Alan Turing Google Doodle honors Computing Pioneer


Check out the most complicated Google Doodle of all time here, where the Google Doodle of the day  celebrates the birthday of computer science pioneer Alan Turing.   Turing is reasonably considered a founder of computer science even though he never lived to see anything like the current crop of machines we now find in our homes, businesses, and mobile devices.

The Google Doodle is representing a ‘codebreaker’ sequence.   Turing’s brilliancies in cracking encoded Nazi war memos led to major strategic breakthrough when he cracked the “enigma” code routine, giving the allies access to a treasure trove of strategic information about the Nazi war plans.

The “Turing Test” remains an intriguing part of the quest for general artificial intelligence.  Turing suggested that a major step in development of mechanical intelligence would be a human’s inability to distinguish the machine responses from those of another human.  Most current thinking suggests that a machine could pass the “Turing Test” and NOT be considered artificial intelligence, but Turing’s speculations remain some of the most important computing insights of all time.

Turing’s life was tragic in many ways.  He was gay in a time when the government prosecuted people for “indecency”, and his life was cut short by cyanide poisoning – most likely a suicide or accident – at the age of only 42.

Retirement, History, and Google Spreadsheets


I’m working hard on our Retirement website and upcoming retirement blog project called “Retire USA” and wound up having a heck of a time with some data conversions, so I want to outline that process here in case others have the same troubles.

Process ONE – copying records from a Google Docs Spreadsheet to an Open Office “ODS” format spreadsheet:   This sure seemed non-trivial unless I missed something or had data glitches buried in the sheets.   I could NOT complete direct cut and pastes from Google docs to my Open Office “ODS” spreadsheet so….

What DID WORK was this:

1.  Save Google spreadsheet in CSV format within Google Docs

2.  Import that CSV sheet to Open Office and save in ODS format.

3.  Cut and paste between the two Open Office spreadsheets.   IMPORTANT:  When pasting, select ONLY the upper left cell as if you are going to paste everything into that single cell.

 Process TWO – Merge two cells into a new single cell containing contents of BOTH original cells.     In my case I wanted a new combined field name.

Update – review the “DATA/Text to Columns” and the related “Concatenate” functions within Open Office.

Again, I’m not an expert so there may be easy ways to do it, but this did not seem to work directly in Google Docs spreadsheet.    Merge cells is an option, but it only preserved ONE of the cells.    However in Open Office you can celect “Merge Cells” and it should immediately prompt you to include contents of BOTH cells.   Unfortunately I had to merge about 8000 cells and since there seemed to be no bulk process I created a keystroke macro and did them (pretty quickly) manually because I was not clever enough to get a macro that would run this process by itself.

FYI note that you may want to keep your old fields (cells) as well as have the new combined field.   In that case simply make copies of the columns so you have extra ones to combine.

The reason I needed this was to create a CityCategory field name that will work well with our Retirement website.   One painful alternative to this little merge routine would have been to type the extra word into five thousand records!

One makes millions, millions make $1. CES 2012 and the decline of Journalism


Here at CES Las Vegas you can feel the energy of the thousands of bloggers, all of whom hope to spawn their own success stories.    I like bloggers and blogging a lot, but I think much of the early promise of blogger as citizen journalist is getting co-opted by commercialization – the need to eat creates a challenging relationship with sponsors and content.   Not a huge surprise, but I think the era of “citizen journalist” is probably going to be short lived as we transition to more of a combination of commercial and/or groupthink models of journalism.

Very few will be able to make it big online doing their own thing, or even make a living here. That’s OK – capitalism and journalism are a game of survival of the fittest, and most people aren’t fit to write quality stuff, even by sometimes  pathetic blogging standards.  Even those who ARE good writers are unlikely to make much money online, and then only when they work for large well capitalized sites.

Many silly articles  suggest otherwise:

guardiantech Guardian Tech …The writer who made millions by self-publishing online bit.ly/wdgj0J

A more relevant story would be how millions make very little rather than how one makes millions, but that story is not as interesting….which brings us to the challenge of journalism in general, especially commercial journalism.

Here at CES there are about 6000 “press”, many in young blogging teams writing for medium to large websites covering the show.     That’s great in one sense but in another it reminds me of pro sports, where millions with *some* talent are filtered to a few thousand who actually make it to the big time and a few hundred who actually make it big.    Again, that’s a virtuous cycle in one sense, though I will smack you if you suggest that the success comes from quality writing or true innovation.   There’s some of that online, but in terms of online journalism its mostly a race to the bottom where gimmicks and garbage will triumph.   Again, that’s OK and inevitable but its somewhat unfortunate that we’ll see seasoned good thinking journalist folks replaced by ditzy kook celebrity gossip.

… end rant …  Gotta go find Justin Beiber here at CES and get an invite to the SOUL Headphone party by Ludacris !

Apple iPad Launches Today. Lowest priced model only $499


The new iPad tablet computer from Apple launched today and I’m going to try to summarize the reviews as they come in – which frankly is a better indication of the quality of the device than if I had one in my own hands…. which I don’t ….  However at an iPad Price of only $499 this looks like an amazing device at a great price.

One of the big issues at CES 2010 was the fact that Apple’s Tablet would almost certainly raise the computing bar in terms of expectations for the “robustness” of something that is a cross between a full computer and an e-Reader.    To my way of thinking (ie rational computing purchases)  good tablets may wind up as e-Reader killers – or at least will force e-readers to become real computers and offer a lot more features than they currently offer.

Why buy a Kindle or Nook when you can have a full computer and internet at your fingertips for only marginally higher cost?    At $499 the Apple Tablet “entry level” model is coming in much cheaper than the predicted $1000 price tag – perhaps as part of Apple’s normally brilliant quality and marketing approaches which generally lead to early widespread adoption of devices.

iPad Apple Tablet Computer

iPad from Apple

Press Release Primer for CES Exhibitors


The 2011 CES Party List will be live soon at Technology Report

As we gear up to cover the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week over at Technology Report my email box is simply flooded with PR pitches from hundreds of the thousands of companies that will be exhibiting at the show.

The pitches vary in size and scope but most share a pretty common and I think a very uninspired format along the lines of   “You will want to check out our products”    “We have extraordinary innovation in …  iPOD accessories (!) ”  “Would you like to interview our product manager?”

Here are my three PR tips for the firms that … well … maybe ought to be doing something else:

1.  Personalization Matters.   I’d guess the response to personalized emails is at least twice that of a simple canned message, even when it’s just a name from the Press database but ideally where you’ve bothered to figure out where the person is writing.  This is one of the best PR opportunities of the year, so it seems you should at least target a handful of bloggers who write specifically about your stuff.     Challenge them a bit to critique the product.   Consider going for several “smaller” blogs rather than trying to get lucky with a feature in Engadget or Gizmodo, where the whim of an angry review alone could hurt your products reputation.    If your product is great they’ll get around to it eventually, and if the smaller guys don’t like it you probably need improvements before the big time anyway.

2.  Parties matter.  It’s not fair but neither is the world.   Certainly business in general isn’t fair.   So if you want some attention and you’ve already invested tens of thousands in staff and exhibits you probably should follow the lead of the big CES *playaas* and at least throw a small party.    What would be a clever  time for this party?  Monday night before CES, when a lot of folks have come into town but generally there are *no* parties yet.     Tuesday after CES Unveiled (the big press event) and Wednesday night are also generally pretty open for many press attendees who tend to get into town a few days early for the Press events.   The *bad* night is Friday, when your little party will have to compete with  the big ticket gigs like the Monster concert and several other parties thrown that night that attract most of the bloggers and press.   I think my favorite event at all of CES was a small poker party at Hard Rock Casino, thrown by SONY to launch the game “Pirates of the Burning Sea”.  I’m sure it wasn’t cheap –  probably ran them perhaps  $100+ per person for perhaps 100 people who attended, but it was a superb venue to generate the positive buzz they needed for the game.   $10,000 is chump change by SONY standards yet they captured attention of a lot of media for the entire evening.

Getting attention early gets you pre-CES buzz in the search rankings to boot, because by Saturday your product announcement – no matter how big – is going to be drowned out by the 1000 other announcements coming out of the show.

3.  Products matter.    For some of you some product humility is more likely to win supporters than product hype.   It’s laughable when an overzealous PR person waxes poetically, capturing your attention for a moment until you realize they’ve penned an ode to a cheap plastic cartoon  iPhone case or the equivalent.   Nothing wrong with those products – they represent an extraordinarily large market –  but your time is probably better spent targeting buzzworthy folks and sending them samples or … throwing a party … rather than trying to explain why bloggers should be scrambling to do a feature about your plastic cartoon iPod case.

Louis Vuitton iPod Case:  $280

OMG I’m writing about iPod Cases!

See you at CES!

Internet News Flash: STOP forwarding all those emails with “humor” or “wisdom” to your friends. They are talking about how you do this, and it’s not flattering.


OK, this just in from my Holiday Bad Mood Department:

STOP forwarding all those emails with “humor” or “wisdom” or stupid pictures to your friends!     Instead, send them a REAL note with REAL information.   No, they do NOT want all that other crap, OK?!

Exceptions:  1.   You have added at least ONE original paragraph (heck, even TWO sentences is OK with me!) explaining why you think others might find this of interest.   I’m cool with that.   It means you are not just abusing the ease with which you can forward on stuff you find marginally interesting that others rarealy want to wade through.

2.  My pal Tommo, who only does this about once every two or three months.   I know he’s filtering because he sends so few.

3.  OK to write a short note and link up stuff at Facebook or Twitter.   That’s easier than email to bypass, does not clog up the internet with cat pictures you sent to the 50 unlucky people still on your email list, and it forces YOU to  pay at least marginal attention.

OK, I know it’s annoying to shout online as I have in the title above, but I simply don’t understand why people seem to think that the little tidbits of wisdom – aka spammy junk – they happen to find to be funny or inspiring is  going to be inspiring to me as well.

Generally it’s NOT, and I don’t think I can think of a single exception where folks say “wow, I’m so glad I’m on —– ‘s   email list, that stuff is always so inspiring to me.     I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I’d urge anybody who actually reads all the forwarded junk they get to *get a fricking life, and FAST*.

[/ end rant]

Comments are welcome as always.