Jumpy Mouse Problem

I’m feeling stupid right now. If you’re landing here because your having jumpy mouse problems and you’ve decided to do a quick Google search before throwing away yet another mouse… get ready to feel stupid just like me.

Pick up the mouse, turn it upside down, and blow on the sensor. That’ll clean it off and it’ll run just fine and dandy.

I’ve got an entire cupboard full of old keyboard and mouse sets that I gave up on because the mouse started acting up. While I do admit to getting some satisfaction from buying a new set, they aren’t cheap and I can’t believe I never took the time to research the problem before. My current set is less than a year old, and it cost about $150. When the mouse started jumping, it was only minutes before I had my new $300 Bluetooth set picked out in my mind. Then I decided to do a quick search on the problem. It took about 20 seconds to type “jumpy mouse” into Google, find the solution, blow on the mouse, and thump my head on the table. I only hope I can spread the feeling of stupidness along to more people.

PS. As if my wireless set wasn’t happy enough humiliating me over the dust problem, it taunted me again just the other day. When the wireless USB adapter for the mouse/keyboard was plugged in the backspace button would start repeatedly being pressed. This time I did go into Google multiple times to try to find an answer and after days of trying and re-trying to plug in and unplug my wireless USB adapter, blowing like crazy on the bottom of the mouse, and even reinstall my drivers, I had almost decided to go out and buy a new wireless set again. Then I found the answer. I was using the laptop keyboard, while the wireless keyboard was sitting on a shelf on the other side of the room… upside down and resting on the backspace button. *DOH!*

Creating Email Signature Images that Work Everywhere

This problem has bugged me for ages. If you put an image into an email, you never know how it’s going to look when it arrives in someone’s inbox. Depending on what the person is using to get their email and what settings they have turned on, the images could end up as attachments, or as a box with a big red ‘x’, or jumbled up somewhere, or in some very unusual circumstances the images may even show up as you intended.

I decided to sit down once and for all and see if I could come up with a way to make an email signature what looked pretty and would display the same for everyone. After a good half day of experimenting with different types of image links, base64 encoding, and half a dozen CSS approaches, I came up with a solution that involved very basic CSS and TABLES of all things.

Here’s what I came up with, displayed properly in Outlook, Gmail, and iPhone.

Email Signature in OutlookEmail Signature in GmailEmail Signature on iPhone

What I’ve done is created a table with one row and a bunch of square columns. Then I used CSS turn each of those square table cells into an icon for each of little area of the web that I inhabit. Since I couldn’t use images, I was limited to using actual text, font colors and styles, and background colors to try to recreate the graphic. I’m pretty happy with the result, so I thought I’d share it in-case anyone else was looking for this kind of thing. If you want to use it, download the HTML/CSS for this table and pull out the columns you want. I’ve also pasted the html/css at the bottom of this post.

It does display slightly differently in the three instances that I tested above, but at least it all holds together well enough not to look broken. I found on iPhone there is a minimum font size, so that screwed up my fancier 2-row YouTube icon Youtube Email Signature. And Gmail always turns replies into double-spaced paragraphs, so that also messes with it a bit. If you find that this doesn’t work in another program let me know. Or if you have a better solution, I’m all ears!

PS. If your looking for your html email signature file in outlook 2010 so you can edit it, it’s at:

Use Multiple Profiles in Chrome and Quit Logging in and Out

Call me lazy, but I hate having to log in and out of multiple accounts online. I know it only takes 2 seconds to log out of my personal account and then in to a work account… but it’s just one of those things that bugs me.

I started using Chrome personally, and IE9 whenever I wanted to use work accounts. I’d rather stick with just one browser though, so I decided to take a moment today to see if you could set up the equivalent of two Chrome installations, one for personal browsing and one for work browsing.

I found that in FireFox, the solution is to create multiple profiles. I didn’t explore that further because I don’t use FireFox (side note… isn’t it weird that FireFox has suddenly become the crappiest browser?). Fortunately, you can do the same thing in Chrome, but it’s not built in.

Here’s how it’s done in Windows 7 (I assume it’s similar for other versions of Windows)

  1. Open Windows Explorer and go to the Chrome\User Data> folder. In Windows 7 it’s at C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data
  2. You’ll see a folder in their called Default. Make a copy of that folder and name it whatever you want. I’ll refer to it as [foldername].
  3. Now go to C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application
  4. Right click chrome.exe and choose Send To > Desktop (create shortcut)
  5. If you want to use factory settings to start this new profile off fresh, do the steps at the end of this post at this point.
  6. Go to your desktop and right click the Chrome shortcut and choose properties
  7. Where it says target type this: C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --user-data-dir="..\User Data\[foldername]

Now it’s kind of like having two installations of Chrome. You might name this new shortcut “Chrome – Work” or something, where you’re signed in to all your work accounts and have all your work bookmarks set up. Of course you can pin that to your start menu or wherever you like.

