It used to be that a portable computer was an expensive luxury. That's all changed with the rise of a new class of computer: the Netbook.
Netbooks are usually defined as small, low-power, ultra-portable computers with a small price tag. These are mostly fully featured, but not as powerful as full desktops or notebook computers.
These Netbooks are not well suited for games and big programs, but perfect for email and surfing the web. That's not a big problem these days since so many things run as web applications.
There are some excellent values out there - In order to protect my beloved $1200 MacBook, I picked up a new Netbook for work. It has a 10" screen, 1GB of RAM, and 160GB hard drive - for only $350. This computer did something pretty amazing: It impressed me!
With wifi connections available everywhere, there is no need to be tethered to your old desktop at home. Grab yourself a small, light Netbook and hit the road! Now you can answer emails or write that book wherever you may be.
Last week, the Mukwonago Chief decided to stop publishing the blogs from this site.
They said that their reasoning was that they wanted to use the space for something more local, and relevant to the area. I suspect that there was more to it than that.
I think every one of the bloggers here are very talented. I enjoy reading all of the blogs, even those by people who I don't often agree with like Amy Geiger-Hemmer and Jim Hayett. While I don't agree with their ideology, they are talented writers, and exceptionally intelligent. The one common thread among all of the bloggers (other than they all care about our corner of the world) is that they all tackle deep, often controversial topics, often in controversial ways.
I imagine that the editor of the Chief has taken some heat over some of the topics and I'm sure that some readers, and possibly even advertisers, have called the paper to complain or even to stop doing business with the paper. Listen - I'm in the media, and know what's going on these days. We're all struggling to make a buck, and getting people angry isn't the best way to do that.
On the other hand, getting people angry sometimes is the sign of a good product.
Getting people angry means that you're getting people to think and react. You're getting people to feel. If anything, we need more of that in the world. Way too often we choose NOT to pay attention to things we don't want to hear, even if we should hear it.
No offense to the editorial team at the Chief, but we're now trading thought-provoking pieces from community members to the thoughts of one or two people, hyper-sensitive to the feelings of the community and the advertisers. Is that really providing a service to the community?
My mother and step-father were both newspaper editors. I grew up in newspaper newsrooms. I remember when people in the newsroom would get excited when people got angry. They felt that only then were they truly doing their job.
Times have changed. In this Facebook-Google-Twitter-MySpace world, newspapers can't afford to try and steer the conversations anymore. The people have the power to publish. The Chief realized this by publishing a sample of the blogs that appeared on their website. Instead of standing up and telling those that complained that this is what their neighbors are talking about, they just decided it was best to make a "change".
I guess they're just another victim of the economy.
Wednesday, Google launched Google Voice, which is built on the GrandCentral platform that Google acquired two years ago.
Google Voice is a central system to manage your voice communication. Basically, you get a phone number (which is the one you give to everyone!) and it's linked to a powerful portal that allows you to manage your phone traffic. By giving out the Google Voice number, you can keep your other numbers private, yet still have the ability to get calls anywhere.
For example, I have my home, cell, and work numbers programmed in. So when someone calls my Google Voice number, all of my phones ring, and I can pick up the one that's closest. When I answer, I'm presented with a message letting me know who's calling me. I can then choose to answer it or send it to voicemail - which can be screened like an answering machine! Messages are then emailed to the email addresses of your choice where you can listen and see what's going on.
The groups feature is also very powerful. I'm on call 24/7 unless I'm on vacation. Instead of giving the staff a different number to call while on vacation (which never works anyway) I put all of the work related numbers into a group called "work". I can then have those calls selectively forwarded to my assistant's phone while I'm gone. No more "sorry, I forgot you were on vacation!" calls.
That's just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more features available, and several new ones planned. All of which will allow you to take control of your phone.
Did I mention all of this is free? Well, it is...though I imagine Google will find a way to work some sort of advertising with the service. So it is "user beware". If you're skittish about the data that Google collects, you'll want to steer clear.
At any rate, they've just annouced the service, and those of us that were beta testers are playing so it's not open quite yet to the public. Keep an eye out, however, since they plan to lauch it for everyone very soon.
So give it a look, and turn your phone into a tool instead of dealing with it as a nuisance!
Well, I like to have "custom" domain names. While there's nothing wrong with addresses like email@example.com, I like to think of an email address as a reflection of the person. Of course, the hard part is how to get yourself a custom domain, and related email address.
Never fear...it's Google to the rescue!
Most of you should be familiar with Gmail. Gmail is Google's free email offering. If you've ever tried Gmail, you know that it's a very robust system. They have great spam filtering, and you can use not only your browser, but any other device that supports POP or IMAP protocols. It's a great system!
What most people don't know is that Google offers their email service customized for your domain - for free!
Yes, you can have a custom email address (such as my "public" address of firstname.lastname@example.org) with the Gmail interface, with Google Apps for your Domain - GAFYD for short.
GAFYD is a package of applications - Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Video, and more, tied to your custom domain name. Check out the screen shot below:
Setting is up isn't all that hard, but you will want to read the instructions thoroughly before starting. If you haven't purchased a domain yet, Google has partnered with GoDaddy which allows you to purchase a domain and have it automatically configured for the service. If you already own the domain, you will need to configure some records for your domain which can be tricky, but there is plenty of help available.
So what are you waiting for? You're just a few clicks away from free email with a snazzy new domain name!
A few posts back, I mentioned a piece of software called PlayOn (which is now out of beta, by the way) which streams Hulu and Netflix video to network devices. While that's pretty cool in itself, there is another piece of software that does a whole lot more, and for free!
TVersity is free software that turns any newer computer into a media serving monster! TVersity works with many devices by transcoding your media so that it's formatted correctly for the device that is getting the media. For example, I have TVersity streaming media to my D-Link DSM 520 media player, my XBox 360, my DirecTV DVR, and my iPhone (told you I was a geek!). Anyway, the software can stream internet media, YouTube videos, online radio and even your MP3 collection. With a software add-on called uXM, I can even stream XM Radio to my iPhone anywhere in the world that I have an internet connection.
TVersity is pretty easy to set up, though if you're serious about running it and PlayOn, you should think about buying a dedicated high-end computer to run the software. Transcoding requires a lot of horsepower, so the more processing and memory you throw at it, the better the results.
The one downside to the software being free is that there is limited support. The upshot is that there is a support forum where you can ask questions and get help from the community. It does take a little patience to get it up and running, but once it's working, it's very stable.
Once again, free yourself and watch TV on your terms!
First, let me state that I don't dislike conservatives. I may dislike their ideals, or their worldview, but I know that deep down we all have the same goals and wishes for ourselves and our country. Amy Geiger-Hemmer was nice enough to send her well wishes to me on my health. I appreciated it, and knew she honestly meant it.
She and I have discussed how we enjoy debating each other, and we've always had very polite private email conversations. Same goes for Jim Hayett.
Now, having said that...what is going on?
It seems like more and more lately conservatives are playing the victim card. Forget for a moment that Fox News is the highest rated news channel, and that Rush has one of the highest rated radio shows in history, or that conservatives just finished 8 years of running the country. Apparently, conservatives are oppressed!
If you believe them, somehow at every turn conservatives are getting bullied and silenced and everything else you can imagine. Amy raised heck when a new liberal blogger started a blog here. She originally objected because of the political slant, then later changed it to a problem with his residency.
Then you have complaints over and over about liberal media lying, and liberals being mean, and on and on and on.
To this day, neither Amy nor Jim has told us why we should have voted McCain/Palin. They've only told us why we shouldn't have voted Obama.
I think I have it figured out. Conservatives like to play the victim. Instead of arguing points based on merit, they'll parrot the bullet points word-for-word, then complain about being bullied if anyone challenges it. It's convenient really - by doing that you don't really need to argue the facts. You can just accuse the debater that they're being a bully. Barely a week goes by when we don't hear about the Big Bad Media (tm) keeping the conservatives down. Of course, in the same breath, they refer to the highly rated Rush Limbaugh as a journalist and speak about Fox News with the same sort of reverence.
So, my conservative friends, what's happening? Is being a conservative that miserable? When was the last time you guys have said anything positive? Is it so bad for the conservatives right now that there's nothing good to talk about?
Well, I was going to write a geek-zen post about the TVersity media server, but I liked Jeff and Tami's replies to my last post about life with the insulin pump. So, I'll write about TVersity soon (I promise!) and use today's entry to let everyone know how things are going now...
I'm into week number three on the pump, and words can't describe how great I feel. More than a few people have taken me aside and commented on how good I look lately, and how much more energetic I am - people who had no idea about my diabetes or the pump. It's that big of a change!
I've lost about 10 pounds, and my face has lost it's "puffiness". I also have more energy than I have had in ages.
As for the bottom line? A normal blood glucose reading is 80-120 mg/dl. My average before the pump was 300, while as of this moment my 7 day average is 142.
It's wonderful to only have to deal with injections every other day (to change infusion sets) as opposed to 4 times a day. No more packing needles and insulin "just in case" if I planned to leave the house for more than a couple of hours. It's pretty liberating!
So, my opinion still stands. If you're a diabetic with poor glucose control, I beg you to investigate a pump. They are expensive, and you do have to put some effort into making it work for you, but as you can see from the numbers above it's well worth it!
I plan on giving my Doctor a big "Thank You" the next time I see him. This one thing has had a big impact on my day-to-day life.
Well, as of this morning, I'm hooked up to the new insulin pump. I think it and I will get along quite nicely!
The pump manufacturer shipped all of my stuff to me earlier this week. I then took the online training to learn how to use it. Finally today, a nurse came by to help me program it up and help me through my first "connection".
I can tell already that there is a lot of benefit to pump therapy. In the past I just took big shots o' insulin at every meal, regardless of what I ate. The result was glucose levels all over the place. WIth pump therapy, you pay much closer attention to carb intake, and adjust your insulin accordingly. So really, it requires you to focus on your eating habits, which is also a good thing.
At any rate, I'm very surprised at how painless inserting the infusion set it. I thought for sure that I inserted it wrong - I didn't feel a thing!
We'll see how things progress, but so far this looks like a very positive thing. It's certainly going to take some adjustment and getting used to, but I look very forward to feeling better.
Plus, Nathan now calls me Robo-Pop.
I recently discovered Hulu, an online video site that was put together as a joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp. It highlights thousands of TV shows from both company's libraries, as well as trailers and other special content, all with limited interruptions and commercials.
One of the coolest things about Hulu is the catalog of old TV shows. My favs include NewsRadio, Dilbert, and The Tick, but there are many more, new and old, all available on your computer.
Now, if you're a true geek, pick up a media player like the D-Link DSM-520 or an XBox 360 and purchase a copy of PlayOn. While I'll cover the joys of using the DSM-520 with TVersity in a later entry, what's nice about the PlayOn software is that it allows you to watch those shows on Hulu on your TV! Even on my HD TV, the video quality is excellent with no "blocky-ness" or buffering. Keep in mind that the PlayOn software is still in beta as of this writing, so if you can deal with occasional hiccups you'll be just fine. Other than an annoying little issue with shows sometimes ending a minute short, I've been happily watching "old" TV shows on the big TV!
Another neat little thing that PlayOn can do is stream videos from a YouTube account, so if you're like me and have lots of videos of the kids online, you can make turn them into TV Stars in the living room!
Yet another way for you to be in control of what you watch on TV, instead of the other way around.
Like everyone else this morning, I awoke to find a driveway and sidewalk filled with snow. Unlike last year, I have myself a true work of beauty. A miracle of modern technology.
I have a snowblower! (Cue the angels singing from on high!)
So I step outside, and yell to Mother Nature in the heavens "Bring it!!" and pull the cord on my shiny red Toro. The machine fires up, and I'm ready to go.
Burrrrrrrrup. The snowblower stalls. Seems that there is a bit more snow than this fancy machine is made for. So, I pull the cord once again, and slowly start to carve a path in the snow. Odd...you always see the guy in the commercial smiling as he easily moves piles of snow out of his way. Not so much in the Geek's driveway!
Fast forward an hour. I have finally moved enough snow to actually start clearing the driveway and sidewalk. I go at it with reckless abandon. I get the job done, change into some dry clothes, and kick back in my recliner for some quality time with my Mac.
And then in happened.
I get try to get up. It seems like my body does not want to cooperate. I stand there hunched over, and try to shuffle along the floor. I look outside and notice that the plow has finally come through, and pushed snow back into my driveway.
You know...I always thought a snow free driveway was overrated anyway...
It's been a while since I've take the time to write. Chalk it up to an election hangover, and minor health issues. I'm fine, but I have some things that are requiring some attention.
I've been a diabetic for years. I'm insulin dependent, and give myself several shots a day. Recently it's been difficult keeping things under control, to the point that my doctor has advised that I start using an insulin pump. So, I've gotten through the insurance hoops and I'm getting myself prepared for a whole lot of changes.
You know, at first I was upset, but after thinking about it...it's really a Geek's dream! What Geek wouldn't want a piece of electronics wired directly to their body? I've got a freakin' bionic pancreas!! It's too bad that it's a horrible idea to tweak those gadgets...I'm imagining myself unlocking car doors and things with it. Or maybe a separate line to feed coffee directly into my body. Yeah, that would be cool!
Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting wired up and getting started on the next part of the journey.
On a separate unrelated, but Geek-Zen-ish note: Do you back up the data on your computer? If you don't, shame on you! We averted a crisis a week or two ago when one of our computers crashed. Fortunately, I make weekly backups of all my computers, and the machine was quickly restored. I went from Geek to hero in 10 seconds flat. It's not a matter of IF your computer dies, it's a matter of WHEN!
Enjoy the season, all!
For those Mukwonago parents who haven't signed up for Infinite Campus yet, what are you waiting for?
As an involved parent, I like to be proactive in my children's education. While I try to rely on teachers to keep me up to date, they are busy trying to do a million things at once, which means I need to do what I can to stay on top of what's going on.
Infinite Campus is a way for teachers to get the raw data out to parents, which allows them to participate more closely in their kid's education. It provides reports on attendance, homework assignments and grades, report cards, and email access to teachers.
The site is fairly easy to use, and when set up properly will contain data for any of your children attending a school in MASD. At this point it holds data for middle and high school students, but it does include basic info for grade school students.
According to the Chief article, 73% of Park View families, and 56% of MHS families have signed up for it. I'd like to see those numbers higher for many reasons, the biggest being the ability for the teachers and the district to improve communication with parents. Infinite Campus works best when as many families as possible use it.
So, get out there and get signed up! It's a great opporunity to play an even larger role in your child's education!
Remember when I said that my Grandma Helen should run for President? Looks like she at least has the First Lady's ear:
OK, let me quickly get this out of the way: It's a great day to be a liberal!
Now, on to more important issues. CNN...really? Holograms?
I admit, as a geek, I should be impressed with all the cool toys, but you could see the discomfort in Anderson Cooper as he was trying to hold a conversation with Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas via "Hologram". Not only is the inherent audio delay due to the satellite feed awkward, but Anderson also has to act like he's talking to the guy face to face! You can tell that it just wasn't working for him. I'm not quite sure what they hoped to accomplish but it really didn't add any depth to what was going on.
Then you move to the "vitual house" which essentialy blue-screened the first time they used it. Again, a simple "flat" graphic would have done just fine.
As an Engineer, I value optimisation and elegant simplicity. In the case of CNN last night, they managed to swat a fly with a sledgehammer.
I have what I call "Electronics OCD". It's pretty common with Engineers. You look at a gadget and come up with a million ways to optimize it. Each change triggers more opportunities for "tweaking". Here's my latest example:
Thanks to a recent infusion of cash, I was able to buy a replacement TV for my recently departed 50" TV. I picked up a 42" plasma HDTV. Cool...I get it installed, and all is well, except that my DirecTV DVR isn't HD. So I call and order a new HD DVR.
Sure enough, a few days later, the DVR arrives. It gets installed, and life is good - at least until I see that I need a second coax line and a network connection. No problem, the cables get run. In my rush to get it connected I just fish the wires out through where the first line came through.
Then I notice that my TV has an optical output. Hey! My home theater system has an optical input! I just need to go to RadioShack and...
When I came to, I was lying on the floor surrounded by tools, cables, and band-aids. I vaguely remember handing off my credit card and walking out with a huge bag of stuff. There was cutting, drilling, sweating, and swearing.
What started as a simple TV purchase ended up with me installing a new multi-gang outlet with two coax jacks, a network jack, and a phone jack. I also bought the fiber optic cable as well as cable looms to reduce the clutter of wires into two neat bundles. Since then I've added an external tuner to get HD over-the-air channels, and capped it off with a Green Bay Packers remote. I couldn't help myself. I just kept looking in the direction of the TV and seeing "opportunities".
So, if you happen to see a geeky looking fellow wandering around your neighboorhood mumbling something about needing "just one more part", please call my wife. She may not want to pick me up, but a least she'll know where I am.
It's been a while since I've done an update. I should be honest as to why.
Quite frankly, I didn't like the direction that my attitude was heading. Now, I'm not going to say I was wrong about anything I wrote. I still believe that Obama is the right man for the job, that liberal is not a dirty word, and that conservatives should spend more time telling us why we should elect McCain, and less time lying about Obama.
But, I let myself get drawn into the fray. There are many others who fight the good fight (Sally, Victor, MC, and Jeff) and all I did was add to the noise. So I decided that it was time to move away. Obama is well on his way to becoming President, and I've done, and will continue to do, what I can to make sure that happens, but in this space I'll try to move back to my original intent. To talk about family, technology, and life in the burbs.
I will continue to point out the absurd, and will continue to debate anyone who thinks that being liberal is a bad thing, because I believe that it's not true at all. I believe that one of the bigger differences between liberals and conservatives is this: Liberals want what's best for everyone. Most conservatives want what's best for themselves. Keep that in mind.
I am not Joe the Plumber. I am Chris the Engineer, and I am my Brother's Keeper. If my taxes go to help someone pull themselves out of their darkest hours, then it's money well spent.
Vote Obama, and may all of you be as blessed as I've been.
Last night I took the family out to Mukwonago's Jack-o'-Lantern Jaunt. Hats off to Joline Palatino, Linda Forster, and their crew of volunteers for putting on a great show. And, of course, a pat on the back to all the talented pumpkin artists in the community.
This is the kind of even that makes Mukwonago a great community to live in. Everybody participates, and a designated organization gets the proceeds. Everyone involved - even the spectators - win.
I can't wait for next year's event!
Colin Powell endorses Obama, and speaks out about the McCain/Palin smear tactics.
You've heard me talk about my Father-in-law before. He's a card-carrying Repulican, and I often use him to gauge the pulse of the party. Here are some facts about my Father-in-law:
He's a member of the NRA
He owns his own business
He has a signed picture of President Bush on his mantle
He subscribes to NewsMax and the Limbaugh Letter
He won't be voting in this election
You heard correct. He's decided not to vote. He is so disappointed with McCain that he won't vote for him. Of course, he won't vote for Obama either, but get this - he doesn't dislike Obama enough to vote against him!
If McCain fails to get elected, you'll hear a bunch of excuses from the right about the Mainstream Media and things like that, but it's an empty argument. If McCain loses, it's the right's own fault!
Take Amy Hemmer for instance. I've said to her several times that she needs to worry less about smearing Obama and worry more about educating people about McCain. Instead she, and others, ignored the signs and kept on with the smears, even though the polling data clearly shows that the tactic is not working at all.
My Father-in-law needed to be convinced that McCain was the right guy to be President. Like many conservatives, he thinks that McCain doesn't really represent him, or at least what he knows about McCain. Had someone taken the time to tell him why McCain is the guy, he likely could have been swayed. Instead, all he hears from the McCain camp is that Obama is evil. My Father-in-law is smart enough to know that all of these supposed connections are dubious at best, and don't really matter.
It reminds me of a report on the news last night about the latest smear tactic...automated phone calls that carry an ominous message about Obama. They interviewed an independant that put it this way: "I was independent until I got that call. I'm voting for Obama now."
So, conservatives, if your guy doesn't win, there is only one group to blame: Yourselves.
So I went in today to get registered to vote, since I moved since the last election.
I have to say that the Village of Mukwonago does this right! I was helped by a woman who thoroughly explained how to fill out the forms and took the time to review them when I was finished to make sure everything was in order.
Since I work in my Madison office on Tuesdays, I inquired about an absentee ballot. Again, she was extremely helpful with explaining how to fill out the forms accurately, and pointing me to the booth to fill out my ballot.
Bottom line, it was an excellent experience. Voting these days can be difficult to the uninitiated, and with all the stories floating around about difficulties with registering and voting, I wanted to pass on some good news for once.
Congratulations to Steven Braatz, Jr. and the rest of the clerk's staff at Village Hall. You all are a great example of how it should be done.
- Your moment of Geek Zen: The rise of the Netbooks (7)
- I'm disappointed in the Mukwonago Chief (19)
- Take control of your phone! (0)
- Your moment of Geek Zen - 3/1/09 (2)
- Your moment of Geek Zen - TV Coma, Part Deux (0)
- When did conservatives become "victims"? (37)
- Change of plans (7)
- Fire it up! (2)
- Your moment of Geek Zen - TV Coma (3)
- Snow Storm o' Doom 2008 (0)
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