Monthly Archive for August, 2005

Damned Windows Media Player

Can anyone tell me why Windows Media Player (version 9 for OS X) always decides to shit on me:

Windows Media Player Has Died

It really doesn’t matter what I do with it, after about two weeks after I install it, I get lots of these “Windows Media Player has crashed” error windows whenver I try to open a WMV file from the internet.

VLC tells me this when trying to play the same files that crash Windows Media Player:

main: no suitable decoder module for fourcc `undf'.
VLC probably does not support this sound or video format.
main: no suitable decoder module for fourcc `WMV3'.
VLC probably does not support this sound or video format.

What’s the deal? Why can’t I watch these media files Microsoft?

Any idea Mr. Scoble? Think you can ask the Windows Media Team to work on this?

Google is an advertising company

John Gruber: Google is an advertising company

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Mac Mini for Mom

Tim Bray’s Mac Mini for Mom

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Mac OS X Backup Strategy

Mac OS X Backup Strategy – nice

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Slimstat

Slimstat – Statistics software built using php and mysql.

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Loft News

My friend, Drew Moynihan launched a new website this week: Loftywords.com. Loftywords.com is a website that’ll follow the loft industry and the loft lifestyle as it progresses across the country…

Congrts to Drew in his new endeavor… pretty cool that he’s hanging his own shingle out there again, and I wish him the best of luck.

If you’re interested in the development of the loft industry, as an investor, or a resident, look at Loftywords.com.

Disturbing memo to marketers

Disturbing memo to marketers

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iTunes Algorithms

This is a great article that explores the algorithms behind how iTunes picks which songs to play for you: How Much Does iTunes Like My Five-Star Songs?

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Using your Digital Camera

A Short Course in using your Digital Camera

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Dumb and Lazy

Why all good programers are dumb and lazy

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Perfect Shave

How to get that perfect shave

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Craig’s List … it’s only a matter of time

Newspapers are in for a world of hurt when newspaper readers find out about Craig’s List

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OldSkool Internet

Remember when the internet looked like this?

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Salesforce.com RSS Feeds

Salesforce.com RSS feeds – cool. Hat tip to Scoble.

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First Hand Report from Iraq

If you have time read this gripping first hand account of a small skirmish in Iraq: Gates of Fire from Michael Yon.

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Alexander

Great image:

Alexander
Click for larger version

I just love that image. It’s from the movie Alexander in case you haven’t seen it… that image comes from a major battle almost half way through the film…

update: Just finished the 2nd half of the movie… damn good story.

Online Advertising woes

Combine this with this and I think you can start to see a patern. At some level the current non-transparent data collection process is an issue for online advertising market.

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Housing Market Downturn

A list of things to do to protect yourself from a potential housing market downturn. Good read from the WSJ folks that power the RealEstateJournal.com website.

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Tasks Pro

Tasks Pro 1.6 beta 1 is out – I gotta check that out one day… I think it’ll make life easier by helping me keep a good strong list of stuff I need to do…

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MT Photo Gallery Templates

Neat: MT Photo Gallery Templates from StopDesign.

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GoogleOS

Interesting perspective: The GoogleOS runs on Windows

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searching through newspapers – online

Performing searches for information today is still a mess. Sure, Google is a great start-point for general information. Yahoo does a great job of giving us search results for commercial queries as well, but pinpointing information about a small company, or the history of a company is generally a tough proposition.

I blame this on the multitude of newspaper companies out there that aren’t listening to their readers needs.

Take this example:

I’m flying to Salt Lake City next week to visit a client… but I’m new to my company, and this relationship, so I don’t have a whole lot of history on this client.

So, I visit their website, to try to learn more about them prior to visiting them. Since they’re a private company, I’m pretty much stuck with reading their Press Releases, which are 95% PR and 5% information. The Press Releases talk about data soft-information… nothing hard about the management of this company, their business needs and goals, or their past success or failures (Contrast that with a public company who at least has to release financial data once a quarter, usually with guidance as well – which can sometimes help you learn more about their business goals in a quick and easy manner).

Strike one.

So, I go to Google and search various different ways to try and find some historical information on this company… I find plenty of references to them online, but in a quick cursory glance (10 – 15 minutes of searching), I don’t find a lot of useful information that anwers my needs.

Strike two.

But, I did find a link to an article that was published by the local newspaper in their city, so I click on that link.

Crap, it’s one of those newspapers that disables pages on their website that are older than 7 days, and moves that content off to an “archive data” provider. So, I’m presented with a “That page has been archived, please search here for that story in our archives” page.

So, I search. And, sure enough there aren’t any articles from the past 7 days with the company name I’m looking for. Then I realize that I just searched through the “free – past 7 days” archive, not through their more extensive paid archive.

So, I search in that search box — and nothing. The search box doesn’t work in Firefox.

Crap, so I fire up Internet Explorer, copy the URL, and search again and I find an except of the story I want to read. Cool, now I’m getting somewhere. I click on that URL. I’m asked to login as a registered user. Ok, I dig it, I’m paying for this article, so I’m happy to register. But, I don’t have a lot of time today, and since I’ve spent 30 minutes at this process already, and I have another meeting in an hour that I really need to prepare for while I eat lunch, I’ll table this until tomorrow, or tonight when I’m at the airport, and we’ll see if I can’t find some more information from a free source, before I go back to paying for the article.

I really wish newspapers did a better job of serving up their valuable content to me through search engines.

What should have happened is that I should have searched Google or Yahoo or whatever, gotten a page that was potentially useful, clicked the link, been told that the article was archived, and that I could pay for access to that article. I should have been able to click on a link from that page that took me straight through the “purchase” process, and to the article I wanted.

I’d pay $5 or $10 for that article (today) if it worked that seamlessly and didn’t take that much time.

I paid $4 to have a librarian at the Houston library find a copy of my father’s obituary from 1989 in their microfiche, make a copy of it, and mail it to me. She said she’d try to find it, when I placed the order over the phone with her, and if she didn’t find it she’d call me back to ask more questions about where it might be found (I knew the date of publication and the page it was printed on from the Houston Chronicle’s archive search – they don’t have those old papers available online today). She also said if she couldn’t find it, there’d be no charge. Why can’t I do that online? Her attention to my needs and service quality was worth much more than $4 (I called a week later and donated $100 to their charity support fund because I was so pleased with her service).

Ugh… Searching for information on newspaper’s websites is still a pain today (it’s 2005 people – get with the program). And this one newspaper’s website is the norm, not the exception. I wish they’d all do a better job of it.

Bad form with appointments

I just got an email from a potential client I’m in Chicago to visit this morning:

John,

I hate to do this to you last minute, but [my boss], who is the person that really wanted to see you, has been pulled into an all day sales meeting, so can we reschedule?

Thanks,
xxxxx

Our meeting is schedule to start an hour from when that email was sent.

Realize that I just flew all the way to see this client, spent 3 hours on a plane (and will spend another 3 hours getting home), a night away from my family… and they want to reschedule the morning of?

That’s crap.

If you’re in the position to meet with sales people that have to fly to come see you. Don’t cancel on them the morning of the appointment unless you have a sick child or family member, and even then, try to find some way to honor the meeting time, or move it to the same day.

And if something does comes up, welcome them into the office, shake their hand, apologize, maybe buy them a cup of coffee and reschedule in person. You’ll get a much different reaction from them, and you’ll get a much better follow on appointment.

WordPress as a Tag Based App

I’ve so got to do what is described in this article: Turning WordPress Into A Tag-Based Blogging Application to OnAustin.com. That’s how I originally envisioned doing OnAustin, just didn’t have the time to think it all up.

Google Talk on other IM clients

How-to get Google Talk working on other clients – from Google of course.

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Google AdSense TOS changes

A good run down of the latest Google AdSense TOS changes.

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iBook G3 700MHz hard drive upgrades/replacements

Since the ol’ iBook G3 700Mhz machine died two weeks ago, I’ve contemplated a few options for getting it fixed and/or getting the hard drive out of it, to get the data off of it.

First, understand that this is still a useable computer, and it’d be nice to have another laptop in the family. The addition of the iMac G5 is sure nice, but I know that at times, my stay-at-home mom wife, might want to use a laptop again. That, or I think I could sell this thing on eBay, or give it to the in-laws or my own mom to use… those being the case, I think it has some value as a laptop, not just as a machine that has some important (my Quicken) data on it.

So, I’m heavily leaning towards getting it fixed. But…

I saw a link to this USB 2.0 -> IDE adapter review, and the adapter only costs $35. (The going rate for “data backup and recovery” from an iBook hard drive is about $100). Hell, for $35, I thought it might be worth it to pull the hard drive out of the machine myself, backing up the data, then sending it in to get it fixed…

However, I just read through this 16 page guide for “replacing/removing the iBook G3 12” machine’s hard drive, and you’ve got to be kidding me. To get to the drive, I’d almost have to be a brain surgeon, and/or have 3 hours (that’s my SWAG on how long it’d take me to remove the drive, get the files off, put it back together, and hope I didn’t lose any screws in the process, estimate).

Fuck that. Fuck that big time!

I’m not touching the innards of that machine after reading that guide. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great guide, but 16 page with 3 steps on each page? You gotta be kidding me).

So, now I’m heavily leaning towards dropping the Machine off with an Apple Genius this Friday. Apple will do a good job fixing the machine – of that I’m sure. And their flat-rate fix it policy sure does make it an easy decision, because once I pay their $180 for parts/$100 for labor fees, they’ll fix whatever the problem is… and with some other service providers, there’s a “diagnosis fee” then you pay for the parts and labor to fix it… that’s too uncertain.

One quote I got for a logic board repair was $400. Right now, I could but a replacement machine for around that same price on eBay so Apple’s got my business at this point… I just need to make the decision that it’s worth it… it’s either fix it completely, or get the data off… either way I’m out at least $100 at this point.

Fade Anything Techinque

Fade Anything Techinque – so FAT!

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Drunkey Love icons

Drunkey Love icons

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phpSiteMapNG

phpSiteMapNG – PHP based Site Map generator … use it to create a simple page for Google to crawl so that they see all of your pages.

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fsusage

Is your computer thrashing around, and you can’t figure out what’s got it hung up?

Read this article from the guy behind MacOSXHints.com. In it, Rob details what fsusage is, and how you might use it to troubleshoot a particularly weird nagging application problem.

WordPress Rocks!

WordPress, or “How I finally built the website I needed”

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Communication Nation

Communication Nation from the founder of XPlane. Gotta spend more time reading this latter.

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Catalogs make good sales tools

I just read this great article over on Entrepreneur.com:

From those 70,000 catalogs sent to people who had never dealt with us before, we’d earn about $70,000 in sales or just about $1 per catalog. Considering that it cost about a $1 just to produce, print and mail each catalog, you’d be right to bet this wasn’t the best way of becoming independently wealthy! But you know that business after business out there–all up and down Main Street, in home offices and on the internet–are doing the exact same thing. They keep using up their marketing budgets trying to attract new prospects–while forgetting all about their old customers.

Now let me tell you what happened to the catalogs sent to the customers who’d ordered from us before. Those 30,000 catalogs would generate, on average, $450,000 in sales. If you’re paying attention–and you should be now–that’s $15 in sales for every catalog we sent out. I bet you could stand a cool $15 return for every dollar you spent on marketing, couldn’t you? The fact is, catalogs are one of the few marketing vehicles I know that, when unleashed on a list of your past customers, can return a bushel basket full of money. The question now becomes, why are catalogs so effective?

The rest of the article just makes sense. I think if I ever had my own business, I’d definitely print my own catalog and send it to past/current customers, so they could see what else my company has to offer them, in a non-confrontational manner.

I know my wife still looks at just about every catalog that comes through the mail slot on the door every day.

Google Desktop 2.0

Brand New: Google Desktop 2.0 – looks pretty damned useful. I’ll install this tomorrow. Hat-tip to TUGW. Funny that Windows doesn’t have this built in yet… Spotlight and the Dashboard both rock on a Mac. When does Vista come out again Scoble?

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Selling Oil Changes Door-to-Door

This is a great idea: Selling Oil Changes Door-to-Door.

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Sending Invoices Online?

Blinksale looks cool. Hat-tip to Simplebits.

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Olivier Travers on Contact Forms

Olivier Travers asks a good question here: Are broken contact forms acceptable?

I say no. What do you say?

