My 10 Favourite iPhone4 Apps

Google Search

Why? Because it makes it easy to search Google Images, Google News, Google Places etc and tells you if you have unread Gmail

AutoStitch Panorama

Why? Because you can stitch up to 16 photos together to make a giant panorama

DropBox

Why? Because you can store documents in your DropBox.com account and store them on your iPhone offline

TeamViewer

Why? Because you can take control of your computer at home (or anyone’s for that matter) from your iPhone

JotNot Scanner Pro

Why? Because it enables you to take photos of receipts, crop them, convert them to B&W and upload them to DropBox or Email. A paperless office.

IMDB

Why? Movie ratings, movie trailers, actor’s details, all at your fingertips

TED

Why? Because these 5-10 minute videos about Technology, Entertainment, and Design are inspirational and completely free

Kindle

Why? Because Amazon’s Kindle books are cheap and you can read them on your iPhone

Flight Control

Why? What would it be like to be an air traffic controller for a day? This cool game is as close as you’ll get

Zynga Poker

Why? Because you like Texas Hold’em and they give you $100,000 play money to start with

 

 

I Convinced A Guy To Turn Himself Into Police After A Hit And Run

This one time I was driving towards town in a 70kph zone one sunny morning. I was just rounding a gradual right hand bend when a beat-up red car coming from the other direction crossed over the centre line. It smashed into the rear right hand side door of a small grey/blue car travelling in my lane, which was ahead of me by about 30m at the time. Bits of glass from the lights and a part of the bumper of the red car fell off and scattered across the road.

The grey/blue car came to a stop in the middle of the lane, as did I, but the collision barely slowed the red car down, in fact, it crossed back to it’s side of the road and sped off!

I couldn’t believe it! The driver didn’t even stop to check if the other driver was ok!

Because the collision wasn’t too severe (a head on would have been quite bad) I decided to abandon the victim too. I wasn’t going to let this guy get away with a hit and run so I spun the car around and went after him.

He turned off several times into side streets trying to shake me. But his car was a piece of junk and one wheel was jambed up against a crumpled wheel well so it certainly wasn’t a high speed pursuit. I was beeping my horn and flashing my lights to let him know I wasn’t going anywhere. We ended up in a very quiet suburb when he finally pulled over.

I didn’t have a cellphone on me so I suddenly felt very alone.

I got out, as did he, and we talked. He told me he’d been at a party all night, had been drinking heavily and had only had a few hours sleep before deciding to drive home this morning. He had fallen asleep at the wheel when he had hit the other car. And one point he said “if it wasn’t for you, I’d be long gone by now”. Which worried me.

And I told him that his only option was to go and hand himself in to the police station near by and I wasn’t leaving until I witnessed him do exactly that. I assured him that the police would go easy on him because he had taken responsibility for his actions.

After about an hour of talking (including some very long silences), he finally agreed. We got into our cars, and as bits of tire and more bumper fell off his car, we drove another 4km to the nearest police station. He parked outside it and I parked further away and watched him go inside before I drove straight home.

When I got home I looked up the phone number for that police station and called. I asked “Did ‘John Smith’ just hand himself in?” After a short pause the officer said “yes” and I immediately hung up, satisfied.

And that’s the end of the story. The police didn’t trace my phone call and give me an award, the guy didn’t hunt me down and beat me up, and I didn’t try and find out what happened to him.

I’ll do the same thing all over again if I get the chance, because it’s the right thing to do.

Does Google Hate Me? Has Google Banned My IP Address? Why Is Gmail Blocked From My Computer?

This one time I couldn’t access the Google products that I use all day, every day:

  • Gmail
    • I have 14 email addresses piped into my Gmail account
  • Google Search
    • This is the bedrock of my existence!
  • Google Analytics
    • I look after 40+ websites and couldn’t access any data
  • Google Docs
  • Google Adwords
  • Google Adsense
  • Picasa Web Albums
  • Google Maps
  • YouTube

It all started 2 weeks ago when I got a static IP address from Telecom (for free as part of the 40GB Total Home package).  Almost immediately I noticed that I couldn’t access YouTube, but this didn’t ring alarm bells because I thought it was just a bug or they had high traffic at that moment. But when I couldn’t access my Gmail account a week later, that’s when I got really worried.  And then when I noticed I couldn’t access anything else owned by Google I spotted the pattern.

I couldn’t access any of these Google services but other websites in NZ and overseas worked fine.

It was so bad that if I visited a website that used Google Maps, I couldn’t see the map but I could see the rest of the website.

I couldn’t run my business. Email is my core function. It is how I communicate.

I was cut off.

Alone.

🙁

I tried clearing browser cache, tried 3 different browsers: Firefox, IE, Chrome. All with no improvement.

After 3 days of waiting for the problem to disappear on it’s own, I conducted a few Google searches via my iPhone (I turned off WiFi so I was using Vodafone 3G) and I began to suspect that my static IP address was the problem.

After a 60 minute phonecall with Telecom (on a Sunday) with 3 different people (2 in Malaysia + 1 New Zealander) who all suggested clearing the cache and trying different browsers, the last one agreed that a black-listed static IP address was probably the problem. He told me to go to www.telecom.co.nz/staticip to request a new one. I did so.

12 hours later I got an email regarding the request that asked “have you tried a different browser?”.

… *cough*

aaarrrrghhhhh!!!!

Yes, that made me furious.

But I held my temper and simply replied “yes, of course I have. Please change my static IP address immediately.”

4 more hours later, it was done. I was assigned a new IP address and all Google’s services are available to me again, hooray!

Why did Google block my IP address in the first place?

Perhaps the computer assigned my first IP address was used for automated Google searches or spamming and was black listed by Google? Perhaps my computer is infected with Malware and automated searches were being conducted without me being aware of it? I don’t know.

Will Google block my IP address again?

I bloody hope not. But if it does, I know what to do next: I’ll go to http://www.telecom.co.nz/staticip and request yet another one.

What have I learned from this?

This experience has reminded me just how dependent I am, and my business is, on Google’s free products/services.

Perhaps I should purchase a single Google share (about US$520 each at the moment), so at least I can justify my sense of entitlement.

Evidence That Natural Selection Doesn’t Work: Rabbits Bums

Here in New Zealand we have 2 kinds of rabbits: Domestic pet rabbits (that are often white and fluffy) and wild brown rabbits.

When you see a NZ wild brown rabbit running away from you, you will notice a flash of white with every bound they take.

No, it’s not a camera with a flash strapped to their behinds, it’s because their bum hair is bright white (in sharp contrast to my Uncle Bruce).

Surely this flash would make it easier for natural predators to kill them, such as Hawks and Leopards?

We all know that rabbits “breed like rabbits”, well maybe God made their bums white as a form of population control?

If that’s true, then why haven’t rabbits with white bums been all killed off and the ones with brown bums taken over?

There are 2 possiblities:

  1. Either natural selection is bullocks
  2. Or there are so few predators in NZ that the rabbits have no incentive to change (in fact, we have just 1 species of hawk and they are very small, and we sadly, have no leopards)

What do you reckon?

Invention: Car Trains – Retrofit Your Car To Become Car Train Capable

When you are out driving between cities do you see lots of other people going in the same direction?

Of course you do!

What a waste of fuel.

And because of the following distance we must maintain for safety reasons, think of all that momentum being wasted with fighting air resistance.

I don’t want to share a car with a stranger, but is there a way we can stay in our own cars but still benefit from fuel savings?

Yes.

Introducing the “Car Train”.

How to make your car “Car Train” capable

The Car Train kit consists of:

  1. Electromagnets for the front and back of your car
  2. An iPhone (and a dashboard mount to hold it)
  3. The iPhone application “Car Train” (warning: not invented yet)
  4. Hardware which provides control of brakes and accelerator to the Car Train software

How “Car-Train” works on the open road

  1. Find someone  going a similar speed, in the same direction and click the “Create Car Train” button to announce your intention to link cars
  2. The software finds cars to connect with, and then the computer will manoeuvre the cars so they can connect by electro-magnet
  3. The front car is always the primary car. Once the cars are connected, the primary car takes over the brakes and accelerator of the other cars
  4. If a car in the “car-train” has a turn-off approaching they punch a button to disconnect from the car train

I’m no engineer, but I’m pretty sure this will work.

What do you think? Can you spot any holes in this system? Do have ideas of how to make it better?

Write your ideas in the comments below.

