Friday, September 30, 2011

Making more out of what you have.

Why do we throw so much stuff away? Maybe there is a case for the management of this country both business and government to become a bit more technically knowledgeable. We need to teach them or alert them on ways to become more reusable conscious so to speak. in his article: http://www.instructables.com/id/Electronics-for-teaching-children/ the author points out there is so much good equipment that can be reused with just a bit of street science smarts. Imagine how much overburdened school systems could save you in tax dollars if they were a bit street science smart.

Where I used to work, my former employer sent off to auction literally thousands and thousands dollars worth of equipment that could have been re-purposed. For example an old Dell GX110 which sold for nickels and dimes at auction could have been converted to a disk-less thin client (see http://www.instructables.com/id/PC-personal-computer-into-a-sort-of-thin-client/ for an article on how to do this). They were replaced with the latest thin clients at several hundred dollars a piece that never really worked right. Is that street science smart management? Besides we need less landfills. If you go to the "DIY" sites on the net, you can literally find thousands of articles on how to re-purpose what you already have.

In Europe, traditionally they have been willing to spend a bit more for products because they wanted a product that lasted. Here in the United States, media has brainwashed the consumer into getting the cheapest (even if it is expensive) product and treat it like a throwaway. "Oh, we think it is broke then let's just get another one." This is probably why are products are not selling overseas very well. Another issue that is hurting the American economy. It is time for big business in the United states to get a clue to get away from planned obsolescence and step up the quality. Budgets are tight and people can not afford to repurchase the same product. Big business has not seen the light yet, but the public has and probably why "DIY" internet sites are booming. For example www.instructables.com was recently purchased by Autodesk who are the makers of the software known as "Autocad". This is probably to make money off in DIYers to help get the inventors innovations to market.

As a side note, lots of people are going to Goodwill and other resale shops to purchase items for a song and then remaking what they have bought. In my case, I bought an adult bike for five dollars. It does need a bit of rust removal, but rides just fine. This is versus what would probably cost close to a hundred dollars at a retail store, I feel blessed. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Another reason why "dumpster diving" has become one of the latest fad hobbies. When someone leaves a piece of equipment or whatever on the side of the road, it us usually scarfed up in minutes by repurposers. This has led a lot of people to become pretend recyclers to get your stuff for free. Caveat emptor (or should I say seller beware).

A little preparation for my last comment. Generally if you want to use a piece of computing equipment you want to look at the software (aka applications) that allow it to work first. What the software runs on (aka the hardware) becomes second object to look at when deciding what is a good buy in computing equipment. One thing that Apple has pushed is all the software that runs on their Ipads and Ipods. The ironic thing is that you can use the exact same software on most any recent computer, laptop, or touchpad. The reason why, is all of the software being used is the Ipad being a web browser terminal and taking advantage of what is on the internet. Yes, I know you can get applications that run on the Ipad it self. You can generally do all of that from most any web site. Apple could be taking advantage of user ignorance. (i.e. what you can do from the web (http://www.instructables.com/id/Uses-for-your-own-private-cloud/).

Lastly, when big business does make a very viable product, they do not know how to make the most advantage of it sometimes. For example, Hewlett Packard who probably make the majority of computer printers came out with a touchpad. A laptop on steroids, but without all the bulk. It was similar to the now notorious Apple "IPad". The product was a bit over priced, but it was never really marketed correctly at least to me. Someone one mentioned to me that the reason why the HP (aka Hewlett Packard) touchpad did not sell is that there was no software for it. I have to bite by lips at that comment. The HP touchpad will work with the internet and can use the exact same software applications from the internet that the Ipad can. So essentially there is no limitation to what the touchpad can do. Did not anyone at HP realise that? They do now and guess that is why they now have a new leader...

Note: Our cheap touchpad that I use can be seen at http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-touchpad/.
Our uses for recycling computers: http://www.instructables.com/id/Reuses-for-legacy-computers/

Patent bullies.

It amazes me that it is that news reports have estimated that Microsoft allegedly earns close to a half billion dollars off the Android platform. To my knowledge, they have yet never told the public what they have done to earn that money. According to reports, Microsoft alleges that it violates some kind of patents. Since Microsoft is a "public" company and has been under the scrutiny of the courts for being a monopoly, do they not owe an explanation of all this. As far as I can see they have allegedly muscled their way to get a free ride off of Android. Microsoft has had their own problems with being on the wrong end of a patent. For some reason Microsoft has to do everything in secret. That is not what this country is about and they seem to be downright un-American.



A host of a popular video podcast exclaimed why should anyone go with Android? The host recommend Apple products instead because they are more standard. What the host either fails to realise or does not want the public to know the truth is that Microsoft and other companies are suing the heck out of vendors of Android into changing their product so that it can not be standard.

In any case, I probably will not get an Android device in addition to being overpriced unless I can run an open source operating system that is not tied to an "App" store. That is so I can use it the way I want and not how someone else wants me to use it. Major proprietary vendors say they are selling it to you, but their contract in all essence is just a rental. This leaves me to believe the public is being duped to at least some degree.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

About Face! GM Reverses Decision to track non OnStar Subscribers

GM has decided that tracking and selling GPS data from canceled OnStar subscribers is not such a good idea! DUH! Due to a firestorm of protests they have reverted to their old Terms Of Service. At least they realized they made a really dumb move.

OnStar Reverses Decision to Change Terms and Conditions

Is the Facebook bubble getting ready to burst?

It seems to me that every social media company except for Facebook has peeked and declined. The ever "loved" Zynga - maker or Farmville and Mafia wars has seen a huge decline in revenues. How long can Facebook continue?

Chris Nerney at IT world has an Interesting take on the state of social media companies. Air coming out of social media IPO bubble

Monday, September 26, 2011

Linux for new parents.

Ever wish you could stay by the baby, but get a little rest from holding the child. Linux has your answer. Just tie a string from the cdrom tray to a baby rocker. Put the following code in a shell fine and make it executable. (chmod +x babyrock.sh)

babyrock.sh
[code]
while [1 = 1]
do
#eject cdrom
eject

#pull cdrom tray back in
eject -t
done
[/code]

Run the code and enjoy a bit of free time.

$ ./babyrock.sh



Note: Please, do not leave children unattended.

Time saver with page scraping.

Say you just need one bit of information off the web such as the latest football score. That means you have to start your browser, use a bookmark (or manually type in the url), and then finally scan the page for the information you need. In another case, you are logged into a server via the command line where no web browser is available. Page scraping is the answer to your needs. This may not be the best example, but say you want your horoscope for the day. All you need to do is to fire up a terminal if you are not already in a terminal and just type a few letters and boom there it is. Here is the page we want to get the data from:



You can use just a small bit of program code to solve the problem (Use your favorite editor to create the program and the datafile and then make ghp executable with "chmod +x ghp").

ghp:
[code]
# Get today's horoscope
echo "--------------------------------------------"
# character width
cw=60
hsign=$1
hsign="`echo $hsign|tr '[a-z]' '[A-Z]'`"
cat $hsign
echo -n "Today's date: "
date +%D
echo "Today's horoscope for:"
lynx -width 1000 -dump "http://www.creators.com/lifestylefeatures/horoscopes/horoscopes-by-holiday.html" | grep $hsign | fold -sw $cw
echo "--------------------------------------------"
[/code]

You need a data file for the logo. Actually you will need to do all twelve logos (ARIES - PISCES).

VIRGO:


Then just run the program. (if you were using a mouse, you could set up a launcher or shortcut to MSWindows users to automatically run the program for you.)



You can then run this every day to get your horoscope or even someone else's like you boss or partner. Your home work is to research the grep command. See: http://www.instructables.com/id/Web-page-scraping-via-Linux/ for more info. Have fun.

(Note: this was done using Ubuntu 10.04, you will need "bash" compatible software on MSWindows for this to work. You could also use other programming languages such as VB, PHP, and a host of others to do the same thing).

Update: New version that works with the web and you do not have to remember all the commands. You can find it at: http://www.instructables.com/id/Web-page-scraping-fromto-a-web-page/. Though it is rather remedial for good web master, it leaves the door open to do more advanced projects.





Friday, September 23, 2011

BSOD

No computer or it's software is perfect. The way you are informed of issues can vary from one system to another. Microsoft's way to display problems has become part of folklore. It has become know as the infamous BSOD.

The blue screen of death aka bsod has changed yet again, but this time you do not seem to get a clue to what is going on. As much as I never liked to see the screen of death, I did appreciate the detail of information presented to use to diagnose issues with your computer. In the latest iteration, that seems to be missing. WHY???

 Which bsod screen would you prefer to have?

 

The Win 8 BSOD:



Now if you look at the older bsod screen shots, you see that you at least get some kind of error code to deal with:



And the BSOD message was immortalized in this photo:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Need an extra arm?

Arm cpu's have been around a while. Actually a lot of your home routers are using the Arm processor as the brain. Some of them have enough hardware so that you can run alternative operating systems based on 'nix such as dd-wrt, openwrt, and a host of others. I am also acquainted with the Arm processor in the Cisco Linksys Nslu2. it ran at a whopping 100 or so megahertz. Even at that speed I was able to run the Debian flavor of Linux on it. It was a real computer. Used it as a web server, music server, and etc. Had an old unix terminal connected to it as the front end. Wish I had a picture of it with the tiny server and bulky terminal sitting working together. Still have the Nslu2, but put the original firmware back on it. Since then I put linux back on it.




It will interesting to see what is going to happen with these Arm units. Even the Arduino, a hobbyist micro-controller board will eventually have an arm processor version. It is more than likely that you will have a wearable computer within the next year. Those will be an interesting challenge to the now popular touch pads. Saw an article a while back where you could use any surface as a keyboard or a monitor. In, fact with technology like the Kinect, keyboards and or the touchpads as we know them could be obsolete very soon. As they say, "you aint seen nuthin yet...."

How about twice the performance for less power?

What if your new tablet or phone had twice the processing power, but used less power than current crop of devices? That is exactly what Nvidia is cooking up with it's new Kal-El Tegra ARM processor. The Kal-El Tegra is Nvida's next generation Tegra processor. It will actually be a 5 core processor with the 5th core being a special super low power "companion" core. The extra core will have just enough horsepower to keep important things going that don't need a 1.5 GHz processor. This is things like music, phone calls, email syncs, notifications, and background tasks. In doing said tasks, it will use very little power. The other 4 cores are full processors that run at the full speed of 1.5 or even 2 GHz. The chip can power each of these 4 "regular" cores up or down as needed.

Moore's law is certainly still working with ARM processors. The performance is doubling every 12 months. No wonder Microsoft is supporting ARM processors on Windows 8. It has the power for all your typical desktop tasks and some pretty serious gaming too.

The power consumption situation still extremely favorable for ARM. The Tegra draws about 2 watts max. Typical power draw is much lower. Intel's current dual core Atom processors draws 8.5 - 13 watts max. That is a factor of 5.

Kal-El Tegra www.thinq.co.uk/2011/9/20/nvidias-kal-el-tegra-pack-five-cores/
Tegra en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_Tegra

Getting more for less.

Had an old machine that had some problems with the ide (legacy hard disk) controller. Though most machines now use what is called "sata", I did not want to throw it away. Actually this is a great idea for small offices, schools. and even families. Instead of having to buy all new computers, you can purchase one machine as a server and then just reuse the existing machines as thin clients. A tremendous money saving move. That is what we did and saved a fortune. If you go completely open source, you do not have to worry paying for software licenses either. It saved us ten thousand dollars to dump proprietary software in addition not having to buy new hardware. So really it saved us much more than ten thousand dollars. Also you are helping to save the environment not to have the old machines go to a landfill.

Happen to be talking with an MSWindows admin about disaster recovery. He was talking about how it was a challenge to do recovery. I made a bet that I could have network of computers running in no time and not even use a single hard drive. I would need one cdrom though. Of course I was told it could not be done. You can guess what happened next with the wallets.



Anyway, we went around and made sure that all the machines would pxeboot except the system with the cdrom drive. I booted a Knoppix linux cdrom which has a built in terminal server. Once the machine was up, I made a few quick settings for the terminal server. We started booting all the other machines. low and behold after a bit all the machines were up and you could use all the software.

To make a long story short, the admin was dumbfounded and became an instant new devotee of linux.

More information at:
http://www.instructables.com/id/PC-personal-computer-into-a-sort-of-thin-client/
A bit old but you will get the idea.
http://computothought.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/how-one-library-made-use-of-old-equipment/

Did someone get a clue?

There are two basic types of computer set ups. First is a workstation (touch pad, laptop, or desktop) that you or I might use. Then there is the server that does just that. it serves out software (programs) and data (aka your files). Generally there is no sitting at the server using it as you would your workstation. They should be pretty much standalone units.

Whether you use a workstation or a server, you still have be able to manage those systems. Traditionally in the Microsoft World the servers were gui (graphical user interface) or mouse oriented. Sounds easy that you can manage even hundreds of machines with a click. Unfortunately, that was time consuming and got old quick. I know as I did that for a living for many many years. There had to be a better way.

Also when we consider a gui, that takes more instructions for the computer to have to deal with and therefore more memory or ram (random access memory). So for a server to deal with these extra instructions will not only slow it down, but have less room for other programs or applications. That is especially true that now you have what is known as virtual machines. or to put it simply that one system can pretend to be several systems at once. Less gui means you can run more virtual machines.

Traditionally, Microsoft systems after MSWindows 98 had a hard time being able to go between the gui and non-gui or command line interface (like using DOS, CPM/MPM, or even the eight bit computers such as the Apple ][, Commodore 64, and TRS-80 from yesteryear). The server management team at Microsoft finally admit that with MSWindows server version 8. Prior to MS8 (MSWindows server 8), it was virtually impossible to have a server that could do both gui and command line or go between the two without having major issues for the average person.



Ironically, Linux, BSD, and a host of other operating systems have no problems having either workstations or servers being managed from the gui or the command line. In fact, you can use a sort of indirect gui via the use of web pages (Webadmin. webmin, and a host of others) from any workstation. Now finally with MS8, the head of the operating systems at Microsoft has said we will rectify that. Even in his own words, he said that the gui (mouse driven) interface has so much memory requirements that the server will not be able to be used more readily from a command line. What that is telling me is that indirectly, he thinks without saying it that maybe the gui interface is a bit bloated. That is, it takes up too much memory. He got a clue!

Now the interesting part is whether Microsoft will take that to heart and try to improve how hardware efficient the gui interface is. One thing that I have learned is that the minimum hardware requirements for you to use your machine with Microsoft software are allegedly always understated. To use the latest version with MSWindows 8 for all practical purposes you need more than 2 gigabytes of memory and the latest computers (multicore 64 bit cpus). In other words, get out the check book again if you want MSWindows 8.

Hopefully, the part of Microsoft that develops the desktop operating systems will get the hint from it's own peers that maybe workstation software could be more efficient. The reason, why I say that is that I can take a legacy Pentium II based computer with a quarter of the memory requirements of the latest Microsoft systems and be as usable in a gui or windowed environment with BSD, Linux, and the like for the average user. One of the big buzz initials is ROI (return on investment) or did you get your moneys worth out of what you paid for? It's your check book, did you or your company get your money's worth?

A 1.2 gigahertz computer with only 512 megs of ram.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yet another reason I really like Ars Technica

If I was limited to only one tech site it would without a doubt be arstechnica.com.  They have a nack for good tech news pieces, good analysis, and a sense of history: UNIVAC: the troubled life of America's first computer.

More nails in the flash coffin

It is clear that Window 8 will not have plug-ins in the web browser. ars technica has some good coverage. Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 ditches Flash, plugins The no plug-ins Includes Microsoft's own silverlight. HTML5 all the way baby! The adoption of HTML5 as a strict standard will lead to a rich variety of web applications that will run across a wide range of web browsers. It is still a bit strange to me to see Microsoft pushing strongly for web standards instead of proprietary web browser behavior. Now that both Apple and Microsoft have the same position on plug-ins, the rest of the industry will have to follow.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Head is up in a cloud.

Just a video of my old Dell GX1 (p2) web/cloud server. Except for the videos on the web page, all software is local on the machine. Certainly could of had the videos local also. The same server also acts a traditional Itunes server, but that feature is not shown. What is really neat are some of the gui (graphical user interface) that a remote machine or even a tablet can use. Point one being that you can use the software on the server and not have to load software on client machines. Point two being that data is on the server and not the local machines. A tiny bit more security in some ways. There is no sound in the video. Still experimenting with different software and did not have time to set all that up.

If you can bear with the video, you will see it is worth it. Not all the applications on the server were shown. Just gave you enough to whet your appetite. Yours truly wrote the software for the main web page and some of the applications. This is the wave of the future as to how users will interface with business. One of the reasons you might want to become familiar with HTML, CSS, and maybe even Javascript. In most cases you probably will let someone else do the work on the web pages. The more you know the better you can interact with the people doing your site.

Lastly, the www.softserv.com site from the beginning of the video and the oesrvr1 site are both running from the same machine with what is known as virtual hosting. Allows for several sites to be on one server therefore saving money. The video is under fifteen minutes, so do not worry about it going on forever. By the way, both servers are on a local private intranet and not the internet.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

A few old tweets.

The Geek shall inherit the earth!

My computing became more intimate using Linux, OS/X, Minix, AUX, Unix, and the like after reading "The Joy of X".

Some people say they are an MS PC. Some people say they are an Apple Mac. If you use both, do you have a multiple personality disorder.

What's the difference between a plumber and a sysadmin. One hates backups and the other loves them.

Linux administrators have gotten a bad rap for being bad tempered. Just because they want to bash code with ncurses.

Then again electronics people must like to meditate, because they are always saying ohm.

Traveling with computers must be tough, because people always they have a hard drive.

Older computer geeks must like to speak Spanish, because they were always saying K.

Electronics people must really care about what Millie does, because they are always saying Millie what?

Programmers when coding can be challenging so they cover their ascii.

There is no place like localhost and my address is 127.0.0.1

The descendants of Paladin: "Have computer, will network."

If your love likes to use twitter a lot, would she be your tweetie pie.

Every time you hear a bell ring a computer is being re-purposed with linux. "ding ding"

A computer is just a robot without any arms or legs......

Beware geeks bearing gifs.

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

You have to make a certain amount of mistakes when writing sequential computer code, but the newer programmers are always saying OOPS.

Man talking to his better half. Him: Make me a sandwich. Her: What? make it yourself! Him: Sudo make me a sandwich. Her: Okay!

You know you have too many toys when your better half revokes your "Dumpster diving" license.

First there was the file server, then there was the nas server, and now there is the cloud server. New names, but same equipment.

If you want to know what is using ipaddresses on your network, try this: "nmap -sP 192.168.1.0/24"

Nerds really like the music of Judy Collins. "Send in the clowns" is now "Send in the clones

Databases are a lot like mice, They both know how to SQL

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lost site.

Ever try to go to a web page while internet browsing and you get the message that it the page is no longer around. Frustrating to say the least. That page had just the information you were looking for. Then you want to chunk your computer and pledge to never again use the internet.



Relax as there may be a way to miraculously recover or access that page. All you need is the way back machine. What? No, not a another piece of equipment to purchase. It is a web site that has lots of historical information. So now how do we do it. You point your browser to www.archive.org, and then you will fill in the url (aka web site address) into the wayback machine box. I usually copy and paste the site I am looking for in the the wayback machine box to save typing and for accuracy. Not promising the page you are looking for will be there, but at least you now have a greater chance to get to the site you were looking for. Try it!

Thanx for the comment!

Can a Tablet be used for everyday work? - Jacqui Cheng at ars technica does it.

Can you replace your everyday computer with a tablet and be as productive? Jacqui Cheng, Senior Apple Editor at arstechnica.com thinks so....Masochist me? An Ars writer's iPad-only workday

We are living in interesting times in the tech world! Soon we will carry our computing device in our pocket, but connect it to a wireless keyboard and wireless monitor on our desk. A top of the line smartphone has a dual core ARM processor. Soon it will have quad core ARM processor. That is more than enough power to run a desktop full of apps. What does the average person use a computer to do: web browsing, word processing, email, maybe a spreadsheet, and a few other odds and ends. That does not require a supercomputer. It does, typically, require more than a 4" touch screen. As soon as our mobile devices can seamlessly use our desktop screens and keyboards, the PC as we know it is toast. That is why Microsoft Windows 8 will be so drastically different from Windows 7. But, that is another blog post....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How to sell online, Part 2

Sell what? On what? To who?

I guess the first thing you have to find out would be “What should I sell?”
You may already have an idea or a business plan. It might be a existing business that you would like to expand, or a hobby that you think the world is ready for. This part of “How to sell online” is more of a questionnaire than a how to.

I am going to pull a story from a business that I was involved in before the internet was available for selling, and use it as a model to see how it would translate to online selling. The company sold Mercedes-Benz auto parts by mailing out catalogs to Mercedes Benz owners.

The company started out small, selling only to owners of mid 1980’s model Mercedes-Benz 300D Diesels and grew to a thriving business over a decade. Staying with a relatively small highly specialized customer base the company saw constant growth. Then one day the owner set his sights on expanding into newer model Mercedes parts, and poured all his resources into a new 190 parts and accessories catalog, spending a small fortune in the nineties, $250,000, on the new catalog and mailing lists. The catalog was beautiful and was mailed out after a year of production. Then, the shelves were stocked, the phones were manned, and nothing happened. The phones did finally start ringing, but instead of incoming orders, it was parts distributors collection’s departments. The company was soon bankrupt.

OK what does this have to do with online selling?

It has everything to do with an online business! The more things have changed, the more they stay the same.

In 20/20 hindsight this business owner didn’t catch on to one important detail. The customer group that owned the old simple diesel Mercedes liked to work on their old cars, and the owners of the entry level more sophisticated 190’s were yuppies that couldn’t work on their own car if they wanted to.

In short he assumed that this business plan would work on any customer.

The moral to this story is FIND OUT WHO YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE! “Be the customer.”

Do as much research as possible, next week we will talk about how to find “The customer.”

Habla usted Python.

What in the heck is a program? A program is a logical set of instructions. When I taught computing at a local college, the first thing I would ask students to do is to write out a list of what needed to be done if someone were to take your place. Once they completed that task, I praised them for writing their first program. If we want a computer to complete a task we have to give it a set of instructions. A lot of instructions have already been created for us to use such as operating system (what manages the computer i.e. Linux) and applications software or tools for humans to use to take advantage of the computer without having to do everything from scratch (i.e. LibreOffice).
How do we program or talk to the computer? Just as humans use several languages, we can do the same thing with computers to get them to do what we want. You can have instructions in Spanish, English, or a number of languages. Likewise computers have languages to that can be converted or translated to what it can understand. Actually, Your desktop computer, laptops, touchpads, and etc really only understand ones and zeros commonly known as machine language. So we need a way to talk to the computers to give them the instructions or program so they will do what we want.

High level computer based languages much like verbal languages have their own special form of nouns and verbs that are easy for us to understand. At the end of the article will be some examples of those. Hence. the "Habla usted Python?". Python is an up and coming computer language. So we can know both a verbal language and a computer language. Most computer geeks probably know several.

Computers have special programs that can translate the high level programs to the ones and zeros it understands. These programs can compile or translate the code to the ones and zeros so the computer can allowed to do what we want.
So how do we get the computer to understand what we want. A programmer or even a user will create a set of instructions that will allow the computer to do what we want. Oops we said earlier that computers only understands ones and zeros. In the early days of computing, there were cartoons of programmers with thick glasses because they had to deal with all the ones and zeros. Today we can use a high level language such as HTML (Hypertext markup language) or a choice of many other languages. If you ever take a course in computer programming or open a computer programming book, the first thing you are usually asked to do is to get the computer to print out "Hello world!" to the screen. For example in html:
in a web browser would yield:

This is probably an oversimplification, but that is generally how it works. This page you are looking at is a wee bit more complicated. you can look at the source code of this page by going to the menu and choosing view and then source....



One of the reasons I want to be able to program my own computer is to have it do what I want and not what computer vendors will only allow me to do.

Note: newer programming environments allow you to point and click objects to put together a program instead of just typing in text.



But in any case you still have to type in at least a minimal set of instructions.

To see examples of traditional programming languages see "Freedom of assembly".

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why can I not program it?




One of the major reasons I have not purchased a touch pad is that you can not easily program the devices for your own use. One thing I liked about the traditional personal computer is that you could develop programs fairly easily without having to buy both an expensive computer and development software just to get the device to do what you want. Not only that, you really can not use a program and easily port it from one device to another. That is just not right.

Decided to look around for a possible solution to resolve the issue of not being able to create one's own software for the devices. There were basically three criteria. First you had to be easily able to port or move your program from one platform to another. The second was that you did not need an expensive machine and software for software development. Lastly, we did not want to have to be tied to some "APP store" to get our software.

So what did we come up with? O'Reilly has some fine books. We probably have more than I want to admit. Recently they came out with two books that are on my want to get list. First is for the the IPhone and it is called "Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript" (http://ofps.oreilly.com/titles/9780596805784/). You surely should be able to use this book for the Ipad also. Second is for the Android platform and it is called "Building Android Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript". (http://ofps.oreilly.com/titles/9781449383268/). Html, CSS, and Javascript are common to both platforms. As Jon Lovett might say "That's the ticket!"

Now there is a common thread for touch pads that can make them more valuable to me as an alleged intelligent consumer. The "APP store" is not required because HTML, CSS, and Javascript are open to anyone to use that has a web browser. See: http://www.w3schools.com for details. Now I am making the rounds to test a possible touch pad that might meet my needs. The best part is I can use the Html, Css, and Javascript with my existing laptop. Do not have to be in such a hurry to get a portable device. Just the way you want it. They have to come to you, not you having to cowtow to computer/touch pad vendors.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Even Adobe is preparing for the end of Flash

Jonny Evans at Computerworld has some analysis on Adobe's recent announcement. Adobe brings Flash-free-Flash to Apple iPad- As I posted on September 7th, flash is moving towards obsolescence. Now further information is appearing as Adobe (the maker of flash)  has announced a work around for mobile devices that don't support flash or have poor flash performance.  Why do we care?  Better web browsing and video performance on smart phones and tablets is why.   The elimination of a major security headache on PCs would be great too.

Free money, well sort of...

One thing that really makes me want to laugh is how people or organizations are willing to take your old computers off your hands. Probably a good thing, but are those old systems really worthless and unusable? Here a just only a few examples of why they may not be. I have an old Commodore monitor from way back when. We also have a tv with the same kind of connections know as composite input. Tv stations and entertainment vendors would have you believe they are worthless. Not necessarily so. For example I still use my monitor as a tv with a digital converter and also as a monitor for one of my pcs. Since the monitor supports what is know as svideo, it still works great. To go even farther, we harvest old parts from computers for new uses as not have to buy what we already have. Actually, what is now called obsolete systems can be very valuable if you or someone you know can harvest them for you. For example, If you say want to use an old 5 1/4 inch floppy drive, most people would snicker at that. But at what could be twenty dollars to buy the same part we just gave to a recycler does not make sense. We like to extract the stepper motors from the drives. they can be very easily adapted for robotics and other projects. The stepper motor pictured will go to an antenna motor set up that will cost all together just a few dollars. Stepper motors can be used with microcontrollers such as the Arduino, Parallax Basic stamp, and others. You can also easily adapt them for use with a personal computer. The www.instructables.com web site has a wealth of articles that anyone can make using them. Even if you do not have any old goodies, Goodwill, resale shops, friends who want to clear out the garage, or people who leave stuff for garbage pick up can be a wealth of equipment. I bought two radio control cars for two dollars apiece. I extracted the power train that will be part of my pc robot. At a robotics store, they could be at least ten to fifteen dollars apiece. I still can use the radio receivers also for another project which is another twenty dollars in savings. So I made eighteen dollars on that deal so to speak for each rc car. The little truck I bought at the dollar store for a dollar. It could be used very easily as a slot car or even as a mini-robot. To power it, I took some cdrom motors from a unit that would not read cd's. No problem as the motors worked fine. Another few bucks in savings there also. Guess what I am saying is that something is worth as much as you can use your ingenuity and not take for granted that something is automatically worthless. I have a ton of examples, but these few should whet your appetite to what can be done. Sites such as www.makezine.com, www.hackaday.com. and www.hackedgadgets.com can be good starting places to bring out the geek that is in everyone. Do not forget to visit www.instructables.com/member/computothought if you get a chance. Happy saving!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Really?

Local radio disk jockey wants you to purchase a particular brand high priced computer for your child to take to school because it will auto save all their work. Not a bad idea. If someone can not remember to save their work regularly, should they be in college? Am I missing something?
------------------------------------------------------------------------
What is Linux and why is it so popular? Every desktop computer uses an operating system. The most popular operating systems in use today are:
* Microsoft “Windows” (a misnomer because all OS’s use a gui)
* Mac OS (now loosely based on BSD, a cousin of Linux.)
* UNIX (largely being replaced by BSD and Linux.)
* Linux (Ubuntu might be the most popular, but Redhat, Debian, and Others are also very much used).
Linux is an operating system that is very much like but not UNIX and that has become very popular over the last several years. Operating systems are computer programs. An operating system is the first piece of software that the computer executes when you turn the machine on. Linux is as much a phenomenon as it is an operating system. To understand why Linux has become so popular, it is helpful to know a little bit about its history. The first version of UNIX was originally developed several decades ago and was used primarily as a research operating system in universities. High-powered desktop workstations from companies like Sun proliferated in the 1980s, and they were all based on UNIX. A number of companies entered the workstation field to compete against Sun: HP, IBM, Silicon Graphics, Apollo, etc. Unfortunately, each one had its own version of UNIX and this made the sale of software difficult. Now you can get linux free from places like www.distrowatch.com. Linux has a dedicated following and appeals to several different kinds of people:
* People who already know UNIX and want to run it on PC-type hardware
* People who want to experiment with operating system principles
* People who need or want a great deal of control over their operating system
* People who have personal problems with Microsoft

To debug a couple of myths.
Myth: No good games for linux.
See: http://www.cahilig.net/2011/07/29/100-best-free-and-high-quality-linux-games#
Myth: No good software for linux.
See: http://www.osalt.com/
http://www.linuxalt.com/
SourceForge.net
Myth: No support for linux.
See: www.linuxquestions.org (just for starters).
www.howtoforge.com
You can in most cases use older hardware to install and run Linux. I love Microsoft as people give up their old equipment so easily because they think it is obsolete, then I put that computer to work using linux. Linux now runs most entertainment equipment as well as your personal computer. As do many companies, we also run linux on our servers. Try it you will like it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Microsoft to Improve Boot Times in Windows 8 - does it matter?

Delivering fast boot times in Windows 8 Microsoft is improving boot times 30-70% in windows 8.  Great, but does it matter? Is it relevant?  I don't know how long my iPad takes to boot.  I almost never boot it. I think I have shut it down two times in the last four months. For it, fast booting is a moot point. The truth is: the concept of shutting down and booting will largely be an anarchism in a few years.  What will matter is a rock solid operating systems that never require a reboot. It has been done: mainframes, servers, home routers ... tablets.  I remember way back to a Novell file sever at the college that had an uptime of over 380 days!  

Fast booting is great, but has Microsoft missed the boat?  Just make a PC that sleeps and pulls a 1/4 of a watt in standby. Invest that massive engineering expertise in making the beginning of day boot and end of day shutdown obsolete! Catch up with the cutting edge. It's the new norm.

What time is it?

There had to be a way to put an old laptop that just has a floppy drive (i,e ho hard drive) back to work. Well I remembered how some people turn them into clock and all sorts of things, so i went searching for dos based programs. The first one I really did not care for and I had to fix it so it would work right.



Then I thought why not do one of my own, so I came up with this:

















Well being a geek I could not stop at that so I did a simple prototype of a binary clock. One can always make it fancier later. You just have to do at least one in your life as a geek..














Now to make an analog clock.... All for now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Flash: the end may not quite be near - but the big lady is preparing to sing


Tom's hardware has an interesting tidbit regarding Microsoft's position regarding browser plug-ins and flash:  Microsoft Envisions a World Without Flash, Plugins. Apple has refused to support flash on the iPhone / iPad.  Largely, this has been no problem since HTML5 has become standard fare on most web sites.  When I first got my iPad last summer, many websites would not play a video embedded on the iPad properly or at all.  That quickly changed.  Now it is the odd-man-out web site that shows any video/flash issues on iOS Safari.  It is looking more and more like Steve Jobs made the right call regarding Flash.

Android supports flash, but the implementation is poor.  It typically slow and also slows down the entire web page.

Let's not go into the security issues that flash generates on Windows computers.  I hate having things run in my icon tray, but I leave the Adobe updating running because I want Adobe Reader and Flash updates as soon as they are available.  The updates are almost always security updates.  Flash is another reason to run Google Chrome as your web browser.  It runs flash in a sandbox for security reasons.

With Apple boycotting it and Microsoft  moving away from Flash, soon it will be just that... a Flash in the pan.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The more things change, the more they.....

Interesting if you think about it in that offices started out with typewriters, accounting worksheets with a calculator nearby, and file cabinets. We still have the same equipment, but they have evolved a bit.



First the typewriter became a command line editor, file cabinet became the database, and the spreadsheet/calculator combination became the early spreadsheet. You had to do a lot of typing to do everything you wanted to do from a command line interface.



The eventually the mouse was invented and the graphical use interface was created to take advantage of it.



