Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

AT&T fail

My friends at AT&T must have been partying in the phone “office“ down the street and tripped over my wire, because our Internet was shut off for nine days.

After much troubleshooting with our ISP, I had disconnected all the interior wiring, everything down to the wire coming through the wall from the outside and the power pole. This means the fault was with outside wiring, which is your local telco’s responsibility (AT&T) to fix.

Stupidly, my ISP’s contract with Covad (which does all the interior installations and wiring service calls) requires Covad to send out a guy to any and all service calls, regardless of the fact that my ISP (Speakeasy) told them we’d isolated the problem to the outside wiring and tried to bypass the requirement.

So I had to wait many days, then the Covad guy (a retired AT&T guy, btw) comes out and tells me exactly what I already knew: that it’s AT&T’s problem. So I wasted a full day (took off work) waiting for the Covad guy, and the AT&T guy still needs to come the following day (Velma waited for him instead).

Needless to say, nine days after we reported the outage, the AT&T guy shows up and fixes it right away by going down to the "central office" and hooking up the unplugged wire.

All parties get a fail:

Speakeasy fails for having a stupid contract with Covad that allows Covad to push them around in such cases just so Covad won’t lose any service call fees. (Too bad, because I’ve really liked Speakeasy for many many years. Their phone support is generally way better than most.)

Covad fails for having such a stupid contract requirement with Speakeasy.

AT&T fails for causing the problem in the first place, not to mention giving people a service call window of 8am to 10pm. That’s just plain unprofessional.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Top 5+5

My Internet connection was down for almost nine days so I’m a bit behind in posting this Top 5. To make up for it, here’s an extra helping of interestingness, lols, and shenanigans.

TED Talks: Juan Enriquez shares mindboggling science
This is why I love science. “Even as mega-banks topple, Juan Enriquez says the big reboot is yet to come. But don’t look for it on your ballot — or in the stock exchange. It’ll come from science labs, and it promises keener bodies and minds. Our kids are going to be...different.”

Captain Kirk deals with a strange alien culture

Adam Carolla Project, Episode 1
I miss Adam.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at Barbican Centre, London
Very interesting art installation. Olya will like this one. I bet she’s never seen such musical birds before. [via Jason]

Time Traveling Geek

Dry ice bubble
Fun with science! [via Jason]

Tales Of Mere Existence, “God”

Dante’s Inferno
Amusing review: A scholar of medieval literature wonders if feminists wrote the video game Dante’s Inferno.

On the Media: Facing the (Free) Music
This was a really great OTM on the state of the music business (MP3 available): “For 10 years, music execs have waged a war against digital file sharing — and software like Napster and websites like The Pirate Bay — which have decimated the industry’s profits. But recently, there are signs from Europe that the battle over free music may be changing.” I haven’t mention it in a while, but this is one of my two favorite radio programs; I hate to miss an episode and often listen to them twice.

Top 10 funniest books according to the British
Abebooks asked their UK customers to name their favorites, and now I’m going to have to add some of these to my Wish List.

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most notable, interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thursday Top 5

7,000 death metal logos? That’s like 1,850,000 spikes!
Vice brings us a brief interview with Christophe Szpajdel, a designer who specializes in creating logos for death metal bands. He says he’s designed more than 7,000 of them in the last 20 years. I don’t know what’s more scary: that he made that many, or that there have been that many death metal bands.

Peter Callesen
Amazing paper sculpture. [via Jenny]

HP computers are racist
The face tracking feature of the HP web cam will not recognize or track black faces. Or, as Dezi (sp?) puts it in the video, “The HP webcam does not pick up negroes.”

MPG Stickers
Get good mileage? Get a custom MPG sticker for your vehicle. Our 1996 Honda Civic DX still gets better mileage than practically any other “modern” car you can buy today in America, including the so-called “fuel-efficient” ones. We love our Hondog.

A Troubling Story of SFPD Bias Against Bicycle Riders
“...As I tried to get information from three SFPD police officers on the scene of the crash, two of them showered me with unadulterated disdain for bicyclists and pedestrians. One officer said she thought bicyclists and pedestrians are always at fault in crashes and that they are stupid for not watching out for drivers. She was very upset with cyclists running red lights. She told me the bicyclist was at fault in this crash without any knowledge that a witness was saying the opposite...”

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most notable, interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Top 5

Russian goth wedding
[via OffBeatBride]

Free Social Network Icon Pack
Well-designed icons.

Laura Stec’s Cool Cuisine
Not sure if “How to chow an onion” is relevant to global warming, but it’s a good how-to for the cooking novices like me anyway.

In case you need to rent a robot.

