Favorite Podcasts

Adam Carolla Distorted View Daily This American Life

Technical Podcasts

Floss Weekly Jupiter Broadcasting Mind Of Root Podnutz Tekzilla


GateWorld.net fmylife.com passive agressive notes

My Favorite (and not so favorite) Android APPs For 2010

I’ve only had my HTC EVO since august so technically these apps haven’t had the full year to gel, but none the less here are my favorites (and not so favorites ) for 2010:

Utilities, General:

RPN calc: former engineering geeks like me =know= RPN notation rocks over the standard algebraic notation, and until HP comes to their senses and re-issues the HP15C or HP11C this is the best alternative.

RingDroid lets you edit sound files and set them as ringtones or notification sounds

Utilities, System Status:

Android Status: a straight forward, no-nonsense app showing memory usage (including the SD card), CPU usage, I.P. addresses and other info. It has both paid and free versions

Memory Usage: Shows the main memory usage by program, and although task killers have been thoroughly debunked, it does have an auto-task killer for those that want them. It has both paid and free versions.

Quick System Info: Yet another system info app battling it out for space on my phone. This one sorts the info by tabs and also (sigh…) includes a task killer feature. It offers widgets as well, but be forewarned that I accidently pressed a “kill all tasks” widget and my SD card was turned into a read-only device somehow and had to be reformatted to restore functionality. As with the above info utilities, the status stuff is good to have, avoid the task killing. Both paid and free.

Utilities, file managers:

ES File explorer: I bounced back and forth between this and the Astro file manager before ultimately settling on ES. It has the standard file manager for local memory, but also lets you access your file shares over your wi-fi off of your PC, and access you FTP server over the cell network. I believe Astro has the same features, but only allowed SFTP when I needed standard FTP. You probably can’t go wrong with either.

Utilities, Media players:

Rock Player will play those XVID shows and movies from your (ahem) downloads without the need for re-encoding

Power Amp is an audio player with a ton of customizability including an equalizer, what folders to look at and when to rescan those folders (which I could never figure out how to do with the standard player) as well as a widget for your lock screen.

DoggCatcher ($7) is a podcast player that’s works well, I like that it remembers where you stopped played and has jog buttons that lets you get past Leo Laporte’s Ford Sync commercials easily. Here’s hoping for faster playback speeds in 2011. (google Listen is also a fine free alternative)

Utilities, Keyboards:

Graffiti gives you the keyboard for the old palm PDA’s (the first GOOD graffiti, not graffiti2), it’s handy as hell for making notes during a bumpy car ride. Unfortunately they’ve recently added ads to it, here’s hoping for a paid version in 2011.

Swype: At first I thought it was kind of gimmicky, but the more I fool with it, the more I like it. I was all set to diss it for no cursor controls, until I found the secret (swipe from the info key to the sym key and you get all sorts of editing options)(note: swype just came to me recently on the last Evo update)

Cloud Programs:

DropBox lets you access and download files from your dropbaox account

Quick Save lets me save pages to my “read it later” account for viewing on my home computer. It also supports Delicious

Utilities, compression:

Androzip is a good file managers/archiver, I just haven’t used it since I found ES file manager can unzip things

Demos you that you show to friend proving Android is the way to go:

Google Sky Map: It shows the constellations in the sky as you move the phone around. Way cool to show your buddies, even though you never use it otherwise

Gym Babes: If women in tank tops running in slow motion aren’t enough get your male friend to buy an Android, they’re dead.

IP Webcam: Lets you broadcast your phone camera to your wi-fi network and view the video on a browser.

Productivity software:

Note Everything is my number one app. It lets you takes notes and you sort them into folders. If you get the paid app, you get photo notes and automatic backup to your SD card. (you also get a lot more, but this is what I use it for) add in NE GDocs and you get google docs access. This is the app I use on job sites to make notes and in turn make my boss happy. The Evo camera is good enough to make copies of blue prints, floor plans and paper notes that it all gets stored in Note Everthing and printed up later at home.

Documents To Go($15) and QuickOffice($10) have been battling it out on my phone for 6 months with no clear winner. I needed basic spreadsheet for recording my time-card but both came with Word, Powerpoint, and PDF viewers as well. I went with QuickOffice first because it supported googledocs, but the spreadsheet always showed that it was recalculating even for a minor change in a simple spreadsheet. Documents To Go added the googledocs and has had a long history on Palm PDA’s and Windows mobile, but doesn’t use the pinch-to-zoom. Both PDF viewers are faster than the included viewer on my Evo. Hopefully the QuickOffice spreadsheet problem has been fixed, I haven’t checked

Evo native app that is overlooked:

Hey, my built in clock widget includes timers and alarm clocks. Pretty cool. I’m not sure if that’s just with HTC sense or if it’s a general android thing.

Favorite Widgets:

Multicon lets you add shrunken versions of your app icons to your screen. Now you can add more icons per screen (some people may not think that’s a plus). Pretty neat hack for free (I donated some money anyway, it’s that usefull)

Auto Rotate lets you turn that feature on and off from a widget without going into the settings

NoLock lets you turn off the swipe bar when you turn on the phone

Diversions, not games:

Scanner Radio lets you access police and fire transmissions across the country though the internet

TerraTime lets you see what the earth would look like from space with sunlight, cloudscapes and ice packs; it also gives you sunrise and sunset times.

The two comic viewers I’ve used are the Droid comic viewer and jjComics Viewer both are fine, but the droid comic viewer seemed to have problems decompressing files when memory was limited.

Diversions, Games:

Angry Birds: what do I need to say here? It had me addicted for a month until I played it out. Too bad the ads blocked parts of the screen that made game play tougher. I can’t believe they didn’t offer a paid ad-free version.

RoboDefense: A total time killer. You set up tanks and towers to kill people and robots running across the screen. The more people you kill, the more money you get to build more towers. (paid and free versions)

Galcon lets you invade and take over planets while the computer is doing the same thing against you. (archipelago has the same scheme, but it’s islands instead of planets)

Fruit Ninja lets you slice fruit as they fly through the air

Nesoid is an Nintendo emulator that is awesome, but fails on my touchscreen-only Evo. If you have a standard slide out keyboard on your Android, this will rock.
Slice It is a fun puzzle game, and is the only app I can think of that lets you use more than one finger at a time. You are presented with a geometric shape and you have to slice it into equal area parts with a given number of lines.

Invader of Space is tough to describe (and the instructions don’t help). It’s sort of an advanced Othello with you working your way from one side of the board and the computer coming from the other side. (BattleFlood is another game with the same idea)

Stuff That I thought would be more interesting:

Evernote: Lets you takes notes (including pictures) that go straight to cloud and would be accessible on your computer. I know people rave about this, but just takes forever to upload a picture from my phone. And even when it works, I’m just left with a “meh” feeling. I’m far more productive with a combination of NoteEverything, GoogleDocs, and ES File Manager(for sharing files across wi-fi or FTP)

Slacker Radio: I guess I’d just rather listen to podcasts

WebSharing is a neat hack that turns your phone into a mini webserver that you can access on your wi-fi network. You can access the phone through a browser on your main computer and transfer or stream files though the browser. Okay, that’s cool, but so what? In terms of productivity, how is this better that simply using your USB cable or ES File Explorer over the network?

ChromeToPhone is a neat idea to send links and phone numbers from your main computer browser (chrome) to you android. Cool but it never got used past the “just installed it and fooled with it a little” stage.

Best Android related podcasts (in no order)

Android App Addicts concentrates on hosts’ ideas of current geeky apps (disclaimer: I do the show notes for them, but I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t interesting)

Android Buffet is two guys (one of which is a developer) talking about the android app market in general. (I thought this pretty dry at first, but I’ve warmed up to them.)

Android Central is hardware centric, as these guys seem to have access to every droid phone in the world and they discuss their takes on the different phones.

EVO specific blogs that I like:

Good And EVO



So, Here are my favorites for 2010 (and by this, I mean stuff I use day in and day out):

Note Everything for just flat-out organizing
DoggCatcher as my pod catcher
ES File Explorer as my File manager
Rock Player for watching my videos
Android Status for a quick view of my resources
Quick System Info for a more in-depth view
RPN Calc as my calculator
Multicon is always there on my screen

What I want for 2011:

A decent outliner with a collapsable/expandable heirarchy. Natura sofware has had Bonsai for years on the palm PDA, they just need to wake up and port in to the android.

Have fun in 2011!


Corel Draw

This is the start of a category of posts that I call the best software that you’ve never heard of.

I’ve used Corel Draw since the ‘90’s with version 5.  Corel Draw is a vector drawing program.  This means that everything you create is stored as a mathematical description.  All those lines, curves, boxes, ellipses, fills, whatever you draw is kept in the computer as an object or description.  The advantage of this is you won’t get the jaggies or blockiness when you zoom in.  This makes it ideal for things from greeting cards to poster art and anything in-between, That’s because you can easily scale your artwork from small to huge with no introduction of jaggies.  Any changes you make to your artwork is easily reversed or altered unless you convert an element from vector to raster(bitmap).

Corel Draw image

You'd be surprised how fast you can create things in vector format

The downside is the all your artwork that you want to scale needs to be created.  If you introduce a photo into the artwork, it will suffer when scaled especially compared to the line art you’ve created.

The big question is which vector illustration tool is the best.  Obviously I’m stumping for Corel Draw, but most people will steer you towards Adobe Illustrator.  Illustrator is admittedly the industry standard.  If you’re submitting artwork to a printer, they’re going to want an “.ai” file; most won’t take a “.cdr” (Corel Draw) file.  But that’s OK, Draw can export to the “.ai” format as well as a dozen others including “.pdf”.  If I owned a graphics company, I’d probably swallow and buy Adobe Illustrator.

But, for small home/office use let’s cost this out.  On Amazon, Corel Draw X4 currently clocks in at $282($179 upgrade), Adobe illustrator is a heart stopping $583($196 upgrade).  Let’s look a little deeper: Corel Draw is actually a suite of programs including PhotoPaint(an excellent multi-layer photo editor,  which also doesn’t get it’s due, although admittedly also not the industry standard), Corel Trace ( for converting bitmaps to vector art), and Corel Capture (screen capture tool).  And usually, on any given version there will be different additional software, for awhile it was a 3D modeling  program, then a flash editor, the next version (X5) will apparently have a different flash editor).

Adobe’s DRM/licensing scheme is notoriously draconian in its implementation putting it on par with video games to limit their software to one machine/one user; if you want to use an Adobe product on your home computer and your laptop, better plan on buying to two copies.  Corel’s license is the same, but the DRM is not there.  I’m currently using X4 and have had no problems using it and previous versions on different machines.  (Please don’t interpret this as an excuse to throw this on a thousand machines).  The secret that nobody seems to talk about is that the upgrade version of Draw will install just fine on a fresh computer without looking for a previous version with no problems.

Corel Draw is insanely popular on two different fronts: vinyl cutting (sign making) and pattern design.  If you go to youtube and search on these you’ll find hundreds of videos.

What have I done with Corel Draw?  I’ve made maps,flow charts, logos, layouts for security presentations, nicely formatted resumes, flyers, business cards, and just general art.

Is illustrator better? Maybe, but I’d argue that Corel Draw has about 70 to 80 percent of the abilities of Illustrator for half the price.  You really got to need that extra 20 percent to pay the premium.  I have access to Illustrator CS4, but I always go to Corel Draw, because I can bang something fast and decent without frustration.

If you can’t even afford Corel Draw, an alternative is Inkscape, a free open source vector drawing program.  I hate to dismiss it, but It’s slow to load, and bogs down after a fair amount of elements are introduced.  I’d recommend getting a used copy of Draw (version 9 or better) from EBay and be on your way.

Kaspersky Rescue Disk (bootable, Linux based)

The tool that I’ve worked with lately is the Kaspersky Rescue Disk. It’s a Linux boot disk ISO that you can download.  (You’ll need an ISO burning program like CDBurnerXP or BurnCDCC , I guess the option to burn ISO’s is built into Win 7 now) It seems to be updated about every six months, so the computer you use it on has to have a network connection. It usually takes about 5 minutes to find current updates , then another 5-10 minutes to download, then you can start the scan.

Kaspersky Rescue CD (Linux Bootable)

The first thing you have to make sure is that you’re scanning the right partition, one time it indicated a recovery partition as the “C:” drive, but you can check that with a simple built-in file manager by clicking on the start button in the lower left.

Another note is before you start scanning, go to the “scan settings” and change the prompt option to “prompt on completion”, otherwise the scan will stop every time it encounters something and will wait for you to respond.

Select "Prompt On Completion"

The only other problem I had was that one time I had a gigabyte motherboard that would go into suspend every 20 minutes or so until the mouse was moved, and that would also suspend the scan, I couldn’t find the bios setting that would apply for that. The scan itself typically takes about 5 hours, so I do it overnight.

This isn’t to be confused with the rescue disk that can be made with the Kaspersky antivirus product. That’s a Bart/PE or UBCD4WIN type disk that is made with a windows XP disk and is created with up-to-date definitions for use as a boot disk. For that, you actually have to own the Kaspersky product.  (This strikes me as a cool product for your bench computer to produce up-to-date boot disks for an on-site trip.)

Kaspersky also offers the “Kaspersky virus removal tool”, which is a stand alone program (run once) you can download and =is= updated daily, but needs to be run under windows

TrueSpace, you will be missed

This is an old video from the late 90’s,and is basically a collection of test video animations (with paths and particles)  I made with TrueSpace.  It’s low rezzy, and very basic, but I thought I’d throw it out there.  (it’s fascinating what you can find on old hard drives, this was an old  MPEG2 video for conversion to VCD, I stripped the Boz Scaggs music for copyright reasons and found some audio at podsafeaudio.com).  Truespace basically tanked after version 6.0 (for me), was bought by Microsoft only to be shut down.  You can get 7.6 at caligari.com for free, although the website supposedly was slated to go down last year.  I’ve since moved to Blender, because it has the community and excitement that TrueSpace once had.  R.I.P. TrueSpace, you will be missed

Bender 3d basic tutorial on particles

Two new basic tutorials for Blender 3d on the particle system
Part 1

Part 2

Blender 3D basic intro to curve modeling

These are some (very) basic tutorials involving curve modeling in Blender 3d. They assume you’re comfortable mousing around the blender environment and changing 3d views. In these you learn to make curves (and paths), control the curves with the bezier handles, and the bevel and taper options. Ultimately, I do the obligatory wine glass modeling with the spin operation, but then do it again with curves for real time modeling of the glass.



Part 3

Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno, yet another take

With all the silliness going on over the Leno/Conan games, why not include one more silly post.  Before I get too far, let me clear: I know there was an earthquake in Haiti and, for that matter, actual issues all over the planet.  But, this is fun time, which means, my two cents.

So, here we go:

Let’s keep some things in perspective here
1) Leno was initially ousted from the tonight show 2 or 3 years ago when it was decreed that Conan would be moved up in 2009 to the tonight show.  This was to bring in a younger demographic to the show.  This isn’t speculation, this was widely reported fact.  Leno wasn’t a happy guy about this, but he towed the line.  (The upshot here is that Leno didn’t “give” the show to Conan, only to take it back)

2) To keep Leno from looking around to other networks, the Jay Leno show was conceived.  It was risky at best, but hey, I’m going to give NBC credit for trying something different as opposed to yet another “Law and Order” variant.

3) Conan’s show moving back to 12:35:  It’s not like he actually tapes the show at 11:35 at night and now he would be stuck taping it at 12:35 in the morning.  Cry me a f’ing river.  He tapes sometime around 5pm and goes home.  (Having said that, let me be clear, I think Conan is the funnier guy, but to be claimed he’s somehow getting screwed over is ludicrous.)

In summary:  Is this really important to anybody beyond Leno, Conan and their staff.  Not really.  Do I want to see how it turns out?  You betcha.  Kind of like the Apple Tablet, I want to see how it turns out

El Paso Panorama from Ranger Peak

This panorama was stitched from 9 photos of about 180 degrees.  You can take an aerial tram from a parking lot to the peak for $7 and hike back down (or up if you’re nuts) in about 2 hours.  It’s not the longest tram (that’s actually in Albuquerque), but it is a pleasant view.  Off in the far distance is Juarez, Mexico.

el paso tramway panorama

A view from Ranger Peak in El Paso, Texas

The basic Blender 3D modeling interface

Blender is a free open-source 3d modeling program available from blender.org.

There’s no shortage of tutorials regarding modeling, texturing, animation and other subjects for blender, but basic info on the user interface is tough to come by. Surprising, considering that 90 percent of understanding blender comes from wrapping your head around the interface. Once you get past that, it’s a whole new world and a what was once a dense program suddenly makes a lot of sense.  Some fine tutorials can be found by searching youtube; some more cool tutorials can be found at gryllus.net

The cool thing about the UI is I started to wonder about it being applied to other programs like a word processor. What if you could just slide open a new window in Word, and then make that window another view port in a long document for easy cut and pasting, then make that window into some type of sub-menu system, drawing area, wysiwyg output. or html preview, withouth having to hunt for them in menus. Really cool stuff.

Using my GPS device with Google Earth and Google Maps

In these four videos, I show how I use my Garmin Etrex handheld GPS  with Google Earth and Google Maps, transferring data to and from.