Time for some AJAX love

It has been awhile since I put a bunch of AJAX or Web 2.0 type links out there for you guys to play around with. This will be a good thing to play around with during halftime of the Cowboys game. You are going to watch the Cowboys game, right? Oh, well what about the Longhorns and Aggies? I digress.

GeoJoey.com Social Maps/Travel Tales
This is kind of like a third party version of what Sheraton has done on their site. You may recall people can post stories of their travels. Same idea here, but on a global scale and presumably unfiltered. Of course you can throw your two cents into the mix if someone misspoke or you want to share your own story. I’m not sure who actually trolls these things, but some of the stories were…zzzz.

This site has some pretty strange music and was built with Ajax and Flash. It doesn’t work well in Dallas due to our FIREWALL but if you want to freak out some people the version of Bethoven’s 5th with Surf Music is pretty cool. Or you can play all of the songs from the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album all at once!

Fun with CSS and Forms
There are some great examples of how people have used CSS to make forms more friendly or eye pleasing. There are some fun example and some examples that look pretty but don’t work with tabs very well. Have fun!

The Neverending Page
Have you ever been to a site and you have a bunch of content to sift through, but you hate having to click the next button to see more only to have found what you were looking for three clicks back? The idea here is that you have a page that you can see your search results and as you continue to scroll more content is served up and you just keep on scrolling. Good or bad who’s to say, but different to be sure.

Javascript meets Vector Animation
I have seen some interesting debates on the merits of using Javascript for animation, but this is a pretty interesting use of the code. The author is using vector images to animate some buttons. Now if he had any artistic skill it might actually look cool. Flash is still better in my mind but I gotta give the guys props.

Drawing in your Browser
Photoshop this is not, but if you need to make some simple doodles or more complex charts these guys made it pretty easy. There is a little bit of a learning curve if you have used other tools it feels harder than it should, but it is fun to play with.

Additional Links
Web based notes: Nottr.com and Helipad
Collaboration: Thinkature (Brainstorming tool)
Chat: Meebo (new updates!)
Post-its: StickyTag

Have a great weekend!


New Browsers are Here!

If you haven’t been to Memphis recently everyone has moved. The two exceptions are Mike Villanueva and Jeremiah Allen, I guess Mike’s prime real estate by the busiest door on all of Memphis is not up for grabs after all. Should you find yourself in building C allow about 45 minutes without and escort or map. It took me half a day just to find bathrooms in Building C.

IE7 Available Now
Several people have asked if I have updated my explorer to IE7. The answer is no. Some of the web applications that we play in like IITS, TeamSite and a couple of others don’t like IE7 or Firefox. Until those tools are updated I don’t think I’ll make the switch. There are a couple of things to note about the new browser that will affect us and our users. First of all the download is voluntary now, but will be available in Windows Update in a couple of weeks. That *should* mean that we will see IE7 show up in our logs with some regularity. The second thing is that we could see more people looking at Firefox as an alternative. So what’s the big deal? Tabs (finally), better security, new interface and a few other tweaks to get it running right.

Firefox 2.0
Firefox 2.0 was also released this week and it worth the download. The new version has improved support for tabs, a “refresh” of the interface, inline spell check(!) and support to resume your browser session after you exit the application. Firefox is still my favorite browser. It is easy to use and also has TONS of extras that people have developed to make the browser more functional.

Opera does show up in our logs and on brand.com so far this month the number comes to nearly 15,000 visits. This really amounts to just over 0.12% of the total visits to brand.com. The advantages of Opera have been more or less incorporated into IE and Firefox. The main difference now is the way pages render. There are some nice tools to manage file transfers and notes among other things. If you are looking for something fun to try out it is worth a look.

This is the default browser for the Mac. It is developed by Apple and isn’t a bad browser. There are a couple of other options for Apple users, but most people are pretty content to use Safari. One popular alternative is Kamino a version of Firefox optimized for Macs.

Browser Stats
So I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Who cares, everyone uses IE anyway.” It is a majority to be sure. Here are some examples of usage for the month of October.

IE 89%
Firefox 9%
Safari 1%

IE 88%
Firefox 7.5%
Safari 2.75%

NGB Portals
IE 79%
Firefox 14%
Safari 5%

My Tivo Needs More Space
If you drink the Tivo Kool-Aid but despise deleting or having shows removed so you can record the Disney Monday Movie every week here is an interactive guide if you’re ready to get more hard drive space. If you want a little more direction you can get a full upgrade kit from WeaKnees and they will send you a new drive and all of the goodies. If you really want it hassle free for an extra $50-80 they’ll do the trick for you. They also offer upgraded storage for the new Series 3 HD version as well.

Flying Toasters is Alive!
No one cares about screen savers any more, but someone with too much time on their hands decided to resurrect it.

Nerd Shirts
There are always some great nerd shirts out there and in honor of the great fall festivus, Halloween, why not mix nerd with all hallows goodness. The first one up is “Cursors that Kill”. “Ghost Cameras” is kind of fun too. My favorite from this shop isn’t really about Halloween, but the “Exploding Turntable” is pretty cool. A little lame is the glow in the dark winking ghost shirt. Here is the “Magic Missiles Kill People” shirt and you get bonus points if you are the first one to give me the inspiration for this shirt.

Porsche Loves Flash
I can dream. And I do, but this car is amazing. The biggest drawback is that it costs more than a house or the fact that neither of my kids would even fit in the backseat. The new flash site gives users a virtual lap around the track. You can select from three different views as you make your way around the track. There is the wheel camera, an over the shoulder shot of the driver and the default view from the chase car. You can also download some MP3’s of the car!

Wise Cracking Search Engine
Tired of the nameless and faceless google? Give a shout to Ms. Dewey and let her guide your search across the Interwebs. She is a bit of a smarty pants, but it is kind of fun. She has some pretty good wise cracks when you put in certain key words. It is hard to her to repeat them so I can’t give you a good list to start with, but I’m sure you grown-ups will think of some key words that will draw her ire.

…And Finally
Remember the Space Invaders wrapping paper? Who knew there was a whole cottage industry around the classic game? I’m always on the lookout for some great cufflinks…just kidding. I’m looking for some new coasters for the office. Perhaps I should bust out a jean jacket from the high school days and add some buttons. Ahh, the perfect birthday gift for my non-gamer wife! I can’t read Japanese but I’m sure Bob will want eAdvantage and e-Events ready soon enough, but until then I’ll dream about this alarm clock. I was thinking though, our master bedroom could really use something…unique. Since I mentioned the fresh kicks from Converse there must be some shoes out there and sure enough here they are! Of course you can find t-shirts and tape. All because the game is now 25 years old, all things old are new again.

Have a great weekend.

Are you INSPI(RED)

Today you may see some press releases about the (RED) campaign. This is the effort that lead singer of U2, Bono, is backing. He is supposed to be on Oprah to announce these things. So I’ll beat Oprah to the punch albeit with much less fan fare.

To learn more about (RED) there are tons of details on the website. Basically it is Bono’s mission to get companies to develop special products that said company could donate a portion of the proceeds to help fight AIDS, TB and Malaria in Africa. Central to the idea is that people like you and me that want to donate to something like this can team up companies and contribute through the purchase of special products. Like what?

iPod Nano
With the new colorful iPods that were just announced comes a special PRODUCT(RED) version that is, duh, red. It only comes in the 4GB version and costs the same as the other 4GB models which is $199. Apple will donate $10 for every (RED) iPod they sell.

The Gap has some limited edition products that are actually pretty cool. They are going to donate half of the profit from each of the products to (RED). My favorite is the RED motorcycle jacket seen here, but not available online. If Steve Speilberg can make it work…

It’s time to replace those old Chuck T’s sittin’ in the back of you closet. While the idea of Chuck Taylor’s might sounds very 80’s to some of you there did you know that the original Chuck Taylor’s came in black and was introduced in 1917? 60% of Americans have owned at least one pair of Chuck’s. Now there was a big hoopla about the “Made in the U.S.A” label being removed when the moved production to China, but c’mon their Chuck’s. Prices start at $47 and there are several to choose from in hi, med or lo tops and you can even customize a pair as part of the campaign for $60. I’m so in! When is pay day???

Emporio Armani
As the name suggests it is going to be a pretty serious purchase if you want to dive in. I’m sure Mr. Miller will head out to Willowbend Mall or swing by the store in BH to pick up some slick threads.

American Express (UK Only)
If you happen to live in the UK you can get your paws on a special Amex Card that is red. 1% of everything you spend goes to (RED). Pretty cool but it is kind of weird seeing a red Amex card.

Hello Moto…
The good peeps at Motorola have some phones that you can buy into. If you live in the UK you can take your red Amex and buy a red SLVR. If you are in the US you can purchase a red RAZR V3i. The also have something called Studio RED that will have some exclusive content, although at this point it is all Scissor Sisters…meh.

