Rob Dolin's Blog

Thoughts on technology, politics, non-profits, and their intersections; and food

Tony Hawk rides a real-life hoverboard:

Tony Hawk rides a real-life hoverboard: #tech #skateboarding

Filed under: Uncategorized

Recommendations for Walla Walla, WA

This summer, we did a road-trip from Seattle to Walla Walla and had a great time dining and wine tasting.  Below are some of my recommendations:

  • Breakfast / Brunch
    • Bacon and Eggs – This converted convenience store serves a serious breakfast focusing on its namesakes.  They also have great breakfast cocktails.
    • Maple Counter Café – Third generation restaurateurs serve a variety of pancakes and usual breakfast fare.  You’ll notice there are no lunch recommendations as after eating breakfast here, we were good until dinner.
  • Dinner
    • Whoop Dem Up Hollow Café – A 20-30 minute drive away in Waithsburg, WA this was an excellent choice for very reasonably priced “southern comfort food” and great service.
  • Wine
    • Airport – Walla Walla has what felt like a winery incubator in old hangers and barracks near their airport.  Wineries are close together (a short drive or a long walk) and often staffed by the proprietor.  Syzygy was one of my favorites.
    • Downtown – Downtown Walla Walla is packed with tasting rooms.  Of a half-dozen that we visited on a Saturday afternoon, all were good.  Charles Smith‘s modern rock vibe and fruit-forward reds are great.
  • Where to Stay
    • Marcus Whitman Hotel – A great location in the heart of Walla Walla.  Ask for a room in the “tower” section of the hotel (as opposed to the recently added Howard Johnson-style section of the hotel.)
  • On the way – It’s a long drive from Seattle to Walla Walla (and back)
    • Taqueria El Rinconsito in Yakima – Of all of the Mexican restaurants I have eaten at in Washington state, this came the closest to my memories of food when traveling in Mexico.
    • Anthony’s in Richland (Tri-Cities) – The Anthony’s in Tri-Cities has great fish, lower prices than its sibling Seattle locations, and a great view of a marina on the Columbia River
    • L’Ecole No. 41 Winery – At the side of the road between Tri-Cities and Walla Walla is the old school building that houses L’Ecole.  In the last few years, they have re-branded from their colorful labels with a crayon drawing of the school house and have built larger production facilities behind the school house, but the wine is still very good.
  • Skip It – Places I do NOT recommend
    • Whitehouse – Crawford Restaurant – This downtown restaurant had good food (but small portions), was over-priced, and service was terrible.

Filed under: Travel

Recommendations for Lake Chelan, WA

My spouse’s family has been going to Lake Chelan since she was young.  I started going a few years ago and we’ve been going back every summer and many winters.  Below are some of my favorite places to go in the Chelan valley:

  • Breakfast
    • Apple Cup Café – This friendly diner-style restaurant offers a great breakfast.  Some of my favorites are the Swedish pancakes and the HUGE breakfast burrito.  They’re close to town (just up the main street)
    • Blueberry Hills – Above Manson they serve some GREAT waffles as well as large breakfasts like the “cowboy” and of course u-pick-em blueberries from their farm.
  • Lunch / Casual
    • Lakeview Drive-in – For a quick burger or sandwich and a great view
    • Chelan Teriyaki – Ask for the mixed teriyaki and orange sauce
    • Local Myth Pizza – This is where we see the locals going for pizza in the winter when the tourists are gone.  The homemade chicken sausage is great
  • Dinner
  • Wine – The Chelan valley has nearly 20 wineries.  Below are some of my favorites:
    • North of Chelan (toward Manson) – Benson Vineyards, Wapato Point Cellars, Tildio
    • South of Chelan (toward Wenatchee) – Nefarious Cellars, Chelan Estate Winery
  • Hiking
    • Chelan River Trail – There’s a nice, easy 3-mile roundtrip hike with views of the Chelan Dam and Chelan River
    • There are also
  • Other activities
    • Boating – Shoreline rentals has multiple locations and will rent speed boats, jet skis, pontoon boats, and more
    • Bowling – There’s a ten-lane bowling alley in Chelan which is great on a rainy day
    • Mini-Golf – There’s outdoor mini golf in the park in downtown Chelan.  If you’re staying at Wapato Point, they also have their own mini golf course
    • Water Slides – Slide Waters waterslide park was a good time when I took a younger sibling.  I was

Filed under: Travel

Internet Bandwidth Use Cases

At last night’s meeting of the City of Seattle’s Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board (CTTAB), we discussed what levels of Internet bandwidth are needed now and into the future.  This got me thinking and I wanted to jot-down some thoughts and seek feedback from friends and fellow community members.  Thanks very much–

0) Text-only – If you can remember back to the days before the Internet, there were some applications like text-only email, text-only chat, and bulletin board systems (BBS’s) that would work reasonably well with only a text interface.  With the proliferation of personal mobile devices around the world, SMS text messaging provides for this use case.  Very few people use the Internet like this today.

1) Email and Web 1.0 – In the USA in the mid-to-late 1990’s, many people first connected to the Internet.  The two biggest applications were sending and receiving email (which might include inline images and/or attached files) and browsing static web pages.  However, both email and the web have evolved.  Email attachments are routinely multiple megabytes and web sites routinely send data back and forth while interacting with the user (ex: Google maps getting new map tiles, Facebook or Twitter getting new news feed items, or getting new emails.  With the way email and the web are used 15-20 years since, higher bandwidth is needed

2a) Buffered Streaming (Lower Resolution) – Imagine streaming an online course from a website like EdX or Coursera.  Resolutions of 320×240 or 640×480 is probably sufficient for the talking head of an instructor and to be able to read simple slides.  For the buffered streaming use case, latency is also not a huge issue as uses will wait a moment while the streaming application fills its buffer in case of bandwidth fluctuation; but the bandwidth must be sufficient to carry the streaming content in real-time (or possibly faster as some streaming applications allow end-users to speed-up and watch at 1.5x or 2x.)  However, if an online course includes video or even dense slides, you’re probably going to want to step-up to:

2b) Buffered Streaming (Higher Resolution) – It’s date night and you and your significant other want to stay in and watch a movie.  Instead of purchasing or renting physical media (which may eventually end-up in a landfill) and wasting fuel on pick-up or delivery of the physical media, you want to stream the bits over the Internet.  You expect a reasonably higher resolution experience (ex: 1920 x 1080 or better) and you’re willing to wait a few moments for the movie to start, but bandwidth needs to be sufficient to carry the movie in real-time so you don’t have long pauses mid-movie.  This does not just include movies, but sporting events (where higher resolution may be required to see a hockey puck or motion of players on a football field) may also accept a short delay.

3) Real-time Higher Resolution Streaming – There are other use cases that are particularly high value that require both high bandwidth and low latency because of their interactive nature:

  • Video Conferencing / Real-time Video Chat – Whether its to remotely join a business meeting or to stay in-touch with family, not only is high bandwidth required, but delay in a back-and-forth conversation will severely hamper the ability of a remote worker to participate.
  • Screen Sharing – in remote work situations, information is often presented in real-time and all remote viewers must be able to see the position of a pointer, data being entered into a spreadsheet, a document being edited live, etc.
  • Remote Desktop / Desktop as a Service – A trend among information security conscious organizations (ex: financial institutions, law firms) is to have the primary computer on which information resides physically within the organization and the end user can access the application through a real-time streaming of the desktop.  This must be very low latency as the end-user should not feel like they are waiting when they type a key or move their mouse.
  • Online Gaming – While not as business-oriented as some of the other examples above, being able to navigate a higher resolution 3D virtual world in real-time while others are doing the same pushes the boundaries of end-user experiences technology can offer and hopefully helps to increase the quality, richness, and interactivity of remote business meetings or conversations with family around the world. 

Filed under: Technology

Project: TechDems WordPress Help team

There are nearly 100 local Democratic party organizations in the state of Washington.  Some of them include an abundance of leaders with significant technology skills.  Others have volunteers who are just getting onto the Internet.  Thanks to a Facebook comment from Robert Kangas from the 11th LD Democrats I’m helping to start a project to connect local Democratic and progressive organization leaders with WordPress experts.  Here’s how it works:

WordPress Help Team member experience:

  1. Join a listserv with other WordPress power users who want to help Democratic and progressive organizations
  2. Occasionally get emails from local organization leaders seeking help or advice using WordPress
  3. Reply to help when you can; ignore or delete when you’re busy
  4. Also learn from other WordPress power users by getting CC’d on their replies

Local organization leader experience:

  1. Send an email to a list of WordPress power users who have volunteered to help
  2. Get advice promptly because you’re reaching-out to multiple volunteers

If you would like to get involved as a member of the WordPress Help Team, you can join at:

Filed under: Technology

At $1,500 $GOOG Glass is an “I’m Rich” App :(

One of my tech industry colleagues purchased a developer version of Google Glass and I got to try it a few months ago. Combining a smartphone operating system, heads-up display, camera, and and microphone into a head-mounted unit is an exciting idea in wearable technology. Unfortunately, Google’s offering this to the public for $1,500 as was announced on Tue, 4/15 makes this a fashion accessory similar to the old Apple iOS “I’m Rich” app which sold for $999 and had minimal functionality beyond proving that the owner had deep pockets. I hope that Google (or other wearable and smart device manufacturers) bring their pricing closer to the cost of components and democratize this technology instead of creating another way for people with excess cash to declare themselves wealthy “glassholes.”

Filed under: Technology

Idea: Open Broadband Performance Survey (OpenBPS) #CodeAcross #OpenDataDay #ODD14

As part of today’s Open Data Day, I’m interested in finding (or building) a large set of data on how broadband Internet connections actually perform. The original questions that got me thinking about this were discussed at a City of Seattle Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board (@CTTAB) meeting:

  • What is a good minimum level of broadband service?
  • While Internet service providers (ISPs) claim service up to XX Mbps, what is their actual service range?

If you’re interested in taking 30-60 seconds to contribute data about your (wired or cellular) Internet connection, please do so here:

Filed under: Technology

Free tools for group video chat – Try with your family for the holidays

Whether you’re organizing a board meeting, a strategy meeting for your favorite cause, or virtually celebrating winter holidays with family members in another city.  Technology has the potential for us not just to share text and audio, but to share live video.  You’ll need the three below items to get started:

  • Camera – You’ll need a computer or phone with a webcam.  Most recent laptops and smartphones have one built-in.  If you have a desktop computer, you can buy a basic webcam starting around $15-$20 that plugs-in to your computer.
  • Broadband Internet – Video files are not small so you’ll want a pretty good Internet connection because the quality of your experience will be dependent on your Internet bandwidth.  A wired broadband Internet connection or wi-fi are good ways to go.  A fast cellular network will also work, but if you have the option to connect to wi-fi, you may want to consider this because real-time video uses a good amount of bandwidth
  • Video Chat Software – You’ll need software running on both ends for video chat.  I describe three software options below and some pros and cons of each;

As today is Dec. 24th and many people have today and/or tomorrow off of work, I recommend trying a video chat with family.  Happy Holidays–

Filed under: Technology

Five free tools to better communicate to members and leaders of your non-profit or political organization

The winter holiday season is a great time for the leadership of non-profit and political organizations to upgrade their organization’s infrastructure.  Below are five areas of opportunity

1. Email Blasts: MailChimp – According to Jon Carson, the Executive Director of Organizing for America, Email is still the workhorse for OFA’s work.  For most non-profit and political organizations, this is likely the case and MailChimp offers free email blast service for lists up to 2,000 subscribers with their “Entrepreneur” pricing level.

2. Email Listserv: YahooGroups or GoogleGroups – While email blasts are great for periodic messages to your entire membership or supporters list, you’ll also want to be able to communicate among your leadership.  While this is relatively easy to do by just putting everyone’s email in the TO and CC lines, these services offer easy reflection, optional digest, private archiving, and more.  When a person joins (or leaves), its easy to add (or remove them) from a single place.

3. Shared Documents: Dropbox or SkyDriveYour organization likely has shared documents like contact lists, budgets, program/project plans, and more.  Like the email listserv, getting everything into a single shared Dropbox or SkyDrive folder makes adding (and removing) people easier.  instead of searching for all of the shared documents, you just share the folder.  This also prevents the “hit-by-bus” problem where one person is the gatekeeper or has all of the organization’s information.  If they’re ever hit by a bus (or otherwise leave the organization) everyone has copies of the organizations key documents.

4. Remote Participation: Skype or Google Hangouts – Even for an organization where people all live in the same neighborhood, some may work or travel elsewhere and it’s nice to be able to accommodate remote participants; OR if your organization has people spread over multiple geographies, it’s time to move beyond audio-only conference calls.  Skype is offering free group video for a year: and though it doesn’t have as broad platform support, Google Hangouts offers similar group video.

5. Social Media Management: Hootsuite – Your organization probably has a presence on Facebook and Twitter; but managing these can be time consuming.  For managing organization social media, I’m a huge fan of HootSuite.  Their interface lets you create tabs and columns for views like Twitter @replies, #Hashtag searches, and more.  You can also build a list of profiles that you want to watch whose content you might often cross-post.

I hope you’ve found this post useful.  Depending on interest and response, I’ll post more about these and other communication tools for your non-profit or political group.  Happy Holidays–

P.S. I’m also eager to hear what you think is missing from the above list. 

Filed under: Technology

@LibertyMutual Ad Targeting #FAIL on @Facebook using @DerrickSkaug #UW != #WSU /cc @AaronGoldman

There are a number of things wrong with the below ad:image

1. Derrick Skaug is a rabid Washington State University (WSU) Cougar fan (not a University of Washington (UW) Husky fan)

2. Consider targeting my undergraduate alma mater: the University of Illinois

3. I’m partially color-blind, but the painted face looks blue and white.  These are not the UW colors of purple and gold. 

Filed under: Technology

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