Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sky Meadows State Park

Today we took a great schlep hike through the trails of Sky Meadows State Park. It's hard to believe that this gorgeous park is only an hour from DC. The views were perfect, and while it was sunny, it wasn't too hot.

The Boys and Danielle were troopers as we made them tackle hill after hill. Shira and I did go off on our own to tackle some of the trickier (read: exhausting) trails. We even hiked a bit on the Appalachian Trail, which made us feel all tough and what not.

We had a great time, and I've warned Shira that I'm thinking I may try to turn our next day hike into an a little overnight backpacking adventure.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Nats Surprise and Disappoint

The good news about the Nats game tonight: They won! They came back
from being down by 4, and won in extra innings.

The bad news: they were going to show The Natrual on the big screen
after the game, but it was canceled because it got so late.

It would have been cool to watch a feature length film in the park, but,
I'll take the win.

--Ben

Friday, August 29, 2008

Some Friday Fun - Armed and Dangerous

Shira and I had a bit of free time today, so on a whim, we decided to
hit the shooting range for a little target practice.

Turns out, here in Virginia, you need surprisingly little to get your
hands on a gun. Shira sweet talked her way into renting us a Sig 226, a
gun we have never shot before. And we were off and running.

Man this is a fun sport - and there's just something incredibly sexy
about watching your wife shoot.

If you've never tried it (shooting, not oggling your wife) I highly
recommend it.

And how did we do? At about 21ft, I scored a 56. Not bad for not having
shot in a while. Shira shot a 103 (her target is the one seen attached
to this post).


--Ben

Hmmm, No Rain

Hmmm, no rain tonight - Sorry Mr Shepard, I know you're probably disappointed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Two Favorite Entreprenuer Bootstrapping Tools

There's a great discussion going on over at the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur's Facebook Group. The topic mentioned was that of Entrepreneur Resources. I couldn't resist chiming in with my two favorite tools.

Here's what I had to say...

My favorite two TPE tools (in terms of money saved, and functionality):

1) http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/admins/editions.html - Google Apps (free edition) - this is huge. To add to what Sam mentioned above, Google Apps provides you with free e-mail, documents and calendar for your own domain name. It was one of the first things we put in place for our small business, and was by far the smartest "IT" move we've made.

Consider the advantages of Google Apps...

For the price of a domain name, I was able to ditch Ideas2Executables@gmail.com and setup:

  ben@ideas2executables.com
  questions@ideas2executables.com
  legal@ideas2executables.com

This let me put forth a much more professional image than an @gmail.com address.

The document tools meant we didn't have to rush out and buy MS-Office. Instead, we could make use of the Word Processor and Spreadsheet provided by Google Apps. While not as sexy as Office, they provide some definite benefits like online collaboration and remote storage (i.e., docs live on Google's backed up servers, not my flimsy laptop hard drive).

There's also a calendar module that helps keep our schedule relatively under control, and this too allows for online collaboration. The fact that our clients can send me an MS-Office meeting request, and I can seamlessly reply to it, is probably reason enough to setup the calendar.

The bottom line is that we ended up saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, just by signing up for this single service. We didn't have to buy Outlook or setup an Exchange server - and I didn't need to bring in a Windows expert to get it all working.

2) http://pbwiki.com - Of course you've heard of Wikipedia - pbwiki allows you to setup your own company wiki. And why would you want to do this? For me, a wiki is a super fast way to setup a combination knowledgebase / scratchpad.

Need a place to jot down marketing ideas? Stick them on the wiki. My todo list? Add them to the the wiki. Customer details? Make a page for the customer, stick the details there. The wiki grows easily, and can accommodate all sorts of tidbits of information. Rather than having to make an effort to have a centralized intranet for your organization, you can build one organically using a Wiki. And the pages are accessible by your team, so everyone can be on the same page.

I find that both of these tools let us get down to the business of coding (which is what we do), without worrying about IT infrastructure (or cost). They're a huge win.

Phrase Of The Day: Terminally Important

The phrase of the day: Terminally Important, first seen here:

It is terminally important (understand or die) that you listen to and understand what your prospects and customers are asking for.

I'm so going to find a way to work that phrase into my next conference call...

Best Explanation Of Twitter Yet

The more I use it, the more I believe that Twitter has immense value. Heck, it may just save your life.

But try as I might, I can't explain to ordinary folks (brother, dad, etc.) why this service is so valuable. A big part of my trouble has to do with Twitter's claimed purpose - to let people know What are you doing?. People rightly respond, why the heck should I care what you're doing? Good point, but a person who uses Twitter well is going way beyond answering this question.

But, thanks to my-creativeteam.com, I have my 1 sentence summary of why Twitter is so exciting:

"If you had the chance to sit at a bar and silently listen to 100 Reporters talking, would you? That’s Twitter."

(Thanks to Joan Stewart for originally sharing the quote.)

OK, listening to 100 reporters may not be your idea of a good time, but try this experiment. Replace reporters above with your peer groups of interest. Be they: programmers, marketers, bio-tech founders, CEOs, lawyers, stay at home moms, real estate agents, the-guy-who-always-finds-funny-links-on-the-web - you name it. Imagining you were quietly listening to them.

Sure, some of the chatter won't interest you, but a good portion of it may. Like any conversation, you'll hear tips, war stories, frustrations, drama and comedy. And because this is the web, you'll see links to other resources that expand on these relatively short comments.

The beauty of Twitter is that this conversation is totally shaped by you - you can add and remove people from it at will, check in and out of peer groups.

This, though, is something you're going to need to try for yourself to see just how effective it is. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Distractions Of The Day

In case your day was too productive, here are a few sites to fix that:

  • Dear Adobe - extremely compact, yet funny, complaint letters to the company that designers love to hate.
    Dear Adobe,
    ...
    Why does Photoshop cost as much as a pre-owned small car? 
    Drop the price please!!
    ...
    
  • overheardintheoffice.com - does what the name suggests. Absolutely hilarious.
    Female coworker: What are you going to do with it? Eat it?
    Male coworker: Well, for right now it's a pet...
    
  • The Sounds of Train Horns - A collection of, I kid you not, sound files of railroad air horns. Because you needed proof that the Itnernet has everything on it.
    F Berry K-5LA, S-5a dual.mp3: An F. Berry treasure, at Bloom's crossing, Manassas, Va. 1986. A southbound NS. Freight with its K-5La sounding for the crossing, as Fred answer's with his S-5a. The engineer acknowledges! Neat stuff!
  • Savvy Auntie - A site for PANKs (Professional Aunt, No Kids) and PUNKs (Professional Uncle, No Kids) and for just dealing with kids that aren't yours. Sure, it's Aunt focused, but still seems useful.

The 2008 Olympics - Summarized In Photos

Check out this impressive Memorable moments of the 2008 Olympics photo gallery. There you have it, 2 weeks worth of competitions summarized in 47 photos.

It's hard to believe how many of these remarkable moments were never highlighted in the states (at least enough that filtered down to me) - what a shame.

One day I'm going to figure out a way to get more engaged in the Olympics, beyond the swimming, gymnastics and other high profile sports. The video content is certainly there, and there's no doubt the tools to do this available on the Net (digg, youtube, twitter, etc.). I'm just not quite sure what the strategy should be. Hmm...

Thanks Manoj for the pointing this link out.

Yep, I've probably said most of these things...

If you are in the service business (and who isn't?) you should take a minute and read: 12 Things You Should Never Say To A Client.

Yeah, I've said most of these things before (d'oh!).

The only one on the list I'm not sure I agree with is #8, "Of course, you can call me any time." I'd rather be connected and talking to a client then making them feel like I'm not available. For me, the benefits of good communication have always outweighed any potential inconvenience in terms of timing. And when you're talking frequently, clients tend to be understanding if you're not around at a particular time.

Still, it's an excellent list and one worth taking the time to consider how you can fold it into your business.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welcome To Baby Grace

Tonight we got to meet Baby Grace - what a little bundle of perfection. She's a whopping 6 days old, and seems to be taking well to life outside the womb. Mom and Dad looked like they had it totally together - you'd think they were old pros.

We wish you many appearances on the blog, Baby Grace! Looking forward to watching you grow up.

The Definitive Guide To Styling HTML Lists

If you do HTML/CSS work, and you've never checked out Listmatic, then you're totally missing out. This site gives all sorts of tutorials and examples for how you can style HTML lists.

It's a must read.

Here's a fancier example they put together:

Today, I found the CSS background image approach especially handy.

More HTML Entities Fun - And maybe even useful

A while back I mentioned that you can use HTML Entities as a quick and creative way to include graphics on your pages.

Today, I found this page which presents a whole bunch of entities I've never seen used before.

Here's a sample of some that were interesting to me. I'm not quite sure I understand how portable these are - though, they do appear to show up just fine in both IE and FF.

☢ ☤ ☠ ♂ ♜ ☁ ✡ ✔

These entities may actually serve a useful purpose, too. As you can see here, they show up just fine in Twitter messages:

They also appear to work just fine in Facebook status updates, too.

In a world where every character counts, having access to these symbols may allow you to express a thought that much easier. Not to mention, the unusual appearance of these symbols will no doubt get the attention of your reader. Though, probably best not to go too overboard.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm Offically Back

I just finished my first run since my surgery - I'd say I'm back.
Actually, it was more a 4 mile hobble, than run, but it was a start.

And best of all, I had no pain from the surgery. Sometimes modern
medicine really works.

--Ben

Playing Audio In PLT-Scheme Scheme - Using MCI

I needed to play a .wav file in my MrEd application, but I needed more control than the built in play-sound gave me. Specifically, I needed to be able to stop the sound in the middle of playing, and be notified when it was done playing.

A bit of Googling found Eli Barzilay had made important progress on solving this issue. His solution was to use the remarkably simple and sane Windows API: Multimedia Command Strings. Check out the docs here, it's almost too easy to use.

So, I grabbed Eli's code and started hacking. What I came up with was a single function named play. You pass this function a path to a .wav file, and an option thunk that will be invoked when the sound is done playing.

The play function returns back procedure which you can invoke to control the sound. You can, for example say:

 (define p (play "c:/long-sound.wav"))
 (sleep 2)
 (p 'pause) ; pause the sound
 (sleep 1)
 (p 'resume) ; resume the sound

See the docs below for all the commands you can send in to the command procedure.

Thanks Eli for getting me started on this, and I hope I didn't butcher your code too badly.

#lang scheme
;;
;; See:
;; http://list.cs.brown.edu/pipermail/plt-scheme/2008-June/024925.html
;; http://tmp.barzilay.org/mci.scm -
;; http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms712587(VS.85).aspx
;; to make sense of this code.
;;

(require (lib "foreign.ss"))
(unsafe!)

(provide play)

(define winmm (ffi-lib "Winmm"))

;; used for string results
(define scheme-make-byte-string-without-copying
  (get-ffi-obj "scheme_make_byte_string_without_copying" #f
               (_fun _pointer -> _scheme)))

(define mci-get-error-string
  (get-ffi-obj "mciGetErrorStringA" winmm
    (_fun _int [buf : _pointer = (malloc 500)] [_int = 500]
          -> [ret : _bool]
          -> (if ret
               (scheme-make-byte-string-without-copying buf)
               "(unknown error code)"))))

(define mci-send-string
  (get-ffi-obj "mciSendStringA" winmm
    (_fun _string [_pointer = #f] [_int = 0] [_pointer = #f]
          -> [ret : _int]
          -> (if (zero? ret)
               (void)
               (error 'mci-send-string "~a" (mci-get-error-string ret))))))

(define mci-send-string*
  (get-ffi-obj "mciSendStringA" winmm
    (_fun _string [buf : _pointer = (malloc 500)] [_int = 500] [_pointer = #f]
          -> [ret : _int]
          -> (if (zero? ret)
               (scheme-make-byte-string-without-copying buf)
               (error 'mci-send-string* "~a" (mci-get-error-string ret))))))

(define counter 0)
(define sema (make-semaphore 1))

;;
;; Our primary, public, function. You provide the path to a wav file,
;; and optionally a thunk to invoke when the file is done being played.
;;
;; A function is returned to you which you can pass various symbols to control
;; playback.
;;
;; You can, for example, say:
;;   (define p (play "c:/.../foo.wav"))
;;   ...time passes...
;;   (if (p 'playing?) (p 'stop))
;;
;; This will, after some time passes, will stop the clip from playing if it is
;; still going on.
;;
;; All commands that can be passed to the returned promise include:
;;   playing? | stop | pause | resume
;;
;; Note: when you invoke stop, the clip is done - dead - kaput.
;;
(define play
  (let ([n 0])
    (case-lambda 
      ((wav)
       (play wav (lambda () (void))))
      ((wav thunk)
       (let ((id (begin (set! n (add1 n)) n))
             (shutdown? #f))
         (thread
          (lambda ()
            (semaphore-wait sema)
            (set! counter (add1 counter))
            (semaphore-post sema)
            (mci-send-string (format "open \"~a\" type waveaudio alias ~a" wav id))
            (mci-send-string (format "play ~a" id))
            (let loop ([s 1])
              (sleep s)
              (let ((status  (mci-send-string* (format "status ~a mode" id))))
                (if (or (equal? #"playing" status) (equal? #"paused" status))
                    (loop (add1 s))
                    (mci-send-string (format "close ~a" id)))))
            (set! shutdown? #t)
            (semaphore-wait sema)
            (set! counter (sub1 counter))
            (semaphore-post sema)
            (thunk)))
         (lambda (command)
           (case command
             ((id) id)
             ((playing?) (and (not shutdown?) (equal? #"playing" (mci-send-string* (format "status ~a mode" id)))))
             ((pause) (mci-send-string (format "pause ~a" id)))
             ((resume) (mci-send-string (format "resume ~a" id)))
             ((stop) (mci-send-string (format "stop ~a" id)))
             (else (error 'play "Unknown command: ~a" command)))))))))

Helping A Reporter Out - Playing The Expert

A couple weeks back I learned about Peter Shankman's Help A Reporter Out service over at the TPE Discussion Group. It's a terrifically simple service: every day, Peter sends out a basic e-mail with queries from reporters. They range from "DIY Waxing (AAAAGH!)" to "The Evolution of Product Design."

