I read an article in a recent issue of Success magazine the other day where Guy Kawasaki offers 10 tips for startups. I'll admit I didn't really know who Guy Kawasaki was. In fact, I don't think I'd really heard of him. But I the article was good (read it online here) and I thought I might buy one of his books also. So the next day when someone retweeted something from him, I figured I would follow him on Twitter as well.
Following Guy Kawasaki on Twitter lasted just over 24 hours. Why? Because of repeated tweets. Guy seemed to be posting the same links over and over and since I try to read everything that is posted on Twitter by the people I follow, I found it nothing short of spam. For the first handful of repeated tweets I figured that it was probably just an error, either by Twitter or by an API he was using. But then I discovered this:
Long story short, Guy has decided that he should post his tweets four times, eight hours apart to ensure maximum coverage and click convergence. And if you don't like it, you should go to the source or just unfollow him.
Yes, I know Twitter is an open service and that users, without breaking the terms of service, are free to use it as they see fit. But the general consensus is that you shouldn't use Twitter as your RSS feed. Furthermore, like good content is to natural SEO, the best way to ensure followers read your posts is to make sure your posts are worth reading. And that you aren't spamming people. If you have good things to say people will seek out your stuff.
So Guy Kawasaki might have lots of followers at any one point in time, but I'd be curious to know what his turnover is like. And for the record, I've decided against buying any of his books -- I don't need advice from someone more concerned about how many people are hearing his message for a true messiah is happy if he's helped just one person.
It's funny. I've been a Roger's wireless customer for almost four years. It's actually been longer, more like seven or eight years (with a switch to Telus in between) but in the recent past it's been four years. That may not seem like a long time but in terms of financial impact it's actually huge because for three of those four years I was the decision maker for a corporate account. And a corporate account that spent a lot of money.
In any case, Rogers seems to have forgotten that inside sales, that is, sales that come from existing customers, is bigger than new customers. Whether those new customers are brand new mobile customers or customers coming from another provider, those customers are, nine times out of ten, looking for a deal. Existing customers like me, well we're looking for a deal but we're here. But we are also willing to spend. Yet when it comes to keeping us happy, it's a full FAIL.
As I mentioned, I've been a Rogers customer in one form or another for at least four years so when my current device, a BlackBerry Bold 9000, crapped out I thought they'd take care of me. Instead, I got the run around on the phone and after a string of phone calls and two and a half weeks of wait time I got a replacement. A week longer than normal and two weeks longer than I was used to in the corporate world. But that was only after I used Twitter to reach out and complain. And even though the replacement delay was Rogers' fault, I was only offered a small compensation.
Long story short on my replacement, according to Rogers, was that they were out of stock on Bold 9000s. And they lost more replacement order. Or the replacement order didn't go through properly. Whatever the case, that's where someone with some clout should have said "let's offer this guy the next model up". Or something.
So when this evening my replacement Bold decided that a couple of keys would fall off, even though I take great care of the device and keep it protected at all times using the faux-leather case, enough was enough. I was angry -- I'd waited 2 weeks for a replacement device and the replacement device they send me starts losing keys after just a month of light use? I kid you not -- my BlackBerry Bold sits in the charging station for most of the day while I work, coming out only when I have meetings or in evenings (like tonight) that I'm expecting something. And of the four years I've been using a BlackBerry device I'd never had any keys just "fall off". But, in classic fashion, and as expected according to the postings on the Internet, my "refurbished" BlackBerry seems to have been substandard and here I am again.
To make matters worse, I called Rogers Tech Support immediately only to find that their system is down (maintenance or otherwise) and I should call back.
So Rogers, I leave it up to you now -- do you go out of your way to make me happy (a brand new Bold 9700 would be best but at this point I'd settle for a brand new device period) or do you allow me to continue to feel mediocre and hope that when my contract is up at the end of the year that I stick it out with you instead of moving over to some other mobile provider?
The ball is in your court.
Update: I was contacted by via Twitter by someone from Rogers and they are going to escalate my issue. We'll see what the end result is.
If you're a pilot, work in aviation or are an aviation enthusiast then more than likely you use the METAR and TAF for your current and short-term weather inquiries. It's not that the data is necessarily any better or more accurate but that it's in a format that I'm familiar with and use all the time.
There are more than a handful of ways to retrieve METAR and TAF: Nav Canada, NAOO, and various aviation-related websites. But you're missing out if you haven't tried using the World Flight Planner to view METAR, TAF and other weather information. Access to weather information is free but if you want to use the other flight planning features, you need a subscription. But for the free weather, which is handy if you're out and about and thinking about flying, just click on the weather link in the top navbar to search for and view the latest airport and weather information. Or if you know the ICAO code for the airport you want then simply use that in combination with the country as such:
http://www.worldflightplanner.com/airports/CAN-CYVR (Vancouver International)
http://www.worldflightplanner.com/airports/USA-KLAX (Los Angeles International)
Unlike a lot of weather websites, aviation or otherwise, World Flight Planner has a custom view designed specifically for mobile devices. That means that viewing the weather is fast, easy and won't eat into your data plan. Support for geolocation means that if you don't know what your nearest airport is and your web browser or mobile device supports it, World Flight Planner will automatically determine the nearest airport and display its METAR and TAF. And, if the airport you are viewing doesn't have a METAR/TAF then World Flight Planner will automatically display the METAR/TAF from the nearest reporting station.
World Flight Planner also has a complete feature set for pre-flight planning so if you're looking for a way to plan more efficiently, with more detailed information and superior mapping, give it a try. More details are available in the product tour and all new-users get a free 30-day trial.
Disclaimer: I'm one of the co-founders of World Flight Planner. But the fact remains that the site is a great way to view aviation weather and is a great pre-flight planning tool for general aviation pilots.
World Flight Planner is a web-based VFR and IFR pre-flight planning tool. Although the application has been built with general aviation pilots in mind, the application is also well suited for commercial pilots and dispatchers at smaller operations. Finally, after a year of part-time dabbling and then two months of full-time development, World Flight Planner is now available to the general public on a subscription basis.
Although there are a variety of pre-flight planning tools currently available, World Flight Planner is the only tool to be designed specifically for access via desktop and mobile-device web browsers. It is also the only tool which brings all the important weather information together and plots it all on a map to more easily visualize the size and location of AIRMET, SIGMET, PIREP and other weather-related details. Yesterday, for example, there were five active SIGMET in Southern Alberta. Plotting a single SIGMET before a flight can be tedious enough so image plotting five of them. But with World Flight Planner, you can easily visualize what's going on with the weather.
World Flight Planner also displays animated weather radar, airport flight rules status (VFR, MVFR, IFR, LIFR), terrain clearance and numerous other aeronautical information on your plotted route map.
Among the list of most handy features in World Flight Planner is the support for mobile devices. The application has a custom view for mobile devices that makes it faster and easier to view on the smaller screens (and using less of your data plan) but at the same time keeping almost all of the same functionality available on the desktop browser version. World Flight Planner is also looking at building native apps for various mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad, as well as Blackberry and Android-based mobile phones.
World Flight Planner supports all flight planning functionality for Canada and some functionality for flight planning in the United States. We are also currently beta-testing flight planning for Australia. You can get more details on all the application features and functionality by viewing the product tour. And if you're interested in trying out the application, all new users are offered a free 30-day trial. Just visit the account types & pricing page for pricing information and to sign up. They are offering discounts for COPA members and Hope Air volunteer pilots.
The team at World Flight Planner are continuing adding more functionality to the application as well as data for more countries. And because this is a web-based application there's no need for you to do anything when the application is updated; any new features added are available immediately.
There have been numerous changes in aviation since I got my pilots licence. Although the same can be said about pretty much anything over time, for me general aviation of the early 1990s seems like the stone age more so than anything else.
In 1992, when Transport Canada issued me a licence, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was in the works but not yet operational or available to the general public. ILS was around but only at the major airports in Canada and there was talk of replacing it with MLS (microwave landing system). And back then, except for the major airlines, navigation was mostly done with VOR and NDB navaids or local landmarks, and your flight planning was all done on paper maps using an E6B.
But now, in 2009, we have desktop computers, the Internet and wireless devices that fit into your pocket. And with those advances in technology means that the potential exists for flight planning that doesn't involve marking up your maps with a HB pencil.
