Code Snippets: PHP Function random_string_generator

In some of my actual codebases I refer to this incorrectly as my hash generation function, which is grossly inaccurate – but I so do love the expression “Hash Code” for some reason. I do find, however, that I have nothing I could rightly use for one-way encoding to mark something with a unique string identifer, but still have the need for unique string identification.

For that reason I put together this simple PHP function which takes one variable (an integer) which determines the length of the string. The string to be generated is an Alpha-Numeric one.

Example:


$hash_code = random_string_generator(13);
echo $hash_code;
0sDf52jNfd98h

Here is the code:

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// FUNCTION: random_string_generator
// ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Description:
//
// This function generates a random "hash" alpha-numeric string (made of
// normal characters and numbers).
//
// If a string is passed it will be converted into an integer.
//
// The minimum size of a hash must be 1, otherwise a "hash" string
// that is one character in length will be returned.
//
// ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Parameters:
//
// $length        - Length of the "hash" to be generated
//
// ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Returns: string - The "hash" string
//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
function random_string_generator($length)
{
    $charset = array('q', 'w', 'e', 'r', 't', 'y', 'u', 'i', 'o', 'p', 'a', 's', 'd', 'f', 'g', 'h', 'j', 'k', 'l', 'z', 'x', 'c', 'v', 'b', 'n', 'm', '0', '1', '2', '3', '4', '5', '6', '7', '8', '9', 'Q', 'W', 'E', 'R', 'T', 'Y', 'U', 'I', 'O', 'P', 'A', 'S', 'D', 'F', 'G', 'H', 'J', 'K', 'L', 'Z', 'X', 'C', 'V', 'B', 'N', 'M');   // a-z, A-Z, 0-9

    $hash    = '';
    $index   = 0;
    $length  = intval($length);
    if (!$length || $length < 0)
    {
        $length = 1;
    }
    while ($index < $length)
    {
        $hash  = $hash . $charset[mt_rand(0, (sizeof($charset) - 1))];
        $index++;
    }

    return $hash;
}

As you can see, the character set is stored into a simple array so that characters can easily be removed and added.

Top 5 Stupid Mistakes Travelers Make When Visiting Las Vegas

Preface

In my efforts to help out for a campaign at a particular Vegas resort, I put together an article for them to use with their mailing list. However, when I was writing the article I found myself actually thinking more in personal terms as to how I wish my own friends could / would / should experience this incredible city.

So I’ve gone ahead and attached below the article I made for them. Enjoy..

After living in Las Vegas for a while (and having worked in the Travel & Resort industry), there are so many things that I find I take for granted.

Having had friends come for vacation or business (or both) – I keep finding out (too late) that they’ve already ruined their chances of really getting the best out of their “Vegasperience”.

I wouldn’t say that they don’t have a good time (far from it!) – however, they definitely could’ve enjoyed their time more  (and far more cheaply) if they had just asked me or done a little research on their own.

Let’s do a quick-over on these common mistakes:

  1. Not Planning Ahead of Time
  2. Staying at a Hotel instead of a Resort
  3. Going to Familiar, Popular, or Fast-Food Restaurants Instead of the Hidden Treats.
  4. Not Taking Advantage of the Deals
  5. Missing Out on the (Unique) Vegas Offerings

Let’s go over exactly what I am talking about…

#1 Not Planning Ahead of Time

This includes all of the essentials that you have control over. Some things may not apply if you are going for scheduled event like a convention or birthday or bachelor(ette) party, etc. Or, if for example, your trip is paid for by your company or a friend. What you do have control over, however, you should take control of.

When Are You Traveling?

The summer months can be brutal if you aren’t used to the desert heat, likewise it can actually get surprisingly nippy during the winter. However, the best shopping on the strip happens during the cold season (Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve). We’re not talking about 40% savings at Kohl’s either. We’re talking about 50%-80% off of items that usually sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. I remember buying a jacket that I had wanted badly for years, but cost $6000. No waaaaay I was going to spend that. Then, they had an 80% off sale on Thanksgiving Day and I walked out of there wearing it for a little over a grand. Awesome, right?

How Are You Getting There?

