Aloha Friday: Phone Intelligence

At work yesterday, the topic of smart phones came up.  While I’m a very techy kind of person (as someone called TechyDad should be), I’ll admit to being a bit of a luddite when it comes to my cell phone.  When I get a new phone, I’m invariably asked “What do you want your phone to do?”  My answer is always “Make calls.”

This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the utility of other features in a cell phone.  Last year, we signed up for unlimited texting and it’s drastically changed how we handle social media.  A twitpic or tweet from the road would have been unthinkable when we were being charged for each text message we sent out.  Now, they’re commonplace.  Still, for the moment at least, we have data blocked on our phones.  (To prevent any accidental connections and charges.)

My Aloha Friday question for today is: Do you have a smart phone?  What do you use your phone for (besides making calls)?

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the McLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #68

Why Is X So Y?

I usually do a Wordless Wednesday on Wednesdays, but this one needs some introduction.  It’s no secret that I’m a geek on many levels, including (but definitely not limited to) a math geek and a computer geek.  So when I heard that Google was being used to make Venn Diagrams of religious stereotypes, I was intrigued.

The basic premise is that you type “Why is X so” or “Why are X so” into Google’s search box.  Google will, helpfully, supply you with terms that others have searched on.  The resulting terms are written down and charted into a Venn Diagram.  (For the math-challenged, Venn Diagrams are big circles which encompass the terms and perhaps overlap with other circles.)  For example, if you were looking to make a political version, you might use “Democrat” and “Republican” and get this Venn Diagram.


Of course, all of the terms stated above were made by Google users, not by me.  So please don’t pepper me with e-mails, comments, tweets or other forms of contact saying “How dare you call my political party Stupid!”  I’m only here to make the Venn Diagrams and perhaps point out some interesting features on them.  In this one, I’d say that the searches were likely done by members of the rival parties and that each party seems to describe the other with the same derogatory terms.

Then, I decided to move onto Moms and Dads.  However, I also thought I’d be ambitious.  Why not include Men and Women in the diagram?  Make it a four-way chart, like so:



Notice that, apparently, Moms, Dads, Men and Women are all described as “Stupid.”  Perhaps kids googling about their parents while each sex searches to understand the other?  Dads and Men are both mean, but dads are spared the “Selfish and Lazy” aspects of men.  Meanwhile, Women are “emotional, complicated and crazy” but moms are simultaneously “nosy and nice.”  (They are very sweet while they leaf through your stuff?)  Moms and Dads find common ground in being annoying.  (To each other?  Their kids?  All of the above?)

Around now, the computer geek in me took over and I decided to search for Microsoft, Google and Apple.



They are all successful (of course), but Microsoft and Apple are expensive while Google is simply “Big”, “Awesome” and… “Racist”?!!!  I’m at a loss for that one.  Any ideas where that could have come from?

Of course, this led to a comparison of the four major cell phone carriers in the US.


This must be the simplest of the bunch.  All of the carriers are thought of as expensive.  Verizon and AT&T are both seen as slow.  Meanwhile, Sprint and T-Mobile are both Expensive and Cheap.

The results of these searches were quite interesting.  Any ideas on others to do?  Perhaps I’ll do a follow-up post.

An Afternoon At the CinemaTube

Last year, I wrote a "Things that make me go *drool*" blog post highlighting some cool tech items I’d love to buy. The backpack and EA Sports Active were bought soon after that post. The Webcam, I bought a few weeks ago. (Well, a different model, but same idea. Review on that coming soon.)

The last item was a Portable Media Enclosure. I didn’t wind up buying this, but I did wind up winning something even better: The Brite-View CinemaTube. (Thanks to Brite-View and Jen from The Dirty Shirt for running the giveaway.) The Brite-View can connect to an external hard drive (which I happened to have an extra of) via USB. It can also connect to your home network and/or the Internet via Ethernet or optional Wi-Fi adapter. I purchased the Wi-Fi adapter and set up the Brite-View.

I’ll admit that my first impressions weren’t all that great. I encountered two big problems. Problem 1 was that the remote had a lag to it. If you pressed a button, you had to wait about 30 seconds before pushing another button. I worked with Brite-View’s customer support and finally realized that the problem was low battery charge in the remote control. Recharging the batteries overnight solved this issue.

The second problem was on the screen where I had to enter my wireless network’s password. The password was longer than the screen allowed and extra characters were added on the end, invisible to the user. This meant that any mistake towards the end was impossible to detect until the network connection failed and the long password had to be entered all over again. This problem was fixed with a firmware update. My takeaway from this is that Brite-View seems to be constantly striving to improve their product with firmware updates. (A good sign as no product is ever perfect.)

Those problems aside, I love the Brite-View. As I said in my "drool" post last year, I hate having to swap out DVDs. First, I need to move the inevitable pile of toys that gather in front of the DVD cabinet’s doors. Then I need to find the correct DVD. Then I need to put it in, keeping the case handy so I’ll be able to put it away when the kids are done with it. Discs can easily get misplaced or lost in the stack of DVDs.

