Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net Neutrality For Poets

socalTECH.com picked up this article for publication.

Net neutrality is a complicated and controversial subject. The principle states that if a given user pays for a certain level of Internet access, and another user pays for the same level of access, then the two users should be able to connect to each other at the subscribed level of access.

Basically, net neutrality calls for an open and non-tiered network. The world's systems of roads is a great metaphor for the Internet. Just like there's no simple way to shut down all the roads in the world, there's no simple way to turn off the Internet.

By imagining the Internet as roads, we can envision each packet of data as a car or truck traveling the highways and byways. Just as a car or a truck carries a "payload", a network packet carries a payload of data.

Using this metaphor, net neutrality means that cars get to drive on the roads with the same priority (speed) that the surrounding traffic will allow. No one's allowed to travel faster than the speed limit simply by paying more.

Openness is also a huge part of net neutrality. The biggest difference between a public toll booth on a road and an outlaw warlord collecting a bribe at a roadblock is openness. We all know that the police and the fire department get to break the speed limit in the line of duty because it makes sense and it's done openly; but it's not OK for a police officer to speed, when off duty, in order to make it to a personal appointment.

Being open also means that a network's owner cannot secretly block, filter, or divert packets because it suits them.

Image what the U.S. road system would be like if large corporations could pay for faster, shorter, and better "Lexus Lanes", while private citizens were forced to use lower quality roads.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bank of America User Experience

Each time I visit Bank of America I get to interact with their ATMs. Earlier this year, I noticed a great UI improvement to save a couple steps when withdrawing money. Unfortunately, B of A needs to improves some of their other UIs.

1. The drive through ATM is unusable without having to at least open your car door and, sometimes, get completely out of the car.

I've seen adjustable ATMs at other banks which let the driver set the height of the ATM so that it works for both SUVs and sedans.

2. Another pet peeve of mine is when I use the ATM in the lobby after the bank is closed. For some reason, I can't read the directions on this sign in my haste to unlock the lobby door with my ATM card. I think simply three words, "Magnetic Strip Down", along with this diagram, would go a long way to improving my understanding.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

King Schools Office & Studio Tour

I recently completed my private pilot training using the course materials from King Schools which is based in San Diego. Earlier this year, King Schools released their private pilot training curriculum as a web based course. Through out the training, I provided feedback regarding errors or enhancements that they responded to which lead them to inviting me down to take a tour of their offices and studios, today.

The head of their product development, a retired Navy pilot, call sign Mac, who has been with the company for nearly to two decades, spent close to an hour giving me the VIP tour and introducing me to every employee we came across from the shipping department all the way up to the CEO. The corporate culture at this company was definitely a caring, enthusiastic, attitude by everyone I met.

The roots of King Schools goes back to the mid 1970s when the husband and wife team, John and Martha King, began teaching flight training. What started out as test prep guides became VHS based courses, that evolved to CD-ROM training, leading to the present day web based format.

The high point of today's tour was the studio and control room which they use to create their videos. Their video editors and film directors absolutely love their work which was very apparent as they showed me around the studios.

Now that I've completed my private pilot certification, I'm looking forward to moving on to get my instrument rating. Although the King School instrument course is still CD based, they assured me that it would be available next year in a web based format. But, I doubt that I'll wait that long before beginning my instrument training.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hundreds Night

I came across this old photo which was taken during "Hundreds Night" when I was a Firstie (senior) at Annapolis. One hundred days before graduation, the firsties swap rank with the plebes (freshmen) for a little reverse hazing fun.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Twitter's Blackbird Pie

Trying out a test of Twitter's Blackbird Pie which lets users embed tweets into blogs.

Apple to discontinue manufacturing Xserve and recommends transition to Mac Pro or Mac mini: http://adjix.com/73meless than a minute ago via Adjix

Friday, October 29, 2010

Amazing Internet Stats

The amazing size of the Internet.

Interner's Size

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Smoking Bans

I didn't know that is was legal for parents, in Massachusetts, to give a cigarette to a minor.

Smoking Laws
Via: MedicalInsurance.org

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Flash is great in that it is ubiquitous. There is not a single, decent, desktop web browser that doesn't have Flash installed.

But, the problem is that Flash is a CPU/memory hog.

The Java VM, which runs applets inside web browsers is also a hog, but few websites that run Java applets will run more than a single instance. Flash, on the other hand, is everywhere.

Nearly every single ad on a professional website is Flash so there are multiple instances of the Flash plug-in running on a single page and they're all sucking up CPU cycles to process video which can result in your web browser crashing. This can render a web page painful to load and watch on a web browser that's more than a few years old.

Flash was originally designed to provide an interactive user experience, similar to Java, and it later became the de facto standard for displaying video. Unfortunately, it can only display video, effectively, on the newest of desktop web browsers.

Twitter Search Engines

It seems that there is no shortage of search engines combing tweets for links. Whenever a tweet is sent, that contains a link, within a few seconds search engines start to spider the tweet. In the first two minutes each link in a tweet has been hit by a bot 12-20 times.

Here are the first ten hits on a link within three seconds:

Click to enlarge

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Catfish Movie

I saw a screening of Catfish, last night, courtesy of a San Diego TweetUp organized by @JBruin and @ThePegIsIn.

Catfish is a raw documentary that was all the talk at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The movie follows a 24 year old New York photographer as he establishes a relationship, on Facebook, with a family whose eight year old daughter is a prodigy artist. The family lives in rural Michigan and the film takes an interesting twist when the photographer makes a surprise visit to see the family since he's established a romantic, online, relationship with the older sister.

It's a good movie and I particularly enjoyed the cinematography as they filmed a laptop display for the movie credits and used Google Earth to show different locations.

I don't want to give away anything, but think: Walter Mitty meets Facebook.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Using S3 to Serve Up an Entire Web Site: The 100% Solution

Ever since Amazon launched AWS four years ago I've been yearning for a way to use it to serve up an entire static website, including the index.html. Last month, Amazon made that possible by allowing a default root object to be assigned to a CloudFront distribution, which, in turn, can point to an index.html file in one of your S3 buckets.

Here's an example of it in action:

Phase I
1. Create a bucket named web.yourdomain.com and load your static web pages into it. (Note that's web not www.)

2. Configure your domain's DNS so that the CNAME for web.yourdomain.com points to web.yourdomain.com.s3.amazonaws.com.

If you've configured the bucket correctly and the DNS has propagated then you should see your static website when visiting:

Phase II
1. Create a bucket named www.yourdomain.com.

2. Put a single object into the www.yourdomain.com bucket named index.html. This index.html object will be a static HTML web page that's a meta-refesh. It'll look something like this:

<meta HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="0;URL=http://web.yourdomain.com/index.html">
<body bgcolor=#FFFFFF>

3. Configure a CloudFront distribution pointing to www.yourdomain.com.
Although you can use the web browser based AWS Management Console to set up the CloudFront distribution, you'll probably need a third party tool, such as Bucket Explorer, to configure the root object in step 5.

4. Configure your domain's DNS so that the CNAME for www.yourdomain.com points to your CloudFront distribution host name. (A CloudFront host name looks something like this: d1jlm9avypcmdg.cloudfront.net.)

5. Set the CloudFront distribution's root object to index.html which will be served up from the www.yourdomain.com bucket. (I used Bucket Explorer for this step.)

That's it!

It can take up to 15 minutes to create the CloudFront distribution and set its default root object. Your website should work fine once CloudFront reports that the distribution is Deployed and the DNS has propagated. How long it takes your domain's DNS to propagate depends on its TTL and negative caching time out. I recommend setting these as short as possible until everything is working correctly (I set mine to 60 seconds and then upped it to 24 hours once everything was up and running.)

Remember that you must set all of your objects in your S3 buckets to Public Read so that anyone can view your website.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Apple Co-Founder Crashes Airplane

A long time ago, Apple co-founder, Steve "Woz" Wozniak, almost killed himself while piloting a plane. This incident literally changed his life.

Click to enlarge

NTSB Identification: LAX81FA044
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Event occurred Saturday, February 07, 1981 in SANTA CRUZ, CA
Aircraft: BEECH A36TC, registration: N2WZ


Monday, August 9, 2010

Fire Island Lighthouse

Today, we parked at Robert Moses parking lot #5 and walked over to the Fire Island Lighthouse. One-hundred-eighty-two steps later my wife, mother and I made it to the top to snap some photos and record a video.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wynne M. Trenholme at 96

August 2010: My lifelong neighbor, Wynne, came over tonight. He'll be 96 years old next week. He still drives everyday and lives by himself. Wynne's memory is as sharp as ever as he talks about his service in the Merchant Marines during WW II and the early days of computers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Car and Life Insurance

It seems that we received a notice, this past weekend, that my term life insurance was cancelled. We first received a late payment notice - even though we paid on time - which we thought was resolved with a quick phone call. The CSR told us that the payment went into the "wrong" account. Today, after calling again, they seemed to have fixed the problem again - I hope for the last time.

