Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From Hero to XPRT

Over the weekend I bid a fond adieu to my HTC Hero.

*sigh* Good times...
My Hero jumped the shark when it could no longer support the Facebook app.  I tried out Friendcaster for a while and while it did perform better than the Facebook app it was sluggish and bulky.  Of course Facebook wasn't my sole reason for trading up.  The battery life of my phone had become atrocious and I was sick of not having space for my other apps.  With each new version of apps I already had they kept getting bigger to the point of having to sacrifice other apps to keep the ones I wanted most.  The buttons were show signs of overuse as I found I had to press harder to make certain things happen.  In short, I took a device that was already not top of the line and make it work for me for two whole years.

It was a fun ride though because Android is friggin' awesome (suck it, iPhone).  So naturally I had to keep that 'droid vibe going.  Meet XPRT.
I'll admit it: I went with the free phone option.  I'm a simple guy with not very many needs and at this point pretty much anything new was a improvement.  That doesn't mean I didn't do any research though.  Once I got down to my options I picked this phone for one main reason:  The 1 GHz processor.  Yes I'm aware they're making dual core smartphones.  No, I can't afford them. 

I've been playing with it a couple days now and I must admit I like it.  I don't miss the onscreen keyboard AT ALL.  The reviews don't speak well of the display but it's better than I what I had so no complaints.  It's got lots more space available for apps.  I'm not used to having as much space available to put them on the main navigation screens though.  The camera is leaps and bounds above what I had before (and I have a flash now).  The audio is quite loud compared to my last phone.

I predict I'll be having a lot of fun with this phone.  I'm not sure if I'm ready to attempt an OS update yet though.  I'm still doing research on that.  I'm also looking forward to exploring a new world of apps that I couldn't use before (old OS).  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Karaoke Report 7-30-12

Good morning again, my little karaoke fiends.  Time for another installment of the Karaoke Report.  All the fun stuff I can remember on just 3 hours of sleep. :)

We had a pretty decent night at Fatty's.  I always know when I get so many requests for songs I don't even get to sing one myself.  Ok, so here we go.

Epic Awesomesauce Moment of the Night

This is the first time I've ever had guests so good that I got tipped just to replay their song.  In case you were curious I , the song was "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" by Barry White.  It was fun teasing the women in the crowd by promising them a Magic Mike moment when I started playing "Do Me!" by Bel Biv Devoe and started calling the guys back to the stage.  I think I actually heard hearts shatter when I told everyone I was just kidding.

WTF Moment of the Night

More like the WTF Moment of the Day.  So I just got a new phone.  It takes awesome pictures.  I took a few last night, but they just disappeared.  Really, they're just gone.  So no random party pics today.  Bummer.

Buzzkill Moment of the Night

Too many whiners last night.  Y'know I try really hard to get everyone on stage and give everyone all the songs they ask for but sometimes it seems like people will just complain regardless.  I'm coming up with so many new policies I might have to at some point add them to my song rotation rules.  I'm currently rethinking letting people submit multiple songs at once (some people seem to think if they submit all their songs it's a guarantee they'll actually get to sing all of them; not if the rotation gets big).

Featured Song

Here's a new category I'm trying out.  Every week I'll pick a song that I liked and post up a corresponding YouTube video.  This week I'm going with (don't hate me for this one) Macarena:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mobile Device Dojo

I feel like I've been getting a black belt in mobile devices this week.

Case #1: The iPhone Home button

Someone brought me an iPhone that for some reason didn't allow use of the Home button.  Apple, in their infinite wisdom, narrowed all external operations not touch screen related to a single button on the face.
Like you really needed an image to find it.
Turns out they didn't realize the folly of this decision until much later in the design process.  Something made obvious when it was discovered how often the Home button goes south.  Do a Google search; you'll see.  Anyway, it screwed up so much so that they had to build in a virtual home button into later versions of the iPhone OS.  For those of you who'd like to try it out the procedure for activating it is go to:
  1. Settings
  2. General
  3. Accessibility
  4. Assistive Touch "On"
Did you find it?  If you didn't you're using the older OS and need to run the update using iTunes.  That's where this case went cold.  An iPhone OS update takes at least as long as it takes to download the entire freakin' OS image from apple.  That's about half a gigabyte right there and on the connection I was working with it would have taken about two hours.  This was rendered moot because this particular iPhone was covered so all that needed to happen was a phone call to replace it (good thing we have a landline).

Case #2:  Backing Up and Restoring a New iPhone

You didn't really think my woes would end there did you?  You don't know the trouble I've seen.  Turns out this was rendered super easy because I did something everyone should do just before they attempt to monkey around with an entire operating system: I made a backup.

Turns out it's wicked easy to do.  In iTunes all you have to do is right click on the device (make sure it's plugged into your computer first btw) and click on Backup.  Then switch it out with the new iPhone, cancel all that setup stuff (unless you really want to mess with that right now), right click on the new device and choose Restore from backup.

Case #3:  Office Documents on Android

This one took a little digging.  You see, I was under the impression that all Androids are made equal.  Not so.  Turns out every device that has Android might not come with the same goodies.  Case in point was this bad boy:

My Android phone comes with a handy Office reader called Quickoffice.  Turns out that normally that software isn't freely available (who knew).  So initially I was looking for something to just read Office files and for reasons unknown I kept coming up with OfficeSuite.  Honestly, I think I could have done better but I was pressed for time.

Case #4:  The External Hard Drive

Once again, you probably thought I was done with that tablet.  Well I'm Jack Ryder and YOU ARE WRONG! (You'd only get that joke if you play DC Universe Online; just keep reading).  So here's the dilemma.  There are a ton of AVI movies on this external hard drive and while the tablet does have USB ports, it shows nothing when the drive it attached.  As part of my trial and error process I plugged in my USB thumb drive and sure enough it read that fine.  Turns out the external hard drive is formatted in the NTFS format and it seems like the tablet can only read FAT or FAT32.  For the non-tech people, NTFS stands for New Technology File System.  It was the file system introduced for Windows NT and on.  FAT stands for File Allocation Table.  It's a dated system that is used these days mostly on flash media.

The only solution to this problem would be to move all the data off the drive, reformat it in the FAT or FAT32 format and then move all the files back.  A while back I found a great tool for doing that (try it with just Windows and you'll see why I needed a tool): CompuApps SwissKnife.  The problem here is 1) I didn't have a drive available to temporarily hold all that data and 2) even if I did the transfers would take HOURS (we're talking about over 400 GB here).

The best solution here was purchasing an flash drive and transferring movies as needed.  The bigger the drive the more movies can be copied.

Then I realized another problem when I copied a movie over to test.  The tablet doesn't natively support the avi movie file format.  Fortunately I happened to know of a movie player that plays ANYTHING: VLC!  Worked like a charm.

I wonder what other mobile challenges wait for me this week.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Karaoke Report 7-23-12

We had stiff competition last night from The Battle of the Bands.  Would you believe that the Big Bambooz was open when I was packing up to leave at 2 am? Yep, very unusual for a Sunday night.  We didn't do too bad though.  We had a really active night of karaoke.  I can tell because my total DJ sets didn't even get close to 30 minutes.

Epic Awesomesauce Moment of the Night

Remember how I said in previous entries that I pride myself on bringing things to the crowd they've never seen or heard before.  Well last night I made good on that.  For a long time I've gotten requests for Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show and Down With The Sickness by Richard Cheese.  We I finally got them and both were requested last night.  I found them at Karaoke Version and it's going to be my new go to spot when people give me requests for weird songs that aren't going to be in the mainstream karaoke circuit.

WTF Moment of the Night

They make ONE movie about male strippers and THIS kind of madness ensues at karaoke.

Buzzkill Moment of the Night

A couple years ago I lost a friend and Fatty's lost a security guard.  We still miss Edward Craig Jacobs.  My memories of him at Fatty's was his love of a particular song; the only song he'd ever sing at karaoke:  Meet Virginia by Train.  Someone requested that song last night and it brought back fond memories of Craig.  I hope he's not giving them too much trouble on security detail at the Pearly Gates.

Random Party Pics

This is the "before" pic.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Office 2013 Is Coming

Microsoft is looking to pull all the stops in the latest incarnation of it's Office Suite.  I just had read an article on USAToday where they beta version is already under review.  Check the video from the article:

First the bad news, Office 2013 is only going to work on Windows 7 and 8.  If you're not on either by now, keep on getting intimate with Office 2010.  That's not entirely bad.  Support for legacy systems doesn't allow for taking advantage of emerging trends in technology like faster hard drives, memory, and cloud computing.  Cutting XP (and even Vista) loose was the right move.

Now the good stuff.  The major news in my book is 2013 will allow you to edit PDF documents.  In a way we're jumping the shark on PDF being an untouchable format that required special software to really mess with but do you have any idea how often I've been asked how to edit a PDF document?  A lot!  Adobe must be pissed!  Office is integrating a lot of cloud features into 2013 represented as Office 365.  Skydrive will be available for user's online storage and as Microsoft recently acquired Yammer they're going to be building that in too.

Office 2013 is supposed to really shine on Windows 8 with because there's much more integrated touch functionality.  Microsoft has been playing with touch features since Office 2007 but they're looking to make this one the most touch friendly version yet since they're trying desperately to find a place in the tablet market.  I expect Office 2012 to be just the killer app Microsoft needs to finally get everyone off of Windows XP.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

5 Everyday Tech Things You're Doing Wrong

It's weird the experiences that trigger some of my blog posts.  This entry comes because of a networked multifunction printer.  I'm not going to go into the details but in messing with this thing it brought to mind one of several no-nos that even tech savvy people seem to miss.

  1. Leaving On Your Default Password

    These days it seems like every device comes network ready and is plug and play.  The problem is nobody emphasizes that these devices actually have their own web accessible control panels that give you almost total control over the device.  It's there to make it easy to configure all the nooks and crannies of your device but most people never use it and thus leave everything as-is because hey, it works.  Wanna know how dangerous this really is?  One day I walked into an establishment that offered free WiFi access.  Simply by knowing the default gateway (not gonna explain, but this information is easily accessible once you join the WiFi network) I was able to log into their router.  Why?  Because their default password was still there.  If I was a bad sort I could have jacked up their settings.  Then they probably would have just chucked that thing and bought a new one because home routers are pretty cheap these days anyway.
    $29.99 bitches!
  2. Using a Common or Blatantly Obvious Password

    Check out this clip from Hackers:

    It's only 11 seconds.  See, painless.  Anyway, you'd be surprised how accurate that list is.  Don't believe me?  Check out this infographic based on the recent password hack of LinkedIn.  Three of the four mentioned passwords (ok ilove and iloveyou are variants but close enough) show up.  And this movie came out in 1995!  More silly passwords on the lists include number sequences (I actually cracked a copier once just by using all 5s as the password), the names of your spouse, kids and/or pets (anyone who knows you well enough will guess that first), and pretty much anything that you can look up directly in a dictionary (brute force crackers run through the entire dictionary first to crack passwords).  Want a safer password?  Toss in some numbers and/or special characters like & and $.
  3. Not Protecting Your Mobile Device

    I bet you just love your iPhone...or your iPad...or your Tablet.....or, well you see where I'm going.  You use it for EVERYTHING.  Checking email, bank balances, social media, there's apps for all that stuff.  The problem with mobile devices is that it rarely kills those connections when you decide to stop using them.  Your email is probably constantly checking for new messages right now.  Your social media app takes you to your account automatically.  All this stuff just sitting on your device all wide open like.  What if someone were to come along when you weren't looking and monkey with your stuff.  That wouldn't be possible if you turn on your default security option.  I feel you.  That extra typing in passcodes or drawing out pass sequences are annoying but it's a lot less annoying than someone jumping on your Facebook app and posting "I am a sexy beast right now"...err, not that that's ever happen to me or anything.

  4. Jumping On Any Old WiFi Signal

    Speaking of mobile devices, I understand 3G/4G isn't always in the budget.  The cell companies are making a killing on data plans but some people just say screw it and use whatever WiFi is available.  You really do need to pay attention to what network you're joining though because there are people out there who set up fake hotspots in hopes of collecting your personal information.  Remember those apps I mentioned earlier?  They'll start using that fake WiFi to communicate all now hackers have your login info.

    The best way to be safe: if you're on a mobile device don't use any old available signal.  If you're in an establishment that had WiFi be sure to ask what it's named and if there's a passcode for it.  If you're on a laptop, you can use that bogus WiFi just so long as you don't access any personal info (don't login to ANYTHING).  Also, make sure your firewall is on.  It's not foolproof but it'll prevent anyone trying to snoop around into the contents of your hard drive.

  5. Not Following Social Media Etiquette

    Some people need to go to rehab for this.  Social media is the evolved version of what us old heads used to refer to as message boards.  What evolved?  Anonymity.  On social media, you're you.  Period.  In the old days, you were whatever you imagined.  There are still places online for you to do that.  Social media's not one of them.

    That's where things get dicey.  You're no longer dealing with anonymous bits of 1s and 0s.  Chances are you know the people you're addressing VERY well and have actual met quite a few of them.  And just as hard it is to be friends with people in real life it's quadruply difficult online.

    Fortunately my pals over at PC World (we don't hang out or anything, I just like to call them pals) published a pretty accurate 10 Commandments of Social Media Etiquette that you should all read and take to heart.  If you don't know anyone who violates even a single one of these commandments then it's probably you who isn't following them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Karaoke Report 7-16-12

It's time for another installment of the best karaoke recap 3 hours of sleep can buy.  We had a fairly busy night at Fatty's and a pretty diverse crowd.  So here we go.

Epic Awesomesauce Moment of the Night

I got a compliment on my DJ sets.  It meant a lot to me considering that a) I tried out A LOT of new songs last night that people probably haven't even heard yet and b) the guy is a regular who comes Fatty's regularly.  If you know me personally, you know how easily a good compliment can fluster me.  I spent more time crediting other DJs and illustrating how everyone has different styles.

Oh, did I mention that karaoke got a feature on the outside chalkboard?  That was hot.

Buzzkill Moment of the Night

I often say that karaoke really isn't for little kids (I'm talking toddlers here).  Kids don't need karaoke to have fun and don't particularly care what you flash them on the monitor.  They're more entranced by hearing their voice on the loudspeaker.  You probably get where I'm going with this.  We had a guest last night who twice would not give me a song and left me to pick whatever for him.  Both times I watched him not even taking the songs seriously.  It occurred to me on the second go round he just wanted to hear himself sing "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" over and over again.  One of the other guests made the mistake of handing him the microphone again later and that was the last straw for the bartender.

WTF Moment of the Night

Why are there so may guys into singing "Call Me Maybe"?  I got two requests for that song last night and both times they were perpetuated by guys.  I'm baffled by this.

Random Party Pics

Would you believe I just did a Google search for "karaoke report" and my blog entries top the list?  And these crappy pics I keep taking for this blog are way at the top of the image search too.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dell...Every Once In A While...

Dear Dell:

I know I've given you guys a lot of shit over the years.  When people ask me if I'd recommend you, you're usually at the bottom of my top 3 list.  Lenovo and HP occupy those spots respectively.  I base my recommendations based on 1). Support Options, 2) Variety and Customization and 3) Historical Performance.  It's in that third category you guys usually let me down.  Why?  Because whenever I order a Dell with say a 3-year warranty, I can time without fail when something on that particular Dell is going to screw up (HINT: It's right around the 3 year mark).

Well today I've got kudos for you guys and it's for item #1.  See I've got in my possession here a rather old Dell Precision M70 and a video card I needed to replace.  Now I don't need to tell you guys that trying to take apart an unfamiliar laptop is just about as awkward as your "first time".  However, unlike some of the other models I've had the pleasure of disassembling you guys have illustrations and procedures available on your website on how to do it.

Now guys, this isn't going to move you up in my top 3 spot (I'm sure you're all broken up about that).  But your cred has risen a bit with me.  Make a decent Android Tablet and maybe I'll bump you to #2. :)

The Renegade Geek

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Saved By Factory Reset

Every once in a while I get hold of a project that pushes my technitude (I just invented that word) to the highest level.  This is one of those projects.  I got in my hands a super old and heavily abused Sony notebook.

It doesn't look anywhere near this nice.
Apparently the poor thing has suffered from an onslaught of malware and viruses. So much so that in regular Windows XP mode it crawls slower than a baby with a leash on it (fun visual right?).  I had to patch it up best I could in Safe Mode but even though that improved it slightly, it was still crazy slow.  For a machine rocking half a gig of memory, something had to be wrong.  My Windows 7 lappy only has a gigabyte and it can run circles around the VIAO.

That brings me today.  Today I resolve to wipe the hard drive clean and reinstall Windows XP.  So the first thing I do is get ready to do the backup.  I booted the machine into Safe Mode and got started.  Then I waited.  For almost 6 hours!  The backup took THAT long!  But finally it finished.

Then a new problem: how to reinstall without a cd-rom drive.  Oh this machine HAS a cd-rom drive but it's busted (won't open).  So I'm thinking we'll have to go the USB boot method.  Nope.  Sorry.  The laptop is so old it doesn't support boot from USB.  You guys don't want to see how many tricks I employed to get this to work.  I even used my external cables to use a cd-rom externally (obviously didn't work).  I started messing around the BIOS to see what options were available.  All I had was Floppy (pfft, yeah right) and Network (pfft, yeah right). 

All hope seemed lost.  I was monkeying with the F keys trying to get back into the boot menu when by pure chance I held down the F10 key on start up.  Would you believe this activated the Factory Reset application?  I had no idea this option existed but I went with it anyway.  So I activate it and let it do its thing.  The damn laptop restarted like 5 times.  I thought something had went awry before it finally did get to a point where it showed me a cursor...and an error.  Oy!  Clicked out the error and watched the cursor and the black screen for a second and nothing was happening.  I could move the cursor though.  Anyhoo, hard reset!  Safe Mode, same error.  So I run the damn recovery AGAIN.

*gasp*Step 3!  I didn't get here last time!  It's working!  It's working!  Ok, calm down.  I really shouldn't celebrate until it gets to Step 4.

Wow, this software is taking a while to install.  *waiting*

*still waiting* At least it's past the halfway mark now...

Is this thing really installing AOL software?  WTF!

Alright! Now I gotta uninstall half this crap the factory reset installed.  Thanks Sony.

Naturally thing thing demands a restart after all that.  Guess what pops up on restart:  The File System Checker!  What's this?  Unreadable segments?

Great after the part 4 setup and after all that the system is unreadable.  So here we go with the recovery for a third time.

Ok, think that did it.  Ah, that's familiar.  The standard XP setup page.  Good times!  Ah, what a difference a reinstall makes.  Moving like buttah right now.  Ok, all I'm doing is uninstalling all the crap software.  The rest will have to wait for tomorrow.

I don't know how this started as a recap and turned into a live blog.  Sometimes troubleshooting is just funny that way.  I thought I was done when I started this and it turned out I had a lot more work to go.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Karaoke Report 7-9-12

Time for another dose all the karaoke recap that 3 hours of sleep can bring your. Yep, Karaoke Report time. Last night we had a pretty sparse crowd that picked up just after midnight. Some nights are like that.

Epic Awesomesauce Moment of the Night 

We were short on singers but we had two really great ones in the house: Sarah and Dupree. I snapped quick pics of them for the random party pics section. They were actually seriously good and did a cool duet of Let's Stay Together by Al Green.

WTF Moment of the Night Such a light crowd last night. 

What was going on this weekend to steal the thunder?

Buzzkill Moment of the Night 

It was me. When I started packing up I sometimes switch over to...well, not-so-serious songs. I think I jumped the shark when I started playing this:

Random Party Pics

Thursday, July 5, 2012


One of the coolest things I think about animation and video games is getting to see the people behind the voices in it.  Whenever I see someone doing one of their famous voices live I'm just awestruck by it.  I know, I'm such a fanboy.

You guys that check in here often know I'm a huge fan of DC Universe Online.  It wasn't too long ago they released their fourth DLC (that means downloaded content) The Last Laugh.  Joker plays a big role in this one so naturally one of my favorite voice actors Mark Hamill gets to take center stage.  Check out the video below.  It also features Arleen Sorkin who pretty much defined the Harley Quinn role and Adam Baldwin as Superman.  Adam Baldwin is also a fanboy favorite having roles in iconic shows like Firefly and Chuck.

I don't want to stop there though. How about a couple more?  How about Full Metal Alchemist and the talented Vic Mignogna (the voice of Edward Elric):

Laura Bailey, the voice of Shin on Shin Chan (she also does Lust on Full Metal and Kid Trunks on DBZ):

Ok something more contemporary. Seth MacFarlane and some of his many voices:

Neat right?


I couldn't resist adding one more.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Karaoke Report 7-2-12

We thought for sure St. John Carnival would steal our thunder, but we sure were wrong.  Just another crazy night over at Fatty's and even crazier at Johhny's Inn on Friday for their final karaoke show before shutting down.  Here's the rundown.

WTF Moment of the Weekend

I had to expand this to the entire weekend since I did two gigs.  On Friday I did Johnny's Inn and it was the last karaoke show they'll ever have since the place is closing.  Here's the trend though that has me going WTF:  People coming super late and then bribing me to put in "just one more".  It's been a common thread this weekend and it has been limited mostly by my physical ability to keep the show going.  Guys, just so you know I love you all.  Saying that I gotta tell you it takes a special kinda patience to be a karaoke host and even the best of us has limits.  Mine were thoroughly stretched this weekend.  I appreciate all the brib...ahem tips though!

Oh, one more thing.  My rotation rules, they're kinda important.  I wish people would read them once in a while.  Especially the one where I note that a duet counts a turn for both people.  People never really seem to quite get that one.  If you're dueting on three songs you've instantly pushed every other duet way to the bottom of the rotation.  I don't care if you put them all in the same time.  A duet is a duet and it's a turn for both of you.

My rules are a tiny bit more detailed but here are the basics:

  • The first singer to turn in a request will be the first to sing. All others will sing in the order in which their requests are received.
  • New singers will be placed at or near the top of the rotation. (This assures that everyone will get to sing at least once.)
  • Duets will count as one turn for each singer.
  • No person may have a second microphone without the permission of the singer who turned in the request.
  • Any person that is not ready to sing when their name is called will be placed at the bottom of the rotation. (I actually break this one pretty often but if you piss me off it will be enforced).
  • If a singer is not in the establishment when their name is called they will have their request thrown out. If they return later, and want to sing, they must fill out another request and be placed at the bottom of the rotation. (Same here)
  • Any singer who turns in requests under different names, in an attempt to defeat the rules of rotation, will not be allowed to sing for the remainder of the show. (It happens more than you think and yes, it's THAT serious)
Epic Awesomesauce Moment of the Weekend

The TIPS.  Lots of tips this weekend. :)

Buzzkill Moment of the Weekend

Puking out the one beer and bottle of water I had last night.  I made two mistakes last night.  The first was not having dinner.  The second was being on medication and not having dinner.  My stomach was none to pleased and literally brought me to my knees (hey that rhymes).  It also didn't help that I was still worn out from Friday's escapades (it was brutal folks).  For those of you that were actually there to witness me paying my respects to the wastebasket behind the bar (fortunately not that many sober people around to care besides Tony the bartender), I'm doing much better today.  Funny what a couple hours of bed rest can accomplish.

Random Party Pics

So look what I found just lying around doing nothing at home.
No that's not me holding it, blog heckler.
Memorex's MyVideo VGA Camera I bought like 2 years ago on sale at OfficeMax, used once and pretty much chucked it.  Thought I'd dust it off and mess around with it last night.

I'm going to need to play with the settings...