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April 22, 2007

Marge Simpson discovers Google

Filed under: google — Rakesh Agrawal @ 11:35 pm

Google made a guest appearance on The Simpsons this Sunday night, with Marge discovering the joys of the Internet.

“All this time I thought Googling yourself meant the other thing.”

The Springfield search engine’s results are a bit lighter and quite different from my version of Google. Marge found 629,000 results for “Marge Simpson” vs. 1.6 million when I did the search. Marge also didn’t get the images layer.

Her satellite view in Google Maps is also real-time. I’d be thrilled if the satellite view of my place wasn’t four years old. I’ve been living there for more than three years and it still shows the building under construction.

Classic line from Lisa: “I’m proud of you mom. You’re like Christopher Columbus, you discovered something millions of people knew about before you.”

More on Google.

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Earth Day and assholes

Filed under: environment — Rakesh Agrawal @ 11:22 am

Earth DaySome assholes in California are stealing the HOV stickers off hybrid cars, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The stickers allow solo drivers to use the HOV lanes if they’re driving in a clean-fuel vehicle. The California DMV recently stopped giving out stickers with newer hybrids and is reporting two to three dozen requests a month for replacement stickers.

Someone put an offering on eBay in February seeking $10,000 for an extra set of carpool stickers sent mistakenly by the DMV (there were no takers and the ad was removed).

USA Today reported earlier that in the used car market, hybrids with the HOV stickers were selling for $4,000 more (based on a Kelley Blue Book sampling of 30 cars) than those without. The stickers are valid until 2011, making the cost of less stressful commuting $1,000 a year. (Or roughly 11 tickets for carpool lane violations.)

Virginia Clean Fuel plate

Virginia uses special clean fuel license plates. It’s a little bit more noticeable if you’re stealing someones plates. HOV lane benefits for clean fuel are being phased out here.

via Engadget and Fark

De-cluttering the planet one bill at a time

Filed under: environment — Rakesh Agrawal @ 10:45 am

Earth DayI came back from my travels facing a stack of bills in my mailbox. I’ve been paying bills online for years now; with most major billers, this means that there’s no paper flowing back the other way.

The major credit card companies and utilities now offer online bills. Some banks (especially online only banks) either don’t offer paper statements or charge $3-$5 per month for a paper statement. I’ve already signed up for online statements from a number of billers.

This Earth Day, I’m working to reduce that even further by switching as many bills as I can to electronic.

The execution of online bills varies dramatically from company to company.

  • American Express has the best online account tools. Statements are available for the last six months. Older statements can be requested going back to 1994 and become online within a few days. The statements are available as PDFs and look pretty much like the paper bills.
  • Bank of America offers a choice of PDF or text statements. Go with the PDF.
  • Chase offers up to six years of statements online — if you turn off paper statements. Otherwise, you get up to six months. Statements are also in PDF format.
  • Citi has the worst online statements. The online statements don’t include all of the information that paper bills have and aren’t in an easily savable format. I’m sticking with paper statements until they improve.

You can also choose to get reminders a few days before your bill is due.

The biggest problem with online statements is that they don’t come to you. Because email is an insecure medium, you only get an email that there is a statement available to review online. You then have to go to the Web site to review the statement. This is a significant obstacle and inconvenience for many people. This is made even harder with the increasing “security” measures used by bank sites. (More on that later.)

It amazes me that 15 years after I started using email, it’s less secure than paper mail. It should be possible to get secure, tamper-proof, phish-proof email that includes sensitive personal information. I should be able to get the PDF emailed to me.

As much concentration as there is in the email business, the big email providers can make this happen. They just need to decide to work together to hammer out a system that works and dramatically improves email for all instead of focusing their efforts on marginal improvements to their individual products.

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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