Thursday, April 30, 2009

Technical Difficulties

That's right folks... I'm having so many technical Difficulties that I can't even get my webcam picture to say it right.


anyway... my hard drive on my laptop died... so I have to put my spare hard drive in, but don't worry, I back everything up.  So, I didn't lose any data... just time... I guess neither of which I can get back, but I have a backup machine, plus the laptop that Evelyn was using (which she gave back to me on her birthday...)  so, I'm not hurting.  I figure, I can use Cable, my Roku player, and my netbook to keep me occupied... plus the sun is out, so I'm taking Jaani to the dog park (after I call mom to say happy birthday!)

So, that being said... above I put what I have completed so far with my recent family tree project.  For some reason it's much easier to find my mom's side than my dad's side... maybe because my mom pays attention to her ancestry a little more...  anyway... so, I am a little stumped about the Kuehl and Oneil family heritage... plus the farnell family heritage is brought to a near halt.  I don't even know where to go with McNally...

Anyway... I also found a neat little link to the Finlayson family, which caught me off gaurd because I thought I had spelled the name wrong, but apparently I didn't.  (BTW Finlayson is one of my my Aunts' maiden name - so it's not a blood-line relationship thing...)

Anyway, there is a little update.

Later,

     SteveO

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Message to dad....

Happy Gilmore was on to something...  a 10% longer drive!

Watch here:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fun with Wakoopa!

So, today at work, I went over to Wakoopa.com , which is this social application tracking site.  What you do is install the Wakoopa tracker, and it uploads how many hours you use each application.  So, while bored out of my mind at work today, I decided to see how much I can level up my character (yea, you have levels...)

So, I started by installing the client, then I opened every application on the computer.  At 5 points each, that boosted my to almost 200 points... then I realized that it tracked web apps too... like gmail, google reader, google calendar, etc... so I started opening up all the sites I usually go to.  then I got up to about 250.  After that, I started to add comments to all the applications that I have had open all day... writing reviews for all of them.  it's kinda cool...

So anyway... I've made it from Newbie, to Novice, to Enthusiast, and now I'm stuck at Devotee... which has this Zen Buddhist type of icon...  However, I want to be a pro or overlord...

grr... if the program worked with Linux too, then I would level up much faster.

I guess I'll just have to keep looking for new web apps.

Later,

     SteveO

PS. I added the Wakoopa applet to my side bar.  Check it out!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Robo-Bum makes $7 per hour!



I should build one of these... then just put it in the mall for an hour.  How would you like to hear good old Microsoft SAM saying things like "I just need to feed my family" or better yet "I need to pay my electric bill."

FYI Microsoft SAM happens to be the voice that Stephen Hawkins uses on his little DOS based computer.

Anyway... just some food for thought.

Later,

     SteveO

P.S.  I think the best thing would build one that has a solar panel on top, and says that it can't draw enough power form the sun to run himself...

anyway...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So... If you didn't hear, it's Earth Day!

So, in honor of Earth Day (which is a rainy day here in the Pacific Northwest...) I decided to ask myself... what if my parents had Solar power on their home?

So, I went over to this company called Roof Ray outlined a few parts of the roof on my parents home, and guessed how much power they spent on Electricity each month ($1,000 maybe?  I don't really know...)  and told them to estimate how much power could be generated and money could be saved.  I was a little surprised.  I sort of thought it would generate more power... but then again I guess they aren't on the equator... But still (Assuming a $1,000 monthly power bill) they could save anywhere from about $150 to $500 a month.  Which could translate to about $3,900 a year.  I guess that would be kinda nice 'A'?  Anyway... I was also curious what impact just the southern facing part of their roof would have, and that was a meager $700ish dollars a year... The big storage garage could save as much as $2,400 a year in savings...

