Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Presentations that sell

The other night I was helping a friend fine tune her slide show. She was going to be giving a presentation to a bunch of students and she was anxious to get across her points with as much detail as possible. You can imagine the result.

I did the usual things to help, given that we didn't have much time. I showed her how to add some images, pick and choose a theme to apply, clean up the formatting, etc.

But I knew that no matter how much we worked on it, it wasn't going to have the kind of impact on her students that she was looking for. She had fallen victim to the same kind of PowerPoint trap that so many of us encounter. If one word is good, then two are better, right?

Fortunately, although it's too late for that particular slide show, marketing guru Seth Godin has ridden to the rescue. He's just re-posted to his blog a piece called "Really Bad PowerPoint". He says he first wrote it about four years ago...

I figured the idea might spread and then the problem would go away--we'd no longer see thousands of hours wasted, every single day, by boring PowerPoint presentations filled with bullets.

Not only has it not gone away, it's gotten a lot worse. Last week I got a template from a conference organizer. It seems they want every single presenter to not only use bullets for their presentations, but for all of us to use the same format! Shudder.

So, for posterity, and in the vain hope it might work, here we go again:

Then he lays out his secrets for creating and delivering a great presentation.

If you have to deliver presentations, or help others to put them together, you should read this piece and think about how you could put it to good use. It's filled with good ideas and suggestions -- things that most of us already know but rarely follow through on. Like these rules:

Here are the five rules you need to remember to create amazing Powerpoint presentations:

1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.

2. No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.

3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions.

4. Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.

5. Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.

PowerPoint is a fabulous program but it's become a crutch for too many of us. We expect the technology to gloss over the fact that we don't really have that much to say.

But what we really do is fail to take the time to map out our presentation and make sure it's going to have the impact we want. It's not something you can just throw together at the last minute.

So what do you say? Let's all take a pledge to think about our presentations and take the time to follow Seth's advice. Who's with me? Hello? Where is everyone?

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday fun for Jan 26, 2007

After all the fuss this week with my attempts to get Blogger's Custom Domains option working, I'm not sure whether anyone is actually seeing (or reading) this post. But it's almost the weekend, so it's time for another Friday Fun session.

This week, I've got three items, which will delight and amaze you:

1) A set of lyrics (ready to be turned into a great video)

2) A video about spiders (seriously!)

3) Another video on magnets.

Intrigued? Here we go...

David Pogue's ode to the RIAA

The RIAA is the group that represents record companies in the US. They've built a well-deserved reputation for being absolutely nuts about protecting their copyright, with one of their favourite tactics being taking individuals to court for illegal downloads.

New York Times' technology writer David Pogue has written a delightful parody of the Village Peoples' hit, YMCA, which you should enjoy singing along with.

Here's the link to the lyrics.

Spiders on drugs

Remember those great TV spots from the Canadian Wildlife Service that we used to watch? With the lovely music and the loons? Well, they're back...sort of. A Canadian film-maker has copied the style to bring us the results of a fascinating experiment that looks at what happens when illegal drugs are tested on spiders. The interesting results are narrated by CBC's Scott Walker, a well-known radio voice to many of us.

Here's the link to YouTube
, or click on the video below.

I'm not sure what this shows us, but it's pretty cool

See for yourself.

Here's the link to YouTube, or click on the video below.

Have a good weekend.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Google Custom Domains isn't working for me

OK, this switching over domain names didn't work out the way I planned.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to use Blogger's new Custom Domains option to switch the domain name of this blog from "" to "".

At first things seemed to be working all right. But then a few issues showed up.

First, you could find the blog at "", but not at just "" without the "www".

That's important for me because sites like Technorati use the no-WWW listing to point to blogs when they refer to them.

Plus, I'm finding that more and more people are getting used to the idea that they can drop the "www" when looking up a site, since most browsers seem to accept either form.

Then another issue showed up. Several subscribers wrote to me to say that my blog had disappeared from their screens -- literally. When they typed in any of the URL's, all they got was a blank screen! What the heck was happening???

At first, I thought it was a DNS problem. Since I could see the changes, but others couldn't, that seemed like it might be the case. But then I checked for my blog using Internet Explorer -- and nothing.

Eventually, I figured out that my blog template had been changed slightly, and while Firefox still worked, anyone using Internet Explorer wasn't able to see the blog.

I fixed that problem, but now I am so frustrated by all of this that I've switched back to using the "blogspot" servers. So I'm back to using "" with or without the "www".

But I haven't entirely given up. Since I still own the domain "" I've set it up to forward to this blog. So...once the DNS propogates across the Internet in the next day or so, if you enter "" with or without the "www", you should end up at my blog.

We'll see. I'll keep you posted...

UPDATE -Feb 4/07 -- I'm still trying to figure out how to make this work. The problem now is Google's servers are somehow keeping control of the DNS registration, despite all my attempts to remove their references. Weird. GoDaddy is working on it. But so far, my goal of gaining control of the domain is still being thwarted. But I will prevail!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

This blog's domain name has changed

You may not have noticed, but I've started using Blogger's new Custom Domain option to host TheDailyUpload.

The old URL of this blog was OR You could use either the www or not, as you saw fit.

Both of those URL's still send you here, because Google is redirecting them to my new address.

I've been using TheDailyUpload for over two years, but I never actually bought the domain. So I thought I should So, I went out and bought the domain name

Then I switched my publishing options on Blogger from using their "blogspot" servers, to using their Custom Domain option, a new option on "The New Blogger."

Now the domain name of this blog is No more "blogspot" in the title.

But I've discovered there's a problem. If someone just types in (without the "www") they get a "404 - The page you're looking for can't be found" error.

This is driving me crazy because, well, I'm the type of person that goes crazy over stuff like this. But it's also causing problems for some of you, because several have written me to ask what happened to my blog.

I'm working on finding a solution, and I'm sure there is one out there. But in the meantime, if you're typing in the address, use and things should be OK.

If you have any suggestions on what I should do, please let me know. I need some help on this.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

An amazing sight at the centre of Antarctica

The team of adventurers I've written about here over the last couple of months has arrived at their destination - the POI (Pole of Inaccessibility), at the geographic centre of Antarctica.

And what a story! They arrived to find a bust of Lenin standing guard on the spot, a statue left behind by departing Russian scientists in 1958. Since then, no one had seen it, yet it stood tall waiting for them after all these years.

The group has posted some remarkable pictures and a complete account of their last hectic push to their destination. It's worth a read, if you haven't been following it live on-line.

Their hard-won victory isn't the end of their adventures, however. Because of the high cost of aviation fuel, the group intend to continue their trek back towards the coastline until their supplies run out. Then they'll be picked up by an aircraft and taken to another Soviet base on the coast, from where they'll head back to Cape Town, South Africa.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday fun for Jan 19, 2007

Today's topic is laughter. We're going to look at it from a couple of directions.

First up is a video that proves the old adage that laughter is contagious. I'm not going to say much about this video. But I guarantee that you'll be laughing your lungs out during it. If you don't - well, I don't believe you.

You can watch the video below or click on this link to see it on YouTube.

"A smile is just a smile..."

My second item has a bit more scientific basis. While it won't make you laugh out loud, it might make you smile. Or at least, make you think about other people smiling.

Courtesy of the BBC website, I invite you to take this simple test to see whether you can figure out the difference between a fake smile and a real one.

Why do I want you to do that? Well...take the test and then let me know in the comments why you think I've added it here.

Here's the link to the test.

I want this guy to paint my building

If you've got an extra building in your portfolio, or if you live next door to a blank wall, you should consider hiring this chap to spruce things up a bit.

Check it out for yourself.

He's so good, I suspect his paintings might be ruled illegal because people keep walking into the walls.

Have a good weekend.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How secure are your passwords?

If you're like me, you've got a lot of different passwords in your life. Keeping track of them all is difficult, and I'm always worried about whether I'm using passwords that are easy to steal.

Creating passwords that are hard (or impossible) to crack is not a problem. Here's a site that will create a random string of characters that I guarantee no hacker will ever guess.

But the reality is that most of us tend to use passwords we can remember. Like house123 or work246 or our birthdate or wedding date, or a mixture of things we can remember.

The problem is that if we can make sense of the password, some bad guys might be able to as well. But what the heck, is it really that important?

In a word, yes. You don't want anyone to get access to your secret stuff, like financial records, bank accounts, etc.

But as it turns out, no matter how good your password creation abilities are, there are programs out there that will likely figure out how to break in, if they can actually get access to your computers' hard-drive (either by loading a program on your har drive via a virus, or stealing it.) had an article called "How secure is your password" recently that looked at this issue. Here's an excerpt:
What's happening is that the Windows operating system's memory management leaves data all over the place in the normal course of operations. You'll type your password into a program, and it gets stored in memory somewhere. Windows swaps the page out to disk, and it becomes the tail end of some file. It gets moved to some far out portion of your hard drive, and there it'll sit forever. Linux and Mac OS aren't any better in this regard.

Hmmm...seems like all the more reason to start using some best practices when it comes to computer security. So I went looking for some advice. Here are a few articles that I found that are good resources for creating and using passwords.

- Password - A backgrounder from Wikipedia.

- Rate your password strength - A site that evaluates how secure your password is. But don't use your actual password. Just one that approximates it - you never know for sure who's on the other end of that computer link.

- Ultra High Security Password Generator - This is Steve Gibson's password generator page. If you're looking to get a secure password, this is the place to come. He's also got some good info on what we mean by a randomly-generated password string.

- Cyber-Security: Creating a Secure Password from The Washington Post.

- Strong passwords how to create and use them - This is a good primer from Microsoft.

- The Simplest Security: A Guide To Better Password Practices - This lengthy article contains some good information, along with some excellent references at the end. It's been around a while, but the information is still good.

Hope all this helps you secure your favourite stuff.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

More on global warming from Antarctica

I told you awhile ago about a group of guys who are determined to ski to the Pole of Inaccessibility, which is the true South Pole. I've been getting regular email updates of their progress, which they are filing almost every day.

If you haven't been following their daily posts, they're moving right along, more or less on schedule. They're now on Day 41, they've gone 1,350 km and they've got another 357 km to go.

In their latest post, they're stuck again, since the wind that they depend on to fill their kites (that pull them and their sleds along) isn't cooperating. So they've put together a list of 10 reasons why they think global warming is a reality. Coming from some people who are currently in one of the most remote areas of the world, it's an interesting list, given how plugged in they are to what's going on around them.

They even mention the weather here in Victoria! (Although they say we're in Eastern Canada, not the West Coast).

Here are the top four reasons:

1. It is 36°C in our tent and -25°C outside. That proves there is NO Ozone layer down here. Piz Buin need to set up stalls all over the place.

2. For the first time ever in Paul's mothers life there has been no snow in Ottawa. She is 78 years old and says it is so warm she feels like she should be planting her garden.

3. Victor Serov from ALCI (our logistics support out here) had no snow for Christmas at his cabin north of St Petersberg. Another first.

4. Sydney recorded its coldest winter on record.

Check out the post to see the entire list.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday fun for Jan 12, 2007

I've always admired people who have the courage of their convictions - perhaps because I sometimes doubt my own resolve in that regard.

Today, I thought I'd point you to two video documentaries on artists who live their lives and create their art based on their own convictions.

I think you'll enjoy these, and I've also included links to other websites where you can find more information, if you want it. (By the way, I found both of these sites using my latest friend, StumbleUpon. It gives you more than just the latest exploding Coke bottle stuff.)

Have a great weekend.

POPaganda - The Art and Subversion of Ron English

Here's an excerpt about Ron English, from Wikipedia:
Ron English is a contemporary pop artist who explores popular brand imagery and advertising.

One aspect of his work involves 'liberating' commercial billboards with his own messages. Frequent targets of his work include Joe Camel, McDonalds, and Mickey Mouse. Ron English can be considered the "celebrated prankster father of agit-pop", who wrangles carefully created corporate iconographies so that they are turned upside down, and are used against the very corporation they are meant to represent. Ron English has also painted several album covers including The Dandy Warhols album cover "Welcome to the Monkey House". Some of his paintings are also used in Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me

The video I've linked to is an excerpt from a longer documentary that you can buy on DVD through English's website, at

Watch the video below, or click here to see it on Google Video.

Bob Brozman - guitarist, anarchist, anthropologist

My second video clip features Bob Brozman, who has been travelling the world for 30 years, spreading his own unique vision through his amazing blues guitar tunes. This lengthy (23 minutes!) documentary features interviews with the artist as well as excerpts from some of his concerts.

If you like what you see, visit his website for more info and links to his music, etc.

Here's an excerpt from the website:
Bob Brozman is a guitarist like no other: an established and prolific recording artist, performer, producer, and author, Bob is a non-stop world traveler and tireless researcher in ethnomusicology. His work with musicians from around the world in the past several years has marked him as not only a virtuoso musician and slide guitarist, but also as a pioneer in finding a common thread among global musical cultures.

Watch the video clip below, or click here to see it on YouTube:

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Snowbound again -- and thinking about climate change

Let's get one thing straight. I'm not complaining about the snow or the cold out here in Victoria this year. (The photo credit for the picture goes to Debra Brash, Times Colonist)

For someone raised on the Prairies, who spent a decade dealing with the miserable winters in southern Ontario, I'm totally fine with the odd snowstorm, windstorm and torrential downpour, just so long as I can keep walking the dogs without any gloves.

But I've got to admit, the difference from "normal" this year in the weather in this area is striking. It makes you wonder whether there is something larger going on, as so many people are becoming convinced of.

What seems clear enough is that our new "normal" is made up of varying levels of "extremes." Average out enough extreme events and you end up with "normal" but there's a big difference in how they feel while you're living through them, isn't there?

Here in Victoria, we had a significant dump of snow on Wednesday. It was enough to cause chaos on the roads for awhile. But more significantly, the temperature then dropped dramatically, with the result that the white stuff will stick around for a few more days, turning to ice that makes driving and walking difficult, especially since we don't own any gloves out here. Fortunately, I do have some long pants, so I'll survive.

The arrival of yet another storm spurred me to dig a little further into the question of climate change. Is it real? Are we in the middle of it? Or the end...or what?

It turned into an interesting exercise, so I thought I'd share a few of the resources I found, so you can visit them if you're interested.

As usual, I started with Wikipedia, one of my favourite sites. I still marvel at how this web-based encyclopedia, filled with user-generated content, always has something that I'm looking for. I found a fascinating treatise on the issue. It's a very long, detailed and thorough look at most of the factors involved in the question.

I also found a special website on climate change put together by the BBC.

It's broken down into 5 areas, Evidence, Impacts, Adaptation, Policies and Links & Chats. If you've never visited the BBC site, this is a good introduction. They've got a lot of very interesting features.

A few other sites of interest if you'd like more information on climate change:

The New Scientist - Special report on Climate Change.

Canadian Government view.

US government view

European Union view.

And finally, just so you don't despair that there is no hope for improvement, check out this view of climate change, from Victoria-based cartoonist Ole Heggen. The four cartoons were on the EkosTV blog.

That's a lot of information, which is one of the joys and frustrations of our information age. But wading through it is fun and interesting, especially if you're snowed in. And of course, so long as the power doesn't go off.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The IPhone is here!

I don't think you have to be an Apple fanboy to appreciate the new Iphone that Steve Jobs announced Tuesday at MacWorld. But it doesn't hurt, does it? Just look at the thing...

Heck, even Matthew Ingram (not the biggest Apple fan in the world) wants one.

I'm in the market for a new phone and I've been thinking about getting a smart phone, like my wife's Treo. But I decided to hold off, just in case all the hype about the new Apple phone turned out to be true.

Now it looks like waiting was a good idea. If you haven't seen this new wonder, or want to know a bit more about it, check out the details on the Apple site.

Or you can follow some of the action in the blogosphere, using Technorati. Here's the results of a search for the Iphone tag in blog posts. But be prepared...the count right now is 2788 posts in English (and rising every minute, it seems.)

The world seems impressed, so far. The stock market gave Apple's shares a big boost, while punishing other cell phone makers, who are expected to be forced to redesign their current offerings just to catch up.

Apple has a history (as Steve Jobs told us in his keynote on Tuesday) of coming up with products that redefine an entire sector, like the original Mac and the Ipod. Looks like they might have done it again with this gadget.

One downer note about all this. It'll probably be months - or years - before we are able to get one in Canada. But hey, I'm not that far from Washington State...maybe I can just catch a ferry...

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Friday fun for Jan 5, 2007

Let's start off the new year by looking back into the past.

Today's fun segment is a bit different than the last few.

Rather than just sit back and laugh at a video (not that that isn't a lot of fun, mind you) I thought you might enjoy cruising through The Internet Archive.

Perhaps you've heard of this place. It has the distinction, in my humble view, of having one of the most ambitious mission statements I've ever seen:
The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. Founded in 1996 and located in the Presidio of San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections.

If you've never visited, you should go and take a look around. It's a fascinating journey. The About page, where the above quote is from, is a great place to start, just to get a sense of what the place is all about.

Then scoot on over to the Home page and take a trip on TheWayBack Machine. This is one of the coolest features of the Internet Archives. There are now over 85 billion pages archived on the site, going back to 1996.

All you need to do is type in a URL of a site and you'll be given a list of all the pages they've got. It's a fascinating way to look back at how a site has evolved over the years, in both design and content. It's easy to spend quite a while loo through the history of some of your favourite places.

The site offers other archives besides web pages, including moving images, live music, audio and texts. They work in much the same manner, where you either browse randomly, or use specific search functions. Either way, you can spend a lot of time noodling around, so it's a great feature for a lazy Friday afternoon or a weekend.

And finally, head over to the Forums, for some really groovy action. One of the most lively areas is the Grateful Dead forum, where you can imagine what the action centres on. Plus, you'll find all kinds of other little gems, like one of my favourites, The Conet Project - Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations.

See? There's something for everyone in The Internet Archive.

Have fun.

Oh...just one more thing (since MacWorld is coming next week.) It wouldn't be Friday without a guitar video, would it?

Have a great weekend.

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On approaching "that certain age"

We've now entered 2007, which means that at some point not that far away, I'll be crossing over the dividing line of my expected life span (since I plan to live to be 100!)

Perhaps that's why I'm noticing things these days, like how my clothes seem to have shrunk over the holidays, and how I seem to make this "grunting" sound when I stand up, and if I kneel down to tie up my shoe, I need both hands just to get back up again.

Yeah, I think I'm getting older. Of course, the white hair gave it away a long time ago anyway -- but at least there's a lot of it.

Apparently, I'm not the only one picking up on this ageing thing. Since we boomers (I'm at the lower end of that cycle) are now approaching our "sunset" years, we're going to have a significant effect on everything around us, just as happened during every other significant stage in our lives. The magic of demographics say it must be so.

But as getting older becomes a focus for me, I find myself wondering why we age so differently? Why do some of us go gracefully into our later years, while others begin to have all kinds of trouble? Why do some people seem to lose more of their mental abilities than others? And what makes some folks live so long, compared to their peers?

Today, I came across an interesting article in the New York Times that picks up on a few of these questions. It's called A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School.

It's thesis is simple. The more education people have, the longer their expected life span. It's a controversial theory, but this lengthy article gives a fascinating look into a lot of the factors that affect old age and there appears to be a real link to the education factor.
The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.

Year after year, in study after study, says Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, education “keeps coming up.”

And, health economists say, those factors that are popularly believed to be crucial — money and health insurance, for example, pale in comparison.

I don't know whether that's a comfort for me or not. I did get a lot of education - or at least, I spent a lot of time at school. I sure hope that counts for something.

I'm not much for making predictions, but I'm pretty confident that we're going to be reading a lot more stories in this topic area in the months and years ahead.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stanley Park windstorm damage is impressive

My brother-in-law in Vancouver (thanks Darryl!) just sent me this link to a Flickr site with a series of pictures from the December 15th windstorm that hammered Vancouver last month. It was just one of a series of storms that blew through in a week and caused extensive damage across southern BC.

This photoset was posted by .lux (don't know his real name) and he wrote this as a preface:
(The) Most dramatic photos are of Prospect Point (pictured above).
Photos taken 17 Dec - 2 days after storm, and as bad as the mess looks in some of the photos, much of the debris had already been chainsawed and removed. Must have looked considerably worse earlier.

I know a lot of you reading this don't live near the coast and you may have wondered what all the fuss was about a few trees getting blown down in a park. But as the pictures make clear, the damage was extensive, and given Stanley Park's intimate relationship with Vancouver, the city and its residents will be a long time getting over what's happened.

On a more personal note, I hope all of you had a good holiday season and that you're ready for whatever comes your way this year. I'm looking forward to it.

Happy New Year!