Yet we are still doing the same old thing, but just in a different way. Another comparison could me made that hand painted billboards, mass mailings, and hand made newspapers went to desktop publishing and then were replaced by web pages.




Anyway you get the idea…….

Sunday, September 4, 2011

We love web servers and touchpads...

Web servers are awesome as you can do so much from home automation to what ever your imagination can dream up. If you have an extra computer this is a great way to put it to use instead of sending it to a landfill! One way we use our web server is with a Chumby.
We like to use our Chumby (touchpad) in connection with our home server. The Chumby is not exactly portable. I love our Infocast Insignia (aka Chumby) 8″. Using it I made sort of an ipad clone and it runs Linux!! I control all the home automation from it and it is great for accessing our intranet based web server from the kitchen to access recipes and many other applications). Becoming addicted to php and mysql as well as html. May get a second one for a low powered server like I used to do with the Cisco Linksys Nslu2. Can not wait to see how well it works with mythwebtv. Need to build a new server first. 64bit here we come. Yep, we are bit behind using only 32 bit single core cpu based computers.

Picture of a remote system accessing the web server. In fact the led's in the second picture were turned on by accessing the web page.



Note: The arrow is pointing to some led's that are connected to the parallel port of the web server. The led's could easily be replaced with electrical switching devices to do home control remotely via the web page. You can also control Insteon, X-10, or other commercial products in the same way.



Having a little fun with the led's (Kitt lives!!) Probably use this set up to control holiday lights. Use the same set up for robot control also.

How to sell on-line, Part one.

First of all let me give you my background, I run a on-line store and on-line auction for a transportation memorabilia art gallery, around 80% of our items are sold online.  I started out in graphic arts for print, so when I made the big jump to websites there was a major learning curve.

I wasn’t lucky enough to get any formal training from school about websites, because when I started out in this business and went to school we didn’t have the world-wide-web, we bought printed mailing list and printed catalogs and send them out USPS bulk mail, and then waited for the phones to ring. And they did, and we sold stuff, and packed them in boxes and send them to people all over the world.

Things have changed a lot, and they have also stayed the same. We still compile e-mailing list, and yes we still send out printed catalogs, and we post items on the website, and sometimes the phones and faxes still ring, but more people just click on buttons on our website, and the end result is we sell things! We pack them in boxes and send them to people all over the world.

How do you make the jump from the brick and mortar company to a on-line store?

When I started trying to make the change, I couldn’t get much information from the web people that I ran into!
One of the first things I noticed it was mostly younger people who were creating web graphics and websites and it just seems to be second nature to them. I knew that there were programs out there like Adobe Dreamweaver to create web pages with, and I thought since I had been using Adobe Creative suite products like InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator and for many years, that Dreamweaver should be simple. So I was pretty surprised the first time I opened Dreamweaver up, unlike the print oriented programs I didn’t have a clue. (I’m over 50.)

I keep asking people I ran into who built websites how to get started, and one older lady told me, just start by learning HTML, she said “It’s not that hard.”

Well I had been trying to avoid that for a long time, It really looks like programing, and I’m a artist and a marketing person not a programmer.

Well I gave it a try, I found a site called W3 Schools, http://www.w3schools.com/  and I spent a few hours on it and the next thing I knew I was hooked. The next thing I knew Dreamweaver started to make some since, I started taking classes on an online tutorial site http://www.Lynda.com, and things started to become a little clearer.

The next thing I knew I got this job at the on-line art gallery, letting them know that I had no real website experience under my belt, I guess they were desperate and they hired me, that’s when the learning curve started.

The next thing I knew was I was in the frying pan, as I started working on the two websites platforms, and hundreds of pages of HTML, that had been managed and mismanaged by more than a few previous webmasters, I knew I would either sink or swim.

I ended up treading water for a few months, thank God for the nice older lady who prompted me to “Just learn HTML, it’s not that hard!”

So until next week I say very simply “JUST LEARN HTML!” It is the language you got to know if you want to get started selling online. Yes I know that there are some people out there claiming you can get by with some WYSIWYG program or you can buy a cookie cutter site that doesn’t need learning any code to run, but just get over that YOU WILL NEED TO LEARN HTML, or at least hire a teenager.

Next week we will look at what kind of sites work for what kinds of business.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Geek Jokes


C://dos
C://dos.run
run.dos.run

Q: How many programmers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. It’s a hardware problem.

‎”Unix Airlines: You walk out to the runway and they give you a box of tools and some airplane parts. The passengers form into groups and start building twelve different planes.”

There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t

Enter any 11-digit prime number to continue...

The box said ‘Requires Windows 95 or better’. So I installed LINUX

UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity

Bad command or file name! Go stand in the corner

Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.....

Once I got this error on my Linux box: Error. Keyboard not attached. Press F1 to continue

C isn’t that hard: void (*(*f[])())() defines f as an array of unspecified size, of pointers to functions that return pointers to functions that return void