Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category


That store is ripe for a hooligan to change the P to a B.

Ever since I struggled to write a paper for a physics lab class and my friend introduced it me I have been a fan of LaTeX. Since that moment I have written everything that needed any sort of typesetting in TexShop for OS X.

Recently I needed to organize several papers for their references, I conveniently found in installation of BibDesk. This was a wonderful find. BibDesk was able to create my BibTeX file for my references as well as organize all of the PDFs for papers. With it I am able to now start a centralized organization for academic papers, something that will hopefully help me in the long run.

Furthermore it has helped me write my papers. I was able to load in a dozen papers related to my topic (Ganymede) and systematically read through the papers adding more information to my paper. The simple addition of a read checkbox to BibDesk makes the whole thing just work perfectly.

Of course after talking to a Windows using roommate about this I was only able to recommend LaTeX and BibTeX and not any neat front ends.


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iPod Touch Alarm

Falling back to my phone.

Falling back to my phone (Franz Ferdinand in concert).

I really like my iPod Touch, I never knew how much I needed to check my e-mail when I was away from my laptop but could access wifi. The Maps are handy to have if preloaded and being able to somewhat estimate a location based on nearby wifi is neat, I have used it to find the right place to get off a bus.

The alarm clock feature has been disappointing. Namely an alarm does not go off if the volume is set to 0. I have also had an alarm simply not go off before. Fortunately in both cases I woke up on my own near the time I had set the alarm, but it is still disconcerting to have an unreliable alarm clock.

So I have reverted back to my phones alarm clock. The thing I loved about the Touch’s alarm was the many different ones I had, the snooze system and the ease of use. The reliability is causing me to revert to another system.

Admittedly it could be user error as I have been sick and have set the alarms when I was very tired. Maybe in a week the reliability will get better.

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Tech Support

They tend towards overripe, under ripe or already eaten by hikers.

They tend towards overripe, under ripe or already eaten by hikers.

XKCD is a great webcomic, I would say one of the best.

And this one in particular should be spread around as much as possible. Every parent, relative and computer user out there needs to see it.

Just so we can increase computer literacy.

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Pile of Nintendo DS game cartridges.

Pile of Nintendo DS game cartridges.

Note: If this is posted twice it is because the first one was eaten by WordPress and it may or may not post along with this rewrite.

About a year ago I bought a CycloDS Evolution for my Nintendo DS Lite. I wanted to check out the homebrew scene and look for a free web browser for the DS. Nothing really jumped out at me from the world of DS homebrew but I found a better use for the Micro SD adapter card.

Nintendo DS ROMs. These are the contents of the DS game cartridge that are put onto a computer into a .nds file. Conveniently cards like the CycloDS can play them when they are put onto the MicroSD card. This of course leads to many of the games being pirated. I try to avoid that and only download the ROMs of games I currently own.

Or games that I am thinking about owning. With a lot of DS games they are either fun (Super Mario 64 DS) or have the fun potential but for some reason it does not follow through (the new Pok√©mon). Tired of buying games that don’t interest me I saw the usage of ROMs to be the perfect answer, an opportunity to demo a game for an hour or so and then decide if I want to buy it.

The temptation of course is to not buy it since one already has a copy of the game. Recently I downloaded and tried out Knights in the Nightmare by Atlus, I liked it and the next day I bought the game. Even though I now own a legitimate copy of the game I am going to keep playing it solely on my CycloDS.

Why? Mostly because I already have an hours worth of game on the ROM version and because it is so much more versatile. I can back up my savegames to my computer along with the game itself, I don’t have to carry the game around with me and there is a much smaller chance of losing a digital copy.

If there was an easy way to get the saves off of the DS games I bought prior to the CycloDS I would not need to carry around any of the game cartridges with me and could rest them right next to my original brick of a Gameboy.

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An scanned slide from a Imagelab FS5C05 35mm slide scanner.

An scanned slide from a Imagelab FS5C05 35mm slide scanner.

I received an Imagelab FS5C05 slide scanner in the mail earlier this week. Finally a chance to scan some of my family slides but first I should test it out before getting excited.

I opened it up carefully, plugged it in and got out one of the slide trays. Easy enough. I put a slide (that I have imaged before) into the machine, centered it and clicked the scan button. Fast, easy and not at all complicated. I took out the SD card (not provided) and put it in my laptop to take a look at the quality.

Well it is not so great. In fact it is just bad. Over saturated, noisy yet blurry, muddled and not even the full 35mm frame. While the slide fits into the scanning tray the device itself does not image the entire slide, rather just the center part (unless moved) and crops off the edges. It took a 3:2 image and reduced it to 4:3 image.

I returned it today and hope that the next one I try will work better and give better results.

Now I will admit there is a chance that this was a defective scanner, however I am not willing to try for another one. Especially since I would not be able to scan the full frame anyway.

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Keeping Time

An superb pocket sundial.

An superb pocket sundial.

Cell phones run off a network time.

My computer runs off a network time.

High precision watches and clocks are constantly corrected by radio (I think NIST does this).

And yet I want a pocket sun dial.

I just wish I could combine a compass and a sundial. Get a foldable light fin to put on top of the south part of the needle (the one that points north) so it auto-aligns for the right time.

There is a definite market for this, namely myself and maybe a handful of others.

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Some translations are hard.

Some translations are hard.

When first exploring the majesty that is the internet oh so many years ago I discovered online translators. This always intrigued me and I sought to find the most roundabout why to translate a phrase for spanish class. Usually I used german, japanese, chinese and maybe russian as intermediaries. Then taking the final spanish phrase I would run it through to english to see what it said. Occasionally it was humorous but more often then not it was just bland.

I went on with my life and occasionally needed something translation but more often then not it was something to english or a phrase into another language (for spelling things like gute nacht). I forgot completely about my attempts at iterative translations, until today.

My friend posted a link on Facebook to Translation Party, a site that takes an english phrase, translates it (via Google I believe) to japanese, back to english and so on until an equilibrium phrase is reached. This is a simple but wonderful idea and it is fun to play around with. After a few minutes I discovered that it is possible to break the site in two ways.

1. Find on unstable phrase that cannot reach equilibrium (What is on second).

2. A phrase eventually degrades into a string of non-sensical letters (My hovercraft is full of eels).

Here are some results from it:

  • Good sir, this is a wonderful idea -> Well, it’s a good idea (Some become internal conversations)
  • Never memorize what you can look up -> How do I know my heart? (Unstable)
  • Where is my hat? -> Hat? (In this case it actually worked as an equilibrium phrase between the two languages)

Automatic translations are just fun to play with. It would be neat to choose a third intermediary language (English -> Spanish -> Japanese -> Spanish -> English). Then again that might not give sensical results.

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LHC Start Up

A lightbulb used by Edison to test filaments.

A lightbulb used by Edison to test filaments.

Looks like the LHC is planning on starting up in November at half the maximum energy. 7 TeV instead of 14 TeV.

Doing something new is not easy, above is a photo of one of the lightbulbs Edison used to test new filaments. At the time it was revolutionary, now it is something so common we forget about it. The same goes for most pieces of modern technology, every now and then I take a step back, look at what we have and just marvel at it all.

Edison worked on his version of the lightbulb a hundred and thirty years ago, today I used my iPod Touch as a flashlight to find things in the dark.

Similarly around the same time the first telephone was coming into existance, now a small phone can call anyone from almost everywhere (and everywhere with a satellite phone).

Sometimes it is important to look at things in perspective when a several month delays occurs with a much anticipated piece of technology.

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And what a face he has.

And what a face he has.


So why bother with this Facebook thing? What good can come of it when you have been getting by so far just fine?

  • Establishing new venues of communication for reaching a client base, be it a recently published book or an upcoming art show.
  • Find old friends from high school or college. You may not have thought of them for a while or lost contact over the years.
  • Stay in contact with younger family members. While letters, phone calls and e-mail may work for siblings, other relatives may only communicate through Facebook.
  • Establish a place to share photos between friends, if they are already on Facebook.


There are four main methods of talking to other people on Facebook. First I would like to define several areas.

A “Wall” is space in a profile where items are posted such as status updates, photos, links and the like. Your newsfeed is your main Facebook page that shows updates from all of your friends, this is where most people spend their time.

  • Write on a wall. This puts the message on either your own or someone’s else’s profile visible to everyone.
  • Comment on an item. You can add comments to items that put onto someone’s wall such a status update (writing on your own wall) or a posted video.
  • Direct message. This is like Facebook e-mail that can be send to multiple people. It also keeps tracks of conversations between so it appears as a thread.
  • Instant messaging. This is just instant messaging through Facebook’s built in client.


Assume everything is available for everyone to read on the entire internet. Even if they say it is not just put up what you would be fine saying or showing to everybody.

At first it was just for University students, and all was good. Then the high schoolers came and there was slight grumbling. And once it was opened to all suddenly those drunken pictures could be seen by coaches, parents and potential employers. While it can’t become available to more people now it is good to keep in mind that everyone can see it.


I get asked a lot about what information to put into the profile section. And the best advice is whatever you want. You can a wealth of information on your favorite books and quotes or leave it blank since you see this is a communication tool. It depends on your goals for Facebook.

On Friends

Some people collect them, others horde a select few. You don’t have to add everyone who asks since some may be random (from collectors) and others you may just not like.

To add friends either search for them by name or e-mail. You can also have Facebook go through your address book to check for people already on Facebook. Or just wait for people to come to you.

As for removing friends, the option is at the bottom of the left column of their profile page. When you do this they are not informed and they can only find out by seeing that you don’t show up on their friends list.

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A light starburst, and the post is about starbucks, see they are almost similar in spelling!

A light starburst, and the post is about starbucks, see they are almost similar in spelling!

Many people may already know this but I did not (mainly because I do not drink coffee), there is a way to get mostly free internet at Starbucks.

The trick is to have an active Starbucks account. The best way to do this is to buy a gift card for $5 and then register it on the Starbucks website. The card and money have no expiration however the deal for the free wifi does. In order to keep the free wifi the card needs to be used or reloaded once every thirty days. The best way to do this is to go in and buy a seventy-five cent scone every week or so. This then keeps the card active and allows for the free internet.

I was initially led to belief that it was free and unlimited wifi, but it turns out to have limitations. From what I have read it is two free consecutive hours per day with the necessity of using the card. I do wonder however if it can be used at multiple Starbucks.

For some keeping the card used is no problem as they go to Starbucks often for coffee, I however do not partake of that particular beverage so have not had many occasions to go (though I like the Chai Tea Latte). I became interested in this since I eventually moving to Seattle and have an iPod Touch (I dislike monthly fees) and thought that free wifi around the city would be handy.

In a few months we will see if an iPod Touch and Starbucks (plus other free) wifi is enough to be comparable to an iPhone or other internet ready phone.

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