Archive for the ‘Only for the techy people’ Category

Talent is open source is not overrated

Friday, April 12th, 2013

I had to post a little something about a momentous occasion in my computer life.

Recently I’ve learned how to program in Python. Last year I took up learning Java with my son (Hunter Banks who guest posted on here recently) because it would help him in his career as a video game designer and Android app developer. Python helped me because I have had a serious problem with programming over the years because I haven’t really done it much in many years. Ok, yes, I do some scripting and maybe looking at a little code from time to time but not really originating any code for myself. Well that is starting to change in a major way. I (with all of your help) want to drown myself in coding right now. I have so many ideas and finally want to make them real. I’ve missed this feeling because when I was a kid I learned to code in BASIC when I was 10 years old and Pascal when I was 12 and I could sit and code for like 6 hours a day. I wanted to make a video game and got really far with it. Now that feeling’s back!

With the necessity of needing a program for a business idea I’m working on I’ve decided to hack away at it and complete something I haven’t done in many years. Well why not do it in Python. With that came all the walls I’ve hit in figuring out where to find all these libraries/modules etc, learning about the site and how to use it and remembering the proper syntax to use for this language. Also thinking in objects was a drastic change from all the languages I was used to.

I’ve been using and around open source software since 1994 and never really thought about looking at code till last week. I realized that a problem that I wanted to work on was already being done in a software package. I apologize because I know that I’m being a little cryptic as I can’t divulge too much about it right now but stay tuned. So, I downloaded the source code opened it up and I UNDERSTOOD IT! This was a big thing to me. I was now really apart of the open source whole because I was not just a promoter and integrator of the software, I could be a developer of additions and feature changes if I wanted.

All this brought me to what my title is. I’ve been looking at more programs and realize how well written they are and how elegant the solutions they provide that are comparable or better than the closed source programs. I LOVE THIS! So kudos to you my brethren (and sistren haha) the talent in the open source pool is not overrated. These people are truly using their powers for good.

Turning the Samsung Rogue into an iPhone and Blackberry killer

Friday, October 9th, 2009

For the longest time I’ve been a huge proponent of getting Verizon wireless except for one major flaw. The wireless coverage is the best around however they just never seem to get any cool phones. They do have Blackberry’s, yes, but even those are just as mediocre as can be and the Blackberry Storm was supposed to bring Verizon back in the game but it crashed and burned after bad reviews (even though I do know of some people that really like theirs).

samsung-rogue.jpgEnter Verizon back into the game with the Samsung Rogue. It’s their newest phone and after seeing all the features, looking at a lot of customer reviews and editor’s choice awards after being out for only a week I had to get one. That’s where all the fun starts.

First off let me say, I love this phone. However, if I get it, you know I’ve got to figure out all that I can make it do. My goal with all phones is of course to measure them against the gold standards of phones: The Blackberry Bold and the Apple iPhone. I’m sure this is going to be an ongoing project but to date I believe I’ve come close to my goal.

Let’s start with what you’ll need: Mail client (Outlook or Thunderbird), Handbrake, a memory card (I got a 4gb for about $10). You’ll find all the steps are cross-platform like I always do (Linux, Windows, or Mac) however, this tutorial will be in Ubuntu Linux with KDE showing differences for each operating system.

So, when you think of iPhone what do you think of? Maybe: Touch screen with smooth finger scrolling, music player, playing videos, apps, and internet. Check to all of those.  When you think of Blackberry what do you think of? Maybe: Email, contacts, syncing with desktop mail, and some multimedia. Check to all of those too. How you may ask? Well it wasn’t easy for me. There was a lot of documentation and experimentation that I had to do but I am very happy with my results. So, let’s make it easy for you.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. I don’t make any judgements on how you get your content it’s just that you get your content onto your phone. I had to look around to make sure of how to do this. I first wanted to make my computer see the phone as a USB drive.

First, lets format your new memory card. Put in your memory card. Next hit your green phone button and click the lock on the screen to get to the desktop screen (if it’s not already up). Next click “Menu” and “Settings and Tools” and go to “Tools”, “Memory”, “Card memory”, “Format Card” and “Yes.” You’re now done formatting the card and ready to go.

Plug your USB cable into your computer and connect it to the port on the side of your phone. If you get a question asking you Modem or Sync then click “Modem” if not go back to Setting Tools as in the previous steps and choice 0 “USB Mode” and select modem. Next scroll up to choice “2 Tools” and then to choice 0 USB Mass Storage. Now you have a USB hard drive on your computer connecting to the memory card you put in.

Your computer should display a USB drive connected with the folders: my_contacts, my_files, my_flix, my_music, my_pix, my_ringtones, and my_sounds. These are pretty self-explanatory but what goes in them and how is the key. The important ones for us are contacts, flix, music, and pix. Music and pics are simple. You can simply copy music and pictures to the appropriate folders as mp3’s or jpg’s.

Video’s take a little fine tuning according to what types of video files you have. The program HandBrake runs on Win, Mac, and Linux and will convert any movie or DVD to the “iPhone and iPod touch” video format that you need. Go to this site if you want to do any of this on the command line. Once done copy the file into the “my_flix” folder on your phone.

Now for the hardest part that may need some tweeking as you experiment with your setup. I will use the most vague directions here so you can fine tune it to your liking. The “my_contacts” folder has to contain .vcf files. This is a common vCard format that every email client even gmail will export contacts as .vcf. The trick here is to export your clients as .vcf files and tell your program to save them to the “.my_contacts” folder. In the future you can sync them with your desktop by whatever way you know of to sync folders. I use Thunderbird and Gmail. On Thunderbird you can get this plugin to give you .vCard capabilities. Outlook has some good ones built in and Gmail does as well. Since I use Thunderbird and Gmail, I use the Zindus plugin and Provider for Google to sync my Thunderbird contents and calendar with Gmail.

Now back to our phone. Get the screen back on and click disconnect. This will stop if from being a USB device. If you get text messages a lot, you’ll get a lot right now because your phone was not usable while it’s a mass storage device. Now go back to “Menu”, “Settings & Tools”, “Memory”, “Card Memory.” The list presented to you has all the folders on your memory card. Going into those folders will show you the folders on your memory card. Number 8 on that list will be “Move all to phone”.

There you have it. That’s enough to start playing with and hopefully by the time you read this there are apps out for the phone. At the time of the writing the phone was too new and there were none out even though it has a couple built in for Facebook, Myspace, and a couple other web related content. As of this writing I haven’t fully figured out how to sync the Calendar with the PC but I sync it with gmail and go on the web from the phone to see that. Not as good as having it integrated so it can give you an alarm but I’ll figure it out soon enough.

If you’re a Verizon customer or thinking about it the Samsung Rogue is definitely the choice to go with.

What’s the difference?

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Well, I should have a couple blog posts backed up into my brain since I’ve taken a couple weeks off for vacation from the internet with my family home for the summer. Thanks for your suport during the brake.

So, here’s my thought of the day. I was watching an episode of the AMC (American Movie Channel) show Mad Men. It’s a story about some 1950’s advertising agency men that they coined the title Mad Men because they were on Madison avenue. Anyway, there was a great thought that made me think. They had the problem of making advertisements for a tobacco company in spite of the fact that recent news reported the deadly nature of cigarettes. The solution the main ad exec came up with was… “It’s toasted.” This came from the fact that an item in the making of a cigarette is toasted. Toasted sounds good in comparison to all the negative things cigarettes have. The gripping idea was that when you have 6 different tobacco companies all selling the same thing with no advantages you can tell people whatever you want to tell them.

Fast forward to present day. This fact still holds true. Dell, Acer, HP, Gateway… They are all the same. The CPU’s are the same, the motherboards are the same for the most part but why is a Dell better than a Gateway. It’s really not. Epson and Canon printers are using the same print engine. Why get an Epson? Why a Canon? Strictly advertising.

Personally I’ve found the E-machines are the only exception to this rule. They obviously just use the cheapest parts that eventually break down very soon after the warranty expires. Other than that everyone really needs to realize that hardware is nothing. Service, price, and support are all that really matters. The rest is advertising. What’s the difference? There is none.

Service Pack 3 for all my friends

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Let’s face it. Vista really isn’t making it happen for Microsoft or users. If you’re one of the people that is really enjoying Vista then more power to you. However, I’m finding that more and more people are looking to make their new PC purchase and asking me if I could install Windows XP on their hardware. At this point I tell them that I could go to the site that they are looking for thier hardware and find out if they could put XP on it instead. Dell has quite a few tricks to get this done on their hardware but they do realize that people do hate Vista.

This is where service pack 3 is a gem for me. If I have to be the one to install a new system with Windows (whether it’s an Service Pack 1 or 2 disk from the PC they’re thowing away) then the almost 90 updates from service pack 2 to present all being in one file is great.

Microsoft does recommend you to use Windows update unless you’re installing to multiple machines. I disagree. I’m big on going to www. then going to the “downloads and trials” and downloading the one big 350 mg file. Then I run it from the hard drive. Quick and easy.

I’ve heard a couple people say that they’ve had minor issues but I haven’t seen anything on this and I’ve installed it quite a few times already. Definitely run it if you’ve cleaned up a past virus/spyware computer. you never know what was effected that this will fix.

Let the Cisco guy love routing

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I seem to collect a lot of information on different computer related topics. I live to go to my local Borders or Barnes & Noble book store to look at books and of course there’s one I want to buy every time. My bookshelves can attest to this fact. Today I had an epiphany. I want to let some people do what they know best. I have a lot of newsfeeds, newsletters, magazines, and email subscriptions that I just don’t need. Now granted they’re all free (even the magazines but I’ll talk about how to do that another day).

I was looking through a folder that I have certain email routed to. I realized that the folder had a lot of Cisco tips and tricks for their routers. In cleaning out my email folders I realized that these emails were building up and had become a huge portion of this folder because I just never tended to delete them since I never get around to reading them. My thought process is like a pack rat: “One day I’ll need these.” Stop that! Get rid of this stuff. I don’t need to know everything about a Cisco router. I might possibly need to configure one once every two years. I deleted them all. Even though I took a lot of training on Cisco routers years ago if this situation arises I’m letting some other guy handle that. Unburden your mind seeing all the crap in your inbox.

Any screws left?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

Right now I’m so proud of myself because the Dell Laptop that I am working on right now has been my beast of burden for the last month. I believed the monitor was going out on it and sometimes it would blink out. Fearing paying for a new screen and someone to put it in would more than likely just make me buy a new laptop I was reluctant to deal with the problem. The worst part is that I broke my leg about a month ago so I’ve been stuck on a couch at night and using VNC to reach into my laptop. What’s worse is it was a Mac laptop that I really didn’t like. I HATE the one button mouse! I use dual button mice on Mac desktops… but I digress. So I had to break down and find a solution.

I did my research online and found out that the problem wasn’t the screen. I found that the number one problem with laptops is that the screen’s power inverter will go bad. Once it goes bad people give up on the laptop and get rid of it. A bad power inverter is usually evident because the screen is barely visible and looks dead but the problem is there’s no backlight. This is the inverter’s job.

With a lot of searching, I found an inverter for $20 online. I risked it and went back to my inner electrical engineer. I took apart my laptop found the piece and replaced it. Waaaallllllaaaah! It worked! It reminded me of taking TV’s and radios apart to fix them with my dad when I was a kid. I used to fix anything electrical by taking it apart but I don’t do that or raise the hood of my car anymore. I’m back in the game again.

Oh, and for those who used to do this with their dad too… Just like him I did have one tiny screw left over but everything works. This time though it wasn’t my fault. I found the extra screw left inside my laptop obviously during the assembly at Dell. Their dad was different than mine because they left extra screws inside.

All the information I need

Friday, April 11th, 2008

42-17899516.jpgFor a long time now I’ve envied the stock broker. Not so much for his financial prowess but more for his grasp of information coming in. I liken it to a naval vessel. Each station on the bridge has about 3 or 4 monitors that he has to look at to get all the information necessary to fully access any given situation. Stock brokers usually have a six monitor setup that has different charts and graphs changing all day long.  Call me crazy but this is what my dreams are made out of.

My wife calls me crazy to this extent but I love being emerced in things to do and totally being on top of all of them. One of the reasons that I stopped liking to write code so very long ago is because when I write code I can only pay attention to the code. I was 10 when I first learned BASIC and I would sit and code on my Timex Sinclair (that’s really old school) all day just to make a space ship move across the screen and shoot a laser. Now days my attention span is so much shorter but I juggle well.

Why do network admins always just use virtual screens instead of real ones? I’m typing this blog post right now on my laptop running Linux and I have 4 virtual screens that I always use. I try to keep things like graphics apps, network/troubleshooting stuff, and web browsing seperate most times. However, I think I really need real screens so on one I can do all my social networking and text messaging. Another for productivity and the others just to keep status on a lot of different things.

A video podcast I like to watch called hak5 has a great mantra that I like to follow: “Feed your techno-lust!” I’ll keep you updated if I ever get this going. Also, can someone please tell me what’s on each one of the stock broker’s screens? I’m dying to know.

Am I really that internet uncool?

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

The more podcasts and RSS feeds I listen to or view has made me come to a conclusion.  I’m not internet cool. I have most of the technical ingredients for it. I have instant messengers galore. I have a Twitter account. I have a camera phone.

I guess it’s really that I feel a little left behind listening to Leo Leporte (or any ex-Techtv people) on shows like TWIT. They seem to know so many people by name in the industry that actually talk to them all the time.

I guess I’m not too far off because I have met a lot of the people talking on some shows at conventions or something else but they wouldn’t follow me on Twitter. Although, I have been surprised when people have remembered me.

I’m not mad at them though. Keep doing your thing you Internet Rock Stars! I may not have a couple thousand people following me on Twitter like Robert Scoble or Jason Calakanis. I may not have a name with presence like Leo Leporte but if I can or have offered just one kernel of knowledge in my blog that has made your day… Let me know.  That’s what I’m here for.

Linux on the Wii? Now what.

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

I just read an article on Engadget and it talked about the Nintendo Wii now being able to be hacked and have Linux run on it. This is really really cool to me but there’s one thing that’s even better than the ability to do something. It’s functionality and usability. These are two things that I can say that open source programmers have done a great job at is reverse engineering and making use of what’s available.

The best part about what’s being done is the use of Linux. Linux is available on more hardware than any other operating system by far. In flashing the bios of a couple of Linksys routers I’ve learned that a good bonus about making things Linux aware is connectivity. Networking is almost everything in the home is almost a dream.

Imagine that all your devices, machines, and appliances were using Linux with opensource software on it. Your life could exist around your preferences and could ripple through all of them. For example, your cell phone’s GPS shows you’re heading home. It passes this information to your car which sends it to the next passing wifi point because it only needs 5 seconds of access when passing a building that it knows has wifi. That information goes through the net to your house. The fridge does trend analysis and knows that on Fridays you get a beer so it prepares one for you and starts warming food and turns on your video game machine.

They’re definitely hacks I want to start working on now.

Is there a coolest computer room list?

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Over the last 7 years that I’ve owned my house I’ve been working on my office.  I’m like a mechanic with a couple cars in the driveway and always working on one on any given day.  My thing is computer tech.  I LOVE my office.  I built it from bare studs to the room that it is now and I honestly haven’t seen anyone with a cooler computer room yet.

Well, now my mind is blown!  I just saw this list of super geeky home theaters and it is a must see. Go here:

Check out this one of the the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.


I’ve got a lot of work to do now.