Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Barcode Scanner: The app that should be on every android phone

This app review should almost be an Android101 article.

Barcode Scanner is the de facto app for scanning QR codes (aka the square barcodes) that are frequently used in the android community to share links to apps. In fact, almost every android site out there that publishes app reviews will have a QR code somewhere on the web page that you can scan with your phone to download the app from the android market.

In fact, this review features one. :)

When I first got my phone, I kept seeing QR codes on android web sites and I had no idea what I needed to do to scan them... the answer is, you get this app and almost everyone knows that (but it doesn't seam to be written down anywhere).

If you have an android phone and you don't have this app, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Read more after the break...

UofL (and UK) making contributions to hydrogen production

Many people think Hydrogen power is an important "next step" to move to cleaner fuels... however producing Hydrogen in significant quantiies has been a big problem. Looks like UofL and UK are making contributions to solving that problem.

Pretty exciting to see my alma mattar mentioned in an article like this. This article actually made slashdot.

I graduated just before Dr. Sunkara came to Speed School, but several of my friends did have him for some classes and, I believe, liked him. Looks like he's was a solid contributer to the school.

More after the break...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Long Live Kevin Butler

I didn't realize he was "gone" (particularly since I follow @TheKevinButler on Twitter), but it has been too long since Sony featured him in a new ad. Now they are kicking off a new slogan:

Cardinal Football kickoff in about 50 hours

If you haven't heard UofL Defensive Coordinator Lance Bedford's "train" comments, this video is a great way to experience it for the first time:

It looks like the game will be broadcast on ESPNUHD and I'm surprised to see I actually get that channel (for any of us in the Houston area, that's Comcast channel 725). The game kicks off at 5:00PM Houston Time so everyone West of Louisville should plan their work schedules accordingly.

More after the break...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

An Idiot and His Patent Are Soon Parted...

So there was an interesting Federal Circuit Court ruling that, arguably just invalidated all software patents... and it turns out the inventor of the patent in question pretty much feels the same as I do on the whole US software patent situation.

Personally, I like his proposed remedies... sometimes I get so disgusted with the system that I want all software patents abolished, but I will concede from time to time that it is a more complicated issue than that and that there might be legitimate software patent out there.

My biggest issue has always been with the lifespan of software patents... the standard 25-year lifespan for a patent is perfectly legitimate for most industries, but the software world moves way too fast for that. Technologies are outdated in as a little as three years.... 25-years is an eternity in the software world.

Case in point... a software patent that expires in 2011 would have been granted in 1986. What was the state of computing in 1986? Here's an article that tells you just that.

Read more after the break

Hey Tablet Manufacturers, PAY ATTENTION!

Glad to see a journalist point out something I was noticing. Tablets are too expensive. The iPad set the price point for tablets and given its success every-other "me too" tablet on the market has tried to copy Apple's functionality AND Apple's price point.

However, tablets are functionally similar to netbooks yet cost twice as much.

I have a hacked nook color that I'm using for a tablet because I was able to get that for $200. Until full-featured tablets hit the $250-$300 price point I'm going to stay with my nook color.

Apparently, I'm not the only price-conscious shopper in the market for a tablet. At $600 HP couldn't sell hardly any of their Touchpads. It was so bad that the discontinued the tablet and it had only been on the market for several weeks.

Yet, at $100-$150 they all but disappeared from every store, everywhere in a couple of days. Remember, this is for a discontinued product. That will turn a lot of shoppers away and they still flew of the shelves.

The market is dying for a viable, affordable tablet at a lower price-point.

I actually had a 32GB in my "shopping cart" all set to check out with free shipping the Friday night the clearance started, but I honestly didn't even have that money. I'm still kicking myself. Particularly now that there's an attempted Android port underway.

Read more after the break

Do cockpits have circuit lighters for car chargers?

... I would hate for them not to be able to access their manuals if the pilots forgot to charge the battery before a flight.

