Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Mail Coloring

I deal with a lot of email in a day, and I’ve always been a huge believer in using the power of a computer to make life easier by automating the prioritization and triage of material to my attention. Surprisingly to most people though, I don’t have that many mail client rules that automatically folder messages based on the subject or what not. I proactively make sure that I’m only subscribed to lists that actively deliver information I’m interested in and that are time-sensitive. If a message is of low-enough importance that I can automatically file out of my inbox then its low-importance enough to ignore completely.

The one type of mail filter I do use actively is the (I believe) little-used capability in most mail clients to automatically apply colors/labels to messages matching certain criteria. Receiving well north of a hundred or more real emails a day, automatically highlighting messages that are specifically to me is a very effective way to triage things that probably need a more urgent response than the latest “There’s a car with its lights on” message.

I use Green to symbolize messages where I’m in the To: field, Blue for messages where I’m Cc’d, and Purple (a new one) for messages to mail aliases where I am the primary responder. Anything in black was to a group list and is (likely) of lower priority.

Enabling this feature is different on each mail client, but I know its easy to do on OSX Mail.app and Entourage, and I even originally learned this trick on Unix Pine (actually using a + and a – next to messages to annotate if I was on the To: or Cc: list.

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Peanut Gallery

Peanut Gallery allows you and your friends to have a movie theater experience live, in real-time, over a local Bonjour network or the internet. (OSX only)

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I got sent on my last wild goose chase by Google Maps today. The first time I was going to an address that they had on the complete wrong side of the freeway, so the directions were completely farked. The second time, I was going to somewhere that it had the right physical location for, but the most asinine directions one could imagine.

They’ve got a cool interface and some useful mash-ups, but until they can fix their direction system I’m going to continue using the always-reliable Yahoo Maps direction tool. You’d think with so much CS brainpower at one company they’d find someone whose good with graph algorithms!

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I’m sitting here on the BART on my way to work and plowing through a number of RSS feeds in NetNewsWire and as I take the tenth URL for the morning and add it to a list of things to check out when I’m back online I realize that what I’d really like is some way to automatically fetch the list of URLs I gather for later offline viewing.

But then I realize that what will really happen is those will just generate more links and all of the sudden I’m browsing the web via carrier pigeon.

OK, maybe I really do want Verizon’s EVDO card for my Mac…or maybe I just need a few more actions for my “Offline” context.

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Twisted Web of Software

Got up really early this morning. Not because I’m excited about Christmas (well, I am), but because I haven’t gotten much exercise in the past couple of days and I went to bed at like 8 or 9 last night. These combined forces usually lead to 3am insomnia, so here I am enjoying the warm glow of my Mom’s Christmas tree as well as my PowerBook keyboard…

I was knocking around the blog-o-sphere, and then trying to tackle a couple of personal todo items that have festered for a while. One was to finally get all my non-financial passwords into some form of organization: airline sites, /., that kind of thing. My default was to just use a text file or something, but figured I’d look around for other things that might be a bit geekier. Turns out there is no shortage of password/PIM vaults for OSX. After playing with a few good ones (Vault, info.xhead) I decided that I really liked Wallet from Waterfall Software.

After kicking down my fifteen bucks over PayPal I thought I’d poke around their site a bit. I’ve been very interested in the microcosm of low-cost software developers out there, and the OSX community seems to have spawned a vast array of very high-quality developers working in smallish groups to build useful and reasonably priced tools ($15 is definitely my sweet spot for a useful utility). Turns out that the company is essentially three teenagers collaborating virtually and located mostly in the Pacific Northwest. Very nice work guys.

So I explored a little more and found some of the same guys working at another small Seattle venture, Delicious Monster. Poking around a little bit more I discover that several of these folks work (or worked) for The Omni Group, which is responsible for two of my favorite tools of all time, OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle. Keep linking around and you see an expansive yet surely small/tight network of really good people building really good software. The total network isn’t huge though, I think I just stumbled across the blogs of 10 or 15 very talented individuals that all know and work together.

Early morning postulations from someone who needs to get their body clock back in check:

  • Consumer software like this is fun, as opposed to the enterprise software market I’m in which is business.
  • Apple has done a very good job of maintaining mind share among the leading edge developers. I have a number of friends in the OSX group at Apple, maybe I should go work for with them (oh, wait, that’s enterprise software).
  • Wicked smart kids are building wicked smart companies based on a good idea, strong design, and the heart to follow it through, I admire that.
  • My blog design is stale.
  • I still want to move back to Seattle.

Happy holidays everyone!

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I’m doing a group project for my Organizational Behavior class at Haas and we need to do a fairly comprehensive online survey. I asked the LazyWeb a couple of weeks ago to little response (I really need to get comments enabled again), but no worries, I’ve found a great alternative. QuestionPro offers a great Student Research license that will let us complete our survey with much more accuracy and better analysis tools than the fairly limited tools offered by the free version of SurveyMonkey.

Online Web Email Survey Software

The Student Research Sponsorship Program is meant for students doing online research to use QuestionPro as the data-collection and analytical tool. Students participating in the program are provided free access to QuestionPro Survey Software.

Check back soon for a link to this actual survey, as getting a large number of responses will be important for us.

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Minor technology gripe of the day, why can’t Apple update its webkit renderer to support Firefox-style find-as-you-type? So often these days I’ll be reading something in NewNewsWire or Mail.app and just start typing in order to find something. Its one of the simplest UI advances I’ve seen in the past few years and I’ve become completely addicted to it in Firefox.

Even adding incremental-style find to traditional “Find…” interfaces would be much better than popping up a modal window that demands I type my whole term in, click search, and then cycle through what’s found (usually having to hunt for the highlighted word in a dense screen).

Sure NetNewsWire could add this on their own, but if Apple just updated their rendering widget I think everyone would inherit it.

Oh, and while I’m offline on the train and wishing for things, it would be nice if NNW had a pre-fetch mode for images linked in blogs. I’m missing the point of about 20% of the blog entries I read that are heavily image-dependent.

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Greg Linden, an old co-worker of mine from Amazon.com and one of the forces behind Findory has one of the best speculations I’ve heard about Google’s recent moves:

Google Talk and VoIP over WiFi

So, Google just launched Google Talk, a VoIP application. Google is rumored to be thinking about a nationwide free WiFi network. Combined these two, add a WiFi phone to the mix, and am I about to get free mobile calling nationwide?

He says later (and I probably agree) that this is a completely insane idea and will probably never come to pass, but its the kind of non-linear thinking I would expect out of Google.

I am a bit disappointed they didn’t buy Skype though, mostly because I want more of my friends to use it. Guess I’ll have to log on to Google Talk when I get back on net and see if my Jabber client will finally be useful for anything other than work.

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Lazyweb Survey Tool

Dear Lazyweb,

I’m looking for a simple and cheap survey tool that my project team can use for a class presentation. We need to find something that is preferably free, can handle a couple hundred responses to a survey about 20 questions long, and will give us access to the full data set. We’d also like the data collection to be anonymous. I’ve looked at SurveyMonkey and it appears to be limited in their free offering. QuestionPro might work, but I’m wondering if anyone has any other suggestions. A simple-to-setup PHP system or something I could run on my own server would also be an idea.

If you have a suggestion, please email me and I’ll be forever grateful.

(Damn, I really need to get comments working again)

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