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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Raise your hand if you love, absolutely love “Calvin and Hobbes” the comic strip created by Bill Watterson which ran from 1985 to 1995? Now those of you with your hands up, keep them up if you even marginally like your computer. What about when it doesn’t do what you expect? I’m not surprised how many hands went down. “Calvin and Hobbes” and your digital devices tap into emotional centers in our brain. It’s the emotion that ties us to people, places, and events.

Bill Watterson has taken a page from W.P. Kinsella’s portrayal of JD Salinger in “Shoeless Joe”. He’s near invisible publicly. Bill has been private, very private, since he retired his beloved best friend philosophers. In a connected world that’s a lot harder, so you might assume Bill isn’t connected at all. As Techlife recently learned, he may not love technology but he effectively uses email to shield himself but stay connected on his terms.

Bill apparently turned down a call from Steven Spielberg inquiring about making a feature length “Calvin and Hobbes” film. But apparently an email  from the famed director might have gotten through. How do we know? Because self-deprecating Stephan Pastis, himself a comic strip artist of  “Pearls Before Swine” and author tells the story of what happened when he emailed Bill and the story is amazing. (A must read!)

In short, he emailed Bill who shocked Stephan with the fact he was a reader and fan of “Pearls Before Swine”. He went on to astound Stephan  saying he had some strip ideas he wanted to ask him about.  The result was a collaboration, in secret, of three strips of “Pearls Before Swine”. And yes readers, this is real. After nearly 20 years of silence we were treated to three strips full of humor and art in true Bill-like fashion.

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis with special guest Bill Watterson

The best part for Techlife readers. Bill struggles with the same technology foibles we all do. Stephan recounts working together over distance was a challenge as Bill doesn’t like scanners or Photoshop or even large email attachments. Stephan admits the joy in helping Bill over email with tech support we can’t claim to be so lucky. The novelty for Stephan even might soon wear off if the requests keep coming.

Without getting cute and suggesting Bill draw himself out of the problem or use a cardboard box he converts to a Transmogrifier. What should a private person do when they aren’t going to use social media to ask for help or don’t want to ask the neighbor girl who’s a wiz and they aren’t even a world famous beloved recluse? You need your go-to, the internet. Bill could lurk in a forum or chatroom. He could use an alias such  as Susie Derkins or Miss Wormwood. Safe behind his avatar he can ask the world, how he might go about hooking up a wireless scanner to his computer or what service is best for those extra large attachments all while remaining his private self. For all I know maybe Bill reads Techlife and is just looking for this invitation.

Dear Spaceman Spiff,

Please share with me the terrestrial mundane issues you face while navigating your home world. Is it the laconic lexicon of texting or the subject of the simple smartphone? While we can’t claim to provide answers as interesting as your immersive imagination, we’ll do our best to provide you with the weapon of knowledge to fight the ferocious forces of technology.

Techlife of the Planet Earth

BILL WATTERSON: A cartoonist’s advice by Zen Pencils


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Coins in Hand by Claudio Jule

“So let me get this straight, they guarantee my money will be there no matter what? Then they pay me storage fees for keeping my money in a really safe place? Then they pay me even more money on the storage fees they already paid me? And finally, they do this forever? Ok I”m in.”

Thus began my childhood lesson in compound interest. (Thanks Mom!) The premise banks pay interest on their own interest was fascinating. It’s a great lesson for anyone to learn at a young age. When you learn it you aren’t taught this is part of a larger economic cycle, nor does a lesson in compound interest come with the fact it’s a homonym. To most people compound interest is associated with banks and savings, and that’s a good thing.

Another form of compound interest is what happens when economists apply statistics and math modeling to our known universe. Sound complex? Let’s set up some examples that will make it easier. As you read these keep in mind that house fly’s eye is a compound eye allowing it to see many images at once and process them all to better understand the world around them.

Camel Camel Camel

CamelCamelCamel.com Price Drop Alert

Amazon, a site Techlife readers use to purchase anything and everything has millions of customers. Each time customers buy Amazon makes adjustments to their prices and product availability. Amazon is using the compound interest of their customers to modify the data in two very important aspects of supply and demand. What if you could use that data to better understand when to buy a product at its lowest point? This is the idea behind CamelCamelCamel.com.

The site has evolved from Price Drop and Inventory Alerts to include Price History Charts, Browser Extensions, support for six different Amazon locales, personal settings and tracking tools, even importing your Amazon Wishlist and notifications via Twitter. Amazon puts big data to work for them and now shoppers can as well.