My new system is to convert the DVD to MPEG, store them on the external hard drive and let the Brite-View play them. Even better, the Brite-View allows me to set up video playlists so I can have The Wiggles, followed by 2 Max and Ruby videos and ending with Sesame Street. In other words, I can have hours of kid-entertainment without a single disc to swap. I can also play/view music files or photos or add them to the playlist, but honestly my main use is movie viewing.

In addition, the CinemaTube can stream files from other computers on your home network. Just set up a desktop computer (or laptop, but desktops tend to be more "always on") as a server using TVersity, PlayOn or any similar UPNP media server. I tried TVersity, but want to try out PlayOn for the Netflix streaming capability. I’ll post a review update when I’ve done this, but I’m very excited about this possibility. (We could move the Roku to our bedroom and use the CinemaTube in the living room for Netflix streaming.)

The CinemaTube costs $99.99, or $119.99 for the CinemaTube and USB wireless adapter. At this price, it is well worth it. If I hadn’t won it, I would have gladly paid for the functionality the CinemaTube has provided me.

Cutting The Cable Cord

With the economy the way it is, everyone is looking for ways to save money. For awhile now, I’ve thought about how much our cable TV costs us per month and whether/how we would do without it. We currently have Time Warner Cable’s All-In-One package (Internet, Phone and Cable) with two boxes. One is a DVR and one is a plain cable box. The phone line and Internet we would need to keep. (Ok, technically we could cut our land line and go cell phone only, but that’s a thought experiment for another day.) Switching to Time Warner’s “Surf & Talk” plan would save us about $65 per month.

Of course, our cable TV doesn’t go unwatched every day. NHL and JSL watch it. B watches it. I watch it. So we can’t just rip out the cable line and pocket the monthly savings. Some kind of entertainment is going to need to replace the cable TV loss at or below the cost of cable TV. In doing research on this, here are some of the options I’ve come up with:

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Doing Some Magick with Photos

If you’ve checked out any of the (many) photos I’ve posted, you might have noticed that I watermark my photos. It’s subtle, but in the bottom right hand corner of every photo it says “”.

[thumb id=”1154″]

Why do I do this? Well, as much as I’d like to assume that people are good, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there that will grab photos off the Internet for their own use. By watermarking the photo, I’m decreasing its value to these people. (Yes, the watermark could be removed, but it’d take time and effort to do so. The photo thieves are more likely to just head elsewhere to grab some photos.)

In addition to the watermarking, I also rotate some photos (depending on which way they were taken) and resize them for the web. Unfortunately, when I have a lot of photos to process, this can be a time-consuming pain. Initially, my process looked like this:

  1. Load one photo in Irfanview
  2. Open up Irfanview’s Thumbnail mode
  3. Select all images to process
  4. Use Irfanview’s lossless-JPEG rotate function to auto-rotate all photos
  5. Open up Irfanview’s Batch Conversion mode
  6. Select all photos to process and conversion settings (e.g. new height/width)
  7. Wait until Batch Conversion is done.
  8. Open up Picture Shark.
  9. Select All Photos
  10. Select Watermark
  11. Wait until watermark is applied to all photos
  12. Post photos

You can see how this would make photo posting a pain, but each step was necessary. I couldn’t post sideways photos and couldn’t post full-res pictures either. There’s the download time issue as well as the aforementioned picture thieves.

That’s when I remembered about ImageMagick. ImageMagick is a freeware photo manipulation program that is often used on servers to, well, manipulate images. My server, for example, uses it to make thumbnails out of the photos I upload. The only problem is that ImageMagick doesn’t have an graphical interface. It is run by a series of command line statements. This is perfectly fine for a script running on a server, but not as good for a human user.

Since all I wanted to do was run the same commands over and over, and since I know how to program, I wrote a Photo Processor script. It would let me specify the directory that the photos were in, whether I wanted them resized/rotated/watermarked and even allowed me to select which watermark. This way, B could use the same script for My new photo processing process was:

  1. Run Script
  2. Copy/Paste name of directory with photos
  3. Answer dialogs for resizing/rotating/watermarking photos.
  4. Wait until script finishes
  5. Post photos

Much easier, right?

When Monkey was born to Tarzan and Jane over at HisBoysCanSwim, I noticed that their photos of Monkey merely had some text at the bottom of them. This would be easily stripped out by a picture thief so I offered my Photo Processor script. And while I was working on it, I figured I’d post a version for everyone else out there.

The first thing you’ll need to do is install a copy of ImageMagick on your PC. In the configuration screen during setup (the one with all of the checkboxes), make sure that you check the box for “Install ImageMagickObject OLE Control for VBScript, Visual Basic, and WSH.” (See image below.)

[thumb id=”1167″]

Once that is done, download my Photo Processor script. When you run the script, first you’ll need to enter the directory of the photos to be processed (e.g. C:\Photos\My Trip To The Beach\). Don’t worry if they’re your originals, the altered versions will be saved in newly created subdirectories. After you enter the directory, simply answer a few Yes/No questions to set whether the photos are rotated and/or resized and sit back and wait for the script to do its job. To add a watermark, put a PNG image in the same directory as the script and name it “Watermark.png.”

If you have any questions about this script, feel free to post them in the comments below.

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