The Haphazard Blog

Archive for January, 2010

Apple iPad

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Computer Hardware, Technology

A couple people have asked me what I thought about the iPad, so I figured I’d throw my thoughts out here.

  • While keeping up with the live event through Engadget’s live blog of the event I was underwhelmed and just got a general feeling that Apple (and Steve Jobs) thinks everything they do is revolutionary and amazing. I think it’s a trait you certainly want a company and CEO to have, but a sense of reality would be good too. You can introduce a new product with the proper amount of enthusiasm.
  • My immediate impression was it is a big iPhone. After further reflection, it’s a big iPhone without calling features.
  • I think it is essentially Apple’s netbook. They aren’t going to be making a laptop below $1k.
  • I think it is an OK product. The weight at 1.5 lbs and battery life of 10 hours are excellent features. The simplicity of use is also very good. I’m assuming the keyboard will be very well engineered like the iPhone keyboard.
  • It seems to be perfect for people to use around the house or on the go. Web surfing, e-mail, calendar and applications. I assume you can put it in standby instead of having to shut it down which basically gives you instant on access. Want to check something online real quick, it’s ready right away.
  • Apple decided to use the iPhone OS instead of OS X. Without “jail breaking” it, you have a limited world. App Store programs and built-in programs. There is no flash support (likely because Adobe hasn’t decided to make the resource usage anywhere near reasonable for its functionality). Everyone isn’t going to make their site work with the iPhone like YouTube did. This does open the door for Microsoft’s SilverLight.

I decided it wasn’t for me pretty fast. I’d rather have something running a real OS. In the $500-$830 range, you’re looking at Windows 7 or you can build a Hackintosh. However, you’re not going to find anything nearly that light or with that kind of battery life. There are some trade-offs in either direction. From my standpoint, the iPad would’ve been a much better product if it ran OS X instead of the iPhone OS. However, this is also why the iPad is different from tablet PCs. Tablet PCs run Windows instead of a mobile OS. The only difference from a laptop is a user interface that wasn’t designed specifically for a tablet PC.

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Why Didn’t Congress Listen to David Walker?

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Politics

David Walker was the head of the Government Accounting Office (GAO) from 1998 to 2008. I will assume that he is somewhere between left and center on the political scale since he was appointed by Bill Clinton. The political leanings really shouldn’t matter since this person does not set policy, they only review financials. David Walker was vocal (and continues to be) that the U.S. is on a course for bankruptcy. He was saying this before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Before the economic melt down. Before we added trillions of dollars to the national debt.

Now, when the majority of people in Congress talk about fiscal responsibility they are just a bunch of hypocrites. They are all presiding over the continued destruction of the U.S. budget. The Republicans have essentially forced the Democrats to write a bill that removes virtually all of their objections from last summer yet they will not vote for it. The Democrats have successfully sold out to special interests. When President Obama tells us that their healthcare bill is supported by doctors, nurses, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, that is just another way of saying that none of them are going to be adversely affected.

The goal here is reform and a reduction in costs. Medicare is already destroying state budgets (who are unable go to China to get more money i.e. print money) and will eventually bankrupt the federal government. I don’t expect anyone to happily hand over money/profits, but how else do costs come down? If everyone directly involved is happy, then it’s more than likely the rest are getting the short end of the stick.

There is a disconnect when President Obama talks about reform and thinking long term when you look at the bill. They used some trickery talking about the impact of the bill on the budget. They provide a 10 year cost, but you have to dig a little deeper to see that they are booking revenue to spend on the bill immediately, but the actual reform wouldn’t happen until 2013. So with a 3 year head start, the bill will still a $1T deficit after 10 years.  A long term plan would have a surplus after 10 years. If the plan adds to the deficit, then it is just making things worse. If it does nothing, then the current problems remain unchanged.

The bill is nothing more than giveaways to the healthcare industry and tax favors for unions. The healthcare industry is going to get millions of new customers. Millions more with insurance. Millions more seeing doctors and getting procedures. Millions more buying prescription drugs. The unions get a pass on taxes on their super-expensive health insurance. “Reform” is great when you just need to make things worse for the long term.

The entire system is corrupted and slanted in the worst direction if you’re at all concerned about the majority. Everyone is lining up to get “theirs” while they still can. At this rate, when it all comes crumbling down, it will take a very long time to recover. I predict one of two things. It will be worse than the great depression. The government will have no money and all the people who got theirs will leave this country or it will be a twisted parallel of the Wall Street melt down where the United States is too big to fail. The major difference being that every Country that bails us out will be a lot smarter than the government was with Wall Street. Every condition will be tilted in their favor and they’ll do their due diligence.

Getting back to David Walker. He’s been making the rounds on TV lately because he has a new book out now. Everything he says makes sense to me. Our national debt is quickly closing in on GDP. It hasn’t been this bad since the early 1950s. There needs to be a fundamental change in the mindset in Washington. President Obama needs to block bad bills regardless of where they come from, including healthcare. Congress needs to start doing what is best for the Country, not the special interests that cut them campaign checks. The American people need to get involved and elect people who will put what’s best for the Country ahead of their ambitions. It’s a monumental task given how entrenched everyone is, but without it, disaster looms.

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Panasonic Core Trainer

by on Jan.30, 2010, under Life, Physical Therapy

Panasonic Core Trainer

Last Friday I received a Panasonic Core Trainer to try for 30 days. After that I can purchase it or send it back. My interest in it was first raised when I saw they had developed it in Japan (called the JOBA). For physical rehabilitation, horse riding can be a component. It can help to improve the core muscles in an active way.

There are horse riding stables that specialize in this area around the country. When I lived in WV, as far as I knew, there weren’t any in the area. After moving to Kansas, I was told about a place about 45 minutes away. I visited there and spoke with the trainer. A lot of the talk focused on the potential risk of falling. This emphasis was off-putting (and they had an incident where a horse was startled with a patient riding him) so I didn’t take it up. Some time after that, I saw that Japanese researchers had created this. I thought it would be something that could help me strengthen my core (maybe I’ll be able to take a punch to the stomach :)).

It took a bit of time for it to show up in the United States and it had a large price tag. It wasn’t something I could just buy and hope it works well. It doesn’t seem to have penetrated at all here in Kansas. Not in local gyms or at any rehabilitation facilities. I then saw it was in use at the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery in Detroit. I figured if they were using it there, then it must be something I could use. I spoke with someone who was monitoring the use of the device there and was told that quadriplegics and paraplegics were using it with good results.

One other concern I had prior to getting it was getting on and off of it. One feature that would help is if it was height adjustable (either manually (adjustable when not in use) or electronically (adjustable during use). Unfortunately, it isn’t. I do a stand-pivot transfer from my chair to the Core Trainer. I have to be sure to stand tall before sitting down or I will be on the edge. Because it has a rounded seat, you want to be sure to get to the crest or beyond. I’m 5’9″ – 5’10” tall. I’m guessing that around 5’6″ might be the threshold to be sure you can sit down on it without worrying you may slide off. I definitely don’t see being able to get on it without help. You still need to swing your leg over to the other side and one of the last things you want to do is lean backwards without any support.

I started using it last week and wasn’t sure what I should do. I started slow and over the course of a few days I sped it up to see how fast I could handle. I managed to get up to the sixth speed of nine levels. I also ride it with my feet touching the ground and without any additional forward or backward tilt. Around Wednesday the left side of my ribs were hurting. The likely cause was the Core Trainer. I also learned that it’s better to go slow and try to sit up (and stay up) as tall as possible for the greatest affect.

Riding it has been fun. I definitely can feel my core muscles working (and they were totally tired out at the higher speed). I plan to get back on it tomorrow (my ribs are feeling a lot better), but use it at the slowest speed. I just got a new mirror so I can watch my posture as I ride it. I found that I maintain a lot better balance by looking straight ahead. If I look down at the display/controls my posture and balance worsen. The mirror should help me stay as straight and tall as possible.

I received a couple DVDs today on how to use it effectively. There should be some very good information on them. They show people riding it with their legs in the air (not on the floor, dangling or in the stir-ups) and not using the handle. I think I’m a long way from that. I wouldn’t even think about not holding the handle.

One of the reasons I posted about the Core Trainer (and plan to continue to) is that I couldn’t find a testimonial that was relevant to my planned use. I’m hoping this will be helpful to others trying to find this information.

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What Is Wrong With Some People?

by on Jan.27, 2010, under News

Yesterday I read a column in the Boston Globe about a 15 year old girl who was basically bullied so much, she hung her self. This seems to happen every couple of months where we hear a story about a kid in school committing suicide that was picked on constantly. I’ve never seen it com to a level where the bullies were proud of what they had done. No remorse, not even indifference, but openly proud like they accomplished what they had set out to do. It’s also inexcusable that the school has taken no action with this much information out there.

When I was in grade school, there were bullies. For the most part everyone was picked on and/or picked on someone else at some point. But now with social networking and basically every kid having their own cell phone there is no getting away from it. You might get picked on during recess or on the bus, but then you would go home and that was it. No one would really be able to call your house and continue the abuse or just knock on your door. Now with text messaging and social networking (IM, Facebook, Myspace, etc.) the mental abuse continues all the time. You never get away and bullies can act more cowardly as they hide behind their PCs and iPhones.

I’m going to be interested to see what happens to those girls. Seems like there are plenty of people who know about them and how far they go. Certainly seems like this could’ve been avoided without the benefit of hindsight. It’s really sad.

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Garbage All Over

by on Jan.25, 2010, under Life

One of the good things that the city of Newton does is provide curbside pickup of recyclables along with the garbage.  We are able to recycle paper (including cardboard), plastic, metal and glass.  Unfortunately, there is a drawback. The city provides all the containers for garbage and recyclables. The garbage can is pretty big and has a lid. The recyclable containers are about the size of a box containing a ream of paper, no lids. On a windy day, which Kansas is likely to have, everyone’s recyclables get blown all over the place.

In my backyard and the farm behind it I’ve seen plenty of stuff blow by as I work. Soda cans, beer cans, 2 liter bottles, newspapers, plastic sheets, small boxes, cereal boxes and even large boxes like a box for a new stroller. We try to pick up as much as we can, but I’m sure quite a bit of this stuff doesn’t get picked up. A lot more gets recycled than not, but it looks real bad when you look out the window and see trash blowing around.

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Migrating Passwords in Firefox 3.6

by on Jan.24, 2010, under Software, Technology

I’ve been using Firefox going back to the days when they had changed the name from Firebird to Firefox. When my PC died, I had to rebuild a new one. I was backing up my Firefox profile at the time, so I only had to restore it. It took a little bit of manual work to do it, but it wasn’t a big deal. However, Firefox now took at least 20 seconds to fully exit (the window would go away, but the process was still running) and often 1 to 2 minutes. This is on top of the huge amounts of memory (physical and virtual) it eats up over prolonged usage.

I decided with my new PC, I would just discard my profile. It has been updated, upgraded and manually maintained through multiple Firefox versions. Add multiple extensions being installed and uninstalled over that time and it is time to start fresh. The one thing I did not want to lose were all my saved passwords. This turned out to be pretty straightforward. After I installed Firefox 3.6 (this method will also work with 3.5, but I’d recommend that whatever version you do this with, make sure the old one and new one are the same), I copied the key3.db and signons.sqlite files from the old profile folder to the new profile folder.

After writing the stuff above, I went to see if I could find a page describing the files that comprise a profile to link that would help people copy over other parts of their profile they want to keep while also having a clean install. You can read it here, and it points out exactly which files you need to move the passwords. There is also a guide on backing up and restoring profiles on that site as well.

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Avatar and 3D

by on Jan.23, 2010, under Entertainment, Movies

I saw Avatar in 3D last weekend. I thought it was a pretty good movie. I don’t agree that it is #40 in the IMDb Top 250 though. The movie is visually stunning and it kept my attention from beginning to end. It is almost 3 hours long, but I didn’t feel as though there were any parts that just dragged. I’d definitely recommend it to others. My brother told me to see it in theaters, and he was absolutely right. It’s meant for the big screen and 3D. We’re still about 1 year away from that kind of 3D in the home.

In my area I had a choice between RealD 3D, Dolby 3D (sometimes called Digital 3D) and regular 2D. The closest IMAX theaters are 3 hours away, and although I have been to the one in Kansas City, it wasn’t solely to see a move (The Dark Knight). I did some digging to see which 3D is best. As usual, there wasn’t an obvious answer. From what I found, IMAX 3D is the most immersive. The drawbacks of it are that because it is so immersive it can cause fatigue and headaches because of the length of the movie. I think I still would’ve gone for it if it was in Wichita.

People differ on which is better between RealD 3D and Dolby 3D, but I read enough that says Dolby 3D has less of a ghosting effect than RealD 3D. I saw it in Dolby 3D and I didn’t see any ghosting. I didn’t have any issues with the quality of the video. I’d say the main drawback is that the glasses are re-used, so depending on how much the staff at the theater cares, they could have different levels of cleanliness. My lenses had some water spots on them. They were more than happy to swap them if you want. In my case, I couldn’t see them when wearing them, so no problem. The RealD glasses are yours to keep after the movie is over, so you always get a new/clean pair.

I came across a comparison of the various 3D technologies  (not the red-blue glasses) that I found interesting:

3D System Comparison

I found it interesting because a couple years back movie executives were talking about how to get people to continue to come out to theaters with the proliferation of HDTV, large screen TVs and home theaters. One idea was 3D. Over the last couple of years, there has been a fair amount of 3D movies. They were mostly animated, but there were a couple that weren’t. There has also been some sports in 3D in theaters. But this year we will see television broadcasts in 3D and television channels dedicated to 3D The vast majority of people will need new equipment (TVs, glasses, cable/satellite box, Blu-Ray player) to enjoy it, but it’s coming. Surprisingly, the technology that will be used is the one with the least drawbacks in terms of quality. The glasses currently to cost a little over $100/pair. Also, for anyone who already wears glasses, it’s not the most comfortable thing to wear a second pair for long periods of time.

I’m looking forward to 3D in the home, but I think I’m going to let a generation or two go by before I get a new TV that supports 3D. For now, I’ll enjoy it in the theater. Speaking of, the preview for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland looked really good. The story has been done over and over (most recently on SyFy), but I could be enticed to see it in 3D.

One last comment on Avatar in general. Before I went to see it, I saw on TV that people were saying they felt depressed after seeing the movie because they wished they lived in Pandora. They must have blocked out the parts where they live in nature, there are killer animals everywhere and humans are bringing war to them. I didn’t feel sad or depressed after watching it.

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