twitter: signal to noise

laying it out

I feel like I am sort of going out on a limb here since I really don’t want to cheese anyone off.  First, I am very thankful for all my Twitter followers.    Secondly, for the most part, they provide me with some great stuff.

But…

I have noticed a substantial increase of  self proclaimed “Internet Marketeers” who are all following +20k people and have +20k followers.  There’s a couple of problems with this.  First, I haven’t heard of them. Second, there is ALWAYS some vague reference to “financial freedom” that makes me think that they’re either recent graduates of a Internet marketing seminar or they are some other bandwagon jumper.  Third, their icon or avatar is just a little creepy.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they are probably really nice people, who really believe they are helping people, but for the most part, they seem to really only re-tweet what others are saying.

And therein in lies the delimma.

One of the things I really enjoy about Twitter is the original thought.  If I look through my stream, I see more re-tweets than I do see original tweets.  I guess there isn’t really anything wrong with it, but that’s just something I’d rather not see.  I don’t want to hear about “Twitter marketing secrets” but I would rather hear about something funny your four-year-old did. 

me <=> you

I want to relate to you.  I want to get to know you for who you are.  I want to make you smile.

And that’s it.  Well, okay.  I would like you to help me find a new job the next time I need one.  😉

a weekend with Windows 7

I’m pleasantly surprised.

I downloaded the DVD ISO for the Windows 7 beta release.  For some reason, I was really excited that Microsoft was putting out Windows 7 for beta and letting the community take it for a spin.  I have enjoyed playing around with other OS releases such as Fedora and Ubuntu.

I have a Toshiba laptop that’s a year old.  It’s got an AMD Athlon X2 CPU and came with Vista on it.  When I first got it, I put Fedora on it right away.  But I did a dual boot so if I ever needed Vista, it was there.  I played around with Vista and even though I never bashed it like others did, I liked it okay.  Coming from WinXP to Vista, it was sometimes frustrating to find the apps I was looking for or to change the settings.  For the most part, I used Linux on this laptop probably 95% of the time.  So I thought this would be perfect to try out Windows 7.

Installation

Installation went really smooth and much faster than XP or my experience restoring Vista from the DVD’s that came with my laptop.  Once it was completed, I noticed that I couldn’t set my screen resolution beyond 1024 x 600 and that I didn’t have any WiFi connectivity.  Clearly I was in need of some drivers, so I plugged in an ethernet cable, got connected on my LAN and started up Windows Update.  It found nine updated, all of which were all my device drivers.

While that was downloading, I downloaded the latest drivers from ATI for my video card.  I picked my model and downloaded the Vista drivers.

Windows was also complaining about the fact I didn’t have any anti-virus installed, so I installed my favorite one, Avast!.

When everything finished installing, it of course wanted to reboot. Once it did, everything just worked.  I had Wifi and I was able to get my screen resolution to 1280 x 800.  I re-ran Windows Update and it reported that I was all up to date.

Customizing

Now, I was ready to get down to business.  So I installed my apps I typically install;

  • Firefox with Foxmarks
  • Digsby

After syncing my bookmarks, I had all my stuff that I feel is important.  I tried out IE8 and honestly, I couldn’t tell much of a difference between it and IE7.  I will say that my company’s Exchange 2007 web portal wouldn’t work with IE8.

I also made the icons tiny on the taskbar.  I felt the default taskbar took too much real estate.  I also picked a different background.

Joining my wireless networks was a breeze.  I was surprise how easy Microsoft made it.  You can pretty much click on the list of wireless networks and click on one to join.

One thing that threw me for a loop was plugging in my headphones.  Both the laptop speakers and the headphones were active.  I had to right click on the speaker in the systray and open up “Playback Devices.”  Both my headphones and the speakers were there.  I had to “Deactivate” the laptop speakers.

Windows 7 tried to make you feel good about your headphones, regardless how crappy they may be by calling them a “High Definition Audio Device.

Initial Final Thoughts

I like it.  I told someone that it was like they took the good stuff out of Vista and the good stuff out of XP and mushed them together.  It is much more inituitve than Vista and I would feel much better about upgrading from XP to Windows 7 than I ever did with Vista.

As I installed items and ran Windows Update, I got the initial “Do you want to run this…” pop up, but no where near as in frequency as I did in Vista.

