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Tag Archives: geeky

Last week, I turned on my XBOX360 for the first time in oh probably almost 2 years. I’m not sure why it’s even connected to my TV; I should just archive it because it (and the game boxes) take up a lot of space. Anyways, the reason I turned it on wasn’t even to play games, it was to run media center so I could access the shared media on my computer!

So my XBOX360 is pretty much useless to me.

But in better news, I don’t need it to be my media extender anymore, because I just moved my old computer into the living room as a HTPC. It’s kind of noisy, and doesn’t have HDMI out (my TV has VGA-in), lags on 1080p content (more or less depending on the encoding format) but it works and it’s cheap! I was only able to free up about 150GB on its 250GB HD for media, so I’m still sharing/streaming a lot from my desktop.

This was also a good excuse to put my air mouse to work – I bought that awhile ago but had no reason to use it. This also ended up solving my living room issue as I no longer need to use my Chinese tablet. Although I can’t surf and watch TV at the same time, it’s not actually as big of a problem as it could be since I don’t really watch TV anymore.

My current desktop computer (with upgrades) was purchased to replace my previous desktop computer which had been chugging along for 7 years ago. It has now been chugging along for almost 6 years itself, which means it sounds like I should get a new desktop in the next year. Rather than wait, I pre-emptively bought a new desktop now.

I’ve been having a couple of issues with my current desktop – although I think they stem from the same root cause. Almost ever since I bought this computer, the front USB ports had a problem. They would occasionally short when plugging in something and cause my other USB devices (even those plugged in the back) to freeze (basically I have to reboot since neither my mouse nor keyboard would work anymore). I couldn’t just simply reboot though, I had to disconnect the power cord and wait 10s (for some capacitor to dissipate probably). Recently, when the front USB port doesn’t short, it occasionally corrupts the data being transferred (such as photos from my camera). I’ve resorted to copying photos from SD onto my laptop, and then transferring over network to my desktop – that’s a pain. Finally, I’ve been getting BSODs every once in awhile (although that could just be because I’m using my computer more).

So I jumped a year and bought a new computer now when Dell was having a sale. Here are the primary specs:

  • Intel Haswell i7-4770 (8M Cache, up to 3.9Ghz)
  • 24GB RAM (DDR3 1600Mhz)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB GDDR5
  • 2TB 7200RPM + 256GB SSD
  • Blue-ray combo drive (writes CD/DVD)
  • Win8 Professional

This came out to $1799.99 – $450 in discounts, which is a shade over $1500 after tax. There were actually a couple of promotions on at the same time. Prior to this promotion, I was looking at two bundles at $1599 and $1499. The $1499 bundle was the same as the above, except only had 16GB of RAM (I don’t think the extra 8GB will be of any benefit). The $1599 one was a student offer, which included a 24″ monitor and a $100 e-coupon on top of the $1499 bundle. If I didn’t find any other sales, I would have probably gotten the $1599 package; but I didn’t really need another 24″ monitor. With this package, I saved another $100 (there was a $50 coupon that would have applied anywhere).

This year, I had the July 4th long weekend as a holiday instead of Canada Day, so we decided to go somewhere where Canadians wouldn’t be – cross border shopping. We went on the Thursday and Friday (when Canadians would be working) and if that wasn’t enough disincentive, the USD dollar was at a two-year high compared to Canadian (up to almost $1.06). This was also our third year in a row making the trip down there (2010, 2011, also in 2007).

We only stayed one night (in Erie), but because the exemptions had been increased in the past year (up to $200 for an overnight trip) and we had 3 people, we had plenty of room to shop. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a phone charger with us so we were only able to charge our phones with a car charger while we were driving. That made for some interesting battery stats! I kept my phone in airplane mode while I was sleeping (who was going to call my US number anyways). Here’s what my phone tracked:

You can really tell when my phone is in airplane mode, it hardly lost any battery – only 2% overnight. The real battery drain is when the phone is connected to the network, either just being on the network or all the background sync that is happening.

I have had for many years now and it is a great domain to have (for me obviously). But that is actually a problem, it’s only great for me and not for anyone else in my family. Another problem with the domain is that it’s hard to come up with a good email address to use – I used me@ for awhile but it’s kind of lame.

Over the last few years, I’ve been looking at the quan.* domains to see if I could get one. This would solve my email problems because I can just use kevin@quan.*, and everyone else in my family can use a similar theme. Of course and were taken a long time ago (by squatters) and my last name is common enough that they’ll probably ask for a substantial amount of money to wrangle it from them. Also, because they are squatters, they are quite diligent in renewing their domains.

It was on the backburner for awhile, but I was bored last week and decided to look again. It turns out there are several quan.* domains available, such as:,, (Peru), (Singapore), (Taiwan – not sure if I can register it), (Need some connection to Japan), (Mexico), and some other random countries. They vary in price (most are around $50/year) and are not that common which I suppose is why squatters never bought them.

$50 a year is a bit high, but I found which was only $20 a year. I ended up registering that while I can, but I’m not sure if I’ll actually use it religiously. If I couldn’t get a .com/.net/.org/.ca, I figured I should get one where the two letters are unique or difficult to mispronounce. I don’t think ‘b’ satisfies that criteria. We’ll see if I can get a better one in the future.

I have a huge stack of folders in my bookcase filled with bills and print outs (every time I goto the bank, they seem to give me a book of papers) that I suppose I’m meant to keep around. It’s a pain, because I get the papers, and have to file them. There’s no use for them (until you really need them) so they just accumulate. For a long time, I’ve wanted to scan these papers instead of filing them.

Recently, I’ve finally bought an all-in-one printer which lets me do this! The keyword that I was looking for was a printer with ADF (Automatic Document Feeder). You can basically put papers in the sheet feeder at the top, and the printer will take each one, scan it, and output it via PDF to your computer.

It sounds great, but it’s not entirely automatic. I have to set my printer to “Remote scanning” mode, and then configure & start the job on my computer. As long as my computer and printer are side-by-side it’s not too bad. Part of the configuration is to specify whether the document feeder should scan one-sided or two-sided. It’s too bad that the printer can’t sense this! But maybe that’s a function of how much you pay for a printer.

The problem I have been having is that my printer decides to eat some papers when scanning both sides. That’s very annoying as it involves even more manual effort! When I hit a problem like this, I end up using a piece of open source software called PDFSAM (PDF Split and Merge). It’s an amazingly useful tool with advanced features where it can reorder the pages on your PDF (so you can scan all the odd pages, and then just flip your stack over and scan the even pages – this will result in a reverse list of even pages).

Now I just wish there was some ability to one-click scan+email an entire bill to my computer. I suppose this is another feature that they save for more expensive printers, but it’s preventing me from going through my entire backlog of pages because it’s just too much effort! Also now I have to figure out how to shred and dispose all of my old fashion physical papers.

After thinking a bit about how to organize my files, I think I have a system that is more streamlined.

  • Create a partition for media files (Photos, Books, Music, Videos) which may or may not be synced with other computers and backup drives
  • Create an encrypted partition for data (Documents, Records, Mail, source code) which is always synced with other computers and backup drives
  • Create symlinks to the (encrypted) folders that need to be mirrored online
  • Run DropBox manually so that sync only happens when the encrypted folders are readable

Of course I still have separate drives for System/Program Files, Applications that don’t require installation (e.g., Eclipse, puTTy, Android SDK), and scratch. But generally that stuff is different on each computer (or don’t need to be synchronized).

When you think about (browser) bookmarks, I think one of the most important things about a bookmark is the title – because without the title, you don’t know what the bookmark is for! But in my browser; the majority of my bookmarks don’t have a title at all!

Nowadays, most websites I visit fall under 3 categories: 1) I memorized the domain (Google, Facebook, Twitter), 2) I visit the site from Google Reader my RSS reader, or 3) I searched for the site. There’s not actually a need for bookmarks! That’s what I realized awhile ago – but I also realized that I visit the same few sites all the time and it’s time consuming to type in their domain names (even if they’re only a few letters).

