Archive for October 2013
I had a friend ask me, “What are the benefits of having Twitter?”
When I first joined Twitter in 2007, I had the idea that it was going to be like MySpace, and all my friends were going to be on it, and we were going to the promised land of the ideal “social network” where everyone was connected and no one would miss any parties and life was grand.
That didn't happen.
What did happen is I gave up on social media in the great “Quit Facebook Day” purge of 2010. Within a month or two, I didn't miss Facebook, but I really missed Twitter. Turns out, it actually held value to me, so I reinstated it.
Every user has their own reasons, but here are the benefits I get from having Twitter.
I'm stealing this video shamelessly from my friend Frank because it deserves to be seen by the multitudes. I present to thee:
Monty Python's Camelot song set to some video from Star Trek (the awesome original series, not that Deep Space Nine trash.)
We're knights of the round table
We dance whenever we're able
We do routines and chorus scenes
With footwork impeccable
We dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot
We're knights of the round table
Our shows are formidable
But many times we're given rhymes
That are quite unsingable
We're opera mad in Camelot
We sing from the diaphragm a lot
War we're tough and able, quite indefatigable
Between our quests we sequin vests
And impersonate Clark Gable
It's a busy life in Camelot
I have to push the pram a lot
John Marwood Cleese; Neil James Innes; Graham Chapman
PYTHON (MONTY) PICTURES LTD.
I love finding toys and gadgets that I absolutely should not own. Like this:
Those are jumping stilts, specifically the Air-Trekker CZ120 Adult Edition for hefty people who weigh 265-300 lbs. Because, why not? Fat guys need to jump too. It's one of those products that absolutely no one needs, but everyone should have. Imagine me, all 275 lbs of me, jumping and spinning around like Mario or Samus Aran.
Look out world, here I come. Now all I need is a laser blaster.
This is cool. Someone is tweeting the Back to the Future movie in real time. I love that movie.
Check it out: The Hill Valley Project
Goodbye cat land (Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Garfield, Lion, Mountain Lion, etc.), hello California (pronounced kal-ee-four-knee-uhhh).
Today we're going to update my personal 11” Macbook Air to Mavericks, the newest OS from Apple. They released it a few days ago, but only n00bs upgrade the day of, instead waiting a day or two for the other impatient fanbois to spot the gotchas. (If you are one of the early-upgraders, let me know how that went.)
Apple is giving the OS away for free (that sound you hear is a thousand Redmond accountants hissing), and since I was lazy and never updated my Lion machine to Mountain Lion, I get to skip versions. The madness!
More after the break >>
Read the Yahoo article about the sheep
In other news, there needs to be a better word for a singular sheep. I suggest “shoop”.
I hope you weren't expecting actual programming one-liners (Python, SED, AWK, PERL, Ruby), were you? Presenting the best programming one-liner JOKES I could find (compiled from the Stack Overflow thread):
Java: write once, debug everywhere.
How many IT Support reps does it take to change a lightbulb? Have you tried turning it off and on?
If you listen to a UNIX shell, can you hear the C?
Why don't jokes work in octal? Because 7 10 11.
Three programmers walk into a bar. The first programmer holds up two fingers and says “Three beers”.
Why are assembly programmers always soaking wet? They work below C-level.
A programmer puts two glasses on his bedside table before going to sleep. A full one, in case he gets thirsty, and an empty one, in case he doesn't.
Hardware: The part of a computer that you can kick.
A SQL query goes into a bar, walks up to two tables and asks, “May I join you?”
Why did the programmer quit his job? Because he didn't get arrays.
If only dead people can read hex, how many people can read hex?
To understand what recursion is, first you must understand recursion.
Child: Dad, why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? Dad: Son, it's working, don't touch.
Don't anthropomorphize computers. They hate that!
The C language combines all the power of assembly language with all the ease-of-use of assembly language.
I � Unicode.
ASCII stupid question, get a stupid ANSI.
Have a stupid programming one-liner to add?
ZOMG! The PC is dead! The PC is dead!
That's the battle cry of the masses of people sporting their smart phones, giant smart phones, ginormous smart phones, mini tablets, mid-sized tablets, big tablets and humongous tablets. (I am waiting for the moment when the biggest smart phone gets larger than the smallest tablet and… It would be bad… Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.)
Except for one thing: PCs aren't dead. They're still living. That's the problem.
Ibrahim Diallo makes a great point on his blog post The PC is not dead, we just don't need new ones:
The reason we are not buying PCs anymore is because those we have are already pretty amazing.
I noticed this personally with my 2005 Apple PowerBook (the final PowerPC computer that Apple ever made). When I purchased it, I bought the Adobe Creative Suite 4 and loaded up on all the goodies. I laughed and cried, went through college and entered life as a professional with that thing and it lasted until it was stolen sometime in 2010/2011. Even at the end, it's not like it didn't run Photoshop any slower than the day I bought it.
I've never been one to get all excited about computer or gadget specs (likely a result of my Apple fanboism), preferring instead to focus on what matters: 1) Does this thing work and 2) does this thing work when I turn it off and on when it stops working.
My last PC was good enough for what I needed, which is pretty much the same for every PC made since then. My current MacBook Air with bla bla bla specs is awesome, and I'll probably keep it forever because it will probably last forever.
The PC didn't die. It lived.
Alright, I'll be straight with you. I read the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion in the pre-Peter Jackson years, back when you were made fun of for liking fantasy anything. These days, I'm not into movies or games or whatnot that contain magical faerie creatures, but I still appreciate the storytelling and the insane amount of detail that J. R. R. Tolkien put into his work.
Now, with all that said, I found this cool documentary on YouTube. It's a History Channel documentary, which means it is a finely honed mix of re-enactment, scholarly opinion, and overly dramatic narration, but it's cool anyway. If you have 45 minutes to spare, check it out.
There's a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in town and…
Well, it's not in town. In fact, it's actually in Europe. Germany, to be precise. Berlin. Smart people, them. Anyway, iversity.org is the site.
At the moment, iversity offers 10 courses in German and 14 in English, with more on the way. The courses actually look pretty rad, not the typical boring university fare that is usually proffered up on some of the other MOOCs.
They also offer European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits, if you know what that means and could benefit from it. I can barely get my community college credits to transfer within the same state, let alone some fancy European online credits, so I assume you'll want to focus on skills learning rather than degree getting.
Here's their intro video “What is a MOOC?”:
If you're not taking advantage of all the free educational opportunities the interwebs are now providing you, you're missing out. I have too many online courses to keep track of at the moment, but I would highly consider some of these for next time.
Today there was a lot of hullaballoo about Apple's new <insert Apple product here>. The <insert Apple product here> makes your old <insert Apple product here> seem old, and you might have this little pit in your stomach believing that you're being left in the dust technologically.
It's not worth the heartburn or the anxiety, and it is certainly not worth the interest paid on your credit card bill to get riled up inside over Apple's <insert Apple product here>.
Here are the facts:
That's it. Apple comes out with new stuff all the time, and you're a fool to chase the rabbit down the rabbit hole worrying that you'll be late to the party. You won't be.
Unless you're an Android user. Then, srsly, get with the program.
In yesterday's paper, there was a story about a woman in Coeur d’Alene who lost her children because she was playing World of Warcraft for “six to eight hours a day.”
In the comments, readermentioned, “Thats why I call it World of Warcrack.”
It's not just one reader — a lot of people in the gaming community call it that. Note, for example, the Urban Dictionary definition for “warcrack”:
That's a sad story, but I know a lot of gamers who spend the same amount of time playing their WoW or their EVE Online (note: I was once guilty of this one) or their GTA 3/4/5. It's not just an isolated incident, it's an epidemic. At least she didn't die.
Privacy is a hot-button issue these days. Between Facebook/Twitter/Google tracking your movements across the web and the NSA implanting tracking code in your brain… (Hyperbole, yes. But until all of Snowden's NSA whistle-blower secrets have been divulged, it's best to assume that the Gov't has satellites that shoot high-powered laser beams from space and can conduct brain surgery on you while you're swimming in your backyard pool. I got that tip from my schizophrenic Aunt years ago. Should have listened to her advice.)
Anyway, let's just say that privacy is hard to come by these days. Especially on the web. That's why it warms my heart to hear about WhiteHat Security's new, and free, Aviator browser.
Here's the skinny: It's basically Google Chrome, but without the Google part. What I mean by that is Aviator is built on the same open source Chromium browser (the guts or innards of Google Chrome), but without Google's search engine (it uses DuckDuckGo, behavior tracking and advertising.
But it doesn't just do away with the Googles. By default, the Aviator browser doesn't allow any tracking code from any website, unless you specifically allow it to. It comes built-in with the fantastic Disconnect plugin (which has so much awesome in it that I've decided to write a separate post about it), blocks all third-party cookies, and it runs by default in privacy/incognito mode.
I downloaded it and took a test drive with it, and it feels exactly like Google Chrome. If you like Google Chrome, then this is probably a good option for you because it's still compatible with all of the normal Chrome plugins.
If, like me, you don't like Chrome, it's less appealing. I like my Firefox just fine, but then again, I'm a web developer. For 99% of the rest of the people, I'd probably recommend this.
Recently I became aware of a few websites that, for some, are real downers. They don't tell a story that is intrinsically sad, they don't preach, they don't argue. They simply present facts about the shortness of our time on this earth in solid, numerical form.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
- Steve Jobs
The first is http://liveconsciously.me/, a website that simply calculates how many months you have left to accomplish your dreams, on average, before you pass away. It asks you for your date of birth, then presents you with some simple numbers about the total time and some milestones along the way.
This is the one that really got people worked up. It's called See Your Folks and it calculates how many more times in your adult life you'll have a chance to see one or both of your parents before they pass away based on how often you visit your parents now and average life expectancy rates
My parents live in Minnesota, so I only get to visit at most one time a year. It's really shocking to see such a small number (27), and I guess that's the point.
On their website they say why they built it:
We believe that increasing awareness of death can help us to make the most of our lives. The right kind of reminders can help us to focus on what matters, and perhaps make us better people.
Maybe I need to call my mom to say hi more often.
Spokane's own (Ok, MEAD's own) Cyan has a Kickstarter campaign for Obduction, a real-time, first-person adventure reminiscent of their blockbuster Myst and Riven games of yore. And Obduction looks *awesome*.
I just found out about it today, but I'm going to follow up with the guys at Cyan to see if I can drag out some exclusive content to share with the Spokesman's readers.
Check out the video here:
At the time of writing, they've already raised $65,079 of their $1,100,000 goal, and some of their swag looks really cool. It's also a really good example of what a great Kickstarter campaign looks like, with all the pictures and profiles and other goodies. I'm not going to tell you that you should pitch in, but… you should pitch in.
Maybe you have company trade secrets or a convoluted terrorist plot to overthrow the US Federal Government with your backyard pumpkin trebuchet filed away into neatly organized directories on your CD-R. Or maybe you really hate your mother's/sister's/brother's/other's John Mayer CD. One thing is for sure, you want it erased.
This is really the only way to erase it properly and for good.
If you don't have access to a high voltage electricity device, a suitable alternative is to chuck that baby into the microwave.
I love the Super Mario Bros. more than any other game on the planet. I spent countless hours perfecting my jumping skills, learning the secret pathways through the game, and advancing to the point where I could go through the whole game without dying. All on my 13” black and white tv with shakey coax-to-antenna connector.
Good times, that.
That's one reason I'm so excited about FullScreenMario.com, a version of SMB that is fully playable in your browser.
It's an HTML5 browser app (you need the Google Chrome browser to play it), and it works really well. I'm a little shaky on using a keyboard to control Mario's blips and bloops, but it seems responsive enough to work with.
What is super rad is that you can play new random levels, or even CREATE levels. I can't wait to get into that more fully.
If you're a Mario aficionado, you won't be disappointed.
Remember the movie Short Circuit, where a military robot short circuits and becomes self aware? I loved that movie. It had a good story about what it means to be “alive,” but mostly I'm glad we learned our lesson from it about not arming autonomous robot things with shooty gun things.
What's that, you say? Someone HAS created robots for the US Army that carries lethal firepower and works semi-autonomously? And it looks like this?
That, puny fleshlings, is a robot with guns.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Watch the video, and read the full details courtesy of Computerworld
Honeywell, why didn't you tell us you made such cool safety products? I don't know how I even got on your website, but I think you deserve to have a page telling you how much I admire your super nerdy gear.
It's a chainmail tunic, just like King Arthur. I don't know if it will stop an arrow, but it will certainly stop you from Cupid's arrow. Wear this, and your days of warding off females left and right will come to an end.
Chainexium. (What a boss name.) Because you needed chainmail arm/hand protection, didn't you? Cool name too
For when the aliens attact, you need to be able to look the part. And it is anti-scratch.
Protect your eyes from laser pointers.
This one is cool. It's a aluminum plate tunic. But Honeywell, srsly?
“I can put it down whenever I want.” — Every Minecraft user ever
You might have a pre-teen in your household who can show you everything you could possibly want to know about Minecraft, but I'm just going to show you one dead simple way to set up a multiplayer Minecraft server for you and a few of your friends.
If Minecraft's solo survivor mode has proven to be too much for you, you might not want to venture into the world of multiplayer. But imagine this: While one of your friends collects wood, you can be laying out the foundations of your city. While you decide to go mine for some diamonds, your friends can start putting the walls up. While one person is busy adding the roof to your castle, you can be out hunting spider-riding skeletons with your trusty bow and arrows.
Multiplayer is cool.
More after the break >>
On the heals of my Learn how to program with MOOCs blog post, Hacker News this morning had a link to a fabulous resource for people who want to learn how to program but also don't want to spend $$$ on hideously expensive programming tomes.
It's a fairly comprehensive list of computer programming books freely available on the internet. If you ever wanted to learn a Python or wanted to see what the Ruby programming language was all about, or you just wanted to brush up on your C/C++ skills, there's something there for almost everyone.
There are also language agnostic books in the list that will help you learn about Agile programming or if you were curious about the essentials of metaheuristics (whatever that is), there's a book here for you.
You should learn how to program.
Right now, more than any time in history, learning how to program is easy. In the ye olden times (1960s-1990s), programming was relagated to über nerds and scientists, but with the advent of MOOCs, almost anyone can learn right from home.
(Thanks to Nerissa Kresge of Glover Middle School for reminding me of this video!)
Step 1: Learn how to Google things. Seriously, do a Google search for MOOC, then do a Google search on some of the results. (I'll pretend you're doing that now.)
Step 2: Sign up for one or more of the MOOCs.
Step 3: Go through all of the course material of your MOOC, and don't cheat. Just do it. Then do another one. If you still haven't figured it out, do another one.
Step 4: Profit!
I particularly recommend the following resources:
Some are free, some are not, all are worth it. I keep telling people this, and no one has yet taken me up on this offer, but if you were to dedicate yourself to learning you'd be able to get it done within a year.
No PHD, Master's, or BS degree required, no student loans to pay back, no major infrastructure investments (other than a decent computer). If you're interested, what do you have to lose?
My recommendation? Just do it.
I got to speak to a bajillion middle school students at Glover Middle School's Discovery Days today about web development and digital journalism. I forgot what it was like to be a 7th grader.
1. When I mentioned that video game programmers turn into cave trolls because they work excessively long hours and never see the sun, a chatty young lady asked me “Is that why you're so white?”
2. After all of the pimply 7th grade computer nerds left one of my “Web Development” intros, the room had a seriously sweaty nerd dude smell. One of the girls (might have been the same girl as above) walks in and says “It smells like Burger King in here.”
3. There was one kid who knew waaaaay too much about stuff. Like when and where and why Notch created Minecraft and how it ended up with Mojang, with dates and real names and everything. I was srsly impressed.
4. The realization that every kid in that room was more connected than 3/4 of the people in the Spokesman's newsroom. Facebook was old news, and all the hip kids were on Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and Kik. You heard it here first, unless you're 12.
If you're ever given the chance to speak to a group of kids, you should do it. It was fun.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the NY Times’ “What is the Higgs?” is a totally rad interactive graphic that explains what the Higgs-Boson particle is. They do it with style and their storytelling ability is top notch so you should check it out. I learned something.
Given that this is a tech blog, I wanted to talk about the technology behind it. Some might think that Flash would be a good candidate for such an application, and yes Flash would work.
If it were 2003, you old timer!
This is the 2013s, man, we use animated .GIFs for our animations!
They simply created a slider effect, similar to the ubiquitous (and mostly useless) carousel effect found on many websites. Each slide has the text (in straight, old-fashioned HTML) and the .GIF, and clicking through the graphic simply advances to the next slide.
Fantastic, and should work on practically every browser known to humankind.
If you haven't heard by now, there's a new gaming system called SteamOS that is trying to bring the world of PC gaming into the console-dominated living room. A custom Linux operating system that has been optimized specifically for video games, SteamOS is causing all sorts of excitement in the gaming community.
I asked two local gamers some questions about the new platform to see what the hype is all about.
