tech whisperer

No One Wants to See Your Face --- The Slow Adoption of Video Conferencing

I remember a million years ago when Skype was released to the masses.

I remember the initial excitement over Rogers video calling via smart phone.

I remember being super keen to try Facetime.

I remember the grand reveal of business video conferencing rooms.

Every device I have has a video camera. Every computer, every smart phone, every tablet. Why is it that video chats, and vide conferences have had such a slow adoption rate? Any google search on slow adoption of video conferencing will point to a myriad of issues. User in-experience with the technology, high cost of set up (in a business environment), discomfort with the camera, the inability to look into someone else's eyes...... Despite the fact that video conferencing has been around (in some form or another) for over 85 years, it's the least adopted technology by far. According to Forbes Magazine, only 20% of the population has used it.

I spend between 4 and 6 hours on the phone a day. I could easily be spending that same amount of time in front of a web cam, having the same discussions. But I'm not. I'd be hard pressed to find a concrete reason for this aside from the following:

  • I generally don't get *gussied up* when I work from home. A mascara-free Julie is not someone you want to spend an hour with on a video chat
  • I walk around a lot.
  • I multitask

Those three little issues are what's holding me back from the video chat.

Do you use video? For work? For fun?

I think it will be the folks who use video tools in their personal lives who will push the business community into using it more. After all, it's likely more engaging, builds better relationships and increases productivity. Still --- in my head, I'm not ready for that next step. :-D

Mint.com --- A Window into Your Financial World

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It's that time of the year when you look back, and then look forward to goals, plans and the status on those goals and plans.

I've been using Mint.com for a little over two years now. In that time, I've recommended it to anyone who will listen. I use it daily, and sometimes multiple times a day. It's helped me find over $1000 in misplaced reimbursements, and it acts as a barometer for our spending and savings. Mint saves, tracks, reports and budgets. It's compatible with almost every banking institution, mortgage and credit card company. I've linked different banks, different credit cards and even different bank accounts.

Mint has told me how much I've spent with Rogers over the past two years (too much) and if my plans to cut back on iTunes purchases have been working (yup!). I know how much we've spent on clothes, hair cuts and Christmas. Before Mint, I had a rough idea of the operating expenses of the household, but with Mint, I was pleasantly surprised and sometimes shocked by where our money was going. Mint learns and categorizes expenses on your behalf, so there's nothing arduous about budgeting or tracking. Mint also tracks how much we're saving, and if our net worth is increasing or decreasing on a weekly basis. It's one of my go-to apps, hands down.

Folks have asked me about the security, and it's bang on. You only give Mint read-access to your regular financial portals, and it just reports on your activities. In fact, if you're a little tense, Mint can even notify you of any odd transactions on credit cards or bank accounts, so you can check into them quickly and easily to make sure nothing has been compromised. 

How about tax time? With Mint, I can pull a report of the household expenses that make up part of my expenses. Easy Peasy. It's curious that our cable tv costs are about the same as our electrical costs... Huh....

If you aren't using anything to track and manage your finances, shame on you --- give Mint a try. It is abso fab. And no, Mint isn't endorsing this review --- It's all me. I love Mint - no kidding.

Seen Anything Pinteresting Lately?

There’s so much back and forth regarding Pinterest. You love it, you hate it, you don’t understand it, you think it’s going to get you thrown in jail, you hate the copywrite confusion….. Aie!

So much Pinterest Drama!!!

I love it. I *do* do a few things differently from some folks though. I make sure that things i *pin* actually lead somewhere good. Generally back to magazines or stores. A Pinterest pin of something from Tumblr is a waste of time. A Pinterest pin with no history is like a dead weblink. Not much good for anything.

Worried about copywrite laws? Well, I expect that technology is going to drive some signinficant copywrite changes. ‘Nuff Said. If you want to read more, and photographers could theoretically be the most impacted by Pinterest, check out Trey Ratcliff’s take.

STILL worried about copywrite? Tumblr will succumb WAY before Pinterest in that arena…..

To me, my Pinterest boards are a scrapbook of things I like, and a method for keeping torack of where things are. I’ve been coveting a beadspread from Anthropoligie… so I’m keeping track of it with Pinterest. :-D

Still, Pin responsibly. 

 

If This Then That

Another wicked little tool hit my radar this morning…compliments of Robert Scoble.

If This Then That is almost beyond description, but I’ll give it a try. It’s all about creating automated tasks, based on different inputs and having different triggers. There are endless combinations of activities that you can create tasks for, that have a different result.

For example, if you want to get an email if the temperature in your neighbourhood gets to a certain high, you can do that!

If you want to slurp a copy of a picture that you’ve posted to Facebook to your DropBox account, you can! How about getting a phone call based on a text message with a specific codeword in it for the times when you need to be rescued from a trying situation?

I’ve made five recipes already based on interesting little bits of activities. I think I’m in love. Now I’m going to experiment more on wider internet inputs. Who knows what you can make? The options are endless! Who knew the internet could be so handy? Automate, automate, automate!!!

 

Blogging on Topic: Creating Personal Interest?

I Help You Blog” has an interesting conversation regarding frequency vs topic, for blog publishing.

Here at jules.ca, I try to stay focused on telecom bits and technology pieces.  That being said, there is likely a plethora of commentary that could be related to neither. Be it photography or little personal anecdotes. Why? Well, it’s illustrating a side of me that’s beyond bits an bites, I suppose.

Well, here’s my arguement, and it’s completely a personal one - there are about two dozen blogs i read religiously and they’re very focused, but the posts that seem to resonate the most are the ones that show a glimpse into their real lives. Darren Barefoot does this really well. Alec Saunders has it figured out…So does Liz Strauss. And Seth Godin.

So - i guess the question is - do you post on topic to attract an audience, and keep them by creating personal interest?

Maybe this blog is more like a mullet: Business in the front, party in the back?

That’s a shameful comparison ;-)


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Waiting for the Printer

I finally broke down and did it. Bought a new printer to cover for my laziness of not having analog copies of some of the better photos I've taken in the past while.  The old HP I had (bless it's soul) needs a break, as it's spent the better part of the year stuck in contract printing hell, and has now been relegated to the *text printer*....

A note from Canada Post this morning suggests that my new, inky friend will likely show up today. Fingers crossed, as it's also traveling with friends - 2 new memory cards and a camera remote control. Nothing says geeky like getting excited over memory.

A Side Effect of the Flat World

Aside from reducing barriers, increasing reach and generally creating a bit of a level playing field, the new flattening of the world is also introducing problems that we may never have expected to be exposed to before. An increase in supply chain transparency is revealing the seedy underbelly of global “differences” in quality standards.

Finding toothpaste that isn’t intended for consumption in Canada, or toothpaste that doesn’t meet the Canadian health standards makes for nervous brushing.

The issue came to light after a consumer noticed his tube of Colgate was missing French labelling, contained spelling errors and was labelled as being manufactured in South Africa.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide alert last week after similar tubes - some of which were found to contain a cheap glycerin substitute called diethylene glycol - were discovered in four states.
Colgate has said it does not sell 100 millilitre tubes of toothpaste in the United States, nor does it import toothpaste into the U.S. from South Africa.
Funny - Colgate claims that they don’t import toothpaste into the US from South Africa. This statement could be taken a few ways - they import toothpaste (for US consumption) from other places; and that the South African toothpaste is destined for places other than the US.

All of this begs the question of differing health standards in different countries, and how the flatting of the world, at some point, needs to include the harmonization of some of the basic standards, if only to reduce the risk of illness or injury when products are erroneously imported and exported. Shouldn’t the folks in the rest of the world have the same quality of toothpaste that we enjoy in Canada? Cheap glycerine substitute? No thanks.


