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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prices Slashed in NASA's Space Shuttle Sale

"NASA is shutting down the space shuttle program and so is trying to sell off its remaining merchandise at increasingly low prices. It's already slashed the price for a (pre-owned) shuttle from $42 million to $28.8 million..."
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reality Based Toy

Because airport security is such a positive experience children are clamoring for toys to play make-believe security checkpoint with playmobile offers us the Playmobile Security Checkpoint. The best part about the Amazon order page is the customer feedback. It's tongue in cheek and very funny.


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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cat Called for Jury Duty

Sal Esposito of East Boston has been summoned for jury duty. He just might be excused for being a cat, but so far he is expected to serve. Sal's owners Guy and Anna Esposito think his name may have been pulled from census records, where he was listed as a pet.

Anna filed for Sal's disqualification of service. However, the jury commissioner was unmoved and denied the request.

Sal's service date at Suffolk Superior Court is set for March 23. Anna said that if the issue isn't cleared up by then, she will simply have to bring the cat to court.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Three Ideas to Rock Your 2010 Part I: Correspond to Connect

More clippings:

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"Happy New Year and welcome to the next decade - "the teenies," as some in the UK are calling it. Today is great day to take inventory and think about what you want to accomplish in the new year - or even the new decade. Over the next three days I will cover a few ideas that anyone can ride to new heights in 2010 and beyond. These can help you no matter what line of work you're in. Of course, given my world view, they apply most to those interested in social media, marketing and communications. Here's the first...

Correspond to Connect

Thomas Jefferson's polygraph was used to keep identical copies of the 20,000 letters he wrote in is life. (Photograph by Jim Merithew/ via "Tommy J's Crib Is 18th Century Palace of Gadget Geekery")

In 2010 to succeed as individuals and businesses we need to embrace connecting with people globally on three levels: one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many. As dancer Twyla Tharp describes in her new book The Collaborative Habit, great work comes through collaboration. Success requires thinking and acting on all three levels. And it means listening too.

Today Twitter, Facebook, Google Wave and the next big things in connecting socially will allow us to innovate in how we connect with stakeholders, colleagues and friends - and on all three levels. But some things never go out of style. I get more email than ever - and I love it. Businesses should too. Connecting offline remains important. Rosabeth Moss Kanter calls this Management by Flying Around. So my advice is in 2010 vow to correspond to connect as much as you realistically can.

Need inspiration? How about Thomas Jefferson. Sure he connected with and inspired millions with the Declaration of Independence's "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But he also answered his mail thousands of letters - connecting with countless others. He even devised a clever polygraph machine to keep copies of all correspondence.

From the Monticello web site...

"From sun-rise to one or two o'clock," he noted, "I am drudging at the writing table." Jefferson wrote almost 20,000 letters in his lifetime, among them, scholarly musings to colleagues, affectionate notes to his family, and civil responses to admirers. He wrote John Adams that he suffered "under the persecution of letters," calculating that he received 1,267 letters in the year 1820, "many of them requiring answers of elaborate research, and all to be answered with due attention and consideration."

This year, vow not to lose sight of the art and importance of daily correspondence. Reach out to new people - even those you don't agree with or those in other countries. Solicit and share new ideas.

As for me, I try to answer any correspondence that deserves a response. Sometimes it takes me time but I do so on three levels: my one-to-one communications (email and Twitter direct messages), one-to-few (Facebook comments, Twitter replies, etc.) and one-to-many (blog comments, interview requests, etc.) I also reach out to new people as well who I want to get to know better. Don't begrudge the volume of communications, focus on it - but the right messages.

Wouldn't it be great if organizations and the people who work for them all aspired to live the same, just as Jefferson did.

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Real-world Fugitive Caught via virtual-World of Warcraft

This was interesting:

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"Police have been known to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to track down thieves (the IRS, too), and careless Facebooking can quickly get you arrested. But if you're on the run from the law, there's another online territory you might want to consider avoiding: World of Warcraft...

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Namebench: Google’s 20% Project To Find The Fastest DNS Server

Make your surfing faster:

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When Google launched its own DNS service last month, one of the main stated goals behind the project was speed. The problem is that most Internet users have no idea what a DNS server is, let alone how to configure one, or test how fast it is. But one Googler has taken it upon himself to create an easy tool for testing DNS and recommending what you use with his 20% time.

