Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I'm Reading 3


Bill Niman’s Next Move - Inc. Magazine, July 2009


Happy Birthday to Them (Reader's Digest, Feb. 2010)


How the Government is Failing our Veterans (Reader's Digest, Feb. 2010)


Coffee's New Perks (Reader's Digest, Feb. 2010)


Guardians of Darfur (Reader's Digest, Feb. 2010)


How to Sound Smarter (Reader's Digest, Feb. 2010)


The Cat Who Could Predict Death (Reader's Digest, Feb. 2010)


Why Environmental Activists Embrace Social Media (Fast Company, Oct. 2010)


Netflix. Meet Hulu. Now, How About Merging Together? (Fast Company, Oct. 2010)


Making Over McDonald's (Fast Company, Oct. 2010)

Sit Down, Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat

So I've been thinking about this ever since I read "Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business" (Inc., July 2009). I read it recently, my reading is somewhat randomly as I'm way behind and the stacks keep moving around.

Anyhow, even without reading the explanation for each question, one in particular stood out to me. I really enjoy reading Fast Company and Inc. Magazine, but then I often think to myself... why have I not yet started my own business? I've had a number of decent ideas over the years, and once for a few years I was really fixated on one idea. After deciding I wouldn't be able to do it on my own (I had the ideas, but not the chops), I even emailed it to the Digital City group at MIT. If they don't do it, someone else will, I think it's a really interesting idea -- using cameras mounted on vehicles that regularly cover the same ground (buses, police cars, fire engines, etc.) to look for things out of place. That could be graffiti, a car that had been parked too long where it shouldn't be, a knocked over newspaper vending machine, people fighting, etc. The idea that you could use intelligent camera software to help a city with regular mundane tasks by looking for variances from the norm, testing multiple times with different passes, comparing against the known, and then alerting potential issues to a human who could review the footage and then dispatch a tow truck, graffiti-eradication crew or animal control officer as needed.

Anyhow, so the question in the article was "Are you an entrepreneur or an inventor?" Bingo.

Right away, I knew. I'm an inventor. An inventor comes up with ideas. Maybe they test them out, or maybe they just draw them. (Someone last week unveiled a human-powered helicopter they had built - centuries after Da Vinci drew them.) The inventor's ideas are a mix of good ideas and bad ideas. Someone comes alongside the inventor who helps make the determination if they're good or bad -- and these days, whether they are economically viable. And if so, the inventor makes some money licensing or selling the idea and it's on someone else to make the business case.

I realized that is so me. An entrepreneur assumes a lot of risk. I'm pretty risk-averse. My dad's started several businesses in his life, most notably an office supply company and a bank and at other times owned real estate, including a strip mall and some office buildings. All had risk (though, with the exception of the one building that kept getting run into, the real estate was probably a safer bet, something more along my lines of acceptable risk.) In order to be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to accept risk. And when you have a family, that risk extends to them. And when your business grows and you have to hire employees beyond your founders, your risk grows to surround them as well. And then if you sell stock to raise money, first to your family, that involves an even greater part of your family.

My dad's made some good bets, but it hasn't been easy and there have been some setbacks. But I'm too timid to even consider starting my own business (though I would like to own real estate). But that's always bugged me... I like my job, but shouldn't I be out there taking control of my destiny and starting something? I"m smart, I have good ideas, I ought to be able to make a fortune.

But no, it's safer in the boat. And now that I understand a little better who I am, it's easy to just being comfortable in the boat, but to realizing that's where I belong.

So.. time to invent some new stuff to make that boat even better.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Say My Name, Say My Name

I have this fear. I am afraid I will forget your name or mispronounce your name.

So when I see you at work or I see you at church, I just say "Hey" or "Hi" or "Yo." Or if I've had too much candy, maybe a "Hey buddy" or "Howsitgoin'?"

It's a stupid fear. It's not like you're going to start hating me if I call you by the wrong name. I get called by the wrong name -- usually my brother's, even by people who don't know him -- and it's been fine. Though one new guy recently called me Jason, David, Brian and I think his own name. And someone else recently looked at me like they were having trouble recalling my name (same as theirs).

Worse yet, sometimes it causes me to not know your name long after I should. I lose that association trick. And then I'm frantically trying to surreptitiously spot your ID badge and read it, if it's facing the right way and if it's not in an area of your body where it looks like I'm being lecherous -- people put badges in weird places. (I'm no help, I keep mine in my pocket.)

But I've been trying something new this week. Trying to greet as many people by name as I can. It's been hit or miss, but I guess that's what happens when you try to go hot turkey instead of easing into it.

But, I think it's getting easier. I think that in time, I will get over this stupid fear and it will help me engage better and help me remember names.

Because, heck, who doesn't like hearing their own name?

You Are Not a Tech-Savvy Crowd

I'm embarrassed to see that 45% of my blog's audience is still using Internet Explorer. Please, please, please switch to Google Chrome or Firefox. Both will offer you faster access to the internet, more features and a more secure (less likely to get a virus on your oomputer) web-surfing experience.

News: Blockbuster Files for Chapter 11

Couldn't have happened to a more deserving company. Except maybe Sprint. Or United Airlines. Or General Motors. Oh. Wait. At least there won't be a bailout. So far, all 3,000 stores will stay open, but there's supposedly a list of 1,000 that could get cut. From Engadget. You can also read about Blockbuster's missteps along the way on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Like, Wow

I know a lot of people don't use linked in, so I had to repost this recommendation a friend of mine and former colleague wrote for me. (My only recommendation?) Anyhow, it just makes me happy to read, so I had to share.

James is the most conscientious person with whom I've ever worked. He takes each task, each project seriously, and applies the full force of his intellect to the problem at hand. He is adept at identifying and addressing inefficiencies - taking systems that don't make sense and implementing new and such beautifully elegant solutions that you wonder why it wasn't done that way in the first place.

Furthermore - and here's the kicker - he does it all with integrity, sincere good will and perfect amiability. When things go wrong (as they tend to), James is the man you want on your team.

Too Good to Be True

Today's started off really well. Despite not wanting to get out of bed, I did anyway, and forced myself to exercise, including my jumping jacks that I often neglect. Got some stuff done around the house. Throat's a little sore, but I feel good, a spring in my step that I didn't put there. Drive was good. I felt good. When I feel this good, there's always a bit of a struggle. I risk feeling too full of myself, like I deserve it or I caused it. And there's another part of me that says "Oh, but wait..." I forced those thoughts to the back of my mind and allowed myself to enjoy it. But there was something there. And then there it was. It was the combination of a status update of a friend on Facebook yesterday by their number appearing on my caller ID at 8:01 am as I sat down at my desk, I was fairly certain even before I picked up. I have friends who really, really need prayer. If you believe in God or even if you just suspect that God exists, or even if you regularly tell him he doesn't exist and has no place in your life, would you please ask God to comfort my friends today?

A status update I saw on Facebook immediately after I posted...
Spirit 105.3 -- He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. How great is our Lord! Psalm 147:3,5a

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What I'm Reading 2


How to Sound Smarter -- Reader's Digest, September 2010


Fieldwork: A Novel by Mischa Berlinski - My Review: I couldn't get into it and actually didn't finish it. Read more...


Comfort Through Craftsmanship - Architectural Digest, July 2008


Nicola Bulgari’s American Gems - Architectural Digest, July 2008


Lance Armstrong's Home - Architectural Digest, July 2008


The Streamlined Search for Perfection - Architectural Digest, July 2008


Popes and Bankers by Jack Cashill - My Review: Took me a long time to read it. Read more...


Innovation: A New Method of Irrigation - Inc. Magazine, July 2009


Start-ups 2009: How to Build Your Dream Company - Inc. Magazine, July 2009 (Here's how 13 savvy entrepreneurs got their start - and how you can do the same.)


Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

A Thing a Day 23

Day 23 - Life is Gone for these dead ringers
Here's some really old phones.  They've been sitting in the donate pile in the garage not donating themselves.  But they have a new plan at work where you can send them to someone and they get donated, sold and then international calling cards are purchased and sent to U.S.* troops serving overseas.

There is just something fun about dropping phones into interoffice envelopes.  Feels matrixy.

(*Happy, Robin?)

Monday, September 20, 2010

View from the Hill

I have such a great view from my desk.
The rain has been torrential the past few days and it's been amazing.
I can hardly wait for the snow (it's a La Nina year).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Odds and Ends 52


ENGADGET -- What happens when you leave a skateboard and a tank alone in a dimly lit room? - woah. cool videos.


SETH GODIN -- Why jazz is more interesting than bowling


ANDY SERNOVITZ -- Just tell me what it costs


I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER -- I Gives You The Stink Eye


AMAZON -- How To Raise Your Daughter Without Reading a Book - including this one?


SEATTLE TRANSIT BLOG -- Ferry Panel Suggests Cyclists Disembark Last - and why it's a horrible idea


CROSSCUT -- New York's bike lanes put Seattle 'sharrows' to shame

-8-10- Videos after the break... sunset tonight in Seattle, car tricks, not a job for someone with a fear of heights.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Odds and Ends 51


WSDOT -- Countdown to construction: major changes for SR 520


ENGADGET -- Australian researchers trap tiny particles in tiny tractor beam


MASHABLE -- E-mail to Barack Obama Gets UK Teen Banned from U.S.


GOOGLE CHROME BLOG -- Tip: Just the text, please! I love you, Google Chrome. (No "you autocomplete me" jokes.)


ART ON THE FENCE -- A Summer Exhibit - this was cool, though I missed it. The kind of cool stuff you get in a real city. *sigh* Anyhow, a construction fence became a summer crowd-sourced art exhibit in Ballard (Seattle).


WASHINGTON STATE HIGHWAYS -- Washington State Route 107


BOSTON.COM -- Russia, a century ago - in color - so cool.


SETH GODIN -- The power of buttons and being normal - Taxi drivers resisted adding credit card readers. But those that have added them have seen their tips skyrocket. How come?

-9-10- Videos after the break... New tricks for the helicopters that will eventually form the backbone of skynet, what would have happened if a computer company had followed its original plan of tying other people's devices together instead of just getting tired of waiting for good products and decided to create them all themselves?

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Thing a Day 22

Day 22 - Day's Grown Dark for this Lamp
I'm glad I didn't call this "A Thing Every Day" when I started.  :)

You probably recognize this lamp.  Back in college, everyone had at least one of these lamps.  Over the years, I've owned a number of these.  In the early days, these 300 or 500w halogen fixtures caused all kinds of fires.  Over time, they added protective covers on top and tip sensors on the bottom.  But they managed to keep the price at $15.  Was a great deal.

These were truly disposable appliances.  It seemed like the first thing to go was the dimmer switch.  Easy enough, you would just twist it open, cut the power into and out of the switch and with a few wire nuts and an external dimmer switch, voila, good as new.

But then eventually, it would die for real.   Again, easy, untwist all the pieces, cut all the power cords, fits very compactly in the trash and you go out and buy a few more from Fred Meyer or Home Depot.

So, this is one that did finally die and then sat in the corner for months.  But now it's finally gone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where Am I?

Just when you think the routine is down, something throws everything out of whack.

So, I think I've given up on A Thing a Day. It was fun, but I lack the time. I wish I had more time to throw stuff away. I will occasionally have new posts and I will still call them that, but I'm not committing to doing it with any sort of regularity.

Calorie counting is coming along. I don't resent it too much. It's interesting to see how many times I made bad choices that didn't seem so harmful. I'm hoping to get down to my goal weight and then not be so strict. Yeah, some would suggest I'm developing a healthy lifestyle. I would suggest I'm in a phase designed to get something accomplished. I've never considered myself grossly unhealthy, it's just that my resting weight* was apparently quite a bit more than what would be much more healthy for me. (*I define resting weight as the weight where I seem to sit when I don't do anything to try to affect my weight up or down. I used that term in front of my doctor at a physical and he didn't bat an eye, as if the term made sense to him.) I'm allowed just under 1,700 calories a day and I ended last week with 1,000 under. I'm ovef for today, we had nachos today for dinner that killed me. That and not running.

Jogging/running is also happening. That I'm not so thrilled about. I find it a bit boring. Sometimes I like the peace and quiet, but sometimes I don't like the gasping for breath or pushing myself when I feel like walking. I am now running the first 1 mile before I allow myself to stop and walk. I think part of the boredom is why I never run the same way twice.

I've been doing pushups at night, too. Very, very few. Minimal. Almost none. I haven't decided how long I'll go before I add more. I'm thinking when it's effortless, then I'll add more.

I added the ESPN app to my iPhone. I may not have the patience to actually watch sports (how do people find the time???) but I can at least be better informed as to how my Seattle home teams and Dodgers are doing. I have to admit that I had forgotten that the Sonics had ditched us and was quite confused when I couldn't find an NBA team for Seattle in the app.

The computer is officially done. It wouldn't turn on on Saturday, endlessly returning to the Dell logo and trying again. Nothing would work. Nothing, until Corey brought over a CD full of utilities. That at least allowed us to start-up the machine and try a few things (he tried a lot while he and Gilda babysat while Lori and I were celebrating an anniversary dinner). Fortunately, I had installed a second large hard drive in the computer a few years ago, so all of the music and photos were on a separate hard drive. And it was so large that I was able to make a copy of the entire operating system drive. And then I wiped it clean and used the restore disk that came with the machine. Since it was 9-1/2 years old, there was some updates to download. By my count, it was 101 in the first round, with several restarts, but it all went incredibly quickly. Then I downloaded Chrome, iTunes, installed Office, Quicken, Dropbox, Eye-Fi, an anti-virus program, the printer (connected via a fixed wireless accesspoint, no less!) and we're gold. I'm on the second of at least three defrags (according to the IT group at work, that's what Microsoft recommends after an install) and a check-disk and I want to back-up everything again on a separate external hard drive, and do some clean-up of the stuff that comes with Windows and the start menu and stuff, but I think we may have breathed some new life into this machine that may allow us to avoid having to spend money this year to replace the computer altogether.

At work we are really redefining the word "busy" on a weekly basis. I have probably 1-1/2 to 2 hours total before mid-day next Tuesday that aren't scheduled. And then it gets even busier as far as my schedule next week. Crazy.

So, yeah... and I've had trouble sleeping. So I haven't been getting up in the morning and exercising before work.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


We celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary today. (Yes, some good things have happened in the history of September 11th.) It wasn't a grand affair this year. I had done some research but I didn't have the funding necessary to do what I would have liked to have done. Maybe next year. So mostly just hanging at home today as a family. Which is cool in some regards - someone recently referred to their anniversary as a birthday party for their family. Tonight, however, Corey and Gilda came over and hung out with Rachel and Ben so we could sneak away for dinner at The Melting Pot. Good stuff. I didn't have as much time as I'd hoped to exercise today, but I should come close because I didn't eat a lot the rest of the day. The meal alone tonight exceeded the total calories I was allowed for the day. I'll still be several hundred under for the week, but I'm worried I'll still be up in weight tomorrow.

I am really digging the "Lose It" application for the iPhone. It's been helpful in helping me to realize that I can exercise all I want, but if I'm eating far more than I should, it's all going to be for nothing. It's surprising that this application is free. Using that with RunKeeper, I'm getting better. I guess I should also remind myself that the sooner I lose the weight, the sooner I can relax a little bit. Both programs allow you to connect to your friends and so I've connected both applications to Corey. I'm impressed - I've only lost 2.7 pounds since I started, but Corey has lost 26.

Another iPhone application that rocks is Remember the Milk. This is an awesome free task management website, but you can also get the app. It syncs for free once a day, or with a pro account, it's constantly updating. Ir's really helped me keep my household tasks under control.

And then I'm testing a weird program from Google called Google Scribe. With the Google Chome extension, it's doing predictive text as I type. I think if I were a slower typer, or used a lot of longer words, I might find it more useful. As it is, I type so fast that it doesn't have much of an opportunity for the menu of choices to show up.

It's really late and I'm babbling. I am still finishing my walking.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


I haven't done a "A Thing a Day" in awhile. I should have tried for a thing a week or something. I will do more. I just haven't had time. After some hard work this weekend, our family room is almost all painted now. Lori did a lot of taping and trim work, not to mention a lot of furniture moving. So how come I've been busy? I don't know. I just did some rolling.

I've also been trying to run/walk more lately. You've seen my RunKeeper stats on Facebook. It's from a very cool free app for the iPhone. I'm also using Lose It!, another free app for the iPhone. I don't like it. It's making me realize that I'm sabotaging myself. On the other hand, if I obey what it tells me, I will start losing weight again.

Speaking of iPhone apps, I've also grown to love Evernote. I installed it long ago on my laptop, just to try it out. I liked that I took a photo with my phone, emailed it to Evernote and it came through with the words in the photo (a business card) captured so you could search for it. Then I never played with it again. I recently installed it on my iPhone and on Lori's iPhone and an old Mac Air that's been sitting in a drawer at work and our home computer. For home use, we might use it to keep our shopping list up-to-date. Lori's not convinced yet. But I can still at least keep my Home Depot and Lori's Gift Ideas lists on there. For work, I take the Mac Air to meetings because it's small and can sit in standby mode for days. Then I can later transfer meeting notes from Evernote to the corporate wiki. I'm thinking about replacing our family wiki with Evernote as well. I had the wiki running on an old machine downstairs, but if I use Evernote, I may not need that computer anymore. Or I'll come up with some other use for it, like doing automated backups or something interesting. Oh... and I hooked up Eye-Fi so that new photos now get dropped into my DropBox. If you know what that means, I think you'll think it's very cool.

Rachel's back in school now and Ben's getting more one-on-one time with Lori. We're hoping that will coax him into speaking more.

Work's been busy. I had some great news on Monday regarding me and some great news today not regarding me, but I can't share either. But both things thrilled me to learn.

We've been running around really busy, rarely getting to bed before midnight, so I've been getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night. But, I'm not complaining. I don't feel overwhelmed or behind or swamped. Have stuff to do, stuff I need to get back to, but I'll get there.

Things are good.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Odds and Ends 50


CROSS CUT -- Space Needle: Tower of Power - In my opinion, a must-read for anyone who lives here.


DELIVERABILITY -- Deliverability by engagement – a class action lawsuit waiting to happen? - That is, is it right for Google or Hotmail to classify and sort our emails for us? Interesting take from the other side.


WSDOT -- WSDOT releases request for proposals to build SR 99 bored tunnel alternative - such a shame, such a waste, such a bad, shortsighted inflexible idea


THE HIGH CALLING -- Originality


FAIL BLOG -- Key Ingredient Fail - Hmmm... Maybe Hardee's has a leg up on the competition?


MSNBC -- 20,000 Iraq war victims unidentified at morgue


ENGADGET -- Sony's LocationPorter real-time video transmission system goes multichannel = no more news van?


INHABIT -- Fast-Charging Electric Buses Coming to Southern California - Foothill Transit's replacing all its buses with new ones that recharge in 10 minutes. Dang!


WASHINGTON STATE HIGHWAYS -- Washington State Route 108


WASHINGTON STATE HIGHWAYS -- Washington State Route 109

Monday, September 06, 2010

What Kind of Seafood?

So the Tuna is dolphin-safe and the Chicken and Tuna is dolphin-safe.  But the Seafood Supreme is not?  Supreme, indeed!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Odds and Ends 49


CNET -- Mars rover gets smarter with age...and software


GRAND AVE. -- An (overly?-) ambitious project to redo a big section of downtown L.A.


ENGADGET -- LG putting 9.7-inch color, 19-inch flexible e-paper displays into production


COCKEYED -- Open Soon Prank Contest - the contest is over, but the concept is simple and could still be carried out: posting funny "Coming soon" signs on empty storefronts


SETH GODIN -- Moving On - The traditional book publishing model has too many layers between author and audience and Seth's done with it. We'll see what's next.


I, CRINGLEY -- It's a Sony and that's not good.


LIFEHACKER -- Stretching Before Running Doesn't Help (But Don't Stop Right Away)


WSDOT -- Washington keeps title for the “Most Bicycle Friendly State” for the third year in a row


TV BARN -- How ‘The Big C’ looks to people with advanced cancer


FAILBLOG -- Delivery Fail - I dunno... feels more like a "truth in advertising" win to me.


If they are cage free, shouldn't they come in a box with grass or something, instead of individual little compartments?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A Thing a Day 21

Day 21 - Packing it in
I got this computer bag from StaplesMaxDepot many years ago and it's served me well.  But really, I have no need for it.

We moved to new desks a few weeks ago and somehow, I've become the quartermaster for our combined team of like 40 people.  There is constantly people bringing me old laptops or coming to borrow a laptop or a power cord or monitor or whatever.  Whatever you need, I got it.

Anyhow, yesterday someone was looking for a computer bag.  Since I'm not using this one (they gave me a better one at this job) and it's just wasting space at home, I'll take it to work and donate it to the equipment cabinet so someone else can make use of it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Thing a Day 20

Day 20 - Old Phone, Meet New Phone
From 1998-2001 and 2006-2010, I carried a Blackberry for work and a personal cell phone.  The Blackberry had come a long way in that time, but then one day a small computer company bolted a phone onto its music player and the writing was on the wall.  Our company is not on the cutting-edge. (We're still on Windows XP... we just got SP3 last week!)

But they switched off T-Mobile and we'd all need to select new phones.  Did I want another Blackberry or an iPhone?

I actually agonized a little bit about the choice.  Having used an iPod Touch for a few months, I knew the on-screen keyboard was a pain.  (I still struggle with it, I'm not nearly as proficient with it as I am with a Blackberry keyboard.)  But in the end, it was really a no-brainer.

And as soon as I had my iPhone, it was pretty obvious... it was silly to carry two phones.  I could give up my phone and sign-up for a small payroll deduction.  Because we had a family plan, it was probably about the same, but not having to carry two devices was nice.  (I still carry a separate iPod, that's a little harder to give up.  At one time, this also played iTunes, but for some reason it eventually just stopped - would just skip skip skip without actually play any songs.)

Of course, I can't figure out the master code, so I could do a master reset - I had to delete all the phone numbers by hand and anything else I could find.  Only thing left are some extra ring tones.

I'll drop this phone in an interoffice envelope tomorrow and it'll wing itself across the campus to someone who will take it send it off to a charity that refurbishes or sells the phone for the purposes of making free phones or free phone cards available to soldiers serving overseas.

Comcast Responds

On July 1, I complained on here about a Comcast problem.  Usually, Comcast is right on top of things.  Days earlier, I had jokingly disparaged Comcast in another post (I was making a general comment about struggling with a large company and used them as the proxy) and they contacted me within 24-hours to find out what the problem was.  But then when I posted the thing on July 1, I didn't hear anything from them.   But, that's OK, really.  I hadn't actually directly contacted them and it was the start of a long weekend.

So after a few days of not hearing anything, I posted the link on Twitter and did hear back pretty quickly.  But it was just a promise by someone to look into it.  I didn't hear anything for a few more days and so I bugged them again.  They told me of internal changes/staff departures in their office, stuff irrelevant to me, and pledged to get back to me shortly.   I had to bug them a few more times and it did ultimately take nearly two months to get a response, but I did get a pretty comprehensive response, so here it is, because while it doesn't completely answer all of the questions yet, you may want to check your bill, some of this may be relevant to you.  I'm not including their name because it's one thing to demand a lot of a company and its customer service, it's another to drag an individual through the mud and that's not cool.  Their notes are in red, any additional notes from me are in yellow.  I do not expect them to address my notes here, I will be following up with them in email.

Comcast responses are below in red: (May end up more pinkish since we're dealing with a text on a black background on the blog.)

The other day, I jokingly said "fighting with Comcast" in a blog post. I was being funny, but with their rapid response, they were immediately on the case and contacted me to ask if they could help. So now they're going to think I'm crying wolf, but tonight, I am annoyed with Comcast.

So, when we got set-up four years ago, they installed the wrong DVR. I'm not sure why. I don't know if the installer got a bonus, or didn't have any standard ones in his truck, or what. But we got an HD DVR instead of a regular DVR.

We don't own an HD TV. So every month for the past four years, we've been getting overcharged for a service we can't use. (I don't think we have any special

Well why not just take the box to your local Comcast office and swap it out, James? Seems simple enough. Yeah, if we want to give up all the programming we've recorded but not yet watched.

So I read today on Engadget about the new services coming out. They are really pretty awesome. myDVR ( http://www.fancast.com/mydvr ) will let you schedule, review and change your scheduled recordings from anywhere you have internet access. For now, it seems to be limited to regular internet. I figure that soon enough it will also be added to the iPhone/iPod app we have installed.

(09/01 - James - FYI, that scheduling capability is available on the iPhone app as well as the website.  It's very cool.)

As I continued to read Comcast's website, I came across their page explaining their DVRs - http://www.comcast.com/Corporate/Learn/DigitalCable/DVR.html.

First, it gives conflicting information. At the top of the page, it says "Store up to 90 hours of your favorite shows." And then when you scroll down, it says there are two DVRs - an HD one that stores 300 hours of standard or 60 hours of HD - and a standard one that stores 45 hours.

So... conflicting information and not even on different pages. There are varying DVR vendors and models in different markets. Some are older, and others are just being released. It seems that this page does need to be updated and I will share that with the appropriate team. More information on all DVR models can be found here - http://customer.comcast.com/Pages/FAQViewer.aspx?Guid=f39b3536-8ba2-4fbd-a359-644e00cd0a5a
Ok, fair enough, we have an older box.  

But, I saw that this afternoon and thought "Ok, so I'm at least getting a larger hard drive out of the deal. I would consider that enough to not worry about the extra $2-3 a month we're paying."

So I loaded up the DVR this evening and looked at what we had saved. 2,292 minutes, or 38.2 hours. And it says it's 76% full. So that puts its total capacity at 50.26 hours.
You may have an older DVR with unlisted specifications. Please check the link I provided to find if your model is listed

So... I thought "Ok, maybe I don't even have an HD DVR installed."

So I called Comcast (it tried to get me off the phone, told me they were experiencing longer than normal wait times. I will give them credit here, I can't remember a time when I've had to wait very long and tonight was no exception.) I got this nice guy who's name I didn't catch. I asked him if there was a way, by looking at the status screen of the DVR, if I had an HD or standard DVR.

He said he could check from there without me doing anything and confirmed that I did in fact have an HD DVR and then had me tune to the local CBS affiliate's HD channel to test. Big whoop, I don't own an HD TV. So it's letterboxed - but it's also got one or more data lines flickering at the top (they'd be outside the overscan on an HD TV - but on a non-HD, you can see them making it not worth watching, even if it's letterboxed.)

I asked him about capacity and he said that the box holds 60 hours standard or a meager 15 hours HD. I said that I read on the website that the HD box held 60 hours HD and 300 hours standard and he laughed (not in an insulting way) and said he *wished* they had boxes that big and started talking MB numbers.

So the CSR isn't versed on the offerings listed on the website. Does this mean that people getting DVRs today are getting much nicer than the 4-year-old box we have?

And then to make matters worse, I'm looking at my bill. Right at the top it says "Starting June 11, 2010, ESPN 3D will be available on channel 898 on the Digital Starter level of service. Call 1-800-COMCAST for details." According to my bill, we have Digital Starter, but if we tune to the channel, it says a subscription is required. I actually don't want any sort of ESPN, HD, 3D or otherwise.

ESPN is available in the digital starter tier at no cost, however we’d need to add those codes to your account in order for you to view it. Also, a 3D capable television is needed. More information can be found here - http://customer.comcast.com/Pages/FAQListViewer.aspx?topic=Cable&folder=e2451edc-b7e7-492b-9057-d5f14b49c44a&fss=3d

And elsewhere on my bill: "HD Starter Triple Play Includes: Digital Starter with Video On Demand, Included Video Equipment, High Speed Internet, Digital Voice Unlimited" and yet right below that, separate charges for "SD Set Top Box" and "HD DVR Service (includes HD Technology Fee)"

So, Comcast, if you would be so kind as to address...

#1: Why did we receive an HD box if we didn't have an HD TV?

In late 2009, Comcast began deploying HD capable Pace/RNG set top boxes to outlets where the customer cannot receive and/or does not want HD and, therefore, is not willing to pay for HD programming. As a result, we separated the ability to receive HD programming from the presence of HD equipment. This is the HD technology fee. In this case, I do not believe this fee should apply and I would like to have a regional colleague look into this for you to confirm.

So... I'm unclear.  I cannot receive and do not want HD and am therefore not willing to pay for HD programming.  Am I being charged for HD programming?  If so, maybe it's the HD programming and not the HD Technology Fee that's erroneously listed on my account?  When you say that you want a regional colleague to look into -- do I need to initiate that, or have you?  And will I hear from them directly, or will they respond to you and you respond to me?

#2: We've now been charged more than necessary for four years. But can't really return the box because we've got a bunch of stuff on it we want to watch. Any recourse?

We are working on solutions for the very dilemma. Unfortunately, there is no way currently available to transfer recordings.

Fair enough.  I've worked in technology long enough to understand why that could be a challenge.  #2 resolved.  

#3: What *should* the capacity of our box be?

Please review this link - http://customer.comcast.com/Pages/FAQViewer.aspx?Guid=f39b3536-8ba2-4fbd-a359-644e00cd0a5a

Thanks, will do. 

#4: Are people today paying the same price and getting a much better box?

Yes – the fee is standard for all HD/DVR’s regardless of make or model.

Ok, also fair enough.  Technology moves on.  People today are getting better cell phones from their provider for the same price I paid for mine and receiving the same service from the carrier for the same monthly fee that I am.  #4 resolved.

#5: Why does your website conflict itself?

This site needs to be updated – it lists the current statistics for newer equipment and does not account for older equipment.

Ok.  Same as #4.  Fair enough.  #5 resolved.

#6: Are we getting a bunch (and also being charged for) of channels we can't even watch in HD? Are there also channels we're supposed to be getting that we can't get?

Based on your post, I don’t believe that you are missing channels. To confirm the application of the HD fee and subsequent programming, I’d like to have someone look into this locally.

Ok.  Will assume this is handled with #1 above.  To reiterate, we don't have and don't want HD at this time.  Eventually we'll have a newer better TV and would upgrade to HD then.  

#7: What "equipment" is included in the "included video equipment" that comes with "HD Starter Triple Play"?

The first standard definition set-top box is included in all digital tiers. Converters beyond the first and those that are HD or HD/DVR’s are subject to additional fees

Ok.  I think that's clear.  Then I have an additional problem.  If I have one standard set-top box (not a DVR) and one DVR, the first one should be no charge, right?  But I'm being charged $8 a month for an "Additional SD Set Top Box"

#8: What is the "HD Technology Fee"?

Please see the answer to the first question

Roger that.