Critical Section

Archive: February 8, 2016

Amazon support: not helpful

Monday,  02/08/16  09:08 PM

We all think of Amazon as a company that cares about their customers and wants us to find the right products, right?  Well...

Amazon support not helpfulAmazon is first and foremost a book store, and their Kindle ecosystem has transformed publishing.  Furthermore their "recommended for you" algorithms have set a high bar for e-commerce sites everywhere.  So finding Amazon's "Kindle Books recommended for you" should be easy, right?  You just visit amazon.com, sign on, and poof there they are!  Nope.

I challenge you to find Kindle Book recommendations linked anywhere on the website.  It's there, but you won't be able to find it.  Today I was trying to find it, spent a good ten minutes clicking around, and then figured I might as well just ask.  My first attempt was to chat with an Amazon rep.  Here's how that went:

Initial Question: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?

02:45 PM PST Adam(Amazon): Hello Ole, my name is Adam. I'm here to help you today.
I understand that you want to find Kindle books for you. No worries, I'll do my best to help you with your concern, Ole.

A member of our Kindle team will be the perfect person to help you with this. Please hold while I transfer you. One of our Kindle Specialists will assist you shortly.
(pause)

02:46 PM PST Jeff(Amazon): Hi Ole, Thanks for contacting Amazon. How can I help you today?
02:46 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:47 PM PST Jeff: A member of our kindle specialist team will need to help you with this. Please hold while I transfer you. One of our kindle specialist representatives will assist you shortly.

(pause)
02:48 PM PST Ina(Amazon): Hello, my name is Ina.
How may I help you today?
02:48 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:49 PM PST Ina: What kind of Kindle books are you referring to?
02:50 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Any kind of books. You have a page of Kindle books recommended for me and I cannot figure out how to get there

(long pause)
Hi are you still there
02:50 PM PST Ina: Yes.
02:51 PM PST Ina: One moment.
02:52 PM PST Ina: Are you referring to the Recommendations that can be found on your device?
02:52 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: Not on my device ... on your website
02:53 PM PST Ina: One moment.

(long pause)
02:55 PM PST Ina(Amazon): I'm sorry we were disconnected. I can pick up where we left off.
Please click on the link:
http://www.amazon.com/?ie=UTF8&usecaseSessionID=5460072861
02:56 PM PST Ina: Check to see if you are able to locate "Sign in to see personalized recommendations" button.
02:56 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: I am signed in already
02:57 PM PST Ina: Kindly log out and sign in when prompted once you click"Sign in to see personalized recommendations" button.
02:57 PM PST Ole EichhornI am signed in already
Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me?
02:58 PM PST Ole EichhornI cannot find the link
02:58 PM PST Ina: Kindly click on the link below:
https://www.amazon.com/ap/signin?_encoding=UTF8&openid.assoc_handle=usflex&openid.claimed_id=http%3A%2F%2Fspecs.openid.net%2Fauth%2F2.0%2Fidentifier_select&openid.identity=http%3A%2F%2Fspecs.openid.net%2Fauth%2F2.0%2Fidentifier_select&openid.mode=checkid_setup&openid.ns=http%3A%2F%2Fspecs.openid.net%2Fauth%2F2.0&openid.ns.pape=http%3A%2F%2Fspecs.openid.net%2Fextensions%2Fpape%2F1.0&openid.pape.max_auth_age=0&openid.return_to=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fyourstore%2Fhome%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Drhf_custrec_signin
02:59 PM PST Ole Eichhorn: that is a signon link
02:59 PM PST Ina: Sign in to see the Recommendations.
03:00 PM PST Ole EichhornI am signed in already
03:00 PM PST Ina: Let me connect you to Generalist for further assistance. Please stay connected. Thank you.

03:00 PM PST Amazon: Thank you for contacting Amazon.com Chat Support my name is Shanice.
03:00 PM PST Ole Eichhorn:
Me: Hi can you please help me find Kindle Books recommended for me
03:01 PM PST Amazon: Let me transfer you to our Kindle team.

