Travel Log

I just fired off an e-mail to some colleagues I haven't seen since 2007, I was trying to put together the high level Travel Log since we'd last seen each other and came up with the following list of countries visited by year.

  • 2007 – UK, Canada, Italy
  • 2008 – Czech Republic, Austria
  • 2009 – Italy, Portugal
  • 2010 – Spain, Italy, France, UK, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico
  • 2011 – Canada - doesn't really count.

Not a bad list considering I'd never left the country prior to 2004 (here's the breakdown prior to 2007).

  • 2004 - Canada, Spain, Italy, France, UK, Czech Republic
  • 2005 - Italy
  • 2006 - UK, Germany

 I had to go back to the passport and do some recon to piece some of these back together.  I don't think I missed any.

This really makes me want to plan a trip abroad.  Too bad I have something scheduled for 2/3 of the weekend between now and August.

I can't break the streak, at least one country every year since 2004, and at least two every year since! Where should I go? Maybe just a long weekend!


REDFLY Mobile Companion

I picked up a REDFLY several months ago, when they first lowered the price to under $200 (thanks Matt Miller for encouraging my gadget habit).

I’ve used it a bit, but not much.  Took it on a trip or two where I didn’t want to take a laptop, but didn’t want to be constrained to my Motorola Q screen for e-mail and the web.

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Trent my “account manager,” he asked a few questions and I just got around to responding to them.  In the spirit of the social web I thought I’d post the e-mail chain here (contact information removed of course).

 

Dear Ross,

Congratulations on your recent purchase of the REDFLY Mobile Companion.  I wanted to follow-up on your purchase and introduce myself as your account manager.  If you have any technical questions or support issues please contact 1.888.4REDFLY or you can email technical support at XXX@celiocorp.com.

As your account manger I am interested in understanding if your purchase was for personal use or for a corporate evaluation.  What was the driving factor behind your decision to purchase the REDFLY Mobile Companion? I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Trent

My response:

Personal purchase with a mix of personal and business use.  I'm an IT consultant and on the road most weeks away from home.  It's a convenient way to use the connection I already have via my phone when I'm in a location where there isn't wifi readily available.
Honestly though I haven't used it all that much, the biggest factor in picking it up was the price decrease.  However I've kept in my mobile arsenal as my client/travel needs may change in the future.  I don't see it replacing the need for me to carry a PC, except on small trips (mostly leisure) where I want the ability to hit the web, or check e-mail and don't want to bring the PC.  But anywhere that I'm doing "serious work"  I don't see myself leaving the PC behind.  Windows Mobile is still a bit too under powered.  This may be somewhat addressed as my company migrates to Exchange 2007 and I gain more functionality in Outlook on WinMo.
I did speak to one of the IT buyers for our company, and he had played with one, but didn't see a lot of benefit to it.  Because again he expected the workforce to still need to carry a PC with them.  I disagreed with him, I do think it's a good companion device.  But since we're traveling for a week at a time, it's not something our workforce would probably use.  If we away and back to home/office every day, or multiple times during the day I could see a different dynamic.
One hardware thought user replaceable batteries are key, it gives the option to stockpile extra batteries and keep going through out the day.  Also the design of the power adapter is fairly inconvenient.  I'd like to see a standard laptop - "brick" type adapter, as its more flexible
.

I know no one really reads this, but on the off chance that people are looking at a Redfly, that’s my quick and dirty impression.

 

Related Links:


Just put it all in one (smart) place!

This is something that's bugged me for years, but James Kendrick at jkontherun has finally pushed me to write about it as a response to one of his posts.

He poses an interesting scenario, at the end of his post, based on the newly announced (and not yet available) Palm Pre, however he's making some pretty big leaps.  The current software, isn't learning anything, it's just taking a context based response.  The same response each time.  Not that I don't think it's great, and would love to see it not only on WinMo, but Outlook as well.

I'm surprised overall how poor the current set of mash-ups, or portals is.  There's sooo much data out there that most of us aren't using because we don't want to jump through all the hoops (different sources, websites, searches etc) to get it.  It would be relatively easy for software to aggregate it better for us.

