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Jay Dreyer

Get Al Gore off your back...Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

CFL Bulbs
There is an interesting article in this month’s Fast Company magazine about compact fluorescent lightbulbs and how they will “change the world”. I’m not sure I buy the hype completely, but it does make some sense to me. The bottom line is that a CFL bulb can last about 10 times longer than a conventional incandescent bulb and it uses 75%-80% less electricity. So, although a CFL bulb costs around $3 compared to around 40 cents for a traditional bulb, the energy savings and longer life of a CFL will actually save you money in the long run.

I’m sold on this reasoning. I’m not so sold on some issues I have, though. For one, I question whether a CFL can produce the same type of light as an incandescent bulb. I haven’t made the switch yet so I’ll have to test it out to see what it’s like. Another problem I have is that I have a bunch of lights in the house, and very few of them use “normal” light bulbs. I’ve got flood lights, lots of candle-type bulbs, and some of those annoying torch lights. I don’t think there is a replacement CFL bulb for these fixtures/lights. If there is, please let me know. I’d love to find a CFL replacement for the flood lights in the ceilings of my house. Just reducing the time between replacing these things would be worth it for me.

Finally, some fixtures I have that use a normal incandescent bulb don’t have room for the funky-shaped CFL bulbs. I tried to replace the bulb in my garage door opener with a CFL and eventually gave up because it didn’t fit. The glass was a little wider and the base had a slightly different shape than a normal bulb. It wouldn’t fit no matter what I tried so I gave up and used an old-school incandescent. There are probably many different bulbs I can try so I’ll have to do some research.

I’ll wrap up with another interesting point from the article. Two big sources of the push for CFL bulbs are GE and Wal Mart. Wal Mart is really pushing the CFL bulb and has pushed GE to help meet their goal of selling 100 million CFL bulbs in the next 12 months. GE is going along with this even though they’ll end up replacing a steady cash-cow (incandescent bulbs) with a far less dependable source of revenue. Because it can take 10 years or so before you need to replace a CFL bulb, compared to a year for incandescents, GE is bascially destroying one part of their business. Their reasoning makes sense, however. If they don’t provide CFLs, someone else will and GE will be left out of the smaller revenue stream. Sounds like a business school case study.

I also wonder if Target is being as aggressive with the promotion of CFLs as Wal Mart is. I’ll have to sniff around here and find out.

 

Comment [3] | posted 09/06/2006 02:00 PM


My Very Own Amazon Store

Get yer checkbooks and credit cards ready…I’ve got my own Amazon store here on JayDreyer.com. Just look up on the navigation bar for the cleverly titled “Store” link and click away. It’s kind of cool, but I don’t have a lot of control over it. I get to pick the 9 items on the first page, and the categories on the right. But, I don’t have any control over what displays when you select a category. At least I haven’t figured out how to do it, yet. So, Dixie Chicks albums may appear, or an Al Franken book. Just ignore and move on.

You can do all of your usual Amazon stuff here, plus my site even has a fancy shopping cart. Everything goes through Amazon, so if you’re worried about me getting your personal info or tracking your shopping habits, forget about it. The only thing I’ll ever know is if somebody buys something, I’ll get a 5% cut. It doesn’t tell me who bought what, though. When you checkout, it takes care of that through Amazon so I don’t even get your credit card info.

Buy some stuff and make me some $$$! Have fun and let me know what you think about it.

 

Comment | posted 09/05/2006 12:32 AM


Tesla Roadster

If only I had $100,000 laying around the house waiting to be spent, I could pick up one of these sweet Tesla Roadster electric cars. 0-60 in around 4 seconds, 240 horsepower, and about 250 miles on a charge. They’ve taken deposits on the first 100 cars, which will be released next year. I believe it uses the same type of batteries found in notebook pc’s. Hopefully they’re not the same ones Dell uses that have an annoying tendency to blow up.

Tesla Roadster
 

Comment | posted 08/15/2006 05:28 PM


Amazon Reviews

This is hilarious. Go to Amazon and search for “Tuscan Whole Milk”. Then, sit back, read the reviews, and prepare to laugh.

Here is the link in case you can’t search…

 

Comment | posted 08/14/2006 10:42 AM


Survey Complaints

I’ve got a new complaint to throw out there. Maybe you’ve run into this, too.

Lately companies have started rolling out satisfaction surveys after they perform a service for you. For example, when I take the Saab to the dealership, I get a survey. The company that moved us from Detroit to Minneapolis sent one out, as well.

I’m fine with this. It shows they are interested in how things went and are looking for feedback. I’m all for it.