Thomas Stromberg, a Google engineer based in Belgium, created Namebench, a piece of software to find the fastest DNS server available for you to use. The program is available for OS X, Windows, and Linux, and the entire thing has been open sourced by Stromberg.

Once you install it, Namebench couldn't be easier to use. You simply load it up, hit the "Start Benchmark" button and let it do its thing. Depending on the number of test you run (you can set that), it will come back with the results in a few minutes. The results open in your web browser, showing you the first, second, and third best DNS options right up top. There are also a number of charts and and graphs if you want to drill down into the numbers.

Now, you might worry that since Namebench was created by a Googler, it would promote Google Public DNS above all others. But actually, in the test I just ran, Google's solution ranged from the middle of all the DNS offerings to the slowest. OpenDNS, considered Google Public DNS' biggest competitor, was actually the fastest.

"Are you a power-user with 5 minutes to spare? Do you want a faster internet experience?," is the way Stromberg pitches it on the site for project. If that applies to you, you should check it out. Stromberg wrote more about the idea a few months ago before Google Public DNS was a reality.

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List Of Tech Products

Here's a good list of tech tools:

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"It's time for my annual list of technology products that I love and use every day. This is the (wow) fifth year I've done this. Here are my previous lists: 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006. The scope of the list has changed over time. In 2006 it was just about websites. Now the list includes other web services, some desktop software and even a few gadgets.

These aren't necessarily newly launched products (see Daniel Raffel's post yesterday for a solid list of great new products). This is a simple list of the tech products that are an integral part of my day - work or play. Some have withstood the test of time and I just can't live without. Others are newcomers that have captured my imagination.

I use most of them every day, or nearly every day, and I would not be as productive or happy without all of them. There are now 24 products on the list.

Just three of these products have been on the list all five years: TechMeme, Skype and Wordpress. As I said last year, TechMeme continues to be the news aggregator I check multiple times per day to keep up on tech news (although Google News is becoming more important over time). Skype is the instant messaging and VoIP platform that I use most often at work and with friends. And Wordpress software powers all of our blogs.

I've added 13 new products to last year's list: Android, Apple Magic Mouse, Dropbox, Evernote, Foursquare/Loopt/Gowalla, Google Docs, Google Voice, Kodak Zi8, MOG, Skitch and Spotify.

I've removed seven products from the 2009 list: 1-800-Free-411, Digg, Friendfeed, Google Reader, iPhone, MySpace Music and Zoho.

There are lot of products that I use daily that aren't on the list for various reasons. My iMac and MacBook Pro and Droid phone, for example, aren't on the list specifically even though all three products are exceptional. I don't really have a browser preference, although I suspect Chrome will be on the list next year. And there are lots of websites and services, like Posterous and Amie Street, that I use regularly but just didn't make my arbitrary cut. We also use extensively on the site for URL shortening, and EventBrite and Amiando for event ticketing.

Here's my 2010 list of tech products that I love and use every day:

I gave up the iPhone this year and switched to Android mobile phones. First the MyTouch, then the Droid. I'll soon be upgrading again. What I like best about Android is the deep integration with Google Voice, which I talk about below. These two products go hand in hand.

I first put Animoto on the list last year. The service makes beautiful slide shows of photos, and this year they added videos (here's one I made). Their iPhone application continues to impress. This company is now profitable and my guess is someone like Apple will acquire them in the next year.
Apple Magic Mouse

The Apple Magic Mouse is the best computer pointing device ever made. It functions as a normal mouse but also has multitouch on top. Once you use it you'll never be happy with an old mouse or touchpad again.

Delicious, the social bookmarking workhorse, has been on my list every year except 2007. It's not perfect but it's better than anything else out there.

Dropbox is a new addition to the list this year. It's just dead simple file syncing across all your computers, mobile devices and the cloud. It's also a great way to privately share big files. Dropbox is now one of my must-have productivity tools. I just wish Google offered something similar so that I could have an integrated dashboard for my Google Docs files and Dropbox stuff.

Evernote is also a new addition this year. Like Dropbox it is an amazing productivity tool that lets you capture, organize, and find information across multiple platforms. You can take notes, clip webpages, snap photos using their mobile phones, create to-dos, and record audio. All data is synchronized with the Evernote web service and made available to clients on Windows, Mac, Web, and mobile devices. Additionally, the Evernote web service performs image recognition on all incoming notes, making printed or handwritten text found within images searchable.

