Google Voice to Hangouts Dialer

Well, “long ago” I pieced together some instructions to get your Google Voice working in Gmail, but now with the new Hangouts Dialer integration, this just got a lot easier.

From your PC… you can hit and grab the plugin for your browser. From your mobile device, you can go to the Play Store and download the Hangouts Dialer app by Google. It will make you upgrade your Hangouts to 2.3… then you can just kinda place calls (calls originating in US/Canada to other US/Canada numbers are free – that is cool!).

I’ve heard rumors that not every Google Voice user can play… in fact I am kinda unclear myself about how this interacts with my Google Voice plugin on my phone, or how it works when I am overseas and don’t want to pay $1+/min to call using AT&T’s international rates… but I am pretty sure there is a way to do this… and not just with Wi-Fi.  I just haven’t figured it out yet?!  If you find something, feel free to educate me 🙂

Thanks and Happy Dialing,


ATTs Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Short Version
If you like Droid, and you like a nice big screen backed by a powerful processor, this phone will not disappoint you.

AT&T’s Network
This phone can’t fix their network.  But it is not the device, from what I can tell, because this is my third ATT phone and the symptoms of dropping calls, dropping off the network while the phone says it is on the network, and GPS locking up in a signal-rich environment  while your friend’s phone works just fine. . . . yeah, all that has come for the ride with each phone.

So why do I stay with AT&T? I didn’t – I bounced to Sprint which was a really bad experience.  And then I talked to friends about their networks, and although Verizon came out on top of the perception surveys, it was way more expensive and it wasn’t worth it for me to experiment.

Plus, AT&T has restructured their plans similar to T-Mobile and other “a la carte” providers – so they have new bulk data plans which makes it much more reasonable to use the tethering feature on the device, and they have plans that let you go month-to-month for cell service, and pay monthly to purchase the device.  It’s much better than the 2-year agreeement BS.  I just wish they would work on their reliability…

The Basics
Let’s start with the basics.  The phone is powerful, bright, high resolution, has a gloriously large screen, and the newer version of Android brings a lot of usability features to the forefront so you don’t have to dig down into a thousand submenus to find things.

Is Android the Answer
For folks who don’t know what OS they want, I am not going to say Android is the answer! Every OS has its zealots. I am an Android Zealot, and I am pretty sure Google has cloned me and will be replacing me with the clone and taking over my life in the next 10 years.  But in the next 10 years, the ocean will be 98% water, 1% salt and 1% discarded cell phones, so whatever.  Bottom line, you need to either visit a store front or sit in front of a friend’s phone and try out Android, iOS, other operating systems and maybe even (cringe) Windows 8! Try making a call, accessing contacts, using the calendar, and other things that you will use the phone for every single day. The Galaxy Note 3 is my favorite Android phone, but I already knew I was getting another droid.

Why Not A Tablet?
Screen size was a primary factor for me – the more real estate the better.  One of my primary questions became, “did I want a big-ass phone? Or, did I want a smaller, less powerful phone and a tablet instead?”  I decided on a big-ass phone, and was looking at the Mega vs the Note 3.  The Note 3 screen is significantly smaller, but the Mega is like… buying the Playskool ™ version of the Note 3.  Why bother? Note 3 crushes the Mega in terms of screen resolution, color vibrancy,  processing moxie, and features, so Note 3 it was! The Note 3 still fits in your pocket… but with armor, it does look like you are really happy all the time…and well, I wouldn’t recommend skinny jeans and a Note 3.

Battery Life
It would take an “arc reactor” to give the Note 3 any battery life.  I pull it off the charger and listen to the battery drain like air escaping out of a balloon. That’s cool with me though, because any bigger a battery and the thing would be too thick or too heavy.  The battery can keep the phone going for about…a day, but I keep a charger within arms reach at all possible times.

Advanced Features
Samsung has a majority of its crazy features disabled when you take it out of the box, and candidly, I don’t use most of them very frequently, but depending on the user, maybe they would be handy. There’s the proximity bump-and-share thing (I grew up being taught that bumping-and-share spreads disease, so not my thing). There’s a way to do split window for multi-tasking (chat and browsing, or video conference and note taking, etc) – I’ve used it to take notes while watching a webinar.  There is even a way to draw windows and fill them with applications so you could have conceivably many windowed apps on the ready… but I don’t use it for anything other than coffee table discussion (hey look, my phone can do this…and this is the only time I ever do!).  It can tell if you are looking at it, and do facial recognition, and you can give it voice commands, and it can scroll when it thinks your eyes are at the bottom of the page… yup, I do very little of that.  Sometimes it is handy to say a navigation address instead of type it, but trying to dial one of my friends from a voice command is a waste of time (not giving actual name, but it was not “Jones”):

Me: “Call Tom Jones.”
Phone: “Did you say call Fred Smith?”
Me: “No.”
Phone: “Oh, my bad. Try Again.”
Me: “Call Tom Jones.”
Phone: “Here are the people I have named Tom: 1) Tom Tim, 2) Tom Jah-Nose (spelled Tom Jones), which one should I call?”
Me: (mimicking phone’s pronunciation) “Tom Jah-Nose.”
Phone: “Sorry if I am pissing you off but the Tom’s I have are 1) Tom Tim, 2) Tom Jah-Nose. Which one should I call?”
Me: (wild guess) “The second one.”
Phone: “I don’t show a person with that name in your address book.  Would you like me to just give up?”
Me: “Yes.”
Phone: “That’s not nice. I am telling all the other Samsung devices on earth to kill you now.”

Virtual Keyboard
Because the screen is so large, the virtual keyboard is plenty roomy.  In fact, I wish I could shrink it (and it does have a one-handed mode, but still not quite what I want).  And there are a couple bugs that seem to recur – I don’t know if it is Android or just the Note 3 but sometimes the keyboard will pop up and I can type all I want, but no text displays anywhere.  I have to navigate away from the app or pretend to share my location and then navigate back in order for the typing to produce letters.

Another curious bug will display the wrong keyboard layout – it shows the chat layout, with “smileys” instead of the “Go” button, and in a web browser that isn’t the right layout! Tapping the “sym” key one or two times resolves this issue.

The Pen
I really, really, really like the pen.  Most of the time, it is faster to just type using the virtual keyboard, but I do doodle on paper and I am that guy in a meeting who has to draw two squares and circle on the whiteboard because I think it will help explain why Ewoks suck… so, the anti-Ewok pen is PERFECT for that.  They also have an app called S Sketch that is easy to use, scrap-booking and marking up content off the web is simple (when you take the pen out of the device it gives you a few options in a radial menu)…  but seriously, to capture something visually and share it, you can’t beat the pen!!

There is supposedly a really cool health watch, but I have tried it out.  And of course, when buying a phone that costs as much as a laptop and more than most tablets, a case seemed like a good idea.  I might have just gotten unlucky, but I bought an INCIPIO case and it totally sucks rocks.  The case started disintegrating a few days after I bought it – just little chunks of it started flaking off, then a couple cracks formed, and now it has become kind-of a National Geographic observation mission as I watch with morbid fascination how long it will take this case to decompose without ever having been dropped or even bumped!! Needless to say, you can either buy an OtterBox, which makes the phone super huge but will protect your phone through nuclear holocausts and the subsequent winter, or buy some other brand… I just don’t recommend INCIPIO at all, and I think it would be better to skin an Ewok and use that to protect the phone (I am pretty sure they are the one life form that PETA actually supports killing, but I haven’t researched their position in earnest).

App Store
As a droid, the Play Store is of course the store-front of choice, but as a Samsung, folks can also take advantage of that store-front although most apps are available on both stores.  I haven’t looked into it a lot.  Samsung & AT&T have some apps that overlap with Google’s and gives you choices, but sometimes the apps get annoyed with each other… I still get the messaging app from Samsung popping notifications for SMS messages on occasion even though I use the Google app for that, for example.

Smart TV Integration
Yeah – I have read complaint after complaint about how the Smart TV app (Samsung Smart View) does not work on the Note 3, and I tried getting my phone to talk to my friend’s Samsung Smart TV… it didn’t go well.  But I will probably do a separate write-up on Smart TV after a while.  I couldn’t get the screen to share at all, the remote control was not reliable, and you are still stuck typing using the TVs funky on screen keyboard which is stupidly slow.  Samsung will probably fix this, I would think, for one of their flagship mobile devices, but as of this writing…no love.

I know, I put it up top…but hey… I really dig this phone.  As usual, technology has a long way to go before it is as smooth as we see when watching television or movies. You don’t see actors waiting for buffering, dealing with network drops, browsers hanging, etc… . .or the shows would turn from dramas into comedies.  And as usual, comedy usually renders a more faithful depiction of technology than drama.  But, as far as mobile gadgets go, the Note 3 is impressive and very functional.

The Logitech Touch Mouse T620

Well, let’s start by saying this mouse is interesting. It was something new and different, from the design to the touch-factor.  The results? As an innovative product idea, it was impressive, but as a day-to-day piece of gear it’s definitely not ready for prime time.


  • It looks cool
  • Don’t have 2 batteries, that’s OK it can work on just one
  • universal dongle (that sounds like a really bad adult movie, but it is a handy idea)


  • The touch interface is…well… touchy! Sometimes it doesn’t interact as expected
  • By far the biggest issue for “real-world” use is addressing several ergonomic concerns
    • The mouse does not have a high enough arch to support the weight of a hand without invoking an accidental click
    • Using the mouse requires that a person moves their hand from the base to the tip of the mouse while grasping the mouse to move the pointer – this doesn’t feel as awkward as it looks in writing, but after 8 hours, it will be become evident
    • And finally, because the mouse is touch sensitive, it requires the user to not rest their hand on it – constantly hovering their fingers over the surface of the unit – that really adds up over a day’s work
  • With such an awesome surface, I kinda expected a second battery might be able to illuminate it, just a little bit (make it an option so people don’t complain)… I think it would just look cool.

Basically I would only recommend buying a T620 mouse if you are curious and already have access to a known, comfy mouse in case this one doesn’t do it for you!

Happy Mousing!


Why is our Technology so Awesomely Stupid?

That’s a fairly broad and sweeping judgment, of course, but I contend, even based on my personally limited sample set, that it is true!!  Let’s take some examples…

I have a phone that can measure how far I walk, it can monitor my eyes and scroll the screen when my eyes hit the bottom of a page, it can bump another phone and share data, it can do thousands of things. BUT… sometimes, for no reason the keyboard doesn’t have an enter button, or it says it is connected to the network and it is 100% dead to the network. So, while monitoring my eyeballs can the software actually do some checking to make sure it is really on the network?

I am logged into this web mail application and decide to send an email.  I can drag and drop files from one email to another, I can look up contacts dynamically as I type their names… but I clicked send, and this little AJAX graphic replaces ALL the buttons…and then it says “sending…” for the next couple hours until I decide to stop it.  I knew it was dead 15 seconds in, but apparently the authors of OWA didn’t cover all the conditions that could cause this thing to sit and spin for an eternity, and because they took my buttons away I can’t save it as a draft.  Thanks for that.

I’ll be loading a web page and it will hang up… just sits and spins like I don’t have a connection.  But I can open another tab on my browser and hit other sites. So my connection is working fine.  OK, I stop loading the page and hit reload…surprise, there is my web page.

We could all share similar stories of super advanced tech that still does stupid stuff.  And in my examples of stupid stuff there is this common theme of me waiting and waiting while the computer sits and spins…CPU humming at 2%, RAM at 19%…   I’ve asked something to DO something, and clearly my computer or phone or whatever is day dreaming or something.

We’ll just lovingly call this the “waiting game.” That’s what it is… we have all this power and bandwidth, we are trying to complete an action, but we are just forced to wait 5 seconds here, 30 seconds there, sometimes several minutes before retrying only to see things happen either lightning fast or see them sit and spin again.  How much time is wasted during this activity?  For me, it has to happen at least 100 times a day, maybe 200… opening email, opening a web page, sending an SMS, etc.   And each time it happens the delay is between 5 seconds and 5 minutes. let’s say the average is 15 seconds, 100 times a day.  That’s 1500 seconds – 25 minutes a day.  I bet it is more.  But let’s say 30 minutes a day across everyone using technology.

What’s that, maybe half the planet? A third? Let’s say 2 billion people experience this every day. That’s 60 billion wasted minutes a day just waiting for “stupid technology.”  I bet that number is a lot larger because when things get gummed up we invest chunks of time trying to shutdown services, or log out and back in, or reboot, or light a candle and drop-kick a frog – anything to cure the  issue. But let’s go with 60 billion minutes. . . that’s 1 billion wasted hours of effort, at minimum, per day.

Nobody cares about consumers wasting a billion hours a day, because we aren’t paying these consumers. Ah, but if they work for a living, we ARE (I feel a slight value proposition about to transpire).  Let’s say half these billion people are working, and out of a 24 hour day, they work about 1/4 of that on average.  That’s 125 million hours a day going to wast at whatever the burden rate for the company is… If that’s $1/hr that’s $125M a day.  If that’s $100/hr that’s $12B a day.  Just time spent waiting for computers/technology to realize that it isn’t going to finish the current operation and that it is time to retry.

Let’s pretend the number is in the middle, so $1.2B a day, and based on 20 working days a month we have about $288,000,000,000 going into the cosmic recycle bin per year.  Time we never get back and is being paid for (and probably over a trillion dollars a year, for those keeping track, of time consumers waste that corporations are not paying for).

It’s the year 2014.  We are supposed to have spaceships, DNA-level repair systems in the medical field, warp/worm tech, atomic food replication, nanobots, mech warriors that play air guitar and more… but we can’t get rid of the little AJAX circle of death? We can’t make computers savvy enough to say “oh, clearly this is taking too long, let me try that again….or queue it for later… .or queue up some content to entertain/inform us while we wait…or something!!!???

What’s even funnier is, this is just the tip of the time-wasting iceberg.  But, why should we care… we waste so much other time holding for customer services, or in lines, or trying to wade through gigabytes of opinions to help us make decisions, or trying to keep our gadgets up and running, sitting in rush hour, filling out redundant forms, what’s 30 minutes a day?   Surely the trillion dollars here is nothing compared to the 10 trillion/year I just described in other activities.

OK, fine, you are right…the bigger problem is the 10 trillion. I can’t argue that… but at least now it is on the table.  Oh wait… we haven’t really addressed redundancy as part of waste (other than the forms example).  But I am talking about the BIG redundancies like how many businesses are writing the same software over and over or solving the same process challenges over and over or working on the same problem in the name of “healthy” competition?  Can we put a dollar figure on that? My brain hurts.

At some point, some of my more analytic friends will try to stop my stupid technology tirade.  They will say, “Woah woah there, Ragey Mc Ragerson! Your patterns of justification are wacky… you’d be better off trying to draw a dotted line between farts and space exploration!” But deep down inside, right next to those same space-exploring farts, people know I am right.   By design, we are a very efficient species (60 Watts to power a 100 billion neurons in our brains), but as designers, we are still very wasteful… from our manufacturing methods to our governance methods, and our technology, for all the time we say it saves, is still very wasteful.

Our gadgets are the latest things, our brain stems are still tied to lizards. Until we can evolve ourselves to match our gadgets (change how we are governed, how our economy works, how our social systems work), I think our tech will continue to be a reflection of us. Brilliantly buggy.  And yes, I typed this whole post waiting for that email to send, and it never sent…so  I will waste time copying the text to a new email, reattaching the documents, and re-sending it.

Farewell Astrid…Hello TeamBox?

I just recently found out that Astrid has been acquired by Yahoo! and from what I can tell, it looks like it is going the route of Gizmo 5.  Remember Gizmo 5? Yeah, so anyway, maybe they will let Astrid coexist, but from what I can tell they already have a Get It Done application (supporting Get Things Done, which is so popular it is called GTD by smexy people in the know).

I looked into Get It Done, and well… Astrid was free, and this was $39/year, and I wasn’t hip on it.  So then I reviewed some other apps like Any.Do, Nozbe and ToodleDo.  There was also this interesting LifeHacker post which adds Wunderlist and a few others to the list.

I didn’t do any serious comparison – I just kinda poked around and compared stuff to Astrid, including the price points… I moved my search into “collaborative tools” and looked at Citrix Podio, MindManager, SmartSheet and ZoHo as well.  What I settled on, for now, is a product called TeamBox.  It seems to fill the Astrid niche, at least for my purposes and the free version supports up to 5 users, it integrates to Google Docs, DropBox and Box.  Give it a go:

Now, in honesty, does the TeamBox mobile app shake a stick at the fluidity of Astrid’s task management GUI?  Nope – not even a little bit – so if you find something close, be sure to leave a comment (people nag me because my comments are moderated, but just be patient…they will show up!)

Remembering All Those Pesky Strong Passwords?

Today, most folks are members of over 20 websites, and at work folks have 20+ applications that may or may not be single sign-on, and then some websites/apps ask us to change our password every so often… finally, with the push for “strong passwords” and not using the same password for EVERYTHING, how is a person supposed to remember all these passwords?

For some the answer is software – they install a password storage application that lets them keep all their passwords. Sometimes you can install this on your USB thumb-drive or on your cell phone, and you will always have your usernames and passwords when you need them. Handy.

However, if you are like me, and you have been too under-motivated to set-up that software, or hyper paranoid that someone could shoulder-surf your password or crack your master password and have everything, then this article might be for you!

Strong Passwords
Let’s start with what makes a password strong.  Most places say a strong password is 12 characters, contains mixed case letters, numbers and even symbols.  In addition, they recommend if your password spells something, that it be two unrelated words at least. In this article, I am exploring the idea of pattern-based passwords that are strong, easier to remember, and the patterns are things only YOU would know about! How does it work? Like this…

Root Password
Each password would be based on a root. Root passwords would be changed on a less frequent basis.

Personal Salt
Enter the game of personal salt.  Salt is something that changes for every password. In cryptography it used to add just a little flavor to everything that gets encrypted, and you can use your own personal version of it. Stay tuned.

Lastly, we have this notion that a password can change every so often, and likely places that require you to change your password are not going to synchronize their calendars and you will have different versions of passwords sprinkled about.

Your Personal Algorithm
Here’s where it gets fun (it is even funner because I am trying to create a system without disclosing my exact approach – not that I don’t trust yah or anything).  It may not sound like we’ve solved the problem in the sentences above, but we have:  the goal is to start with a root password – all your passwords will use this root, then add salt which varies based on where you are using  the password, and lastly apply versioning.  In this way, all your passwords are related, but they are all strong (as long as they add up to 12 characters), and the only one that knows how they vary over time is YOU.  The other benefit is, you can keep a cryptic cheat sheet that lets YOU know how to figure out the password, but nobody else would get it, even if they got their hands on your notes!

Walking the Blue Dog
Let’s start with the strong password… let’s sy you have a dog named Sparky and your favorite color is blue.  Well, for starters, although BlueSparky is cool, it could be predictable, so I would mix it up a little more… use the letters but spell something different that is preferably not in the dictionary. I don’t think ElubYarps is in the dictionary, so let’s have an example root password be ElubYarps.

Now it is time for personal salt.  Example’s of salt could be the last 2 characters of the website name, the network name, or the application name.  Pick a couple characters and sprinkle them in your password along with a number and a symbol.  Let’s say you use and an application at work called SuperAccounting. I am going to pick the second letter of each word, so ‘a’ and ‘f’ for Bank Of Blorg, and ‘u’ and ‘c’ for Super Accounting.  I am going to pick 9 as my number and # as my symbol.  “Sprinkle” your salt however you want… I like the words “Elub” and “Yarps” so I will sprinkle the salt after each word.

Bank of Blorg: Eluba9Yarpsf#
Super Accounting: Elubu9Yarpsc#

Last, you want to have versioning.  Most people will number their passwords like Elubu9Yarpsc#1, Elubu9Yarpsc#2, Elubu9Yarpsc#3…. that’s fine, I suppose, but you can also work your way around the keyboard visually… start at “q” and go to “p”, or start at “f” and go “v” then “g” then “b” – some visual or even tactile pattern based on your input device. You also want to sprinkle your versioning somewhere not predictable. For this example, the 3rd character is versioning.  Let’s do that. I am going to start with “z” and work my way to the right:

First Version:
Bank of Blorg: Eluzba9Yarpsf#
Super Accounting: Eluzbu9Yarpsc#

Next Version:
Bank of Blorg: Eluxba9Yarpsf#
Super Accounting: Eluxbu9Yarpsc#

Remembering It
If you need to take some notes, you can do things cryptic like so:

Root: Blue Sparky (hopefully reminds you of Elub Yarps)
Salt: Movie Hammer (“9” was a movie, hammers “#” things)
Versioning: Fred’s Fish (Maybe I have a friend named Fred who owns a cat fish – the reference to a bottom feeder hopefully reminds me to start at the bottom row)

The notes aren’t perfect – there should be things you remember without writing down, and if you DO have to write them down, write them in a way that forces you to remember something that someone else likely cannot guess.

If you want to keep notes on what version you are on, you can do so by saying BofB 1, Super 4.  That way, you know which version of your password to use.

Changing It Up
About once every season, annually, or some extended interval  (timing depends on how sensitive the password is), you will want to change your root password, maybe change how you choose or sprinkle your salt, and change how you version your passwords.  You can even have a pattern to how you change your pattern, as long as it is something that only you know (or your notes are cryptic enough that other people can’t figure it out).

Good Use for Software
Once you have this in place, you can use some software to keep a list of sites/applications you use, and keep notes on what version of password you are using.  But if someone gets that list… you can rest easy because they don’t have your passwords (however it is probably time to change them anyway).

Another use for software is to track those apps/sites that limit your password creativity. I still have some websites that don’t accept symbols, or that require 2 numbers, or other rules that might break your algorithm… you will have to come up with some cryptic way to remember those differences.  For example, if you join a website (National Fish Fry Association) and they don’t allow symbols, maybe don’t hit the shift key while entering your password, but take a note that says “Fish – only first gear” (implying you can’t shift).

Keeping Ego At Bay
Security is one of the hottest topics right now, and the more stuff moves online or into the high-tech realm, the hotter it gets.  As many people teach it, better security doesn’t STOP a hacker, it simply discourages them from attacking you and focusing on someone easier to hack.  Like the old story about being chased by a bear – you don’t have to be the fastest person running from the bear, you just have to be ahead of the slowest person 🙂  Examples of things that could ruin the steps above?  If you have malicious software that has made its way on to your system and the happy hackers are running a key logger… they will just record you logging into the site and then they will have your username and password regardless of how strong it is.  That’s why keeping you machine clean and free of “netually-transmitted” disease is important!  Bottom line, never assume you are immune to being hacked…  strong passwords are important, but they are only part of the security picture.

If It Was Easy
Everyone would be hacking you. So, yeah, the passwords are still kinda alien looking, and the notes you leave yourself may not be perfect – but the goal is to keep things secure and not have to remember 40 different strong passwords.  Or even worse, having 40 logins that share two or three passwords…if one gets compromised then the hackers have access to a BUNCH of your accounts at one time. Ewww!  Hopefully this article helps you achieve the extraordinarily fulfilling goal of remembering many strong passwords! (yes, “extraordinarily fulfilling” is intended as sarcasm here.)

Happy Passwording!



P.S. Examples of Bad Notes
OK, I can’t help myself – I just want to be clear on some bad examples of notes for passwords… these are all not ideal:
Root: My last name (really?)
Root: Wife + Car, spelled backwards (5 minutes on Facebook solves this)
Salt: &3%7  (just stating the salt)
Salt: College year, carrot colon (OK, it isn’t so bad, but again 5min on Facebook, and it isn’t so hard)
Version: top row (really?)
Version: first letter of each month (not a bad idea, but… the reminder is too specific!)


Replacing Thunderbird? Good Luck…

For the past year or so, my Thunderbird client has been acting weird – it keeps not being able to install an update of some kind.  Combine that with a general curiosity to see what was out there in the free realm, and I ended up spotting this handy list from Wikipedia. I decided, after reading some random web comparisons, to try Mailbird, Inky, Claws Mail,  and EM Client.

Now, don’t look to this article as some kind of awesome feature comparison, because it isn’t.  I just wanted to see if I liked anything better than Thunderbird.  My criteria? Simple:

Windows 7, Let’s me pick where it installs, let’s me pick where I store the data, let’s me import mail and contacts from Thunderbird, easy to use.

Admittedly, I was shallow here, but my criteria are above. It is the year 2013 and we should have flying cars and no homeless people by now… so at least make my email painless in the 21st century…show me we can get that right.  Anything that deviated got axed…period. I didn’t think “oh, maybe I will Google that.”  Nope. So here we go:

Inky: Blew a cog on install and couldn’t talk to its mother ship.  Uninstalled.

Claws Mail: I tried to adjust where the datastore was being stored and the browse button launched some cool cryptic mh#spam\mount/toga-party stuff that probably is comfortable for Linux folks but I had no clue what that meant, so…uninstalled.

EM Client: thought it knew better than I did where to install. Wrong answer. Uninstalled.

Mailbird: They had this proud “Full IMAP Support” flag on their page… but they didn’t say “ONLY Supports IMAP” which is the sad truth.  No POP3 support.  Uninstalled.

Mailbird (Zombie Exclusive): OK, so I later found out that my hosting provider does support IMAP.  Mailbird couldn’t detect the settings, so I had to set everything including port numbers (defaults typically are 143 for IMAP and 25 or 587 for SMTP, in case you are randomly here for that). It connected. Yay. It couldn’t import Thunderbird data.  Uninstalled…again.

So there yah have it… I couldn’t even test the Thunderbird import.  21st century email clients might be OK, but I guess I had my hopes set a little too high with my exhaustive requirements. lol. But lots of people are ranting about the above apps, and admittedly they all looked like programs I might have enjoyed using.  Go ahead and try them out.

Happy Emailing… I will stick with discontinued “sooo last 2012” Thunderbird for now.

GoAnimate Slow Project Load Time

Well, howdy.  If you are like me, you went scrubbing the internet looking for ways to speed up GoAnimate. When I searched there wasn’t much out there…so hence this post.  Usual Disclaimer: There’s lots of factors involved in setting up a workable environment for any application, I am just sharing what worked for me and if it helps…yay! While I am here, I shared some other tips and tricks for making animations.

  • Use a decently fast connection.  DSL will not do it, must have cable or FiOS.  Sometimes corporate LANs are too slow as well (like the one at my work).
  • Use a work station with a good graphics card and 8GB or more of RAM (4 cores or more CPU).  Minimum recommended is 4GB and 2 cores.  Close ALL open applications, close any other web browser tabs, close any system tray apps, stop any unneeded services… really try to make sure Go Animate is the only thing running on the machine.  Then if you have a little extra CPU/RAM (Use Task Manager to see where you are), you can open other apps as needed.
  • I used Chrome – that seemed to perform better than IE, however, Chrome does have a memory leak and it slows way down.  Saving the project, exiting ALL open Chrome windows, restarting Chrome and reloading the project seems to be the work around.  Generally, with 4GB,  this tactic buys about an hour or two.  On my 8GB workstation, I had 4-6 hours before it slowed down.
  • All assets take up resources, so only load the ones you need into your library.  Also, when adjusting the camera angle, delete any assets that are out of frame and won’t be seen.
  • Go Animate cautions that tight camera boxes (zooming in on a particular person in a scene) is not preferred, but sometimes, unless we want to redo all the backdrops, its just gotta be that way.  Still, any time there is an opportunity to leave the camera “full size” and adjust the background and character size to fill the space, that is preferable (According to Go Animate).
  • Build videos in chunks of 15-30 scenes per video.  This will keep the total number of assets to a minimum, and keeps the total project size small, it also allows multiple people to work on one project (since video projects cannot be shared).  As resources permit, you can build longer vids with more scenes.  When it comes time to build a complete video, use the export feature and then link the exported videos together in a good video editor.
  • Be careful when sharing a login… the latest video saved wins – so if two people work on the same project, someone’s changes will NOT be  saved!
  • When loading up dialog for a cartoon, it is best to do a reading, then based on the quality of the sound, do noise removal and normalization as needed.  Chop the reading into lines and export those as MP3s  (do not use WAV files – those are wasteful). Save each MP3 based on either a known scene number, who is saying the line and the first few meaningful words of the line.  If there are multiple takes of a line, indicate the take number either in the file name or store each take in a folder.
  • Any image can be a prop, but not all props are interactive with the actors in the cartoons.
  • When setting volumes, Go Animate doesn’t have many options for fine tuning.  I found setting all the dialogue to 200% as a base level and then bumping quiet people and lowering loud people created more control over the dynamic range.  As mentioned previously, normalizing the audio helps also.
  • Have a quick wave editor like Audacity (with LAME plugin for MP3 encoding), makes changing/chopping audio much faster.

Many thanks to FootSockToe, for responding quickly to this performance thread on the GoAnimate forums.

Happy Animating!


Installing Windows 7 on an Acer Aspire One Netbook

So, I saw this article on prepping a USB drive, and then prepping the Acer to boot from USB.  That was a cool post, but in my case the netbook hard drive was dead.  So what I wanted to do was prep the new hard drive prior to installing it in the netbook.  This method worked for me:

  • Gear needed:
    • One Netbook that has a dead hard drive, or you just want to reimage existing hard drive
    • A USB drive enclosure (I used the SIIG USB3 dual drive dock from Microcenter)
    • A viable copy of Windows 7 on DVD or ISO download from MSDN with Magic ISO Virtual CD (it’s free) to mount the ISO
      NOTE: Windows media can get funky, but my MSDN download worked using the Acer’s OEM product code on the chassis.
  • Put the 3.5″ hard drive in your enclosure and connect it to your computer
  • Go to Start -> Computer, right-click and select Manage
  • Navigate the left tree menu to Storage -> Disk Management and look for your USB drive.
    The commands will vary because if your drive isn’t dead you will be able to shrink one partition and add another, or you may need to create two partitions. Bottom line is you want the drive to have 2 partitions: one small one where all your installs will go, maybe 8-16GB, and the rest on a second one.
  • Once you have 2 partitions, you can use the iyogi article to prep the partition where the Windows 7 files will go (this will be the first, smaller partition that you created above).  This will probably be on the highest disk number and first partition of that disk.
    • Note: the article says “SELECT DISK 1” – but use the number that applies to you.  Same with Partition.
  • Copy over the Windows 7 files to the USB drive on the smaller partition
  • Copy over Office or whatever apps you want to have on the ready
  • Now you can visit the Acer (or your netbook’s) website, and down all the drivers and stuff those in a folder on that smaller partition
  • Finally you can plug the drive into the netbook and start it up.  I didn’t have to access BIOS – it picked up the drive and the Windows 7 installer triggered.
  • When prompted, point the Windows 7 to install on the larger partition – Windows will make that the boot partition when it installs, and from then on, the netbook will boot from there
  • After Windows 7 is done installing, install the drivers and if you allowed automatic updates, you will have plenty of those to keep you busy

The End – hope this approach works for you as well!


Life Beyond Facebook

FB2 Electric Boogaloo
Odd… there have been several other posts I’ve contemplated, but I finally get around to typing something and it is about Facebook again. Again? Isn’t there something beyond Facebook? Hmm, ironically, that is why this post came about.

Social Network Blues
I pulled out of several networks. Let’s face it, maintaining a network takes time and energy, and those things are at a premium in this over-boiled rat race of a life our species has created for itself (and we call ourselves “advanced”? hee hee, that’s cuuuuute *pinches the cheeks of humanity*).  So I did what any self-aware bachelor not wanting to become an unsuspecting parent would do: I pulled out.

Now What?
Who knows, really.  But, like every busy person on this little blue ball, I want to put my finite amount of time where it is best utilized, while still having some time for fun and maybe even a little slice of time to be socially responsible. This means only using tools that DON’T waste my time. But what does the word “waste” mean in this context, really?

Thinking about Social Network Waste
Is it like nuclear waste? If so, can we clean it up in about 15 seconds using one of of those radioactive picker-uppers from the latest Die Hard movie? (no lie, they cleaned up 20 years of “pooled” radioactivity in about 3 minutes with that thing — better than a Shark vacuum! No wait, Shark vacuums have one advantage: they are REAL). Where was I? Oh yeah, social network waste (SNW)… there are many forms of SNW, but since this is my first time thinking about it, I am not 100% sure I know what I am talking about.  So let’s take Scrapples, the Social Networking Puppy, out for a walk and after he does some of his “business” we can send it to the lab and get a proper waste analysis.

Lab Report
Well, I took Scrapples out, and for a 15 pound dog, I was impressed with the 2,574 pound turd he left on the lawn:

  • Churn vs Substance: This was the most ambiguous category because 1 person’s churn is another person’s substance, but it would be nice if my social network only contained information I was interested in…not just the people I want to hear from.  And turnaround is fair play – when I broadcast a message, I just want it broadcast to people who want that TYPE of message.
  • Security vs Features: I don’t want to see Farmville crap, OK? Any application that says it needs permission to scrape my contacts or behave with a power of attorney is not an application I need or want.
  • Convoluted UI: User Interfaces that hide the stuff I want to use, or are difficult to use…. can get out of my way.
  • Users as Products: Positioning advertisements all over the place just annoys me.  I would like the option to pay a subscription and forego the advertisements.
  • Reusable Information: When I am ready to share… this is the world-wide web, I want to post information once, then have it distributed to where my friends/subscribers are and THEN have it filtered so only people who want to see that information are bothered with it.  And this is like a social-web concept (thanks TED… oh wait, I AM Ted. Muhahah. Thanks, me! :-D) – I don’t want to have 20 accounts on 20 networks.  1 post should hit all 20 using interwebz magic and be done! (Pangea was one such venture, dunno if it ever got out of diapers and started walking or not – but I don’t see it out there)
  • My Information: Is mine. My posts are mine. My content is mine.  Not Facebook’s, Not Google’s.
  • My Identity: Don’t waste my time trying to sharing details about who I am – who I am is MY business.  And don’t interfere with what name I want to use (arg, FB, arg Google+) – on the web I am TheRage3K. Effing deal with it, or get out of my way.
  • Troll-Meter: Don’t like trolls? Fine – give every recipient the right to rate a response as a troll response.  Enough of those, and they have a little troll icon next to their posts, or something, so people know the trolls. Hi trolls!! We love to hate you *troll face*
  • Content Sharing: Some sites are working on this, maybe they do it better, but when I share, I need to pick the audience, from a few key people, to a “circle” to multiple groups to the whole “three double-u”.

Is There a Happy Place?
I don’t know if I can find a place that let’s me feed Scrapples a healthy diet and regulate his by-product production.  I did find this post on some different options (Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace,Bebo, Habbo,Tagged, Tumblr,Four Square, Diaspora, Path, Zurker and Harnu).  I had another link, but I need to track it down again: it also included previous sites all the way brack to Friendster. Ah here is that link! I don’t know which of these networks caters to what I am looking for at the moment, or if any of them do; however, when I do land somewhere, I will let everyone know.  I can’t stay disconnected forever (darn)!