Well, those wiley bastards at Xerox Parc are at it again. These people are the ones that came up with all the innovations we use everyday on our modern computers including Ethernet, the graphical user interface (GUI) and the computer mouse.
They’ve actually made paper that is erasable. I’m not talking about with a pencil eraser – I’m talking about stuff you printed out of your laser printer – can be erased and the physical paper can be used again.
Some scientist-type guys (I’m picturing white lab coats and horn-rimmed glasses here) actually did a demo of a paper whose text will delete itself after 24 hours.
Rather than just one use paper – hitting the trash can or recycling bin – the paper can be used up to 100 times (according to Eric Shrader, area manager at PARC).
So much for the “paperless society” we all envisioned. If you think about it – it’s a pretty good idea. I know that I do a lot of printing of stuff for one-off reading like emails, long news articles, web pages, etc. I’m betting that a lot of people do the same thing. Read and toss (or recycle).
So – how does it work? It seems that the paper contains specially coded molecules that “darken” forming the printed content after being exposed to ultraviolet light emitted from a thin bar in a printer.
For now, the technology prints effectively only in black and white. Although good for everyday prints, ink remains a better option for high-quality prints – Mr. Shrader points out.
Then within 24 hours the molecule readjusts itself to its original form to delete the print, or heat can readjust the molecule instantly. Hmmm… interesting.
You can now have secret agent-type, your-eyes-only documents and don’t even have to have your agent eat the evidence when they’re done reading it. Just run it by a heat source – and it’s gone.
I wonder what they will think of next…
Yeah, so I took the family to Disneyland this weekend (again). The kids had no school on Monday for some teacher prep day or something – so we thought it would be a great idea to go down on Saturday night, spend the night, go to the park on Sunday and leave on Monday morning.
Also, rather than staying at one of the happiest-place-on-earth-hotels-for-$500-per-night rooms – we decided to stay about a mile away at a Marriott Suites. It was much less expensive, and they had a shuttle-thingie that would take us from the hotel to the park and we could avoid the parking expense and hassles.
Sounds great in theory.
So, the hotel was nice enough – not too fancy – not too shabby – just about right. The lobby was nice, the rooms were nice with a separate bedroom and living room (think Embassy Suites) – and it would work great for our needs.
It was a bit warm (like 95 degrees) Saturday afternoon – so the kids hit the pool, while I hit the supermarket down the street for snacks and some wine. I also got the 411 on the “shuttle”, where to buy the tickets (kiosk outside), what time it left (6:20 and every 20 minutes after that), whether I could renew my annual pass at the hotel (no), etc.
Since we were going to get up early (the park opened at 8:00 am!) and it was going to be hot – we decided to get room service for breakfast.
It showed up right on time, was what we ordered – and we got dressed, sunscreened up and headed out. The tickets were easy to buy, the shuttle was right on time – and we got to the park in an efficient, uneventful way.
I told the family to go on in – and I would renew my pass, and would join them momentarily (the kids had been dying to get in there – and were all excited). I stepped up to the window and I told the nice lady that I wanted to renew my pass. She pulled up all the information, confirmed my address, processed payment in about 1 minute. Very nice.
Then she went to print my new “annual passport” on a plastic card – and things just went wrong.
It seems that this was a new printer, and it wasn’t printing. Apologetic, thanks for your patiences, etc. You know how the old “won’t print” thing goes – everyone and their uncle drops whatever they’re doing – convinced they know how to hit or jiggle the cord better than everyone else.
After that failed – they called a supervisor. This person also hit the printer and giggled the cord – to no avail. Now REALLY apologetic, thanks for your patience. We’re calling the “tech guy”… he’ll be here in a minute. All in all I’d been there less than 10 minutes.
Apparently in the Magic Kingdom a 10 minute wait to get your printed pass is very embarrassing. Then – they did something that was totally unexpected. The cashier lady pulled out a little book of what looked like gift certificates – and told me that she was giving me a front-of-the-line pass for whatever ride I wanted.
So, apparently, you can get this pass – go in the exit – hand it to the guy and you’re on the ride. SWEET!
So, the tech guy comes, sets the target printer to the correct one (in 5 seconds), and prints not only my badge but the other 5 for the other people who were waiting. Since this took another 3 minutes – they gave me a SECOND front-of-the-line pass.
Well. Maybe this IS the happiest place on earth! Even though it was just a minor inconvenience – they took it to heart – gave me something that didn’t cost them anything, but something that was going to be very valuable to me and my family. That’s a lesson that I wish more companies did (including mine!). Food for thought…
So we’re in, it’s hotter than hell (101 degrees), pretty crowded (forget about “Finding Nemo” – that damn line was 45 minutes long at 8:01 am!), but we managed to grab “fast passes” to all the major rides and had a ball.
The “Fast Pass” concept is that you scan your ticket for a ride that is really popular – and it tells you that you can come back any time within a one hour period (based on length of the line, etc). It is usually anywhere from 1 to 2 hours in the future. It’s a pretty ingenious system – have the computer wait in line for you. I like it.
The other thing a Fast Pass does is give you more time to walk around and spend money while you wait for your “window” to get back on the ride… pretty smart.
So basically we went on all the rides we really wanted to, and we were supposed to meet up with some friends at about 2:00 or so. We had the bright idea to take a quick shuttle back to the hotel, have the kids rest for about and hour and head back – so they wouldn’t turn into any of the other 1,000 screaming, tired, unruley beasts… I mean children… that we were starting to witness all over the park.
We go outside by our appointed pickup number – and wait for the shuttle. No shuttle. Then there is one that is not going anywhere near our hotel – but I ask them what the deal is – and if they can call to let the dispatcher know we were waiting.
Here’s where things fell down again. The nice driver told me that it’s lunch time. For everyone. And ZERO shuttles were going to run again until 1:55 pm. It was now 12:55 pm.
To give some credit to the bus driver – she was asking the dispatcher for permission to take her group of 4 people back to their hotel. She was negotiating the fact that she would be taking lunch 1/2 later and wanted to come back to duty 1/2 later. Then, she asked if she could take us to our hotel as well.
Here’s a terrific place to shine – just like this morning. But, unfortunately, the shuttle was a city-run enterprise, and not a Magic Kingdom-run enterprise.
So the city employee mentality (very similar to a postal worker mentality) is lunch break first, customers second. Her boss (the dispatcher) denied her request to take us to our hotel, and grudgingly “allowed” her to modify the apparently-all-important-lunch-break.
So, we are in the heat, with tired, grumpy kids, we want to go back to our hotel for some rest, we bought the “unlimited all day” passes – and we were SOL.
I was a “smidge” unhappy.
We decided right then and there – we would never take the tram – or any other form of public transportation in Anaheim – again. Ever. Yet another lesson that I wanted to take back to the team on Monday – have some compassion. Have a soul. Don’t be in the service industry if you don’t plan on serving your customers.
So we trudged on – and the kids did their best to not bitch and complain – and we actually had a terrific time for the rest of the day. Then about 9:00 pm I was done. Done as in stick-a-fork-in-me. Done.
But people had been lining up around the lagoon where Tom Sawyer’s island is – for the past 3 hours. There was going to be some kind of show. So, we decided to stay and see what’s up.
WOW. That’s really about all I can say.
It turned out to be a homage to Fantasia – the original animated piece that Walt Disney meant to be used to stretch his animators and the technology of the day. Well, they had little barges with all the “princess” characters dancing, music blaring, brilliant lighting, and then something that I’ve never seen anywhere before.
They had Mickey appear on the island, then they projected moving animation on a fan of water spray about 40 feet high.
It showed the classic Fantasia scenes where Mickey used magic to make brooms carry the water for him – but as the water in the animation rushed and roared – the REAL water would foam and so the 2D projected animation would seem to become 3D.
When the evil witch appeared and in the animation set the water on fire – the whole lagoon was filled with REAL fire on the water!
Wow! It was one of the coolest shows I’d ever seen.
Oh yeah, then they had the fireworks show right after that (sponsored by Honda)… one word: FABULOUS!
We left the Magic Kingdom that night weary, bone tired, sore footed – and again, the magic halted just outside the Disney gates. Our we-thought-it-was-a-good-idea-at-the-time tram was late, crowded, smelly, and stopped at 4 places before we could get off… but we made it back. The kids slept in until 8:30 (usually up at 6:30) and we went on with our daily lives.
All-in-all I really learned a lot about business from that trip:
- If you screw up (even though it’s not even your fault) – throw the customer a bone
- If you’re in the service industry – put yourself into your customer’s shoes – and consider their needs first
- Re-use and re-purpose and re-package EVERYTHING you’ve ever done in the last 50 years to make something new
- Delight your customers (even long time customers) with something that is both familiar (see “re purposing above”) and something totally new
- If you do something like a fireworks show – re purpose songs to evoke emotions and then back that up by having big, loud, bright and “cool” fireworks – in other words – GO BIG
- ALWAYS take your own car – public transportation just sucks
Today is the deadline for Yahoo to accept the $44.6 billion buy out offer from Microsoft… so I bet they have Howie in the in wings ready to ask that fated question: “Deal? Or no deal?”
It’s looking more and more like “No deal.” Good old Jerry from Yahoo is determined to open 5 more cases in hopes the Microsoft banker will up the offer.
Well, it looks like the banker will not only not raise the offer – but will take their dollies and go home. “As we said recently to the board, unless there’s progress by this weekend, we will reconsider our alternatives,” said Chris Liddell, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, in a conference call yesterday to discuss the company’s financial results.
Hmmm…. that’s pretty toned-down from the big bully “proxy fight” words from Steve Ballmer only a couple of weeks ago.
It seems that Microsoft thought that with a pretty big number they could get this deal through quickly. Yahoo’s stock price before the offer was in the shitter – and I think Microsoft gambled that the shareholders would apply pressure to Jerry & Company to accept it and move on.
We all know how that turned out. Yahoo has cranked up it’s “we’re not dead yet” PR machine into an absolute frenzy – announcing new platforms, offering to open up their search engine to developers, announced “great” financial results (well, they were the same as last year – but they made a good investment that gave a one-time payout of $400 million), etc.
On the flip side, Microsoft’s stock was hammered when they announced the deal – so if they do decide to walk away – one can only assume that it will be “rewarded” by a bump in their own stock price – and a billion dollars worth of publicity.
But the results for Yahoo if Microsoft walks away will be disastrous – regardless of what their PR says. The company was clearly in decline over the last few years, and now that they have formed an advertising alliance with Google (someone Microsoft hates more than anyone – including open source) – Microsoft could just get plain nasty.
For example, what if Microsoft walks away? They eat a little crow – but their stock goes higher on the news, so other than a few million spent in lawyers, PR and plane fare, they’re no worse for ware. But – what if they decided they were a little miffed?
They could just call up their buddies at the antitrust department of the Department of Justice and file a lawsuit against Yahoo and Google to get them to stop their partnership.
Either way – Microsoft comes out smelling like a rose. Not so for Yahoo.
Yahoo can still do a couple of things:
- Accept Microsoft’s offer
- Continue to work alone – with its “great” offerings
- Accept a bid from someone else (if anyone was dumb enough to offer one)
- Continue to work in partnership with Google (and pray they don’t get an antitrust lawsuit)
- Ask Microsoft to extend the bid deadline
I’m betting #2. Jerry thinks his company doesn’t suck – and I think they will try to remain independent. If that’s the case – you better sit by your computer Monday morning and sell Yahoo’s stock short – because it’s going to tank.
Oh, and if Microsoft does walk away – Jerry better get lawyered up – because not only WILL Microsoft go after the Google deal on antitrust issues – but Yahoo’s own shareholders will start suing the hell out him too.
So, I was poking around the Net last night and I found this cool, open source alternative to Google Analytics called Piwik (formerly Phpmyvisites.com).
Piwik is very similar it tracks popular pages, referring keywords, languages and is open for developers to build their own plugins specifically for their web analytics needs – but it’s licensed under GPL and costs nothing (except the time and energy to implement it across your site).
They have a cool live demo and a slide preso (that doesn’t want to work in this WordPress blog). If you want to see the slide show – go to the other Bob’s World blog site.
All-in-all it looks pretty cool, although I have to admit I haven’t personally tried it out. As more and more of the world revolves around monetizing sites and more and more companies are trying to get a better idea of who goes to their sites and what they do once they get there – the stats behind your site are becoming more and more important.
Although I don’t think Google is evil (yet) – I’m all for Red Bull fueled twentysomethings coming up with a better, open and free way of making sense of all that data. If you’re the type of data jocky that can’t get enough of your website data – it’s worth checking out.
OK, so Microsoft announced their new thing Live Mesh. Live Mesh is basically a program (Windows only for now) that will allow you to synch files from your desktop to the Internet, and also – here’s the “Live” part – open up a terminal service to another PC.
Oh goodie! Yet ANOTHER f**ked up strategy for online backup. Just what the world was waiting for.
I mean, you already have unlimited, free, cross platform storage from Google. You have a whole cadre of automated “cloud” backup solutions includingCarbonite and Mozy, you have a nascent set of frameworks for creating (and synching ) data from your local store to the cloud in Google Gears and AIR… and NOW, FINALLY, we have yet another way to use the cutting-edge technology of TERMINAL SERVICES.
I get that Microsoft is really scared of “the Internet” and of the free alternatives to its Office franchise, and the free alternatives to it’s development platform and languages, and the growing cries of “Vista sucks” from all corners of the world.
But, really – terminal services and synch?
The idea is a generally OK – have one place to put a bunch of stuff, and be able to access it from a variety of devices – other computers, mobile devices, etc. But of course, that doesn’t work at the moment in the limited (10,000 people) closed tests they’re doing now. Plus, requiring IE and Active-X controls in the browser to get the functionality just plain sucks ass. This is 2008! Really. Not kidding.
I know that there will be some people who find it incredibly useful, and no doubt a bunch of developers who have already drunk the MicrosoftKoolAid® will scurry to add the feature to their offerings.
Packaging aside, there are many free/open source ways to accomplish the same thing right now today – and we’ll just see more of them as time goes on.
Yahoo released its numbers yesterday which, if you don’t count the $401 million they got from a one-time investment, are about the same as last year. Old Jerry is still touting the “we’re still relevant” and “we’re worth more than that mean old Microsoft says we are” lines… but in the meantime, it also appears as though they’ve actually been working on some new stuff.
Now, the Yahoo site is a little bit “light” on information – um… as is the rest of the Internet. Apparently there was a rumor a few years ago that a “Google Gears Killer” was in the works – and then it was announced that the project was dropped.
According to Skylar Woodward, one of the dev team guys,- the BrowserPlus will be (is) a “software and software distribution framework that allows device developers (desktop, mobile, etc.) to seamlessly bridge the browser programming environment (DHTML, JS) to any component they can dream up (VoIP, image manipulation, data caching, etc.).”
Doesn’t sound anything like Google Gears to me. Google defines Gears as “an open-source project that enables more powerful Web applications, by adding new features to your Web browser.” Oh yeah, and it allows programmers to create stuff that will work in a disconnected way.
BrowswerPlus describes itself: “Yahoo! BrowserPlus™ is software that lets you do more inside your web browser. BrowserPlus makes it easy to install and use web plug ins for a richer experience on the internet.”
Ummm… ok. So it’s really yet another proprietary plug-in running browser plug-in that will run widgets. Only on Yahoo! sites (for now).
I guess it was a cool idea 3 years ago when they started on it – but does the world really need another widget plug-in thingie from
Well, today is Earth Day.
Yeah, I know. I don’t really care either.
Don’t get me wrong – I think that looking at ways to have less of an impact on the mother earth is a good thing. I think that we are smart enough now to start making a better start of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, etc. In fact, I just saw a show last night on the Discovery Channel that said that if we covered 10% of Nevada with solar panels, we would have enough energy for the entire United States!
Really, just 10%. What the hell is Nevada doing with all that land anyway? Answer: nothing!
Or, by a similar token, if we took the same small bit off of the east coast, we could use wind and wave power to do the same thing – light the entire US.
What the hell is the east coast doing off their shore anyway? Answer: nothing!
Still, I’m a realist. I don’t see our oil-based economy changing overnight. I don’t think that by 15,000 people buying a Prius we’re going to close the gaping hole in the ozone layer.
I do think, however, that having gas at $4+ per gallon will make people strive harder for alternatives to gasoline. That’s a good start. There are already version 1.0 all-electric vehicles coming to market with more on the way. There’s talk of a plug-in Prius, and there’s a guy in BFE that has come up with a way to get 100 mpg out of a Hummer!
Those are the types of things that will start the societal shift from gasoline – which is a big driving factor in the economy. Think about it – if gas goes up – everything else does too. Trucking gets more expensive, FedEx gets more expensive, air travel gets more expensive, everything goes up. Not to mention things like wars, international upheaval, and the threat of terror.
If we converted 80% of the personal vehicles (cars and trucks) to clean-burning, non-polluting electric power (or still have a small engine to improve range as a first step) – we would solve a lot of social and economic problems, and also get a cleaner Earth as a result.
I’m still confused why we’re spending billions of dollars in a Space Station that doesn’t work, for plans on how to colonize the moon, and for 2 dune buggy size probes on the face of Mars. Yet we do.
I know that scientists and space folk have a hard-on to colonize Mars (for some reason!) – and that’s a good idea. But let’s spend some brain power and financial muscle solving the problem of mass transit, pollution, overcrowded roads, etc. before trying to get people to live on a dead, desolate, uninhabitable planet.
If we’re not more forward-thinking, that dead, desolate, uninhabitable planet could just be Earth.
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