Better Living Through Technology: a blog dedicated to emerging
technology trends in hardware, software, webware, marketing and beyond

Technology Evangelist
January 1, 2011
If you're looking for Roald Marth, he is now CEO of Kū'oko'a. Robert X. Cringely writes at I, Cringely. If you're looking for Ed Kohler, Ben Higginbotham, Alex Blyakhman, Elizabeth Hendrix and Brian Utley, they are with

Ed Kohler
May 2, 2009
It's never easy to watch people leave a service you've created online. Surely, it's worth trying to figure out why people have decided to leave so you can try to serve remaining users better and potential win back those who've left. But that doesn't justifying requiring people leaving your service to explain why they're leaving: Removal
Find a better way to gather then information you need to make your service valuable.

Ed Kohler
April 7, 2009

One of the Amazon Kindle's really cool features is the built-in text to voice service, which allows people to consume the books they've purchased in situations where they can't read. One group that is particularly interested in this feature is the blind, which benefit from greater access to books.

However, the Author's Guild has opposed this technology under the theory that this could cut into the sales of audio books. To me, this sounds ridiculous because the quality of a computer reading a book is in no way comparable to an audio book production.

Regardless, Amazon caved to the Author's Guild request by allowing publishers to make their Kindle formatted books inaccessible to the blind by disabling the built-in text to speech technology.

Now, the National Federation of the Blind is reacting to the Author's Guild's position.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB - the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the US) and its partners in the Reading Right Coalition (made up of over 25 organizations, representing 15 million Americans who cannot read print because of blindness, dyslexia, spinal cord injury and other print disabilities) will gather outside the offices of the Authors Guild in hopes to reverse the Guild's threat to disable text-to-speech from e-books for the Kindle 2, which had promised for the first time easy and mainstream access to over 255,000 books.

It's generally not a good thing for content creators to turn their fans into enemies. Hasn't the Author's Guild learned anything from the RIAA on this topic?

Hopefully the Author's Guild will come to their senses and realize that it's in the best interest of authors to allow the blind to legally purchase copies of books in Amazon Kindle format for the Kindle 2, and then consume those legally purchased books using the Kindle's text to speech technology.

Ed Kohler
March 31, 2009

I finally caved an picked up an iPod Touch this past weekend after learning about what to me is a killer app: Instapaper.

Here's what it does:

You sign up for an account at (free) then add a bookmarklet to your browser called "Read Later". Then when you find yourself staring down a long online article that you'd really like to read - but not right now - you click the button.

Clicking the button snags the article on the page, takes out a lot of the junk (ads and images depending on how you've set it up), and stores the copy in your Instapaper account.

Now the fun begins. You can access those articles a number of different ways:

1. Via the web.

2. Via a smartphone's browser (the articles are very mobile friendly compared to many of their original sources).

3. Or, via the iPhone app which syncs down a copy of your stored articles.

#3 is the one that convinced me that I needed an iPod Touch. My best catch-up time for longer articles is on planes, and the Instapaper App makes it easy to gather and consume the content during those hours.

There is a free and paid version ($9.99) of the app. I went with the paid because it offers more flexibility on fonts, night reading, and has a very cool tilt-to-scroll feature where you can gently tilt the iPhone back a bit to scroll the article - a great one-hand feature.

After my first Instapaper-enabled flight this week, I'm sold on this new workflow for processing longer online content.

Ed Kohler
March 26, 2009

One of my MacBook Pro fans went crazy loud a couple months ago and started making more noise than a jet airplane taking off. One could try to make a case for it by stating that the white noise helps avoid distractions but that's not a long term solution.

So, I went to an Apple store where a "genius" told me it would take 3 days and $85 to replace the fan. That seemed ridiculous, so I ordered the fan online ($48.95 at the time) and installed it myself in less than 30 minutes once it arrived. Here's how:

MacBook Pro Fan Repair

This is what worked for me.

1. Power down, unplug, and remove your battery.

2. Unscrew all of the screws around the edges. Also remove all screws within the battery area. Then lift up the keyboard from the front. There are a couple latches near the front, so it helps to push back a bit against the front before lifting.

3. As you lift up the keyboard, you'll have an attachment (brownish orange) between the keyboard and motherboard. This can be disconnected by carefully lifting the connection from the motherboard.

Here is what things look like under the hood:

MacBook Pro Fan Repair

In my case, the right fan was shot. Of the two, it seems like it's a bit easier to deal with due to less chords overlapping it.

4. Remove the fan's mounting screws and tape, then pop it out:

As you can see, there was quite a bit of link built up between the fan and case:

MacBook Pro Fan Repair

5. Unplug the fan's power. This is a delicate job. Probably the most stressful part of the work. It pulls straight out with a little effort.

6. Plug in the new fan and reassemble.


1. Be careful with the keyboard. The screws removed from the outside were attached to drop down threads on the keyboard. Make sure they remain inside the case when reassembling. It's like putting a pizza box back together.

2. You can power up the computer while the keyboard is up if you keep the keyboard's power attached. This is a good way to verify that you've installed the fan correctly and that it works.

3. You'll need a some special screwdrivers. I picked up this set at Radio Shack that did the job:

Macbook Pro Fan Repair Screwdrivers

In the end, I paid less than Apple charged for the repair and was without a computer for 30 minutes rather than 3 days. I'd call that a win.

Ed Kohler
March 15, 2009

A Minnesota based web development firm has come up with the best solution to restaurant web design that I've seen to date.

Backing up for a second, what's are the biggest problems with restaurant websites?

- Flash introductions
- No menu
- Can't find the hours
- Can't find location information
- Poor usability because it's entirely in Flash
- Sound!
- Can't find the site in Google
- Not enough pictures
- Site is never updated (probably because it wasn't built using an easy to use CMS)

While there are many ways to build a good restaurant website, they hardly ever seem to end up in the hands of restaurateurs. Instead, they're sold Flash intensive sites that don't answer the very basic questions people have about their businesses. While the sites may look good, they don't put people in seats.

What Five Technology has done is create a platform called Taste Trend that makes it easy for restaurants to create - and more importantly, maintain - a site they can be proud of and prospective diners find useful.

This should be on the short list of web platforms for restaurants considering a website refresh.

By the way, this is not a paid review. I know one of Five Technology's founders but have written this out of frustration with the vast majority of restaurant websites I visit. If they used Five Technology's solution, they could make my life slightly better.

Ed Kohler
March 11, 2009

As soon as a website launches, the new owners start to ask, "Is anyone looking at it?" and "What can I do to get more traffic?" Psychologically, it's time to make the change from building to marketing.

Or is it?

More likely, it's time to switch from building a site to building out a site. You probably have a good design but little content on your site on the day of launch, so it may not be the best time to introduce a ton of visitors.

Also, your site most likely hasn't been tested against real-world users, so there may be things that were overlooked in the design phase that you'd prefer to address before a ton of people visit.

In some cases, sites could start rolling out marketing efforts in stages as certain personas are handled well, or certain types of pages reach acceptible quality standards. For example, an online retailer could start testing pay per click ads for products as the pages reach a certain quality standard (assuming the checkout functionality is also ready for prime time).

For PR and other link building efforts, make sure you have an easy to understand, professional, offering that seems link-worthy. Clearly, day-1 after launch may not be the time when that standard is hit.

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