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most notable, interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Thursday Top 5

Building Black Rock City
Dozens (hundreds? I don’t even know!) of volunteers and staff spend several weeks, in advance of Burning Man, turning a desert of nothingness into out a city that will grow to ~50,000 inhabitants (!!!) within the week before Labor Day. It’s an incredible feat in and of itself, and one that never ceases to simultaneously amaze me and make me well up with tears and an awesome sense of gratitude.

Holograms iPhone app makes your pictures appear 3D
Pretty inventive.

AT&T is a big, steaming pile of...
Consumer revolt via YouTube.

Simon’s Cat: TV Dinner

How Wings are Attached to the Backs of Angels
A very strange but lovely animation by Craig Welch.

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Top 5

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster and Vegan Rhino Cutlet recipes
Jason Henninger brings us some Hitchhiker’s-influenced science fiction cuisine.

Steampunk keyboard mod
Made by the Steampunk Workshop.

Eco-art and fashion
Amazing living fashion by artist Nicole Dextras. Many of her other interesting works can be seen on Flickr or her main site.

Walmart’s sustainability index assessed
Joel Makower’s sober assessment of Walmart’s much-talked-about new Sustainability Index indicates that it may be a good first step, but it leaves much work to be done. For example: “...they don't mention toxic materials used in manufacturing or in the products themselves. They don’t talk about the energy efficiency of products or their recyclability or other disposition at the end of their useful lives,” writes Makower. They also “don’t address most worker issues, like wages, health care, and the right to air grievances.” And while Walmart is asking all suppliers to answer the questionnaire, the Index at this point only assesses companies, not their individual products.

“Her Morning Elegance,” by Oren Lavie

The weekly Thursday Top 5 lists the five most interesting, funny, outrageous, cool, or simply strange things of the week. It is intended for distractionary purposes only. Do not take orally. If ingested, seek a doctor’s advice. If you like it, share it with others, or check out the long list of previous entries.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Thursday Top 5+2

Last night of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”
I haven’t watched Leno for years, and he was never my favorite, as I preferred the wacky ’80s and early ’90s era of Letterman, but Leno’s not bad at all. Last week was his final night on “The Tonight Show” before Conan takes over the reins in L.A., so I decided to watch it for history’s sake. They did about ten minutes of “Jaywalking,” the man-on-the street comedy segment where he just asks simple questions of normal, everyday Americans on the streets of L.A. (assuming there is such a thing in L.A., I suppose), such as “Who was the first president of the United States?”. This segment has always struck me as funny and excrutiatingly painful at the same time, as it shows just how terribly stupid Americans are. Worse yet, on this last show Jay tells us that they don’t even have to work hard to compile the funniest/dumbest moments after each outing. They only go out for about an hour, he says, they talk to a dozen or so people, and they use nine or so. That means over half the citizens of the republic are so retarded they can’t tell you which countries border on the U.S. or name any of the Founding Fathers. Oh, cry for our future! [43:29, 5 commercials]

First night of “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Meanwhile, across town at the Universal Studios lot, the finishing touches have been put on a new studio for Conan, who took over the reins from Leno the very next week. Andy Richter returns as the show announcer, Max Weinberg and the band now get to call themselves The Tonight Show Band, and Conan was in fine form for his first time hosting the legendary show that’s been around since 1954. Musical Guest was Pearl Jam. [43:31, 5 commmercials]

Schwarzenegger answers real people’s questions
The member communities of’s iReport and Digg Dialogg teamed up to interview CA Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger on May 27. In an unusual example of democracy, the Republican actor-turned-guv answers questions posed by and voted on by the Digg and iReport users. Showing a little more moxie than even the traditional press can sometimes muster, there were a few hard-charging queries, leading off with “Do you support same-sex marriage and do you think the GOP should become more gay-friendly?” Of course, there were some softies too, like “Does the term ‘Governator’ bother you?” All questions and video here [30:31 min].

BART swingers
Apparently a few weeks ago somebody surreptitiously installed swings on a BART train. And thus the fun did ensue. More pics...

New Yorker cover created on an iPhone
Artist Jorge Colombo painted the cover illustration using the Brushes app on his iPhone.

Beatles come to Rock Band
Apparently Microsoft has been able to make inroads where Apple hasn’t, since the two remaining Beatles and the widows of the other two members joined various tech and gaming notables to announce that the Beatles are coming to Rock Band this fall. The animation sequence at the beginning is cool enough to merit watching in HD, but the rest of the long presentation isn’t probably interesting to you unless you’re into gaming. I watched the whole thing, though, and as a non-gamer I’m always impressed at the continually-improving, nearly-cinematic quality of the visuals in today’s games. In fact, if you’re really into seeing where the entertainment and social media technology is going in the next few years, there are some pretty amazing things unveiled in the last 25 minutes or so; look for Steven Spielberg’s appearance to tip you off.

