Bookcases – before and after

More detail to follow, but I replaced the RTA Sauder dark bookcases with real wood (cherry veneer) bookcases from 57th Street Bookcases (the Evanston, IL store).

Good choice.



I gained about 3 feet of lineal storage, with much better looking bookcases. Very happy.

Count the shelves: Before, six. After, seven. Key to it all.

The stuff in front of the books is inconsequential; but I actually ADDED a few feet of (computer) books, and the shelves are still a little empty. Awesome!

Some random notes about this purchase:

  • While these are veneer cases, they are solid wood – veneer over plywood. No particle board.
  • Both the faceplate (the “frame” around each bookcase) and the front edge of each shelf (about 1/2-inch deep) is solid wood. So there are no veneer-to-veneer edges that can make this type of construction look less polished than solid wood.
  • Not sure what kind of wood the veneer is (ash? birch?), but it has a nice grain.
  • I opted for the cherry finish, in oil and wax (as opposed to stain and wax). Very happy with the look and especially the feel. Nice smooth – but not plasticy – look and feel.
  • Had bookcases delivered, and the delivery men – independent contractors – were very good (we have a tight staircase).
  • On the other hand, it took three tries to get confirmation of final payment (half up front, half on delivery). Kind of annoying.

Just a roundup of web news

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the web, both in terms of news and news makers.

Here are some highlights:

  • Facebook purchases WhatsApp…for $19 billion (yep, with a “b”). Time will tell whether this is a smart move or not, but I like MG Siegler’s take on this, that it’s “the strongest signal yet that we’ve fully entered a new age in the world of computing where mobile is now the kingdom” – the web has been dethroned as the biggest deal (kingdom). And, to Siegler, that big price tag for the acquisition means that there isn’t any king in this new kingdom. Interesting take.
  • Tim Bray is leaving Google. Why? Because he lives in Vancouver, and Google no longer deems his telecommuting as viable. Bray is very even-handed about it, and even goes as far as to agree with Google. But he doesn’t want to move. So they part ways. It’s a loss for Google, but it’ll be interesting to see where he pops up next. He’s too smart and way too curious to just pack it all in. And he promises to keep blogging – good! He’s always a solid read.
  • Om Malik gives up journalism. Malik was one of the first – maybe the first – tech bloggers to go out on his own (no newspaper/print backing) and create an online information hub ( Yesterday, he announced he was giving up the 24-hour news cycle and taking on other roles. While I’m sure he’ll turn in an occasional article, his voice will be missed. He often had a way of cutting through the fog/hype and seeing an acquisition/hiring for what it really was.
  • redesigns – and I stop going there. I’ve made fun of both and in the past for having a lot of non-news on the allegedly news sites (especially, but the redesign has made it more like … People magazine? It employs the same responsive design/picture-heavy design as Yahoo’s new tech site, but it works for Yahoo Tech – but not for a breaking-news site (see pics, below). I have to go down four screens to see an update on something that blew up in some country X days/weeks ago. Can’t scan headlines. I’m pretty sure this is not me just “not liking change,” but I could be wrong. But – for now – NBCnews is rarely visited.

Amazon does magic

FlowAmazon came out with a new addition to its mobile app – Flow (another review) – that is just short of amazing. (NOTE: Currently only available for iOS; I’m sure the Android version is right behind…).

What is it?

It’s a visual search – select Flow in the search area of the app (instead of typing in search or scanning a barcode), and your back-facing camera turns on. Point it to what you’re interested in, and – no taking pictures, in real time – the app tries to identify the product and, if found, displays its price/availability/etc at Amazon.

The blue dots you see are dots that continually flash, attempting to identify the product outline/features and so on.

Works great with books and other flat, stock Amazon items – the CD pictured is from 1981 and it was found in seconds. I didn’t find a book or software box it couldn’t identify (Paintshop Pro 8, Windows 2000 Professional Edition, XML for Dummies… )

3D objects are a little more of a challenge (hand lotion was found; flashlight, tape measure and Chapstick not found).

Yet it just launched today – it’s only going to get better. (FYI – battery hog!!!!)

I have a grasp of how they are doing all this, and it’s mind-boggling that it does as well as it does right out of the gate.

And it’s a brilliant move by Amazon that must be terrifying brick-and-mortar vendors. I can stand in a store, just view an item with the app (no noise of picture snapping) and get what it’ll cost at Amazon. If I decide to go with Amazon, hell, toss it in cart, use one-click to buy it (I’m on Prime, no shipping cost issues) and *bam!* I’m done.

Less than a minute from checking it out to having it delivered. This has the potential to change retail in some significant ways.

Nest Protect

Nest ProtectAbout a month or so ago, our basement fire/carbon monoxide alarm began chirping, signaling low battery.

And – of course – the chirping started in the middle of the night…

Seeing as how this would be the third set of batteries in that unit in about six weeks, I figured the unit was a goner; time for a new one.

I got to thinking about Nest’s – the thermostat maker – new product: The Nest Protect: A combo fire and carbon monoxide detector/alarm.

Long story short, I bought one. It’s considerably more expensive than other detectors – the Nest Protect was $129; the one it replaced was around $40-$50.

After purchase, installation and use of the product for more than a two weeks (installed ~ two weeks ago), here are some first impressions, in no particular order:

  • It’s smaller than I expected. While pictures of it up on the ceiling/wall don’t give a real sense of scale, I pictured it larger (but am glad it’s not!). It’s about the size – WxLxH – of three regular plastic CDs cases stacked.
  • Heavier than I expected. There grill appears be be metal (or some non-plastic). Good.
  • Brilliant design from a looks point of view. It’s a sexy looking product. When have you ever thought that about a smoke alarm?
  • Software is brilliant as well. From the different colors of the collar around the Nest logo to it’s alert design – smartphone message as well as just the audio alarm. Behavior-wise, there’s a lot to like about this little unit.
  • Overall, this is the first non-Apple product that looks and acts like an Apple product – and that’s high praise. Apple sweats the little details (maybe too much, but that’s another entry), and in the case of the Nest Protect, it too reflects this holistic approach to design.
  • Nest was founded by two former Apple employees, including one largely responsible for the iPod. So the Apple-ish of the Nest Procect is no surprise.
  • The (replaceable) batteries are designed to last a “couple of years” – the documentation says they cannot yet make that claim officially, because it hasn’t been in testing that long. But if true, that’s a real selling point, as well – especially for those hard-to-reach detectors it could replace.
  • Just an FYI – have to have a smartphone (to run the free app) as well as a WiFi connection for this to really work as advertised.
  • One complaint – the notifications to the smartphone come to the Nest app – I’d prefer a text message. The Nest app might be buried down on screen four; text messages are always up front. The notification comes in, but if you don’t check right away, you might think it was something else. Nest – address this please.

Again, handful of weeks with the unit, and so far so good. The batteries could crap out tomorrow and then I might be less than thrilled, but – for now – very happy. Worth the extra cost for the extra features (especially the remote notification) at this point.

Also, the Nest Protect and the Nest thermostat are the first real “internet of things” items that are getting into average (non-geek) homes. Interesting to be seeing this from the ground floor.

* Picture from screenshot @