So that was fun.  Next I tried calling customer support.  The first person with whom I spoke was unintelligible.  I have no problem with people who have learned English as a second language, but in a customer support situation you have to be able to communicate.  When I called back, I was transferred three times between teams.  Finally I was told there is no such link.  I knew there was such a link - I've visited it - so I hung up and tried again.  On my third try, the second rep put me on hold and never came back.

So, what to do?  I decided to spend another ten minutes poking about the site, trying to find the link, and this time I found it!  Yay... here it is:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/yourstore/recs/ref=s9_ps_bw_clnk?ie=UTF8&nodeID=154606011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-8&pf_rd_r=0963HZHZDWEVMYRSTYGE&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1721688622&pf_rd_i=154606011

You might want to bookmark this link because it is *not* easy to find :)

 

flashlights

Monday,  02/08/16  09:53 PM

 


Flashlights

(Still not quite as bright as the Galvanick Lucifer :)

 

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2015

Tuesday,  02/10/15  10:46 PM

Post #3,001:  Back to work.  In which the Ole filter makes a pass, and finds ...

Sin City - Aerial photos of Las VegasSin City, a series of high-altitude aerial photos of Las Vegas.  Awesome!

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ready for takeoffSpaceX's launch attempt today was scrubbed due to excessive upper atmosphere winds.  So be it, stay tuned for another attempt mañana.  So interesting that this launch won't be as suspenseful as the landing.  fXf!

Did you know?  Apple's Dictionary is cooler than you think.  After reading this post, I have to agree.  Thanks.

Philip Greenspun attempts the impossible: Listing the most perverse things about the US tax code.  Child care deductions, alimony treatment, inheritance, health care, capital gains, and mortgage deductions are all featured.

Of course: JetBlue becomes first airline to accept Apple Pay.  Anywhere card swipes are a nuisance, NFC is going to be accepted.  I remember when the iPhone 5S was introduced thinking that fingerprint sensor was going to prove much more useful than people thought...

And: competitors race aluminum shovels down a ski slope at 65mph.  But of course!

The quest for virality is making everything shitty.  Yeah, that could be defended.  But fortunately you have the Ole filter to protect you!

 
 

Archive: February 9, 2014

how to choose a wine

Sunday,  02/09/14  11:09 PM

 

Important work.

I've tested this by verifying a few of the threads:
Personal -> home -> alone -> recovering from work = Pinot Noir
Personal -> on the go -> restaurant -> fancy -> new world -> no cult = California Cabernet

 

 

Sunday,  02/09/14  11:30 PM

Ireen Wust three-peats for gold!Another quiet day of coding and watching the Olympics... if only it was cold and rainy all the time, I'd get so much work done over a weekend!

So Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust has three-peated as Olympic champion in the 5,000m.  Excellent.  And it led to some of the wust puns ever, as the commentators forecast the wust competition of the games.  Each of her laps was wust than the previous one.  When she won, it was absolutely the wust victory.  Some of the wust sportscasting I've heard :)

user motivation?TechCrunch: you'd be surprised by what really motivates users.  Interesting but I must confess, not all that surprising.  People want recognition from other people they care about.  I've been thinking about this a lot in the context of visual search...

Cross-post: Learning object segmentation.

Curiosity self-portraitI'm a sucker for this: Stunning photos of Mars from NASA's Curiosity Rover.  Which one is your favorite?  Mine is the compound selfie self-portrait at right, made from dozens of different exposures.  This is a real picture of a real rover on Mars, taken by itself.  Now how cool is that?

PS must say, I like Forbes, man is their website over-designed

Jerry Brown is trying to will California's high-speed rail into existence.  That would be great.  But it takes more than will, it takes money and good engineering, and the state doesn't seem to have either one.

