Thursday, October 30, 2008

I am blogging from my phone!

A week and a couple of days in and I really *heart* my G1. The biggest difference from my old smartphone has to be the browser. It renders web pages just as well as any desktop browser (minus plug-ins of course). I have not gotten an out of memory warning once. Granted I don't have broadband speed, but it's a noticable speed improvement over my old phone. And I've had no trouble following links or filling in forms, which I experienced limited success with on the Wing.

I would not want to write a dissertation on the keyboard, but it's quite comfortable for long text messages or short blog pposts. I also found myself growing accustomed to the mulit-faceted navigation system rather quickly. I was expecting a bigger learning curve there, as it often takes me a while to become comfy with a new interface.

The only place where the G1 was lacking out of the box was in the applications. I downloaded the first list program that showed up in the app store because I was finding that I couldn't live without some place to write things down. Luckily it was free, so I am not out anything when I find an app that better suits my needs. I also jumpes on the first few games that came out. Us geeks should never be without entertainment :-)

I am very much looking forward to experiencing the future of the G1. From what I've seen so far it has a great base. Things can only get better from here! :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Family who?

I used to be a closet Family Guy fan. I thought the show was hilarious, but not particularly worthy of a geek such as myself. Too many of the jokes revolved around the bathroom and the size of Lois's boobs. Then my husband surprised me with the Freakin' Party Pack. As I worked my way through the seasons I realized just how geeky that show is. Now I'm proud to say I'm a Family Guy affectionate.

If you have never had the joy of seeing Family Guy, then you are missing out on all sorts of geeky goodness. Some bits are obvious, such as the Blue Harvest two-parter which recreates the original Star Wars movie. Star Wars also makes a variety of other appearances sprinkled throughout the seasons. My personal favorite is in the Mother Trucker episode in which Darth Vader appears as a meter maid. As well as the Blue Harvest episodes, others pay homage to movie greats such as the Road to series. Stewie and Brian go on their own journeys in Road to Rhode Island and Road to Europe. And of course North by North Quahog has many references to Hitchcock's North by Northwest. For the horror fans out there, Family guy turns Poltergeist into Petergeist.

My favorite moments though are not those which are so obvious. They are the little geeky references which seem to show up all over the place. As I've been typing this, the episode Chick Cancer has been on. In the beginning of the episode we have a Star Trek scene, with a Curb Your Enthusiasm moment in at the end of it. Chester Cheetah makes an appearance, high on orange cheese. Stewie reminisces about rooming with Q*Bert. And Stewie and Brian replay the "it's not your fault" scene from Good Will Hunting. I could go on, but I think I'll just enjoy the rest of the show :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Grocery shopping the geek way

All of my Wii posts are going to be held off for a few weeks. My Wii has quit reading disks. I have to send it off to Nintendo for repairs. That's going to set me back $75, and take about 3 weeks. Let's hope I don't go into withdrawal ;)

So now for something that is working, a geeky grocery system :) My husband and I usually do the shopping together. He works near a couple of stores that are hard for me to get to though (Trader Joe's and Whole Foods), and I've been searching for an effective way to send him to the store with a list. He really needs specifics... name brands, sizes, etc. I don't want to have to write out all of those details each time, so we've been looking for some solution that would involve a master list, with space to enter quantities of each item for a specific shopping trip.

With those goals in mind, we searched the net for a site which organized grocery lists. None of the ones we found worked the way we wanted it to. Being persistent as well as geeky, we worked on our own solution. It came in the form of a Google Docs spreadsheet. The google docs part fulfilled our sharing needs - it's accessible from anywhere we've got net access, and we've shared it among both of our google accounts. The spread sheet part took care of the rest.

We wrote a master grocery list format which has a number of categories for each item: category, name, flavor, size, store, quantity, and notes. We've been adding new items to the master list as we eat them. To make a list we go down the quantity column and add the number we want to buy. The second worksheet in our doc has a query which adds all items which have a quantity of 1 or greater. It then organizes the items by store. When I want my husband to go shopping, all I have to do is add quantities to the items we need, and text him to say a list is up. He goes and prints the shopping list, and takes it to the store.

