October 23, 2012
How to search the Kindle Owners' Lending Library

One of the benefits of Amazon Prime is the Kindle Owners' Lending Library that lets you borrow for "free" an ebook each month. I recently decided to check this out and found that it's very difficult to search for these. Finding eligible books on the Kindle is easy, but browsing on the Kindle is painfully slow. Additionally, there's no clear way to search for these on the Amazon website. However, the following steps below will allow for a search of these on the Amazon site itself:

1. On the Amazon.com site, go to Shop by Department and select "Books" (NOT Kindle Books)

2. On the next page, on the left-hand side of the screen, select "Prime Eligible"

3. Now select Format "Kindle Edition"

4. Now browse or search as needed to further filter and all results returned should be eligible for the free "borrow" feature as noted on each result $0.00 (borrow for free from your Kindle)

Enjoy!

June 15, 2012
Cron job to email me if files don't update

I'm capturing this for myself in case I need to update it later. Occasionally I've found that my weather station stops syncing with the server for some reason and I wanted to be notified when this happens. I wrote a quick cron job to check if the file was updated recently, and if not send me an email. It looks like this:

57 * * * * ([ /home/user/weather/index.html -nt /home/user/lastcheck ] || ( /home/user/mailme ) ) && ( touch /home/user/lastcheck)

So this runs every hour at 57 minutes past the hour. It first checks that the index file is "newer than" the lastcheck file. Lastcheck is empty and just gets used for a timestamp. If this fails, it executes the mailme script. Regardless the lastcheck file gets updated again with a current timestamp.

The mailme script is pretty dumb. It looks like this:

#!/bin/bash

echo "Check your weather station." | mail -s "Weather Update Error" myemail@domain.net

June 21, 2011
Can Verizon kill the cloud?

Verizon Wireless announced today they plan to discontinue unlimited data plans and move to tiered pricing like AT&T and T-Mobile. This isn't surprising, especially as voice and texting decline and are replaced by data use. Plus it's expensive to maintain the infrastructure that keeps all that data moving. But it could cause problems for another trend, cloud computing.

Consider what makes the cloud possible: cheap, fast, reliable Internet connections. Take out any of those three and it quickly becomes less compelling. Do you really want to download your entire iTunes collection over the air if you have to pay $10 a gig?

If the mobile carriers establish tiered pricing as a viable model would it really be surprising to see home broadband providers start to follow suit? After all, don't they face the same scenario of supporting an infrastructure that needs to provide an ever-growing supply of bandwidth? Bandwidth to feed things like Youtube and Netflix and iCloud and...

But that's the problem. Youtube is interesting when bandwidth is free. The cloud is interesting when it's free. It gets much less interesting when you're paying by the byte. Nothing influences behavior like introducing a cost and demand for bandwidth will almost certainly be reduced. And if demand is reduced, will Internet providers need to keep building out their networks? Can new, innovative bandwidth-intensive services survive in this new model of network connectivity? Can Verizon kill the cloud?

June 3, 2011
An Open Letter to Steve Ballmer

Dear Steve,

I'm writing this on a MacBook, but it didn't have to be this way and it doesn't have to stay that way. We're at a critical inflection point for personal computing and the disruption gives you an opportunity to take back the market. You know that I'm talking about the growth of mobile devices. Sure, you've tried (I had a handheld computer and later an iPAQ both with Windows CE.) But Apple and Google are eating your lunch in mobile. And you know already what momentum can do for a computing platform.

The good news is there's a straightforward strategy to win users back in mobile. Motorola already showed you how to do it with the recent Atrix phone and their laptop-like dock, powered by the phone. Sure, it's not great either. But you have something Motorola doesn't have--Windows and Office. Imagine a smartphone running Windows OS with two different GUI, one optimized for a mobile phone and one standard Windows OS for PCs. All your data on one device. Plug it in to a dock with a monitor and a keyboard, or a laptop-like dock similar to the Atrix, and you have a full PC experience. Unplug and you still have your data on the go.

But wait, just one more thing. Imagine enabling application developers to create two versions of their app, a desktop version and a mobile version. Think similar to what Apple provides with universal apps that provide the same functionality for iPhone and iPad but optimized for each. The user installs a single app, and depending on whether they are mobile or connected to a dock, they get the right version and access to the same data on each. Office is your killer app.

This strategy would preserve both your Windows and Office businesses. Apple brags that they have over 350,000 apps for iOS. You have Windows and all the apps and compatibility that comes with it. That's hard to beat. You can't win if you play their game. You need to change the game. This would change the game. I know I'd buy it.

With best regards,
Paul


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