Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yes, Jerry Roberts, you can buy Illinois cheese

Jerry Roberts is the general sales manager at Webb Chevrolet in Oak Lawn, Illinois - the man who fired John Stone from his dealership because Stone wore a Green Bay Packers tie to work the day after the Packers defeated the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game. (Stone now works for rival dealer Chevrolet of Homewood.)

Somehow I have the feeling that Jerry Roberts isn't all that enthused about Wisconsin cheese.

But never fear - Roberts can buy Illinois cheese. Here's an example:

Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is Illinois’ first farmstead cheese making facility. On the rich prairie soils of Central Illinois, we have transformed the landscape from cash grain agriculture to diversified perennial fruit trees and berries, goat pastures, hayfields and prairie. We emphasize a forage-based diet for our dairy herd of Nubian and La Mancha goats—seasonal and diverse pastures and locally grown alfalfa and grass hay. Only their milk goes into our small batch, hand-crafted artisan farmstead cheeses.

Of course, all right-thinking people know that happy cows come from California.

P.S. For the record, PETA disagrees. Of course, PETA would probably throw things at John Stone's grandmother for being a Packers fan. And Stone's grandmother would probably throw things at PETA for being sexist.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Excellent predictions in 1968, but they didn't take Moore's Law into account

[DISCLOSURE: My employer traces its history, in part, to the Autonetics Division of North American Rockwell.]

If you search Google Books for the August 1968 issue of Popular Science, you will find an article by W. Stevenson Bacon that discusses twelve then-new advances in public safety and law enforcement. The items that were discussed in that 1968 article are now commonplace in 2011, in ways that Stevenson couldn't have imagined. For example, item 6 discusses the capability to track crimes by location, but Stevenson didn't anticipate that an entire supersystem would spring up that would allow very precise tracking of any location on earth. And Stevenson didn't anticipate that we would carry telephones that could broadcast their location - even the Motorola rep quoted in item 9 could only envision "tiny personal teletypewriter units that will permit individual police officers to receive messages direct from a computer." (What if the police officer could CARRY a computer in the palm of his or her hand?)

But I paid most attention to item 4, which talked about the beginnings of the industry that has employed me for the last 16-plus years. As you read this, remember that it was written in the summer of 1968.

While it was possible to first identify Senator Kennedy's suspected assassin, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, through the pistol he used (as a case in point, through a computer record of guns sold in Los Angeles), new fingerprint-matching systems might one day give instant identification of all suspects.

In addition, experts hope to teach computers to recognize partial prints such as were available in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The few smudged prints left by suspect James Earl Ray made his identification a matter of weeks rather than minutes.

Working under FBI contract, researchers at Cornell Aeronautical Labs and Autonetics Division of North American Rockwell have literally thrown out traditional matching techniques. They're putting into mathematical language such print details as ridge endings, forks in ridges, incipient ridges, islands, and enclosures.

However, Stevenson's analysis was lacking on one respect:

It is hoped computers can be made to chart these details horizontally and vertically, and calculate a set of "descriptors" that would be stored in its memory. The machine would then be able to scan and match fingerprints - including partial prints - at the rate of 500,000 a day.

How would Stevenson had reacted if one of the scientists started talking about matching 500,000 fingerprints in SECONDS, using computers with GIGABYTES of memory?

Stevenson probably would have told the scientist to submit THAT idea to Popular Science Fiction.

In the title of this post, I referred to Moore's Law, which anticipated these rapid increases in computing capabilities. Perhaps Stevenson didn't happen to see the article written by Gordon E. Moore in the April 19, 1965 edition of Electronics Magazine. Wikipedia quotes Moore:

The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year... Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer.

But neither Stevenson nor Moore could predict the variety of devices that would be created. Not only do we have "smartphones" and large biometric systems today, but these advances in computing power have also provided us with Tamagotchi electronic pets, Sirius XM radio, and devices that can hold thousands upon thousands of long-playing records...wait a minute, what's a "long-playing record"?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Shedding fast food...chains

Many fast food businesses are not single entities. There are entities (Yum! Brands, a spinoff of Pepsi) comes to mind - this company actually manages a number of fast food chains.

But it plans to manage two fewer chains in the future:

Yum! Brands Inc., which owns the KFC and Taco Bell restaurant chains, plans to sell its Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food restaurants....

Why? focus on expansion in China and other regions.

I knew that root beer wasn't popular with non-Americans, but that doesn't mean that you have to sell the whole danged chain off, does it?

