The Website is Down

Now for some Friday fun.

This is an oldie but a goodie. The Website is Down is a set of hilarious indie videos showing the phone conversations between the main protagonist “Web Dude” Derrick and his arch nemesis “Sales Guy” Chip. Other characters also make an appearance, such as data center admins, network admins, and other sales people.

The brainchild of Joshua Weinberg, The Website is Down is a parody of what IT support staff experience every day. I did IT support work for a summer internship and can empathize.

A 2009 Webby Award winner in the Viral category, The Website is Down is the brainchild of a tech support geek turned independent filmmaker Joshua Weinberg from Denver, CO.

The inspiration for The Website is Down came to Weinberg while he was still in college. As he tells the Rumpus:

For a long time I had an idea about making a movie that took place on the screen of someone working at a computer. I thought it would be cool to see that, watching the story only through the actions onscreen. Originally, I had this idea when I was in school getting my computer science degree. At the time the it was not going to be a comedy, but a mystery where you would watch someone uncovering a secret, like detecting a hacker or whatever. It was going to be all text, all Unix commands, but only ultra-geeky people would know what the fuck it was about.

…That didn’t happen. Really, it’s been more fun doing it as a comedy; obviously more people can appreciate it that way. I had the idea for [The Website is Down] in my head for a very long time and finally the pieces just fell into place. I’ve been making a lot of movies with Casey [Cochran], who also works in tech support, so he completely understood the characters and scenario. He plays Chip Moorhead, the Sales Guy.

Total PEBAK. Go watch the rest of their episodes before their website goes down.

Yelp’s Monocle: An Augmented Reality iPhone App

Talk about a purple cow.

Yelp just released a new version of their Apple (AAPL) iPhone app with an easter egg: Monocle, an Augmented Reality (AR) feature. This feature is only available on the iPhone 3GS.

According to Robert Scoble, to get this app, follow these steps:

  1. Download the latest version of the Yelp iPhone app.
  2. Enter the app.
  3. Shake it several times. Although Scoble says to shake it 3 times, I had to shake mine like 10 times.
  4. A message will appear saying Monocle was activated. Touch the OK button.
  5. Touch the Monocle button at the top right corner of the screen.

And that’s it. If you hold the phone vertical and point the iPhone around the room, you’ll see the camera working. An overlap of Yelp reviews will appear in the direction of that particular business. If you need more help, Mashable also has step-by-step instructions, along with screenshots and this video:

It’s a pretty neat feature. Major props to the Yelp team for pulling this off. They earn loads of geek cred for this.

If I lived in New York City, I could see this being somewhat useful. The compass-based directional map on the Google (GOOG) Maps iPhone app is more useful though. The prime benefit of Monocle is letting me know which direction a restaurant is located. Google Maps does that too, plus it includes zooming in and out. Sadly, the Google Map on Yelp doesn’t have the directional feature. Maybe Yelp should add that as their next feature.

Another nice benefit of Monocle is letting me know which restaurants are near me. That’s pretty nice, if I want any ole’ restaurant. But generally, I use Yelp to find me a good, high-quality restaurant. Being a little bit further away is fine because I’m looking for good food. I’m not sure what Monocle’s distance limit is, but what if a great place is just ten steps to my left? Would I miss out on it because I wasn’t standing close enough for Monocle to display it?

To be fair, the same could be said about Google Maps if, say, a great restaurant was just off the left edge of the screen. But it’s easier to scroll the screen to the left than it is to know to walk ten steps in some direction.

But enough criticism. Geek-cred-wise, this is pretty cool. Lots of people are talking about it too, which is even more cool. Awesome demonstration of AR technology, guys. I’m looking forward to other AR applications soon.

Business Ideas from Nature

Need a cool product, technology, or business idea? Turn to nature! After all, it’s given us major advances in aviation, maritime technology, architecture, etc.

