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The Premium McWrap packaging is very nicely designed

McDonald's Premium McWrap 1I’m clearly no stranger to mar­ket­ing, but my career hasn’t yet brought me in touch with prod­uct pack­ag­ing. I like pack­ag­ing, and I’ve actu­ally bought things over the years because they were nicely pack­aged — stuff like candy,1 Altoids Sours, some ran­dom bike part… and yes, I’ve even bought myself a few low-balance gift cards2 to keep in my this is so awe­some file.

I recently found myself impressed with the card­board pack­ag­ing around the McDonald’s Pre­mium McWrap — I should prob­a­bly go ask for a clean one while they’re still avail­able. I guess I didn’t notice when they added this item to the menu, because I ordered my first one by mis­take. My annoy­ance at pay­ing about dou­ble what I expected turned to intrigue about as soon as I peeked into my drive-through bag.

Some of that price cer­tainly went into the pack­ag­ing design. What I found wasn’t a cheap paper-clad item like stan­dard McDonald’s wraps, but some­thing that actu­ally looks like a “pre­mium” product.

  • The box is rather thought­fully designed, con­tain­ing the food very nicely within — you know, what you want from a container.
  • It has a pull-and-tear strip for open­ing the pack­age… and nat­u­rally, the strip runs right past the Xbox ad unit on the front.
  • There’s a lit­tle tab sys­tem on the side of the box that’s there pri­mar­ily to indi­cate which wrap you ordered, but also to pas­sively edu­cate you on the rest of the lineup. (“Oh look, they also have sweet chili flavor!”)
  • It doesn’t look like this should work, but once you’ve opened the pack­age, the box eas­ily stands upright, even with the wrap inside.
McDonald's Premium McWrap 2 McDonald's Premium McWrap 3

Wait, was what tasty?

  1. Still pissed that my par­ents wouldn’t buy me Bub­ble Tape.
  2. Con­fuse your local cashier today — ask for a $1 gift card!

Written by Everett Guerny

February 25th, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Derechos, am I right(s)?

Span­ish is a lan­guage I’ve stud­ied on and off through­out my life, but never hard enough, it seems. See­ing a pam­phlet recently, titled Declaración de los dere­chos, made me feel that way. The actual mean­ing (“dec­la­ra­tion of rights”) was easy enough for me to fig­ure out, but I was sur­prised when I real­ized that the Span­ish word for “rights” is dere­chos.

Whether or not you under­stand Span­ish, you may be won­der­ing why I found this so strange.

Well, a word in Span­ish I cer­tainly know is derecha (which means “right”… as in, the direc­tion that isn’t “left”) — it’s one of the first words any­one learns in Span­ish. And despite that word and dere­chos hav­ing dif­fer­ent gen­ders, it can’t be a coin­ci­dence that the two words are almost the same in both Eng­lish and Spanish.

What’s so weird about that? Why shouldn’t these Eng­lish homo­phones be sim­i­lar in Spanish?

I’d explain it like this: I mostly feel this way because of how it works with another pair of Span­ish words — in Eng­lish, the word free has dif­fer­ent mean­ings that each trans­late dif­fer­ently. Most of the time we prob­a­bly think of it in the “cost­ing zero dol­lars” sense… but there’s also the arguably higher-minded def­i­n­i­tion “exist­ing with­out restric­tion.” In Span­ish, they’re two very dif­fer­ent words, the for­mer being gratis and the lat­ter being libre.

In the English-speaking world, I see the dif­fer­ence between the two “frees” most often come up in the Free Soft­ware1 com­mu­nity. When dis­cussing Free Soft­ware phi­los­o­phy, peo­ple will wax elo­quent about the dif­fer­ent mean­ings of free, using phrases like “free as in beer” and “free as in free­dom” to help con­trast the two. They’ll also occa­sion­ally veer into expla­na­tions of Span­ish vocab­u­lary to high­light the dif­fer­ence, point­ing out that gratis and libre are more pre­cise ways to describe two kinds of soft­ware, both of which are “free,” but in sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent senses of the word.

With my mind steeped in this soft­ware salon cul­ture of the back-alley forums of the Inter­net, I became so keenly aware of the extra mean­ing words can pick up when trans­lated into other languages.

And that’s why I find it so hard to believe that, en Español, “rights” are sim­ply dere­chos. The trans­la­tion should be some­thing more abstract… more libre–like. I wouldn’t have guessed that when trans­lated, my rights become “not lefts.”

  1. You may also know this as “Open Source,” although there are folks who will tell you that they’re not the same thing. These folks have beards.

Written by Everett Guerny

January 31st, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Dear everyone who says “irregardless,”

The word you’re actu­ally look­ing for is irre­gard­ful.

You’re wel­come.

Written by Everett Guerny

January 20th, 2014 at 11:57 am

Firefox Miami Style?

Part of run­ning an actual server (as opposed to shared web host­ing) is actu­ally being con­cerned about secu­rity. I reg­u­larly keep an eye on my access logs and the like, and I don’t usu­ally find that much to worry about — I just keep ipt­a­bles, and a few other tools, within reach.

But this par­tic­u­lar user-agent string show up in vis­its from time to time (bots, I’m guess­ing)… what the hell is Fire­fox Miami Style?

An exam­ple:

37.9.53.64 - - [26/Dec/2013:13:34:39 -0500] "POST /wp-login.php/wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 200 10956 "writegeek.com/wp-login.php/wp-login.php" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:21.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/21.0 USA\\Miami Style"

Try­ing to POST to a nonex­is­tent URL? That’s clas­sic Miami style, if I’ve ever seen it.

Written by Everett Guerny

January 9th, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Winamp — “feel the love”

Winamp 2.95I prob­a­bly haven’t used Winamp in a decade, but learn­ing that it’s finally going away for good brought it back to the top of my mind this week.

Winamp wasn’t just my pri­mary digital-music-playing-thing1 — like many peo­ple, it was the first thing I ever used to play MP3s.

Yes Junior, back then Win­dows Media Player was for CDs and WAV files, and iTunes didn’t exist yet.2

What made Winamp so awe­some? I could devote a whole post3  to the genius of Winamp skins, and things I’ve been read­ing (1, 2, 3) over­whelm­ingly ref­er­ence the clas­sic “whip the llama’s ass” sound clip — which, in addi­tion to being a neat lit­tle brand­ing thing, was per­ma­nently imprinted on everyone’s mem­ory by being the first thing that would play after installation.

Those were cool, but my favorite Winamp mem­ory is some­thing a lit­tle less… super­fi­cial, per­haps? It’s a short piece of writ­ing that long ago was fea­tured on the “About” page of winamp.com:

What is Winamp? A player you say? No, no baby. Winamp is much more than that.

Winamp is a lifestyle. It is freestyle. Give me a word. Ver­sa­til­ity? Yeah. Vision­ary? Of course. Com­mu­nity? Now you’re talking.

Winamp lives because it’s users have a life.

Winamp is in the cof­fee house. On the lap­top. Of the guy. Who is writ­ing the screen­play. That you will be watch­ing next year.

Winamp is on the screen. In the club. Where the DJ plays the tracks. That get you through the night.

Winamp is with you. When you take your playlist. Push it to the ether. And share the music that you love. With all of humanity.

Winamp lets you put together the sound­track. That runs in the back­ground of your mind. And allows you to define your life.

Winamp is your skin. Allow­ing you to look and feel the way you want.

Winamp is what it is and noth­ing more. But you are the one who makes it. Winamp is there for you. It is yours. What hap­pens next? You tell me. Down­load Winamp.

–jonathan “feel the love” ward

Read­ing it back then left me a bit misty, filled with this strangely inspired feel­ing. The piece comes to mind every once in a while, at which point I seek out a copy to re-read it. Look, I can’t point to any­thing in par­tic­u­lar that I wrote or cre­ated thanks to this inspi­ra­tion. But in some way, it made me think dif­fer­ently not just about the power of music, but the trans­for­ma­tive power of what would oth­er­wise seem like triv­ial soft­ware. Read­ing this made me feel like Winamp did more than just “play music.”

But in real­ity, that’s all it did. Or was there more?

Give me a word. Hyper­bole? Maybe. Awe­some? Undeniable.

  1. Until iTunes for Win­dows showed me the value in hav­ing a library of files. Yeah, I know Winamp has a library fea­ture, but I never used it.
  2. Oh, and by the way, MP3s were these things peo­ple used to lis­ten to before there was YouTube.
  3. And, shit, I may — Winamp was doing skeu­mor­phics before Apple did skeu­mor­phics before Apple stopped doing skeu­mor­phics.

Written by Everett Guerny

November 22nd, 2013 at 9:07 pm

No Ovaltine please — we’re cool.

As a kid, I didn’t know any­thing about Oval­tine aside from their com­mer­cials, so I hadn’t seen it as a spon­sor of clas­sic radio and tele­vi­sion, as a joke on Sein­feld, or as a big fat liar in A Christ­mas Story. I can’t remem­ber any of my friends hav­ing any­thing to say about it, either.

I was totally unbiased.

But from the company’s mar­ket­ing alone, I could tell that rich choco­late Oval­tine was uncool. I had never drunk any — and decades later, I still haven’t — but if I ever had, I cer­tainly wouldn’t have told any­one about it.

I’m not exactly sure why the stuff made my lame-sense tin­gle as a kid. Maybe because Oval­tine was named after a shape (and shapes are for lit­tle kids), or that its mar­ket­ing proudly pro­claimed that it was full of vit­a­mins (like every­thing par­ents love, and kids don’t), but what I sus­pect it was… was a lit­tle more basic than that.

Watched the ad above? Note the end­ing. “More Oval­tine, please!” closed all Oval­tine ads of my child­hood. My present-day cyn­i­cal, works-in-marketing self can imag­ine some agency sell­ing this con­cept to the Oval­tine com­pany with “Look, these kids not only love this vitamin-filled drink, but they love it so much they’ll develop man­ners and ask for it politely! Par­ents will eat this up!”

But my kid self saw things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. “Wow, these kids are super-polite. That’s totally uncool.1 I don’t want this. Where’s the Nestlé Quik? That rab­bit is cool.”

There’s a mar­ket­ing mes­sage here, and it prob­a­bly goes a lit­tle some­thing like this:

If you have dif­fer­ent tar­gets, your mes­sag­ing needs to speak dif­fer­ently (use “code-switching”) when speak­ing to dif­fer­ent tar­gets — there’s peril to face when one tar­get receives a mes­sage tai­lored to another. It may fall on deaf ears, or maybe turn them off, entirely. Tell my mom about the vit­a­mins — tell me about the chocolate.

And so on. But there’s also a human mes­sage here:

Look, as you grow you’re encour­aged to “act your age” and as part of that, cast aside things and behav­iors asso­ci­ated with peo­ple younger than you, and instead do things that are more becom­ing for some­one as grown as you are. Soci­ety beats the kid out of you.

To be able to act your age is won­der­ful and arguably nec­es­sary… as long as you can still, as they say, “walk a mile” in smaller shoes when the sit­u­a­tion calls for it. And, of course, rec­og­nize why a kid — this kid, kind of grown up now — may not be inter­ested in your vit­a­min drink, how­ever how rich and choco­latey it might be.

 

  1. Full dis­clo­sure: I was kind of a polite kid, and I def­i­nitely thought I was uncool. Shoe fits.

Written by Everett Guerny

November 5th, 2013 at 1:31 am

Yes, that’s a new laptop. Yes, I know what year it is.

lenovo-thinkpad-x230-frontI know it’s 2013 and as far as “mobile com­put­ing” goes, I’m sup­posed to be pinch-zooming and app-buying and poorly-typing on a tablet like the cool kids. And I do — my  O.G. Nexus 7 (the 2012 model) some­times makes a nice com­pan­ion1 to my Galaxy Nexus Android phone, by being slightly faster and hav­ing a slightly bet­ter screen. How­ever, over the 15 months I’ve owned the Nexus 7, it never quite became the sec­ond mobile device that I wanted. Use­ful, yes… tran­scen­dent, no.

I knew some­thing was still miss­ing, so I recently went and bought a small lap­top com­puter, a Lenovo ThinkPad X230, to carry around. It runs Debian Linux. It does the things I want. It’s a won­der­ful thing to have.

I needed this because…

The lap­top that the ThinkPad replaced was from 2007, and while a decent com­puter from back then would likely still be good today, my old lap­top was not a decent com­puter, even when new. Back then, I didn’t know just how painfully slow an ultra-low-voltage, low clock-speed CPU could be… I guess I thought it being dual-core would some­how make up for it. Also, the cool­ing fan was a bit of a whiner, and would con­stantly and very vocally dis­agree with Linux’s style of power man­age­ment. The darned thing would con­stantly sound like a mini-jet-engine — too obnox­ious to use around peo­ple I actu­ally like.

Low on power, high on noise — not a good combo.

But these days…

In the last half-decade or so, main­stream humans seem to have accepted the smart­phone, and seem to be doing the same for the idiot cam­era (“tablets”). It’s the “Post-PC era,” or some­thing. Plenty of peo­ple seem to be doing okay with­out spend­ing much time on their general-purpose per­sonal com­put­ers, but over time I real­ized that as I tried to go along with this trend, I was miss­ing out. For me, a com­put­ing life cen­tered around mobile “smart” devices was one of unac­cept­able com­pro­mise. Com­pos­ing more than a cou­ple of sen­tences with­out a key­board makes me want to just not bother to write, devices with­out expand­able stor­age make one depen­dent on rent-seeking “cloud” ser­vices, and the mobile app ecosys­tem has hand­fuls of well-known prob­lems (pri­vacy, lock-in, and so on).

There’s a place for these devices, even in my life, but they just don’t replace a general-purpose com­puter. Ever.

So I did this…

I made sure not to make last time’s mis­takes when buy­ing this com­puter. The i5 CPU is more than ade­quate, and I have a ton of RAM. ThinkPads are known to play nicely with Linux, because they’re used by that awe­some kind of geek who fig­ures that shit out (and wouldn’t put up with a jet engine lap­top). It runs Debian Jessie (“test­ing”) with only minor annoy­ances — not per­fect, but noth­ing I can’t han­dle.2

Hard­ware build-quality and dura­bil­ity are major plusses for an every­day carry machine, and that’s what ThinkPads are known for. And of course, Track­Point is truly the best way to mouse. A lot has been said about the new ThinkPad key­boards, and while this one suf­fers from the bull­shit key lay­out (com­pare it to the awe­some, ugly 1337-geek clas­sic style), the key­board actu­ally feel pretty nice to type on, even if the bizarrely-placed PrintScreen key occa­sion­ally enrages me.

And finally…

In the spirit of bury­ing the lede, here are some things I intend to enjoy while tot­ing around this rock-solid, large-screen-and-real-keyboard device:

  • Full desk­top OS that does all the things
  • Bet­ter web brows­ing; approx­i­mately 1,000 open tabs
  • Actu­ally writ­ing things, blog­ging silly ideas and such
  • Tons of local stor­age (SSD + HDD = yay!)
  • Semi-modern PC games, includ­ing lots of Hum­ble Bun­dle goodness
  • Codecad­emy
  • Inter­ac­tive fic­tion, per­haps (now, where did I mis­place my patience?)
  1. My most com­mon tablet uses are as fol­lows: gam­ing, view­ing TV episodes and movies, and web brows­ing. I’m putting this in a foot­note so as not to side­track myself, but it’s an impor­tant point. One of the best things about hav­ing the tablet was that it gave me another 16 GB of stor­age, on top of the 16 GB avail­able on my phone. A lot of peo­ple seem to think that Google inten­tion­ally lim­its the stor­age avail­able in their flag­ship devices to push peo­ple into using their mon­e­ti­z­able “cloud” media offer­ings instead of local stor­age. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if this were true, but hon­estly, the #1 rea­son I’d like more local stor­age in my devices is not to carry around more media, but more and larger apps — some­thing you can’t put in the cloud.
  2. I imag­ine Debian Sta­ble or Ubuntu would be bet­ter.

Written by Everett Guerny

October 24th, 2013 at 8:39 pm