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Archive for the 'Technology' Category

DVR Scheduling Optimizer


Here’s my next great idea.

First a little background: I have DirecTV and the built-in DVR service. I can schedule on the web or with my phone or directly on the box itself. Since I record shows, I am not concerned with when a show airs originally (for the most part). What this means is I don’t care if there’s a new episode of “How I Met Your Mother” Mondays at 8PM. I just come home and see what shows have been recorded for me and I watch them. Of course I don’t want to watch shows a week late or anything but 1-2 days is ok. What is most important to me is that all my shows get recorded. My DirecTV can record two shows simultaneously.

The issue I am looking to solve is we (my roommates and I) have so many shows being recorded that it’s impossible to figure out what’s the best way to schedule them in order to not receive conflicts. For DirecTV, you can tell it to record a show “if possible”. You can also rank shows in terms of priority or importance. For example: If Colbert Report, Amazing Race, and Top Chef were all scheduled to record at 7:30 PM on a Wednesday, but Top Chef was ranked lower than the other two, it would never get recorded. The way around this is if you are willing to watch Colbert Report later in the day (most shows have multiple reruns, sometimes just later the same night), you can get all three shows that day. You just need to tell it to record the Colbert Report (series) at the 11PM time slot instead.

Currently there’s no easy way to do this. I could make a Google Calendar or spreadsheet and work it all out but that’s very difficult and time consuming, especially when I add a new show. This data is readily available (DirecTV, TV Guide, etc) so I don’t see why a web app couldn’t handle it automatically. I just put in all the shows I want and it creates a recommended recording schedule with priority listing.

Access Your Phonebook Anywhere


How many phone numbers do you memorize? You can definitely rattle off your own and maybe your parents’. Significant other? What about your best friend or co-worker? Boss? Doubt it. If you’re like me, you have them all stored in your cell phone, and consequently, possibly, backed up in the cloud (Google Contacts), or locally (Outlook, iTunes, etc.).

What happens if you are in a situation where you don’t have your phone and you need to call someone? This is presumably not just a case of I left my phone downstairs but something more serious like someone dropped you off at soccer practice and you left your phone and wallet in your gym bag in the back seat.

If you had internet access, you may be able to remote access your computer at home, if it’s on. Chances are your best option and only option is to borrow a phone from someone. But now you are stuck because you have no one to call. That’s where my idea comes in.

There should be a service that is basically a server hooked up to a toll-free number. Something really easy to remember. You call the number and there’s an IVR that prompts you to login. What’s your login? Your primary phone number of course. And for security, a PIN. Once you login, you either speak a name to the computer or you type in the first few letters of their first name. For example, Elizabeth would be 3-5-4-9 for ELIZ. Once the system confirms the name, it will spit out the person’s phone number and offer to connect you.

How will you get the numbers into the system? Well, I use Google pretty extensively so my contacts are already in the cloud. It’s sync’d with my Android phone and I can access my contacts in all Google apps including Gmail and Voice. It would be trivial to extend this to my help hotline.

What about security? Well there’s the pin. And even if someone were to steal your pin, how would they benefit? At best they might be able to find out the number of one or two of your friends. There are probably better, and easier, and less creepy ways for your buddy John to find out your hot friend Heather’s number. The system can also be programmed to limit the number of searches or force a wait time between each query. That way it could further undermine and malicious data mining attempts.

Who should make this? Definitely Google. They already have expertise with combining data and voice. See Google Voice or their recent Call Santa programs, for example. This would cost them practically nothing to run. They would just need to hook up the Google Address book with a phone number and an IVR.

It’s simple. Even if you used it once a year, you’d be glad it was there.

| Image courtesy of ashleeappendicitus on Flickr |

Philips Robust Collection


I am really digging this new appliance collection by Philips. The Robust Collection has a really nice clean, almost industrial, design that I am instantly attracted to. The trend for kitchen appliances (blenders, juicers etc) has really moved towards an emphasis on design and aesthetics. Compare the Breville appliances, for example, to the Kitchen-Aid’s and Cuisinart’s that have filled American countertops for the past 25 years.

Philips (which I think is a very strange company because it’s so multi-faceted) foray into the appliance market is a strong one. There are five pieces -blender, juicer, food processor, mixer, and cordless hand blender. The first three have an impressive 15 year warranty on them which shows a lot of confidence from Philips.

I have not found any place to purchase the items but if the pricing rumors are correct, they are aiming for a luxury market. For example, the hand-blender which I expected to be the cheapest item and the one I was most interested in, is quoted at $319. Wow.

Garmin Connect

Garmin has really been stepping up the development of their Connect site. I just picked up an Edge 500 cycling computer recently and it’s amzing the type of things it tracks including proper elevation and temperature, though the latter is questionable. Before, to get elevation on my Forerunner, I had to have the Connect site correct it by using their known elevation profiles based on GPS location. The Edge 500 has built in barometers so hopefully things are a little more accurate. One really neat tool they’ve provided is this widget which allows me to easily post a ride on the blog. Click on it to go see the full report of a ride I did this past Saturday. Pretty leisurely affair but the heart rate still got up there.

The Book of Eli, Product Placement, and Aziz Ansari

What do these two things have in common? Absolutely nothing, except for the fact that they are the two coolest things I am hooked on right now. In fact, I was going to title this post “The Coolest Shit This Week.” Let’s start off with my man Denzel and of course Mila Kunis, who I am seeing in a totally different light as of late.

The Book of Eli does a great job by not giving away any spoilers in the trailer. All you know is it’s a post-apocalyptic world and Denzel is hell bent on protecting a book and Gary Oldman really wants it. What the heck is in that book that’s so important? Magic perhaps? Some people say this movie is a rip off of The Road. Well let me tell you something – I saw The Road and this absolutely destroys it. The twist is epic and it’s one of those things that after it’s revealed, your mind does a Matrix timeline reversal and you get a series of “OH SNAP, that’s what that was!” moments, in rapid succession. I am still discovering them now, days later!  One thing that really stuck with me is the product placement. They had the first third generation iPod in there (the one with the four buttons above the wheel). Mila was rocking some tight Ray-Ban Aviators and Denzel had Oakleys on that I need to have. But the craziest product of all was Denzel (Eli) was rocking out with Dr. Dre Beats earbuds.

Now, I don’t know about you but I have mixed feelings about all these “premium” headphones and earbuds coming out. On one hand, I am glad these ghetto ass kids that don’t know the difference between and MP3 and FLAC are getting better earphones than the cheap ones that come with iPods. But on the other hand, I feel like they are getting tricked. I really really liked the earbuds Eli had because they have this neat flat cable that almost looks like it’s made out of nylon or fabric. Talk about no tangle! So I looked them up and they are $180 and made by Monster. Are you kidding me? $180? If you want to spend that much money, do yourself a favor and look at the real powerhouses in IEM’s – Shure, Etymotics, Ultimate Ears, etc.

Last night, my DirecTV HD-DVR really screwed me big time but messing up a full fifty percent of my Aziz Ansari Comedy Central broadcast. If I miss a line in a movie or a TV show, so be it. I can usually figure it out in context. But you miss a line in a standup and you missed the whole thing! Punchline. Get it? Anyway, I went online this morning and bought the MP3 album from Amazon (DRM free, $3.99 – you suck, Apple). I am laughing my butt off. For kicks, I decided to check on Spotify and what do you know? They already have it. i cannot believe it. Anyway, this guy is hilarious and even though their styles are different so it’s not a fair comparison, he’s destroying Russell Peters in my book. At least right now.

So please, after the Avatar hype wears off, please check out “The Book of Eli” and “Aziz Ansari – Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening”