Tools and Tricks

Helpful tools and tricks to make the day easier.

Telling Google To Take Its Toys And Play Somewhere Else

Thu Apr 8, 2010 9:01:41 am by Dustin
Filed under Dealing with People, General, Software, Tools and Tricks

Products like Google Apps highly interest me. On many levels really – mostly on the technical and business model levels. I assume most of the regular readers – who I know personally – know what it does. Office Live and Zimbra are other examples.

This domain actually uses it for its email purposes. Although, I would be reluctant to use it for business use.

Yale, yes that Yale, recently decided not us switch to Google Apps. The reasoning, lack of control particularly when data crosses political boarders, is one of my major dislikes of these type of services.

I did not understand how the author of this article thought flying in another country’s airspace was still governed under US law. Silly.

Yet another reason why we need an OpenData standard.

Long Live The Kindle

Mon Apr 5, 2010 6:08:07 am by Dustin
Filed under Dealing with People, Fun, General, Tools and Tricks

As the fanboys were quickly to point out, the iPad came out recently. No, I did not get one. And will not be getting any type of tablet any time soon.

Fast Company is asking if Amazon’s iPad app is a Kindle killer.

My short answer is no. The Kindle was a Kindle killer. Two reasons:

  • The medium to large sized consumer electronics users are not going to want to carry a device that does a single task, forcing them to have an additional device. Although it might do that task very well, in the long-term it was be absorbed into other products in its category. As screen technology gets better, devices will produce a black and grey retro ‘reader’ viewing mode.
  • Amazon is not a consumer electronics company. It is retailer. It sells other people’s stuff. Its core business will eventually suffer if it distracts itself.

Amazon’s iPad app is a very smart move. Their goal should be to get people to buy and read more books. Producing various mediums for folks to achieve this goal will benefit their company’s foundation.

OpenData Standards

Wed Mar 24, 2010 9:34:10 am by Dustin
Filed under Dealing with People, Finance, General, Software, Tools and Tricks

How much about you does the outside world know about you? I am particularly interested in the web world – as usual. Think about it for a couple minutes.

The last purchase you made on Amazon was saved and reused to better predict what you might (or will) purchase next. Facebook knows who you are, your age, what you enjoy, who your friends are, what they like to do, who you hang out with most often. Each of the Facebook Apps you have installed can see these characteristics too. Your emails, phone calls, location – this list goes on – can be logged by many organizations.

Heck even this site has some of these controls. Its analytics system will collect when you came to the site and how you got here. It does not know that you are Bob, but it does know any generic information a marketer might want to know. Added a comment becomes worse. Assuming you do not lie, your name, email, web address, and location are forever stored.

My point is not that this is good or bad. Rather, it exists. I would like to stay neutral on the accumulation of such data.

Instead, I would like to promote a new web standard called OpenData. For those of you who are not knee deep in how the web is created, there are many ‘open’ standards. OpenID and OpenSocial to name some, but the list could continue.

A quick search on the Internets will not produce the ‘open data’ I am referencing. Open Data is more commonly referred to as making some information open to the public – patents, legislation, etc – without restriction.

My goal is different. I would like a standard to help me as a consumer of these data collecting services to control the information they know about me. Once the OpenData standards and structure are in place, I could use a third-party app to control (add, modify, delete) the amount or types of data these services know about me.

At a technical level, this would be a non-trivial process. Even getting around a companies data backup policy could be a huge bottleneck since in many cases this data is not easily accessible. Auditing (internal or external) procedures would also limit the ability for a company to remove, say, purchasing records.

Either way, the world would probably benefit from this type of standard.


My First Super Bowl Ad

Tue Feb 9, 2010 11:16:55 am by Dustin
Filed under Dealing with People, General, Payroll, Tools and Tricks, a little about life

Many of you probably watched the Super Bowl last Sunday. You also probably watched the commercials. To throw out some shameless self promotion, I had the pleasure of being apart of one of those ads. Ok, it was not me directly. Although I do enjoy Doritos and not wearing my Dockers.

In the third quarter Google had an ad. You can watch it below. They called it Parisian Love. Between seconds 36 and 40 search of ‘AA 120′ is made (a flight number). This referenced my employer, FlightStats.

There has been a ton of chatter in our office the last couple days, but in general we are all really excited. One of our marketing people said he would never be able to top an accidental Super Bowl ad appearance – career over.

I do have to say it is nice working for a team and product with such high credentials.

Disabling Gmail Spam Filter

Sun Jan 17, 2010 12:02:17 pm by Dustin
Filed under General, Software, Tools and Tricks

You might wonder why anybody would ever want to disable their spam filter. Well let me explain why I have.

For the last seven years I have been managing this domain. For the first six or so, my buddy hosted the site and mail for me. About two years I started to use Gmail to read my mail. Gmail was not hosting it, so essentially it was fancy interface. Other users on the domain were still using the provided mail interface. Six months ago, I moved my domain to professional hosting, including converting mail to Google Apps.

This worked just fine for the first couple months. I still forwarded my mail to my Gmail account and the rest of the users had everything Google Apps provides.

This brings me to my problem. In a few cases, some mail was incorrectly marked as spam and not forwarded for me to read. Quite frustrating.

Obviously, anything marked as spam will not be forwarded. Two solve this I created two filters.

The Gmail filters allow you to put some unpublished ‘tokens’ to refine your search. This like ‘in:’, ‘is:’, and ‘before:’ will work.

The main filter will move anything marked as spam into a new label. Add these entries:

‘Has the words:’ -> ‘is:spam’
‘Apply the label:’ -> ‘Spammy’ (spam is reserved)
Select ‘Never send it to spam’

Normally, spam will be deleted after 30 days. The previous filter will stop this from happening. We also need a filter to get rid of these occasionally.

‘Has the words: -> ‘label:spammy AND before:2009/12/31′
Select ‘Delete it’ and ‘Apply filter to XYZ conversations below’.

This last filter will not work naturally and thus needs to be run occasionally. Sorry. On some frequency the date will need to be update and rerun. Should take two minutes.

Doing these steps will forward all the ’spammy’ messages to the second account when it had be stopped at the source. Since I started this, no messages have been incorrectly marked as spam.