This is the third year in a row that Facebook has been on the list. Facebook has won the social wars, and even the biggest companies are now surrendering to them. Facebook Connect is turning into the defacto online identity solution for tens of millions of people.
Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla

These three startups (Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla), among others, are battling to control mobile social networking. They all have variations of the check-in model, where users are encouraged to note where they are for their friends to see. Foursquare has all the early adopter momentum, But Loopt has millions of users and Gowalla has a compelling product. All three are likely to win.

This is the fourth year in a row for Gmail. It's the best webmail out there, and I appreciate the free imap support and forwarding. Enough said.
Google Docs

This is a new addition for me this year. I never bothered installing Office on my new laptop, and find that Google Docs has all the functionality I need, plus easy sharing with others and storage in the cloud. I may never install Office again. I previously had Zoho on the list, a competitor, and removed it only because I find that centralizing as many services as possible at Google makes things easier for me as a user.
Google Voice

This has been a big year for Google Voice, previously called Grand Central. The mobile apps let Google Voice completely take over Android phones. I've ported my mobile number to Google Voice and now any time someone calls that number I can direct it to any phone I like based on where I am, who's calling and when. It has changed my life, and I will never use a mobile phone that doesn't have deep integration with the service.

This is the second year in a row for Hulu. I'd love for them to add a paid model and let me watch HBO shows or pay per view new release movies. And I wish they could secure rights to archived libraries of shows, but even as it currently exists, Hulu is a great entertainment service.
Kodak Zi8

This digital video camera beats the pants off the current Flip models. The best feature is the ability to add a microphone. Flip doesn't have this, and the audio quality is often terrible. The Zi8 is a full generation ahead.
MOG, Pandora and Spotify

MOG and Spotify are new this year. Pandora has been on every year except 2008, and with hindsight I should have added them that year, too. These are three streaming music services that are awesome. MOG, which is $5/month, is the best music experience on the Internet. Spotify, a desktop streaming service that hasn't launched in the U.S. yet, lacks the radio and social features of MOG but is currently free. And we hear it will launch on a limited basis in the U.S. very shortly. Pandora is still a very cool place to just sign in and listen to music that I love quickly and easily.
Scribd and Docstoc

Scribd and Docstoc, two services that let you upload office files like PDFs and Word documents and then embed them on sites, are very useful to bloggers like us. When we have a document that we want to share with readers, we use one of these services and embed it into the post. Both services were also on the list last year.

I've been using Skitch for years. It's Mac software that makes basic image manipulation a breeze - sort of a very light version of Photoshop. For 90% of our images, Skitch works just fine. It's easy to add text, resize and crop images, etc. And it automatically uploads them to the website for you, too.

Skype is on the list every year and will probably stay there, even under new management. I'd give up email before I gave up Skype. I use it almost exclusively for instant messaging, and a big percentage of my voice calls are over the service. I love doing video chat with friends oversees, too.

TechMeme is another service that has been on the list all five years. It is the definitely news aggregator for technology news, and a huge asset to our community.

TripIt is a simple travel service that is absolutely awesome, and returns to the list this year. You forward confirmation emails from flights, hotels, etc. to the service and it creates an itinerary automatically. You can then access it via a mobile device.

Twitter is fast becoming as essential marketing tool for TechCrunch, and I'm addicted to it personally. This is the third year I've added Twitter. For mobile use, I love the Seesmic Android application.

All our blogs run on Wordpress' open source software, and we use other services of the company, Automattic, that runs the project (Akismet for spam, polldaddy for polls). It has been on the list all five years, and we are thankful for such cool, and free, software.

Yammer, a Twitter-like service for companies to use internally, won TechCrunch50 in 2008 and is an essential productivity tool at TechCrunch. We long ago moved to the paid version of the service, and we've never looked back.

This is the fourth year in a row for YouTube. It's always good for a two minute entertainment diversion from work, and we use it exclusively to host our own video content.

Let me know what services you'd add to your list, or leave off. Each year in the comments I hear about someone's passion for a new product that I overlooked before, and sometimes they make the list in the following year.

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