Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Problem with Network Marketing

Here is a great little three minute presentation about the impossibility of making money with network marketing schemes. I'm particularly bothered by these scams as some of my extended family is heavily invested in the Usana marketing scheme.

inFact with Brian Dunning is the web video series that gives you the real facts behind popular myths, promoting high-quality information that helps people live better lives.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seas of Rubber: The Truth About Tire Recycling

Just stumbled on this article this morning during my morning feed read.  I have some experience with tires as my brother Luc and I spent a couple of summers burning them at Lafarge.  (Actually Lafarge is where I had the pleasure of spraining my spine, something that still affects me from time to time and prevents me from getting disability insurance for my mortgage, but that's another story entirely.)

From the article:
One way in which tires are used is as a fuel source for generating power, but this is very inefficient, not to say questionable in terms of emissions. Incineration occurs at higher temperatures than coal and produces 25% more energy, but since burning a ton of tires produces almost the same amount of carbon, it is hardly eco-friendly.
Image via Tyremil

Monday, June 21, 2010

Up 7.8 lbs

Almost there.  Started at about 148 lbs back in mid April.  Just a bit over 4 lbs to go to hit the 160 mark. Using to help track the progress.  One of the most useful iPhone apps I've ever come across

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Party of Gno | Linux Magazine

Great article pointing out some of the issues with the FSF's negative add campaigns that try to convince users to no use proprietary software. I think Joe Brockmeier has nailed it.

If something doesn’t work, try something else. That’s a lesson that the FSF needs to embrace, if it wants to succeed with a mainstream audience. Being the Party of Gno, and trying to tell users to just avoid Windows, Cloud Computing, iPads, and proprietary software isn’t cutting it. It’s time to come up with credible alternatives or be satisfied with remaining irrelevant to the majority of users.

The Party of Gno | Linux Magazine:

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Cog is Dead

Just discovered these guys through the Uvumi music site.  How perfect!

Have a listen to the song "The Death of The Cog".

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Interactive Fiction

I'm sure a few people in my age group will remember the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books from when we were kids with some measure of fondness.  There was something engrossing about participating in the outcome of a printed story and the ability to go back and try different combinations of choices to come to an entertaining outcome. For myself, this eventually lead to a fascination, almost obsession, with turn style text based adventure games.  Of course with the eventual advent of the Nintendo game console I quickly abandoned the text based world for the one of intense 8bit video game graphics. Still, there was something unique about those text adventures.

So imagine my surprise today when I came across a piece of software called Inform which is an IDE for designing Interactive Fiction (that is the proper name for it). Apparently, following the collapse of the commercial market for the game format around the 1990s a group of enthusiasts have been hard at work generating content and improving authoring software to keep it going.  Inform is really impressive and its worth watching the introductory screencast below to get a sense of how easy it could be to create new content.  

Inform 7 Introductory Screencast from Aaron Reed on Vimeo.

If you're interested in taking a trip down memory lane you should also have a look at the interactive fiction database online to search for some title you can either play online or download an interpreter to play on your desktop.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Merchants of Doubt

Just listened to this great Point of Inquiry podcast on this new book "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming" by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway. If you're frustrated and confused at the seemingly contradictory scientific reports behind such an important issue as climate change then you should listen to this podcast. I will simply say it is an eye opener...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Desktop clutter hell

I'm usually pretty meticulous about having a clean desktop on all my computers but lately I've been too busy to keep up the good habits.  This means that I now have a huge pile of unrelated files on my desktop that will take me anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to clean up.  Not the end of the world but it got me thinking that there has to be a better way of managing my files.  As always, to the internet for a software solution.  Here are a few of my finds:

Fences uses a very clever way of organizing your desktop by creating shaded areas which become movable and sizable containers for your icons. Double click blank spaces on your desktop and all your fences will fade out, and back. While this is certainly a potentially helpful way of keeping a cluttered desktop organized it doesn't actually deal with the clutter itself.  My experience with it has been that I simply ended with a bunch more fences on my desktop hidden an ever growing collection of files.  Not really the all encompassing solution I was looking for.

DropIt is a simple drop target (a floating image on your desktop) that you can drop files onto to quickly position them in folders of your choice. It allows to set a destination folder for each pattern rule defined and group patterns as different profiles.  While this is certainly a good idea there are severe limits to how useful this can be.  Because DropIt relies so heavily on the file name and extension pattern matching for organizing your files you are limited by the naming conventions you want to manage.  Taking the extra step of renaming a file before dropping it on the target is equivalent to the effort needed to filing it in the folder myself.

Tabbles is similar to DropIt in regards to the drag and drop approach to sorting your files.  However, Tabbles steps it up a notch by tagging and tracking your files with specific tags depending on the icon (or tabble) you drop it on instead of moving to a specific folder based solely on a filename pattern. Think of it as a way of associating multiple keywords to a file and then being able to search and navigate your file system through these keywords (which show up as virtual folders in the Tabbles navigation window).  The net advantage here is that you can associate a single file with multiple tabbles.  This means that you can dump all you files into one giant folder and use Tabbles to make sense of everything.  The program will also monitor your file system and will automatically apply certain default tags to new files, such a file type, to streamline the process.

While this software is  potentially the most useful solution I found I'm sad to say that the free version limits you to only 1000 files.  As such it's not really a practical solution for my work environment as I have well over this amount. Still, I'm tempted to try this at home for a while to see how useful it ends up being over the long term.

BumpTop is a 3D desktop environment that aims to make sense of your desktop by turning your clutter into simulated physical objects that you can throw around, stack, scale, flip through, and even pin to the wall.  While this is more eye candy that anything else the concept is very intriguing.  Unfortunately the software is no longer available since it was acquire by Google in April of 2010.  The company has not issued an official statement of what they intend to do with the software but it seems likely that they will use it in conjunction with their Android OS for a tablet to rival the iPad.  If you are curious you can have a look Anand Agarawala's, the creator of BumpTop (yes a Canadian), talk at TED.  Alternatively you can also play around with a very pale imitation of the software ShockDesktop3D that only has a fraction of the features.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The site just came up on my radar through some of the regular feeds.  It is very reminiscent of (Open Source as Alternative) which basically takes care of documenting lesser known software alternatives to their more popular counterparts.  You just type in the name of the software you want an alternate to and it will list you some suggestions.    It is also great when you are looking for replacing a piece of software that is no longer available or outdated.

While doesn't only focus on open source it does offer more regular updates and a wider variety of options.

From the website:

We have one mission: helping you find the right software for your computer or mobile phone. To do this we wanted to rethink the whole process of searching for apps. No more browsing through categories with long lists of crappy software.
Based on our users recommendations we list great alternatives to the applications you want to replace. By joining the site you can participate in the process of making these recommendations better, so please join in!