What I’m not for, however, is that the company that sends the survey wants you to put the highest mark for every category. If not, they want you to call them so that they can resolve the issue and get you to give them the highest ranking.

What’s the point? I don’t feel like calling up the company and explaining why I gave them a “good” instead of an “excellent” for a question so I end up just checking “excellent” to be finished with the whole thing. Does this really help the company, however? I don’t think it does. I mean, they are turning a survey with 7 responses into a binary survey. Save me the effort and just make them “yes/no” questions if this is how it works.

My complaint is that this all seems like a waste of time to me. I don’t really like giving out the highest rating unless I feel like they really went out of their way or was impressed by their level of service. It doesn’t mean I’m upset with them or think they did a bad job. To me, the “good” ranking means I’m happy, but maybe they can come up with something in the future to improve service and make me extra-happy. If I just mark everything as “excellent”, is there any incentive for the company to innovate and improve? I don’t think so.

I know why this happens. Somebody at the top decides customer service is important so they mandate that anything less than an “excellent” ranking on a survey is bad. The group doing the service and sending out the survey tries to stay out of trouble by asking customers to fill out “excellent” for everything. Customers oblige because they don’t want to get into any discussions on the phone so they blindly check off the “excellent” box and send it off.

By doing this, companies are fooling themselves into thinking they’re doing a great job, when really, they might just be doing an average or good job. When they look at the monthly chart and everything comes up “excellent”, why should they bother to improve? They’re already great!

 

Comment [1] | posted 07/13/2006 05:08 PM


Google Calendar is Available

Google Calendar Beta

I knew it would finally happen. I was checking my newsreader and came across a post from Google stating their new calendar service is up and running. At first glance, it’s pretty cool. I was able to export my calendar from Outlook into Google in seconds. The only problem is that the times that display with the event are off by 2 hours. I guess that’s a big problem. I have no idea why that is happening but I’ll investigate.

Anyway, it’s easy to add events and share your calendar with others. You can also allow others to add to your calendar (great if you’re married…), set up invitations, create multiple calendars, be notified of events via sms, and other assorted goodies. There is even a feature (as I understand it) where you can easily add events that you receive in emails in your gmail account. Not sure how it works but I’ll be interested in checking it out.

Check it out at http://www.google.com/calendar

 

Comment [3] | posted 04/13/2006 06:27 PM


Finally...a Contact Page

It only took a year but I finally got around to adding a contact page to this site. Jakob Nielsen would be so proud.

So now you have no excuse for not writing.

Other items coming soon:

  • A photo gallery
  • A store
  • ??? Any other suggestions? Other than interesting content? ;-)

 

Comment [3] | posted 02/12/2006 12:52 AM


Campfire Testing...

Campfire Logo

37signals opened up Campfire this evening for some pre-release testing. If you don’t know what it is, Campfire is 37signals’ response to IM. It sounds like they plan on releasing it some time next week.

It was interesting, but nothing I’m dying to use at the moment -probably because I don’t have a need, but that could change. In typical 37signals fashion, the interface was nice and clean. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to it. People that you have invited to a conference all have a name and are displayed in a box in the upper right hand corner. The majority of the page contains the current conversation. Your name is highlighted in yellow, while others are in gray. You can upload files that can then be viewed by the conference members. As an example, I uploaded a text file. The section of the window containing the conversation displayed my files as an icon with a link. Clicking on the file icon (or the filename) launches it in another window (this depends on how you configured your browser, I’m assuming.) Someone uploaded an image and it displayed in the conversation. Clicking it displayed a full-size version in a new window. Others uploaded pdf files.

You can’t format your text as you type. I tried to use html and textile to format things and it didn’t work. No emoticons, either. If you enter a hyperlink, this is correctly displayed in the conversation and people can click on it. That’s about it. As I understand it, there is a feature to save the conversation so that you can all review it later, but it was unavailable during testing.

I had a conversation with another tester about how this could be useful. The best reason we could come up with is that you don’t have the distractions with Campfire that you get with other IM clients like MSN Messenger and the rest. You don’t have buddies constantly popping up and sending you things. It’s just the people you invited to the conference at that time. But, as others mentioned, you can get similar conference type features in other IM clients. We’ll see. The folks at 37signals are master marketers (at least Jason Fried appears to be…) so they’ll sell me on it shortly.

As I said, it was neat, but I don’t have a reason to use it yet. I’m sure when the need arises, I’ll have an “a-ha!” moment and it will all click. I’m not there yet. I will say that this doesn’t come close to their Basecamp project-management product. That thing rocks. Backpack is cool but I’ve got a wiki on my site that has similar functionality. Writeboard is similar to Campfire in that I haven’t had a reason to use it yet but it could be cool. Finally, as I wrap up plugging all of their products, Ta-da List is super-fun (and free!).

 

Comment [1] | posted 02/10/2006 12:09 AM


Internet Explorer 7 available for Beta Testing...

Internet Explorer 7

Just found out that Microsoft has released a beta 2 preview of Internet Explorer 7. Perusing the feature table, it looks like it will have pretty much what you’d expect: tabbed browsing, increased security (ActiveX off by default), RSS feeds, CSS improvements…sounds like everything I get with Firefox.

I probably won’t download and install this at this point. But, I will consider it when they release the final version. A few months ago I could not have cared less if Microsoft updated IE. Now, I’m slightly intrigued. Why? Well, Firefox, at least the 1.5 version I’m currently using, is turning out to be a massive CPU and memory hog. Googling the issue, I’ve found many others with the same problem but I have not found a solution. Just to give an example, sometimes my computer will slow to a crawl. I’ll check the Task Manager and see Firefox pegging the CPU at 99% and taking up 250 MB of memory. What’s up with that???

InformationWeek has an article about Firefox 1.5 issues where roughly 450 people contributed info about their problems. Interesting stuff. There is also a Firefox 1.5 support forum topic that is collecting information and offers some suggestions on how to possibly correct the problem. It didn’t work for me, but maybe it will for you. Finally, it sounds like Firefox will release the 1.5.0.1 upgrade that addresses the memory issue soon.
Update: I just received the 1.5.0.1 update on 2/2/06. We’ll see if that helps…

Getting back to the main point of this rambling post…if you try out the IE7 beta, let us (all 6 readers) know!

 

Comment [1] | posted 01/31/2006 05:08 PM


Squeezebox3 Network Music Player

Squeezebox3 Image

I received my Squeezebox3 network music player in the mail the other day and I’ve been so busy playing with it, I haven’t had time to write about it until now.

What is it? At a basic level, it’s a device the plugs into your stereo and plays music you have stored on a computer somewhere. I have around 450 cd’s that I’ve ripped to mp3 and flac formats. These files are stored on a server that is running in my basement. In the past, I used Jinzora to play them in my house, but the sound always had to come through one of our computers. This meant the music had to be played through a cheap set of PC speakers instead of my home stereo.

I’ve been looking into getting a player like this for a long time. A few years ago there was a device called the Audiotron by Turtle Beach. I never got around to purchasing it and now the device is no longer manufactured. Recently I discovered the Roku Soundbridge line of devices. These are pretty cool, and I was close to pulling the trigger, but there were a few things I didn’t like about it, including the proprietary nature of the system. So, I kept looking and found the Squeezebox v3 from SlimDevices. As usual, I did a ton of research on it and eventually determined it was my best bet.

The Squeezebox v3 is the same as the v2 on the inside, it’s just the outside that has been given a major overhaul. It looks nice. Really nice. My wife even agrees, which is a major bonus. Looks are nice, but it’s the sound and ease of use that really matter and that’s where the Squeezebox really shines.

Setup was a snap. Slimdevices offers two versions of the device – a wired and a wireless version. The wireless version costs $299 while the wired costs $250. I went with the wired version because I had planned on moving a router upstairs, anyway. Since a port would be nearby, I decided to save the extra $50. I connected the device to my stereo via a toslink optical cable, plugged in the cat5 cable from the router, pushed a few buttons on the remote and I was in business. That was it. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. [Keep in mind that I already installed the opensource slimserver software on my server and had ripped all of my cd’s a few years ago – if you haven’t done this already, you’re in for some long hours of work! But, there are services that will rip CD’s for you, including SlimDevices.]

Now that the Squeezebox was plugged in and working what does it do? Well:

  • Plays mp3, wma, flac, aac, wav and Ogg Vorbis
  • Has a built in Burr-Brown DAC
  • Plays internet radio stations like Live365 and SHOUTcast
  • Has an alarm clock
  • Can use playlists
  • Plays nature sounds
  • Can synchronize with other Squeezeboxes or play independently
  • Browse and search for music by using the remote control and player or via SlimServer
  • Even play games!
  • There’s more…these are just the highlights

I could type for a long time about how much I love this thing but my fingers are starting to cramp up. Bottom line, it was easy to set up, looks good, sounds great, and is very easy to use. My wife was able to figure it out in no time, and she had never seen one before. If you’re at all interested in digitizing your music and ditching your CDs and CD player get a Squeezebox.

 

Comment [1] | posted 12/09/2005 12:43 PM


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