Sunday, December 19, 2021

Home Screen Effect

Have you ever had that problem that you need something from another room in your home, and you go to that room, and instantly forget what it was you came for? And you can't remember what it is until you go  back to the original room you were in? This is called the Doorway Effect, and it happens because your mind resets itself to focus on what is in the room that you just entered. The unfortunate side effect of this is that you might forget something important.

I experience something similar very often when using my iPhone, which I like to call the Home Screen Effect. I will often be doing something (not using my iPhone), and think about taking out my phone to do something, for example, search on the web, or take a note, or order something from Amazon, etc. Then I pull out my phone and wake it, and there is a notification, and I follow that notification and then forget why I brought out the phone in the first place. Or perhaps I open Safari and it is on a webpage I was looking at before and I get distracted by that. Or there is an unread badge on social media app that I open and get distracted by.

I even sometimes have this problem when using my computer if I have just context switched to it... I see a Safari tab from before and get distracted by that rather than doing what I need to do. I think there is a similar mental process when context switching into using a device to when we context switch into a new room. I don't remember this being an issue when I was first using the Mac many years ago, before the Internet and before multitasking. You would turn on the computer and open the application that you wanted to run and there were very few distractions because everything was so simple.

Similarly, before smart phones, when you wanted to make a phone call or even send a text message this problem didn't exist.

I think I need to figure out ways of changing my home screen to mitigate this problem.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Idea: Letterpress Tournament

Although the current implementation of Letterpress does not lend itself to a tournament (no provision for pass and play or playing someone over Bluetooth or WiFi peer to peer, etc.), I think it would be interesting to play in one.

I think the main elements that would make it different from current play would be the following:

1) time limit (either per turn or an overall Chess clock type limit)
2) no ability to consult the Internet or any other resources to come up with words
3) possibility of spectators/audience watching your game

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Netflix Blu-ray vs. DVD confusion

I have Blu-ray enabled on my Netflix account, and have the option set to prefer Blu-ray discs, which is what I want 95% or more of the time. Recently, I was trying to get the DVD version of Rango.

I went into the DVD queue and set the format to DVD, and was surprised that they sent me a Bluray. I proceeded to try again on another sub account and the same thing happened.

So today I called Netflix customer support to find out what the deal is. Apparently they must have had a firestorm of complaints from people about getting DVDs of movies that have Blu-rays available. For example, if you added a movie to your queue and only DVD was available at the time, and then a year or two later they make a Blu-ray of it, it used to be that they would just send the DVD because that was the chosen format. Now, they *ignore* the format that you choose in the queue and just send Blu-ray always if available, assuming you have the automatically send Blu-ray option enabled.

In order to get a DVD of a movie that is in Blu-ray, you have to change to manually choose Blu-ray, which means each time you add a movie to your queue you have to pick the format. Or you have to turn the option back and forth whenever you want to get a DVD.

I can understand that there are customers that may want to always get Blu-ray but it seems to me that this problem could be much more easily solved in a way that would meet my needs as well as the "always Blu-ray" and the "mostly DVD, occasionally Blu-ray" folks.

Basically, they would just need to remember whether you had ever manually changed the format in your queue, and if so, respect that. The preference would simply set what your default format is, either DVD or Blu-ray. Then the list would indicate for each item in the queue whether it was DVD, Blu-ray, or Default (which could parenthetically indicate the preference, or that could be mentioned above the list once, or both).

You could very easily migrate people to this new setup by doing the following for all items in the queue which have a choice of format:
  • For manual mode, all items that are set to DVD should instead be set to Default (DVD). Blu-ray items stay as Blu-ray.
  • For automatic Blu-ray mode, all items are set to Default (Blu-ray), regardless of the setting in the queue because that is actually how things behave today.
So for those who never visit the queue to set the format, everything behaves as it does today, but if you do set the format, it is respected. There could even be a popup menu on the queue to set the default format easily, which would update all Default items to indicate the proper format.

If Netflix does not change to something like this, I think they need to change the presentation of the queue when you are in automatic Blu-ray mode, so you know that you never ever will get a DVD for any movie which has Blu-ray available... perhaps just don't show the popup menus at all and show things as Blu-ray, and have a link to turn off the option. Alternately, show popup menus with all of them having Blu-ray, and if you try to change it then it should prompt you to turn off the automatic Blu-ray setting.

Without one of these two approaches, the queue is very misleading because what it shows as the format that you will get is completely ignored in automatic Blu-ray mode.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How to use alternate from addresses with Gmail on iPad or iPhone

Gmail has a neat feature that you can associate alternate from addresses with your account and then send as any of those addresses from the web interface. Unfortunately this feature is not available from the mobile web interface for iPhone or iPad. There is another way to do this using the Mail app, however.

You need to set up your Gmail account as a generic IMAP account (not using the Gmail selection). Then simply copy a comma character, and then paste that into the address field and enter all your from addresses separated by commas.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Video stores are in trouble

Traditional brick and mortar video stores are toast... looks like Redbox and Netflix are taking over. See page 13 of Coinstar's quarterly results for a comparison of Q42008 vs Q42009.$file/Q4EarningsCallSlidesUpdateREV022310.pdf

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More on dollar coins and modernizing US currency

Here's my latest toy:

It's a Portsou coin holder. It is from a Canadian company... apparently US and Canadian coins are about the same size. It makes paying with exact change and using dollar coins very convenient. Here's a video of it in action.

I was able to get about $20 in Presidential dollar coins at the bank and so I filled up the top two slots with them. I've used them a few times so far and had no problems getting businesses to accept them. Since $20 won't last very long, I decided to order a box of $250 Thomas Jefferson dollar coins from the US mint. They have a special offer with no shipping charges to encourage more coins to be introduced into circulation.

I've talked about things which the US could learn from other countries before. Since then I learned about the Coin Coalition and Save the Greenback, two groups that lobby our federal government both for and against dollar coins. The Coin Coalition is mainly the vending machine industry, and Save the Greenback represents the Bureau of Engraving and Printing employees as well as paper and ink suppliers. I've also read that polls indicate that the public prefers dollar bills to coins. I suspect this is mainly due to ignorance. Most people have probably never seen the new dollar coins, and many think that "In God We Trust" was removed when it was really just moved to the edge. (The latest presidential dollar coins moved "In God We Trust" back to the front of the coin.)

Here's what I would like to see happen to modernize our currency:

1) discontinue the penny
2) stop printing the dollar bill
3) increase production of dollar coins
4) increase production of $2 bills

Doing #1 and #2 opens up space in cash registers to put dollar coins and $2 bills both of which exist and are underused. Eventually I think it would make sense to transition to $2 coins like the rest of the English speaking countries of the world have, but this would be an easy change to do now. Also, increased production of $2 bills might placate Save the Greenback somewhat. Getting rid of the penny will also open up space in pockets and purses for the dollar coin.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2000 that switching from dollar bills to dollar coins would save about $500 million dollars a year due to the much longer lifespan of coins (30 years vs 18-22 months for bills). Getting rid of the penny would probably save some money as well. Printing more $2 bills could offset this somewhat, but that would be worthwhile to get us moving in the right direction. Perhaps after one successful bill to coin transition, the government would be more likely to see the benefit of a $2 coin.

If this transition ever happens, my Portsou will be fine because I can just put a stack of dimes where the pennies are today. This is how it is used in Canada. Also, if we ever create a $2 coin, hopefully it is just slightly larger than the current dollar coin in which case I could put it in the upper left slot where the Canadian $2 coin goes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What to do when you get a chain forwarded email

This is a public service blog post.

Step 1)

Do not immediately forward this to all your friends/family/coworkers.

Step 2)

Skim the message enough to get the key idea and do a simple Google search to see if there are any web pages about this email. A good site to look at is

Step 3)

Assuming that the email is a hoax, misleading, old news, etc., reply to the sender (and optionally the other recipients) of this message about what you found. That will save everyone a lot of time.