Sneaky ways to make money part 27: steal search traffic

Say you make consumer broadband routers and you’re looking for a new revenue stream. Your customers expect you to spend money upgrading the firmware for their routers, but you’ve already taken money from them… they’ve paid already.

Don’t despair, there definitely are ways to squeeze more money out of your unsuspecting clients. For example: in your next router firmware update add a new feature that directs all mis-typed URLs to your own search page. Bingo! You get a brand new pipeline of money from all those paid search results and your customers will never know what hit them. Heck, they’ll probably think it’s spyware on their computers and spend a bunch of time trying to track down the bad bits and never even blame you!


Some tips:

  1. Call it an “advanced” feature – Novice users will never touch anything labeled advanced for fear that they’ll break something important. You can rest easy knowing that you’ll be able to keep raking in the revenue for years to come.
  2. Turn in on by default in your next upgrade – People can’t turn off something they don’t know is there. And how are they going to know it’s there? Dig through all the menus to see what’s changed? I don’t think so. They’re not going to find it in the printed manual you gave them either… because you don’t give out printed manuals anymore.
  3. Throw in some security language – Who doesn’t want Anti-Phishing features? Protection from identity thieves?  Of course people want that, the net is a scary place and if you turn off security on your router pedophiles will move into your basement, eat your last Oreo and leave the lid off the toothpaste.

One final tip: don’t name your search site “”, it will shorten the time it takes for your customers to figure out that it’s D-Link who is being a dick and stealing traffic. If you make it too easy for them to figure out who’s stealing the traffic, but hard for them to figure out how to turn them off they’ll get pissed off and make blog posts telling their friends not to buy your hardware (yes, I’m looking at you, D-Link).

But, hey, no big deal, right? They’ve already paid money for your router. Once you’ve made the sale the existing customers are just a drag on your revenue. You can make it up in volume.

A quick search can pay off big

Paula’s using my old laptop and Pa really needs to take it out back behind the barn with a shotgun.  It’s slow, it won’t dock properly and I really don’t like the way it’s been looking at the toaster.

This past weekend we finally bit the bullet and placed an order for a new laptop for Paula, the ThinkPad X61s.  Paula’s top desire is small and light and this unit fit the bill (as well as came with a ton of awards to ease our minds).  Sony and Toshiba have some very sexy laptops… but the price of the ThinkPad sold us (although we were both tempted by the pretty hardware).  The total with shipping and tax: $1,989.93, a full $1000 less than the Sony.

We were very pleased with the results.  Paula really wanted the Sony TZ, but once we added a dock, shipping and tax the price jumped up to $3,158.07.  Lenovo had a sale on ThinkPads through October 1st making the price hard to beat.  But it gets better…

Our order was delayed because I didn’t have my alternate shipping address (Leslie’s house) on record with my credit card.  As part of the process I went back to the web site and what should I find?  Lenovo started a new sale.  Bad news normally, but good news for me since my order was still pending.  I canceled the order and put in a new one.  Ding!  Saved $100! 

But wait, there’s more.  While I was admiring my new, lower total I noticed a blank line: “eCoupon”.  I’m already getting a great price on this laptop (in my opinion)… they’re not going to allow me to apply a coupon to their sale price, are they?  Only one way to find out… I type “lenovo ecoupon” into Live search and first result is for a coupon listing on  I hop back over to my order and sure enough, my good deal just got better!

End result: the laptop I was pleased to get for $1,989.93 is being shipped to me for $1,527.22. 


Oh, by the way, out of curiosity I went back and tried the same search on Google… the money saving coupon was seven links down.  Thanks Live Search! 

Thin, beautiful and wearing leather

Intel recently commissioned Ziba Design to build a sexy laptop and I’d say they hit the target… and blew right through.

About as thin as a Motorola Razr, this magnesium shelled bit of geek pron is only 2.25 pounds, has back-lit keys and an optional leather folio cover sporting an external side show screen.

For more details you’ll have to check out Business Week’s write-up… at least until I find out the limb to fantasy hardware exchange rate.

NOOOOO!!!! What?!?!?!? NOOOOO!!!!!

Okay… what have I learned today?

cutting drive wires

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  2. Ignoring rule number 1 should only be proceeded by backing up your crap.
  3. For those who are too lazy or too confident to pay attention to either of the first two rules, this advice: don’t dick around with it… dummy.
  4. Don’t be a cheap bastard and use RAID striping instead of buying a full sized disk (unless you’re dealing with data that is totally expendable).
  5. It takes a really long time to rip 870+ CDs… you don’t want to imagine having to do it twice. 
  6. The perceived time it takes for Windows to start up increases in  logarithmic proportion to the amount of data you think you have just lost.
  7. System restore can save your butt.
  8. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (that deserves mentioning twice)

Okay, what ruined my day you ask?  This morning, before going into work, I did a quickie web search to see if there were Vista-compatible drivers for my RAID card.  This weekend I plan on installing Vista on my home machine and I realized I needed to lay some groundwork first… like making sure there were drivers for the various bits of hardware I have.  So, there are Vista drivers, Yay! 

So, genius boy here decides to download and install the new driver at 7:30 in the morning before going to work.  Heck, it’s for the card I have, no need to worry about something going wrong (sure, it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time).  A quick install and reboot later and my 500 gig music drive is suddenly two 250 gig, unreadable drives.  I almost cried.

Knowing I had to go to work and didn’t have time to futz with the damn thing I just shut down, kicked myself, packed up to go to work, then kicked myself again.

The worst part of it all was that as soon as I wasn’t focused on a task at work my mind would wander and …


If I had only bought two 500 gig drives instead four 250 gig drives the failure would have been no big deal… I’d have had two identical copies of my data (see rule number four above).  Given my RAID array wasn’t fully bullet-proof (and running just fine, thank you very much) I really shouldn’t have even played with it in the first place (see rule’s number one and three).  And so on…

All day I kept re-living my idiocy.  As soon as I could reasonably leave work I came straight home (panicking again every time my mind would wander at a stop light), dropped my coat just inside the front door and ran straight upstairs to sit down in front of my computer… the machine which I had so unceremoniously raped this morning.

I tried a couple of things, each requiring what seemed a stupendously long reboot time.  It’s amazing how painful it is to watch what usually seems a reasonably quick boot time when you’re imagining your entire CD collection going through a digital paper shredder.

In the end I did what I should have done first thing this morning, I used system restore to put my machine back in the state it was before I installed the drivers this morning.  Well, actually, what I should have done first thing this morning was poke myself in the eye with a pencil, and then kick myself for even considering updating the drivers for my RAID card when there was nothing wrong with it’s operation to begin with, followed by poking myself in the other eye to ensure I was unable to see well enough to screw myself. 

Honestly, sometimes I have the common sense of a small soap dish.

Some very cool eye tracking videos using eyetrak machine

Larry Larsen has posted some very cool videos of him playing around at home with eye tracking hardware. He has some videos of him playing xbox games with eye position overlayed but I found the roller coaster video the most interesting by far (it vividly demonstrates how strongly we are drawn to look at people’s eyes).

Roller coaster