Friday, May 21, 2010

It Rose from the Grave!

 So, I guess the question you may be asking yourself is... who cares about this picture?  Well, it was exciting for me to take this particular picture because I took it with my Cannon... which was recently pronounced "dead" until further notice.  Well, so what happened?  I'll tell you, I decided to take a pair of pliers and rotated the lens (counter-clockwise.)

I guess the funniest part is that I went online, and I was reading all sorts of blog posts about the lens errors that cameras come up with, and I found out that manufacturers never cover lens errors.  They are almost always caused by either sand/dirt getting caught in the lens mechanism, or they are caused by the camera turning on while something is blocking the lens from extending.  In either case, costs a bit of money to deal with it.  So, after going to a number of blog posts, and reading the same instructions over and over... I decided to just see what would happen if I took out a large pair of pliers and rotated the lens a little.  At first, I kept trying to rotate clockwise, which pushes the lens in, but then I rotated a little bit counter-clockwise and heard a click... actually it was more like a snap, which I thought had broken the camera for sure!  Well, then I turned it on, and it worked!

Anyway, it was good news on an otherwise not-so-good day.

This might lead you to wonder what all that crap in the picture is.  Well, among the seven USB memory sticks there is a Muvo (2GB MP3 player), Bluetooth Adapter, WiFi A/B/G/N adapter, microSD to USB adapter, microSD to SD adapter, microSD to miniSD adapter, and my HTC Droid Incredible.  I guess there is also a SD card case and a clear case from my Ipod Touch that I store all of this stuff in (except the phone.)  I guess I just have way too many USB stick shaped devices.

Anyway... So on one final note.  What I had hoped would be the end of my annual job searching cycle didn't work out.  Which means that I am back on track for my annual contract cycle.  I had hoped to stay at one job for a few years, but it looks like that might not be happening yet.  So, worst case scenario, I can just go back to my usual client for the next year, but I'll keep you all posted on any more interesting developments.

So, that's all for now.

Later,
     SteveO

Monday, May 3, 2010

More about that phone I got... Apps edition.

This is the Web view of my history with Cardio Trainer
So, I've been playing with all sorts of apps today.  I must have downloaded a couple dozen games, and a few random apps that I didn't even think I would want.  So after scouring the Internet for blog posts and articles about the best ten apps, I have come up with a short list of apps that I am kinda impressed with.

The list is in no particular order... I just put them all in what ever order I wanted.



Cardio Trainer
by WorkSmart Labs

So, the idea of this app is to do a number of things: it tracks your path, gives you a running total of all your workouts, has leaderboards (to compare yourself with others - a meta-game if you will,) you can export your workouts to KML files (for use in Google Earth or Maps,)  and it tracks where you stop while working out.  So, in the picture above you can see the path I walk Jaani on the most often around the apartment complex.  I guess the reason I like this app more than something like My Tracks (which records your track and general statistics like speed and an elevation graph, then uploads it to Google Maps automatically), is because it tracks all your workouts and gives you a summary page to view everything, it tracks when/where you pause your workout,  and it displays an estimate for calories burned during your workout.  There are also two paid ($2.99 each) features that come with free 7 day trials: Race Yourself, and Weight Loss Trainer.  I haven't gotten a chance to play with those yet, but I'm pretty sure once the weather really starts to get nice, I'll want to take advantage of those too!  (I'll tell you about it when it happens... I'll also tell you if I think they are worth $3.)


Meebo
by Meebo, Inc.

Meebo is awesome.  Here is what you do: Go to Meebo.com and create a free account; then use that account to log into your AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, MySpace, ... accounts; finally log into your Meebo account via the Meebo app for Android.  Why would you have your Meebo account log into all of them rather than add each individual account via your handset?  Well, because then your handset has to do all the heavy lifting of logging into the accounts, but when your Meebo account does it, I noticed a very clear performance increase.


Prey Phone Tracker
by Fork Ltd.

Prey Phone Tracker is a good solution for those people who don't use Google Latitude (because Latitude updates your phone's position every 5 minutes.)  Prey Phone Tracker only updates your position when it is turned on via text message, or the online web interface.  When your code word is sent to the phone, Prey immediately sounds an alarm for 30 seconds on your phone (in case you misplaced it somewhere nearby,) then it emails you a report every 5 minutes.  One problem though, on the Incredible, it only works once, then you have to manually stop the app and restart it (I use Free Advanced Task Manager for that... also a killer app I'll talk about some other time.)  The other issue is that when it sends you an email reporting the location of your phone, you phone displays a message with the subject "Sorry you lost your phone."  Which is a dead giveaway to a potential thief that you are tracking them.  I resolved this issue by creating a filter on my gmail account that takes all messages from Prey, applies a label to them, and then archives them in my gmail account (which prevents the phone from giving a notification that you got the message.)  The last thing you need to do is make sure that enable the unlock pattern (Settings -> Security -> Require patter should be checked.)

A quick side note about Google Latitude.  Latitude is designed to be a social app that gives you notifications when another person using Latitude is near by; it isn't intended to be a phone recovery tool, but it has gotten the job done in the past when people forget their phone somewhere.

GPS Status
by EclipSim

This is a neat little app that primarily functions as a compass and general utility to find out what GPS satellites you have reception from.  It also gives you your current Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, and Speed.  I guess it doesn't do a whole lot, but sometimes it's fun to know that kind of stuff.


FoxyRing: Smart Ringtone
by LevelUp Studio

So, this app allows you to set a "sleeping time" when only a small list of emergency contacts will trigger your phone to ring, disable your ringer by current location (so it doesn't ring at school or a movie theater, or you can set it to disable your ringer for a specified length of time.  It's kinda neat in that if you are like me, not allowed to take out a camera phone at work, so my phone just wouldn't ring when I'm at work.  It's also good for stoping those pesky people in the Eastern Time zone that call me at 4AM... because they forgot 7AM there is sleepy time here.


Google Goggles
by Google Inc.

This is a really good app too.  It doubles as a general purpose stuff finder and a bar code reader all in one.  If you take a picture of something like a restaurant sign or corporate logo, it will find a website or listing related to the sign.  It will also recognize business cards, and ask you if you want to add the contact information to your address book in your phone.  It works with a variety of things, but I've found that taking pictures of random stuff doesn't really work so well.  It will work for things like books, CD/DVD cases, and many famous landmarks, but your tickle me elmo will leave it stumped (Yea, I found an Elmo to take a picture of.  I also found that if you take a picture of your Bank's Logo, the picture is stored on your phone, so you can search for it later when you're walking around town, and it will tell you where the nearest branch is, but I think it's easier just to go to Google's main site on your phone, and click on "Near Me Now."




One last note on Google's web apps.  For those of you who don't know yet, most of Google's services like Gmail, Buzz, Calendar, Docs, Reader, Books, Tasks, and Fast Flip (News); actually work better in the browser than a native app.  With the one exception that you can't have your phone notify you without receiving an email or text message or something like that.


So that's about it.  There are so many cool apps that it's really hard to pick a few and stoop myself from going on and on about this stuff, plus I'm starting to think I might want to move App reviews to the Frizzlefry Tech blog anyway.  So, that's it for now.


Later,


     SteveO

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cannon Powershot broken... oops... And I got an HTC Incredible!

So, I was so excited about my new phone that I wanted to take a picture of it, but then I got a shock.  My totally awesome Cannon PowerShot is broken! Well, not permanently, but for the time being I'll just have to let it sit until I can pay to fix it. I guess what happened was I must have hit the power button while it was in the case... which is apparently a common problem with this camera.  You see, this particular model has a higher zoom than the standard powershot, and it turns out that because of the mechanics the motor has too much torque for the sensor that tells the camera to stop moving the lense.  So, it knocked the lens off the track;  The worst part is that this particular issue is very common, but not covered by the warranty.  So, I'll either have to actually pay money to get it fixed, or learn more about how these things are built so I can fix it myself.  I don't know which will become a viable option first.

Anyway... the phone!
I took this photo with one of my webcams... you may also notice I used a
solar powered light from Ikea to improve the light quality...

So I recently obtained a Droid Incredible (as a birthday gift!  Thanks Mom!), and now that I've had enough time to use everything that came with the phone and push all the buttons, I want to say a little bit about it.  I'm pretty much just going to talk about the turn by turn GPS, speech to text, and text to speech.

Before I had my Droid, I had a Nokia N770 and an Ipod Touch.  Both of my previous devices were great!  The Nokia was a quick Linux based device, however the capacitive touch screen severely limited it's awesomeness.  The Ipod touch is frustratingly closed and locked down to what Steve Jobs felt I should be able to do with my device.

The Droid offers a good combination of the two with it's capacitive touch screen (Ipod), faster speed (N770), and open infrastructure (N770);  In case you didn't catch that, I just made the claim that a device manufactured in 2002 is faster than the Ipod/Iphone.  In addition to that, the Droid is an actual Cell phone, has GPS, and has a complete and rapidly growing default software repository.  I don't really want to talk too much about the whole data plan thing, because neither of my other devices could allow Internet access from anywhere, although for a short time I could use my Nokia to connect to the Internet through my phone via Bluetooth, but that was only at dial-up speeds and before Verizon started offering Data plans.

The first thing I wanted to play with was this new turn by turn navigation feature (I am just fascinated with GPS stuff.)  So, I got in my car and went to type my destination... then I stopped, and remembered I could just say "Jet City Espresso" and the speech to text function built into the keyboard knew what I said... I then pushed the go button, and it listed the Google Search results... the top one happened to by the destination I was looking for.  So, I started driving, and I didn't really know what to expect.  Then, my phone started telling me where to go!  It was awesome!   Then I wanted to know what happened when I went the wrong way, and it was pretty quick to pick up and adjust the directions.  Speaking of how it tracks you, I noticed it seems to use prediction to guess where you will be, and updates your real position every 5 seconds or so.  I noticed that because when I stopped at an intersection the arrow showing my car's position kept going, then corrected it's position a couple seconds later.

Anyway... so, the Speech to text keyboard rocks for text messages... buzz... email... translating to a variety of languages that use the English character sets out of the box... while other languages that use Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Indian character sets are available with an additional package.  The Text to Speech functionality works pretty well for a few languages as well, which could come in useful next time I need to talk to a Mexican resident that doesn't speak English... or if I go to Europe.

I have a ton of other stuff to talk about soon, I already put a giant wall of text on here, so until next time.

Later,

     SteveO