Google's Free 411 Service
Published by Toronto Mike on March 15, 2008 @ 14:18 in Technology
According to BlogTO, Google's free 411 service is now available here in Toronto. This is a pretty awesome service from Google that beats the crap out of the 75¢ 411 service we all hate to use. Program 1-800-4664-411 into your mobile phone now and you'll thank me later.
Here's a quick demo of how it works. Remember, it's completely free, so this is a video you actually should watch.
I just tried it and it's pretty slick. You just call 1-800-4664-411, say "Toronto", and name the company you want to call. Then, Google even connects you.
411 is dead. Long live Google's 411.
Unencrypting WiFi Networks
Published by Toronto Mike on March 3, 2008 @ 16:19 in Technology
The other day I was downtown with an hour to kill and I had some work to do. I had my laptop with me, but I needed a WiFi hotspot so I could jump on the web. Sitting in the McDonalds in the Eaton Centre at Queen and Yonge, I started scanning for an open network.
The One Zone wireless network was strongest, as you'd expect considering its radio access points are installed on streetlighting poles, but it's not free. Several other WiFi networks were encrypted. One, named The Apple Store, was left open and was just strong enough to get me online so I could do what I needed to do. I was very happy I found it.
This got me thinking... Isn't it awesome when you find an open WiFi network when you need one? It's been drilled into our heads that we need to encrypt our networks, but why? Is the fear that someone will use the connection for illegal activity? If so, why do so many coffee shops and hotels offer open free hotspots?
I'm starting to think of an open WiFi network as a sign of good citizenship. Share access and earn karma credits, spread the love. It's for the greater good, isn't it?
My Beloved Olympus Stylus 410
Published by Toronto Mike on March 1, 2008 @ 17:07 in Technology
I've got 4,851 photos in my Flickr account, and the vast majority were taken with my trusty ol' Olympus Stylus 410. I got this 4mp Olympus camera for my birthday in June 2004 and four years later I still love this camera.
A couple of years ago, my wife wanted a camera, so we went out and bought her the newer version of the same model, except 6 megapixels instead of 4. You'd think a more recent version of the same camera with more megapixels would be a better camera, but it's not. I'm never happy with the pictures from that camera and if both are within arms reach, I always grab mine.
Four years is pretty old for a digital camera, and I have no interest in an upgrade, but recently about 5-10% of shots taken won't render. It's as if they're only partially complete and I'm forced to delete them. Whether I like it or not, I might be getting a new camera this birthday, but I won't be buying into the Myth of Megapixels.
What's a good point and shoot digicam in the $300 to $500 range to replace my beloved Olympus Stylus 410?
Yahoo! Defends Itself From The Evil Empire
Published by Toronto Mike on February 11, 2008 @ 12:06 in Technology
Yahoo! has rejected Microsoft's $44.6 billion takeover bid and I'm pleased with the rebuff.
Yahoo! is so eager to defend itself against an unsolicited bid approach from Microsoft that they've restarted merger talks with AOL. A tie-up with Google is not entirely out of the question as well.
As Luke once said when being wooed by an evil Sith Lord, "I'll never join you!"
CSS3's ::selection Pseudo-Element
Published by Toronto Mike on February 8, 2008 @ 09:59 in Technology
Firefox and Safari support CSS3's ::selection pseudo-element. Using that and PHP, this toy hides an image in plain view.
If you're a Firefox or Safari user, highlight the text below with your mouse.
Michael Power/St. Joseph High School is
a Catholic Secondary School in Etobicoke
, part of the city of Toronto, Canada. I
t is one of few schools in Toronto to of
fer the International Baccalaureate prog
ramme. The school's official name gives
a clue to the fact that it is the amalg
amation of two independent schools, Mich
ael Power High School (an all male schoo
l) and St. Joseph High School (an all fe
male school). Informally it is often kno
wn as "Michael Power", "MPSJ", or just "
Power". The school is reputed for its at
hletic prowess and academic excellence.M
ichael Power/St. Joseph High School is a
Catholic Secondary School in Etobicoke,
part of the city of Toronto, Canada. It
is one of few schools in Toronto to off
er the International Baccalaureate progr
amme. The school's official name gives
a clue to the fact that it is the amalga
mation of two independent schools, Micha
el Power High School (an all male school
) and St. Joseph High School (an all fem
ale school). Informally it is often know
n as "Michael Power", "MPSJ", or just "P
ower". The school is reputed for its ath
letic prowess and academic excellence.Mi
The Web Service Suites That Revolve Around The Firefox Sun
Published by Toronto Mike on February 2, 2008 @ 17:47 in Technology
After writing this entry and this one, I took inventory of the web services that work for me. Using Firefox as my gateway to the web, there's a small handful of web service suites that have become more than mere web pages to me.
As I was assembling this rather small list, it soon became obvious to me that such detail would be better presented as an image. Yes, Facebook is there, because despite my threats to quit, I'm still an active user. Why am I there? Because their developers understand the importance of user interface and when something works, it's tough to say goodbye.
* Click the image to see it in Flickr where I've added notes to explain what each service does for me.
It's the Interface, Stupid
Published by Toronto Mike on February 1, 2008 @ 21:19 in Technology, The Best of Toronto Mike
I instantly hated the idea of Microsoft buying Yahoo!. Microsoft may be the big boys on the desktop, but they've always sucked at the web. Google and Yahoo either started or bought up most of the web sites and services that work, everything from YouTube to Gmail to Flickr. Microsoft has never launched a well-accepted web 2.0 web services suite, in fact, every time they attempt to compete they fail miserably.
Back in 2004, I fell in love (if you can fall in love with a web service) with Flickr. Flickr was founded by Ludicorp, a nice little Canadian company, and in 2004 I actually paid Flickr money for a pro account. I never pay for anything on the web, so the fact I was willing to hand over actual coin is all the evidence of my loyalty you need. This was something worth paying for, a photo sharing website that enhanced my life.
Why did Flickr work while many other photo sharing sites failed? Lord knows I tried several before falling for Flickr. What did Ludicorp do that Microsoft was never able to do? The answer is simple. It's the interface, stupid.
Flickr reflected a brilliant user interface that evolved into the epitome of Web 2.0 utilizing Ajax techniques that made one forget they were in a browser. Uploading pictures, tagging them, embedding them on the web and organizing ones photos isn't just easy, it's a pleasure. Flickr understands the importance of user interface and when they built a better mousetrap, passionate users followed in droves.
Flickr users aren't just users, they're part of a vibrant community. Creating passionate users is precisely what Microsoft fails at time and time again. Passionate users grow abundantly in such fertile ground. When Yahoo! bought Flickr, they understood what they had purchased and let it be. Other than forcing Flickr users to tie their accounts to a Yahoo! login, Yahoo! hasn't caused a single disruption in the force. Flickr is better than ever with several awesome upgrades of late. I'm happily sharing 4,713 photos right now, and it's all because of Flickr's interface.
If/when Microsoft buys Yahoo!, they'll own Flickr as well. I'm actually dreading this transition. I don't trust Microsoft to "let it be". They've proven time and time again that they don't get it. They don't lure passionate users because they don't do good user interface. If they end up with Flickr and don't announce plans to sell it to someone who cares, I'll leave the community.
I'll leave with my 4,713 photos and every ounce of my passion.
Yahoo! Wooed By Dark Side
Published by Toronto Mike on February 1, 2008 @ 09:10 in Technology
The first Google, before Google became Google, was Yahoo!. Here's a little love letter I once wrote to Yahoo! and here's my recollection of the World Wide Web's beginning. As I said, Yahoo! was my Google before Google became my Google.
Yahoo! is being wooed by the evil empire. Microsoft has made an unsolicited $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo!. The bid, which would consist of cash and Microsoft stock, values Yahoo! shares at $31 a share, a 62% premium on Thursdays closing price.
Don't sell, Yahoo! Not now, not ever, and definitely not to them.
You Suck At Photoshop
Published by Toronto Mike on January 25, 2008 @ 20:02 in Technology
I'm a Photoshop user. It's my tool of choice for all my imaging needs. I pop into Photoshop at least once every day and I'm pretty good at it, but I know there's still a great deal to learn.
There's a series of Photoshop tutorials on YouTube that absolutely rock. They're not only educational, they're hilarious. Heck, even if you don't use Photoshop I'd recommend them.
Here's episode #4.
Here are the previous chapters:
Published by Toronto Mike on January 24, 2008 @ 13:08 in Memories, Technology
The first computer I ever enjoyed was the Commodore PET. My dad would bring it home from work on weekends in the late 70s and very early 80s. My three favourite games were horse racing, where I'd essentially bet against simulated racetrack odds, lemonade stand, where I'd manage a virtual lemonade stand, and Eat Man, a complete rip-off of Pac Man.
Comparing the Commodore PET to today's PCs is a lot of nostalgic fun. We had virtually no graphics to speak of, no colour, no mouse and the storage medium was something we called a Commodore Datassette. That was essentially a dedicated computer tape recorder that looked like a cassette deck.
We eventually got a Commodore 64, but the Datassette lived on. "Press Play on Tape #1" was our marching orders and we complied. 'Load"*",8,1' 'Run'