Book me a flight to Japan, quick!

Squirrel Gardens.

What more do I need to say?

How awesome is that?

Abe Lincoln, My Little Pony

The things a father draws for his daughter…

“What if Abraham Lincoln was a My Little Pony?”

lincoln_pony

Cutest Thing of the Week

(I may need to change tons of WordPress settings so I can embed YouTube videos and tweets around here. In the meantime, click on that link. NOW your day is complete.)

Two Spaces After a Sentence. It’s Really OK, People…

The topic of spacing after a period (or “full stop” in some parts of the world) has received a lot of attention in recent years. The vitriol that the single-space camp has toward the double-spacers these days is quite amazing, and typographers have made up an entire fake history to justify their position. [...]

Unfortunately, this whole story is a fairy tale, made up by typographers to make themselves feel like they are correct in some absolute way. The account is riddled with historical fabrication. Here are some facts…

Such a good read ripping apart the modern notion that using two spaces at the end of a sentence is wrong. And he backs it up with a ridiculous amount of proof and history

My New Computer Programming Blog

If you go to VariousAndSundry.com/cs, you’ll find my new blog. Spinning off from this one, it’s for all the computer programming things I want to talk about. That’ll be mostly Ruby, with some Perl, iOS/Objective-C, and whatever else strikes my fancy. (Elixir? Go?)

Could Apple Save Glucometers?

Reading this article (it’s from 2012) is as frustrating today as it must have been to write back then. What’s changed in the glucometer industry since that was written? Absolutely nothing.

But the author makes an interesting point, and it made me put a random two together with another random two to create a piece of wild speculation that would be cool if it actually happened. Follow along:

A point in the article is that syncing your glucometer up to your computer, let alone your iPhone, is a ridiculous process. At best, you can buy a special wire to hook up the two, whose standards are not open. So you’re forced to use the manufacturer’s piss poor software. And you’re still connecting a cord. People don’t want to do that with their phones, let alone their glucometers.

We have wireless technology today. Bluetooth standards have only gotten better over the years. Recent upgrades mean Bluetooth chips use a miniscule amount of power. They won’t drain the batteries of glucometers anymore. It’s bad enough we’re stuck on oddly-shaped black and white 8-bit screens, but why can’t we get the data off the glucometer without writing it down or manually re-typing all the results into the computer? The data has already been entered. Why does that effort need to be duplicated? I’d rather get a half hour more exercise each week than spend time in front of an Excel spreadsheet or web site’s form to enter all those numbers in.

I know this sounds like a classic First World Problem, but it’s the reality of the situation. It’s how Apple has become such a huge company, by removing the little obstacles that technology presents to getting things done that matter in every day life. Why can’t the diabetes world have a savior like that?

What if it IS Apple, though?

From a recent 9to5Mac.com report:

Apple has also hired several experts in the field of non-invasive blood monitoring sensors from C8 MediSensors. This firm is a company that became defunct in February of this year, according to its former CTO Rudy Hofmeister (who departed the company in late 2012).

The company’s technology provides a non-invasive way to measure substances in the human body such as glucose levels. [...]

During a phone call, the former CTO told us that the company broke down because the glucose-level-analysis technology was facing issues surrounding the consistency of data readings. When the company dissolved, Apple moved aggressively to hire several C8 MediSensors directors and engineers, including designers and scientists that specialize in machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence that focuses on interpreting forms of data), Hofmeister said.

Could an iWatch have a blood sugar reader incorporated into it? While I would love that idea, I’m not sure it’s feasible just yet. It would be the ultimate solution, particularly if it kept a constant read of your levels, even if only every 15 minutes. But what if there’s a middle ground here?

One Touch Test Strips for diabetes

What if those two were hired for their connections with the diabetes industry? What if their job is to schmooze key players in the diabetes world to add Bluetooth to their Glucometers so that they could sync up with iPhones directly, or indirectly through an iWatch? Wouldn’t a company like LifeScan love to be featured at the iWatch roll-out as having a new glucometer that ties in with this “stunning” new device?

Maybe.

It would be cool, and it would certainly be less impossible sounding than an actual watch that read blood sugar magically through the skin.

Just a theory.

P.S. My glucometer’s time stamp doesn’t automatically change for Daylight Savings Time. I’m a professional computer programmer, and I have not been able to figure out how to change it manually. I think if I pulled out the battery, everything would reset so I would have to reset the time. But then I’d lose my history of readings. That’s an awful user experience.

Wanted: More Ruby Podcasts

I made a comment on Twitter last night which was impossible to defend in 140 character installments. So let’s unpack it here today.

I wondered if the Ruby Rogues podcast hadn’t ‘cornered’ the market on Ruby podcasting. Not that they drove everyone else out or that everyone is afraid or them or anything negative like that. There’s just no “competition.” (Another qualifier: Additional podcasts wouldn’t necessarily be competition. It’s not a zero sum game.)

I love the Rogues podcast and went back and listened to every episode of interest after I found the show (and some on topics I didn’t much care about). It’s a weekly fixture in my podcast listening.

But I want more. I want to listen to more people talking about Ruby. So I scour the iTunes store and find — very little else. The other mainstay of my podcast listening routine is Giant Robots Smashing Other Giant Robots via Ben Orenstein and Thoughbot. It’s a weekly shorter show devoted to Ruby and Ruby-esque topics. There’s the usual parade of guests, a variety of topics, and occasional mirth and hilarity.

After that? Not much. Ruby5 is still going, with two five minute Ruby news updates per week. Other Ruby shows have podfaded away. It sometimes seems like the glory days of Ruby podcasting might have been five years ago. Even then, it wasn’t all that huge a market.

So why aren’t there more?

I know the Ruby market isn’t THAT big, but there’s room for more podcasts with a variety of angles and personalities, I should think. I compare it to the Apple/iOS podcasting market, which is practically flooded. Putting aside the more general interest tech shows that glance across programming and development for a moment (like Mac Break Weekly or The Prompt or Amplified), you have developer-led shows like Developing Perspective (done by a former Ruby on Rails developer), Edge Cases, Core Intuition (one of whom does some Rails work), Identical Cousins, Accidental Tech Podcast (a more general interest tech podcast, but it gets back to development often enough that I’ll count it here), Debug, Systematic (that might be stretching it a bit), and probably one or two others I’m forgetting at the moment.

Where are THOSE shows for Ruby programmers? Where’s the solo Ruby programmer-led development podcast? Or where’s the show with the two friends discussing their Ruby projects and programming, in general? Where’s the show interviewing Ruby programmers about their history with the language and their views on computers and programming, in general?

It might just be a difference in cultures. iOS developers are often product developers working independently creating stuff they hope to sell directly to consumers. Ruby programmers tend to be consultants who develop other people’s websites, often the kind we’ll never see or care about. They might be company intranets. They might be under an NDA. And, well, websites aren’t as sexy to talk about as GPS-enables smartphones with database access, 3D animation built in, touch interfaces, etc. etc.

iOS developers have new hardware to play with and a new API to use every year. They have a consumer-facing product to sell. Ruby is on version 2. Ruby on Rails is on version 4, nearly a decade later. The big changes aren’t as numerous to provide a constant flow of show topics, nor are they terribly exciting or noticeable to front-end users. And discussing code on a podcast is often the least effective way to deliver the information. Screencasts or blog posts are far more effective.

Maybe what I want is impossible to effectively deliver? Or maybe what I want isn’t really what I want?

What I want is more fun programming discussion centered on Ruby that I can listen to in my drive back and forth to work. If I learn something, all the better. I wish I had time to do it myself, but even my days as a solo podcaster are behind me due to time constraints.

I guess I’m hoping that someone is inspired by other podcasts to create a new one for the Ruby community to enjoy. There are a lot more models than the panel show. Maybe I’ve given someone some ideas here. I’d listen.

Enter

The first programming I ever did was on the family’s Commodore 64, typing in programs from the pages of “Enter” magazine. I recently came across two or three issues that survived that era, plus a folder full of pages I had ripped out to save for whatever reason. I might be scanning those in to show off here. This stuff is golden for programmers of my age, I imagine. There’s a lot of memories to come flooding back from these pages.

Enter Magazine with Sting from Dune, December 1984

Sorry, Pepsi

I love Diet Pepsi. And this summer, they have a contest going where you can collect codes under bottle caps and redeem them for chances at prizes on their website. So i went to the website to register. I logged in via Facebook, but they still needed all my information and a new password. Not sure what the point of Facebook then was, but I’ll live.

The form had a captcha, though. And everytime you failed the captcha, you had to fill out a new one AND re-enter your intended password (8 character minimum) twice. I started taking screengrabs after I failed the first half dozen times. This system of captchas is broken.

Please note that Pepsi doesn’t give you the option of choosing lowercase characters. Maybe THAT’S the problem?

captcha1

captcha2

Google Reader Update

I haven’t found one that’ll work in IE8, which is what I’m stuck with at work.

I haven’t tried Feed Wrangler yet, mostly because it would cost me $24 to try it and I kind of doubt it’ll work on IE8, too.

So, maybe I’ll be going cold turkey on reading the news starting Monday.

Sad

Google Reader dies next week

The Voice Semi-Finals Results

The judges have run out of interesting things to say by now. They’re just repeating themselves, and the honesty is long gone. Also, we can drop Shakira. She seems nice enough, but she never says anything interesting. Aguilera can be annoying at times, but at least she adds something to the show.

Sasha’s Whitney song wasn’t nearly as good as the judges hyped it up to be. And the second song — well, Judith Hill lost when she decided to be a techno dance music singer instead of the power balladeer diva everyone wanted her to be. Sasha didn’t learn that lesson.

Amber’s version of “Sad” was amazing, but nothing that would ever get her votes. And “Firework” was painful for the first 3/4ers. That’s NOT a song that anyone should ever do in a singing competition without a major rewrite of it.

Danielle and The Swon Brothers gave their voters more of what they like. Ditto Michelle Chamuel. They go through to the finale. Who wins? Michelle has a chance with the inevitable vote splitting amongst the country fans. But the country fans LOVE to support their people. I think Danielle has the best chance to win it.

Can we please now stop with these group singalongs? They’re awful. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” could have been awesome if just Sasha sang it. Maybe Michelle could have pulled it off as a solo. The Swon Brothers might have been an interesting country version of it. But having them all trade off lines meant the song never went anywhere. Just when you had a clear direction and a strong voice (usually on Sasha’s line), it immediately got reeled back in so someone else could have their turn, or so that the group would sound in harmony. It was painful. And it’s just as bad on Idol.

Oh, and the returning contestants who have EPs ready to go soon because the world moves too fast to wait for a full record and The Voice’s season ends soon as does their window for best publicity? They all need to learn how to write better bridges, because all their songs sounded the same for those three to four minutes. Very little variations or breakout moments in there. I liked Adam’s guy (Tony Lucca) the best.

Power Mac G5 Unboxing

Stumbled across this and felt the need to post it on the eve of WWDC 2013.

powermac_unboxing_vands

This is from my first Apple computer purchase/unboxing. Pictured are the Power Mac G5 box, extra RAM from Crucial, and an OS X “Missing Manual” book I bought at Amazon. This picture is from September 2004.

These days, I’m on a 27″ iMac. That PowerMac was replaced a couple of Christmases ago, though it’s still on the floor underneath my desk.

My iWatch Prediction/Guess

The tech industry is a funny place. It reads the rumor sites to see what Apple might do next, and then attempts to beat Apple to the punch. The latest case of this is the iWatch. While Tim Cook just recently hinted towards a wearable computing device, Apple hasn’t otherwise said a thing about making a watch. Or a necklace, for that matter. This is all hype fueled by rumor sites and random guesses from analysts. (Gene Munster is still convinced that an Apple TV set is just around the corner. That’s based on, uhm, any random thing he can read into what anyone even loosely connected to Apple might say or hint at.)

I’m not saying that Apple isn’t working on a watch of some sort, but I highly doubt it’ll be the standard watch you’re all thinking of. Watches have two immediate problems that Apple would have to work around:

They’re fashionable and they’re waterproof.

iPods and iPhones are notoriously not waterproof. They have exposed ports for recharging and for headphones. And then they have little sticker inside there to tell when water has hit them, voiding the warrantee. Would an iWatch run on batteries. No, of course not. It would need to be recharged somehow without a hole in it. Does that mean Apple might finally get into the game of making a wireless charger? One of the Android phones has that now, where you just place it on a pad of some sort and the thing magically charges. It’s possible Apple could do that, using the iWatch as a test case for such technology before rolling it out on a grander scale to the iPod Touch and the iPhones. iPads require so much charge that I think they’d be the last to use such technology. Plus, there’d likely be a revolt from people who use third party add-ons that utilize the port. On the other hand, Apple just switched out the old 30 pin adaptor for the Thunderbolt adaptor. So it’s not like they haven’t shown they can do that.

A phone doesn’t need a headphone jack, so that’s not a problem. But is the technology there for the touch screens to be waterproof?

Second is the fashion thing. Current styles go chunky large for men, and smaller for women. The problem isn’t just a pipeline and fashion thing, but a whole user input thing. Unless the whole thing is run by voice control, the watch will need a display most likely larger than what a woman’s watch would normally be. I don’t see Apple disrupting the fashion world in that way.

All of this leads to my theory of what an iWatch is: An iPhone accessory. It’s a bracelet that you wear on your wrist with a bunch of sensors in it that communicates automatically with your iPhone. At best, it has a small one-line digital display of the time on it somewhere. You could make it in black and white. You could make it in a few different lengths to accomodate different wrist sizes. But inside, it has a GPS chip and an accelerometer and who knows what else?

The secret to the product isn’t the hardware, but rather in what software Apple comes up with to utilize the “iWatch.” It has to do more than just what the current market for pedometers and health checkers offer. Maybe that small display (underneath an extra layer of something that’s clear and water protectant) tells you who’s calling before you pull the phone out of your pocket. Maybe swiping your finger along it turns the volume up and down on your iPhone that’s currently playing your favorite song.

And it charges wirelessly, but requires so little power that it easily lasts the whole day and recharges while you sleep. That’ll be the trick. This watch will be an eighth the size of an iPhone, yet still contain sensors and a memory chip. There’s not that much room in such a device for a battery. Keeping it powered will be a trick. But the lack of a display — or a small one, at most — will be a big help.

That’s my guess. In a few months, I may be proven wrong. Or, I’ll stand by my earlier prediction: This is all a fake-out from Apple to keep the competition busy in R&D making a product for a market that won’t be interested in it.

Looking Back on VR.5

“VR.5″ was my introduction to the internet, in some ways. It debuted in the spring of my freshman year in college, where I had internet access for the first time. It wasn’t my first time on-line, having been on local BBSes and Q-Link before then. Q-Link was a Commodore on-line service that would later become AOL.

In any case, I loved the show when it aired, even if critical response wasn’t initially great and the ratings — being a Friday night FOX show — never took off. Only “X-Files” ever survived that time slot. The road is paved with the dead bodies of all the other shows they tried in there, including the wonderful Bruce Campbell vehicle, “The Adventures of Brisco Country Jr.”

But VR.5 became a cause for me at the time, and I met up with a group of people on-line who also liked the show. Together, we did what we could to try to save it. We wrote letters, organized on-line somethings-or-others, etc. We didn’t send ketchup packets or flowers or weird things to the network executives. That came later. This was at a time when the internet was new enough that not every show had such a campaign. We dubbed ourselves “The Virtual Storm” and I became the “Media Relations” guy for it, just because I had gotten a couple of emails or postcards back from the networks I had written to. A local newspaper even interviewed me for the campaign. It was fun.

The show has been off the air for nearly 20 years now. Sci-Fi aired the 13 episodes once — including 3 FOX never aired — and there was a VHS release for the series, but that’s been it.

They’re testing the waters, though. If you want to see VR.5 released, perhaps in an on-demand way, go over to Amazon and sign up for alerts from them for when the show is available. It’s a minor thing that might go nowhere, but what the heck? Doesn’t hurt to try. Or to click once.

This got me to wanting to listen to the soundtrack again. I was shocked to see it had never been imported into iTunes, which I didn’t have until a decade after the soundtrack came out and was my first CD purchase. Thankfully, I found the CD easily enough, in the same folder as I had stored my Babylon 5 soundtracks, which is likely a topic for another post on another day.

But here’s what I wanted to show you:

vr5_cds

Two discs. One soundtrack. The disc on the left is the one you could purchase in stores or, I guess, on-line. Was Music Boulevard around yet? Amazon? Probably not. So let’s just say you bought that one at Sam Goody’s.

The other one — on the right — I got from the VR.5 production company as they closed down their offices and cleaned things out. I had emailed with them a couple of times during the VR.5 campaign, and they offered to send me the disc. As I recall now, this was a copy they gave out to their staff or at a Christmas party or a wrap party or something. It’s labelled “For Promotional Use” only, so maybe it’s amongst a batch they created to send to whatever kind of reviewers would listen to this kind of thing? I don’t know.

I just think it’s cool, so it’s the one I imported.

Excuse me now while I go listen to Dee Carstensen’s “To Dance Again” and vividly remember the visuals from the series that went along with it. I can still picture the rain coming down and Lori Singer clearing off her desk and thrashing a computer in the process.

Oh, wait, it’s on YouTube. Here you have it. (Someday, I’ll learn how to embed YouTube videos in this blog again…)