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Thanksgiving Discovery November 23, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Family, Japan, Technology.
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Thanksgiving Tire Swing

My wife and I alternate where we celebrate Thanksgiving each year. One year we have thanksgiving with my parents and extended family, then the next year we do the same with my wife’s family. This year it’s my wife’s turn, so we traveled to Georgia to spend time with my Relatives-In-Law.

We drove to Atlanta, Georgia, and spent Thanksgiving Day with Uncle Robert and his family. They had all gathered at cousin Paul’s new home just outside of Atlanta. We had a great time. Both the meal and the company were wonderful. After we ate and talked for a little while, we all went out to the backyard where Paul and his brother, Adam, and Brother-In-Law, Dan, set up an old-fashioned rope and tire swing. The children almost enjoyed it as much as the adults did.

One surprising discovery was when I learned about Paul’s work. He helped to start a brand new company (Stone Mountain Media) that specializes in LED sculpture technology. At first, I didn’t understand how it was possible to do what he said his company did, but after he explained it, I believed it could be done. (Of course, it is being done, it’s just so cool that my mind had a hard time believing it, not that I didn’t believe Paul. He is very credible.)

Paul’s company designs and makes high-tech sculptures. They really look amazing. The entire outer surface (skin?) of the sculpture is made up of LED lights that can display a of video image. If I understood correctly, the software can perform realtime ‘magic’ to display video across the surface of the sculpture to either look normal or to let it be distored (wrapped) acround the scupture/art. I hope I am not overstating what it does, because it was not completely clear to me how it worked. When you hear him explain how it is done and how the technology works, it sounds easy. But when you see it, you wonder at the blending of art and technology (it’s both art and technology or maybe neither – very difficult to categorize).

I searched the Internet for images of his work (he told me about several places all over the world where they have installed their art/technology). But, I couldn’t find anything and I don’t remember the names of the companies that already purchased (commissioned?) his product/art – but one was a health spa in Japan. I do remember the names of companies that he is in the process of proposing new projects, but since he is still negotiating, it would not be appropriate to mention those projects. If one particular commission (sale?) takes place, it will be placed in a high traffic area that will be seen by millions of people each year.

If do find out where a sample of Paul’s technology art work is on the net, I’ll post a link. Or, I’ll try to get Paul to send me a photo of one of his sculptures.

Update: I did find this article about one of Paul’s LED projects that he did for a casino. A photo of that project can be found here.

YouTube + How To = VideoJug November 19, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Humor, Information Technology, Japan, Random, Web.
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VideoJug Logo

What do you get when you cross a YouTube like website with educational ‘how to’ videos? Easy, you get the new VideoJug website.

Learn how to fold a shirt, or eat sushi, or even maintain your bicycle.

The quality may not be the best because they are homemade videos, but every video teaches you how to do something. So, forget watching dumb people perform stupid stunts on YouTube and head over to VideoJug to learn something useful. You will be glad you did.

I really like browser tabs, but I wish… November 15, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Microsoft, Open Source, Software, Technology, Web, Windows/Microsoft.
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You can hardly find a current version of a web browser today that doesn’t support tabs. And, for the most part I’m glad they have become a standard feature. But, I really do wish that there was a way to see, in one list, all of the tabs in all of the windows like there is with the list of windows (in the menu bar).

I tend to open about ten (or more) tabs per window. So, when I go looking for that web site I was reading earlier that I know I left open in one of the tabs in one of the windows I end up going through each browser window and then looking at each tab to see if I can find it. But, if the list of windows in the menu bar under the Window menu would list not just the contents of the active tab in each window but also list all of the tabs in each browser window, then I would easily find what I’m looking for and go straight to it.

No, I did not know there was a way to do that in Safari, or Firefox, or Internet Explorer, or name your browser. So, please tell me! Otherwise, can someone please write a Firefox extension that will do what I need?

Thanks!

Communication: Simple, but not easy! November 11, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Information Technology, Management.
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Most of us learned to communicate almost before we learned to walk. You might even say it’s so easy even babies can learn to communicate. But, as adults we often don’t perform the simple act of communicating with those around us as often or as well as we should. Why is that? Well, here’s my answer.

It is in fact a simple thing to communicate with a colleague about work. More than ever before, we have greater means and more opportunities to communicate – we have cell phones, SMS, e-mail, instant messaging, fax machines and even snail mail and express mail that can be delivered overnight. So, what’s the problem? Why is it that the single greatest problem with I.T. departments and I.T. professionals is that they don’t communicate? (I should probably point out that this problem is not limited to IT professionals, but they are the focus of this post as that is the chosen field in which I work and I am an I.T. manager.)

On reason we fail to communicate may be we are too busy. Yes, we are all very busy, and getting busier all the time. I don’t buy that we are too busy to communication since communication can make us all more efficient and more effective in our work. But, it does take time and if we don’t do it, we can save an individual (but not a team or department) some time.

Another reason I.T. folk don’t always communicate is because they don’t think it matters. If they are making a change to a system, program, or hardware, they believe that either the interruption will be unnoticed, so end users won’t need to be told, or the change will not adversely affect the system, program, or hardware (which is usually a false assumption). Therefore, there is no reason to tell anyone about what they have done. Big mistake!

By not telling their fellow IT department members they can waste their co-workers’ time as they try to figure out why the system, program, or hardware isn’t working the way it used to, not knowing it had been changed. Also, failing to communicate can waste the time of the end users as they can suffer lost work as a result of the system, program, or hardware change. So, the lesson is that it does matter what IT support staff are doing and everyone should get advanced notice of changes, no matter how minor and no matter how confident that IT professionals are that “nothing will go wrong.” Trust me, the most random and unexpected things happens when you change/upgrade/fix/improve/replace/reboot technology. It rarely goes precisely as expected or predicted.

Another reason IT professionals don’t communicate what they do or changes they are making is because they are not expected to nor is there any consequence for not communicating. I think this last reason is becoming more and more rare as non-technology co-workers in corporations and large institutions are becoming more dependent on technology and less tolerant of unannounced changes and interruptions of that technology.

Before making a change to an existing program, server, network, printer, web site, or system, ask yourself, “Who might be affected by this change if it goes very badly?” Then, based on your answer, notify those people. Almost always, the rest of the group/team responsible for that technology should know, along with the I.T. support staff since they will most likely get the first calls. Then, the team leader/manager should know, and most likely, the I.T. director or top manager should be informed. Then, the end users that have any probability of using and being affected by that technology not working should be given adequate notice. Informing people in advance shows a great deal of respect for their work and their time and if you do it consistently, the I.T. department will gain the trust of end users. By looking out for their interests they will understand when technology fails and you need them to be patient while you scramble to find the problem and fix it. That kind of trust and credibility takes time and consistent communication.

If this kind of communication doesn’t come naturally to your I.T. staff, then they are normal. Clear and consistent communication is hard to do. Most I.T. professionals do not communicate as much as they should. It’s simple to do once, but hard to do consistently as it takes time and a real commitment and self-discipline. But, if you communicate well and do so consistently over time, your fellow I.T. co-workers and end users will appreciate it and the entire organization will run better as a result.

I consider communication “Rule Number One.”

Music video meets treadmill November 4, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Humor, Music.
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Eight treadmills,

Four men,

One soundtrack.

Now, you’ve got yourself a music video…

Note: I must give credit to Kelly Moore since I discovered it through her blog post. If you haven’t been over to check out her website full of wonderful photography, you really should. She is very talented and the web site is very well done.

Who are you going to call? The Internet! November 4, 2006

Posted by Matsu in Humor, Random, Web.
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We often joke at work about accidentally unplugging the (entire) Internet. Or, when someone wants to complain about the Internet we suggest they call the person in charge of the Internet.

Well, now you can call the Internet by going to the new web site, Call The Internet.

No, I really don’t know what the purpose is, but now you know who to call.