“710″ Caps and Muffler Bearings

December 6, 2007

When you need one of those really hard-to-find car parts, this site is the place to look. They have “710″ caps.

“710″ cap

They have muffler bearings.

Muffler Bearings

They even have those expensive, porcupine seat covers.

Porcupine Seat Covers

They have Kuhnuetson valves, Johnson rods, seasonal tire air and a catalog full of parts you never knew needed replacement.

This web site is a gem. A must read for anyone even slightly knowledgeable about cars, who wants a good laugh.


The Amazing Digital Universe

May 29, 2007

I probably just violated the warranty, but hacking my cell phone was one of the more fun things I’ve done in a while.

The Motorola V325i can be hacked with a number of programs (check the Internet); all I really wanted to do was to transfer camera photos to my PC without emailing them from my phone.  The software I found does quite a bit more than this, including giving me complete access to all registers.  I don’t know what they all mean yet – most of them do not have descriptors but yet various bits are set – they must do something! – so now I have to traipse around the web to find out more.  Careful!  Setting or clearing the wrong bit can and will render the phone unusable.  This is shaky ground.

The digital universe is filled with a cacophony of digital stuff.  It never ceases to amaze.


House Cleaning

May 28, 2007

Decrepit HouseMy House

BEFORE

AFTER

I have two gutter-cleaning products that I recommend: Streak Getter, which I found somewhere on the Internet, and Krud Kutter which I purchased at Lowe’s. Both work about equally well. All it takes is a sprayer, a rag and some elbow grease followed by a water rinse. My streaked, gray gutters are nearly as white as when they were put on the house, 10 years ago. It’s clear that over time, tar and debris from the roof shingles greatly discolor the gutters, and the years do a number on the siding as well.

After the gutters were done, out came the vinyl siding cleaner, Olympic House Wash. This did not work very well when following the directions (spray on, wash off with a hose) but by using a rag and hand-washing the siding after spraying it on it all ended up much cleaner. What a difference!

I know that many homeowners will hire crews to do this kind of work, and many other homeowners won’t even bother to ever clean the exterior of their home; but to some of us it’s a labor of love. I needed a long weekend to get psyched to do the work, but the result is a noticeably brighter exterior.

Now I need to find a good cleaner for the brickwork on the front of the house, and maybe those pesky building inspectors will stay away for a while.


Google Class

May 22, 2007

GoogleI took a Google class today. Jeff McCaskey, CEO of Aurora Consulting Group, did a presentation on Google’s capabilities at the Jacobs Management Center on Delaware Avenue.

Most people know that Google is much more than a search engine. The depth of its databases, and the sheer speed at which it is able to add to these databases, is unfathomable. The company’s ability to mine this data in various ways has allowed it to produce dozens and dozens of programs that give this capability to anyone with an internet connection. For free.

Example: Type in a UPC code in the search box. Just the 12-digit number, nothing more. Google will figure out that it’s a UPC code and provide all the product information associated with the code. The same is true if you type in just a vehicle’s VIN number. Or a FedEx tracking number. Google can determine the context based on just the codes, do a lookup in the appropriate database, extract the pertinent information, and display it in about as much time as it takes to blink.

One of my favorites was the view:timeline command, which will present information on any subject as a timeline. For example, type “October surprise storm view:timeline” and you’ll get references all the way back to 1900, which is pretty cool considering that the “October Surprise Storm” that I was referring to occurred in 2006 (the articles referring to this storm are categorized in time order starting around October 13, 2006, as would be expected).

Need a quote from Shakespeare? Books.Google.Com/Googlebooks/Shakespeare contains the complete works. Books.Google.Com allows you to search the full text of all books that Google has gotten permission to digitize, and then some.

Finally: Google has created Google 411, a voice-recognition system that allows you to call Google to get the number for any business in your local calling area. It will also dial the number for you. It doesn’t cost a penny, and it’s hands-free.

I find it likely that in my lifetime, virtually every word that’s ever been written down that can be digitized, will be digitized and absorbed into Google’s database. This is a mind-boggling amount of data. I can’t imagine what to do with this much data but I know there are brilliant minds coming up with myriad ideas.

Jeff does the Google lecture to any group willing to make a donation to his non-profit benefit that provides copies of Buffalo Business First to high school students.

Highly recommended.


The Microsoft Cartel

May 11, 2007

I know I’m going to pay for this downstream, but I signed my company up for the Microsoft Partner Program a few weeks ago and just received the first installment of software packages, including Microsoft Office, Visio, Project, Small Business Server, Server 2003, SQL Server, Exchange Server, Sharepoint and many other Microsoft packages.  Most of these come with 10-user licenses.

Purchasing these individually at retail would run up a cost of at least $20,000 (my estimate, not Microsoft’s).  The cost for the yearly subscription to the partner program?

350 dollars.

Why would any company willingly give away their product like this?  Because Microsoft wants to reel you in.  Once you’re hooked, and have established your working environment around Microsoft products, it is very, very hard to do a corporate paradigm shift to anything else.  Well, they hooked me.  It’s not like we weren’t already a Microsoft house, but this is a deal that was too good to pass up.  I’m not going to worry about any future ramifications that might result from this decision.

And in that respect, Microsoft acts just like the cocaine dealer who gives 5 free samples to every new customer.


The Powerpoint Hammer

April 21, 2007

North Coast Online, an interesting and oftentimes over-the-top local conservative blog site (I cringe at many of his articles but he forces me to think), has an interesting article on Powerpoint presentations.  In a nutshell:  Powerpoint presentations are worthless pieces of crap and a miserable alternative to speaking.

Sleeping ManI agree on the “miserable alternative to speaking” part.  However, it’s not Powerpoint that’s the problem, it’s the people who abuse Powerpoint that are the problem.  Like a hammer in a toolbox, Powerpoint is a great tool but when you treat it as the only tool then your remodeling job will not go well.

The U.S. Department of Labor put out a report several years ago that examined the relevance of various forms of presentation methods, and found that a combination of speaking and visual aids improved long-term retention of the presented material.  This gives good rationale for using Powerpoint and similar visual tools in presentations, but too often the speaker simply parrots the information rather than providing the essence on the slides, and talking about the details. 

Whenever I do a presentation I take the minimalist approach to the visual aids – usually just the basics – and make sure that the audience is watching me and not the slides.  It’s okay for them to glance over to the screen on occasion but if that’s where they are spending their time then I know they’re not listening to me – a sure way to lose my audience.  It’s the combination of good oratory, good visuals and audience participation that make a presentation worthwhile.

Nancy Stern notes that it takes considerable effort to put together such a presentation, and plenty of practice.  That many presenters don’t do this because of time constraints, lack of experience or simply because they are lazy, is the real reason why Powerpoint gets a bad rap.

It’s not the hammer, it’s the person wielding it that makes it a either useful or a dangerous tool


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