We're finally starting to see steps in the right direction.  There have been portal sites for ages (think yahoo, or more recently iGoogle), but they don't really aggregate as they should to make things truly seamless, you're at the mercy of the created gadgets, or have to get in and code one in the provided API.  How much duplication do you think that creates?

Take Tripit.com for example.  It’s moving us in the right direction, and the wrong direction all at the same time.  It’s pretty neat that I can consolidate all of my travel info into one place, it looks up relevant information based on the itinerary I send it.  I can check flight status, check-in for my flight, get driving directions, weather, and add personal notes.  Now it’s not perfect, it’s got some cool social type features, but to take advantage of them I have to get my network on TripIt.  I can put a badge on my blog, or LinkedIn profile to show where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m headed, but I can’t put it on my facebook page.

I’m a pretty savvy user, and I used to scoff at the people who complained it was too hard to figure this stuff out.  It’s not that I can’t it’s that I don’t want to spend the time.  I’m looking at gadgets and technology to enhance my life and make it easier, not learn a different set of standards, or usage scenarios for every little thing I want to do.  Ten, five, even two years ago I’d accept it just wasn’t feasible for some of this stuff, walled gardens where how technology worked.  Not today friends.  There is no reason or excuse for any program you’re using on your PC not to be internet aware, and it should be able to export and import data to leverage that awareness.

This is the type of stuff I’m talking about.  For the last couple of years I keep waiting for the killer website to come out and aggregate at least all of the push information out there for me in one easy place.  I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened.  The site needs a couple of basic things.  I think this information falls into three categories.  Push, Pull, and Context.  Each type of information requires different access, but it would really be killer to  be able to get it all in one place.

Push

This concept goes way back to the Windows 95 days and Remember that neat concept Microsoft had where you could put web pages on your desktop, and they would be update when you were online.  Some specific partners even had widgets (or whatever they were called) that would push the data to you rather than your PC initiating the request.

Well guess what most of the data I’m looking for on the net is available in a standardized push method, what’s not should be.  RSS I spend nearly all of my online time (outside of getting sucked into the time sink that is YouTube) on two websites.  GMail for my domain, and Google Reader.  I follow 199 different websites daily, and thanks to the automagic updates of RSS feeds to my reader I never have to go to any of those individual sites to know if it’s been updated.  The updates appear and I read them, it’s great.

Our new killer site would have RSS aggregation built in.  I can add any RSS feed and it shows up on my portal.  The power of customization is where things get interesting:

  • Perhaps the default is a blog-roll style list of feeds I’m following with the standard reading view, and that’s fine for most.
  • Some feeds where I want them to always display – a news feed for instance, I should be able to create a custom container just for that feed, and put where ever I want on my portal.
  • Lets say I have a friends/family member’s blog that I always want to appear – in the format it is on their website.  I should be able to create a container, and the content should display as it does on their site (assuming they’re using CSS and HTML to style their site).
  • Password protected RSS feed support needs to be included as well.

If you’re having trouble imagining the power here I’m guessing it’s because you’re not familiar with RSS.  As you surf the web start looking for RSS Feed links, little orange buttons, or the little orange feed logo in IE 7.  Almost every blog has one, any major website has one.

If portals started to truly embrace and fully support RSS (in the standard reader format, and outside it) RSS would be even more prevalent.

There are sites where RSS is lacking (or too well hidden) for no valid reason.  Why in God’s name do I need to go to facebook to see my news feed.  This is why I don’t leverage facebook all that much, if I had an RSS feed of my facebook feed, and links to allow the responses as I do in facebook, I’d be all over that.

Lets take it a step further.  Right now I have a bunch of APIs available from various websites to create widgets for their sites (facebook apps, Yahoo gadgets, Google widgets, Windows Sidebar gadgets, etc.).  If our site wanted to be the end-all be-all it would be able to pull in any of these apps/widgets, whatever and use them.

Pull

That other website I’m spending all my time in is GMail for my domain e-mail.  While there are parts of e-mail that should be push (and new arrivals could easily be handled via RSS), there are parts that should be pull as well.  Back to my portal site.  I should be able to enter any website (did you know each of your GMail labels, or searches creates a custom linkable URL?) and have its contents appear in a container on my portal.  So if I want a list of all of my e-mail labeled "purchase” to appear in a container I should be able to do that.  If I want my favorite YouTube video to appear in a container I should be able to enter that URL.  This is probably an easier implementation than the Push info I’ve called out above.