Here's a sample query:

4) Summary: ROI for meetings
Category: Business & Finance
Name: Sandi Cain
Email: *****
Title: freelance journalist
Media Outlet/Publication: National Business Publication
Anonymous? No
Specific Geographic Region? Yes (See below)
Region: Western U.S.
Deadline: 5:00 PM PACIFIC - September 2

Query:
"Seeking case studies from meeting planners who have implemented
any method of measuring ROI for their meetings within the past two
years. Corporate, association or SMERF planners welcome. Must
include comment on how objectives were determined and how they were
measured. Phone interviews preferred; email responses okay as
second choice.

The theory behind the service is simple: everyone is an expert on something. Today I responded to my first query which asked for uses of the Twitter service (a topic near and dear to my heart). I have no idea if the reporter will actually respond back to me, or if my input will be of any use.

There are two aspects of the service that caught my attention: first, it's such an obvious win-win for everyone. The small business owner, such as myself gets to play the role of expert and gets a dollop of PR, while the reporter gets useful source information.

Second, the whole service appears to be powered by basic e-mail list technology that's been around for the last 10 years (which is ancient in Internet years). Sure, you could have built a fancy Web 2.0 website to solve this problem, but free mailing list software works just fine (for now, anyway).

What a nice example of doing more with less.

Click Here to sign up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Artist Of The Day: Dean Ferrell And another music source

While trying to listen to Americana Roots Radio I stumbled on Dean Ferrell's MySpace page. I'm not usually a fan of auto-playing music, but in this case, Dean's first song caught my attention and sounded good enough to keep there to listen to all his tracks.

So, put on your headphones and visit here to take a listen.

Good stuff, right? Check out Dean's artist page to read his explanations of the songs.

I was also impressed with Dean's take on buying his music:

Here are my songs at IACMusic.com available for purchase here or you could email me and ask me if I'd send you a copy for free.

I wish all artists appreciated that connecting with their fans is of significant value, and that trading some tracks for this relationship might very well be a smart move.

Finally, Dean introduced me to IACMusic.com:

Q: What is IAC?

A: IAC is Independent Artists Company, the Indie Capital of the World. It is comprised of several components, only one of which is the music site. Other facets will be coming over the course of the next several years.

IACmusic.com offers various genre charts, including a country one that makes for some interesting listening. It's a fun place to go after you've been listening to the same half dozen songs on the radio by the same mega stars.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Is that a TV station in your pocket? Or are you ...

The other day I learned about: Qik.com (pronounced: quick dot com) and was really impressed. Here's the description:

Qik enables you to share moments of your life with your friends, family and the world - directly from your cell phone!

Keep your world in the know, share a laugh, tell engaging stories. Just point your cell phone and stream video live to your your friends on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc. OR use your cell phone like a camcorder and stream hours and hours of video without worrying about storage on your cell phone.

Unfortunately, my cell phone isn't compatible with their service, so I can't try it out. However, I just think there's something remarkable about being able to put on a live event, heard and seen around the world, and the only hardware requirement: your cell phone.

Two other services I've learned about, but have to try, include: ustream.tv and stickam.com.

While Qik is being touted as a person tool, I see a bigger opportunity from the small business side. It seems like a Toilet Paper Entrepreneur's ideal marketing tool.

Stay tuned, Ideas2Executables TV could be coming to a monitor near you. (Hmmm, wonder if it's a sitcom? Maybe a reality TV show?)

My Kind Of Dog Show

I managed to catch a bit of the K-9 Olympics - a competition that police agencies participate in to show off their dog/handler skills. To say that this was amazing stuff, is an absolute understatement. These dogs, and the people that work with them, can do remarkable things.

Here's a short video from the Hard Dog / Fast Dog competition, where dogs demonstrate their ability to run down a guy in a bite suit. There's no sum of money you could offer me to play the decoy here. These guys are getting hit by 100lb dogs running up to 30Mph. Yikes!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

BizBrag.com - Interested in joining the private beta?

I'm excited to report that that latest i2x built site has just launched a private public beta: BizBrag.com. Here's a description of it:

BizBrag provides a platform for small businesses, their owners, employees and investors to brag about their companies, share ideas, tell the world about recent developments, find new employees and expand their business network…amongst other things. We invite you to Log In, create your BizFolio (profile) and start bragging…or, just cruise around the site and keep coming back and visiting us as a news source. Once you’ve had a chance to explore the site and navigate its many features we’d greatly appreciate your feedback.

If you're interested in getting access to this private beta, drop me a line at join-the-beta@ideas2executables.com and mention BizBrag.com somewhere in the message, and I'll see what I can do.

Everyone is invited to check this site out!

Personally, I think the site is a very cool concept - though, I admit, I might be biased :-)

Tools That Belong In Your Design Toolbox

Over the last few days, some designers who are part of my virtual mob have mentioned some useful graphics related links. Including...

  • A very cool avatar creator. Finally, I can capture my likeness in cartoony avatar format:

    The actual UI experience of the builder is quite impressive and worth studying alone. I'm sure having a source for graphics like these would be handy for mockups, presentations, and other times when you need a fun face staring back at you.

  • What The Font - a handy site that will help you figure out which font was used for a particular block of text.
  • vi.sualize.us - Think del.icio.us but for images. It's a chance to see what kind of images folks are bookmarking. As suggested here, there's some great examples of typography to check out.
  • designbump.com - Think digg for designers. Again, lots of inspirational stuff here, as well as useful howtos.

I'm sure the above links are old news to designers, but if you're like me and not plugged in to this community - I hope you'll find them useful. Do you have any design links I should add to this list? Use the comments below to suggest them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Innovate or Die

Or, put a little less dramatically:

The ability to innovate is the only possible sustainable competitive advantage. It's not location and it's not the cost of doing business.

From Sandy Baruah, included in his 5 "new realities" for small businesses. See the following link for more information: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/small-business/2008/08/baruah_outlines_five_new_reali.html

--Ben

Update: I wanted to expand on this post, as I think there's really something critical in what Baruah is saying. When I talk to entreprenuers I'm often reminded that what wins the game isn't:

  • Being first (you'll have competitors soon enough, and the web is a big place - chances are, you aren't first anyway)
  • Having the most money (Having lots of money can actually be a bad thing)
  • Having a patent (or more likely, spending valuable time and money trying to get a patent)
  • Being the cheapest (you won't be for long)

What's left? Innovation. And not just software innovation - but marketing, customer service, packaging, and pretty much every other part of your business. Innovate, or stop playing the game.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Better Twitter Profile

One of the fun parts of hanging out with my virtual mob is that I'm getting see all sorts of clever ways other businesses market themselves on the web.

One example of this is Shama Hyder's Twitter page:

Instead of a basic background, she chose to make an image that includes key text, such as what her company does and how to reach her. It's a brilliantly simple and effective idea, and one that serves to highlight her business well.

I couldn't resist following her example, and now the Ideas2Executables twitter page is enhanced:

The more I consume Twitter content - the more I'm thinking it is an incredibly powerful tool. As I've mentioned previously, Twitter allows you to form your own custom network of interesting people. And as this posts demonstrates, you can't help but learn from these really sharp folks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sounds like a challenge to me

...and 3 weeks in Ben says to Shira: "what do you mean you're supposed to wash them every night?"

--Ben

Distributing Audio Content To The Masses

Let's say you're NPR and you've got tons of audio content. Heck, you're making new content every hour as you generate an up to the minute news report. How do you distribute it on your mobile website at http://m.npr.org.

Getting Your Content Out There

If you had asked me that yesterday I would have probably suggested that you use some sort of sophisticated streaming protocol that only a subset of Smart Phones can understand. So, Shira's Blackberry will be able to hear you, but my less capable Sidekick Slide will be left out. And, you can just forget about reaching the 2/3 thirds of mobile phones which are pre-paid phones and less capable.

Luckily, NPR didn't ask me. Instead, they came up with a brilliantly simple solution - they make use of Click To Call technology. I tried this on Dave's Blackberry yesterday: when you click the listen link on the NPR mobile website, it asks you if you want to dial a phone number. Say yes, and you'll make a normal outgoing phone call. However, instead of a person picking up, you'll start hearing the news program of your choice.

Give it a try, here's the number to call for the national news:

202-609-7549

My Sidekick didn't handle the links on the site elegantly - they ended up with an error. But, I can still dial the phone number provided to hear the content.

What a terrifically simple solution. Now any phone on the planet can be used to slurp in NPR content. For example, if you dial 302-482-8610 you'll hear the report titled The People Behind Your Electronic Toothbrush.

Click To Call - Not just for the big guys

Another cool aspect of this solution is that it's not just for the big guys. When I built ListingClips.com, I made use of a platform offered by IfByPhone.com. IfByPhone provides a developer friendly platform to build phone based apps. These apps can be as simple as what NPR is doing with their dial-a-number-here-a-story type system, or as complicated as an interactive touch tone based app.

One of the coolest aspects of IfByPhone is that they allow you to take input from touch tones or recording, POST the content to a script of your choice, and then return back a dynamic response as to which part of the phone application should be invoked next. In other words, they take care of the phone stuff, and allow you to program your own app the way you want.

IfByPhone also offers some canned applications, such as one that allows you to interact with an RSS feed. So, let's say you wanted to listen to my blog over your phone, you can do so by clicking the icon below:

In many ways, voice based phone apps are the ultimate platform to reach the masses. Sure, plenty of people have computers and lots of people know about SMS - but just think of the number of people you can reach with a good old fashion phone, landline or mobile? And I just love how the NPR solution reminds you that sometimes the best solutions aren't the fanciest.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tackling The Dreaded Business Plan - Or Maybe Not

Time For A Business Plan?

People are telling me about their ideas all the time. Inevitably, we get onto the topic of what they should do next and I often give the classic response: Time to write up a business plan.

I offer this advice for one key reason: it's imperative that you take a first step in the process, and switch from talking about an idea to actually doing it. And boy is this first step a tricky one. The good news is, the vast majority of your competitors will never get beyond this (a key principal in The Dip, a book worth reading at the start of every project). There's just something about taking the thoughts that are swirling around in your head and putting them to paper which is daunting. But, it has to be done.

A Business Story

Luckily, I quickly follow up with a second recommendation which is that when I say "business plan" I don't really mean one in the traditional 23 point format sense. What I actually recommend is that you create a PowerPoint presentation that conveys Business Story. Why PowerPoint?

  • You won't have to deal with filling up pages and pages of text
  • You'll be encouraged to draw pictures, use photos and other multimedia
  • You'll end up with a presentation that you can give to others such as friends and family, potential business partners, possible vendors, etc.
  • You'll be forced to put your idea into a structured and logic flow

This last point is probably the most beneficial of them all.

As for the contents of this story, I'd suggest that you describe how the system will work, give the business case, outline competitors, etc. As you continue to grow the idea, this deck will grow as well.

You may absolutely end up writing a formal business plan at some point, but using that as a starting point seems like an awfully painful way to start a business.

Another Take On The Business Plan

So, this has been my recipe. That is, until I recently saw Mike Michalowicz's presentation on cnbc.com: Things You DON'T Need To Launch Your Business.

There, on slide 4 is Mike's clear view on business plans:

How many people have told you to write a business plan? Everyone! Now, ask those same people how often they refer to their own plan and work directly from it. No one! That’s because business plans are not effective business tools. In my opinion, a business plan is a huge waste of time.

So, we are in agreement - a business plan is not essential first step. Mike, however, takes it one step further and recommends a variety of key documents that you will want to create:

First write your Prosperity Plan: The detailed vision of what your business will be like within the next 10 years.

Next, write a Quarterly Plan: This is a list of goals that you must accomplish in the current quarter to make the most progress toward your Prosperity Plan. Every quarter evaluate where you are, and write the next quarter’s Quarterly Plan.

And finally, you need Daily Metrics: The daily numbers that show the heart beat of your company. For example, this may include yesterday’s sales, cash flow, or customer support calls.

Mike even provides templates for these forms for you to grab from his website.

While I still think my recommendation of creating a clear story that you can share with others still holds, I definitely think Mike's advice is invaluable. The documents that he's recommending you write up are straightforward and concrete, and definitely seem like they would get you on the path for success.

Write up a business plan? Yeah, maybe, eventually. But there are definitely some other options out there when you are just starting up.

The National Portrait Gallery - Putting a face with a name

A couple years back, when my parents were visiting we attempted to go to the National Portrait Gallery, but alas, it was being renovated. After many years, we tried again - and this time, success!

What an absolutely amazing collection. In just a quick walk through, we've seen a range of portraits from Davy Crocket to Bill Clinton. From traditional poses to political cartoons.

