Technology to keep your plants alive

After returning from vacation to find my plant (lovingly named Bachi) near death… well, more near death than usual, I decided to order the Dr. Frog Plant Monitor. For only $5.99 you can get a doctor for your plants that let you know when they need water.

Don’t you wish your plants could talk back to you? They can if there is a doctor in the house. Simply insert Doctor Frogâ„¢ into the soil and it will alert you when your plant needs water. No more guess work or wondering. Doctor Frogâ„¢ constantly evaluates the moisture level of your plant’s soil. This friendly little frog will chirp and croak until your plant gets the water it needs. Your sleep will never be disturbed. A special light sensor ensures your plant’s watering schedule will be limited to daytime hours because Doctor Frogâ„¢ only makes house calls when he is exposed to light. Isn’t it time your plant had a check up?

Bachi will be so happy!

How about another weird holiday?

Happy Holifestigala! – America’s Holidayest Holiday

The official site comes with tradition, songs, recipes and e-cards to make your Holifestigala more holifestigalative.

When we get together to carve the Crab Rangoon, dress the pet Chinchilla and hang a Purple Tumbleweed over our heads, it must mean that the celebration of Holifestigala is upon us. This site teaches you traditions, songs, recipes – even how to send a postcard to a loved one to wish them a Happy Holifestigala too.

Need a last minute gift idea?

holiday techoryWith just a short while left before Christmas, there isn’t much time left for gift shopping. Luckily Google comes through yet again. You can “Give the Gift of Google” this year. They provide a download of all their software and a lovely image to print for the CD they’re burned on. They also provide a gift certificate [pdf] for a free download off all their tool (yes, they’re always free).

Another nice gift to give last minute without a lot of planning or $$ is the gift of a blog. Blogger provides instructions and a gift card on “How To Give The Last-Minute Gift of Blog.” It’s an easy way to give someone their own blog for the holidays.

Flickr’s Mappr!

Flickr, the super cool photo organization/sharing/tagging/viewing/playing site has opened up a beta of their new tool called mappr.

Mappr is an interactive environment for exploring place, based on the photos people take.

What it does (or will do eventually) is take the photos from Flickr and geographically map them to a U. S. map (the rest of the world coming soon). There is still discussion on how this will work and where the information for geographic placement will come from (zip code, address, city name tags, etc). It’s still in its very early stages, but definitely fun to play around with… a cool addition to Flickr.

More informatino about the project is avaialbe in Flickr’s Mappr Group.

Update: One of my photos is/was in the Christmas section of the drop-down – look at Iowa.

An Advert Calendar

No, not an Advent calendar, it’s an Advert calendar. Here are the 12 days of Christmas via holiday commercials from the 80’s.

we’re counting down the days till Christmas with a new holiday themed ad from the past reviewed each and every day — and yes, you can download every commercial featured! See what was hot in the years you’ve forgotten, covering everything from toys to food to giant novelty batteries.

via webzen

Yahoo Maps Now Show Traffic Information

Fortunately I don’t live in a large enough city where I have to worry about traffic too much, but if I did the new Traffic on Yahoo! Maps would sure come in handy. They currently cover about 45 US cities with live traffic information that includes traffic speed on certain roads and accidents and lane closures. Even if I did use this, I’d probably still get in an accident since I’d be trying to look at the traffic maps instead of the road.

My Trip to the Apple Store

AppleThis past Saturday I braved the holiday crowds madness at the Jordan Creek Mall in Des Moines. I was doing a little Christmas shopping but only really stopped at three stores in the entire mall. One of those stores happened to be the new Apple Store. This is the second Apple Store that I’ve been to. The other was one in a mall in Denver, CO. The Des Moines store wasn’t as big as that store, but it was pretty good sized.

I really like how they have everything set out in the open for you to play with. I was able to get some good one on one time with the new iPod Photo (which is one of the main reasons I wanted to stop by the store). The size of this beast is a little bigger than the regular 20Gb or 40Gb music iPod. It’s a little fatter and probably pretty close to the size of the original iPod. The color screen is nice and bright. I don’t know how it would look outside since I doubt they’d take too kindly to me “borrowing” one to run outside with it. The user interface which is hard to get a sense for from the online articles and pictures is just as slick as the other iPod’s. The music navigation is exactly the same (why would the change it) and the photo navigation works really nicely. The screen where they display a bunch of small thumnails coupled with the Apple scroll wheel is really nicely done. You can scroll really quickly and easily through a large collection of photos. The slideshow on the screen worked nicely. I would have liked to see how it looked (and navigated) on a TV screen but they didn’t have one hooked up to try. Another thing I would have liked to see was how it handled album art which is a new feature on this little beast. They didn’t have any track on it with album art, which is kind of surprising since this is one of the new features one would think they’d want to show off. I asked one of the friendly folks wandering around in Apple shirts (there were a ton of employees in the store!) and he said I wasn’t the only person to ask that, but really couldn’t help me since he hadn’t seen how that works either. I would have also liked to see its integration with iPhoto or the My Pictures directory on a Windows machine, but I couldn’t find a setup for that either (there may have been one and I just missed it – there were A LOT of people there).

All in all, I think Apple pulled it off again. I know they keep saying that they aren’t going to make a video iPod, but I really don’t think it’s that far off. I agree that the current portable audio/video devices out there are big and bulky and awkward, but in time I think Apple will bring one to the market. If it’s anything like their previous iPod’s, it’ll look nice and it’ll just work!

New Magazine from the Publishers of Wired

Wired Magazine is launching a trial edition of a new magazine called “Test” which is basically an entire magazine of the review section of Wired. I’m an avid Wired reader, and their review section being one of my favorite parts, I’m looking forward to this new mag. It is supposedly being released in a limited edition to newsstands around the first of the year. If you aren’t able to find the print version, they’ve made available a PDF download of the first issue.

Thunderbird 1.0 Released

ThunderbirdMozilla Thunderbird went gold with their 1.0 release today. If you like what Firefox has done for the web browser you may want to give Thunderbird a try. I made the jump to Thunderbird around version 0.9 and really like what they have done. Previously I was using the Mozilla Suite even though I had switched to Firefox for my browser quite a while back. I’m a little more careful with my e-mail client since I have a ton of archived e-mail that I don’t want to lose. I wanted to wait until I knew Thunderbird was stable before I moved over. I’m not officially Mozilla Suite free.

Some of the new features in version 1.0 include:

  • Adaptive Junk Mail Controls
  • RSS Integration
  • Saved Search Folders
  • Global Inbox Support
  • Message Grouping
  • Privacy Protection
  • Comprehensive Mail
    Migration from other Mail Clients
  • And more…

If you’re looking for a simple clean easy-to-use safe e-mail client… Thunderbird is your bird – err program.
Give it a try today!

New Netscape Browser Beta Released

I have followed Netscape, and the browser as we know it since NCSA released the very first version of Mosaic in 1993. I watched as Netscape was born from some of the original Mosaic developers. I can honestly say that I have downloaded every version of the Netscape browser since its birth in 1994. I’ve followed Netscape through the browser wars with Microsoft and its eventual victory with Internet Explorer. I watched in 1998 as Netscape was sold to AOL and wondered if that was the best thing. Would AOL finally have the money and power to unseat IE as the browser champ? That didn’t quite end up happening. In January of 1998 Netscape decided to open source their browser code. This was the beginning of the Mozilla project. I kept an eye on Mozilla and would download test builds here and there. Ultimately this project would create the Mozilla browser suite, which Netscape would build their version 6.x (extremely buggy) & 7.x browsers from. In June of 2002 the Mozilla Project released version 1.0 which was a clean standards compliant browser that ran on all platforms. Throughout this entire run, which included the dot-com bubble burst AOL took some hits, and in July of 2003, they shut down their browser division. This gave birth to the Mozilla Foundation, a self-contained non-profit organization that continued to carry the Mozilla torch since there was no longer any funding coming from AOL (after a $2 million seeding donation). The Foundation has continued to develop the Mozilla platform which includes the suite, and Firefox, which I have mentioned here several times. Netscape Screenshot

Well, enough with the Netscape history lesson. Given the above, Netscape is no longer a browser. It is no longer a browser company. Netscape is simply a brand owned by AOL. Yesterday, a new Netscape browser was released by AOL, which is odd since they closed their browser division last July. This new browser is based on the Mozilla Firefox, but as you’ll see if far from it. I was able to download a prototype release of this browser and have to tell you that it looks to me like AOL took Firefox and then threw up on it. The clean Firefox user interface, which in my opinion is where it shines, is utterly filled to the brim with junk. It looks like they took the entire Netscape homepage (which is pretty busy by itself) and stuffed it into control bar of the browser. The first thing you notice outside of the 20 things blinking at you competing for your attention, is the green color and texture which makes text very hard to read. If I were to sit down and try to purposely make the poorest user interface possible, I would be hard pressed to come up with something worse than this. The standard drop-down menus (file, edit, etc.) which are in practically ever program (at least that I use) were moved to the right side of the window. I have NEVER seen a Windows program (this product is only available for Windows) where they were not in the standard top left. This is just poor UI design. I should have turned back when I was installing it, and it asked me for my zip code so that it can display the weather. By default the browser has two news scrollers, weather information, AIM, your standard Netscape links, the kitchen sink, and a partridge and a pear tree all in the top navigation area of the browser in addition to the urlbar and forward/back/reload/home buttons. The interface is an absolute mess.

Taking a look at the large picture, I guess it’s a good thing that there will be more people out there using an alternative to the buggy pop-up ridden, virus-prone Internet Explorer, but get this, you can have pages open using the IE engine inside this browser. So, if you miss the security vulnerabilities and pop-up from IE (which is one of the reasons you’d switch in the first place) now you can have them in an utterly disgusting green package. Why are you using an alternative browser in the first place? If you can’t tell, I won’t be using this browser. I think I’ll stick with Firefox. As usual, AOL’s antics are fun to watch.