Two talks from TED also offer some examples of how nature can offer great ideas:

The next time you watch TV, flip to the Discovery Channel. Maybe you’ll find your next big idea there.

Feeling Positive About the Future

I’m feeling pretty pumped right now. Been watching lots of TED talks through their iPhone app lately. Damn good stuff.

I just watched Ray Kurzweil’s talk, “A university for the coming singularity“, where he discussed information technology’s growth being a series of S-curves that are exponential instead of linear. Moore’s Law, for example, is one such exponential trend that would fit into an S-curve. Once Moore’s Law ends (apparently around 2020, says Kurzweil), it will be replaced by another paradigm. Perhaps one governing green technology?

And speaking of green technology, this segment especially pumped me up:

…we’re all concerned about energy and the environment. Well, this is a logarithmic graph. This represents a smooth doubling, every two years, of the amount of solar energy we’re creating. Particularly as we’re now applying nanotechnology, a form of information technology, to solar panels. And we’re only eight doublings away from it meeting 100 percent of our energy needs. And there is 10 thousand times more sunlight than we need.

Eight doublings, where a doubling occurs ever two years. So in ten years, according to Kurzweil, solar harvesting technologies could be efficient enough to make all the energy we need.

Halle-friggen-lujah!

On a side note, there was an article today on Techmeme that was also positively-pumping: “Could this be the end of electric power cords?” by David Colker from the LA Times. Colker writes about how the company WiTricity has been working on technology to send wireless electrical power to remote devices.

This technology is based on the work of MIT physicist Marin Soljacic, who spoke at a TEDGlobal conference in Oxford, UK. According to Colker, the technology “works on something called resonant magnetic coupling and is safe for humans. And on an environmental note, [WiTricity CEO Eric Giler] said it could not only eliminate power cords but also tons of batteries used yearly to power household devices.”

Great strides in green technology. Enough solar power to relinquish the need for fossil fuels. And all happening in the next decade or so. Oh man.

Good times are coming!

Original Design Gangsta

Now for some Friday fun.

Kyle Webster, an illustrator from North Carolina, put together this wacky video. Funny stuff! A pretty good job of self promotion through social media marketing too.

Not a bad idea if you’re trying to make a name for yourself. Charles Lewis also did it through the Poetic Prophet viral video he made.

And now, the lyrics to “Original Design Gangsta” (though admittedly, the lyrics are all in the video already…)

Yeah.

What up, Winston?

Yeah.

Press check!

Keep those guides locked.

Coming to you from the South
with the mutha-kernin’ skills
take a look inside my mouth
I even letterpressed my grill

Paula Scher on speed dial
Sagmeister’s my man
I got Mok on lock
Done time with Paul Rand

Wearing black on black
Designer rims ’round my eyes
Yo my clients call me ‘Snoop’
‘Cuz my concepts is so high

Don’t use PhotoShop filters
Lens flare is for prankstas

Holla back at K-dubs
Number One Design Gangsta

What? What?

Got the key commands down
And my fingers is my tools
Never use command ‘Z’
‘Cuz I don’t make mistakes fool

My mechanicals is fresh
I’ll mock ’em up in your face
And you know my work is clean
‘Cuz I’m using white space

AIGA,
Print, How and Graphis
I’m the best in the show
When I enter my piece

I pass on swipe
‘Cuz whack stock is fa’ prankstas
O.D.G.
Original Design Gangsta

O.D.G.

You know my rulers are long
And my type is strong
Spinning hot concepts
‘Til the break of dawn
Just my M-A-C and me
I’m so Design Gangsta

Yeah. Yeah.

