Archive for the ‘technology’ Category


Kindle on Android screen sleep timeout

December 28, 2013

I can’t prove it, but I think the latest version of the Kindle app on Android changes the way the screen sleep timing works. It presented to me on my android moto-x with a recent update to Kindle, v4.3.0.44 and if I didn’t read fast enough the screen would dim in anticipation of going to sleep. It was annoying because it would do it right as I was getting to the end of the page, and I couldn’t find a setting in the app itself to prevent this. There is an android permission android.permission.WAKE_LOCK that allows an app to stop a screen from going to sleep – and I suspect the Kindle app had this previously but the developers decided to remove it. The solution was to update the android settings-> display -> sleep setting to something higher (5min in my case.)


Bitcoin Swear Jar

June 8, 2013

The latest (of many) bitcoin popularity waves got me to finally get some. Spent a little at BitcoinVegas minecraft – which I have to say was fun, but it also got me thinking what else could be done with them – and the main thing that kept coming to mind was the whole “tiny donation” problem – i.e. it’s tough for me to give a dollar to a website/technology that I use. Around the same time I had to create a swear jar for our house. Mostly to get me to stop swearing in front of the kids – but also to give them some simple repercussions for swearing.

That led me to realize I could set up a website and collect $0.25 online with VERY simple code and no 3rd party relationships.

And so was born the Bitcoin Swear Jar

Some kewl parts of the project:

  • Bitcoin! Wanted to get more comfortable in the use of them
  • QR Codes: The site uses 100% client side javascript to generate a bitcoin QR code donation that dynamically updates as you type
  • GitHub: As this was a “charity” type endeavor I opened it up on git hub with a banner to fork
  • Reddit functionality help: Posted the alpha/beta on /r/bitcoin for feedback/critique and was suprised at how few trolls poked at it (links to posts on site)

Minecraft Server

February 3, 2013

The kids are BIG into Minecraft – and I don’t blame them. From what I over hear they have problems finding a good server to play on. Most noteably are problems getting banned and what sounds like petty fights with friends that live in our town.

So I launched a server on an old mac lappy and just playing with each other in a world free of strangers has cause both kids to thank me personally and genuinely.

They want me to open the server up (i.e. port forward so people not on our LAN can get to it) to neighbors and cousines etc. and I’m not sure about this.

On the one hand – I can shut the server down when I want them OFF (i.e. bedtime, bus time, etc) but on the other hand – Do I want other children on a server I control and that my kids might ask me to ban etc. It’s sort of like being a baseball coach, in that parents expect me to know the rules of the game and to teach their kids not just the game – but what the game is supposed to teach kids.  Things like respect and dignity and kindness.

Originally I wanted to get a server up and running so I can teach the kids programming stuff and IT crap like backups and networking… but I’m now thinking I’ve opened a pandora box that can’t be closed.

Actually – it’s running on a crappy old MacBook and if you close the lid the server dies.  So if they fight too loud I can announced, “I’m closing the box!”


Design Principals: ECBARF

November 14, 2011

Attended a design presentation at Manchester Barcamp 6 this weekend and heard the term ECBARF for the first time.  It was during a reply to a question I asked, “How do you learn design?”

ECBARF is an acronym for the six basic design principals:

  • Emphasis
  • Contrast
  • Balance
  • Alignment
  • Repetition
  • Flow
I’ve found a few references to it online – but not many.  The people in the scrap booking world seem very aware of it, and I found a series of blog posts discussing it.  I’m pretty sure it’s use as described to scrap booking will also ring true for mobile app and web app design.

Podcast listening

November 14, 2011

Since getting the mount for my phone working and finally finding a podcast listening application I like (see this post) I am now listening to podcasts on the drive to and from work.  I’m wondering where people go to discover podcasts however.  I’m a big fan of Leo Laporte and his podcast empire, listening to This Week in Tech pretty much complete every week.  He’s got a few others like Security Now that I try to listen to, but don’t always.

I also recently got turned onto Nerdist Podcast via an article in Wired magazine.  Lots of bad language in this one, so can’t listen when kids are in the car.

I’d love to hear from anyone regarding what podcasts you listen to and recommend.


Repave your computer

August 20, 2011

I’m inviting comments on this article and will update with useful suggestions.

As a software professional I’m approached by people all the time asking what to do about general computer problems.  Most of the time it’s malware or that windows has become corrupt in some way.

I’ll leave this space blank for all the Microsoft-haters to insert their own, “Get a MAC” type of comment here.  <BLANK SPACE> All done?  Great.  Most people want this problem solved for close to free and buying a new computer isn’t always an option.

What I often suggest is to “Back it up and Repave it” – meaning copy all the files you want to keep, format the hard drive and install windows from scratch.

The reason I suggest this is because I know it will work 100% of the time.  There are many anti-spyware products that might work.  I might be able to google the specific problem and find a solution.  I might be able to reconfigure windows to not use the thing that’s causing the problem.  However – each of these techniques has at best a 50% chance of working – and I have no idea how much time each one will take.

Backing  up your data is usually the roadblock here for most people – and I’m here to tell you that you should have been doing this anyway.  There are many ways to do this, but here’s my suggestion: Use Carbonite. It’s $60/yr.  It’s what I use, it’s really easy, and it’s pretty cheap compared to lots of other options.  Also in Carbonite’s favor is that its now a very established company.  I don’t work for them – but if you decide to use it ask me for an invite and I’ll get a free month or something, or use the link above.

There are MANY backup options out there, you want something you don’t have to think about.  You cannot be trusted to run a backup every night. 

After ensuring you’re backed up, boot from your window’s CD and choose the option that warns about “this will format your hard drive.”  You are not doing an upgrade and you might be asked about partitioning etc – but the good news here is it’s difficult to anything wrong because you’re all backed up and can always do it again.

You’re going to have to re-install any software you use – but now you’ll probably be getting the latest versions of the free stuff – and you won’t be wasting space and resources on all the stuff you installed years ago and no longer use.  You’d be surprised how many applications install something that runs all the time “for your convenience.”  Getting rid of all of these utilities is probably the #1 thing that will make your machine run faster. 

For the most part – the bad guys write really good code, and the stuff they sneak into your system has almost no noticeable effect.  If it did more people would be getting rid of it faster.  Their main goal is to not be noticed on your machine.

After you’ve reinstalled everything you really need, make sure your backup is still working. 

Again: Please comment with your experience etc.  I plan on pointing people to this article in the future.  Feel free to critique spelling and grammar as well.


Cost of reading a EULA/ToS

July 5, 2011

An EULA is an End User License Agreement.  TOS stands for Terms of Service.  For this post I’m referring to the legalese you are often required to agree that you’ve read and agree to before using a piece of software or a web based service.  Much like speed limits – these things are often ignored.  I wondered how much time and money would be required to read them so I started collecting some info.

Based on my measurements/sampling so far:

  • Average length of  EULA/ToS: 7,385 words
  • Typical reading Speed: 200 words/min
  • Average Time to read Typical EULA/ToS: 37 min
  • Average Software Developer rate: $40/hr
  • Cost to read the EULA/ToS: $25
Bottom line, most companies are expecting $25 worth of your time to read these things.  This is just to read them – not to think about them or contemplate what the repercussions of the agreement might be for your situation using the software in question.  I think about this when I’m clicking that “I Agree” check box – and the developer of the software could easily tell that I only spent about 3 seconds on the page/form/window with the text on it – and there’s no way I could have read it all.  I’m thinking a fun thing to put on the page would be a “Congratulations, your reading speed is 3,800 words/min – and you probably missed that whole part about your first born” or something similar indicating that there’s no way you read the whole thing.
This also reminded me of a Poll Question I once read on the site SlashDot.