Category Archives: Technology

Be the customer

Seth Godin struck a chord with me when he discussed reorganizing for profit. He basically says that retailers should organize their stores according to the tasks that buyers will perform. Home Depot should put screwdrivers next to their saws, because a person working with wood would likely need both. I’ve done this a million times at stores like this, finding myself walking through nearly every aisle before I can find what I want. Apparently, there are many people that don’t like this idea, thinking that I’ll find something I didn’t remember I was looking for. They seem to forget that if I can’t find what I’m looking for in the first place, I’m likely to leave.

We all have customers, whether they go by that name or not. Those we’re trying to sell our services to should be the ones we think about first. I’ve met many brilliant computer programmers who sometimes add feature upon feature to their programs that end up being totally unusable because they don’t think about their customers. Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail did this to me recently when they thought I wanted my web-based email client to be more like my desktop email (like say, Outlook or Eudora). Sure, Yahoo and Hotmail felt more like desktop mail clients, but Gmail is a million times faster and easier to use.

Who are your customers? Try putting yourself in their shoes, or better yet, asking them how they think something should be done. If you get yourself into their mode of thinking, then you can try to sell them on the stuff they didn’t know they always wanted.

Geocaching! Outside!

When I was little, our neighbors across the street invited us to play almost every day. My brother and I, of course, loved going over to play because they had all the best toys, like a Nintendo, every G.I. Joe figure and vehicle, and all kids of stuff. Of course we wanted to play inside every day we were there, because we didn’t have such fun, expensive toys (which certainly benefited us in other ways). However, my friend’s mom also made sure that we played outside every once in a while. This was only bearable because they had plenty of expensive outdoor toys, too, like a slip ‘n slide, a playhouse, and tons of sports equipment.

Since that lesson of playing outside, I’ve since moved to Los Alamos and been through all of Boy Scouting. I really do enjoy the outdoors, but it’s something that I haven’t done much since I was much younger. My friend Aaron and I used to go all over the canyons, and he and I even hiked across the canyon on our last day of Middle School, which took us about four or five hours to travel less than half a mile on a map, but it was a lot of fun.

So why all this talk about getting outside, especially since it’s obviously written on a computer, indoors?

I went outside again!

Some of our friends invited us to go Geocaching a couple of weeks ago, and we’re hooked. Part of the motivation is that we want to get out and walk around more to shed off some extra weight of being indoors practically since Emmy was born, and part of it is that we’re just ready to get back outside. I’m really exaggerating, though, because we definitely get outside, just not as much as we would like to. Geocaching helps us do that because it makes it fun to go outside. Basically, you look on for a cache that’s in a place you’d like to visit, whether it’s in the middle of town or in the middle of nowhere. Then you punch in the coordinates to your GPS receiver (that’s all the equipment you need, really) and follow the little pointy arrow to the cache on your GPSr. It’s not always that easy, but that’s the fun of it. You get to go treasure hunting, see some places you haven’t been before, and share it with the geocaching community.

For us, geocaching has been a lot of fun and an entertaining way to see new places. We’ve only done a few caches so far, but we’re very excited to take our friends and relatives with us this summer. It’s great because the only thing we had to buy was a GPS receiver, which you can get for less than $100. It’s definitely something that’s fun for us gadget geeks, but it’s also great for families or just about anyone else.

Email Blog Posts through Google Reader

Google keeps adding new features to their products (I hear some new notifications are on their way for Calendar), but Google Reader, one of my favorites, now lets you email posts to others via Gmail. Integrating features throughout their products will undoubtedly help them in the long run, and making features like this easily accessible is key as well. Just for fun, I think maybe I’ll email this post to my whole contact list just to try it out again.

MythTV and Ubuntu

I’m amazed at how easy it’s been to set up Ubuntu 7.04. I had broken a couple of things in the previous version, and I wanted to start over and get all the new features of Feisty Fawn that I had been hearing about. Well, much to my surprise, a lot had changed with MythTV as well. Check the link for more information, but it made it incredibly easy, especially since my Hauppauge PVR-150 card was supported in the kernel and I didn’t have to compile any new drivers for it. Crazy cool. I had a couple of minor permissions errors, but everything else seems to be working great!

A setup that took me literally about ten days to do has now been reconfigured in less than a day. This is what can happen with open source: things are just getting better and better (especially when hardware manufacturers like Hauppauge and Nvidia recognize the importance of open source as well).

Swiss-army Linux

As I’ve stated before, we ditched Windows on our desktop computer in favor of Ubuntu Linux. Since I’ve started using it a little over a year ago, Ubuntu really has come a long way. Ubuntu is readying its newest release, and this one looks to be better than ever.

My first experiences with Linux were over ten years ago, when loading X Windows took about five minutes so I browsed the web using the text-browser Lynx. Since then, Linux has become an incredible tool that excels at what it does. The fact that it’s free still amazes me, but I’ve come to the point where I can do things in Linux that I just can’t do in Windows or Mac OS X, though that doesn’t mean I’m giving either of those up any time soon.

The hard drive in our laptop died a few weeks ago, which was bad news for our household. We could see it was coming, so we made sure to back up our data, but after it happened we had to find a way to replace it. In the meantime our computer was without a hard drive, but it wasn’t out of service. We inserted the Ubuntu CD and and the computer just worked! I was pretty impressed. I had used Knoppix and similar boot CDs, but Ubuntu detected all our software and booted rather quickly. The other boot CDs didn’t detect our wireless ethernet adapter, which meant we couldn’t use the Internet. Ubuntu found the wireless adapter, and established a secure connection with our network. We were even able to use it to buy our new hard drive. Thanks, Ubuntu! You’ve come a long way. Be sure to check it out! The newest version even has a Windows Migration Assistant, so I may be loading it onto our laptop again soon.