Mon, Oct 15, 2012
One of the (many) issues I have struggled with over the years is the fact that I tend to get too excited by new, shiny things. So consider yourself warned that this might well be one of those shiny but insubstantial things. You be the judge.
Recently Google released another app for its Android Operating System. Like many applications this one takes advantage of the fact that most smart phones have location hardware embedded into them. Google Fieldtrip is what is known as a discovery tool. You don’t have to know exactly what you are looking for you simply tell your device the type of thing you are interested in and it will give you information on the location as you near it.
Here in Appleton I could see using this to create virtual historic tours for instance, if all the historic homes in the 3rd Ward were in the system information on each one would automatically be pushed to your phone’s screen as you passed it. If you were curious and wanted to learn more you could then go to your local library to do some research with the help of their intelligent and helpful staff.
For businesses, we’ll use a restaurant as an example, you get a synopsis of the type of food the establishment
I can see this application being really useful to people who are traveling in new locales as well as people looking to develop a better understanding of the history of their community. Of course not everything is perfect. The key problem with the app at this point is simply lack of content. FieldTrip relies on users to input data and because it is so new there are many gaps, hopefully these will be filled as people begin using the app.
Fri, Oct 5, 2012
So anyone who knows me knows I like technology. It doesn’t take much to impress me either; I grew up in the days of Atari 400s and Commodore 64s in my grade school. The fact that my iPad has the processing power of the room sized computers used to make the Apollo missions happen makes my brain hurt, but in a good way. What you may not know is that I take my responsibilities as a dad pretty seriously, most days I even like being a dad. As a parent you have lots of responsibilities but you also have a captive audience to share all the things you love with! And boy howdy I love to torture my kids with all the geeky things I enjoy. There’s that time when you get to share Star Wars with your kids for the first time (that low when your oldest daughter doesn’t get it, the jubilation when you son does). There’s getting to buy Legos under the guise that they are actually for your kids.
So if you are a dad (or a mom, but I really don’t feel qualified to speak from that perspective) and you have geek tendencies you might want to check out the Wired magazine Geek Dad blog. It’s free. You don’t really need to be a geek to enjoy it, but it helps. Geek Dad is edited by Ken Denmead with contributors from all over the country. The topics are broad covering things like what order to run the Star Wars movies in to board games and of course the latest in technology products. The blog talks a lot about the Maker Movement and often links to projects you can do with your child.
So I know it's Friday Fun day but to be serious for just a moment I have to say this blog appeals to me in two important ways. Obviously it deals a lot with technology so that’s cool. More importantly it talks about dads engaging their kids in real ways and actually doing constructive projects with them. It also focuses quite a lot on STEM learning which is important in today’s educational setting, so in my book it is an all around win.
Check out Geek Dad (http://www.wired.com/geekdad/), do some of the activities with your kid(s) and tell me that it was a waste of your time, I dare you. Finally, since I am doing this on the library’s dime I should also tell you that there are several Geek Dad books available.
Wed, Oct 3, 2012
Hat tip to MakeUseOf for pointing out this useful browser extension. They touted Unsocialize's availability on Google's Chrome browser, but you can also add it to Firefox.
Have you seen an update on your Facebook page about an interesting article one of your friends has read only to click on it and be redirected to a social reader app so thatt Facebook could now announce to all of your friends whenever you read an article? And so you don't read the article because you're afraid that others will find out about your tendency to read all things Bieber?
Unsocializer takes you to the article and bypasses the "install social reader for Facebook app" pop-up. It adds a right-click menu option called Unsocialize, which will open the article in a new tab when clicked. It also avoids Facebook's tracking and metrics--your reading will not be counted and turned around on you for marketing purposes.
Fri, Sep 28, 2012
Yes, this big news is everywhere or will be by the time you get home and watch the evening news (unless you're out at License to Cruise tonight...well, I suppose if you go to any Octoberfest this weekend, you could miss or forget this news entirely). Anyhow, the Curiosity rover, the Indiana Jones of robots adventuring on and exploring Mars, has found conglomerate rock!
If you're like, "Hey, it's been awhile since high school/college geology class," I've saved you a step be getting that Wikipedia link for you. If you're fine with short explanations, conglomerate rock is the sort of rock that forms over geologic time when river beds dry up and the sediment in the bed cements together and becomes packed under layers of sediment. If you think about the stones in the bottom of a riverbed, you know there's finer sediment under larger rounded stones--which are rounded thanks to being beaten up in and by the water. In the image you can see the mix of sizes of rounded stones cemented together as found on Earth on the right and on (squee!) Mars on the left.
Why squee? The idea is that water is necessary for life to exist--it's less idea than practice, really. So if we find evidence of water on Mars, the possibility of life having existed there is increased! In a college geology class field trip, I traveled around Arizona and on one of the stops examined an exposed layer of rock that was under water millenia ago. The stones and sediment in this layer were mixed with fossils of shelled animals. How amazing would it be if the Curiosity found fossils? To find life on another planet suggests the possibilty of life on other planets, which would then make me want to be cryogenically frozen and revived at a later time when we've figured out commercial space travel.
Not so fast, day dreamer! This rock was formed from a stream that long-flowing stream scientists estimate moved at 3 feet per second and was deep enough to cover somewhere between your foot and your whole leg. What does that mean for finding evidence of life in this particular rock? From NASA's announcement, "A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," said Grotzinger. "It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We're still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment." I'll just have to find ways to occupy myself while Curiosity makes its slow advance on Mount Sharp then.
By the way, apologies to geologists for any oversimplification and avoidance of technical language--I'll let the curious learn about matrix, clasts, and things I've left out on that Wikipedia page.
Wed, Sep 26, 2012
I was reading this article on MakeUseOf last week about registry cleaners not speeding up your computer significantly. This surprised me as articles I'd read previously, perhaps even on MakeUseOf, suggested that cleaning up your computer's registry could significantly speed up your system. The more recent article is convincing that, especially with newer versions of Windows, there are other things you can do to improve your system's speed more significantly and with less risk of causing harm.
One thing the article doesn't make clear for all readers is what it means by speed. I'm aware that readers of this post may have different skill and experience levels in computer use. Some of you have stopped reading or soldiered on hoping I'd make sense of this "registry" thing, while others have already clicked through to the MakeUseOf article, saw nothing they didn't already know, and moved on.
So, let me get the newer users up to speed--your computer may be slow to start up when you turn it on and to run programs on stored on your computer like Word or Solitaire. That can be different than your computer being slow to pull up a website or download your email to Outlook because in order to access anything online, your computer communicates with other computers called servers to request and retrieve the information brought back to your screen. There are programs on your computer slowing this down as well (security programs like anti-virus software that scans all of the information coming in to your machine make the process take nanoseconds longer than running your computer without security software, which you wouldn't want to do).
The MakeUseOf tips about speeding up your computer are good ones, and two of them are free. Defragmenting your hard drive will help reunite parts of files stored in different places to improve their loading time. You can access the Microsoft disk defragmenter in the Start menu--Accessories folder--System tools folder.
The third tip about bad registry edits and not downloading bad software is more of a practice than anything, but they give advice on removing software, too.
The tip that will cost you is upgrading your RAM. You can first try to free up your RAM with the suggestions in this Techradar article. If things still seem slow after that, you'll want to consider a few things. Is your computer still under warranty? To install new RAM, you'll need to crack it open, which could void a warranty. The warranty supplier should be able to provide you with a way to get the upgrade done. Are you comfortable opening your computer and plugging things into its guts? You may not be, in which case you'll want someone else to do it--check the computer repair section of the yellow pages. You may find deals at places like Milwaukee PC or Best Buy--cheap or free installation if you buy your new RAM there--check the electronics shops section of the yellow pages and ask if they have any such deals.
If you're suffering from computer slowness, there's plenty more information you can find online to improve your system. MakeUseOf, Lifehacker, and Mashable frequently provide articles on ways to improve your computer's functioning and would be worthwhile to add to your RSS reader. What's RSS? That's a post for another time.
Image credit: Entering Hyperspace by Eole used under CC license
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