On the flip side of the coin I feel that I should mention just how great the Aetna health insurance was, about 10 years ago, when I worked at Apple. In the days before the iPad, iPhone, and even the iPod, I came down with cancer right after I first started working at Apple Computer, Inc. - as it was called back then. The company's health insurance was phenomenal and, after six months of chemo, I was back to normal.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to get the customer service that you deserve

Summary: Tell the business what you expected from their point of view. Word it like this: "I was expecting you to say..."

Good Customer Service
Good customer service is a pet peeve of mine. When a mistake is made by a company, how they fix it can earn or lose a customer for life.

The battery for one of my server's UPS power supplies began flashing a warning that it needed to be replaced. The manufacture sold a replacement battery for $115. A quick search in Google turned up the same battery for $59 including tax and shipping.

Ok, the same part at almost half the price is a no brainer so I ordered it. I was intending to pay with my credit card until I saw a COD option. When I think of COD it reminds me of a time, before the Internet, when the world was filled with carbon paper and telegrams. You just don't see the COD shipping option any more.

I selected COD and I was surprised to see that there were no extra charges for using this option, plus they accepted personal checks. Perfect!

I placed my order and received a confirmation e-mail without any problems except that I didn't know when the order would be delivered. I went back to the company's website and used their customer service web chat to ask about the estimated delivery date. The customer service representative (CSR) told me that it would be delivered in about two or three days. But, he told me that they don't accept personal checks for orders over $50.

Hmm, I could have sworn that the checkout page said there was a $100 maximum for personal checks - not $50. With the CSR still on chat I placed another battery into my cart and went to the checkout page. Sure enough, there was a $100 maximum for COD orders just as I remembered it. Having never done business with this company, before, I was a little nervous, at this point, as I wondered if they were a fly by night operation since their web site didn't look too sophisticated.

When I pointed out $50/$100 discrepancy to the CSR, he asked me where I saw that message; then he told me that it was a mistake and that the website should have been updated due to a recent rash of bounced checks. After sending him the screenshot, he said that it didn't matter since he'd need a certified check in order to release the order.

At this point I was a tad irritated and the abrasive New Yorker inside me wanted to type, "You're kidding me? Do you really think that I'm going to do business with you after this? No thank you!"

If I had actually sent that message it would put the CSR on the defensive by backing him into a corner with little chance of escaping and keeping his ego intact.

But, a cooler head prevailed and I told the CSR exactly what I expected:
I want to make sure we're on the same sheet of music. I was expecting you to say this to me...
We no longer accept personal checks for CODs unless the order is less than
$50. It should have been updated on our website, but we missed the page where you saw it. Thanks for sending us the screenshot and pointing this out to us. Again, we don't take personal checks for orders over $50, but I'll make an exception since you spent your time helping us out.

I'm not sure if this technique has a name. Verbal judo? Getting to Yes? Winning friends and influencing people? But, if your request for compensation is reasonable and disarming then it makes it hard for the CSR to say, "No."

Right after I sent this comment, the supervisor, Megan, jumped into the chat and said, "Fallon doesn't have the authority to do what you're asking. Let me check into this, one moment please."

Megan turned out to be extremely friendly. She told me that I "checked out" when she did a 411.com background check (meaning that my name, address, and phone number matched my billing information). I never heard of 411.com before today, but, after looking at their website, it seems like a great way to look someone up.

The key to getting the customer service that you deserve is to never make it a power struggle, even if you don't get what you want. Give the CSR a way out and make sure that your request is reasonable. If you don't do this, then the company will be doing themselves a favor by "firing" you as a customer.

How Google Works

Click for the full size graphic.

How Does Google Work?

Infographic by PPC Blog

Friday, July 2, 2010

Microsoft Store vs. Apple Store

SDNN asked me to review the new Microsoft Store that opened last week in San Diego. It's a decent store and it was crowded. I included some video and photos with the article.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Safari Reader Functionality

Here's a demo of the new Reader functionality in Safari 5. When you click on the Reader button to the right of the URL address, Safari will highlight and magnify the news article on a web page while temporarily hiding the ads.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stuff From the Cutting Room Floor

I picked up my iPhone 4, this morning. It was a great experience and the employees at the Carlsbad Apple Store were fantastic as they passed out water, juice, coffee, muffins, and croissants around 6 a.m. I arrived at 5 o'clock in the morning, the doors opened at 7 a.m., and I was out by 8 with two new iPhones.

I covered the event for SDNN by writing an article, snapping some photos, and recording several video interviews.

Here are some videos and photos that didn't make it into the article and ended up on the cutting room floor.

Camped out, overnight, on the sidewalk in front of the Apple store.

Catching up with customer #1 at 5 a.m.

About an hour before the doors opened.

The final count down.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The unbundling of content is going mobile

As I went for a run this past weekend I got to thinking about how we, as consumers, have more say in the content we purchase. In other words, we can only pay for what we want.

Remember the old days when you had to buy the entire album for just one song? Sure, you could buy the 45 rpm, but that only worked if the song you wanted was a hit or the b-side. Today, you can purchase almost any song as an individual track for about a buck.

This trend started about ten years ago with news on the Internet and I think it has accelerated in the past few years with MP3 players and smart phones.

I wrote up the details in this SDNN piece.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sudo Make Me A Sandwich

This is about four years old, but it still makes me laugh.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Unsaved Documents

Having worked with NeXT and Apple technologies for so long I've taken for granted that many people don't realize the dot in the red close-window "LED" button indicates that your document has unsaved changes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Beating Back Facebook Sharer.php Bugs

Epics3.com is a fairly simple site for sharing your photos on the web. It ties in nicely with Facebook and Twitter by either using simple share buttons at the bottom of each large image or through an API when the photos are uploaded via a browser or through e-mail.

On Twitter, the photo's caption is tweeted out with a link to the full size image. In the case of Facebook, though, just the caption is sent over using Facebook's API and it's posted on your wall as a link. Facebook had documented some hints which you can put into the web page's HTML so it can pick up a specific thumbnail of the image to post on your Facebook wall.

Unfortunately, there is a Facebook bug, that pops up randomly, where the hints for finding the thumbnail image are ignored. This results in the first image on the webpage being posted to your wall. In the case of Epics3, as in most, this will result in the website's logo posted on your wall instead of the photo. Bad, bad, user experience. How could it work for months without a problem until recently?

click to enlarge

Facebook's API documentation is notoriously horrible (on the other hand, Amazon Web Services documentation is the textbook case on how APIs should be documented).

After spending several hours tracking down this bug on the Internet, I concluded that no one had solved it. (I also doubt that it was well documented in a way that Facebook, Inc. can reproduce the problem). When searching for the bug I found many cases of users who had encountered the same problem with shrugged shoulders. After all, this is just HTML - there's no logic to debug.

When you use Facebook's sharer.php button to post a link to your wall, Facebook's servers will take a quick look at the link and spider the webpage to find a suitable photo. You can tell Facebook exactly which photo to post next to the link by adding this HTML code to the HEAD of your webpage:

<link rel="image_src" href="http://example.com/thumbnail.jpg"/>

For some reason, this hint has worked intermittently, lately - most notably it has been failing on the weekends.

User Agent Solution
After several hours of no joy I finally gave up trying to get it to work according to Facebook's API. To solve my problem, I placed a conditional surrounding the entire web page's body. When an incoming request's user agent contains the word facebook, I return a webpage with nothing other than the image. [The full Facebook user agent is "facebook share (http://facebook.com/sharer.php)", but just looking for the word facebook should be enough.] When the user agent in the request is anything other than facebook, I simply return the normal Epics3 webpage.

Problem solved (I hope).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Apple's iPhone 4 Launch a Disaster

I started to write a post about the problems that I had, today, when I tried to pre-order the new iPhone 4 while stuck on a series of conference calls for a couple hours. Since I used to work at the Apple online store I can only imagine the stress and frustration going on inside that group.

I ended up sending the article to SDNN who ran it as today's feature story.

It was meant to be a timely, yet light article, but the person who posted the first comment took me too seriously. The article's comments are entertaining.

Also, note that the article's headline isn't meant to imply that this was Apple's fault (it wasn't) any more than the Louisiana Beaches a Disaster headline implies that the oil spill is Louisiana's fault.

6/16 Update: SDNN has asked me to write a follow up article when I pick up the phone, so stay tuned for that mini-adventure.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

AT&T Notifies Customers of Privacy Hack

Tonight, I received the following e-mail from AT&T's Chief Privacy Officer.

June 13, 2010

Dear Valued AT&T Customer,

Recently there was an issue that affected some of our customers with AT&T 3G service for iPad resulting in the release of their customer email addresses. I am writing to let you know that no other information was exposed and the matter has been resolved. We apologize for the incident and any inconvenience it may have caused. Rest assured, you can continue to use your AT&T 3G service on your iPad with confidence.

Here’s some additional detail:

On June 7 we learned that unauthorized computer “hackers” maliciously exploited a function designed to make your iPad log-in process faster by pre-populating an AT&T authentication page with the email address you used to register your iPad for 3G service. The self-described hackers wrote software code to randomly generate numbers that mimicked serial numbers of the AT&T SIM card for iPad – called the integrated circuit card identification (ICC-ID) – and repeatedly queried an AT&T web address. When a number generated by the hackers matched an actual ICC-ID, the authentication page log-in screen was returned to the hackers with the email address associated with the ICC-ID already populated on the log-in screen.

The hackers deliberately went to great efforts with a random program to extract possible ICC-IDs and capture customer email addresses. They then put together a list of these emails and distributed it for their own publicity.

As soon as we became aware of this situation, we took swift action to prevent any further unauthorized exposure of customer email addresses. Within hours, AT&T disabled the mechanism that automatically populated the email address. Now, the authentication page log-in screen requires the user to enter both their email address and their password.

I want to assure you that the email address and ICC-ID were the only information that was accessible. Your password, account information, the contents of your email, and any other personal information were never at risk. The hackers never had access to AT&T communications or data networks, or your iPad. AT&T 3G service for other mobile devices was not affected.

While the attack was limited to email address and ICC-ID data, we encourage you to be alert to scams that could attempt to use this information to obtain other data or send you unwanted email. You can learn more about phishing by visiting the AT&T website.

AT&T takes your privacy seriously and does not tolerate unauthorized access to its customers’ information or company websites. We will cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of unauthorized system access and to prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.

AT&T acted quickly to protect your information – and we promise to keep working around the clock to keep your information safe. Thank you very much for your understanding, and for being an AT&T customer.


Dorothy Attwood
Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer for AT&T

Handling CNAME Web Requests

I was recently playing around with DNS CNAME aliasing and I began to wonder how different sites handle an incoming request which has a different host header than the one that was expected.

Virtual Hosting
In the early days of the web (before the mid-1990s) it wasn't always possible to host multiple domains at the same IP address unless the web server supported virtual hosting. Virtual hosting allows a server at a single IP address to analyze the host header of each request to properly serve up the correct web page. This is a brilliant solution and Amazon's S3 web service makes excellent use of this technique so you can use your own domain name to serve up content from S3.

For example, here is a static webpage, hosted on Amazon's S3, but you'd never know where it's hosted by looking at the URL. One way to find out that this is hosted on S3 is to use the dig or host command from the command line:

[jmoreno@ ~]$ host web.joemoreno.com

web.joemoreno.com is an alias for web.joemoreno.com.s3.amazonaws.com.

web.joemoreno.com.s3.amazonaws.com is an alias for s3-directional-w.amazonaws.com.

s3-directional-w.amazonaws.com is an alias for s3-2-w.amazonaws.com.

s3-2-w.amazonaws.com has address

CNAME to Another Website
This got me thinking, "What if I pointed my own host name at another website?" This would be less like framing another website (via an HTML frame or iframe) and more like hyperlinking to other's content.

So, I tried it out with three popular sites and each handles it differently.

CNN doesn't appear to look at the host name header for the incoming request and simply serves up its content. It seems that the only problem this presents is when content is served up via Flash such as ads and video. In other words, Flash ads and video are broken when the host name isn't cnn.com. Since the links on the CNN website are relative, the host name in the web browser doesn't change when clicking on other cnn.com links.

NY Times
The NY Times also doesn't look at the host name of the incoming request to see if it's nytimes.com or www.nytimes.com. However, the NY Times uses absolute URLs on its website so clicking on any link clears out the previous host name and replaces it with www.nytimes.com.

Twitter handles this issue perfectly. Their web server looks at the host name of the incoming request and, if it's not twitter.com, it returns a 301 redirect to twitter.com while keeping the rest of the request intact.

Legal Issues
I spoke with a couple attorneys who specialize in Internet law to see if this has ever been an issue. They were not aware of any cases where the CNAME aliasing was challenged in court. The most similar case was in 1997 when the Washington Post sued Total News, Inc. since the latter was framing the former's news content. However, a court decision was never reached since it was settled out of court a few months later.

Regardless of the lack of legal challenges, it's possible that a company would be concerned about brand dilution. However, the issues with HTML framing, CNAMES, etc. would most likely be solved by implementing a simple and inexpensive technical solution instead of suing.

Some companies might not like another website aliasing their website without explicit permission and others might not care. In practice, the deciding factor would be lost revenues or brand damage. Solving this problem is much like preventing someone from framing, deep-linking or hot-linking into your website. The solution is to look at the referrer of each web request and change it if it's not what it should be.

The benefits of aliasing another website, via a CNAME, without them knowing isn't clear. Although many sites will frame other's content without them knowing, the web site that's the target of the framing can simply break the frame with just a single line of JavaScript embedded in the page's HTML:

<script type="text/javascript">
if (parent.frames.length > 0)
{ parent.location.href = location.href; }

A very similar JavaScript could be written to simply look at the request's host name. If it's not the correct host name then reload the page with the correct host name (although I haven't tested this theory).

This observation is simply offered as a proof of concept.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Short Sale Surprise

This afternoon my wife and I checked out a short sale in North Park (San Diego) that seemed too good to be true and we were pleasantly surprised. My experience with distressed home sales, like short sales or foreclosures, is that they are generally a "pit" (as today's real estate agent described it). Typical short sales have marked up walls and stained carpets, while most everything else is in a state of disrepair.

The only problem we noticed with the property we looked at today was the up-heaved sidewalk. Hopefully that doesn't affect the foundation.

Unfortunately, we learned the obvious lesson you'll encounter when a home is aggressively priced: multiple offers after being on the market for only a few days which usually leads to a bidding war.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What do you mean my iPad is "Not Charging"?

I was highly disappointed the first time I plugged my iPad into my MacBook Pro. My laptop is a little long in the tooth, but I didn't expect it to indicate "Not Charging". I thought, for sure, that it was just a bug until I did a little digging. It turns out that the iPad pulls more power than my MacBook delivers over its USB connection. I've seen problems like this, in the past, when plugging into low power USB ports typically found on keyboards. These keyboard ports were only designed to power mice not recharge an external device. So it's surprising that the iPad wouldn't charge when plugged directly into my MacBook.

Well, it turns out that the "Not Charging" message isn't entirely true. The iPad in the screenshot, above, had about an 81% charge when I plugged it in and now, several hours later, it's at 100%. I guess it's just a trickle charge.

Update: Great point from SteamAtom in the comments, below. It seems, in my case, that the iPad is only charging when it's sleeping. As soon as I turn it on it stops charging.

Learning to Land an Airplane

A few months ago I started flight school when I discovered that my GI Bill would cover most of the training costs beyond my private pilot certification. There's a popular saying that flying is a pilot's second most favorite activity. The first is landing.

I've been having problems consistently landing smoothly. It seems that each time I fly a textbook landing pattern approach I end up flaring too early and floating until I stall. This results in a landing that's harder than it should be. But, if the tower controller directs me to follow something other than a standard landing pattern such as a short approach ("direct to the numbers") or extends me downwind, I end up making a much better landing. Very odd.

Last week, I came across Philip Greenspun's website. One of his hobbies is general aviation. About six months ago he wrote a piece on How to Land an Airplane. This article, in addition to an earlier one, Learning to Fly, helped me make better landings.

The key, for me, is to not try to land right on the numbers, especially since the runway I'm landing on is several times longer than needed for the Cessna-152 that I use for training. Instead, I've been holding the aircraft just above the runway and gently floating down onto it while flaring when just a couple feet off the ground. It seems to be helping. Stay tuned.

Apple's Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed

I just saw the Apple's Worst Security Breach: 114,000 iPad Owners Exposed post on Valleywag. It sounds like this is an AT&T SNAFU, but, even if it is, it won't bode well for Apple.

Key points from the article

AT&T exposed a very large and valuable cache of email addresses, VIP and otherwise. This is going to hurt the telecommunications company's already poor image with iPhone and iPad customers, and complicate its very profitable relationship with Apple.

Then there's the question of whether any damage can be done using the ICC IDs. The Goatse Security member who contacted us was concerned that recent holes discovered in the GSM cell phone standard mean that it might be possible to spoof a device on the network or even intercept traffic using the ICC ID. Two other security experts we contacted were less confident in that assessment. Mobile security consultant and Nokia veteran Emmanuel Gadaix told us that while there have been "vulnerabilities in GSM crypto discovered over the years, none of them involve the ICC ID... as far as I know, there are no vulnerability or exploit methods involving the ICC ID."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Apple's Knowledge Navigator and the iPad

More than 20 years ago, Apple envisioned the Knowledge Navigator in the form of a tablet computer. Using hypertext, video conferencing, and artificial intelligence (AI) made the Knowledge Navigator a perfect personal assistant. The tablet form factor of the iPad (and maybe even the iPhone) would be ideal, but the technology just isn't possible, yet.

