Sunday, December 16, 2007

When is it okay for a company to exploit human irrationality?

It's great to see the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's blog talking about current tech issues. These are just some thoughts I had while reading it.

Great quote: "defaults are EVERYTHING."

From a Silicon Valley perspective, there's often a compromise between what's best for the user and what's best for the company. Sometimes both of those are in sync and you end up with a great product (like Google's Adsense/Adwords). Other times the products fall short for the user but do wonders for the company (Motorola RAZR). Company's are all trying to build the best product or create the best user experience but in the journey the destination is not always clear; companies might as well ask for as much data up front and determine whether or not they'll need it later. Imagine if you had a site that used cell phone numbers and email only - registration only asks for cell number, name and email. Then 12 months later you realized that knowing the zip code of the user could've enabled some really killer feature using a map. Suddenly you have two products instead of one, because you have all these legacy users whose zip codes you don't know. It's more difficult to support, adds more programming, you might have to send all your users an email asking for this information which would sound like phishing... and a new competitor might come out of the gate with your new feature sans legacy product confusion and stomp you (ah those nimble startups).

One way around this is to ask for the bare minimum of information from which you can extrapolate other data. With a zip/postal code you can get city and country (in the US and Canada and I think in Europe) using a geocoder. With their email address you can get their friends by plugging into the Facebook API. Google's OpenSocial and Profiles features will make it even easier for users to input their info once and then just authorize other companies to use it. It's win/win for everyone, right?

But what if one of those companies makes all your profile data public by default?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Let Free Markets Fix Healthcare" - Riiiiight

The following is in response to this unfounded, ludicrous post about letting free markets save the American health care system - evidence as to the decadent ignorance of those who might influence American policy from the right wing. Sadly this is posted on a University of Belmont blog - evidence of how education is failing the country as well. This should be short and sweet.

As Suetonius pointed out, you've made a number of assumptions without proof.

This one in particular frustrates me: "If you want to see where complete government control of healthcare takes us, just ask Canada, or Great Britain, or any of the long list of socialist democracies that have taken that path. Not only are their systems inefficient, but theirs are also increasingly ineffective."

Have you spent time in either of those countries? What is "ineffective" about their systems, the fact that they have a longer life span and spend less on health care per capita? I dare you to provide one iota of proof to backup your statement and, in the mean time, please see this study as proof to the contrary.

Your ideas for reducing the corporate bureaucracy are fine and dandy, and indeed they might help to loosen up the tightly controlled fist of US health insurance, but I can't foresee a private sector, entirely insurance-based solution being superior, more generally effective, equally fair, or more efficient than a socialized health care system (particularly one like Canada's which offers plenty of private sector opportunities for clinics and medical insurance for the wealthy).

The rest of Jeff's points are, at best, obvious, at worst, ill-considered. Sometimes I wonder if Locke and Smith were advocates of a free market because they were just simpletons with no desire to be responsible for their fellow humans' well being. Obviously Jeff Cornwall is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A taste of the ridiculousness of San Francisco

Check out the NOSO Project, which will give you an idea of just how ridiculously over-connected this town is. We now have designated disconnection times to spend with others who are over-stimulated like we all are. Watch the video.

I just avoided registering and didn't checked out the upcoming NOSOs. They're all not in the Mission. My district is so not the coolest ever.

It's time for a NOSO moment right now. Back to not watching Bill Maher.

Someone ought to tell those guys...

Guy Kawasaki laced into a New York company's Craigslist ad on his, well, rather prolific blog today. Kinda funny, kinda sad. He goes on to say some rather heartfelt things about how to hire people from a non-incompetent standpoint.

I checked out the original ad that he was talking about and, seeing that they didn't edit their ad yet, dropped them a line with a link to Guy's entry. Just trying to change the world I guess. ;)

The New Space Race

I just spent the last couple hours on TED. www.ted.com. It's really an amazing concept and one in which I wholeheartedly recommend anyone who believes in a better future for humankind spend some quality time with.

The last video I downloaded from TED was one about Bill Stone, a different breed of explorer, the kind of which we've only imagined since the by-gone days of the search for the NorthWest Passage. He's got a plan to build a new fueling station on the southern pole of the moon to facilitate space exploration - and in only 7 years.

Very inspirational.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The New Cost of the iPhone: Pick Your Plan

Srmana Mitra has been covering the major players involved in building and benefiting from the iPhone. Her recent post is about AT&T and, clearly, they look to rake in the cash by jacking their new iPhone customers. But how long can they do so until customers react?

Someone ought to look at the average cell phone bill since moving over to AT&T with their iPhone. Add at least another $20 to everyone's plan (data package), right? Or at least a good majority since I suppose some were previous data plan subscribers. There's also been quite a few people going with the PickYourPlan offerings they have for those who don't want a contract. I was on Pay As You Go before, so logically I'd go to PickYourPlan since I don't have a SIN and don't want a 2 year commitment.

I'm now spending about triple each month on my phone bill because texting is 3x the price (0.15 each), plus the per minute rate is more (0.13 vs. 0.10), plus Internet ($20), plus increase long distance charges... I'm actually considering dropping the plan and hacking the iPhone to support my old Pay As You Go, not only because of the costs, but because I get a #$%ing balance notification every couple hours, even at 4am (since it vibrates for this it can disturb your sleep 4 times per night). I talked to AT&T about it but only got an apology out of them. How friggin' difficult can this be for their engineers to fix???