Context

This is where it gets a little dicey, and decidedly more complicated.  This is the example from James’ post that got me started, and causes me to expand.

  • Palm Pre looks up maps/directions from one event to the next on your calendar
  • Palm Pre looks up relevant internet information on meeting attendees based on your calendar
  • GMail provides a link to a map of address that appear in your e-mails
  • GMail provides a link to tracking of package numbers that appear in your e-mails

Why isn’t my computer OS, or at least some of the applications smarter about this?

Just like millions of other corporate users I use Outlook all day every day for corporate e-mail.  Why can’t it do better about this.  I should either be able to right click an address, and have it map it (via my choice of web-based applications), track a package, reverse lookup a phone number.  This functionality is built into IE7’s search box (you can create a custom provider just by providing the appropriately formatted URL), why isn’t it build into the OS?  I’m not even asking it to make decisions, or learn, just give me the option to build my own library of actions, and let me use them, rather than the current open a browser, go to google maps, copy the address from the e-mail, paste the address into google maps.

The next step would be to have a pane in the app, that has all of these items (that I’ve specified) there for me.  If I can define a keyword that causes a specific web action to take place (i.e. 1zXXXXXX is a UPS number go track it, and put the results in the side bar), this allows me to customize, and reduces the impact to the developer.

Overall

There’s your billion dollar web 2.0 opportunity.  I just want it all in once place.  I just want to control how different parts of it are displayed.  I just want to be able to define what’s available at the click of a mouse (as opposed to click-select, new browser, website, paste….


If I ever get a real job...

Ginven this is a short work week our project worked from home/local offices. On Monday I decided that Sprint blows, well that's not really fair all of the wireless carriers blow, that I should actually go into the office this week. We won't even talk about the ordeal that was getting an IL Driver's License...

So I've taken the bus from in front of my place to in front of the office. Let m tell ya I don't think I could do it on a regular basis with out kiling several tousand people.

Tuesday:
I walked out to the stop to wait with about 15 of my closest randoms. Luckily the bus came in less than 5 minutes, however it was already full and standing room only. It was 715 in the morning and I live in the heart of Lincoln Park, about a 20 minute ride under ideal conditions. I was not pleased. So for the next 45 minutes we proceded to stop at every stop, except 1 (and they're every one to two blocks), at each stop the driver continiously plays the "As a coutsey to boarding passengers please move to the rear,"  Hey Jack-ass we're all already packed in here there's no where to go.  I reached the office just before 8, and started the first day of my Driver's License fiasco, but that's another post.

Wednesday:

In an effort to be clever an avoid having to stand on the bus I got up 15 minutes earlier, and was waiting for the bus at 6:45.  I got a seat, barely.  We didn't stop quite as much, and I was at the office around 7.  Then other hellish things begain to happen, but again a story for another time.

Thursday:

I arrived at the bus stop at 6:50, and proceded to wait as 2 buses from the other route that shares that stop came and went, so at about 7:15 my bus finally came, and what do you know there were about 15 of us waiting, and we all go to stand... repeat Tuesday, except that I had been waiting at the stop for 15 before getting on the bus to stand for the trip.  I didn't keep track I think there were maybe 3 stops we didn't stop at today, and I got to the office around 7:50, and was greated by a huge line at Starbucks, fortunatly they were better adept at taking care of that than the bus system was, and I was at my desk prior to 8.  Can't wait to see what the rest of the day brings!  Can't wait to get back to a "normal" commute and get on that plane Monday morning!


It was a very good year...

Recap of the last 2 several months.

February

  • It was cold
  • Went to Mardi Gras (in St. Louis, still almost counts)
  • Carlie's Birthday, wow she's getting old.

March

  • Still cold
  • Saw Jim Gaffigan in Chicago - he was hilarious
  • Sushi in DSM - a surprisingly positive experience
  • Hosted an office visit - I'm sure none of the candidates wanted to come join the firm after having to listen to me talk about it all day
  • Community meeting at ESPNZone, can't go wrong with free booze.

