General

Before I go to the polls today, I want to quickly fire off a rebuttal to what Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney said about PBS not being worth borrowing money to pay China for. I could point out that The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s entire operating budget is less than $500M ( http://current.org/wp-content/themes/current/archive-site/pbs/pbs1110budget.html ) which is is stark contrast to our defense budget: $530 Billion (source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/factsheet_department_defense/ )

Continue Reading

A few times a week someone asks me about something related to computers or technology. I like answering the questions for several reasons, and I give advice for free for one very good reason.

First: I like answering because it’s an exercise for the brain. It makes me take all my knowledge and apply it to a specific instance with its own parameters and limitations. Second, if I do not know the answer off the top of my head, I am forced to find out by doing a quick search or two and reading what has been written by experts and people much more familiar with the matter. Thus, it expands my knowledge base.

The single “very good reason” for giving the advice free is simple: Having no vested interest in either selling them a product nor my services, I can give advice free of bias. I do admit my bias toward products I think work well, but I would imagine that would be a desirable bias. If I gravitate toward ease of use or advanced features I can adjust for the sophistication of the person asking. If a product has both ease of use chops and advanced features either buried or easily accessed, it makes my job easier. However, one of my first questions is: What is your budget? That let’s me know whether to recommend an open source application/hardware platform or a competent commercial application.

Either way, If the person is very technologically naïve can let them know if they’re on the right track, and steer them toward resources so that if and when they spend money or allocate resources, they can feel more confident doing so.

BTW Sis: the answer currently is a WD Live box… but that is subject to revision next product release cycle.

The unofficial-turned-official club newsletter was directly responsible for me landing my first real job as a DTP monkey. I walked into the interview with my portfolio of club newsletter and stickers I made on my old Mac SE and the Mac IIci my best friend had that were printed on my trusty, 70+ pound LaserWriter II SC with the Canon engine that lasted well over a decade. The guy who interviewed me was a bit skeptical that I made those. I was honest and told him that I didn’t do all the work, and that I had a friend that started the newsletter. I showed him what *** did and what I did — explaining how you could tell our layout and writing styles apart.

Continue Reading

My Timbuk2 Bag? I Wish! {Eventually}

Timbuk2 is having a sale the next few days. I am not a shill for Timbuk2: I have received no compensation in any form for this unsolicited positive story about the company and its employees. The following story is why you might want to head on over to their site if you are looking for a durable bag or case for anything including laptops and tablets made by a company that stands behind their products with employees that treat people like people and not sales targets.

Continue Reading

free space after cleaning today

As threatened, I wrote my picks for the most useful iOS apps. This time I focus on the two biggies: time and money.

Sadly, my It’s-It reference about saving enough gas money to buy a few of these chocolate coated goodness and my aside about trying to fool my nephew using my Jedi powers {or is it Sith powers?}  to enter text with a wave of my hand using PasteBot fell by the wayside. However, sneaking in links to my “he has no idea that he is my virtual”-pal Conan’s archaic word campaign succeeded! I feel like Zim!

Okay, enough teasing, on with the DiceNews Article: The Best iOS Apps for Deals, Integration, Security, Productivity

Every time I hear about a new Used electronics seller offering to buy my old electronics, I check them out and usually find their prices are not very good. I knew the parts alone for my old iPhone were worth more than the pittance they offered over a year ago. The screen alone is worth about $50, and they offered less than that for the entire device with everything but the shrink-wrap. Instead of selling it, I offered it up on Craigslist. It didn’t sell, despite its great condition. So, I held on to it.

About 9 months later my girlfriend’s Blackberry Storm—which was buggy and unusable as a smartphone as hell for the 3 months she had it—decided to take a swim by falling out of her pocket in the restroom after a movie we went to on her birthday. After her friend’s quick thinking, we managed to “save” it using a combination of rice, a blowdryer and the Bernoulli principle. (Though it took an argument where a guy that works with lasers, asserted that because of his laser expertise there was no way someone could use a hairdryer effectively—basically calling me a liar—for me to realize that was why I was taught to aim the air stream over the surface of the submerged device.) Anyway, in the 3 days we let the device dry out in rice after the Blackberry’s styling, I lent her my old iPhone.

She initially purchased the Blackberry Storm because it had a keyboard and she said she always seemed to have problems getting touch screens to recognize her touches. I jokingly told her that’s because you need a soul for the capacitance to be disrupted on the screen. That and most touch screens she tried were probably the old resistive type that mis-registers frequently.

After using the iPhone for a few weeks, and finding the Storm’s touchscreen less responsive (there was a pinhead sized water bubble that managed to survive the 3 day dry off on the screen), she stayed with the iPhone, despite its slower Edge (2.5G) performance. We dubbed the Blackberry Storm “The Toilet Phone”—fitting because it always crashed during web browser usage, even after applying several updates. Though my own codename for it is “Crapberry.” It crashed so often, she gave up trying to use the web browser almost completely eliminating the whole point of a smartphone. At least the slow and pokey Edge network eventually might load if you stood still and sacrificed a few bits and time to the radio frequency gods that control Edge’s band frequencies.

Then the phone finally, after a good 3 years of heavy service, it died a noble death—or so we thought. She called me from her work’s landline, to tell me the touchscreen started glitching out, its home button became non-responsive and then would no longer power up. Because she was very dependent on having a working phone for work, I lent her my iPhone 4 that night and temporarily had all calls forward to it. The next day (December 31), we walking into an AT&T store and devised a plan that got her a new 4S and consolidated phone plans. She was going to just get a 3GS, but I told her friends don’t let friends buy soon-to-be-obsolete (unsupported) tech. I paid for the price differential, and told her to consider it a New Year’s or a Hanukah super 7 day “we don’t need no stink in’ new socks” gift. “Hell, toss in Winter solstice, Kwanza and Flying Spaghetti Monster day while we’re at it,” I told her. A few days after New Year’s, the old iPhone booted up just fine and wanted to know where its sim card was. We hadn’t the heart to tell it it had been retired. Not bad for a 4.5 year old phone.

The point? Well, I have found I get more “value” out of old electronics by handing them down and keeping them as backups. Something has to keel over before I toss it. and even then I might keep it for parts. I hand down my laptops, amps and other devices to my relatives that could use them. Currently, I am trying to find a way to afford a new MBP with a processor that I can’t peg for an hours at a CPU 12.x load (yes, I know I need more RAM). I wasn’t planning on upgrading this year, but my girlfriend’s HP netbook is a flaming pile of slow, buggy and intrusive crap that I keep offering to overhaul. She practically broke out into loud obscenities at the library a few days back when she thought it crashed. It eventually force quit a program, and she lost a few paragraphs of a missive she was working on. Meanwhile, I sat across from her and stared at my CPU’s load hoping it could finish the large audio processing job I gave it before the meter ran out and we had to move the car to avoid a parking ticket.

Incidentally, library WiFi kicks much ass in my experience. At my local library, I had a 1MB/s upload speed and a 200KB/s download speed. Weird, but whatever. I am going there anytime I need to upload a few dozen gigs from now on. Screw fighting for low latency to play an OLRPG at Starbuck’s! “Damn YouTube Hipsters! Soaking up all the bandwidth!” is the new “Hey you kids, get off my digital lawn!” war cry for me. Now If you’ll excuse me I think I see a high gain antenna sticking out of a car crawling by my place… “Slackers!” {ref: Back to the Future 2} It’s not easy living in the future and commuting to the past. ;) Until next rant, may all your bits be in parity.

I have been silent since about the beginning of the year thanks to an old project that is restarting and being revamped (and hopefully finished). So, the focus the next month will be doing that. I’ve intensified my efforts at learning more AJAX and refining both my PHP and MySQL abilities. As I continue to work on one project I find myself using more and more advanced techniques that I simply didn’t use very much before.
It is funny that while working on what I consider prototypes I code a bit “sloppily.” I am often guilty of not commenting my code and only writing about what I did in my dev-log I keep.

Also, even though I plan out the overall architecture of a site, I tend to build things organically from there—only referring to the plan after each component is fleshed out. I know this is not the way pro devs work, and that this practice would be unacceptable in a team development environment. But this approach works for me because I tend to learn faster that way. When I look back at the original files, I can see my evolution as a scripter.

During second pass, I tend to add comments and refine the scripts further. Sometimes I rewrite old blocks of code or methods to use fewer lines and run a bit faster. But most of the time I just pretty up the code and double-check my indenting, method names—making the classes and declarations follow a consistent pattern, etc.

Aside from that I have been delving into other designer’s and developer’s blogs, and have found some of them worth more than just the coding knowledge they have in them. I have found a few programs to track how I spend my time. One of them, RescueTime is a neat one that I wish I could afford/justify the paid version. Just using the free version, my past 3 weeks efficiency ratings have been kind of insane. Last week’s rating was 1.26 (where 1 = 100% efficiency). I owe this to my quickly switching apps and RescueTime double-logging (I think). Either way, I am working between 30 and 60 hours a week.

Also, I have downloaded a ton of free apps using AppAdvice.com’s AppsGoneFree iOS app. Almost everyday there’s a neat app to try in addition to the free games. One app: aTimeLogger, I started using to see how much time I was wasting each week. After a few weeks I can safely say that I do not waste as much time as I thought. This month, I have spent around 30% of my time working (including learning and staying current), 20% of my time sleeping, 20% socializing, 10% absorbing TV, Movies, Music or Books, 8% on maintenance (eating, bathing, chores, record keeping), 5% on traveling, and the last 7% doing miscellaneous things. 30% of a person’s day is about an 8 hour workday. So, I guess working outside an office actually does work for me. What I didn’t realize is that I spend an average of 1 hour traveling each day. If I lived in a place where I could take public transit, I could reclaim at least some of that and use it for reading and learning more.

About learning: The more I learn the more there is to learn. Hopefully I can finish up the revisions to the site and get it to a state were I am happy showing it off. CSS3 is a lot of fun, and I want to play with some of the newer features. My older layouts depended on CSS 2.1 sleight of hand. CSS3 is another step in the right direction, but still not “there.” Good thing there are plenty of trailblazers with helpful blogs about CSS3, PHP and AJAX. Stack Overflow is becoming more and more useful as I try to find the “magic words” to learn how to do things better, smarter, faster.

Last, I have been slowly working on the Communication Series. As I said, I want to finish it and look it over for overall consistency and make it something that flows seamlessly (while also hyperlinking the hell out of it). It is still about 30% written, but that might change, because I also write organically. DiceNews is still on the back burner, but they seem to be backed up a lot. Hopefully my latest revision will make it through the editing process unscathed.

BTW: I just realized today is the 12th anniversary of my first personal web site! Add another 4 years to that and your go back to my first hand coded sites—oh how I hated kludgy table layouts. Add another 4–5 years to that and that’s how long ago I was using dial up to connect to BBSes to connect to the Usenet and argue with people about the Sci-Fi books I was reading. Heh. How times change.

Until next time.

Agloves and other capacitive touch-friendly gloves are an accessory with an emerging mindshare. With winter already here, I’m sure many of you are finding the juggling of gloves and touchscreen driven phones at least a bit annoying. This is only going to get worse as things get colder — you’ll find that you have to make a decision between answering a call or using your phone or tablet and keeping your hands warm. I got the Agloves Bamboo for review. Read on to find out if they live up to expectations.
Continue Reading