The Idea Factory


When and where are the best places to get ideas, or refine them so that you can act on them? For me it is in the shower.

The Idea Factory

The Idea Factory

Like you, I am a very busy person, I have multiple business interests and time to focus on the big picture is often hard to find. I have a daily plan that I work through, I’m big on scheduling, task lists and making sure I achieve what I want from each day, but what is really important is working on the business as well as in the business and the same with my personal life.

I let my subconscious work while I sleep and when I wake I have a mind full of new ideas. Before I give it free reign, I add to the melee by listening to a podcast on my iPhone while I shave. At the moment I have been listening to a lot of This Is Your Life podcasts by Michael Hyatt. I find they put me in the right frame of mind.

I also have Evernote running in background mode and often during a shave, or while I’m toweling down after my shower, I race to a towel  dry my hands and add a task, a thought or a URL into the appropriate notepad, so I don’t lose it. As a songwriter, I learned long ago that you can have some great moments of inspiration, only to lose them again when you are distracted by life.

So here are my thoughts for you as a busy person. You probably have great ideas in the shower too. Make sure that you are in a position to make sure that you don’t lose track of them. The thing about the first shower of the day is that your mind hasn’t yet been cluttered, its at its most creative, at least for a morning person like me.

So where is your idea factory? Where does your thinking cap work best?

 

 

 

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Comparison Shopping


Comparison shopping on mobile devices has been around for a long time. I first saw apps pop up for Palm many years ago even before I had Bluetooth connectivity. Today things are even easier because of devices like iPhone and Android.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to a Harvard Business Review Ideacast podcast with John Donahoe , which was refreshing  in itself because John had a refreshingly clear vision and understanding of what eBay is as a business, which is not about selling stuff on eBay. Have a listen for yourself. Any business should understand what it really does in order to be able to do it well. For example if you think a grocery store is there to sell groceries, or a car lot is there to sell cars, then you need to listen to this interview.

Anyway, he was explaining why eBay bought the company Red Laser, which reads bar codes through the camera on your iPhone or Android and lets you see information about the product and compare pricing at both other retailers and websites, such as Amazon and of course their new owner eBay.

This is really exciting, especially in countries like New Zealand where items such as books, which I buy a lot of, are really expensive, so shopping around makes a lot of sense. In that area, I have to say that locally I buy on impulse, when I see something I really want or when its on special. They are just too expensive otherwise. Of course if I had an iPhone or an Android, I could check in real time and see if it is worth buying now or paying the postage from the US.

It was really sad to hear that Borders is likely to file for Bankruptcy this month. They really are my favorite bookstore by far, even though I have complained that in NZ since Whitcoulls bought the local franchise, they are slowly turning them into bigger versions of Whitcoulls which pretty much defeats the purpose, although this situation may vindicate them.

One of the arguments sited for Borders’ woes is their failure to prepare for the growth of the eBook market. This may be true to some degree and it is inevitable that print media will follow the music industry. I’ve blogged about this before, which you can find if you dig into my tags. Print is expensive but there are lots of things that you can do. eBook readers is one, but for Borders I would have thought a great opportunity would be Print On Demand, because this can still  be done via the store and allow access to massive stocks without worrying about the costs of shelf space and aged stock.

Whoops, off on a tangent again. I was talking about comparison shopping. Yes there are loads of applications available, I’ve only picked on one. Mashable has a huge number of blogs on this topic if you want to find more.

So have a look at the Red Laser site, to see what what they are all about and watch the short video below from DizzyDougTV to see how cool this is. You don’t need a bar code reader, just the camera on your SmartPhone. Damn I do have to get an iPhone or an Android soon! Maybe I should set up a website with a PayPal (another eBay subsidiary) link called by Luigi a Smartphone:) Would you donate?

Footnote, a lot of people think of Smartphone apps as being the domain of men, but for women who love sales and special deals, this is one for you. I’ll leave the last word to CHIP Chick.

Is that a Blackberry in your pocket or?


