Budget Customer Experience FTW!

Budget Truck rental of Canada has some special promotions available when you reserve via their web site.

However you actually can’t reserve trucks via the web site.  You have to call the locations.

When you call the location it goes something like this.

  • You: I would like to reserve a truck for next week.  I have a coupon from your site.
  • Them: Next week is no problem.  However the coupon is only for online reservations.
  • You: Oh, I couldn’t reserve online; it said there were no places available.
  • Them: No you can’t reserve online, only via phone.
  • You: So…
  • Them: So next week is all set!

This is Dialog Invasion!!

Later today I’ll be giving a summit session on UX for Thunderbird.  The Thunderbird Dialog Invasion is one of the many topics to cover.

<a href="http://clarkbw.net/blog/2008/07/30/this-is-dialog-invasion/"><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-430" title="Dialog Invasion" src="http://clarkbw.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/dialog-invasion-thumb.png" alt="" width="300" height="161" /></a><br />non-flash formats available. ogg and wmv
Watch it in a High Quality format.
If you love Reggie and the Full Effect as much as I do you can grab his new album from  MySpace.com -Reggie and the Full Effect or Vagrant Records – Reggie and the Full Effect. Please don’t sue me reggie!!


War Plan Red

Dear friendly neighbors to the north.  Only Defence Scheme No.1 can save you now for I will soon be en route.

A Great Invention

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ranks Poutine as #10 in The 50 Greatest Canadian Inventions, impressive.  And I intend to eat a lot of poutine while I’m up in Montreal this weekend.  In fact I hope to stop at Au Pied de Cochon for their famous varieties.

Canada Sweatshirt by BB Jeans London

hopefully I’ll see this sweatshirt that I can’t seem to find anywhere


Calendar Face to Face

I’ve been out in Hamburg, Germany for the past couple days at this years Calendar Face to Face meeting which has been going very well.

Thunderbird and Calendar teams

I did make my overnight trip and spent my first two days up in Copenhagen doing some touring around and checking out the nightlife.

Copenhagen Canal
Busy Canal in Copenhagen

While currently very expensive for me and it seems likely even more expensive for their residents. Copenhagen is definitely a place I could come back to visit again.

Christiana Entrance
Christiana Entrance


Lessons from Architecture

Jean Nouvel has received this years Pritzker Prize for his work in architecture.  An architect I admire for many reasons, one of which he is often criticized for and yet I believe is an amazing strength; he is not easily characterized.  There is no obvious signature to his work that he brings to each project he undertakes, they are all completely within context but not in a way that makes them disappear; they stand out and bring enjoyment through their contrast and yet belong through their harmony.

From the NPR interview with Jean Nouvel there were a couple of things that touched on his philosophy of design; lessons I read into.

Survey the site (research is paramount):

  • What was there?
  • What is there?
  • How was it was used?
  • How will it be used?

The exterior of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which was designed by Jean Nouvel - Amanda Ortland/Guthrie Theater

The New York Times also has a small article on Nouvel winning the Pritzker but the NYTimes Magazine will be publishing an in depth article for this Sunday called The Contextualizer.

“Typically, architects begin the design process with a sketch pad or scale models, but Nouvel starts with an idea he can express in words.”

“He tries things, and not everything works. There’s a mixture of things that are extraordinary, things that are experiments, things that don’t come off aesthetically. But Jean is willing to jump in and take on things and try. That’s a great quality.”Frank Gehry



After an achy day in a coffee shop chair yesterday I spent some time last night looking up co-working again.  Nothing new has happened on Co-Working Boston page since I was last there.  However the CSMonitor recently ran an article covering Betahouse, a local co-working facility, previous covered in this boston.com article.

Lazy Cow (…) by law_keven. License:

After I first posted my name on the Co-working Boston page I got a message from someone near Long Island looking to open up their own co-working facility.  The issue in setting a new place up seemed to be finding the price to set.  She wondered if I had a price in mind and since I’d been thinking about this already I sent her my formula for deciding what to spend.

I’m a bit of a details dork and this was formula to calculate my average commute costs when I used to drive to work everyday.

Distance: ~ 30 miles from Cambridge to Westford

Cost: ~ $0.505 per mile according to the Federal reimbursement numbers (which likely don’t take into account recent gas prices)

60 miles round trip / day * $0.505 = $30.30 / day

Working Time: 1777 average hours per year worked according to wikipedia which is 222 working (8 hour) days / year.  Really you want number of days driven, not number of days 8 hours were worked but the total usually comes out to be less than the real value and therefore we end up with a conservative estimate.

$30.30 / day * 222 avg working days per year = $6727 / year ( or $561 / month )

Even if I through in the monthly T pass of $59 / month I now get and the fact that I still own the car ( payment + insurance + tickets and taxes) there is a considerable amount of money left which could go towards sharing a nice office space.  However since I’m pretty cheap I’d probably opt for the $200 / month deal and be a part timer, after all the coffee shops do have their charm as well.

Title coming from the excellent cow-orker slang term.

Hello there planet mozilla


planet gnome campaign finance report

Recently I found that the Huffington Post is running a site called FundRace 2008, which allows you to view campaign donation amounts from certain people, areas, job types, or employers. According to their website:

FundRace makes it easy to search by name or address to see which presidential candidates your friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors are contributing to. Or you can see if your favorite celebrity is putting their money where their mouth is.

It gives you a google map showing the donors in the area you searched for. Originally created by EyeBeam here are the details:

All calculations are based on public records filed with the FEC of contributions by all individuals totaling more than $200 (and some totaling less than $200) to a single Republican or Democratic presidential campaign or national committee for the 2004 and 2008 election cycles.

FundRace is updated according to the reporting schedule set by the FEC. Public contribution data is geocoded using public U.S. Census Bureau data. Dynamic maps are powered by Google Maps.

Using Fund Race application I did a quick search of bloggers syndicated on Planet GNOME who I’ve seen write on American political topics somewhat actively. Here’s what I found from a small list of people I tried searching for.


Nat Friedman

$2,300 to Barack Obama

$300 to Ron Paul

Miguel de Icaza

$1,525 to Barack Obama

Robert Love

$600 to John McCain

And here is an incomplete list of companies active on Planet GNOME.


Sun Microsystems

$57,620 was given by people who identified their employer as “sun microsystems*”.
$19,389 to Republicans $38,231 to Democrats

Red Hat

$19,940 was given by people who identified their employer as “red hat*”.
$5,074 to Republicans $14,866 to Democrats


$15,803 was given by people who identified their employer as “novell*”.
$4,710 to Republicans $11,093 to Democrats


$14,340 was given by people who identified their employer as “VMWare*”.
$2,125 to Republicans $12,215 to Democrats


$518 was given by people who identified their employer as “canonical*”.
$268 to Republicans $250 to Democrats


Obviously this is U.S. centric and these numbers aren’t complete. They require accurate census data and the person had to have donated more than $200 to a single campaign, not just $200 in total to multiple campaigns.


I found this tool really interesting precisely because it allowed me to create a report of my little world of who and how much people were putting towards different political agendas. Are we democratizing yet? Of course some people had already actively promoted how much and where it was going.

Now you should do your own searches, please drop the interesting ones in my comments.

I do find it a little weird that real addresses are shown for each person but I can see how you need that information to determine if you’re looking at the correct person, I’m sorry if anyone is upset about that.


Now I have to sweep the cutting room floor

After I got back from my trip to India I had over 1100 photos taken in my 3 weeks out there. Many of which were not great photos, or multiples taken to get a single good shot. This past week I finally got about half way through editing all the photos. (Note to others, current libgphoto2 libraries seem to have a hard coded 1024 fixed file limit which was not easy to overcome)

So I’m up to Varanasi right now with still a lot to go.

Here are some of my favorites so far

our boat approaching candles in the river
our boat approaching candles in the ganges

corner of the baby taj
corner of the baby taj

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal at 6am in some heavy fog


agent of


In a difficult moment today I had to tell all my friends at Red Hat that I’m leaving after almost 4 years here. I’ve taken on a new position at a different company which should be announcing very soon… (tomorrow?). I’ll still be working at Red Hat until the end of the month, transitioning my responsibilities before I continue on. I’m really going to miss it here, especially all the people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.


I’ll be continuing to stay in the Boston area for a while longer, but the next stop is Vancouver, BC. That’s aboot all the news for now…


Trip to India

I’m off to India for a 3 week trip with some good friends who are leaving town (actually the two leaving are leaving the country). I’ll be back on Dec. 24th, just in time for Christmas with lots of pictures and hopefully lots of stories.

View Map


Dear Bluetooth

I am angry with you! What could have been a really freakin’ sweet technology has turned out to be a real pain in the ass. I’m not even concerned about the problems that Bluetooth has running on Linux, I’m concerned with the core technology… and how busted it is.Lets make a couple of assumptions about bluetooth and then I shall plee to the spiteful standards gods for change!

1. The range of bluetooth is short, only 30ft. Though it’s possible to connect at large distances, it’s difficult and I believe it hurts the nature of bluetooth; the limited range offers some advantages in terms of security.

2. This personal area network that Bluetooth creates is not adhoc, people create an intentional set of trusted systems that communicate because it’s personal. Let’s dig into that more below.

3. Personal, “Relating to an individual, his character, conduct, motives, or private affairs…” I wanted to define this term so we all know what kind of information bluetooth should be designed to handle. In your personal network information can be private or sensitive, therefore security is a concern.


Please fix bluetooth to not suck so much! AFAIK it’s mostly security concerns (of many varieties) mean that you can’t really have all your bluetooth devices always visible; power is another but it’s more minor than the security (see the above definition of personal). Security concerns are coming from getting bluejacked, to helping thieves know that you left your phone in your car.

“The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has told people to set eight-digit PINs when pairing two devices and to take other precautions”

“The Bluetooth SIG’s advice is don’t re-pair in a public place, where someone else might eavesdrop, and use a longer PIN.”

PIN security would make Bluetooth safer

“What we found was that we can take it one step further and bypass the pairing requirement and go straight for some of the contacts on the telephone,”

Pickpockets turn to technology

“Thieves are using new ‘blue-tooth’ phones to detect whether motorists have left mobiles or laptops in their cars. The ‘blue-tooth’ facility enables thieves to locate compatible electrical items – even if they are hidden away in a boot or glove compartment.”

Alert over hi-tech thieves who scan cars for laptops

My Fix

I have a simple fix, a request along with my above plee to alleviate what I feel are most security concerns as I see them.

Bluetooth should require an initializing physical connection for pairing devices.

I said require, but likely since the technology and standard are already out it’s more likely “recommend”. So the Bluetooth standard should recommend that bluetooth devices have a physical connection to one another before they can pair with each other. Use a standard like a USB cable (micro or mini) where power and possibly even secret keys can be exchanged between devices over a physical cable. It’s possible to extend this concept to other cable types besides USB.

Will all bluetooth connections require a physical connection?

No, obviously you might want to send a contact from one person’s phone to another and it would negate the wireless benefits if you had to get a cable out. Pairing with a device would prefer a wired connection to initialize, however it wouldn’t be required. You could still pair with devices as you do now, however the quick and easy way would be with a mini USB cable.

Could I still pair without a cable?

Again, yes. The current method of pairing would still work, however it would be the deprecated method.

Why a USB cable?

USB cables could be used for power as well as data transfer of some crypto information for the two devices to communicate. In most cases, a PDA, wireless headphones it would be simple to require a mini USB cable connection the first time you use the device. Future uses could power these devices and exchange new keys.

Should bluetooth devices still be discoverable?

Because of security concerns many devices aren’t discoverable now and more and more are becoming less discoverable. With the physical connection recommendation, there can be alternate designs around only making devices discoverable for short periods of time when you want to actively send or receive something.

Obviously some phones and other devices don’t have a USB cable connection, this is too bad, thus pairing in private with PIN codes would still be available. There may be other kinds of cables that could provide the same effect as a USB cable could.


Is Bluetooth fixed with the addition of USB cables for pairing? Not really, there are other things that need attention, but I would like to use Bluetooth for a lot more things except that the current system has become so crippled due mostly to issues of security. A physical connection provides much more security, this is not security…

Seth on Security

If someone has physically connected to your laptop via a USB cable it probably game over for lots of security problems since they are physically at your computer.  Getting this kind of PIN dialog for different wireless connects is problematic in every way possible.  Just my thoughts.


Changing the MediaWiki Main Page

Every time I’m working with a new install of MediaWiki I have to hunt down this same information. I don’t think I’ve even installed or customized that many MediaWiki instances. The time between setting up each new wiki has allowed me to forget what the answer is and searching for this fix is really hard since lots of people are talking about the wiki Main Page in other contexts.

What you need to search for is “mainpage” on the mediawiki.org site; “mainpage” is variable key name that’s used to retrieve the value which is used for your wiki main or index page. Once you start searching for that instead of “custom Main Page” or something similar you’ll end up at the Media Wiki Help FAQ, perhaps you should just go there first every time…

Here’s the answer »

Going to your MediaWiki:Mainpage as a user with sysop privileges lets you change the index page your wiki will show. Now hopefully I’ll be able to search my own blog and find this answer next time, or more likely I will forget I even wrote this.


The Doctor is In

I broke a rib or two over the weekend playing rugby. Just before passing an assist that scored I bounced off a gentleman who was a bit bigger than me trying to spear my kidneys.

image from library of congress

I haven’t gone to the doctors yet since there’s no treatment other than taking pain killers and the pain isn’t getting worse than when it first happened. According to medical student friends and webmd‘s fractured rib article I need to breath in deeply every hour to reduce the risk of contracting pneumonia or a partial collapse my lung.

At work I’m using DrWright (now a part of the Control Center and known as “Typing Monitor”) again. Every hour it tells me to stop typing and I use the time to take a very deep and painful breath.


Gardening Your Library

The LibraryThing article that Luis linked to really stuck with me over the weekend. And luckily I was in the WUNC radio area to hear this story about the book BookMarks: Reading in Black and White. In it Duke University professor Karla Holloway suggests that your reading list is a projection of your own identity, which is perhaps a strongly related reason why people on LibraryThing want to tag and organize their collections (or online projections of themselves).

Now I’m off to Florida for the weekend to play in the Ruggerfest 2007 tournament, the weather down south has been great so far and I hope it continues for the weekend.


And so it is

I caught an excellent Damien Rice concert last night at the Orpheum. The Swell Season were a funny and great opening act and Damien rocked out to a heavy metal version of The Blower’s Daughter that I thought was amazing. However by the look on the faces of most everyone else in the audience they seemed shocked by it, I think most people came to hear him play The Blower’s Daughter just like it was in Closer.

Damien rice

Damien Rice @ The Orpheum in Boston

Last.fm and Tourb.us are doing a pretty good job of letting me know what shows are in town. Plus they don’t spam me with emails I can’t opt out of. Tonight I might catch Cirkestra playing at the Middle East Upstairs, they were also featured on WBUR this morning.

Both last.fm and tourb.us give RSS feeds of your “Events I’m attending” list which I’m hoping Mugshot will hook into soon so friends can swarm around interest in going to a show they might not have know was happening. I clicked that I was a maybe for the Damien Rice show months ago but didn’t know who else would be interested in going to see him.


A Premium Night at the Movies

Miguel: There’s possibly an economic solution to avoid your movie watching problem.

Those are students who don’t have money and you’re a working professional who does. You might like to try the Premium Movie Theater out in Framingham. Ticket prices are 13 and 18 for Matinee and regular respectively. You need to be 21+ to get in and they serve food and drinks you can take into the film with you. Plus it’s outside the city where no student would really travel for a movie.

I don’t go there very often because the overall cost is pretty expensive, but if I really want to enjoy a movie quietly (i.e. you’re not watching snakes on a plane) it’s a good place to go. Of course they do only have a limited selection of movies as well as often require reservations. Not worth quitting your spy job over, but it’s still good.


Spam with Grey Poupon

‘No, no!’ cried Mrs. Gummidge, coming between them, in a fit of crying…

I got spam the other day with snips of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield in it which then prompted me to search to make sure those snips were really from David Copperfield. Once I actually found references for the quotes I received I started reading a bit of the book online.

After getting bored just like I was back in high school when I first read the book I started thinking about the economy of spam and how it may be changing. Or at least how it could possibly change to something a little more tricky than it is now. Since spam seems to be a kind of an evolutionary process of finding ways around spam filters it will keep changing from what it currently is until it finds a viable economic model and even then will probably continue changing.

I’m told the snips of Copperfield are in there so it doesn’t get caught by my spam filtering and the drug ad is done in an image to escape the filtering as well. But what if spammers actually delivered something interesting to me with their obnoxious ad placed in the middle? Like a real news story of the day or a weather update. It would be more like an email newspaper delivery, just one that I didn’t ask for, probably didn’t want, and can’t stop getting.

I don’t want any more spam than I already get, but I wonder… Would it be better if the spam I get was more interesting?


My roommate did an excellent job with the Beer Can Chicken this weekend or as we called it, ‘Chicken on the Can’ because the chicken definitely looks like it’s squatting from a profile angle. It turned out moist and tasty and makes for an excellent center piece to any BBQ table. 🙂

Brian caught an sweet picture

Mt. Washington to the Coast

Thursday I took the day off to meet with a good friend of mine who is in town for the week. He had a bike trip planned for us going from Mt. Washinton out to the seacoast.

The trip was about 85 miles total and we rode it in under 6 hours with an hour or so for a lunch stop. The google map link takes the wrong route and adds some miles for speed.

We went down through North Conway, over to Fryeburg, ME and into Hiram where I believe we had lunch. Then dropping down to Waterboro over to Biddeford and Saco. I blew two flats on the trip because of some bad rim tape on my front wheel but other than that my old bike seemed to hold it together, surprising as I have over 5500 miles on mostly original parts.

New Windsurfer

This weekend I should be picking up some new windsurfing toys. I’ve been looking at the Starboard F-Type, Aero, and Carve. Assuming I can find a good deal at one of the local shops or an ebayer I’ve been talking with I should have a whole new rig ready to go for this summer.