Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Organization

This post is near and dear to my heart since I am a Marine Corps veteran and a veteran of the Iraq War.

As the wars continue to go on, there are an increasing amount of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan leaving the services and continuing their lives as civilians. However, as can be witnessed in all over, the services being offered to these veterans are either non-existent or very poor.

Disability claims take months if not years to process, VA clinics (not the main hospitals) are in bad need of repair and personnel, VA funding needs to be increased and laws need to be adjusted to reflect current times or even be created.

These are just a few of the problems facing the support network. This doesn't even include the problems facing the veterans themselves. Veterans are coming out needing financial assistance, support groups, psychiatric care, medical care, legal assistance, etc. There are networks out there set up by the government and private companies to provide these services but not enough to the point where the veterans are no longer in need. In the news you hear about the poor services being offered by the VA. Just the other day I read in the newspaper that there are already 1,500 homeless veterans that were in the wars. This is unbelievable. These men and women put their lives on the line for their country, whether they wanted to or not, and this is how they are treated afterwards. It's downright despicable.

New organizations have emerged that state to represent the new group of veterans emerging from these wars. However, I don't believe they actually address the direct needs of the veterans. Without divulging names, I will give a small assessment.

One organization 9actually started by a couple of friends I served with) began as a company that said it was for veterans but actually seemed to be a political group that was a supporter of the war. It ran negative TV ads about politicians that were against the war and positive ones about politicians for it. When it was discovered that it was a political cover and not an actual veteran organization, they changed their tax status to not-for-profit and changed their organizational mission to state that it was a politically neutral organization fighting for the rights of veterans. I don't know what has come of them lately nor do I believe they have accomplished much since then. I don't really follow up on them anymore since I found out their original intentions. It's almost as if they used the veterans to promote their own agenda.

The other organization has been more active and not as politically biased but has still not really addressed the issues at hand. The organization has been more active in Washington pushing for veterans rights (a good thing) and does hold some functions at its main office. It seems to be doing a decent job for those veterans that have heard of them. However, that is the problem. The company hasn't reached out to all veterans. Most of my friends have never even heard of them. The organization should have a list of every veteran coming out of the services and mailing them information. Hell, I get it from the American Legion, VFW and other older organizations, so why not them? Additionally, it doesn't offer services such as legal support and VA help like the older groups do. In fact, it hardly offers any support other than to redirect them to an organization that can help. So, all it really seems to be is a lobbyist for Iraq and Afghanistan veteran issues. Finally, it doesn't even have meeting places for the veterans. The only actual buildings are for administration and they are located in NYC and Washington, D.C., nowhere else that is convenient for all the veterans that live all over the country.

One could always state that the veterans can go to organizations such as the VFW, VVA, American Legion and such but who wants to? The veterans of today see these organizations as old timers. They are perceived as a bunch of old guys sitting in a building, drinking and telling old war stories. These new veterans don't want that. They want a group where they can socialize with guys/gals their own age who experienced similar situations. They want other activities to do other than sit at a bar and drink. These organizations don't seem to be up to date. The one thing that they are useful for are the benefits they give their members (i.e. assistance in legal, medical and other veteran related issues) and they also advocate for veteran rights.

So, what I propose is for a group of veterans with the capability of putting together and running a company to create a not-for-profit organization that is for the veterans and actually addresses their current needs. It needs to be an organization that can not only advocate for their rights in Washington but it also needs to help them on the spot with their current needs. It needs to be an organization that makes itself known to all veterans. It needs to be able to assist veterans in every state and make itself available to every veteran of these wars. It needs to provide assistance from their own personnel, not redirect them to someone else. It needs to create a membership that is made up of our generation of veterans and will provide the social atmosphere necessary to instill the sense of camaraderie they once felt in the service. Finally, it needs to be for the veteran and keep that objective in mind. It should not have an alternative motive. It should not be politically aligned to one party or another. It doesn't matter if we support the war or not. We are veterans through and through and signed up willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Don't use us for our votes or our money. Instead, just give us what we need: support.

Hopefully, there will be an individual or individuals out there that will be willing to make something like this happen. I would be more than willing to work with people to make this a reality.

Let me know what you think. I really would like to hear everyone's thought on this. And please don't turn this into a political debate.



Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cell Phone Remote

Well, it's bound to happen so I might as well say it first.

Industry says that eventually they want to make the cell phone the personal portable computer for the consumers. And with the introduction of the IPhone and similar products, we're just one step closer. Not only are phones getting more advanced but so are other electronic gadgets. Televisions are getting upgrades, some being fitted with WiFi and Bluetooth.

So, with this mentioned, it's entirely possible for a phone, such as the IPhone, to have a software upgrade to allow it to pick up devices such as the TV. The cell phone (with the touch screen capability) would then configure itself to the TV and the screen would display all the common buttons on a remote to be able to use the TV.

I believe it would be a good step in the right direction. However, as with all ideas, there are problems. Most notably, pranksters would roam around areas with public TV sets switching the channels. But then again, pranksters always find a way to pull something.

Anyway, just a small idea I had. If you want, comment on the idea, whether it be good or bad. Hell, maybe even suggest it to Apple as a new function for the IPhone.

Thanks again for reading.



Friday, January 18, 2008

Virtual World Auction Site

Ok, well here's a new one that I need to get off my mind. An auction website for virtual world items. I actually mentioned a little bit of this at a real cash economy (RCE) virtual world site that I am a member of (www.rceuniverse.com). So, here's the train of thought.

There are many massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) out there and it seems as if there are many more to come. For every game that is made, there is a forum set up for it, whether it be player made or company made. And because of the nature of the games, people end up buying and selling the items that they collect in the virtual worlds for game money or, in some cases, for real cash. Some games provide a simplified way to do it in game and others don't. The forum boards that are set up for these games tend to have a section in it for the sole purpose of selling and buying stuff. After the game and forum has been around for a while (if it is successful enough to make it this far), the trading sections tend to become very hard to search through to find what you want to sell or buy. On top of that, it wastes space for the forum that can be put to use elsewhere.

My proposition would be to collaborate with both the owners of these various forums and with the actual companies themselves to set up an out-of-game auction website where users can go to purchase items for the games they can play. This auction sight would encompass all the virtual worlds, not cater to only one. Depending on the agreements with the companies, the auctions can either be held with in game currency or actual cash. Sellers could set up instructions of where and when the trade will be made in game. Buyers would be able to purchase items they are looking for anytime rather than have to log on to their virtual world to find it. The big sales that seem to be conducted out of game can be held on the site. Users wouldn't have to constantly message the seller to see what the current bid stands at; instred, they can just see it in the auction. In some games where there are only shops scattered throughout the virtual world, it would make it easier for the user to find the item he/she wants without searching for hours at each shop in game. The auction site would work like Ebay. It would make a commission of the value of items sold. A portion of the sales would go to the companies which may be slighted by not using the selling functions in game.

Now, the problems I forsee (which could be overcome with some work) would be licensing fees, EULAs of the games that people would be selling items from, marketing the site to get more people interested and working with the companies of the games to allow for such transactions to be made.

So, let's throw this idea around and see if it would be doable. Would it work or wouldn't it? Is it worth a shot? What other problems may arise?

Thanks for reading.



Monday, January 14, 2008

Home Keyless Entry

Have you ever had the experience where you approach the door to your house late at night then have to rummage through your pockets for your keys and then figure out which key is the right one for the door? Or maybe you've had items in both hands and had to put one down to search for your keys? I bet everyone has had a similar experience sometime in their life. I have too.

About a year ago, I bought a new car for commuting to work, a Nissan Sentra 07. The coolest feature of the car, in my opinion, is the keyless entry and remote. I just leave the keys in my pocket, approach the car and when I am within 1 meter of my car, my car recognizes my keys and when I hit the button on the handle, the doors open. Once inside the car, I can turn the ignition knob without the keys inserted and the car will start. So, without even attempting to take my keys out of my pocket, I can enter and start my vehicle.

Now, why can't the same concept be applied to house doors? It might make the door handle and keys more expensive but it wouldn't be so much so that it would make it unaffordable. The security behind the system seems sound. And, it would just make life that much easier for the homeowner.

So, how bout it? Someone think they can make this idea a reality? Is the idea already out there? Do you even think it is worth the time to develop it?

Thanks again for reading.



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Xbox Live Virtual World

I'm really starting to enjoy playing some of my games for the Xbox 360 online. It's loads more fun and a lot more challenging. Because of this, I haven't spent much time playing in some of the virtual worlds I used to visit.

I remember reading an article not too long ago about Playstation having some form of a virtual world called Playstation Home where players could make their own apartment, show off their achievements and meet up with other players virtually. I don't know if this has come about yet but it sounds like a great idea.

Now, I believe XBox Live is a great service. They seem to be incorporating more stuff into like downloading movies, music and games. New things are being added all the time. The form of currency used is MS Points which can be bought either online or through XBox live. However, all it seems to be is another online store for shopping, which is great but I believe it could be so much more.

My idea would be for XBox to combine multiple ideas into one. I envision a mix of Playstation Home, Second Life and Entropia Universe (or any other RCE or MMORPG for that matter). It would be cool to be able to log on, browse the internet, play some games and then if I wanted to, log into the Xbox Live Virtual World to display my trophies in my apartment. I could then venture out and go shopping for new stuff for my apartment or go to a store that has previews of movies with the option to buy (rather than the current 2d version in the marketplace). If I decided I wanted to be more adventurous, I could venture into the MMORPG area of the virtual world and take on some activities (kind of like Entropia Universe). I could go hunting, craft, mine, etc. This would give me the possibilty of generating MS Points so I can buy stuff either in the RPG section or in the actual martketplace. Of course, just like EU, I could also lose my money that I gamble with. It would also be possible to set up my own virtual shop where I can sell products (i.e. virtual Amazon) or I could set up shop in the RPG area and resell items I loot or trade for.

I think this would be the best use of XBox live. They have almost everything in place (keyboard for the controller, headset, etc), they just need better servers (compared to the cruddy lag that has been happening since the holidays). I would love to see something like this in the future.

What do you think of this? Good idea or just another useless suggestion? Comments or suggestions?

Thanks again for reading.



Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Brick and Mortar Online Music Store

Well, the time has come to post this one. I wasn't too sure at first because I thought it was too good of an idea to let go but, as usual, I can't do a darn thing with it so someone else might.

On the ride to work the other day, I had some more ideas pop up, one which I figured my readers (the eventual ones) might be able to make use of if they knew how to do it. I call it Brick and Mortar Online. Here's the train of thought. Take of it what you will and hopefully someone will be able to put it together into a more coherent and workable (maybe even profitable) idea.

So, obviously, brick & mortar stores that sell CDs and such are things of the past. Digital Music is what's here. But, why not combine the two and take the advantages of both and put it into one.

Close your eyes and imagine this scenario. You walk into a BMO store. There are no racks of CDs, no cashiers, no shelves filled with useless crap. Instead, lined up against the wall is a bar protruding from the wall. Built into the bar every 10 feet or so, are touch screen computers that are linked up to the internet. A USB port is built into the front of each terminal. On top of the bar, next to each screen is two headsets. Each computer terminal displays BMO's website. Customers sit down at their bar stools and use the touchscreen to search for songs they wish to download. When they have made their selections, the computer asks them to link up their MP3 player. They hook it up and the songs begin downloading from the BMO website directly to their MP3 player. Nothing gets saved to the hard drive so that new customers can't just go on and download the prior customers songs. The customers can preview any song they want and even let a friend listen. A database of the most popular songs downloaded from customers is on the front page of the site as well as recommendations of the day and all that sort. Sounds like iTunes and all those other places right? Exactly, but it also brings the social atmosphere of the brick and mortar stores.

Now, the unique part comes. Since a lot of people own a MP3 player, its almost worthless to give them a CD for a gift. So the new thing is to give a gift card to one of the online music stores. However, only a select few actually offer gift cards and even then, there can be fees or limitations in the card. On top of all that, if the person receiving the gift owns an iPod and gets a gift card for Zune Marketplace or owns a regular MP3 player and gets a gift card to iTunes, the card goes wasted cause iTunes can only be played on iPods.

In steps the unique idea offered by BMO. You know your friend likes 5 particular songs from different bands. You go into BMO and buy a gift card but it's actually a modified flash drive. The customer goes to one of the BMO terminals and finds the songs he wants to download, inserts the modified flash drive into the terminal and downloads the songs. The customer then gives it to his friend as a gift. The friend hooks up the modified flash drive directly to the mp3 player and the mp3 player syncs up with the drive and downloads the songs. The songs on the flash drive are rendered useless after download and the friend now has the songs he wanted.

This answers a few problems. I have a feeling that eventually, more and more people will just abide by the rules and pay for their music. Of course you will always have the renegades who don't want to pay but most law abiding citizens will pay to download music. The music industry doesn't want their music pirated so they have ensured that law abiding companies protect their property with DRM. That's all fine and dandy and I am sure you know all about this. Basically, a customer can't just go to a online music store and send a song as a gift to a friend. He can't download it and then give it to him because that is technically pirating unless he destroys all copies and doesn't keep one for himself. And of course his friend can't just give it to the next person who may enjoy it. This idea eliminates those worries and allows a friend to give the gift of music without the worries of the law.

So, I know I probably missed a few aspects and the idea could probably be expanded a bit more but that was my general train of thought. I haven't had much time to contemplate it so please give me that when evaluating the idea. So, what do you think? Doable? Is it a load of crap that I should just toss out the window?

Thanks again for reading.



Monday, January 7, 2008

Beach Body Marketing Idea

Well, I've decided to go on a fitness plan that I've been checking out for some time now. I did some research and it looks to be the best out there for what I am looking to do. So for the next three months, I will subject myself to this program in hopes of getting in better shape, especially since my wedding is coming around.

On top of the helath benefits, I am going to take on a project in relation to the fitness program. I took the idea from a clip on YouTube and I plan to use the same concept for my idea. Maybe, just maybe, I can give this clip that I make to Beach Body Fitness and they might like it enough to give me a little money for my hard work. We'll see though. I have to get through the program first and foremost to even make the idea work.

Once it is complete, I will post the complete video here for all to enjoy.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned.



Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blockbuster TV

Unfortunately, my cable options are limited in my part of town so we have to succumb to the exorbitant rates that our cable company, Comcast, makes us pay. It's absolutely horrible. The worst part about it is that they offer you "deals" that are supposed to save you more but in fact cost you more over the long run. One of the so called deals is that you get their On Demand service included as part of the big package. For those of you who don't know what On Demand is, it's a service Comcast offers, that I am sure other cable companies offer, that allows you to watch a selection of their movies, programs and TV programs. It's pretty much like a TiVo (DVR) but it only has a selection that they pick for you.

Anyway, the only thing we decided we wanted the On Demand for was the movies. We like to watch our fair share of movies and figured it would be a bit cheaper ordering them On Demand rather than going out to rent the movie. Boy were we wrong. First of all, the movie selection is very limited. It's only about 30 - 40 movies that they select themselves. New movies that become available for rent don't come on until about 4 weeks after DVD release and even then, it's only a select few that they decide to offer. So, basically, you're stuck paying for stuff you may not want to watch and can't watch what you want until they decide to show it.

Here's the solution. I am sure everyone by now has heard of NetFlix and Blockbuster Online. If not, these are services where individuals can go online and order a movie(s) they want and have it sent directly to their house via mail and they send it back via mail and get another one from their list in return. Blockbuster Online tops that by allowing the customer to bring the movie in to their store and exchange it for another one for free instead of going through the mail exchange program. However, recently, Blockbuster has raised their fees much higher for their service and limited the amount of in store exchanges that can be done according to the monthly fee the customer is paying. So, unless you watch tons of movies, the in store exchange policy is worthless. Due to the increase in rates and the loss of the exchange policy, in my opinion, Blockbuster's service is inferior to Netflix.

My thought is for Blockbuster, or any other company or individual for that matter, to create their own station where individuals can go online and search through all the movies out there and select which one they want to view. I don't really know the requirements or resources needed to make something like this happen but I don't see why it couldn't be done. And I truly believe that the company to offer this service first would most likely put a lot of companies out of business or at least gain a huge market share of the movie rental business. I personally would love to see a service like this offered.

So, as usual, thoughts, concerns, suggestions? Is it worth the time or is it a load of crap? Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.



Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Virtual World Mall

Have you ever shopped for clothes or other types of apparel online? If you're like millions of other people, you probably have or at least considered it. I've done it several times but it always leaves me wanting more.

About seven years ago, when I was just a junior in college, a roommate and I thought of making an online mall where people could go to see all their favorite stores and shop or just look. But, back then, virtual worlds weren't as developed as they are now so our idea was left hanging. Of course, other people came along with the same idea and some tried and failed ot make it a reality. I started playing around in virtual worlds back in 2004 and was hooked. The ones that really caught my attention were Second Life and Entropia Universe which opened my mind up to all sorts of possiblities of mixing virtual worlds with the real one.

And that's when it hit me again. The virtual mall idea. Obviously, people have done so in places like Second Life and other worlds of that nature but usually the stores and malls carry clothing for avatars, not their human operator. And, there are some stores in these worlds where you can find real life clothing for sale; however, the difference between the item in virtual life and real life is very apparent. I also noticed that major retailers and companies also made their presence known but that's about it. Their virtual stores direct you to their website or show you what htey have to offer but you can't buy it in the virtual world or try it on, you have their site or go to the real store to do so.

My idea puts a lot ofthings together. Avatar creatino engines have come along way since the old days. There are so many possiblities when creating your avatar. What I would like to see done is a virtual world where you can enter in your real life dimensions (i.e. waist, in seam, chest size, arm length, height, etc). No more of the sliders that make you big or small, fat or skinny. I would like to see something that actually makes the real you. On top of that, I would like the possibilty of uploading a good, clear picture of you (more of the face than anything else) and then after creating your dimensions, it cuts and copies your real life image on your new avatar. This would give you close to a perfect virtual representation of yourself.

Once this is done, the other parts are fairly simple since all the other resources out there exist. A virtual world that is dedicated to just shopping centres where real life brands can create a presence. Customers can then log on with their avatars and browse the stores. If they find something they like, they can then try on the clothing on their avatar. This would give them a greater idea of what the item would look like on them and would also allow them the possiblity of creating sets of clothing to mix and match, something you can only try to envision in your head right now. The customers could then decide to buy the item or continue browsing. When they're finished, they could go to the virtual cash register to pay for their items and enter in their shipping address.

By now, I'm sure you can imagine the rest of the idea and how it would pan out. I, for one, would definitely use something like this to go shoping online and Iam sure thousands of others would too. Even small business entrepreneurs could set up small shops to sell their items online.

As always, I have neither the skills nor resources to even contemplate taking this project on but I am sure there are those of you out there that do. I hope you can see them same opportunities that I do with this idea and I wish you the best of luck.

So, what do you think? Brilliant or garbage? Anything to add to the idea?

Thank you all again for reading.



Sunday, December 30, 2007

Education Database

A while ago, my fiancee and I were talking about her job as a High School Guidance Counselor. We were discussing some of the downfalls and problems she faced and what she lacked in resources. In particular was the lack of background on students and the backup paperwork that showed their progression throughout their educational career. This is the part that interested me the most since, at the time, I was taking courses in Management Information Systems at college.

I talked to her more about the subject and what I found astounded me. The school systems do have a database for the students; however, there are several different ones to track different areas (i.e. grades, attendance, courses, etc). On top of that, different school systems use different database programs. So, a student transferring from School A to School B doesn't bring any backup education information along except for their transcripts which doesn't show everything about a student. More importantly, the backup they do bring is paperwork so it is not electronically stored, they just enter in the classes taken and throw out the rest. Furthermore, a student going from grade school to middle school or from middle to high school doesn't have his past keep up with him. Basically, there is very little tracking being done within the educational system for our students. Because of this, their needs and requirements are not met properly.

My proposed solution to this, one which I dont have the necessary skills for, is to make a database that tracks the student from the day he or she enters school to the day he leaves. The program would not just track classes but it would track grades, behavior problems, attendance, etc. This system would not just be for one school, it would be for practically the whole country. This way, when a student transfers to another school or district or state, the school administration can just reassign the student to the new school and allow the new school to have a better understanding of what the students needs are. Not only would this be beneficial to the school and the student but it would be a huge help for state officials to track each school districts requirements and make the necessary changes in allocating resources.

There is a lot more going on in my mind as to how this could work but this is the basic outline of the system I envision and how it would help alleviate a problem occurring in the school systems. Unfortunately, I have neither the time, money or the skills necessary to make something like this a reality. So, if anyone out there can throw this thing together, more power to you and I hope it works out.

Now down to the final part? Good idea or a load of rubbish? Any thoughts or modifications that you think should be made to the grand idea?

Thanks for reading,