21 December, 2007

Things that Irk Me - Part 3

Parts 1 and 2 of this series was posted back in January and July of 2006.

I’ve had another year and a half for more things to irk me.

Window Media Player’s Sync Function

Why can’t it just have ‘Before’ and ‘After’ views? “Hey, here’s your media player now, and here’s what it will look like after I sync it.” Seems simple…but no…one has to sync first, then figure out what the device looks like. It should first analyze the player, combine the sync playlists, into a view, and present that to me. Why not?

TV Shows that Run Over or Start Too Soon and Screw up my Recordings

My DVR’s guide is good, but it only downloads every few days. Why do networks change their start and end times so that sometimes shows go from 8:00p-9:01p, or 8:58p-10:00p? And they’re scheduled that way…but not when my DVR gets its guide. Thus, I either miss some of my show, or my DVR disallows me from recording the following show, due to the over-run. <sigh>

Parking Lot Drivers

Okay. You’re out on the road. There are lines. Generally, you stay within them – more or less – and we get along fine. Sure, you turn in front of me, or you turn your signal on way too early…or not at all…but again, generally, we’re cool. Then you drive you’re a__ into a parking lot, and apparently, all rules are off. It’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and you’re insane. You drive diagonally, across the entire lot, to get your big a__ pickup or SUV to that prime spot that you should be leaving for people who haven’t chosen, like you have, to be lazy a__es, but who actually need to park in the second spot away from Target’s doors. And then you shoot me a look when our paths intersect, because golly gee, I happened to be actually going up the up lane. What, are you… high? Jeez. You’re the same person who thinks they’re the world’s best driver-with-cell-phone. Here’s a tip; I’m a great driver, without a cell phone, and I suck holding a cell phone; we all do. You suck without the cell phone, so do the quick math, and guess what? You really, really suck, while holding a cell phone and driving. Now, pull into a parking lot with that cell phone, and you’re just asking parents to lose a toddler or two to your stupidity. Have a nice day.

GPS Units Sold With Old Maps

I get it. Products age on the shelves. New buildings and roads go up all the time. Fair enough. Okay then, make it easy to download at least the maps as the world exists when I buy the unit. A year or two down the road I’ll gladly plop another $50-$60 for updates. But until then, I’d really appreciate finding my own home actually exists, instead of irritating my English AI who screams at me for parking each day in the middle of the farmer’s field that existed four years ago, before we built our house. Don’t make it so hard for me to give you my money, Garmin.

Bluetooth Headsets While Ordering

I can’t believe I haven’t put this one up before. Have you ever been in line behind some prima donna (male or female) who is having a conversation, on via their headset, while ordering at Starbucks/the deli/fast food restaurant? Of course you have. The poor clerk starts answering the person, only to feel embarrassed that they misinterpreted the customer was talking to them. What the ?!?! Embarrassed? I’d say, “Hey, Bud, you gonna order or stand there talking to yourself?”, and if they replied, “I’m not talking to myself, I’m on the phone,” I’d reply, “I didn’t know, because you’re looking right at me and your lips are flapping, so I just sort of, you know, assumed you had something to say to me.” Folks, I have a bluetooth headset. Guess what? Almost no one has ever seen it on me, because I only use it in the car, or on a long phone conference in my home office. I’m a Science Fiction geek, and I even I think they’re just about the dorkiest looking things. And I wonder. Perhaps they wouldn’t look so dorky if people wouldn’t act so damn dorky wearing the things. Hmmm.

People Who Chew Clerks Out Over Return Policies

Sometimes we all buy things we regret, or the items don’t fit, or they’re defective, etc. Other times folks buy tons of crap, on impulse, leave it in their car for six months, stink it up with cigarette stink, and then take it back. Then the chew the customer service rep. out when the rep. mentions the products smell like a__. Dude, you stank the product up, like a__. That’s not the rep’s fault. So, take your bag full of a__ smell, back out to your car, and use it for ballast. It’s icy out there.

20 December, 2007

Randomly sorting a list in Excel - Cool trick

I needed to randomly sort a list, in Excel, and I had forgotten how to do it, so I performed an ask.com search and came up with this:  http://www.mrexcel.com/tip093.shtml

Basically, simply add the '=RAND()' function, in each cell adjacent to your list cells -- in a new column -- and then sort the range by that new column.  Each time you sort the range a new sort order will result, due to the random numbers.

Very, very cool.

23 November, 2007

I bought a Garmin c340 GPS Automotive Unit

I bought a Garmin c340 GPS automotive unit, at http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=4016517, for $234.54. I'm having it shipped to my local Wal*Mart for free. As you know, from my prior postings, I've studied these things a lot ...like geeky, obsessively a lot, and what grabs me about this one is the text-to-speech feature, where it will say "turn right on University Avenue" instead of "turn right in 100 feet". Folks say that feature really helps a lot, especially in strange cities, to have the street name spoke aloud. Also, this unit is simple to update both the software and the maps; Magellan street units suck at that...rarely if ever even having updates. At least, for the series that I can afford/would pay for. I'm in the fortunate position of knowing two people who have the same unit, so I have their comfort factor too, aside from the various CNET and other reviews.

This beats the c330 in that the former does not have text-to-speech, and I think this one lets one save more "points of interest" (waypoints for us old folks), which one can set to alert one as they are near. For example, it would be cool to be reminded that I am passing within two miles of my favorite coffee houses, just in case I somehow forgot that I am a caffeine addict.

Should be cool.

22 October, 2007

10,000 Steps - Only 7,071 to go today

I joined my company's "10,000 Steps Per Day" program, which officially begins at the end of the month. I bought a pedometer, at Target ($12.99), and I didn't put it on until I got to work and sat down, so I missed getting credit for walking to my car, entering and exiting the gas station (coffee), and walking to my desk. This saddens me, as every little bit will help, since I'm Mr. Inactivity.

I took a couple of small trips around the building for various reasons before going to lunch. At lunch I went to the mall, walked in through the food court, took a left and went down to Sears, then back again. I drove to Starbucks, went in and read my book, then went in and looked around, in a video store (bought some previously viewed {used} console games) , then came back to work. I've gone to a meeting, gone to the cafeteria, and back to my desk. And I'm at 2,929 steps so far, and it's 1:36 PM.

I had mentally counted my steps from one spot, to another, then checked my reading. It was 125 by my count and 126 by the pedometer, so the thing is accurate. My guess is it was I who miscounted.

10,000 is a lot. Schnikies! Cool though. Guess I've got to really walk at lunch. Mall-walking Winter, here I come.

21 October, 2007

My wife has succumbed to the bean

Our relationship evolved something like this.

Stage 1 - Denial -- "You can't really like coffee that much."

Stage 2 - Anger -- "Do you realize how much you're spending each week on coffee!?  It's basically just dirty water!!"

Stage 3 - Bargaining -- "Right then.  How about this.  You can take $25 a week and do what you like with it, coffee-wise.  No more."

Stage 4 - Depression -- "We have to up your life insurance policy, because with the amount of coffee you're consuming, you'll be dead within a few short years."

[Note: I responded to stage 4 with numerous articles about how coffee drinkers are smarter, live more active lives, may possibly be avoiding heart and other diseases, etc.  Thus, stage 4 was rather brief.  I wore her down.]

Stage 5 - Acceptance -- Weekend mornings she would say, "Make your coffee nowYou're a bear without it, especially when you get those headaches."

Stage 6 -- Possession/Sequestration into the Cult -- This just in as of two days ago, via cell phone to me at lunch, after about three months of making morning pots for her and putting them in a thermal dispenser for her to use throughout the day as she takes care of our toddler and another lady's almost-4 year-old:  "Oh my God!  I totally get why you drink this stuff!  Even though I only had a few hours of sleep last night, I feel like I can conquer the world today!  As I'm talking to you right now I'm even cleaning!  Sure...like you, I'll probably have to crash eventually and pay for all this, but until then...woooo!"

Another one has joined us.  It took years, but it was inevitable.  Conform or be cast out!  Long live the bean!

06 October, 2007

Neural Interface Systems - Interesting Reading

People sometimes ask me if I have heard of any real neural interface systems (referred to as 'brain computer interface', or BCI systems) being used in the world today. Below is some interesting reading. Oh, and I have no affiliation with any of the companies listed.

For a primer on what neural interfaces are, and what they aspire to become, see Wiki's entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-computer_interface . It does a good job of outining the various technologies related to this field.