So, there you go mom... and just so you know, the southern face of your home would cost at least $2,670 for just the solar panels (you would also need the equipment to tie it into your home's power...  The big garage would cost $8,760 and your little garage would cost $2,410... for all of it it would cost $13,840 to cover all the surfaces listed above with solar panels.  That means it would take at least 3.5 years for the panels to pay for themselves, and then you would start actually saving money.  However, you will usually need to spend an extra $1,500 to $2,000 for the equipment to hook the solar panels into the grid.  So, you won't actually start saving money for 4-4.5 years.

So, is that worth it?  Well, ask yourself this, is the price of power going up or down?  So, in the future, you will probably be saving more money that you would be saving right now.

But, when it comes to power, the money is always one of the smallest number... If you pay just as much as me for electricity ($0.1 per Kilo Watt Hours (KWH)), that means that (with the whole system) you'll be saving about 39,000 KWH per year...  97lbs of NO2 per year... 307lbs of SO2 per year... and 64,864lbs of CO2 per year... (all assuming a $1,000 monthly electric bill and $0.10 per KWH)

On a similar note, under the assumed conditions, my parents' house would use 120,000 KWH every year... and would annually generate 299lbs of NO2, 945lbs of SO2, and 199,583lbs of CO2...

So, in short, you could save more in CO2 emissions from installing solar panels than I produce in a year...

Just some food for thought.

Later,

     SteveO

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Knobe Effect...

The Knobe Effect, is a philosophical principal proven to be true that states: people are more inclined to judge a means to an end as performed intentionally if they consider it as morally wrong than if they consider it as morally right.  


I just think that's an interesting little tidbit.  I found it here.  


That is all... BTW, I have a nice picture from Marymoore yesterday of Lake Sammamish.  I'll post that when I get a chance to get it off my camera.


Later,
     SteveO

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The FBI uses spyware to monitor "suspects".

 It's been floating around a bunch of news sites recently that a recently released document obtained via the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) details how the FBI is using spyware to target "suspects" of interest.  I think my favorite article is from the Slight Paranoia blog where he raises the question about why is so much of the document redacted (or drawn over with a black marker?)
I think it's an important issue.  What if the FBI were to use sites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or Myspace to exploit browser vulnerabilities and infect innocent people?  Using it to monitor people with no warrant?  Or how many people have been mistakenly infected without them knowing?  I think the question is vital to people feeling safe on the Internet.

I know this should have gone on the tech blog, but it's a very important issue that I will probably aggregate to all my blogs.

Anyway... just keep it in mind.
Later,

     SteveO

BTW  Here is a diagram of the device AT&T uses to help the NSA spy on you!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Too many remotes to lose!

So, Ive come to the conclusion that I have too many remote controls, or at least too many controlers hooked up to my TV.  Everything here is used to control what is on my TV.  I have my laptop, DVD player, Roku digital player, and cable box/DVR.  Which translates to four remote controls, a keyboard, and a mouse.  Which I guess I really only need to have 2 remote controls out (Comcast remote and Roku remote), but every device does have it's own control that I need to keep around for full funtionality of everything.  Which on the lighter side of things, means that I have lots of ways to entertain myself. 

All in all, I can work on 2 computers (with internet access), watch cable TV now, or record shows that I want to watch when I have time to watch them.  I have a limited number of movies that are available on demand through Comcast, however I don't want to pay for movies, so I just get the ones that are free... or in other words older moves that don't have much commercial value.

My Roku player gives me the functionality of watching a large number of movies both new and old at the click of my mouse, however I have to add the movies to my instant Queue using a computer (or once I get an Android phone I can do it that way too.)  The Roku player also offers me the ability to stream movies from Amazon.com, which I have the choice to purchase or rent the movies, and stream them in high definition. 

Actually, both my Roku player and Comcast allow me access to high definition content that my DVD player can't.  However, I have access to newly released movies via Netflix DVDs, plus many other titles that I would otherwise have to pay extra for. 

However, the newest and shiniest toy is the DVR... which is a technology I am very familiar with, but never really had in my home...

It changes the way you look at TV.  If I am watching something interesting, but I have to go somewhere now, I can simply hit the record button.  Which is much like an old VHS player, but without having to mess with tapes... plus it has the capacity to record anywhere from 15 - 60 hours, depending on HD versus standard quality video.  Plus, and this is probably the most important part, because cable provides that nifty guide function to tell me what will be on TV days or weeks from now, I can easily select the show I want to watch and hit record from the menu... no more messing around with setting a timer and hoping the clock on the VCR is set to the right time.

The final function that my cable box plays is a simple clock.  One that is accurate and never has to be set.it just tells me what time it is plain and simple.  The TV will tell me what channel I'm on anyway right?

Anyway.  I don't know if I'll keep the cable TV.  I guess it would be nice to actually follow the next few episodes of Eureka on the Scifi channel, but then again, if I just wait a week longer, then I can watch it all on Hulu... even if it is only 480P... (a wide screen standard resolution picture.)

 As for the monsterously dense entertainment center, you can see my TV, Laptop, Wireless Router, USB Hub, Speakers, DVD Player, Roku player, Cable box, Sub-woofer, External Harddrive, and Printer/scanner/copier (my cable modem is behind the TV too!)  all crammed into my little entertainment center.  You can also see off to the left, I have a yellow netowrking cable, VGA monitor plus, headphone plug, and usb cable that can connect a second computer to the whole system so I can share the TV, speakers, keyboard, mouse, and network with another computer (with or without Wifi.)  The only thing I realized today is that if another comptuer were hooked up here, I wouldn't have anywhere to plug the power calbe in to.

I guess that's ok though I can worry about that in six months... when I get rid of cable and get a computer to turn into a true multimedia center PC.  Somthing with a dual or quad tuner in it (so I can record/watch 2 or 4 channels at the same time.)

Which leads me to my final note about what makes this DVR awesome VS a standard cable box or VCR... it is a dual tuner DVR.  So, it allows me to record one thing, and watch a different thing, or just record two things at the same time.  It is really cool, and anyone paying for cable should consider it.  Although I have to admit I had to pay $6 extra every month for HD channels and a DVR, but if you have an HDTV and are willing to pay for cable, there is no reason not to... although I was kind of shocked that I had to pay extra for HD... you'd think with standard TV being HD, the cable companies would wise up to the whole thing... but then again they are still trying to act like they are strugling so they have a chance at a corperate bail outs.  despite the fact that operating costs for Internet Service Providers decreased in 2008 before we officially declaired we were in a recession.

Anyway... that's enough babble.

I just want to say that DVRs and Roku players are totally awesome!  Cable has yet to convince me I want to keep it, but I have 30 days to decide(and I don't pay a thing if I cancel the TV before then.)  So, we'll see how that works out.

Later,

     SteveO

The truth about copyright issues...

Well, I've heard this same argument many times from many people who know a lot about the subject.  People like Lawerance Lessig and the EFF.  I just think that the recording industry is trying to stifle society as a whole for their own personal gain.  After all, Hollywood is in California because Kodak wasn't about to go all the way to California from New York to protect their camera patents... at least I think it was Kodak... I am not sure exactly what company... but the just is, that the recording and Movie industries are founded on the concept of stealing other's work for your own personal benefit.

That's all for the moment... enjoy the webcam... which apparently is tilting down slowly... I'll just have to reposition it...

Later,

     SteveO

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Webcam is back up!

So, after a few weeks of no webcam, I finally got around to having Comcast come over for my internet connection.  This should mean that I have increased uptime, and it also means that the service I use for my webcam (dropbox) can connect.  I guess whoever owns the router I was connecting to before had UPnP turned off, and they blocked a few key ports.

Anyway, everything is up and running now, plus I have cable TV for the next few months.  (there was some sort of special to get HD cable and a DVR for 6 months with my internet connection... so I decided I would try it out for a little bit and see if I really want it... I have 30 days to cancel with no charge anyway.)

