Daily Life

Photo Seminar

Camp is over, but it was a great 4 days of shooting. You can check out my shots here. And then click this link to search the tag “tfttf2008me” for pictures from everyone at the session.

Thanks to Chris Marquardt for putting on a great show, if you are into photography you should check out his podcast on photography.

Geek Stuff

Getting Ringtones on the Palm Centro

Totally off topic here, but just a quick one for Centro owners. I have this thing about paying for ringtones. I’ve been editing audio for a long time so the thought of paying $1.99 for a crappy snippet absolutely kills me.

There is a shortcut where mp3s can be sent with text messages but on the palm boards I found an even better solution. For the full post click here, otherwise here’s the punchline from Ridius, the smartest person on the Palm Forums:

Step 4: Now we actually need to import the songs. Here’s how you do it

1. Open the Blazer app (Web icon)
2. In the address field, type file:///cardname/foldername/filename (e.g. file:///MYSDCARD/Audio/PurpleHaze.mp3)
Remember that this is case sensitive so make sure you have all the capitol letters correct
3. Tap Go
4. Choose Save as Ringtone from the list
5. The rest is easy as you pretty much just tap ok

I only ran into a minor glitch as my card had not been named so the default “Card” did not work. I named it on my PC and it’s all good now, the Jack Bauer ringtone is in full effect.

The next Geek project is Opera on the Centro…

Great Marketing

Crutchfield’s Dream Campaign

As a card carrying gadget geek it should be no surprise that I get the Crutchfield catalog at home. Since I buy cheap crummy cars that are good on gas since they are just going to get abused on 128 or parking in Boston, the first thing I do is upgrade the speakers. They are always knowledgeable  and accept returns, which happens frequently if stuff doesn’t fit (which doesn’t matter to them because I’ve had enough equipment stolen that they make it up).

The catalog this week had the results of their “You dream it, we’ll help you build it ™” contest. I don’t even remember seeing it before, but if I did I’m sure I thought “there’s no reason they would give me free stuff, they already know what I buy, and the wife is not about to let me put a kicker or glow neon on my sweet wheels for our quaint New England town.”

I have taken to heart many of Christopher Penn’s statements about taking time to protect your mental state. We are bombarded with trash news and celebrity crap at a relentless pace. If you into sound systems take a few minutes and check out the sound system Robert Vega built for his brother-in-law.


Why You Should Give Content Away For Free

I keep an eye on what Justin is working on. He’s not just talking about how media is changing, he is getting his hands dirty, watching it change around him. The beauty of this is that he may see some fame in the next few years and some speaking gigs, but because of the hands-on experience he has it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in 10 years working on whatever passes for big time Television then, or making movies a la Kevin Smith if that’s what he wants to do.

This week he was thinking about media being free. It’s actually far worse than that. Media is less than free. It costs you money and time to produce, and often the people consuming it are not going to pay for it. This came to me in a flash in New York City after touring NBC studios. A few blocks away I saw a subway sign for the TV Show “Heroes”. Here’s one of the biggest shows going, from one of the biggest entertainment conglomerates in the world, and they buy space on a bus to make sure it stays one of the biggest shows.

How can a lame podcast like The M Show compare to that? One easy answer is to change and go more niche. The M Show isn’t really different from talk radio, but Marketing Over Coffee is audio that you can’t find on the radio, or anywhere else.

It kind of makes you wonder how musicians can complain about the death of CD sales, while TV has dealt with end users getting the stuff for free from day one.

The problem with trying to find a way to charge for content is that it ends up throttling the only marketing the majority of content producers do – the giving away of great content for free, one of the oldest marketing stunts in the book. If it’s no longer free, now you need to find another way to make it spread. I’d like to be able to say that you can succeed on the strength of your content, but classical marketing says that you need to be anywhere from 5-10 times better to dislodge a competitor. Have you ever read a book that you felt was 10x better than everything else out there? Or better than the average? For me that’s happened maybe once.

So unless you have some budget to make people aware of your content, you are going to have to stick with free. There are some ways to make it work, you have two paths – one is to come up with a business model right away. For someone like Justin that could be having to say “70% of my time will be producing videos for others”, basically doing commercial jobs to fund the more entrepreneurial project. The  other option is to ignore the cash and go hungry and spend every waking hour gathering an audience.

Once you have a fans, scarcity enters the equation once again – everyone’s audience is unique, and odds are they have characteristics that can’t be found everywhere else. When you reach a critical mass of people this can fuel a business model. Another method that I see as the wave of the future is product placement. There’s only x minutes of time within a story, and if people are clamoring to watch the story you can limit the supply by having only 30 seconds to sell out of the whole story. Let the bidding begin.

Gather a crowd and go from there.

Brain Buster

Damon’s Blog – Always in Flux

This post has been in my drafts forever so I thought that it was time to send it out. I was hoping that I would have some brilliant flash of genius that would make it a world class post, alas, no flash.

The concept is pretty simple: Damon writes about Software Configuration Management, and he started it through is love for that science as opposed to his love of the blogosphere as those who blog for hobby tend to do. As he is not a blog fanboy, he missed that whole “never go back and change posts or comments” voodoo that tends to be perpetuated by tree-hugging hippie types (the same type of people that say podcasts should never be edited, and the web has been ruined ever since they allowed graphics).

As a result he has no problem with retconning or going back and cleaning up posts that are not read often (he presumes that he needs to be clearer in his writing, as opposed to the average blogger’s hubris that would see it as a sign that the general public just doesn’t appreciate their genius). The idea that the entire blog can evolve, including the back posts, rather than the linear changes most blogs go through, was something that changed the way I look at blogging as a whole.

Any blog that eventually gains traction depends on the back catalog of content. Why shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

Productivity Buster

Theives and Liars Think We Are Stupid

By Theives and Liars I mean the jackasses that should be treating us as customers rather than known felons. Regular readers are familiar with my extreme hatred of companies who add so many security “features” that it makes it impossible to do business with them. I was ordering a credit report a few weeks ago and ran into the same problem again: automated questions about previous cars that I’ve owned.

Again a garbage process: asking me what year my Honda is. Right now we own two Hondas, and they are not the same year. At least it gave me a second chance to guess the other one.

“Verified By Visa”, which I will now refer to as “Vilified by Visa” is the latest bonehead move. I tried to purchase an airline ticket this weekend and I was pulled away from the Northwest Reservations system to go to a special Visa site to prove that I’m not using a card that’s been stolen. As if confirming my address, the card authorization code, and my frequent flyer number weren’t proof enough.

I thought I had an account set up, but I couldn’t tell if the Vilified site is the same as the Visa site or not. After 3 tries I decided it was just much easier to give American Express the business, and they didn’t make me go through any additional stupidity.

My favorite part is how Visa has a whole campaign set up about how this is protecting you, the customer. Even though Federal Law limits the penalty to $50 per card, they try to make it sound like this is all for your sake, when in reality they are trying to protect themselves from the exposure, even if it makes it harder for you to do business with them.

Did I mention how much I love American Express?

Geek Stuff

Perfect Fail

Along with the barn burning mayhem the lightning caused some trouble with the devices in the house too. Once I got the cable and internet back up it was time to give the PC a tune up. The first order of business was a backup so I created an image of the hard drive and went to bed as it ran.

The backup completed but when I went to turn the machine on the next day there was a loud clunking coming from the hard drive. I thought I had heard drive failure before, but nothing like this – it was like someone was tapping a screwdriver on a metal box. The good news was that I had a second hard drive in the machine for backups (a simple and inexpensive trick I highly recommend), so I went to the local best buy to get an enclosure, burned the image, and we were back in business without losing a beat.

The thing that kills me are the odds of a total drive failure 8 hours after doing a backup. The hard drive has a good 7 years of duty on it, yet allowed one final backup before giving up the ghost. If you haven’t done a backup lately, please do. Remember that there are only 2 kinds of people – those who have been through a catastrophic data loss, and those who will.

As an afterword, Staples has a 250GB “Marshmallow” drive that is USB powered, and a bit bigger than a deck of cards for only $99. You’ll thank me later.

Daily Life


Bonnie Lea Farm Fire

So the road trip is finally complete. Last week I was in Canada for Agile 2008, the longest trade show on earth from the vendor perspective. It was a great show but I really would have liked to have seen more of the city, it was very beautiful.

The week before that was Torch Lake (click for photos, you will need to be a contact of mine to see them all).

This weekend was supposed to be a day to clean everything up but on Thursday one of the barns at my in-laws farm was struck by lightning and burned completely. Thankfully nobody was hurt, all the people and animals were able to get out and most of the 15 horses it holds were already out in the field.

You can check out the story here. I was in a photo in The Berkshire Eagle, but it didn’t make it into the online version of the story, dominated by my nehpew Greg. A lot of work going on outside, I got the cable TV and internet connection working again, and have been going over the insurance situation (I do get all the sexy jobs).

I also had a PC with a hard drive failure, I’ve never heard such a loud clanking come from a drive. No problem though, I fired up Ghost and burned an image from backup and it’s right back in business. On to next week!