I’ve spent the last 3 days at the GeoCart’2008 Conference. It was an academic conference with speakers and attendees from all over the world. The content was excellent and I found it fascinating to see not only the results of academic research in the modern world of geography, location based technology research and web mapping, but also some of the great products that have and are being developed. But this is not what today’s blog is about. Perhaps more on the conference in the next few days.

I was an exhibitor at the conference and during the quiet times, was checking my phone for messages and emails as the Internet services at the venue at Auckland Univesity were shocking. I was in a building next door to the Auckland university IT Campus and the best local internet I could get was 128kbps. This morning I was listening to a podcast while I was in the shower about Internet services in Mali and how their pipe was only 2Gbps. Being landlocked they have to rely on other countries for access to the submarine cable. They would be horrified at the speed I got in Auckland, but I digress.

A number of people asked if my phone was a Blackberry and how did I like it. My answer was, yes, indeed it is a Blackberry, as issued by my company. Do I like it? I intensely dislike it. I’m a power user of mobile internet, after all I wrote the book, Unleashing the Roadwarrior and I taught companies how to improve efficiency in the field using mobile and wireless devices. Unfortunately I no longer walk the talk.

You see, to me mobile and wireless computing is about efficiency and touching things as few times as necessary. I’ve come from the world of touch screens and along with the book, published texts including Mastering your Palm and Mastering your Pocket PC.

For people who only use the phone ‘killer apps’ of voice and text, the Blackberry is a wonderful device. It has a qwerty keyboard so if you don’t use txt abbreviations, you can type your messages without having to remember the buttons and as a phone, it is perfectly adequate. If you are a Baby Boomer, the ability to do these things as well as read, send and receive email is wonderful. Attachments are another story, but you can send and receive email and you can do it securely through your MS Exchange Server which makes the IT Department happy. It does also synch wirelessly with Exchange for my contacts and calendar, but that’s pretty much where the fun and utility ends for me.

Here’s what I did with my Blackberry over 3 days at the conference. I sent and received a couple of urgent emails. I sent and received a couple of Twitter messages (which all but exhausted the ability of the browser.

Here’s what I could have done if I still had a Windows Mobile or Palm device. Actually I do still own old models, but they are old and I don’t really want to carry multiple devices anymore, although I could possibly consider a new Windows Mobile, Palm or iPhone, given the right opportunity, especially since there is now an iPhone Reader:)

I could have made lots of notes using handwriting recognition on the touch screen. I can write Graffiti or block characters without having to look at the device, so that I can concentrate on the speaker. These would have been written straight into MS Word, so that I would have them available for other purposes, such as copying and pasting into my blog. Instead I used scraps of paper, one of which I have already misplaced.

I could have taken photos of exhibits, slides and delegates for future use and reference.

I could have beamed my digital business card to others who used similar devices.

I could have shown off some of our mapping technology on the IE browser, even richer if the phone also had GPS, which my Blackberry doesn’t. (Mine is probably 2 years old) Relevant given that I work for a mapping company, specialising in web mapping API’s, routing, tracking and car navigation.

I could have quickly referenced web sites discussed during the papers and bookmarked them on the spot for future reference and integration with my favourites on the desktop.

I could have drawn mind-maps to enhance my note taking.

I could have read one of my eBooks, after setting up and while waiting for the delegates to arrive in the morning, or checked the daily paper.

I could have made audible notes and embedded them into an email, or even recorded segments of a presentation.

I could go on, but if you want to know all the other things I could have done, read my eBook, which you can purchase at ReadingIt.

It’s about efficiency, about touching things once but having access to them in lots of ways. It’s about being able to combine real time research with the discussion on the browser. You see, we can think and take in a lot more in the time that a presenter speaks, and in terms of our points of reference. It’s about then being able to access any of those pieces of information, communicate them and collaborate with other people.

Instead I have a few pieces of paper that I hope I won’t lose.

I guess this is about the dichotomy I live and work in. On the one side there is an infrastructure designed to keep data secure and cater to the lowest common denominator, for the most of whom, without training and motivation, even a Blackberry is overkill. On the other side, a busy person who wants to make the most of the information, people and media available at any given point in time. To leverage it.

The conference providers gave the delegates a CD with copies of all of the presentations, which was great. But it is pretty analogue and although I am very interested, I will probably never get around to looking at it. I will hopefully get to some of my notes, along with notes from other events that I havebeen to recently, scribbles on pieces of paper or the backs of business cards.

Then of course there are podcasts. I am big on maximising my time and whenever I am in the car, walking, exercising or doing chores, I am connected to my iPod.

So, yes it is a Blackberry in my pocket. Would I recommend it to anyone? No. Not unless all you want is a phone that does exchange / text email really well. That’s all it was designed for. I want more! I’m a busy person who wants to multitask. I want a touch screen, preferably multipoint. I want efficiency.

What sort of radio do you want in your car, HD or Satellite?


In the US, the debate is on as to whether the new in car entertainment systems should include both HD and Satellite radio. The main thing that HD Radio will bring is greater quality in the signal and potentially more information about what you are listening to. Of course the quality does require that you have a good signal and in a country made up of volcanic rock in many places, the signal may not be great, so it may be that dropout still occurs in places.

I’m all for quality and given that you are sitting between the speakers, track separation and stereo effects are often more enjoyable than listening to the stereo at home. On the other side we already have RDS and certainly in New Zealand until recently most stations have only broadcast their station ID on RDS. ZM is one of the few that have given us some service. On the odd occassion that I do listen to the radio, it is my favourite so I can find out what the track or band is that I am listening to. With distraction laws coming, it could be that the driver will not be permitted to see more than that anyway.

They mention being able to view Real Time Traffic information on HD Radio. This is really just hype. You can already get LED displays for RDS TMC, but the reality is that the messages about traffic come from 1590 different categories and the sheer volume, without it being disseminated for car navigation relevance would make it just one more distraction. You don’t need to know that there are 63 sets of road works on the other side of the city do you?

They have been testing HD radio in New Zealand for quite some time, so I guess it will be here commercially before to long, and just like HD TV which is being pushed aggressively right now, it will generate more business for appliance stores. Of course many cars these days come with custom dash setups and there are no DIN Slots (the traditional cavity in your dash where you can mount the car stereo of your choice, rather than the cheap and nasty one the car manufacturer installed to keep costs down. So for many of us there is really no choice.

I hardly ever listen to the radio at all any more. I use my car stereo to receive podcasts from my iPod so that I can choose what to listen to, rather than 47 versions of the same stations of Classic Hits, Talk-back and Hip Hop / R&B.

Satellite Radio is a different story entirely and I would expect local stations to be very worried about this, because it really gives people serious choice as to what they want to listen to. When I was in Florida last year, the shelves in the appliance stores where full of digital radio receivers.

Satellite gives you choice and in fact some of the podcasts I listen to are US shows that I have downloaded. Channels such as Sirius and XM offer listeners the ability to listen to what they want to, when they want to. These 2 stations on their own offer 300 channels to choose from. Want to listen to some BeBop, go for it, now you want some Lounge, there it is on your dial. Just like with podcasts, very soon you will be able to catch up with your lectures or pretty much anything you can think of. This will be a serious threat to local stations who will have to come up with some great ideas to keep people tuning in so that the advertisers will keep paying.

Just like cable TV, many people will be very happy to pay a subscription for advertising free radio. If ever there was a threat to the music store, this is the next one. But it is radio and royalties will be paid to the artists, so ultimately it is only the radio stations that have in many cases taken us for granted that will suffer.

If consumers have their way, once they understand the options, your new car entertainment system will feature both HD and Satellite. It will be interesting to see what the radio stations will do to keep you listening to them. Maybe they will listen to what you want instead of resting on their laurels. Now that would be interesting wouldn’t it.