Freakonomics

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The partnership of an economist and a writer, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are the force behind “Freakonomics: The Hidden Side to Everything“. They have books, videos, a website and even a movie about their efforts of taking a compound interest in such topics as:

As an avid fan, their formula has always been to take something understandable that most people either miss or get wrong and crunch big data to show their findings. It’s always a great read, and certainly readers feel smarter after looking at the world through their compound eye. They also have a great collection of online readers who often provide additional insight into crowd sourced, hands on opinions.

FiveThirtyEight

Another data darling is Nate Silver and his team at FiveThirtyEight. With attention grabbing headlines that pull readers into New York Times length articles this site doesn’t shy from using big data and attempting to focus compound interest on variety of subjects such as Economics, Science, Life, Sports and their original main focus Politics. This site is all data, all the time.

Even their contributors section, with currently 22 people listed, only has one sentence per person. With great content organization making use of their five general areas, often articles have a compound interest intersecting various main topics. If smart readers are sick of linkbait headlines that fail to deliver more than a slideshow of images then Five Thirty Eight is for you. They provide in-depth analysis making use of  great data repositories yet the easy to read style keeps your focus the entire length of the article. A sample headline from each main area:

Compound Interest Three different ways big data is shared with all of us in that other definition of compound interest. Which begs the big data question – “When if ever will banks interest rates rise again to make saving and compound interest once again valuable?”


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Great creative on Craigslist

A real ad found on Craigslist from a creative seller.

Dear Techlife,

As a long time reader, I was excited by your column “Modern Day Alchemist.” (Editor’s Note: Column titled “Modern Day Alchemy“) I had read your experience with Freecycle and while that was good, my stuff is worth money to me. So how do I turn that stuff into both empty space AND money? Your column on Ebay and Craiglist was great. It inspired me to start the process using Ebay. I have sold a few things and it seemed pretty easy. So first thank you. But then I ran into a dilemma, for a heavy item,  a TV, I don’t want to ship it so how do I know what to list it for on Craigslist?  Any help?

Spring Cleaning for Profit

 

Dear Profit:

Your signature was so awesome it became the title to this column. What a wordsmith. Interestingly Techlife offices have a story for you, but be prepared for the twist.

Many years ago the Techlife offices bought a 36″ Sony television. In those days it was the largest picture tube on the market.  It was great TV, with a beautiful picture on a flat glass screen. The massive television weighed nearly 300lbs and was bulky and awkward. Moving the television always took at least two adults. Shortly thereafter the era of HD was unleashed. The Sony did a great job early on keeping up with the quality of the first HD sets on the market. Visitors often asked if we had a new HD TV because the picture was so crisp.

Over time HD sets improved and then the second phase of television development occurred. Thin. From plasma to LCD the surfaces became larger and the depth became smaller. The world was excited by crisp HD images on a canvas not thicker than, well, a canvas. “Thanks for the history lesson, professor. I just want to sell my TV.” I can hear you thinking.

As our story continues Techlife decided it was time to get a new thin HDTV. What to do with the Sony? As you noted Ebay is not an option leaving Craiglist.  I used two methods to research price.

Search Craigslist for the model number and compare existing listingsThis was simple but unlike Ebay, Craigslist doesn’t provide data completed sales data. Sometimes you see the same item listed a second time with a reduced price which is a clue. Craigslist can be a science.

Search Priceonomics for the model number and compare existing listings – Priceonomics is a startup (Dec. 2011) with the goal to be “the price guide for everything.”  They started out with price guides for 50,000 categories of used items including: bicycles, televisions, speakers, monitors, turntables, computers and cell phones. The “simple” goal to have price estimates for everything bought and sold. Ambitious aren’t they? As of this publication they have 21 categories and 163 sub-categories.

Great. I had a price range, I took some photos and listed it for $10 less than the lowest end of the range on Craigslist just wanting it gone.  And nothing happened. People don’t want to pay for a big bulky TV when they can buy a sleek thin one I reasoned. Next I turned to Freecycle, someone out there would want it for FREE. Of course the same problem existed. Who want’s a behemoth when svelte is in? Finally I reached out to my network and offered it to a non-profit. Happily a few group homes replied and were eager.  One showed up with a truck and picked it up.

The twist? Figure out first off if what you have is worth selling or would a donation better serve everyone. “Profit” might just be you having more free space than you had before.

 

 


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Click. Click. Click. There is not much more satisfying a sound. Sorry I realize because this Techlife you likely think I meant the sound of a mouse or a keyboard. Actually something much more clickable – LEGOS! There have been countless articles, fan sites, acronyms (AFOL, SNOT) and more created for this very physical toy which has grown in spite the of the evolution of the digital age. It’s a testament to the creativity and simplicity that allows anyone to sit down and start playing immediately.

But this is Techlife, and we want to provide five very different LEGO experiences in the online world. Our summaries won’t do these justice, so please jump off and explore them all.

Life of George

Help George with your building skills. A LEGO official product that combines a free iPhone/iPod app with physical brick set. This takes the best thing about LEGO; the ability to create endless new things with the same bricks and combines it with an interactive story about George. The challenges you are presented with help move the story along. A race against the clock puzzler combined with a cool snap a photo of your creations to check accuracy make this a really unique meld of physical and digital and story and game. (may contain an easter egg or too)

Rebrickable.com

Rebrickable makes replay endlessly amazing. It’s the ultimate unofficial LEGO replay resource. LEGO sets always provide instructions to build the pictured item. Some sets even allow for a few more items from the same pieces.  Simply enter some existing LEGO set numbers you own and the power of the database sparks to life. As of this writing, 6436 sets and more than 1 million parts power the database and the suggestion engine often provides multiple sets you could build with your parts on hand. Even better there are photos to help you along the way, just like real LEGO instructions.

Cuusoo

Unusual name. Still in beta. Cuusoo is an official LEGO site that is a simple to use crowd sourcing tool. Non-employees who are fans for LEGO submit designs they have built. If the designs reach 10,000 supporters, LEGO turns on the production of these into official sets with the designer sharing in the proceeds. To date three projects have hit the 10,000 supporter mark including a submarine, a satellite, and most recently a Minecraft model. Interesting to note how LEGO really adds value in helping design the models after they reach evaluation.  The creative initial Minecraft model is quite different from the production model, Minecraft Micro World which looks even better.

The Brothers Brick

Earlier I mentioned AFOL, and The Brothers Brick is a blog for Adult Fans of LEGO. Started in 2005, the same time as Techlife, The Brothers Brick is a showcase for LEGO creations from around the world. They sprinkle in new set releases, news about events, and even a bit of education. I learned and built a Studs Not On Top (SNOT) creation after reading about how many AFOL use this method to showcase how the small bumps that connect one brick to another are hidden with this method of building. One of  The Brothers Brick contributors was a bit part in helping get the Minecraft Micro World built on Cuusoo.

Rebrick

Rebrick is another LEGO official site also in beta. The site attempts to form a community of users around LEGO creations. Rebrick promises in multiple places it won’t use the site to advertise or market. With a name that’s confusing compared to Rebrickable, contains less high end quality builds and writing than highlighted on The Brothers Brick and lacks the interactivity of Cuusoo, Rebrick is worth exploring for a few minutes.  It has an easy-to-use tool to bookmark and share things found in other online locations. Re-brick could use a bit of a re-think.

Have another online place you love to explore the world of LEGO. Share it.


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Travel. That single word sparks thoughts of exotic beaches, hidden towns, memories, and enjoyment. Techlife has covered unique mapping toolsmaking your own mapsfinding the perfect place to stay and more. Our diverse readership, You; often comment how much travel is a part of your life.

Meet Travelista (Techlife slang for Travel Expert) Anne Hornyak, who holds a Masters in Music; loves photography and travel; and has a day job advising Travel and Convention Bureau’s. We asked her to help Techlife readers with an education in what travel means in today’s super connected world of mobile sharing, bite size ideas, and off the path finds.

Techlife: How did you get started in the Travel and Tourism industry?
Anne Hornyak: I began my tourism career with Chicago Plus, a regional tourism office for Chicagoland. As a staff of one, I mostly managed marketing projects for the 17 Chicagoland Convention & Visitors Bureaus but also handled everything from finance to social media.

TL: What do you do today for the industry?
AH: I work mostly as a Social Media Strategist for tourism clients. I’m a cofounder of #tourismchat, a biweekly twitter chat focusing on social media in the tourism industry, and frequently tweet and blog about the same topic.

TL: Why is online travel and tourism so big? And how big is it?
AH: People love to travel and share their experiences with others. Social networks, especially Facebook, are perfect for this type of sharing. Many are also planning their trips, searching for the best discounts and then booking these trips, all online. Everything from Frommer’s to Budget Travel, Expedia to Priceline, Flickr to YouTube and travel blogs to a simple Facebook update about a friend’s recent trip…it’s all online. The travel industry is massive. Over 7.4 million U.S. jobs are directly related to it.

TL: How do you disconnect from the digital realm?
AH: I used to joke about needing a “social media detox” every once in a while but it has become rather habitual lately. Whether hiking in a state park or photographing lighthouses along Lake Michigan’s coast, I have to make time “off the grid.”

TL: What digital tips do you have for a traveler pre-trip?
AH: Research! Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers for recommendations and tips. Take advantage of CVBs (Convention & Visitors Bureaus) in your preferred social networks. Many of them are on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, and have blogs and interactive websites that can help you plan your trip. Find them on your network and connect before you travel.

TL: In-trip?
AH: Have fun! If you have a smartphone, send photos and updates to your friends on Facebook and Twitter but be sure that it doesn’t get in the way of your experience. If you’re on Flickr, upload your photos regularly so you can add descriptions and geotag them accurately.

TL: Post trip?
AH: Talk about it! Create photo albums on Facebook, upload Flickr photos and YouTube videos, write a special blog post and add write reviews to TripAdvisor. Share your experience with others who are in the research stage.

TL: As of this question being written you had 3,673 Followers on Twitter who have seen 16,406 updates via your username “WhosYourAnnie“. What’s one thing you never talk about? Why?
AH: Tweets about my family and personal life are usually kept pretty vague. The internet is public and safety is the primary concern. I’ve received a few google alerts for random things I’ve tweeted about my dogs. I don’t need to give stalkers extra information.

TL: What percent of your followers and updates are related to your career?
AH: I would say that 65-75% of my followers are somehow related to the travel industry, either as travel bloggers, CVBs, or people who just like to travel and talk about it. Probably 50% of my updates are conversational replies, most of which are to friends within the tourism industry, leaving around 30% as content tweets directly related to my career.

TL: Is Twitter your main channel?
AH: Most definitely! To me, twitter is all about connecting and having conversations. It’s a little surreal but some of my closest friends, a few I have yet to meet in real life, started as twitter followers.

TL: Last question, Who’s Your Annie?
AH: I’m your Annie.


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What is your organization’s magic number?

Searches resulting in your website? Visitors to your brick and mortar store? Subscribers to your social media page; fans, friends, feeds, readers? For each business owner the answer is different.  I propose the answer is: 1,000 Loyal Customers.

Recently an excited Techlife reader called about to start a business.  They had some great long term ideas on their success once they had tons of website visitors.  But they were missing the element of growth in their plan.  I politely listened to all their excitement and unbridled energy.   But when I asked how would they get their first 1,000 Loyal Customers they didn’t know.

A Historical 1,000

In the days of the general store in America, small towns would have a single store that carried a wide variety of  products.  Often times this store was too small to carry all the things people would need, so a proprietor would stock catalogs from various places allowing a patron to pick out items that could be ordered and shipped to the store for future pickup.  This made the customer loyal, partly because they had no where else to turn, and partly because in small towns supporting a local business was good for the whole town.

Fast forward to today, where there are megastores with megabrands advertising on megastations offering megasavings if you spend megabucks.  Three example companies that have grown into megabrands Google, Ebay and Amazon don’t manufacture any “real” products (yes Amazon does have the Kindle, to push the purchase of more ebooks.) These three company’s are general store’s of data.

What is a Loyal Customer?

A Loyal Customer for most organizations is a person who actively seeks out your brand.  Loyal customers aren’t swayed easily to switch brands.  Loyal customers refer their favorite brands to others.  Loyal customers ride out a small problem or a price increase.   Most important of all, Loyal Customer’s return again and again.

1,000 Loyal Customers is admittedly simple math which states for each employee an organization needs a 1,000 Loyal Customers who return $100 net profit each year.  Good examples of unique organizations with easy to spot Loyal Customers are local restaurants, local clothing stores, museums and summer camps.  In each of these examples if the organization releases a new product or revenue stream Loyal Customers eagerly support the effort.

Techlife was once again inspired by Kevin Kelly, who’s column on 1,000 True Fans is aimed at artists such as; painters, musicians; photographers; writers and more.  His goal is make those artists realize having a megahit is hard, but achieving 1,000 True Fans is enough to sustain the artist comfortably.

Start with One

When expanded to organizations, readers of Techlife are able to use online tools like websites and social networks to connect and build their community of 1,000 Loyal Customers.  It may seem daunting, but break it down.  Who are your Loyal Customers today?  Where did you find them?  Will they refer you to the next Loyal Customer?

Share with us in the comments.  How many Loyal Customers do you have today?  What’s your goal?


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Today marks a new carrier, Verizon coming on board with Android with two new devices under their Droid line.  The Motorola Droid and the Droid Eris by HTC are sure to be holiday hits, and when people start looking for good apps from the Anrdoid Market, Techlife wants to make sure you have our top 10.

Our friends at Phandroid, started this idea with 5 people listing their top 10 apps so we thought we’d weigh in with our own list.  This is done in that format, with a bonus app!

marketbagtimerifficweatherwidgetultimatefavesvisualvoicemailmobiledefense

Long time Phandriod/Android Forum guy, using a G1 since the start…here’s my top 10.

1. Timeriffic – FREE – control wifi, brightness, audio and more with a simple timer, saves your battery. (full disclosure I collaborated on this)

2. Weather Widget – FREE – Beautiful weather app, with great options. This sits on my main home and I use it all the time.

3. UltimateFaves – FREE – Creates a quick 3D Ring of anything you want a shortcut too, calling people, applications, your choice. Unique interface.

4. Visual Voicemail – FREE – Does what it says, constantly working on it and updating, very responsive devs.

5. Mobile Defense – FREE – Find (gps), disable and more for your phone (USA only). I hope I never need it. Also is stealthily hidden.

chompsmssmspopupcestosimeembatterywidgetwallr

6. ChompSMS – FREE – SMS replacement with an iPhone style chat interface

7. SMS Popup – FREE – Wakes phone display and plays audio and shows a small overlay of the most current SMS message. Flawless.

8. Cestos Full – FREE_- Multiplayer online game, arcade style, if you have a few minutes, it’s great. Good community too, with built in chat.

9. iMeem – FREE – Great web streaming radio customizable. Like Pandora, but without choppiness and massive battery drain. Albeit a slightly smaller catalog and some battery drain.

10. Battery Widget – FREE – easily see your exact % of juice left. Pressing the widget offers up toggle settings for a few options too.

Bonus App – Wallr – FREE – For those wanting a low resource option for changing their look, this app looks in a designated wallpaper folder and will randomly select a new wallpaper, on a schedule you set up. Mine is 1 per hour.

Thanks to our friends at Androlib.com for links, and images.


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Techlife covers Hulu

Techlife was called into the principal’s office.  One of the Publisher’s of a paper that carries my syndicated column Techlife, called me to complain.  Now before you get all high-falutin’ as the superfans of  Techlife are often apt to do, and organize a FlashMob at the offices of the Publisher.  Let’s talk about the facts.

FACT: I have written Techlife since 2005.

FACT: I have written more than 230 columns to date.

FACT: I have had more than 5000 readers interact with the column.

FACT: I am stopped at least once a month for my good looks as the writer of a famous syndicated technology and life column.

FACT: We welcome opinions of all types, especially those that support the above fact.

“Not to shabby,” I can hear you thinking.  And of course you the readers have made this possible.  The phone call in question was a bit of a principle issue. (Notice how we used both versions of the word, who says we can’t turn a phrase.)  It seems that allegedly a reader or too contacted the Publisher thinking my column was more advertorial than witty, high brow, useful, well written, drivel that I intend it to be.  Let’s examine the recent evidence shall we, here are some recent columns in reverse order…

Now I submit to you a jury of my loyal readers, biased in all ways they should be, who have lined their birdcages read the columns does it sound advertorial to you?  Sure I throw in a bit about my life, my company, my family like all good writers do.  It makes me seem authentic and smart, a thinly veiled ploy to connect with the reader.  And if one of you were to contact me for cup of a coffee to discuss your own business ideas, would I not pretend to listen?  So if a few of these advertorial accusers would like to step forward, we can comment back and forth as so many others do here at Techlife. We welcome all feedback.  Special thanks to our Publisher and our Editors on this one.  Did I do Dave Barry proud?

In speaking with a client, I was told I often remind them of Michael Bluth, Jason Bateman‘s character on the show Arrested Development.  I had never seen an episode, but this client mentioned it was on Hulu.  So I proceeded to watch all of Arrested Development on Hulu, you might detect that a bit in this month’s column or else, I’ve made a huge mistake.

Hulu, a partnership between some of the major networks, has old and new movies and television shows that play in full screen on your computer.  Everything is on-demand, loading in a few seconds in HD.  It is well thought out and easy to use.  I don’t love the control factor, for example they recently cut out Season 2 and 3 of Arrested Development with no reason given, though message boards guess to sell DVDs.  I can already see the complaints by employers to my Publisher for introducing this time sucker.  And for that I know Dave Barry would be proud.


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Chevy Chase plans the family vacation on his computer in National Lampoon's Vacation

Before Clark Griswold loaded the car, he planned his Family Vacation using a computer.  I am sure all Techlife readers have used their computers to plan trips and book accommodations for years now.  

For our reader’s travel plans Techlife has covered sites like Travelistic, Farecast, Google’s MyMaps and RovAir which all aid the traveller.  Today there are countless websites devoted to planning a trip by air, land and sea along with various hotel accommodations.  But there is another way…vacation rentals. 

A Techlife reader shares this story with us…

We were heading from Oakland to Chicago for a week of fun this spring.  Our family has two small children and a week cooped up in the hotel would have been unbearable.  So we hopped on the computer and found salvation.

If you are looking for a bit more local flavor and unique roof over your head, combined with a chance to get a great deal in a down economy vacation rentals are a great option.   So this is just another Craigslist article, right?  C’mon give Techlife a little credit.  Check out VRBO.com, which stands for Vacation Rentals by Owner, to find over 120,000 properties all over the planet.  

In addition to a more local experience, a VRBO is perfect for the travelling family, as the typical listings are condos or  homes instead of just a hotel room.  This gives you bedrooms, a common area, and often a kitchen for equal or even less money than a single room.  For the family with small children through the extended family or friends travelling together, you get the privacy of your own room but the fun of hanging out at night and in the morning.

As one friend of Techlife is fond of saying, “vacations with little children aren’t vacations but just changes of location.”  Searching the VRBO site, has listings that include all sorts of kid friendly amenities, including homes with pools, swing sets, beaches, dvd players, and a few with use of the property’s boat!

Due to the economy we put ourselves on a tight budget, after searching around VRBO.com we realized our budget was not enough money, but we couldn’t spend anymore.  So we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Then just a week before our trip, we put our plan into motion.

VRBO does have some drawbacks, each listing is maintained by the property owner so the occupancy calendar is not always up to date.  That alone gave me pause about some of these owners in maintaining their property.  In addition, unlike a normal travel site the search tools were a bit weaker.  I was looking to travel over the Fourth of July weekend and had to visit each property, and then click a second time to the occupancy calendar.  I would have preferred to only be shown properties that fit my criteria from the start, including date.

Price also is weak search criteria.  The site has to sell itself to the property owner and the owners clearly prefer a week rental or longer.  Some owners see the value in offering just a weekend or single night price, but again a bit of manual search is required.

There are some other things a traveller has to get used  to, dealing with countless different owners.  You can easily call or email each owner though from VRBO’s easy to use interface to book or ask a question.  The best feature of VRBO is consistency, you get used to the way the listings are laid out, photos here, description here, bullet points here, price here and can quickly assess properties.

At that late date, I sent out emails to all the best properties on the site in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago where we wanted to stay.  We explained we had this much to spend, and understood they were asking more.  We quickly got a few replies from aggressive owners who realized some rent is better than no rent.  We also lucked out, no Cubs games that week so the owners were going to be fighting for us.  What we got was….

Techlife has been using this site for some time and enjoys the adventure of finding the perfect place and that moment where you open the door and hope it really is perfect.  Of course some properties have guestbooks with comments which really helps.  Remember if your vacation rental ends up like a Griswold vacation you will always have the memories and a killer script.

An amazing place with hardwood floors, cherry cabinets, granite counter tops, stainless appliances and we actually entertained at our place one night while our kids slept.  It was truly a great vacation and the vacation rental was the best.


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Someecards - Favorite Child

I love how we don't even need to say out loud that I'm your favorite child.

Endearing.  Thoughtful.  Loving.  

These are all things that Someecards decided would NOT make the cut this Mother’s Day.  

Snark.  Attitude.  Dirty.

Ahhh…more like it, you say? This Mother’s Day take the five minutes to send your mom a card using Someecards.  She is sure to wonder about her parenting ability. Good Job!  While you are at it, send a few more e-cards to those Mother’s in your life who deserve a bit of hardcore mommy praise.  Keep in mind Someecards is definitely for the over 18 mommy crowd.  At this point you probably saying to yourself, “do I really need to read the rest of this joke of a Techlife?”  

Let’s answer that, with yes — everyone who has ever gotten an e-card from you will thank you for reading this column.  First a bit of history.

Someecards - Toilet Reading.

I think of you every time I browse my cell phone on the toilet.

