Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The weird and the wacky this week

If that alliterative headline didn't catch your eye, I don't know what's wrong with you. In any case, here are my picks for the weirdest and most surprising headlines of the past week (or so):

Fact, not fiction, rules the brain (except for gamers). A new study shows that in general, the human brain places more importance on real people than on fictional ones, according to PhysOrg.com. Thus, we know that Cinderella isn't as real as George Bush, who in turn is not as real to us as our mother. (Their example.) However, the article states that: "personal relevance is not unequivocally related to what is real, since some individuals may experience personal relevance in certain fictional realms, such as in religion or chronic computer gaming. For instance, for a chronic gamer, a World of Warcraft character could yield greater activation in the amPFC and PCC [reality-oriented regions of the brain] than a real person of low personal relevance would." (Emphasis added--and gamers, please do take heed.)

Totally tubular. From Boing Boing--Audiophiles, and folks who want to risk electrocuting themselves can follow the steps laid out at Instructables.com on how to build their very own stereo tube amp from spare parts. The post starts out with this tantalizing line: "Ever wanted to build a highly dangerous, inefficient, and essentially obsolete piece of electronics?" Oh, well, in that case, what are we waiting for?

Terminator beware. And speaking of tubes, contributor Brandon Keim reports in Wired on the development of carbon nanotubes--structures that are incredibly strong, lightweight and flexible. These tubes can be used for everything from artificial limbs with "smart" muscles to solar cells. Perhaps the Governator can make use of them to save future generations of the world from the high cost of electricity.

Robofish to the rescue. As long as we're on the subject of '80s sci fi movie references, there's a new robocop on the block, and this one is sniffing out pollution. According to Britain's Daily Mail, schools of robotic fish may be released into the Thames to pick up signs of pollution. Reports the Mail: "Each fish ... will be packed with pollution sensors that can electronically 'sniff' harmful chemicals in the water." The robofish will travel in schools and alert each other via wifi when pollution is detected. (Thanks @bcaulfield for that tip.) Let's just hope no one decides to tempt them with a PCB-packed fly and cook them up for dinner.

Snow men behaving badly. Finally, two separate snow-bites-man-related stories caught our attention this past week. First, take a look at this series of videos depicting grown men riding around in the snow on retooled on children's toy cars--and clearly having the time of their lives. (Thanks @davegraham for tweeting that tip.) And in a second, related story, a Canadian man was ordered to tear down his backyard snow fort because it posed a fire hazard. (From NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me quiz.) Talk about having WAY too much fun.

And speaking of which, shouldn't you be getting back to work?

A similar version of this post appeared on my client blog, OnlineStorageOptimization.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Game Break!

Life in tech can be tough, and for the bright minds within it, a mini-vacation from reality can be good therapy. Today's post will take a look at some of the more intriguing and futuristic distractions available right now. That way, you can at least read about the idea of having fun, even if you don't have time to have any.

Virtual gunplay. First up, the newest from LEGO - "Augmented Reality" glasses enhance game play with computer generated images allows kids to shoot each other's real toys, releasing aggression and maybe giving the toymaker a leg up on the encroaching competition posted by Nintendo, et al. Thanks Gizmodo for that tip.

Bruce Wayne Yourself. What looks to be the first truly great Batman video game is due out in June--or May 31 for the XBox collector's edition. The preview alone for "Batman: Arkham Asylum" could make you reserve a copy for yourself, and this review would probably clinch it. (Thanks @Storagezilla for the heads up on this one.)

Fun with a Mac Mini. Call this a project rather than pure entertainment, but Stephen Foskett today detailed on his Packrat blog how he took the new 2009 Mac Mini base model and souped it up into a cherry speed demon for a total cost of $701. For those with the chops, this looks like fun.

What's next on iPhone. Today's Apple iPhone OS 3.0 preview event offered some games that will be upcoming on the new iPhone. So far, none look mindblowing, but this live feed from Engadget may yield a few more as the day wears on. The multiplayer game "LiveFire" sounds like it has some potential.

Colbert Goes to the Graveyard: If you only have a few moments, you can take time out to watch this interview on the Colbert Report with Neil Gaiman, author of The Graveyard Book, Coraline, the Sandman comic series, and so on and so forth. Die hard fanboys/girls can also follow him on Twitter and find out what he's having for breakfast.

OK, end of break. Get back to work!

Photo: Gizmodo

Note: this post is also on my client blog: Online Storage Optimization.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tweet You Very Much

Twitter is a powerful tool, not to mention a great distraction ... er, method of connecting with others. If a show biz personality who is just learning email can get 70K followers in 24 hours, then clearly anyone can dive in and have fun. Yet, Twitter can also be a headache-inducing, information-spewing overload machine, especially for those of us who use it to keep up with the latest tech trends.

To deal with this, Twitter has made some updates, such as home page search, which can be helpful. Yet, it's still hard to keep one's head above water with all the noise out there (insert continued mixed metaphor here). Heck, it can even be overwhelming to figure out which tools to use to manage one's Twitter accounts and usage.

For all of this, the TwiTip blog is a solid source for advice on how to keep the info deluge under control. Today's post dealt with the many Twitter-based tools and honed it down, offering 10 MORE Must Have Twitter Tools. One item on the list that's already generating some discussion is TwitterSnooze. This service puts some of your more, shall we say, prolific followers on a pause button so you don't have to receive their tweets for a period of time--something that's less cruel and final than unfollowing someone. The downside is that the person you've snoozed will be alerted on the day you "unsnooze" them. Therefore, the folks at TwitterSnooze suggest you send the following card:

Tasteful, don't you agree?

Another way to keep your head from exploding due to overload is to get into a hash tag room of interest, such as this one. These are becoming more popular and keep your follows under control to some extent. A variation on this is the Retweetist, which aggregates the most popular retweets going around the twit-o-sphere at any given moment.

And speaking of retweets, here--in case you live under a rock and haven't yet seen this--is Ellen talking about Twitter:

Note: this post also appears in a slightly different form on my client blog, Online Storage Optimization.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Is This You?

Marketing guru Robert Middleton makes a number of extremely helpful suggestions on how to build a web site that works. I've invested in his web site toolkit, and I recommend it for anyone who is writing and/or developing their own site. Perhaps his best suggestion--and I suppose I'm giving away a bit by mentioning this--is to speak directly to one's ideal clients, asking them whether they see themselves in what you have to offer.

I still don't have my site built, but I see no reason to ask the question "Is This You?" in a blog post, where there's room for comments and responses.

1. Do you have the feeling that there's all this social media stuff you're supposed to know about, but somehow you're not onto it?
2. Does the word "Twitter" make you break out in hives?
3. Do you spend half your day Tweeting, updating your Facebook page, blogging, and revising your web site, and yet have made little or no progress meeting your business goals such as attracting the right customers or increasing revenues?
4. Are you breaking new ground in some way with your business, and therefore having trouble getting anyone to understand where you fit in the overall context of your industry?

OK, I'll leave these for starters, but would love to hear whether any of these questions ring true for you. Feel free to Tweet me @sunshinemug about this, or leave a comment right here. Looking forward to your responses!