Lego R2D2 kitHere we have a Lego R2D2.  Way cool.  Should have been in the Lego movie :)

Did you see this?  Bill Gates spends entire first day back in office trying to install Windows 8.1.  And he wasn't able to do it.  More telling to me was the fact that he didn't already have it installed.  [ Update: this was parody!  Who knew? ]

Speaking of MobileSoft (we were): GigaOm posts an analysis of Windows Azure's strengths and weaknesses.  This could be the key to their recovery.  It most definitely will not be Windows.

 

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2013

 

Archive: February 10, 2012

 

Archive: February 9, 2011

webOS-ness

Wednesday,  02/09/11  10:46 PM

Today featured HP's big "Think Beyond" event, at which they announced new webOS devices: small, medium, and large, a teeny Palm Pre -like "Veer", a larger Palm Pre 3, and the TouchPad, a webOS -based tablet.

Of course it was the TouchPad that got the most attention, from TechCrunchRobert Scoble, John Gruber, and Boing Boing, among many others.  The general impression seems to be most positive, but we'll have to see whether developers and consumers actually adopt.

[Update: you can see video of the entire event here.  It is interesting that while I am interested in the webOS devices, I am pretty un-interested in watching the announcement itself.  Not quite a Jobsnote...]

Overall it looks like HP have pushed webOS forward in a big way; they even announced that it will be distributed on their laptops in future!  Some bemoaned the death of the "Palm" brand, but I get it; they couldn't confuse with too many brands, and "webOS" is their go-forward brand of choice.

 
 

Archive: February 8, 2010

Super Monday

Monday,  02/08/10  08:22 PM

So how was your Super Weekend?  Mine was pretty Super :)  Spent Saturday hanging out, blogging, getting caught up, and Sunday watching the big game with my friend Yogi (thanks for being an awesome host!)  I was rooting for the Saints, mildly (returning to my Rams'/NFC roots) and enjoyed a pretty nice game paired with some pretty great food.  Oh yeah and squeezed in a couple of Rockstore rides, too; fortunately our weather improved right on schedule.

the Super onside kick was the turning point, or perhaps the exclamation point!Some Super observations:

  • This game showed that in football, you win with a team.  Peyton Manning and the Colts were probably better position-for-position than the Saints, but the Saints played like a better team.
  • You have to love that onside kick in the third quarter.  Even if it didn't work, it was classic; but it worked perfectly and deliciously.  I found myself yelling YES at the screen, along with you and millions of others :)
  • The Audi ads were the best.  Cute and well focused.  We all love being green until we encounter the Green Police...
  • The Google ad, while okay, was definitely not 1984 revisited.  Oh well.  It actually isn't clear to me why Google needs ads for search, I think it was just something they did that day.  Their strategy seems a bit lacking.
  • The Who sucked.  Some of these older acts that come back for halftime shows rock - like Tom Petty, and the Stones - but The Who truly have not aged well.  (Not that they were ever that great before.)  We won't be fooled again.

So ends another football season, whew.  Time to start watching College hoops; go Bruins!

 

Spyker sunset

Monday,  02/08/10  08:40 PM

So tonight I'm riding along the top of Mulholland, turn the corner, and poof! there's a Spyker.  Sitting there at the top of the world, with a photo crew taking pictures as the sun sets...

Pretty cool...  a beautiful car, framed by a beautiful sunset...

I cannot wait to see the final ad :)

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2009

jury duty hell

Tuesday,  02/10/09  10:56 AM

I have been summoned for grand jury duty and unlike all other such summons in my experience, have actually been called up.  I am sitting in a jury holding area in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles for what could be a two-week stint.  I had hoped I could disqualify myself by admitting to be a geek and if pressed would volunteer that I voted for McCain, but it hasn't worked; so far nobody has even talked to me.  I am just sitting here with 300 other people awaiting further instructions.

jury duty hellI brought my laptop in the hope I could at least work while sitting around, but it is a tough slog.  My fellow jurors are determined to be a distraction, conversing loudly with each other and on their cellphones, and multiple televisions are playing CNN full blast.  I have fought back gamely by listening to Michael Schenker on headphones, but it has only been partially successful.  Concentration is tough to maintain in this environment.

I know I should relish performing my civic duty, but I can't help regarding this as a colossal waste of time.  Blech.

 

Tuesday,  02/10/09  08:36 PM

Whew, survived day one of jury duty, didn't get called into a courtroom, just spent the day working on my laptop in the jury holding area.  So be it.  All the way home as I was fighting traffic I was thinking of Sting's Synchronicity II ("many miles away there's a shadow on the doorstep of a cottage on the shore of a dark Scottish Lake" :)  But then I got home, gleefully changed, and took off on a tough 30 miler (I call it Malibu CC, because it goes by the Malibu Country Club): from my house, down around Westlake, up Decker (!), down Mulholland (admire the sunset over the ocean :), up Encinal Canyon (!), back across Mulholland, back down Decker, and finally up Westlake and home.  And so now I am tired and happy.  And blogging.

Obama hosing cashWell that didn't take long: the Financial Times asks Has Barack Obama's Presidency already failed?  Of course it hasn't failed yet, but the course it has set seems confused at beast, and downright wrong at worst.  The spendulous bill's press has been pretty negative, and the markets are not happy about it.

Wow, good luck: Zumbox creates an all-digital alternative to the U.S. Postal Service.  "Westlake Village, Calif.-based Zumbox lets you send or receive scanned, physical representations of letters, bills or other things you might normally send via paper mail. You can log into your mailbox at the Zumbox site and then receive digital delivery of your mail."  Way back in the dawn of time, 1999, I worked with a startup called CyberBills that had exactly this approach to online bill payment.  They scanned all your bills and made them available online.  It sounded great, but it didn't take.  I suspect Zumbox will suffer the same fate...

the 1938 Phantom CorsairWow, check this out: the 1938 Phantom Corsair.  How awesome!

Facebook adds "Like".  So be it.  I'm finding myself on Facebook more and more often.  Almost without realizing it, visiting it has become part of my daily routine.  I guess I like Facebook :)

This is classic: Give Up and Use Tables.  "We’ve scientifically determined the maximum amount of time that you should need to make a layout work in CSS: it’s 47 minutes."  This is so true; back in the day, I was a wizard at crafting virtually any layout with tables, it was quick and easy, and could be done "by hand".  Now that we have CSS, it is slower and harder, and you need all sorts of tools.  Clearly a violation of W=UH.  [ via Daring Fireball ]

ZooBorn: baby DuikerZooBorn of the day: a baby Duiker.  Shy creatures that prefer to stay in the brush, duiker are small antelope from Sub-Saharan Africa.  And they are cute...

 

"progression"

Tuesday,  02/10/09  09:16 PM


In case you're wondering, this is what I saw from Mulholland tonight:

"progression"
"progression"
(please click to enbiggen amazingly)

These pictures were taken about 15 seconds apart while the sun was setting,
note the incredible change in light during that time.

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2008

Sunday,  02/10/08  07:20 PM

Today was a good day; I rode with my friends Mark and Peter in the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer ride (50 miles) and the weather was perfect.  (Meanwhile, in the Midwest, not so perfect; brrr...)  Then I fixed a nasty bug, and am working on some stuff which is way past due finally.  All good.  And in the wider world...

Why John McCain might just win.  Isn't it weird that the Democrats have squandered their huge lead?  A year ago nobody would have given any Republican candidate a chance.

Mike Arrington analyzes the "no" from Yahoo.  "It sure does look like Yahoo grew a pair over the last week, and that this 'no' may really just be a 'no'... Whatever happens, this is great stuff. Yahoo is being bold. It may be a whimper, but it’s a bold whimper. And I'm damned excited to see what happens next."  He also noted Microsoft's $80B headache.  Since the Yahoo offer was made public, Microsoft's market cap has dropped by $38B, nearly what they offered for Yahoo.  So that means they're really offering $80B.  Wow.  And finally, the latest rumor is that Yahoo might merge with AOL.  I'm not as down on that as Mike is; I think I'd rather see AOLhoo than Microhoo.

Wired's first issueJohn Battelle notes Wired Magazine's 15th anniversary.  Wow 15 years!  And I've been a subscriber for every issue; I actually remember that first issue, it was so different, and exotic!  Quoting from Wired was a sure way to say "I'm cool".  They've hung in there pretty well, I wouldn't say they are [yet] Tired, despite Conde Naste having bought them.  The worst thing about the magazine today is the worst thing about almost all magazines these days, the relentless liberal politics.

CERN consoleRobertScoble on the Large Hadron collider.  Way cool.  He also links a bunch of pictures he took while at CERN, including the console at right.

Can I just say, it is so nice to have a text post, Robert.  I'm telling you, maybe a whole bunch of people watch your videos, but there's no substitute for a good old fashioned text post....

 

universal healthcare

Sunday,  02/10/08  08:14 PM

Here's a theory for you to disregard completely...  Universal healthcare is bad. 

I've felt this for some time, but re-thought about it recently upon reading Dave Winer's post about Debating healthcare in 2008.  Dave and I disagree about most things related to politics, and this is no exception.  {He simplifies things to Republicans = bad, Democrats = good, and stops there.}  Implicit in his thinking is that of course universal healthcare is something we all want, and that the debate is over how to get it.  A lot of people think that way, and all those people are wrong.

Universal health care is like universal anything, a leveler.  It is communism, pure and simple; the worst off get more, and the best off get less.  As one of the best off – and more to the point, as someone who has worked hard to be better off – I personally want the best I can get.  I am not sympathetic to those who can't afford the best health care, it is what it is.  I’m not ready to give everyone cars as nice as mine, either.

If you think this isn't true, consider that health care in the U.S. is the best in the world, for those who can afford it.  Better than the U.K., better than Canada, better than the Netherlands.  In those countries there is no private profit motive for healthcare providers which drives them to be best.  Good thing for them they have the U.S. market pushing technology of which they can then take advantage.

What is also true is that health care in the U.S. is not as good as other countries for those who can't afford it.  That's because good health care is too expensive.  So the question is, how to make it more affordable.  And the answer is, let the market figure it out.

The best thing we could do for health care is to get the government out of it.  Right now in the U.S. most pricing for most procedures is fixed by Medicare – the famous CPT codes.  Insurers are all driven by these.  The existence of these codes prevents the market from lowering prices through greater supply, and from raising supply through greater demand.  There is no monopoly; there are plenty of health care providers out there, and if freed from government intervention some would move to the high end, and others to the low end.  Pricing would match the market segments, and it would be easier for people at the low end to get health care.  You could have the government provide a basic level to everyone - economically - as a sort of welfare.  (Just like they subsidize education and phone access.)

Yes, I am advocating getting ride of Medicare.  Really.  The government should not be administering this ginormous retirement plan with health benefits for everyone.  It is massively inefficient and incredibly expensive.  Every single person who receives Medicare benefits could have saved that money themselves through a privately managed 401k-type plan, and would have incredibly more money for [private] medical insurance.  And those insurance policies would be a lot less expensive without the government's regulation.

Health care is just like anything else, the economics work just the same.  When you argue for universal health care, substitute something else to think about it clearly.  (Universal cars.  Universal food.  Universal housing.  Universal computers.)  In the best scenario the low end gets less, the high end gets more, but everybody gets something.  And that happens without any government intervention.

It's the American Way.

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2007

 

Archive: February 10, 2006

crappy Treo GUI

Friday,  02/10/06  11:58 AM

Today I was on a conference call, on my Treo 650, as I often am (!), and I was going in and out of "mute", as I often do (!), and I noticed for the first time how horrible the Treo 650 GUI is for this.  Actually I've been dimly aware of it for a long time, but the horribleness suddenly shot into the foreground as I realized exactly how bad it was.  Now I'm a huge fan of the Treo 650, as you know, and in general the interface is very good.  But this is not good:

Treo mute GUI - muted

What we have here is a "Hang Up All" button - that's pretty obvious - and a "Cancel" button - pretty obvious also; I'm using a bluetooth headset, and clicking this button cancels the headset - then a "Swap" button - I had two calls attached, and can swap between them - and then finally a "Mute" button.  Aha, that mute button!  Take a close look at that.  Is it muted now, or not?

Since the Cancel button has a picture of headphones, and a little red X, you would think clicking the Cancel button would cancel the headphones.  And indeed it does.  Now the Mute button has a picture of a microphone, and a little red X, so does clicking the Mute button cancel the microphone?  NO!  In actuality Mute is already on in the picture above, and the microphone is off.  Clicking the Mute button cancels muting, and turns the microphone back on.  At that point the icon changes, like this:

Treo mute GUI - not muted

I've had this phone for a while now, and I still have to think about this all the time ("is it muted now, or not?")  A red slash through the picture of the microphone like one of those European road signs would have been a good choice, that would indicate muting pretty unambiguously.  I Googled for "mute" and the very first hit was a great choice:

a better mute button

Totally unambiguous.  And cute besides.  Okay, you Treo designer people, are you listening?

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2005

 

Archive: January 31, 2004

Blog Holiday

Saturday,  01/31/04  10:13 AM

Whew.  12 days without posting.  Sorry.

First, I'm fine.  Thanks to all of you who emailed asking if everything was okay.  Second, I will start blogging again, probably tonight.  Thanks to all of you who emailed saying you missed me!

I've been heads' down cranking out code for customer delivery.  It is crunch time at Aperio - after two years of development we have finally begun shipping production systems in quantity.  (Well, "quantity" is relative - we're not talking hundreds here, but more than onesies and twosies :)  We now have a ScanScope device which can scan a rack of 120 microscope slides reliably in about 10 hours - 5 minutes per slide - completely unattended.  You put in your slides, go home, and come in the next day with beautiful high-quality in-focus images waiting for your inspection.  Awesome.

We've also been doing a lot on the software front, so there are things you can do with these "virtual slides".  Of course we have a terrific viewing application, which zooms and pans smoothly through these massive images (typically around 5GB of image data!).  The viewer supports a cool annotation facility.  We have remote viewing over IP networks, so you can do "telepathology".  And multiple people can join together in one viewing session, so everyone's viewing is synchronized, including annotations.

We also have a really cool flash-based web viewer.  So you can view virtual slides remotely on any computer without installing software.  Remember, these are multi-GB images!

And the coolest thing of all - my focus, pun intended - is our pattern recognition software.  I'll probably blog about that some more in the coming days, as we begin rolling that out.

For more info, you might like this post about Aperio's mission.

I didn't plan it this way, but it was actually good to have a brief blogging holiday.  Please, stay tuned...

 
 

Archive: February 10, 2003

Monday,  02/10/03  06:50 PM

Yippee!  This post was made from the road.  My complicated rsync over ssh works.  (But it is still too hard, and hence, wrong...)

Apple has introduced an upgrade to their cool Xserve servers, along with a 2.5TB RAID array.  I caught myself saying "I wish it ran Linux", then I slapped myself.  (Mac OSX is a derivitive of Unix!)  This would make a great virtual slide server, at $4/GB = approx $4/slide :)

Jason Kottke weighs in on Weblogs and Power Laws.  Jason is of course an A lister...

McKinsey Quarterly has a terrific article on "The Power of Pricing" [free registration required].  The authors suggest transaction pricing is the key to profitability at times when there is downward pressure on prices.  (As I've suggested before, I think we're in a hidden deflation right now.)

From the "only on the web" file: here's a guy who scanned an LP record and then wrote a program to generate music from the resulting images.  How useless and how cool!  (If we had this technology twenty years ago, we could have done file sharing by faxing scans to each other :)

Here's a great article in Nature by Robert Plomin, entitled "Genetics, genes, genomics and g".  In this context "g" is the much-debated 'general cognitive ability', as measured by various tests such as IQ.  Strongly recommended!  [Thanks, Razib].

 
 

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