Friday, May 30, 2008

Hi, my name is waffletchnlgy and I am an info-snacker.

I always thought that Amazon's Kindle was targeting the gadget freak or the die hard reader. Why else would anybody want to buy a feature-clipped laptop? For $350 you can buy yourself a laptop which allows you to both read and surf. Better yet, get an iPhone.

After reading The digital future of books in the WSJ (May 19th), the idea is not as stupid as I thought. As Jeff Bezos mentioned:
Laptops, BlackBerrys and mobile phones have "shifted us more toward information snacking, and I would argue toward shorter attention spans." He hopes that "Kindle and its successors may gradually and incrementally move us over years into a world with longer spans of attention, providing a counterbalance to the recent proliferation of info-snacking tools."
I also was surprised by the average time people spend reading.
A recent National Endowment for the Arts report, "To Read or Not to Read," found that 15- to 24-year-olds spend an average of seven minutes reading on weekdays; people between 35 and 44 spend 12 minutes; and people 65 and older spend close to an hour.
I am officially old now.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gmail spellchecker

Gmail's spellchecker isn't working right. Since I write a fair amount of emails in Dutch, I set the spellchecker to 'Nederlands'. However it isn't working as expected. Common Dutch words are flagged as incorrect. Some suggestions are actually in English.

Request for Enhancement: It would be useful if one could specify the preferred language of the recipient in the Contacts section. One wouldn't need to set the spellchecker language manually for every email. Or better even, perhaps the Googlebot could deduce than language from previously written emails.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gotcha capitalism

Last year, I read John Bogle's little book of common sense investing, and learned how the little investment fees in the end can cost your dearly.

Tonight I started reading Gotcha capitalism by Bob Sullivan. The book is about how companies add hidden fees everywhere. No surprise there. I fall into the category of people who reviews every bill thoroughly. I fight back and don't mind going through several layers of phone support to get my money back. Example:
A few years ago, I received a $400+ cellphone bill. Ouch. My regular monthly bill is $75 for our family. As it turned out, they had dropped the free in network calling from my plan, several months before but only now did I reach the minutes limit. I was now billed for calling all our friends using the same cellphone provider. But worse, every call with my wife was rung up twice: once for me and once for my wife. Early calls to AT&T wireless were met with "Nothing we can do". It then changed to "Let's split it in half". That's when I realized there was more to fight for. It was just the right catalyst to start a spreadsheet. I took every phone number from the bill and figured out whether he/she belonged to AT&T wireless. With details in hand, resistance was futile (I can boast now). At the end the monthly bill was lower than regular. But it took some stubbornness.
Knowing there is a chance to beat the system, I am typically looking forward to the fight. This book appears to be written for me. In the first chapter of the book the author brings up how the real cost of a printer is difficult to estimate. Well, I am part of the few who attempted it. When purchasing a printer, I consider both the acquisition cost, the cost of a ink cartridge and the amount of pages I print per month.

One thing is clear early in the book: as a consumer in America, you are often alone. The influence and power of Federal Trace Commission (FTC) has been clipped. Worse, companies have been allowed to create one-sided contracts just by mailing you a letter. As such many companies made you to silently agree to mandatory arbitration and avoid the court system.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where all the missing Lego pieces meet

Last night we watched Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull (tickets courtesy of large internet company - thank you). The movie was entertaining and fun. Nothing to earth shattering, although coincidently I have been watching some documentaries about the Manhattan Project. Written by George Lucas, the end isn't very surprising.

And then I came across this great Indy-based video.