links for 2009-09-16

  • The email, the intro, and some annoyance The person on the other end of the phone introduced himself and asked if I recalled seeing emails from his company, as they’d sent me a few over the past couple of months. I said I’d seen some from companies with similar offerings, but I wasn’t sure if any were specifically from his business. We exchanged questions and answers for about seven minutes and then he kind of slipped in an “Oh by the way, we charge $199 to set up.” That he waited until he thought he had me interested to throw that tidbit out there annoyed me a little, especially since his competitors do not charge a set up fee at all and we’d already gone through pricing. The tip off We talked a minute more and then he said something that tipped me off to the fact that he hadn’t been to my web site yet. I made an admonishing, but lighthearted comment about how could he think about calling me without at least going to my site first. Then he said something else that revealed he d
  • The $150 Space Camera. Bespoke is old hat. Off-the-shelf is in. Even Google runs the world’s biggest and scariest server farms on computers home-made from commodity parts. DIY is cheaper and often better, as Justin Lee and Oliver Yeh found out when they decided to send a camera into space. The two students (from MIT, of course) put together a low-budget rig to fly a camera high enough to photograph the curvature of the Earth. Instead of rockets, boosters and expensive control systems, they filled a weather balloon with helium and hung a styrofoam beer cooler underneath to carry a cheap Canon A470 compact camera. Instant hand warmers kept things from freezing up and made sure the batteries stayed warm enough to work. Of course, all this would be pointless if the guys couldn’t find the rig when it landed, so they dropped a prepaid GPS-equipped cellphone inside the box for tracking. Total cost, including duct tape? $148.
  • I talk to a lot of companies that are still hunting for customer number one, or have made a few sales, but the ball really isn’t rolling yet. Most of them are making the same mistake: Their public persona is exactly wrong. I know, because I made the same mistake – but I learned my lesson. Even before I had a single customer, I knew it was important to look professional. My website needed to look and feel like a “real company.” I needed culture-neutral language complimenting culturally-diverse clip-art photos of frighteningly chipper co-workers huddled around a laptop, awash with the thrill and delight of configuring a JDBC connection to SQL Server 2008. It also meant adopting typical “marketing-speak,” so my “About Us” page started with: “Smart Bear is the leading provider of enterprise version control data-mining tools. Companies world-wide use Smart Bear’s Code Historian software for risk-analysis, root-cause discovery, and software development decision-support.”
  • FLORISSANT, Mo. (AP/KMOV) — A St. Louis County man was killed after three men attacked him in his home. It happened around 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday in the 3900 block of Max Weich in an unincorporated part of north St. Louis County near Florissant. A family member has identified the victim as Orlanda Smith, 23. That family member tells News 4 that Smith's mother was in the garage at the home when three suspects approached her and asked to speak to her son. Smith's mother brought them into the house. Two of the suspects followed Smith's mother into the basement to Smith's room and another suspect, who was reportedly wearing a ski mask and carrying an AK47, stayed upstairs. The other two suspects knocked on the door to Smith's room and he did not answer. The suspects then burst into the room and shot and killed Smith. Smith's girlfriend was inside at the time of the shooting and was reportedly hiding under a matress when the suspects came in.
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