And, to point out, I finally met Olivier two weeks ago when he came to visit me in Austin. I wish I could have spent more time with he and his wife.

HTTP Header Fun

HTTP Header Fun – Ha!

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Outlook 2003 and Ram issues

Did You Know? “If you are using Outlook 2003, and have more than 1GB of RAM available on your machine, you may encounter problems with Outlook. This is a known issue in Outlook, and a fix for this will be available shortly from the Outlook team. To avoid this problem, you can remove memory so that your computer has 1GB of less of RAM, or you can disable memory above 1GB.”

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Pandora

Spotted Pandora on Scoble’s blog. Looks like a good way to discover new music that’s related to what you like… I’ll have to check it out.

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AGAR – Amazon Replacement Ads for Adsense

Wanna make sure that an add shows up on your site when Google’s Adsense can’t deliver an ad? Want it to look similar, and deliver results for you?

Use AGAR.

Cool.

K2

I’m playing with K2 right now as my new theme… don’t know if I’ll stick with it, but it’s fun to check out. Definitely needs some tweaking though.

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cocunutBattery

coconutBattery windowHere’s a cool little application for those of you that use a laptop: coconutBattery.

What does it do you might ask?

Well, it provides all sorts of neat little details about your battery:

What this image to the right tells me is…

that my battery’s current charge is about 88% of the total available charge it can hold…

that my battery can now hold only about 2/3 of the total capacity it when the batter was brand new…

that the battery in my PowerBook has taken 340 loadcycles in it’s lifetime…

that my PowerBook (Al) is 2 years old (I didn’t realize that)

And, while I know that the batter charger isn’t connected, and the battery isn’t charging, it’s nice to see that displayed.

So, if you’re a laptop user, download coconutBattery, and find out more about your battery’s life.

Hat Tip to TUAW.

The day the iBook died (and I got an iMac G5)

I took the iBook to the Apple Store Genius bar the other day (they do diagnostics on broken stuff for free). After waiting a few minutes, the genius booted it up on his first try. I was stunned. Absolutely stunned. He smiled.

Then I said “do it again” (I’ve been trying to get it to boot up for a week now. It’s been a week since it last worked, and I didn’t know what was wrong with it. I’ve tried reseting the PMU, zapping the PRAM, all sorts of stuff… and it just wouldn’t boot).

He shut it down, and the tried to boot it up.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

Zilch.

(you get the idea)

I was like “crap, wish I’d have burned a CD with my Quicken Data on it before you did that”. But I hadn’t.

He unplugged the battery, did all sorts of key-combination stuff, and said that it was probably the logic board.

My options were:

a) get the logic board fixed: $280
b) get the data burned on DVDs: $99.95 (cool that they’ll do this)
c) take it home, take the battery out, wait a week and see if it’ll boot, then burn the data onto a CD/DVD myself, then get it fixed
d) do nothing
e) buy a new Mac

I opted for e + c – a.

So, I bought an iMac G5. One of those new 20″ screen muthers. Man! Do I love that machine.

It’s super fast – the screen is huge – and it was a good deal. It’s got a 250GB Hard Drive.

But I drove to CompUSA to buy it. I’m tired of dealing directly with Apple for some reason. Maybe it’s because I bought AppleCare for my PowerBook, the same day I bought my PowerBook at an Apple Store, and they didn’t register my PowerBook’s AppleCare for me. I was supposed to do it myself, but they didn’t tell me… now I have an AppleCare card for the machine, and no AppleCare.

So, I bought the machine at CompUSA, added 512MB of RAM (for a total of 1 Gig – CompUSA would have installed it for $30, but I took it home and installed it myself, using these instructions), AppleCare, and picked up another year of .Mac for $30 off. All on 18 months, same as cash. I love debt!

I’ll eventually get the iBook fixed too, I think, because at the end of the day, it’s been a good machine, and if nothing else, I can probably eBay it for $400, so that’ll make the Logic Board fixing thing worth it.

AppleCare Support Phone Number

The iBook is busted again… I think it’s past the 3 year AppleCare Warranty period with it. It won’t even boot up. At all. I have no idea what’s wrong with it.

I’ll call AppleCare in the morning. And because it’s so damned hard to find their phone number on the Apple Support website, here it is, so I remember it:

AppleCare Support Phone Number: 1-800-275-2273
open 6am to 6pm Pacific Time

Feel free to use this page as your reminder of what their phone number is yourself in the future ;).

It’s RadioTime

Prompted by my buddy Josh’s latest lament on the failings of Podcasting (and radio in Austin, for him), I figured I’d write up my feelings about Podcasting, and a cool little tool I’ve found that I think will help my iPod serve me better.

I too don’t really listen to many Podcasts for very long, primarily because most of them are pretty shodily produced.

I’ve tried listening to the ones that I think will hold my interest, but I can’t get past the poor recording quality or the utter lack of a script for the personalities creating the podcast. It just doesn’t cut it.

There are three podcasts that I subscribe to, that I haven’t deleted:

CNN’s Marketplace Update
The World’s Technology Podcast with Clark Boyd (from NPR)
On the Media (from NPR)

I also just subscribed to the President’s Weekly Radio Address (because I never listen to the radio on Sundays, and think that it’d be interesting to listen to).

As you can see, I like to listen to really well produced podcasts, primarily, with the goal of learning something new. I’d love to also listen to new comedy oriented podcasts, if I had the time to investigate them to find the good ones.

In the meantime, I’m left waiting for a podcast of some of my favoriate radio programs, like “A Prairie Home Companion” which doesn’t offer a podcast, or paying for Rush Limbaugh’s podcast (which seems more than a little silly to me).

Or am I?

Enter RadioTime. RadioTime is a little application that runs on your computer (Mac or PC) that records internet audio streams for you, turns them into MP3s, and puts them in iTunes, ready to be snyced with your iPod.

Just yesterday, I captured 3 hours of Rush Limbaugh, that I’m listening to right now. This Sunday, I’ll get my first A Prarie Home Companion podcast. I’m loving it. While this isn’t “Podcasting” perse, my iPod just got a whole lot more useful.

Hat tip to Mike Orren for pointing the way to RadioTime for me.

updated on 8/21: Just bought my first year’s subscription to RadioTime… loving it so far.

Army Terms

For those of you that know me… you know that I was in the Army and National Guard in the past, so you might hear me say the word “Hooah,” but you might not know what it means… so here’s a definition for you (you won’t find it in the Dictionary):


Hooah (whoı-a) part. {slang, Army creole hıuıah, contr. Hallelujah, used by soldiers, esp. airborn/rangers} 1. Referring to or meaning anything except “no”. 2. What to say when at a loss for words. 3. Glad to meet you, welcome. 4. Sir I do not know sir but will look into it sir. 5. I am not listening. 6. That’s enough of your drivel, sit down. 7. Stop snivelling. 8. Oh shit! You have got to be kidding. 9. Yes. 10 oh well. 11. Thank you, your welcome. 12. Go to the next slide. 13. You’ve taken the correct action. 14. I don’t know what that means, but am too embarrassed to ask for clarification. 15. Amen

And one more for you to know what I did when I was in the Army:

Tanker (tangk’er) n. 1. A dusty, crusty, grease-covered, dirty, sweaty, bright eyed, fuzzy faced, haircut-needing, beer-drinking, underrated, over-worked, underpaid, oversexed, little s%#* who can take a Tank and do more battlefield damage in ten† minutes than a grunt squad can do all day.

That Good Ol’ Baylor Line

‘The following song is sung to the tune of the Baylor Fight Song by Aggies everywhere:

That good ol’ Baylor line
We’re 40 points behind
We’re gonna lose another game
Our team’s a waste of time

The coach sends in the play
To hear the church bells chime
We’re gonna lose another game
That good old Baylor line.

Just wanted to share that with you as it brings back memories for me…

Upload to FTP Automator Tool

I found this Upload to FTP Automator tool. And wow, this will probably be the first Automator script I’ve used, for this one example of what it does:

2. Resize images and upload

A handy workflow to resize images for the web and upload them to your standard image folder on your server. It also copies the URLs of the resulting files to the clipboard, for easy inclusion in an HTML document, for example.

Note: this workflow copies the temporary images to a temporary folder. To get this to work, make sure the path the the folder is correct.

This workflow works best when saved as a Finder plug-in.

(Hat-tip to TUAW)