But Yum! Brands isn't the only fast food company that's selling off fast food brands. It looks like the Wendy's/Arby's Group will have to change its name:

Wendy’s/Arby’s Group Inc., the third-biggest U.S. hamburger chain, plans to explore a sale of the Arby’s brand....

Getting rid of the Arby’s chain will help management focus on expanding the 6,500-store Wendy’s franchise, whose same-store sales have performed better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I sense a contradiction here.

While perusing this story, I happened to notice an emphatically written copyright notice. Among other things, it said that the story that I was reading could NOT be "redistributed."

The copyright notice was followed by numerous buttons that allowed you to tweet the story, recommend it on Facebook, send it to other services, email it, or print it on a printer.

Now I'm not a lawyer, but isn't that redistribution?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Become a Foursquare mayor. It only costs $2000.

I joined Foursquare about a year and a half ago, which doesn't make me an early adopter, but I guess I was sort of an early adopter. I've written about Foursquare numerous times, including two posts (one from January 2010, and another from May 2010) regarding how to become a mayor in Foursquare. And I should know - during the early days of my Foursquare use, I was at one point holding down over ten mayorships at once.

At that time, I was actually looking at both Foursquare and Gowalla, but soon discovered that Gowalla was not for me. You see, I was using an older Motorola Q phone at the time, and Gowalla was only for those who forked out the money for an iPhone. And later, when I switched phones to the LG env3, Foursquare was available; Gowalla was not.

As more people began to use Foursquare, however, my number of mayorships dwindled. At present I only hold one mayorship, but I've been working at getting other mayorships, using tools such as Mayor Fight and Be The Mayor to do so.

Despite my best efforts, however, and despite the fact that I am a Superuser Level 1 in Foursquare, I will eventually lose my Yogurtime mayorship, and I am ineligible to earn any other mayorships.

I discovered this earlier today, when I checked in at the 99 Cents Only Store in Ontario, California. After my check-in, Foursquare informed me that mobile web users such as myself are ineligible to earn mayorships, but can still earn badges. I was directed to this page:

If you don't have a phone that will run one of our apps (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, webOS, Winmo7, Symbian) but your phone can access the internet, you can still check in by pointing your mobile web browser to Because most mobile web browsers do not support advanced features like GPS or photo uploads, we have created a simpler foursquare experience that is customized for the mobile web browser’s limitations.

Actually, what they've done is modify their existing experience to "simplify" it. Read on:

For example, you can’t upload photos (no saved photo access), and you can’t earn Mayorships (no GPS) on the mobile web, but it still lets you and your friends find each other as well as see the best tips at the venues around you. If you are able to download an app on your phone, it’s a more complete foursquare experience; if not, we hope you enjoy the set of features we were able to put into the mobile web version!

Actually, I enjoy the set of features that Foursquare USED to have on the mobile web version. I'm not all that hot on taking features away.

In a previous post in September 2009, Robert Scoble referred to "antifeatures":

This week I got a press release from Gowalla. It went on and on about how much better its feature set was than Foursquare, a point of view backed up by one of my favorite tech writers, Zee, so I gave it a second chance.

Why did they claim it was better?

Because their app forces users to use the GPS in their phone to check in. Foursquare does not, the press release says. That is all true....

This “feature” is actually an anti-feature....

Both of these apps are location games. You check in. You get virtual points. Your friends know where you are. This freaks people out. But only one app FORCES you to tell people exactly where you are when you check in: Gowalla. This is going to turn off a lot of people....

But at least Gowalla has been consistent; Foursquare literally changed the rules of the game in the middle of the game. And why did they do this? To prevent cheating. The first step was to make sure that the users of the apps couldn't cheat:

Foursquare is now using your mobile phone’s GPS location (other tactics are used for phones without GPS) to verify your whereabouts to reward only those that happen near the actual place in question. Checkins that appear to take place far from the venue users are trying to checkin to trigger the “cheater code” and block incentives.

The mobile web was a workaround for those who wanted to cheat, but that workaround has now apparently been closed.

As has the ability for mobile web users to legitimately earn mayorships.

Of course, I could still earn Foursquare mayorships if I wanted to. All that I have to do is buy a high end smartphone with GPS enabled, and also buy the high-end service plan that service providers force smartphone users to buy. Lay out $2000 or more, and I can continue to earn mayorships.

It's not worth it.

So when I left the 99 Cents Only Store and went to Rubios, I checked in with the following message:

this may be my last foursquare check-in

So, does anyone want to suggest a location-based service that actually LIKES non-smartphone users?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I hope she doesn't see the soyballs and spaghetti

An elementary school friend of mine, Richard Van Sant, now lives in Colorado. One day when he was visiting the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery in Boulder, he ran across a comment card that he shared with his friends on Facebook.

If you look on the back of the Mountain Sun menu, you will see this entry:

fresh salsa with blue and yellow corn chips ....... $3.25

This menu entry prompted the comment card from an unknown diner. My friend shared the card, part of which read as follows:

...we'd love it if you could change the menu to read "chips and salsa" instead of "salsa and chips." It is just really stressful to have to invert something that comes so naturally....

All of us who are Richard's Facebook friends loved the use of the word "stressful." During a time in which Congresswomen are being shot at and people are being snowed in, the inversion of "salsa and chips" does not seem to be the most critical issue that we must face.

I bet that it's really good salsa.

And presumably the Boulder types would like this salsa and chips recipe, vegan that it is.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New-Fields - the story continues

Less than a month ago, I posted an item entitled New-Fields - How not to impress your cold call targets. It told the story of someone who called my direct work number and then proceeded to ask for ANOTHER worker. She was pushing an Iraq conference, and I told her I wasn't interested. A few minutes later, she called the person in the cubicle next to me.

That was a few weeks ago. To this day, my cubicle neighbor and I have continued to receive telephone calls and e-mails inviting us to this conference that we do not want to attend.

Here's what has happened over the last few days.

Some time last week I received yet another call from New-Fields, and specifically included the words "place me on your do not call list" in my response.

On Friday afternoon, I received this e-mail from New-Fields:

-----Original Message-----
From: Lyka Nazario []
Sent: Friday, January 07, 2011 2:35 PM
Subject: Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference

Dear Sir/Madam,

We would like to invite you to participate in Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference on April 7-8, 2011 in Washington DC.

Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference (IHBCC) is the world's largest and most respected event focused on Iraq's homeland and border control challenges and opportunities.

One-to-One Meetings with top Iraqi officials and decision makers are available on first-come, first-served basis.

We encourage you to register now and reserve a slot. Please refer to the attached documents and fax to 202-280-1239. Should you need further information or assistance, please contact me at 202.370.6439 or email

*Register before January 14, 2011 and save up to $300.


Lyka Nazario
Sponsorship Sales Manager
New-Fields Exhibitions
1101 Pennsylvania Avenue I NW Suite 600 I Washington, DC 20004I USA

I replied on Monday morning:

-----Original Message-----
From: Bredehoft, John
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2011 8:01 AM
To: 'Lyka Nazario'
Subject: RE: Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference

Last week I requested that you place me on your do-not-call list. Please do not call or contact me again regarding this conference.

So guess what was in my e-mail on Tuesday morning?

-----Original Message-----
From: Lyka Nazario []
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 5:22 AM
Subject: Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference

Dear Sir, Madam,

We would like to invite you to participate in Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference on April 7-8, 2011 in Washington DC.

Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference (IHBCC) is the world's largest and most respected event focused on Iraq's homeland and border control challenges and opportunities.

One-to-One Meetings with top Iraqi officials and decision makers are available on first-come, first-served basis.

We encourage you to register now and reserve a slot. Please refer to the attached documents and fax to 202-280-1239. Should you need further information or assistance, please contact me at 202.370.6439 or email to


Lyka Nazario
Sponsorship Sales Manager
New-Fields Exhibitions
1101 Pennsylvania Avenue I NW Suite 600 I Washington, DC 20004I USA

I replied again:

-----Original Message-----
From: Bredehoft, John
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:01 AM
To: 'Lyka Nazario'
Subject: RE: Iraq Homeland and Border Control Conference

Last week I requested that you place me on your do-not-call list, and yesterday morning I requested that you not call or contact me again regarding this conference.

Again I implore you - please do not call or contact me again regarding this conference, or any other conference sponsored by Any further contact from will be considered harassment and will be reported accordingly.

I don't know if New-Fields pays their solicitors by the call, or what's going on, but if someone indicates several times that he/she does NOT want to attend your conference, the person probably doesn't want to attend your conference.

(empo-tuulsey) Do you have the heart to look into this privacy issue story?

There are unintended consequences to the retention of information, as both D.P. Lyle and the Palm Beach Post have noted.

Roger and Peggy Gamblin owned a title company in Florida when they mysteriously disappeared in May 2008. 1 1/2 years later, in October 2009, an indictment accused the couple of raiding client escrow accounts at their company, Flagler Title.

Fast-forward to late 2010, when a man checked into Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, Colorado with cardiac issues. When the doctor checked the man's pacemaker, he discovered that the pacemaker wasn't registered to the person who checked in to the hospital. Instead, it was registered to one Roger Gamblin. FBI agents subsequently arrested the Gamblins, who had been living under assumed names.

Dr. Lyle, who has been previously mentioned in this blog, explained one reason for the registration of the pacemaker:

You see pacemakers and other body appliances, such as artificial hips and the like, have serial numbers etched into them. These numbers are easily traced to the manufacturer, the doctor who implanted the device, the hospital where it was done, and of course the name of the person who received it. Such serial numbers are often used to determine the identity of an unknown corpse. A body that is found with no identifying paperwork but which has a pacemaker, an artificial hip, or some other medical appliance, can then be identified through the serial number on these devices.

But when this system was designed, presumably the designers didn't anticipate that it could also be used to solve crimes.

Do we have to expand our definition of biometrics even further?

Friday, January 7, 2011

ADMIA (acronyms do me in again)

I was searching for some information on a particular committee within the International Association for Identification, and instead found myself at the website of the Irrigation Association of India, a decidedly different organization.

The Association is voluntary, non-profit organization formed to promote, development, proper use and acceptance of irrigation equipment for all possible applications, to promote water and soil conservation and more economical crop production through the use of irrigation, to conserve energy through efficient design and operation of irrigation systems: to enhance the environment by expanding efficient use of irrigation for landscape maintenance, dust and erosion control; to collect and disseminate information regarding irrigation and value to members of the Association, to allied industries and to the public; to acquaint public and private agencies, institutions and organizations with development in the industry and the part the industry occupies in the econo9my and development of the Nation,; to conduct educational programs regarding the industry and extend scholarships; to promote research, development and extension work, to recognize outstanding contribution in promotion of modern irrigation systems and carry out such other lawful trade association activities as the general object may direct.

Of course, if someone steals some irrigation equipment out of a field, perhaps MY IAI can help out there....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

(empo-plaaybizz) Making tires cool

When boys (and some girls) are growing up, they talk about cars a lot. Perhaps they'll have favorite makes - Ford for one, Mercedes for another. Perhaps they'll talk about the color of the car. As boys become men and girls become women, they begin looking at other aspects of the car, such as fuel consumption.

And there are a lot of games associated with cars. You can turn on your TV and watch cars racing around tracks. You can go to the store and buy Hot Wheels or model cars or other car-related toys.

But cars, at least as currently designed, would go nowhere if they didn't have wheels on them. And most of the wheels in use today have tires.

Did any of you talk tire traction when you were growing up? I doubt it.

But the Riverside Press-Enterprise notes that tire companies such as Kumho and Continental are aiming to change that. The Kumho application, described on Kumho's "Kumho Tire Drive" Facebook page, will be available shortly on various Apple platforms, and should eventually be available for Android. As you equip your car, Kumho reminds you of one important thing that you must do:

Put on some Kumho Tires. Make sure you always equip both wet and dry performance Tires.

But Kumho was beaten to the punch by Continental, with its ContiTireRace application for Apple platforms.

The goal of the game is to take the race track with ContiWinterContact TS 830 as quickly as possible, collecting valuable points along the way that give the rolling tires additional speed and thus better lap times. The race can be “run” using either the keys or by tilting the phone. Snowy and icy roads suitable to the season and winter tire model make it all the more exciting.

Now let's see if the windshield wiper vendors get into the act.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Will licensing change?

Years ago, in the wake of the punk explosion, the Who released a song called "Music Must Change" - complete with orchestral accompaniment.

Pablo Valerio argues that the big software firms are doing the same thing as cloud computing emerges:

Many software vendors using the software-as-a-service approach are already using the "concurrent" user license. They sell a package of licenses to an enterprise, and the software can be installed by an unlimited number of users, as long as the number of them using it at the same time is less than or equal to the number of licenses purchased.

But big software vendors are resisting the change.

And if the software vendors want to satisfy their fiduciary duty to their stockholders, they will continue to do so.

I believe that most people realize that cloud computing is not a stunningly brand new thing. In essence, cloud computing is multi-user access to data - and that's been around longer than single-user access to data, when you think of it. In some respects, there is no difference between 100 dumb terminals plugged into a distant mainframe somewhere, and 100 iPads plugged into a distant server somewhere. Well, OK, you can't play Solitaire on a mainframe. (Actually, you could, and I'm sure that we'll eventually find the 1970s programmer who created an ASCII farming game.)

Frankly, even this post is nothing new, since it revisits territory that I originally visited in an October 2009 post. While it didn't talk about licensing per se, it talked about the original cloud computing.

Or, in other words, you use your computer as a terminal to get to an Amazon computer, and you buy some time on it. The Amazon computer is shared with a number of other users, effectively giving you a "time slice" on the Amazon computer.

I think some of my readers know where I'm going with this.

Back to licensing. While customers may think it ridiculous that a "non-human operated device" is counted as a "named user" for Oracle licensing purposes, Oracle will continue to do this as long as it can make money on the practice.

And just because some things are being accessed in the cloud doesn't necessarily mean that the vendors will automatically seek to lower the prices that they charge to customers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

One commercial that we won't be seeing at the 2011 Super Bowl

First there was the 2007 ad with David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey.

Then there was the 2010 ad with Dave, Oprah, and Jay Leno.

The 2007 spot aired after a 2005 reconciliation between Letterman and Winfrey, while the 2010 spot aired during the midst of the Conan-Jay moves at NBC which had elicited comment from Letterman.

As I started thinking about the upcoming Super Bowl, I began wondering - would this be the time for a foursome, with Conan invited to the party?

But as I looked into it further, I realized that this was not to be - at least in 2011.

The 2007 and 2010 spots were promos for The Late Show With David Letterman, which airs on CBS. The 2011 Super Bowl is being televised by Fox, which is just about the only network that ISN'T involved in the talk show news of the moment. (Their former talk show host, Chevy Chase, now appears on an NBC show that I've half watched.)

But guess who will televise the Super Bowl in 2011? According to Wikipedia, NBC has the rights. So, at least theoretically, Jay could tape a promo commercial with Conan, Dave, Oprah, or anyone he wants.

However, there are three mitigating factors that cast doubt on whether this will happen. First, Leno may not be willing (for a variety of reasons) to tape such a spot. Second, there is the possibility that Leno may not be at NBC in 2012. Third, there is the possibility that there may not be a Super Bowl in 2012.

But CBS has the Super Bowl rights in 2013. Now there's a commercial to look forward to...assuming that Letterman is still at CBS in 2013.

Monday, January 3, 2011

(empo-plaaybizz) If you can sell facial recognition as fun, you can sell anything


Gee, this sounds fun.

Back in mid-December, Facebook's Justin Mitchell wrote a blog post entitled Making Photo Tagging Easier. First, Mitchell presents the problem:

While tags are an essential tool for sharing important moments, many of you have said tagging photos can be a chore. (Like that time you had to tag your cousin and her fiancé over and over and over again in 64 different pictures of their engagement party, and then go back and tag the guests.)

So Facebook is rolling out tag suggestions to make your life easier. How do they do it?

Because photos are such an important part of Facebook, we want to be sure you know exactly how tag suggestions work: When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software—similar to that found in many photo editing tools—to match your new photos to other photos you're tagged in. We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.

Now Facebook isn't the first online service to incorporate facial recognition. Google acquired such technology in 2006, and incorporated it into its products by 2007, although a full rollout may not be performed due to privacy concerns.

Yet casual users are getting more and more accustomed to facial recognition, which can lead to wider acceptance of the use of the technology. Which is a good thing, because it's not just the casual photo taggers that use facial recognition - governments are using software from various companies, including my own, for passport checking and other applications.

Assuming for the moment that casual use of a technology can increase the acceptance of its use in law enforcement, perhaps this same practice can be applied to other technologies.

Such as the body scanners used by the TSA.

How come the trendiest clubs haven't bought some of these body scanners to install inside their party zones?

Imagine - it's one o'clock in the morning, the star deejay is in the middle of her set, the lights are flashing...and a guy in a police uniform rushes out to the applause of everyone.

"OK," yells the pseudo-cop, "who wants to get scanned?"

After some pushing and shoving around, a few young women and a few young men move toward the pseudo-cop, and The Machine is unveiled, along with a large monitor. One by one, the participants go through the body scanner, and the crowd cheers or jeers depending upon the results of the scan. Winners are selected, and participants will get the option to purchase photos of their scans.

Now I'm sure that some people would charge that this would violate pornography laws, but the nightclub owner will claim that these are just standard Federal Government practices.

And if these tactics help to sell body scanners, look for the nightclubs to follow that up with Waterboarding night.