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December 2004
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February 2005

Rainbow over Cupertino

Friday's rain brought a super-cool rainbow-like display. It wasn't really bow shaped, more like a big bright column of light. The picture, showing it over the buildings at work, doesn't begin to do it justice. Lots of my coworkers were out gawking at it when I snapped this photo so I know I wasn't the only one impressed by the display. Nice work, mother nature!


Fabricated Americans, Unite!

It has been a good month for quirky television releases on DVD. Hot the heels of God, The Devil, and Bob, I discover that the Greg The Bunny collection has arrived.

Another unfortunate tale of a network (Fox) pulling the plug on an innovative show before it had a chance to find its audience. It's hard to describe the show without making it sound too bizarre -- it's a world where puppets are real -- so I'll just say that it is, by far, one of the smartest and funniest shows to ever hit the boob tube. Well worth your consideration if you're not a fan. If you are a fan, no doubt you're ordering a copy right now. Watching all 13 episodes (including two that never aired) is a real treat.

O'Reilly Network: Introduction to X10 Home Automation Technology

Tony Northrup, co-author of the recently published Home Hacking Projects for Geeks, has a good introductory article on X10 Home Automation Technology at the O'Reilly Network.

While I'm not sure that you need to be a "geek" to enjoy do-it-yourself automation, I definitely agree with his assessment that being filthy rich, and having someone else set it up for you, is a viable alternative approach.

Roomba Rocks

I've been a happy owner of the Roomba Robotic Vacuum for a few years now. (See an earlier post, for example.) But this evening I find myself appreciating it even more. Here I sit, dog in lap and tea nearby, while my little servant completely cleans the carpet in the downstairs living room, and the bare wooden floors in the kitchen and dining room. Life is good, indeed.

I was so happy with my first Roomba that I recently upgraded to the improved Roomba Discovery. While its biggest "gee-whiz" feature is its ability to park itself on the charging station when it has finished, that's not something that really makes a big difference for me. (You do, after all, have to empty the dirt-catcher when it is done so I don't see the big benefit of having it return home.) Instead, the new "max power" and "dirt finder" features earn my thumbs-up. The first lets the Roomba clean-and-clean-and-clean until the battery is completely sucked dry. The result is more coverage and less baby-sitting. With the previous model, it would turn itself off after a preset time period, even if it had more energy left. I much prefer the Energizer Bunny affect of the new model.

The Dirt Finder is as neat as the Roomba's hypnotic room-coverage algorithm, but not quite as magical. When the little fella detects that it is over a very dirty area (such as the spot where my dog likes to eat his treat biscuits) it hovers about, going back and forth, until the area is clean. A nifty blue LED lights up to indicate that its tiny brain is mulling over the relative debris content of the area, too.

So if you've ever wondered if the Roomba actually works; it does, and quite well! If you've questioned whether or not its worth the cash. Well, your formula for answering that question will be different from mine, but when was the last time you read a blog post that was written while the author was ostensibly vacuuming their house?

PS: On a somewhat related note, this article about iRobot's search engine strategy shows the importance of search in today's commerce, and the profit derived from remembering that not all customers can spell or type correctly.

Tickled pink

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools list is one of my favorites; it features short blurbs about products that are both useful and innovative. I've also read quite a few of Kelly's books, including the insightful Out of Control. It's long, but draws you in, and its the sort of book that alters your perception of life and humanity.

Anyway, given all this, I'm delighted to discover that Smart Home Hacks has made the cool tool list. What a treat for me!

Finding ol' Scratch at the mall

I tripped across an unexpected treat last night at the local shopping mecca, The Great Mall. The television series God, the Devil, and Bob is available on DVD! This edgy, funny, and brave animated show had fallen out of my short-term memory, no doubt thanks to the fact scared NBC network execs canned it after airing just four episodes back in 2000. I can't wait to watch the 9 episodes that were never shown. (Yes, math whiz, that's a total of 13 episodes. A fortuitous number, dontcha think?)

The casting is a special treat (James Garner, Nancy Cartwright, Laurie Metcalf) and the show's creator is better known for Malcolm in the Middle. Some of the artists went on work on Commander Zim. You can read about the show's premise, and some good commentary, at the Amazon listing.