April

  • Getting warmer
  • Easter in IA
  • First Project all-hands I've missed in my career, although there was no alcohol, so I'm not sure if that really counts.
  • Jazz Fest (in New Orleans - great now I have that Bon Jovi song in my head) - A great time, a much more fun than Mardi Gras, not nearly as crowded, and I have to admit the 2hr wait for hamburgers at Port of Call was well worth it.  Great trip!

May

  • Warm!
  • Mother's Day in IA, , from Chicago to IA back to Chicago in the same day, so I could get on a flight the next day to fly to DSM, wait, what?

June

  • Split a week between CMH and DSM, if you think flying on Mon and Thurs is bad, try flying Mon, Wed, and Thur, it's brutal!
  • Viva Las Vegas Baby, Yea!  So this was the first time I'd ever been to Vegas.  Imagine my horror when I found out that United doesn't fly there, only Ted (that means no free first class upgrade, and no free cocktails, well there was first class from DSM to DEN, but from DEN to LAS I had to use drink tickets, so all was not lost).  It was hot!  It was a fun experience, the cocktail waitresses were the most attentive at Caesar's in my experience.  At Mandalay Bay where we were staying, I only got 1 maybe 2 free drinks, at Caesar's she was by every 10-20 minutes.  We saw Ka at the MGM Grand, it was amazing if you're in Vegas I highly recommend it.  I spent the bulk of the days in the pool because it was so hot.  Unfortunately since I grabbed someone else's sunscreen and it was SPF 800 I didn't get much of a tan to speak of.  The Bellagio fountain show was great.  It was as good trip, but not high on my list of places to return, not much of a gambler.  If you want a drunken weekend it can be had much more easily and for much less $$$ in NOLA, of course I'm probably partial to NOLA since that's where the French Wench corrupted me and turned me to the joys of vodka, another story for another time.
  • Sponsored drinking in the loop the following weekend, can't  beat that.

July

  • Carlie was in town the entire week of the 4th, good times.  I'm sure we did something interesting other than spending my cash, it probably involved drinking.
  • Spend the second thru fourth weeks in St. Charles teaching New Analysts how to act like consultants.  The first week was prep with other faculty, it was awesome a fantastic group of "blokes" to talk like my friends from across the pond.  Weeks 2 and 3 were teaching the new kids.  The first Sat, the group of faculty when into Chicago, played laser tag, and blew some serious coin on booze in Wrigleyville.  The second Saturday, everyone got to experience the best pizza in the world Gino's East!  The 3 weeks in a row at Cadillac Ranch, combined with hitting the social center every night, combined with teaching from 8-6, combined with prepping every night for the next day, my liver was never in better shape.  It was awesome!

Returned to the project desperately needing a vacation, but having to dig out of 3 weeks worth of backlog, and having to get my hands dirty fixing things that had gotten severely off track with out someone closely monitoring them every day.

August

  • Hot!
  • Still trying to fix things on the project
  • State Fair!  - Pork Chop on a stick, corn on the cob, fried Oreos, butter Harry Potter, and ginormous boar testicles!  What could be better.
  • Project outings 2 Wednesdays in a row, leaving the office at 1 in the afternoon was great, until you returned the next morning to discover you didn't get any work done.
  • Tornado in Chicago, so we went to the casino.  After several text messages and e-mails from my manager to my Career Counselor she called with good news.
  • I got promoted - and a year early!  When I started this job I had another offer from another company in Kansas City, that job offer was for about 15% more money than the one I ended up accepting in Chicago.  From an opportunity standpoint I think I made the correct choice, from working in Europe, to free travel around the world, to the roles I've had.  From a people standpoint it's been awesome the people I've been able to meet and work with from around the world have been amazing.  And since my salary has increased by almost 250% since I started 4 years ago I can't complain about that too much either (no Dad you can't retire).
  • After the announcement the group went to the bar, where we witnessed one of the best bar fights, lesbians, cigarettes put out on arms, thrown beer bottles, and people escorted out of every door in the bar.
  • Friday morning flight, landed, went home, changed, and went into the office to try to brainwash more folks.
  • Sponsored happy hour in Friday.  Martinis from 4pm-10pm with only appetizers to eat, dicey.  We won't even talk about the promotion shots.

Talk to you again in 6 months!

Kidding, I'm thinking the next post will be summer movie synopsis, there were some great ones, and some snores too.

Happy Tuesday!


Huge

This is huge

Global Address List**: Search for contacts in an Microsoft Exchange Server 
  Address Book, contact them via e-mail, phone calls or text messages, and add 
  contacts to your personal Contacts list.

** Requires Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 or Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 with Service Pack 2

This means the one feature the BlackBerry has (which I didn’t realize until about 2 months ago), Windows Mobile now has.  Awesome!  I no longer have to copy down every e-mail address I might ever want to use from my mobile device.

Now Sprint & Motorola better get it together and announce support for WM6 on the Q, so I can go purchase one.  I assume they’ll have to since, Moto just announced the GSM Q, and it’s running WM6.

UPDATE: - This functionality is present on the Sprint Q, you can search online for contacts in your Global Address Sever on Exchange!


Instant Preview

Everyone from my mother to Steven Colbert calls us, my generation, the instant gratification generation.  Which is something I've been thinking a fair amount about over the past several days (an eternity in my generation's world).

Just an example of what that means, and how I'm using technology to embody it.  Today was a holiday for my clients, so I worked from home (in Chicago), and flew to the client site end of the day so I'm here (Des Moines) for the open of business tomorrow.  I utilized my most recent toy (a Fujitsu 1610, with extended batter, and MoGo mouse) throughout the day to stay in sync with my company's e-mail, and the client's e-mail (via Microsoft Domino Connector for Outlook).  Since e-mail traffic was light I was able to catch up on several outstanding items from my holiday break, all from the comfort of my couch, my computer, and my preferred e-mail client.

As my evening flight approached, I received e-mails from colleges about flight cancellations, and naturally I was monitoring flight status on UAL's website.  As I noticed my flight being delayed, I called the Elite line and double booked myself on a flight in the morning in case of cancellation (there are some benefits to flying all the time).  Later I reserved a taxi to the airport, based on the time estimated it would take me to get to there, on a Monday, at that time, from my location, based on real historical data on the IL DOT website, since this isn't my regular commute I didn't know what time I needed to leave until I did a little of Google research, enabling me to spend an extra 25-45 minutes at home rather than the oh so comfortable confines of Terminal 1 at O'Hare International Airport.

A couple of hours later in my cab on the way to the airport (a 30 minute commute, with no traffic), I whipped out my Fujitsu and connected to the internet, via my EVDO cell phone, via bluetooth. I was able to catch up on a couple of blogs, respond to a couple of e-mails, and become annoyed that I couldn't find real-time data about the wait time in the security line at the airport.  I was able to find historical data, but no real-time information, if someone has it, by all means point me in that direction.

Last night I watched the first 2 hours of the 4 hour premiere of the sixth season of 24 on FOX.  Imagine my horror, when I realized that I was to be flying tonight during the second half of the 4 hour premiere.  Fortunately I've been able to utilize my BeyondTV software, combined with Orb (I did have to uninstall ver 2.0, and revert to 1.0, as I keep receiving errors from ver. 2.0), to record the show, and place/time shift it to my laptop via free wifi here in the hotel once I finally arrived.  I'm typing this post during commercials.  No the broadcast tonight on my laptop via wifi, via the (wifi) broadband connection to my PC at home, isn't SD, let alone HD, and yes I was annoyed by the hick-ups in the streaming of the audio/video, but the important bit is that I was able to get my Jack Bauer fix when I was available for it, not at Fox's whim, even with the 1.5 hour delay in Chicago, due to the snow (you'd think the second busiest airport in the world would be able to handle a bit of snow a bit better, but that's another story).

PS - I'm working on a post about the "Instant Gratification Generation," so check back for that

PPS - I didn't see that coming, in the last 3 minutes of this week's 24, it's going to be a great season!


Work when I'm alive. Blog when I'm dead.

yea, I'm alive.  Here's the update from the 100,000 level...

  • Promoted (yay)
  • Work sucks (worst project ever)
  • Labor day in MSP
  • Turned 25 (woah a quarter century)
  • Splitting time between DSM and SAC (I'll let you do the research)
  • Need a vacation, I'm thinking a weekend in Hawaii in Nov. (or anyone want to go to Europe)\

I will post again, in the mean time spend some time adding to the excitement over at Scotty's

Continue reading "Work when I'm alive. Blog when I'm dead." »