Image

Tightening A Convertible Top

This probably won’t be a very useful post, but it is something I learned recently and figured I would share.

My 1999 Mazda Miata had a bit of a problem recently:  the top got loose on one side, up near the latch on the passenger’s side.

image

This bothered me for a few days but it was too cold to check out. Fortunately, Friday was a relatively warm day and I got home with some daylight to spare.  It turns out that fixing this problem is quite simple: there is a nut you can turn to tighten or loosen the top.

image

In this case, looking at the latch from the side, you can see what a loosened nut’s effect is. Looking directly at the nut, the mechanism becomes clearer:

image

The loosened nut elongated the latch mechanism, making it easier for me to put the top up, but leaving a gap for wind. You can tighten this nut by hand; no tools are required for the job.

image

Tightening the nut shortens the latch mechanism, leaving you with a tighter seal. Because my top is only about a year old and fits well, I have it tightened all the way. With a top which has shrunk slightly, you might need to loosen the nut a bit.  The end result is a top which forms a tight seal:

image

In The Papers: The Firm That Slacks Together Works Together

Benjamin Waber, Daniel Olguin Olguin, Taemie Kim, and Alex Pentland have a very interesting piece of work, entitled Productivity Through Coffee Breaks:  Changing Social Networks by Changing Break Structure.

Abstract:

In this paper we present a two-phase study undertaken to experimentally study in a real world setting the effects of social group strength and how to increase the strength of groups in the workplace. In the first phase of our study we measured interactions between workers at the call center of a large bank based in the United States using Sociometric Badges. We confirmed our hypothesis that the strength of an individual’s social group was positively related to productivity (average call handle time) for the employees that we studied. In the second phase of our study we show that by giving employees breaks at the same time we increased the strength of an individual’s social groups, demonstrating that low-cost management decisions can be used to act on these results.

The paper’s goal is to measure social interactions between employees at a large call center (3).  In this case study, the authors note that this is a very large call center (10,000 employees), and despite this, teams still stagger their break schedules in order to ensure coverage.  The authors then were given permission to change around the break schedule in order to measure productivity changes.  They note that there is a positive relationship between social group strength and productivity (3), but more interestingly, that there is a causal relationship in at least one direction:  increased group strength increased productivity (4).

They were able to study this using a tool they created called a Sociometric badge.  It recognizes movements, captures nonlinguistic signals (though it does not analyze words; they prevented that functionality for privacy reasons), locates people within an area of approximately 1.5 meters, and can even detect face-to-face conversations (4).  By tracking the various teams under a single manager and operating in the same guidelines, they found that teams with a common break period performed better than staggered-period teams, because teams with common break periods allowed friends to spend more time together.

Also interesting in this paper:  the word “kith” (11, fn)  Kith is a cohesive group with common beliefs and customs.  Use that word as often as you can.

The Motorola Droid – A Review You Can Use [tm]!

Disclaimer: In the interest of full disclosure, I did at one point work for Verizon Wireless. However, I no longer do so (we parted on amicable terms) and my thoughts below are my own, not Verizon’s.

Shortly before the drop of the Droid, my colleagues and I had an opportunity to play with the Droid. I instantly fell in love. For those who are unfamiliar, the Motorola Droid is a smartphone manufactured by Motorola for use with Verizon Wireless’ network. I bought one about three weeks after launch (had to wait for my upgrade) and have had it a month or so. The operating system is Google’s Android OS Donut (for some reason, Google names all of their OS’s after pastries).

Before I had this phone, I had a Blackberry Pearl. I love Blackberries, and at upgrade time I was seriously considering the Storm 2 instead. Why did I pick the Droid?

Three reasons: A five MP camera, a keyboard, and the operating system.The first two are self-explanatory.

The Android OS is extremely simple to use. You have a series of home screens (three on the droid) that you can fill with Apps or games. You have a huge amount of space (free SD card with every Droid, although sadly, apps can’t go on the card). The internal memory is quite high too, however (256 MB if memory serves) and most apps are less than one MB. Not all apps can be deleted (sorry, but you have to leave the phone app on the phone), but you can get some really sweet ones from the Android Market.

Android Market is a brilliant idea. Essentially, any one can make apps for Android with the proper developer software (interested? Go here), and Google lets the market (no pun intended) on the utility. Many apps are free; even those that aren’t have a demo. You have to pay a one-time fee of $25 and Google gets 30% of your sale price if it isn’t free. As long as you stick to the guidelines, your app will be approved. The guidelines are very fair (nothing illegal, no porn, etc.) and unless you do it consistently, Google just kills the app and tells you why.

The upside is that there are lots of apps. The downside is that some of them suck. There’s no quality restriction, but the free market is pretty good at keeping them reasonable. Some are really innovative (Google Sky Map, although published by Google, lets you see the night sky even during the day and maps out constellations) and some of the games are awesome (AlphaMixr is my current favorite — I’m a sucker for word games.)

The keys are kind of small on the keyboard, but you can always use the touch screen keyboard. Call quality/reception are fine.

There are only two problems with the device, one minor and one not as minor.

First, the minor problem — it isn’t global capable, unless you’re in a country with CDMA (North America, India, China, Israel off the top of my head). This excludes a healthy chunk of the world, but unless you plan on going overseas soon, no big deal.

The bigger problem is battery life. I have to charge it every other day. Now, touchscreens as a rule require more juice, and if you have Wi-Fi running, it’ll kill your battery even faster. Apps don’t always close right away (luckily, there’s an app for that — Advanced Task Killer is my choice but there are lots more), further draining your battery. There’s not much you can do; you can fiddle with settings to make marginal increases, but you’ll still need to charge it pretty frequently (for a cell phone, anyway).

However, if the last isn’t a problem, this is definitely the phone for you. I will close with some of my favorite apps!

- Advanced Task Killer (ends programs on demand, very useful as your memory can get sucked up with too many active apps)

- Aldiko (free e-book reader, with loads and loads of free books to boot!)

- Daily Strip (comic app, I have mine set for Dilbert but pretty much any comic that appears in the Sunday papers is fair game)

- SportsTap (scores, news, transactions… sometimes more accurate than ESPN!)

Too many games to mention: board, card, and word games work best. Top three are AlphaMixr (word scramble game, first paid app I got), YZ Free (Yahtzee, essentially, quick way to kill some time if you’re waiting for someone), and PhitDroid (puzzle game, have to fit Tetris-style pieces into a square).

Got a favorite app or any questions? Drop me a comment!