So what I did was rebrand the “bookmark toolbar” that most browsers have. I started making them like the Start bar in Windows – where each site had its own entry. Since each site was different, they would have its own favicon which rendered titles irrelevant. I also ended up with a nice strip of icons which adds a bit of variety to my browser.

In future revisions, I started putting folders into my bookmark toolbar (with titles) to group more bookmarks together. But then I guess I’m kind of undergoing a regression as we’re back to real bookmarks instead of quick links.

The main issue with having and using multiple computers actively is keeping my files in sync. I’d also like to have my files on the cloud in case I need to refer to them from my phone (but this is really a nice-to-have). Of course there are solutions to this like Dropbox and Google Drive but they don’t offer the right solution for me!

I don’t think they work for me because:

  • I’m not sure I trust having my files on their server, unencrypted
  • I have a backup drive connected to my desktop and want to mirror files there as well (which I use Create Synchronicity for)
  • I’m afraid that if I accidentally delete my files online they will suddenly be gone from my computer
  • I keep my personal files encrypted on my laptop, and don’t always decrypt them – which causes Dropbox to complain because it thinks the directory to synchronize no longer exists
  • I have my own way of hierarchy of organizing files, and I don’t want to put it under a single folder – Dropbox doesn’t support the symbolic links concept (actually it looks like you can create a symlink at the OS level to solve the problem)

Although in writing this post, I came across Microsoft’s SyncToy, maybe that will solve some of my issues.

I seem to upgrade my computer in bursts – I’d go through a few-weeks-long period where I upgrade a bunch of things, and then go into an upgrading slump for a couple of months (maybe years). I just went through an upgrade streak recently, although it was a whimper compared to my previous one (which my wallet is thankful of).

The first thing I upgraded, on a whim, was my network connection. In the past, I didn’t want to run network cable from my router on the main floor to our office on the second floor, so I just used a USB wifi dongle. I actually put the dongle on an USB port on my monitor because the USB slots behind my computer had a lot of interference (wires, obstructions and other clutter) and I use the front ones for other things. Since around Christmas time, the reception has been sporadic – I think some neighbours received a wireless router for Christmas or my second monitor started causing more interference.

Before settling on a wifi dongle, I had considered using powerline networking, but the cost was a little bit too high ($80-$100) and I wasn’t sure about the reliability. Then I saw that you could get a pair for ~$30 with free shipping, and with the recently whimsical nature of my wifi connection, I bought a set and tried it out. It works, and is more reliable than my old wifi; but I didn’t really get a substantial increase in speed. I’d say this was a lateral move at best and only an improvement because my wifi no longer worked reliably.

To wrap up my computer upgrades, I also upgraded my mouse. Yes, it was uneventful but also a necessary upgrade because the mouse that I had been using was not recognizing clicks reliably anymore. This actually happened once before, which I fixed by pressing really hard on the left button (seemed like something was stuck under it, or something got unstuck). That didn’t fix it this time and I figured it was time for a replacement – I had been using it since probably 2004/5 and a lot of dust and grime was embedded in it. I went out to my corner computer store and lucked out when a $25 one was on a weekend sale for $10. I didn’t want to spend $60 on a gaming mouse but I wanted one with a larger palm profile than the typical laptop ones that they sell now, so there wasn’t much of a choice.

I’m guessing that that concludes my upgrade streak – and it was kind of a lame one. It’s a streak of second assists in 2 consecutive games; not really worth mentioning but still a streak!

