July 2010



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Remember way back to February when the Colts lost to the Saints in a great Superbowl (except for you Colts fans)? Like you, I watched the Superbowl commercials too.  You might not remember Google’s simple Superbowl campaign was a search box with a person researching various aspects of life around a central theme, meeting a French girl. It was pretty forgetful, even today it only has 5 million plus views. Interestingly Google didn’t forget. (We included the ad if you are reading the digital version, and this is a Techlife where you want too, trust me.)

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Google had bigger plans for their campaign known as Search Stories. Using YouTube.com they gave users a way to Create Your Own Search Story.  Putting the power of the story in the hands of their users. They made it easy and painless. Here’s how in 7 easy steps.

1. Pick a topic. We chose something close to home, getting more readers for Techlife.

2. Create up to seven different searches that will be illustrated

3. For each search choose one of 7 different search types. Such as maps, books, images and more.

4. Keep in mind your last search is going to be the end of your Superbowl Ad

5. Next pick your music, Google provides 24 tracks in various categories.

6. Finally edit your masterpiece, which might require going back a few times. Mine did.

7. Add a title, genre, description and upload. You’re done!

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Google advises things such as:

…using the different kinds of search to add visual variety to the story…

…tell a story that ends with a surprise…

So this sounds perfect what could possibly be wrong? A lot. First off let’s start with the biggest. You aren’t getting your own Superbowl ad. You aren’t even getting your own late night ad. This is pure and simple a promotion for Google.

Secondly their ads are better than yours will ever be. (Mine too!)  Why? Because they break their own rules and don’t use the Search Stories creator to make their ads. Most ads I viewed by them had two parts that will always beat the regular story teller.

Part 1 they use a real audio expert to mix audio sounds that are more than just the simple 24 songs they offer the regular director like you and me. It’s good sound too, the kind that enhances the ad and really was carefully created.

Part 2 they create many more visual tricks such than their own story editor allows. Tricks such as quick cuts, live YouTube videos, maps that animate or use street level views, and even mobile views of Google products.

It’s the equivalent of us having a stick to play with and them having all the fun toys for the cool kids.Well for those of you who are digital readers that last joke makes perfect sense when you view the video. For those in print, the last video has a pretty famous award winning team make a cameo. Peek in and take a look. And maybe my ad just worked.

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Often when I write a column like this I open myself up to a barrage of “help me” requests from friends, family, random strangers who recognize me and stop me on the street.  It seems today’s problem is one we all are saddled with, spaghetti wiring. Before we delve into this meatball topic (forgive that last pun, it’s cheesy – Parmesan cheesy. Sick yet?  Just wait.) I want to cut off the requests at the pass.

Techlife is all about you reading, absorbing and doing.  Techlife is excited to hear from readers (and family, you know who you are) who solved their spaghetti wiring. Are you still asking yourself why take the column in this direction? Because I don’t want to come to your home or office, you can do this.  There I said it.

The New Gadget

Look behind your desk or main television, mess of wires? That’s spaghetti wiring. That’s what I was facing.

I had gotten a new DVD Recorder/VCR (yes we still have some old tapes) combo unit and was excited to replace an aging and often broken DVD player and remove an old VCR from my living room setup. Streamlined. That was going to be me.

Upon close inspection, I realized this was going to be a time sink. I had a TiVo, a TV, a Wii, a Receiver, a DVD player, a VCR, surround sound speakers, and a few other black boxes that did who knows what. Each had a power cable and many connecting wires to carry video and audio and connect and record and — STOP!  Spaghetti wiring.

A few months later came the inevitable, “Why is this new combo unit still sitting here?” I took another peek at the spaghetti wiring and saw not surprisingly, nothing had changed.  The next thing I knew I was scraping arms, reaching deep behind wall units, and moving things around. Then came the moment of truth, powering up for the test and…

Spaghetti Wiring 101 – a How To Guide

  1. Invest in small velcro cable ties and white labelmaker labels.
  2. Start simple. Pick one unit and extract the wires.
  3. Label both ends of the extracted wire, with descriptive helpers such as  “To TiVo” or “From Wii”.
  4. Grouping wires using velcro straps. Open a strap and add new wire to bundle and velcro back up.
  5. Only deal with the units you need too, this is not the time to re-wire the world.
  6. Use a camera to take photos before you start and after you finish. Store photos for future reference.

It’s All in the Title

I believe in karma when testing.  I had ripped the guts of my system apart. Had dust bunnies across everything and now was the time to test the system. I pulled out my test media I thought were in line with the situation. For DVD, Defiance, the amazing true story of survival during the Holocaust. For CD, The Big Chill soundtrack,  a collection of classic tunes all music lovers should own. For VHS, The Nutcracker, a fantasy story about a little girl’s dream world with beautiful music.

Well look at this, the first few images from Defiance, one down, two left. Next up the first few notes of Marvin Gaye’s I heard it through the Grapevine sweetly reached my ears. Finally darling little Clara dancing with Sugarplum Fairies. I had done it!

I had defied the spaghetti wiring while a DVD player and VCR were casualties of their own big chill. I had cracked the nut of taking the wiring mess and giving it beautiful future. (I warned you this was full of puns.) Let’s hear your stories of spaghetti wiring warfare, puns welcome.


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