Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Hump Day Humor:

Geeks use lots of TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms).  But one of my favorites is the four-letter acronym RTFM.  A useful response to a question asked by a person too lazy to crack open a book and find the answer themselves.  In other words, Read The F***ing Manual!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Let Me Google That For You

Can't begin to count the times I've been asked a question, turned around to my keyboard and did a Google search for the answer.  Maybe it's my reputation as the world's best, highly paid, administrative assistant.

The web site "" can add some levity to the process.  Just let the person know that you will email the answer to them, then use the web site to create a link that will do the needed Google search. Email that link and when they click on it they'll get the answer .... and just maybe, the real point you're making.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Heart of the Arctic

This web site is a fun game and an education on the history of the Arctic.  It also demonstrates the power of HTML5 including animation, video and audio.  I suggest using a modern web browser (i.e. Chrome or Firefox) to play it.  Took me almost a half-hour to find all 56 collectibles and 4 badges, including reading all the history and watching the short videos.

HDMI-to-VGA Cable

If you have a newer laptop, you very well might not have the VGA (Video Graphics Array) connection that most projectors require in your typical office conference room.  The solution is this $10 HDMI-to-VGA adapter, available at Amazon and other online retailers.  But check your laptop carefully to find out exactly the type of A/V (Audio/Video) output it has.  Besides HDMI there is DisplayPort, Mini-DisplayPort, Thunderbolt and others.  But somebody will make an adapter to get you back to VGA.

No Voicemail at Coca-Cola

It's about time we're seeing stories like this hit the headlines.  Coca-Cola has eliminated voicemail for most of their employees, with only 6% who claimed a "critical business need" allowed to keep it.  I remember the old times when after every meeting people would rush back to their offices to check their voice messages.  That slowly faded away, replaced by checking email, then checking email on their smart-phones, and now, checking their text messages.  Maybe next is checking text messages on their smart-watches.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Google Cardboard

Next up on my list of low-cost ($20-$25) fun technology toys to purchase is Google Cardboard, which together with a smart-phone enables a 3D virtual reality experience.  I'm most interested in trying it with Google Street View, immersively exploring strange new lands.  Sort of a couch version of Lewis and Clark.

It sort of reminds me of the View-Master I played with as a kid, just with more content.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oakwood Club

There's a lot to love about The Oakwood Club.  Excellent steaks, a great wine list with small markups and marvelous bartenders.  My personal favorite is their liver and onions (I hear you groaning).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

eBooks and AudioBooks

I remember, oh so long ago, the excitement of getting my first library card.  So many books, so little time.   But my leisure reading decreased over the years and I fell out of the habit of visiting and exploring the library.  That's going to change now that I've found I can electronically "checkout" eBooks and AudioBooks from the Dayton Metro Library on my iPad with the OverDrive app, which is available for iOS, Android, Mac, Chrome, Windows and others shown below.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Hump Day Humor:

There are a variety of terms used across different industries to describe an error caused by a person. This one is one of my favorites for Information Technology.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


My new HTC One (M8) smartphone supports the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the first of my devices (some say too many devices) to do so.  So when did "ac" come after "n" (i.e. 802.11n)?  What did I miss?

First things first.  802.11ac will get you about double the network performance of what 802.11n delivers, and as the "Wave 2" products get delivered in 2015 with more channels, spatial streams, etc., even more speed.  As the number of devices in your house or office multiply, or your thirst for 4K video (aka Ultra HD) increases, 802.11ac in your wireless device, and your wireless router, will become attractive.

So what happened to all the letters after "n" and why was "ac" next up?  "o" through "z", "aa" and "ab" are mostly amendments, revisions, different frequencies or not used to avoid confusion with other standards.  And the industry is now up to "ax", currently in early development.

I feel the need.  The need for speed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

HTML5 Test

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is the standard language used to create Web pages. The latest version, HTML5, adds features for audio, video, graphics and more to support a wider range of web applications that can run across different devices.  The HTML5TEST web site will score your browser's support of the various HTML5 features.  None are perfect, but of the major browsers Chrome rates the highest and Internet Explorer the lowest.  Not surprising given the profit motives of each company.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Whiskey Wedge

Keeping one's perfect manhattan cold, but not watered down, just got a lot easier in my house.  Enter the Whiskey Wedge.  Fit its plastic mold on the provided tumbler, fill with water and freeze.  The result in a diagonally-shaped wedge of ice, perfect for a slow melt and keeping your beverage cold.

Who thinks of these things?  I want their job.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Paul's Manhattan Recipe

Here's my take on the traditional Manhattan recipe.  The use of Cherry Bitters instead of Maraschino Cherries is the major difference, one I began a couple years ago to avoid the sticky finger mess while retaining the flavor.  Crown Royal is my favorite Manhattan whiskey, but Canadian Club makes some aged varieties that are near as good and several dollars cheaper.

Two Shakes of Angostura Bitters
Two Shakes of Cherry Bitters
2.5 oz. Martini Sweet Vermouth
5.0 oz. Crown Royal Whiskey

Add an easy chair and a box of remote controls, then enjoy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Tons of free magazines are available on the Issuu web site or iOS and Android apps, titles like Dayton Magazine, or the 1977 issue of Daytonian, the University of Dayton's College yearbook.  That one is a blast from the past.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Disk Inventory X

Mac Only:

I've used the free (I love free) WinDirStat utility on Windows PCs to find which files on my disk are taking up lots of space, making a periodic cleanup much easier.

Disk Inventory X provides the same experience on a Mac.  As shown in the graphic below, the larger the file, the larger its rectangle, so clicking on the gold one at the top left reveals that my iPhoto Library is the biggest file.  Time to move that one to my external 2TB hard drive.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Searching For Free

Wikipedia contains a nice entry on free (I love free) software, arranged into dozens of categories such as Anti-Virus, Backup and 3D Graphics and Television Software.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gorilla Glass 4

Enjoy that feeling when you're smart-phone is headed towards the concrete?  I thought not.  The folks at Corning have been working on that and yesterday announced Gorilla Glass 4 which survives 80% of these OMG moments.

Check out more detail at their web site, and be sure to watch the gorilla videos.  Really cute.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stylish Wireless Speaker

The most recent addition to my home's audio technology is this stylish wireless speaker. You can attached any device having a 3.5mm output jack to either the speaker or the transmitter, which can be separated by as much as 150 feet, perfect for reaching the backyard.  And it's much louder than I expected, good for hearing music or a football game over the bubbling jets of the hot tub.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nano Timer PLUS

iOS Only:

Simple and large, quite often the key to a perfect app.  Nano Timer Plus is both.  It simply displays a countdown timer in minutes until the last minute, when it displays seconds.  The outer circle counts down the seconds within each minute, starting in green, changing to yellow with a few minutes remaining and finally changes to red as time is running out.

A great companion app if you're making a presentation, teaching a class or measuring a time-out moment.  There's a free (I love free) version, but I opted for the $0.99 version for its extra features.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Switching Email Services

I changed from Time Warner's Road Runner email many years ago.  That was a painful, but short-term, process of notifying family, friends and websites of my new Gmail address.  But there were, and still are, three main reasons driving me to change.

  1. I knew that the day would come when I no longer used Time Warner in western Ohio.  My Road Runner email's domain name was  The "woh" is the western Ohio part, so even if I stayed with Time Warner after moving to some warmer climate, I would have to change email addresses.  Changing sooner than later was much less work.
  2. Road Runner is OK (that's generous) when accessed from a web browser, but its mobile support is horrible.  If you delete a message from your smart-phone, it doesn't get deleted from the Road Runner server, so when you go back to a web browser, those emails are still there and must be deleted again.  This is due to Road Runner only supporting the old, old POP3 protocol and not the newer IMAP protocol.
  3. Time Warner is not in the email business.  
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are heavily invested in email and regularly role out improvements. Using one of these solves all the above.  So don't wait until your moving day to switch.  That's enough work and stress by itself.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Linux Mint

If you have an old PC running WindowsXP, which hasn't been getting security updates now for 223 days, you might want to consider installing some variety of Linux, and a good choice would be Linux Mint.  I blew away Windows on an old laptop over the weekend with Mint, then loaded my favorite web browser, Google Chrome, and LibreOffice, a free (I love free) alternative to Microsoft Office.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Finding Free Software

If you've read this blog for awhile, you probably know "I love free".  There is a ton of software available at no cost, but finding it can be a challenge.  Searching using the word "free" usually ends up with software that is a free download, but costs money to use it after a short trial period.

I've found that if you start your search with the words "open source" you're far more likely to find the real free options.  Open source refers to software where the underlying source code is freely available and its licensing allows free use, both personally and commercially.  The open source software I use on a frequent basis includes:

  • OpenOffice (instead of Microsoft Office)
  • Firefox (instead of Internet Explorer)
  • Audacity (for audio editing)
  • Handbrake (for DVD ripping)
  • 7-Zip (instead of WinZip)
  • PDFCreator (instead of Adobe Acrobat)
  • Project Libre (instead of Microsoft Project)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Low-Profile USB Flash Drive

I upgraded my car stereo a couple years ago and gained a USB port.  I tried using a normal 2-inch long flash drive, but it sticking out that far wasn't all that visually pleasing.  The much better solution was a low-profile version, which is barely visible, protruding out only about 1/4-inch.  My 16GB version, less than $10, holds about 150 hours of music, enough to handle a Forest-Gump-eon drive from Boston to Seattle, back to Boston and back to Seattle.

One watch out is to check your stereo's USB support.  Mine only supported USB 1.2/2.0 and a USB 3.0 drive didn't work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Goodwill Computer Recycling

Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley will recycle your old computer for free.  Just drop it off at one of their stores or donation centers.

Before you do, you should wipe all your data off the hard drive using a tool such as KillDisk (, which is free (I love free).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Increase Text Size

I've used text messaging for years and always reach for my reading glasses, a small source of irritation, never once thinking that I could simply make the messages larger by increasing the font size.  Until I saw large letters on someone else's phone.  Dope!  Homer Simpson moment.

My Android phone allows me to change just the font size for the Messaging app, which is all I really want.  iOS devices can also increase their font size, but it applies across email and some other apps, which I wouldn't care for.

The procedure for changing font size varies by device, so best to Google it or just explore your phone to find it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cree 4-Flow LED Bulbs

I've changed out almost all my older CFL light bulbs for Cree LED bulbs already and really like the whiter light they produce, that they're dimmable and that they'll probably outlast the remaining time I have on the top side of the planet.  Now Cree has announced their next-gen version, the "4-Flow" at about 2/3rds the previous cost.  Available at Home Depot online now and at stores this month.

Monday, November 3, 2014

AirDrop Between Macs

Over the weekend I needed to copy a couple files from my Macbook Air to my Mac Mini.  Instead of the old flash drive shuffle, I used the new AirDrop support in OS X 10.10 (aka Yosemite) to transfer them over WiFi.  Next up is trying to move files to my iPads using AirDrop.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Outlook RSS Feeds

It's nice that people publish all sorts of information, but constantly checking a web site to see if there's new stuff is horribly inefficient and further clogging up an already overworked email inbox with new notifications doesn't work for me.  The solution I've landed on is adding an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to my Outlook for those things I want to follow closely.  They appear as sub-folders, just like "Sent Mail" and "Deleted Items", keeping that information stream together and apart.

This is particularly useful for team spaces such as SharePoint, allowing you to see when new documents are available, regardless of what area of the SharePoint it was added to.  You can also add this blog to Outlook using its feed link

Microsoft's directions can be found at this link.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Where There's A Will

Warning: This is really, really geeky

A couple months back I was trying to figure out why smart-phones couldn't setup new email accounts.  A problem with smart-phones and tablets is you can't see what's really going on under the covers like you can with PC's and Mac's.  After some trial and error, I ended up with the following setup.

  • I logged on to my home Mac using Chrome Remote Desktop from my Windows work desktop
  • I installed the Bluestacks Android emulator on the Mac
  • I installed the 30-day free trial of the Touchdown email app under Bluestacks
  • I ran the Wireshark packet capture program on the Mac
  • I tried to setup a new email account in Touchdown
  • I analyzed the Wireshark packet capture to see what was failing, gaining the needed insight
This is what a good day at work looks like.

Chrome Remote Desktop >
Bluestacks >
Wireshark >
Touchdown >

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

View Office Documents Online

Microsoft provides a free (I love free) tool that displays Word, Excel or PowerPoint files inside your web browser.  If you're a web developer, you can provide a link as an alternative to your customer downloading a document.  

But being a Mac user who refuses to shell out two Benjamins for Office at home, I can view documents with the full fidelity only Microsoft manages, and then download them as PDFs if necessary.  The formatting and layout in Word documents is maintained, Excel workbooks can be filtered and sorted, and animations play in PowerPoints.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Epicurious is my go-to app (iOS and Android) to find something different for dinner.  Maybe some "Stuffing Hash with Fried Eggs and Arugula" or "Thai Beef with Basil"?  

Gotta go.  Getting hungry.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bug Fix

Do you have bugs, spiders, moths or other creepy crawlers invading your house at this time of year? Yeah, me too.  My current, no-frills solution to bag these creatures is an old flyswatter with a piece of folded packing tape stuck to it.  Capture the uninvited house guests with a light press for no mess. And the length of the flyswatter lets me easily reach the ceilings.

Friday, October 24, 2014

iOS 8 Upgrade Space

iOS Only:

Have you seen this message when trying to upgrade to iOS 8 on your iPhone or iPad?  Have you just decided not to upgrade because you don't want to give up gigabytes of storage on your device?


You don't lose any storage permanently (well, probably a little, but nothing to worry about).  It just needs this for the update process and then you get it back.  So remove a movie or two, do the update and load the movies back.  But this only applies to doing the update when it's not physically attached to iTunes on your Mac or PC.  When you cable it up, the upgrade requires much less.  You have choices.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Android 5.0, aka Lollipop

Android Only:

I may not see the latest Android software on my HTC One for several months, but like every release so far Android 5.0, now officially called Lollipop, is packed with exciting improvements.  For me, the better battery life and Android Smart Lock, an optional feature that, for example, can automatically unlock your phone when paired with your car's bluetooth stereo, appear my early favorites .  The waiting begins.....

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Microsoft Project is a great tool, but what if someone sends you a Project file (e.g. .mpp) and you don't have the software to view it?  Unlike Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Visio, Microsoft does not provide a free viewer.  Well, you could nicely ask to the sender to resend it as a PDF or XLS file. Or you could use the free (I love free) Project Libre software and open it yourself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Office Online

Microsoft has free (I love free), web-delivered versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint as part of their Office Online service.  Files can be uploaded to Microsoft OneDrive (previously SkyDrive), then opened and saved there.  OneDrive comes with 15GB of storage free.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Carillon Brewing Company

Dayton is really hopping (pun intended) with the recent opening of The Carillon Brewing Company, located at Carillon Park.  They're almost ready to serve up their own craft beers, with some favorites from Deschutes, Goose Island and a few others flowing now.  The food is delicious, with several German-style items being my favorites.  The large, two-story building with outdoor seating looks like it came out of the 1800's, complete with the staff wearing period clothing.  Two thumbs up!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Android to Chromebook Via USB

Chromebook and Android Users Only:

The latest stable release of Chrome OS includes read-only USB-attached file access via MTP (Media Transfer Protocol).  Look for your Android device to show up in the Files app on your Chromebook. I launched a movie directly from my phone, then later copied the file to the downloads directory on the Chromebook.

This combination allows me load several movies on my HTC One, which has a large 32GB micro SD card, and play them on the larger screen of the Chromebook.  This just might replace using my iPad to watch movies on airplanes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Encryption Demonstrated

Encryption is a highly effective way of keeping your information private. The gibberish below started off as the text of The Ten Commandments, then rendered indecipherable by an encryption algorithm. Unless you know the secret key. Then it's easy to reverse the process.


To demonstrate how a small change to the input completely changes the encrypted output, I removed one period from the text and generated the cyphertext again using the same secret key.   Notice how very different it is from the one above. This is a key attribute of a good encryption algorithm.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Roku Screen Mirroring

Android 4.4.2 and higher only:

Roku recently introduced screen mirroring on the Roku 3 and their Streaming Stick.  It's still listed as being in beta and my experience, which included choppy video and audio playback, they have some work to do.

The photo below was taken from my Android phone's camera taking a picture of my big screen TV which was displaying what was on my phone's screen, resulting in the recursive, infinite mirror effect.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Herding Cats

Hump Day Humor:

EDS's 2000 Super Bowl commercial about herding cats is one of the all-time best.  Never gets old. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Noise Isolating Earphones

I purchased a pair of Monoprice's Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi Noise Isolating Earphones for $6.02 on special last month (a $2 saving), which included free shipping (I love free, particularly shipping).  I used them with my iPad while watching Spiderman 2 on flights between Cincinnati and Hartford last week, and was totally impressed with the fit, audio quality and lack of tangling.  What's even better is I can tell the left from the right without using my reading glasses.  

I thinking stocking stuffer here.  Ho ho ho!

Monday, October 6, 2014

General Fusion

Fusion produces usable energy by combining atoms and harvesting the little extra left over.  General Fusion, a Canadian company, is working to bring a full scale, demonstrable fusion system to life. Could this be the answer to abundant, clean energy, or another failed attempt to mimic the Sun's source of power?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Matchstick Streaming Stick

I have a Roku 3, three AppleTV's and a Chromecast, so (of course) I had to back a new Kickstarter project that's delivering a streaming stick built on Firefox OS, with the hope that an open source version will eventually lead to new and exciting capabilities.

And it's only $18 (I also love cheap).

This project blasted through its funding goal in just a day.  I think they're a little surprised.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Windows 10

Microsoft jumps from Windows 8 to Windows 10 at today's unveiling.  Windows 7, we hardly know you.

Paper Flowers

iOS/Mac Only:

This free eBook shows you how to create flowers from paper or fabric.  It's located in the Crafts & Hobbies drop down of the Lifestyle & Home section in the iTunes bookstore, one of over a hundred different titles, some free, some not.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Cleaning your outdoor grill can be a greasy mess.  That's why we need robots like this grillbot.

Make a great Christmas gift.  Just saying.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Liquid Light

Far Out Friday:

Liquid Light has technology that makes useful chemicals from carbon dioxide (CO2).  Their first process is for the production of ethylene glycol, which is used to make products such as plastic bottles, antifreeze and polyester.

So we can clean up the environment and make useful stuff.  Truly far out!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Auberge du Soleil

Hands down the best dinner and dining experience I've ever had was at Auberge du Soleil, located part way up a mountain road off the Silverado Trail in Rutherford, California (i.e. Napa Valley). Sitting outside on a warm evening, facing the setting sun, a bottle of red wine and a delicious dinner. Simply doesn't get any better.