Category Archives: Geekery

monkey123

Thanks to the heart bleed scare, I thought it was probably time to update all my passwords. There is no way any sane person is going to change all their passwords like me. I had some free time at work this weekend, so I thought what the hell. It literally took me ten hours to update all my passwords.

I am now officially annoyed as fuck by stupid password policies. There has to be a better way. It would be so nice if there was a service like Last Pass that along with storing your passwords, made it easier to change them. It’s a pain in the ass searching around sites to find where to change the password at, and then finding out your password won’t work because it’s too long, or contains special characters, or doesn’t contain special characters. Come on people, we need to standardize this. I have a nice algorithm that allows me to have long unique passwords for each site, but only works on 90%, of them because of these stupid policies.

Another thing that drives me crazy is the hiding of the passwords. Why do you have to hide them from me? I couldn’t tell you how many times I typed my password it wrong twice and locked myself out of my account. I believe Warby Parker was the only site that had the option to show passwords in the clear. 99% of the time we don’t have anybody looking over our shoulders. Just provide us with a checkbox to check for the 1% of the time when other people can be looking over our shoulders and we need our passwords hidden.

It’s no wonder why people use crappy passwords. It’s 2014. We need easier tools to manage and change our complex passwords already. And no, I’m never going to log in with Facebook. Quit asking me.

Maybe I should just use monkey123…

Flipboard expirement

I suffer badly from FOMO, the fear of missing out. Technology has made it so easy to never miss anything. All my TV shows, podcasts, blogs, and news sites are constantly pilling up with great content for me to consume. While I love it all, sometimes I feel like I’m just getting through it to get through it, and not enjoying it.

This week I’ve done a little experiment and tried to use Flipboard for all my news. I have always loved Flipboard, but it never really worked for me. I’ve always felt I was missing out on something, so I still had my nose in my feed reader. I’ll never give up on my feed reader for blogs, but I’m trying to wean myself away from reading news in my feed reader.

So far it’s been great. It’s taking me less time to get through my feeds, and Flipboard seems to turn up some great articles I never would have found otherwise. It’s kind of magical how it pulls stuff out of my social networks and filters the news so I don’t miss anything important, or at least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself. I don’t think Flipboard is saving me much time, it’s still a bottomless time sink, but I think it’s a more enjoyable way to read my news.

Is RSS dead?

So Google Reader died Monday. Is RSS dying? I sure hope not, and don’t think so. I’ve heard many people say they gave up on RSS reading and now just read Twitter. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Twitter is great for what’s going on now, but how do I catch up with what’s been going on after a long day at work? Sorry, but I’m not scrolling back fourteen hours on my Twitter feed. Hell, I seldom scroll back an hour.

The other day I was trying to remember when I started reading RSS feeds. I know I started with a desktop app, and mostly used it to keep up with all the blogs I was reading. I remember wishing news sites had feeds so I could read my news that way, but none of them did. Gradually more and more sites got RSS feeds, and that’s pretty much how I’ve been consuming the internet for as long as I can remember. If your site doesn’t have an RSS feed, it doesn’t exist to me.

Once I got internet access on multiple computers and places I switched to an online reader. I think NewsGator was my first and then I switched to Bloglines. I remember when Google Reader was first launched. It sucked at first and took a few years before it was good enough to make the switch. I lived it Google Reader for years. It wasn’t flashy, they rarely added any decent features, but it was always reliable. The best thing Google did was to allow third party apps to connect to their services. That was one of the reasons I bought an iPad the day they came out. My RSS reading finally became enjoyable in the mobile space. It’s so easy for me to keep up with my 1000s of feeds now because any spare minute I have during the day I can whip out my phone or iPad and read some feeds.

I was a little shocked when Google announced that they were shutting down reader. I guess I had a hard time believing that “nobody” was using a service that I was using constantly twelve to eighteen hours a day. I wasn’t worried though. I was excited because I knew other companies would step in and have products that were better and actually work on them and evolve them over time. Many did, and I tried most of them, but for now Feedly is my choice.

Feedly has most of the features of Google Reader that I used, and works with Newsify, which is a great iOS app. I made the switch, and didn’t skip a beat. Long live RSS.

Feedly is in the lead so far

So over the weekend I played with a few different RSS readers, and so far Feedly is winning. I couldn’t try Newsblur because they closed their free accounts. While I’m more than happy to pay for an RSS reader, I need to know if it’s the right one before I’m willing to pay. I was also unable to try The Old Reader because of their long import queue. My OPML file was also too big for them to import all my feed. That was also a turnoff.

