All posts by Matt

I woke up today / In a very simple way

Don’t you love when you get into a song and its chorus just happens to coincide with your resolution of the week? This hasn’t happened to me since I discovered Okkervil River’s The President’s Dead right before Gerald Ford passed, but the stars have aligned again.

One of the few drawbacks of working from home is that the line between work and home gets the ol’ Gaussian blur. My girlfriend identified this before I even started, but it didn’t bother me until recently. It turns out the benefit of not having to commute in the morning is erased by how easy it is to just wander to your computer and fire up the email before properly waking up. You get an early jump, but it’s canceled out by the lack of focus that haunts you throughout the rest of the day.

So, in the spirit of the Secular Sabbath, I’m going Analog in the AM. From 7-9am I’ll be awake but not using screens. Sorely needed triathlon training or cleaning are two areas I might spend this time on. So if you’re an early riser yourself and see me on Gchat, AIM, Facebook, Gmail, and so on, tell me to shut ‘er down.

But really the whole point of this post was to play this song a bunch of times.

Fun Fact: Port O’Brien apparently work in a cannery in Alaska. My friend Dave just started working as a Carnie in Alaska. Less gritty, but still wild.

Microsoft just plain gives up

No, really. Their new ad campaign flat-out admits that the word-of-mouth about Vista is that it’s terrible and slow. They actually show people saying this.

Microsoft’s clever spin is that these people haven’t really used Vista yet, and would actually love it if it weren’t for everyone they know and trust telling them not to buy it. So they disguise Vista and present it to these newbs as the next version of Windows (which, back in the real world, people are already clamoring for specifically because of how terrible Vista is).

And lo and behold, these people turn out to really like Vista when they look at it in a focus group setting for a few minutes on what is likely a souped up machine.

The ad then implies that even though these people couldn’t recognize Windows Vista after it’s been out for A YEAR AND A HALF, you should be swayed by their opinion that it’s “faster” and has “the newest features that I’ve seen“.

You can watch Microsoft’s valiant effort at the lamest hidden camera ad campaign of all time at http://www.mojaveexperiment.com/.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I used and enjoyed Windows for years, and up through XP found it superior to Mac. But Vista is just absolutely terrible. It is bloated, will bring decently fast computers to a crawl, and is completely off the charts when it comes to unneccessary frustration and annoying warnings and bubbles.

Looking around, it appears I’m not the only one who thinks this is terrible marketing and an affront to basic intelligence. And so the war between huge sums of money and basic truth continues.

Rise, clear-eyed and alert

Al Gore just spoke to a packed Daughters of the American Revolution hall and challenged America to use 100% renewable energy by 2018. It was a good speech (Full speech text here) and it’s an audacious goal.

Gore argues that a ten year national goal has proven to be the perfect balance of long-term thinking and short-term immediacy. He points to the Marshall Plan, the Interstate Highway System, and of course, the Apollo Project as examples of bold goals that America was able to achieve in a decade or so.

But there are two rather formidable challenges.

The first is a combination of extremely powerful vested interests mixed with the legitimately glacial nature of changing our energy infrastructure on such a massive scale.

The second is that our broken political system allows already-powerful vested interests – we’re talking coal and oil companies here – to run the system. Gore acknowledged this and blamed it for the “baby step policies” that succeed only in not offending special interests, but he fell short of prescribing any political changes that need to happen.

I’d love to think that a few million people on a grassroots email list could make completely upend our energy sourcing, infrastructure, and consumption habits, but I’m afraid it’s going to take a lot more. That’s why I’m working for publicly funded federal elections. I believe that we need to attack the root of this (and many other problems): an electoral system that lopsidedly favors vested interests.

So the question is: Can America still be bold? Can we still achieve an ambitious goal if we put ourselves to it? Moving first on this issue is in our own national interest.

Some fun facts and quotes:

We send $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil.

One OPEC official noted that “the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones”

Gore drew the most applause in ridiculing the notion that drilling for more oil and giving more money to oil companies is going to do anything to alleviate our pain at the pump. He said only a dysfunctional system would suggest such a “solution” and that the best way to bring gas prices down would be to stop using gas. The real driver of energy costs is increased energy use by China, India, and others, and this isn’t going to slow regardless of whether we stop funding our own infrastructure with a $0.14 tax.

Some related Onion fun:

We’re Investing So Much In Alternative Fuels, Sometimes We Almost Forget To Pump Oil!

By Tony Hayward
CEO, BP

The National Intelligence Council recently addressed Congress to discuss the security threats that need to be considered in the face of global warming. What risks are expected to be aggravated by global warming?

Military protection fails when sun-drenched artillery far too hot to handle with bare hands

Invasion might catch America off guard while it’s cooling down in a movie theater

Glaciers embittered by the rising temperatures may stage revenge “suicide meltings” on innocent civilians

Frozen Mongol warriors may be defrosted and angry

Too muggy to tell if terrorists have attacked

Heatstroke affecting thousands of security officials, allowing millions of 3-ounce gels to enter aircraft unnoticed

Increased precipitation will allow terrorists to conduct activity more surreptitiously under large umbrellas

Natural disaster could occur on 9/11, dividing nation’s patriotic sentiment

Al Gore becoming even more powerful

More firehose please

My half-hearted attempt at an information diet has been thwarted by Nicco’s latest project, News Junk (http://newsjunk.com). It aggregates the day’s political news from a bewildering variety of sources. But what makes it great is that they eschew the Google News approach and rely on humans to choose which stories get posted. That way the same AP release doesn’t show up 95 times. Prepare to be addicted.

Also, for syndication they’ve got RSS, Twitter, FriendFeed, and you can embed the headlines on your site.

Goodbye Hello…we hardly knew ye

Picasa is Google’s terribly underrated and until recently, completely unknown photo editing software. Which means the number of people who knew about Hello had to number in the hundreds. Hello was a great way to send photos to friends. You could carry on an IM conversation while flipping through photos, and you could even auto-follow your friend’s view so you could be on the same page. They got the full size pictures without any right-clicking or decompressing nonsense, and I’ve never met someone who couldn’t immediately figure out how to use it. My mother (and Kodak) lament that as cool as digital photos are, no one ever prints them, and as a result, the bonding time looking over a photo album has been replaced by hunching over a laptop screen (if that).posies for hello's demise

Google says they’re discontinuing Hello so they can focus on Picasa and Web Albums. Both are neat, but I’m not sure they’re going to fill the void.

Maybe this is all so Google can use the blue chip domain name Hello.com for something more worthwhile, especially now that Apple scored me.com.

Goodbye, Hello.

Never clip a coupon again

Am I the only person under 40 who looked at coupons? As I enter my fifth year as a grocery-shopper, I’ve come to realize that the coupon inserts in the Sunday paper exist primarily as a vehicle to advertise new and/or improved products rather than to save you money. The amount you save with almost any coupon in the insert is less than the amount you save by simply buying the identical store brand version of the product.

a la bugmenot

But like everything else, the Internet makes it better. Online coupon codes actually can save you some decent change, or at least get you free shipping. I saved about $100 by Googling ‘Helio coupon codes’ before buying my phone last year. But now you don’t even have to do that.

Install this Firefox plugin. Then when you go to buy something, it will display a little notice at the top of the page if a coupon is available for that store.

Or if you can’t figure that out, go to http://retailmenot.com when you’re about to buy something and type the store into their search box.

If you want to thank me, one-click me some MarioKart.