Stick a PIN On It

I think I need a personal assistant.

Well, maybe not a personal assistant, per say. Maybe what I really need is just a Personal Internet Nag  who will contact me once a day, every weekday, to make sure I’ve accomplished the tasks I promised I would do that day. And they’d also give me feedback on any tasks I might have accomplished the previous day if that’s something the task needs. In return, I would be that person’s PIN, too. Nagging them about the things they promised to accomplish so that they also stay focused and on target for their goals.

Let’s take a look at how this might work.

Let’s say a hypothetical person wanted to write a book, practice photography, update a couple of blogs, AND learn how to code PHP. That’s a whole lot of stuff to do and each task takes up a whole lot of time. And let’s also say that this hypothetical person also has other responsibilities like taking care of children, cooking, cleaning and a host of other tasks that take up a large portion of their day. Said hypothetical person might, just MIGHT, become overwhelmed and/or dissuaded from even TRYING to accomplish their goals when they realize just how much TIME each task takes and how little free time they actually have.

Enter the Personal Internet Nag.

Hypothetical person wants to write a book? Stick a PIN on it and every Monday evening, Hypothetical person would get an email requesting that week’s work accompanied by a short critique of last week’s submission. Hypothetical person wants to code PHP? Stick a PIN on it and every Thursday morning hypothetical person receives an email asking for confirmation of completion of an online course like Code Academy or W3Schools. Want to learn photography? Stick a PIN on it and every Friday you have to send them a complete, edited, gallery-ready photo. Want to learn how to crotchet? Stick a PIN on it and every Tuesday you have to send them a photo of your latest creation.

See how helpful this could be?

I bet you’re asking, “Well, this sounds good, but what if hypothetical person DOESN’T do what they’re supposed to do? What’s the penalty?” Well, don’t get your panties in a bunch because I’ve thought about this, too. Of course, the penalty would necessarily be different for each person, because what works with one person may not be a deterrent to another. But some ideas could be; monetary fines for missing deadlines, a photo of the person holding a sign shaming them for their lack of discipline that will be posted on FB for all to see, a 500 word essay espousing the virtues of the PIN to be shared with the world, the naming of a book character after the PIN, etc., etc..

Yeah, a PIN would be awesome.

And I actually mean it because a PIN would be very, very helpful for me. I have so many projects going on that it’s sometimes extremely difficult to concentrate on any one project for longer than a couple of days before I am distracted by another one, and so NOTHING I want to accomplish seems to ever get finished. It’s frustrating to the max.

So… anyone want to be my PIN?

Testing The Waters

And I’m back.

After over two years of inactivity, I’ve finally gotten to the point that I might be able to begin writing again. I’m hoping that I can because truth be told, I miss this site, being silly and writing things that make me laugh. Putting my thoughts out there for the world to read was rewarding to me on a spiritual level and without this outlet in my life I’ve been feeling a bit lost. Yes, it’s true, I have a wonderful family life, a challenging work life, and plenty of hobbies that have taken up my time these past two years. But writing on this site has always been something I enjoyed doing just for the sake of doing it, and I have really missed it.

So, nothing much more to say. Just saying I think I’m back… again.


I don’t know how to leave if you just keep staring at me. Could you maybe blink, or turn around, or something?

Soooo awkward.

Anime Becomes Reality

A few years ago I became infatuated with a remarkable piece of anime called Denno Coil. I won’t be spending time here explaining all the intricate details of the plot and characters, mostly because that’s what the Denno Coil Wikipedia page is for, but I do want to bring to light one soon-to-be-real aspect of the show.

AR glasses.

That’s right, thanks to the tireless innovation machine that is Google, there may well soon be real AR glasses you can wear around town. Now, while I’m positive that the first iteration of Google’s AR glasses will not be the sleek, modern and nearly invisible units shown in Denno Coil, what I am positive of is that if they don’t screw it up completely this will be the next big technological wave every other tech company will be trying to catch up with in the not-too-distant future. When I first saw Denno Coil, I must have driven my wife crazy as I literally shouted, “Why hasn’t someone invented this yet?!” every five minutes. And it wasn’t just the AR glasses I was so amazed by. It was the entire, interactive, virtual reality world where the children were playing that was overlaid upon the “real” world. It was the interactive maps, virtual assistants, virtual pets and all the other things the glasses made possible.

And yes, you could also make phone calls using them, too.

I don’t know if Google’s AR glasses will be the “right” implementation of the AR glasses concept, because I for one don’t think hand gestures alone are the best way to interact with the AR. I’d think a combination of hand gestures, voice commands and tracking eye movement would be best. However, the fact that Google has so much information at their disposal that they could connect you to, so much data they could put in front of you for your AR pleasure, it makes me hopeful that one day we will actually reach the level of total interactivity with the virtual world that Denn? Coil will seem less like fantastic science fiction and more like plain, old science.

And on that day Neal Stephenson will smile and say, “Told you so.”


I was going to write a long and drawn out post explaining what SOPA and PIPA are, why enacting them into law would fundamentally change the internet for Americans in a distressingly negative way, and what you could do to make your opposition heard AND counted. However, this infographic combined with this one-sheet breakdown from EFF and this easily digestible website from Google do the job much better than I could have on my own.

So, here’s what you can do right now to stop these two poorly written and ultimately draconian bills from becoming law.

The Simple, Fast and Easy method:
Go to Google’s Anti-SOPA/PIPA site, fill out the form on the right and click “Sign the Petition”.

The Slightly More Involved Method:
1) Look up your senator to find out if he/she supports or opposes.

2) Click on your appropriate representative’s photo or name to get their contact information.

3) Print out the following on a piece of actual paper, sign it and physically mail it to your Senator.

I am writing to you as a voter in your district. I urge you to oppose S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act. The PROTECT IP Act is dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted. It does not deserve floor consideration. I also urge my representative to vote “no” on SOPA, the corresponding House bill.

Over the coming days you’ll be hearing from the many businesses, advocacy organizations, and ordinary Americans who oppose this legislation because of the myriad ways in which it will stifle free speech and innovation. We hope you’ll take our concerns to heart and oppose this legislation by voting “no” on cloture.

4) Share this post with EVERYONE you know so they can add their voice to the opposition of SOPA/PIPA.

How to Install Windows 7 Via a USB Drive

This was driving me crazy.

I searched high and low and it took me far longer than it should have, but I finally figured out how to install Win7 from a USB drive WITHOUT having to create an ISO or do anything too crazy. The hardest thing that I had to do was alter my BIOS settings to make the USB drive the primary boot device. So, what follows is the steps I took to make the bootable USB drive that would install Win7 on my HTPC. First some warnings; Make sure you back up all your important files and programs before you begin otherwise all of your data will be lost. Also, make a list of your most important programs so you can re-install them after Windows 7 finishes installing. Things like; web browser of choice, antivirus, media player, etc.

Things you will need:

  • USB thumb drive at least 4GB in size
  • Access to your BIOS (usually by pressing a key like the delete key or F1 as soon as the computer begins to boot up)
  • A copy of Windows 7 with a valid product activation key
  • A WORKING computer running Windows
  • About 1 hour of time

Now, on to the instructions.

Step #1 – Thumb Drive
Plug in your USB thumb drive and make sure it’s empty. If it has files on it they will be destroyed in the next step, so either copy them to a safe place or delete them now.

Step #2 – Command Prompt Window
You need to open a command prompt window with Administrator rights. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through this Geeky stuff. It’s actually very simple, so don’t get scared. If you’re using Windows Vista or Windows 7 to create this USB Boot Drive, then all you need to do is go to the Start Orb and type “cmd” in the search box (without the quotation marks). When you see cmd.exe in the results RIGHT CLICK on it and choose “Run as Administrator”. A warning will popup, just click “YES” and a black window with white text will show up. That is the command prompt and you should see a blinking underscore on the screen right after some text. If you’re using Windows XP then you need to go to All Programs | Accessories | Command Prompt.

Step #3 – Find USB Thumb Drive Letter
In order to do the next step, which is formatting the USB thumb drive and making it a bootable device, you need to know what drive NUMBER the USB thumb drive has been assigned. This is different than the drive letter you might see in Windows. At the command prompt type DISKPART and then press ENTER.
Now, you should see the blinking underscore next to the word “DISKPART”.
Next, type LIST DISK and press ENTER.
You will see a list of all the disks in your system beginning with your primary hard disk. Find your USB drive in the list (it’s probably the one with a size of 4GBs or whatever size your thumb drive is) and note what drive number it is. For the rest of this excercise I’m going to assume the USB disk number is DISK 2, but you should substitute your disk number for mine in the next step.

Step #4 – The Commands
You need to type in the next few commands, one at a time, and press ENTER after each command. When you get to the format step, be aware that it might take a while to finish, so have something handy to keep yourself occupied until it’s done.

  • FORMAT FS=NTFS (this will take a while)
  • EXIT

Leave the command prompt window open, you will need it again soon.

Step #5 – Drive Letters
Now you need to insert the Windows 7 DVD into your DVD drive. When you do this, hold down the “SHIFT” key on your keyboard. This should halt the autoplay feature and let you continue without having to exit the auto-installation routine. Once the DVD is spinning nicely open up “My Computer” and note the drive letters for both the DVD drive with the Windows 7 DVD in it and the USB thumb drive. For the next steps I’m going to assume that the DVD drive is drive letter “E” and the USB thumb drive is drive letter “G”, but don’t forget to substitute your drive letters for the next steps.

Step #6 – BOOTMGR
Now you need to make the USB thumb drive bootable. We do this by going back to our command prompt window and entering the following commands.

  • E: CD BOOT and press ENTER. Substitute “E” for your DVD drive letter.
  • CD BOOT and press ENTER. This is NOT a repeat of the previous step.
  • BOOTSECT.EXE /NT60 G: and press ENTER. Substitute “G” for your USB thumb drive letter.

Once that is done you can close the command prompt window, we’re all done with it. Now you have a USB thumb drive that is bootable and we’re almost done with all the Geeky stuff.

Step #7 – Copy Windows 7 to USB Thumb Drive
Open Windows Explorer, navigate to the Windows 7 DVD and copy all the contents of the DVD to your USB thumb drive just like you would for any other files you needed to copy.

Step #8 – Change BIOS Boot Sequence
This is the hardest part, because this part is where you need to do a bit of work on your own. What you need to do is change the boot sequence of your computer so it will boot from the USB thumb drive you just created INSTEAD of from your hard drive or CD/DVD drive. You do this by pressing a certain key (usually the DEL key, the ESC key or F1 before Windows loads while the system is starting up) and that will bring you to a very ugly screen that can only be navigated by the keyboard (no mouse). Once there, find the boot menu and change the sequence. If you can’t figure this out on your own, then please find a resident Geeky friend who can help you, because each motherboard has a different BIOS so I can’t really give you specific instructions for this step.

Once Windows 7 has installed it will need to restart the computer to finish the installation. During this restart, remove the USB thumb drive and get back to the BIOS and reset the boot sequence so the computer boots from the hard drive first and CD/DVD drive second and NOT the USB thumb drive (remove the USB thumb drive option completely). Once you have the boot sequence back to “normal” save and exit the BIOS and Windows 7 should finish installing without a problem.


I’ve been a little busy working on a new website devoted to my photography, Dots on Screen. Now that it’s up and running the way I want I can hopefully spend some time fixing things up around here and get back to writing!

Rotten Apple?

My thoughts on the Apple iPad

It’s a horrible name. Just horrible. Makes me cringe just thinking about it. Can’t imagine what they were thinking, but my first guess is that there was some sort of legal reason they couldn’t use something like iTablet, iSlate or even iScreen.

Hell, even iWhattheheck is better.

My initial reaction to the ebook ability of it was “Cool!” But then I started thinking about eyestrain and how the non-e-ink screen would make reading for long periods at a time a chore. I sit in front of a computer for 12 to 16 hours a day and reading long-form content like books or magazines on a computer screen is very straining to my eyes. I just don’t know how many ebooks I could read on this before my eyes just stopped focusing. Also, since it doesn’t have a keyboard, writing anything more than a quick email would become tedious really fast. Its lack of a cover for the screen makes it hard to simply shove into a bag and it’s too big to easily fit in a pocket. It has a painting program, but as a graphic artist I’ve found that small screens are no good for comfortable editing of artwork or photos, especially at high resolutions.

Now, I know that there’s a keyboard dock and a cover being sold separately, but if you’re going to get those, why not just get a netbook and be done with it?

They’ve released the iWork suite for the iPad, but other than viewing the files and doing quick, simple edits, I fail to see the point. For example, can anyone imagine writing a long report in pages using an on-screen keyboard? Or how about creating and editing a big spreadsheet? And Keynote? Really? How is that useful? You can’t hook the iPad to a projector which means you need to prop up the iPad to show the presentation to others and since it’s a touchscreen you’d have to hold it or stay close enough to touch it to advance the slides which basically means YOU become the tripod. And a 10″ screen means your audience would need to be almost in your lap to see anything on the slide that you’re talking about.

I’m lost as to why someone would spend the money on iWork for the iPad.

I’m just not sure what need this thing fills for the average user other than being a bigger screen to play your cool iTouch/iPhone apps on. I mean, the iPad might be great for watching videos or playing app games, but so is an iTouch/iPhone. Heck, the iTouch and iPhone seem to be a better choice since they run the same apps as the iPad (for now) and are more portable and cheaper. And, just like the iTouch/iPhone, the iPad doesn’t have the ability to multitask, so you can’t even surf the web while listening to music. It seems to me that for everything the iPad does, from playing games to surfing the internet, an iPhone or iTouch would be cheaper, more portable and better. An iTouch/iPhone does almost the same things as the iPad and is more portable and in the case of the iPhone, also makes phone calls. And if you wanted something more “powerful” then Netbooks have larger hard drives, built-in keyboards, can play Flash, usually have a built-in camera for Skyping and can play videos and music just as well as the iPad. Hell, if you just want to watch movies on a bigger screen, Archos has been making media players for years.

So, I’m left wondering why anyone would buy the iPad other than it’s “New” and “Cool”.

Overall, it just seems like a big, less portable iTouch and I don’t understand what need it fills for the average user that isn’t already met by another device. I’m not saying it won’t be cool and great and awesome, I’m just not sure YET why someone would buy it OTHER than it’s a cool new toy. Maybe I’m missing the Great AHA moment, but I just don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a damn cool looking device and I almost instinctively want one just because it looks sleek and sexy and sweet. But if I can’t figure out a reason for it to exist, or a way to use it in my everyday life, I just can’t see myself spending money on it. And ultimately, because I don’t know myself, I can only wonder what the early adapters out there who buy it will actually wind up using it for. Movie viewing device? Internet surfing tablet? Fancy universal remote control? Flat surface to snort coke off of? I don’t know and right now I can’t even begin to guess.

What would you use it for?

Win7 God Mode

If anyone’s interested in a fun little Windows 7 (and Vista 32bit) hack, here’s something you might enjoy. Create a new folder on the desktop (the folder can actually be located anywhere on your computer, but the desktop is easiest) and then change the folder name to the following;


This will create a folder that contains nearly ALL the controls needed to alter your system. From creating a hard drive partition to altering folder options to changing the display resolution, it’s all available from this “God Mode” folder.

Multimedia on Ubuntu

Who knew playing a DVD would be so hard?

After getting nearly everything working the way I liked in Ubuntu 9.10 I decided to relax and watch a DVD to celebrate. Unfortunately, my celebration was stopped in its tracks because Ubuntu failed to mount the DVD. BTW, “mount” is the linux term for “load”, and they use “unmount” instead of “dismount” which is silly since dismount sounds so much cooler. But anywaste, while Ubuntu could read, write and play CDs from the same drive the DVDs didn’t work in it was frustrating me to no end that my DVDs didn’t work. After trying everything I could think of I finally caved in and posted my own cry for help at the Ubuntu forum.

You can read my pathetic weeping for yourself here.

Long story short, nothing solved this problem and I wound up reporting it as a bug and am now re-installing Ubuntu 9.10 yet again. What I’m going to do here is summarize the steps I take to get my laptop up and running to play multimedia (other than from the DVD drive, of course). In future posts I’ll explain some of the other things I do after the install such as;

  1. Programs I install
  2. Themes or other changes I make to the GUI
  3. Problems, issues, headaches, workarounds and other things I might run into
  4. Any additional functionality I might add
  5. And so on

And now, on to the multimedia setup routine.

First things first, you can already find some really, really good guides on Ubuntu multimedia set-up (here and here for example). And even though a lot of what I’m going to write is similar to what has already been written, I’m not trying to rehash other people’s hard work as my own. I’m just going to write about the things I do because someone out there might like my way better, that’s all. And also, it’s easier for me to remember how to do something if I write it down. Also, keep in mind that this guide is for fresh installs of Ubuntu 9.10, not upgrades from 9.04 or below. This guide may also not be good for newer releases of Ubuntu, whenever they come out. Lastly, I’m no expert, so don’t expect me to be able to help if you follow these directions and something goes horribly wrong. I’m happy to try to help, but if it’s beyond me I’ll simply point you to the Ubuntu forums and stop taking your calls.

I’m talking to you, Mom.

OK, the first thing I’m doing to get multimedia files to work in Ubuntu is add all the files, codecs and other nonsense that are omitted from the install due to legal reasons. First, you need to open up Terminal which can be found under “Applications | Accessories | Terminal”. Then you need to copy and paste the following code into Terminal (remember that to paste in Terminal you need to hit ctrl+shift+V);

sudo wget`lsb_release -cs`.list --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list; sudo apt-get -q update; sudo apt-get --yes -q --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring; sudo apt-get -q update

Next, you should install as many of the packages as you want/need. Again, this is done by copying and pasting the command into Terminal. A lot of the info I’ve found on the web adds Sun Java to the following code, but I feel it’s easier to install that separately if you want it because sometimes, due to the way Java’s end-user license agreement (EULA) interrupts the installation until you agree to its terms, Java will crash or fail to load properly. I usually install Java though the Ubuntu Software Manager or the Synaptic Package Manager. However, if you want to install Java along with everything else in the code below, just add “sun-java6-fonts sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin” (no quotes) at the end of the code below.

sudo apt-get remove gnash gnash-common libflashsupport mozilla-plugin-gnash swfdec-mozilla && sudo apt-get install alsa-oss faac faad flashplugin-nonfree gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad-multiverse gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse gstreamer0.10-pitfdll libmp3lame0 non-free-codecs unrar

Now you should install a few of the necessary (yet, also omitted due to legal reasons) packages in order for Ubuntu to play encrypted DVDs, certain Windows and Apple formats, etc.

sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2 libdvdread4 libdvdnav4 w32codecs

Note: if your computer uses the AMD64 or PowerPC architectures then you’ll need to replace w32codecs in the code above with either w64codecs or ppc-codecs respectively.

That should give you a very strong base, now you need to start the Update Manager which can be found at “System | Administration | Update Manager”, and let it update everything it finds that needs to be updated. And now you’re ready to play nearly any multimedia file you might want. All that’s left is to install your favorite media player via the Ubuntu Software Center which is found at “Applications | Ubuntu Software Center”. My favorite for movies is VLC Media Player because it’s fast, simple (yet powerful) and free. I haven’t yet found a favorite music player yet, but I’ll be sure to post about my search for it soon.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Schwetty Balls


I really, really hate when I’m forced to spend 14 hours straight sitting in an uncomfortable, pleather, wheeled office chair with a broken height-adjustment lever. Every time I’m allowed to stand up for a three second break I make the “peeling sticker” sound as my butt leaves the seat. And my underwear keeps riding up.

That is all.