Saturday, January 31, 2009

Airplane Food

You haven't read a customer complaint letter until you've read this...

Virgin Atlantic's 'Culinary Journey of Hell'
I’ll try and explain how this felt. Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about.

Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil and saw this.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Post Office Reform

I've often said I'd never complain about spam email again if I could guarantee that I'd never receive another piece of paper junk mail. Last night I took that one step further and started debating with my wife why the US Post Office continues to exist today.

It seems to primarily deliver junk mail. "Direct mail" has a typical response rate of 1-2%, and 5% or above is both phenomenal and unheard of. This means that 95% of all "direct mail" requires employees to sort it plus trucks (and fuel) to cart it around so it can immediately be thrown in the trash upon receipt. And that makes sense how?

Did a little research and found some cool articles and studies on post office privatization and the challenges in getting such a project going. This quote about summed up my perspective:

Don't Bail Out The Mail
"And they certainly won't address the Postal Service's underlying problem, which is that only grandparents, banks and junk-mailers actually send letters anymore. If U.S. autoworkers are hard-pressed to compete, it's a thousand times worse for mailmen, who sell the epistolary equivalent of an overpriced horse-and-buggy."

I haven't fully thought this out, but wouldn't it make more sense to outlaw junk mail, sell off USPS assets to UPS or FedEx, and use the money saved to subsidize Internet access (with low cost computers as needed) for all Americans so they can have access to email and online bill pay, eliminating the majority of day to day practical mail service needs?

More: Postal Chief Warns of Service Cuts

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fools Rush In

Verizon and RIM "rushed" buggy Storm to market
Insiders claim the Storm—slammed by reviewers and users alike for its sluggish, glitchy performance—barely made it to stores in time for Black Friday last year, and as a consequence, it wasn't quite ready for prime time.

To its credit, Verizon released a software update in December that smoothed out some of the Storm's kinks. However, while the firmware fix was certainly welcome, the whole "release it now, patch it later" thing is an insidious habit: It encourages sloppiness in the race to hit a looming release date, and it's seriously disrespectful of customers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Google Axes

Not even Google is immune to the recession. Announced today, 6 Google products are being either shut down or scaled way back.

Webware has the details, but I thought I'd call out a couple that held a special place in my heart:

Google Catalog Search
Although I understand that it was becoming less and less useful in this day and age, I've loved having this as a secret weapon ever since we stumbled onto it in the iNetNow days. I believe Scott Whinery gets the credit if I recall correctly. This was one of the first secret "lab" type Google projects we were ahead of the curve on and it always came in handy for really obscure product requests from clients. (I actually used it a couple of weeks ago while researching gourmet pepper corns.) Plus it really gave us clout as Internet experts to throw out "Have you tried Google Catalog search?" every now and then.

Google Notebook
Eerily similar to the Zuma "track URL" functionality, though I never really got into using it for real world projects. This isn't actually being shut down, but active development is stopping. It has more or less been replaced by some combination of, Backpack, or Google's own bookmarks and search-wiki type structures nowadays, but I definitely recall the "we were on to something!" elation when Notebook came out and and it mirrored a lot of the whistles and bells regarding excerpts that BoRyan had built into latter day versions of Zuma's first killer feature.

So long, dear friends. We'll never forget you...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Downloading Is Wrong

So technically I suppose this would be considered using a virus for "good" purposes -- at least in theory.

Trojan Blocks The Pirate Bay and Mininova
A new trojan popped up at several torrent sites a few weeks ago, one that blocks access to The Pirate Bay and Mininova, while informing its victims that “downloading is wrong.” The trojan edits the hosts file on Windows machines, and redirects the BitTorrent sites to localhost, making them impossible to load.

Max Barry on Piracy

Nice "open letter" to Warner Bros. regarding their misguided DVD piracy strategy.

Max Barry - Dear Warner Bros.
I’m writing because yesterday I rented The Dark Knight, and I couldn’t watch it. I tried. But when I popped that DVD into my home theater PC and snuggled up on the sofa with my wife, it wouldn’t play.

At first I thought the disc must be damaged. I tried it in my laptop: no dice there, either. So I took it back to the video store and swapped it for a new one. They were very apologetic, by the way, Warners. I guess they understand that physically traveling to a bricks-and-mortar store is kind of a pain, and when you’re in business against digital downloads, you don’t want to make your transactions more difficult than they already are.

Home with my fresh DVD, I tried again. But still: didn’t work. A little Googling later, I discovered the disc was indeed damaged, and by who: you. You’ve installed some new anti-piracy protection onto The Dark Knight DVDs, which prevents the disc from playing in my PC.