So far the system is working really well! Of course it's not the same as me being there in person. If something I want isn't there, he may not be able to improvise. It's the next best thing though! The best part is that as the master list grows, the system will be almost effortless. And if I take the time to add the things I buy locally, I can use it for weekly grocery lists as well. With my new G1, I won't even have to print the lists. I can view them on the phone. Step 2 - teaching my dearest to choose produce :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

At least we're in this togeather

Reading an article like this is both comforting and worrisome at the same time. The article in question discusses global markets, and how they are having just as much trouble as the US market is. The worrisome part of that is easy - the farther this spreads, the longer it seems like it's going to take to get any better. That's not any sort of qualified opinion, just my feeling of the situation. The comforting part is a little harder to explain.

Back in the spring when everyone was filling out tax forms and the government was discussing rebates, everyone was talking about spending. Spending was down, so the government was going to give us money back, to get spending back up. Spending went up briefly after the rebates, but not to what was considered "healthy" levels. It was a sign, they said, that people were still worried about the economy. What I think is totally bogus about this is that saving money was viewed as being a bad thing. Could they have possibly been thinking when they made that assessment? If more people saved money, then they would have money for emergencies, money for retirement, and perhaps most importantly right now, money to pay their mortgages! Saving is a good financial decision for many people. If individual people and families are financially healthy, then broader economies would be healthier as a result.

It really concerned me when all this talk of spending was used to gauge our economy for another reason as well. Spending these days is not a measure of how much money people have available. It's a measure of how much credit they have available. Maybe there's something I don't get about this, but I don't understand how a measure of credit is a good way to gauge the health of the economy. (It also drives me nuts that businesses think it's the consumers' faults when they can't survive. If there are not enough people buying cars to support all nearby car dealerships, then some of those dealerships need to close. It is not the case that more people need to take out loans they can't afford to buy cars.)

So back to the original article. If this mess is affecting much of the world, then it's not just the US who was foolish about their economics. Even if we say that the US has influence over world economies, then that still doesn't mean everything is just us. Just like it's every person's job to look after their own finances as much as possible, it's every government's job as well. As I read about the issues that other companies are having, it makes it seem more like a trend the world is undergoing right now. Sure it still sucks, but it's not like we (the US) totally ran ourselves into the dirt. More like it's the way things went given a very complicated and long going set of circumstances. That doesn't mean we don't have a lot of work to do. That doesn't mean that I don't cringe when I look at my investment portfolio. But somehow it's something I can live with.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm in geek heaven...

...and the angels look like video game characters :)

Yesterday I came home after work to find that my G1 had arrived! :) I don't know what all the fuss was about concerning the style. The thing is gorgeous. A tad longer and narrower than the T-Mobile Wing I retired. Shiny screen. Perky buttons. And even a track-ball clicky device in the center.

Moving on to the internal workings, the phone runs the Android operating system, which was developed by Google and the Open Handset Alliance. I really dig this OS. My wing ran Windows Mobile, which I considered to be barely tolerable. I wouldn't buy an iPhone because of the closed nature of the architecture. (In short, once Apple sucks you in, they keep you forever.) And while I was a long time fan of Palm, they dropped the ball in the past few years. Android is right in place to pick up where Palm left off. They've made an OS perfect for hackers, which means we'll get lots of apps and utilities to pimp out our Android phones. Already there are a couple of neat ones in the app store. But I digress, the base OS is quite a nifty piece of software. The main screen has a notifications window at the top, which is brought down be a slide of the finger, and a menu at the bottom which comes up the same way. It is also possible to drag icons from the menu onto the desktop. The desktop itself slides left and right. Left has more free space, and right has free space plus a Google search.

The built in browser (a "lite" version of Chrome) is much snappier than the browser in windoze mobile. It had no problem parsing the sites I looked at. They also loaded faster, even though I'm still on an EDGE network, not 3G. Links worked with no problems. The resolution was higher, so all the text was a little on the small side. That may pose a problem for people with visual difficulties, I however found the text to still be sharp enough to be clearly readable.

This may seem trivial, but I think one of the things I'm going to enjoy the most is the extra memory. The G1 has more than twice that of the Wing, starting out. It also has a micro-SD slot (which came with a 1GB card). If the Android developers are worth their salt, they will make sure programs can be installed on the memory card as well as in the system memory. I filled my Wing up fast due to that being more or less impossible. (I'd read about registry hacks that allowed it, but not tried em.) Of course even if that is not an inherent feature of Android, Android is an open source system, so anyone could hack it to fix that problem. I *heart* open source :)

I don't know if this phone (or any phone for that matter) is an iPhone killer like they claim, but it's won its way into my heart :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

They say the first step...

...is admitting you have a problem. Okay, I'll admit it. I'm addicted to Mission: Impossible. The problem started when I got the first seasona year and a half ago on DVD. I picked the set up on sale, having no idea what havoc it would cause. It was Rollin Hand that really did it for me. How one man can have so many faces, no one knows! Just when the shine was wearing off, I began to notice just how much Barney Collier added to the team. His tech skills are to die for.

I began to ask for the DVDs from my family, and soon enough holidays had passed such that I had the first three seasons. I cherished the third season, as this was the moment in which we said goodbye to Rollin. I approached the fourth season with trepidation, wondering if the magic they had created for three years could continue. Luckily, the Impossible Missions Force was able to recruit none other than Lenard Nimoy to become the new man of 1000 faces. His rendition of Paris lacked Rollin's charm, but has is own dry wit. Most recently I've been engrossed in season five, where Paris has taken on a new more emotional tone. I anxiously await the last two seasons to be released on DVD as well, so my collection can be complete.

For all of you thinking: How can a show from 40 years ago have so much geeky charm? The answer is of course is in the Impossible Missions Force. After watching just a few episodes, I became convinced that the team are made of geeks themselves. Jim and his never-ending store of knowledge. Rollin's skill with deception. Barney and his tech. Willy's mix of brains and brawn. I could go on, but I think by now it becomes clear that no others than a team of geeks could pull off such intricate missions.

Of course it helps that people speak English in every small (and large!) country they venture into. And nothing ever goes wrong that can't be fixed in 47 minutes or less. Knowing however that the missions take place in a realm that I can only enjoy through a 2-dimensional viewing portal does not diminish their enjoyment. May the Impossible Missions Force continue on :-)

You know you are a geek when...

You are watching an old TV show and someone pays in florins, and you try to figure out what country the people are in based on that fact.

The answer is the Netherlands, btw :-)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What goes up doesn't always go down.

I just finished reading this article on the high prices of grocery bills, and why they're going to stay high. More than the cost of gas, I've found the rising cost of food and other household necessities to be quite frustrating. We're spending around 75% more this year for the same groceries we bought last year. That's a heck of a lot more than a reasonable 3% inflation. My husband and I are in the lucky position to be able to afford the increase... but it's not like I want to spend my money that way. It cuts into the money I have for video games!

So back to the article, prices of consumer goods rose in the response to the price of fuel and commodities. However, even though fuel prices are falling, consumer prices are expected to stay the same. Basically if we're used to paying $5 for a bag of potato chips, then the manufacturer sees no reason to drop the price. If the price of potatoes and that of oil (the two main ingredients in potato chips) gets cheaper, then the manufacturer will just make a larger profit. Two things would make the potato chip company lower its prices. One is if the demand goes down. If people quit buying the potato chips at $5 a bag, then they are likely to lower the price and see if it helps. The other is if competing companies lower their prices. If every other bag of potato chips is $4, then the company will probably lose sales to the cheaper chips. The way to regain those sales is to price their chips competitively.

All of this is bad news for us potato chip lovers. That means we are going to keep paying high prices for the food we buy. Along the same lines, I would be surprised if shipping and travel costs (which also rose over the past year) go down either. Instead as consumers we will become used to the new pricing levels.

I think what I find the most distressing about this situation is that everyone keeps clamoring about gas prices, and I've read very few articles about the repercussions on the rest of our purchases. If it were just gas costing more, it would certainly be unfortunate but much less of an impact than the real situation. And to some extent, they have us over a barrel. There are a dozen things I could to do reduce my grocery bill... buy generics, shop sales, etc. However that doesn't change the fact that the over all prices are more expensive.

At this point I have not significantly changed my shopping habits. I'm at the point of debating them though... I've got my video game budget to think about! :-)

Can you see me now?

I spent a good part of Friday evening working on the blog layout. I played with Blogger's existing layouts. I changed colors. Moved widgets around. And before too long was into the HTML. Had they written the blogs in C++, I'd be zipping around in the code in no time. Alas, my HTML skills are a little rusty. I turned to various sources for tips and tricks, and much to my delight, most of the information about Blogger was available on... blogs! :) Why does that delight me? Well, I *heart* recursion, and that's about as recursive as it gets :)

So now I have a hacked version of the dark dots layout. What do you think? I may still fine-tune things, but overall I'm happy with it. In particularly, I wanted something that took up a little more horizontal space. Monitors and laptops are all going widescreen. Vertical is out, horizontal is in. It seemed to be a wise and geeky decision to go with the flow.

My next blog goal is to get some content up here. Stay tuned for posted on: geeky grocery lists, Wii Music, Samba de Amiga follow up (Are the hard levels really as hard as they say? Soon I'll find out!), and a retro-geeky post on Mission: Impossible, the TV series (They geeked out in the 60s too!) :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shake it, amigo!

I just finished playing Samba De Amigo, complete with the Wii Maracas! That is by far the funnest "out of the box" gaming experience I've had in a long time :) I've played quite a lot of music, and active sorts of games. The other one which stands out in my mind is Rock Band, which is a blast when I get together with a few friends. I can't imagine picking up the mic or sitting at the drums by myself. I can totally pick up the maracas and samba my way through a few songs without an audience urging me along :)

The challenge I have with drumming in Rock Band is that I feel like I need to totally concentrate on what I'm doing to keep up. It doesn't leave as much room for me to get into the music and have fun. I don't have that problem with Samba de Amigo! The rhythms are pretty obvious. Shaking the maracas at the right times feels natural, along with dancing to the beat. Every so often they throw a wrench into things in the form of a pose or a dance move, and I can't help but giggle as I hold out my arms in the required pose.

The maracas were totally worth it as well. The game would be fun without them, but not so real. This makes it real. I will say that the controllers don't really snap into the maraca handles. They just kind of sit there. If I were sharing the game with a young geek, I would rubber band or tape the controllers into place. I would also make sure I had enough room such that flailing maracas would not injure anyone. Okay, maybe I need to do that when I'm playing and my husband is in the room! :-)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

*fan fair music plays*

Introducing Long Live Geeks, the blog edition :) Okay, so there aren't any other editions that I'm aware of. I still liked the sentence.

I'm your hostess with the mostess, Anastasia. I will be blogging about whatever strikes my fancy. I had originally wanted to name this blog "Life, the Universe, and Everything", but I decided not to be the nth person to rip off Douglass Adams :) Getting back on topic, you can expect a mixture of search blogging, tech commentaries, and other cool stuff.

Over the next few weeks expect the blog design to change from time to time. I'm still trying on backgrounds and layouts. I may even park my SO who has an eye for these things in front of my computer and get him to help me sort it all out.

For now though, welcome! And stay tuned for all sorts of geeky goodness :-)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

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