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CBC's Foray Into Facebook

CBC has begun an interesting experiment, using Facebook as a medium to reach hundred of thousands of Canadians. They've create the Great Canadian WishList
 - allowing folks to create wishes or vote for wishes that resonate with them. Now, politically charged with different camps canvassing for *wish support*, the Great Canadian Wishlist is now polarizing and dividing folks in traditional ways, resulting in some VERY heated discussions.

Go and take a look at what's at the top of the wish list. I think you will be un-nerved and a little surprised.


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Walmart Canada Online Presence

I stumbled onto the Walmart Canada site through Redflag Deals,
who was listed on Maple Leaf 2.0. The first thing I check out on sites like this is if they’ve got a wee shopping cart icon. In my excitement, I confused a *shopping list* icon with a cart ;-(

My first thought was… “holy cats, don’t get too excited, there’s no way Walmart could have an online store and me not know about it”… and sure enough - it wasn’t a store, just a huge “flier” disguised as a store. I can make a *shopping list*… yippee.

I like the product at Walmart.
I can NEVER go to Walmart. Hence - no spend from Jules.
The crowds, the incessant wait in line because they’ve only got 2 cash registers going, the silly people in the store stopping in the middle of the aisles. It’s an exercise in frustration. I am happy to pay more at other stores, simply to not have to deal with the pain and the wait.

I bet I’m not the only one who avoids Walmart like the plague, just for those reasons alone.

With the uber-sophisticated supply chain, warehousing and impressive IT groups, you would think that opening a true online store would be the next logical step for Walmart - and they could capture the potential customers who can’t/won’t go into their brick and mortar stores. Alas. Not yet. Here’s to hoping.


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Salon.com Does Advertising Right

I slid into salon.com this morning to check out the reviews of Michael Moore’s new film, Sicko. It premiered at Cannes this week. As an aside, I am a full-on, card carrying Michael Moore fan.  Sicko is about the insanity that is the American Health Care System.

Back to the story… salon.com gave me the first few paragraphs of the review, and if I wanted to read more, I just had to watch a quick snippet of video from their advertisers.  Normally, with newspaper/journal/magazine type stories, you can read a few paragraphs, and if you want more, you’ve got to subscribe/pay/donate offspring to get to the goods of the story.  Not so with salon.com. It was awesome.  I actually watched the ad - it was Robert Redford talking about environmental bits.

Why don’t more content based sites do this?  Holy cow - captive audience, easy to do, and certainly easy for the audience.  Too  many times I’ve been turned away in frustration over having to jump through 7 hoops to get to the article I wanted to read. One of the worst offenders? ITWorldCanada. No kidding.


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Webkinz - Crack for Kids

After all the hooplah around Webkinz, I broke down and gave it a go. I am the proud parent of Jeremiah the Bullfrog. I wanted to see what the uber-cool kids web 2.0 application was like. I signed up, I entered my secret Webkinz activation code that came with Jeremiah, I was up and running.

With Webkinz, in theory, it’s all about learning and playing games.  Skills improvements, hand-eye co-ordination, and trivia. Aha. Not so fast. It’s about buying virtual crap for your pet. It’s about making enough Kinz Cash to get a waterbed, a bowl of Swamp stew, and an addition for your house. Play games and get cash, find stuff and get cash. Answer questions correctly, or win a contest and get more cash.  It’s a race to make 2500 “kinzcash” bucks a week to support your virtual pet and your very real shopping fetish.
And get this - the more webkinz you adopt (at $12 a pop), the more things you can buy, and the more “perks” you get. But don’t forget - your activation code is only good for 12 months, after which, if you still want to play, you’ve got to “renew” your adoption. 

To add further to the addiction, if you don’t play every day, you pet becomes depressed, starves and (likely) will end up dying.  I have yet to test this theory, it seems a tad excessive.  Kids are finding it easier to coerce their parents into taking care of their “kinz” while on vacation or camp. (I shudder at the Tamagotchi death tolls of 2005).  No parent wants to be responsible for the death of a pet, virtual or otherwise.

Webkinz is a vicious circle. Kids with a dozen or more adopted pets.  Purchased only so they can get more virtual goods on-line. I say again, it’s a vicious circle. Webkins encourages multiple pet adoptions by creating an “exclusive” area for those kids with a basketful of pets.  On your 10th adoption, the keys to the kingdom open, and you become one if the Webkins upper-crust with fancier virtual “accessories”, and improved options for shopping. I’ve got my heart set on a few of the “exclusive” items, but I’ll be damned if I buy 9 more webkinz for the “privilege” of having a circus themed room.
Parents: don’t be fooled. Don’t fall for it.  Go ahead and get your kid ONE of the damned, evil plushies, but don’t you dare fall for the “I need more Webkinz” pleading.  It will likely lead you on the path to ruin.
Buyer beware.

PS - Even Webinz recommends only 20 minutes a day of usage. Hmmm…. responsible of them ;-)


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Why I Buy Pizza from PizzaPizza

No - it’s not because it’s good. On a good day, it’s mediocre.  On a bad day, it’s delivered overcooked and even the dog has a hard time choking down the crusts.
No, I buy Pizza Pizza because they have a reasonable online order application.


I would LOVE to buy pizza from It Was a Rainy Day in Pizzaville.
Alas - their online order tool sucks crusts when it comes to being able to pair up an address with the nearest store.  It worked ok downtown, but it can’t figure out that I am 8 minutes from a franchise, now that I live north of the city.

I would LOVE to buy pizza from Dominos.
But they don’t even have an on-line ordering option! Aie! Wakey wakey….

I’d even go out on a limb and buy pizza from Pizza Hut…. I quite liked the cheese in the crust deal they used to offer. Again - no service for my area. Again - I can almost see the Pizza Hut. Pfft. No pizza from YOU!.

So - Pizza Pizza it is. Not because it’s good, but because they seem to be the only pizza chain who has their act together when it comes to on-line ordering. I’ll be damned if I’m going to support a pizza place who hasn’t got their web 2.0 game going on.

To the good pizza places….. hurry up and get your digital sh&t together. I’m getting hungry again!!


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Fireworks, Bylaws and Guaranteed Identity Authentication

So - it was a busy long weekend :-)
3 days of amateur fireworks in the neighbourhood.
The desire to create a bylaw that would ban fireworks in subdivision neighbourhoods has taken over my sense of being. I can't have a chiminea or a closed fire in my backyard, but how come some nutbar with no proven life skills whatsoever can set off fireworks 20 feet from my house; at ANY hour of the day?

Grrrr.
It would have been neat to be able to log a complaint at 11:30 pm with the City of Richmond Hill, with my name, credentials and location, as well as the location of the offending fireworks fool. Calling and leaving a message on an answering machine is not effective.  Speaking with someone live may not be effective either, depending on their skill and experience level.  I'd rather log into a site, provide identity credetials, and log the complaint.

People could become accountable, responsible, and verifiable. No more hiding on the internet, not if you wanted to participate in certain arenas.

Imagine the neatness of being able to have identity credentials on the internet. Yes, I realize there are a few neat authentication keys available, but they aren't really easy enough for the average Joe or Josephine, and they haven't really taken off. is it a fingerprint scan on your keyboard? Maybe. Is it an authentication server that confirms you are who you say you are? Maybe.  Likely it's a combo of the 2, yet in a format that would be easy for novice computer folks to implement and feel secure about.

Hmmm... I'd love to serve someone with a digital noise bylaw ticket.
:-)


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New and Creepy Linked-In Feature

For various reasons, Facebook promises not to tell you who is looking at your profile, and conversely, who's profile *you* are looking at.
I can see the pros and cons of that, and the protective bubble around you if you are *stalking* someone ;-)

Yesterday I logged into my LinkedIn account to accept a few invitiations, and on the right hand side of the screen - POW! "Who has viewed my profile?Your profile has been viewed by 13 people in the last 1 month. See who's reviewed your LinkedIn Profile".

Aiee!!!!! And so I did what everyone would do - I clicked the link. I could only see the most recent 5 folks (if you upgrade, you can see all of them). I could see their job title and the company they worked for. It's funny - in 4 of the 5 visitors, I could tell who they were, simply by their title and the company they worked for.  And incase you wanted to narrow it down a little, you could do a quick search on title and company, and get the actual names of the likely candidates.

I can see the value of this cyber sleuthing - but geeze, it's a little odd.

Thoughts?  Am I being paranoid?


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Pandora is Dead..... Long Live Pandora!

It's true.
This morning, when I tried Pandora for the last time, the gates were shut...

Dear Pandora Visitor,

We are deeply, deeplysorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allowaccess to Pandora for most listeners located outside of the U.S. Wewill continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a trulyglobal Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict itsuse. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no otheralternative.
That being said........ there are options.  You could go to the Anonymizer, and use their Anonymous Surfing package... just $29.99/year - and then, if you are a wee Canadian, the rghts and priviledges of all Americans are available to you; namely being able to watch NBC's Jericho Episodes on the net.

I wonder how long it will be before services like Anonymizer are also headlocked by nutty internet policies?
Of course, there are also the free anonymous proxy servers as well, but it seems the best one is in Canada - which defeats the purpose of what we are trying to achieve here ;-)

Sigh.


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How Do You Get Spam Out of a Traffic Log?

The novelty of spam in my traffic log has worn off.
How does one stop that sort of abuse? In the past week, www.bankingie.org has shown up more than 9 times as a referrer. Bless his little abusive heart, i don't need it.

Same with www.cheapimovane.com/imovane-insomnia and www.fcashadvance.info

How are other people dealing with this sort of nonsense?


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Pandora Ceases Canadian Services

It was the thunderstorms that woke me up early this morning, but it was an email from Pandora that kept me from falling back asleep. If you haven’t become familiar with this amazing, music streaming service, you now might never get the chance.

Pandora was able to select and stream music by artists that sound similar, or songs that sound similar. When I was going through my “Conjure One and Delerium”  phase, it was Pandora who introduced me to like minded artists.

And now:

Dear Pandora listener, 

Today we have some extremely disappointing news to share with you. Due to international licensing constraints, we are deeply, deeply sorry to say that we must begin proactively preventing access to Pandora’s streaming service from Canada. We began blocking access from almost all countries outside the U.S. last week and had originally hoped to maintain access to Canada. However, it has become clear in the last week that we just haven’t been able to make enough progress to continue streaming. 

It is difficult to convey just how disappointing this is for us. Our vision remains to eventually make Pandora a truly global service, but for the time being, we can no longer continue as we have been. As a small company, the best chance we have of realizing our dream of Pandora all around the world is to grow as the licensing landscape allows.

:-(


It’s utterly insane…


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The Side Effects of a Highway Closure

Yesterday it was decided that I should make a quick trip west to Snappin' Appin, for an impromptu Mother's Day fete.... by the time I'd gotten 40 minutes into the trip - the traffic stopped. All the way stopped, not just a "little slow down because someone needed to change lanes" sort of deal, but a full blown s-t-o-p. 40 minutes later, at crawling pace I reached the reason for the delay.  The eastbound lanes of the 401 highway were ALL blocked. A transport trailer had caught on fire. A BBQ significant enough to render the truck into charcoal, and destroy a goodly portion of whatever was being hauled in the trailer.

Despite how miserable the westbound lanes had been, they couldn't hold a candle to the eastbound. 20 km of stopped traffic.  And then the decision to close the highway at the next off ramp resulted in another 20 km of stopped traffic.  Folks were on the side of the road playing football, parents were picnicing on the roofs of their SUVs with their kids.  In short, it was utter bedlam.

Today, returning to the city via the same route, the only telltale sign that there had even been an issue yesterday was the significant increase in tractor trailer traffic.  The number of 18 wheelers outnumbered passenger vehicles by no less than 3 to one.

It got me thinking, there were atleast 2 low-tech solutions that could have reduced the impact of such a snarl:
  • higher median walls to stop rubber neckers - I have no idea why the province doesn't add a few feet more of concrete to medians so that the average vehicle can't see the lanes on the other side of the highway.
  • better radio news coverage - i tried every station on the dial to see what was going on... I had LOTS of time. I finally caved and went to the MTO site on my berry - and even *it* wasn't updated.
And 2 more high tech solutions:
  • more people should have Onstar, or some reasonable faxcimile, to notify them when traffic is going to be a problem. 
  • Overhead solar powered highway signs - really - they should be about 25 km apart from Windsor to Ottawa - and updated REGULARLY.  I love the one on the 400 that warns me if the traffic on the 401 is bad. It was installed smartly - giving people a chance to bail out and take the 407...
Watching the massive amount of gas being wasted yesterday, with 50 km of idling cars just made my heart ache. We have to get smarter.


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Abnormal Bedroom Talk

The wiz and I are not the normal couple.

As overheard last night:

“So - would you get an RFID tag if it meant you could get great discounts at neat places?”
“What sorts of places?  What sorts of discounts?”
“Say… Las Vegas, or at a resort, or through a Tourism Agency.”
“Maybe, but I’d want the RFID tag to disintigrate on the flight home, and I don’t want it injected, I want to swallow it”. (The wiz is not keen on needles.)

Swallow it!?!?!?

Yeow. And so my brain started working.  Could you make an RFID tag that was ingestible, instead of injectible? Could you even make an RFID tag that was injestible? Or injectible that broke down over time?

I’m a teckno-junkie, sign me up for the injectible, long life, full featured RFID tag, especially if it means that I don’t have to carry a wallet ever again. I want it all.  I’m ok with having all my worldly information at the tip of my finger. But I would imagine that most folks aren’t as keen on such invasive upgrades to their anatomy, not yet anyways.

Still, there are growing applications where it makes sense to have temporary RFID tags, especially at tourist destinations, where carrying a card around isn’t convenient.
 
All the loyalty cards taking up extra room in your wallet? Add ‘em to the tag. Your citizenship info? How about your health info? And don’t forget your financial info.  Plug it all in. And while you’re at it, how about a RFID editor, so you could add your own bits of information, like who to contact in an emergency, or all your semi-personal preferences on everything you want to share with anyone. Don’t forget that you also want this info to update the zillions of RFID databases that are relying on your finger.

All this leads to more - wi-fi in your finger? :-)

See what I mean about abnormal?


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Kijiji - Better than Craigslist?

KijijiIn a new quest to find out if I could buy a pygmy hedgehog in Toronto (ok, don’t ask), I stumbled upon quite a neat new-to-me classifieds site - Kijiji.
The word “kijiji” (pronounced like key-gee-gee) means “village” in Swahili. This name was chosen because it captures the essence of what we are creating - a site where people can connect with others in their community. Kijiji sites are currently available in more than 300 cities in 20 markets around the world. In Canada, Kijiji was launched in Montreal and Quebec City in February 2005. In November 2005, Kijiji expanded across the country and is now in over 35 cities coast to coast.
Upon first inspection, it seems really good - the layout, the interface and the features are well thought-out and easy to use.  I took advantage of the email notification, and it worked perfectly this morning!. All the features are free, akin to Craigslist,but it actually looks attractive….whereas Craigslist looks like something i made in a unix shell for Lynx 13 years ago.

Apparently i am late to the table - as it looks like Kijiji has a healthy roster of classifieds to choose from… if you are looking for something interesting, and it doesn’t have to be a pygmy hedgehog, give it test-drive - they have city specific classifieds for over 30 Canadian locations… I’m off to look for trees.


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