I hated Feedly’s look when I first tried it, but I was able to customize it quite a bit too make it “less pretty” and more useful. When it comes to RSS readers pretty usually just gets in the way. I just want the articles, and I want to be able to browse them fast. Feedly uses the same keyboard short cuts that Google Reader uses, and that’s a must for a reader for me. I was able to get through my feeds almost as fast as I could with Google Reader. They still have a few UI problems, but I have a feeling Feedly will figure it out. I think they understand this is a huge opportunity for them. Right now they are still using the Google backend, but they say they have their own clone of it that they are ready to use once Google Reader closes down.

On thing they must add for me to make the switch is a way to export my OPML. I’m sure they will add one, they aren’t stupid. They probably don’t have one now because they are using Google’s backend. A way to export my feeds is an absolute must.

The one thing I’m worried about is their iOS app. Once again they made it pretty, and I don’t want pretty. My iOS reader of choice is Feeddler. It’s fast and full of export options. I can quickly run through my feeds sending some to Instapaper, Evernote, Readability, Pocket, Pinboard, or where ever want to handle posts that I’m interested in.

I’m hoping that Feedly understands that there are many different kind of reader apps, and everybody has their favorites and they allow third party apps to run on their backend like Google did. I believe it would be huge if they do that. The feed reader service that becomes the backend for all the great mobile reader apps will be the winner.

Feedly is in the lead now, but I’m curious what Digg is going to do. they said they are working on a reader too. I’m pretty excited about the future of RSS readers. Somebody is going to be innovative and blow Google Reader out of the water, and make us wonder why we loved it so much. Who is that going to be?

My thoughts on Vine

So I’ve been playing around with Vine over the weekend, and I kind of like it. Vine lets you create, edit, and share a six second video. It’s actually more fun than it sounds, and people have been very creative. I enjoy seeing more than just pictures from my Twitter friends.

Vine does have some annoyances, but I’m sure they will be fixed with time. I don’t like that it’s like Instagram was and has no website. I wish there were more sharing options. I hate that it’s iPhone only. Vine does just dump the video into your camera roll, so you are free to share it wherever you want. I’m currently just dumping them onto my Tumblr.

I like that you can find your Twitter users to add them, but that feature currently isn’t working for me. I’m following over 1,000 people, and I know more than three of them are using Vine. I hate that Facebook took that feature out of Instagram. I don’t want to have to add all my friends every damn time a new network comes out. Apps like this should all be able to import your Twitter and Facebook friends. I don’t look at my Instagram feed anymore since I can’t keep my Twitter friends synced up with it. Because of that, Instagram is almost dead to me. It’s just one of the many reasons why I hate Facebook and barely use it, and am looking for an Instagram replacement.

It’ll be interesting to see if Vine takes off. It has so many similarities to Instagram that I could see it taking off. Than again people might be overloaded with similar services.

The secret ending to “Attack of the Show”

So sometime in 1999 our cable company got ZDTV. I loved that channel, and watched almost every show on it, my favorite being The Screensavers. It was like finding “my people”. It was before blogs, so it was harder to meet people online. I was on dial-up back then, so being online sucked. I was jealous of the people that were able to get broadband.

Shortly after ZDTV switched to TechTV, my cable company dropped the channel. I was pissed. One of the main reason I have DirecTV now is because of my hatred for the cable company for dropping TechTV. I think I went a year or two without The Screensavers before the cable company got TechTV back.

Then TechTV was sold and changed to G4 and sucked. The Screensavers was changed to Attack of the Show, and was removed from my Tivo. By then broadband was more-or-less everywhere and podcasting was just getting started. The good people from TechTV started TWiT and Revision3, and life was good. Well apparently Attack of the Show has ended now too. I think I only watched the first episode, but it was nice that they gave Patrick and Leo the final words. It’s finally an end to an era that was over long ago.

Verizon charging more for less

verizon-share-everything

So Verizon announced their new Share Everything plan earlier this week. Everybody seemed pretty pissed because now they are going to have to pay more for less. I was going to wait on commenting until I did the math myself.

I think it’s great that they are streamlining their plans, but man they are spendy, and yes I’m going to have to more for less.

I couldn’t care less about unlimited minutes and messages. I use maybe 20 minutes a month, and probably 4 messages a YEAR. The data is what’s going to kill me, and it’s so hard to judge how much you are using.

I looked back six months, and some months I used .5 GBs, and others I was close to 2 GB. So what plan am I suppose to get? Plus you have to double those data uses since my Wife is also using data at about the same rate as I do. So my usage will vary from 1 GB to 4 GB, and it’s trending upwards. So that means I could probably get by on the $60 and watch my data use closely, but that’s no fun. Or I could go with the $70 plan and pay for more data that I won’t be using most months. I’m glad I’m almost always on wifi, I couldn’t imaging how much data I would be using if I wasn’t.

My current bill is $143 with $20 of that being taxes and fees that I’m sure wont be changing. If I went with the cheaper plan it would cost me $160; $60 for the plan, plus $80 for two smartphones (which is ridiculous), plus $20 taxes and other fees.

So my $143 bill will go to $160 if I want to limit my usage, or $170 if I don’t want to worry, too much, about my usage. All the commercials I have seen say the new plans will save people money. I don’t know what kind of fuzzy math they use. 

That being said, I’m not too against the plans. I like how it simplifies everything, and while the data prices are a little spendy, it’s the $40 per smartphone that kills. Why so much for something that just shares the data you are already paying for, and will probably force you into a higher plan? If all devices on the plan were $10 or $20, I would probably be totally happy with the change. You know that’s never going to happen though. What cell phone company wants or has happy customers?

Large number craziness

I love math and numbers. I am also intrigued by how little humans understand large numbers. Most people probably don’t know what comes after Trillion, and really, that’s so large that nobody really needs a number much larger than that. I knew my number system up to decillion. I had to turn to Wikipedia to see what was next. Growing up as a kid without Wikipedia I thought a googolplex was the largest number. I knew a googol was a 1 followed by 100 zeros. I didn’t really know what a googolplex was. Now that I got Wikipedia I know we have numbers way bigger than googol and even bigger than a googolplex. There is such a thing as a googolplexplex. And actually, the googol named numbers are just special named numbers. A googol is really 10 duotrigintillion. A duotrigintillion is 1099, so 10 of them would be 10100, or a googol.

A googol is so large that there are less atoms in the observable universe. The estimated number of atoms in the observable universe is 1082 (or 10 sesvigintillion if you care), much less that a googol. Now onto a googolplex. A googolplex is 10googol. It has more zeros than there are atoms in the universe making it impossible to even write out long hand, and yeah, a googolplexplex is even larger.

Backing up with rsync and Automator

The beginning of this year I re-thought my backup strategy. I’m crazy about my backups, maybe a little too much. This year I’ve actually cut back on some of my backups. Last year I got a CrashPlan family plan to back up my two main computers. It works great. I love CrashPlan. Now thanks to iTunes Match, I was able to downgrade my CrashPlan to a single computer plan.

I’ve been slowly upgrading all my music to 256 kbps, from the crappy 128 kbps that I originally ripped all my music to back when hard drive space was more limiting. It’s been great to get them upgraded without having to re-rip the 1400 cds I own. That’s another reason why I make sure to have good backups. I dread having to re-rip my cds. iTunes Match serves as a great backup too. The $25 for iTunes Match is actually saving me money. Downgrading my CrashPlan account saves me $84 a year, adding the iTunes Match fee and I save $59 a year. Plus I don’t have to upload most of the new music I buy. It is just matched, and I have a backup.

So what about my other files on my iMac that need backed up? Well, I wrote an Automator script that uses rsync to backup my documents folder over to my Windows machine, which is then backed up to CrashPlan. Everything is also backed up to my NAS. Yeah, I’m anal, but I have a great system and will never lose a file. Here is the simple shell script that I used:

rsync -aE –delete ~/ Documents/ /Volumes/Users/mace/Documents/iMacBackup/ Documents/

I made an app with Automator that runs that script and just just put it on my desktop. I could have gotten more fancy and scheduled it to run with iCal, but I’m happy enough just clicking on the app once a day. Automator is so powerful, yet underused.

What music service is for me?

It’s an exciting time for music online. They’re more ways to buy and consume music than ever. I’ve tried many of them, but I’m still on the fence with which one I’m going to use. For some people subscription services are perfect, but they’re not really for me. I paid for Spotify for a month, and it’s really cool, but sometimes I don’t know what I want to listen to, and I like to just browse my collection. It’s not as easy to do with Spotify, and many times when I knew what I wanted to listen to, it wasn’t on Spotify. If you’re more of a casual music fan, and listened to mostly popular stuff, Spotify might be for you. It’s not really for me.

The two services I’m really excited about are iTunes Match, and Google Music. I’ve been on Google Music since the first day the beta launched. It took me four months to get all my music up there with my slow ass Internet, but now that it’s up there it’s pretty cool. Like most Google products when they launch, It’s ugly looking and could use some improvement. I love the new music section in the Android Market. It will make it so easy for bands to put out their music themselves. Screw the record labels. On the Android Market they will make 70% profit. The one downside about Google Music is it’s not as good on iOS. There is a third party app that I have been using for a while to listen to my music, but it’s buggy and not perfect.

Monday when iTunes Match launched I started getting my music up into the iCloud. It’s still grinding away. I’m not sure what it’s really doing. After the first match it only matched 3000 songs, leaving me 13,000 to upload. Since then it’s timed out, and reset a bunch of time. Maybe it matched more, I don’t really know. It’s just grinding away, and will be done someday. I don’t blame iTunes though, I only get 500 Kbps up from my cable company. So far with what’s been uploaded, I really like the Apple solution. It’s nice to be able to delete all my music from my phone, yet I still have access to all of it. Their “streaming” isn’t really streaming; songs download as they play. That can be good and bad. It’s nice because you have instant, and offline access to the songs you listen to the most. The bad part is that it could start to fill your phone up, but you can easily delete songs on the iPhone now too.

For the different music services it will probably come down to whatever phone you have. Google Music will probably work best on Androids, and iCloud on iPhones. That’s not too surprising, but I’m going to keep my music in both camps. Once Google products become more mature, they are usually my products of choice. I use Google for my calendar, mail, and contact syncing. I don’t really care for any of the other iCloud products. It’s really exciting times. I’m glad I can finally have access to all my music in my pocket. It’s like we are living in the future. Where’s my flying car?

iOS 5 upgrade

I love software upgrades. No matter what it is, I always have to have the latest and greatest. It’s like a free present. Many upgrades I have had regrets doing, but I still always get them as soon as possible.

Today was a big day for upgrades. iOS 5 came out. I upgraded my phone already, and am working on getting my iPad upgraded. I like the new features so far. Lifehacker has a great article about all of the new features.

Now it’s time to play!

So long, and thanks for all the Gadgets Steve 

Yesterday is a day I will remember forever. Like many people, I heard of Steve Jobs death on an Apple device. I was shocked, but not surprised when the news alert popped up on my iPhone. I went straight to Twitter. The Tweets were non-stop all night, and everybody had great things to say about Jobs. We knew he was in bad shape to have to step down from CEO of Apple, but I don’t think anybody expected him to go so soon.

I always have mixed feelings when everybody praises celebrities when they die. On one had, thousands of other great people that nobody knows about died yesterday too, but Steve Jobs was more than just a celebrity. He was our generations Thomas Edison. He may have just created gadgets, but his gadgets changed the world.

I don’t really consider my self an Apple fanboy, but I am surround by Apple products. I am typing this up on my iMac, with my MacBook and iPad next to me, my iPhone in my pocket, and several iPods in my drawer. I don’t buy Apple products to be part of some cult, but because they are great products. Even if you have never owned an Apple products though, your products are still influenced by Apple. Who knows what Windows would be like today without being influenced by Apple. What would smart phones be like without the iPhone? Are there any other MP3 players than the iPod? Chances are we wouldn’t have tablets. Microsoft tried to make tablets, but failed. I’ve had an iPad since day 3, and couldn’t imagine not having one.

One thing that isn’t being mentioned much, and is something we all should learn from Steve Jobs is his use of “alternative medicine” early on in his diagnosis. Steve had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that is actually quite treatable if caught soon enough, which he had. He chose to treat it with a special diet, and other alternative therapies prescribed by a naturopath. Once it was learned that that wasn’t working, he started using conventional medicines, but by then his chanced of beating it were slim to none. Would he have beat it if he used conventional medicine right away? We will never know, but his chances would have been better. Alternative medicine kills folks. If alternative medicine worked, it would be called medicine. Steve Jobs taught us all to “think different”, but when it comes to medicine, you don’t want different, you want the stuff that works.

My online backups

CrashPlanIn January I made a New Year’s resolution to get my computers backed up online. I’ve always been good about backups, but they were always kept local except for my pictures, which I burn to DVD and take a copy to work. There are many different online backup options these days, from Carbonite, Mozy, DropBox, and CrashPlan.

I chose CrashPlan for four reasons. They have unlimited storage, I can backup multiple computers, they are affordable, and I can use their software to backup to multiple locations. That last reason is probably my favorite. All I need is the CrashPlan software running, and it will keep my systems backed up to both my NAS, and the CrashPlan servers. No need to run other backup software for my multiple backups.

I started my backups in January and they were finally finished this week. It took nine months of continuously backing up to get everything up there, but now they are there, so it’s only incremental backups from here on. They also just recently released an iPhone app too. So now I have access to all my files from my phone too. It’s pretty sweet. I’m sure I will find many uses for it.

I’m pretty anal about my backups, and for that reason I have never lost a file. I’ve had a few hard drives die, and it’s never been much of a problem because of my backups. I hate it when I hear my family and friends losing stuff because they don’t have proper backups. Storage is so cheap these days. There is no reason you shouldn’t have multiple backups of all your important files.