Some recent thoughts on tablets:

  • I took a look at the new Kobo Vox which is the Canadian competitor to the Kindle Fire & etc – i.e., $200 color Android tablet, to be used as an eReader and being promoted heavily by a book store. It is not that amazing. It feels (weight, thickness) like my cheap (and useless now) tablet from China. They did a trick however, to make it seem less thick – by slanting the sides. I read a couple of anecdotes about it, and perhaps it is confirmation bias, but it seems to be pretty sluggish. I think the big knock against it (for me) is when you pick it up, you don’t think Wow, this is cool, I’d like to have one!. Maybe this is because I’m familiar with the industry, or maybe because the product just isn’t a “wow”.
  • For the same $200, you can now (this week) get a 16GB Blackberry Playbook. The 16GB Wifi PB started at $499 and has been dropping steadily in the past year. First it was cheap through employee and other F&F-type sales, but now it’s available to the general public at this price. Is it a fire sale? I don’t know, but discounting a supposedly highly-anticipated tech product by more than 50% in the first year cannot be a good sign.
  • This sudden dip in price and availability of the PB has kicked off a frenzy. Earlier this week, the group thought was that the sale would only be at Walmart, so hoarders started buying 3 or 4 PBs at their $499 price and waiting for price protection (because inevitably, it will sell out at the $200 price point). From RFD, it seems like they were pretty successful in causing a run on Walmart’s PBs so that most places are OOS. I wonder if managers at Walmart were clued into why they were suddenly selling out of the PBs? If they ordered even more stock, then they might not be making a lot of money on these sales.
  • Now, it turns out that all the retailers (i.e., FS, Staples, etc) are selling PBs at the $200 price point (at least for this week). If they didn’t match the move, they would have found themselves selling a lot of PBs at $200 – 10% x ($500-$200) = $170 instead!

I’ve been thinking about the screen that comes up on your Android phone when you are speaking on the phone with someone. Yes, very odd but it’s captured my imagination a bit. The reason is that it ends up being quite complex and non-intuitive.

The difficulty comes because when you’re talking on the phone, the phone is at the side of your face. Because many phones now use Capacitive screens, there is a side effect that your face is activating the touch screen on your phone in many places at once. Now, you don’t want to hang up or dial random numbers when you put the phone to your face!

Plus, the state changes have to be caught. You are probably looking at the screen while dialing, but when you put the phone to your ear, you don’t care what is on the screen. Even though you are still activating the touch screen (with your face), you might be on the phone for an hour, and you don’t want to run the battery to light up the screen for that long! Then the moment you take the phone off your ear, you want the screen back on because you probably want to hang up or check some information etc.

My first guess at handling this is to:

  • Timeout the screen after a certain amount of time
  • Timeout the screen if the screen is being pressed, but not let go
  • Activate the screen (but not handle any clicks) when the press ends

But I don’t think that completely works, because if the person was to shift the phone around on their ear, then the screen would activate and listen for a keypress that could accidentally hang up the phone! It is a surprisingly deep and challenging problem.

In 2007, I bought my current computer and it’s been chugging a long for awhile. Four years is a long time in the life of a computer, you’re supposed to get a new computer every 3 years aren’t you? Apparently I don’t take my own advice because I’m on a 7-year upgrade cycle.

Anyways, when I bought my computer, I had an eye towards upgrading. I bought a video card with dual monitor ports (although I still only have one monitor) and actually…that’s pretty much it. This month, I’ve been upgrading my computer because it has gotten a bit sluggish. The primary reason is that I partitioned my system drive with 30GB and Vista has pretty much filled that up. In any case, here are the upgrades that I did:

  • A new 2TB 3.5″ external HD over USB 2.0
  • Cloned my photos and music onto the external drive, and moved some other junk over to free up space
  • Re-partitioned my internal drive to give my system partition 80GB
  • Upgrade to Windows 7
  • Add 2GB of RAM

I also intend to get a larger (24″? These go around $160 now) monitor and to replace my speakers (i.e., a stereo system with AUX input) with a good set of 2.0 or 2.1 speakers.

I’ve started trying to apply genetic algorithms to come up with a better AI to play San Juan. I’m still having trouble modelling the problem but I think I am making progress in my thinking.

The first realization I had was that I was thinking that genetic algorithms were a solution to a dynamic system. Although the training/environment used when evolving the algorithm is dynamic, the algorithm itself isn’t reactive. It will generate a set of rules and hope that they work in whatever situation it is presented with.

I guess that makes sense. Even in a human, evolution has given us tools with constraints. For example, our arm is only flexible in 3 places (wrist, elbow, shoulder) and if we were trying to grip a pole with just our arm, it would be difficult depending how thick the pole is. How well the evolution is is also a function of how many points of variability you are modelling with. The hand is flexible in 20+ different places so it would be much more suited to grip cylindrical objects than an arm.

Of course, the more points of variability, the more generations that need to progress before a solution can be found.

I think this is an important thought, because board and strategy games are a dynamic system. The other players can play things in different orders and interact with each other. It would be too time consuming to try and model all the interactions – and we’re not trying to find a perfect solution – we just need an optimal one that will give a challenging AI.

I’ve been lurking on several tablet forums and waiting. Waiting until things get mature enough that I can load a new ROM on my tablet to solve some of its problems. After a couple of success reports, I tried it myself and loaded a Cyanogen 6.1 RC for Telechips on my tablet (X6D), and it made it much faster/responsive (and on Froyo now). Unfortunately, it regressed in some areas, but more on that later. This post is for instructions on how to flash your ROM.

Step 1 – Make NAND backup
I don’t know if this is necessary, but it’s better to be safe than bricked. You’ll need the Telechips drivers (which should also come with the FDWN application). You can follow these instructions to backup your NAND (first 1-6 steps).

Step 2 – Copy new ROM onto SD card
On your SD card (the external one, not the NAND), create a folder called clockworkmod, then create a folder in it called backup, and then finally a third folder to store your ROM (can be whatever you want). Unzip the proper boot image for your device (2 files – boot.img and nandroid.md5) and the system.img (this is the actual ROM) to that folder. The boot image is tied to the actual device, so you must know which device you have! If you use the wrong boot image, your machine won’t boot and you will have to reset it. You can get these files for a variety of telechips tablets at Team TeleChips (of which 2010112 is the latest release). Also, get the (Clockwork) recovery image that is for your particular device from Team TeleChips and unzip it onto your SD card.

Finally as Cyanogen no longer ships with the Google apps, you have to get them separately (which are legally available somewhere but I don’t have the link on hand right now). Put these zips on your SD card (doesn’t matter where)

Step 3 – Backup relevant files
There are several files that exist on your tablet that are specific to your hardware, and if you don’t back them up then you will lose them forever and your tablet won’t work properly. To back the files up, boot up your tablet normally and attach the USB cable. Then in a command prompt on your PC, use adb pull to backup the following files to your PC:

  • /data/data/pointercal
  • /data/softmac
  • /system/lib/hw/ (this one might not be necessary)

Step 4 – Flash recovery
While you are using ADB, also flash the recovery image from step 2 as your recovery image. You can do this with the following command:

adb remount
adb shell flash_image recovery /sdcard/path/to/your/recovery.img

Then reboot your tablet into recovery mode. This is probably different for all tablets, for the X6D you have to hold down the home button and the power button while it is being booted (adb reboot recovery doesn’t work). The tablet should boot into a recovery menu instead of Android.

Step 5 – Backup and Restore
In the clockwork recovery, do the following things:

  1. BACKUP your existing ROM (so you have something to revert back to, unless you’re like me and you accidentally delete it afterwards)
  2. RESTORE the Cyanogen ROM (if you don’t see any choices aside from your backup, then you didn’t setup the folders on your SD card right)
  3. UNZIP the 2 (Google Apps, then Market) google app zips from your SD card
  4. Optionally, do a factory reset/wipe all user data
  5. Optionally, wipe the cache
  6. Optionally under Advanced, wipe the Davik cache
  7. Connect your USB cable and use ADB to push the files you’ve saved. They go into the original locations except pointercal which goes into /system/etc/.
  8. Under Advanced, fix permissions

Now reboot your tablet!

Step 6 – Fix a couple of things…
Once you’ve booted into Froyo, don’t setup your Google account yet. There are a couple of things that you must do:

  • Go under Settings->Ethernet and disable ethernet. You must do this before setting up your wifi connection or you won’t be able to access the Internet (it will default to ethernet).

These threads were useful to me:

Once you’ve flashed, you’ll have to install all your apps and configure everything again (assuming you did a factory reset). Most things are working and are snappier. The regressions I have found are:

  • Notifications drawer is not drawn correctly – looks bad but functionally ok
  • Video can’t be played
  • Unexpected behaviour with the NAND (even though it is automounted) – I’m still investigating this, but media (jpg, mp3s) that I have stored on the NAND does not seem to be found

Fan Expo happened late last month. I didn’t go this year because I figured $35 (Saturday admission was $6 more than the other days) was not really worth it to walk around merchandise booths (where I wouldn’t buy anything), look at former B-list sci-fi actors (i.e., really D-list) from afar and line up for the privilege of doing those things. I did show up to try and hang around to see how people were dressed up, but they changed the layout this year and I was successful. I did end up seeing the Delorean from Back to the Future!

Anyways, perhaps it was the event that sparked me on a sci-fi trip in the last little while. Star Trek and Star Wars are the two big sci-fi franchises, and I think everyone is pretty familiar with them. I have interest in some other smaller ones too, like Babylon 5 and Stargate. But what I have been reading about recently, is Dune.

I first learned about Dune by playing the RTS Dune 2. That was pretty fun! Then I played Dune 1 (which was more of a RPG) and saw the 2000 Sci-Fi channel mini-series remake of Dune (I also bought the DVD somewhere…). Those was pretty good too, but then I never paid too much attention to it afterwards as I’m not a fanatic.

Recently it has captured my attention. While it is classified as science-fiction, I’ve come to realize that it is not the classic science-fiction that I enjoyed when I was younger. In the past, I read sci-fi books because they had all these interesting technology concepts that we don’t have today, but would be cool if we did. There certainly are technological advances in Dune, but there aren’t many; in fact, in the history of the Dune universe, all “thinking machine” level technology (i.e., computers) were eradicated!

What is captivating about Dune is the political struggle and posturing that takes place. Throughout the 15,000 year history, there are about 5 factions at any one time competing for power, and none of them can outright rule because they are all dependent on each other. Whereas Star Trek/Wars might be Axis vs Allies, Dune is very much like the current global-economic relationship.

Unlike our world though, where changes have real-life consequences, and time moves second-by-second. You can quickly move across thousands of years in Dune. You can see how families are merged and alliances are made. It’s like reading the history of Western Europe, except the authors made it interesting!

Maybe this will prompt me to start reading the Dune novels (all 8 of them?), although it is just so much easier to read about them on Wikipedia…

If you’ve used Google Maps recently, you might have noticed that sometimes it is able to figure out (reasonably well) where your computer is. That’s because there is now magic that can do geolocation through your browser.

The upcoming HTML5 specification is suppose to support geolocation, so your future browsing will be even less anonymous. From a geeky point of view, it is interesting to play with this new information. I’ve been fooling around with it, and it is quite easy to grab the lat/long of your current location and then slap it on a map. What to do with it after that is a good question though.

Going on a guys-only road trip today – you can guess why it is guys-only probably. We’re driving in the States, so I’ll have my AT&T sim for moblogging, 4sq checkins and random email/Facebooking. In this connected society, there is no such thing that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. At least for geeks. Also maybe it’s because we’re not going to Vegas…

I should start this post off with the disclaimer that I know there is a perfectly good solution, namely IMAP, that was engineered to solve this problem; but I don’t have a data plan and the point is to try and figure out a way to get a notification when I get an email, with the tools I have available (i.e., unlimited incoming SMS due to a text plan).

The idea is simple. When I get an email, I want to be texted on my phone with the subject, sender, and whatever else from the body that can fit within 160 characters. But the some of the details make this convoluted: 1) Sending SMS is “expensive” so it’s difficult to find a reliable, quick AND free resource to send texts, and 2) I don’t want to share my GMail login with some random provider to retrieve my mail (since it’s my Google Accounts login which is tied to Calendar, Adsense, etc; not to mention just having random people read my private mail).

The first problem has a relatively easy solution, and that is to go through Twitter. I can set my Twitter account to subscribe to another dummy Twitter account that I own. Whenever that dummy account is updated, Twitter can quickly and for free, send a text to my phone. Now I just need to get my mail onto Twitter.

GMail has an RSS feed, and if you embed your login information in the URL, then anything can pull the mail from your account. Also, a Twitter account can be tied to a RSS feed through services like TwitterFeed (which I tried using for FiD). But their service runs on a one-hour delay and I’m not entirely comfortable sharing my info with this third party. Then I found out that FeedBurner has a new FeedBurner Socialize feature which can push RSS updates to a Twitter account. Feedburner is now owned by Google so I feel more comfortable storing my login info there.

With that setup, I can accomplish what I set out to. So to summarize:

  • Grab mail as RSS feed by embedding login data into feed URL
  • Burn feed through FeedBurner and socialize to a new, protected, Twitter account
  • Follow dummy Twitter from main Twitter account and have updates sent to phone.

Now on to the problems. The GMail RSS feed stores the email body preview in a summary element within the feed, instead of the description. This means that when FeedBurner pushes to Twitter, it just pushes the title (and also there is no author etc). I think this can be solved by taking the FeedBurner feed and “fixing” it with Yahoo! Pipes. For some reason, Yahoo! Pipes doesn’t take an authenticated RSS feed as a source (or GMail ignores it on purpose) so you have to use your burned feed. Once the feed is fixed, then you have to burn it a second time in FeedBurner to push to Twitter. This introduces even more polling delay.

Next, the dummy Twitter account ends up polluting your actual Twitter account with updates (i.e., your mail). I don’t know how to solve this yet since there is no filtering mechanism on the main Twitter site. It is actually quite annoying and counter-balances the usefulness of pushing email notifications to my mobile.

Also, I was thinking that it might be good to funnel my mail through to a second, read-only, GMail account in order to protect my login (it might be good to have a second GMail account which shadows my primary account for security purposes anyways). But again this adds more delay.

In summary, it can be done, but it is just not streamlined enough to be of good use.

One thing that I noticed in Japan was the heavy usage of QR Codes on advertisements and what not. These scannable codes weren’t very common in North America but lately I’ve been seeing them used more and more (i.e., Blackberry).

The codes are a quick way to encode some text information, but mostly I see them used to encode a URL. Now that many more people in North America have data-enabled cell phones (but not necessary a good way to type, or are lazy); they can just take a picture of the code and have the page opened automatically. To the right is the QR code for (yay for Google for having an easy way to convert text into QR Code).

The idea itself is fascinating to me because, like a barcode, it is not human readable at all. It just looks like some noise, but you can fit 1000 phone numbers into one QR code!

When we were in NOTL last year, I saw some neat wine glasses/tumblers on sale. They were special because they were made from some sort of recyclable, flexible, plastic; so if they actually tumbled, then they wouldn’t shatter. I thought they were really cool (I am easily impressed by technological advances eh) but they were going for something like $20 for a set of 4 so I didn’t get them.

Later that year, we were at a Ashley-Williams sale which we had to park really far away and lined up for, and I saw this same product again. I don’t know if they were exactly the same but the concept was. Now they were ON SALE for $12 for 4. Due to a combination of 1) being on sale, and 2) having to make the trip worthwhile; I got a set.

They are made by govino which seems to make only these glasses. In reality, I don’t think they are specifically wine glasses but are just marketed that way in order to target a specific demographic and set a higher markup; so not worth the premium (even if it was on sale!!). In fact, because it doesn’t have a stem, it feels a bit wrong with wine. I use it more with mixed drinks, although you have to be careful since it is voluminous compared to a normal glass.

If you’ve ever tried to hide or doctor a photo using photo editing software, then you don’t want to read this breakdown of how your photoshop handiwork can be discovered. It’s quite amazing that all this data is leaked out; I’m surprised there aren’t more exposés of doctored photos from online sources.

Although the dress appears to have a random noise pattern, there is actually one area where there is a well-defined pattern: her chest. Between her breast the dots form a well-organized “stretch” pattern. The modification also appears in a demosaic analysis as a diamond-shape distortion in the middle of her chest, and in the 2nd principal component as a minor color variation. Digital enhancements usually appear in multiple image analysis tests, and this appears in min/max, PCA, and demosaic analysis, among other tests.

I upgraded the firmware on my phone over Thanksgiving long weekend. It was a long way coming, the firmware came out in July but for some reason Nokia wouldn’t let the North America market upgrade to the new version until recently.

What a chore. I had “everything” backed up using Nokia’s backup tool, but the backup tool convenient forgot many applications. In the end, it took a few hours for me to upgrade the firmware and get things back to the original state. In fact it felt like a re-format!

Except I didn’t even install all my applications properly, this week I keep noticing applications missing like my Smart Profiles (hey how come my phone is ringing at work??) and Twitter. What a pain in the ass, just for supposedly better camera quality.

Last year, Picasa Web Albums released a feature called name tags that used facial recognition to group the people in your photos together. I was excited this week because the technology has finally reached the desktop client! I loaded the new Picasa and it began crunching through the 20,000+ faces in my photos.

It’s a cool technology, but the current execution is a little less than desired. I have a bunch of weird objects which it thinks are faces (like a rice cooker), many “faces” of statues and paintings, and a lot of dark/cloudy/misaligned/sideways-facing faces. I would rather they just not consider these as faces.

When it works, it works really well. It was able to cluster several thousand faces in my photos, and now I have all sorts of facial data that I want to do neat things with. Too bad the Picasa isn’t easily accessible so I’m relegated to making collages. Here’s a slice of my many faces:

I missed it last year because I was flying back from Japan, but this year I went to Fan Expo again. It was a lot like the first time, with the cosplay and lining up (strangely though, there wasn’t as much NDS action); so I won’t describe all that stuff again.

Peter and I went to a couple of events, the first one was a DC Universe Editorial Presentation by Dan DiDio (Senior VP / Executive Editor). I didn’t really have any expectations or idea what this event was about, and it turned out to just be a presentation on the key DC “franchises”. It was a bit surreal sitting in the room and hearing the talk. Dan would talk about how they were revitalizing the Green Lantern franchise with the Blackest Night DCU event and people would start clapping and wooting. I can’t imagine the same reaction if I went on a stage and started talking about the products I work on, or if the CEO of Walmart was up there announcing a new line of clothing for American people. Now I know what it’s like to sit in a Jobs keynote.

We also went to two sketch duels (which I kept calling sketch-offs and that confused a lot of people who were asking us what the line was for). The first one was between Ethan Van Sciver and Ivan Reis. Ivan is from Brazil (and the artist on Blackest Night) so his English was very poor. He couldn’t understand the questions well and so the Q/A part of the duel was mostly done by Ethan. Ethan drew Sinestro and Ivan drew Killowog. Other than that, this duel wasn’t very noteworthy.

The second sketch duel was between Marko Djurdjevic and Olivier Coipel. I though I recognized Olivier’s accent, and it turns out he was in the other sketch dual I saw two years ago! The highlight, for better or for worse, of this dual was Marko though. People would ask him questions like, if you could draw any book which would it be, and he would just say “I don’t know”. At one point he complained about the “philosophical questions” people kept asking him! I thought this was hilarious that he was rejecting the fandom that the audience was giving him. He really did only want to draw, and in the sketch dual he drew Thor and 2 bonus pieces: Dr. Doom and The Hulk. Later J. Michael Straczynski showed up to raffle off the 4 drawings but unfortunately I didn’t win anything.

The other awesome thing that I saw at Fan Expo (well I saw a lot of awesome things) was a 2D girlfriend! The little note is awesome “Perv Pillows – You know you want one – $30.00”. I didn’t see anyone carrying them around though.

It livessss.

moblogged from my phone.