Cyberkinetics 'BrainGate Neural Interface System' - Currently in human testing, this system is comprised of a sensor, installed at the motor cortex of one's brain, and the brain impulses are then transmitted [possibly to a laptop or other receivers], interpreted, and used to guide mice, wheelchairs, TV remote controls, and other devices. Link: http://www.cyberkineticsinc.com/content/medicalproducts/braingate.jsp

An INFOWars piece: http://www.infowars.com/articles/science/brain_neural_interfaces.htm

Cochlear Implant: Bionic Ear: Check it out at the Wiki site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_implant or by Googling 'cochlear'.

National Institute of Health (NIH) Grant to fund research: August 2007 article at Medical News Today - http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/78699.php

08 September, 2007

Doctor Who - A Fine Show

When I was a kid, I caught Doctor Who, a year or two after its British release, on my local PBS station. Tom Baker was king back then. At that time, in Madison, there were four TV channels, and one of them was PBS.

I thought Season 1, of the "new" Doctor Who series, was silly, or rather, those episodes that I saw were silly. I'll catch them eventually, in re-run, and perhaps revise my opinion. However, with this new doctor (Seasons 2 and 3 so far), it's...kind of amazing (his page is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Doctor). Really good drama, regardless of the SF.

As such, I thought I'd point to a few fun links:

The Wiki on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Who

Kylie Minogue will guest star in a December 2007 Christmas special, though I am unclear on whether that will be in the U.S. by then.

The Wiki on the TARDIS. (they're grown, not built): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TARDIS

The current Doctor Who series has a spin-off, Torchwood, designed as a "series in the style of the American shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (both highly popular in Britain), and even having those series' James (Spike) Marsters as a guest star: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torchwood . Note that Torchwood premiers tonight on BBC America, (a year or so later than in Britain, which is usual), and their site is http://www.scifi.com/sfw/screen/sfw16914.html. I don't have BBC America access, so it looks like I'll be buying the DVD's.

In another Buffy tie-in, Tony (Giles) Head appears as a villain in the animated series, per information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Doctor .

Official Gmail Blog: Gmail eats your Bacn

Official Gmail Blog: Gmail eats your Bacn

Click the link above to read a great tip about how to deal with Bacn (pronounced 'bacon'), that solicited email, that you've actually asked for, from vendors, retailers, groups, magazines...whatever, but that you don't want to read right now. The tips the author suggests are methods I have used for years, in Outlook -- and then in GMail too -- and he took the time to write them up.

08 August, 2007

Dick in a Box and other classic SNL shorts (plus one amateur one on YouTube)

Many of us saw this live, when Justin Timberlake hosted SNL. However, now that he and Andy Samberg are up for an Emmy for this short, I thought I'd post the link. See it at NBC at http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/uncensored.shtml or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dmVU08zVpA .

Note a gal responds with her own version, surprisingly well sung, entitled "My box in a box", to be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xElIik0Ys0&NR=1

While we're on the subject of Samberg and Co.'s digital shorts, don't forget Steve Martin's "Close Talkers", or Natalie Portman's absolutely classic rap, all of which can be seen at http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/#mea=2922 .

07 August, 2007

GPS - Automotive Systems

Due to a recent car accident, I had to have an extended use of a Hertz rental Taurus, equipped with a Magellan Hertz NeverLOST GPS Navigation system (http://www.hertzneverlost.com/) . It got me thinking that, aside from my hand-held Magellan GPS 315 – now four or five years old – I’ve not had new GPS gadgetry in some time. Okay, okay… my cell phone is an LG VX8300, and technically it is GPS capable, but I’m not one to pay for extra Verizon services, so I’ve not used it.

What do you use? What is your favorite GPS toy?

My Basic Tenants

I’m of the belief that all GPS units should include the ability to navigate to latitude/longitude locations, but I’m also pragmatic…and it probably will very rarely be something I’ll need (and I have my old hand-held for that, should I require it). Also, I own a Bluetooth headset, for my phone, and the phone itself has a built-in speakerphone, so I have no interest in Bluetooth capabilities in a GPS unit. My media player will remain my media player.

GPS Buying Guide

Good ole CNET comes through again with a buying guide at http://www.cnet.com/gps.html?tag=pm. They’re always good for good background information, etc., although their “current prices” are often not quite so updated, especially when comparing online merchants beside each other. It’ll take you a little extra time, but click on each merchant to find out their real price of the moment. For better prices, simply visit your favorite online electronics stores, Google a few GPS specialty sites, and do the shipping math. Obviously, check each site for its authenticity via your usual, diligent means.

[UPDATE: TigerDirect has better prices than CNET lists various sites having them, at least as of the moment of this posting update. See


Rudimentary/elementary units

Magellan RoadMate 2000

Check it out at http://www.autonav2000.com/mall/anProdDetail.asp?ProdID=512 (one of the places to purchase) or http://www.gpsmagazine.com/2006/10/review_magellan_roadmate_2000.php (review, October 2006). Note the review is dated from the product’s release period and thus states a much higher price ($299) than one would actually have to pay (less than $200). It has a 100% touch-screen interface. The review is worth reading, as a stand-alone document, for its quality of writing and its explanation of how routing engines (routines) work. Fascinating stuff. Another review of it at CNET at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/magellan-roadmate-2000/4505-3430_7-32065622.html?tag=prod.txt.2. [Note: the 2000’s big sister is the 2200t (http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/magellan-roadmate-2200t/4505-3430_7-32065623.html?tag=txt), which sports an SD chip and the ability to play MP3’s and display photos. About the only reason I’d want one of these things to play media files is to play podcasts, but whatever.

TomTom One

Similar to the Magellan, though seemingly a bit more pricey. Review at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/tomtom-one/4505-3430_7-32026663.html?tag=also.

Garmin StreetPilot i3

Similar to the above two units, this one has a very small screen but is the cheapest of all three, and it gets good reviews (aside from the screen size comments). Would probably be cute in a VW Bug or compact car where windshield real estate is at a premium. Check it out at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/garmin-streetpilot-i3/4505-3430_7-31468216.html?tag=b_readfull . [The big sister of this unit is the i5, as seen at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/garmin-streetpilot-i5/4507-3430_7-31518215.html?tag=sub, although I’m not seeing how it is that much better.]

Navman iCN 330 Portable GPS (Auto)

Small enough to go in one's hand, etc. You can find these for $120 (usually refurbished). A small screen, but a good looking unit, not touch-screen, but smartly designed buttons, if you're not sure if you need a GPS, but want to dabble without investing a lot of money, this puppy, at $100 plus a couple of bills, seems like a reasonable choice. See it on sale, at TigerDirect (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-Details.asp?EdpNo=2248785&sku=N555-1028&CMP=EMC-TIGEREMAIL&SRCCODE=WEM1432DL) and a review (if you can count something that seems more like advertising, with no negative comments, as a "review") at http://www.mobilewhack.com/reviews/navman_icn_330_gps_device.html . The reviews from the TigerDirect buyers all like the unit, but they say the maps are at least a couple years old, and they have not found updated maps at the Navman site. So, you might want to poke around yourself, for map updates, before buying.

15 July, 2007

"New author" discovered - Peter F. Hamilton

Though an avid SF reader, I was out of the loop, in the 1996 time period, regarding new authors, so somehow I missed Peter F. Hamilton's emergence onto the scene. As I wrote to my droogies, below, the guy can write. After I sent that, I went around to various used book stores and other stores, to see about completing the series. It turns out that the three parts of the series are actually in two-book segments, thus bringing the series to six books, not three. I bought part 3, both books, and ordered part 2, both books, and the second book of part 1. I just got an email that the second book is in, so I am ready to continue the series, after the brief hiatus of another book (another author) that I picked up. Hey, I had to read something while I waited for the other novels to show up.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: me
Date: Jul 11, 2007 10:05 PM
Subject: "New author" discovered - Peter F. Hamilton

I closed my eyes and stabbed out a finger, at Half-Price Books, and landed near this one http://www.amazon.com/Reality-Dysfunction-Part-I-Emergence/dp/0446605158 . Very Brin-like, with a contagious plot, with – dare I say it – a bit of Dean Koontz thrown in! I highly recommend it. It's part 1 of 3; I searched today for parts 2 and 3, at ½ Price Books, and they didn't have them, so I'm off to Barnes & Noble tomorrow at lunch.

A very good read.

02 May, 2007

Out with LookOut, in with Windows Desktop Search

Also known as simply Windows Search, Windows Desktop Search is based on the old LookOut search tool.  Microsoft bought LookOut a couple years ago, and their first try at incorporating it into their MSN Toolbar product was horrible.  They finally got it right!
Windows Desktop Search will, like LookOut before it, index the contents of one's hard drive, one's Outlook (both PST's and Exchange inbox), and network drives (now via UNC paths).  However, it will now allow dragging and dropping, from search results windows.  It will also allow multiple search results windows and the ability to sort them on various fields.  One can choose a dynamic "as you type" hit list, or one can de-select that (as I did).
Installing it, and uninstalling LookOut, will greatly increase Outlook's response and load times, because the tool is no longer an Outlook add-in.
To download the tool, go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/926356.
For information on trouble-shooting and configuration, see http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windows/search/dtstshoot.mspx#ESC .

24 March, 2007

GoogleMail (GMAIL) - Configuring POP (email software) Access

                I love Gmail.  I used to use my ISP’s email as my primary email, my Yahoo! email as, what I lovingly referred to as, “my crap bucket” – the account I would use when I filled-in online surveys, purchased items from online stores, or joined discussion groups – and all was well.  Then I realized that, while at coffee shops or relatives’ houses that did not exist on my ISP’s service, I could not send email from Outlook.  So, I switched to Gmail, and I’ve never looked back.


                The following link has instructions for configuring your email software to download and upload email.  If you don’t want to do it, that’s obviously fine.  I just wanted to give you the information just in case you’re interested.


                GoogleMail help regarding “POP” access:  http://mail.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?topic=1555


                While I love new things, I am a bit “old school” when it comes to managing my email.  I like having a local copy of my inbox and sent box.  Thus, should I ever find myself in a temporarily offline situation – and as a notebook users I often do – I can continue to compose messages that later get uploaded when I have a network connection.  Also, I then have copies of the email I can occasionally burn to CD or DVD, for archiving.  If you don’t care about such concerns, you might not want to go through the trouble of configuring your Gmail for POP use.


19 January, 2007

RC Helicopters...those mini-Styrofoam ones

Around Christmas I researched buying one of those little radio controlled helicopters that one can fly indoors.  The going price, at The Discovery Channel Store, Radio Shack, and other brick and mortar stores ranged from about $59-$79, so I went online, and I found a couple in the $25-$35 range that looked exactly the same.  Now, well after Christmas, I cannot remember where I found the links, so I will re-discover them and let you know what I find.  From the discussions I've read, one is just about the same as the other, so a) why spend money needlessly when a cheapie is available, and b) I'll probably fly the thing into a brick wall and bust up the "indestructible" little fellah anyway, so I might as well waste less money.
Understand here that I am talking about the little foam bodied dual propeller dealies, not a "true" RC helicopter that a hobbyist would have.  If anyone has any suggestions about which one(s) to buy, please post a reply here.  Otherwise watch this thread for an update.

18 January, 2007

Woke up this morning to write a review...RoboForm

...and I can't remember what I was going to write about.  That's what I get for having put off running vinegar through my drip coffee maker for the past month.  It's running through now, so I'm stuck with a Diet Pepsi instead of what Natural Selection intended -- fresh ground coffee.  I'm destined to surf the web for an hour, then shower and head into work.
Oh.  Now I remember.
RoboForm.  It's great.  Yeah.  I'm one who has a thing about having a totally unique password for every site.  I know people who have one password, or at least one main one, for everywhere they go.  Uh uh.  That's just asking for trouble.  Yet, I've had an Internet connection since 1993, and was online in local BBS's since 1986...so suffice it to say I have a few online accounts racked up out here.  RoboForm handles the problem of remembering them all very nicely.  It installs a toolbar (eeek, not another toolbar...yeah) in your browser of choice, then it remembers all your login information for you.  You set one password to remember, and RoboForm fills all the others in for you, including login names, wherever you go.  It'll also remember all the form-filling information you want it to, such as your phone number, email address, street address, name, age...whatever, then you can use it when you visit a "sign up" page.  Very handy for entering those online sweepstakes, opening up yet another web account, etc.  It also allows one to save multiple identities, and it allows for multiple users on the same machine.  And one can look at one's login information, for any site, at any time (just make sure no one is standing behind you when you do, as all the passwords show up in all their textual glory).
Of course, they hooked me with their free trial, then it disabled itself.  At that point I usually say to myself, "That was fun," then uninstall whatever it is.  Not this time.  I bought three licenses, for three PC's in my house.  I use their nifty little GoodSync tool to keep the encrypted files sync'd up among my PC's via a secure USB flash drive.
Check it out at http://www.roboform.com/.

 Local Waukesha and Neighboring Area Coffee Shops: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/coffeejoints/