My favorite section so far is a little cluster of portraits that include Isaac Singer (think sewing machines), Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Now these guys were old school geeks! They were changing the world through technology that was just as remarkable as any .com of today.

This is such a wonderful way to take in history. Each portrait has a blurb that explains the importance of the figure. Like they say, there's just something about putting a face with a name.

Dave tells me there's free WiFi in the courtyard. Perhaps this would be a fun place to work for next time I need to get out of the house?

--Ben

Some snapshots:

Shira and President Bill:

Davy Crocket:

Us!

Heaps Of Books

Here's a quick photo from a book store near Eastern Market that we
visited today. The store was busting out with books - what a fun place
to get lost.

The rest of the market was fun too - with tasty peaches and cherries,
funky jewelry and other goodies.

We're taking a quick foodstop now, and then if all goes well, it's off
to the National Portrait Gallery for a little Smithsonian goodness.

--Ben

Friday, August 15, 2008

Visting The Newseum

We're finishing up a visit to the new (for us) Newseum. I have to say,
I'm quite impressed. I feel like we really haven't seen the majority of
the museum, but what we have seen has been remarkable.

The Berlin Wall and FBI exhibits definitely exceeded expectations. The
Pulitzer Prize winning photos were worth the cost of admission alone,
and I look forward to going back and spending more time with them.
Imagine a whole conflict, movement or event all summed up in one frame.
Sounds impossible, yet these photos do this.

Even the potentially cheesy 4D movie was both entertaining and
educational. The only thing we did which I would have passed on was the
"studio tour." This turned out to be a basic look around their working
studio, and didn't really provide any real depth.

The Newseum is definitely a site you want to add to your itinerary. Our
AAA guidebook didn't give it a star, but I do.

--Ben

Growing A Virtual Mob

Check out this clever (and well done!) video from Mike of Toilet Paper Entrepreneur fame:


Toilet Paper Entrepreneur - VLOG 6 - The Mob from Toilet Paper on Vimeo.

Who Needs A Mob?

Mike brings up an excellent point - who you hang out with makes a big difference in your success. I happened to see this video after having a conversation with my friend Leslie about working at home; she wanted to know if I ever missed having co-workers?

I told her I did, but that I tended to need to focus during the day so that I found the lack of folks around to be more of a benefit than a cost.

But, as Mike points out above - your mob is key. And not having co-workers around, contributes to not having a mob.

Building A Virtual Mob

So, I decided at the very least, I should have a virtual mob to chill with. But where to find one? For this, I turned to everyone's favorite generic tool: Twitter. I usually talk about using Twitter to get your messages sent out to folks, but in many ways, Twitter's true strength is in allowing you to build your own custom stream of conversation. So, rather than hang out with programmers or business people, I can hang out with interesting folks from any group that I want.

To get started on forming my virtual mob, I took the few individuals I was already following (like codinghorror) and started checking out who was following them. If their Twitter streams looked interesting, I clicked the Follow button. Then, I took Nick's advice and used search.twitter.com to find folks who mentioned topics that interest me (entrepreneur, small business, etc.). Finally, I followed some service type feeds, like cnnbrk for CNN Breaking News.

The result is a stream of chatter - my new virtual mob. Like any group of friends, it's not something that's right immediately - I'm expecting to tweak who I follow significantly. My goal is clear though, keep tweaking till I have a sense that I'm surrounded by hard working people who I'm not only learning from, but can also engage. Oh, and I want all this to happen without taking huge chunks of my day.

Is It Working?

And how's this experiment working out? Well, so far:

And that's in just a couple days of playing around. Boy, am I glad that Mike and Leslie were already part of actual mob. I'm really curious to see where this experiment goes.

Note: if you Twitter, definitely leave your username in the comments so I can start following along. If you're interested, you can follow me here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Parents Come To Town

My parents just arrived for a long weekend visit. Naturally, our first order of business was to search out Kosher food, and Eli's did the trick nicely.

My, how time flies - last time they were here the Air Force Memorial hadn't even been put up, and now it's documented all over my blog. So we stopped by this tonight so they could take a peek.

I shot a couple of pictures tonight, but was severely limited by the fact that all I had was my camera phone. Still, I made do:

It's great to have them in town!

Satire In 140 Line Chunks

OK, maybe you need to be a GI Joe fan to appreciate this - but check out: Cobra Commander's Twitter Feed. It's absolutely laugh out loud hilarious.

I'm simply amazed it works as well as it does. It's yet another example of minimalist storytelling that totally works.

Gotcha Of The Day - GoDaddy and php.ini

While installing a 3rd party application on one my client's sites today, I needed to change the PHP config settings.

No problem, I'll just upload a .htaccess file, right? Wrong, when I did that, I ended up with a 500 Error - the reason why is described here.

I noticed there was a ini.php in the top level directory of the user account. However, when I made changes to it, nothing happened.

Turns out - php.ini is for configuring PHP 4. To configure PHP 5, you need to upload php5.ini. This is described here.

D'oh - I was so close, yet so far away.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gotcha Of The Day - Internet Explorer Beeping At Me

Lately I've noticed that when I use Internet Explorer, it occasionally beeps at me. I don't mean a soft, subtle tone, I mean a 1992, boot-up, super crude, beep. It especially does this when I attempt to re-submit a POST based form. Which, of course, I'm doing constantly.

That's ugly, but it's not that big a deal. What makes it worth of GOTD status, is that the beep is always at one level - loud. So, as I'm chilling with my headphones on to Groove Salad, and re-load, I get an ear shattering beep. Yikes!

Naive me, tried changing the volume level - but the beep had nothing to do with that part of Windows.

A bit of Googling around found me this gem: Disable beeping Sound in Vista/XP/2003/2000. Which boils down to:

  Start » Run » cmd
  net stop beep

When I ran the above, I got the very satisfying message:

 The Beep service was stopped successfully.

Ahh yes, the beep service. How critical. Windows never ceases to amaze.

Comics Meets Radio

I was surprised how nicely the relatively simple comic characters enhanced the top notch radio storytelling. Very cool stuff.

I also loved the description of the so called Marriage Courtroom. I'm in the same boat the husband in the story is - watch it, and see what I mean.

Broadcast Your Message Over SMS - For Free

By now, you've probably heard that Obama's campaign team has decided to announce Obama's VP over SMS and E-mail:

Barack Obama is about to make one of the most important decisions of this campaign -- choosing a running mate.

You have helped build this movement from the bottom up, and Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice.

Sign up today to be the first to know:

http://my.barackobama.com/vp

You will receive an email the moment Barack makes his decision, or you can text VP to 62262 to receive a text message on your mobile phone.

I think broadcasting his decision over SMS is a clever move for a variety of reasons. It makes his base feel special because they'll be in the know as soon as the information is available, it reinforces his message of this being a grass roots campaign and geeks will again get the sense that the Obama campaign has this whole Internet thing figured out.