Certainly more will come, but it is pretty interesting to see some big corporations jump on the bandwagon.

Aah, Fall has arrived!

Anyone know a good Crackberry mechanic? Kellie was trying to use hers to submit an e-Event RFP and her Blackberry couldn’t handle it and it melted in a stinking glob of goo. Bob suggested that a permanent attachment with some sort of neural link would be a good idea, but Dr. McCoy made the trip back in time in 1986.

GPS on the cheap
Does anyone remember when GPS devices were $3,000? Delphi is set to release the pocket size NAV 200 that retails for only $349! For those that hit the road all the time like…Sean Miller…it almost pays for itself if you don’t get the never lost system in your rental.

Atari Nerds Celebrate
If you know someone that actually thinks the graphics from the old Atari 2600 is gaming at its finest then you can wrap up the Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii in wrapping paper with Space Invaders graphics on the paper. Luis, back in the old days we used to play games on a console with fake wood paneling. Oh, and those are switches and they really did work…most of the time.

Puma Mongolian BBQ
I’m not kidding! They really built a website that works like you are headed into Genghis Grill to “cook” up your own version of a Puma shoe. It will take 5-7 weeks, to get your masterpiece delivered. It will run you $130 but the ridicule of strangers is priceless.

News from Apple
Lots of good news from the Apple front and yes I saw the eyes roll Virginia. From the business side of things according to one source the market share for Apple is up 24% over last year.

On the product front there are some new additions, or rather updates. If you haven’t picked up an iPod now is as good a time as any. The shuffle is smaller, cheaper and holds more tunes: 1GB for $79. The nano comes in three sizes. 2GB for $149, 4GB for $199 with four colors available and the big one comes in black and sells for $249. The bigger iPods now come in 30GB and 80GB and sell for $249 and $349 respectively. They nano and larger iPods have better battery life, brighter displays and the nanos now have a metal enclosure.

You can now buy movies along with TV shows from the iTunes Store. The quality of the videos has improved to look pretty good on your standard def TV. They didn’t mention anything about HD quality but I think it is safe to assume it will be coming sooner rather than later.

And finally, Apple was kind enough to post a report about how the productivity of workers goes up when the have large widescreen displays. The report comes from Pfeiffer Consulting. The major findings: high res displays can lead to measurable productivity and efficiency gains, it isn’t limited to graphics and video pros but even office applications and these displays can lead to a ROI of several thousand dollars per year. I used a 24” Dell and 17” Apple display on my G5 and it was a dream! In fact we just picked an inexpensive 19” widescreen LCD at home and Amy loves it!

Nike News
Virginia is sold on the new nike + iPod integration and it looks like there are a whole bunch of other people that are too. So far users of the site have logged over 1,000,000 miles. I’d call that a success.

Amazon.com Movie/TV Downloads
Amazon just announced Unbox Video Downloads. You have to use their software to watch the videos and you can’t burn a copy to DVD. The pricing is similar to iTunes.

Bye Bye Summer

With Labor Day weekend upon us we bid summer a fond good-bye, or in Kellies’ world adieu/adios. You know I did try to talk Kellie in to just using bablefish to translate everything, but it kind of blows everything up when you do that…see? It was great to finally have some face time in Memphis this last week. This is especially true with so many new faces. Now that we are seeing temperatures in the 80’s during the afternoon instead of 6am we can enjoy being outside…

It has been a busy couple of weeks in HDTV news so I’ll try to keep it short. Tivo is just a couple of weeks away from releasing the long sought after Series 3 that supports HDTV and all sorts of goodies. The downside is the rumored $799 pricetag.

Football season is set for kickoff this weekend in the college ranks. UT, not U of T, the Texas team, just installed the largest HDTV display in the US. The $8 million Godzillatron is 55 feet tall and 134 wide. Rumors have it the players are dying to hook up their Xbox 360’s on this thing.

Some new technology is the use of LED’s to light DLP sets. Which will further confuse everyone when it comes to buying an HDTV. There are two sets coming this fall that have good reviews so far. Basically the LED lights are more efficient, with better contrast, longer lasting and brighter which makes for pretty pictures. The first sets are going to be just over $4,000. Samsung NuVision

If you’re looking for a big screen TV for the holidays how about the largest Plasma Display? 103”! It is 95 x 55.9” and weights a paltry 474 lbs! Oh, the cost you ask, $70K. I was trying to come up with something witty, but a $70K TV is pretty funny without my help.

A recent review of Ajax applications put Google right at the top of several categories. In the list were: Google Calendar, Gmail, Notebook, and Spreadsheets. The only one we haven’t talked about before is Notebook. Have you ever read an article and you want to save a paragraph or two, but not bookmark the whole page? But then where do you stick the saved text? How do you keep it organized? Google, as usual, makes it so easy. In Firefox you will download a helper application that will allow you to select text and imagery and save just that piece to your Google Notebook.

You might notice that Writely, Google’s word processor is missing. Instead Zoho Writer. Google’s personalized homepage also didn’t make it in favor of some very slick creations from YouOS and Pageflakes (which is really nice).

I have to mention that the above mentioned applications are now being packaged together to businesses. I wasn’t sure it would happen but what do I know. This is ideal for small companies that don’t mind their information ending up on Google servers. They have plans in place to include an enterprise edition that would allow larger corporations to host the content internally. This is exciting stuff. I’ll never shed a tear for Microsoft, but as long as we use exchange I’ll suffer in silence.

AJAX Games
If you get busted for playing these games it better not come back to me. Remember, no flash or java games here.
Chihuahua – It is kind of a word finding game you play against other people. You use your keyboard to enter letters and delete.
Sudoku Craving – Has this fad died yet? I don’t know it is mildly addicting…I guess.
Trendio – I admit this is kind of cheesy but it is kind of like an idea stock market.
Morfik Chess – Uhh, can anyone beat these computer chess things?
Sink My Ship – You sank my battleship!

Air Fare predictions
Farecast is generating some buzz on the way it predicts the price of air fare in US cities and then recommends a purchase strategy. They offer suggestions to buy now or hold off and wait fares are dropping. I have attached some screen grabs to help explain this, but this is really one of those sites you need to visit and play around with. I really like they way they display flexible travel dates. This site does use flash as part of the Ajax implementation.
Screen 1 – Shows the fixed travel dates with a recommendation to buy now as rates could rise. You may notice the left side of the screen resembles the Yahoo Farechase model to narrow the results in real time.
Screen 2 – Shows the “Select Times” tab which is a grid view with leave and return times.
Screen 3 – Shows flexible dates in a graph. Mouseover the circles displays more information.
Screnn 4 – Displays the grid view. Clicking a square will pop open a small box with details and link to search for that fare.

And finally…
W hotels new brand “aloft” is heading out into cyberspace to build some buzz about the brand. Kudos to Rich for point this on out! There is a virtual community in the game called Second Life. In the game the brand is building an aloft hotel and allowing people to take part in the process by “using” the hotel. The designers are allowing themselves and opportunity to see the design in three dimensions. This is almost like a covert usability study.

Dell Battery Recall

What a week Jon Benet mystery solved or unsolved and then solved again? Who knows, but the guy sounds like a crack pot to be sure. Add to the “cease-fire” in Lebanon, three Texas Rangers suspended for fighting the Angels the other night and Dell laptop batteries burning holes in peoples’ desks. I didn’t have an opportunity to bid Beth a fond farewell so in her absence I will only mention that Beth is moving on to other opportunities that include marking office plants with safety tape in an effort to prevent sprained ankles. I guess she really had issues with that plant outside her door. I can’t say that I ever moved it but, I would question others motives in this building.

Apple Fanboy News
Rather than bore you all with the details that you don’t care about I will quickly mention a few of the new updates from Apple. First off they recently previewed their new OS 10.5. It will be released in Q1. I’ll give a better overview but suffice to say they are making some fantastic improvements in how users use their computers.
The biggest news was on the Mac Pro computer. This thing is a work horse and unless you are doing animation/video/high end graphics/research etc it is like buying a having a gradma using a Porsche 911s to drive to church on Sundays. But it still makes me drool… They use two dual core Xeon processors..FAST!

Smartphone check-in
Marriott is testing a system to allow users to use their Windows Mobile smartphone to check-in. The system requires users to download some software to the phone/device that will allow them to use the kiosk to check-in. Users can also change rooms, confirm rates and get welcome information. The hotel is in Redmond, Washington…home to Microsoft….hmmm.

Oops…There goes my phone
Those of you without rugrats may not have had the pleasure of seeing your cellphone make the spiral spin of death as it looks for a nice place to lodge itself in the plumbing just beyond reach of anything sanitary…Kellie your day will come! Of course the hassle is the whole contacts getting re-entered into the phone and how many times do you just enter contact information directly to the phone? Zyb.com aims to ease the pain by moving everything online. Yahoo is trying to do the same kind of thing, but Zyb has the jump. To manage everything online is free. If you want synchronization with Outlook as well as a couple of other bells and whistles it will cost a little more.

