Friday, February 22, 2008

I Chow Down and after Sandy...Sarah

I have two blurbs to share on completely random things, but I will do my best to relate them to the blog's topic:

Technology is awesome.  So is food!  While this is a tech blog, it is MY tech blog so I'm just gonna plug a little video segment I've started up.  In collaboration with Connect Mason (who also syndicate this blog), I have begun shooting several episodes of "Jimmy Chows Down."  Each week is a new segment covering some place on or near campus that students often frequent.  I hope that it will be informative for new students and entertaining for GMU dining veterans.  Check out my first review of Ya Yaya's Asian Kitchen, in the JC.  Eventually I hope to get a dedicated page and a feed...

Technology is awesome.  Robots are technology.  Speaking of robots, have any of you watched "The Sarah Connor Chronicles?"  If you have you know a few things.  One, Sarah Connor isn't dead, despite the latest Terminator movie.  Two, Summer Glau is freakin awesome, as she was in Firefly, but this time she gets to kick ass ALL THE TIME.  And three, the show is starting to lose focus.  Personally I love the "terrible sci-fi" genre and I hate it when a show on prime time suddenly starts to tank after only a few episodes.  I always feel like they'd eventually get better if they were given time to figure themselves out.  So, give Sarah Connor a chance and watch her show.

That's all I got.  It's been a busy week and I can't wait for spring break!
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Hope My Girlfriend Doesn't Find Out About Sandy!

Ok, actually she already knows about Sandy, but it's not what you think!

picture of SandySandy is an intuitively designed digital assistant that can manage all the daily tasks that the average plugged-in web jockey needs to keep track of. Designed by values of n, Sandy works like a PDA would work if you took away all the hardware and made it "live on the web." She's also very chipper...all the time!

It's kind of hard to explain so here's an example. Let's say you got an email from somebody that said:

When do you want to meet next week?
If you want to set up a meeting, you could suggest a time in your reply. After that you would have to go to your calendar (and being the good little geek you are, you use gCal or something like that) and add the new appointment. Well with Sandy, you can cut out that step by replying to your friend and CCing the message to a special email address for your Sandy account. The message then goes like this:
Well how about Monday? 5-6pm? Let me know if that isn't good for you. Let's meet in Student Union I. Thanks, Jimmy Sandy, remind me to meet with Jake on Monday from 5pm to 6pm in Student Union I.

Not only does Sandy save you the step of imputing a date on your calendar by scanning for her name and then doing what you say after it (the syntax is very obvious as you can see), but also it makes you look like you have a personal secretary reviewing your email. How cool is that!

The date that you entered gets put on your list of appointments which Sandy can remind you in an endless number of ways (email, text message, Twitter). Also, any of those methods can be used to make new appointments and reminders. For instance, if I want to make a post on my iPhone I can either send an email, or I can message Sandy's twitter account. Once you have set it up, you can send:

"d s remind me to get the cats out of the barn tomorrow @todo @sms @noemail"

This indicates to Twitter to send a direct message (d) to Sandy's account (somehow they snagged "s" as the actual account name) and the the following is the message. I said remind me to indicate that I want an actually reminder (saying "remember" doesn't) and the @ tags at the end indicated to add it to my todo list and to send me a text or "sms" message. By default I have email notifications set up, but with the extra "@noemail" tag I can have it only send a text. This is just a small look into the syntax, but you can probably see why the design is so intuitive.

Overall I haven't been using Sandy terribly long, but I've already found many uses for it in increasing my productivity. The website is very helpful in learning all they syntax and settings. I've even overlayed events that I tell Sandy to my Google Calendar so that I don't have to add them separately.

There are tons of personal productivity programs, services, and tools out there (check out LifeHacker for a ton more of those), but this is really one of the few that I think I will really stick with for a long time.

Image of Sandy courtesy of values of n.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Microsoft/Yahoo/AOL/News Corp/BORING!

The internets have been ablaze with rumors and news about Yahoo's imminent acquisition. Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo for billions. Yahoo then hinted that it liked News Corp, AOL, or maybe even Google! The real story is that we don't know what's going on in those boardrooms and I personally don't care.

Big fish/Little fish picMicrosoft is pretty terrible with internet stuff (Live Search, Internet Explorer anyone?) and Yahoo is really losing steam as a web property. While they do have tons of loyal users with their email, news, and even their search, they pale in comparison to Google's free web services and powerful integrated ads (oh and they do search too). Yahoo has forgotten how to be innovative and combining it with Microsoft's lame web presence doesn't seem to be much news at all to me.

I don't want to say much about this until something actually happens, but if you have thoughts, leave comments...I read them, I promise!

Also, another post is coming up soon...about my electronic mistress! [/scandal]

Fish image from Flickr user gnal under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Digsby Exclusive! (with invites) and New Syndication

This week I've got a exclusive special surprise for everyone, courtesy of Digsby! What is Digsby? Well in the world of instant messaging, protocols like AIM, MSN, Yahoo, and ICQ are the kings. The thing that many people do not realize is that they are only protocols and can operate separately from the clients that their owners make for them. For a long time, the only two serious options were Pidgin (formerly Gaim) and Trillian. These clients allow for multiple accounts on multiple protocols to merge all your friends, no matter who they use. The problem with Pidgin and Trillian is that Pidgin (though I love it to death) is going through a very slow development process by the open-source community and Trillian has an interface that a lot of people can't get used to (it's fairly different from the AIM client that most people were raised on) and you have to pay for the Pro version. Later on, Google Talk (gTalk for short) came along, but it really didn't get much wide acceptance.

Now there is a new competitor in the field, Digsby. Their multi-protocol client (AIM, MSN, ICQ, Yahoo, and the Jabber protocol) is very similar to the AIM format, has most of the really awesome functions that Pidgin users have come to depend on, but also brings a few other things to the table. Things like message logging (and tools for using the logs), quick status changing, and tabbed chat windows are there like many modern clients. It has built in integration for SMS messaging, pop-up alerts for messages and updates (so you don't have to change windows), email support for most popular webmail providers, social networking integration (Facebook and Myspace for now) which alerts you to whatever is going on in your profile, and a really easy way to reskin the look and feel of the client. On that last one, I feel this is important, because honestly I've never been able to figure out how to easily change the skin of Pidgin on a Windows machine. If it didn't include these new features, it would be rather hum-drum, but I think the new additions may challenge the other messaging clients to rethink their core functions and grow. The whole list of features is on their website.

A demo of a chatbox with username crossed out of course.

I haven't been using Digsby for a huge amount of time yet, but so far I haven't noticed any of the bugginess that I'm used to from open-source projects like Pidgin. After only a few hours I decided to completely switch over to Digsby for my regular AIM usage. I have a few small complaints about the user interface (as I always do), but since this is a beta, I figure a lot of those little kinks will get worked out once they have enough user feedback.

So, now for the big surprise! Digsby has been kind enough to give Mason Tech Beat its own BETA INVITE CODE. Just enter "mason" into the registration box (after you download and begin installing the program from and you will have full access to this awesome beta. The code is only good for the first 500 users to take advantage of it, so first come, first serve. I think this is a great new product and am happy to shamefully plug their viral release of it!

One last thing....Broadside Online has kind of gone through the fire and been reborn as Connect Mason, which is separate from Broadside in Student Media now. They have agreed to put up my stories from time to time, just like Broadside Online did before, and I am very grateful to have their support. Everybody should head over to their new site. They are really doing a great job with the campus news and I personally subscribe to their front page feed.

Thanks to dotSyntax (people who run Digsby) for the use of their logo!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Where Has the Jimmy Gone?

Anybody wondering why I've kind of vanished for the last 11 days is because of a couple reasons:
  1. I have suddenly realized that school does require my attention from time to time.
  2. My last two posts were spaced closely together so it SEEMS like I've been doing less writing.
  3. Microsoft didn't ACTUALLY eat Yahoo so I decided to hold off on that one.
  4. And finally...I'm working on a new food rating video segment for Connect Mason called Jimmy "Chows Down" (launching sometime soon) and it has taken up that little bit of attention that I give to Student Media.
That being said, more should be on the way because I'll need a distraction from exams.

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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

Further, in the interest of full disclosure, this author holds minor financial investments in Apple, Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices.