Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

So, lets talk about schools and learning…

September 26th, 2013 Comments off

Let’s start with this little piece of inanity:

LAUSD halts home use of iPads for students after devices hacked

Following news that students at a Los Angeles high school had hacked district-issued iPads and were using them for personal use, district officials have halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice.

It took exactly one week for nearly 300 students at Theodore Roosevelt High School to hack through security so they could surf the Web on their new school-issued iPads, raising new concerns about a plan to distribute the devices to all students in the district.

“Outside of the district’s network … a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction,” two senior administrators said in a memo to the Board of education and L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. “As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the … system must not occur.”

Okay, so the district spent a good portion of the education budget on new technology. Then assumedly more money on trying to add security to the devices for … safety … from downloadable content from the internet.

While I agree that there are dark places on the internet that should be avoided and worried about, it seems that locking down a school distributed device only keeps them from doing that on a tax-payer supported device. Because none of these kids has internet at home. Surely.

The problem, as I see it, isn’t that the technology is being circumvented, but that the administration has no idea about how to use the technology in the first place, or no real plan beyond, “hey! let’s give the kids iPads!” Because I can think of several ways to enhance the learning of the students using wide open and unobtrusive internet technology. Indeed, it seems that at least 300 students learned how to circumvent the security of the device without any intervention from the administration.

How completely unacceptable! Kids (teenagers, not elementary school kids) have access to a device (probably much like the phones in their pockets, or the pockets of their friends) and want to use it like they normally would, to get onto social networks (Hey! I though Facebook was for the old parent like people, not teenagers, teenages use Tumblr!) and interact with their friends. And when the technology is clearly capable of that, but is disabled… they’ll get a bit frustrated and either a) not use the device at all or b) go geek and fix the bug that is keeping them from using the device as it is intended!

So, instead of putting on the breaks, why not adjust the curriculum, teaching styles etc… to USE this newfangled technology and embrace social networking and collaboration?

Okay, now it’s your turn, scream back at me.

Categories: Gadgets, Politics (ugh) Tags:

iPhone apps that keep me on track!

January 13th, 2011 Comments off

Photo Jan 11, 4 06 11 PMHit my mini-goal of 4 pounds today, moving to next mini goal of 8.  Will try to hit that by Valentine’s Day.  I’m trying to put a blog up regularly to keep my writing skills finely tuned should I ever need to write a novel, or a short story.  Because, you should never start a sentence with because, nor do you know when you might by held hostage until a good work of fiction is done!  There, paragraph down and haven’t even mentioned the subject I want to write about. Take that! productivity!

Hey, look at my iphone, look at my Mii, now back to my iPhone, and back to Mii.  Sadly you aren’t Mii. right… on topic!


This is a special page of iPhone apps that I use regularly.  My essentials are along the home row and I use them everyday.  The others are used less often but still good resources to tracking my diet, hydration and exercise.  This post I’ll just highlight the essentials.


Lose It!: This is my main app to keep me honest.  It is my food diary so I’ll open it at least 4-6 times a day to record my meals and snacks.  The simple functions are easy, a comprehensive food database that include many brand name foods along with a good sampling of many restaurants and even fast food joints.  The database made it easy to start off and as I went I added foods that weren’t in the database.  Once a food is added, you can use it again and again.  The Lose It! plan for losing weight is to figure out your basic metabolism by using your height and weight, adding to that an activity level score to get a baseline for how many calories should keep you at your present weight.  Then you pick a planned amount of weight to lose in half pound increments.  The math works out that if you want to lose 2 pounds a week (7000 calories) your calorie goal will be 1000 calories less a day.  Everybody is different so there might be slight adjustment per person, but that is the basics.  The application is joined by a top-notch web application that syncs with your on phone log and gives you a plethora or reports to obsess over.  Recently, the site has added an awesome social networking layer so you can meet other losers and encourage one another. It’s a free app, and worth every penny!


RunKeeper Pro! (RunKeeper Free):  This, like Lose It! was on my phone for about a year before I started using it regularly.  Since I’ve used it regularly, it has been three-four times a week app.  It’s core is a GPS tracking application that tracks your route live while you run, along with speed, elevation and all the other stuff that comes with GPS location services.  Much like Lose It!, RunKeeper syncs your runs that you enter on the iPhone with it’s website which provides additional tools to look at your history.  You can enter manual entries from the gym when your on stationary machines.  RunKeeper has a free app, but to get the most from the application, it’s a good investment to get the Pro version ($9.99).  Right now RunKeeper is running a promotion, you can download RunKeeper Pro for free through January.  Even if your not ready to start walking or running immediately it’s a good idea to grab the Pro app now, to avoid the normal fee.  RunKeeper has some additional add-ons, an Elite account ($9.95) will get you additional reports and the ability to track your runs live which is a neat feature when you’re running a race, or a long run to keep your loved ones informed on your location.  They also have Fitness Classes (different fee for each) that downloads a schedule and run intervals to help you train for a fitness goal.  They just pushed out active heart-rate monitoring this past week, or with select Polar devices you can upload your HRM data to the web-site post-run.   Great application, continuing to deliver new features and a good social networking layer to collect Street Teams to keep you motivated.


Water (Water Your Body): this is currently a $0.99 app (limited promotion, that’s been running since November), and it’s a really nifty application to help ensure your drinking enough water.  It also has some in application awards and badges to encourage you to hydrate.  The app has a reminder badge on the icon to remind you (after you log your first drink of the day, how many more drinks you need to take to reach your goal.  No social networking layer with this application, but it doesn’t need it, it does the one thing it advertises very well.  Good visual representation of the water your drinking, and has a load of factoids about water that was interesting to read through.  There is a free application with advertising by Brita floating around, so if the buck gives you pause, grab the free one.


True Weight: Another $0.99 cent application and I think this is only really required if you weigh yourself everyday.  A weekly weigh-in over time will show you the progress from sticking to your plan and meeting your goals.  However, if you’re like me and impatient and want to see the numbers everyday, then give your mind and worries a break and lay down the buck for this app.  Our bodies are wonderful machines, but we take in and push out over 14 pounds of “stuff” a day, so our weight is bound to fluctuate day to day.  By recording your weight in this application everyday, it calculates a moving average.  This is great if you’ve noticed a one day jump of a pound and start to worry, and realize it’s still a half pound below your average.  Good for piece of mind for the scale OCD types like me.  Nice graphical interface, and a 1 to 3 month chart keeps me motivated to stay on track.  You can even use the graphs as an instant brag page to friends over coffee.  What’s not to like about bragging.

So there is my essential iPhone app review for weight loss.  You can get in the game for $2 through the month of January, or wait until February and shell out 11.99.  Either way, it’s a bargain for how you’ll feel after shedding that holiday excess (or in my case … YEARS of holiday excess).

Dell Mini 10 vs. WHS

August 19th, 2009 2 comments

This is a sad saga, because it really shouldn’t be this difficult.  I should be able to say, “Woo! WHS paid off again, thanks my little backup buddy!”

But I can’t fully give a big *high 5* to the WHS, though it came out the winner, it got bruised and battered on something that ended up being easily fixed, but that fixed relied too much on me finding answers outside of normal MS channels.

First, some background. We have two kids with September birthdays.  We decided to pool resources with family and get them one big present, we got them each a Dell Mini 10.  Sweet little portable laptops.  (I’m ignoring the, “Wait, it isn’t September yet!” question, maybe another post, so put your hand down).  So they’ve been enjoying playing with them. 

In a fit of uncoordinated laziness, I tossed one of the power supplies to my youngest so he’d have it to recharge.  A bad throw followed on the heels of that bad idea, and the cute little charger hit the cute litte keyboard right about the letter ‘F’ which is right above where the hard drive resides (I found this out later).  Movie stopped working, reboot was met with a BSD.

*gosh* stream of thoughts follows roughly:

  • I’m an idiot.
  • Good thing I made sure it backed up to WHS (Windows Home Server) last night.
  • Hard disk is probably toast.
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Should have gotten the SSD instead of the SATA hard drive, less moving parts
  • I’m an idiot.
  • I’d better call Dell, it’s still under warranty.
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Run the diagnostics first, so you can speed up the Dell support call
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Oh cool they have a Dell support Chat, I don’t have to SPEAK to anyone. FTW!
  • I’m an idiot.
  • Waiting for a Support agent, 67 in line.
  • I’m an idiot (repeats 67 times)
  • Oh hi, Mr. Dell Support person that types really good English, my hard drive is toast, please replace it.
  • Thank you, awesome, cool.
  • I’m an idiot (repeats 2 days while waiting package).

Hard drive comes and it’s pre-imaged with the software load, and they re-included the DVDs/CDROMs of software that is installed.  Nice touch, but since the Mini 10 has no optical drive, not really necessary and/or useful, a USB with the same content would be teh awesum though, please make note, Dell.

So while I quickly swapped out the drive, and restarted and the computer did it’s little ‘first time installation’ thingy.  I started creating a USB key to have it restore from the WHS.  I had to relearn some lessons:

  1. To make a bootable USB key you need to use a Vista machine and use the diskpart, so I had Angie do that part for me.
  2. Next is just copy the files from the Windows Home Server Restore CDROM image. I do this by loading the CD-ROM image with Nero Image Drive, rather than burn onto plastic, then copy.

After a bit, and about the time the ‘first time’ processes got done I had a USB stick ready to roll.  Plugged it in, booted up the Mini-10 attached it to the wire at the network switch and…


Dell Mini 10 couldn’t find the server.

Three hours later, and google searches galore, I got it to work.  Here’s a break down.

  • Dell Mini 10 uses a RealTek PCI-E Ethernet driver.  The driver on the WHS Restore CD-ROM identifies it correctly, and it all appears to be ready to work.  But it doesn’t work.
  • The drivers on the Mini 10’s installation, (XP NDIS variety) also don’t work (if you copy the c:\drivers directory to the usb stick and then scan for additional drivers, it finds them)
  • The drivers on the WHS PowerPack 3 Beta restore image, also don’t work.
  • The drivers for the Vista (Windows Server 2008) do work, but you have to download them from the vendor, (not Dell, Realtek) then extract and stuff the drivers into a drivers folder on the USB stick, and then scan for additional drivers.

So once I figured all that out, by brute force, trial and error, I was glad for my 8 years of education in computers and 20 years of practical education.  And if anyone else buys a WHS and then a Dell Mini 10, I’m sure they’d stuff it all in the trash and go live in the wilderness.

Though I understand that technologies change, and the Dell Mini 10 is new technology…  C’mon, Ethernet drivers shouldn’t be an issue!

The bright spot of the story, is the computer is back in the midget’s grubby little hands, looking and working just like it did moments before the power adapter harshed the hard drive’s mellow.  I just wish two things.  Drivers need to be easier, or at least an better error message on how to troubleshoot drivers in WHS.  And that they built hard drives at least as ruggedly as they do key-caps (no damage sustained by the failed lob).

Categories: Gadgets, Life Tags:

tab, pad, and board

March 17th, 2009 Comments off

(alternate title: how Apple is borrowing from Xerox PARC again)

Back in the heady days before the first Macintosh, when PC was in infancy there were a group of Apple researchers that took a visit to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and took a look at a Xerox research product called the Alto that had a graphical screen, and this weird thing called a mouse to collect user input.  The Apple guys came back home and brought out the Lisa (not huge commercial success) and then a few years later the Macintosh was born.  This is history.

When I was in grad school, we got to take a tour of Xerox’s PARC and had an hour long lecture by Mark Weiser about Ubiquitous Computing ( look here and here ) which was fascinating.  The year was 1996/97ish, and you have to recall the technology of the time.  Weiser was excited about a few things, some haven’t really fleshed out (really cheap computers ~$5 per device — but look at flash drive prices; and the influence of IrDa – infrared as a local networking stack) but I think the one thing he’s come close to identifying is the three form factors of a pad, a tab and a board.

This was at the very beginning of Palm’s device, and that was considered a ‘tab’ something extremely portable, personal and identifible.  In Apple speak this has grown into the iPhone/iPod Touch size devices.

The next form factor was the ‘tab’, this is roughly paper sized and very portable, Weiser saw this as impersonal, like sheets of paper but that could compute, you could push your presence to the device through your pad.  Apple currently doesn’t have a device that fits this description, the closest could be the iBook line, but Weiser identified this as NOT a notebook computer.  Could the rumors flying around Cupertino about a new tablet big boy iPhone be this missing link.

The third form factor was the ‘board’, Weiser saw this as a large wall sized computer monitor where or a group white board type of device where again people could connect to a ‘presence’ via the internet or some other networked type infrastructure.  Apple ‘kinna’ has this form factor in their iMac and/or AppleTV/MAc Mini displaying through a large HDTV.  I say kinda, because again this doesn’t fit Weiser vision as a computing device.

Switch paradigms a bit.  Apple is a first class hardware software company, but they’re making lots of money in a different market, media.  Since the first iPod, Apple has increasingly become less a computer manufacturer (ala Dell) and more a media marketer.  iTunes has become the center of their universe.

It seems to me, that Apple is hitting those form factors and tying them to iTunes for the distribution of content and ‘presence’ to your devices (iPhone, iTablet, AppleTV).

So while all the rumors fly of what the next announcement out of Cupertino will be this afternoon, my thoughts think history will repeat themselves a bit, and Apple will announce a tablet form factor (not a netbook, not a notebook, but something more ‘apple-ish’) as well as more changes to support an iTunes centric media-verse for their collection of devices.

Categories: /dev/null, Gadgets Tags: , ,

Kindle for the iPhone

March 4th, 2009 Comments off

Today, Amazon released a free Kindle app for the iPhone. Foe those that don’t follow the gadget world Kindle is Amazon’s entry into the eBook space, with literally thousands of books available in their format. The barrier to entry was the steep 300+ price tag for their reading gadget.

That barrier has been lowered a bit. Since with a iPhone app (and probably a Windows Mobile app right behind) there is an installed base of potential readers ready to read books on a mobile device.

I downloaded the app and bought a book. Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’.

(note: you have to go to the Amazon website to buy a book, can’t do it through the app).

Reading is easy, a thumbflip turns the page. At one click down from the default font I can read about two paragraphs per page. The don’t is easy to read.

Reading more on line, the app will sync with your kindle, so picking up either device you start where you left off.

Things the app can’t do ( yet ) is search or annotate. But for
Just reading it does a good job.

Categories: Gadgets Tags: , ,

iPhone borgness

February 21st, 2009 Comments off

I’ve been assimilated.

Angie, after merciless begging and pleading by me, succombed and allowed me to get my own iPhone.

Then she promptly kicked me out of the house (she was having a smelly scentzy party). I took the boys to the pool while she got high from melting wax.

Categories: Gadgets Tags:

WHS Saved my bacon…

November 6th, 2007 2 comments

and my hard drive.

First, apologies for not so much content, last week and the previous two weeks were really busy with work, and after hours activities.  Don’t even get me started on how behind I am in TV watching. 

But Sunday night, I thought I had lost my hard drive.  Well, actually I did.  After a few days of the computer complaining about this and that (blue screens and random restarts) the thing would not boot.  Diagnostics said the hard drive was toasted, and I was blue.

Read more…

Categories: /dev/null, Gadgets Tags:

Life up til now…

June 18th, 2007 Comments off

Not a bad week last week. I took Tuesday – Friday off, to spend with the Fam, and to help with the timing of going to VBS each night at our church. I taught the 4th grade class, using LifeWay’s Game Day Central curriculum. I had three awesome helpers, and a class of 8-10 each night. Pretty good week of getting to know some new kids, and enjoying time spent with the rest of the PCBC VBS team. The whole week was well planned, and also a lot of work.

Also got to do some vacationy things, Tuesday we went in the morning to a splash park in north Dallas. Then later swam at the pool. Then swam a couple more times during the week. Caught up on a lot of sleep, and then stayed up late to make net sleep deficit practically nil, but at least I’m caught up.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I got cool cards and drawings from my girls, and hugs from my boys. Then in the afternoon Dan and I went golfing with Bobby2, and the younger Bobby passed onto Danny his old clubs. So we got to play 9 holes (and it was free thanks to the rumbling stumbling rainstorms that deluged us the past few days … soggy course … free golf… bout evens out) of carefree golf with no one rushing us. If only I could hit a golf ball close to where I want it to land. I guess I need to practice more.

On the geek front, I’m evaluating the Microsoft Windows Home Server (RC1) on my old home built machine (800MHz PIII, 512 RAM, a few hundred gigs of hard disk space). For an RC this is fairly well polished. The jist of Home Server is to automate backups and provide a place to share files within a home network. The guts are Windows Server 2003, and it is designed to run headless (no attached monitor and keyboard). Cool concept, and the implementation is actually pretty good. After installing it Saturday, both of our laptops have been backed up twice, and I’m moving over files from the drive attached to my NSLU2 onto the server. The kids have given up their WinXP machine, but I’ve figured out how to give them console access to give them computer time (fyi, this isn’t what this is designed for, and really not a ‘best practice’ but until a new PC falls on my doorstep, I gotta do what I gotta do). Another post with a review is most likely forth coming.

Categories: /dev/null, Gadgets, Life Tags: ,

I’m too geeky for my shirt.

January 5th, 2007 Comments off

I’ve been busy, okay… So while my writing brain muscles get all warmed up, here is a commercial for ya! (yeah, been busy with that too… so deal.

(and I know this will break Blogospper’s browser at work,  but he’s too busy to watch this anyways.)

Categories: /dev/null, Blaaawg, Gadgets Tags: ,

New ViOSified TV service.

October 26th, 2006 Comments off

somewhere on misplacedkeys I detailed my Verizon FiOS Internet installation.  Still smoking along just fine and dandy.  Recently got a flyer in the mail that FiOS offers TV service now in my neighborhood.

Did the cost/benefit analysis, saved about $25 a month for basically what I had with TimeWarner (nee Comcast) so I booked and install, and today they came and installed.

The savings was enough that I put on some addons (the $25 savings is AFTER all the addons).  Added the HDTV DVR and the MultiRoom DVR, and two extra set-top boxes.  The MultiRoom allows the kids to watch recorded shows on their TV in the other room, while we watch what we want on our TV.  The other extra STB drives the ReplayTV that still is capturing away.

The HDTV DVR is a dual-tuner DVR that can record two shows at once.  It is a different dual-tuner setup, in that the TV actually either shows live TV or a recorded show, you can’t switch back and forth between the two tuners (if you are recording two shows, you can move back and forth between them)

So we can now record that third ‘must see’ show and catch up on somethings that we miss.  If we do that at all.  The things we lose, is mostly in usability.  The old DVR could use a reprogrammed remote to have a 30sec advance, as well as the quick 15-sec review.  That is gone on this system, FFW and REW, but no single button skip, and so moving through the commercials will be a skill building exercise.

The program package is fairly complete, with more HD channels that TimeWarner, and they are grouped ‘intelligently’ you want kids shows, 200-220, HD starts at 801, etc…  Picture quality is excellent.  Programming the DVR is a snap, and will basically record w single shows, or series, with a lot more options than the TimeWarner DVR.  Not as great as the ReplayTV, but very close.

Also the MultiRoom package enables a MediaManager that can serve up music and photos from a Windows Computer.   Which is gimmicky.. but kinda neat.

Video On Demand has some good choices, in both Free and PPV.  Bring on the television shows!

Categories: Gadgets, Life, Television Tags: , ,