So, things are pretty cool at the moment.  TV, Internet, and the sun is out!

I really don't want to go in to work, but I guess I have to now.

Later,

     SteveO

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So, I'm being too lazy about updating my blog...

I know I haven't updated my blog in a while... and yesterday I promised my mother I would add pictures of my apartment... that is, other than the web cam picture which has been idle for a while now.

Tomorrow my new internet connection will be installed, and things should start to return to normal.  I haven't been updating because the internet connection I am using is too unstable to do much of anything other than check email and I managed to hold a chat window open long enough to order cable modem service.  (yea, Comcast closes too early for me to call them, but they have a 24 hour chat service available on their website.

To be honest, I think the chat service is automated, because every response was generic, and there were a few times when I typed something, and the response that came back was not even related to my question.

Plus, a real person called me on the phone to verify that I actually ordered the service.  The whole experience was a bit odd... took a long time, and didn't really answer any questions.

anyway.  So, tomorrow morning I'll have a good connection... I'll turn the web cam back on... and probably start updating my blog more.

till then...

There is something bothering me.  I have been reading the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Blog, and it turns out there is a case that strikes me very close to home going on between a Boston College Student VS the Campus and State Police titled Boston College Campus Police: "Using Prompt Commands" May Be a Sign of Criminal Activity .  It appears that the Police were able to get a warrant to seize a bunch of his personal property on the grounds that he works for the School's IT department and uses an operating system with "a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on."  For people like me we call this a CLI (Command Line Interface) and if you remember DOS, well, that's what it looks like.  Specifically, this hits me close to home because they are talking about Linux!

Now, there is more to the story than just this bit.  However, the part that really bugs me, is that they only needed these two pieces of information to get a warrant to seize his stuff.  The warrant application doesn't provide any evidence to actually suggest the student was involved in any way.  This worries me because the legal system in this country has no clue when it comes to computers, and these same people are making laws that regulate what they don't understand.  I also think the worst part is that there was no crime committed for the police to investigate.  The problem is that someone (probably) tea-potted some guy by saying he was gay on a school forum.

FYI - tea-potting is the practice of sending an email out from someone's computer when they forget to lock it or leave it logged in.  For example, if someone leaves there desk and doesn't lock their machine, then it would be common to send an email to all the people in his group with the text "I pee my pants..."  or something like that.  This person said "I am Gay" using another student's account on a school forum.

Technically, there is no crime.  The "victim" could sue for deformation of character or something, however there is no crime.  The police are attempting to charge the student of "Obtaining computer services by Fraud or Misrepresentation" and "Unauthorized access to a computer system".  Which would only be true if the student stole personal information to use for commercial gain, and the student were not authorized to use the forum.

Anyway... Things are scary for technology research and tech support these days.  With out groups like the EFF I would have a lot more to worry about.  At least I have someone on my side.

Later,

     SteveO

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sunny and beautiful?

So, I don't have a picture (because I'm at work and I'm not allowed to have a USB drive and stuff like that...) but I just want to say this weekend was awesome!  I was walking around in a Tee shirt all weekend, and yesterday Jaani and I even went to the Marrymoore twice!  it was great!

Today is no different... although the rest of the week seems to look dismal in terms of nice weather... however, I'm going to take this opportunity to work on my bike so it will shift correctly when I ride home... plus one of my tires went flat over the weekend.

Anyway, it's a good time to be in Seattle.

In other news, I almost have my new apartment presentable enough to restore the webcam.  I'll have pictures and stuff soon, but I just want to finish putting stuff away (which I have all my books back on the shelf) and then I just have a couple more things that I need to find a home for.  So, the whole process is coming along nicely, and things will be back to normal before I know it!

At least I got around to putting all the stuff away that I've been tripping over for the past week ;)

That's all... you can go back to your regularly scheduled activities now.

Later,

     SteveO