It’s A Good Day To Be A Geek

The hackers cleverly bypassed battery monitor which means an overcharged Nook could very well explode! Good hack guys.

If you haven’t been watching closely you’ve missed a few geekily exciting days with new technology announcements. Some of these are pretty substantial and could be the proverbial game changers. It’s all happening… changing so rapidly.

Doesn’t anything happen at human speed anymore?

Google was the main player. First, they redefined their new unreleased operating system Chrome.

Chrome will be aimed at netbooks which should be less expensive and bothersome than current laptops. The whole paradigm of what you install, change or keep on your laptop will be shuffled.

Instant web: Chrome notebooks boot in about 10 seconds and resume from sleep instantly. Your favorite websites load quickly and run smoothly, with full support for the latest web standards and Adobe Flash.

Same experience everywhere: All your apps, documents, and settings are stored safely in the cloud. So even if you lose your computer, you can just log into another Chrome notebook and get right back to work.

Always connected: Integrated Wi-Fi for home and work, and 3G for all the places in between. 100MB of free 3G data every month* on the Verizon Wireless network. Affordable data plans with no commitment required.

Meanwhile while talking up Chrome Google also showed a new tablet computer built by Motorola and based on its Android operating system. There are tablet computers other than the iPod right now, but you’d be hard pressed to name any. I expect an explosion in tablets over the next six months and both Apple and Google will be responsible for most of it.

Speaking of explosions, someone published instructions to hack a Barnes and Noble Color Nook so it could operate as an Andriod tablet! One problem, the hack disturbed part of the battery monitoring circuitry. Every time the Nook would fire up this circuitry would shut it down.

The hackers cleverly bypassed battery monitor which means an overcharged Nook could very well explode! Good hack guys.

I’d REALLY like a tablet computer. What I want doesn’t yet exist. It’s got to be ‘friendly’ with my camera. I’ll wait. No choice.

More news from Google who pushed out a new version of their Chromium web browser. Sweet. This one comes with its own apps store. More importantly the javascript engine has been turbocharged again!

Don’t worry if you don’t know what javascript is. Take my word javascript is the thing that slows your web browser the most! Run Chrome/Chromium as your browser and you’ll immediately feel like you bought a faster computer.

If you are not using Chrome/Chromium as your browser you really should give it a try. It’s free and fast.

Finally yesterday Microsoft announced their soon-to-be released Internet Explorer 9 would have new privacy controls.

Tracking Protection in IE9 puts people in control of what data is being shared as they move around the Web. It does this by enabling consumers to indicate what websites they’d prefer to not exchange information with. Consumers do this by adding Tracking Protection Lists to Internet Explorer. Anyone, and any organization, on the Web can author and publish Tracking Protection Lists. Consumers can install more than one. By default, there are no lists included in IE9, which is consistent with our previous IE releases with respect to privacy.

This is a big deal. Everyone who knows anything about Internet security is demanding more privacy controls. Microsoft is the last player I’d expect to be stepping up for me versus advertisers and marketers.

See what you missed yesterday.

The Dev Work Continues

Each web browser reads you code slightly differently… except for Internet Explorer 6 which is the redheaded stepchild of computing and reads it totally differently!

I came home last night and put my nose to the grindstone–more work on Roxie’s site. I like building websites. I’m not sure why?

There must be an analogy. Maybe it’s like building a ship in a bottle? It’s definitely close-up work.

It’s intricate–very exacting.

There was one change I made around 3:45 AM which, as I refreshed the page, crashed the entire site! Even the administrative side was pranged. Luckily there was a backup of the file in question–not my normal practice.

To write a website you must speak multiple programming languages simultaneously. At the same time you must never forget each web browser reads you code slightly differently… except for Internet Explorer 6 which is the redheaded stepchild of computing and reads it totally differently!

Imagine you type “fish.” Everyone reads “fish,” except IE6 which see “turtle.” It’s that kind of bad. Some sites now post warnings when IE6 users surf by!

Ninety percent of the web site’s structure is now in place. It’s much cleaner and more professional than what was there yesterday, but it still looks too cold and rectangular. I’m looking for ways to soften it… make it look less calculated and more friendly.

In the meantime, with each website I build the job gets easier and the payoff (in looking, not cash) gets more rewarding. Hopefully I can accomplish more tonight.

Very Connected With My Blackberry

It is effortless as an email handler and its web browser is so vastly superior to the one on my earlier Samsung Blackjack with Windows 6 it’s criminal!

Helaine and I went to the JDRF Gala tonight. I was the emcee. More on that later.

Before we left we had the Phils/Mets game on. Good game and, of course, Helaine is a rabid Phillies fan. We continued listening in the car.

“Who is that guy? He’s awful.” Helaine was hearing a new Mets announcer for the first time. So much access now. There’s less reason to listen on the radio.

We got to the Gala. No TV. I pulled out my BlackBerry and hit the Phillies logo icon. My screen was updated every 15 seconds. There was a reasonably steady stream of text enumerated the action pitch-by-pitch. Text only. No video or audio.

This is nuts, right? Can’t we miss the end of an early season game? Obviously, no.

A few minutes later I got some text via BlackBerry’s messenger. It was Erik wishing the Phils luck and then predicting Shane Victorino would win the game for the Phillies.

He did!

This BlackBerry is magical. Stef told me before she got hers, but I took a long time to catch on. It is effortless as an email handler and its web browser is so vastly superior to the one on my earlier Samsung Blackjack with Windows 6 it’s criminal! I see people with iPhone’s and wonder how the experience could possibly be better than what I have?

People who purposely wander from the web often chide me for being too connected. They equate being in the digital cloud with work. No! My phone is a tool I use to my advantage. I understand why it is call “Crackberry.”

Playing With Chrome

I can’t remember the last time I looked at web pages (my own included) with ads. They sure do clutter the joint up, don’t they?

Is everybody doing it? I’ve downloaded and am now playing with Chrome, the new web browser from Google.

I don’t know why but the type looks cleaner. I haven’t seen anyone else comment on that. I must have the fonts set to the ‘suck’ level on Firefox. It’s only clean by comparison.

This browser doesn’t have Ad Blocker. I can’t remember the last time I looked at web pages (my own included) with ads. They sure do clutter the joint up, don’t they?

chrome-warning-large.jpgI tried entering Gmail’s URL directly to get to my email. Oops. Chrome wasn’t too happy. Don’t they know Gmail and Google are related? Shouldn’t they? No one talks anymore. Too compartmentalized.

I miss my little helper plug-ins from Firefox.

Chrome has promise,but not yet. It’s back to Firefox for the time being.

Better With Email

Sometimes I’ll leave a message aside, hoping for time to answer it later. Then, nothing. I forget and it slowly slips to the bottom of the screen and then off entirely. I really hope I haven’t done it to you.

I wish I was better with email.

Sometimes I’ll leave a message aside, hoping for time to answer it later. Then, nothing. I forget and it slowly slips to the bottom of the screen and then off entirely.

I really hope I haven’t done that to you.

All my mail from all my accounts end up in Gmail. That even includes my work account.

Originally, I didn’t think I’d like using on-line access, as opposed to a standalone email client. I’ve actually gotten used to it, which isn’t the same as saying it’s the perfect answer.

One thing I do appreciate is, email follows me anytime I open a web browser. No matter where I am, or what computer I’m on (and I use a bunch of different machines every day) I can get at all my mail – sent and received. And, when I reply, it’s with the same return address that received it, all from one page.

I also like Gmail’s the ability to filter mail as it comes in (or goes out), so it’s easily found. I’m sure other clients do this too. It seems an obvious feature to have.

Emails from certain addresses or with certain subjects come right into my inbox, but also live together in easily clickable categories.