Joking aside, I'm all for replacing hard-copy reference material with electronic versions... and the fuel savings alone sounds like this is a worthwhile initiative.

Read more after the break

9/80 for students?

Well, actually closer to a 4/10, but more people have heard of a 9/80.

(For those that haven't, a 9-80 work schedule is where you work nine-hour days instead of 8-hour days, but you get an extra day off every-other week. That way you still work 80-hours every two weeks. A 4-10 makes the days longer still (10 hours instead of 8, but you only work four days a week).

Anyway, back to the article... in order to deal with shrinking budgets.... some schools are stretching the school day and giving kids an extra day off. On one hand, I'm offended that we still short-changing education to lead us to having to make these kinds of compromises.

On the other hand, I would have loved this when I was a kid, and some studies indicate that it may actually be beneficial for students. (However there are other studies that directly contradict this finding.)

Read more after the break...

Live Action Short Film version of Portal

If you haven't played Portal, you should. Really. Great game, and the original portal is pretty short so its not even a huge time commitment. Someone decided to make a live-action short film based on Portal. Pretty slick. I think the portal gun looks a little fake/plastic-y, but on the whole... really well done.

Read more after the break...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Android 101: What's using your battery...

AndroidCentral delivers another new user tip on how to monitor your power consumption on Android.

Personally, I find the built-in tools in Android to be lackluster, at best. Worse still, I haven't found any 3rd party tools to be any better. That said, everyone with an Android phone needs to be familiar with the built-in capabilities so if none of this is familiar... click the link and check it out.

If anyone out there is aware of better battery monitoring tools, I'm all ears. Feel free to use the "email me" link from my blog's sidebar (or if you are reading this on some other social network... message me using the tools provided).

What am I looking for? Why is "Android System" using so much power (particularly partial wake usage)? It's like a black box. What specifically is the Android System doing? Solutions requiring root are perfectly acceptable.

More after the break...

Why you think you know more/better than everybody else...

I don't know if the author's term for this particular phenomena, Asymmetric Insight, in a generally recognized term or not, but I think we are all generally familiar with the idea.

Reading this article reminded me of a particular episode of the sit-com "Head of the Class" (no, not the Moscow episode), where the students were participating in a debate. One of the IHP's best debaters was the ultra-Conservative, Alan Pinkard. However, Alan was picked to defend an ultra-liberal position that was clearly against his character. He actually managed to win the debate and he explained (paraphrasing), "Well... I worked on my argument until I thought I could convince myself... " (or something like that). The point being: if he was able to force himself to defend an argument that's directly contrary to his own personal beliefs.... and to do it well enough that he could convince himself that it was a reasonable position, then certainly someone with less bias would find it convincing.

This had an impression on me... obviously.... I still remember it. I decided after watching that to try and follow that advice. Later on in school, whenever I was asked to write an opinion paper on a topic, I would first decide what my personal leanings were... and then I would intentionally write to defend the other side.

I can't say that I've consciously applied that logic in sometime, but I probably need to do it more.... we all probably do.

Read more after the break

More Politics at the Pump

Once again the great Robert Rapier looks at consumer oil industry and politics. While politicians can claim to deliver cheap gas... they aren't likely to do it, and shows us why.

More after the break...

More on Innovation and Cost Management

Forbes published a 3-article piece looking at US outsourcing (largely as a by-product of cost-savings measures) and the implications on the state of US manufacturing and what that means about our ability to continue to innovate.

This piece largely mirrors the article I posted in early July.

Based on the follow-up comments to my original article... I think my feelings are pretty well known on this. In short: while cost-cutting measures like outsourcing may provide a huge short-term gain, it can come at the expense of long-term health of an organization.... in this case due to the lack of experience and expertise. No easy answers here, folks…. just food for thought.

More after the break...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If you are reading this on a PC, hit control-F

(or command-F if you are on a mac, smartphone users check your menus)

If you are surprised by what you find, you appear to be a member of a rather-large majority.

Having worked in a computer-lab at UofL's med school while I was in college, I do have an appreciation for some of the things that folks don't know that they can do with their computer, but even this caught by surprise.... I can't even recall when I learned about Control-F.... I think it probably pre-dated the web-browser for me (since it's a common key-sequence in any program that deals with text).

Anyway.... looks like we need to address this particular gap in knowledge.

Read more after the break...

Android101: Closing a misbehaving app

Another in Android Central's series for new users of Android.

For a long time there was a belief that Android phones needed a "task killer" application to kill runaway programs. This is because, in general, applications aren't closed when you exited them... they remain running and the OS decides if and/or when it needs to be shutdown.

Earlier releases of android weren't nearly as good at this as more modern releases.

In fact, now people are finding that task killers often hurt more than they help. This because in many cases and overzealous task killer will terminate an application that actually needs to be running. When the OS realizes that the process died it will automatically restart it... all of the shutting down and restarting of the processes actually consume more resources (and ultimately battery) then if everything was just left alone.

Having said all that... sometimes you do need to terminate an app... and when you have to do it, it's nice to know that every Android device has a built in way to kill tasks... even if it is buried under about 3-3 layers of settings menus.

Read more after the break...

Infoworld editorial on the patent arms race

Infoworld's Bill Snyder chimes in with an opinion I think you've heard before.

Personally, as a heavy Google user and borderline advocate, I'm happy to see Google shoring-up their position, but I would much prefer it if Congress or the Courts would change the rules of this war.

Read more after the break...

Where's the balloons?

So a builder decided to make a replica of the House from "Up" outside of Salt Lake City. Neat to see a movie come to life, particularly an animated movie.

The opening sequence of "Up" is quite possibly one of the most moving, and gut-wrenching scenes I've sat through in a movie (or TV or theater or pick-your-entertainment-of-choice). Personally, I think everyone needs to see it, but I can imagine some people couldn't handle it.

Read more after the break...

So just what will you find under the water line?

I live pretty close to Lake Houston, I've never been on the lake myself, but I have quite a few friends that boat and wake-board on the lake.

I'm glad that I'm not aware of any car/boat collisions... or worse yet... a spill off of a wake-board to take a header into a sunroof.

Amusing pictures (and good to know that the lake is getting cleaned up while the water is down), but if you think about it... it's kind of scary.

Read more after the break...

US patent office "celebrates" 8millionth patent

You can see what the USPTO had to say on their site, but I think the comments from the slashdot submitter are worth pondering.

Clearly, are patent applications are accelerating... and I don't believe we have that degree of new innovation.

Read more after the break...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Swype for Nexus S™ 4G Now Available

I'm a BIG fan of Swype. Because of it, I'm strongly contemplating giving up a physical keyboard on my next phone.

Anyway... Swype announced a new version today and it's only initially available to owners of the Sprint Nexus S 4G. If you own one, I highly recommend you install it and try it out. There's a slight learning curve, but it's not very steep. In under two weeks of using Swype on an Epic, my wife decided she didn't need a keyboard and swapped her phone for an Evo.

You can get it from or you can check out the install guide video after the break.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What eats the dogs?

That eats the cats that eats the rats...? xkcd takes on the bug leukemia news from last week that I blogged about here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How to fold sheets

I was in my 30s before someone (my wife?) finally showed me how to properly fold a fitted sheet. I'm going to guess I'm not the only one with this particuliarl gap in knowledge. Have at it.

Stupid Patents: Google patents shipping notifications?

After praising google in my last patent related posts comes news of Google getting another obvious patent. At least skimming it, this doesn't pass the "smell test" for whether its anything actually new and innvovative.

This is the kind of stuff that the USPTO is letting through. Please stop. Please.

Louisville's Water Infrastructure

The UofL area expienced their second major water main break within the last six weeks. has had a couple posts looking at Louisville's aging infrastructure.

Neat to watch the tree disappear though.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

HIV is the cure for Cancer?

My first thought was:

Damned if you do.... Damned if you don't.

However, reading the article it appears that they are using a "harmless" modified form of HIV. It's definately still early, but it sounds like this is the most promising thing they've stumbled across in years.

Got to say... didn't see that one coming.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Android 101 -- Updating Apps

More from androidcentral for folks new to android. This time it's an explanation of how to run your own app updates. Personally, I'm addicted. I check for updates multiple times a day.

Yes, seriously. I told you. I'm addicted.

App updates

Installing applications from the market is one thing, but keeping them up to date with the most current  version is a whole other piece. Most developers are constantly working behind the scenes to improve their applications, and every so often they drop a new version for us all in the Android market, and installing them is quite important. We are lucky enough to have the ability to have our applications auto update in the market now, but not everyone is a fan of that. Personally I like to read the change log and see what exactly has been improved, or if the developer has any notes regarding the update. For me, I update manually, and here is how.


Microsoft finally patches "ping of death"

Well that took about 20 years.

I remember actually using the "ping of death" for legitamite business purposes.

At teh time, I was a Research Assitant in my last semester at UofL at one of my responsibilities was standing up a new Sun workstation. The static IP that UofL IT had assigned me to use was working because some other box on the network was coming up on the same IP... which is a big no-no. Since I was the "rightful owner" of the address, we used Nmap to port scan the box and used it's fingerprinting technology to determine that the other machine was, in fact, a windows 95/98 PC. Then a friend of mine helped me send a "ping of death" to the machine which knocked it off of the school network so I could then bring my workstation online.

We later found the Windows machine with the "blue screen of death" (it happened to be in the very same room as my workstation) and then fixed it to come up on a different IP (probably using DHCP).

Amplify’d from
"Microsoft on Tuesday issued 13 security updates that patched 22 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, Windows, Office and other software, including one that harked back two decades to something dubbed 'Ping of Death.' While other patched vulnerabilities we more serious, one marked 'CVE-2011-1871' brought back memories for nCircle's Andrew Storms. 'This looks like the Ping of Death from the early-to-mid 1990s,' he said. 'Then, when a specially-crafted ping request was sent to a host, it caused the Windows PC to blue screen, and then reboot.' Two decades ago, the Ping of Death (YouTube video demonstration) was used to bring down Windows PCs remotely, often as a way to show the instability of the operating system."

The story of Keurig

While I wasn't aware of Keurig in the 90s, we did get on board about 2006 or so (much earlier then most people I know), and it was the right call for us.

Mostly because I don't drink coffee.

If you find that amusing, I'm serious... and here's why. My wife loves coffee, but since I don't drink it she would never brew a whole pot prefering instead to frequent coffee shops like Starbucks.... and while Keurig coffe on a per-cup basis is more expesive then brewing a pot of "Maxwell House", it's way cheaper then picking up a latte' at Starbucks.

Sadly our Keuring is starting to show it's age and we may need to replace it before too long, but it's served as well so far.

Amplify’d from

The Buzz Machine

But today, 16 years after that trip to the hospital, the company Sylvan dreamed up is a billion-dollar juggernaut. Keurig’s commercial models are now in 13 percent of American workplaces (and more than 25 percent of those in Boston). Last Christmas, one out of every four home coffee makers sold in the United States was a Keurig. Lately the brand has taken on a viral quality: If someone gets a machine and shows it off to friends, soon everyone else in the neighborhood wants one, too.


Technology and the /very/ young

We don't let the kids play with our phones too often (unlike some parents), but my wife and I are technically "GenX". Regardless, Becket has played "Angry Birds" and we've been sittind down and occasionally playing "Epic Mickey" on the Wii (well technically, I play and we watches/comments).

I have often been wondering what this means for his perception of the world. My generation grew up asking our parents, "What was the world like when it was all Black and White?", but Becket and Eliza are growing up in a world of smart phones, TiVos and Netflix streaming. (For example, Becket doesn't understand that TV shows have schedules and he can't watch Dora at any time he wants because all too often we have an epside all ready recorded... when we don't... it blows his mind why we can't put one on).

I wonder how his perception of the world (and his perception of what the world was like for us in our youth) will be.

Amplify’d from

Stat of the Day: 25% of Toddlers Have Used a Smartphone

See more at

How to make good passwords

I must admit... I'm guilty of doing the first thing more than the last thing. I think it's because I fear making typos (which I do otfen). ;P

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Welcome to the North Side

Just moved offices from the South side of my building where I got no WiMax signal whatsoever to an office on the North Side. I speculated one of the benefits was I would get a signal. I assumed this based on Clear's coverage map showing a WiMAX tower pretty close to the building:

Monday, August 08, 2011

Historypin superimposes history

As an alumnus of the University of Louisville I follow the University's posts on flickr. To my surprise UofL posted some photos today from their archives and something that mentioned I site I hadn't stumbled on before. HistoryPin.

An in-depth look at Google+

Now that Google+ has been available for a month, arstechnica devouts a feature-length article to G+ about what works, what doesn't and why they think Google+ is going to last.

Personally, I really like Google+ but until more people are on it and using it regularly... I do find it of limited value. Very few of my friends are posting anything regularly there.

If you want an invite, send me an email using sidebar on my blog (or a facebook message if you're already a friend). I need a valid email address, but I'm more than happy to send out invites.

Amplify’d from
One month with Google+: why this social network has legs

If you're a stranger who follows me on Google+, you might think I rarely use the service. That's because the majority of my posts have been limited to the seven circles I created for friends, acquaintances, family, Ars staffers, and other people I like to expose to various aspects of my personality. You had no idea? That's exactly the point.


Transformers: In theaters for 25 years

I thought I would highlight an article from an old friend of mine over on his blog.

Like Mark, I'm from the original "Transformers Generation" and I'm still emotionally tied to that movie.

Unlike Mark, I didn't get to experience it in a movie theater. I recall watching it a friend's house after renting it at a video store. I'm not sure my own family even had a VCR at the time (we didn't get our first VHS player until I was in middle school).

I would love to wax poetically about how I feel about this movie, but I'm afraid I would only manage to embarass myself publically. If you're a fan... you know you love this movie.... if you aren't... you're probably shaking your head right now.

Transformers: The Movie*. For modern-day Transformers fans, it probably comes as a bit of a surprise that the franchise had a theatrical movie many years before the Michael Bay live-action movies started setting box office records. But this was the Transformers movie for my generation of Transformers fans.


$6 for 12 games?

... for the next 24 hours? Yeah that's about right. (at least as of this posting)

I've been negligent in posting a link to the 3rd Humble Indie Bundle, which expires roughly 24 hours from now. While I don't play games on my PC often (favoring my consoles and phone), frankly the Humble Indie Bundles are too good of a deal not to take advantage.

On top of that, you don't have to pay $6... you pay what you want. However, if you donate less than $5.70 cents you only seven games. Regardles, you also get to direct the money.. whether you want it to go to developers or even charity.

Some of these games are stellar titles too.. I highly recommend going with the ~$6 donation to get Braid and Machinarium

Amplify’d from

The Humble
Indie Bundle #3

Pay what you want. If you bought these five games separately, it would cost around $50, but we're letting you set the price!

All of the games work great on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

The Humble
Indie Bundle #3

Pay what you want. If you bought these five games separately, it would cost around $50, but we're letting you set the price!

All of the games work great on Mac, Windows, and Linux.

More Economic Heartburn...

I'm sure everyone feels inundated with all the economic talk out there, but I found yet another interesting article on that looks at how oil prices play into the current US economic conundrum.

Needless to say, this article finds fault with basically every president we've had since the 70s with the possible exception of Clinton.

I think there is an important aspect to those administrations he doesn't touch on... military spending. Regardless of your perspective on military spending... you can't argue that Regan, both Bush's and Obama have all spent a ton of money on the military and that has all coincided with huge growths in the national deficit.

Personally, I'm happy to vote LP.

Normally, consumers consider falling oil and gasoline prices to be good news. They have to pay less to fill up their tanks. And if the reason for that is that oil supplies are increasing at a rate faster than demand is increasing, it can indeed be a good situation for consumers, and good for the economy.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Mike Doughty and Nikki Sixx??!??!

From Mike Doughty's Mailing List:

It was written with Dan Wilson, Nikki Sixx (?!) and Matt Gerrard, who
wrote much of "High School Musical" (?!). Well, technically written with
them. Long story. I'll blog it eventually.

Good song. Can't wait to read the blog post.

Na Na Nothing by MegaforceRecords

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Google joins the rant against Software Patents

Google (via their official blog) took some time today to express their concerns with software patents. It's interesting to see a tech company take this position publicly.

.NET a dead end?

With more and more articles being written like this, it's surprising Microsoft hasn't stated anything publicly. In this edition, "I Programmer" looks at the history of Windows APIs and how .NET might just be a dead-end.

A way to secure "Open" Networks?

This could be really big as it sounds pretty trivial to implement and use. If anyone can find flaws in the plan, I'm sure the audience at Black Hat will, so this will get scrutinized pretty quickly. Maybe we'll see this role out in widespread soon?

A Strong Argument For Energy Conservation

Sorry... there will be math. Well, math described... you don't have to do any yourself.

So a physics professor at UCSD has decided to look at US energy consumption and plot it over time and look at what issues we might face if that growth rate is sustained long-term.

It isn't pretty.

My favorite quote:

Let me restate that important point. No matter what the technology, a sustained 2.3% energy growth rate would require us to produce as much energy as the entire sun within 1400 years. A word of warning: that power plant is going to run a little warm. Thermodynamics require that if we generated sun-comparable power on Earth, the surface of the Earth—being smaller than that of the sun—would have to be hotter than the surface of the sun!

More problems with patents...

I recently encouraged folks to check out "This American Life"'s take on the American Patent Problem. (NOTE: the same show also aired on NPR's "Planet Money".

Well the economist listened and decided to chime in too. Folks if you have listened/read any of this yet... please do. I don't know what's going to change US Patent Law but the system needs to change and the first step is awareness.

This one's for mom...

While Mom and I don't necessarily have the same sense of humor... maybe, just maybe she can find something in here to appreciate. :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

H-Town Digital Marriage

It wasn't me... I've been married enough times thank-you-very-much, but apparantley someone in Houston decided to have a computer program officiate their marriage. I suppoose that's cheaper then hiring a minister and holding a second wedding in a church (both out-of-state from where you live), but too weird... even for me.

Combating Oil Misinformation

I wish this article were shorter because a lot of people won't take the time to read it as is, but it's really, really good.

The author address nearly every major criticism of US oil companies point-for-point and shows the flaws in the logic.

Speaking as somone that bought the "oil-companies-are-evil" mantra before I ever worked for one... it really helps to educate yourself.

Louisville Clock heading back to Fourth?

I only knew the Louisville Clock when I visited it outside of Kentucky Kingdom before it was mothballed. I'd been following the restoration efforts that were chronicled in the Courier-Journal and was surprised that the Zoo location had fallen through. Glad to see that people are trying to find a new home for the clock... particuliarly back on Fourth Street where it started. Landmarks like this only make the city more interesting.

We hardly knew you...

Personally, I was never crazy about the design, but I was all for seeing Louisville adding a significant architectural landmark like the Museum Plaza. It appears it was the ultimate victim of bad timing... the bottom dropped out of the economy before they had secured funding despite the developers best efforts.