In fact, the Obama campaign has fairly extensive SMS options, which are outlined here (Want to follow Obama's comments on Iraq via your cell phone? No problem). I can't find any mention of SMS on McCain's site.

But here's the part that I found really impressive:

For high-volume text users (once every few days) Follow Barack's updates and schedule on Twitter, a text messaging social network. Simply text FOLLOW BARACKOBAMA to 40404

So, even with all the money available to the campaign, they are choosing to broadcast messages to their base using Twitter. The key behind this is that you can join twitter just by sending a simple text message. You never need to visit twitter.com. This is something simple enough, my Mom could do.

Consider this message I just added to the i2x website:

Want to keep up with Ideas2Executables news on your cell phone? Just send the text message: FOLLOW i2x to the phone number 40404

And just like that, you have a strategy for reaching out to your customer / fan base over SMS. Didn't cost you a dime.

I guess this falls into the category of: yet another reason to love twitter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Tonight I get a call from Dave - want to see the Nationals play the
Mets? Heck yeah!

So, Shira and I hopped on the metro to the new stadium.

I'm now sitting here, watching some impressive baseball (just saw an
unexpected double play), drinking a cold beer and having just consumed
a Kosher Italian sausage. Sure, I just ate a week's worth of calories,
but, whatever.

Go Nats!

--Ben

A Beautiful DC Day

It's a beautiful day here in Washington, DC - 85°F with only a touch of humidity (33%) -- and best of all, I took a walk today and got to enjoy it!

It's a far cry from a run, but it sure was nice being out of the house.

Hacking Your Intestinal Track

The surgeon warned me about this: he said that the trickiest part of my hernia surgery was going to have nothing at all to do with the hernia itself. The major complaint his patients (and me included) have is that your gastrointestinal track gets totally hosed from the anesthesia.

This means a couple of days of misery from either going the bathroom too often, or not often enough.

Did I prepare for this ahead of time? No, of course not. But now that my system is basically back to normal, I figured I should read up on what I should have been eating to get back on track faster. Or at least not make matters worse.

This information is also essential for travel - and I'm tempted to print this out and put this in my dopp kit. There's nothing worse than being on travel, having some intestinal woes, and then eating exactly the wrong things to make it worse.

Thanks to the America Cancer Society for providing this useful information.

If You're Going Too Often

  • Eat smaller amounts of food, but eat more often.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, and sweets.
  • Avoid high fiber foods: including whole grain breads and cereals, raw vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, popcorn, and fresh and dried fruit.
  • Eat low-fiber foods instead, such as white bread, white rice or noodles, creamed cereals, ripe bananas, canned or cooked fruit without skins, cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, mashed or baked potatoes without the skin, pureed vegetables, chicken or turkey without the skin, and fish.
  • Stay away from fried, greasy, or spicy foods.
  • Avoid milk and milk products
  • Eat more potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, oranges, potatoes, and peach and apricot nectars
  • Drink apple juice and lots of water

If Your Not Going Often Enough

  • Drink 8 to 10 cups of liquid each day, if OK with your doctor. Try water, prune juice, warm juices, teas, and hot lemonade.
  • Eat high-fiber foods such as bran cereals, popcorn, brown rice, whole wheat bread, nuts, broccoli, carrots, corn, green peas, potato with skin, apple with peel, banana, blue berries, pear with skin, prunes, orange, raisins, strawberries
  • Add high-fiber foods slowly to your diet to avoid bloating and gas.

And yes, I do consider this post further proof that there is simply no topic off limits on Ben's blog. Bathroom tips included!

Looking for blogging inspiration? Check out Google Trends

Looking for something to blog about? It's always fun to check Google's Hot Trends page for ideas. You can also look back to previous days trends, to well, look for trends.

There's probably a right way and a wrong way to use this information. I think using it as inspiration and a fun way to gather topics is the right way. Using it to try to show up first on Google probably won't work. By the time you're seeing these search terms on the trends page, no doubt, the trend has already slowed.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I've got to go do research for posts on phelps breakfast, rob riggle and scimitar cat.

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Olympic Moment

I like to complain about how much of the Olympics I've watched - but I have to say, when you see moments like this one (which thanks to Dave for sending my way!) you have to appreciate how amazing the games are:

I'm with Dave, it's hard not to feel pride about one country after seeing them pull of something like this.

A Better Response To An Attack Ad

I commented earlier how I was disappointed that the Obama had his own over-simplified attack ad out, no doubt in response to McCain's attack ads. I suggested to Dave, over the weekend, that wouldn't it be more effective to take the high road and pick apart McCain's ads instead of launching your own?

Turns out, that's exactly what Obama's team is doing:

I think this is a great strategy, because not only does it combat the ad, but it further makes McCain look like he's taking the Low Road.

I guess the only catch is that this video is on YouTube, and the Obama attack ad is running in prime time. I wish they had the courage to take this sort of approach on network TV.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Killing Time In Recovery

Here's what's been keeping me busy while I've been recovering...

Reading Masters Of Chaos - an excellent book that tells the story of the Special Forces. And what an amazing story it is! Now these guys are tough and do amazing work. Expect a full review when I finish the book. Needless to say, I recommend it.

Watched the classic Olympic movie: Mircacle. How can you go wrong? It's Disney at their best. What an awesome way to get into the Olympics. This one I recommend too.

Watched the cult classic Blade Runner. Whoa, this one was out my league. I totally don't get it. I'll have to watch it again with a Sci Fi geek who can explain to me what I'm seeing.

Watched the chick flick Just Like Heaven. Shira earned this one after all she's put up with these last few days. As chick flicks go, this one as totally passable. Though, that could just be the drugs talking.

Watched lots of the Olympics. In fact, I watched enough Beach Volleyball that I think I actually appreciate it as a sport versus some sort of testosterone based spectacle. The fact that two players compete, with no alternates and no coaches, is actually remarkable. Though, one does have to ask - are the beach babes really needed?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ben's okay

At the request of Ben, he would like all to know, he is doing fine. Unfortunately, he is not fit for photography right now as he is both white and yellow at the same time! But we should be heading home soon.

Update:I'm now resting comfortably at home. I'm feeling pretty good considering what I went through this morning, and considering I have a bag of ice on my crotch. In fact, Shira and I have already begun the: Ben says: But I want to get back on e-mail and do work. Shira says: you are on pain meds, absolutely not! arguments.

Good times, really.

Hospital attire

Just wheeled Ben off to surgery. The surgeon and the anesthesiologist were great. They said they would take a moment to stop the surgery on 08-08-08 at 08:08. This should be fun!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

The Waiting Begins

I'm now all checked in and ready at the outpaitent surgery center (for
getting my hernia fixed). All we need to do now is actually have the
surgery.