Like most people you are likely traveling by ground or air. If you are renting a car, consider looking for special programs, codes, offers that give you an upgrade. A good example is Hertz. If you just go straight to the site and sign-up – you’ll end up with a standard membership. If you want to upgrade to Gold Membership for example, it’ll cost you. If you do a little research however, you should be able to find yourself a FREE Gold Membership. (I just googled: free hertz gold membership and got several usable results.)

For Air, check non-major airports and airlines. They not only may be closer than the major airport (or not much further away), but offer cheaper parking, cheaper flights, and more options. One of my personal favorites is Allegiant Air. Sometimes even their last minute deals are hundreds of dollars cheaper than normal flight reservations. Once I flew from Arizona to Chicago and booked a (one-way) flight for only $53 that was flying out the following weekend. If that isn’t a great deal, I don’t know what is.

Where Are You Staying?

Nothing could be worse than staying at normal hotel or run down resort when you stay here. Las Vegas has some of the best accommodations in the entire world, and they dry up fast too. Why would you come here and stay in the same kind of place you’d stay at in your home town? Which leads us to #2…

#2 Staying at a Hotel Instead of a Resort

If you spend time looking at the resorts, you’ll find deals where you can stay at actual Resorts for the price that you would pay for a regular Hotel. People always tell me “Israel, I don’t care about where I’m going to sleep – I’m going to spend all my time out enjoying the city“. Believe me, where you stay in Vegas can make the difference between a good stay and an amazing one. It just doesn’t make sense to stay at a hotel when you can stay at a Resort for the same prices.

Hotel VS Resort
Nawww who cares where you sleep at night, right?

Lets look at the Hooters Resort. I just checked their online site (mind you getting prices directly from a resort’s site is usually the worst price you can possibly get). So, when you see that their site shows that you can stay in one of their nice bungalows for only $29 per night, or if you want to get nuts and stay in the tower where you are decked out for $53 per night.. that Holiday Inn for $89 or that weird resort that has a weird name that sounds familiar but its not right on the strip and charges over $120 per night for one room and two beds starts to sound pretty silly. Scratch that. It sounds downright stupid.

I’d love it if you contacted me directly so I could hook you up with an awesome stay for on the super cheap – but even if you decide to go with someone else, please, please.. don’t stay at some horrible (and usually more expensive)  hotel or *shudder* motel. When you stop at your place to relax, sleep, wake up, whatever: you’ll be happy you’re staying in a place that really makes you feel like you’re on a vacation and not couch-surfing at some distant, estranged relative’s who, for some reason, is charging you money for the (dis)pleasure of having a roof over your head.

#3 Going to Normal Restaurants Instead of the Hidden Treats.

This probably makes me angrier than anything else. Why are you going to McDonalds when you are in Vegas? Or even the Hard Rock Cafe and other restaurants that you can go to anytime in any major city? It’s just so inane. Let’s check out a few places.

For an amazing lunch (actually, the best in the entire city) I used to go to the Vintner Grill. The name doesn’t say much. From the outside it looks like an office building. The inside, makes it look like a high-end place from the 60′s. This place is never empty, but being a secret of Vegas, also never too full. The food is so good, you’ll be shocked when you see the bill. I used to eat here every day for lunch. Instead of paying $60 – $100 (as you would expect from meals with this high a quality), you’ll be paying the same as if you had gone to a Chile’s or TGIF.

The Vintner Grill is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars if you wont take my word for it and can be found at 10100 West Charleston Boulevard Las Vegas, Nevada 89135 and can be reached at (702) 214-5590. (You probably will never need to reserve a table, but just in case you do…)

For seafood the best place in possibly the entire world (and I’d be willing to bet everything I own that nothing in Louisiana would be able to touch it) is the world famous Oyster Bar at the Palace Station.

