Boe-Bot Sale on Aisle 5 is selling the Parallax Boe-Bot, a really nice starter robot experimenter’s platform that uses the Basic Stamp 2, for only US$64. Considering that the Boe-Bot retails for $150 and the Basic Stamp 2 cost $50 by itself, this is a great deal.

Parallax was kind enough to send me a Boe-Bot kit when I was writting my robot book. I never got a chance to play with it. I gave it to my intern for helping me with the robot projects. The kit looked really good tho, easy to assemble, with great docs, lots of ideas for experiments and using the built-in breadboard, etc. For $64, this is a no brainer.

Thanks, Tim!

In-Car PC Basics

The folks over at the DenGuru decided to get out of the family room for a little fresh air. Of course, they took their tools and a mini-ITX PC, a hard drive, an LCD touchscreen, a power supply, and some other misc. hardware with them and installed a computer in their car. Hey, you only need so much fresh air and all that harsh, direct overhead lighting. Read of their little trip outdoors here.

Top Ten “People Who Don’t Matter” (Now That’s Just Harsh)

Here’s a Top Ten list you don’t want to find yourself on: Business 2.0’s Ten People Who Don’t Matter.

“And the Wet Rasberry goes to….”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft (pictured)
Jeff Citron, Vonage
Reed Hastings, Netflix
Ken Kutaragi, Sony
Warren Lieberfarb, HD-DVD Promo Group
Rob Malda,
Arun Sarin, Vodafone
Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems
Linus Torvalds, Linux
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

So what sorts of Sins of the Suits got these guys on the list of people it’s “okay to snub at conferences” (as put it)? Here’s what the piece says about two of the worst sinners (as far as we’re concerned, anyway):

Ken Kutaragi
President, Sony Computer Entertainment
Remember the Betamax debacle? Sony seems to have forgotten all about it. Under Kutaragi, who is the power behind Sony’s PlayStation videogame consoles, the company is launching another format war with its Blu-Ray high-definition videodisc, the successor to the venerable DVD. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 3, which was supposed to put Blu-Ray into millions of living rooms, is months late and hundreds of dollars more expensive than competing consoles from Microsoft and Nintendo – largely because it includes one-of-a-kind technologies like Blu-Ray. The delays and cost overruns are likely to make both the PS3 and Blu-Ray nonstarters. But there’s also another problem, which leads us to Warren Lieberfarb …

Warren Lieberfarb
Senior Consultant, HD-DVD Promotion Group
Lieberfarb, known in Hollywood as the father of the DVD, has been around long enough to recall the Betamax/VHS wars. But rather than broker a peace settlement between Sony and the rest of the industry – as he did with the DVD – he’s working with Microsoft, Toshiba, and other backers of the competing HD-DVD format on how to beat Blu-Ray. Ironically, the whole debate may well be pointless. There’s little evidence that consumers are eager to upgrade their existing DVD collections, and by the time the latest format war is settled, most of us will simply download movies in our living rooms instead of hoarding them on little plastic discs.

New TiVo Desktop Hacks

Dave Zatz has a couple of cool and relatively easy hacks for the newly released TiVo Desktop app. The first one allows you to transcode programs you’ve already recorded (the Desktop is set up to only transcode new incoming content) and the second hack allows you to up the screen res for transcoded shows (set by TiVo Desktop to 320×240).

Third Hand Gets DIY Finger Grafts

We’ve made the point here several times in the past that the “Helping Hand” (also called a “Third Hand”) is a crucial tool in doing successful electronics work. We recommend having at least two. On the wonderful, marvelous Instructables, a builder shows how easy it is to add your own ball-socketed, adjustable “fingers” to your Hand. The more fingers the merrier, we say.

In another Instructable, he shows a “why the hell didn’t *I* think of that?” way of tweaking the set-up of your Helping Hand unit to make it much more useful for small PCBs and other close-in work (hint: it involves ditching that magnifying “finger” that’s rarely used — at least my scratched up, crappy plastic one isn’t — I have an honest-to-goodness glass one on my second Hand).

Technician Fired, Comcast CS Still Sucky

Well, you knew it was going to happen. Comcast has fired the cable guy who was caught on camera sleeping on the job. They fired him for delivering an “unsatisfactory customer experience.” Way to miss the point, Comcast! Sure, sleeping on the job is not the best way to instill confidence in your company’s service mojo, but he was put on hold with the home office for “over an hour” (according to the customer). What was he supposed to do while he waited for his own tech support, make balloon animals? I certainly know that I’ve been known to nod off while waiting on endless hold for you guys to talk to ME.

If you think that firing him is going to make people stop bitching on all the blogs and boards about how universally deficient your customer service is, you’re wrong, it’s only likely to increase the perception that Comcast is about as far from “Comcastic” as that coinage is from a corporate slogan that doesn’t make us want to drive a sharp No. 2 into our frontal lobes.

Give the guy a slap on the wrist, his job back, and do the honest heavy lifting that’s required to create a TRUE “satisfactory customer experience.” That starts with knowing where the problems actually are. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

TiVo Veep Speaks

Dave Zatz, of Zatz Not Funny and Engadget, conducted a short interview with Jim Denney, TiVo’s VP of Product Marketing, about the latest version of the TiVo Desktop. Denney defends TiVo’s decision to charge a premium for MPEG-4 and H.264 transcoding, citing the licensing fees they had to pay, and implying the US$25 fee doesn’t even cover TiVo’s “real costs.” The frustrating news in this exchange is that TiVoToGo for OS X is STILL not ready to be talked about (which likely means we won’t see it anytime soon). And questions about the much-anticipated TiVo Series 3 were also sidestepped.

Read the full piece here.

Comic Book Collection Makes House Groan

Check this out! It’s an estate sale where the house is almost filled to the rafters with comic books. The liquidators found upwards of 3,000 golden age books, 37,000 other comics, 4,000 graphic novels and trade paperbacks, and countless posters, figures, magazines, toys, cards, etc. Many of the items were never even opened. Among the hoard was an Amazing Spiderman #10, valued at US$1700.