Real-Time Flight Tracker
You may have seen services that let you track inbound flights or let you know when a plane lands. How would you like to see everything flying around on a map? This site gives you just that! I selected LA since they are pretty busy. You can see which planes are landing, leaving or just passing by. What practical purpose this serves is beyond me but it is kind of fun.

Real-Time Sat Tracker
Don’t like planes? What about satellites? Ever wondered where the Hubble telescope really is? Check this site out. Most of the satellites I’m not familiar with but you can watch the path and track it. The site also provides good deets on the altitude, speed, lat/long etc. If you sign up you get access to more user friendly stuff like finding out what is passing over your head right now!

Like to Draw?
This isn’t exactly new, but there are some people out in the world that swear by Adobe Illustrator. These guys are GOOD. Here are some links to photorealistic images that these designers cooked up. It is amazing.
http://www.techvector.com/ (I think this one is safe for work)

iPod Alarm Clock
I’m not knocking the Hilton Alarm clock, but it doesn’t exactly work like expected. However, this alarm clock is a dock for you iPod so you can charge it up whilst you rest. So now Mike can awaken not to birds and passersby on the street but Christina Aguilera or Sonny and Cher. $80 for the magic.

I think we’re due for some Ajax goodness so stay tuned!

Is the air on? Seriously, is it?

I don’t know about you but it seems like there is a fundamental flaw in the building code if the parking garage 30-40 feet below ground is over 100 degrees! Ugh. We all know it is hot and the good ol’ air conditioner is getting a serious workout. Lanie was able to report that the temperature finally dipped below 80 degrees this week! Meanwhile the Grigson household is well above that, it makes the kids slow down! Just kidding…

Travelodge goes mobile
Just to prove this isn’t always about geeky tech stuff I found a great concept from Travelodge in the UK called the Travelpod. They are going to provide portable tent/hotel room. ₤26 a night will get you a “luxurious” bed tables, lights, duvet, pillows, carpeted floors mirror and fully functioning bathroom. Should be on the concert/festival circuit next year.

Lighted door handle
Here’s a great idea. A door handle with little LED lights inside that is either red or green depending whether the door is locked or not. Pretty fun idea, but it costs $440!

Go Green let’s all hug some trees
With all of the internal talk about Al Bore’s movie I thought I through out some ideas on how you might help save California the world. First up, an electric car that can actual move faster than a turtle on acid. The Tesla Roadster claims to cost about one cent per mile to operate and can go from 0-60 in about four seconds. If you don’t keep up with car junk, that’s pretty fast the Porsche 911 does the trick in about 4.6 seconds.

More green can go in your pocket if you have the room for the wind turbine on your piece of the USA. The Skystream 3.7 could be the answer to your mounting electrical bill. The advantages of this unit are that it can connect directly to your home without the need of storage batteries like most systems need. Excess is sold back to the electric company and if you’re luck they will cut you a check! They recommend you have a steady stream of wind and at least an acre of land.

Can have a huge wind turbine in your hood? How about solar shingles? These shingles install in similar fashion to existing shingles. Of course you need an electrician to help out. You can do the whole roof or just part of the house.

Need a new monitor?
I just bought my wife a 19” widescreen LCD to replace the gargantuan 19” CRT monitor she used for her computer. I managed a pretty good deal for less than $200, but if I had my choice I would have picked up this guy. For under $400 it is a 22” wide screen display from Acer that can handle a healthy resolution of 1680×1050. Now that number may not mean anything to you but you may have heard about HDTV. HD is either 720 lines or 1080 lines vertically. This monitor, and others like it on the market cut off 30 pixels. Unless you are a pixel fiend like myself you will not miss anything. This is a pretty slick price.

Eames Film Festival
I’m sure many of you recognize the name from the popular chair. But did you know that Charles and Ray Eames also made some movies? You can catch this unique opportunity to see some of their films this month and next month. The closest they get to Dallas/Memphis is St. Louis though. But there are several chances for you left coasters.

Sony says no to Plasma
If you had dreams of owning a big plasma TV with Sony emblazoned on the front you’re running out of time. Sony says they are done with plasma and will focus on LCD. Not bad considering the cost of making LCD’s is cheaper and they are also opening another panel production facility which will likely lead to even cheaper LCD prices in a year or two. Look for good deals on monitors and TV’s this fall.

Have a great weekend and keep cool.