I also really like some of the new apps you get.  I noticed it comes with Powershell, (which I’ve heard great things about, but never played with), and some neat process and memory management tools.

It may be an illusion but it seems that my laptop runs things faster with Windows 7 than with Vista.  I have no real benchmarks, but it sure seems that way.  I did notice that my memory consumption is very low in comparision with my XP machine.

I like how Windows 7 found all my needed drivers via Windows update.   I was worried I would have to load drivers off the OEM DVD that came with my laptop.

My battery is lasting a little longer, too.  It could be that the cooling fan isn’t coming on at all, (under Vista, hot air was blasting out, but I haven’t seen it like that yet).

I haven’t really done much but email, surfing, listening to music, but I must say that I think this is really promising.  I applaud Microsoft for releasing this out to the public for feedback and testing.

I’ll continue to do things with it and post more info.

T-mobile G1 / Google Android… Goodbye T-mobile Wing

A moment of thanks…

First off, I’d to thank a lot of you… most of the traffic I get to my site comes from people looking for information on the T-Mobile Wing.  I had the phone for about 1.5 years and posted all sorts of information.  Most importantly, many of you posted comments and offered help and tips to myself and others, and for that I am very thankful.

One door closes, another opens…

However, earlier in the month, my Tmobile Wing suffered a tramatic episode when all three of the children ran over it, (they were chasing eash other) and it got smooshed… really smooshed with a cracked LCD and everything.   At that point, I got “executive approval” to get a new phone.  My wife suggested an iPhone and I was about to pull the trigger until I heard that the T-mobile G1 was coming out on October 22.  I decided to wait.

The countdown…

I was all nervous on launch day, the 22nd.  I was worried I couldn’t find one and then I read that Costco and Best Buy would also be carrying them, but it was unclear when.  So after my big presentation on Wednesday moring, I drove to Costco and they had ’em.  Plus, you got a free “accessory kit” which was a Jabra bluetooth headset and a car charger.  Hey, it’s better than nothing.

Final Verdict…

I LOVE this phone.  I’m not going to rehash all the reason why I like it, there are a ton of other people who give it a thumbs up, but I am really impressed with it.  And there’s been no shortage of coverage and it looks like everyone is on the same page.

Coverage…

Over at the Download Sqaud, they have some great pieces about the first hands on with the G1 and a good post about Twitteroid, (which I haven’t installed yet since the offical release comes out Monday).

Lifehacker has a hands on post.  Gizmodo has a Android App Marathon and a category to get you going.

Walt Mossberg also seems to think the T-Mobile G1 is worthy.  Btw, Walt is awesome.

There are plenty of forums dedicated to Android/G1 coverage, and they include:

G1 for three days…

I will say that I enjoy this phone way more than my T-mobile Wing.  To be fair, I did not have a data plan with my Wing since I used Wifi with it so maybe that’s not a fair comparison.  But I do like the seemless Gmail integration.

The IM’ing on the G1 is also okay, not great.  Like all other phones I’ve owned, the default IM uses SMS for IM’ing.  I’m not big on that but I don’t it will be long before someone writes a cross IM-platform client for the G1.  Here’s a list of apps I think would be killer:

  • IM: Jabber/XMPP, AIM, Yahoo!, and MSN
  • Facebook App (using mobile web interface)
  • Brightkite App (using mobile web interface)

Apps I love:

  • Google Maps:  This is totally awesome.  You can do “street view” with the GPS and enable “compass mode.”  This is too hard to explain in text but if you see it, it will blow you away.
  • Barcode reader: Yeah, yeah… I know the iPhone has this too, but I think it is really neat.
  • Various weather apps:  All very useful
  • Gmail
  • Web browser: The web browser is better than ANY WM-base browser I’ve seen, including Opera-mini.

I’m still playing with it and rumor has it a slew of new app will hit the market place on Monday.

Expect way more to come.

wherever I go, there I am…

I never really stopped to ponder how far I have come.  A lot has happened, and it happened pretty quick but it was a natural progression.  Last week, my Mac Book Pro started acting funny.  I was experiencing lock ups and it got so bad, I couldn’t get anything done.   I saw some error messages in my log files that would suggest that the drive was beginning to fail.  Fast forward to last Wednesday and I am again using my MBP with a new hard drive.