A new web-based flight planning application called World Flight Planner was recently released. This app allows you to create flight plans online using any computer connected to the Internet or any web-enabled wireless device, such as an iPhone or Blackberry. And unlike a lot of websites, this one has specially designed version just for mobile devices that contains as many features as is possible over mobile Internet. In addition to all the standard flight planning features, you can also view all the airspace and navaids near your chosen route and view an elevation profile of your route. The system is also able to calculate the MOCA for your flight on or off of the airways, which is a handy safety feature. In general, the web application is clean, simple to use and fast, thanks to use of AJAX where appropriate.
The application also has a sight collaborative aspect to it in that you can search for aircraft or flight plans shared by other users so you don't have to set new ones up from scratch. This is especially helpful if you are visiting a place for the first time or doing a one-off flight somewhere.
Right now the site is in private beta but they are accepting requests for beta invites so check it out and sign up.
Blatant disclaimer: I'm one of the developers of the World Flight Planner application -- probably should have mentioned that earlier. But then, what fun would that have been to spoil the surprise? If you're a reader of this blog and interested in trying out the application, please mention this blog, along with your experience, when signing up for the beta and I'll try and fast track your request.
So with the secret out of the way, Blake (the other developer and writer of the Fly with Blake blog) and I would appreciate as much feedback as possible once you receive your beta invite.
In a recent post Chris Soghoian of slight paranoia fame talks about crossing international borders and protecting your privacy. Specifically Chris is talking about your privacy when it comes to data stored on a notebook computer.
The simplistic solution is to ensure your data is encrypted in some fashion, which you should be doing regardless to protect your data against loss or theft of your notebook. On a notebook running Mac OS X encryption is as easy as enabling FileVault. But as Chris points out, if you refuse to disclose your decryption password or key, you can be refused entry, fined or thrown in jail depending on where you are.
A better solution, at least on a Mac, is to encrypt your main account with File Vault and then create a second dummy account which is what you will use to login when asked by the border guard. However, for this to work and seem at all plausible, you will need to do a little prep.
First, under System Preferences -> Accounts -> Login Options, make sure that Automatic Login is disabled, which I believe it must be in order to use File Vault.
Next, also on the Login Options section, select ‘Name and password’ as the display method for the login window. With this method, you will need to enter in your username and will not disclose any usernames to the person inspecting your computer.
We also need to turn off fast user switching on the Login Options section as that shows a drop down list of users on the computer. If you use this feature on a regular basis, perhaps to lock your computer on the login screen, then you can do this step just before crossing the border; but DON’T forget.
Now add your dummy user to the system. Make sure the name is your full name and that the shortname (ie. login username) is something plausible and doesn’t reveal that this is a dummy account. So, for example, using myself as an example, if my ‘real’ account username is ‘douglas’, I would choose something like ‘doug’ or ‘dougr’ as my dummy account. After creating the account it is critical that you uncheck the box labelled ‘Allow user to administer this computer’. This will prevent the person inspecting the computer from running the ‘sudo’ command and running any revealing commands as the root user. If asked about this restriction you can plausibly deny anything saying that it’s your company’s corporate policy to not allow users to have admin access.
Finally, you need to make your dummy account look like it’s used on a regular basis. How you do this is up to you but I recommend that you spend a weekend using this account only for anything that isn’t important to you in terms of privacy. So surf the web and look for movies to rent, check the hours of your local market, whatever. Make sure you add some bookmarks and download some files. Customize your desktop background and basically make the account look like it belongs to you.
You are now ready to book a trip across an international border. But before you go, there are a couple things you need to do. first, if you haven’t turned off fast user switching (as mentioned above), do that now. You also need to log into your dummy account and freshen things up. Visit some websites so your browser history seems recent, some website cookies and cached files have been freshened and download a couple files. Make sure you log out of your ‘real’ encrypted account; otherwise, it will be sitting in a visible and decrypted form on your computer. And finally, to prevent anything from residing in memory, shut down the computer completely (ie. don’t put the computer into standby mode). Now, you’re ready, for the most part anyway.
It’s worth noting that this method will likely fool ninety-nine out of one hundred regular border guards. The possibility still remains that there my be a border guard with a technology background or specialized training and that they may or may not know what to look for and where to look for it. If you’re worried about that potential outcome then either don’t take your notebook or follow Chris’ advice and wipe your laptop clean.
For the past few years my flying has been limited to a handful of airports. I love flying but for the most part my flying is limited to ‘flying with purpose’. That is, I tend to fly when I have a reason to go somewhere and flying there in my Cherokee Six makes sense. For example, it’s a 14 hour drive to visit relatives in Manitoba or it’s a four hour flight in the plane. I did a lot of flying friends and family around ten years ago when I got my license so that desire to show off or expose others to the world of aviation is mostly worn out; the exception being my yearly participation in the local Young Eagles day.
But lately, I’ve been trying to build up flying time and don’t want to limit myself to trips with a purpose anymore. So my last two flights have been to various airports around southern and central Alberta. I don’t really have a goal in mind but I do want to make an effort to visit at least one new airport with every flight, if at all possible. In the US I think this is a little easier as there seems to be airports all over (especially on the east coast) but that just means that as I run out of airports I will have to increase the distance I’m willing to go.
The next logical question then is, what qualifies as a visit? Do I need to taxi on to the apron, shut down and go into the terminal, building, shed or whatever structure is located on the airport or is a stop-and-go enough?
Welcome to Typo. After three or so years using Roller as my blogging server software, I’ve decided to move to something a little more lightweight and RESTful. And in keeping with my terrible habit of basing choices on the language I prefer to use, I’ve landed on Typo. I don’t remember where I read it, but there was a great article on why you shouldn’t choose a piece of software based on anything but it’s functionality. This is mostly true. But that said, when you are administering a server, you tend to want to consolidate the pieces that you look after. So, if possible you choose software that can run on your database, middleware, web server and platform of choice. So for me, that means if I can find a blog system that runs on Linux using Ruby, Apache and PostgreSQL, and it has most of the features I want then it’s the software for me. And Type fits all those criteria.
I’m still going to have to administer an Apache Tomcat system for the remaining Java Servlet-based applications I run, but I expect Typo to be much less of a hassle to maintain and update so in this case I don’t mind that the apps aren’t consolidated. As it turns out, Typo has way more features and themes than Roller does and the Typo community seems much more active too so overall it’s a good move.
For anyone who regularly reads this blog or subscribes to the feed, you will want to update your bookmarks. In the meantime (and probably forever), I’ve set up my webserver to forward any incoming requests as best as it can. I’ve also managed to import all my old posts reasonably well, complete with comments.
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to software, hardware, operating systems or complete systems. Fanatics, especially Mac fanatics, will tell you that Mac is that silver bullet, but truly smart people know better. Take this brief blog entry about installing Leopard. That doesn’t sound like a great user experience; not at all. That doesn’t sound like something my Mum would be able to get through without help.
This isn’t a dig on Mac or Apple. I agree that more often than not, things work when dealing with a Mac. But the same is true of Linux. And Windows for that matter. The point is that you can’t judge an entire technology because of one person’s experience. More so when that person is using a laptop with recently released hardware on a beta version of an operating system. If you were so quick to judge, then you certainly wouldn’t ever install Leopard given the number of people who have encountered issues when upgrading.
But I won’t stoop to such hasty judgment because I truly believe in using the right technology for the right job. And to figure out what the right technology is, you need to be unbiased and approach everything with a clarity not found within fanatics.
Since purchasing my share of a Piper Cherokee Six earlier this year, I’ve been trying to build time flying in it. I haven’t really been trying hard as it’s been a rather busy year between changing jobs, trips to Africa and other exciting places like South Carolina, San Francisco and Montreal and regular life business. But last weekend I did a day trip to Edmonton City Centre (CYXD) to visit with a friend who lives up there and pick up another friend for the return trip.
This was my first flight to CYXD, which is right in the heart of the City of Edmonton. But it wasn’t the extreme crosswind on final for Runway 30 that made this trip memorable but the fact that I now have more time in the PA-32 than I do in the Cessna 182 family. The 182 was my aircraft of choice until I started dating the Piper Cherokee, so it is a fairly big milestone. Next in line to be passed, at slightly more than twenty flight hours away, will be the Cessna 172, which was my aircraft of choice until I discovered the Calgary Flying Club’s Piper Warriors.
On a side note, while in Edmonton I visited the Alberta Aviation Museum. The museum has thirty or so aircraft on display including two of my favourites, a DC-3 and a de Havilland Mosquito, inside a gigantic hanger. If you have a few hours to kill and are remotely interested in aviation I highly recommend a visit.