So, I’ve decided to try “tumblogging” at jsp, briefly. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Archive for the 'Geekery' Category
Now here’s a scary thought: “Nearly all internal briefings in the Pentagon these days are presented as PowerPoint slides. Officials told me three years ago that if an officer wanted to make a case for a war plan or a weapons program or just about anything, he or she had better make the case in PowerPoint—or forget about getting it approved.” — “PowerPoint to the People“
Gotta love the attention to detail:
Harris is a stickler for this sort of thing. When he restored Hitchcock’s Vertigo, he asked Jaguar to send him a color chip from the 1957 model of one of its cars—the same car that Kim Novak drove in the film—so that he could match the shade of green exactly.
So, Jeff and I have a new apartment, and I’m pretty excited. I might even take some pictures after I move in, to illustrate how I’m going to be making some changes in the ol’ JSP tradition. More on that later.
For now, though, Jeff is holding down the fort because I’m still missing a few staples…such as a mattress. (I just bought a bed yesterday.) That’s important, of course, but there’s something else just as essential (and just as missing): broadband.
Unfortunately, for contractual reasons I can only get the building’s (overpriced) in-house Internet or else DSL. With gritted teeth, I opted for DSL. Supposedly, we’ll be hooked up by Friday, at which point I will be expected to load a CD to complete the installation that will install various craplets and set my default Internet settings to those favored by AT&T and its affiliates.
To which I say: fat chance, friends.
Thanks to Parallels, I can run Windows-in-a-window on my Mac. So I will simply clone my current Windows installation, let the CD do its worst, and then dump that instance right into the trash. The install can phone home all it likes; the Mac is unaffected.
Supremely geeky? You betcha. But it pleases me.
As brother Jeff and I have conducted our (lackadaisical) search for an apartment to share, I have been spending plenty of time in Google Maps/Earth. While my knowledge of Chicago’s streets has improved by leaps and bounds in the past year, I still need the frequent assist in the form of a nice satellite photo. Jeff, on the other hand, has so much ground-level Chicago experience he could give the Google Maps team corrections*. He warned me the sat photos were sometimes well out-of-date.
How right he was. Just yesterday I pulled up the following map of a Chicago landmark:
Note in particular the distinctive squiggly shape. Now check out the satellite version:
Wait, where’s the squiggly thing? That just looks like a big parking lot. And therefore we know this photo was taken before Millennium Park opened in July 2004. Well before, presumably, because the “squiggly” is actually the Frank Gehry-designed 925-foot pedestrian bridge across Columbus Drive, shown here from another angle:
Of course, even at 3 years old I’ll take what I can get. Beats getting up out of my chair in a Chicago winter.
*No, really. Even now, one block of the very street upon which he used to live is incorrectly marked as an eastbound one-way. Technically a NAVTEQ problem, but still…
Hardly big news, but I noticed last week that JSPJourneys had very recently (07 Jan 07) switched hands to a new registrant. Unlike the bizarre quasi-couple who took it after I missed the renewal, these people were clearly more of the “domain tasting” variety. (Domain tasting is a practice whereby parties register a domain for a short period to sample the traffic to see if it can support pay-per-click advertising — if the traffic is insufficient they release the domain in order to claim a refund available up to 5 days later.)
Sure enough, we’re now 5 days later and JSPJ came available once again. So I’ve taken it back. I don’t really plan to do anything with it, having long since integrated my travel posts into the JSP.o mothership, but nonetheless it (re-)joins my personal stable of 20 active registrations, (plus another 12 owned by friends and family for which I provide service.)
I’m getting to be quite the little ISP. Er, JSP?
Me, in 2005:
What if your phone connected directly to your voice mailbox, using your screen to provide the information normally read to you? With a voice mail menu, you could see call information merged with your in-phone phonebook. Rather than hearing “Your callback number is 3..1..2..” you could see a list:=Thursday 2:12p Mom, Work - 42s =Wednesday 11:12a Neff Cell - 1m12s
You could scroll up and down, highlight any message and choose “play” or “delete”. No need to navigate through voice-prompts and touchtones. See at a glance what it takes RoboGirl precious seconds to read out.
Apple iPhone, coming in 2007:
An industry first, Visual Voicemail allows you to go directly to any of your messages without listening to the prior messages. So you can quickly select the messages that are most important to you.
Needless to say, I so want one.
Then, randomly enough, it was gone.
So maybe we’ll all be seeing a minor IMDb facelift soon enough, though if so I have one recommendation: make the thumbnails zoom when the pointer hovers over them. In the test I saw, they just seemed too small to distinguish…
So, earlier in the week Ehsan called to see if I wanted to hang out. I said sure, and met him at one of his favorite haunts: Panera. (He has no Internet at his place.)
I got some food and sat down to eat. Shortly after I finished, a (cute) guy came up and asked if we knew anything about getting a laptop working on the wireless. Ehsan indicated me, and thus began a long session of trial and error on the guy’s girlfriend’s (doh!) computer.
I won’t get into the technical details, but suffice to say that Panera tech support* and I determined the cause was a very specific hardware combination. (“We’re not sure why it happens,” said the rep, “but it’s always with Linksys cards.”)
Essentially, the girl was out of luck. I explained her options, and she thanked me for my time, packed up, and left — or at least I thought so. A few minutes later, I saw her headed my way on the periphery of my vision.
It was to give me this:
She said a few kind words of thanks again, and gave me the card. (Note it says “thank you” for the name — she didn’t even know mine!) I was so touched, it just brightened my whole day. You’re a class act, Rachel F. I hope you kick ass on the GMAT.
* Who knew Panera had tech support? The Rhode Island-based tech seemed just as interested in me as I was in her. “That’s consistently one of our busiest locations,” she said. “Some of our stores will drop to just 1 or 2, that one always has at least 15 and I’ve seen more than 30 sessions in progress. Is it in a mall?” Nope, just near a busy intersection…
Sometimes, it’s the smallest details that please me. Take, for example, my recent experience with a Bank of America ATM. (I don’t bank with them, but circumstance led me to use their unit.) Upon card insertion, the machine prompted me with a list of languages it supported, as many do these days. The difference: when I selected English, I was given another screen asking me to confirm my choice.
Now, encountering not one but two unecessary screens would really irritate me normally, but I had a hunch what was going on: the machine was saving my preference. Sure enough, when I re-inserted my card moments later, there was no language prompt.
Do they store that preference on the card? On the network? Or on the machine itself? (Egads, let’s hope not.) I don’t know, and I don’t care. I just like the fact that someone has put just a little bit of thought into streamlining the interaction and remembering there are humans on the other end.
Now if they’d just get rid of that ridiculous tendency to require you enter “00″ in the cents field during the withdrawal stage, we’d really be getting somewhere…
Now I feel alert. If I only knew why…
You know, I’m much less of a Google fanboy than I once was (for causes, see also: Chinese Censorship, Google’s Role in) but I still find plenty to admire in the company.
Take the recent revision to the terms of service for their Google Maps API. In announcing the change, Google provided a helpful “diff” page in which they highlighted the changes in red:
This customer-friendly move shows respect for our time in a way that far, far too few companies bother to do.
For example, contrast that approach to the one taken by PayPal, which by coincidence also recently updated its terms.
PayPal requires the user to signify his/her agreement to the new terms rather than simply changing them unilaterally, which I applaud. But my admiration ends there. Here’s a sample from the screen in which PayPal requests acquiesence to the modified agreement (scaled to 80%):
This sort of customer-hostile behavior lends a lot of credence to the perspective that PayPal doesn’t really want its customers to actually read the revised terms. Whether this is due to an attempt to slip in new provisions or just plain apathy about usability is less clear.
I know it’s an open secret that nobody reads the fine print before they click “I Agree”, but it would be nice if more companies followed Google’s example here.
And they mean big. Check out the search button:
Shown at 40% size.
Several months ago I wrote about what I saw as a trend towards much larger online photos, particularly on entertainment websites. I see more and more examples of this every day (e.g., compare the width of the image on Apple’s new Mac mini page as compared to the tabs bar above it) but yesterday I saw a site that took it to the next level.
For really large pictures — and big video to boot! — check out Fox’s Walk the Line DVD site (note: check your volume first.) Is this the wave of the future for movie sites?
Oh, and though I strongly support larger video, I have to roll my eyes at their use of the heretofore non-existent “HD website” label.