But while it was in the shop, I was still productive and busy…  and here’s how I did it.

Portable Apps

For some reason, I got a bug up my butt.  I needed a usb jump drive.  I needed one bad.  Okay, I didn’t have a really good reason when I actually bought it, but I knew in my bones I needed one.  Microcenter has a house brand of memory sticks.  I got a 4GB on for something like $12.  I installed three things on it right away.

Web Browsing

So I got portable versions of Firefox for both Mac and Windows.  I have been using My FoxMarks to sync my bookmarks between multiple browsers amongst the multiple computers I have.  It’s a great Firefox plugin so I know my latest bookmarks are with me whichever computer I am on.

Email

Email is also available for me anywhere I go.  I’ve been using IMAP forever so all I need is a configured client or even a web browser to access my email from anywhere.  So, on my portable apps, I have a configured portable version of Thunderbird.

I also use Gmail for most of my emailing so between IMAP and Gmail, I’m covered.

If you have a webhosting account, most WebHosts offer IMAP as one of the services they offer, along with a webmail version to access your email.

Chatting / IM’s / Instant Messaging

Naturally, I installed the portable version of Pidgin on my thumbdrive, but lately I’ve been using Digsby on my Windows machines.   By using one Digsby login, it has ALL my IM and social networking stuff:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

That works for me and a Mac version is rumored to come out soon.  But regardless, I am able to access all my IM contacts with ease, no matter where I’m at.

My Documents

All of these portable apps are handy, sure.  But you are probably wondering what I did to keep my most needed documents and files handy in the event I need them.

I started using Mozy to back up only my documents.  Buried on their site, you can find the free plan that allows you to back up 2GB of files.  It’s pretty handy to access my stuff online when it’s needed immediately.

Of course you can use Google Docs, but Mozy is also pretty slick.

In the end, everything worked out.  My MBP was covered by my warranty and I got a new 200GB drive out of the deal, (my original drive was 160GB).  And I was able to do a complete, 100% restore via Timemachine on my Mac.  But having that USB drive with all those portable apps helped me make it while otherwise avoiding Mac-withdrawl.

wii controller and Mac Book

First, let me apologize for not coming up with a more catchy title for this post. I’ve been overwhelmed by the information I’ve found over this weekend.  That’s no exaggeration.  Furthermore, this is all new to me so I am not up on the digitial music vernacular so it’s like learning a new language.

First, if you saw my Tweets, you would have seen how excited I was that caught wind that the Wii controllers have Bluetooth in them.  I honestly had no idea.  Additionally, there’s been a ton of super smart, talented people out there writing crazy apps (for Win, Linux, and Mac) to do all sorts of crazy things.

How this started was that I got some great comments from Andy on Bob on my Theremin post a couple of days ago.  Somehow, I got down the rabbit hole looking for ways to make a Theremin-sort-of-thing on my Mac using the Wii controllers.

I found a great amount of great resources and I got pretty darn close.  But I had to learn how to use GarageBand, play around with the Mac MIDI drivers, and put them all together and make ’em play nice.  If I understood all the terminology, this would be easier, I think.

I was playing “drums” and guitar with my Wii controller, Nunchuck, and Garageband.  That was pretty cool, I must say.  I read about WiiJ’s and other looping sort of things.  I was so excited that I jumped head first into it, trying to get it all to work.  And that’s my problem.  I got to the point where it just wasn’t making sense any more, (seriously, I’ve felt like this trying to learn a new language).

The good news, I think I got all the pieces I need and I learned a ton about the potential for the Wii remote and digital music making, not just a Theremin.   I need to digest it and put together in a way that makes sense.  This is some pretty slick stuff.

Oh, did I mention that a lot of this isn’t just for the Mac?

Definitely more to come!

Wii Loop Machine Demo from The Amazing Rolo on Vimeo.

Theremin

Holy geez, I wan to build a theremin something fierce.   I have ALWAYS been fascinated by this.  I also want to build my own RDS-TMC traffic receiver.  It can’t be that hard.  Probably the hardest part is finding the right parts.

Leon Theremin playing one.

Leon Theremin playing one.

cms for the masses

I love Drupal. What? You haven’t heard of Drupal? Well then, you just don’t know what you’re missing. Drupal is a robust, open source CMS application written in PHP and using MySQL. I’ve played around with Joomla, and it’s pretty cool. But when I had a big project for a real “content management system” I went with Drupal and never looked back.

The original goal of my original project was to come up with some way for multiple users to submit and publish content on a community website. I was in the position to upload and edit multiple PHP pages to make any updates or changes to the website. I figured there should be a better way. That’s where Drupal came in.

I set it up for my son’s school. It was very successful. I handled the administration and the care and feeding of the webserver, and a real marketing pro handled the content part of it. As of tonight we have over 200 registered users and a ton of anonymous users. I’m proud of it.

At work, we have a fine “oral tradition” that our newer employees, (myself included) are having a hard time getting our heads around. I installed Drupal as a way to address this. So far, so good. Many see the value of what I’m trying to do.

Now, add a dash of “social marketing” into the mix. I am a big fan of transparency. I want to lay my cards on the table and let you see what I’m working on, what my team is working on, and help you understand the challenges we face. It would be really great if I could get my team blogging on our departmental Drupal site. I’m not yet convinced they are comfortable with this. As I said in previous posts, opening up the Kimono a little bit can be a little uncomfortable.

What are your thoughts on getting your team to participate in this sort of communication? How would you sell your team on doing this? I realize that this might add some additional overhead to the workday, but I wonder what the ROI is on this sort of PR. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.  How can social martketing help an department within a company?

lord of the dance

Surely you’ve heard of the Stone Roses.  They had that hit song in the 90’s, “Fool’s Gold.”  Yeah, it was a great song and was over 10 minutes.  Ian Brown was the singer you heard.  He’s great.  He’s been busy since the Stone Roses.  He’s got this song that I can’t get the lines out of my head…

Is it the questions or the answers that’ll lead you to the Lord of the dance?
I admire your style
Love your smile
Cross the street
Is it your destiny or circumstance that leads you to the Lord of the dance?

I’ve been thinking about who, or what is The Lord of the Dance.   And more importantly what is it that exactly leads me there.

Life is funny

Life is funny, because nothing can be as it appears and what happens tomorrow can be something you just don’t expect to happen.  I’ve had great pain in my life and sometime it would have been easy for me just to give up and take the easy way.  Other times, the situation was just something I had to deal with.  It wasn’t something that was going away or change quickly.  I had to learn to take it one day at a time.  You know, I’ve always heard people say that, but now I know what they meant and how to do it.  It saved my life.

But there have also been great and wonderful surprises.  I have meant so many wonderful, cool, interesting people on the social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn and one Web2.0 services like Twitter.   I’ve mentioned before how I felt it was best to keep a low profile on the Internet and poo-poo’ed any idea of pulling back the Kimono, so to speak.  But I made the mental leap, and I am so thankful for my online network of friends. Many of these people I have met in person, but many I have not.  I am looking forward to making new friends and contacts and being open with all of them.

Questions and Answers

I used to play a lot of “What if…?” games with myself.  Like the Buddhist teachings, this only added to my misery.

The Four Noble Truths present a formulation of the Buddha´s understanding of the nature of dukkha, or “suffering[13] , the fundamental cause of all suffering, the escape from suffering, and what effort a person can go to so that they themselves can “attain happiness.”[14]. Roughly put, and on a very basic level of understanding, they state that, firstly, life as we know it ultimately is or leads to “suffering” in one way or the other. That, secondly, the cause of this “suffering” is attachment to, or craving for worldly pleasures of all kinds and clinging to this very existence, our “self” and the things or people we – due to our delusions – deem the cause of our respective happiness or unhappiness. That, thirdly, the “suffering” ends when the craving ends, one is freed from all desires by eliminating the delusions, reaches “Enlightenment”; and that, fourthly, the way to reach that liberated state is by following the path the Buddha has laid out.

I hope I didn’t loose you with that quote.  My point is that instead of sitting around and lamenting why things are they way they are, I could be doing something for myself.  My “enlightenment” happens to be when I play with technology and when I can do something for someone else, be it my work, a friend, a relative, a family member, or a stranger (don’t get me wrong, I got prejudices around strangers, too).  With my new found respect for taking things “one day at a time” if I can do just something every day to better myself or learn something I’ve always wanted to learn, I am making progress.

Destiny or Circumstance

Remember that climber that got trapped and had to hack off his arm to survive? That was a remarkable story.  You can read it, but I heard that guy interviewed.  He didn’t give up, give the terrible circumstances he was in, he made his own destiny; he didn’t give up.  He kept a level head, thought things through, and made some tough choices.  During this time, Outside magazine published an article on people who were “lucky.”  More or less, it said people tend to make their own luck and was back with some studies.  For example, they put a $5 bill on the ground and people just walked by it, no one saw it.  Then, a guy who said he was lucky, walked by and saw the money on the ground.  They suggested that “lucky” people are actually paying more attention to their surroundings than those who were “unlucky,” whether they realize it or not.  I’d like to think that’s how I am, or that’s how I’d like to be.

So, who is the Lord of the Dance?

I think we are our own, “Lord of the Dance.” That is to say, there is a little Lord of the Dance inside of us.  Certainly, there are things we do, choices we make who help define who we are and where we are going.  And sometimes is it really hard… super hard to see the end of the tunnel or to have faith that there is an end to the tunnel, but there is.   And while I still don’t know if it’s the questions and answers or destiny or circumstance that will get me there, (honestly I think it’s both), I’ll know the real Lord of the Dance better;

I am my own Lord of the Dance.

i feel like a new man

Wow, it’s been a crazy couple of months.  I’ve been settling into my job, (which I am so happy at), I’ve been wrapping up some projects, and I’ve been finishing up with some clients AND trying to develope some new business leads.

My job is going great.  One of the things we were really lacking, (my department) was a robust ticketing system.   Someone suggested RT::Request Tracker.  I had never heard of it before, and I am very impressed.  The best thing, I believe, is that every browser works with it, and works well.  It’s all Perl based so one can grock it fairly quickly.  But it’s also very powerful and configureable. It was a bitch to install it since it required so many Perl modules, but I stuck with it and got it going.

I might have mentioned before that I am a big fan of Drupal.  We set up a departmental portal recently using Drupal.  I like it.  I used Drupal for our son’s school and was very impressed with it:

One of the things I would like to try to promote is the social networking tools like Drupal or Twitter at work.  I would like to have a departmental blog.  I feel it is very important to communicate the work we are doing, (which is nothing short of excellent).  I’m not sure how my reports will feel about it.  We’ll just have to see.  If you got some ideas or thoughts around bring social networking into the office, please let me know.

On the productivity side of things, I’ve been loving Remember the Milk.  They just release a Firefox add-on that integrates with Gmail.  It’s pretty slick and I use it quite a bit.  I see they also released some clients, but I haven’t had a chance to monkey around with them, yet.

I also spent some time tending to my long neglected WordPress installation.  I need to read documentation more closely.  I got my tags issues all straightened out and things are humming along nicely.

R.I.P., my Mio c310x…

sniff, sniff…

Good bye, Mio c310x…

My Mio is dead.  Well, sort of.  This weekend I turned it on and the touch screen wasn’t working.  I did a soft reset, no dice.  I did a hard reset and no luck.  Everything else seems to work, and the buttons make sounds, so I called into Mio Tech Support.

Their call center is outsourced to the Phillipenes and I got a nice girl on the phone.  We tried some things and she said the last thing to try was to make sure it was charged all the way and do a hard reset.  If that didn’t work, she said I can do an RMA for it.  She asked me when I bought it (it is just a little over a year) and she asked if I had the original receipt and I said I did and she said that was good and they would replace it under warranty.  Or that’s what I thought she said.

So I called back because the charging of the unit didn’t make a difference, (c’mon, you and I both know that wasn’t going to help) and I called back.  I got another guy who’s English wasn’t as good as the other person and he said that it couldn’t be replaced since it was out of warranty and I can send it in for a repair fee of $100.  Holy geez, that’s a lot.  I told him I needed to think about it

$100 seems like a lot considering what I paid for the unit and since you can get even  more advanced units now for just a little over $100.  I’m not sure what I am going to do.   I might call back in and see if a different  rep tells me something different.

Related but different, when I called in about our Harmony remote breaking, it was about two months outside of warranty, (I didn’t know but they kept track when I signed up for my account) and they gladly sent me a warranty replacement.  Now that’s customer service and they made me a customer for life.