So some of your favorite government websites are shut down, such as the U.S. International Trade Commission (oh noes! Not the US ITC! How else am I supposed to search the current Harmonized Tariff Schedule?)
I snarkily replied that it was “a completely nonsensical (from a technical perspective) act”, and I freely admit it that I was mistaken. In fact, there were some very sensical arguments made, re: IT staff support and/or the lack of it.
However, I have found a definitive statement about which federal websites would remain operational during an “appropriation lapse” in an official Whitehouse memo which states:
Because I get asked this all the time, I thought I'd share with you the best way to identify a font.
Google released a new app called, imaginatively, Google Web Designer. Being a web designer myself, I thought I'd take it for a spin and give you my thoughts.
(Before we start, I should let you know of my pre-exisiting biases. As someone forced to use Adobe's GoLive and Macromedia/Adobes's Dreamweaver in college, I hate WYSIWYG development environments. They're a crutch and a nuisance in my opinion.)
On to the show!
Girls speaking Klingon and 16 Gig caches, writing in code with some dots and some dashes, Wood Elves with bows fighting dragons with wings, … these are a few of the nerdiest things.
—Jim Stone, local nerd
Last week a friend made a joke on the Twitters about getting glasses and becoming a “four eyes nerd”, so I sent her a welcome tweet:
@pixitron Welcome to the club. Here's your D&D manual, your toe shoes, a Klingon dictionary, and a subscription to Wired.— Dan Gayle (@dangayle) September 27, 2013
In hindsight, I'm not in love with that list. Two out of four things fit the “nerd” stereotype (D&D manual, Klingon dictionary), but the other two don't work for me. I had to get the snark out quick, so the list is what it is, but I think it can/should be improved. We have the technology.
Here are a few other things that might have worked better:
I'm pulling a blank on anything more nerdy than what I've got here. Suggestions?
In case you haven't heard, the Federal Government is shut down for the moment. In a completely nonsensical (from a technical perspective) act, a bunch of federal websites have been taken down and replaced with this very welcoming message:
In case you really, really needed to have access to some content from the Library of Congress or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) websites or any number of other acronymically challenged Federal Government websites, you can rest easy. The awesome chaps at archive.org have your back:
They have archived quite a few of the sites, and I'm sure there's more available too. (For funsies, while you're there, you should also do an archive.org search of old spokane.net and spokesmanreview.com websites.)
Our newsroom has an iPad Mini, codenamed “iPad Mini”, for testing stuff. It’s still using the archaic and antiquated iOS 6, so let’s update it.
First we open our Settings app. Then we go to General settings, and at the top we see Software Update. Let’s click that.
So now it says iOS 7.0.2 and has a download bar. But what’s that? 5 hours? Ain’t no one got time for that.
Time for Plan B, downloading the software on our desktop computer and update the iPad using iTunes.
Open up iTunes, select the iPad. What’s it say? “A newer version of the iPad software is available (version 7.0.2). To update your iPad with the latest software, click Update.” I think that means I should click Update.
After a few dire warnings from Apple and a bunch of terms and conditions that no one ever reads, things are going smoothly. In fact, the download took less than a minute from my desktop and the update is already pretty much done.
Let’s look at what we have. First, a bunch of set up screens that you can skip:
Lastly, the new home screen with all its Jony Ives goodness:
So that’s it. Lessons learned? From start to finish it was less than 15 minutes updating our company iPad Mini to iOS 7 via our desktop computer using iTunes. For those of you worrying about the update taking so long because you were updating over 3G/4G/AOL/IPoAC, I feel sorry. Don’t do that.
Follow these easy steps and you too can relish in radioactive gradients that will cause night blindness if stared at too long.
Do you have an iOS upgrade experience you’d like to relate?
Welcome to the Spokesman-Review's new Tech Deck blog, where we discuss all sorts of different nerdy things, with an Inland NW slant. As one of the online developers for spokesman.com, I fortunately/unfortunately cannot escape the moniker, so I might as well represent.
One goal of this blog is to live up to the awesomeness that is this Spokesman-Review commemorative coin from 1981 that I found at an antique store:
First of all, Death Star. Second…
There's a DEATH STAR on the 1981 commemorative Spokesman-Review coin. That is all.
In case you were wondering, here are a few of the subjects that I plan on covering in the near future:
That's just what I have written down on my notepad here, so if you have any suggestions or ideas, please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's one more thing™: Let's make sure we're all on the same page with regards to the term “nerd”: