the more recent stuff but the story was pretty strong right from the get go.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New products not for the US?

I know that the US isn't the center of the world and not everything sells well in the US, but damn it... I want one of the MIMO 7 inch usb monitors.



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

LaLa is pretty slick

UPDATE: Apple bought 'em and will shut it down on May 31st of 2010

I've been reading about LaLa's new Music in the cloud a few places today, and I think that all they need to do now is make a iPhone/Android/Facebook/Chumby/Air /Silverlight/FireFox/ al app and they will be ready to take the world by storm. Sarcasim aside, I do think that Lala offers a pretty compelling product, but Amazon will still be the place I buy MP3's because I am a sucker for supporting Local businesses.

Wait, when did it start making sense to let other peoples walled gardens make or break your app again? I am beginning to think that I need to get a second job coding apps. If only I didn't suck...

So I forgot to say I do own a 360...

Right so remember my trashing the Xbox360 a while ago... yeah I do own one now, but I didn't pay for it. I didn't steal it either, but I am proof that MS is giving you stuff to play that silly Club Live. I played enough to earn 35,000 tickets and they did in fact send me and Xbox. I am not so sure if I would do it again for the 55k tickets they want for the same package, but what do I know.

So verdict, I bought Xboxlive account, own a Zune, and otherwise suckle at the teat of Microsoft. Sell out or whatever, I love TF2. I suck for the most part, but still enjoy the crap out of it top score of 16 points an engi is proof of my failure.

In spite of having received my prize I still play the damn Club Live, because I actually enjoy word puzzles, and I may eventually win another interesting prize.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Network Company that doesn't get it

It's time to fire up Net Neutrality talk again, this time with someone that clearly wants to get to charge twice for content on their pipes. Vodafone will be moving to create the walled garden where the deep pockets get to your door fast, and everybody else gets to wait outside for the scraps. Pay to play, so to speak or Payola for the internet age.

The reason that I see this as them asking to be paid twice is ISP's enter into an agreement with me to provide me access to the internet at a set speed, and when I signed the contract there where no limitation on destination, or total volume I could transact(except the total theoretical volume my service could provide). I pay the ISP monthly to utilize this service, and for most content that seemed to be ok, so they keep selling this service until the service degrades I complain they add capacity (in theory) so I stay, but implicitly they are making money on the assumption that I will not/cannot make full use of the service I am paying for so the oversell of capacity (finite amount of bandwidth their current network can handle). The content providers also purchase internet service from other ISP's to move their content from their servers to the respective endpoints of their ISP's peering agreements. They purchase guarantees for service levels to their ISP's peering points and availability, (something most ISP's for consumers don't offer) and serve content as fast as they can. There is no free lunch going on as some people like to assert. On both ends there is someone paying for content to move from one end of the internet to the other, so I offer an alternative to the free lunch as Verizon and others have called it.

You don't like the game as it is played, then build a new internet. One that you don't get to use your state sponsored monopoly right of way for, one that doesn't get to have fiefdoms of protected coverage enforced by the Federal Government. I dare you to envision having to pay full price for the land that your equipment lands on, or not getting the benefits of increasing network capacity to lower your telecom costs and anathema of anathema's no monopoly for coverage areas. Imagine having to compete the way you have to compete in the Mobile sector. Agree to separate your Fed sponsored Monopoly Phone/Cable service and create all new infrastructure, ensure that one doesn't cross subsidize the other, and compete in a free market and then we will talk about free lunch. You might find yourself competing with Google the ISP, and the peering agreements would not be in your favor I promise you that in that future, you would beg to get back to the "free lunch" program of today.

I realize that this idea is just a thumbnail sketch of an idea, and the implication for the entire country would be vast, and allowing true competition for broadband by kicking the incumbents out is drastic, and I realize there is absolutely no equitable way to do this. Cable and Telecom companies were granted the right to build out Telephone and Cable Television networks in there charters, they naturally drifted into the Internet business because they were the best poised to take part in it (we would likely never have had the "Free business models" without it), but had it been chartered separately and never been handed to any of the incumbents of the day, and been forced to grow the way Telephone and Cable had to grow, we would not be facing bandwidth caps after a period of overselling and "Unlimited Internet" promises, we would have started with caps and be moving towards Unlimited ala the AOL dialup paradigm. The internet as we know it would likely not exist yet, but there might have been a chance for real competition and innovation rather than the BS we are being served today, of "We cannot keep up the pace we were on" or "The Network Effect and economies of scale are not in our favor anymore so we want to change the rules".

All of this to me sounds like crocodile tears from companies that are seeing the business that subsidized their failing monopolies is moving towards mature status, and they don't have anything to subsidize exorbitant profits with anymore as the internet can be everything, and encompass everything, so all new innovation will take place in that construct and will relegate the providers to being pipes, with not will of their own. This is the labor to not go quietly into that steady costs and rewards that was Telecom for 60 or so years, and where Cable Television providers were heading had the internet not fueled demand for their service.

More thoughts on Helio Part duex

So coming up on one year of being an owner of the Helio Ocean, and thought I would add some more thoughts on the Helio experience.