A Bowl of the House Gumbo
Ambrosia, thy name is Oyster Bar Gumbo

Now before you skip reading if you don’t like seafood – let me be blunt. I don’t enjoy eating seafood – I do eat the occasional fish or lobster or crab cakes, Spanish tapas, and various sushi rolls and fried fish sandwiches or sticks – however, I don’t really enjoy eating that kind of food at all. Notwithstanding all that, even I was unable to deny the amazing savory flavour of their world famous combo pan. A roast which has lobster, shrimp, crab in a cream based sauce and put on two different scales of spice and hot that range from 1 – 10. Personally I always order an 8 / 10 respectively. Everyone I know, seafood lovers and haters alike agree that this dish is ambrosia itself. They only have like 5-8 seats though, so you can expect to wait up to an hour or more if you go during the wrong time of day. However, it is worth the wait.

The Palace Station is located at 2411 W Sahara Ave. Las Vegas, NV – it is located downstairs by the machines in the casino area.. it can actually be easy to miss – so if you cant spot the stand with little round stools with a large green sign above that says “Oyster Bar”, then I suggest you ask one of the staff to direct you. (Or just look for the like, crazy long line if you come during the busy part of the day)

For Mexican food, prepare to be impressed on authenticity and you can’t beat the fact that its a 24-hour establishment. I’m talking about Tacos Mexico. Now it may not appear like much from the outside (white building with peeling paint and red reliefs) – and it doesn’t appear like much from the inside either – but the food is anything but totally authentic and totally awesome.

A Street View of the Tacos Mexico Restaurant
Eat like a Mexican Drug Lord but affordable by even the poorest Mariachi

The broths, the tacos, the burritos, the chile’s relleno’s.. wow. There’s not much seating space, so maybe be prepared to eat in your car if its lunchtime. However, late at night you can usually nab a table. I recommend anything really (especially what I listed above if you like it authentic), however, I really, truly do recommend you try out their orange salsa. That right I said orange. It’s actually a Roasted Chimichurri Salsa. They usually have 2 or 3 salsas (the regular red or green), but their Chimichurri is the absolute best I’ve ever had in a restaurant. Its even better than many homemade authentic versions and you are definitely in for a treat when you use that with some lime juice on your tacos. (Al pastor por favor!)

Tacos Mexico is located on 3820 W Sahara Ave near the S Valley View Blvd intersection in Las Vegas, NV – If you can speak Spanish and would want to call ahead of time the number is (702) 444-1171 . It can be easy to miss, however, it has a large white sign – a terrible and scarily small drive-thru.

If you absolutely must try a fast-food restaurant.. then look no further

Jollibee is considered the Filipino McDonalds
Jollibee is Dangerously Popular

than the world famous “Jollibee”. It not that famous in the United States (hence why you’ve probably never heard of it) .. but think of it as the Filipino version of McDonalds. It’s very well known abroad (particularly in the Philippines of course) – but be prepared for a surprisingly delicious and different tasting fast food meal in a cute package.Now my father was a man who loved his corn beef hash. Everyone else in my house dreaded the moment he would cook it as we hated the smell and would lock ourselves into our rooms whenever you ate the wretched stuff. I vowed to never eat or taste that vile concoction. A vow I broke when I came across their delicious corn beef hash burger that came with mayo. As for their cute little bit of spaghetti or cheeseburgers, etc. etc. Well, I sure wouldn’t turn it away.

There are two Jollibee’s so far as I know in the Las Vegas area, the one I used to live close to on 3890 S Maryland Parkway and another one on 9430 W Sahara Ave.

Sure, there’s a lot of great restaurants with great food on the Strip. However, the one I particularly like, that happens to be Italian and has what I consider to be the coolest show / experience while eating lunch or dinner, is Olive’s at the Bellagio. The coffee’s and unique dipping breads are good, the food is great, but the water show you will enjoy on the outside terrace (you have to get a table outside on the terrace) is one of the quintessential moments in your life that you will recall decades after you go, even if you never return to Vegas again. I won’t say anything more other than, to not go would be very sad. I diddn’t go often, but I remember every single time I went.

Olive’s Restaurant is located in the Bellagio on the Vegas Strip.

I could go on and on, but I could not stop this list without mentioning the Thanksgiving Buffet at the Valle Verde Casino Resort. Available obviously only on Thanksgiving – it the considered to be the best Thanksgiving Buffet experience in the world. A secret all the locals in the area (the southern part of Vegas known as Henderson) descend on like a mad house.

The inside of the Casino Area at the Valle Verde Resort
Otherwise known as the Green Valley Casino

The line stretches through the bottom floor of the casino so far, that your party can expect to wait more than 4 hours just to to the “waiting area”. Now, if you are even lucky enough to know about this – what many people dont know and you are very lucky now that I am going to tell you is that you can cut 3 or 4 hours easily out of your wait (so you wait maybe 20-40 minutes instead) is if you stay at the Resort as a guest, you can get a speed pass to cut straight to the purchase line. Viola. Even if you do decide to wait – do so.. it is definitely worth the wait.

The Casino Valle Verde is located just southeast of the Strip at 697 North Valle Verde Drive Henderson, Nevada 89014 and you can call them at (702) 454-9200.

#4 Not Taking Advantage of the Deals

Vegas has casinos right? Did you know you can get hundreds and hundreds of free dollars (worth of slot / play) ? Most people apparently do not. In a land where even when I walk into a gas station or Walgreens at night to buy myself a handle of Jim Beam and a 2-liter of cherry cola – I inevitably always see some poor misfit just sitting there at some poker machine dropping their last 20-dollar bills from their weekend paycheck. Well, all of the major casinos offer Casino Memberships or Membership Cards. You don’t have to sign a bunch of forms or get a background check or anything. You just present any legal form of identification, sign your name, pay nothing, and get a free card printed out – with money already on it! These range anywhere from places like the Red Rock Casino where you get $5 initially and a $5 bump just randomly every few weeks or months. If that isn’t exciting enough for you – Hooters gives you $100 right off the bat. If you win big on this free money – you keep it all.

There’s also the coupon books, discount cards, Internet offers & discounts for shows like the Cirque du Soleil. Why pay full price when you can pay so much less so easily? Now instead of just hearing about the show thats hundreds of dollars, you can see it and know its less than you’re going to blow on cocktails afterwards.

Remember too, open containers (of alcohol) in public is a commonplace thing. Why spend $6 on that beer inside the club you passed by, when you can stop at the liquor store and walk around with a beer-filled camelbak? Or pint of hard liquor.. or whatever your poison may be.

#5 Missing Out on the (Unique) Vegas Offerings

I was recently on a flight going from Chicago to Phoenix and ended up having a great conversation with the gentleman in the seat next to mine. (Hit or miss, I know, thank goodness) While we were talking, we ended up talking about Sin City. In particular, he told me he had gone to Vegas many times, but I was shocked to find that he apparently knew nothing about some of the best experiences.

Red Rock Mountain Canyon

Sure there are mountains. Sure there are lots of mountains in Nevada. However, the Red Rock National Park which is in the western outskirts of Las Vegas (just find the Red Rock Casino, which by the way is an awesome place to stay &/or eat at, and head west from there) is really one of the most amazing and exciting places to go mountain hiking / climbing.

On the Road towards the Red Rock Canyon Range
Impressive in the distance, even moreso at the Peak

You can go to the park, pay $3 for a day pass (one per vehicle) and really see some of the greatest mountain range sights in the United States. Second, if you are into climbing like me (not the hardcore rappelling kind) then be prepared for not just an awesome workout and climb, but some truly breathtaking sights. Even better (and free) for climbing purposes (not hiking) is the Calico Canyon which lies just east (or before) the Red Rock Park.

Mount Charleston

Lying on the northern skirts of Las Vegas, this mountain range reaches higher than 3,500 meters. That means snowlots of it. I don’t like to Ski or Snowboard myself – but I really did enjoy being able to quickly shoot up to one of the Ski Lodges during lunchtime and enjoy a few cocktails before heading back down into the warm bowels of Las Vegas. Hiking, camping, picnic grounds. Wonderful place to visit.

Let’s not forget the Grand Canyon or the Hoover Dam either!


I’d like to finish by pointing out that I understand that you can’t enjoy or see it all in one trip (or two or three or etc. ..) However, I hope you can see why it really boggles me when I see hear from a buddy that all they did was go to the Bellagio, look at some shops, drink at a few clubs, and end up eating chicken wings from room service. I believe them when they say they had fun – but they could’ve done the same thing at their local city for the same or possibly less.