“We Didn’t Start the Flame War”
Warning: nsfw. Gotta hand it to the CollegeHumor folks, they nail the ridiculousness of the internets (including self-satire) in this one. [2:44 min]

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Google’s new Wave

Google has announced Wave, a pretty impressive new collaboration communication platform which comes in part from the inventors of Google Maps. Wave will be open source, with a bunch of APIs for developers to build off of right away (although Wave itself won’t launch to the public until later this year).

There will be plenty of analysis on the web, but I wanted to mention a few innovations that I predict are potentially game changing for certain segments of the tech community.

The video’s long, 1:20:11, so I’ve noted some prime spots to hit below.

One of the innovations seen in the demo will considerably improve chat, and I’m predicting we’ll see it engineered into other chat products like Yahoo! IM and AIM eventually. Wave allows you to see the real-time, character-by-character view of what the other person is typing, so you’re not spending half your conversation looking at a “So-And-So is typing...” message [see 10:10]. It allows your brain to start formulating responses before the other person has finished typing, more like a natural spoken conversation. Quite simply, this is going to revolutionize chat.

The app is written in HTML 5, so it’s going to be a while before we see all browsers catching up to this app. It also includes one functionality that isn’t even in the HTML 5 spec yet, but since it’s such a useful one, they’ve proposed adding it to the HTML 5 spec. It’s an easy drag and drop upload function that allows you to add documents to a conversation by simply dragging them from your desktop to the browser window [see 15:05]. I’m guessing the developer community will show considerable support for this capability, so the Google Wave team’s addition might make it into HTML 5.

Waves can be embedded into other services (they demoed with Google’s own products Blogger and Orkut), and one of the coolest things is that you can live-update a blog while people are watching, much like the character-by-character chatting [see 19:20 and 28:00 min]. This will enable live-bloging in a way that the term hasn’t really lived up to until now, and I think we’ll see a host of new live-publishing products spring from this.

The inline spellchecking is a new innovation too. Unlike most spellcheckers, which compare your words to a dictionary, Wave’s spellchecker compares your words and phrases to an index from the entire Web. The results, in the demo anyway, are impressive [see 44:00 min]. I think we can assume this technology will start showing up in other Google products pretty soon too.

Last but not least is a real-time language translator (already with 40 languages), which allows one to break down language barriers even during an live chat session, so you can be speaking/typing in one language, and your counterpart can be speaking/typing in another, and you’ll see each other’s words being translated on the fly, while they’re being typed [see 1:12:00].

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Top 5+3

Velma and I are going on a site visit to beautiful Sequioa National Park for a few days and I thought I’d be generous and post some extra distractions for those of you stuck behind desks while we’re backpacking through the redwoods. So here are three bonus links along with your normal five. Don’t say I never gave you nuthin’.

“Barney Miller” on Hulu
I loved this classic sitcom from the ’70s and ’80s, so I was pleased to see Hulu has added every episode. I’ve watched several so far, reliving my childhood with pre-adolescent glee. Plus the show had one of the all-time raddest theme songs (I can say “rad,” it was the ’80s!), and I found a free MP3 at Now I just need to find all the episodes of “Taxi” somewhere online.
Of course, I then spent half an hour looking up TV theme songs on this site. Best finds were the aforementioned Barney Miller, a semi-good quality version of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” TV theme, and the awesome “Streets of San Francisco” intro, which I’ve been wanting for years.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog’s Mac 101 series
I’ve been a Mac user for almost 25 years now (*whew*) so it’s not surprising that I’ve picked up a lot of power-user tips over the years. But even I learn something new once in a while. For PC-to-Mac switchers, novices, and even old timers, the Mac 101 series on TUAW is a great way to pick up quick and easy tips that will make you more productive and save time and effort. I perused the entire series a few nights ago and there are some great shortcuts and tips that will undoubtedly leave most Mac users thinking, “Aha! That’s how you do that!”

The Evolution of
Snapshots of Apple’s home page, from 1997 to today.

Brute force Hubble fix saves the day — again
Play-by-play description of the second time spacewalking astronauts had to resort to brute force to repair part of Hubble on this latest, and so far very successful, trip. Some other interesting play-by-play descriptions of the recent trip are available in other posts on CNET News’s Space Shot blog.

What Would Penis Do?
The artist of these shorts has a new book.

Aerial Virtual Tour of New York
Dizzyingly cool. Switch it to full-screen and be amazed.

“Space Oddity: Steve Lamacq Live’s guide to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”
I recently found this broadcast from BBC Radio 1 about the history of the Hitchhiker’s phenomenon, produced to introduce the 2005 movie. Features interview snippets with Douglas Adams, Simon Jones, Stephen Fry, actors from the original BBC TV series and radio shows, fans, and a bunch of people involved with the movie. Oh, and it’s hosted by the original Marvin, in character of course. It’s actually quite a good show, regardless of the movie being rather a let-down. [31:24 min, RealPlayer stream]

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