Bye bye birdie!

Last night i decided to do a digital reset of sorts. Ok, well maybe it was thrust upon me because silly me forgot to do a backup before i flashed a new custom rom on my phone. ALWAYS DO A FULL BACKUP FIRST!!!!

I usually do a backup. But i’d flashed this particular rom on several previous occasions and it had always worked flawlessly. Enter Murphy and his annoying law. This was at about 11pm. You know that sinking feeling you get when something really REALLY bad has happened and you’re not sure you can fix it? Ya, that’s what i felt when i was looking at my blank screen. Welcome to “you’ve been bricked”.

After several hours of frustration (at 2am i finally gave up, resigned to having to get a new phone soon – wasn’t that going to be a fun conversation to have with the wife. $$$). But wait, the story has a happy ending. Bear with me. I crashed, and woke up early (it’s impossible to sleep in with young school aged kids in the house). And within about 30 minutes my phone was humming along nicely. Moral of the story? Well. 1st moral: ALWAYS BACKUP before you do something potentially dangerous. 2nd moral: Never try to solve complicated tech problems at 2am.

Sadly, since i hadn’t backed up recently, the best i could do was restore an older backup from 2 months ago. Which might not seem all that bad. But … 2 months of angry birds 3 star levels lost? Seriously. That’s what i was most worried about. Everything else i could either get back through “the cloud” or my other backups. But my angry birds data was irretrievably lost :(

But as the day went on and i starting bringing things back online one by one, i realized something. Probably 90% of the “stuff” i had on my phone was digital clutter that i didn’t really care about. I hightly doubt i’ll miss it (including the angry birds, angry birds rio, angry birds seasons, angry birds space, and bad piggies games that sucked so much of my time). I’m curious to see what i do end up putting back on. Liberation!


With the recent introduction of Google+, it got me to thinking how much of my life is tied up in Google. I did a quick count of how many Google products and services I use. Would you like to see the list? How does your list compare? Are we worried that Google will use this to ruin our lives at some point? Or is “do no evil” good enough for you to trust them with everything?

Used all the time (multiple times daily, daily)

  • Google search
  • Gmail
  • Chrome browser
  • Google music
  • Google reader
  • Google+
  • Google calendar
  • Google talk
  • Google voice
  • Android OS
  • Google news

Used often (multiple times a week)

  • Google docs
  • Google maps
  • YouTube

Used occasionally

  • Google buzz
  • Google groups
  • Google translate
  • Google bookmarks
  • Picassa
  • Google earth
  • Google alerts

I weep for the future

begin rant – please don’t be offended –

ok, i’ll admit it.  it bugs me when people use poor grammer or just plain misspell things in their posts.  actually, it’s not the grammar so much as the obviously incorrect use of words.  (and yes, i purposefully spelt those words differently in the first sentence) :)

I was commenting to Luann how it surprises me how many people just don’t get the difference between to, too, and two.  They’re, their, there.  Were, we’re. Effect, affect.  You’re, your.  Here, hear.  I could go on.  Not that i dislike these people, but … am i the only one who cares about these things?  I’m no english professor.  I don’t mind a “hey u, ‘sup?” but it just pains me sometimes.

Lu says it’s probably common and i just notice it now because more and more people are writing in public places (facebook, email, twitter, blogs) where everyone can see it, and the viewing of horrible spelling isn’t confined to school teachers grading papers anymore.  If this is true … the school system has failed us.  Or English is just too damn complicated.  Either way – please – take a moment to proof your writing and make sure you’re using the words right.  We’ve got the all-knowing Google at our fingertips.  Wikipedia.  Anything.  Just because the word isn’t underlined red doesn’t mean it’s not incorrect.  (parse that sentence, it makes sense, trust me).

-end of rant-

Digital Reputation

courtesy of renjith krishnan (from

I was thinking about various news reports that have been coming in about the Japanese earthquake / tsunami / reactor meltdowns and it got me to thinking about how everyone’s sharing videos on facebook and links/news blurbs on twitter. And of course the news networks are doing their thing as well. But with so much information about the event, how can you filter out and just get the good relevant bits?

And at the same time, the neurons in my head jumped over to IBM’s recent achievement of the Watson computer that totally wiped the floor with everyone’s favorite Jeopardy hero, Ken Jennings.

How can you tell what information is good and useful and what information isn’t worth your time? Digital Reputation. Suppose you see two headlines on the newspaper stand. One reads “Green goo found seeping into New York subways”, and another reads “Big glowing red gas cloud spotted over Arizona”. One is in the Washington Post. One is in the National Enquirer. Which are you more likely to believe?

Digital Reputation is a way of adding ‘weight’ to a piece of information based on who (or what entity) reported it. Some people tend to say crazy and outrageous things. Some people just regurgitate everything they hear from their friends on facebook. Others actually report things accurately and non-biased (mostly).

The idea is to assign some type of reputation to a person. We do it naturally ourselves. You’re probably more likely to believe and/or pay attention to something your spouse or best friend says than you are to some random person that showed up as a retweet in your twitter stream. You’re also more likely to believe someone who was actually at or near an event than someone far removed from it.

How can we tell good from bad with such a huge amount of information available? It’s too much for any person to consume. This is where i was thinking about Watson. Could it be modified somehow to read in the millions of tweets and facebook status updates and blog posts and news articles, understand them, determine what’s ‘true’, who said what, and assign people weights based on historical data: “this guy” tends to say accurate and relevant things, whereas “that guy” just regurgitates stuff and adds false commentary. With that, as a user, you could look at someone’s digital reputation and use that as a guide of who to follow. In other words, it can help you filter for good and relevant information.

Which brings up another subject: How important is it to create/nurture/maintain a good digital reputation? Could it have future impact on your job interviews, your marriage prospects, your retirement?

Why I enjoy my phone so much

I just love my phone. It’s awesome. But why doesn’t it get old after a while? You know – just become something that i use when i need it, and aside from that, it just sits there in my pocket?

I think there are several reasons for this. First is the fact that’s it’s just so useful. I mean, it does so much more than calls. It shows me weather and news, which are constantly updated. I can check movies, sports scores (like i ever do that), order tickets, find a place to eat, play a quick game, read a book, update my facebook status. So reason #1 – it’s a window into the digital world and i’m constantly using it. Thus it never gets old.

But i think, at least personally for me, the number one reason i love my phone is because i can write programs for it. I can have it do whatever i can magine. It’s my “little computer” (as Alex used to so fondly call these things when he was younger). There’s always some new frontier to be conquered. Some new thing to try and make it do. It never gets old, because i’ve never exhausted all the possibilities.

I have moved from Blojsom to WordPress

As you may have noticed, i’ve switched around my blog. It was time to move on to a more modern, powerful engine. I’ve chosen to use WordPress. I hope you like it. I’ve certainly enjoyed it so far. If you’re interested in the whole boring history of my blog, keep reading.

As you may have noticed, i’ve switched around my blog. It was time to move on to a more modern, powerful engine.  I’ve chosen to use WordPress.  I hope you like it.  I’ve certainly enjoyed it so far.  If you’re interested in the whole boring history of my blog, keep reading.

My first blog was hosted on a friend’s server, running TypePad.  It worked ok for a while, but eventually I wanted to run my own blog so i could have more control.

For the second incarnation of my blog, I picked a little-known java-based open source project called blojsom.  It was easy to install, had a lot of nifty features, and was growing like mad.  Every two or three weeks there was a new release.  I even got into the code and fixed a bug which i contributed back to the community.  The only drawback was the fact that it used a flat file-based system rather than a database.  This worked great for a time.

Eventually blojsom began to mature and a 3.0 release prompted me to restart my blog with the new blojsom.  With this new version, i had lots of control and lots of widgets to play with.  And i had fun writing my own themes.  I also had three blogs.  I asked David (the owner of the server where my first blog was hosted) to export all my old posts.  He did so, and i imported them into blog #3.

Soon after blojsom 3 was released, it became apparent that blojsom had died.  There hasn’t been a new release in over two years.  I continued to use it, but as time has moved on, blojsom did not.  It has come to the point where it has finally fallen too far behind.  There’s no community support and it’s a resource hog.  Knowing that it would soon be time to move on, i took my old blojsom 2 blog and rolled it into blog #3.  Now at last i had all my blog posts, clear back from January 2003 in one place.

After some research, i have come to the conclusion that WordPress is the hot ticket.  Tons of community support.  Lots of fun and interesting widgets, lots of themes.  Lots of updates.  Easy to use, easy to administer.  So here comes blog #4 – complete with all my previous posts imported in (after a HUGE and headache filled process i might add).

Prepping for HTML 5

Well, i suppose since HTML 5 will eventually show up, i should make my pages (and previous posts) html 5 friendly. Most things can stay, but there are a few HTML 4 deprecated tags that have been dropped. Gonna do a search for those and replace them with css replacements.

The dropped tags are:

  • center
  • font
  • strike

I can’t think of anywhere i’ve used strike, but i know all sorts of places where i’ve used font, and several that i’ve used center. Oops. :) Fortunately there are simple css alternatives. Just a matter of search/replace. At least i’ll have something to do next time i get bored (ya, like that happens a lot). hah.

Some notes for myself: Here’s a good css page.

Here’s how to convert center to the css equivalent:

If it’s an inline element, simply put “text-align:center” on the parent element.

If it’s a block level element, make sure the parent is not absolutely positioned and has a width, and then add “margin: 0 auto”.

Beware the dangerous hymn-singing flash mob!

A friend of a friend (Jeff) is teaching a class at BYU with the purpose of using “new media in the classroom”. To that end, he’s doing a class project that involves blogging, podcasting, social networking, etc.. He even arranged a little flash mob on campus recently.

This is where things get interesting. Apparently he didn’t tell The UniversityThe Establishment about his flash mob and they’re quite grumpy about it. The mob was just a bunch of students from all over campus getting together at the Wilkinson Center at a certain time and bursting into song (“I am a child of God”?). There was quite a turn-out and it made an impression. So much so that the university has told Jeff that he’s not allowed to teach this course anymore! How lame is that? They just don’t get it.

This is the best part though. I was sitting there thinking about the whole incident today in the car and the perfect line came to me. It’s a shame that i’ll probably never have a chance to deliver it. “Hey Jeff, i heard about the flash mob. There was a great disturbance in the Wilkinson Center, as if millions of voices cried out in song and were suddenly silenced.”

Senate hearing on video game violence

I just ran across this quote and it was too good to pass us…

During the recent Senate hearings on video game violence, one expert claimed
that the ESRB underrated violent games. They went on to say that Pacman was 64%
violent. To some, this means you shouldn’t play Pacman; to others, it highlights
what’s wrong with Senate hearings.

Quote here