So yeah. Buy AT&T stock right now. Their margins should be up 20% for their mobility unit over the next 6 months. Then short the suckers. Eventually their lack of concern for properly supporting a fine device such as the iPhone with the respect it deserves ought to send their churn rates through the roof as soon as Nokia or Motorola get their act together - or Apple releases the iPhone II on a different network. After all, how long can we deal with the disrupted sleep?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Delta Customer Service Problems and Lost Opportunities

Want to ruin a great holiday? Fly Delta.

I know airlines in America aren't what they used to be but these guys, along with air Canada, take the cake. What I really dont get is how delta staff miss so many opportunities to make things better when flight problems make life difficult for the passengers. There was one exception in our circus of delta bloopers, but it really only served as evidence of potentially better service.

On the delta flight from salt lake city to Honolulu, our flight was forced to turn around over Nevada due to a hydraulics problem. Having landed heavily back in salt lake, delta informed us that we'd lost only the guage, not the hydraulics, so after 90 minutes the mechanics fixed that which should not have failed and we were back in the air. Where they went right was in serving passengers one single alcoholic beverage for free.

Skip ahead 8 wonderful Hawaiian days - more mechanical problems have caused delays for more flights. Our delta flight connecting us through LAX was delayed by an hour causing us to miss our flight to SFO, so instead of putting us on the next flight from LAX to San Francisco, they put us on a direct flight home to SFO: good right? Not quite. That flight was supposed to be 2 hours later than ours to LA but it too was delayed an hour! We had 4.5 hours to kill. The delta customer service answer to, "can we at least relax in the delta lounge?" -- "we dont have a delta lounge in this airport." check again guys, its there between the security desk and our departure gate. A blatant lie.

Of course our flight was full - plum full, unless there's a seat in first class. So now emily and I were put at other ends of the plane, an absolutely miserable finish to our holiday together. My complaints fell on ears trained to spit back out: "there's nothing we can do about it sir."

So what happened to coupons and Vouchers? A voucher for food would have been nice while we waited at Honolulu. Lounge access should have been an obvious step too. Then when we couldn't sit together why wasnt my boarding pass accompanied by, "we'd like to offer you guys two tickets to anywhere delta flies in the US, and here's a frequent flyer application form. We are sorry about the situation and hope you take this opportunity to consider flying with us next time so we can earn your trust and ensure you get great use from your frequent flyer account in the future."

Im writing this on the iPhone, hence the above mistakes. I must remember to link to the youtube video where a delta flight remains stuck on the ground for 7 hours and

-Tyler

Ps. In flight food options? Something vegetarian? "There's only one kind of sandwich. Turkey." Go fly Delta now!

UPDATE: Their email comment form needs work. I can enter flight numbers and dates, but if I don't have my ticket number it just returns an error on the next page saying "missing field" and almost leads you to believe that their entire system is down. No information about which field is missing or anything. Hint: *try javascript form verification boys* (just a start). Ultimately I managed to send a link to this post here to their "customer service" team via email.

Here's that well done video of a Delta flight where the passengers sat in the plane on the tarmac for 7 hours. Brutal.

I'm starting to get the impression that Delta's customer service problems are really stemmed from extreme employee apathy. Would you agree?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Americans, Canadians and Greatness

I'm just watching the YouTube/CNN Democratic debates here and, with a certain sense of awe, must give great credit to the power and influence of the United States. I think when you draw from an idealised well of hope and faith, as many Americans can (and probably should) do, combined with the reality of their lofty International position, you get a taste of what true greatness really is. I'm not saying that the Democratic candidates are JFKs or even LBPs, but wow, there is so much potential left in this country.

This leads me back to thoughts of another great country, my country: Canada. I know in my heart it's a great country (even if I don't want to live there at this point in my life), but when I watch a political debate or, God forbid, a session of Question Period at the House, it's actually embarrasing. Do we not have great potential? For what we are - a vast land of resources and big-hearted libertarian people - why aren't we, too, drawing from the same idealised well of hope and faith that will lead us forward to greatness?

Big ideas come from big minds and become real when the people see themselves as big and, more importantly, worthy. I feel that Canadians just don't know how big we really are. And to us I say, "it's okay to feel important; the responsibility that comes with it is worth it."

Maybe big minds can't fit hope back into their vocabulary. And maybe the big people are just too damn cynical these days.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What/Where/How are you doing?

In response to an email from a long-distance friend, here is my response to his questions.

Nope, not working at Apple. I did, however, wait in line for 19 hours for an iPhone. You know what that is of course. (right???) It would seem that all mobile devices attach a little signature to the end of any emails sent from it. Emails from a blackberry say "Sent from my blackberry." Mine says, "Sent from my iPhone." It's just automatic. I believe it's a disclaimer to the effect of "the above message may contain even more errors and typos than usual because I'm typing on an impossibly tiny keyboard not really designed for adult fingers but integrated into a small and sleek device so cool that it's worth suffering the above noted typos, so deal with it."

What am I doing?
Starting on a new project - Stylastic. In fact go there now: www.stylastic.com and register for news and beta testing. I'm helping with the prototype right now actually. I've been watching a lot of Nip/Tuck as well.

At this very minute I'm typing on my laptop.

Where am I doing?
I'm doing most things in my office/studio (studio always sounded so much cooler) called The Bunker. I shall have to share photos with you at some point. Not nearly as cool as yours from the sounds of it. Otherwise I can be found doing things at our impossibly small apartment. Its the size of the Lope de Vega place's living room and kitchen. That's it. So I do most of my things on the bed, which is the only place to sit/lay down besides the loveseat which is old and crappy and uncomfortable.

How am I doing?
I do most things by way of my computer which is a Macbook Pro that I bought in October of last year that, while seemingly breaking down every month or so, is my baby and I love her. She has no name, unlike Frank the Toshiba, but she wears a cool black plastic covering that makes her look like the Darth Vader of Macs. Frank sits on my desk, usually closed, until I have a new website for which I must see just how badly Internet Explorer has mangled my beautiful code. As you might imagine this confers bad feelings towards Frank, further reinforced by his wie-ein-faultier CPU speed.

In the conventional sense of the phrase, "how am I doing?" - I'm doing fine thank you. How are you?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Next stop: God

I just finished watching this video where Will Wright presents his latest game, Spore. I'd heard a bit about the game over the last six months or so, but I didn't realize how big it would be. This game is about bringing all the science of science fiction and reality into a big big simulation. From what I gather it's totally multiplayer as well, which, when you think about it, will make for some amazing interaction between players.

The even bigger picture is that Will Wright and Spore will help our civilization to understand our perspective in the galaxy and universe a bit better. I hope everyone can get a chance to paly this game.

Next step: God. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Immigrants

Here's a copy of an email I forwarded around earlier this year in response to a forward I received.

Hi All,

This might come as unexpected. Indeed, the following email/letter from this American school teacher DID make my blood boil, but for none of the reasons he/she's so carefully selected nor intended. As an illegal expat (the difference between expat and immigrant is rather negligible except for the connotation to the ethnocentrics among us), I don't want to go on about why these illegal immigrants are actually beneficial (which indeed is debatable), but I do want to encourage the critical thinking that we must all impose on ourselves when we're faced with such a jaded tirade of short-sightedness.

The letter:

THE COST OF TOMATOES & MAIDS & GARDENERS

From an American school teacher - - - "As you listen to the news about the student protests over illegal immigration there are some things that you should be aware of:

I am in charge of the English-as-a-second-language department at a large southern California high school which is designated a Title 1 school, meaning that its students average lower socio-economicand income levels.

Most of the schools you are hearing about-South Gate High, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, etc.- where these students are protesting, are also Title 1

schools.

One hundred percent of the students in this school and other Title 1 schools

are on the free breakfast and free lunch program. When I say free breakfast I'm not talking a glass of milk and roll -- but a full breakfast and cereal bar with fruits and juices that would make a Marriott proud.

The waste of this food is monumental, with trays and trays of it being dumped in the trash uneaten.(OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I estimate that well over 50% of these students are obese or at least moderately overweight. About 75% or more DO have cell phones.

The school also provides day care centers for the unwed teenage pregnant girls (some as young as 13) so they can attend class without the inconvenience of having to arrange for babysitters or having family watch their kids. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I was ordered to spend $700,000 on my department or risk losing funding for the upcoming year even though there was little need for anything; my budget was already substantial. I ended up buying new computers for the computer learning center; half of which, one month later, have been carved with graffiti by the appreciative students who obviously feel humbled and grateful to have a free education in

America. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I have had to intervene several times for young and substitute teachers whose classes consist of many illegal immigrant students here in the country

less then 3 months who raised so much hell with the female teachers, calling

them "Putas"(whores) and throwing things that the teachers were in tears.

Free medical, free education, free food, day care etc., etc., etc. Is it any wonder they feel entitled to not only be in this country but to demand rights, privileges and entitlements?

To my bleeding-heart friends who want to point out how much these illegal immigrants contribute to our society because they LIKE their gardener and housekeeper and they like to pay less for tomatoes: spend some time in the real world of illegal immigration and see the TRUE costs.

Higher insurance, Medical facilities closing, higher medical costs, more crime, lower standards of education in our schools, overcrowding, new diseases etc., etc., etc. As for me, I'd be glad to pay more for my tomatoes.

We need to wake up. The guest worker program will be a disaster because we won't have the guts to enforce it.

Does anyone in their right mind really think they will voluntarily leave and

return?

There are many hardworking Hispanic/American citizens that contribute to our

country and many that I consider my true friends. We should encourage and

accept those Hispanics who have done it the right and legal way.

It does, however, have everything to do with culture: A third- world culture

that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15 and that refuses to assimilate, and an American

culture that has become so weak and worried about "politically correct" that

we don't have the will to do anything about it.

If this makes your blood boil, as it did mine, forward this to everyone you know."

My response:

First of all the author mentions some of these Title 1 schools that have been protesting recently. What are they protesting? An easy Google search for South Gate High School (mentioned by the author as a Title 1 school) reveals that these schools are suffering from mass overcrowding (http://www.the-spark.net/np764206.html ). Overcrowding doesn't make for a very ideal nor peaceful school environment. Yet despite that, these students have chosen a peaceful "sit-in" protest to make their voices heard and issues known. According to that article, $15 billion has been spent trying to alleviate overcrowding and upgrade the school systems in that area. How can $15 billion be spent and not alleviate the problem? Where's the money gone? I have no idea -- perhaps to these health-oriented, nutritious breakfasts and lunches (kudos to the system for not encouraging obesity) and perhaps to unappreciated IT equipment as the author points out. But apparently the overcrowding remains.

Furthermore, these schools manage to produce results -- despite the overcrowding. Newsweek recently cited one of the other schools noted by the author, Bell Gardens High School, for achieving a rank of number 915 of the top 1000 high schools in America

(http://www.bhs.montebello.k12.ca.us/newsweek_may_9.htm ). How many public high schools are there in America? I'm curious. According to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7761678/site/newsweek/ there are 27,468. That means that a Title 1 school full of protesting and illegal immigrants manages to be in the top 3% of all high schools in America! Well, at least according to Newsweek, if we can trust them...

So we have massive capital investments squandered by, um, I don't know, but I'm guessing (and inferred by the author of the piece on overcrowding school protests) contractors and government officials (most of whom are clearly tax-paying middle to upper class Americans). We have illegal immigrants staging peaceful protests (a chartered right) in reaction to overcrowding. We have Title 1 schools feeding their/our kids healthy meals and saving parents from worrying about their children either starving or growing massive wastelines (obviously not the school's fault if the author's estimated 50% of students DO have an obesity problem).

These schools are providing day cares for students who make the same mistakes all of us might make, but they still want to be in school. That sounds like a good thing to me. Perhaps it's just TV/Hollywood's influence, but I get the impression that white American daughters get a lot less support from their parents when they end up pregnant; Hispanic women appreciate the family more of course -- it's in their culture (which, thank God they haven't entirely lost yet). White girls are out there getting a lot of abortions these days. In fact, according to

http://www.abortionfacts.com/statistics/us_stats_race.asp there are around 50% more white girls getting abortions than all other races combined in the USA (30% of Americans are non-white:

http://www.cdc.gov/OMH/Populations/populations.htm ). And maybe it's just me, but the author of the article SOUNDS like he/she'd be a Republican Pro-Lifer, doesn't he? By the way, all of those Hispanic children born to illegal parents are now legal Americans. They'll be paying taxes to help pay for Bush's new plan to avoid having the baby-boomers cripple the American economy and health care system.

Regarding the graffiti and vandalizing of his school's new computers that he bought (with the extra $700,000 that fell into his lap), do you think white, middle-income kids DON'T graffiti their school's computers? I went to some decent schools in my life and no matter what the school bought for us, within a few months there was some sort of graffiti scratched or inked into it, whether that's "Marsh + Tommy 4ever" or "Megadeath RULEZ". I'd guess a lot of the graffiti in these Title 1 schools are more like "Bush + Exxon 4ever" (after all, these kids are evidently in the top 3% of American schools: they're smart). Anyway, please ignore the last few sentences and they're pure speculation (but you knew that, right?).

Calling teachers names like "puta" is, indeed, a terrible thing. Perhaps the kids don't appreciate their educators nor all that they've been given by generous tax-paying Americans. Does anyone remember being in school though? Remember all the tough kids? The bullies and problem children? Take a read over at

http://www.partnershipforlearning.org/article.asp?ArticleID=2117 . Psychologists and school counselors will note that problematic behaviour in kids is often a result of change or transition, and particularly poverty. Kids AND teenagers have a tough time with moving or changing schools, let alone changing countries and languages! Give them a break. It's not the kids' fault their parents moved to the US, illegally or not. Their lack of initial gratitude should be overlooked; let's try to see the long-term benefits of their youthful integration into US society as immigrants. The entire country is a land of immigrants after all.

From

http://ceris.metropolis.net/Virtual%20Library/health/ocep_beiser1.htm : "...we hypothesize that immigrant families are more likely to move out of poverty, mainly through employment and increases in market earning, than are receiving society families. We also hypothesize that immigrant children will experience greater improvement in developmental behaviours once their families move out of poverty." So the problem seems very much related to poverty. Illegal immigrants are coming from poverty in search of prosperity. According to the above noted research conclusion, as these immigrants' families transition into society and move out of poverty (through employment, illegal or not), their children experience improvement in developmental behaviours such as those outlined by the letter's author. Sounds like we have a plan: help illegal immigrants become legal and thereby increase their opportunities for economic success for their families. And consider this: if you were living in poverty such as the many illegal immigrants were back home, wouldn't you move on to provide for better opportunities for your family? Illegal immigration is the only way for many. I'd venture to suggest that these families that make it into the US illegally are the toughest and smartest too, potentially benefiting American society (evolutionarily speaking of course).

"Higher insurance, Medical facilities closing, higher medical costs, more crime, lower standards of education in our schools, overcrowding, new diseases etc., etc., etc. As for me, I'd be glad to pay more for my tomatoes." Where does all of this come from? Since when are medical facilities closing? Indeed, medical costs are (apparently) rising, but it's certainly not the fault of illegal immigrants: they don't even get to utilize the same medical resources the rest of you do. "More crime" is a generalized statement that may or may not be true; maybe it is for the author in his barrio, but he hasn't mentioned anything about it -- peaceful protests are NOT a crime. "Lower standards of education" are, evidently, not the case here. "Overcrowding" seems to be more of a direct result of squandered state investment -- how many schools could $15 billion build? "New diseases"... um, sure. That's what they said in the 80's about AIDS being the gay disease. And finally, you'll indeed be paying more for your produce very soon, but that's because of the cold snap that hit California recently. The only ones you might blame for that would be the polluters causing Global Warming problems. Maybe the increased produce costs will get Americans thinking about it -- thousands of low-income, non-white American deaths in Katrina certainly didn't.

What really gets my blood boiling is the author's last statement. It's so ignorant to Cause and Effect it floors me. "A third- world culture that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15 and that refuses to assimilate, and an American culture that has become so weak and worried about "politically correct" that we don't have the will to do anything about it." Ethnocentric comes to mind. So does close-minded. That third world is third world (not even third world really: there are many and much worse places) for a lot of reasons and OBVIOUSLY it has nothing to do with American foreign policy over the last 200 years. I guess Hispanics don't care about education because they don't have their kids in school... oh wait, yes, they do put their kids in school. The author's. As for assimilation, thank God they don't assimilate to become fear-mongering, ethnocentric, baby-killing, "politically correct" white Americans. Otherwise the author would have nothing to bitch about except how Americans are too short-sighted, too polite, complain too much and pay too much for produce, gardening and maid services!

Note that any arguments the letter's author has made that weren't controverted above were just too ignorant to respond to. I'd credit my reader enough to see through these inadequate, inaccurate blanket statements. Kudos to Title 1 schools who seem to be doing an excellent job coping with a very difficult situation. Thank you to Bob for bringing the the author's trite rant to my attention as a concerned, possibly soon-to-be legalized resident of the USA.

"If this makes your blood boil, as it did mine, forward this to everyone you know."

Best regards,

Tyler

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ExpressionEngine Mailing list Signup - AJAX

A big part of any new social media site is the refined Web 2.0-y interface features enabled by AJAX technologies. As an ExpressionEngine guy I've been struggling to see how I can make EE functions work with AJAX. Well yesterday I finally hit some pay dirt.

Implementing an AJAX mailing list sign up for ExpressionEngine is, as it turns out, pretty simple, but you gotta hack a few things (at least with the solution I found). Here's what I did.

Using the default mailing list signup form with some added divs we get:

<h2>Join our default mailing list!</h2>
<div id="mailinglist">
{exp:mailinglist:form list="default"}

<p>Join our Mailing List</p>

<p><input type="text" name="email" value="{email}" /></p>

<p><input type="submit" value="submit" /></p>

{/exp:mailinglist:form}
</div>


Then we
1. run that through a template
2. copy and paste out the actual form code
3. throw in the XID global variable
4. grab an AJAX loader gif and upload that to your server, then put a bit of id'd code in for that in the div
5. paste in the submit button and replace the id names... I'll explain more in a second
6. add the following to your HEAD and, of course, get the prototype and scriptaculous code sets uploaded to your server and put in the /javascripts/ folder

<script src="/javascripts/prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="/javascripts/scriptaculous.js" type="text/javascript"></script>


Here it is, the final form code for your sexy ajax body:

<div id="mailingList2">
<span id="indicator2" style="display: none"><img src="/images/ajax-loader.gif" alt="indicator icon" /></span>
<form id="mailinglist_form2">
<div>
<input type="hidden" name="XID" value="{XID_HASH}" />
<input type="hidden" name="ACT" value="3" />
<input type="hidden" name="RET" value="http://www.yoursite.com" />
<input type="hidden" name="list" value="beta" />
<input type="text" name="email" value="" class="text" /><br />
<input type="submit" value="Submit" onclick="new Ajax.Updater('mailingList2', '/index.php/', {onComplete:function(request, json){Element.hide('indicator2')}, onLoading:function(request, json){Element.show('indicator2'),Element.hide('mailinglist_form2')},parameters:Form.serialize(this.form),method:'post',asynchronous:true}); return false;" />
</div>
</form>
</div>

I'll explain a bit about the submit button, which kinda holds the key parts of this solution and on which I slaved away the most to understand (as a newbie to Prototype).
new Ajax.Updater(container,url,options)

a new Ajax.Updater is the Prototype class(?) that submits forms when you want to get some new HTML or code back from the server to replace it. I'm guessing this will be the most useful class for me. So you feed it the container div's id whose inner HTML you'll want replaced. In my case here I wanted to swap out the whole form for the page of results that EE provides back (more on this in a second). Next you put the URL on your server which will process the submitted form (the action). With EE it's going to be your site's index.php file. Lastly we get to the scary options...

In Prototype you tell it which optional features you want to make it do to get the right effects, decide whether it's POST or GET, etc. One by one:

1. The [options]. All your options are surrounded by {}s and each one is separated by commas therein

2. onLoading:function(request, json){Element.show('indicator2'),Element.hide('mailinglist_form2')}
As soon as the submit button fires and your data starts "loading" (clever eh?) it's going to show the indicator2 span which holds your ajax loader gif, then hide the form itself (it's not needed anymore right?).

3. onComplete:function(request, json){Element.hide('indicator2')}
When the returned data is done loading, we're going to hide the indicator2. Don't worry about the (request,json) parts of these, it doesn't seem to matter in this case. All of my functions have it and it works. I'm sure we can learn more about this part later. Since we already told it which div to put the returned data in, we can be assured that this will be hidden anyway (actually replaced). Perhaps this step is redundant. I'll find out later. Go experiment yourself too.

4. parameters:Form.serialize(this.form),method:'post',asynchronous:true}); return false;
This is the good stuff! The parameters are all the variables and information you're going to send to your processing page. With Prototyhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifpe it does this great Form.serialize() function which grabs all relevant input fields and their values from your form automatically! I put in this.form but you could put in the id of the form too (use your single quotes of course). Specify which method, either POST or GET next, with EE's mailing list you need to use 'post' because you're returning some data. I think all EE forms use POST but I could be very wrong about that. Lastly you want to keep the asynchronous-ness going on, making it true, otherwise you'd lock up the browser while it's loading your results.

And that's it! Oh wait, no it's not! Big next step: go into your EE's Admin > Specialty Templates > User Message Template and edit that (I just took out the CSS). Yes, this is going to be a problem, you'll also see that the RET value of the form gets a link at the bottom of this page's content. One of my next steps is to figure out what to do about this problem.

One solutions I just thought of while writing this is to not actually return any data from EE, in which case I believe you'd use new Ajax.Request instead of the Updater, then you can figure out some other content to show, like "Thank you!" using more Javascript. Feel free to suggest away here...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Transformers Review

I managed to get Em to go to Transformers with me tonight. She liked some of the funny bits (as did I) but what's up with all those plot holes? SPOILER ALERT: suddenly the cube can shoot Megatron (as long as it's close to his chest I guess) and Megatron was right behind Sam while he's carrying the cube up through the building and he's, well, Megatron... how did he NOT catch him? There was nothing holding him back! The whole "just place the cube in my chest and I will sacrifice myself" line, delivered twice, was corny and about as braindead as it gets. The action scenes are pretty amazing though. I loved the battle in the desert when the A10s come swooping in. Awesome stuff there.

Now if you're into the original Transformers I have a special treat for you.

Check out the 1986 Transformers Movie here. Here's a strange but nicely drawn Japanese cartoon series of Transformers (one which I haven't seen) with computer graphics for the Transformers themselves. And last but not least, the original three seasons of the hit series, Transformers. Obviously I bare no responsibility for external content!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Press Coverage

A bit late, but better than never.

There's a good video of an interview the canuck in America on vnuenet here (skip to about half way through it). And a bit more here.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Now Selling iPhone

Indeed I've decided to sell my iPhone already. It just doesn't do what I'd hoped. Only 8GBs of memory? My Ipod Nano has 2GBs and it's only a year old. Where's the 10x leap in capacity we all deserve?

Also the connection to wifi should allow me to make calls using VoIP but it doesn't! What the heck? Why should we have to pay to make calls on this thing? Being able to send free SMS while connected to wifi is nice though.

The "typing assistant" doesn't predict what I want to type. It only corrects it. With the touch screen capacity it should be able to type my thoughts or at least type by dictation. Nope, none of that either.

I tried using the iPhone to type in the access code to my friend's building. Nothing. No beep, no open door, nothing. Huge disappointment.

On the up side, I pulled my iPhone out at a restaurant this morning and all eyes were on me. That's kinda cool.

So yeah, I'm going to sell my second iPhone. It's still in the box and in the wrapping. I'm including the nifty iPhone bag that it came in which is probably plastered all over the Web in photos of my triumphant walk down the Apple Store staircase. It was glorious. Note that your iPhone, the one I'm selling was actually in my bag - I put my bottle of water in the iPhone bag and held it up as a decoy... in case.

See the ad here:
http://www.facebook.com/marketplace/listing.php?classified_id=2472861806

Friday, June 29, 2007

Apple store, just before it closed at 2pm


I took a minute to walk around and check out the old Apple store before it closed at 2pm to be forever transmografied into the Apple iPhone-mania Outlet.

Arriving at the iPhone line San Francisco



Here's a short clip shot while arriving at the line for the iPhone at the San Francisco Apple store on June 28, 2007

I am the first Canadian to own an iPhone!

I hope. At least I think so. I know own two iPhones. I'm still not sure what I'll do with the second one. Option 1: sell it to this John guy I met last night who will give me $150 + $190 coupon for a wine tour. Option 2: sell it to Fred, a nice Brazilian guy who I met last night. Option 3: keep it and give it to someone special.

What do you think?

Ps. I can't activate my phone yet. More updates on this pronto.

Out of battery

No future updates till tonight with iPhone in hand!

The Store Will Be Closing in 30 Minutes

At 2pm the Apple Store will close for a four hour super-makeover. At least this is what I've been told by a former Apple Retail Store employee. All the posters come down, all the merchandise will be re-arranged... I'm guessing they'll have every single employee on hand for this and it will still take them four hours. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint.

Other interesting news: The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, will be coming down here at 6pm to marry several gay couples. I'm not sure why these gays have chosen a big media extravaganza like this for their show of vows, but I can imagine it has some ulterior political objective. The media whores! Oh wait, that's super unPC. I mean, go gay guys! :)

The media people are getting a little crazy. It's annoying: cameramen walking up and down the line, lugging their cam at knee height, others angle their camera over all these geeks' heads while they're typing/blogging/ichatting away. Considering the recent commotion caused by Google's Street View as an invasion of privacy, and having looked into the definition of a "reasonable expectation of privacy," I can guarantee that these cameramen are invading the privacy of anyone whose laptop is suddenly and unavoidably exposed to the eyes of the world. Someone ought to sue.

It turns out neighbours -1 are a friendly lot, although I have to wonder if the folks in line behind us mind that their workmates have hopped into line here. I don't mind myself but I'd imagine others would... unless they're all doing it themselves right? - very possible.

Other surprising news: not everyone knows about the iPhone. Ignorance seems to range from "when is the iPhone coming out?" to "why the hell are you guys waiting here?" It's amazing that everyone doesn't know already. Seriously. Living in this city, how could you NOT know? I'll except the few tourists from this astonishment.

Oh yeah, I think I saw Tom Cruise. I got a picture, but I left my USB cable at home... AGAIN. ARGH.

Shout out to Cooley who stopped by to pass along his post card. Nice printing. Too bad I'm not into hiphop. Smart guy though ("here man, check out my new album for your iPhone. You can download it on iTunes." - smart, like the water).

Oh, lastly and speaking of water, MICROSOFT sent in their team to quench our parched throats with bottles of Tellme water. LAME. I gave them heck for approaching our territory and began shouting like an histerical fool who's been burnt by Microsoft too many times. They ran. Oh yes, they ran. (picture of this forthcoming).

The Facebook Greeting

In the next generation of devices and youth, I predict that the socially acceptable way to meet a person will be to begin talking to eachother, then add them to Facebook, thus learning their name (ie. scrap the handshake and the 'nice to meet you'). This way if the person doesn't merit further attention you can just not add them to your friends. This is the way of the techno-gen W and it happened here, in the line for the iPhone in San Francisco, first.

A Zoo of Rumours

I mentioned the zoo aspect. Well it's getting worse. Every Dick, Jane and Joe Tourist wants a photo of the iPhonies (you heard it here first) who have spent their night and, soon, their day awaiting the hailed messiah.

I'm just here for the challenge. I mentioned that right? Some, however, are just pure mercenary. Reports are coming down the line (literally) that line holders in NY are sitting for $400. Some say that we should be able to ask double and that we're allowed two iPhones each, so, for our efforts, our iPhones would be free +tax. Okay, sounds good. But how do we hook up with the buyers?

Enter iwait.org. I haven't bothered to check them out, but they've sent a spokesmen out to rally the crowd into logging on to fulfill eager buyers' orders.

The sun is getting frickin' hot. I'm probably a touch burnt already and it hasn't even hit apex yet. Stupid me left my hat at home when I ran my pit stop. Luckily Apple has come out of their legally dubious shadows to support us with a big fat bottle of water. Indeed, and not just any water, but Smart Water. The irony abounds.

Oh man, time for a piss break. Back to Starbucks I guess? Perhaps Macy's? Or there's the food court across the street.

This was the scene just before I left.

I'm at home. I gave up. It was too much for me.

Just kidding. I had to do #2 and wasn't feeling good so, after exchanging oaths of allegiance with neighbours -1, I took off for home. Em was still sleeping when I arrived here at 8:10am (she was going to call me at 7:30am and head down with some coffee) but that's okay. She was up late following my blog here or something. :)

I'm just copying over the photos and movies from my camera right now. The dead laptop battery is still charging because my darn power cable is on the fritz. This will be the second power cable with the magnet plug I've gone through on this Macbook Pro when I exchange it this afternoon.

I #2'd, showered, changed, ate, drank some coffee, #2'd again (cigarettes & coffee = laxative), am transferring my camera files and I'll be off shortly. I'm guessing there will be quite the crowd by this point. My guess: 150 people. I could check that on someone's blog (lots of bloggers down there) but I'd rather be surprised.

Globe and Mail

The line keeps growing, but much more slowly than most of us anticipated. There should be 100 people by now, but we're up to about 60 only.

Ian Brown from the Globe and Mail called. I was finally sleeping, for the first time all night, it was 6am, and he calls from New York to interview me about the iPhone. He was apologetic for waking me up, probably more apologetic for catching me in such a groggy state however. Besides the normal questions like, "what about the iPhone makes you want it?" he had a few huge questions that really should have been discussed over a beer. Big philosophy like, "I met a Vietnamese guy in the line up here on 5th Avenue who mentioned that the iPhone does so many things, it even corrects your typos such as 'muther' instead of 'mother' that he feels like the iPhone is like the perfect girlfriend." My response to that was, "that sounds awfully sexist." Other questions approached the almost-religious enthusiasm that surrounds whatever Apple touches these days, noting its charismatic leader, fanatical following and the magical awe its products inspire.

Oh, I was just in the background of an NBC interview... hope I wasn't picking my nose at that moment.

iPhone in Canada

I'm guessing I'll be the first Canadian on the planet with an iPhone. That is unless there's a Canadian Apple employee who's been there for more than a year has received one already. If this is the case then damn I'm special *sarcasm*. If, indeed, it is special, then the email I just sent to the Globe & Mail will prove fruitful.

The thing is that Canada won't be getting this sweet bit o' technology for a while, at least Q4 2007 supposedly. This is unusual for hot tech devices which are usually available simultaneously, as far as I can recall anyway (PS3, PS2, Wii, XBoxes, Vista, OS X). I guess the big issue is the carrier. AT&T, while sucky as hell (as I hear) is still leaps and bounds ahead of Rogers technology, to be sure. While neither company can get their act together regarding customer service, at least AT&T has the Cingular infrastructure which, I'm guessing, is put to good use with the visual voicemail. Clearly their wireless connectivity tech (EVDO?) is completely wasted however, as the iPhone will be using the EDGE network - expect dial-up speeds.

Thank God for wifi! I was pondering this tonight while laying sleeplessly on my cardboard: what if I can't sign up for a contract with AT&T because I don't have an SSN? Well no doubt that would suck. I can get my SIM card to work on it though right? That HAS to be the case, let's not even go there. But if nothing else I can hop on the net (so I can see Google maps, surf pages, email, etc), play with my photo album, watch movies and TV shows, and listen to music (whilst flipping through album covers, ho ho!). All that but no phone calls or SMS or fancy voicemail. For $599 I'll still take it.

Cold and Starbucked


It's impossible to sleep. I'm laying on sheets of cardboard - not even corrugated. I have a large beach towel for cover but it doesn't quite cover me when draped vertically. The slightest breeze chills the bones. Ack, it's terrible. I'm up now because the street cleaners came barreling down this side of the street - my bag and head (latter on former) were just barely saved when someone yelled, "hey watch yourself!"

My new hero of the night is Starbucks. Screw Apple. Lovely Starbucks on Powell and O'Farrell is open 24 hours. Wonderful! Sweet warmth! And a nice clean, civilized bathroom. Now that I'm back with a venti in hand about a dozen others have swarmed out to get their own.

The party is pretty dead around here, I gotta say it's a little disappointing. I figured there'd be ever-flowing beer, ghetto blasters and fun times. Instead this evening seems to reflect this very San Francisco attitude: just get through it - the rewards will be worth it. Delayed gratification, I believe it's called.

I did meet a couple of Brazilians, Fred and some-girl. Fred wants an iPhone. Big surprise. But he's also willing to work for it. We exchanged numbers and he's volunteered to come back here in the morning so I can head home and shower, change, etc. It's an interesting proposition. Actually I'd love it if someone could just come down here and take the whole day shift for me. ACTUALLY, I'd love it if there were less hype and I didn't find myself down here tonight. Meh, at least I get to see what it's like outside of the Mission; indeed it's the first night I've spent in San Francisco beyond our apartment. I gotta say I prefer home. I could probably leave in the morning without needing Fred however, my neighbours seem to be good enough chaps, especially neighbour -1.

Tips for Releasing a Messianic Device

As I was checking out some other blogs about waiting in line at the Apple Store, I came up with a few tips for Apple, or whoever else wants to release a messianic-scale device:

- Serve refreshments at 11pm.
- Serve more refreshments at 12am.
- Provide a power snake for people to run their laptops all night (we don't have iPhones yet, not that their battery life will be sufficient)

I sent a few of these to Steve Jobs himself, hopefully he'll take note.

More tips as they come to me, but I'm getting tired, I might try sleeping for a bit.

iPhone Zoo

We're all just animals.

But as far as natural selection goes, we've got a competitive advantage. We're stronger, faster, better, more enterprising, more determined and definitely smarter. At least this is what I've deluded myself into believing. I still can't believe I'm out here.

People are taking photos of us regularly, especially of my fine neighbour (-1 position). His setup: 8 pieces of cardboard laid in a row. Plus a fhair and bags of food. Plus his black Macbook. He's doin' alright that's for sure (especially since his Macbook gets at least double the battery of mine). He keeps tapping away on his keyboard, ichatting and blogging and watching YouTube.

NEWSFLASH: Someone DIDN'T know why we were waiting here! Amazing! He just asked my neighbour (position +1) why we were all waiting here.

My neighbour +1 seems to be a nice guy. He's got a good setup too: lawn chair with a good angle of recline, a Nintendo DS, 6 cans of coke (supposedly that's "8 hours worth", ack) and a caring boyfriend who just won't accept the fact that he's "okay" being here by himself on the street (what is this street?) in front of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

In the iPhone Line

My first post was lost. My laptop's first battery died after setting this sucker up. Somehow the Title of the post was saved though.

EDIT: Actually Blogger saves drafts. Awesome! Here's what I had written:
I've been in line here for about an hour now. I got the bad news early on (about 10 minutes after sitting down and 30 seconds after paying $10 for a chair from some guy). I took a couple pictures. I'll post them asap. I've already been offered $150 if I buy a second iPhone for the CEO of a wine company. I'm down to 2 minutes of battery on my low battery. Hopefully I can squeeze juice out along the way


I wanted to call this blog "The Centre of the World" (yes, spelled properly like that) but it was taken. I've resorted to this title which should suffice for now. The problem is that right now I feel like I'm at the centre of the world. Especially right now, at this very second, because right now I'm in line (about 25th) at the Apple Store, San Francisco, CA (USA).

I've take a few photos and a couple quick videos. I realize I've left my camera's USB cable at home and, good ol' MacBook Pro, my computer has no microSD slot. I've got my RAZR's camera, which will just have to do for now.

Check out this crazy guy's sign here. Trading an iPhone for VC? What would that entail exactly? Oh wait, there's some small print... "VC=venture capital. Not for direct trade. Negotiations necessary." Cute.