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Joel Gardner – Life in beta http://joelgardner.net Ramblings, musings, and non-sequiturs Tue, 07 Dec 2010 01:43:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.1 QRappingpaper is qrap-tastic http://joelgardner.net/qrappingpaper-is-qrap-tastic/ http://joelgardner.net/qrappingpaper-is-qrap-tastic/#respond Tue, 07 Dec 2010 01:43:23 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=183

QRapping Paper

QRapping Paper: Interactive QR code paper

I think QR codes are great fun and I’ve posted about them before but QRappingpaper (say crapping paper) is brilliant enough to deserve its own post. Each 20″x30″ sheet paper has 50 QR codes which link to “QRappy” videos. I was able to access a few just from the image of the wrapped box on the site and they are indeed qrappy but the fun is in the kitsch.

Even terrible gifts are worth opening when they?re wrapped in QRAPPING PAPER? the world’s most interactive wrapping paper. Behind each QR code is an original holiday video that can’t be seen anywhere else. Over 50 in all, turning any gift into a tiny holiday film festival.

If the paper wasn’t so expensive ($20 for two sheets), everyone I know would be getting a box wrapped in this stuff. There would be nothing inside, mind you, the gift would be the wrapping.

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Use a Post-It Note to catch drill dust http://joelgardner.net/use-a-post-it-note-to-catch-drill-dust/ http://joelgardner.net/use-a-post-it-note-to-catch-drill-dust/#respond Tue, 19 Oct 2010 14:45:38 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=178

I have used a partially flattened coffee can and tape to catch the dust created by drilling but this is a clever dust catcher for smaller jobs.

Use a Post-It note to catch drill dust

[via?There, I Fixed It]

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A New England picnic, with wasps http://joelgardner.net/a-new-england-picnic-with-wasps/ http://joelgardner.net/a-new-england-picnic-with-wasps/#respond Thu, 16 Sep 2010 07:00:25 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=151

At a KOA in Crossville, TN

At a KOA in Crossville, TN

Life is a funny thing. Sometimes it feels like you’re on a ship in the ocean; you know it is moving forward but it’s hard to see the progress without any nearby markers to judge the progress. Other times life feels like a speed boat that has suddenly lurched forward before you can grab something to keep yourself from tumbling into the water.

For the last two months I have been on the speed boat version of life.?Within the space of six weeks, my wife found out she had been accepted to a too-good-to-pass-up post-doc residency, we?hastily?finished up some?remodeling?projects and put our house on the market, gave away or sold a lot (but not enough) of our belongings, packed up the rest, bought an old motor home for the journey and headed north.

The reason for buying a motor home should be obvious to anyone who has made a cross-country trip with two cats in a small car. Plus, there are some things we didn’t trust to make the journey on the moving truck so having extra space to pack stuff was another advantage. It would be a leisurely four day drive with plenty of space for two people and two cats. As a bonus, we would have an RV for exploring New England on the weekends.

It was a great plan! At least it seemed to be a great plan, until the motor home broke down. Twice.

Moses taking me for a walk during the layover in Sevierville, TN

Moses taking me for a walk during the layover in Sevierville, TN

The four day drive turned into eight as we were stranded in Sevierville, TN for three days while I tried to fix the beast before giving up and hiring a mechanic to get it running. After escaping the clutches of Tennessee, we made it only as far as Roanoke, VA before we had to call a tow truck to rescue us. In fact, the motor home is still in Roanoke, along with the stuff that wouldn’t fit in the minivan we rented to finish the final leg of the journey.

We did finally make it and are settling in. The area is beautiful and the weather (so far) is great. The traffic is horrible but contrary to what we have been told, the drivers?known not-so-affectionately as “Mass-holes”?are fairly courteous. We are looking forward to exploring this new land and experiencing life in a region so different from what we’re accustomed that it may as well be a?different?country. There is a mind-boggling amount of things to do and see.?In other words, all is well.

A paragraph in a recent post from my favorite writer/actor/thinker/tech-enthusiast, Stephen Fry, helped put these past two months in perspective:

Life for me (I?ve said this before so forgive me if you?ve heard it), is ? I cannot deny it ? pretty much a picnic. As with most picnics there are the occasional wasps. The wasps and their aggravation and nuisance are real, no point denying that, but life is nonetheless a picnic. If I yowl from time to time when stung, that cannot take away the pleasure of the view, the goodies in the hamper and the charming company. Namely ? you.

Yes, the past few weeks have been tough. At times it seemed the wasps were attacking in swarms. But the stings will heal and we’ll still be?picnicking?in New England. Pass me another Sam Adams!

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Is it better to rent or buy your modem? http://joelgardner.net/is-it-better-to-rent-or-buy-your-modem/ http://joelgardner.net/is-it-better-to-rent-or-buy-your-modem/#respond Tue, 14 Sep 2010 00:44:29 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=154

Cable Modem

Cable Modem by frimlik (http://www.sxc.hu/profile/frimlik)

A lot of cable internet providers give you the option of renting a modem from them for 5 bucks a month or buying it outright for $30 – $50. Buying it is cheaper than renting it for a year but you have to pay for the equipment up front. Some DSL providers have similar options.

Besides the money issue, there’s also the question of what to do with a modem you have purchased if you change providers and the new provider’s service isn’t?compatible?with the old equipment. This is problem is even greater with DSL providers who seem to have an infinite array of protocols, none of which are compatible with other providers.

Generally, I prefer to own the stuff I use and that holds true for my tech equipment. I would rather pay less up front than more over a period of time. That?philosophy?saved my?proverbial?bacon last week when I was able to plug my old cable modem in at my new house, call up Comcast and get online in about 30 minutes. If I didn’t have my own modem, I would have had to wait several days for the service appointment to get hooked up. As a telecommuter who was supposed to be “at work” the next day, this was a big deal.

This philosophy does mean that I have a lot of old equipment lying around that I can no longer use but who knows, maybe one day I’ll donate it all to a tech museum.

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My mobile ad rant, this is not rocket surgery http://joelgardner.net/my-mobile-ad-rant-this-is-not-rocket-surgery/ http://joelgardner.net/my-mobile-ad-rant-this-is-not-rocket-surgery/#respond Mon, 28 Jun 2010 14:39:46 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=143

Get a degree in Rocket SurgeryIn the world of advertising, mobile ads are the new?frontier. Advertising on smartphones is predicted to explode in the next few years. Google bought AdMob to get a jump on the mobile ad space. Apple has introduced iAd and apparently forbidden Google’s ads on the iPhone, prompting an FTC investigation. Even Microsoft is taking steps to have a?presence?on mobile devices. Everyone is sure the road to riches lies somewhere in this new frontier, if only they can find it.

I have an Android phone. I have clicked (tapped?) on mobile ads. As a user I have one simple request of mobile ad marketers, one that will increase your ROI?exponentially?? make sure your landing page is optimized for mobile devices.

It seems everyone is running pell-mell?into this new advertising space and forgetting the basic?principles?of marketing. If you are going to pay the premium to grab a piece of the mobile?advertising pie, you need to make sure that I, as the end user, see exactly what you want me to see when I click that ad.

Yes, smartphones have web browsers that are almost as capable as a desktop browser ? I love that I have the web in the palm of my hand ? but the screen is tiny. If I have to scroll and swipe and hunt for your content, I probably won’t bother. When I click your ad, I should be taken to a screen that I can view with minimal scrolling and which has exactly the content promised in the ad. Otherwise, you have wasted your advertising dollars.

This is not rocket surgery, people. Would you buy a billboard or radio commercial to tell me to call a special telephone number which plays a recording telling me to call another number to receive the information I want? Of course not! That would be a waste of an ad budget.

The same principle applies to online and, especially, mobile advertising. Don’t make me think. Show me exactly what you want me to see. I guess what it boils down to is this ? think like an end user when you design your campaign. Do this and you are more likely to find that road to riches. At least you’ll be using the right map.

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Dear Pandora, It’s over between us http://joelgardner.net/dear-pandora-its-over-between-us/ http://joelgardner.net/dear-pandora-its-over-between-us/#respond Mon, 24 May 2010 19:28:39 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=128

Update: It seems I wasn’t the only one disturbed by Pandora’s lack of privacy. According to Wired, Pandora no gives users the option to opt out. I’m still not going back.


It’s over between us. My sudden change of heart may come as a shock but there’s a good reason for it. It’s not me, it’s you.

The other day I wanted to listen to some music and I wasn’t digging the blues show that was on my favorite source of streaming music, KEXP. So, I turned to you, my other source of interesting music.

On this particular day, my stream started normally but the second song, something by Bob Marley, seemed out of place. I don’t dislike reggae but it’s not something I listen to regularly and seemed out of place in my indie rock stream. As the Internet arm of the Music Genome Project you usually do a good job of playing music that I like. When I looked at your interface to figure out how Bob Marley ended up in my stream, I saw something that creeped me out so much that I decided then and there that our relationship was over.

Underneath Bob Marley was a bubble that said that one of my friends liked this artist and had his Facebook profile picture. This is not okay. You are not allowed to go digging around in my personal data without my permission to find out who my friends are and what kind of music they like.

Chuck and BeansI follow tech news so I know about Facebook’s “Social Graph,” which aims to connect everyone with everything, and the privacy concerns it has brought forth.?I had read that you,?along with Yelp and Microsoft, were using the Facebook API to “personalize” users’ experience. But it was my understanding that I had to be logged into Facebook for you to be able to retrieve my information. I surfed over to Facebook and I was not logged in. Given that I was on my media computer, which I primarily use for storing media, Netflix, Windows Media Center, and such, it’s likely that I have never logged into Facebook on that computer.

I hear you sputtering that you are just trying to be the best music companion you can be, that this is all Facebook’s fault, that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has publicly apologized for this privacy snafu so everything should be okay now. But here’s the thing – I can’t trust that an apology from a megalomaniac?is?genuine. Besides, he has said publicly that?the age of privacy is over.

You see, this isn’t the first time Facebook has changed its privacy policy and Zuckerberg has said it was a mistake. Each time this happens, Facebook rolls back the new policies but not quite as far back as the old policies. It is becoming apparent that Facebook’s game is to distract us by making drastic changes so the less-drastic changes that it eventually settles on seem?acceptable?by comparison. It’s a classic sales technique. This infographic of the erosion of Facebook privacy proves it.

There’s no need to get snarky, Pandora. I can’t quit Facebook. In order to administer the multiple Facebook pages that my employer maintains, I must have a Facebook account. (Believe me, I couldn’t care less who needs a pig for their “farm” or wants me to join their “mafia” or needs a green gem on Treasure Island.) I have used ReclaimPrivacy.org to lock down my Facebook privacy settings, though I have little faith that Facebook will actually comply with my wishes.

You have gone from a music geek’s perfect companion to a creepy stalker girlfriend who digs through my virtual underwear drawer when I’m not looking. It was fun while it lasted but knowing that you got into bed with Facebook, I can no longer trust you.

Consider yourself un-liked.


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I keep my brain in my pocket http://joelgardner.net/i-keep-my-brain-in-my-pocket/ http://joelgardner.net/i-keep-my-brain-in-my-pocket/#respond Mon, 10 May 2010 17:15:41 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=119

The brain in my pocket

The brain in my pocket

It has been about 18 months since I got my first-generation Android phone, the G1 from T-Mobile. Like any 18-month-old gadget, it is definitely showing its age and I will likely be replacing it with another Android phone once my two year contract is up.

It’s not hyperbole when I say that owning a so-called smartphone has changed my life, or at least how I live my life. As a telecommuter, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. Push email, via both gmail and MS Exchange, has allowed me to leave the computer after hours and still be accessible via email. This, paired with Google Voice (formerly Grand Central), makes me accessible to the office whether I’m sitting in front of the computer or not. I’ve heard smartphones described as digital “leashes” but this leash is much longer than the cable between the keyboard and computer.

While I primarily got my G1 so I could send and receive email, it’s the constant access to the Internet that has made this device an almost permanent appendage to my otherwise low-tech body. The ability to look up anything at any time has make my phone function as a second brain for me. It’s rare for me to watch a movie anymore without accessing the Internet Movie Database (which desperately needs an app or mobile site) to see why an actor looks so familiar. If I can’t figure out what a particular lyric is in the song that’s stuck in my head, I can Google it from my Android brain.

Life Before Google

It’s not just me. My sister-in-law recently got an iPhone and she remarked to me that what she likes best about the device is the ability to look up information from anywhere. Clive Thompson calls this the “Cyborg Advantage.” Machines and humans working together can achieve more than either can alone.

The most brilliant entities on the planet, in other words (at least when it comes to chess), are neither high-end machines nor high-end humans. They?re average-brained people who are really good at blending their smarts with machine smarts.

The thing is, this sounds a lot like our lives. We now engage in cyborgian activity all day long. We use Google to find information, rely on Facebook or Twitter to tell us about people we?re interested in, and harness recommendation tools to suggest news stories and cultural events.

The ironic thing is that being literally attached at the hip to my Android device (the name makes sense now, doesn’t it?) allows me to go outside, to enjoy time away from the computer and online world without being completely cut off from the technology that allows me to make a living. I am still limited by the reach of my provider’s signal but that limitation is lessening? every day.

I still crave? a few hours away from all technology every now and then but being able to stretch my legs without worrying about missing an important email is worth the small, always on, always connected bulge in my pocket.

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More percussion with found objects http://joelgardner.net/more-percussion-with-found-objects/ http://joelgardner.net/more-percussion-with-found-objects/#respond Tue, 13 Apr 2010 16:00:16 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=117

I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. Gravit? from Renaud Hall?e on Vimeo. Clever video editing creates an interesting aural and visual composition.

[via Audio Cookbook]

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Tuning your bagpipes? There’s an app for that! http://joelgardner.net/tuning-your-bagpipes-theres-an-app-for-that/ http://joelgardner.net/tuning-your-bagpipes-theres-an-app-for-that/#respond Sun, 11 Apr 2010 00:41:52 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=106 Tuning your bagpipes? There's an app for that!

Members of the Red River Pipes and Drums taken at the 2010 Scottish Tartan Festival in Minden, LA. Okay, that’s not an Android phone or iPhone; it’s just a regular tuner. But there probably is an app and if there isn’t, there should be. I didn’t even realize you had to tune bagpipes.? [More photos]

(Thanks to Lenora for spotting this humorous situation and directing my attention to it.)

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Making music with found objects http://joelgardner.net/making-music-with-found-objects/ http://joelgardner.net/making-music-with-found-objects/#respond Mon, 05 Apr 2010 21:25:10 +0000 http://joelgardner.net/?p=96

I love percussion (I was a founding member of the percussion ensemble in college) and I’m a bass player by training so this video really makes me smile.

These guys are obviously talented musicians. So are many of the street musicians you’ll see in just about any large downtown area beating on buckets, pots, and anything else that they can find.

I think it’s the primal aspect of percussion that appeals so much to me. I like to imagine our caveman ancestors hanging out in the cave, eating fermented fruit, and banging on rocks and logs, just grooving on the vibe that they are feeling. There is nothing quite like the connection that you feel when jamming with other musicians when everything just “clicks.” It’s like you and your cohorts are vibrating at exactly the same frequency, which is the same frequency that the universe happens to be vibrating on at that singular moment in time.

Anyway, I thought it was a cool video and I should share.

[via Boing Boing]

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