Category Archives: Technology

When You Need a Dry Phone

I accidentally submerged my phone in a small tub of water Tuesday evening. Not in a toilet bowl or kitchen sink, my phone fell into a mosquito trap, which I have been in dire need of. Everyone knows that water and electronics don’t mix. Google says to shut down your device, if you can, remove the power source completely, and submerge the phone in rice to absorb every H2O molecule possible. I was in a rush. My rush, and subsequent patience by force, explain the following shortcuts.

Like any other elementary school student, I wicked away all the water I could see with my naked eye, powered on the device, watched the screen light up with the correct loading images, then remain static despite my harried finger swiping to and fro. Okay, time to graduate to Junior High School. There must have been water trapped inside of the phone! So I made long flailing motions to coerce water out from the speaker and headphone jack; the following is a reenactment:

Droplets eventually stopped squirting against my face, leaving only air and hope to be expected. Again I powered on the device and was met by a picture of my home screen, instead of an interactive operating system. Hello High School, time to put those complicated evaporation lessons to use! Here’s where my real genius shined through. Blow dryers are a bad idea, because extreme heat can damage circuits without any assistance from water; even low settings can singe more than the eye can see. What source of heat could I use, knowing well in advance that the upper temperature was safe for sensitive electronics? Well, you see, I have this 13-inch laptop that I love; it’s equipped with an i3 Core processor and made of plastic, making it light and fast enough for media production on the go. A mild drawback includes the whirring fan that erupts whenever Adobe Dreamweaver launches, and there I found the perfect heat vent, simultaneously proven hot enough to burn a lap without detrimentally affecting a motherboard. Adobe Dreamweaver, Lightroom, Premiere, and YouTube videos warmed the phone innards hot to the touch, just like I remember my Earth Science teacher called for. You can guess what happened next, nothing happened next, besides the sound of text message alerts.

There went my plans for the evening, and as luck would have it, the following day also. I’m pleased to report from my phone after another 24 hours in a zip lock bag full of dry rice. Two pluses from the experience: not having a phone sure helps make decisions that much easier, and provides great material about irresponsible behavior. The lesson is, when you need a dry phone, use patience first.


Web I Read

If not technical references, I generally avoid reading lengthy non-fiction literature. Self help books from lifestyle gurus with horticultural certifications are not my cup of green tea. And for someone who professes to be as well read as myself, I also detest broadcast news; especially all news as breaking news, flashing lights, and theatrical diplomacy, that promote little more than depression, anxiety, and fear. For more positive segments, without the morning variety show spiel, then kudos to GOOD Magazine‘s impression of my ideal newscast. Because I’m a contrarian and appreciate alternative snarky perspectives, most news that I do find intriguing are discovered through New York Magazine, Vice, and the Onion. Enjoy my other categorical exceptions below.

Every young man should be gifted a subscription to Esquire magazine; I bought mine in High School while piecing together my own Weird Science inspired role model and mentor. Esquire’s web presence has nothing on their print, and while there’s a boat load of consumerist alternatives to online Esquire, including Valet and Uncrate, I drew my metro-sexual line just before anyone should expect their appearance to trump their achievements. After diligent research, I still haven’t found a newsstand female lifestyle magazine less ignorant than listing Love, Beauty, Life, and Career Advice under Horoscopes: I’m looking at you Marie Claire.

Supplanting years of terrible ESPN web design, the new Sports Center Feed is a boon to every self confessed sports addict. In my youth, as a growing athlete, and avid sports watcher and reader, Peter Vecsey’s articulation and shrewd judgment nurtured my early literary interests. To completely avoid the New York Daily News, I shifted to reading Bill Simmons, who remains my favorite sports author and leads Grantland, the ESPN offshoot, with awesome articles and B.S. Report podcasts.

Wired, Venture Beat, and The Verge satiate my general technologist needs; TechCrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo, and Mashable are now too popular to not be written for lay people, and Pete Cashmore’s smug face is an eye sore. Without delving into an endless list of web design and development references, I recreationally enjoy reading Smashing Magazine, A List Apart, and the Firefox Developer Blog.

Reddit/pics is a great distraction if you’d like to uncontrollably giggle to yourself in public. Reddit also provides a gateway to every interesting nook and cranny on the internet, most notably including science and medical journals; on that note, if anyone knows a doctor willing to prescribe me Adderall and Lithium treatments then email me their information, thanks. About people who mislead their humorous capabilities with reposts from Reddit, just know that you’re a huge disappointment in person.

For business and entrepreneurial news, the Harvard Business Review is an underappreciated gold mine. Special shout out to my good friend and industry consultant, Michael del Castillo of Upstart Business Journal, for his genuine enthusiasm about startups, and thought provoking content. I hope to continue this article with a nightly list of links I find worthy of sharing. Feel free to suggest any publications I may have missed. Best wishes and good reading everyone!

Mac versus PC

Like the mathematically inept with calculators, Macs are for people who simply need things to work, PCs are for people who need to know how things work, and Linux is for poor posers forcibly turned smug elite. I would know, I’ve owned every platform and read The Oatmeal. Now, Macs have left the hallowed grounds of designers and eccentric homes, to infiltrate developer circles and general administrative offices.

I have been anti-Apple for so long that I bought a Creative Zen AND Sony Mini Disc player instead of the iPod! I still don’t want to pinch, wave, or generally gesture at my screens! This must be how writers felt about typewriters, or photographers who thought film would never be usurped; where art thou BUTTONS?!

A respected web developer recently told me that her last PC encounter involved DLLs from Windows 98! I started asking around and found that most Mac users have never owned a PC, last used an antiquated Windows version, or were exposed to the much belied Vista. Microsoft hasn’t done itself any favors with Windows 8 either, when all they had to do was build a TILED desktop with a Start menu and omni-bar. Of course, it’s not difficult to personally install the necessary components, except that extra effort is exactly where a sane person would browse other options; now I know how most Thiests feel.

The easiest explanation for Apple fever has always been convenience. From my experience, public schools were either equipped with Macs or PCs in their computer labs. Each platform maintained a separate image, one remained in a beige box, and the other resembled an organized bucket of Legos. Microsoft may have released the ill fated Courier before the iPad, and Palm may have released the Pilot before the iPhone, except they were all marketed to the wrong generation. The computer market is at the mercy of grown children systematically brainwashed, and devolved to devote themselves to a grownup Leap Frog product. As I get older and lose my complex faculties, I promise to more freely dabble with Apple products; in the mean time, best wishes with your Macs and elliptical machines.

Aaron Swartz Tears

My take away from the weekend: no one ever committed suicide before Aaron Swartz. I’m obviously not in the know, or like everyone else, I would have known anything about this young man’s endlessly re-iterated list of accolades beforehand, the programming community lost an icon according to icons. The hyperbole is nauseating, see Quora for trite of this nature: About the death of Aaron Swartz, should a genius be measured by a different yardstick? Is it fair to human progress that law is equal for all?

What strikes me about this situation is the lack of conflict, Aaron wasn’t a victim of bullying, and since he was the genius every publication makes him out to be, then he knowingly committed the crime that drove his final act. What else strikes me about this situation is the mob mentality backlash. Anonymous hacks MIT in response, the forefront of academic technological innovation, and the community is dancing in the streets. If you’re opposed to pay walls, and are part of a hacker community geared towards disrupting markets, why haven’t you responded with an alternative platform? Show the world how to freely share privately funded information in a capitalist society.

After winning a Super Bowl with the New York Giants, Plaxico Burress was charged for shooting himself in the leg; I was the first in line to insist on the newly mandated three year sentence in New York City, to set an example and help curb gun violence. Timothy Bradley continues to wallow in solitary confinement, and our prison system is congested with petty criminals serving lengthy sentences, for far less damaging activities than the reproduction of classified documents. Crime begets punishment as far as I remember. Why anyone feels as if exonerating Swartz would have saved his life in the first place is beneath me. If no one else wants to draw a parallel, let me be the first: like the Newtown shooter, this young man suffered from a mental illness, just maybe we should be up in arms over our country’s mental facilities instead of blaming the subsequent triggers, no pun intended.

Maybe I’m really as cold as people say I am. Maybe I equally care about people I don’t have personal attachments to, and in that case can’t place one life ahead of another to circumstantially goad vigilantes and pundits. Please accept my condolences and kind words: you’re special.

Say NO to Kred

Tomorrow’s post was scheduled to be published today. Unfortunately, I endured an experience so traumatic, that venting couldn’t possibly wait for my blog queue to catch up. Last night, I decided to sign up for Kred and PeerIndex to contrast their analysis of social influence from Klout. Without Klout’s publicity, each markets itself as a mature competitor with custom algorithms to better quantify social relevance. PeerIndex, being competent at first glance, will avoid the scathing report that follows: Kred is the worst web service I have ever had the displeasure of using.

Between the rudimentary Pinterest layout, tabs, dialog boxes, and micro-sized Vimeo embed, the brazen lack of polish was appalling for a web service meant to judge me. Alas, sign in with a social network? Sure! Except, what is this PeopleBrowsr the permissions keep referencing? Suspicious eye aside, why does Kred employ the only Authorization Request to EVER disconnect me from Facebook in the process? I double and triple checked my address bar before re-entering my password; and even after committing every security sin known to phishing, one of the previously mentioned tacky dialog boxes pops up to request my name and email address, Kred just accessed my twitter account, what is Kred doing with my information if not acquiring my name and email address?! Then there’s the ultra-secure privacy controls, see the PHP code above that actually leaked into my dashboard? Why is Kred not the laughing stock of social influence? The deeper I delved, the more John McAfee references I felt compelled to make.

Do not be mistaken, I’m a pretty computer literate guy, and I still can’t find an exit. I haven’t felt this exposed since browsing Chat Roulette with my webcam on. I mentioned Kred in a tweet explaining my mistake – my mistake was using their service at all – and am yet to receive any help towards deleting my account. Kred, please scrub any remnants of my participation from your jail broken experiment.

Mom’s Android

Mom’s Android is an Amazon Kindle Fire, purchased before the Apple iPad Mini, or the Kindle Fire HD were available. To better understand my mother’s computer skill-set, please understand that her first text message prompted a family meeting. Her Android was intended for listening to music, introducing her to email, and reading; at the time the price justified the lack of a camera and microphone. I should have known that handing her an impersonal stock tablet was callous of me. If she never got a grasp of the iPod Mini I bought and pre-loaded music on, then it was inevitable that she lose the Android *charger* and neglect the tablet entirely.

With her interests in mind, I began the customization process by setting her Pandora stations to her favorite singers: Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Josh Groban, and Michael Buble. Because she is fond of interior design, I installed Pinterest, created her account, and followed Oprah, Martha Stewart, Victorian furniture, and wedding decor on her behalf. Although the official Gmail app was nowhere to be found, the stock email app was operable. Finally, steering this family towards Google Apps for its ease of use and omnipotence, Amazon’s omission of Google Plus presented the problem to cement my disdain for this tablet!

After an hour researching solutions to this prominent issue, the XDA forums convinced me that rooting the Kindle was my best option. This excellent guide from Make Use Of illustrated the process in a straightforward manner, and even accounted for the expected hiccups. Although the DOS console, no matter how color coordinated, will disconcert some novice users, patience and discretion guarantee a simple resolution. Remember to finalize the setup with a firewall app to prevent updates from circumventing root access.

My mother was ecstatic to rediscover her tablet, and blushed about photos of her youth I scanned and privately shared on Google Plus. My next tablet purchase will most likely be a Nexus 7; I definitely cannot recommend the Kindle Fire to ANYONE ANYWHERE AT ANYTIME! Happy Holidays!

Custom Bloatware

Recently formatted a hard drive and performed a clean install of Windows 7, then pondered over what additional applications to include. Below is a basic list of software that should allow the casual PC user to immediately enjoy their new computer:

  • Google Chrome is my personal browser of choice, Firefox is a worthy alternative. No matter how much Internet Explorer cosmetically improves, it still lags in terms of web technology integration, and remains the targeted browser of choice for malicious hackers.
  • WinRAR for your run of the mill ZIPs, rare RARs, Java JARs, or 7zs you probably shouldn’t have downloaded. Although it is free, you will be nagged by the option to buy with afterlife consequences.
  • VLC gracefully handles every multimedia file format I have ever thrown at it, including the mysterious MKVs; well, everything except Apple’s proprietary bastard child. While you will need Quicktime sooner or later, beware of the bundled iTunes installer.
  • Adobe Reader supports the PDFs we’re inevitably forced to read, and the bundled PDF Printer will be there when you unexpectedly need it.
  • Skype is Windows’ Facetime, Apple has completely fooled lay people into believing their bundled features are unique to OSX – long live anyone with common sense!
  • CCleaner clears caches and histories, uninstalls application ghosts, tunes registries, and so much more; really for further down the line to keep things in order, and provide one-click clean-up automation for novices.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials proves I may not be a PC whisperer, but I have forsaken AVG, McAfee, Kaspersky, and their antivirus brethren in favor of intuition, hometown protection, and responsible internet use.
  • The home stretch: Photos? Picasa. Online storage? Dropbox, enjoy the extra 500 MBs of space. Microsoft Office? If Google Docs isn’t enough, then I still can’t vouch for an alternative to Microsoft Office. Music? Although the cool kids are using Spotify, there are so many options that the only wrong one left is paying for a CD.

Happy computing! Let me know if I missed anything through any channel.