The key to the Knowledge Navigator is its AI. Advances in this area are slow due to the complexity of mimicking a human and getting it to pass the Turing Test. Keep in mind that it took mother-nature more than four billion years to create human intelligence.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Crowd Sourcing at it Finest

This afternoon, I was at my local cafe. I'd been there before and I never really noticed the piano in the corner, but this guy did.

He hopped on the piano, played some songs, and then left the cafe. I recorded one and posted it. But, I couldn't figure out the name of the song and it was killing me. I knew that I'd heard it before.

I tried to get Shazam and SoundHound to figure it out without any luck. Shazam came up with a different answer each time and SoundHound wouldn't even make a guess.

So, I decided to crowdsource the answer and I posted it to Reddit. Eight minutes later RambleMan figured it out.

The song is "The Scientist" by Coldplay. The reason it was so stuck in my head was because of the sad music video which was filmed in reverse.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Forecasting the future

I came across this forecast that Apple Could Surpass Microsoft in 2010 which I blogged about more than three years ago.

Apple may not have surpassed Microsoft in revenue, but they certainly surpassed them in market capitalization.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Six Solopreneur Branding Boo-boos

I cowrote a piece, with Guy Kawasaki, about common mistakes that one person companies make when they try to grow. Drop by and check it out at the American Express OPEN Forum.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Two Million iPads Sold

It's been less than two months since the iPad went on sale and Apple has sold more than two million. It first become available this past Friday overseas - but, Apple doesn't break down their sales figures by market.

I really love mine. It's actually good enough to use for word processing. I recently wrote an article on it, using the wireless keyboard, without any problems.

Here's a statistic that I came across which shows the growing usage of the iPad for surfing the web. What's most interesting is that usage seems to spike on the weekends.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

While I greatly appreciate the pats on the back and the "Thanks for your service", I'd like to keep in mind that's for Veterans Day while today's a day to remember those members of the Armed Forces who gave their life while in the service of our country.

In the center of Memorial Hall, at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, is a case which lists the names of the graduates killed in combat. Here are some who've recently made that sacrifice.

Although not killed in action, three of my classmates have made the ultimate sacrifice while in the line of duty and their names are etched in stone on the wall of Memorial Hall.

LT Jason E. Jakubowski, USN
Capt Robert W Falkenback, Jr, USMC
Capt Jacob J. Wiebe, USMC

Semper Fidelis.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Flying Solo & Shirttails

When a student pilot flies an airplane for the first time - called soloing - the tradition is to cut off their shirttail.

This practice goes back to the early days of aviation, when airplanes had open-cockpits. The instructor-pilot sat in the back while the student sat in the front. In order to get the student's attention, the instructor would tug on the back of the student's shirt.

Since the student is alone when soloing there's no one in the plane to yank on the back of their shirt to correct any mistakes. To symbolize this milestone, the instructor cuts off the back of the student's shirt and marks it up to record the accomplishment.

But, soloing isn't the end of the training; rather, it's about the one third to half-way point to becoming a certified private pilot.

Non-Flash version the for iPad, iPhone, & iPod touch users.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fantastic Day in San Diego

The past few weeks have definitely been "May Gray" weather in San Diego. Since I enrolled in flight school, a few months ago, I've been paying particular attention to the weather and today is spectacular. There's not a cloud in the sky.

After breakfast, in Encinitas, I snapped this photo of these two homes which are about a block or two from the beach. Note the crystal clear skies.

Augmented Reality

I recently received a notice that I had a package to sign for. I wasn't expecting anything in the mail, so I was mildly annoyed when I opened it only to discover that it was junk mail. Someone really wanted this junk mail to be delivered and opened.

The package contained a booklet about how businesses can use social networking in their marketing. After flipping through it I was about to toss it when I noticed the intriguing augmented reality demo "target" on the back of the booklet.

Check out this video to see how it works.

Non-Flash version the for iPad, iPhone, & iPod touch users.

How Did Apple Grow Bigger Than Microsoft?

I started to write this piece after chatting with a friend about Apple and the iPad. Instead of posting it here I sent it over to SDNN for publication:


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 Fleet Week, New York City

Fleet Week is always a big deal in New York City. Unlike the days of WWII, New York City doesn't see the U.S. Armed Forces very often. Sure, they still have a recruiting office in Times Square and Ft. Hamilton is located under the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. But, many New Yorkers just don't cross paths with military personnel in uniform.

I'm sure Fleet Week, during wartime, is even more memorable for both the service members and the New Yorkers. It's hard to miss the throngs of sailors, in their whites, and ship tours are always appreciated by the tourist. A free piece of advice to the ladies, when you take a ship tour do not wear a dress (especially a short one) since you'll be climbing up and down some steep ladders.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I would wear my dress blues in New York when home on leave and it never failed that someone would ask me what branch of the service I was in.

One time, I was at the Milleridge Inn restaurant coat check in Jericho on Long Island (my father, who was in the Army, and I had a long standing bet, each December, on the Army/Navy Footbal Game that was payable by the loser at Milleridge Inn). While waiting on line, in my dress blues, to retrieve my mother's coat and my boat cloak, a man in front of me turned around and asked me what branch of service I was in. As I started to tell him, "the Marines", the man behind me rolled his eyes, sighed, and let out a mildly annoyed, "He's a Marine, can't you tell?!?".

You have to love New Yorkers - they never have a problem expressing themselves.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

U2's Beautiful Day; Nairobi, Kenya; and American Idol

There's something about U2's Beautiful Day that will, until my dying day, remind me of when I lived in Nairobi, Kenya. It started with my boss, at the American Embassy, who loved that song and it has been imprinted on me for the past few years.

I just found out that an American acquaintance, whom I worked with in Kenya, will be flying back there aboard Air Force 2. The funny part is how this connection was made, tonight, since DeWyze sang this song on American Idol.

After all, it is called "TechCrunch Disrupt".

Disrupt was the keyword at yesterday's TechCrunch Disrupt fireside chat with Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz.

I think it's safe to say that Michael Arrington lost this one. Seriously, Michael, you shouldn't have suggested that she was a hypocrite, to her face, earlier in the interview. And you probably shouldn't have written that she was, figuratively, using drugs, in your post, last month.

Here's a 60 second highlight.

The "money shot" is at the very end of the full video (25:00).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Say Good-Bye to T.V. Shows and Cable Channels

All at once the series finales are going... going... gone. Say good-bye to Lost and 24. Will America be safe without Jack Bauer?

How dangerous are the streets of New York City since Law and Order is going off the air, too? It seems that there's a L&O episode airing on TV, continuously, between 6 am and midnight every day. I'm sure they'd like to keep running episodes into the wee hours of the morning, but we have to make room for get-rich-quick and fad diet informercials.

Speaking of informercials; of the all the stations we have through our Time Warner cable subscription between channels 2 and 72, more and more are now off the air. It looks like these stations now broadcast in the triple digits which our old TVs don't receive. I recently counted 13 informercials, all running at the same time, on different channels, throughout the 59 channels that were broadcasting at 5 am. That is ridiculous.

Thank God for Hulu, ABC.com, and Netflix on my iPad. I suspect that watching TV, in the not-so-distant future, will be more common on tablet size devices. A 10" screen, viewed at 18", appears bigger than a large flat panel TV on the other side of the room. Today, homes no longer have party (telephone) lines and, soon, bedrooms may no longer haver "party" (shared) TVs.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

State of Mobile Apps Before the iPhone

iPhone too closed?

Before complaining about the iPhone being too closed, keep in mind what the state of mobile phone apps was like before the iPhone.

A $1.99 ring tone, wallpaper, or app delivered "over-the-air" would earn the developer less than 50%. About 95¢–$1.10 went to the wireless carrier and about 10¢–15¢ went to the short code provider (SMS aggregator) - not to mention the 2.5¢–5.5¢/SMS sent.

Each purchase required at least two SMS text messages to be sent to the buyer in order to meet the carrier's double opt-in requirements. Additionally, the wireless carriers would only allow content to be sold which could be "consumed by the phone". In other words, none of the carriers would allow you to walk up to a vending machine and make a purchase that would show up on your phone bill.

Also, every developer had to negotiate a deal with each wireless carrier in order to get them to support your SMS short code. If a carrier didn't approve your short code application then no wireless subscribers on that carrier's network could access your service.

Short codes are expensive (the short code, SMS aggregator, etc. typically costs more than $2000+/month) resulting in a $15K-$30K per year expense not including the costs of sending each SMS.

It has been less than three years since the iPhone's introduction and how quickly we forget what it used to be like.

You can see the details in this two year old SMS white paper.