If you have anything to add yourself – please feel free to comment!

eSATA Flash Drive – The Kanguru e-Flash

Farewell Floppy

As with many of my predictions in the past years, most come true. None more pleasant than the death-knell tolling of USB 2.0 flash drives. I am sure anyone reading this owns or at least has used one at some point.

Although useful for moving small files (and definitely having exterminated the last vestiges of floppy disks and total failures such as the Zip Disk fiasco *shudder*), anyone who owns a USB stick over 2 GB has quickly realized the same thing… moving large amounts of data quickly becomes a painfully long process.

As I stated back in early 2009, the advent of faster connection technologies such as the much-anticipated USB 3.0 or the snazzy eSATA meant that soon we could move beyond these USB 2.0 devices and truly have useful, portable, fast drives.

eSATAsfaction

eSATA beat out USB 3.0 to the punch and we have the Kanguru e-Flash which is not only an eSATA stick (the very first of its kind) but retains the legacy USB connection on the opposite side.

The Kanguru e-Flash
The Kanguru e-Flash USB/eSATA Flash Drive

Though it has been out for a while now, the prices have dropped (a little) and I bought the 32GB verison for $99 at Tiger Direct and found the 64GB stick for around $180 on pricewatch.com

Testing

As many sites have already written reviews long ago on the Windows use (which doesnt sound all to appealing for several reasons) I’ve decided to direct attention towards my having used it on a Linux system. Apparently on windows, there is a strange situation where Windows is too stupid to realize the drive is a removable stick (instead recognizing it as an internal drive), so Kanguru had to ship Hot Swapping software to emulate the same effect.

In Linux, the use of the drive is as seamless as anything else; Automounting and un-mounting work the same regardless of which technology is being employed.

I did manage to connect the eSATA to my computer and the USB side to my laptop which I was able to get working (I have no idea under what situation this would be useful) but I had a very bad feeling about possible ramifications to the data on the stick. (I should note I had created two separate partitions to mount).

Benchmarking

Although I imagine the speeds may vary depending on your Operating System and the quality of your eSATA or USB cards, the results were frankly unsurprising.. a massive speed increase when using eSATA – Almost 2x the write speed.. where I was able to get a sustained transfer rate just shy of 30MB/s. The read speed was less impressive only coming in slightly over 30MB/s (30-32) for reading.

What was a little strange, however, is that the USB on the stick actually seemed faster than my other USB sticks, which seems to support what other reviewers have said when talking about the e-Flash.

Conclusion

This stick is a little pricey, however, it retains the portability of other Flash drives, has backwards-compatibility for legacy USB inputs, and is definitely faster. I had no problems whatsoever reading Blu-Ray ISO rips from the e-Flash when I had it connected through eSATA into my O! Play Media Player. I am now a very happy camper. Hopefully soon we will see some more competition so we can enjoy price drops to a more reasonable level.

Code Snippets: PHP Function array_key_match_pullkey

In between all the other projects I’ve been working on (ads, documentation submissions, etc.) I somehow managed to find the time to work on some PHP scripts for a(n) [internal] web-application that I’m responsible for.

There were multiple times where I realized I was doing the same thing again and again in the code, but for different datasets. I needed to find a function in PHP that simply lets you pass a 2+ dimensional Array, a key for the sub-array by which to search for that matches whatever variable you pass, and pulls the value of a separate key in that same sub-array.

Lets look at an example array:

  $smurf = array();

  $smurf[] = array('id' => 12, name => 'Papa Smurf');
  $smurf[] = array('id' => 56, name => 'Brainy Smurf');
  $smurf[] = array('id' => 59, name => 'Smurfette');

At some point I need to be able to pull a Smurf’s name solely by making use of the ID. However, sometimes I may want to do the exact opposite, or do the same kind of info-pull but with a different Array altogether.

So I came up with this today:

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// FUNCTION::array_key_match_pullkey()
// ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Parameters:
// 1 (array)  : Array : The array to be searched
// 2 (key)    : String: The key we're looking to match
// 3 (match)  : Wild  : The value of the key to match
// 4 (pullkey): String: The key whose value we want to pull
// ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Returns: FALSE or Wild Variable (any type)
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
function array_key_match_pullkey($array, $key, $match, $pullkey)
{
   // Begin to loop through array
   foreach ($array as $index)
   {
      // Look in sub-array for matching key/value
      if ($index[$key] == $match)
      {
         // Match has been found, pull the value of the pullkey
         return $index[$pullkey];
      }
   }
   // No match found - return a FALSE boolean value
   return FALSE;
}

Obviously it would be simplicity itself to modify this function to work with lower level sub-arrays at multiple dimensions, or whatever. I don’t personally need it to do so, and I diddnt feel like spending more than 5 minutes on writing this function. (I usually spend more time on my comments than my code, hah!)

Anyhow, now it is all too easy to pull a smurf ID’d as #59 and find that its Smurfette (the Stephanie of the Smurfs):

$smurf_name = array_key_match_pullkey($smurfs, ‘id’, 59, ‘name’);

This managed to help me chop down the size of my scripts today, and although it may not be the most optimized method (or simplest even); I couldn’t readily find another function (or array operation) that would let me do the same.

Feel free to let me know if you know of some better method, or think up any modifications.

Setup iPhone as Router for Home Network

When visiting my residence up in the northern woods of Michigan, finding any sort of Internet connection (much less some nice cable internet) is a challenge. Unfortunately, the place I have is so deep in the woods, the only recourse would be to set up a ~34 meter tall tower!! (to reach above the 100ft trees) That would net me an 800Mhz wireless connection to a wireless internet company in the area.

Not wanting to spend a couple $1000 just to get some crappy wireless access, I figured out a way to use my iPhone’s internet and patch it through to all of the other computers in the house.

What I Used

  1. Jail-broken 3GS iPhone (3.0 Firmware)
  2. Cisco/Linksys Router (the WRT610N to be exact)
  3. A Computer Running Ubuntu Linux

Notes:

– Any jail-broken phone that has had Internet Tethering turned on should work

– Any router or switch should work

– Any computer / os combination with routing/masquerading software should work

The iPhone

The iPhone jailbreaking process is (fairly) simple – but you deserve better instructions than I can provide here. I would recommend checking TheBigBoss.org – The Ultimate iPhone News and Guide website.

The Router

Your settings can be whatever happens to suit your needs, however, I personally setup my router to use WPA2/PSK encryption on the 5.0 Ghz range set to Wireless-N for the wireless router. I feel it provides a reasonable level of security and speed. (I also always set a whitelist to allow only the MAC addresses that I want accessing my network.

The router IP address I set to 192.168.1.1 and set the DHCP table for each computer on the network to have its own personal IP address. (192.168.1.101, …102, …103, …)

A list of DHCP entries
The 4 Machines on my Network

The Network

On each machine I changed the IP settings to “Manual” settings instead of DHCP (even though I have the DHCP server running on the router .. i know .. i know..) . Obviously this process is done differently on each OS. In my instance the three other machines were WinXP, OSX, and Linux. I made sure each machines IP address matched its corresponding IP in the DHCP table on the router, set the Mask to 255.255.255.0 and the Gateway to 192.168.102 (“Tabasco” .. my personal machine that is connected to the iPhone…

The Real Router

On my computer (an Intel Core-2-Duo 8400 with 4GB RAM running Ubuntu “Karmic Koala”) , I have a USB bluetooth device which I purchased for less than $10. I configured the bluetooth device to act as my computer’s method to connect to the computer. In Ubuntu it was as simple as adding the device through the bluetooth dock item and then clicking on the network dock item and selecting “Connect“. (Obviously you must have Internet Tethering turned on at this point).

The Software

For the routing software I (loosely) followed the directions at the Ubuntu Linux Howto Blog on Setting up Your Computer as a Router. (I just downloaded the Ubuntu compatible .DEB package from Webmin and worked from there).