Using CAPTCHA to digitse old books


This morning in the shower I was listening to Digital Planet, one of my favourite podcasts from the BBC. No I’m not sad, I just like to maximise my time:)

They interviewed Luis von Ahn about how Carnegie Mellon University is are using CAPTCHA technology to help digitse very old books that are in the public domain.

What is CAPTCHA? It is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers & Humans Apart” You will have found that many times when you register to use an application on the web, or perhaps when you want to invite someone to be your ‘friend’ on MySpace or leave a message, you will see a small clump of letters and you have to enter what you see into a text box.

The reason for this is because spammers and hackers create bots, that allow them to access information and pretend that they are real people. For example there are people running businesses where they can guarantee you lots of ‘friends’ on MySpace for a fee. Personally I am against this and ultimately it is a waste of time, because just being able to say that you have thousands of friends, doesn’t actually help you in any way.

Just to sidetrack for a moment. I have lots of ‘friends’ on my MySpace page, 3967 at last count. They are people who have requested my ‘friendship’ or vice versa and because of that personal relationship, wherever possible, I have a fan base that I can use when I have a concert or gig that I am performing. I can use this to make contact with them, even by geography, but that is really a topic for my About Songwriting blog.

Anyway, many organisations are trying to digitise as many books as possible to allow them to be read as eBooks. The best known of these is Project Gutenburg, which has already digitsed more than 25,000 books.

The problem with older books, especially those prior to 1900 is that the pages are fading and the fonts are harder to read by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tools, which themselves are still not 100% reliable. On a tangent, I hate reading books that are not perfect. My eBook Unleashing the Road Warrior was edited 12 times to get it as good as possible and I was dissapointed to find an error on page 309 of Stephen King’s latest book, Dumas Key, but that’s another story:)

So what the Carnegie Mellon people have done is to scan the pages and have created a tool which grabs 2 at a time and feeds them into the CAPTCHA environment. So now when you complete a CAPTCHA that has 2 words instead of random letters, what you are actually doing is not only autheticating that you are indeed a human, you are also helping transcribe these old books and ensuring their texts are protected for future generations to enjoy, is that cool or what?

Personally I find CAPTCHAS a pain in the proverbial, but having learned this, I am feeling a lot better about them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

The future of Personal Computing Part Two


This is a follow on from my blog last week about a day in my life of personal computing in 2013.

So I’ve had breakfast and I go to my PC to check email and messages. My wireless network at home now consists of a variety of devices and networks linked together. These include my Entertainment Server which links to various TV’s around the house, the Sky Dish, cable TV, media audio players and recorders, HD radio tuner as well as the Toshiba Fenininity Server which allows us to control and monitor the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, climate control, breadmaker and a host of other appliances not to mention the HVS climate control.

I also have the latest Kindle which lets all of us read our personalised news. It aggregates the top stories from mother Herald as well as other papers and magazines of interest so we all get the version we want. Scared the hell out of me the other day when I opened my wife’s logon by accident and all I saw was stories about TV and filmstars and their failed marriages and getting their 23rd adopted child out of Afghanistan which is the new Darfur. But then that is the beauty of it that we all get MeNews and not what someone else wants us to read.

I’m still into social networking in a big way, but have a number of portals that manage and aggregate each of my networks. I check my Music Portal which manages all the sites where I showcase my music. Now I can load my new songs, video’s, blogs and gig calendar onto one site and it updates the 127 sites I feature on in one hit, according to each sites unique specification.

So it’s time to go. I leave the house and activate the alarm which sends a signal to my iPhone to say the system is now armed and hop in the car. I drop the iPhone onto the little tray beside my seat and as I put the key into the ignition and my seat and steering wheel adjust itself to my preferred positions, my phone announces itself to the Wireless CANBUS so that it has access to the entertainment system.

I tell my integrated GPS navigation unit to take me to ‘the office’ select the podcast I want to listen to from those that are just audio as I don’t want to get pinged by the distraction laws and get on the road. As I near the top of Chartwell Drive, my podcast pauses (I used to hate missing stuff when the old system just muted the sound) and the nav tells me that there is a serious traffic incident on High Rd that it has picked up on TMC and would I like to route around it. I say yes, and it seemlessly takes me on down Diana drive and I arrive at work right on time.

As I wait at a set of lights I check the Buddy feature on my GPS and see an image of my wife’s car crawling along Bush Rd on her way to work. Her unit beeps to alert her that I have checked her location and she sends me a smart message back by tapping on the SMS keyboard on her nav unit which uses Bluetooth to send the message via her phone. Her car and system is a bit older than mine. 2009.

When I get to work my phone opens the carpark grill and after I have parked the car, it unlocks the door into the building and then into my office. I fire up my  Touchbook which has just been upgraded to Vista (“WE” like to be cautious about our computer network and go to the machine in the kitchen for a perfectly fluffy flat white.

As I have done forever, I start my day with email. My touchscreen notebook is now running Windows Vista Touch and although Microsoft has announced their new OS I will be using this one for another couple of years until our IT Department is comfortable that it is reasonably robust, especially given that it took 3 years to get most of the kinks out of Vista and for a while they went back to offering Windows XP again as an option in the 2nd half of 2009.

One thing that we have now universally adopted is Unified Communications. All my voicemail whether it comes from my landline, mobile or email is now waiting for me in my Inbox and with my iPhone or my notebook.

My days haven’t changed much. Probably the only major difference is that I do now use video on a lot of my phone calls so I can see the person I am talking to. This has saved me a lot of wasted travel time given the disaster that is Auckland’s roads today. They have started building the Auckland Harbour Tunnel, but it will be a couple more years before it opens for buses and T3 (cars with at least 3 peple in them) let alone ordinary traffic. So many meetings have been replaced by necessity with vidphone calls. Of course I can also do this on my iPhone 6, but unless I’m doing it over the Wireless LAN (and we still don’t have one in the office) the costs are prohibitive.

At lunch time I quite often walk to the Subway for some exercise and of course their food has the Heart Tick. On my way, I check out their menu on my iPhone and wonder if the food will look as good as the picture. I specify exactly what time I will get there. On the way back I get the phone to play me some Utterz messages from friends while I’m walking.

On the way home I drive past a bar and get a Speights Mates message saying there is a Happy Hour Running and sending me an eCoupon to get 2 for one in the next half hour and prompting me to hit the forward button to send the same coupon to any of my personal Speight’s Mates who are within a 2km vicinity to come and join me for an after work beer. I love location based marketing and decide it is only right to support people who have invested in this technology given that I helped to develop it. Isn’t that called the fruits of your labour? Yes. I know hops aren’t strictly fruit.

Before dinner, I go to my home studio and record a lead track on my Gibson LP Guitar onto my 8 track TASCAM for my latest song, nothing has changed there really, call me old fashioned. I still have my music on loads of web sites and while I’ve sold some songs, I haven’t scored a number one hit yet.

I bought the new Internet TV Aggregation Server last year and replaced my MySky. Now that I have cable for internet as well as TV, I can cherry pick and watch exactly what I want when I want and am no longer subject to the whims of SKy TV. Yes, I still subscribe to Sky Sports Channel because they have exclusive rights for many events that NZ teams compete in such as All Blacks Rugby and do support NZ sport better than anything else, especially the biased commentators, although I wuldn’t have a problem if Murray Mexted got some new material, but the rest is pretty much free. I don’t have to watch ads although many programs have very overt displays of product i the story.

I finally got an 80″ TV, the largest my wife would let me buy, and that wasn’t easy. Sometimes we have multple screens running so that we can watch different things at once and have adapted to that. We tried the VR glasses from the new Nintendo, but they are very antisocial. Awesome for 3D movies tough! Home entertainment is now awesome. No more channels full of reruns of programs we have already seen umpteen times, I never have to sit through another show of Friends again! Now I can see exactly what I want when I want, subject to agreement in the house of course and we all have to compromise sometimes,

Along with cable came free international calling to anywhere in the world for a modest flat fee, so I don’t use Skype much anymore. Finally a little music from iLike at the end of the day. I kept my CD’s and vinyl as souvenirs, but for a flat fee of $10 a month to our ISP, the house can access and download unlimited music from almost all record companies in MPEG 9 which is great quality at 960kbit/s.

Not a lot has changed in 5 years, but life is certtainly a little easier than it used to be.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Wash Your Hands After You Do Your Business!


This is really a story about men’s hygiene in the bathroom, but it probably applies to some women as well. I was listening to the Ante Up Podcast as I showered this morning and they were talking about men who leave the washroom without washing their hands after doing their business.

Ante Up is a great podcast about Poker and has lots of great information for amateurs like myself and even those who think they know it all. What’s more they very kindly played my new song I Tilted on their show.

Anyway, they covered an issue that really anoys me, which is guys who go to the toilet and then return to the poker table without having washed their hands. The thing is that of the guys that have been in and out of the bathroom at the same time as me in poker tournaments, as many as 50% do their business and return to the tables without using soap or water. Then they handle the cards, hand me their chips when I win them off them and share their germs with everyone on the table. How bad is that? Lots of people eat their fries or other food at the poker table while they are playing, they might lick a finger or thumb as they are dealing their cards and , well it doesn’t really bear thinking about. In this day and age you would think that grown men would have more self respect and concern for their health. I know that some women are the same, but I suspect the ratio would be far less.

I had a look at a website called 1st-in-handwashing.com and found:

The importance of handwashing can be assessed by looking at a list of germs found on human hands.  Here are a few:

  • Shigella flexneri…causes vomiting, headache, diarrhea
  • Streptococcus pyrogens…causes tonsilitis, sore throats, scarlet fever,impetigo
  • Salmonella … causes severe diarrhea, stomach pain, dizzyness, fever
  • Rhino virus…over 200 strains causing great misery in the form of colds
  • Proteus vulgaris…urinary tract infextions
  • Hepatitis A…vomiting, liver disorders, jaundice
  • Escherichia coli 0157 …kidney failure, uncontrollable fever, death
  • Rotavirus …55,000 children hopitalized with this each year
  • Echovirus…meningitis, encephalitis, neonatal sepsis, myocarditis, and chronic infection
  • Coxsackie virus…sore throat, abdominal discomfort, or nausea

Now that’s just for starters.

Some years ago a popular hotel in New Zealand conducted tests on the peppermint jar at the restaurant counter, where people paid their bills after their meals. They tested mints that were not individually sealed but were there for people to help themselves to. Amongst other things they found fecal coliforms, urine residue and even semen residue! This is new mints that people hadn’t yet enjoyed.

Now ettiquette says that you don’t confront people, you don’t tell grown adults to wash their hands, and if I did I might find myself getting smacked for my trouble. But we’re supposed to be civilised aren’t we? So what can you do?  What everyoe else does, when someone loses and leaves the table, you give them a firm handshake to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the germs that didn’t make it to the playing cards or the poker chips!

Does this make your stomach churn? Maybe if this is discussed in places like this blog, more people will be conscious of it and decide that even if they don’t care about giving their germs to other people, they might at least aim to wash the other people’s germs of their own hands.

You may think this is funny, but the amount of germs that get shared and cause serious illness, that could be avoided by a little attention to  hygiene.

Think about it. How many hands did you shake today. Have you touched any money lately> Have a sniff of that $5 note in your pocket and think about where that’s been and why does it smell? Now go and buy your lunch and watch the person handle your food with their gloves and then without taking them off, handle your money and change.

Scary isn’t it. Well, that’s my soapbox for today. Hope I made you think a little. See you at the poker table. My hands will be clean, at least when I first sit down.

Thanks for reading my soapbox, pardon the pun:)