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Ohio Wind Storm September 2008

If you haven’t herd, our house was one of the many casualties of the Wind Storm that blew through Ohio this past Sunday. No one was hurt, but the roof on the house got a pretty good beating. Our power was out from about 5pm that Sunday and was restored at about 9pm Monday evening. We were without power for about 28 hours. Just about everything but the pop and water in the frig is marked for the trash.

The storm also damaged a fence gate and blew off one of the rails to our deck. Many other homes in the neighborhood have similar or worse damage.

Sunday night was very interesting, before the sun went down Heather and gathered all of our flash lights and candles, got our small gas grill out of the garage and figured out how to open the garage while the power was out.

On Monday, Heather navigated through the city of broken stop lights and got to work. I spent the first half of the day fixing the fence gate and putting together the baby change table. Once I ran out of things I could do without power, I took the laptop to my Brother-n-law’s office and got myself caught up on email. When Heather and I got home around 6pm, there was still no power so we went out for dinner. Finally at about 9pm, the power was restored!

Our neighbor had to get a gas generator in order to keep their sump pump powered. Though we don’t have a water issue under our home, our dependence on electricity from the grid hit home pretty hard. We’ve decided that we don’t want this to happen to us again. Over the next 3 months, we’re going to make an investment into purchasing solar panels and battery packs for both situations like these and they can be used for camping/traveling.

I did some math and discovered that our cable modem uses roughly 2 Watts and my laptop uses roughly 75 Watts. In a pinch, it would not take much in order to power just these two items. I did some research, it looks like I can get a battery pack and some solar panels to charge the battery for less than $500. It’s a start, though not a complete power replacement for all of the electronics and lights in the house. I’m also ordering a Kill A Watt device to monitor the Watts used by certain devices in the home so in the future we have a good idea what we can and cannot power through a solar system.

Another item I’m going to be ordering soon is a solar USB charger. You can find these on Ebay. Anything that you own that can be charged plugged into a USB port of a computer can use a solar USB charger. Both heather and I have a USB charging cable for our cell phones, which would have been very useful for us this past weekend.

How did the wind storm impact your home? Were you prepared for the power outage? Are you taking steps like I am to be less dependant on electricity from the grid?

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Home PodCamp Podcasting Programming Technology

Columbus Social Media Cafe – Central Ohio Bloggers, Podcasters and Social Networking

Anyone in the Central Ohio area who is a blogger, podcaster or social networking enthusiast/expert should be aware that there is a potential meetup group organizing called the Columbus Social Media Cafe. Yesterday was the 4th SMC meetup and I gathered that they are just now working on defining what the goals are of the group and plan on forming a mission statement. You can read more about the last meetup at Elephants on Bicycles and This Woman’s Work blogs.

When I arrived, I found myself briefly explaining what PodCamp and PodCamp Ohio is. I was not prepared to make any sort of presentation at the meetup but I did my best. This was a learning experience for myself, as I found myself speaking to a crowd of bloggers who are aware that podcasting should be included in their space but don’t exactly have a grasp on what exactly podcasting is. I also mentioned briefly some of the viral networking techniques that PodCamp Ohio is using in order to market the event to bloggers, podcasters and social networking enthusiasts.

I learned a lot from the meetup. What I found the most interesting was what they are envisioning; a social networking web site that pulls in feeds of blogs and podcasts and provides social networking features such as tags and comments. The group would be the perfect customer for the RawVoice Generator, which does pretty much what they want. One of the organizers mentioned someone who is in the process of developing such a tool that the group could use, so I didn’t quite feel comfortable mentioning that my company already has such a product on the market for more than 2 years now. The process they are undertaking made me feel vindicated that the past 3 years of my life that I’ve spent developing such tools is of real importance, not just globally but also for the local community. There is real potential for blogging and podcasting to connect with its local communities, and I for sure want to be involved in helping that happen here in Central Ohio.

I hope they can create a brand/logo soon and put in place a scheduled meeting time using not just meeting spaces in the public but also utilizing those social media tools that are so important such as TalkShoe/BlogTalkRadio for on-line recorded phone meetings and Google Group public mailing lists. At the moment the only way anyone can participate is by attending the public meetings, which may limit the audience size of participants. The more opportunity to let someone be herd, the more opportunities that will be used by those with the means. I’m pretty confident they will pick up on these other tools soon.

I am a little concerned that some of the founders organizing the Columbus SMC group found PodCamp Ohio somewhat threatening. I hope they did not get that impression cause it is definitely not something meant to compete with other groups with similar goals. PodCamp is a social event with the primary goal to bring bloggers and podcasters together to share knowledge and network with each other. I hope the Columbus SMC organizers don’t feel threatened by the event, that’s certainly not the events goal and I am confident that’s not what Chris Brogan or Christopher Penn intended when they created PodCamp.

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Home Programming Technology

A Good Keyboard is Important

Last summer, I purchased a new computer, right away I had to swap the new keyboard that came with it (HP Pavilion) with my previous worn down IBM keyboard. Well in October, the keyboard wasn’t working so well so I hunted through the house till I found a keyboard I could live with. Oddly, it’s a HP corporate keyboard from about 10 years ago. It works ok, I am typing on it as we speak, but a couple keys aren’t as reliable as they should be. So last week I went to Microcenter and purchased a $30 Microsoft Keyboard. It was the cheapest keyboard that had a normal keyboard layout with the 2 key wide backspace key. It also had the normal 6 keys between the mail keys and the numeric pad. Many keyboards are starting to re-engineer the 6 keys (insert, home, page up, delete, end and page down) in non standard ways. If you’re a programmer like me, that completely sucks. Some of the keyboards have a 2 key sized delete key and have removed the insert button completely. I don’t know what keyboard designers are thinking lately!

I used to always buy IBM brand keyboards but since they left the desktop/laptop computer market, they no longer sell keyboards. Oh how does that suck! In my opinion, IBM made the best keyboards.

So I’ve been trying out a Microsoft keyboard out for about 5 days and quickly came to hate it. I finally disconnected it and plan on returning it. It did have softer key action, which was keeping my wrists from getting tired. Now I am using this old HP keyboard, my wrists feel like someone stuffed rocks in them.

Dell USB Multimedia KeyboardSo the last keyboard I used that I really liked was the Dell Multimedia Keyboard pictured. This and its non multimedia variant were pretty well designed keyboards, the keys were where they should be and the space in front of the keyboard allowed you to add your own wrist pad.

There’s a few other little things about this keyboard I like. First, the mute button is on the right hand side. The Microsoft keyboard had the mute button on the left, which doesn’t help me at all. The volume control is an actual dial on the Dell, which doesn’t matter for me because I usually use the windows controls for that anyway. It makes a nice holder for my wedding ring when I feel the need to take the ring off while working.

So today, I ordered a new Dell USB Multimedia Keyboard. With shipping it was about $33.

What kind of keyboard are you using? Are you as picky as me as far as key placement?

Categories
Movies Technology

Netflix on computer plus 50 DLP TV equals AWESOME

Netflix‘s recent announcement that customers can watch as many movies and TV shows on their PC recently motivated me to check out the online service. I have to say the service is AWESOME!

We recently purchased a new 50″ DLP HD TV which includes many inputs including VGA. So we hooked up a computer and away we went. In no time we were watching movies from netflix.com on our big screen! The picture quality is excellent, I would have to say better quality than traditional cable. I would even go as far as say to say the quality is high enough that if Netflix offered all of their movies online, we wouldn’t even bother with the traditional movies by mail.

Future entertainment is going to move on-line. Live events will be streamed live and prerecorded content will be released in the same fashion as podcasts. On demand services accessed through the Internet opens the doors of possibility that no Cable or Satellite service could match. I’m convinced Podcasting will be considered the precursor to this New Media movement. I’m very excited to say I’m part of this revolution.

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News Technology

Using Gmail outside of the web browser – Eudora 8 and IMAP

I saw a few weeks ago the announcement that Gmail now offers IMAP support. For those who don’t know what IMAP is, it is a protocol that allows E-mail applications such as Outlook, Thunderbird or Eudora to store copies of E-mail on the server. IMAP existed before webmail and was the ideal way to manage E-mail if you had to access it from multiple computers.

Two years ago Google offered hosting E-mail for specific domains, meaning I could use Gmail for mandato.com. I quickly saw two advantages to moving my E-mail to Gmail. It allowed me to remove a resource from my web server and gave me superb SPAM filtering. I signed up as soon as I found out about the service and have been a very happy Gmail for your domain customer since.

With the recent addition of IMAP support, I can now return to using an E-mail application on my desktop. This allows me to compose messages without having to rely on the web browser.

I’ve been closely watching the next version of Eudora, code named Penelope. They recently released a beta version of Penelope/Eudora 8. The new Eudora is based on Thunderbird. All of the add-ons available to Thunderbird are available to this new version of Eudora. So if you like the clean Eudora interface and the reliability of and options available in Thunderbird, you will feel right at home with this new Eudora.

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News PodCamp Podcasting Technology

PodCamp Ohio

I recently started organizing and planning an event called PodCamp Ohio for 2008. So far everything is coming together, I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress.

The week before Thanksgiving, I started a Google Group and invited some podcasters who were previously interested in a PodCamp Ohio for 2008. Within a week the Google Group lit up with lots of participation. We’re having our first on-line meeting tomorrow night (Thursday) and our first meet-up this Saturday.

For those who are curious, PodCamp is an event for podcasters and bloggers to meet and learn from each other. Each PodCamp varies but typically they include tables for sponsors to hand out swag, a commons area for socializing throughout the day and plenty of 1 hour sessions where bloggers and podcasters talk about specific topics.

Web Site: www.podcampohio.com

The tentative date for PodCamp Ohio is Saturday, June 28, 2008. If you’re a podcaster/blogger or interested in either, please come. The PodCamp should be very educational.

Categories
Technology Transportation

2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 – The GTO of the Millennium

All I can say is, WOW! Dodge designed an awesome car!If you’re into sub-compacts like I am, this is now the leader in the group hands down.

I’ve been a sub compact enthusiast since I purchased a 2000 Honda Civic EX. The Civic was never a fast car, but the size and handling capabilities won me over. I learned quickly that my Civic EX paled in comparison to other sub compacts including the sport model of the 2000 Civic line, the Si.

Sub-compacts have always had a power limit of about 200hp. I always suspected that the car makers didn’t want a sub compact on the market that had more power than their mid size line of cars. I call this the preventing of the GTO effect. Back in the 60’s John DeLorean sneaked powerful engines into intermediate-sized cars (the Pontiac LaMans) when the GM policy was not to put large engines in cars of that size. The result sparked the Muscle Car era, which caused a flurry of performance improvements in cars that carried through for years after.

For what ever reason, corporate executives seem to fear that their smaller line of cars could be more popular then their more expensive, larger products. I always question this logic. Lee Iacocca went on a limb with the Mustang in the 1960’s, but he knew what younger customers want to consume and if you impress a young customer, you can keep them as they grow older. Today, Ford and their sport model Focus is a weak attempt to connect with young customers and the Saturn Redline and Cobalt SS Supercharged is GM’s almost well executed attempt. Dodge/Chrysler not only attempted, but they also set the new bar for sub-compacts.

The next high performing Caliber should be called the SRT4 x 4 (four by four) and include all wheel drive. Right now only Subaru and Mitsubishi have fast sporty sub-compact all wheel drive models, this would be a real alternative in that market.

I’ve always been a Pontiac fan. Pontiac styling has always been a touch better than the rest of the GM family of cars. But GM has been screwing with the sub-compact side of the Pontiac line for a few years now. The damage this is causing to the entire line may be permanent, sending Pontiac down the Buick/Oldsmobile road of extinction. I like the idea of a retro Firebird Trans Am, that product will only attract die hard Firebird owners and guys that want to remember the old days. The Mustang may be doing well with this for a few years to come, but someday someone is going to want a re-designed Mustang. I’ll bet money Ford hasn’t even thought about a next generation Mustang, outside of maybe dashboard/quarter panel changes. What Pontiac needs to do in the short term is step it up a notch with the Pontiac Vibe and the G5. The 2009 Vibe styling is great, but the performance with the sport model doesn’t even compare with the performance offered in other cars in the market including the new Caliber SRT4. The best thing Pontiac could do in the short term is create a G5 in both coupe and sedan with a GT model packed with the same engine from the Cobalt SS Supercharged model and make the limited slip differential standard equipment. At least then GM would have a well styled car that could compete with the sub-compact Honda Civic, Scion tC and Nissan Sentra Spec-V.

The first manufacturer to start thinking about sport models tied with hybrid technology is going to grab a lot of attention and maybe even sales. Especially if they offer it in the sub-compact. I know it’s possible to make a fast hybrid, Honda’s 2006 Accord Hybrid had more power than the regular Accord with a V6. Once they let the genie out of the bottle, I bet we’ll see a whole new revolution of performance parts and modifications for sport hybrids that make regular sport models look boring. History will prove if I’m right on this. Time will tell.

Categories
News Technology

Lemmings computer game via web browser

When I saw this, I instantly had a nostalgic flash back! One of the few computer games I’ve ever played and enjoyed, Lemmings is a mind thinking game that everyone who calls themselves a nerd should play at least once in their life time. Now it’s available on the web! I am not exactly sure how it was converted, but the first 4 levels I played are identical to the original game.

Link: LINK REMOVED

I am not sure if this version of Lemmings is legit or if someone illegally hacked it and put it on their site. For those who are interested, you can buy a copy of the game for Windows by searching amazon.com or ebay for “Lemmings & Oh No! More Lemmings”.

Categories
News Programming Technology

RawVoice Podcast Statistics Released

Over the past couple of months I’ve been working on a podcast statistics system for the RawVoice communities Blubrry, PodcasterNews band TechPodcasts. The system can also be completely re-branded for companies who want to use the media download statistics for their podcasts.

Podcast Statistics are a very important part of the Podcasting business. The download numbers are very important, not only as a way for the producer to gain insight of their audience size, but they are also used as a means of making money. Most podcast advertising today is based on allotments of 1,000 downloads, referred to as CPM. If someone offers you $5 CPM and you have 10,000 downloads of your podcasts, you would make $50. The CPM in this example is just that, an example. Actual CPM rates range based on the popularity of your show, the content it targets and the demographics the advertisement targets.

We were fortunate to work with download statistics for a very popular podcast, one of the top 10 on iTunes. This podcast alone has an audience size of roughly 1/2 million per episode. Having this data, I was able to truly test and optimize the database and programming logic in order to quickly create the reports. The first version of the system took 15 minutes to update. The updates now take between 60 to 90 seconds and include the totals for country demographics, software clients and operating system platforms.

If you want to see what I have been working on over the past couple months, check out the Blubrry Podcast Statistics page.

I am pretty excited by the outcome of the Statistics system. I have many people to thank, especially my wife for her help and support.

Categories
News Technology

Excellent RMA service with Patriot Memory

Patriot Memory has very good RMA service. If you purchased Patriot Memory, rest assured your warranty will be honored. Link: http://www.patriotmem.com/

I got 2 1GB PC2 5300 sticks of Patriot brand memory in late July of last year. Both sticks worked great, then in April of this year one stick went bad. Unfortunately for me, the Inspiron E1505 was not much help in diagnosing the problem. The laptop was still under warranty when I called Dell. Dell support had me test lots of things, none of which was the memory. Eventually the tech had me give him the LED blink code that was coming from the laptop. According to the Dell support it was a code that indicated that either the system board or the processor was bad. Dell was so confident they solved the problem they told me to plan on sending the entire laptop back with the hard drive. So I spent the entire night backing up my hard drive to another computer. Then the next day I got the package to send the laptop back to dell and it said I could keep my hard drive if I had the knowledge to take it out of the computer. Agg, Dell phone support just never knows what is going on. So anyway, when I was getting ready to package the computer up, I decided I should take the upgraded memory out and put the original 512MB stick in.

Right before I packaged the laptop I thought maybe I would try to turn the computer on one last time. Well guess what, the laptop started fine. So now I had my own technical mind working, I tested each memory module separately in the computer and discovered the real problem, one of the Patriot memory sticks went bad. At that point I had to re-install windows on the hard drive, etc.. I decided to just run the laptop on 1.5GB of memory for the time being. I was pretty disappointed that my fairly modern Dell laptop is not as sophisticated as some previous computers I’ve owned 10+ years ago. A month later I decided I should see if the Patriot memory is under warranty. Lucky to me it was and when I contacted Patriot Memory, they wasted no time in getting me an RMA. Talk about two spectrums, Dell support was crappy but the Patriot was top notch.