In some ways, the strength of having email on my cellphone has become a weakness as well. If I read an email on my phone, it seems less urgent to answer when I get to a ‘real’ computer. At the same time, answering email on the phone is incredibly tedious.

Email has become a vital part of my day. I’m not sure I ever want to live without it again.

Please Check/Reboot The Weather Content Engine

But, belaboring the point for effect, it’s nearly 4:00 AM

I just got an email from a server run by the TV station. So did a half dozen other people. The server was unhappy. It needed to be fed.

This is an automated message from the Recol server.

This warning is issued when a new copy of our SkyMax Doppler or other specified weather image has not been uploaded for more than+25 minutes.

Please check/reboot the Weather Content Engine, or check the WatchGuard firewall. Reminder, the DCE hostname is localhost.

OK… but I am in my pajamas… and it’s almost 4:00 AM.

Actually, we’ve been having trouble with this particular box lately. Something has changed. It’s a got to be software problem on this thinly installed system.

Unfortunately, trouble is typical of new programs, especially this one which lashes together a few totally separate systems to produce round-the-clock web graphics.

But, belaboring the point for effect, it’s nearly 4:00 AM.

Because of our earlier tsuris, I installed’s free remote control software. This is a godsend. I can’t figure out what their business plan is, but I love their product.

Logmein puts the remote computer’s screen right in my web browser! My mouse becomes its mouse and my keyboard its keyboard. It’s not as fast as working your own computer, but it’s not that bad either.

I scouted around on the station’s machine enough to jot down some symptoms. Then, I rebooted it. A few minutes later, I logged back in to make sure everything was running.

Actually, this is the second time today I used this software. Earlier, I did some troubleshooting on a friends computer the very same way. It must be weird to sit on the remote end and watch your cursor glide across the screen as phantom words are typed.

Meanwhile, work problem solved. I’m going to sleep.

MLB – I’m Talking To You

As part of her… uhh… 21st birthday, I gave Helaine a subscription to Major League Baseball’s video service. She watches the Phillies and I think the service is a good deal.

Often, I go to the site MLB maintains for the Phillies and that’s where my complaint begins. The site loads and then a few seconds later, while you’re engaged in what you’re doing, a video commercial starts playing – LOUDLY.

I work in commercial TV. I understand commercials. But MLB offers no functionality to quiet this beast on its page. In fact, once the commercial starts playing, you’re stuck closing your web browser or suffering.

Again, I work in commercial TV. I understand the utility of commercials.

Here’s the problem. I will check the Phillies site while my wife is sleeping… or from the studio at work. If they’re going to play their commercial LOUDLY and give me no way to stop it, I’m going to stop coming.

MLB will tell you, there’s the ability to click on the player before the video starts, which stops the whole process – and that’s true. But, since the commercial loads after the rest of the page, that countdown to LOUD sneaks in while you’re looking elsewhere. And, again, there’s no way to stop it or quiet it once it begins.

A friend at work says the Minnesota Twins site does the same thing.

This is not a page from “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”

Geoff Who?

I went to add an entry to the blog earlier today. As is usually the case, I clicked a bookmark in my web browser. Because there’s a ‘cookie’ set, I don’t have to offer up my username and password every day.

The username and password screen appeared. Uh oh.

I entered the requested data and… same screen, except there were red letters telling me my name and password were unknown. This is not the kind of red letter day anyone wants!

I tried again… and again… and again. Each time the result was the same.

Maybe I had forgotten which of the myriad of passwords I use was assigned to I hit the page which is supposed to email my password to me.

Please enter the maiden name of the street your elementary school was on when you got your first pet, it asked?

“User unknown.”

Beads of sweat were beginning to glisten on my brow.

I went to the website of the company that writes this blogging software. Certainly someone else had experience this fate?

One of the hints was to check the database which serves as the nerve center for the blog. I did and found no databases. This was starting to look serious.

If you’re technologically savvy, you can skip the next two paragraphs.

For everyone else, is on a computer with dozens of other websites. It’s similar to the computer you’re using now, except for some specialized webhosting software. sits in a ‘server farm’ near Chicago. I control a very small part of this computer. Anything serious demands a user with more privileges than I have – someone who works for the hosting company I contract with.

I spent around 20 minutes chatting with Jason in tech support. It was a simple problem, he said. But he couldn’t fix it.

He asked me to send an email which he’d kick up to Level 3 tech support. Jason was admitting there were support guys even geekier than he! More importantly, they had even more privileges on my server than he had.

As you can see the problem did get solved.


this issue has now been repaired. Mysql should be fully functional.


John F.

It was a ‘simple’ permissions problem.

Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

I asked John F. if it was something I had done… something I needed to avoid in the future. Nope, It was just a sh*t happens kinda thing.

For much of the afternoon, all I could think of was the grief I’d experience if I had to redo the entire site. There are thousands of entries and nearly as many photos and images.

As it is, I stay 5-6 versions behind with my blogging software because I’m afraid I’ll ruin some precarious balance of nature and crash the whole thing should I go current.

I’m beholden to the Jasons and John F’s of this world. Without them, our modern society would surely grind to a halt.

I’m sure it’s difficult for them to convince women of that.

The Boss Button

I read a discussion board entry about a show called “The Class,” which airs on CBS. I went to the CBS site where episodes are available online. After a few minutes of watching I knew the show wasn’t for me, but I did find something very interesting.

That’s a screen capture of the bottom of the video player. Along with the the ‘normal’ buttons is one that says “BOSS Button.”

I clicked it.

This capture has been resized to fit in my blog, but the video player is replaced with what looks like an email program! I say looks like, because you’re really still in a web browser. If you click anywhere in the faux mail form, you’re back to the video player.

Very clever on CBS’ part. I give it a lifespan under one hour after the first real corporate complaint is lodged.

It does bring up some interesting implications I hadn’t thought of, especially since I work at a business where everyone has a TV at their desk, or nearby. Websites like CBS’ now bring TV to the workplace without asking permission… through the back door, if you will.

For corporate managers, scared already about EBay and IM cutting into productivity, this technology will produce sleepless nights.

Blogger’s note: I have been told the BOSS button also was on the video player for last year’s online coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament.

MythTV – My DVR

A few days ago, I wrote about the DVR I’d assembled from an old PC and a spare tuner card. The more I look into it, the more impressed I am. This is very cool technology.

First, a little about the computer. This was originally my ‘main’ desktop machine, but probably 6-7 years ago. It wasn’t homebuilt, but built to my spec by Axis Computing in New Jersey (I believe they’re long gone).

The CPU is an AMD 500 MHz model, with 387 mb of memory. originally, it was built to process TV, and had an ATI All-in-Wonder video card. It is my understanding ATI is less than helpful in the Linux community, so that part is useless to me.

Now, for video, there’s some old, nondescript Nvidia card (I can’t even find a model number) and a Hauppauge&#185 Win-TV GO card, which acts as a TV tuner.

In 2006, this is a lumbering slow machine with not much going for it. If you had one at home, you’d probably be thinking about how to get rid of it and replace it with something more modern.

The specifications for this DVR call for a much more powerful chip. It doesn’t seem to make much difference, because this works!

In order to accommodate the older hardware I’ve cranked down the quality of the video I capture. It can’t record and play at the same time either, something it should do.

A few things about this system have astounded me. First is the KnoppMyth distribution. This allowed me to stick a CD into the computer and let it do most of the rest. I had to dedicate this machine to DVR, but it wasn’t doing much before!

Second is MythTV itself. It is a visually pleasing system. In fact, as a DVR, it is much more sophisticated looking and easier to deal with than my cable company DVR.

What I can’t do is play my video on a TV – at least not now. The system is designed for that, but my set-up just doesn’t lend itself to that outcome.

The system is divided into two basic parts, frontend and backend. The backend is the guts. it’s where the recording takes place and where data is manipulated.

The frontend is how the user interacts with the system and controls it. The frontend doesn’t have to be on the same computer as the backend. In fact, I can control much of the frontend on any web browser.

With that ability, I can program this DVR from work or while on-the-road.

The frontend handles viewing the video. Right now, that means dealing with files too large to easily watch out of the house. I’ve read about some modifications that will enable me to stream the video in a more highly compressed form, and I’ll be working on that tonight.

I am not sure this method of DVR building is right for everyone. There were loads of configuration choices I had to make. I think I did OK, but I can’t be sure. Certainly, I was on my own as I decided whether this or that box would be checked or unchecked.

This is more a project for someone who enjoys tinkering – and I do. And it’s probably the kind of thing I’ll keep tweaking and refining until I break it!

&#185 – Hauppauge is a company that makes video products for computers. They have some of the best video capture boards and are well respected by hobbyists. Hauppauge is the name of the town they’re in.

Alas, I think they’d probably do better in business if you could easily spell their name! I wonder how many people look for Hauppauge and give up.

In the 21st Century, spelling counts.

Instant China

My friend Wendie is in China on business. She has been sending emails to a group of people, emails I’ll continue to compile and then host when she returns.

She doesn’t think there’s anything special in the writing. Maybe so. Maybe I’m more impressed that I get to hear what’s going on in nearly real time.

Tonight, after getting an email, I quickly replied and said I was on Instant Messenger. She had no IM client on the laptop she was using (and, it being a work laptop, couldn’t install one). I suggested AIM Express.

I’m not sure how I found out about this little program, but it allows you to use AOL Instant Messenger from any computer, just by using your web browser. Ingenious.

A few seconds later, Wendie was on live from Beijing.

It’s not like there was earth shattering news to discuss. She told me how polluted and dirty Beijing is and some of the things that were going on. I told her how a hillside in Laguna Beach, CA gave way this morning.

We didn’t chat long, but it was one of those high tech moments when the world seems a little smaller.

I’m naive here, aren’t I? This technology is used by others in just this way, every single day.

I’m sure there are students at Yale, just down the street from where I work, having Instant Messenger conversations back to Asia (or wherever) every hour of every day. To them it’s commonplace. To me it’s cool and new.

You’ve got to keep up with this technology or be swept under by others who do.

The Cell Phone Quandary

In my years as a cell phone customer, I have used Lynx (owned by local phone company SNET before they were bought by SBC, and before Cingular), BellAtlantic (pre-Verizon), AT&T and now Cingular.

They all have their strengths and weaknesses (except AT&T, which in my opinion only had weaknesses). Unfortunately, none of them provides a signal here, where I live. After last month’s landline phone outage (four days without 911, among other things), cell service here seemed like a necessity.

It’s a suburban neighborhood with a rural feel. There’s plenty of population density with spendable income. There’s certainly a place to put towers (the company I work for has a site on a hilltop, with a TV antenna already there).

As far as I know, there are only two companies with a signal that covers my house, Sprint and T-Mobile. I know T-Mobile’s coverage through the rest of this area is awful, so they’re out.

Today, I borrowed a phone from Sprint. They lent me a high end Samsung with color web browser and camera. As far as I can see, having the web browser is close to worthless. The camera might have some application, but it’s pretty rudimentary with 640×480 resolution.

Here’s the real breakthrough. For the first time ever, I made a cell call from home while walking around! Signal strength was 1-3 bars and the call quality was fine. Using the phone while driving my normal route produced a workable signal everywhere except the final 3/4 mile hill to my house… and then it came back.

I’d sign with Sprint in a second, except, they have the world’s worst reputation for customer service. There was a time when they attempted to charge their customers to call and speak to them!

In order to get what I want, I’ll probably have to sign a two year deal. I’m scared to do it if they’re the devil.

Meanwhile, with cellular number portability about a month away, I will hang tight and wait for what I consider an inevitable price war. My contract with Cingular is up October 26th and for the first time in my cellular career, I’ll be in the drivers seat.