March 26, 2009
Dave Winer has written up a step-by-step guide for non-technical sorts who want to take advantage of Amazon.com’s Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2).
Amazon has really lowered the barrier to using utility-style (pay only for what you use) computing. If you have any interest at all in what cloud computing might do for you, I recommend going through the process of setting up a server in the cloud to (a) see how easy it is, and (b) prime your idea pump.
March 24, 2009
Who doesn’t want whiter teeth? Just don’t fall for this tooth-whitening scam. There are lots of good cosmetic dentists in Sonoma County, and a number of off-the-shelf products from legitimate companies.
Sometimes, technology (in this page Web pages, Google AdWords, and online payment) allows unscrupulous businesses to flourish, which is too bad.
March 23, 2009
If you like business and technology (which is my beat), I recommend you check out smallbiztechnology.com, where I find some of the ideas that I talk about here and in my print column.
For example, here’s a link to a company which achieved real savings in moving to Web-based software. And here’s a link to the radical notion of hosting *everything* in the cloud (In the old days, we had a timesharing service and a dumb terminal. Not so different).
March 20, 2009
Noted security expert Bruce Schneier writes about why the contradictory advice of “Don’t talk to strangers” and “Always rely on the kindness of strangers” can, in fact, both be correct.
And if you haven’t ever heard of an “alibi club” (as I hadn’t), his article will enlighten you.
If you’re interested in security topics (both online and off), you should be subscribed to his blog, Schneier on Security.
March 18, 2009
I’ve just seen an interesting new service called Shoeboxed.com which, as the name implies, will take those shoeboxes full of receipts and invoices and digitize them. You get
- an archive of digitized images of your receipts, which you can manage via your broswer
- the store, date, and amount in digital form (Excel/CSV, Quicken, QuickBooks, PDF, …)
- automatic categorization of expenses by store (e.g. Pizza Hut receipts are Meals/Entertainment).
For $50 a month, they will provide you with postage paid envelopes to send in your stuff, digitize up to 500 invoices/receipts a month, and send them back to you. If you do an annual subscription, you get 12 months for the price of 10. So for $500 a year, you can certainly reduce the amount of paper handling you (or your bookkeeper) must do.
Interested in seeing how it looks? Watch the 5-minute demo video.
March 17, 2009
If you surf the Web as much as I do, you’ve probably become inured to the visual noise of a typical Web oage. For those who haven’t, there’s Readability, a bookmarklet (a little tool you can add to your Web browser) which gets rid of most of the irrelevant stuff.
March 16, 2009
You may have seen the high-resolution panoramic image of the Presidential Inauguration, composed of 220 individual digital photos.
The process, developed by Carnegie-Mellon University researchers is called “Gigapan. This 87-second news video provides a quick overview.
Now, for $379, you can do it yourself:
A very cool idea for commercial photographers and interested amateurs.
March 13, 2009
Most small businesses start by using Microsoft Excel to manage their data (Hold up your hand if you have a customer database in Excel).
The next step up from there is something like Microsoft Access or Filemaker, which add the ability to create simple form-based data applications. At the top of the heap are full-fledged relational databases like Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, mySQL, and Oracle, requiring more than a little technical expertise.
A recent development is “database as a service,” exemplified by Inuit’s Quickbase product (Intuit also makes Quickbooks and Quicken, financial products familiar to nearly everyone). Quickbase is aimed at the Access/Filemaker market, allowing regular folks to build database-backed applications which can be accessed via a Web browser.
A new entrant to this market looks very exciting: Dabble DB. I recommend you check out their eight-minute demo, which is very cool (at least, if you think databases are cool).
March 2, 2009
Take a look at this four-minute video to see one man’s take on modern technology.