The phone:
The Helio Ocean was the cool toy, and still gets ohs from technophiles everywhere I go, and other than the relative thickness of the device it still looks and feels cool. The dual slider is just intrinsically interesting and I struggle to not play with it for fear of wearing it out (more on that later). The buttons all still work, and still feel as tactile as the day I bought the phone. The only concern I have for the phone is the occasional reboot on closing the device that makes me think that the mechanical contact is somehow a wear piece. Other than that I find the features I expect to work, work well all the time. I use my phone for mobile information, texting, directions (I am directionally challenged so I love Google maps with gps), and last but not least taking pictures.

The software:
This has not really been updated since I received it has held up well, though I do long for the old version of Buddy Beacon as the new one is too cumbersome to really be cool. Using opera mini has mad the web very usable on the tiny screen, and other than Facebook not working pretty much at all, I have had very little trouble doing reasonable things on the internet. I am sure if I hated myself I could even blog on the little bugger. I am still annoyed by the data appearing to come out of Norway, and as everything switches to Geolocation this may become more of a problem, but until then it seems ok for light surfing of low dynamic media sites ala or The Register if you like to read the news after the slashdotters have taken down the servers hosting whatever was interesting enough to be posted about in the first place.

The youtube app, is really a novelty and I cannot decide if that is a complement or not. It seems nice in theory, and I really have streamed lots of video on it I just cannot bring myself to say that I couldn't live without it. I suppose that has always been youtube's problem though so in a way the app to me is just as good as the actual site, which is to say, eh. I guess I would have to try and live with the iPhone and its lack of such a thing to see if it was a killer app, but I know that not having Pandora internet radio on the darn phone is very sad indeed. I am willing to bet that my ocean has plenty enough processing power to run that app if any of the Motorola phones can run it, and I know the network can handle it.

Google maps. I don't even know where to begin with how many times this app has prevented a fight while driving, or gotten me somewhere when I strayed (accidentally) from the directions. I went to a friends wedding in San Fransisco (Lafayette but close enough) and we had written down some directions to get to their house, well we missed a turn and ended up damn near in Oakland and we would have been very late to their home had I not had my phone and great data coverage. I have helped strangers find places that I have never heard of in my own city, much to their amusement, and really have never had a single complaint about this feature except when there is no data coverage. I have recently noticed that the directions now tell me which side of the street my destination is on, which may the best improvement to the software on the phone ever.

The music player works about as well as can be expected, I have no real complaints about how the music player functions, mostly I complain about how it limits you from doing anything else, unless you want to browse the internet using the near worthless Helio browser. I bought a pair of Motorola S9 wireless Bluetooth headphones to listen to music on, and was impressed by the features and limitations of them. In short I am underwhelmed, but they work well in my house for other things.

The Camera software has an rather odd habit of forgetting my resolution settings (I am guessing it has to do with changing the slide state of the phone) the camera works well. What does not work so well is sending pictures, as the damn engineers didn't make it so you could send pictures that are on external storage. In short that is the dumbest thing I have ever encountered, it makes having external storage virtually useless and should be fixed on all Helio phones as soon as Helio is done being digested by Virgin.

Games are not worth your time, if this is a make or break feature for you move along, nothing to see here. Theoretically any Java app will work, but given the almost 6 months it took me to get into the damn developers program I can only imagine why not one is developing for this phone. That and some other phones I am sure you have heard of are stealing all the limelight probably have something to do with it.

Finally other software of note, there is a stopwatch that I find useful, a calculator that does what it needs to, and a less then impressive unit converter. I may be the only one on planet earth that uses the unit converter constantly, but ever since my cheap Samsung x495 that had the best unit converter ever, I have not been satisfied by poor implementations of this feature.

I still find the hardware of the Ocean to be good, and interesting even in the post iPhone age. The dual slider is still just inherently interesting, and the snap close feels satisfying. The buttons all give good enough feedback to let you know you pressed something, and the device has taken its lumps well. The matte finish feels good in the hand and not cheap, or slippery, and the damage it takes from falls it not terribly noticeable. My only complaint is the girth of this sucker. It is kind of huge, and heavy in my coat pocket.

Without coverage you are SOL and hard, this phone may as well be a brick and the software is all but useless. In my home I have a very hard time making and receiving calls because on the coverage map I am in a trough. The nearest tower to me is blocked from line of site by a large hill and as such coverage sucks. To be fair, ATT has just as poor of coverage in my home, but they are less likely to drop calls. I was interested in the Sprint Airave but because they want to tie it to a Sprint line of service and I get service from a MNVO that operates on their network, this was a no go.

Final thoughts:
In all I am still mostly satisfied with the phone and the services that are offered for what we are paying, and I can hardly imagine how I got along without the data packages before. I would say that I could very likely get away with a 5gb data cap on my phone, given that you cannot tether and web pages are painfully slow loading through opera, in fact the only way you could reasonably rack up data usage is to use the youtube app, and the novelty of that fades relatively quickly. At the half way mark on our contract I can honestly say that unless Helio does some serious innovation we will be moving back onto one of the other carriers when the opportunity comes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Motorloa S9 Bluetooth Headphones

I bought a pair of Motorola S9 Bluetooth Headphones to listen to music on my Helio and am more than a little sad about the limitations of these headphones. The fit is pretty snug on my average sized head, and I am not a huge fan of the way they fit into my ears but when they are working it is pretty awesome to not have wires tangles all around me.

The good:
Once they are paired the connection is solid indoors and sound is very nice on both music and calls. The buttons on the device are responsive (once you finally get the layout of the buttons figured out) and very useful for navigating tracks on a playlist, as well as taking calls. Indoors the distance is as good as other hands free devices I own and I can set my phone in the middle of the house and walk the majority of that level of the floor with very nice connectivity. Also the battery life is pretty amazing, I can play between 6 and 10 hours on a single charge (most of a week of commutes for me).

The bad:
I am really not sure where the blame lies for this, but unless the headphones and phone are damn near touching I get dropped audio outdoors. Indoors is fine, outdoors crap. I like to keep listening to music as I walk from the bus into work, and it literally cannot happen. As soon as I step off the bus, I get several seconds of dropped audio, and it happens several times a minute while outdoors. Step inside a building and the connection will not drop again. I need to find someone else with a phone that supports the AD2P Bluetooth profile to test on their phone, but I cannot recommend the Helio Ocean as a running companion with the Motorola S9 Headphones. I have heard from others that work outdoors that have Motorola phones that they have never had any such problems, but that is very unscientific, and I have not been able to reproduce.

Other cons include the very unconformable fit of the headphones, even on an average sized head they squeeze and the style of ear buds leaves my ears sore after a several minutes of use. The final con for me is the Repairing has to be forced. My cheapo Bluetooth headset auto repairs when I am in range, and I rarely think twice about it. The S9 requires a manual repairing every time. Every single time, which can be really crappy.

In short I wouldn't recommend them to anyone, but maybe your luck will be better.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I call Vaporware

I am a confessed Media Center lover, and have bought into the whole universe that Microsoft wants to put in my living room. I have the Media Center PC, I have the Xbox360, I have the Zune, I have a HP generation 1 extender, and 2 Media Center Portables, where the hell are the cool sideshow devices I was promised?

I seriously hope that Ricavision has some other way of making money, because at more than a year and the only product close to market, (that was supposed to have shipped this summer) is still not shipping... you do have to start wondering if the pretty pictures are anything more than the Phantom Console was.

In closing the current model of

1.Announce product
3.never ship product

needs to be transformed to

1.Announce product
3.Ship product

In closing Ricavision sucks right now because the won't give me shiny things to buy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Chumby gets its killer app

I have long had a soft spot in my heart for the Chumby, but just couldn't bring myself to part with my hard earned dollars for the little guy. Really ever since Make featured it a while ago. I loved the idea, it was an interesting toy, but I just couldn't seem to find a use for it.

Enter the recently saved from death Pandora and you have found the killer app for the iPhoneless. Pandora on Chumby = love.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I am glad the bailout failed here are some better ideas

I do realize this is a little off topic for a personal technology focused blog, but I think the scope of the matter is broad enough to warrant some discussion, or at least some opinion. The companies that have been complicity playing on cheap credit extended to those that could not afford it and thriving off of the associated rapid appreciation of land that landed excessive amounts of cash in the hands of most everyone that glad handed the whole process along are due. The bell is tolling for the greedy and they are hoping that their ability to peddle fear will be effective enough to get congress to barrow money from each and every American to pay for their folly.

I am not going to say that semi-innocent people such home construction workers, and other associated trades that have lured too much of the population away from productive jobs to support this artificially over heated real estate boom aren't going to be put through hard times. I just don't believe that there is any chance of that money having a "trickle down effect". 700 billion is a lot of money, and it will likely vanish like water on sand. It will not help those struggling to stay in their home find a solution that allows them to gain equity and pay down the principle through partial loan forgiveness (say the value that the land has lost now that everyone is waking up to how inflate real estate has gotten), or any other innovative "help the people" initiatives out there.

For people that bought several houses speculatively there should be some consequence, but not necessarily loosing their primary homes (that are likely the collateral of several other homes). Letting the bank have the speculative properties and erasing the loans, (and the speculators are out all the costs that they have spent getting into those homes) would be another program that I could get behind. The banks could find themselves in the unlikely position of trying to rent houses, but there is demand out there in many markets. I realize this is pretty far out and completely unlikely to boot, but there are ways that we could minimize the damage overall, while not requiring a bailout. This would require actual hard work and true human/honest interactions, but the sting of being out $10-20k or more has to be far less then finding yourself out of home and filing for bankruptcy due to defaulting on several loans simultaneously. This would be so completely out of the character of banks and people in general, I cannot imagine a world where this happened but leasing loan forgiveness properties to property management companies that get to keep the profit between what they rent the land for and what they pay for it would drive efficiencies (property management companies are unlikely lease land they couldn't rent for a profit etc).