Conclusion

Overall, I am impressed. The actually speed is nothing to boast about, I’m obviously not in a 4G area (not that the iPhone supports it anyway), nor even a 3G area. That’s right folks, I’m stuck with EDGE speeds. Shockingly (only at night and rarely during the day) I actually manage to achieve speeds of 30KB/s (bytes not bits), which is much better than dial-up. The ping isn’t so great, but that really isn’t a surprise at all.

There are some things to note. When the phone is in “tethering” mode, if a call comes in, the internet connection is disrupted. Completely disconnected in fact. Sometimes when this happens it is difficult and annoying to reconnect the computer to the iPhone. I recommend disconnecting the connection on the computer, turning off bluetooth & internet tethering on the phone. Then turn the internet tethering back on (it will ask you to turn on bluetooth as well, hit OK) and then connect again on the computer.

To solve this problem I went to (on the iPhone) Settings -> Phone -> Call Forwarding and then forwarded my calls to another phone in the house.

I have left the phone connnected for days at a time without disruption and uploaded hundreds of MB of data and downloaded GB’s. All in all, very happy with the results.

What is Social Media Marketing

A friend of mine couldn’t quite put into words what SMM was all about, so I offered to sum it up for him, and sent him this. I thought maybe some of you might likewise be interested in this topic.

Social Media Marketing comes under Internet Marketing:

– ADs (PPC: Pay Per Click, PPI: Pay Per Impression)
– SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
– Social Media Marketing
– Blogs/Vlogs
– Twitter
– Craigslist
– E-Bay
….

Social Media Marketing can help improve SEO by rote, but the true purpose of SMM is Non-Interruption Based Marketing Strategy (or NIBM). Instead of ads, which annoy people and are by design meant to detract or grab attention when unwanted, SMM‘s purpose is to get people excited about your company and/or product(s) through a Social Medium.

A good example of a Social Medium is Facebook™, with a “Population” of over 400 Million, greater than the population of the United States & Canada combined. Considering that the type of people on Facebook, we are actually talking about a consumer population that easily exceeds that of North America entirely. Over 35 million unique users logon to Facebook every single day.

By making fan pages, or groups on a medium like Facebook, a company can massively increase its popularity. By including games, limited time offers, interaction with the customers (and potential customers) and creating a dialogue with their audience, they end up creating a fan-base. Some corporations are even more popular than many pop-culture icons. This has never happened before in history.

Lets look at a crafty campaign that Burger King™ came up with a couple years ago. Burger King created a Facebook app that would send you a coupon for a free Whopper if you unfriended 10 of your friends for Burger King.

The Whopper Sacrfice Burger King Campaign Logo
Hundreds of thousands were unfriended.. some were even left friendless

This turned out to be a massive success, it was imaginative, original and fun for people to participate in, even those who weren’t particularly fans of burger king. It stirred interest in the company and Burger King made massive profits from an SMM campaign that couldn’t have taken more than a week to design and code and launch.

Even small business’ like bars are creating Facebook accounts and friending customers, people in the area, etc. Take for example the Scotland Yard™ in my hometown of St. Charles, IL with 710 people on its friendslist and growing everyday. They make jokes in their status messages, they comment on peoples activities, photos and give feedback. They of course also remind everyone about special events at the bar. This costs them nothing but some time, and brings back massive return. People love having this kind of relationship. Which bar do you think they are going to go to this Friday night?

Never in business history has it been so easy for companies to reach out to people. Imagine what a company had to do to reach 50,000 people for an ad 100 years ago… it was almost impossible and would have cost dearly. 50 years ago even it was cost prohibitive; Having to run expensive radio ads in multiple cities or even more expensive TV ads.

Don Draper and Kids from Mad Men watching TV in the Living Room
TV Marketing got huge in the 60s as shown in the TV show Mad Men

Even 20 years ago with mail, radio and tv it would’ve have involved many man hours, tons of design and work and had to be budgeted for. Although then you could reach 50 million. Yet it would still take weeks. Now companies can spend 1/1000th of that cost and reach 500 million within the span of 24 hours. This is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Most companies believe a website is enough. Some even think a website with static content is enough. Very few companies understand the power of Social Media Networks and only a few limited companies throughout the world even have a Social Media person (much less a department) in their Sales/Marketing division.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s take a look at my friend Jim who has started and owned several telemarketing companies over the years. Every single one (until the latest iteration, of which I am a part of) was based around the idea of calling people and interrupting them (hence: interruption based marketing).

No one likes to be interrupted.

Yet even so, 30 years ago the close-to-call ratio (closing is a marketing term which is short for “closing a deal“) was surprisingly high with a good “closer“. As the decades have passed with the rise of the do-not-call era, a fundamental shift has occurred in how people respond to telemarketers. The close-to-call ratio has dropped significantly. Now a good closer can hope to get PI or π (you know, 3.14) which is another term for 1 close per 3.14 hours.

Obviously different campaigns differ on expectations, however, overall, it has become obvious that soon the day will come when no-one will answer the phone, and those who do will not buy.

We, as a business society, are barely on the cusp of this new marketing era, and for those who realize its potential now, their place shall be all the much stronger once everyone else wakes up and realizes that interruption based marketing is dead.

Wiki Wiki Wiki

Last week I was in the middle of wrapping up a new book in a series I’ve been following and as is common with a large anthology, I got somewhat lost as to what characters were a part of what intrigue. So I set the book down, brushed off my keyboard and went off to Wikipedia to see what was what. To my surprise, I was left wanting. Now don’t get me wrong, I had all sorts of great information about the book, and especially the author and so on and so on.. but nothing close to what I really needed. After a little bit of googling, I finally found a “Wiki” centered around the book series. It didn’t have anything to do with Wikipedia.org either. Apparently there is a whole plethora of wiki’s out there, from Star Wars to cooking recipes. (Check out Wikia.com for example)

So now you’d think that I was satisifed, no? Well…. not exactly. While there were quite a few entries already – lots of substance – it was all written by a single author! This lone individual had gone to a crapload of trouble from what I could see. Also, accomplishing it all in less than a year was nothing short of amazing. However, it definitely wasn’t complete, and he hadn’t even entered anything from the latest book! Rarely am I struck with a the feeling of wanting to just jump into a new project with no idea of where it’ll take me, but struck I was. So I created an account and dove right in.

Or at least thats what the plan was. Hahaha, apparently editing wiki entries is nowhere near as simple as it might seem to an outsider.

A Picture of Israel Smith in a Sylvester the Cat Costume through a Hotel Peep Hole
Entering the Rabbit Hole

At first I thought, well I can’t find any information on this Character so I’ll try adding a new page for it. Which I found out is called an “Article”. Then when the editing screen came up I knew instantly I was in waaaay over my head. In fact, I almost ran screaming like a little schoolgirl in the opposite direction. I quickly decided perhaps a small edit was more in line and I proceeded to a page that I found could use some of my expository skills. Needless to say, the interface was still completely alien to me, but I was at least able to easily figure out that I could put a line of text here and it would end up there. You could say I was very excited when I finished the entry; I set it as a “minor edit” and then took  break to get some chips, hot sauce and cherry Pepsi. You can imagine my surprise when I came back to see that my entry had been negated and critiqued in the time it took me to reach the kitchen, hoard up and walk back to my computer! Surprise, utter bafflement, yes.. even anger.

Man Playing as Gandalf yelling "You Shall Not Pass"
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

However, rather than be deterred by my perturbment, I embraced this challenge, carefully learning from each mistake. I learned that you can’t just type a whole bunch of stuff up and not back it up without a reference. Makes sense of course, but it was wasn’t intuitive for me, I am used to people taking me at my word! Things got progressively better from there as I learned to make sections, tables, learned about tagging the various entries with “categories”. Eventually I felt good enough to start my own articles from scratch and figured out the difference between minor edits and actual edits, etc. etc.

All in all, I’ve come away from the experience a tad bit more humble than before. I now have a deeper understanding of the incredible amount of work, time, sweat, and swearing that goes into these wiktionaries. I now have a watchlist where I keep tabs on changes made to various articles/entries and feel right at home in my little carved out piece of the wikiverse. Maybe next time you have nothing to do, try a crack at finding a wiki you find of interest and helping out in the effort… and maybe… just maybe…  I’ll see you out there in the wikiverse.