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December 23, 2004

Gmail redux? Not likely...

This blog post by Matt Blumberg caught my attention - regarding AOL's announcement of a free webmail offering.

I find the AOL news to be a "who cares?" as well - so far as their announcement details - which is not much other than intent to enter the free webmail space.

THe last high-profile entrant, Google, really seemed to change the webmail paradigm with their unique offering of 1 GB of storage space. Notice how the market was forced to respond competitively. Microsoft was forced to up the storage limit on free Hotmail accounts from 2 MB to 250 MB. They'll probably have to go higher.

At least Google's web mail entry stirred the market place and brought innovation. Open source programmers are using Gmail as a backend for file storage, photo galleries, and even blogs!

Gmail takes advantage of the same "all you can eat buffet" gamble. The average person eats only so much food. It is practically impossible to fill 1 GB full of text email.

One company has even offered to give the first user who is able to fill up his inbox with legal content and without spam a dedicated server with a Petabyte (PByte) of space. That will be one to watch!

Google also added innovation to the webmail wars in other ways as well. They introduced a unique user interface to email, sorting mail by conservations and threads (though Outlook now does this also). They group things in sense of time and space - new, old, older, oldest - small, big, bigger, biggest. Their intent on filtering mail and serving up relevant ads stirred up privacy controversy everywhere, but generated significant buzz. Finally, their viral method for introducing into the market place - uber geek bloggers bestowed with first generation Gmail accounts and earning invitations to others. A user base that feels blessed, cool and chosen. Lot's of lessons here already, and a tough act that AOL is choosing to follow.

Posted by gcrgcr at 10:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The eyes have it...

I had LASIK two weeks ago. I'm filing this under "Geek" because I think the technology behind LASIK is phenomenal. It is amazing how ubiquitous using a laser on eye tissue to improve vision has become.

My eyesight was not terrible - though I've worn glasses since high school. My correction in each eye was no worse than -1 diopter of correction with some astigmatism. In other words, not coke bottle lenses - even vision that someone who does wear coke bottle lenses might envy.

While not terrible, or even bad - by any standards, my vision made driving difficult, especially at night. Enjoyment of movies, outdoor activities, and many other things always were dependant on my having my spectacles along. In general, it negatively affected my quality of life, so I decided to do something about it. LASIK is readily available and well tested - so I felt comfortable taking the risks.

I found no shortage of facilities locally. A few important criteria to me:

I selected Insight Lasik - voted Boulder County Best Lasik in 2002, 2003, and 2004. So how did it go? Here's the whole thing:

  1. Initial consultation - this consisted of several evaluative tests on my eyes. Determining my dioptic correction, corneal mass, pupil diameter, and other visual aberrations among other things. Bottom line - I was a good candidate.
  2. Decide to spend $$. LASIK is not cheap. It is cheapER than it used to be, and the "Wave Front" technology is extra.
  3. Schedule surgery.
  4. Pre-Surgery Appointment - More evaluation and intensive measurements taken in preparation for the surgery.
  5. Surgery
  6. One Day Post Surgery Appointment - vision test, how do ya feel, etc...
  7. Ten Day Post Surgery Appointment
The surgery is the cool part. You get numerous rounds of eye drops. Numbing agent - antibiotic - moisture. Pop a valium - no anesthetic of any kind - just a general relaxant. They need your cooperation when your under the laser, so you must be aware and in control. Once you are under the laser, they tape open your eyelids - so you can't blink. Then, they place a suction device on your eye - this sucks the cornea up in to a tube to present it for an incision to be made flat across the surface of the cornea. Pretty ingenious method and fairly strange to experience. Once the flap is cut the surgeon opens it and moves it to the side. It is like having your eyes open underwater, you can't see anything.

Now the laser starts. What is interesting is there is no heat - there is no burning. The laser breaks the carbon molecules - just destroys the tissue - so no smoke, although since tissue is breaking up there is an odor. Sort of like hair burning.

That's it. Flip the flap back down. Rinse, lather, repeat other eye. Done. I had about 36 seconds of laser time on one eye and 44 on the other.

Just after, you can't see a thing and your eyes are fairly sensitive to light. Star bursts around all sources of bright light. You wear protective goggles from that point and the whole next day. Walk around your house like Kareem Abdul-Jabar. You sleep in the goggles for 3-4 nights. Don't rub your eyes - even accidentally.

My day after appointment my vision tested a solid 20/20 in one eye and 20/15 in the other. Over the 10 days after, my vision fluctuates. The eye tissue operated on can swell for several weeks. Keeping the eyes moist with drops makes a big difference - but there is really no pain or irritation. Aches the next 24 hours or so, but minor. I didn't even take a Tylenol after surgery.

Overall - I'm amazed. Despite the moments of fluctuations in vision I still have as my eyes continue to heal, for the most part, things are flawless. I keep waiting to wake up and find that "it didn't work" - but that simply isn't going to happen. My eyes are reshaped, and the light refracts with miraculous exactitude into my eyeball. Friggin' awesome!

There are of course risks - including significantly worse vision than what you started with or even blindness. Many won't be candidates for one reason or another, but, I recommend the procedure. The benefits for the cost for me has been more than worth it.

I spoke to folks I knew before my surgery who had it, and now that I'm in the club, I understand what they meant when they said it changed their life. For me, a minor change, but a positive change none the less. I love it!

Posted by gcrgcr at 8:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2004

Tools Update

This is more stuff for the geeks - I've come across two new very useful tools.

First, Tom Sather clued me in to "Regex Buddy". Right away you should either know what "regex" is or not. If you do, then you will find this tool useful. I've often struggled with building regular expressions for pattern matching. Having a tool that let's you visually buind regex's and easliy test them is an invaluable time saver. From their site:

RegexBuddy is your perfect companion for working with regular expressions. Easily create regular expressions that match exactly what you want. Clearly understand complex regexes written by others. Quickly test any regex on sample strings and files, preventing mistakes on actual data. Use the regex in your source code with code snippets automatically adjusted to the particulars of your programming language. Collect and document libraries of regular expressions for future reuse. Integrate RegexBuddy with your favorite searching and editing tools for instant access.

Amen to that! This was a well-spent $30.

The other tool recommendation comes by way of Ross Carlson. He showed me this very cool and useful Color Scheme Generator. I've always struggled with developing "harmonious" color combinations, or contrast, or whatever interaction with colors you feel like you are driving towards. Other Graphic Artists I know always referred me to some Photoshop plugin, but it is Mac only, and I'm not Mac.

Color Scheme Generator even has several dropdowns that mimic various types and levels of human colorblindedness. For those into extreme useability, this is above and beyond. I suppose the folks at

Visibone has some great reference charts on HTML, various web-related programming languages, and colors - but only HEX and RGB codes for colors. Nothing about appropriate combinations of primary,secondary, and tertiary colors.

Looks like Visibone does have some great charts on colorblind aware web colors. My site seems to pass the first colorblindedness profile.

The Colorblind Web Page Filter, let's you view your site in real-time as it would be seen by folks with various types of colorblindedness. Very cool.

The color scheme generator is a big win for me, and it's free!

Posted by gcrgcr at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack