Archive for the ‘gadgets’ Category

Getting Tired of Laptops

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’ve been using a laptop as my primary machine for years now. At least six but probably more like 8 or 10. The only time I use a desktop is when I use someone else’s computer. Mrs. T’s perhaps to play games. Or a computer in a public place. Most of the time a laptop is just fine. But lately it doesn’t seem fine.

Part of it is screen size but not completely. At home I have a 19 inch screen attached to my docking station. That helps a lot. I have a 21 inch LCD I need to make room for and that will be even better. Part of it is the keyboard. I’m seriously looking at plugging in a full-size USB keyboard. I feel constrained on a laptop. Lately it seems like the constraint on my fingers is leading to constrain in my brain. In any case it is starting to feel like too much work on the laptop keyboards.

Performance is not an issue for me and neither is memory or disk space. Four GB of RAM seems fine and I have lots of extra disk space. No it is the I/O. Hopefully the large keyboard and screen will help when I’m home.

Anyone else feeling like this or are you using desktop systems a lot? Or are laptops enough for you?

Bags and Protecting The Environment

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

A while back we started using canvas bags at the supermarket. Our local supermarket was giving people a nickel credit for each reusable bag they brought with them. That made it pretty cheap to buy a couple of these bags and keep them in the car. Over time we acquired more of these bags. Some of the bags we are using are from conferences I have attended. Often times they give each attendee a canvas bag with all the handouts for the conference and for people to  carry stuff they pick up in the exhibit hall. What to do with them afterwards? Well using them for shopping works out very well.

More recently we have been bringing these bags into all sorts of stores. First Wal-Mart and other food stores but lately even clothing stores and, well, just about any store we go to. The reception from store clerks has been overwhelmingly positive. The one surprise is that older clerks seem to see this as more positive than younger people.

The younger people are just in the habit of mindlessly using the plastic bags they have from the store. The older people seem to more actively think about what they are doing. Those people recognize the value of reusable shopping bags for the environment and for reducing waste in general.

But the real plus is that we feel good about what we are doing. There is no doubt that we are saving the world 100s of plastic bags and the environmental costs of those sorts of bags. And you know what? Those canvas bags are easier to use than the plastic bags as well. One can carry more stuff more easily in them with less fear of bags ripping and spilling their contents. So it’s all good.

Microsoft Tags

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Playing around with creating tags that can be read by smart phones. Information on the tool at or go to from your web enabled phone. US only right now. What phones? From the FAQ:

The Microsoft Tag Reader is available for most smartphones and many feature phones. It is available on Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry, and Symbian S60 phones. Of course, your phone needs a camera and it must have Internet-access. A detailed list of all supported phones is available and new phones will be added over time.

Links to my vCard online.


Links to my other blog.


Steam Cleaning The Microwave

Monday, September 8th, 2008

I think I read about this idea somewhere but I don’t remember where. It’s a great idea though and really works. But let me back up a minute.

There are, I am sure, some people who keep their microwaves nice and clean. They cover everything they cook and they clean up any mess that is made right away. Yeah, well, that’s not me. As a result my microwave gets a little ugly from time to time. Worse still things are sort of baked on and hard to clean away. Has that ever happened to you? (Probably not to Matt.) Or perhaps you have been forced to use a microwave that was a mess and wanted to clean it out first.

Scrubbing doesn’t really appeal to me. I try to avoid hard work unless it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes I visit CLEANA Commercial Cleaning Sydney site and get help. So that is where the steam cleaning comes in. Fill a microwave safe mug or glass with water and run it for a while. You want to water to boil for a while but its probably not a good thing to boil it all away. Then let the microwave sit for a minute or so.










Now open the microwave and wipe it clean and dry with a paper towel or sponge.  Repeat if necessary but generally once is enough. The boiled water becomes steam and pretty much softens every bit of gunk inside the microwave.

This post brought to you because I couldn’t sleep. But it does work. I used it today in fact.

Trying Out Browsers

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

I’ve got a couple of browsers on my laptop. IE of course. FireFox and Safari as well. Over the weekend I installed IE 8 beta 2 to try out. And today I installed Chrome from Google. Why not? Everyone else is.

For the time being I will stay with IE 8 though. The address search on IE8 and Chrome is similar but the one on IE 8 works better for me. The tabs on Chrome are on the top of the screen which bugs me. It is not as convenient and seems to be a change for the sake of being different and not for any good reason I can see. Also Chrome does not support Silverlight and Photosynth and I need those. So major fail there. Hopefully they will fix that.

I do like the default tab on Chrome. It shows your most frequently opened pages. The default tab on IE 8 shows the pages you have most recently closed which I do find quite useful though so it is not a huge edge there for Chrome. I am used to bringing up a number of pages at once from the favorites menu. I have a couple of groups that I use for specific purposes. One hit and they all open. I haven’t figured out how to do that with Chrome or even if it is possible.

So Chrome may be the hot new thing but there are plenty of reasons for me not to use it and not really any compelling reasons to use it. Well it was worth trying.

Digital Dorm – In A Bus?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Edwin Guarin is driving a bus fitted out as a high tech, lots of games and devices, digital dorm room to campuses around the NorthEast.  He’s writing about the trip on his blog.  He’s showing of computers, Zunes, Xbox 360 (apparently Rock Band is popular on the tour so far) and giving away gifts and prizes. Its a fun way to get a look at some cool technology.

The full schedule is here. Stops this week include:

  • Hofstra University
  • NorthEastern University
  • UMASS Boston
  • Bunker Hill Community College

Next week

  • Bentley College (I expect reports from this stop)
  • Harvard
  • Boston University

Still more following that – check the schedule for schools, dates and times as some of the locations are yet to be determined. If he comes to you campus or to a campus near you stop by and tell Edwin I sent you.

The Safe Bed

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Worried about getting beaten up or kidnapped while you sleep? Living in a hostile environment? Like a dorm perhaps? Then this may be the bed for you!

I actually designed something like this when I was a kid. I’m not sure why though. But it is interesting to see that someone did it for real. I wonder what sort of market there is for this sort of thing?

Laptop Keyboards

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

So I got a new laptop and I’m still getting used to it. It is bigger (though still pretty light) then the one I had been using. More memory (4gb), more disk (150gb on the main one and I forget how much on the second one that I can swap in and out with the CD/DVD reader/burner), both hard drives are 7200 rpm, a docking station, travel power cord, extra battery and who knows what that I haven’t discovered yet. It’s a Lenovo Thinkpad T61 for those of you who have to know.

Installing all my software is not a big deal. I seem to have access to all the media I need. The biggest thing I am getting used to is the keyboard. The delete key is at the top and I am used to it being in the bottom. The Fn and Ctrl keys are swapped from what I am used to. And I am used the the arrow keys being more isolated and the down arrow key having a nub on it. All four of the arrow keys have nubs (I just found them) but there are at the top of the keys and I am used to feeling on the bottom of them. This is messing up my typing in the dark.

The "mouse" keys around the touch pad are different. Not better or worse so much as just different. It is taking some getting used to. I’m sure I am going to like this new laptop and even if I don’t it has to be better than the one it replaces which I have grown to hate with a minor passion. I just wish the keyboards were as standard away from the letter and numbers as they are with them.

What kind of a sports car are you

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I’m a Chevrolet Corvette!

You’re a classic – powerful, athletic, and competitive. You’re all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Growing Your Own In Winter

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was an AeroGarden. It’s basically a small hydroponics set up for growing plants indoors. There is a special light and a pump that pushes water and nutrients into the mini-planters. Right now I have lettuce planted. Sprouts showed up in about 2 days or so. They should be harvistable in about 3 weeks and last for another three months or so. I’m getting a kick out of watching them grow so far. I hope it works out.

One of the other things they offer is a special try for starting seedlings for outdoors. I am thinking that I would like to try that as well. It holds 70 plants and that would be plenty for me. I could start all the tomatoes, cucumbers and pepper plants I want. I might also try some corn and sunflowers as well. I’ve tried starting plants inside before but for some reason it never seems to work out. Perhaps with this system it will.

The other thing I am thinking about is getting a second device to keep in my office. I would grow something different there. Perhaps flowers. So far plant I have tried in my office has died. But honestly I think that has been a combination of not getting watered enough and not enough light. I travel a good bit and I need a good healthy light on a timer as well as a system that can go without me adding water every day. This should do that.

And it is a gadget too! What more could a geek want but a gadget that grows things.