I'm impressed with the setup - Shira has a tracking number she can use
to see wherever I am at all times. She also got a little buzzer thingy
which allows her to roam the hospital and get recalled back to the desk
when she's needed.

Basically, the hospital has caught up to Fed-Ex and Ruby Tuesday's.
Whoo!

The photo: me with my surgery game face on.

--Ben

Thursday, August 07, 2008

That It Might Rain Look

This was an impressive site in person - I doubt my camera phone really
captured it.

I shot this on a run, and turns out, the sun won out - the rain never
showed.

How's that for a deep thought of the day?

--Ben

Like checking in for a flight, only different

You know how you can check in for a flight for up to 24 hrs before you
take off? Apparently, you can now do the same thing for surgery.

Tomorrow, bright and early, I have hernia repair surgery. So, I just
got done with the screening process a few moments ago.

It's actually quite efficient - I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a
nurse yesterday, 3 minutes in pre-op screening today, and hopefully a
shorter ordeal tomorrow.

At the moment, I'm still quite cool about this whole experience. The
surgeon assured me this is safe, and not a big deal. We'll see if I can
keep up this composure tomorrow at 6:30am.

--Ben

Could I Be A Toilet Paper Entrepreneur?

First things first, what's a Toilet Paper Entrepreneur? (From the Facebook group)

So, you ask... What the hell is a Toilet Paper Entrepreneur?

Have you ever been sitting on the toilet finishing your business, and then all of a suddenly you realize there are only three sheets of toilet paper left...but somehow you managed to make it work?

This is how a Toilet Paper Entrepreneur runs their business...they make do with what they have and make more and more with less and less.

It's all very inspiring stuff, and the man behind it - Mike Michalowicz is quite a character. He's about 80% positive energy coach, and 20% business consultant. (My kind of guy!)

I especially liked what he had to say because I'm already a big fan of Seth Godin's Small is the new big. That is, small businesses can do remarkable things without lots of cash and resources. Michalowicz takes this one step further in some ways and says that not having is actually a huge advantage. As he put it, nothing makes you fat and dumb like money.

If you're a small business, it's definitely worth following up on. I'm personally curious to see if there's more behind this than just a motivational message (which may actually be enough).

So, am I Toilet Paper Entrepreneur? From what I understand of the term, I think that's a resounding yes. Not only that, but I get to work with fellow TP Entrepreneurs on a daily basis through i2x - which as you would imagine is lots of fun.

Here's a video that tells you a bit more and gives you a great feel for the man behind on this.


Mike Michalowicz, Author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur - The 8 TPE Attributes - Website Video from Toilet Paper on Vimeo.

Caption Me - What Was I Trying To Say?

I'm trying to make sense of the notes I took last night on a fairly lengthy conference call. So far, so good. And then I flipped the page and see this diagram with this un-intelligible word (lolam?).

OK crowds, if you're so smart, tell me what the heck I was trying to tell myself with this elegant diagram?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Promoting Your Business On Facebook Tips

I'm still incredibly new at this, so definitely take these suggestions as things to try not that you must do. Though, hopefully my time spent goofing off exploring Facebook can benefit someone.

Here's a handful of things you should try to make your business presence on Facebook even better than it currently is. (To get your business on Facebook, check out this suggestion).

  • Setup your page's Facebook notes app to import your companies blog. Or, in our case, our news feed. See Importing External Blogs here for more information on this.
  • Use the webaddress application so you can setup a short name URL for your Facebook page. You can now access ours at http://companies.to/Ideas2Executables.
  • Use the extended profiles application to add more information about your business to your Page than just the standard fields.
  • Shop around for other applications that would work well for you business (like the discussion or polls). Just make sure there's a big 'ol Add To Page button you can click, so that your company's page and not your personal profile, get the new functionality.
  • Join various appropriate groups so that you can network with others
  • Read a comprehensive list of Facebook tips, like this one: 100 Tools and Tips to Tap the Facebook Customer Base.

What other tips do you have? Use the comments link below to suggest them. Thanks!

Skipping The Media

No sound bites, no witty commentary, just a view into what the candidate is saying. A novel concept, I know.

Here's a live feed that carries Barack Obama's speeches / town hall meetings. It's not perfect quality, but considering it's unfiltered, it's still worth watching:

Streaming .TV shows by Ustream

The Obama campaign also makes use of twitter to let the world know when the feed is active.

Anyone know if McCain has something similar? When I google for John McCain Live Feed all I find is his Saturday Night Live Performance.

Paris Strikes Back

I simply never thought Paris Hilton would either (a) make my blog or (b) get tagged with a politics tag if she did make it. But today, I was proven wrong. Check out her message below:

This is how you inject humor into your campaign, not through a silly stunt like this one. I think both campaigns could learn a thing or two from this clip.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What to do with $5,000

Here's a fun article on what do if you have $5,000 lying around.

Me, I'm married, so this article is strictly a hypothetical. But, if unlike me you're not on an allowance, you might find this article handy.

Thanks for the pointer Manoj!

McCain Defending Obama's Drilling Position - I don't get it

OK, I don't get this press release entitled Statement in Defense of Barack Obama:

ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign issued the following statement from McCain 2008 Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker in defense of Barack Obama's energy positions:

"Senator Obama's stance on offshore oil drilling has been mischaracterized. He has not changed his position. He has continually campaigned against additional drilling, calling the policy a 'gimmick' saying it was a 'scheme' and ridiculing those who support it. With his steadfast opposition to John McCain's 'all of the above' approach to our energy crisis, Americans should know that Barack Obama remains opposed to additional domestic oil drilling. ...

As far as I can tell, the page goes to great length to show:

  • Obama hasn't changed his position (he didn't do the dreaded flip-flop)
  • There is quote after quote where Obama explains that drilling is a scheme, including links to Obama saying this in speeches on YouTube
  • It even includes this quote:
    Barack Obama: "This Is A Proposal That Would Only Worsen Our Addiction To Oil." "And just like Senator McCain's gas tax holiday gimmick, this is a proposal that would only worsen our addiction to oil and put off needed investments in clean renewable energy." (Barack Obama, Remarks, Jacksonville, FL, 6/20/08)

There's nothing in the press release that suggests why drilling off shore would be a good idea, or to suggest that it isn't a scheme. And, as the title suggests, McCain appears to be coming to Barack's rescue?

How can this sort of press release be a good strategy? I suppose, if your base believes that offshore drilling is a good thing, then showing that Obama hasn't changed his mind proves a point. And yes, the article includes the sentence The American people can be sure that John McCain will do what is necessary to reduce this country's dependence on Middle East oil and bring down prices at the pump. But why lay out all of Obama's arguments and defend him, on your website and not provide any of your arguments?

This one leaves me scratching my head...

A Smarter E-junkie Thank You Page

I'm a big fan of the E-junkie e-commerce selling solution. They make it drop dead easy to start selling stuff on your website, and have nice support for the creation of dynamic codes. That is, you can sell an access code that is generated by your site, yet sold via E-junkie.

One feature E-junkie offers is the ability to host your own Thank You page. This way, folks start on your site, buy something over at E-junkie, and end up at your own site. You can put whatever you want on this page. This is mostly good news, except, if you host your own Thank You page, you can't get a hold of various facts about the transaction - like how much the order was. This means that you can't print a clever message if the user spent over a certain amount (of course, there are other reasons you'd want to know this besides clever messages).

For one of my client's sites, I needed to get the total price on this page, but it wasn't at all obvious how to do it. That is, until I read through this forum thread. Here's what I ended up with as a solution:

  • Log into E-junkie, click on Account Preferences
  • Enter your thank you page url (www.somesite.com/thanks.php)
  • Fill in something like the following for the Common Thank You Page HTML:
    @@total:[%total%]@@
    
  • In your thank you page (thanks.php above) grab the GET parameter named txn_id
  • Using CURL, make a behind the scenes request over to E-junkie:
    $url = "https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/rp.php?noredirect=true&txn_id=$txn_id";
    $ch = curl_init($url);
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, true);
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_SSL_VERIFYPEER, false); # Needed to talk SSL w/ E-junkie
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_TIMEOUT, 15);
    $ej_html = curl_exec($ch);
    
  • Now, parse out the value of total using a regexp like:
    $total = preg_replace('/^.*@@total: *([^@]+)@@.*$/ms', '$1', $ej_html);
    
  • And there you go, you have $total as a variable you can include on your Thank You Page

Now, if E-junkie would just put together some sort of API so I could remotely manage my items, I'd be totally happy. Though, I have to say, if you have just a handful of items to sell, they really are hard to beat.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Obama Joining McCain in the gutter?

Check out this latest ad from Obama:

And check out Mitt Romeny's response, which boils down to:

  • The claim that Big Oil gave John McCain $2 Million dollars is technically true, but that's the donations of individuals and executives who gave to his campaign. What about all the individuals and executives in the oil industry who gave to Barack?
  • The 4 billion dollar tax cut that McCain wants to give Big Oil is also technically true, but it's part of a tax cut he wants to make across all of industry - not just to the oil industry

I have to agree with Mitt on this one, the ad seems to be fundamentally oversimplifying and misleading, exactly the kind of sludge that I like Obama for avoiding. I like it when Obama talks to his supporters like adults, not like a crowd easily manipulated by inflammatory stats.

C'mon Obama, next time you see junk like this, don't approve it.

Folks on the left and right -- what am I missing here?

Windows Tip: Doing A Full IIS Restart

This morning I needed to install a new version of the oh-so-handy Ionics Isapi Rewrite Filter. This plugin is an ISAPI .dll. The instructions for installation are trivial - drop the IsapiRewrite4.dll in a particular directory and you're done.

Upgrading is a bit trickier, because you can't overwrite the existing IsapiRewrite4.dll, as it's in use by the web server.

I'm quite used to dealing with this sort of thing on Linux, but this being Windows, and a production server, I wasn't quite sure the best way to do the upgrade. And, being a production box, I didn't think trial-and-error was the best approach.

I knew I wanted to bring down IIS, do the upgrade and bring it up, but I had visions of shutting it down without the ability to restart it.

I talked to the very nice folks at LiquidWeb who provide the hosting for the server, and they walked me through the procedure:

  • Right click on My Computer
  • Click on Manage
  • Expand the Services and Applications tree
  • Click on Services
  • Find the IIS Admin Service
  • Stop it
  • Drop the new IsapiRewrite4.dll in place
  • Start the service
  • Wait an agonizing 10 seconds
  • Check to see if the server is up, if not, wait a few more agonizing seconds

The bottom line is that the important sounding IIS Admin Service controls everything IIS related. And most importantly, starting up the IIS Admin Service will bring everything back up.

My Green Act For The Day

I just replaced a handful of light bulbs in our house with eco friendly CF bulbs. Luckily, Costco had them in bulk, so it was painless to buy them.

I decided a while back it was just plain silly not to make the effort to replace dead bulbs with CF bulbs. They are more energy efficient, cheaper over the long run, and have special guilt reducing properties. Oh, and it's cheaper than buying a hybrid car.

The other day, while grocery shopping Dave asked me why we don't use the .99 cent reusable bags instead of plastic. I didn't really have a good reason for him. So, maybe that's my next eco friendly move I'll be making.

Hey, I may be an eco laggard - but at least I walk to work, instead of driving.

--Ben

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ben vs Bathroom Fan - Concluded?

So, on my way out the door to Home Depot, to get a replacement bathroom fan I have a thought. The fan itself looks fine, maybe the problem isn't with it - maybe something is stuck in vent or something?

So, I return to the scene of the crime, feel up in the vent, and notice that the plastic air shaft that connects to the fan isn't quite in place.

I snap it back in place, put the fan back (thank heaven for the new rechargeable screwdriver mom just bought me, those are some long screws!) and turn it on. And sure enough, it sounds better. I think, a lot better.

I think I'll give it another couple days, but I'm thinking the issue is fixed.

Score one for thinking through the problem, instead of just marching off to Home Depot to do the most obvious repair.

--Ben

Ben vs Bathroom Fan - Part 1

Today's home adventure: replacing the bathroom fan in our first floor powder room that currently sounds like a 747 preparing to take flight.

The score so far: Ben 1, Fan 0.

I've managed to get the fan out of the ceiling without damage to myself or the house. Whew.

Now it's off to Home Depot for a replacement, and then the real fun begins: getting the new fan in place.

--Ben

Friday, August 01, 2008

Yet Another Facebook Test - Images

Another day, another test of what I can try to coax Facebook into doing. This time, it's a picture test. Here's a test photo...if this works, I'll explain :-).

It's probably worth mentioning - this photo is from the worst camera ever.

Better Looking CSS Text

Getting text to look professional on the web is always tricky stuff. I'm still trying to master the combination of font family, color, weight, letter spacing, etc. to end up with combination that don't look ordinary.

For example, I just recently realized that you can use a bold weight to get chunky letters, but tone down the color to undo the bolding effect. See what I mean:

I'm bold
I'm also bold, but I'm more relaxed about it

These tips, and a whole lot more are mentioned in this nifty article George just sent me: 10 Examples of Beautiful CSS Typography and how they did it.

Thanks George, this is a handy one!

Sweet, sweet success

Whooo! Two whole strawberries - what a harvest!

Our little gardening experiment is actually working. I wonder if it's time to scale this up a bit? Try to haul in a good 10 or 12 strawberries instead of 2.

--Ben

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails