Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bluetooth Mouse up for Grabs

Mouse for rBay
Originally uploaded by saaby
I purchased this off eBay about a year ago, in my pursuit of a full-sized Bluetooth mouse. I didn't personally care for it, the buttons are a little too stiff for my liking -- but it's a perfectly nice mouse! It features a scroll-wheel with left and right scroll as well (The wheel tilts), 2 programmable buttons on the left-hand side, and an optical sensor made by Logitech. I'll even let you keep the batteries that are in it.

First one to speak up gets it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


West Valley plans to fix problem road

"...workers will re-stripe the west lanes of 4700 South and make them on lane."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

I got to go see the Music and the Music and the Spoken Word version of Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir with Natalie Cole and David McCullough. AS always, perhaps some of the best parts of the event were the parts that were not broadcast.

In 2003 The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square put on a Christmas concert, as a gift to the community. PBS picked up the recording of the event, and broadcast it at Christmastime of 2004. This has been repeated in the years since...with the 2004 version being broadcast on PBS in 2005, and so forth.

The concert is a 90 minute concert. It's cut down to 60 minutes for the PBS special, and a 30-minute version is performed for Music and the Spoken word. Since we only got to see 30 minutes of a 90 minute concert, they performed a 'mini' concert immediately following the broadcast. At the end of the mini-concert they re-performed the last song from the broadcast. I got online and watched the end of the broadcast today, and I believe that happened...Natalie Cole is supposed to come in at the end of the song. Well the end builds up and builds up and builds up, and then it kind of peaks...and then Natalie Cole comes in...really weak...about 4 measures after the peak, and really weak. If I had to guess, I'd guess they were having Mic problems. I am pretty sure this is why they re-performed the last song, for the PBS special. SO we'll have to see when the CD of the performance comes out (and later the DVD) if that last song features a stronger performance by Natalie Cole. If it does, we'll know they used (or edited in anyway) the version that was /not/ broadcast on Music and the Spoken word.

Speaking of the Microphone, did you know Natalie Cole has a diamond-encrusted Microphone? I thought maybe there were some sequins on it, but I looked up Natalie Cole when I got home, and found a picture of her with the same sparkly microphone. Who knew.

Speaking of Microphones and such...what a production! They had gigantic ornaments flying in and out over the choir, light cues, it was the real deal. What impressed me the most though...there were at least 6 cameras. 1 man roaming around the stage, 3 cameras on hydraullic lifts (The same ones they use for conference) and 2 cameras on what must have been 30' boom poles. Watching the broadcast, I'm amazed...stunned really, at how good a job the cameras do of not catching each other in the shot, because they were all over the place! And as for those boom operators? I'm just glad I am not the one responsible for swinging a 50lb broadcast camera around on the end of a 30' pole near Natalie Cole, David McCullough, and the Orchestra at Temple square!

This is all fluff though...so let's get to the heart of what I came here to say. After the mini-concert was over, they brought 'special guests' Natalie and David on stage to present them with flowers, something in a big frame (I think there was a copy of the program and some photos of the choir, or something along those lines), and tell them thanks. President Monson was in attendance, and he said...not exact words, but something along the lines of "I have chosen 5 of the most important words in the English language this morning. We are proud of you. Thank you." and that was it. Natalie Cole talked for a second. She dropped a lot of names, thanked President Monsion and his people for their extreme hospitality, and talked about how much she loved the last couple of days. David McCullough, on stage with his wife, thanked President Monson for incuding "The Boss" and said that he and his wife had been married for 55 years? this week. Then David McCullough said something really special, I wish I had a recorder to grab the exact words...because I simply did not...but it was something along these lines.

I wish I wish I wish I remember exactly how he set it up, but David McCullough said that at one time an aging John Adams met a young Ralph Waldo Emersen, and he said to him "I would that there be more ambition, that is ambition of the laudable type, ambition to excel." David said that, the past 4 days with "our people" that is what he has felt. An ambition and drive to do better and excel. It was a really sincere and hear-felt complement. What's more, looking for that quote, I have found out that it's one of David McCullough's favorite historical moments...a moment he wishes he was a fly on the wall to experience. David McCullough used his favorite quote to describe us.

Anyway, fantastic performance, great experience, Merry Christmas, onto finals for me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Open Source Art

Well I've been sitting on this blog post for weeks...and I don't mean it's been sitting in blogger waiting for me to hit publish, I mean the whole thing has been written up in my mind, spell-checked and all, (though I can't vouch for the grammar) just waiting to sit down at a keyboard and let the thoughts come out.

Speaking of which -- when are we going to get the implants? I'm not sure I'm ready to have my whole computer implanted in my brain, but despite my above-average typing speed, I can still think a lot faster than I type. I need to learn dvorak, that would help...

...but I digress...

It's no secret, at least I think it's no secret, and after this confession it most certainly will be no secret, that I love flickr. According to flickr, I joined in March of 2005, so that means that we're just shy of 5 years together. I love that, with a Pro account anyway, you can upload all pretty much all the photos you could ever imagine taking. I love the metadata that flickr lets you put on your photos, like tags, notes, and geodata. I love the social aspect of flickr (I'd even go as far as to say that many people were talking to other people on flickr long before facebook) and I love how they'll run analytics on your photos. Here's my most viewed photo. It's also my most favorited. Here's my most interesting (As determined by Flickr) photo, and here's my photo with the most comments.

Another thing I love is open source software. A quick survey of my currently running apps...ok I don't have anything running right now that's open source, but that doesn't change the fact that many apps I love and depend on are open source.

I wish I could contribute more to the Open Source community, but I'm not a coder. One way I've tried to contribute to things, however, is through making my Photos "Open Source." I do this through a Creative Commons license. Most of my photos are licensed with a "Attribution-Share Alike" license. This is, as far as I know, is the closest to the OpenGPL license put on most Open Source software. This means people are free to use my photos however they want, but I ask that -- in return -- people who use my photos give me credit, and share their work the same way I am sharing mine. I don't, by default, license my photos for commercial use.

Is there anything to govern this? Well not exactly. If I found somebody using one of my images commercially, I could technically press charges, but really how would I ever know if my photo of ____ were being used by ____ in China? I'd never know!

Some really cool things can come of this plentiful sharing though.

Remember how I just said I'd never know if somebody was using my image? Well I lied. That's not completely true. There is the possibility that I'll bump into some of my work sooner or later. For example, when I came home from my mission, I was trying to explain to somebody online where I'd been for 2 years. I looked up the Wikipedia article on LDS Missionaries, and...wait a minute! There's my photo. I'm published!

Now sometimes people actually tell you when they use your photos, and that's always a very polite and nice thing to do. Sometimes they tell you, because they are asking permission to use a different license on your photo than the one you originally placed. This is what happened to me recently.

A few weeks ago I got an email...

The image he was referring to was this one, from a set of photos that I took years ago, after my dad had just purchased his first Saab. I like stuff, I like the design and look of stuff, so naturally I like to take photos of stuff. These photos were taken long before I owned a professional-grade camera or RAW processing software. Of course I offered these to share, but I never imagined that somebody would actually want to use them -- especially in print!

Here's the finished product:

Here's all the other materials, along with a hand-written letter from the head designer on the project.

View all the printed materials (PDF)

In photography, especially as sophisticated photographic equipment capable of producing high-quality images becomes more accessible, there seems to be a growing trend to watermark, copyright, and lock down every image a photographer takes. Now certainly if you have a commercial interest in photography, there are reasons for this and I completely support this decision, but if you're out taking cool pictures, perhaps you'll consider sharing just a few of your best, or maybe your favourite even if they're not your best, photos with the community at large. You never know, you might be published!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Focusing on what's important

Just a short post tonight.

I've been involved a lot with entrepreneurship and such lately. Surely it's an exciting world, driven by the dual, elusive opportunities for fame and fortune.

Every book or bit of information I've read about entrepreneurship eventually gets to the part about how you need to learn to give it away, even when you have nothing to give, if you ever want to be successful.

I was reading in the Book of Mormon today, and it even states this, pretty clearly actually. I don't know why I'm surprised.

(Note: For my Book of Mormon class, we split the scriptures up into little "sense lines" -- lines that can /almost/ stand on their own. I really like it. I'm presenting these verses split as such)

Jacob 2:17-19

17. Think of your brethren
like unto yourselves,
and be familiar with all
and free with your substance,
that they may be rich like unto you.

18. But before ye seek for riches,
seek ye for the kingdom of God.

19. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ
ye shall obtain riches,
if ye seek them;
and ye will seek them for the intent to do good--
to clothe the naked,
and to feed the hungry,
and to liberate the captive,
and administer relief
to the sick and the afflicted.

Monday, November 16, 2009

La La La...

Today's been a good day, but come late evening I'd made no progress on Wednesday's homework, and I had no desire to crack open a book. Normally what I do is spend the rest of the evening in a futile attempt to make myself get something done. Then, when it gets really late, I give up. I do what I want to do, and collapse into bed at some insane hour, only to get up and start again the next day. Of necessity, my days start fairly early...so as much as I'd like to claim that this lack-of-sleep leaves me unaffected, Friday has officially become my "sleep through the alarm" day, and Saturdays? Forgetabout it. I always get up way later than I intend to, and accomplish way less than I plan on.

So tonight I did what any sane person would do. Told myself if I put in 1 good Pomodoro I could wrap up some writing I've been meaning to get out (Mainly this blog post, another blog post, and polish up a letter to a missionary friend. No, not that missionary friend.) and go to bed. I'll probably work a bit on the Promotional video I'm currently editing as well...I got a shot today and I'm excited to see it on the big...uhh...bigger screen.

So I kicked back, setup a queue of music on LaLa.com, opened WriteRoom, and got right to work on this post.

What's LaLa.com? Well that's actually the subjece of this post...but since this is a Blog, I can break traditional writing rules, like start this post with that peak into my day.

LaLa.com is a musical service online. It's somewhat like Amazon's MP3 store, or the iTunes Music store. There are some important differences though, and I'm excited to tell you a little about them.

I read about LaLa.com awhile back in Wired. I think it was in an article on the new Freeconomy movement, where we as consumers are getting more and more things for free. The idea behind LaLa.com is go to beyond the wimpy 30 second previews you get on Amazon.com and iTunes, and let you preview full albums.

If you like Pandora or Last.FM, you'll love LaLa.com. It's sort of what you would get if iTunes and Pandora had a love child.

So how does it work? Well, it's simple and brilliant, actually.

LaLa, like Pandora and Last.FM, is built for Music exploration. There are many ways to explore new music. Sometimes the Pandora approach (Tell it something you like, and it will reccomend new stuff you might like) is perfect, but sometimes you hear a song on the radio and want to hear it again, or you hear a song in a store you like, you use your phone to find out the artist, and you want to hear more by the same artist. Sadly, if you know /exactly/ what you want to listen to...Pandora can fall short. This is where LaLa.com is brilliant.

Instead of supporting the site with ads and subscriptions, LaLa.com is built on the idea that "if we let them listen...they will buy."LaLa.com has a HUGE collection of music online. You can easily look up a genre, artist, or album and -- for any song in their library -- listen to a full version of the song. For free! If you've heard new things about a new album, and LaLa.com has it in their collection, you can listen to the album -- not 30 seconds of each song from the album -- the *WHOLE* album, for free...and it's totally legit and legal.

Going to a Philharmonic concert next week and you want to preview the songs? Downloaded a "Music discovery Tuesday" tune from iTunes, or snagged this weeks free Starbucks song, and you want to hear more from the same artist? LaLa.com will let you explore their discography and have a listen.

So what's the catch? There's always a catch right?

Well on iTunes you only get to listen to 30 seconds of Miley Cyrus, but you can listen to those 30 seconds all you want.LaLa.com will let you listen to the whole song. Once. After that you're limited to 30 second preview.

This, on it's own, is pretty impressive I think. If you suddenly find yourself on a Sting kick (What? It happens!), you can get on and listen through the whole discography of Sting once. If that cures your itch for Sting (Hmmm...) then you can be done. You can pick right up and move onto your next kick. Not a dime spent.

But, remember how I said LaLa.com is built on the premise that "If you let them listen, they will buy." If you find that you just have to listen to "Brand New Day" a second time (Because who doesn't love "A thousand years"?),LaLa.com will let you. For a price.

Wait wait wait...don't close your browser window or RSS reader yet. This is actually really cool.

LaLa actually has multiple buying options. The one that is most immediately compelling is the "Web Album" or "Web Song" option. For just $0.10 a song (and $0.09 per song when the whole album is purchased!) you can add the song to your "Web Collection" where you're able to listen to the song, as many times as you want, on LaLa.com.

A dime! That means I can have like...10 songs for 99 cents. (Side note -- I always order it "I'll have two-tacos for ¢99" or, should I be treating somebody else for example -- because who would ever eat more than 2 of those heart-cloggers in one sitting. Or in one year, for that matter, I say "I'll have four-tacos for one dollar, 98¢." I think I'm hilarious, but the JitB people seem indifferent. Then again, last time I was at Jack in the Box I put the order in myself anyway, and the Kiosk seemed really indifferent to my humor. I digress)

"But wait, Ryan. What if I want to put it on my iPod/Zune/Sensa/CrackBerry/etc?" LaLa.com has that covered as well. They offer MP3 purchase and download. Most tracks are 89 cents (10¢ cheaper than Amazon) *and* if you have already purchased the song as a web song, they roll the 10¢ you already paid into the purchase price. Pay ¢10 to listen to it as many times as you want online, and another 79¢ to download and take it with you.

So how does it work? In a word, disturbingly well. I stumbled over there the other day because I really wanted to listen to the Grand Canyon Suite. I have a snippet on one of my albums, but I wanted to listen to the whole thing. I had my choice of *several* versions to listen to on LaLa. This is PERFECT for classical music lovers. Listen to multiple recordings and then purchase the one you like best.

Well I listened to the Grand Canyon Suite, then I got exploring and found that Oscar Peterson, only arguably one of the greatest Jazz pianists of all time, has a Christmas album. $1.26 later said album was added to my online collection, and I suspect by the end of December I'll make the leap and purchase the rest of the album. Before long I'd found that Dave Brubeck has a Christmas album too. And at less than $2, how could I resist adding that to my online collection? I found another great looking album as well and, after sampling it, decided that I liked 2 or 3 of the songs on it, but I could live without the full album.

I really love this concept. My only problem with it is that I think it's doing to destroy my music budget.


I have not yet tried it yet, but LaLa.com also has a feature called the "Music Mover" that will allow you to move your local tunes online, for listening to at nearly any computer. It works by comparing your music to their collection. If you have a song and they have it too, they just authorize you to play it on the web. If you have something unique, then it uploads your rip to their server for access by you at any time. This is part of Lala's free offerings. Sweet.

In the 2 or 3 days I've been using it, I've come to really love LaLa.com. Go sign up today! You've got nothing to lose, and in fact, they give you 25 song credits (25 credits to use for ¢10 web albums) free!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When I was a kid...

The other night as I was ordering some highly processed, low nutrition fast food. I was looking at the LED order screen -- the one that helps ensure accuracy -- and remembering how McDonalds rolled these out probably 10 years ago, followed by every other major fast food restaurant. What was life like before we could see our fatty-sugary order pop up on a screen right before our eyes?

This quickly prompted a flood of other technologies that I have seen become commonplace, even in my lifetime.

When I was a kid...
1 - We could hardly hear our fast food order, let alone see it pop up on a screen.
2 - Most people didn't even have cell phones.
3 - Let alone phones with color screens.
4 - and cameras
5 - and downloadable polyphonic musical personalized musical ringtones
6- That could access the whole internet
7 - And tell us where we were

Note: (3-7 basically tells the story of the evolution of phones I've owned. Nowhere else is the progress of tech so evident, in my opinion)

8 - We were impressed that we could fit an hour of music on a 3" piece of plastic.
8.25 - Let alone a 2 hour movie. (DVD)
8.5 - In High Definition (BluRay)
8.75 - That we could rent from a vending machine (RedBox) at McDonalds.
9 - All flashlights sucked.
10 - As did all rechargeable batteries
11 - We had to use paper Maps
12 - Then GPS units -- that didn't talk
13 - To do email you had to dial into a bulletin board.
14 - And we were impressed with 56k modems -- speeds so fast the phone lines couldn't even handle it!
15 - You had to unlock (and start) your car with a key.
16 - Sometimes separate keys. (I had a key to unlock my mom's car, but not to start it).
17 - High security meant a GM PassLock 2 key. 11 different possible resistor combinations meant nobody could start your car but you! (To contrast, modern transponder keys have billions of code combinations, and the code changes each time you start the car)
18 - Minivans only had 1 sliding door
19 - Driver Airbag. Passenger Airbag. Side Airbag. Side Curtain Airbag. Need I say more?
20 - Compact Fluorescent light bulbs were a total novelty...and they stunk.
21 - All flashlights sucked too. White LEDs? What's that?

What else? Add technological revolutions you've seen in your lifetime to the list.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Informal Survey...

...Please leave a comment and let me know if you have a credit card with a RFID chip in it.

UTA made some changes in their TRAX routes over the summer. They said that the majority of people riding TRAX were going up to the "U" -- so they cut out some of the stops between Sandy and the "U".

Apparently their studies were wrong, because they have received enough complaints that they have decided to reverse their decision.

One of the ways UTA has been tracking ridership is through a tag on-tag off system. If you have a UTA pass, you can wave it over an RFID reader when you board and deboard the train. This will collect your fare and track ridership.

What I am wondering though, is if there was a sampling bias -- such that the people who were most likely to contribute to the ridership survey through this RFID system, where I'm sure they get quite a lot of data, also happen to be the people most likely to ride up to the U.

I've noticed that a lot of people my age have newer credit cards with the RFID chips...whereas people who have had their cards for a few years do not have the chip.

So do you have a credit card with an RFID chip in it? My American Express BLUE does.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Feature Request for OS X 10.7

I am in the new iTunes, downloading the iPhone 3.1 software update. That's going to take about 5 minutes to download. Before that I had to wait for iTunes 9 to download.

It's while I was waiting for this download that I realized that there really should be a better way.

Apple has done a really really good job of fully leveraging a piece of open source technology called ZeroConf. Apple calls it Bonjour. It's how you add shared printers, listen to music in your friend's iTunes library, use AirTunes with an Airport Express, even browse a friend's iPhoto library from your machine. It's also how the new "iTunes Home Sharing" feature works. If you have a network service, you advertise it on Bonjour, and other computers in your LAN pick it up.

The iTunes 9 download was pretty hefty. Guess what...there are 3 Macs in this house. Within the next week or so we'll all use that internet bandwidth to suck down iTunes 9.

This will be fine for us, but for corporate environments this simply isn't acceptable. For this reason, in the corporate world, computers don't download their updates from the internet -- they download them from a designated server within the LAN. This way, instead of BYU downloading the latest OS X update from Apple hundreds of times, using a lot of BYU *and* Apple's bandwidth in the process, they just download it once...and then distribute it across the LAN. Furthermore...while internet connections continue to get faster and faster, it's still hard to beat the network transfer speed of a LAN.

So putting 1 and 1 together, I think a great feature for OS X 10.7 would be a sort of totally automatic, ad-hoc software update service. In the scenario of my apartment, I'd download iTunes 9 from the internet. Then my machine would hold the iTunes 9 update file in a temp storage spot for, say, 30 days. Tomorrow when Sam goes to download iTunes 9, his computer sees (Via Bonjour) that I already downloaded iTunes 9. Instead of downloading it from the internet, it would just transfer over to his machine from mine. Then let's say on Tuesday I am up at campus and Austin decides it's time for iTunes 9. Well my machine isn't there to offer up the update, but Sam's is. Again...he gets a lightning fast transfer of iTunes 9, and everybody saves some internet bandwidth in the process.

There would be security challenges to consider -- like a rogue network machine hosting tampered update files -- but I'm sure those could be worked around. Maybe if your machine finds the update on the LAN, it tells you the name of the computer it's on. Then I could chose to download an update from "Papanui" (Sam's MacBook Pro) -- but decline to download an update from "Super Hax0r"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Behringer BCF-2000 -- A let down.

I am going to be mixing up 12 videos at work in a week or 2 here, and so in an effort to speed the process up, I started looking around for something to help me speed up my audio editing, traditionally one of the tougher parts of video editing for me.

My research brought me to the Behringer BCF-2000, a nifty little control surface.

If you're not sure what a control surface is, give me a second to explain. In real life audio, which I have quite a bit of experience in, you sit in front of a large mixer. Every kind of sound source (Different microphones, etc) have their own "channel" on the mixer, including little knobs to control various aspects of the sound, and a nice big long slider thing (It's actually called a fader, so now you know) that lets you change the most important adjustment -- the volume.

On a computer, when you're editing a video, you have a bunch of different sound sources as well. Sound from your footage, music, maybe sound effects...all sorts of stuff, but the way you have to control the levels is through a lot of clicking and dragging. Clicking and dragging that can, well, get to be a drag.

A control surface is like a miniature mixer board that you attach to your computer, and it gives you a physical thing to manipulate the virtual channels of sound on your computer.

This mixer features motorized faders...I can jump to different spots of my video, and the little sliders would jump up or down in their slot to match what the level of volume is on the computer. This is an important feature.

Anyway, I got the thing Friday and excitedly set it up, but sorry to say it's been a bit of a let-down. It's missing an important feature that makes it more of a struggle than a joy to use.

So it's going back to B&H. I have to pay shipping costs :-( but that's ok, it's not often that I have to return things that I have purchased online, and so even when I do have to make a return here or there, I'm still far far ahead in terms of time and money I save by shopping online.

So what's next? Well I'll just have to mix these 12 videos with my mouse and keyboard. I'll live. In the future I'll be saving my money for a little more expensive version of the same thing, probably a used Mackie Universal Control.

I wrote a little review for B&H, I'll reproduce it here:

I work part time in video production and purchased the BCF-2000 to help speed the audio mix for the videos I shoot.

After a few frustrating hours with this, it became apparent that it just wasn't going to meet my needs, so back to B&H it goes!

The good news is this is a solidly built little board. I have heard complaints about the motors being noisy...there is some noise, but I'm not convinced that it's significantly more noise than any other device of this nature. It's solidly built and it feels as the faders feel as nice as any console mixer (Mackie, Soundcraft) that I've ever used. The rotary pots don't feel as nice as real rotary pots, but they feel nice enough.

Now to the bad...the faders are not touch sensitive, and that really just makes this thing almost pointless. If you are just looking to set levels (Like in synthesizer software) and don't so much need the automation features, get the BCR-2000 or another non-motorized control surface and skip the motorized faders. If you actually want the motorized faders, because you intend on mixing audio and want them to help with automation -- forget it!

In Soundtrack Pro and Final Cut Pro, the faders will work great to lay down an initial mix, but if you don't nail it the first time...you're in a world of hurt. The board supports 'latch' mode remixing, meaning you can play back and when you touch the faders it will let you set new levels. This sounds great in theory, but it's too difficult to get the thing to 'latch' properly. Instead you just end up fighting the faders, and the end result is all sorts of messy keyframes and audio levels jumping all over the place.

So just make fine adjustments with your mouse, right? Well that's a lot harder than it seems. Instead of 2 keyframes and a linear level-change between, you might have like 30 keyframes on a simple pan. You can take them all out and try to re-record, or you can just take them out and set your volume levels manually with your mouse, but at that point...what was the purpose of having the control surface?

In the end I was really disappointed...I was excited at the prospects of having motorized faders for under $500, but after playing with it for awhile it became apparent that the feature they had to cut out -- touch sensitivity -- is a very important feature indeed.

Now Behringer, how about a BCF-3000 with touch-sensitive faders? That's something I could go for!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ding! More interesting stuff.

Earlier this week I read about these new GS1 Databar barcodes that are going to start popping up everywhere. Imagine my surprise then, when later that day, I noticed one on the Apple I bought at the grocery store. Actually, sitting here, I am noticing that I have a coupon containing one of these bar codes too.

A few months ago, and this is a really geeky "I love my iPhone" moment, I decided to find out what a Standpipe is...because you see them (Or at least I do...but I have engineer eyes) coming out of buildings all the time! So I'm walking around campus reading about Standpipes on the Quickpedia. (Mock if you want, but some day somebody will want to marry this charming uniqueness...just like people love the charming uniqueness of an oddly-placed ignition key).

Anyway, turns out a Standpipe is a hookup the fire department can use to get water into a building.

So look what popped up in my RSS today...an article on...Standpipes! I found it highly fascinating. I'm not offended if you, uhh, don't. Read

A Field Guide To NYC Standpipes (Including Bernie Madoff’s!)

Friday, May 29, 2009


If you ever try to help relatives or friends fix their computers over the web, you need to know about Teamviewer.

It's like a whole host of other remote-desktop apps, but in the scenario that you're trying to help somebody over the phone...this one has 2 distinct advantages.

1 - It's free
2 - It has a "quick server" app.

So it works like this, you -- the helper man -- download the full version.
Then you have your person who needs help download the 'viewer only' version. You can find links to these by hitting "Extras->Invite Partner"

So they download the "QuickShare" version of Team viewer. They DO have to download and run a program, but they DON'T have to CONFIGURE or INSTALL anything.

They open the program that you send them a link to, and give you a code from it. You punch the code in on your side and voila! Instant screen share.

I was previously using LogMeIn for these kinds of things, and LogMeIn is still handy if you are helping 1 specific person a lot, because it runs in the background so you can take control without the other person actually having to do anything. I use LogMeIn, for example, on my moms computer...then if she's having a problem I can either help her right then or, depending on the problem, I can log onto her machine in the middle of the night (When she is asleep and I am not) and fix it.

LogMeIn is a bit tricky to install though...

Here's an idea though, if there is somebody who you think would be a good LogMeIn canidate...you can use Teamviewer to remote into their system and install LogMeIn for them!

Finally, if you and your person-in-distress are on a Mac, the iChat screen-sharing trumps all these solutions...but 9 times out of 10 the remote person doesn't have their iChat setup right. So again, you could use Teamviewer to login and help them setup their iChat, and then switch to the iChat screen sharing.

and FINALLY FINALLY...if their problem is internet connection related, none of this will work. But you knew that already.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

WiFi at SLCC

If you search around on the internet, it would have you believe that to use the WiFi on SLCC campus, you have to go the library and be 'activated.' This is simply not the case.

I can't speak for PCs, your instructions might be a little different.

Also, there may be more than 1 way to do this, I am just presenting one way.

But here's how you can get on.

Click your airport menu, click "Join other network..."

For the network name type in "SLCC_SSID" (Case sensitive)

(And I know that you are typing the name of a network that was in the list, but for some reason if you pick it from the list, it won't let you pick the LEAP security type. When you pick "Other Network" however, you can pick LEAP. It's just a little workaround)

For the Security pick "LEAP"

For the username/password use your Mypage login info.

Make sure to pick "Remember this network." Voila! Should work.

You can also connect from an iPhone. Go to the WiFi preferences, pick "Other Network" fill in SLCC_SSID and then pick WPA2 enterprise as the security type.


Friday, April 3, 2009

WikiArticle of the day.

Who knew so much thought goes into something as seemingly mundane as Cable Trays.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ethernet Cable not Plugged In

I've been having a problem for literally months. When I try to use Ethernet on my beloved little MacBook Pro (Griffin Jr.), instead of getting a blazingly fast connection, all I would see is this:

"The cable for Ethernet is not plugged in."

it would say. Oh how that made me angry. It was happening way back with my PowerBook (Griffin), and I was convinced I'd fried my Network card somehow.

Imagine my continued anger then when, after reinstalling Leopard on Griffin to give to mom, and putting my files on Griffin Jr, I found the Ethernet working fine on Griffin, and now not working on Griffin Jr.

(That was written poorly, so to clarify if you're confused... the problem seemed to follow my files)

I googled about it a bunch and everybody just said "Hardware problem." But I was not convinced.

Finally I did some testing -- a concept that is lost on a lot of the world. I put my friend Sam's ProBook in target FireWire mode and booted off it. Plugged my Ethernet in and it worked as it should.

So I googled some more and, as luck would have it, found a solution within 5 minutes.

Turns out that, for whatever reason, sometimes the Ethernet stops working for the "Automatic" Location.

The solution? Make a new location. Which I did...and it works.

So if your Ethernet isn't working, and you don't think it's hardware failure, make a new location before you give up.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A tale of 2 voicemail numbers.

This is another case of "I am going to need this later, and maybe somebody else will find it useful too."

Awhile back when I got my cell phone, I reprogrammed the voicemail number. I programmed my phone so that when I dialed voicemail it would dial the VM number, pause, and then hit a "1." I don't remember why I programmed it to do this, I believe it makes it skip past the time stamp or something.

Well time had come that I no longer needed the appended "1" -- so I went spelinking through the internet to try and figure out how to change it.

It turns out your voicemail number is programmed in 2 places on your phone. Both in the "speed dial" slot, and the "call forwarding" slot. This second time around, I reprogrammed the "call forwarding" slot, not the Speed Dial slot.

The problem occurred when people tried to leave me a voicemail!

But first, a 30 second primer on how voicemail works.

When you get 'sent' to somebody's voicemail, you're really having your call forwarded away from their cell phone and into a voicemail center. The voicemail center reads the caller-ID of the incoming call, which should be the caller ID of the person's cell phone, and from that it knows what voicemail box to send you to.

(Side note -- This is also a security flaw. If you have your voicemail set so that you do not have to type in your password every time you call, than if somebody spoof-s your CallerID and calls the Voicemail center, it will freely grant them access to your voicemail box.)

Now your phone has several call-forwarding options. The 2 that get used for Voicemail are "Forward if Unanswered" and "Forward if Unreachable."

Forward if Unanswered is obvious, and is the number that your get forwarded to if your phone rings, and you do not answer.

Forward if unreachable is the number that your caller gets sent to if your cell company can't access your phone, whether it's off or out of service.

For voicemail to work as you'd expect it to work, both numbers need to be identical.

Sooo, in my reprogramming palooza, I changed my "Forward if Unanswered" number. The problem was, apparently, I set the wrong voicemail center.

Because I set the wrong number, when people called me, the call that would get forwarded to VoiceMail was arriving with THEIR phone number, instead of MY phone number. This meant the system either didn't know what to do with you: "Please enter the voicemail box of the person you are calling" or, if you happen to be on the same Voicemail system as me (AT&T in Salt Lake), it just dumped you into your own Voicemail: "This is Richard..."

Anyway, long story short, I got it fixed. Here are the codes.

To set call forwarding when unanswered:
*61*[Phone Number]*11*[Time]#
Time can be "05,10,15,20,25,30" depending on if you want it to wait 05,10,15 seconds. I have mine set to 30, because sometimes it takes me a long time to answer my phone, and I hate it when I miss the phone call by 2 seconds. (This also means if you call me and I'm in a test, or otherwise unable to answer, sometimes it rings F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Sorry. Deal with it.)

To set call forwarding when unreachable:
*62*[Phone Number]*#

To set the voicemail-speed dial code on the iPhone, and any GSM phone I'd imagine:
*5005*86*[Phone Number]#

Now you know.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cleaning your Mac, Part II

Recently I wrote about Cleaning your Mac. I suggested using a tool called SmartSleep to allow you to selectively "Hibernate" your Mac, so that you can clean the keyboard without having to shut-down and reboot.

I've found a better tool, which you can find here. It comes as a bundle of tools, and running the one called "Suspend Now" will hibernate your Mac instantly. No messing around with your SmartSleep settings required.

Now clean your Mac. It deserves it.

OS X tip of the day.

I hate to be a link passer-onner, but I filter through loads of information like this every day. I retain a lot of it for my knowledge, but every once in awhile I come across a tip so good I have to pass it along.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Link Redirect!

This is a great post over at Top Gear.

But if you can't get over to read the whole thing, at least read this quote:

If you want to know what’s been ailing Saab all these years, today’s unveiling of the 9-3X wagon is a good place to start. Saab actually invented this car seven years ago. But GM bungling means it hasn’t been released until now.