Category Archives: hmmm

how much does “quality” matter?

For several years, I have done business with Harbor Freight and Northern Tool and Equipment. Both are low-medium cost suppliers of tools, supplies, and equipment.

This morning I received the weekly email sales flier from Harbor Freight, and see they have a 19.2v cordless drill for $24.99 (regular price $29.99). This got me to thinking – why would I want to buy a “high quality” or “name brand” cordless drill from a place like Lowes, when their least-expensive, similarly-rated, drill is $79.97? Is a Black and Decker really nearly 3x better? Will it last more than 3x as long? Or drill 3x as well? Is the battery-life that much more impressive on the $80 item over the $30?

My gut feeling on this is no: the “name brand” is not that much better – but it’s what folks “expect” it to cost. And let’s not even go to high end (at Lowes, that’s about $280 for an 18v DeWalt). I do happen to like DeWalt drills (along with Bosch and Makita). But I have a hard time justifying spending 9x the money for something that – from all I can see – is not fundamentally different from the less-expensive off-brand.

If the batteries really don’t last as well, you can still buy 3 “drill master” drills and charge the out-of-use ones while using the next one in line. And if they do work as well, then you and your two bestest friends can have a drill party and get more done in less time – and for less money to boot!

The drill I use most frequently is a Coleman rechargeable drill I recovered from a car when I worked at Hertz about 10 years ago. It’s not the most amazing drill ever, but it does what I need it to far more well than I need it to.

I’d wager the above-mentioned drill from Harbor Freight would more than adequately meet the needs of most folks -and leave them $50 extra to pick up that other really cool item just down the aisle 🙂

jeopardy! was wrong

A recent Final Jeopardy! question said there are two pairs of countries which differ in spelling by only two letters: Australia/Austria and one other. The answer they were looking for was Niger/Nigeria.

Well, I was thinking about this recently and realized there is a third pair: Mali/Malawi.

It’s not often you see errors on Jeopardy! 🙂

one-way to mars

The NY Times has an interesting op-ed on this topic today.

Maybe we should consider sending people on one-way trips to Mars because if they’re explorers as earth-bound ones were, presuming a return trip may be too expensive – or even undesirable.

We’ve had lots of experience as humans of sending people on one-way trips. Maybe we could turn Mars into a penal colony like Georgia and Australia once were 🙂

More seriously, though – this has been proposed in various contexts before, but if the people signing-up for the program are truly volunteering, then why not?

out/open-sourcing education

Along with the /. post mentioned by Jason, is Bob Cringely’s discussion on outsourcing education.

What is the emphasis on in-person education from specific professors? I’ve been asked for my transcript professionally once – and that’s because my current employer pays more attention to grades than technical aptitude.

I can recall only a small handful of professors I would want to take classes with, and almost none who I actually got one-on-one time with while in school. (I think there was only ever one, Dale Bryant @ HVCC.)

MIT, Berkeley, and myriad other schools are making their lectures available online for free. Hundreds of schools have podcasts of classes and special events.

So, why DO we insist on graduating from “the school” – and not learning what we can and want, when and where we can and are able?

safari on linux?

I’ve been wondering why Apple hasn’t made an edition of its browser available for Linux – any of them.

It’s based on various open-source tools, and while we all know Apple likes very much to control the user experience, it seems odd to me they haven’t released at least a source edition for Linux.

If you’re interested in trying it, I found the following off a quick search:

What are y’all’s experiences with PlayOnLinux, if any?

blackberry menus

For what it’s worth, I wanted to change the 6 buttons on the home screen of my work-issued Blackberry. On my Motorola phones, altering the home screen is a cinch – go to Settings, Home Screen, and you’re good to go.

Apparently the Blackberry, while trying to be helpful, I’m sure, makes this much harder – if you’re used to another approach.

To rearrange the buttons, you press the button just left of the scroll wheel (I’m sure it has a name, but whatever). Then you navigate to the button you want to move, press Alt, click with the scroll wheel, and then move it to where you want it to be.

Yes, this sounds far simpler than what I’ve done in the past, but because it’s different, it seemed hard 🙂