What a car train might look like

When Celebrating A Lucrative Investment I Accidentally Spent Double The Profit

This one time my best mate Scott Newton and I spotted a fantastic Term Deposit rate at the bank.

  • Interest rate: 6%
  • Minimum investment: $600
  • Term: 6 months
  • = Profit: $36!

We could not resist!

We were poor high school students at the time but we scrounged the cash together and we each made our deposits.

We were so proud of ourselves and our sound financial decision making, that we celebrated by spending our $36 profit immediately.

We both bought some clothes and a nice lunch.

6 lean months later we were dismayed to find only $618 back in our accounts!

“Only $18 profit? Surely the bank has made a mistake?! We spent twice that amount to celebrate!” we cried.

But then we realised the error in our calculation. We had forgotten to divide the profit by 2 because of the interest rate being annual, and the term being only 6 months. Oops.

This was a harsh lesson for Scott and he somewhat overcompensated for the mistake by becoming an Accountant and now a Chief Financial Officer.

I Raided Rubbish Bins For Aluminium Cans Because The Comalco Cash-for-Cans Was So Lucrative

This one time my best mate Scott Newton and I raided all the rubbish bins within a 4 block radius of a “Camalco Cash-For-Cans” machine.

The year was 1988 and this “Camalco Cash-For-Cans” vending machine stood outside the BP station at 1275 Amohau Street, Rotorua (the BP station is no longer there).

The principle was simple. You placed a aluminium can into the slot, closed the door, listened to the crushing noice, and then the prize wheel would spin just like on a pokkie’s machine in a Casino.

You could either win:

  1. Nothing
  2. A can of Coke
  3. A Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar
  4. Or a small bag of plain Bluebird chips

But the thing is, we were winning something every 4 cans!

No wonder the machine was in place for only a few months – they must have been losing money hand over fist.

That’s why we spent most of our weekends fishing coke cans and beer cans out of rubbish bins and dumpsters behind bars.

Yes we got dirty, yes we got old beer on our shoes, but we ate like kings!

I Had A Plan To Make Loads Of Cash By Recycling Car Batteries

This one time I left my car door open overnight and the battery went flat. When the AA came and started it for me in the morning he told me my battery was old and needed replacing that day.

The previous year I had taken an old car battery to the metal recylers I knew that they were worth about $5 each, and just a week previous I had noticed a really big old car battery under the house left here by the previous owner.

I went to the dump the next day, and what do you know, there were 2 more car batteries sitting right beside the pit!  So I put them in the car and took them home (one leaked a bit of acid and burnt a whole in the concrete in my garage).

I now had 4 batteries – about $20 worth!

With a smug look on my face, I drove to work the next day with the batteries in the back of the car, and took them in during my lunch break.

How much did I get?

$8.

Not $8 each. $8 total!

Despite the increase in lead price over the last few years (driven by an increase in demand for motorbikes and cars  in China), the metal recyclers had decided to decrease their payout.

$20 is a decent bit of cash, but $8 was an insult for all the time and effort I had put into this project.

Next time, I will just bury my old car battery in the garden.

I Locked My Self In A Locker. It Was Unpleasant.

This one time I thought it would be fun if I climbed inside a locker at The Geyserland Hotel in Rotorua.

There was barely enough room for me. I basically had to contort to fit in there.

The locking mechanism was completely exposed, I was confident there would be no problem opening it once I got inside.

I crammed myself in there and closed the door, and peaked out through the tiny vent and felt very proud of myself.

After a few moments I decided I had enough and tried to turn the latch.

It wouldn’t budge!

To my dismay it became evident that it wouldn’t move without the key!

I started to panic.  It got hot in there very quickly and since I was half way between sitting and standing it was terribly uncomfortable.

I started yelling for help but no-one came.

I kept screaming until someone finally came running in.

It took him a while to find out where I was.

“In here! In here!” I was yelling.

“Where? Where?” he yelled back and I could see him running around the room.

He found my locker at last and tried the handle but it wouldn’t move.

“Where’s the key?” he asked.

“Here” I sobbed and tried to poke the key with it’s huge keyring through the tiny ventilation slots, but it wouldn’t fit.

“I’ll go and get a manager with a master key!”

“Hurry!” I yelled as he left.

Finally a manager came to let me out. I was drenched in sweat, shaking and whimpering, but I survived.

I’ve been mildly claustrophobic ever since.