Helping businesses help themselves

by on Nov.25, 2007, under tech

It all started when my uncle’s web site was redesigned with flash. EVERYTHING was done in flash. The address, the phone number, directions, etc. Basically the site was invisible to search engines. I tried explaining to my uncle that search engines would not find anything to index and people googling him would no longer get any results. I told him that he should have the people who design his site put the basic information (address, phone, business name) in plain HTML so search engines could find it.

My uncle is not a techie and didn’t fully understand what I was saying but he did contact the site designers. Apparently they didn’t understand what I was asking either. Instead of pulling out crucial information they added a new index page to his site that lets people choose between a broadband (flash) or dial up (jsp) version. What the?? The JSP version of the site was no lighter than the flash version. Obviously the designers didn’t have a clue either. At least search engines can crawl the JSP site but now there is twice as much to maintain.

Rather than try to convey technical requirements to teams unqualified to build web pages, I decided to build a site that would help other businesses like my uncles. If typing your business name and city does not give you the top result on Google, with a map to your business, your web site is not doing its job. I have a solution. I call it BizLocale.com.

Goto bizlocale.com and enter your business name, address and phone number and website address and see if your search results don’t improve in the coming weeks. The bizlocale.com domain is new and google hasn’t started crawling it actively but I hope that will change in the coming weeks. The site is still pretty rough and I have no proof that entries on this site will show with maps in google but I suspect they will.
BizLocale is also great if your name is not part of a business and people try to search for you. For example. John Doe works in a doctor’s practice called Smith and Associates. On BizLocale he can create an entry for Smith and Associates with his name as a contact. This works great for all sorts of businesses and I see it as a useful tool for people who run businesses out of their house.

The bizlocale.com entry can be your only presence on the web and it should help. In addition to entering contact information there is a text area where you can describe your business and enter keywords. This could be all web presence you need. BizLocale is about empowering local search so having a fancy web site is not a requirement.

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Fixing bad dates on images with jhead

by on Nov.18, 2007, under Life, tech

I occasionally find myself setting the wrong date on my camera and ending up with 100s of pictures that need the dates edited on them. In the past I made these changes with programs that made me edit the dates one picture at a time. I want to set the year ahead or the hour back on 100s of pictures all at once.

JHead to the rescue! Just today I discovered that I needed to set the date back on 100 pictures that I had taken since daylight savings time. With jhead I just stuck the pictures with bad dates in a folder and ran

jhead -ta-1 *jpg

then I changed the actual timestamps on the files to match the EXIF data with

jhead -ft *.jpg

Now that my pictures had the correct hour I was hoping to see my pictures and my daughters in order in picasa. For example. The picture of Maia taking a picture of a boat should be followed by the picture of the boat.

It wasn’t! Turns out her camera was 5 minutes ahead of mine. With jhead this is not an issue.

jhead -ta-0:05 HP*jpg

jhead -ft HP*jpg

This moved the time on all her HP pictures back 5 minutes.

Now the pictures are in order and I’m happy. ya. I’m just a little anal.

Here is my picture

me taking a picture of maia taking a picture of a boat

Here is what Maia got

Maia's picture

More jhead notes are on my wiki

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The road we need vs the road we’ll get

by on Oct.21, 2007, under Life

Here in Montgomery County Maryland, work is slated to begin on the Inter-County Connector (ICC) that will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s County. This road might have been worth building if it landed further north on I95. Think BWI airport access for folks and businesses in the I270 corridor.

Take this a step further and extend I370 to Rt 28 in Sterling VA. Finally, another river crossing that would be used by millions and reduce beltway traffic. I’m not sure why Montgomery County is so scared about building another bridge into Virginia. Are they going to take all our precious jobs? Get a clue they already did. All the software engineering jobs migrated to the Dulles corridor over the past 10 years leaving us with Biotech and government jobs. While these are good jobs, having 3 airports withing 40 minutes of Gaithersburg (non-rush hour) would be a huge benefit to business in the I270 corridor.

And don’t give me any crap about protecting our farms in the western part of the county. Better to build a road though them now before they too are sprawling suburbs. :-)

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Still here

by on Oct.16, 2007, under Life

I survived another round of layoffs.   My manager had 0 layoffs in his group of about 40 people.   We are the exception though, several of our colleagues are being shown the door.    Its been a depressing day.

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Tomorrow is the big day

by on Oct.15, 2007, under Life

Since its in all the papers now, I guess its safe to blog about the AOL layoffs that are coming tomorrow. This will be about the 9th round of layoffs since I’ve been with AOL.. Not that I’m counting but we usually have about 1 round a year.

Will I still work for AOL tomorrow? I can say with 100% confidence that I will still be employed by AOL but that doesn’t mean I won’t be laid off.  Thanks to the WARN act, anyone axed tomorrow is still an employee for 60 days. That said I honestly don’t think I’m getting laid off but someone is always surprised. Maybe it will be me this time.

So what’s my plan for tomorrow?

1) get to work around 6:30AM and hit the gym

2) call into my 7:30AM meeting with Bangalore (from the gym) and hope that the team there is still intact

3) Head to my cube and for a depressing day

Some of the headlines that came in on my “aol layoffs” alert today.
Google News Alert for: aol layoffs

AOL Layoffs Highlight Time Warner’s Quandary
TheStreet.com – USA
By Nat Worden News of more layoffs at AOL came as no surprise on Wall Street, where recent setbacks for the beleaguered Web concern have convinced many

» AOL to lay off 2000; 750 in Northern Virginia «
Examiner.com – USA
The AOL layoffs aren’t the largest set of job cuts to hit the region; MCI cut 3500 jobs when Verizon purchased it in 2005.

AOL (TWX) Layoffs: T Minus One*
Silicon Alley Insider – New York,NY,USA
Assuming the AOL mass layoffs aren’t just an elaborate ruse to make us look like idiots (possible but unlikely, given the number of sources), a thousand or

AOL To Lay Off 2000 Out of Its 10K Employees
paidContent.org – Los Angeles,CA,USA
By Rafat Ali – Mon 15 Oct 2007 08:12 AM PST The much-rumored AOL (NYSE: TWX) layoffs have been officially announced, at least internally.

AOL to Cut Workforce by 20 Percent
Washington Post – United States
In December, AOL completed a major layoff of nearly 600 employees locally and 5000 worldwide as part of a major restructuring.

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What’s Driving the US stock market

by on Oct.08, 2007, under Life

disclaimer.. I’m just making this up.

With the sub-prime mortgage mess many people are wondering why the US stock market continues to soar. For the past several years the US economy has been driven by gains in the housing market. People borrowed against these gains and spent freely, this in turn resulted in more gains. That is, until prices started coming back to reality. I don’t see a gain in home prices for over 10 years, unless inflation gets out of control. Why? In the DC area where I live, government workers buy houses 40 miles out of town because that’s all they can afford. But.. in the coming years the baby boomers, who live close-in, are going to try to sell their homes and there will be no one who can afford them. Plain and simple, valuations are out of control in many areas.

This brings us to the fact that the stock market is soaring even as the economy is at risk of recession. You only need to look at what started the housing boom to see what is happening. Back before the markets crashed in 2000 the connected people with money started shifting their stock market gains into real-estate. After the crash, the folks who got crushed in the market pulled what they had left and started putting it into real estate. Now the real estate market started to gain and everyone was getting rich. At this point the momentum would carry it for years. Rockefeller knew it was time to get out of the market when his shoe shine boy was giving him advice but in real estate the momentum carries 2 years after this point.

So here we are, the well connected people have been moving money out of real estate and into the stock market for the past 3 years. Now real estate investors who aren’t broke are also moving their money into the market. Further fueling the market is weak dollar, it is making US stocks look cheap so foreign investors are also moving into the market. So how long does it go up? I’d say another week but I also figured the housing market was at its peak in 2002. Since markets seem to move on emotion instead of logic, I think we can say that the US market will rise 20% a year through 2010. :-)

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SunRocket Refund

by on Sep.30, 2007, under Life

I filed a dispute against my February SunRocket charge with American Express and they gave me a prorated refund.

I always thought disputes had to be within 30 days but it appears there are exceptions to this rule.

Thank You American Express! Now I don’t have to join a class action lawsuit that will refund me $0.25. :-)

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Been tagged. I’m it

by on Sep.26, 2007, under Life

I got tagged by Kelly in blog tag. What is it? I have to tell you 8 things that you don’t know about me – and then I tag 8 different bloggers and they do the same!! Sounds like link farming too me. Hello SEO. ;-)

8 Random things you may not know about me
  1. Shyness crippled me for the 1st 25 years of my life. After that I finally started getting over my social anxiety. I have never been diagnosed or medicated for this condition.
  2. I ripped a chunk of my face off in a biking incident while co-oping with IBM in Raleigh back in 1991. A few months later, in college, a girl came up to me and mentioned what a nice job they did fixing my clef pallet. “I don’t have a clef pallet!!” How embarrassing.
  3. Like Bill I am mechanically inclined and love to fix things
  4. I grew up poor. I didn’t live on the streets but I did qualify for free lunch at school.   Of course after elementary school no one uses their lunch pass because you don’t want people to know.  In middle school, I became a dealer to make lunch money.   I sold lollipops and gum.  not drugs!  :-)
  5. I paid my own way through college (with help of scholarships and co-ops) and graduated with money in the bank.
  6. I survived an air-embolism while scuba diving. In class they always talked about how if you had an embolism you died. So when the doctor told me that is what I had I was wondering why I was alive. My kind did not get into the blood stream. Needless to say, I don’t scuba dive anymore
  7. I don’t like reading. I don’t know why but I find it impossible to focus on a books. Oddly enough, I can read email and code all day long.
  8. Despite my reading issues, I graduated with a 3.88 for my associates degree, 3.93 for my Bachelors and 4.0 for my masters… and I still have 95% of my college text books. Why?? What does it mean? They are behind me right now taunting me. ;-)

Ok… Now I’m supposed to tag 8 people. but everyone I know has already been tagged, so I’m going to leave this as a leaf node.

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20 year High School Reunion

by on Sep.09, 2007, under Life

Wow. I’m getting old. I graduated from Liverpool High School (NY) in 1988. I was adding an entry to the “iworkontheweb” tag on flickr and it brought back some high school memories.

Back in 1988, my high school Pascal teacher told us not to go into computer science, since all those jobs were heading to India. Yes. I said 1988. This didn’t matter to me because I wanted to be an EE. But as I started looking for co-ops, perspective employers kept noticing that I knew assembler and some higher level languages. So I kept getting programming jobs. I never did land a job as an Electrical Engineer and I eventually finished my MSCS after about 9 years of working as a software engineer.
I thought it was interesting that back in 1988 there were already predictions that software jobs were going to move out of the country. Our teacher, Mr Murray also taught us the value of team programming. The class broke into 2 teams at the end of the semester and worked on projects. My team did an attendance program for the school. It ran on an Apple 2e and lived on a 5.25 inch floppy disk. I’m not sure if it was ever used but it was a great learning experince.
I don’t keep in touch with anyone from my graduating class and I probably wouldn’t recognize anyone if I bumped into them. But I have our final project printout. Here are the comments from the code. (Not these were in all CAPS.. when was lowercase introduced to computers?) :-)

This program is courtesy of the following students from Mr. Murray’s Period 10 Computer Science 3/4 class (Pascal):

Vasin Paesang (Bing)

Alan Ours (Al)

Chris Cunningham (Moose)

Kevin Foley (Spike)

Kevin Kortkamp (Bong)

Tony Primerano

Rob Paradise

Diana Davidson

Lo Yang-Chun (James)

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What pushes old car batteries over the edge?

by on Sep.08, 2007, under Life, tech

Back in high school (1985) my auto shop teacher told us that over time car batteries die because debris that flaked off the plates eventually got high enough to short out the battery. Today it seems that the more common failure is caused by build up of sulfate on the plates from excessive use. My little GTI didn’t use much power so both batteries lasted over 5 years and I’m pretty certain that debris buildup was the cause of the failure.

The original battery died right after AOL installed about 100 rumple strips in front of its building. The vibration surely knocked off some lose crud on the plates and viola, I had to roll start the car after work.

The 2nd battery died shortly after visiting a new shopping center outside of Baltimore where they had a brick-like entrance driveway. The drive vibrated the car pretty badly and sure enough, that afternoon the battery was dead.

I suspect a service to vacuum out the crud in the bottom of the battery would have allowed me to use the battery for another year or more. Although such a service would probably cost as much as a new battery. :-)

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