Saturday, December 17, 2011

My To Do List for this Weekend

My to-do list for this weekend:

1. Bottle 6 (US) gallons of IPA.
2. Eat pancakes.
3. Pay bills.
4. Cuss quietly under my breath while doing #3 (above).
5. Do Christmas cards.
6. Formulate: a Big Plan.
7. Watch A Christmas Carol (the 1950's one with Alistair Sim) on DVD
8. Have Moose and Squirrel arrested.
9. Dust.
10. Save World.

There, it is always good to have a list.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NYPD, NYC and the Press

Media Can Avoid NYPD Arrest By Getting Press Pass They Can’t Get | Threat Level | Wired.com

Freedoms erode away a little at a time. The Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD wants the Press to apply for permission first before they cover something.  In a free society it does not work that way, the Press covers news wherever it happens. No permission needed in a public space.

My question is: what is Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD hiding?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Alan Simpson: "There is a tipping point coming"

BBC News - Alan Simpson: 'There is a tipping point coming' (Video)

This is well worth watching. Simpson is one of my favorite conservatives and he's a straight talker - telling us what we need to hear not what we want to hear.  He's right.  Watch the whole thing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

eMail on Android: Use the App Stupid

Duh. Well it takes me awhile to figure these things out. The native email handling within the Android OS pretty much sucks for web based email accounts like Yahoo and Gmail.

If you use those web mail accounts then use the apps from Market Place instead.  With the apps you get a cleaner interface, and most important PUSH email.  On the Yahoo mail app you get to see thumbnail photo attachments as part of the email without having to touch a lot of extra buttons.  I'm already liking the apps a lot better.

If you are coming from an iPhone using the apps might seem counter-intuitive but Apple really put some effort into email on the iPhone to make it simple and easy to use. While email works in Android it is nowhere near as good as iOS.  So in Android use the apps.

Note 1: Hotmail also has an app. I didn't test it.

Note 2: I recommend using the official email apps for each service provider. There are many third party apps but I worry about privacy and security issues with those.

Monday, October 31, 2011

3 Search Engines that Protect Your Privacy

Most people in the US use one of the following search engines: Google, Yahoo or Bing.  All three do a great job at search, however all three also do a great job of tracking everything you and you family searches for.  These search engines like it even better if you are logged into one of their services (email, blogging etc.) but they can also track yo via queries coming from your IP address and cookies on your computer.  One or two searches by you and your family is no big deal, but over months, day in and day out of search queries these search engines start to develop a pretty good profile of your likes and dislikes on tens of thousands of topics.

The search engines use this data to serve up advertising that you are more likely to click on.  But will the search engines eventually start selling your search data to other companies?  Another problem is that the government has figured out that this search data these companies store is pretty valuable and that government is requesting ever more data.  Remember the Orwellian horror stories of innocent citizens getting put on secret government lists and never being able to get their names removed?

Solution:

The solution is to use a search engine that does not collect any search data on you. Here are 3 good search engines you should try.

1. Duckduckgo - this is what I use as a default most of the time.  DDG uses Bing as their primary and does a bit of crawling on their own.  Very few ads on the search results page for a nice clean look. DDG privacy policy.  More info.

2. IXquick - this is a very good metasearch engine. (And the results are different from it's sister engine Startpage below.) The more stars you see on a listing the more search engines agree that that website is worthy to be in the top results.  Meta search engines are good for the kind of web search queries we do day in day out.  Privacy Policy.

3. StartPage - okay so you have to have Google search results but without the privacy problems of using Google, what to do?  Use Startpage.  That is the big difference between Startpage and IXquick.  Privacy policy.

While I do not think this is a matter to be paranoid  or panic about I do think that what you search for is your business not anyone else's, just like what books you check out of the library are nobodies business but you own. Protect yourself. Take charge of you own privacy.

Challenge:

Use any one of these search engines for a week or two as your default search.  If you like it keep using it. If you don't like it try another.  Do this for all the computers in the house and see how it works for you and your family.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

HP and a Windows 8 Tablet

News is out that HP will come out with a Windows 8 Touchpad in 2012. The problem with the Touchpad was one of releasing webOS a little bit too early, before it was ready, and the design of the tablet hardware which was too thick and too heavy. Probably also the price.

Build quality was good.  The OS was good but a little rough.

HP's big failure with the Touchpad was not putting enough resources behind it to get it out to the consumer 6 months earlier, when it would compete against the iPad1 and not against the iPad2. HP's second mistake was to lose courage and flee the market before the game even really started. No guts, no glory.  Or to heed the lesson Hannibal learned: If you and your army starts out to take Rome, then take Rome!

If HP wants to pump out a Windows 8 tablet they need to price it lower and make it thinner and lighter.

Politicians Need to Actually Accomplish Something

I hear campaign speeches from the President that masquerade as serious policy proposals. From the Republican Presidential debaters, I hear all manner of blather and nonsense. From Congress, no original ideas, no clue just sound bites that pander to the lowest common denominator.

From all the interest groups: tea partiers, State Governors, local government, talk radio/TV types plus those from all the above named groups: all I hear is people blaming and demonizing some other group. It's always somebody else's fault and 'I got mine the rest of you can go scratch.' I hear a lot of blame and scapegoating but see damn little serious action on repairing the problems.

I got news for the whole gaggle of you:

1. At some point you are going to have to actually perform rather than just talk blovate, refer it to committees, find a distraction, spin and tap dance.  'Spin' is not accomplishment.
2. At some point for the good of the American Nation, failure will not be an option. (Think Battle of Britain if you don't understand.)
3. At some point you will have to put the good of the Nation ahead of all other things.
4. At some point you we all have to stop acting like 6 year olds fighting in a school yard and start acting like responsible adults.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Reunited: HP Touchpad and Me

I scored a 32GB HP Touchpad on a 'daily deal' type site for $240!  The tablet has arrived and I've set it up as a 'guest tablet' in the living room for visitors to use.  My previous 7 weeks experience with a Touchpad told me a couple of things: 1. the webOS operating system of the Touchpad is very good and it can run Flash and HTML 5 plus true multitask,  2. surfing the Web was in some ways a better experience than on an iPad (I had both), 3. the virtual keyboard on the TP puts the virtual keyboards on both the iPad and Samsung GalaxyTab to shame.

For those of you that don't know: I bought a 16GB Touchpad for $500 when they came out. Loved it. Then HP (the gutless wonders) pulled the plug on the Touchpad and webOS after only 6 weeks. Not wanting to get stuck with a $500 albatross I took the opportunity to exchange my Touchpad for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 running Android Honeycomb. The GalazyTab was nice and light weight, but very annoying to use compared to the iPad and the Touchpad.  Then the screen went out on the GalaxyTab after only 16 days. Best Buy let me exchange the defective Samsung Galaxy Tab outside of their 15 day return limit. Darn nice of them!  I exchanged for a Apple iPad2, which is a nice bit of kit.

Sometime during this whole adventure HP started selling off the remaining Touchpads at fire sale prices ($99 for a 16GB) unfortunately I dithered too long and missed out on the super low pricing.  But I missed that Touchpad and webOS so when a decent deal came along I grabbed one.

That leaves me with 3 tablets: an iPad1 3G which is my take to meetings tablet; my iPad2 Wifi which stays around the house and is my book reader; my Touchpad which is for house guests to use and which I will also pack with photos.

PS: If you are looking for a good deal on a really good full featured tablet you should check out the Touchpad. As of this writing you can find them on Amazon for about $230 which is less than half what they cost new and  a good deal IMO.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Goodbye! Yahoo! News!

After more than 10 years of being the first place I go to on the Web each morning, I've finally removed Yahoo News from the bookmarks on my startpage.  Every time Yahoo redoes the page and makes it more Web 2.0ish it seems to work less well on my Chromium browser.  (I'm not all that impressed with Chromium either but I have limited choices on Linux.)

As an aside, there is a pattern here: Yahoo redid Yahoo mail, and made it no longer work with my preferred Opera browser.  Because of this I had to switch to Chromium browser.  Now they redid the News page and it only half works with Chromium. Any more changes from Yahoo and I won't be able to visit them at all!

Anyway, does anyone have a replacement general news page they like?  I might try CNN or Bing's News page.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Glass-Steagall and No Balls in Washington

One of President Obama's biggest failures is not leading the charge to put the Glass-Steagall Act back in place separating investment banks from community banks.  This isn't an anti-capitalist law. It served us well for 50 years and if you understand the concept of Original Sin and understand that Man is a greedy little SOB then you know exactly why such protections were imposed.

Kill Lists and Secret Panels

Something about this makes me very uneasy: Secret Panel can Put Americans on "kill list".  It strikes me as wrong in the same way that secret, warrant-less searches are wrong or that secret laws are wrong.  I do not think the government can just arbitrarily suspend the Fifth Amendment when they find it inconvenient.  This is not just a liberal concern, many conservatives are also uneasy about this too.

Now let me be clear: I'm sure the people perpetrating this stuff think they are doing the right thing, but these are the kinds of powers that over time can become abused by a government against it's own citizens. The Founding Fathers knew quite a bit about governmental abuse. They put these protections in for a damn good reason.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Windows Mango vs iPhone 4S vs iOS

So this summer I switched smartphones from an iPhone 3Gs to an HTC Evo 3D (Android phone) on Sprint.  All said, I'm pretty happy with Sprint.

However, while I don't hate it, I find myself less than thrilled with Android. It does everything, but it's human usability is pretty bad compared to iOS. Enough so that, most of the time I find myself mildly annoyed with Android.

Since then Microsoft has released the 'Mango' update to Windows phone operating system.  (I hear that it might be the most like WebOS of the current crop of phone OS's.) And now the announcement that Sprint will get the iPhone 4S.

So this puts me in a quandary, do I stay with Android, try Windows Mango or go with the sure thing of the iPhone?

Gah!

ADDED: I can see why iPhone users get accused of being data hogs. When I had my iPhone I really used it to do all sorts of things. I don't use my Android phone as much, because it's just not as usable. It's hard to describe but simple tasks such as typing out a quick reminder note or putting in a calendar appointment are just a bit easier, faster, less annoying with the iPhone.

I suppose, I would be happy as a clam with with Android if I had never had an iPhone.

Smart money would say, if you are going to switch, then switch to a new iPhone 4S, which is a world phone and should be usable on either Sprint or ATT networks.  But I'm still considering the Windows phone, although I might have to wait until new Win. handsets are released.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More Than Spending Cuts Needed for US

Spending cuts alone will not solve the US economic problems.  It is going to take a combination of spending cuts, economic growth and judiciously raising revenues in order to reduce the deficit.

The trick is knowing when and where government should spend money and where to cut.  Cutting everything is not a good approach.

The problem is we do not know how to prioritize spending cuts and government spending because we have no Plan - no vision for the future.  Our President, Congress and even the current gaggle of GOP presidential candidates have no vision and no plan for America.  All of them are bankrupt of ideas.

I fear we are screwed.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wikipedia: Zombies Ate Burns Harbor, Indiana


The following was originally published by me on April 7, 2010:

I got a message on the internets yesterday asking me if I had put the Great Zombie Coverup info about Burns Harbor, IN in Wikipedia.  Unfortunately no I didn’t, but I am jealous as heck of whoever did!  I am on record as saying I thought zombies might be lurking in Porter Co., but I was thinking Hebron (still think so,)  not Burns Harbor.
Upon finding out about the article I lost no time in emailing my friends and neighbors.  I sent them a copy of the text of the “Zombie Coverup” paragraph about Burns Harbor from Wikipedia(which has since been redacted):
It is speculated that The Great Zombie Invasion of 1949 almost destroyed any chances of an incorporated Burns Harbor. It was in this year that the reanimated corpses began to invade the southern tip of Lake Michigan. With the Port of Indiana and Bethlehem Steel being easy access points for the walking dead to come ashore as well as very noisy areas that attracted the attention of the flesh-seekers, it was no surprise that this area of Porter County Indiana was a prime feeding ground for the undead. Little is known how the zombies came to be un-alive, but the fact remains that they decimated the socioeconomical infrastructure of this region. While the dead walked, consumed, and turned the majority of the residents to their own, a plan was being formed.
The Citizens of Westchester for Zombie Annihilation and Reform(COWZAR) formed a plan, and with the assistance of the National Guard and Bethlehem Steel this plan, known as “Plan Z” came to fruition. In this plan, the remaining survivors were evacuated, examined thoroughly for signs of infection, and in the event that signs were found, creamated(sometimes while still alive), leaving only the zombies. Once the bombers were assured that civilian casualties would be at a minimum, the area was blanketed with bombs. This took out the majority of the undead, but a few stragglers happened to be in the wrong place and remained animated. The second stage of Plan Z entailed ground forces performing a sweep to rid the area of the remaining zombies. After several weeks and more casualties than anticipated the area was considered clean, but quarantined until it could be sterilized. Over the next few years, the National Guard performed tactical strikes at vital, classified areas for further sterilization. It is speculated that there may still be a secret detail on guard at areas of the shore to this day, but this has not been proven nor confirmed. In 1953 the area was re-opened for habitation, but the flow of residents was slow. In mid 1953 the steel mill donated a large amount of money to build houses and stimulate the local economy in order to re-habitate this area. Houses were sold cheap and bonuses were given to mill employees who utilized this. Within a year, the area that would become Burns Harbor was beginning to resemble what it is today. Evidence of the outbreak are still apparent in street signs for “Restricted Areas” as well as heavily secured entrances to various hot spots disguised as steel mill gates. Many current residents believe that if you enter these areas, there is a high chance of infection and that some of the fenced in and guarded areas are being used for experimentation on the living dead. Some believe that there are in fact several “specimens” still roaming, kept at bay only by new residents “placed” by the government and zombie hunters disguised as paramedics, firefighters, and police. Spread the word, as wikipedia won’t let this stay up long.
The local Chesterton Tribune reported on the Wikipedia Zombie Burns Harbor article: Wikipedia exposes Great Zombie Coverup in Burns Harbor. Great article.  I love the quote from Town Marshall Jerry Price in the Tribune article.
My sources speculate that the paragraph was added to the Burns Harbor, IN entry on or about April 1st, April Fools Day.  What a wonderful prank and it also shows that the people of Burns Harbor have a great sense of humor.
I wonder if Zombies will be the costume of choice for Halloween trick or treaters this year?

Friday, September 30, 2011

How Long Till China Buys Us?

I heard this on a business show on NPR: "How long will it be before China quits loaning us money and starts buying up American companies?  We are not quite there yet, but soon."

It's going to start happening.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Where to go from Facebook?

A lot of my friends on Facebook are upset by the changes in the timeline feed.  I have to say I find the changes annoying too.

So if Facebook annoys you enough where do you go: Google+, Twitter or Plurk? There is no guarantee that those social networks will not annoy you with changes in the future either.

1.) What I propose is that you start your own blog. Like this one. And post to it just like you post to Facebook.  There is no rule that you cannot micro-blog (which is all FB and Twitter are.)  

2.) After you made a new post, use those little social network buttons you see below and post a link to your new blog post to Facebook, Twitter or any other social network you are on.

Done. Your friends, even those that are not on Facebook have access to your posts, your Facebook friends will find you and it is a bit like leaving Facebook without really leaving.  Let friends comment either on FB or on your blog, because the real point is to be engaged.  Encourage your friends to do the same.  On Blogger/Blogspot you can follow your friends new blog posts right from your control panel.  I suspect you can do the same from Wordpress.  Yes it is a little more cumbersome but it works.  Better yet, try Google Reader, you can read all the blogs you want.

My point is, not to abandon Facebook or Google+ or the other social networks, just change the way you use them. Take back some control.

Thoughts?