Commitment Devices

I’m reviewing BeeMinder and HabitRPG as commitment devices. Personal challenges I see:

Beeminder.
- Incentive to catch up at last minute (progress due midnight)
- Incentive to pick goals that allow for catch up. (marching around the bedroom for the pedometer, writing a blog post at 11:30, vs goals that hard hard to catch up at midnight, such as weight loss– you can’t lose a 1/2 lb between 11:30 or 12:00– okay maybe you could but that’s gross.)
- Incentive to do data entry at last minute. I want to be in bed at midnight, not logging on.
+ Data entry can be done via device (pedometer, wifi scale, runkeeper, blog rss, ITTT emails)
-/+ Automatic data entry goals at the moment, but quirk of luck, favor solitary activities (running, writing), although a few are ambient (walking, weight)
-/+ My goals without measurement would really need a judge to keep me honest– For example # of books read to the toddler. Maybe if my significant other did the data entry.

Anyhow, just started looking, maybe there already are features to address all of this.

HabitRPG
I have to track progress done yesterday if I do data entry in the morning.
Data entry requires logon (as opposed to ambient collection)
Can’t seem to undo a click.

 

What I think about Amazon Kindle 7 Day Trials

I wrote this and sent it to Amazon. A low paid customer support person received my email and replied with an unrelated canned message.

“Well you asked for it so here it is:

Since I got my kindle, I’ve bought more books per year than any year before. It’s become an expensive habit. In part this is because I can read 10 or 20 samples and then pick which books I want to read. (you can check my account -  I buy too many books)
I tried the 7-day trial where your sample disappears after 7 days. Before I could finish the sample, it was gone. So where can I find a place to read the rest of the sample? Look at that, B&N’s nook site still offers real samples.
Until then I never even thought about Nooks or Google Books or the like.  But it appears that B&N has more clout to deal with people like Apress (one company that seems to have switched to 7-day trials)
I also noticed I purposely skip over downloading 7-day trials. I won’t finish them on time. What sort of customer exists in an idealized world where they don’t have a job or kids, but only exist as a unidimensional figment of your imagination that downloads 7-day trials and then spends all their time reading it.
So main accomplishments of this 7-day trial thing:
1- I skip samples that are 7-day trials– It’s like entire publishers have disappeared from the inventory now.
2- I switch over to B&N’s nook to get the sample for 7-day trial books. I own like six kindles, why not get a nook to deal with the 7-day trial limitations on amazon?
3- This could get me back into physical book stores where I can see the whole book, cover to cover before I buy it, rather than this now you have it now you don’t bait and switch you get with 7-day trials.  I haven’t been in a physical bookstore for years.
So really, this 7-day trial thing could revolutionize the way I read, rather than being a boring reader who essentially only bought kindle books after reading the samples.
And I need to write a complain to APress which used to be a reputable publisher.
Anyhow, I find the 7-day trial thing bemusing.  7-day trials ruins the workflow for anyone with a real life. I can only imagine how this is for old retired ladies who have lots of free time to download technical book trials and read them immediately.
Please read this email quickly, I’m only granting you a 7-day trial on my feedback. If you don’t get to it by then, it will self destruct.

How to cancel Verison DSL Service

If you have multiple accounts with Verizon, you must call them multiple times to cancel each account, even if you don’t realize that you have multiple accounts. Verzion DSL doesn’t know if have phone service, they the phone service doesn’t know if you have DSL. So when you cancel phone service, they expect you to immediately call back to cancel DSL. As for me, it was surprising to find out such a thing as “Naked DSL” even exists, i.e. DSL that works when the phone line has been cancelled.

If this doesn’t happen, they will keep billing you forever.

If you do not get a cancellation number you are not cancelled and will have a more difficult time contesting the continuing charges. My cancellation number is 214589121. What is yours?

Verizon DSL doesn’t really care if they ever get you again as a customer so long as they can bill you for a few extra months of service. The managers can only waive 1 month of service fees. Apparently, this is some sort of “no explanation” business rule, because you don’t have to wrangle with them very long to be offered a month’s waived fees, but they can’t waive anything else.

Here is another person who had the exact same experience I did.

May Verizon lose all their customers, may the government shut them down, may their shareholders all die mysterious early deaths.

The only other companies I hate as much as Verizon would have to be UPS (particularly their shipping centers).

Creating Skype Chatrooms

To run a moderated chatroom on skype, you need to know these commands. The pre 4.0 interface provided a GUI for these commands. the post 4.0 interface seems to have fewer working commands and no GUI.  It does support group conference phone calls and both kick (temporary removal) and kickban (permanent remove) and well as a lurker mode for the world in general.

–Initial setup
/set options +JOINING_ENABLED
/set options +JOINERS_BECOME_APPLICANTS
/set options +TOPIC_AND_PIC_LOCKED_FOR_USERS
/get uri

Public URI needs to be updated should a chatroom lapse.

– Can people join?
/get options
/set guidelines Joiners must be approved before chatting.

– Add a user
/add foobar
/setrole foobar USER
/whois foobar

– Deal with bad behavior
/kick badguy
/kickban realbadguy

– What’s going on
/info
/get guidelines
/get options

Making the move to Ebook readers

I’ve tried the earlier ebook hardware before. I’ve read books on a black and white palm pilot 3, a nokia cell phone (1 inch square of text!), a Dana.  I’ve never succeeded reading long documents on computer screens.   I’ve learned that its better to have a small portable ebook than a book with a large screen.

I’ve tried the earlier available content before. I’ve read ancient free books, spent money ebooks put out on weird small publishers.  I learned that the average quality of ebook is lower than a randomly selected paper book at a book store or library, because publishers kept the best books off the ebook market or priced higher than the paper version.

DRM and the small (and sometimes large) companies. I’ve lost the licenses to just about all my ebooks because I can’t remember the passwords, the companies have disappeared, the ebook readers don’t support my current hardware.  I only trust something as big as Amazon to stay in business long enough to support DRM and even then, I suspect that I’ll lose all my licenses on my books in about 10 years, hopefully long after I’ve read and lost interest in the book.

Sometimes cheaper. Amazons $10 price point actually makes some books (usually new books) cheaper than the 2nd hand or new paper version. If you take into account the cost of physical shipping, time spent driving to books stores and libraries and the time spent listing and re-selling used books, I think the $10 is cheaper than some used books with less than a $10 base price.

Search? The search experience on Amazon leaves something to be desired.  I haven’t found how to search for books between 1 and 5 dollars, so when you sort by cheapest first you get a metric boat load of junky public domain books that probably were market failures back in 1870 as well.  The “best selling” free books are usually things one would read in college when you want a serious, difficult read.  Filtering by publish date will leave in books from 1870 because all the project Guttenbeg books are republished in 2008!

Samples. Samples for dedicated readers are a killer feature.  You can read more sample chapters in Kindle than you can read standing up at a book store.  And a kindle preview blows away the previews that amazon provides for other books.

Quality. It looks like some quality publishers are missing, but most of the best books I’ve read in the last 5 years are available in kindle format.

It also looks like ebooks are friendly to writers.  Some writers are earning more by self publishing to ebooks than when they used a brick and mortar publisher.    If the new business model favors writers over publishers, this can only be a good thing for readers, who have been stuck reading a really small number of authors who by dumb luck discovered they can write a best seller the first time around.  How many writers gave up because writing books didn’t pay enough to get the first few lousy books out of them so the best sellers could emerge?

The Amazon PC book reader is somewhat primitive compared to other PC books readers.  The cutting edge of ebook readers in my opinion is still the SQL 2000 Books on Line chm file. The MSDN team was miles ahead of their time in letting readers view their book as a hierarchical tree, as a searchable resource a book and a source of stand alone articles all at the same time.  Like the iPod, the PC Kindle interface achieve ease of use by just removing advance features all together.  This is not nice.  All software, should start out easy and have a an easy path to the advanced interface– analogous to windows software having menus and mice for beginners and key strokes for advanced users.

Competition.  The competition is a yet to be seen Apple tablet (which I doubt will have eInk), the B&N reader, the Sony reader.  Having owned a lot of small devices, a keyboard-less device is great until you need a keyboard. Then it really-really sucks.  eInk is a must.  It is the low resolution and awkward shape of a laptop that keeps me from reading long documents online.  Just like in the music world, 9 track killed vinyl, was killed by tape, was killed by CD, was killed by MP3, no matter what format you choose your screwed. Even the DRM free ePub will eventually become as unsupported as EBCDIC and Atari Writer word processing files.  All digital media is temporary.

The (possible) multifunction Apple Tablet. I’ve also owned lots of multifunction devices– they all work best for their primary use.  My gPhone’s eBook reader is one of the best ebook readers, but it still is a better phone than an ebook reader. My gPhone keeps dimming the screen to preserve the battery for the power hungry phone on board.  The phone keeps bringing up the password screen to protect my privacy and for security.  If a paper book prompted me for a password or turned all the pages white after 4 hours, it would be returned to the bookstore as defective!  A multipurpose laptop is going to be optimized for running GUI touch applications– a long way from the needs of a book.