PMS 187 runs deep in my veins
Metallic 8643 in my gold chains
I’m a classic font hustla’
Pimpin’ Mrs. Eaves

Trade Gothic, got Futura up my sleeve
Surfstation
K10k in my faves
Playas at Newstoday

Always giving me raves
I’m a FreeHand man
Not an InDesign pranksta
Multi-page layout
Is for true Design Gangstas

Yeah yeah…

Multi-paaaaage

And my messenger bag hangs low
And my Cooper’s riding high on 24s
On the weekend I be spending mad dough
At the North Cackalack Apple Sto’

Got the RAM for the ladies
In my G5 tower
When it comes to logos
Homies call me ‘Jack Bauer’

‘Cuz I kill ’em
With one click of the mouse
K-dubs,
No. 1 Design Gangsta in the house

One Two

Yeah

Press check it

You know my rulers are long
And my type is strong
Spinning hot concepts
‘Til the break of dawn
Just my M-A-C and me
I’m so Design Gangsta

Yeah

CMYK

Turn those guides on son
No widows, you heard?

Web Design in Two Minutes

Now for some Friday fun.

Guess how quickly you can design a website? Two minutes! No kidding! Watch:

No, just kidding. This video was created by the design firm Wevio as what I’m guessing is a clever piece of social media marketing. On the video’s YouTube page Wevio says that:

This is a time-lapse video of what was originally about 2 hours.

This video doesn’t portray how a website is really made. It takes hours upon hours of researching, designing, developing and testing in different browsers as well as platforms.

Too true. And too bad, ‘cuz having a professionally made web design in two minutes would be awesome.

Apple vs The Simpsons

Now for some Friday fun.

Last week, The Simpsons did a hilarious spoof on Apple (AAPL). If you’re a Simpsons fan, check it out:

Making a cameo is Steve Mobs, the Mapple Store, the Brainiac Bar, MyPods, MyPhones, MyCubes, and even a $40 pair of MyPhonies. Apparently, this was such a notable event that there was a buzz in the blogosphere about it. Some loved it and some really loved it. Me, I really loved it.

BTW, did you catch the “Prosperity is just around the corner” message? Hehe.

Props to Waterless Urinals

There comes a time in every blog that the topic of urinals must come up. Well, maybe not every blog. But certainly this one.

Today, I feel the need to give props to businesses who’ve been installing waterless urinals lately. There’s one in my local public library and I’ve seen a few more around town.

According to Wikipedia, waterless urinals save about 15,000 to 45,000 gallons of water per urinal per year. In a five-urinal restaurant, that would mean 75,000 to 225,000 gallons of water per year. Holy crap that’s a lot of water!

These urinals are also hygienic because they are touch-free. I don’t mean you could eat out of one of these things (God help you if you do), but you don’t have to push any handles to flush it. That puts it on parity with the water-flush touch-free urinals currently out there.

There’s no smell either, in case you’re wondering. How? At the bottom of the urinal is a trap that holds (or “traps”, duh) your urine. A liquid sealant then floats on top of the urine, isolating it from the outside air.

Every new technology is not without costs, however. The maintenance required is replacing the trap and sealant liquid. The traps – or cartridges, as they’re formally known – need to be replaced approximately every 6,000 to 7,000 uses. They cost anywhere from $5.00 to $40.00 each. Sealants cost $1.50 to $2.00 each. And the waterless urinals themselves can cost $400 to $600 each. Couple that with retrofit installation costs, and it can add up a bit.

But it still might be worth it. Annette Stumpf of the US Army Corps of Engineers did an evaluation of waterless urinals (PDF file) and includes some sample cost calculations in her paper. Also in her paper are links to two cost-savings worksheets, one from Waterless and another from Falcon, two manufacturers of waterless urinals.

Then there’s the intangible cost of conserving a natural resource. It’s difficult to put a dollar value to that, but it does count for a tremendous amount. Especially in areas and times of drought.

If you own a brick-and-mortar business (as us web geeks call it; you probably just call it a “store”), consider switching to waterless urinals. Not only could they be a good cost-savings investment, but they could also be good for your local environment and the future of your children’s children.

And with all this talk of urinals, how can I leave off without pointing out some important urinal rules: