Category Archives: Geek Stuff

I just wrote to my congressman

I just did something I have never done before. I wrote to my House Representative. Sure I have submitted online support forms before, but never have I taken the time to formulate my own message and ask a request for myself. You see there are evil people out there trying to destroy the very essence of what has made the Internet something that I very much care about. These bad people are out there trying to restrict online rights that embody creativity and communication. I am all for online security and being safe online but I am not for agencies like MPAA and RIAA controlling everything that we see and do and create online. There are some people standing up to stop these abuses in power. Here is what I wrote to my Congressman:

I would like to bring to your attention an issue that I strongly feel deserves your support. Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren of California, has introduced two bills to the U.S. House of Representatives designed to protect the free and open Internet. These bills purpose the expansion of protections granted in the Fourth Amendment to cover digital communications and protect against the introduction of any further SOPA-like bills. Specifically the bills are: ECPA 2.0 and the Global Free Internet Act. I would like to request that you consider working with Rep. Lofgren in support these initiatives.

Control an Apple TV with a Directv Remote

Well, not surprisingly, one of my kids lost the micro remote that comes with the Apple TV. I looked everywhere and just couldn’t find it. So I started looking online for options and remembered back in the day that I programmed a Harmony Remote to work with the Apple TV. I got it up and running and then found that I could program my default directv remote to work with it! I did have to look online and found the following steps worked best for me:

    1. On the Directv remote change to an unused AV spot (I used AV1)
    2. On the Directv remote hold Select & Mute until the AV light flashes twice
    3. On the Directv remote press the following numbers in order 9-6-3 and then press channel up
    4. On the Apple TV (you’ll need to do this with a remote already working on the Apple TV) go to Settings > General > Remotes.
    5. Choose Learn Remote.
    6. Apple TV will display icons that represent the six buttons on the Apple Remote with the “Up” or “+” button highlighted first. Like this:
    7. Using your Directv remote, press and hold the button you would like to use to control the “up” function until the blue progress bar is full, as shown below.
    8. Apple TV will then select the next button function. Repeat step 6 and 7 using a different button
    9. After you have programmed all six button functions, you can now use your Directv remote to control Apple TV.

    Optionally, you can set up specific playback buttons for fast-forward, rewind, next chapter, and more.

    Even if you don’t want to use this as the default remote for your Apple TV, I still encourage you to take the time to set it up as a backup.

Confessions of someone who is not an Apple Fan Boy

I am not one who is afraid to admit when I was wrong and boy was I wrong when it came to the iPad. When Apple released the iPad back in early 2010 I thought there was no way people would pay $500+ for what I equated to a glorified web browser with some apps, but that is exactly what people wanted. They wanted something fast, portable, and multifunctional and iPad gave them all of that. If you look what people do online (check out this infographic for more info)  it is video watching, social network visiting, chatting, news and blog reading, and playing games.What I feel I most overlooked was the fact that the iPad is so user friendly and  easy to use that it is virtually impossible to screw up, which is a huge win for Apple.

Now about the not being an apple fan boy thing, keep in mind that I worked on support desks for the first 8 years of my career, Apple was a curse word for most of that time. So for a long time I almost loathed Apple products, no sir I am no Apple fan boy. In fact, the only Apple product I directly own is an Apple TV, which I bought for the sole purpose of hacking and running Boxee & XBMC on it. That being said I have bought iPads for both my wife and my oldest son, plus I also bought my wife a Mac Book Pro, so I have clearly started accepting Apple products.

Nest – Unboxing and Install

I am a total gadget nut; friends and regular readers can attest to that. I love the whole concept of the automated and connected home. One of the home automation items I have been watching is the smart thermostat. Late last year I first heard of Nest and just knew it was exactly what I was looking for. Almost as soon as I had heard about it I signed up on their waiting list and just this week was notified that I could order mine. Tuesday I got the email, Tuesday I placed my order, and today (Thursday) I received and installed my Nest!  Here is the unboxing of my Nest as well as some shots of the install process and and finished installation.

Nest in the Box

I couldn’t wait to open my Nest! The packaging is sleek and very Apple-esque.

Nest components out of the box

So I didn’t really get a worthwhile picture of the HUGE Honeywell old school thermostat, but after removing it (well actually first I shut off the power at the breaker) I was left with the following blank spot on the wall.

The old thermostat removed and I was left with a blank space

So after a little sanding, plaster patching, and painting I had a nice clean slate to work with. First task was to install the Nest wall mount, which I must say is a simply amazing design.

Nest Wall Mount close up (don’t worry I went in and leveled it up right)

Once the wall mount was on it was time to add the Nest controller. Literally the Nest controller clicked into the base and it was time to switch the breakers back on. All in all in about 1 hour (due mainly to the time to sand, plaster, and paint), I had a running Nest thermostat:

First shot of the Nest booting up

The Nest is super easy to setup; all in all I was done with setup in 5 minutes. It is so cool to have a thermostat that connects to the Internet and starts to modify my heating and cooling based on my usage habits! Here are a few additional shots of the Nest running, including some shots of the Nest in the dark…

Final shot of the Nest installed and running
A view of the Nest at an angle
Nest settings screen in the dark
Nest temperature in the dark

Battlefield 3 versus Modern Warfare 3

Let me start this post about Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, two of the most popular first person shooters, with a few disclaimers. First off I am not a hardcore gamer (at least not any more). Second I am not one of those dudes who is gifted at first person shooters and is always at the tops of the leader boards when I play. Third, this review is completely based on my opinion, which means for someone my review is going to be totally wrong. Just so you know, I am totally OK with that.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way let me get into the games a little bit. I own both games on the Xbox 360. I know for many first person multi-player purists playing on a console is sacrilegious, but honestly I play for fun so deal with it. I got both games for the Xbox 360 because personally I find the multi-player the most enjoyable aspect of first person shooters and Xbox Live has like more players on its network than any of the others. Also, while I have played various first person shooter campaigns in the past, I never find them quite as enjoyable as multi-player. Se lets get to it….

VS 

Which game do I enjoy more? That is a tough one for me, but right now I need to give the edge to Battlefield 3. Whew, now that I got that out of the way let me explain why.

Things I love about Battlefield 3:

Game play is bad ass. Seriously it is a much more strategic and realistic feeling game than MW3. I really enjoy how much you can alter your play style while playing. You can zerg with shotguns, spam with rockets, sit back and snipe, play rogue or play with sophisticated team work.

Your actions determine your success much better in B3 than in MW3 in my opinion. It is much less about zerging to a certain kill streak to unlock some overpowered kill streak feature and more about strategically playing your character.

Things I don’t like about Battlefield 3:

Predictable spawn points suck. This is easily over come by good team work, but some of the predetermined spawning placements are too predictable and has led to some spawn camping.

Mismatches. As I mentioned I am not the best at first person shooters and it pisses me off when some much higher ranked player comes in and almost unfairly cleans up. Something else that pisses me off is when I join a match already partied with them and we are placed on opposite teams. As much as I like shooting my friends from time to time, I usually party up with them with the intend of playing with them, not against them!

The UI leaves much to be desired. The fact that you’re stuck between matches with a very underwhelming interface where you can’t do squat kind of sucks.

Things I like about Modern Warfare 3: (Keep in mind I have only had it for 1 day)

I really like some of the boards I have played so far and the game play is fun and quick paced. This game easily follows suit with the Call of Duty series of games.

I like how quickly one can level. B3 sometimes feels like a MMO watching your experience bar grow ever so slightly between matches. I don’t feel like that at all so far with MW3.

Things I don’t find so hot about Modern Warfare 3:

There only seems so be 2 play styles Zerging and Camping. While team work seems applicable it is more for the sake of overwhelming the enemy rather than truly offering support classes that can help protect, heal, and resupply your team mates.

Kill Streak weapons are over powered. I am not saying that helicopters, planes, missiles and tanks shouldn’t be powerful. I am saying the availability to use them in MW3 is too powerful. It is one of my biggest issues in general with the Call of Duty product line. I hate games that over reward the best skilled players with special perks that make them even more powerful. It’s like handicapping the less skilled players, which just doesn’t make sense. As someone who is not often at the top of the leader boards this frustrates me.

All of this may change as I continue to play both of these games. I give both very high ratings and really enjoy playing both.

Odd successes

Success is a funny venture. A little less than a year ago I learned of the Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Upon hearing it was built with the Android OS and geeks were successfully making progress towards hacking the Nook Color I was crazy excited to get my hands on it and try it out. I studied all the materials and wrote up one of the first articles on the Internet explaining how to root the Nook Color.

Well sure enough I wasn’t the only one who was excited about the Nook Color, because I started getting thousands of hits all going to that same article. To date it actually rates as the most popular thing (in views and draw to the site) I had ever written. The page has been served up tens of thousands of times and accounts for just shy of 15% of all of the traffic I have ever received. I have written other things that I thought were cool, interesting, fun, current, but none has ever compared to that article in terms of Internet popularity.

The web has a strange way of defining popularity and success…

What Steve Jobs’ death means to me

Sorry for the somewhat morbid title, but I have had this thought on my mind since learning about the passing of Steve Jobs on Wednesday night.

For those living under a rock, Steve Jobs was a co-founder of Apple and was very instrumental in the resurrection of Apple. Now the people who have known me for a long time you will know I am not exactly an Apple Fanboy. In fact for a good amount of time I detested Apple and all Apple products. I used to cling to the idea that Apple products were under powered, over priced, overly simplified, heavily DRM’ed, etc. In many ways much of these issues still persist today with their products, but for some reason my perception has changed. I firmly believe it is due to the persistence of Steve Jobs to focus on User Experience above anything else.

Another reason I admire Steve Jobs is because he did something I have always wanted to do. He successfully ran several businesses; businesses that he loved. He combined passion with success, which can be a hard combination in today’s business world. Since his passing I have watched and intently listened to his Stanford Commencement Speech at least 5 times. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, RIP Steve Jobs

Installing Withings Scale in Linux

I recently made the permanent switch to Linux on my laptop and honestly I couldn’t be happier. However I still get stuck here and there. Tonight I realized that my Withings Scale (which I previously blogged about) was no longer synced due to a recent router change. I decided to reinstall it with my linux laptop but got stuck and didn’t find a good step-by-step tutorial online to help so I thought I would create one:

A step by step to install the Withings Scale on Linux.

  1. Plug your Withings Scale into your computer via USB
  2. Go to my.withings.com
  3. Login (or register if this is your first install)
  4. Go to My Account and then click Install new scale
  5. Click configure my scale
  6. Download the file (which should be named pairingwizard_Linux_x86_64)
  7. Open up Terminal
  8. Navigate to the file download location for me it was in Downloads
  9. The file is a bin file so you need to chmod +x the file before opening, I typed “chmod +x pairingwizard_Linux_x86_64”
  10. Then run the file as root (do so by typing “sudo ./pairingwizard_Linux_x86_64”
  11. This should open the GUI install wizard
  12. Click next, find your network, Enter your wap/wep key if you have one, click next and you should be finished.