Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where are phone designs going?

Well, after watching a couple podcasts where there were scenes with people using the ubiquitous iPhone I got to thinking. Man, iPhones look big compared to what you'd expect a cell phone to look like. What's the acceptable size of a phone anyway? Then I asked, what's the acceptable size of a phone with a touch screen? Probably the size of an iPhone I guess. A phone without a touch screen? Of course maybe a candybar type phone. One with a QWERTY keyboard? A comfortable shape would be similar to a Blackberry I guess. But what about in the future when tech innards get smaller and the need for touch screens and keyboards go away and everything is voice activated and controlled in a reliable fashion? Would you be happy to see the keyboard go away and just dictate with 100% perfection a text message to someone? What about calling? Dialing/typing in a number is pretty cumbersome when compared to just telling the phone to call someone is easier. When everything is intuitive, what will the phone look like? And would we care about touch screens anymore? Would we care about many of the outward technology that is pretty much dependent on how small manufacturers can get the innards to become? Then I did what I love doing. Based on that premise I drew what I thought a phone might look like without all that baggage. Something even Steve Jobs might say "Daayyyyum!" about. :) Or at least might be a cool prop in a futuristic movie.
Small as a pencil, one button for actions involving voice activation, on one end is a headset/interface port, the other end has the docking surface contacts.

What do you think? Let me know on Twitter at

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wow, troll sighted on my own profile page.

I hadn't had a good reason to post to my blog in a while (I try to keep it geek and tech oriented), but here's something. On my Wikipedia profile page I apparently was enough of a sore thumb for someone to take time out of their "busy" lives to troll me. I dunno why or for what reason, I barely even edit Wikipedia. I feel so special. lol

What do you think I should do? Ignore it? Delete it? It's kind of amusing how he feels the need to do this (hence why I had to share). I mean, who am I? Some random schmo on Wikipedia who isn't even that active there. Here's my response to him. Maybe I can get this to keep going and have a little fun too.

[UPDATE] Ah, I get what happened. That's the welcome post. It's still funny. How did the troll even find me? I don't know how that part of Wikipedia works I guess. I suppose I could feel like an idiot myself for being fooled like that, but I still keep thinking how funny it is that somebody felt the need to troll li'l ol' me. lol

Friday, October 24, 2008

The 10 most hated Internet People

Anybody notice that some of the people who are truly unrepentant assholes are the ones who look so totally miserable, sickly and unshaved? They just look like slime defined. Well, at least for the men. The women have that "I'm hot and I know it" arrogance about them. Same attitudes among the men and women though except for men it's "I'm better than you and I know it." Especially the men who look like prettyboys. They have that "I'm hip, I'm better than you and I know it." style and look about them.

Friday, September 26, 2008

About the phrase "it won't work" in ref. to analog TVs and the Feb 17th ATSC switchover

I hear this allllll the time. And it drives me nuts. They assume people are too stupid to know any better and so they bring the "techie talk" down to the level of the "common man" by using simplistic concepts and terms.

What I mean is when the people in charge tell us how the Feb 17th switchover will go down they constantly say "On Feb 17th your old analog TV will no longer work." Whaaaaa? As if there was a chip in them that makes them blow up right on the 17th? OF COURSE they'll still work! They'll just be incompatible with the new ATSC signals. ATSC is the successor to NTSC. The signal the analog TVs were able to get before the switchover.

Oh, your analog TV will still work. You'll still be able to hook up your old Nintendo to it. Hey! That even leads me to wonder something. If you keep your old analog TV what kinds of signals will you get? Maybe if you tune in every once in a while you'll get local pirate TV stations of some sort? Intriguing...

Nah, don't let them misinform you. Your TVs will still work. I've even noticed that they're starting to change their wordings in the TV ads to omit the "won't work" part and just show you what will happen. Usually they demonstrate snow on the screen. Which is more accurate than "won't work". And they have always suggested buying an ATSC tuner, so that's fine.

The ATSC tuner I have is one I waited for for about 4 months and paid about $10 for after the government rebate. It's the Echostar/DishNetwork/SlingMedia DTVPal. It's very cool. Works just like a cable box with the 7 day schedule (which I simply loooove). Coaxial and composite/stereo out as well. No S-Video though. Which is fine since my old TV doesn't have S-Video anyway (though it does have S/PDIF just because it also has a built in DVD player). I recommend the tuner fully. You can find it here: One problem I do notice is that if you set the tuner to switch to a channel at a given time it seems to forget the setting either when you turn the device off or after about a couple hours of non-interaction. That sucks. I guess that's why we buy Tivos.

Good idea for using old TVs? Use them for your old game consoles and receivers! Use them as affordable monitors for security. There's bound to be tons of them now for your experimenting pleasure. :-)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Internet Security U2U #1: How to deal with popups

The first thing to remember about popups is that they are like any other window. Windows are controlled either by Windows' window manager (Aero?) or Mac OS X's Aqua (?) user interface (UI). All windows have the same basic controls across all of them. Click on the icon in the upper left corner of a window in the title bar and you'll see what I mean. Right click on that window's corresponding task bar button and you'll see the same controls mirrored there with a few extra controls. This is also true of the Dock in Mac OS X. As well as Gnome and KDE under Linux. It is a basic UI design that any good UI designer worth their salt will implement into their designs. So you know that it's the go-to menu when you want to manipulate windows.

Popups are usually windows.

Now there is a different kind of popup that isn't a window because it never leaves the confines of a web page. Those are called "pop ins". They are usually created with an AJAX-like method. AJAX means Asynchronous Javascript and XML (or to some it means Asynchronous Javascript/Java, Adobe Flash and XML). It's the stuff Web 2.0 is made of. These types of pop-ins can be defeated by ad blockers and turning off Javascript (to a further extent disabling Flash and Java). Though this may break a lot of websites for you. Which is why you want to use an ad or popup blocker that does so on a site by site basis, preferably in an opt-in way (opt-in is where you make exeption rules for sites you don't want broken/crippled).

There are two types of popups that you may deal with.

There's the "install something" popup. This is where it asks you to download an EXE, MSI, ZIP or other executable file before you can proceed with whatever the popup requires of you. This is always a trick. When you get an unsolicited popup that asks you to do this, CLOSE THE WINDOW. I'll tell you how to properly close the window later on. Whatever you do, do not click on buttons within the title bar and frame of the window. They often try to fake you out by providing "OK" buttons and "Close" or X buttons. These are fake. There should be no browser window that has controls within the boundaries of the title bar and window frame. The only browser windows that have this dialog window-like behavior are dialog windows chosen within the browser's own menu system.

Then there's the "give me your information" popup. This is where it asks you to click on a link within the webpage being displayed to get you to input your personal information into their "signup forms" or fake bank, email, etc website. This is when you want to either check the page properties or the URL box to see where you really are. If you see a popup that looks like Paypal's site except the URL has gibberish or a address that doesn't have the words paypal followed by .com and nothing else dot xxx (ex: or instead of ) then it isn't a real Paypal website. Always be skeptical. That's your most useful tool in your internet defense toolbox. This is what they mean when they say the first line of defense in keeping your computer and yourself safe is behavior. Being skeptical is a very useful behavior. Don't get presented a link, always type in the link. That way you can be sure if it really was your bank that sent that notice or suddenly popped up a window telling you about your insufficient funds or that you won a multi-thousand dollar sweepstakes. Don't fall for these scams. And the best way to defend against any scams I haven't mentioned here is to invent scams on your own and be on the look out for them. Because, believe it or not, if you can think it up then there's a good chance someone else has thought it up as well and has already put that scam into practice. I'm not saying that you should become a cynical mess, but always be street savvy about these things. There is nothing a scammer won't do to get at your money. A good way to prevent you from getting paranoid is to keep a dialog with people in the know. Ask questions. Share your theories on scams with others. Don't be afraid of asking so-called "dumb" questions. It only serves to make your personal internet defense that much stronger.

Now, how to deal with popups is this, as listed by the do's and don't's of popups:

Do close the window by typing Alt+F4 or Ctrl+W. If that prevents you from exiting out of a popup (as many popups employ scripts that keep popping up windows) then go down to the task bar button for that window and right click on it to get to the Close window control. If that doesn't do it, then bring up the process manager (by typing Ctrl+Alt+Del) and kill the browser's process. Firefox will have a "firefox" process, Internet Explorer will have an "iexplorer" process, Opera will have an "opera" process, Safari will have a "safari" process. Re-sort the list of processes by name so you can find them easily.

Don't click on anything within the confines of the window's border. This means anything under the title bar and within the resizing bars around the window. Anything within the window of a popup is always fake, malicious and dangerous. Read about this 4 paragraphs up.

Don't shut down the computer as a solution to the popups. This will cause more harm to your computer than any popup. This is because the computer will be writing something to the hard drive while it downloads the webpage and images therein to load the popup. Also the computer may be writing something to the hard drive anyway if you do this. In general shutting down a computer by pulling the plug or switching off the power supply while it's in the middle of doing something with the hard drive, most likely it WILL be doing something with the hard drive at any given moment, will result in errors that accumulate into a dead or malfunctioning partition on the hard drive. Not to mention that cutting the physical power to a mechanical device like a hard drive may cause the heads to impact the platters in the hard drive causing it to spew data all over the drive (or at least to a section of it). It's like taking the needle of a record player and quickly scratching the LP all over. You know that's not a good thing to do to an LP, so why do it to a hard drive?

Do use a popup and ad blocker together. It's not like an anti-virus where you can't have more than one running or installed. The more help you can get within the browser the better. Use the browser's own popup blockers, use AdBlockPlus, use only reputable popup and ad blockers. Ask people in the know if a popup or ad blocker is real or not. And know that there are people who are biased out there about this or that. Always get a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and Nth opinion. As many as it takes to convince you. But you know what they say about opinions. Listen to the experts, be skeptical of the public, but realize that everybody will be biased for or against a particular utility.

Don't panic.

Do be skeptical.

Admittedly, this is a Windows-centric blog post. Mainly because most of the scams are targetted at people with computers running Windows. This includes any computer from Dell and other manufacturers, as well as Apple Macintoshes with Intel processors booted into Windows instead of Mac OS X and including any virtual computer environment like VMWare Worstation/Fusion, Parallels Desktop/Workstation, Qemu or VirtualBox running a Windows guest OS. The reason why is because oftentimes the popups include links to download malware that only runs on Windows computers. This includes any EXE, MSI and ZIP or 7Z files with EXE files and MSI files in them. These only work on Windows. That is not to say that Linux and Mac OS X users are safe. The other half of popups target those gullible enough to give people personal information. This will work on any OS environment. Even OSes that you boot into from a floppy drive (like the QNX and MenuetOS bootable floppy). It doesn't matter what utilities you use to prevent popups or scams, if you give scammers your personal information then game over. There is no utility that substitutes good human behavior. And that's what makes this blog post OS agnostic as well. I want to get across to you that it doesn't matter what you use. If it's a PC or an iPhone (or a darkened back alley), as long as there's some way to reach you as in a browser or by email, if you freely give your personal information out to strangers, then it is game over, no exceptions.

Tune in to the next Internet Security U2U when I describe how to fix things if you have been taken in by a scam. This will include ways to reclaim accounts, cancel orders you didn't place, maybe even cancel accounts and other methods of intelligent damage control.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ubuntu/Linux U2U Mini #2: Media Center-like apps

Man, I love these apps coming out lately that give you a media center/Apple TV experience on your PC or a HTPC. The one I've been testing out lately is XBMC. I installed it, I think, through a repository provided by the XBMC folks through Synaptic Package Manager. It's really cool. It's missing some features or implements some features in a confusing manner, but over all it is really nice. Not nice enough to replace my Songbird/Miro teamup, but it's getting there. I use Songbird because it does nearly everything iTunes does plus does a really good impression of a web browser since it's based on the Firefox engine. Miro picks up where Songbird leaves off by providing not only podcast playing functionality as well, but also automatic resuming of podcasts. Something I have yet to see in any other player on Linux. That's unfortunate. Both aren't very good at syncing to iPod. I know Songbird can, but it doesn't do a very good job of it IMHO. And Miro just doesn't sync at all.

I started my media center-like experience with ATI's MMC (CRAP!) then MediaPortal. Back then I wasn't too into the MC experience. Mainly because nothing stood out as really good and the Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition was the only show in town. Then came a bunch of competetors. Some who had always been there. All including Apple TV, Tivo and more that are slipping my mind. Then I bought an eVGA GeForce 5200 Personal Cinema graphics card that came with nVidia's own MC-like software. Then I found SnapStream BeyondTV 4. Very nice, but it was something where you didn't know what you were missing until you saw what other MC-like software was doing. It did a great job, don't get me wrong. It worked with my ATI tuners, it worked with my nVidia tuners. Much better than the native software. Almost embarrassingly better. Anyway, nVidia's attempt at a tuner card came and went, ATI is still doing it, but I can't in good conscience recommend the software (the hardware is fine). ATI just can't make good MMC software which is a shame.

Anyway, back to the topic. After BTV4 I started messing around with MediaPortal again, then I tried out MythTV. In truth, I've been trying MythTV all along, but was always frustrated by not being able to get it working with the ATI and nVidia cards I had. One of those frustrations led me to badly damage my 5200 card by mistakenly installing it wrong. I got the power turned around and burned the card out. Frustration, leading to impatience, leading to haste. Which then made waste. Learn from my example. Anyway, that was the end of my tuner experiments as I sold my HDTV Wonder from ATI. As I saw it the future wasn't in HDTV on the computer, but back on the TV in the living room. Timely as this was about the time I got into YouTube and other media sites heavily. And this was the beginning of my podcast addiction. :-) Now that I'm on Ubuntu I'm looking for MC solutions (other than MythTV). Which leads me to this post. :-)

Other than XBMC, I've enjoyed many other experiments in MC-like clients. YouTube, AOL in2TV, Veoh, Joost, and others. What caught my eye recently is the Boxee project. It is very interesting because it seems to be a serious effort into the mainstream to get movies, music and other media to not only Mac OS X and Windows users, but primarily Mac and Linux users. They have a very strong push for Linux. Especially the Ubuntu distro. This is very cool. As it's not leaving anybody out and they're just as strong in supporting Linux. Which is how it should be. Even support across the board.

I just signed up for the Boxee alpha and I can't wait. If everything they say will happen will happen then this may be a good replacement for my music, podcast and movie/TV needs (erm... wants). A list of the things I hope it replaces (ok, I admit it. Some are pie in the sky): Songbird, Miro, Netflix, OTA or cable TV, iTunes (hopefully), AmazonMP3 (though I hope more in a client for AmazonMP3 way), and that's all I can think of now. Though in a very stylish and functional way. This is very exciting. Follow the links for all the fun. :-)
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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ubuntu/Linux U2U Mini #1: Flock 2.0 Beta

Have you tried this program yet? It's what got me to start blogging because it makes it so easy to do. I'm blogging this from Flock right now. It's based off of Firefox 3. I have a few issues with Firefox 3 crashing randomly, but the features of Flock far outweigh the occasional freeze or crash. I think it does so because of Flash anyway.

If you're on Ubuntu and you're trying to find a DEB you won't find one. All you do is, and this is similar to Songbird 0.6.1, download the tar.gz file, expand it, save it to a special place where uninstalled apps go (I put mine in /home/user/Software/flock/) and double click on the flock-browser icon. It'll ask you if you want to "Run in Terminal" (if you want to see what it's doing), "Display" the contents of the file (probably don't want to do this), "Cancel", or "Run". Click Run. You may also want to create a launcher of it as well and put that in the panel or on the desktop (or wherever you launch apps from).

That's it. But I wish that as long as Synaptic Package Manager exists there was a way to install by way of a DEB. But this is fine. It just isn't as elegant as how Mac OS X does it with apps you "install" on a Mac. At least apps on the Mac can have icons by themselves. And they're packages too so everything is self contained and can be run from any point on the hard drive. I wish the Linux dev community would do something like that.

Anyway, Flock 2.0 Beta. Good. Just keep in mind it's in beta. So don't complain if it gives you problems. Beta software is like that. And beta software is one instance where reporting bugs is encouraged.
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LEGO! LDraw! This is such a fun program

What it is is a CAD program that specializes in LEGO and building LEGO projects. Just be aware, it gives colors for every piece even if that color/piece combination does not exist. So do some homework before you think of buying the pieces to make your projects for real.

I've obsessively made some really cool stuff with it so far.

Like them?

I'm running LDraw through WINE 1.0. Works very well. But I can't save JPEG images from it. Just the native .dat files. Bummer.
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Ubuntu/Linux: User-To-User #1

    My first entry in my blog was a tough thing to come up with. I'm not too terribly interesting of a person to blog about things. Just some joe in Minnesota, no journalism degree, no actual experience in any popular media. Except for being a freelance illustrator I really have nothing to say that any day-to-day non-blogging individual has to say.

Except for one thing.

   I am totally into Ubuntu/Linux. So much so that I'd say that I'm addicted. As much as a non-programmer end user can be. It reminds me of the time I was totally addicted to Macs back in the pre-Jobsian second coming Apple era. I subscribed to MacAddict, I played Marathon, I devoured anything I could on the Mac short of trying to learn how to program. And trust me, I did try to program for the Mac. It just wasn't for me. I guess because I'm impatient. But now, after years of using Windows XP after Mac OS 8.6, I'm moving on to something very interesting. A total open source replacement of that old Mac religion.
   Now, I have been playing with Linux on and off for the last 10 or so years. It started with an old 486 computer with 32MB of memory and Red Hat. Not sure what version, but it was my introduction to Linux. Red Hat was Linux to me back then. The idea of distros came later for me. And on and off I've been playing with Linux of all types. Interestingly enough I was introduced to Linux through MacAddict (now Mac|Life). I think it was YellowDog or some mac68k *nix (BSD?). And I was also introduced to other OSes as well. This was during Apple's Copland and Rhapsody days when Mac users were abuzz about the possibilities of which OS would replace the classic Mac OS. Around this time i got interested in themes and skinning as well (RIP, Kaleidoscope).
   After all these years I've settled on Ubuntu/Linux. Or more precisely Gnome and the package Canonical has put together. I've used Ubuntu long enough that I seem to have a little bit of confidence in helping people out in setting up Ubuntu. At least with respect to GUI solutions. Admittedly, I'm not that much of an expert in basic Linux to offer any type of technical help under the hood, but I'll do my best. And I will be the first to say "I don't know." when I truly don't know. There seems to be a hostility in the Linux enthusiast community towards people who don't know Linux inside and out attempting to help for fear that either the "n00bs" will get it wrong or not offer an efficient enough or stripped down solution that takes advantage of the most esoteric knowledge of Linux (you know, just to show off).

I hope to help people as I learn as an end user. I think the Linux community needs something like this. Someone who isn't so invested in the high level knowledge of Linux that he can't talk to the layman in plain English. I believe that that's the main problem with Linux being available to the masses. Linux is still seen as the OS by programmers for programmers, by IT for IT and oftentimes when I hear reference to "user" or "end user" in the Linux community it is often assumed the user is not grandma or mom and pop. User is assumed to be a person who is involved neck deep in the minutia and intricacies of Linux and open source. One who knows how to debug, report to bug report sites and who know how to contribute code to projects or at least have the motivation and interest in doing those things. It's not enough to simply be a user. Well, I say bull. It's enough to be a user and new users need just as much representation in the Linux community as established experts.

So my hope with this is to help new users and end users who just want to use Linux at a very street level... uh... level. Do you want to install Linux (yes, even Ubuntu) and be able to play DVDs, watch Hulu, play games and not have to see the terminal for more than occasionally installing from source or occasionally editing config files (brrrr)? Stay tuned. As I learn, so will you. And I'll try to keep it as un-insultingly simple as I can. This is why it feels so much like discovering the Mac again. I remember unpacking that Macintosh IIsi and seeing that thick users guide and seeing how easy it was to follow and how complete it was from using a mouse to setting up AppleTalk. It should be that simple again. The Linux community, in spirit, should take up that task. This blog might not be as in depth and technical as some higher level blogs or podacsts out there, but it's not supposed to be. So don't expect it to be. Taking the inspiration from the Lab Rats podcast this is how I've come to start this blog. I hope to present Linux, Ubuntu/Linux, as the Linux for the rest of us, not just the few of them. And I'll do it with Ubuntu. After all, Ubuntu is Linux For Human Beings. :-)
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Explanation of the first post.

That video is from my YouTube account. One of the videos I uploaded as a test to see how YouTube worked.

I'm somewhat of a gamer. You'll see some blog entries on gaming. Hopefully some aspects of gaming that fly under the radar of most people but which I think are cool. Like this:

I have quite a few products from these guys from when they first started out. Quality stuff even back then when they were doing it for fun (which I hope they still do it for) and profit.

Also this is cool:

I want to build one soooooo bad. But I don't have the room. I have lots of ideas though and I may offer those ideas up on this blog.
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Test Testing Testing...


Blah Blah Blah

[edit: Kewl, it works!]
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