If you want, you can reset your new chrome to factory defaults. After step 3 above, do this:

  1. open your command prompt (click your start menu, type cmd and hit enter)
  2. type cd Appdata\local\google\chrome\application\
  3. type chrome.exe --user-data-dir="..\User Data\[foldername]" -first-run

Number 5 is Alive!

Johnny 5 Comparison

I read a post from Paul Holmes the other day and started to share his discontent with the progress of robot-kind since the 80s. I came to pass that very evening, out of complete coincidence, that this podcast episode found its way onto my iPhone screen:

Science Channel Video Podcast

Not only did I feel a sense calm reassurance regarding the whole robot progress issue, but I now believe there is a robot God out there listening for geeks whose faith in robots are wavering, and guiding them back to the flock by sending pro-robot podcasts to their iPhones.

7 Podcasts that Keep Me Awake All Night

If you know me, you’ll be surprised that up until a few months ago I hadn’t subscribed to a single podcast in over two years. You’ll find it ironic that I’ve recently become re-addicted to podcasts and have been listening to probably an average of 2 hours per day.

Podcasts are wonderful, wonderful things. I have to credit the weekend graveyard shift at the old-folks home for giving me a whole bunch of vacant brain cycles prime for soaking up hours of podcasty goodness. What’s even better is that everyone has their hearing aids out at night, so I can just put the iPhone on speaker, pop it in my front pocket, and I’m good to go all night… even when I’m called away from my computer on a midnight emergency.

I’m still in the process of rediscovering a perfect podcast list, but here’s the top 7 I’ve been using to keep me going on the night shifts:

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders: My long-time favorite. Tonight I re-listened to one of the first episodes I remember getting with Mark Zuckerberg. It’s amazing to listen to the future billionaire talk about his growing website that he insisted was NOT a social network.

BBC’s Peter Day’s World of Business: My Uncle passed this to me. Basically this guy goes around talking to tech entrepreneurs, usually favoring startups. He captures the highest levels of passion that exist in the world from people who are doing everything from building underwater flying machines to managing outsourcing companies in India.

GeekBeat.TV: What geek doesn’t enjoy his 5 minutes of Cali Lewis per day?

The Smart Passive Income Podcast: Pat Flynn talks about how he makes passive income online. Yes, there are a million of these guys and they’re usually not much more interesting than the “get rich quick” guys. I like Pat though for some reason. Maybe it’s just because he has a company called “Flynndustries.”

BBC’s Discovery: BBC has an endless archive of quality podcasts. I’ve been really enjoying the Discovery podcast these days. There’s been some fascinating episodes about stuff like nanotechnology that make you want to turn 50 just to see where all these discoveries lead.

TED Talks: One of my new goals in life is to one day give a TEDTalk. The people who stand up there are the best or among the best in the world at whatever it is they do. The TEDTalks are perhaps one of the most phenomenal little nuggets that podcasting has to offer.

NPR’s Science Friday: I’ve had a few science podcasts appearing and disappearing from my subscription list, but so far this one has been one of my favorites. I can’t get enough of stuff like quantum physics, genetic breakthroughs, and synthetic life. It gets me so excited about the future.


No Human Should Be Allowed Behind the Wheel of a Vehicle

I was driving down to my night job tonight after a thanksgiving dinner at Dad’s. I was up all night last night and feeling pretty sleepy. As I crossed the mountain pass into Victoria the rain really started coming down. Combined with the fog, I could just barely see a single lane reflector ahead of me keep me in my lane. I’m a poor driver to begin with, but in that weather, fighting to stay awake, and trying to keep a pace so I wouldn’t be late for work, I couldn’t help but shutter at the fact that I was able to get away with being behind the wheel.

Within my lifetime I hope it will not only be illegal to drive in those conditions, but that in any normal circumstance it will be illegal for anyone to get behind the wheel of car on any public road.

There was a post today in TechCrunch about a fleet of automated cars that Google has been driving around the streets of San Francisco. As Eric Schmitt put it, “it’s a bug that cars were invented before computers.” It’s not just a bug, it’s a real shame.

People are now so accustom to sitting behind the wheel that letting computers take over driving duties is going to be a long, painful battle. In fact, the very first comment on that TechCrunch article is a guy throwing a fit because he “likes to drive.” How about we find a new fun thing to do while our cars drives for us? Maybe something that doesn’t kill the equivalent of Vancouver’s population every year?

Millions of people die because people suck at driving. I’m not just talking about people like me who are a product of a poor driver screening process. I mean humans in general are bound to screw up on a regular basis when they’re flying past each other in giant hunks of metal and glass at over 100km/hr in all sorts of weather conditions and terrain. Not to mention the fact that the only forms of communication they have with each other are little blinking lights, a horn, and a finger. It’s ridiculous, and the moment it becomes feasible to let computers take the wheel, human driving should be banned.

Automated driving is already creeping into our cars in the form of background safety features. However, the likelihood is that human driving will be restricted is pretty slim. Instead, it’s more likely that computerized driving will end up getting restricted to the point where I may never even get to see it in my lifetime.

As background safety features start to take control of the wheel, people are bound to start having fits. Then one day someone will die in a car because of a computer error. That will be all that’s needed to set the emergence of a much safer, faster, and more efficient form of transportation back beyond my years.

My only hope is that insurance companies will realize how much better computers are at driving and jack up the rates for human-controlled cars to the point where people would rather just get their kicks by playing some augmented reality version of Mario Kart while on the road. But I guess that’s almost as wild of a fantasy as having political leaders fight their wars in Counter Strike.

I’m lucky no one reads my blog… otherwise I’m sure I’d be dealing with an onslaught of hate comments right about now. =)

About Me

I know these blog titles are not exactly click-magnets so far. If anyone ever actually reads this article you must leave a comment and tell me how on earth you landed here.

As I kick of this blog, I thought I’d quickly document who I am at the moment. I’m at a kind of at an interesting point in my life, and I think it might be enjoyable to look back 5 years from now and relive it.

I’ve just turned 30, just been married, and just learned I’m going to be a Dad. I’ve also just stepped away from exclusive full-time commitment to my first business, and have just become an employee in someone else’s company for first time since University. I count 5 “justs,” and all them have taken place over a couple months. It looks like I’m at a new beginning.

I would have liked to have a bit more success with the last phase of my life, but I’m excited about the next. This summer has taken a screeching 90 degree turn though, and I will admit that on occasion I have felt like I’ve been flung right out the door and scrapped face first along the pavement.

For the past three years, 95% of my life was dedicated to being a young founder/CEO of a dot-com startup. That business, while not becoming a huge financial home run, has reached the point where it runs pretty much on its own and doesn’t need me full time.

More importantly, family and personal income have suddenly become important to me. When the baby comes, my mother-in-law is also coming from China to live with us. That’ll place me as the only one in a 4-person household who’s available to earn an income. So I have to say goodbye to the days of carefree bootstrapping. Actually, I say good riddance to those days. I think more responsibility will be one of those shake-ups that guys like me look back on and say “that’s just what I needed.”

I’m now spending my 9-5 hours as a business analyst and doing graveyard shifts at an old-folks home on the weekend. It’s taken some adjustment, but it gives me a chance to learn how to work for someone else, and the graveyard shifts provide a great distraction-free time for stuff like this. Plus, I still have a lot of time and flexibility with my other business.

I’ve also got an itch to start a side-project. My commitment to this itch will be to put in at least 8 hours per week on this blog and active exploration of the single-person opportunities for income in the online world. I’m imagining a collective “ha-ha” from all the other fathers out there who remember being so naïve with their free-time expectations. But the graveyard shift works to my advantage in this situation. In fact, I think I’ll even log the time I spend on this and maybe even post it.

So this is it, the next beginning! I feel like I’ve just finished putting down my soldiers in a new game of Risk. Fun times!

Hello World!

I once read someone, somewhere bashing anyone who still had their Hello World post up on their blog. If that person somehow arrives on this blog, I’m sorry. I love seeing this phrase on the screen because it means I’m starting a process that I’m really going to enjoy. I wonder who coined the term? Let’s look it up…

Brian Kernighan in 1974. Thank you Brian, you’re one of my new heroes. I’ll read the rest of your Wikipedia page later.

I’ve started a few blogs in the past, both business and personal. I’m excited about this one though because it’s the blog I’ve always intended on doing but never have.

From January of 1990 to January 2000, on the advice of one of my Sunday school teachers, I wrote in a personal journal every single day. I’ve never gone back to read what I wrote, and I cringe at the thought of anyone else ever reading it. But that exercise let me flush out a lot of creative thoughts and ideas. I’ll probably feel bad if no one ever finds me on this blog, but if nothing else, I hope this blog will bring back that kind of disciplined idea exploration that my journal used to give to me.

I don’t have any plan to focus on one topic for this blog. I’ve over-thunk it for the past few years and the result has just been an excuse to never start. So I’ll just start writing now and see where it takes me. It’ll likely be about the things I generally think about and learn while I’m exploring technology and business ideas. I’ll probably write about my experiences as a new husband and Dad-to-be, and life as kind of a wondering entrepreneur. I’m also interested in the mobile web and online passive income, so maybe this blog will evolve into something more focused around one of those topics. We shall see.

I have lots to say, but I tend to favor short articles and more of them, so I’ll leave this first post at that.

Hello World!