That wii ain’t bricked, ‘es just resting

My wii refused to turn on.  After the obvious checks (yes, plugged in, yes, outlet has power, tried two outlets, pushed on button repeatedly) I checked google.

I recently had a power outage. It seems the wii, got scared, crawed into a digital shell and decided to hide there.  To make it forget the scary experience, unplug for about 5 minutes– not just off, completely unplugged away from the wall.

Then plug it all back in and it works.

The wii seems to have some sort of fuse that resets when unplugged from the wall.  Grandma would never have figure this out.

Personal work projects

What an oxymoron.  Anyhow, I’m patching my personal web server back to what it used to be.  I have about 10 domain names, some have websites behind them, some have plans behind them, some have broken websites behind them.

Maybe someday I get a website behind each.

General ideas–

Advertisement sites for my various language groups.  I have 2 of these.  They’re easy to make and have a measurable impact. Very satisfying work, although kind of hard to fillout with suitable content.

Calendar sites for my various plans to fill up my calendar with movies and potlucks.  Both of these are much more ambitious than any other site type I’m working on.  SocialAnimalsDC.com used to be an almost interesting site, but it’s down.

Blogs. I’m fed up with wordpress mangling my text, eating it, and getting hacked, but I don’t have time to move.  I’ve got 2 blogs, and at one point I had about 6 (not a good idea, easier to add a new category) Http://mistersql.com is worth visiting, although the domain name still isn’t fixed right.

Wikis. I have 2 wikis, but only one do I use much. Neither has attracted any collaborators.  Http://locavoredc.com is worth visiting.

Review: Nintendo Wii + DS

They work better together because the DS can get game demos from the Nintendo Channel on the Wii.

The DS is a game for the far ends of the age spectrum– adults and younger kids, although there are plenty of in between games, too.

The built in application, Picto-chat is a missed opportunity. You can’t chat beyond 30 feet, you have to communicate with the other person by a separate channel before starting a conversation, if the other user is playing a game, you can’t signal that you’d like to chat (unless you walk over and tap them on the shoulder). If you are that close to each other, why not just talk? The only use I can think of for this is so that kids can communicate when situations dictate that they must not, e.g. in church pews, during lecture or when the parents are willing to put up with the noise.

As for adult games, I got the My Word Coach, My French Coach and My Spanish Coach. Several people tried out the games for a non-trivial amount of time, so they were unusually successful for essentially flashcard software. I want to get left-brain/right-brain to train my self to stop using my right hand so much, on account of my repetitive strain injury. I will probably order Brain Age next.

Internet was another missed opportunity. Setting up wireless is too hard. 5 year olds can’t be expected to type in a SSID. If an app was going to be built in, it should have been the Lynx text browser. Trying to implement Opera, a graphical browser on a DS was a fit of megalomania on Nintendo’s part.

Upgrading WordPress only to See A Hat (Â) all over the place.

Go here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/utf-8-database-converter/download/

Get the utf-8 upgrader .  I went from 2.6 to 2.7 and it worked, despite the scary warning.  I haven’t checked every single post, but if your posts really are valuable, you’d have a backup mechanism, right?

Speaking of WordPress 2.7, it seems that the UI of wordpress 2.6 was hiding the spam from me, which I guess was fine because half of it was spam and the rest were *angry* comments, although not spam.

Maybe a spam + troll filter would be a nice filter.

New threat for small businesses: not findable with Google maps

Today I learned about the second restaurant that is unfindable using Google maps.  Clydes of Tysons is unfindable, with or without a map.  For me, it was just a frustrating exercising in wasting gasoline.

Forgetting about Clydes in particular, this is a new angle on how the internet is changing the world for small businesses.  I don’t have a yellow pages or a white pages.  I don’t have the time to investing in using a paper directory, in addition to the fact that I just resent that the phone company feels the need to kill trees to give me phone numbers I can find faster on the internet.  So any small business who’s number is in the yellow pages but isn’t findable online, doesn’t really exist for me.

Likewise, any small business that doesn’t have accurate maps on their website.  I used this map and couldn’t find the place.  I think the crux of the problem is that Clydes advertising their mailing address (8332 Leesburg Pike), which isn’t really close to where they are located, where ever that might really be.  When they use their mailing address, then Google maps gives you completely inaccurate directions.  Anyhow, Clydes doesn’t exist for me.