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I talk a lot about technology, this is probably more about advancements or new things. Or just techie ramblings.

Written By: Gary on October 7, 2009 2 Comments

It’s the 57th anniversary of the barcode. I only know this because Google changed their logo today. So then I checked out the barcode entry on Wikipedia.

garysaid.com.barcode.rad59A9F.gif

Actually, this is just the anniversary of the original patent. When most people think of the barcode, they’re thinking of the UPC (Universal Product Code) on food and other purchased goods. Which started being used in the mid-1970s (1974 was when the first store scanned an item for purchase).

Free Barcode Generator - Barcoding Inc.I’ve always thought bar codes were kind of cool: cheap, simple, easy to use and duplicate. We use them on food, shipping packages, mail, ID cards of all types and all sorts of places. We print them on the back of Michigan Driver’s Licenses, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them used.

FYI, I used the Free Barcode Generator to generate my above barcode.

Written By: Gary on September 3, 2009 No Comment

A commercial from the 1950s for the Remington Rand UNIVAC System!

Direct link to the Univac video

It’s got “Memory Tanks with 12,000 additional units of information”, assuming a “unit” is byte that’s 12 kB of information. That’s about one-tenth of a floppy disk, a floppy disk from twenty-fie years. Based on the other video (below) they might only be 3/4 of a byte :)

I’m really surprised the printer could do 600 lines per minute, that’s pretty fast for that time (I would think!) although it didn’t look much different from some large printers I’ve seen years later.

Univac I

There’s a 17 minute infomercial too.

And I found this video from Dean’s World too! I didn’t steal his text :)

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Written By: Gary on June 12, 2009 No Comment

It’s finally the end of Analog TV at the end of today. If you haven’t seen the PSAs announcing this, then you probably haven’t really been watching the TV so you won’t care. This is after they moved the date from January because they didn’t think people were ready..

One tip – I heard that some stations that are broadcasting in digital may change the frequency that they are broadcasting at, so you may need to have your box/TV re-scan for digital stations.

I’m in the Detroit area, I wonder how many fans might lose their signal for the Detroit Red Wings game tonight (last game of the Stanley Cup). And and I guess the same goes for Pittsburgh Penguins fans too.

dtv-coupon.pngIf you have satellite or a cable box, you don’t have a problem, the box will convert to your TV.

If you have cable, you don’t care, they’re still giving analog signals for another year or two (or three).

If you have a digital TV with a tuner you don’t care.

If you have an antenna hooked up to your TV (on the roof or rabbit ears), you care. You need that antenna hooked up to a digital convertor box (generally very cheap only $0-$20 with a coupon)

I don’t think stations have to stop broadcasting in analog, they just have to be broadcasting in digital. I’m wondering if anyone will hang on for a bit.

Written By: Gary on May 21, 2009 2 Comments

Argh! Haven’t been this frustrated in a very long time…

The last 24 hours:
– I can’t sync my calendar items and address/phone numbers between my computers, MobileMe and iPod Touch.
– My main Windows machine won’t reboot, keeps resetting. Think the hard drive went.
– Accessing/syncing to my AppleTV is goofed up (that’s minor, unrelated and hacked so not an Apple issue)
– My cell phone keeps saying international roaming when I’m at home (it’s Sprint). I’m not that close to the border of Canada/Michigan.

I’ve spend more time with tech support the last 24 hours than the last 24 months. I’ve been escalated multiple times at Apple and not getting any closer. And after all the changes at my end I’m leaning towards it’s going to be a problem at their end so then I’ll have to get everything set back the way I want (a few hours ago, I’d have said 100% sure at their end, but not so sure now). They say this is a new problem and since we’re pushing 4 hours today I’m hoping it’s a unique problem (for their sake).

And I’ve wasted another sunny day :(

Written By: Gary on April 6, 2009 One Comment

Apple iPod touch 16 GB (2nd Generation) Apple ComputerOverall, I really love my iPod iTouch. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s an iPhone without the phone, GPS or camera, but without the monthly prices! And while I love it I’ve got a few complaints:
1) Why isn’t it called an iTouch? It’s the obvious name, I will continue to call it that even though it’s wrong.
2) The music playing isn’t iPod-ish enough. I’ll be playing an audio file and I can’t see how long it is or how far I am into it (or have to go). It’s got more than enough room on the screen. And I need a better way for fast forwarding and rewinding, I should be able to drag a slider across the screen, not the old-fashioned hold and press on the virtual button. Give me a virtual scroll wheel in the middle of the screen or some configuration changes in the options…
4) I need a better way to manage the applications screens. I know you can drag them but it’s a pain. Any new applications just get dumped in the first free space. Let me create some categories and sort them hierarchically (like my music) but I need to put some items in multiple categories (or at least a category and a “favorites”).
3) No cut and paste! I’ve type my name, zip, and e-mail about a million times in the last week. I know they are adding it this summer but it too two years! They really need another button next to “cut, copy, paste” that says “shortcuts” where I can put the stuff I type all the time.
5) Needs some more applications for viewing info off-line. Mail works great, a few work decent, the rest require a connection.
6) No built-in microphone.
7) This thing really sucks the power! It really needs an easier way to turn the WiFi off (how about clicking the WiFi icon on the screen!).

I’m sure I’ll add some more basic complaints and I will be praising this (and applications) in future posts.

Written By: Gary on March 24, 2009 No Comment

admiralhopper.gifAdmiral Grace hopper lived from December 9, 1907 to January 1, 1992 and had a lot more to do with computing than most names you know today.

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for. ”

She graduated from Vassar in Mathematics and Physics and got her Ph.D. from Yale in the same subjects. She to a leave of absence from Vasser, where she was an Associate Professor of Mathematics, and joined the Navy Reserve. I’ve got a few quotes of hers in this post. She’s also attributed to phrase “bugs” in the computer (or maybe “debugging”), but I’ve heard so many stories about that I’m not so sure but here’s a photo with notes.

  • She served on the Mark I computer programming staff at Harvard.
  • In 1949 she was a senior mathematician on the team developing the UNIVAC I.
  • In the early 1950s she worked on the A-0 programming language compiler. This is the first computer compiler!
  • A lot of her compiler work is said to be the basis of the COBOL computer language.
  • In the 1970s she pioneered the implementation of standards for computer languages (like COBOL and FORTRAN).

    “It’s always easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

    She was on 60 minutes in 1982, here’s part 1 and part 2, she’s pretty funny.

    Here’s a video of her on Letterman (Oct. 2, 1986). She holds her own pretty good and explains how fast light and electricity can travel. It’s some of the same jokes from the 60 Minutes interview, but dumbed down for Dave.


    Here’s the original YouTube link.

    In 1971 ACM created the Grace Murray Hopper Award which is awarded to the outstanding young (35 or younger) computer professional of the year, selected on the basis of a single recent major technical or service contribution. Be sure to click the link, you’ll see some familiar names (Wozniak, Joy, Kurzweil, and more).

    “The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.”

    Additional info on Admiral Hopper: There is a conference named in her honor Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. She’s received 47 honorary degrees. When she retired she was the oldest active person in the military! She was in the Navy for 43 years; from 1943-1966, 1967-1971, and 1972-1986. The Navy’s USS Hopper, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, is named after her.

    Why am I talking about her today? Because I signed a pledge that said “I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same“. I’m one of those 1,000 people, actually when last I looked it’s up to 1,610 people (I think I was number 844 to sign up).

    Info on the post taken from here, her WIkipedia entry and some other info I’ve posted before.

    Later: I see Brenda Wallace, Kathleen Weaver, Miguel Esquirol Ríos, cr0n.net, Joanna Bryson, Carolyn and Andy Roberts chose the same topic as I did.

  • Written By: Gary on March 4, 2009 2 Comments

    Amazon released a Kindle for iPhone and iPod Touch application (that link is to the US iTunes store, not sure about international release).

    With Kindle for iPhone, you can:
    * Buy a Kindle book from your Mac, PC, or iPhone using a Web browser and wirelessly transfer the books to your iPhone.
    * Read first chapters of any book for free before you buy.
    * Download the Kindle books you already own for free (they are automatically backed up on Amazon.com).
    * Adjust the text size, add bookmarks, and view the annotations you created on your Kindle device.

    Kindle for iPhone also includes Whispersync, which allows you to seamlessly switch back and forth between your Kindle device and Kindle for iPhone while keeping your bookmarks and reading location synchronized between devices

    kindleapp.jpgWow! Now you don’t even need a Kindle now to read the eBooks. I’m assuming the “digital paper” display is easier to read on the Kindle, but this is very cool. I wonder if the images look better than on the grey-scale Kindle? It looks like it will “show books in color that were developed that way“. I’ve liked the idea of a Kindle but not the cost and I’ve also been afraid of not having it with me everywhere; if I can start syncing to other devices that’d be very useful. Even if you don’t want to read a whole book on your iPhone/Touch, you can read the first chapter of all the Kindle books for free! ANd it doesn’t appear to sync magazines or newspapers, only books.

    And did I mention that it’s free at the Apple App store? Of course you have to buy the books.

    Update:

  • A lot of nice screenshots at the iPhone Blog.
  • It looks like to buy books you need to use Mobile Safari (or a computer) and not the Kindle software. That’s not ideal, but it’s workable.
  • Written By: Gary on January 11, 2009 No Comment

    Here is a geeky history of the Internet in about seven minutes (and when I say “geeky” I mean technical). Pretty easy to understand as long as you aren’t afraid of acronyms like TCP.



    If you’ve got the bandwidth it’s
    available in HD via the direct link or via YouTube.

    Eventually all the icons in the video will be released under the creative commons license. It’s not clear when though. If you dig around the site you can find some here and there, it’s all part of the Melih Bilgil’s degree.

    Written By: Gary on January 6, 2009 No Comment

    So YouTube has three different qualities that I see quite often: Normal Quality, High Quality and High Definition (HD). Every video seems to be available in Normal Quality. Also, High Quality appears to generally be the same size as Normal and those can ben standard format (TV shaped) or wide screen formatted. But I think recently (towards the end of 2008?) the normal became wider to suit more widescreen video, as a result you get black bars on the sides for standard video instead of the tops and bottoms for the widescreen.

    But the High Def video shows up as standard size video but the HD video shows up huge on the screen (about 864×480). I remember it being large before, but not that large, maybe it takes longer to convert or they approve it or something or did I just never notice before?

    For example, this is the same fire dancing video I posted before and I don’t ever remember it being so big on the screen let alone so clear. Be sure to toggle between “Watch in Normal Quality” and “Watch in HD” to see the difference.

    Later: Now I’ve read another article on this at and you can see there is a just as large (it might just be that medium size blown up) but lower quality version (but still HD-ish).

    Written By: Gary on October 18, 2008 No Comment

    I’ve never understood how technology seems to trap some people and when I say “technology” I’m talking about mostly low-tech. The most common thing that I can’t understand is the phone.

    Gotta Get It – Some people have to get the phone when it rings no matter what they are doing. It doesn’t matter what is happening they have to go answer the phone if it rings. They already have an answering machine so they aren’t going to miss any information.

    Gotta Check It – Other’s have to know who it is even if they aren’t going to answer, they have to check the Caller ID to see who they aren’t going to talk to. These are the people in the past who would have monitored their answering machine to get the same information.

    Gotta Be More Important – If the call waiting is going off they have to switch over, doesn’t matter if they know who it is or not, they’ve got to switch over to the other call. I can see this a little bit if they don’t have voice mail at home, but if they’ve got Caller ID they can call them back. The need to put someone off for a few minutes so that they can talk to someone else first compared to just calling the second caller back a few minutes later doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Voice Mail Inconsistencies – What’s confusing (to me) is some people have to also check their voice mail as soon as they see they have a message, but others can let it sit for a while or not even check to see if there is a message on their answering machine. My experience is the more that a person have a “Gotta” issue (see above) the more likely that they have the ability to let messages rest on a machine somewhere.

    The Phone Victim is the worst of most technologies, maybe because it’s such a simple technology it doesn’t seem to be hindered by age it affects both the young and old.

    If it’s important – they will leave a message, they will call back and they’ve got other ways to contact you (other phones, e-mail, etc.).

    My issues – I’d completely disable the call-waiting on my phone but it’s the only phone I have so if someone is trying to reach me they can’t call another number (but they could leave a voice mail). Personally, I try to only switch over to an incoming call when it’s someone I’m meeting shortly in case something is changing our plans. I’ll also switch over if I’m expecting some info from someone that requires some quick interactivity but I’ll warn the call I’m on at the start of the conversation. I’m also more likely to switch over on long-time friends that I talk to all the time but that’s the benefit of

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    Written By: Gary on June 29, 2008 One Comment

    I use tech to complicate my life and make it better. Not simpler. I’ve never felt that it simplifies my life. Tech gives me information, organizes me and entertains me.

    If I used just a few tech tools, it could simplify my life. An answering machine simplified it. And a fax machine. But those are very 1/2 duplex technologies, more like Web -3.0

    Other basic tools like a calendar and address book help to organize my life, and make it so I don’t need to remember things which makes my life a little easier.

    Much of what unsimplifies life are the more interactive technologies, the ones that require a response, especially the ones that require a response quickly. E-mail is my biggest interactive technology, I’ve tried so many of the others and while I enjoy them they just take up so much time… Twitter, IM, and other chat-type services. I really like Seesmic, but it’s hard to get a feel for what’s going on with just a glance, you’ve got to watch the video’s to see what they’re about; there just isn’t enough of a description to know what the conversation is about (or what it’s become after multiple responses).

    And then there are all the interactive ones that you’re just exploring, there is so much out there and it’s so time consuming it’s un-simplifying my life in that it’s taking away time from the rest of it.

    With it I can do more than without it. Do I need to be doing more? Probably not, but some of what I’m able to explore and experience makes it worth it to me.

    Written By: Gary on April 6, 2007 No Comment

    So PC World has a story on the Best 50 Tech products. Considering a few of the items in the list, I think few things are missing: Skype, one of the early pieces of ZIP/StuffIt software, maybe a Palm (or even Windows) cell phone, a TRS-80, the Sony WalkMan set standards for portable (choose your own) music players and I’m sure I’ll think of a few more later. Half of the software “tools” seem to be things to fix parts/utilities missing from the Windows OS. And there isn’t any software for creating web pages / FTPing files (from the era of Netscape and Eudora) or blocking spam. Should flickr or Google be considered a product? Amazon or eBay? Okay, so I’m getting ahead of myself, lets show the list.

    Of the 50 I’ve bolded items owned/used (some were free or work owned for my use) and added comments to many items (even ones I don’t use):

    1. Netscape Navigator (1994) – Netscape and NCSA made the Internet (and Eudora), thanks!
    2. Apple II (1977) – I never owned one until years later when I got a deal on one.
    3. TiVo HDR110 (1999) – Early adoptor and I’ve added many converts
    4. Napster (1999)
    5. Lotus 1-2-3 for DOS (1983) – More of a VisaCalc/Excell user but they’re all great.
    6. Apple iPod (2001) – I waited for a color one with a big hard drive and spent the early adopter prices for it (now better ones are 1/2 the price).
    7. Hayes Smartmodem (1981) – I can’t be sure I actually had a Hayes, but I had one of the first generics if I didn’t (I’ve had so many modems, I can’t recall). Hayes changed computer communications IMHO.
    8. Motorola StarTAC (1996) – Several of these from several carriers and they were all awesome.
    9. WordPerfect 5.1 (1989) – I used it but I’m not proud, I think it’s awful
    10. Tetris (1985)
    11. Adobe Photoshop 3.0 (1994) – This has almost always been too complicated for any needs I’ve ever had.
    12. IBM ThinkPad 700C (1992)
    13. Atari VCS/2600 (1977) – I always wanted one of these (even years later) but I never had one.
    14. Apple Macintosh Plus (1986) – I was a late apple adaptor but I loved it. I still love Apple and I think I always will…
    15. RIM BlackBerry 857 (2000) – no interest in one of these ever
    16. 3dfx Voodoo3 (1999) – I don’t think I’ve ever had a machine with this card.
    17. Canon Digital Elph S100 (2000)
    18. Palm Pilot 1000 (1996) – I jumped on the palm bandwagon late but now I’m a fan
    19. id Software Doom (1993)
    20. Microsoft Windows 95 (1995) – I’m sure one of my work Machines ran this, I’m not sure if I ever owned a machine with it. I think I jumped from Windows 3.1 back to DOS and then to ME or 98 at home.
    21. Apple iTunes 4 (2003) – THE best/easiest way to shop for music on-line
    22. Nintendo Game Boy (1989)
    23. Iomega Zip Drive (1994) – These folks dominated the market. Everyone I know had one of these drives and then they just faded away…
    24. Spybot Search & Destroy (2000)
    25. Compaq Deskpro 386 (1986) – We sold these and I’ll always remember the customer that pronounced it Comp-A-Que and we had no idea what they were asking for.
    26. CompuServe (1982) – Had an account for a while, this was pre-Internet…
    27. Blizzard World of Warcraft (2004)
    28. Aldus PageMaker (1985) – I have never been a PageMaker fan.
    29. HP LaserJet 4L (1993)
    30. Apple Mac OS X (2001) – It just works! (generally)
    31. Nintendo Entertainment System (1985)
    32. Eudora (1988) – Probably one of the best e-mail clients ever, way way way before it’s time.
    33. Sony Handycam DCR-VX1000 (1995)
    34. Apple Airport Base Station (1999)
    35. Brøderbund The Print Shop (1984) – This was why people never wanted to get rid of their dot matrix printers (the pinfeed paper for banners).
    36. McAfee VirusScan (1990)
    37. Commodore Amiga 1000 (1985) – I always wanted one of these!
    38. ChipSoft TurboTax (1985) – I love tax software, it’s so worth the money
    39. Mirabilis ICQ (1996)
    40. Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 (1992) – This was the standard for audio cards forever.
    41. Apple HyperCard (1987) – Best software ever! This was the premiere application using hyperlinks and (almost) had plug-ins and supported multimedia. Think linking and interactive pages (cards) of information and graphics all running on your computer (pre-internet)
    42. Epson MX-80 (1980) – These were one of the most durable dot matix printers ever.
    43. Central Point Software PC Tools (1985)
    44. Canon EOS Digital Rebel (2003) – I love this it feels like a real camera in my hands. It works like one too.
    45. Red Hat Linux (1994) – Awesome easy to use/maintain version of a free OS.
    46. Adaptec Easy CD Creator (1996) – I have/use various versions of it, but I’ll always love toast.
    47. PC-Talk (1982)
    48. Sony Mavica MVC-FD5 (1997) – The floppy disk cameras made it easy for everyone to get their photos off the camera. This was always my favorite camera to have schools use.
    49. Microsoft Excel (1985) – Excel is an awesome spreadsheet.
    50. Northgate OmniKey Ultra (1987)

    Here’s a complete list for “printing” but I’m not sure if it’ll link properly (at the bottom of the page are just the items).

    Written By: Gary on April 13, 2004 5 Comments

    The story goes –

    A few years ago, I was chatting with a stranger in a bar. When I told him I was an economist, he said, “Ah. So… what are the Two Things about economics?”

    “Huh?” I cleverly replied.

    “You know, the Two Things. For every subject, there are really only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

    “Oh,” I said. “Okay, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

    For computers I’d say:

    1. Reboot if it acts up.
    2. Backup your files.

    From http://www.kegz.net/blog/eggz/ who got it from here.

    To save readers some money I’ll include two bonus items:

    1. Don’t buy the best unless you have cash to burn (or really intense games to play / processes to run). In another 12-18 months that machine will be 25%-%50 less or the new model will be 50% faster.
    2. Make sure it’s got a good return policy (unless you know it’s exactly what you want).

    What’s your two things?

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