Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Make Makers of Students Tell Me More / Commentary #npredchat

Dear Miss Martin and Mr. Gusman,

I was listening to your show, Disrupting Class To Make Way For Technology. I appreciated your discussion of technology and access to learning modern tools to educate our children. Expensive tools such as Apple products, especially iPads limit access to  technology. Not only do they cost 2-3 times what an open source tablet would cost, one running Linux or Android, but they are designed so that the student may not be allowed to delve into them deeply, removing memory, replacing the operating system, and so forth. If they are just using the tablet as a mere User, instead of digging into how the tablets actually work, they are limiting the amount of access to depth of learning these tools can otherwise provide. An iPad needlessly imposes limits on what Students can learn, never mind their expensive price tag. By contrast, one can buy a generic tablet for around $70 retail.
There are several very affordable areas of technology that is largely ignored by school systems. Everything on the below list is Open Source, free to use without buying a license. They are interoperable. They are relatively inexpensive in terms of the actual hardware as well as the related manuals and books that may enhance a learning environment. All of them have huge communities for support.

Perhaps a great view into this area is expressed by this article:
With a mix of Arduino, Raspberry Pi and fun, Maker Box hopes to bolster Africa's future tech skills

Here are some keywords to read about these areas that can easily be introduced into schools at very little expense.
Linux / Android
Raspberry Pi
Make Magazine
Python Tutorial
Using Python in a High School Computer Science Program

Other FREE Online Tutorial "Schools"
One of the most disruptive repositories of technology is housed within the Open Source Ecology  website. "
The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts. - See more here

Bryan “Beau” Grant
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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Product Review: ASICMiner Block Erupter Cube Bitcoin Miner: Great Design, High Performance, & ZERO Hardware Assembly Quality Control!

 >>Warning<< You do need basic computer hardware (A+ related knowledge) to get these repaired and functioning.
Do NOT turn these on without opening the case and inspecting the integrity of the screw torques, seating of the cards, and the attachment of the heatsink. You could literally fry one if you turn it on without opening them to inspect and repair.

That said.. These are wonderful devices, from a number of perspectives.
- They perform at 38 to 42ghash. We regularly get up to 42ghash on Bitminter, and rarely dip below 38ghash.
- The cases all fit together nice and neat. No need to fiddle with any erector sets as with some other products.
- Config UI is up to par.
- Cooling Fan does it's job.

Cons -
- These were priced at $1170 not more than 3 weeks before this review. As of today, they are at $650.
- Two vendors have both sent product that required disassembly/reassembly. One vendor claimed to have delayed shipping to inspect the units. If that is true, they need to polish their inspection skill set. ;-)
--Without exception, the Units arrived with parts rattling around in the case, two screws actually fell out of one of the devices.
-- Most had to have all the internal cards reseated.
-- Several heat sinks were not firmly attached to the boards, greatly reducing their heat removal efficiency.
Other comments:
All  units had heatsink screws that were NOT torqued. The thermal conduit layer between the sink and the board possesses a modulus of elasticity which should degrade the prospect of the screws becoming loosened due to lifespan.  That was 4 out of four screws on every board of every unit. Only one unit did not have any screws rolling around although 1 screw was only half way in.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

YAR Yet Another Remake: knockoff's, covers, & remakes of shows, movies, & music songs; negative connotation

I am Officially coining an acronym. Been using this for a few years now.. hopefully it will catch on, perhaps sending a message to writers to be innovative and to producers/editors to take more risks.

YAR Yet Another Remake: knockoff's, covers, & remakes of shows, movies, & music songs; negative connotation

To Qualify as a YAR it must be a poorly done copy cat of a better original, or a ineffective rehash of something that was already terrible, not improved by the remake, and amounts to a wasted effort.

For example, the recent cover of "Bad Company" by Five Finger Death Punch really was Bad. The original is a great classic rock song. The new one just gives a modern formula based facelift to the song without improving the earlier vesion in anyway, and usually mangling the earlier version.

The opposite of a YAR would be all the songs on the Soundtrack to Harry Met Sally  by Harry Connick Jr. Sure, Sinatra & Bennett are amazing, but Connick's renditions were going in new directions that stood on their on while not taking away from the earlier versions.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

ASUS Router RT-N16 fancy time waster

@ASUS Router RT-N16 fancy time waster via @bryangrant RE: @dlna

This device had several problems, and very little that deserves merit.

I filed a complete support ticket.. it is now day 3 waiting for a response.

I am returning the item this evening.

There is a long list of issues I found on their own site after the purchase, and the new Firmware created some new issues such as will not login via PPoE, will not print via LPR, will not stream DLNA media content over the same LAN subnet, will not mount external drive.

Opensource DDWRT replacement firmware will not support uPnP.

Since the primary use of this upgrade to my LAN, besides day-to-day home office tasks, will be to view content on the servers over DLNA, this product is rendered 100% useless.

Firmware 1.0.x
- Currently it ships with Firmware 1.0 installed. Noob users would pull their hair out if they tried to use that build since it has a very long list of flaky problems.
- WDS will not work,
- the uPnP doesn't work
- The WiFi flaps so badly it is not possible to reliably connect.
- PPoE is unreliable [pppd[1986]: Unable to complete PPPoE Discovery]
- External drive mounted flawlessly.

Firmware 3.0.x
- Will not import old router .cfg file. Manually reconfig the router from scratch. *sigh*
- WDS now works just fine
- uPnP is VERY broken. Will not look at external drive's partitions. Inserted a tiny partition onto the drive without my approval. DLNA service simply to NOT work.
- PPoE worked great for 4 days. Then.. just stopped. It will not login to the internet any longer. PPoE via direct cable to the DSL modem works fine, so the router is the culprit.
- Printer server no longer will access a HP LaserJet 1300 via LPR. Worked fine with old 1.0 Firmware.
 - The very same External HardDrive will no longer mount the partitions I wish to share.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

NetFlix Instant Viewing - poor selection, frustrating service. Skip It.

Warning to all people considering using using Netflix to watch videos over the internet, affording the convenience of instant access and dispensing with the need to fiddle around with mailing DVD's.

1- Library- Selection of videos is VERY limited. Compared to the NetFlix DVD database, there is a 1 in 20 chance of being able to download a video, instead of being able to view it instantly. There is no consistency in what is available for Instant Viewing. For example, of the Matrix movie trilogy, the first movie is only available via DVD mailing, the other two and the cartoon DVD are available via
instant viewing. Battlestar 1980 has all episodes except for the first one. Yes, I am a Sci-Fi buff, but is that too much to expect to have the entire series of a given title available versus pieces of a title? As for Sci-Fi, there is a very narrow selection of A movies, current shows are practically non-existent, and the majority of Instant movies are B class or lower. They have a few token classics, and that is it.

2- Wii- The viewing of the videos on the Wii Console is poor at best. For starters, the viewing of movies is poor at best. While you are able to watch a video on your laptop, though you are within 3 feet of the location of the Wii, the Wii will not find the server, though the laptop plays the video perfectly. The Wii will not access NetFlix, even though it is able to use Opera to view web pages, Mii can send Mii's, and the news/weather works very well. All indicators point to a very very poor implementation of the NetFlix for Wii software. It's malfunctions prevent prompt, reliable, or even enjoyable viewing.

The Wii NetFlix user interface also is lacking. You can not search for titles without a Laptop. I have dozens of Barney and other children's titles automatically populated, though I had completed the "interview" on the website which allows your selections to be selected "intelligently".

3- LG - LG has several players designed specifically for NetFlix. All the conditions in #1 holding true, the device presents video with a high degree of aliasing rendering a poor experience for the viewer with blocks of graphics and blurring. The user interface is vastly inferior to that of the Wii, and all the shortcomings of the Wii interface are doubly lacking in the LG.

Customer support is non-existent with an email connection that does not exist. You can only send an indicator to them that a given video has failed to perform. You can call them, but the hold times are regularly over 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Picasa, photo album applications, and our personal memories

I have noticed a few wishlist items that are not yet included in Picasa. Iwork on both PC and Mac platforms, but this statement should also be taken to include Linux platforms as well.
One of the long standing issues of digital photography management has been been related to tagging, file naming, and captioning of photos.
What is really needed is an open, published standard for the handling of captions, file names, and titles. Users invest a ton of time and energy into labeling their photos, and if you remember that the annotations on the back of physical photos are very useful for identifying to historians and descendants who is in a photograph, likewise, captions and labels are equally important and deserve a level of care which is not yet present in the tools available today. Furthermore, since we are all embarking into the realm of introducing video and audio media into our personal lives and histories, we should consider applying a similar open source standard framework to applications that display or host these file types.
The goal should be that where ever the image file is sent, the image is accompanied by the relevant captioning data, and is securable by the sender or creator.
One thing the latest Picasa 3.5 does do reasonably well is apply (c) copywright text information into the image itself so one can post it to the internet, and at least have demonstrable evidence that the photographer did attempt to protect their intellectual property rights for the image. It's only drawback is the file management, locating the originals and duplicates is a bit confusing to say the least. You also have to "trick" the program into actually labeling the photos, since the option only exists when your are attempt to upload the photos to the picasa site forcing you to follow a convoluted work flow to label your photos uploading, then downloading them locally for later use.
As for captioning labeling etc, I noticed this was a problem when I migrated FROM iPhoto to Picasa. I had hoped that Picasa would serve as a conduit so I could migrate from Mac to Windows and keep all the captioning information for the 5000+ photos in the library. Picasa ignores the captioning and albums in iPhoto. Picasa only imports the file name and the folders. All of this information in a XML file which could, in theory, be read by another application. The API is published since iPhoto plug-ins for Facebook, Flickr, and Picasa all allow the captions to be exported to the related web photo servers. Picasa's local client simply ignores the information.
iPhoto itself also ignores this information since if you back up your photos, suffer a catastrophic failure, then resotre, the XML file often does not work with the restored data.
On Windoze, Picasa has a better excuse since there are endless photo album/management software applications, it can not really be expected that Picasa would interact with any of them very well since there are so many. However, Picasa on Windoze and Mac does not recognize if you have Picasa web albums online already, and then match up your pre-existing local photos accordingly. It assumes you uploaded the photos from that Picasa location. You can download an album, but you end up with duplicates and a lot of work sorting them afterwards.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PDA Meltdown - Sync and Destroy!

Excuse the rant.. but.. really..

Is really too much to ask the software development community to come up with a standard for PDA/PIM data interchange?

(Join the movement! Join our FaceBook group!
It is not as if PDA functionality wasn't already working as long ago as Outlook97! Why do they ("they".. not "them", a totally different group with a different agenda!) insist upon breaking things that really should consistent and reliable cornerstones of our daily work environment?

Why haven't Outlook replacements been better adapted? Evolution as an example.. great project.. very robust application.. then inexplicably went nowhere except to the deep6 section of Novell's website.

How hard could it possibly be to create a framework where all of your PDA components interoperate? Tasks, Notes, Contacts, Calendar, and then link to your emails? How hard could it be to make reminders, vcards, and event invitations work across the various gadgets?

It is not as if the record label "home address" or "work phone" needs to be different in each place, or does it? I guess some people think it is useful to call the data records different things.. just to make life interesting?

Just try to integrate a CRM system in the following mix.. pure joy.

Gmail... no tasks in the calendar.. no notes either.. unless you do some arcane backflips using email drafts or blog entries.. and then they would not sync to your mobile tool, so what is the point of bothering? The google sync tool is "broken" between various data locations like Mac Apps, Entourage, and Outlook. There are 3rd party solutions, but my survey shows them to be a rogues gallery of other inadequate solutions.

Plaxo.. When the Plaxo Sync tool does not make your system do a three-legged race during pollen season.. it works fine.. if fine is defined as no Notes or Tasks Synced except with Outlook, and your gmail contacts is a one way sync that ends up forcing you to delete your gmail online address book every few months to remove the thousands of duplicates!

Blackberry.. does go a along way.. but still has issues with stand alone calendar invites to people outside of your organization, creating duplicates.. Over the Air (OTA) syncing doesn't exist, unless you have the Enterprise server, and then have set it up.. why wasn't this available from our phone carriers? We have data services on our phones, why not use them for something that reduces our workload!

Apple Apps - just plain stink. Ever tried to use cut n paste inside of Address Book? Pure fun. AB selects ALL the text as soon as you finish what you intended to select! It has been doing that for 3 years now.

iCal and Outlook? Totally different file formats.

How about using a different email app from Mac Mail? If you do, there is no way to tell Address Book NOT to use Mac Mail. There is no Notes application, at least not one that syncs to your mobile devices without the need to buy 3rd party software.. and if you read the reviews for MissingSync, you dodged a bullet by not using it! Oh. Lest I forget.. Tasks do not sync to anything outside of Apple Apps, Plaxo ignores them. So.. useless.

Entourage on Mac? It is a cul-de-sac for your data. It is the Hotel California of PIM Software. Once you have migrated to it, you will never leave, at least not with your Categories intact. Try it sometime. Try going to Outlook FROM Entourage. I guess that is what Microsoft considers to be end-to-end cross platform compatbility touted by it's Mac Office Business Unit. Have a look at their own words

Outlook has great features. One of my favorite features is when Outlook is not crashing trying to use IMAP with gmail... Too bad it runs on Windoze.. so you are left wide open to attack if you an average user who is not savvy enough to set up all your security apps the "right way" or have a resident geek in the family to make sure you are all buttoned up. As for Vista being secure.. just keep on clicking every 5 seconds. are you sure? Are you really sure? No really really really.. are you sure? Then you still might be able to run something on your own system without fiddlin with it, or calling the resident geek in to fix it. I am that resident geek, and I simply can't get away charging my relatives for my services! It is not kricket to bill family!

Just try sending a vcard from your computer to your blackberry. It cant read it. Yet, vcard standards have been set in stone since for over a decade.. unless it is true that vcard 3.0 just broke everything in the name of progress.