Monday, December 31, 2012

More Meme Fun

Got a couple new ones for you.  Enjoy.

Evil Plotting Raccoon

If you know where I got that quote from you can award yourself maximum geek points.
What Do We Want

Happy New Year. :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

I'm On Yelp Now!

As if I needed to join another social network right?  Well I've officially signed up on Yelp  At the moment I'm stretching out on the Yelp couch and checking out what's up in my area.

Y'know what's strange?  I'm not seeing any reviews from people who actually live here.  Oh wait!  I didn't even tell you what Yelp is yet.  I'm just going to let them say it:
Yelp is an online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know. Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what's great — and not so great — in your world.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.  It's mostly all about the reviews.  I even went ahead and got the Yelp mobile app.  Did you know there are places that offer freebies for checking in on Yelp?  Yes even on St. Thomas (just two right now though).

I gotta say this though.  Our Yelp stuff is looking pretty weak.  Most of the businesses that are on Yelp have like just one review.  Let's see if we can change all that. :)

Oh, and here's a cool article from Mashable on the 11 Things You Didn't Know About Yelp.


I found Fatty's Yelp Page.  Nobody mentions karaoke.  Poo.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Instagram Hammer Falls

Remember when I said we'd see much protest once Facebook and Instagram decided to accept their proposed terms of use and policies?  Yeah that's TOTALLY happening RIGHT NOW.  At the moment, much of the protest is coming from the Instagram community in that Instagram now claims the right to license users' photos.  It's right there in the new Terms of Service (effective January 16, 2013):

  1. Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service's Privacy Policy, available here:
  2. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.
  3. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.
Here's the short version: Instagram doesn't own your photos, but you gave them the right to use your photos however they want worldwide.  They may use your photos for advertising purposes and you don't get a cut.  Finally, they're not obligated to tell you jack if they do use the photos.

Gee, if only we had a chance to stop them from doing that.

***Update December 19, 2012***

In response to the public backlash of their new terms of service, Instagram has issued a release stating that their intention was not to sell photos.  They promised to water down the language in the actual update but what they will replace the proposed terms of service remains to be seen.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The 5 Harshest Truths For Computer Users

True story. This morning someone woke me up at 5AM for tech support. This is what inspired this entry today. It'll come up. Watch for it.

Me doing tech stuff
 1.  You Will Get A Virus

I'm famous for telling people that if you don't install antivirus and/or anti-malware software that they'll get a virus.  I often compare being online without such software to having sex without protection.  The harsh truth is even condoms are only effective 98% of the time (and that's for perfect use; typical use is around 85% effective). 
So make sure you pick up the ones with Nonoxynol-9 ok.

The even harsher truth is that if a virus threat is new enough there's a really good chance that your antivirus will initially fail to detect it.  But hey, any percentage of not catching a virus is better than 0% and most current antivirus packages come equipped to handle older viruses that are still floating around the web.

2.  You Will Make A Silly Email Mistake

Even the most seasoned users will eventually make a mistake with email.  The most common ones are:
  • Clicking the send command before you're actually ready to send the email
  • Using Reply-All without checking to see who "All" is
  • Forgetting to add an attachment
  • Not adding a subject
And that's only the short list.  You can get a more comprehensive one here.  This brings me to the subject of the 5AM tech support.  Someone asked me if there's any way to retrieve an email they sent.  The harsh truth is no.  Once you hit send it's gone (unless of course you have the cat-like reflexes to cut your Internet connection before it goes anywhere or you have an email client that queues your email forcing you to hit a different send button).

Oh and by the way, if you ever get an email and your address is in the BCC spot DON'T REPLY ALL!

3.  You Won't Make A Backup

People like to think that once they save something they'll have it forever.  The harsh truth is nothing is forever.  The average hard drive has a life expectancy of about 5 years.  The life expectancy of a usb flash drive depends on usage.  If you're constantly writing and erasing stuff to a flash drive it'll wear out pretty fast.
Hey babe.  Got an available port for my USB drive? ;)

I feel your pain.  I've had an external drive crap out on me and I was lucky there was a backup out there.  Unfortunately it was an older backup so I lost a lot of my newer files.  Point is get yourself an external backup and make it a habit to keep it updated maybe on a monthly basis.  Even if you're backing up files to a set of DVDs or CDs it's SOMETHING (by the way they don't last forever either).

4.  Your Computer Will Someday Stop Working

This is more of an expansion on the previous point.  I've seen some resilient computers in my day.  Right now there's a few of them running around here that have been in operation for going on 10 years (it's a damn shame I can remember being here that long).  However the harsh truth is your computer will most likely crap out much sooner than that.  Even worse it'll be for something you can't swap out or easily replace.  Let's not forget environmental factors like dust, salt air, power surges, etc.  There will come a time when you have to dump it and get a new one.

It's the circle of liiiiiiife

5.  You're A Dummy

So there you are: surfing, emailing, making documents and spreadsheets.  You're a machine.  Nothing can stop you now.  PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER in an itty bitty living space.
Ok, that's my last Disney reference.  I promise.

Then you hit that block.  Oh no, I don't know how to make these three cells calculate the geometric mean! Now you have to Google it or bug the IT guy.

There's a reason the For Dummies series of books are so popular.  The harsh truth is there's always going to be something new to learn.  In that sense we're ALL dummies (yes, me too).  Question is are you going to let someone else do it or are you gonna learn how.  I'm not one to judge here, but I am a geek so I'm gonna keep learning. ;)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apathetic Facebook Users Give Up Their Right To Vote

Last week I mentioned in my blog that Facebook was opening the floor to the Facebook user base to vote up or down their new SRR and data use policy.  If you voted, great.  But it looks like majority of the Facebook users really just don't care.

Suck it, Honey Badger.
Maybe I wasn't clear on what was at stake here so here's a quick rundown:

  • Facebook will eliminate voting on site governance changes in favor of taking high-quality feedback from users through a question-submission system and webcasts.
  • Facebook can share data to and from its affiliates, including Instagram.
  • Facebook may change who can contact you via Messages.
  • Facebook may clarify who can view your content after you hide it from your Timeline.
Technically, the new SRR and data use policy was voted down. 
The problem was that for the vote to be binding it required 30% of the entire Facebook user base to vote.  Of the 668,500 users who did vote, 88% resounding rejected the new policy.  Unfortunately, Facebook has just over 1 billion users.  That amounts to a paltry 0.07% of the entire user base.  That's right.  We couldn't even muster a 1% vote.

Oh well.  I expect we'll see much protest once the new policies come down the pipe.  Too bad we didn't say something when we had the chance.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hacking Pictures

So here's the story.  Ever heard of John McAfee?  Well if you've bought a computer in the last 10 years or so you should have.  He founded the popular antivirus software that bears his name.  Well if you didn't know he's been kinda hard to find lately.  He's been wanted for questioning by the Belize police regarding the murder of one of his neighbors.  Well McAfee took off and has for quite some time been taunting authorities regarding his whereabouts.  If you read the story I linked, you'll find that he has indeed been caught and it was totally his own fault.  McAfee talked to Vice Magazine and let them snap a picture with them.  Then Vice Magazine uploaded the image directly to their page.

If you didn't read the article, you're probably thinking the police saw it and learned his locale based on his surroundings.  And if you're thinking that I don't think you read the title of this blog entry carefully enough.  Turns out that the image was snapped on an iPhone.  Digital cameras and smartphones embed data into the images you take.  It's called EXIF data (that's exchangeable image format).  Among the data that gets embedded into the pictures are the date and time the image was taken, any software you might have used to produce it, the make and model of the device you used to capture the image, and, provided you have GPS, the exact location of where you took that picture.

Simple Nomad was in no mood to gloat about the detective work, saying by e-mail, “McAfee’s mistake was talking to the Vice guys, so ultimately his ego is the culprit.”
There's a simple reason why he didn't gloat.  While it was a brilliant idea to check the geolocation on the image, it's not entirely difficult to do.  In fact you can do it just as easily.  Here's how:

  1. Turn on the GPS on your cell phone and take a picture. Depending on your cell phone, you may have to enable the option that lets your camera know your location
  2. Download that picture into your computer.
  3. Download an image viewing program called Irfanview.  Make sure you install all the plugins too.
  4. Things only get slightly technical here.  Open the image you saved in Irfanview.  The look for  Image -> Information (see Image 1 below)
  5. In the window that pops up, look for the EXIF info button near the bottom. (Image 2 below)
  6. There you have it! Look for GPS Information.  You can plug those coordinates into Google Maps and easily find the exact location (well, not EXACT exact, but close enough) the image was taken.  There should even be a link to Google Earth and GeoHack if you're too lazy to plug in the numbers yourself (use GeoHack if you don't have Earth installed; it'll link you to Google Maps).

    Image 1
    Image 2

Fortunately for Simple Nomad and the authorities, GPS geotagging is set to default on iPhones.

Bet you're worried about Facebook now, aren't you.  You can relax (for now).  Facebook doesn't preserve the EXIF data when you upload images to the site.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hey Facebookers! You should be voting!

Hey Facebook World! Ok, I'll stop with the fake excitement.  This is still pretty important stuff though.

You might not have heard this but Facebook is once again thinking about changing its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.  Fortunately, you (that's ALL of you) can vote on it.  So I bet now you're asking why you should even care.  Glad you asked.

As this article explains, here's what will change should the new rules be implemented:

  1. The "Site Governance Process" goes bye-bye.  Translation: We don't get to vote anymore.
  2. Facebook will allow themselves to share to share "information" with affiliates.
  3. Using Instagram? There's a bunch of stuff changing there but much more than I care to get into
For a complete list of what's changing you can view Facebook's Explanation of Changes.

Right now here's where the voting stands:
I know what you're thinking.  The vote's so big for keeping the existing policy that it's bound to win with or without your vote.  Well here's two things to consider.  Voting only just opened up yesterday.  You have until December 10th at 3:00 PM EST to log your vote.  The second thing to consider is that unless the voting tallies up to 30% of the entire user base Facebook will only take the results of the voting as advisory...meaning they'll pretty much do whatever the hell they want.  How big is the user base?  1 billion active users.  So unless 300,000,000 active users vote, this vote will be considered advisory.

What are you waiting for?!  Go vote!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Take Your Movies With You

I'm kinda surprised I haven't gone over this yet.  I get asked about this pretty often these days. So here goes.

Memory is pretty cheap these days.  I've been buying up jump drives and memory cards like crazy especially since I'm doing all this mobile stuff.  Since I've been showing off all my mobile gadgets everyone's been asking how I got my movies to be mobile.

A lot of movie studios are making digital copies available when you buy the DVD or Blu-Ray, but you only get one use of the packaged code.  Lose it or screw up the process and kiss your digital copy goodbye.  Did I mention those digital copies are huge downloads.  Expect to download at least 750 megabytes.  There there's software you can buy that'll save you the hassle.  Since there's nothing geeky about that I'll let you look for those on your own.  I'm going to teach you how to do it for free. ;)

My first step is copying my DVD to the hard drive.  You can skip this step at your own peril.  The next step may or may not work without following this step but I like to be cautious.  The reason I go through this step is to get by any protections that may be embedded in the DVD.  I use DVDFab.  Their software suites will do the whole deal for you...if you pay for them.  Backing up your DVD and Blu-Ray though is a free process on the software.  You can save your movie either in a folder or as an ISO file (that's a cd image).  In a pinch, I'll fall back on DVDShrink.

The actual conversion is done with a program called HandBrake.  Remember I said you might be able to skip step 1?  Well you can go straight to HandBrake and try to convert directly off of your CD-Rom or Blu-Ray drive.  I don't recommend it though but you can give it a try if you like.  Handbrake has presents that you can use depending on the device you're converting you movie for.  The difference is really obvious when you watch a movie formatted for an iPod vs one formatted for the iPad.  Keep in mind though that formatting for bigger devices also means bigger file sizes for your movies.
Here's what the HandBrake interface looks like.

If you converted to an ISO, you might need some help making HandBrake recognize it.  Use MagicDisc to mount your ISO so it acts like a Virtual CD-Rom drive.  It'll pop up in HandBrake ready to be converted. Expect conversion to take at least an hour.

It's pretty straightforward stuff.  Once you know the process it's really easy and before you know it you'll be carrying around entire libraries with you.  Good luck and feel free to share your success stories with me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Announcing Hector's Law

 Seeing how popular this blog has been <insert sarcasm here> just thought I'd take a moment to announce I've just started a new blog: Hector's Law.

Hector's Law is more my dark side than The Renegade Geek is my light side.  That said, expect snark, sarcasm, pessimism, and mind-blowning musings from yours truly.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goliath. Meet David.

Yes, that's exactly what you think it is.  It's a battery.  Believe it or not it has a very important role to play in keeping your computer working.  That's the CMOS battery and its job is to power the internal real time clock and the BIOS memory.

Why is that important?  First of all the BIOS keeps the important information necessary to start your computer up.  Fortunately, the default configuration will almost always work which is what the BIOS will eternally route to without the CMOS battery.  Unfortunately your computer will always think it's fresh off the manufacturing belt and revert to the date and time hard coded in the CMOS.  Again, not really that much of a problem until you try to start it.

Yeah, it'll stop right there (at least it does on this computer).  But if you listen closely, it beeps once when it starts.  Turns out it's stuck there because there's an error message.  Good thing I know my keyboard shortcuts.  Alt + Tab will show me what's up.

Funny thing is if you actually do nothing for around 5 minutes it'll ignore this and just start up.

Now had this particular computer had a working laptop battery, you could set the time and restart it just fine.  As long as the system has an alternative power source it'll reserve some to keeping the time and date settings.

And why do we get this message?  Once Windows XP detects that your BIOS time is set before 1996 it triggers this error.

Fortunately for me, the battery on this particular laptop was pretty easy to get to.  I know a few models that require dismantling the entire blamed thing. Trick is now to find a replacement.  The battery itself is common (you probably have one in your wristwatch...if people are still wearing those); it's the attachments you've got to worry about.  I'm considering jimmying a standard CR2016 battery if I can't find one that's made for computers.  It it turns out to be too much hassle, we're looking at eBay.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Favorite Apps (Part 2)

I figure by now you guys are tired hearing about the tablet.  Well I had to get back on here because it's like everyday I stumble onto something useful to do with this thing.  I've run through quite a few apps and there'll probably be more but I'm taking it step by step.

For those of you who liked my last list, you'll probably like this one too.  Without further ado, here we go:

1. MangaSearcher

If you've read my blog, you should have seen this one coming.  MangaSearcher brings e-reading goodness to my tablet.  I used to use something similar on my cell phone but reading manga on the small screen was just a pain in the you know what.  The big screen was just made for this sort of stuff.  One feature I particularly like is that when I call up an issue I want to read it doesn't just link to the issue.  It downloads it so that I can put it aside and read it offline if I want.  Don't worry about it downloading all 610 chapters of Naruto though (for those of you who keep up), it only retrieves the listing when you first ask for a refresh.  If you want a specific issue you have to click it directly.  Make sure you have enough internal memory though.


It really kicks the llama's ass.  LOL!  Yes, Winamp is classic music player and it does just what I need it to do on the tablet.  It would have been Doubletwist here but it decided to get all kooky on me when I insisted it check for music on the microSD card.  All the basics are here: search, playlists, organization by song, artist, genre and album.  There's also SHOUTcast for web radio, a store to buy upgrades (that famous equalizer is gonna cost you) and a link for Free Music (takes you to Spinner for MP3 downloads and Full CD Listening Party for streaming albums).  One thing I noticed though is it's obvious this was made mainly for the cell phone format.  When you place the long ends towards the ground the album art gets really tiny.  Personally all that empty space drives me nuts so I keep it in book mode (I just invented that term) when I use it.

3. Amazon Kindle

No, my tablet's not a Kindle.  But it can run the Amazon Kindle app.  I've only got two e-books so far (Les Miserables and Shakespeare's Sonnets; FOR FREE!), but I think I can totally get into this e-book thing.  It's really easy to use too.  Just link it to your Amazon account and shop.  You can do it from your tablet or on your PC.  The app will since to check if you bought anything and it'll pop up in your Kindle library.

4. Advanced Task Killer

A must have especially for this tablet.  You let too many apps run wild in the background and this thing'll get much much slower than it needs to be.

5. Dolphin Browser

The built in browser is ok, but I wasn't impressed.  I played with Firefox and found it too bulky and it had trouble with certain links.  Dolphin Browser is the answer.  It's fast and has all the perks the built in browser have and more.

6. Exodus Live Wallpaper

I've only tried a few live wallpapers but I've been stuck on this one.  It just makes my screen look alive.

7. Skype

I've used Skype in the past as an easy way to call toll free numbers but not really to call anyone else.  But hey, I've got front and back facing cameras so that means video chat.  It's cool to have that available.  Not sure how often I'll use it though.

Thanks all I have this time around.  What are your favorite apps?  I'd love to know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More Adventures In Rooting

It's funny how adding a new toy to the family changes your needs.  I have for quite some time been using Easy Tether as my de facto tethering application.  It's one of the few apps I paid actual money for.  While it works great on PCs though it's utterly useless with my tablet.  Remember in a previous post where I said that without WiFi access your tablet experience is severely hindered.  Well you never really feel it until you're stuck without the access.

In response to this, I decided it was time to root my main phone: my Motorola XPERT.
You'd think this would be an easy task considering how much the tech community loves messing with Motorala gear.  Well it turned out that Google was a step ahead of everyone.  Since I upgraded to Android 2.3.5 on my phone it was quite a search to find a method to root it.  But I found one and I'm now enjoying the benefits of a rooted phone.

See that photo?  I'm showing off three things here.  First you'll notice that big WiFi symbol.  I installed WiFi Tether and now I can connect my Android tablet to my Android phone for WiFi.  Neat huh?  You'll also see that ghostly blue box that's letting me know Screenshot FREE has Superuser permission.  Fun fact, taking a screenshot on an Android phone is only possible if it's rooted.  That's show off #3: the screenshot itself.

Now naturally this didn't go as well as I had hoped.  For some strange reason my phone sometimes changes my time forward by 4 hours.  I'm guessing this has to do with Sprint homebase being somewhere in the mid-west.  True story: My bank called me one time because they wanted to know why my online account was being accessed somewhere in the mid-west.  It seems to be a minor annoyance right now and it might actually phase itself out *crossing fingers*.  The other annoyance is the built in Sprint app that pops up a warning telling me it can't connect because the service isn't enabled.  Sprint's already collecting an extra $10 a month from me for "premium data" so there's no way I'm letting them charge me for anything else.  Again, it's an annoyance I can live with.

Question now is what else do I want to mess with now that my phone is rooted?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Favorite Apps

I'm starting to get the hang of this tablet thing.  If I didn't mention it before I rooted my Coby Kyros allowing me to do more with that tablet than I could out of the box.  So after these past few weeks I've settled on what are now my favorite apps.  Maybe you might like them too.

Wanna take a screen shot on Android?  Gotta root it first. ;)

1.  Google Play

Sorry GetJar, but you are a sad and pale imitation of the Google Play store.  Even Amazon Appstore kicks your ass.  You really don't miss Google Play until you can't use it anymore.  It's opened up a whole new world for my tablet.

2.  ES File Explorer

Yeah, it's the stock file explorer that came with the tablet but once it gets root access it earns its keep.  Keep in mind though that even if you root your device you have to specifically enable root browsing in ES File Explorer.  It's a safety feature because you don't want to mess with root files unless you know what you're doing.  It comes bundled with a decent media player and a process explorer too but I rarely use either.

3.  Facebook

The app is surprisingly better to use than the tablet's browser.  Go figure.

4.  News Republic

What can I say, I like to stay informed.  News Republic will pull current news from a number of sources based on any topic I designate.  I can add new buttons to the front page if for some reason I want to constantly look up news related to the Playstation 3 (not that I've actually done that but now that the idea springs to mind I'll definitely try it and see what happens).  It also pops up breaking news from time to time.  Cool app!

5.  Wifi File Transfer

Because sometimes I don't want to be bothered with finding the mini-USB cable.  Once I enable Wifi File Transfer I can use a browser on a networked computer to explore the files in the tablet.  Not only that but I can upload and download files as well.

6. TripleTown

You know I had to come to a game eventually.  TripleTown is addictive as all hell.  It's a puzzle game where you try to construct the best town.  What's really evil about it though is in its free mode you only get 150 turns that refresh slowly as time goes by.  If you want unlimited play you have to pay for the app.

7.  Battery Solo Widget

Once common trend among all Android devices in my opinion is that the battery analyzer visual just sucks.  I like being able to look at my screen and knowing at a glance how much juice I have left. This app is simple but effective.

8.  Netflix

It can get a little slow on this tablet, but Netflix is still pretty handy.  I could tell you where I especially like watching Netflix but I don't think you'd appreciate the visual.

9.  Draw Something

Another game. The reason I like this so much on a tablet is because I suck so bad at this game on my mobile phone.  Small screens, man fingers, do the math.  At least with the tablet I can keep up with my friends who inexplicably seem capable of constructing elaborate portraits in this game.

10.  MX Player

The built in movie player is a bit limited.  I found that out when I loaded my 32 gig microSD card with all my iTunes formatted movies.  MX Player plays what I need flawlessly and even supports subtitles.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Recharging USB Devices Faster

Here's a common sight these days.  Your average office worker discovers that their phone/tablet/iPod/whatever is low on juice so they pull out a USB cable that fits said device and plugs it into their computer.  It wasn't until this week that a noticed something peculiar. 

For the third time in this blog I'm mentioning my (semi) new tablet.  It's important because I got the realization from that.  My office PC has three available USB ports in the front.  One is always in use for my WiFi.  The other is always in use for my wireless mouse (it's mine by the way, not the government's).  That leaves me just one to freely use for jump drives and charging.  Sometimes though I need to charge my cell phone too.  Good thing I bought one of these.

Mine's red :)
I notice though that the device that charges from the wall charger will be fully charged well before the device charged from the computer USB port.  Turns out there's a logical explanation for this.  A typical USB 2.0 port pumps out around 500 mA of power while a wall charger can supply somewhere in the range of 1000 mA.  Car chargers can supply up to 2000 mA (which is why my stuff charges so quickly in the car).

So what do you think?  Is doubling the speed of your recharge worth the price?  I think it is.  A quick search on eBay and you can pick up a wall charger for around $5.  Just watch out for the vendors from China though or you'll be waiting at least a month for your item.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Things I've Learned About Android Tablets

It's been a week since I took the plunge and it's been quite telling.  I've learned a lot about being an Android tablet user this past week.

1.  Android Without Google Play Just Sucks

Sorry, but it's true.  If you're not on a Google approved device it'll come without Google Play.  What's worse is it comes without other cool Google apps like Maps, Talk, Gmail, and *gasp* YouTube.  It gets worse.  There are some apps you can only install through Google Play.  You can't even sideload them by downloading the apk file externally and running it though your file browser app.  A notable example is Firefox.  Granted, adding Amazon Appstore did fill SOME of the void I longed for a simpler time.  So I ended up rooting that bad boy.

2.  Android Tries REALLY Hard To Keep You From "The Good Stuff"

Not sure if this was a function of the tablet in general or Android but the native file explorer sucked moose balls.  It's weird because ES File Explorer works so well on my rooted Cyanogenmod phone.  Then I found out why it doesn't work as well: The app itself doesn't have superuser privileges by default.  I ended up installing two other file managers before discovering this so now one of them has to go (sorry FX File Explorer).  Turns out that ES is paranoid for a very good reason: messing with the system files can totally screw up your system.  Honestly the only reason I wanted access to the root directory is because on this device that's the only way to browse to the microSD card and it's a pain that I needed to go so far just to do that.

3.  Big Screen = Big Fun

I'm not really one for games, but I have to admit that Android games are way more fun on a bigger screen.  I've only got a few installed but I'm on the lookout for more.  Want to play something really addictive.  Try TripleTown (only available in the Google Play store).  It's also available for Apple devices.

4.  Unless You've Prepared, Tablets Are Useless Without WiFi

I'd say that about 75-80% of the things you really want to do with a Tablet require that you be online.  That's probably why most people say screw it and get 3G/4G enabled devices.  Without a WiFi hookup you're pretty much stuck with the content you've previously downloaded or put in place.  If you've got music and movies and games (that don't need WiFi) set up you can pull out your tablet and entertain yourself anywhere.  But forget about checking email, looking for new apps, viewing online videos or browsing the web.  I see myself looking into ways to share my phone network connection with my tablet sometime in the near future (too bad FoxFi doesn't work on my phone).

5.  I Miss Productivity

I hate to say it but I miss the productivity that one can get from a computer.  It's not that you can't do things with an Android tablet.  You just can't do them better than you can on a computer OS.  Programs like CamScanner for creating PDF documents using your camera and Olive Office Premium for handling MS Office docs get the job done but they aren't my preferred methods.  They're quick and dirty.  It's also not convenient getting files on and off of the table since it lacks a USB port (still waiting on that mini to USB attachment).  On the plus side though it's lightweight and can do actual work in the right hands.  It's going to take some more use from to to decide how well it fits into my day to day routines and how it can be useful to me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My (Semi) New Tablet

Yep, that's my (semi) new tablet.  It's a Coby Kyros MID9742 and as far as tablets go these days it's decent.

Here's the story.  One of my techie friends who's new to the mobile and tablet market wanted to get his feet wet and for him the price of this Coby was right (personally I STILL think he overpaid for it).  I gave him a proper scolding for buying it (as proper as you can get after downing a couple beers that is).  Last night I catch him at our usual spot and he's had it with this thing.  He wanted to ditch the thing and move up to some of the more robust tablets coming out these days like the Nexus or the Galaxy Tab.  So I took it off his hands at what I thought was a pretty fair price.

Let me say it right here and right now, this isn't the tablet I was looking for (damn Jedis).  With the price of tablets dropping and their power increasing I was waiting for the right time to spring for one.  However, at the moment I'm lacking a powerful mobile device since mom has been using my Acer Aspire lately.  In that respect, the Coby's a decent substitute.

First thing I noticed right of the bat though was it didn't have Google Play.  I even went as far as just downloading the Google Play apk file and installing it but it won't even run.  What it comes with is a link to GetJar that doesn't have a whole lot of app options.  Good thing I remembered that Amazon has an Appstore too.  Best part is they offer a paid app for free everyday.  That alone is worth checking it out.

Back to the tablet though, the review I linked earlier is spot on.  If I was shopping for a tablet, the Coby Kyros wouldn't have even made my list.  At the MSRP I'd be better off buying a Kindle Fire.  The almost 10 inch screen, its saving grace, hardly makes up for its other failings.  But hey, if you bought this I doubt you were in it for the performance.  You just wanted a low cost tablet that works reasonably well. 

Chances are somewhere along the line I'm going to root this thing so I can sideload the Google Play apk but I'm in no rush.  I'll keep you guys posted if anything new develops.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Josh Cell Softwares

I was searching for an easy way to make a bootable Windows USB drive and stumbled upon Josh Cell Softwares.  Their WinUSB Maker was simple and did the trick for me (you may need to disable your antivirus for a bit so it'll work properly).  Take a peek.  You might find something you like there.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Evil Toddler

I know you guys haven't got your fill of "binders full of women" and "horses and bayonets" yet, but this meme was just too good to pass up.  You can make your own Evil Toddler meme at

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings

This was a category last night for Tipsy Tuesday Team Trivia (those of you wonder what my TTTT posts mean, there it is) at Jack's Bight.  TTTT is a raucous, shot infused good time that exposes the audience to things they probably never knew before.  However, there are questions that inspire debate.  You could say this was one of them (if you count just me as the debate that is).  Here was the question:

Fred and George Weasley is to the Harry Potter series as what is to Lord of the Rings?
Now at the time I protested the answer this question. That was until I saw the source of it and realized it was a case of paraphrasing gone bad.  Now don't look at it yet but here's the source.

Given the question what would you guess the answer is?  My answer was Faramir and Boromir.  It was judged wrong.  The answer was Merry and Pippin (or Meriadoc Brandybuc and Peregrin Took).

Now I admit I have not read The Lord of The Rings.  I have however ready every book in the Harry Potter series and my pride as a geek could not allow the question to stand as is.  Here's the original question from the source mentioned which would have cleared all doubt:

In my opinion, "Harry Potter" wouldn't be quite complete without Fred and George Weasley, who just make the series that much more fun to read. In the sense of them liking a little bit of fun every now and then, the fact that they are almost never separated, and their undying loyalty to each other and to the main character, who are Fred and George Weasley most easily likened to in "The Lord of the Rings?"
Aahhh context, sweet context.  Perhaps this would have made it too easy but given that I was the only person there familiar with both series I doubt it (not boasting, I checked around after).

The question asked reminds me of analogies we used to get on the SAT.  Essentially the question is worded:

Fred & George Weasley : Harry Potter Series :: _________ : Lord of the Rings Series

In this context given nothing else you work with what you know about both series and because analogies demand at their core that you find common relationships the most obvious one is glaring:  Fred and George Weasley are brothers (identical twins actually).  Given this I went for the only brother pair presented in Lord of the Rings: Boromir and Faramir.

However, had the question been worded the other way around the answer presented would have been much more palatable:

Merry & Pippin : Lord of the Rings Series :: ___________________ : Harry Potter Series

In this comparison we have a pair of fun loving troublemakers who were inseparable (until The Two Towers that is).  Given what I know of the Harry Potter series Fred and George Weasley were the obvious answers.

So fellow geeks, nerds, fanboys, what say you?  Granted whether I was right or wrong about this wouldn't have affected the outcome of the game anyway.  I just want your opinion on this one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Foxfi - Free WiFi Hotspot for Android

I bumped into a friend this weekend and he recommended Foxfi as an option for mobile Internet use.  Personally I've been using EasyTether successfully for a while now but the option of an easy WiFi connection appealed to me regardless.  That it supposedly works without rooting your phone makes it doubly appealing.

So I downloaded it on the spot and it seemed to start ok.  Sprint users, you should be warned that your built in browser may try to redirect you to the Google Play store where you will unceremoniously be told you can't download the app there.  You guys should follow this link instead.  I got around this by having an alternative browser on my phone (namely Firefox).

Sadly, it seems that it doesn't work on my phone.  I use a Motorola XPRT which is essentially a Droid Motorola model the app specifically doesn't work on.  Just my luck.  There is an option for Bluetooth Tethering that also doesn't work on my end.  You feel free to give it a try though. The user interface is really easy to use.  My advice: name your network FBISURVEILLANCE. :)

The user interface

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why The Plot Twist in Dark Knight Rises Got Everyone

Ok "everyone" is a bit strong but many seasoned comic fans familiar with the source material really didn't see the twist coming...but we should have.

This is my first spoiler blog so if you haven't seen the movie yet you should probably stop reading right about now.

You gone yet?

How about now?

Ok, just to really REALLY give you time to not get to the spoiler here's a random Batman video to keep you occupied and kill space at the top of my entry.  Y'know, just so that any major details don't show up when this gets posted to Facebook and Google+.

Hehehe, that should do it.  Now I'm certain the people who really want to read this are still here (and to those of you that endured that and are still here you're a stronger person than I).

Now, topic at hand.  It was revealed as Batman took down Bane and is screaming at him to tell him where the bomb trigger is that Miranda Tate was actually Talia Al Ghul.  She was the child that escaped the pit and Bane was her protector.  The collective "oooohs" I heard when this happened let me know that the twist hit the mark.

Anyone familiar with Batman and his story is well aware of Ra's Al Ghul and Batman's relationship (yeah, they totally did it) with Talia.  It was kind of an obvious lead up since there was all this talk of Ra's Legacy and the League of Shadows.  Not knowing much about Bane's history Batman was led to the conclusion (in the movie) that Bane was Ra's Al Ghul's son.  You heard that right.  Apparently the scheme was so masterful even Batman, the world's greatest detective, was fooled.

Here's my reasoning why the twist actually worked. We're currently in the Golden Age of comic book movies.  There was a time where any movie based on a comic book was a guaranteed flop.  The reason they flopped: Hollywood Spin.  Every time they got their hands on a really good character they'd add so much crap in order to shoe horn the whole thing into an hour and a half the end result was a jumbled mess that would win the revile of every true fan of the source material.  Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is a standout piece of work and thanks to Marvel producing their own movies they've been able to save a ton of their beloved characters.  The younger audience has no idea the stuff that came out of Hollywood before the days of Spider-man (going with the Tobey version here).  The really sad thing is it happened almost exclusively with DC and Marvel characters.  Point being we're too used to having crazy change ups that Hollywood make to our favorite characters just to make a story flow or to fit a wider audience (remember the organic web shooters?).  That's why up until the moment of the reveal we were all comfortable with Bane being Ra's son even though we know full well that he had a daughter in the comics.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Hero-ic Effort

A while back I blogged about possible uses for my old HTC Hero.  I had decided to refit it into a standalone media player.

To begin I rooted my old phone and installed the sleeker Cyanogenmod Android OS.  Then I plunked down $12 for an 8 gig microSD card.  Today I capped it off with a new battery that I bought from eBay for $3.99.  I've charged the battery to 52% and had it playing music for an hour straight.  It hasn't budged from 52%.

I would declare success but there's one small problem.  Apparently my OS has trouble playing long videos.  It's minor in my book but there's I'm looking into it.

Technology rocks!

Friday, October 5, 2012

You're Probably Tired of Gangnam Style But...

See what happens when the geeks take hold of a craze.  You SkyRim fans well especially enjoy the ending.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Manga List #4

Time again to update my list of stuff I'm reading.  I've added five new manga to my list.  I'm caught up on Girls of the Wild's but I'm only just started reading Gintama.  I used to read Detective Conan quite regularly but took a break because it was so hard to find.  I'm slowly catching up.  Konjiko No Gash Bell is better known as Zatch Bell in the US.  I was a fan of the anime but Cartoon Network pulled the series before it was finished.  The same goes for Yu Yu Hakusho. 

Naruto Bleach Beelzebub The World God Only Knows History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi Ratman
Cage of Eden Fairy Tail Noblesse Bartender Holyland (Finished) The Breaker: New Waves
Hajime no Ippo Hunter X Hunter Mangaka-san to Assistant-san to Karate Shoukoushi Konihata Minoru Medaka Box Toriko
Freezing Sekirei Gamble Fish Liar Game Zen Martial Arts Academy The God of High School
Rave Master (Finished) Eyeshield 21 (Finished) The Breaker (Finished) Veritas (Finished) Defense Devil (Finished)  RRR (Finished)
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute Simon Sues
Girls of the Wild's Gintama Detective Conan
Konjiko No Gash Bell (Finished)
Yu Yu Hakusho (Finished)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How I Know You're Cheating At Words With Friends

I've been silent on this for way too long.  I play a fair deal of Words With Friends
It's actually one of my favorite mobile games.  However, there are very specific situations where it's painfully obvious your opponent is using an anagram solver or one of the many site set up to allow people to cheat at these games.  So let's count them down:

1.  Your Every Move Is Perfect

Making perfect moves every turn is statistically impossible in this game.  There have been turns I've gotten nothing but consonants and nothing but vowels.  In any given game there's a chance you'll get a hand like that and there's usually nothing to do but play a crappy 3 letter word and hope you get some vowels or consonants in your next turn.  However in the wacky world of words there are options if your vocabulary is large enough.  But the only way the average person is going to know where to place them is using a site like this.  I know they exist.  I just don't use them.

2.  I Know You Personally

There's a random player option in the game.  I've used it a total of once.  The person I did pick up doing that is an pretty good player too.  The rest of you guys I know personally and some of the words you're using have never ever come up in regular conversation.  I've seen your Facebook posts.  I've went to school with a number of you. I'm not implying you don't have a large vocabulary.  Just that next time we talk feel free to dazzle me with it. :)

3.  It Takes You A While

If I'm really into playing a game (and you are too) I play within a minute of getting a turn.  Sometimes I'll take longer because I'm REALLY having trouble trying to form at least one viable word from the tiles I got.  However, I notice when after every turn I play it takes you 5 minutes to return and in which case refer to item1.

4.  You're Greedy

This is the biggest telltale on the list.  Anagram solvers and scrabble cheating sites give you all the viable options given the nature of the space you want to play in.  Now lets say you have IASHTEZ.  Now you could easily spell "haze" or "size" and not rouse my suspicion.  However there is a 7 letter combo for this word and it's "haziest".  But you probably didn't see that right off the bat.  It turned up at the top of your word search and it's worth a bingo bonus.

Another good one is playing more letters than they really needed to play.  An example is playing "embolden" instead of just "bold". 

Now if you play the game straight, well bravo for you.  If you cheat, then so be it.  See even though I took the time to write a lengthy blog article on cheating in Words With Friends it doesn't affect my decision on whether I enjoy playing the game or not.  In fact, I often welcome the challenge.  Granted, at least 90% of the time the computer is going to beat me...but by how much?  I don't mind coming in a close second to a machine that's capable of absolutely decimating me depending on how I play.  It only makes me a better player in the long run.  BTW, you guys really shouldn't be teaching me these words.  They WILL come back to haunt you. ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Taming Digital Music

Would you believe it's been 18 years since the MP3 digital music format went public and forever changed the way we look at music?  It probably seems like a shorter span of time but digital music has been a mainstay on the Internet almost for as long as the Internet itself has been publicly available.  The small file size made the MP3 format ideal for sharing online and it wasn't long before that became a problem.  It only took 5 years before the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) started cracking down on file sharing.

I really didn't want to get into the legal history of digital music though.  The good news is there are now many avenues available to purchase music legally online; much more than we had back in those days.  However, that doesn't mean our digital music lives are hassle-free.

In this post I want to point out many of the most common annoyances your average digital music enthusiast would face in this day and age.

1.  Ripping Music (aka taking music from a CD and making it into a computer file)

Yes, they still sell physical compact discs with music on them.  I don't think they'll ever be as vintage as vinyl or the 8-track though.  That's because they're so incredibly easy to make.  What I find though is many people don't know how to rip a CD and add digital music to their collection.

Here's the good news.  The major brands of operating systems support an embedded mechanism to rip audio CDs (sorry Linux users, you've got some extra work to do there).  In the MacOS you've got iTunes (which is also available for Windows).  In Windows you've got Media Player.  The problem with the embedded audio rippers is they want to default you to their audio format.  iTunes likes their AAC format while Media Player likes WMA format.  Why the different formats?  While I like to think it's to lock you into using their products the more prevalent reason is digital rights management (DRM).  True these formats can be shared with a variety of music managers but some are designed to be played only the device you downloaded it on.  Ever tried to share a song you downloaded from iTunes?  It won't work.  If you move the file to another device the only way to play it there is to "authorize" it to.  For example, if I transferred an iTunes downloaded song from computer A to computer B I would have to go into the iTunes Store on computer B to tell Apple that computer B is now authorized to play the same songs I downloaded on computer A. I don't know about you but that's just a pain the ass to me. That's why I work strictly with MP3 which is open and doesn't have an DRM restrictions. 

Ripping music with either iTunes or Windows Media Player is easy enough.  You just pop in your CD with the programs open and they guide you through it.  You've going to want to go into your setting though and change your default ripping format to MP3.  Trust me on this.  It'll make life simple.

You want it to be MP3.  Seriously.
2.  Tagging Music

Now, you're probably all eager to rip after going through all that but you might want to be connected to the Internet before you start.  Why?  Because iTunes and WMP will connect to the Internet and look up what it is you're trying to rip.  Don't worry, it's not a bad thing.  See if you weren't connected these programs would have no choice but to use it's generic naming schema while ripping.  You ever try to manage a music collection made up of Track1.mp3 and Track2.mp3?  It's a nightmare.  That's why you should tag your digital music right from the onset.

If you didn't get your music tagged when you first ripped it you can also use these programs to tag music you already have.  In my opinion though they don't do it very well.  You best option for tagging your music is MediaMonkey.

One more thing about tagging and naming music files.  Watch out for foreign characters.  Recently I added Gangnam Style to my collection only to discover that all the Korean characters in both the file name, the path name and the tag did NOT jive with my DJ software.  After I edited it it works fine.  And just because I can:

3.  Finding Music

Remember when I mentioned legally downloading music.  Well there's a really good reason for doing that and it's not avoiding a lawsuit from the RIAA.  I'm talking about viruses.  I too used to avidly troll file sharing programs but I haven't used one since Limewire shut down (it's been almost 2 years now).  It got to a point where it seemed like every search I did lead to downloading a virus.  Fortunately I'm no sucker and I had up to date antivirus.

My main source of music these days is eMusic. I mostly jumped on because I kept getting offers for a massive download if I joined.  When I jumped on, eMusic wasn't really all that great but they've since improved their site and selection.  A big plus is they don't give me hassle for downloading in the US Virgin Islands (unlike AmazonMP3; someday I'll try you guys again).  There are tons more you can try out though. And if you do come back and tell me about them. :)

4.  Fixing Music

Ever get a song and there's an annoying pop or skip somewhere in the track?  Well you can actually fix that with the right software and a little patience.  I've been using Audacity for years to clean up music files.  I'm a do-it-yourselfer so I like to isolated the exact pop and erase it but if you're not so confident in your editing skills there's a built in click removal tool among many others.

5.  Backing Up Music

If you've spent a lot of time and money on your music collection you should do your best to ensure it's longevity.  That means backing up your music to alternate media.  I say this often but it's true: It's not of matter of if your computer crashes, it's when.  With proper care and regular maintenance your standard computer can last you a good 5 years or more before it finally craps out but it is going to crap our eventually.

These days your average CD isn't going to cut it.  The maximum they hold is 700 megabytes.  Your average mp3 song clocking in at around 3.5 minutes takes up just that many megabytes so expect a CD to be able to hold 200 songs in their raw format (audio CDs clock in by the minute which for a CD is 80).  A Data DVD is a better option as it stores up to 4.7 gigabytes (that's 4700 megabytes or just over 1300 songs).  Your best option though is an external hard drive.  These badboys are available in terabytes.  1 terabyte is equal to 1000 gigabytes.  I'll let you do the math on that one.  That's a lot of storage!

Want another option?  Online storage is very reliable.  One of the big names out there is Carbonite, but it's an emerging market so lots of other companies are joining the fray like Google and Amazon.  The good thing about online storage is it's offsite so if anything happens to your physical property you know your data is available to you from an offsite location.  Pretty handy on an island in the midst of hurricane season.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ask A KJ

I've been a KJ (Karaoke Jockey) for longer than I care to recall.  There aren't that many of us around these parts because karaoke is such a niche venue on a small island (that's why we all know each other).  Karaoke has had some great runs over the years but times change, people change, technologies change and that brings us to today.

Hoped you like my opening spiel.  I know I discontinued The Karaoke Report but since karaoke is still on my list of things of like occasionally I'm going to blog about it.  This is one of those occasions.

I was reading forums on a site I pass through everyone once in a while when I want to be reminded that my issues pale in comparison to KJs who do this sort of thing as their full time job. Based on my experiences in the biz I'd like to answer some of the questions and statements I get most often about being a karaoke host.  Should be a fun ride.

You don't have anything by *insert name of soca artist, calypso artist or any reggae artist who isn't Bob Marley*?!

I usually have to shut this question down the moment I get it especially if they just heard me play a soca song, a calypso song or a reggae song by an artist who isn't Bob Marley.  Karaoke makers don't just up and translate every song known to man ever to karaoke.  There has to be sufficient enough demand for it.  If a song isn't hitting the Top 40 in the US or the UK chances are it's not getting a karaoke version.  While I do have SOME songs that fit this bill they were mostly homemade by enthusiasts who shelled out the money to build their own karaoke songs.

So why don't you make your own karaoke songs?

I have in the past.  And let me tell you it's a pain the ass.  I literally have to learn the song myself to make an accurate port.  It takes many, many hours to get it right.  Not to mention that I have to find a decent instrumental version of the song too.  I haven't done it recently because I have yet to find a format I'm comfortable building songs on.  I'll keep it in mind for future projects though.

Why can't you be more entertaining?

You're missing the point of karaoke.  I'm not here to amuse you.  I'm here to provide you with the means to amuse yourself.  I don't make the show.  YOU'RE the show.  It's all about YOU.

But this other host I know is soooo funny...

That's nice and I hope that's working out for them.  I run a simple show and I do it on purpose.  Once again, the show isn't about me. It's about YOU.

Really?  So then why are you singing?

If you host a karaoke show singing songs is unavoidable.  It's like being in kindergarten, bringing a huge box of toys to school, dropping them all on the floor for your classmates to play with but not actually playing with any of the toys yourself.  Now most hosts realize that (you're already tired of reading this but) the show isn't about them.  It's about YOU.  These days I only insert myself in the rotation if there's a lot of slow songs back to back or if it's a slow night.  When it gets busy I don't sing at all.

Hey, it's getting late and I've got to get going.  Is it cool if I get my turn now?

No.  It's not cool.  I publish rotation rules in my songbooks for a reason.  Yes I can and have bent and broken those rules but it depends on certain factors. 

Ok, how about if I drop $10 in your tip jar?

That'll do it.  LOL!  I'm not ashamed to admit I can and will accept bribes to bump you up in a rotation.  It would be nice if you were just tipping me for a job well done but realistically people rarely tip their KJ.

Hey, I've been keeping track of the rotation and I don't see how *random guest* got ahead of me!

Ok, first off arguing with the KJ is a bad idea.  When customers get irate I tend to give security the nod.  Just sayin'.  But to answer you, see the previous question.  I never said my rotation rules are infallible.  Also, are you sure you read my rules.  There's one in there that says if someone is new they get placed at the top of the rotation.  If you've already had 4-5 songs for the night you really shouldn't be complaining because someone is getting to sing their first song of the night.

Can I just hold on to this microphone and be your co-host?

No.  Kindly return the microphone to where you found it.  How would YOU feel if I was running around and interrupting your song and acting a fool on the microphone while you were singing your song?  All I ask is you extend the same courtesy to the audience that they extended to you.

Well screw you and your equipment I'm taking the microphone anyway.


Your microphones aren't that great anyway.

I know.  I'd love to have some awesome expensive microphones but anything can happen when you mix alcohol and expensive equipment.  Trust me, the bar isn't going to replace my stuff if you break it.  I think in my experience I've had to replace my mic systems at least 10 times.  My current mics have lasted the longest.

I don't want a karaoke song.  Just put something on so I can freestyle.

Usually I frown on this.  It can get out of hand and I've seen it happen.  I tend to be cool about it as long as you don't hold up the show being picky about your background music and you take your leave when the song is over.  I'm not giving you a concert.

Do you have *random song*?  Yeah!  I wanna sing it next!

While I appreciate your enthusiasm (probably assisted by a few libations), you aren't singing next.  The only way you sing next is if there's absolutely no one else on my rotation list.

So how long is the wait?

It's *random number* songs.

I can't wait that long!  I'm leaving!

See ya. *ignoring the sour look as they leave*

*Me announcing my list is closed for the night* Can't we just do one more song?

*sigh* Closing time is the roughest time for me.  People are grooving and getting into things but all good things must end...and I have an 8-5 to get to in the later.  Now the reason I close my list at a certain point is that I've estimated what songs I have left in my rotation to the time I'm supposed to end the show.  However, despite announcing quite clearly several times in that interval that my list is indeed closed I still get people who want to play what I call "The One More Game".  The reason I have to play that game sooo hard is because the minute I let someone actually have one more it opens the floodgates for extra requests.  It can easily add and extra 30 minutes of time I'm not getting paid for to my schedule.  So if you're going to be for just one more it would really be in your best interest to drop something in my tip jar.

Please give me one more song.  I promise I'll tip you.

You're not fooling anyone.  I've only seen this happen only about 20% of the time.  I've seen people pretend to drop money in my tip jar.  There's only one thing I hate more than the One More Game and that's being lied to.  Don't make promises to me you have no intention of keeping.  That especially goes to the ladies who promise sexual favors (yes, it's really happened; no I've never taken a single offer seriously).

Why are you stopping so early?  Last week you went until 2.

I'm aware that my hours aren't exactly published but I'll tell anyone who asks that it's a 3-hour show.  Hour 4 is a gift that YOU the audience must earn either by vigorously patronizing the venue I'm working at or meeting my minimum tip requirement (I'm not telling you what it is but I can tell you it's more than $10).

I can't hear myself singing.

You should try singing INTO the microphone.

Ok, I still can't hear myself singing.

Oh, let me turn up your volume. :)


You shouldn't sing so close to the speaker. :)

I don't sound very good.  Is your equipment working?

I don't know.  When you get that recording contract have your sound guys come down and check it out for me.  Seriously though, don't expect too much. It's karaoke not Springsteen Live.

What's that song by what's her name?  I want to sing that.

Help me out here, people.  I need a name or an artist.  If you have neither I can't help you.  Fortunately I can even work around mismatched songs and artists but I gotta have at least one to work with.  If you don't know then be prepared to sing some of it for me.


I'm sure I'll come up with more.  I'll save those for another day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Make Science, Math and Technology Too Cool For School

Last night me and some friends from our online tech group (you didn't think I was the only one did you?) met up to weigh in on with ideas for the draft VI Science and Technology Plan.  One of the topics was how to get various age blocks to embrace technology.  So I've had and idea gnawing at me since last night and I want to get it written down before I forget it.

My answer is trading cards.
Gotta catch 'em all!

Ok, not THOSE kind of trading cards.  I mean sports trading cards like basketball or football.  Here's how it'll play out.  The project is to build trading cards for a whole sports team with stats and all for the season.  This activity would incorporate the talents of various types of students.  First we've got the mathematicians.  They'll be the ones actually taking and compiling the numbers.  The computer science students would come up with a way to automate the data collection and compiling.  The photographers' jobs would be to collect a winning photo of each and every player.  Graphic artists would cobble together the actual card images.  The athletes would also be involved since they're the subjects and really, how cool is it that you'll get your own trading cards with real statistics on it.  I think that sort of project would be a win-win for everyone and as a promotion the cards could be packaged and sold in the community to raise funds for the school.

Think it could work?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Time to Hero Up!

Hey, remember this guy?

That's my old phone.  If you've been following my blog you'll remember that I recently shelved this for a Motorola XPRT.  Since then Hero here has been sitting in a box collecting dust.  So I figured since I'm stuck with it I might as well find a way to make it useful.

I searched for ways to breathe new life into this thing.  I learned a lot of things.  Did you know that by law even phones that have no carrier service still have to be able to call 911?  So emergency phone is on the list.  Turning it into a GPS device?  Um, no.  I live on an island.  GPS isn't very useful to me here.  Still, something to keep in mind as my device is indeed equipped with a GPS receiver.  Alarm clock?  My current phone is already on that.  Oooh, a wireless router...nah.  Right up this geek's alley but at the moment it's of no use to me. 

Right now I'm somewhere between portable media player or just using it for games.  I know, it doesn't sound very glamorous but I'm still working on this.  I might change my mind and do something else with it.

Step one, the OS had to go.  Don't get me wrong here.  Android is awesome.  But the Android that Sprint  foisted on me is full of bloatware that I don't need and can't get rid of.  My searches led me to discover the joys of modding the Android ROM.  I settled on CyanogenMod and got to work.
It's Android on a SKATEBOARD!  I was powerless to resist!

In order to even dream of modding the phone I had to root it first.  In layman's terms, I needed the master key that opens all the locks.  When you have root you have total control over Android.  Why isn't this a regular option you ask?  Well first the phone carriers frown upon it (hence the immediate voiding of your warranty should you choose to root your phone).  Secondly it's for your own safety.  That kind of access can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing (as in totally bricking your phone dangerous).

CyanogenMod's instructions for rooting your phone is long, download intensive, and actually didn't work even after I followed all the instructions.  So I said poo on them and turned to Android Central who gave me an awesome 1-click rooting solution.  Rooted the phone: done. 

Now the first time I applied the CyanogenMod, it spent forever just trying to start up.  I had to pull the battery, wipe the ROM and then re-flash the ROM.  Yay!  That seemed to do the trick.

My first impression of CyanogenMod was how clean the interface looked.  The mod for my phone is CyanogenMod 7 so it's running based Android 2.3 Gingerbread.  I've never seen Android look so...simple.  Not a bad thing.  I've always though the Android packaged with my phones were kinda busy.  So time to do some tests.  Then the awful truth hit me: no Google Play.  A quick search showed that Google doesn't let modders package their stuff with the mods.  I'm making it sound worse than it actually was though because I just needed to re-flash CyanogenMod with a Gapps file (Google Apps) and boom there's Google Play.

So far I've only tried a couple things on it.  First I installed Netflix (I couldn't even install this app on the phone as it was before).  Unfortunately, the playback was terrible.  I tweaked the CPU performance to the max (yes, you can do that in CyanogenMod) and it helped playback only slightly.  It was still pretty much unwatchable.  Next I installed YouTube.  YouTube played very well; no complaints there.  Then I installed Angry Birds (another app I couldn't even install on the phone before).  It was a little jerky but not enough to be truly annoying.  Next I wanted to see how it would handle a standalone video file so I installed MX Player (it has support for more video formats).  It performed well there too.  Finally, Pandora.  Sound quality sounded ok too.  Overall it's preforming way better than the packaged OS did.

For now I've got it running as a portable media player (kinda like an iPod Touch).  I've put it on Airplane mode so it doesn't try to sneak any Sprint or roaming usage out of me.  I'm still trying to decide if that's the direction I want to take this in though.  At least now I have the flexibility to experiment and try different things with it.