This is Spinal Tap popularized a new comedy genre to modern audiences, the mockumentary.  The recipe is as follows, take a serious subject, with actors who deliver deadpan accounts of their fictious life,  acting as real people. Add pinch of crazy, a dash of ridiculous and there you have it a documentary that is all fun.  In motion pictures we have seen the same group bring us classics such as Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.  Much of the dialog, like real life is unscripted.

Other television shows such as The Office and The Colbert Report have successfully brought this brand of comedy to the small screen.  Finally The Onion has been entertaining us for years in print and lately in video format as well.

So as Techlife often encourages, business ideas that spark unique creative bursts often come from turning the establishment on its head.  Sure we have all seen greeting cards at the store that are a bit risque, but probably you have never seen so many cards with black and white older style line art, that is taken so far out of context with the surrounding words.  What are we saying?  A few examples will help educate you.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you, and yes we chose the cleanest ones.

Someecards - I'm funnier.

I'm glad we share a sense of humor and an understanding that I'm slightly funnier.

Check your political correctness at the door because while Someecards.com has the normal categories of greeting cards or ecards, such as Birthday, Anniversary, and of course Mother’s Day, the cards themselves are anything but normal.

Someecards - Birthday Gift

You would have loved the gift I didn't bother getting you.

Like the other greeting card sites Someecards has added some, uh, unusual categories such as Take your Kid to Work cards, Presidential/Electoral cards and of course the obliagatory Steroid Abuse cards.

Like most good businesses these days, Someecards recognized that once in a great while even “you” get a stroke of comedic genius combined with timely current events, so they have a Make Your Own card section and there are some pretty funny people who use the site.

Oh, yeah did we mention the whole site is free.  Yeah we know you.  Send your best cards to techlife [at] dkworldwide [dot] com.


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Wow that is an ugly title.  Let’s dissect it a little.  OLPC is the One Laptop Per Child non-profit organization that’s goal is to spread computing and learning with computers to children across the planet.  The XO Laptop is the small green and white, ruggedized computer that the OLPC uses to help fulfill this mission.

G1G1 v2 stands for Give One , Get One and v2 is version 2, since this is the second holiday season where OLPC is using their marketing muscle philanthropically inviting you to help, with a unique program.  Donate $399 via Amazon.com and an XO Laptop will be shipped to you and another XO Laptop will be shipped to a child in a country somewhere in the world.

Techlife has been using our XO Laptop for over a year now and the machine has been a big hit.  We have let various children bang on it and even loaned it out and the excitement was overwhelming.

The Techlife Gift Guide has brought you the Metrokane Corkscrew, the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard, the Tent Cot, Wired Magazine, a Skull Bowling Ball, Lego Batman, Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones, a remote controlled helicopter and the Ironman DVD.

The G1G1 program is the ultimate in tech goodness.

Goodness is in the cool laptop you will get to play with and share with a child locally.  More importantly, there are countless children who with some small aid from YOU can make a difference in the world starting today.  Economic hardship in our life is one thing, like going to Starbucks once a day or dropping the movie package from your pay-tv package.

Techlife rarely asks for anything, and now we are.  Please consider this program.  Read up on the machine and learn about it.  Then help a child.  It’s what the holidays are all about. You could always give a velociraptor in the OVPC project instead.

Original Unboxing of the OLPC XO Laptop from the G1G1 Program


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We love our readers!  Let me say that again, we LOVE our readers.  A faithful Techlife reader just sent me this custom viral video which certainly got my attention and had me watch it.  Techlife is covering this technology, more than posting election coverage as this technology will be seen more and more.  This viral tool has been used more than 9.7 million times for this site alone according to the New York Times.  It is a very interesting move to get American’s out to vote.

You will notice if you watch carefully, this video has my name, Dave Kaufman, sprinkled throughout in various places.   It came with an email, targeting me by name as well.  I have to say it was very well done and got us thinking about the ways people and companies will be soon making more and more personal approaches to everything we do.  It is certainly a form of Digital Ethnography.

I appreciated the humorous nature of this video and website effort, but I wonder how much I will like it when it tells a young child to do something and uses their name.  Another scary use of this technology is more advanced phishing or social hacking scams.

Guy Kawaski appreciates the humor and suggest’s a good use for his own company and as a marketing tactic.  A site called New York Politics Room 8 talks a bit about the study showing personalization in election marketing helps get voters to turn out.

For today enjoy it and if you want to send one to a friend click here, but let us know what you think and always keep the great emails coming in.


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“Hello, I’m a Gphone.”

“Hi, I’m an iPhone.”

Tmobile G1 powered by Google's Android image

Tmobile G1 powered by Google

Will we start seeing these commercials soon?  With the release party of the Tmobile G1, an HTC phone (manufacturer), powered by Android (Google’s mobile OS) we just might.  The Google Phone is the direct competitor to the frenzy surrounding Apple’s iPhone.

YouTube Preview Image

The G1 is heavily subsidized at $179.99, and available today for pre-order on Tmobile’s site for existing customers.  (Apple’s least expensive iPhone is $199 today.)  The public release is October 22nd.

Techlife will be getting a G1.  Andy Rubin, got his start with Danger and the Sidekick, another Tmobile device recently purchased by Microsoft.  The similiar look and feel to the hardware is unmistakeable and the fact Tmobile is carrying the phone is a shrewd move as they might lose customers otherwise, and instead get “us” to upgrade.  It worked on this Sidekick user.

Eric from Google gives us an idea of how easy the phone is to use and how your data is safe.

YouTube Preview Image

Thanks to Gizmodo for the great live analysis.  Thanks to AndroidGuys for the link to the live feed.  Thanks to Lifehacker for some great Android information.

Techlife will be covering the G1 more as we get to try it out and use it day to day.  It is something these offices are eagerly awaiting. Something less covered but interesting to us is the Android and Google Docs interface.  Maybe some of our friends in the Google Docs group can shed some light on it.

Will you be upgrading to the G1? Let us know in the comments.

(more…)


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Techlife has gone mobile. As Sidekick’s Blackberry’s gain in popularity we often get requests from readers to offer a quick loading mobile edition. When selecting our direction we wanted to make sure to provide the same great experience our readers have come to enjoy in the paper edition and full web edition.

As you can see from these screen captures it’s a pretty decent option. Please let us know if you find any browsers that have issues. The nice thing is it should auto-detect your mobile browser.


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Pure Energy GoldPure Energy XL

As we manage the rising costs of business and energy I am reminded of a story, so sit back and enjoy Techlife’s tale of power.

The typical company rolls along putting out daily fires, and not giving employees the true time to make work a better experience. Most of you readers will skim over that last sentence just as easily. Let me repeat it, as it bears repeating. The typical company rolls along putting out daily fires, and not giving employees the true time to make work a better experience. Ah, you get it now? You think this is going to be another columnAuto Battery Starter about taking time to breathe, but you are wrong.

As we all coast along in work and life I want to share a small tale with you. Many years ago I learned of a new site, Woot, a site that sells one item a day. One day they were selling “Random Crap” (yes Woot faithful, this pre-dates Bags of Crap), so I took a gamble for $.03 and ended up with a variety of, you guessed it, “Random Crap.”

One item was an Auto Starter – Car Battery Charger. While reading up on this I learned that inside, this device was powered by AA alkaline rechargeable batteries. Hmm, interesting I thought. I could use some AA batteries, so I used a hammer carefully opened the case and found a small pot of gold.

Gleaming up at me were Pure Energy’s AA gold rechargeable alkaline batteries. And in typical story fashion our hero doesn’t really recognize the true power of his finding. I began using them and they were great, long lasting batteries. Of course, I forgot one thing. They were rechargeable and I didn’t own a charger.

Research online showed most chargers worked for various other types of rechargeable batteries, except alkaline. Then I found Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools, article about the Battery Xtender for recharging alkalines. A bit more research led me to the Rayovac Universal Battery Charger.

I still use the batteries and the charger today nearly 4 years later. The batteries are long lasting like regular alkalines and the charger works for some other non-alkaline rechargeable batteries I now own. I decided to look for a few more Pure Energy batteries and found they have updated their technology, to the new Pure Energy XL Alkaline, which have:

…longer charge retention (up to 7-year storage life), higher battery capacity (rated at 2000 mAh), and overall up to 80% more service life (up to 500 cycles) compared to the original gold line.

My company has saved hundreds of dollars on batteries. I enjoy the power and durability of an alkaline battery and the eco-friendly ability re-charge again and again. Going green is easy! A happy ending to our tale.

So how does this relate to our statement: The typical company rolls along putting out daily fires, and not giving employees the true time to make work a better experience. As a consulting firm we often see valuable ideas employees have that are just not getting the attention they deserve. Our own cost-saving approach resulted in stepping away from the “fires” and being given the freedom to think, research and act.

We encourage you this July to think about Independence Day, truly as a day to provide co-workers the chance to make a positive independent change. And if you need a little kickstart, let us know.

How have you made a difference? Tell us in the comments.

Rayovac Universal Charger

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