Sharing City of Ottawa Garbage Calendars with Recollect.Net

The City of Ottawa’s Garbage Collection Calenders are now powered by Recollect, allowing you get your collection calendar in iCal, Google Calendars or as reminders on Twitter or by Text Messaging.

To get your calendars, visit the City’s website here:  http://ottawa.ca/en/garbage_recycle/garbage/collection_calendar/index.html

This is a great new feature being offered to the residents of Ottawa.  Various online services have popped up over the past few years, including my own ICS files project, and services like ottawatrash.ca.  This is a service that should always have been offered by the city, and I’m happy to see them partner up with a reputable Canadian firm Recollect, who have had great success in Vancouver.

 

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City of Ottawa 2012 Garbage Collection Calendar: iCalendar Files Released

The 2012 (June to October) Garbage Collection Calendar iCal files are ready for download!

As my contribution to 2010′s Open Data Ottawa Hackfest, I converted the City of Ottawa’s Garbage Collection Calendar into a open format (iCalendar) so that the schedule could be used for purposes like being imported into your favourite calendaring application such as MS Outlook, Google Calendar, or even your smartphone.

This year is different than the past few.  The city has only released the schedule for June to October. Starting in November, garbage collection will be done every two weeks.  They will release an updated calendar (and I will update the ICS files) closer to that date.

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Google as a BBS

Some of you may know that in the early 90s, before I was introduced to “The Internet”, I ran a Bulletin Board System (BBS) in Ottawa called SMH Online. These systems were text-based (or ASCII art!) services that you would dial into to send mail, download files, play games, etc.

Fast forward to 2012. The minds at mass:werk media environments in Austria thought it would be funny to develop a BBS-inspired interface for the Google search engine. It’s hilarious, and fully functional! (make sure you have your computer speakers turned on)

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Recommended Reading from UXCamp Ottawa 2011

UXCamp Ottawa is “a one-day conference focusing on the topic of user experience”.  It was held in on the University of Ottawa campus on November 5th, 2011.

During the sessions, several of the speakers and participants recommended books on the topic they were speaking about.   Here are the ones that I noted:

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore
Here is the bestselling guide that created a new game plan for marketing in high-tech industries. Crossing the Chasm has become the bible for brining cutting-edge products to progressively larger markets. This revised and updated edition provides new insights into the realities of high-tech marketing, with special emphasis on the Internet. It’s essential reading for anyone with a stake in the world’s most exciting marketplace.
 
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink
Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Daniel H. Pink says in, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, his provocative and persuasive new book. The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. (from danpink.com)
 
Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug
This book was recommended reading for anyone looking at getting into usability testing
 
Remote Research: Real Users, Real Time, Real Research By Nate Bolt & Tony Tulathimutte
Remote studies allow you to recruit subjects quickly, cheaply, and immediately, and give you the opportunity to observe users as they behave naturally in their own environment. In Remote Research, Nate Bolt and Tony Tulathimutte teach you how to design and conduct remote research studies, top to bottom, with little more than a phone and a laptop. (from rosenfeldmedia.com)
 

If you have any other additions to this list, comment below.

eBooks: A Price Comparison Test

Yesterday, Google opened the Google eBookstore to Canadians.   I already have the Amazon Kindle application and the Apple iBooks application installed on my iPad.  Do I really need to start another eBook library?

I thought I’d do a quick price comparison, to see if there was an advantage to using one store over the other, and here’s what I found.

Book Title Amazon Price Apple Price Google Price
Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds by Arlene Dickinson  $ 16.96  $ 14.99  $ 14.99
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson  $ 20.72  $ 17.99  $ 17.99
The Litigators by John Grisham  $ 13.49  N/A  $ 13.49
The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks  $ 12.99  $ 12.99  $ 12.99

So a quick look at four book titles would seem to show that prices are quite similar on the three eBook stores in question, although Amazon can be  a little higher.

SOLUTION: Moving NeatWorks NeatReceipts data directory

I recently purchased a new computer with a solid-state hard drive as the operating system/applications drive.   It isn’t a great idea to store your data on these drives, so with each application install, I make sure that it stores its data to my secondary (SATA) hard drive.  When I got to configuring my NeatWorks NeatReceipts scanner software, it turns out there is no way to change the default data directory through the application’s preferences.  (Rumours have it that version 5 of the NeatWorks will allow this).

I’ve found a workaround to this problem.  You can create a directory junction (type of symbolic link) in Windows that will make the Neat software look in its default location (C:\ProgramData\The Neat Company\NeatWorks) but access files in a new location.  Please note that this fix will only work on Windows Vista, Windows 2008, or Windows 7 and newer. Older version of the operating system did not include this functionality.

To set this up:

  1. Move your NeatWorks data folder to it’s new location (for this example, I’m moving ito to D:\NeatWorks)
  2. Go to your command prompt (Start Button, Run…, “cmd”)
  3. Change Directories to The Neat Company folder:

    cd "C:\ProgramData\The Neat Company"

  4. Create the symbolic link to your new data location:

    mklink /J "NeatWorks" "D:\NeatWorks"

Start NeatWorks and you should see all your data.

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Bell Sympatico SMTP Server modifies outgoing e-mail headers

Just discovered what looks like a change to Bell Sympatico‘s outgoing e-mail servers. 

My parents both use their own domain name’s for their e-mail.  Their internet connection is with Sympatico, which forces them to use Sympatico’s authenticated SMTP server for their outgoing mail.  This type of setup is common (in fact, probably the standard now) with service providers, and has worked fine for a long time.  

Last week, out of the blue, all messages being sent out from either of their computers started showing up as being from <theirnamehere>@sympatico.ca instead of <username>@<theirdomain>.com and the from name (which gets displayed in the recipient’s e-mail client) is getting changed to the name that is on the account with Sympatico.  The subsequent problem to this is that if an e-mail client ignores the reply-to header, replies go back to the @sympatico.ca address, which they don’t use.

This is the second time I’ve seen Sympatico change their outgoing SMTP.  The first time, and I can’t remember when it started, outgoing e-mail had an On Behalf Of header attached to it with the @sympatico.ca e-mail address.  

Obviously the ISP is trying really hard to prevent abuse of their e-mail network.  But have they gone too far?

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UX Tip Of The Day: How Not To Disable Menu Items (Boston Pizza)

Every once and a while you come across a functionality on a website that was meant to help, but just really poorly implemented. Tonight I found one of those while attempting to order my dinner.

I was clicking through their online ordering menu deciding what I felt like eating. I was thinking a pizza would sound good. The problem was that every time I clicked on the “gourmet pizzas” category in the left-hand navigation menu, I would get the menu page for “Salads and more”.

When I called the store, it turns out that the breaker on their pizza ovens was blown, and they are unable to make pizzas right now. Because of this, they had disabled option on the website. Aha! Everything made sense.

This was a bad user experience during the ordering process.

It would have been much better to link the “Gourmet Pizzas” menu to a notice page telling the user that they were unable to make pizzas this evening, and apologizing for the inconvenience.

NOTE: Removing the link from the menu would have been a bad choice, and it would leave the user just as confused. “Where’d the pizzas go?!”

O Canada!

Last night’s performance of O Canada during the first game of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals was a great performance. Love that the singer lets the crowd carry the anthem for a while.

Go Canucks Go!

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