Wind Map

There's a new weather widget out that creates a wind speed map.  Take a look here.

 

Police Wardriving Down Under

I ran across an article today that the police in Queensland Australia are going "wardriving" to find homes with unsecured wifi so they can issue a "warning" to help people avoid identity theft.  Talk about public service!  I wish the cops around here would do this. I find open wifi every day when I check my email sitting at a stop light, my iPhone 4 asks me if I want to join some wifi that reaches the intersection, presumably from somebody's house or appartment nearby.

I got pulled over the other day for going the customary speed which is 15 over the posted speed but alas I wasn't in the middle of a pack of cars so I had to pay.  I guess this wifi thing is the equivalent of cops walking up and trying the lock on your shed and giving you a warning if you left the thing unlocked but I'd rather have cops wardriving to help people understand how to set up their home wifi  than doing sneaky speed traps.

Man Powered Flight? Darn. It was a hoax...

I came across this in my RSS feeds today and watched it over on Popular Science.  If it isn't a hoax, I expect to be able to buy sets of these "wings" in a few years from now.  Wow.  Very nice.  It sounds like two small gas engines are doing some work and he is "controlling" things by his flapping but it's really hard to tell in such a short video.

Update: Popular Science is reporting this as a hoax.  Nice thought though.

Happy PI Day!

Every year on March 14th, it's PI day! At 1:59:26 this morning it was pi second but you had to stay up late last night or get up pretty early this morning to celebrate it!

In Browser Circuit Simulation

 

There is a new "in browser" circuit simulator called CircuitLab. And it doesn't even require flash. Try it out here.

An Interesting Circuit

Go ahead and build this.  I dare you...

"Flipped" Classrooms

 Tonight, as I spent some time doing backup chores on my computer and glancing at Costa Concordia articles, I stumbled across an article on CNN about "flipped classrooms".  Basically the lectures are all recorded and students come to school to do homework.  It's being used in a "Detroit area" high school and has raised student success rates dramatically.

 

Brilliant!  This hits close to home for me on two fronts.  First of all, I've experienced the "youtube instructional model" courtesy of Khan Academy and Stanford's recent AI class.  I'm also interested in getting my kids to go through MITs open courseware programs.  Instead of coughing up high tuition, let's see if they can pass a quiz in a free engineering or computer science class!   The second way this hits home is my recent work with the boy scouts in our troop on a rather lengthy religious award, Ad Altere Dei.  I gave the scouts homework which they went home and ignored.  This went on for two months and I decided to have them bring their books and do the homework at before troop meetings with my help.  They were able to finish the award and I think they got a lot more out of it than they would if they simply went off on their own to write up their responses to the questions in their workbooks.

 

NSA Hardening Guides for Popular OS's

Are you trying to keep the bad guys out of your computer?  It turns out the NSA wants to help you!

I get a lot of requests from friends and family members who wonder if their computer might be infected with  a virus because it is acting up.  Over at Macrumors, I stumbled across a thread that linked to a site put up by the NSA to help users harden their systems against intruders.  These hardening guides are for OS X (sorry but it only goes up to Snow Leopard as of this writing), Linux, Windows and Solaris.  

 

The OS X hardening tip, available as a pdf file, point out some pretty obvious things, such as "Don't Surf or Read Mail Using Admin Account" or "Use Software Update."   Some are a little more subtle like "Disable IPv6 and Airport when Not Needed".

 

Oh the Pain: Dealing with Online Photo Services in the Wake of Losing Mobile Me Galleries

Mobile Me galleries are my photo sharing method of choice and have been since I got a Mac.  In iPhoto, I need only click "share" and it's done.  When Eyefi cards came along, it got even easier as they could create mobile me galleries for me before I even imported fresh pictures into iPhoto.  

I have become something of an unofficial family photographer at events because people know the pics will show up on my web page, sometimes before the last car has left the parking lot of the event we were attending.  In spring of 2011 when Apple announced iCloud, I had just renewed my Mobile Me family pack.  "No sweat" I thought.  I could simply apply for a refund for the unused portion once iCloud went live and I moved everything over.  WRONG.  So I began my quest to replace mobile me and also decided I would look into a service that had large or limitless storage so I could back up my 200 GB horde of photos and home movies.

 

Make no mistake, I'm delighted with iCloud sync and with Photostream which now has photos show up on my iPad DURING family events provided there is wifi available.  The problem is that I'm being driven into the arms of blithering idiots in my quest to find a suitable replacement for Mobile Me galleries.  The first thing I tried was the path of least resistance.  I logged on to flickr and tried to renew my pro subscription.  No dice.  Something was wrong with my paypal account and neither paypal nor yahoo (owner of flickr) could help.  In the meantime, I read up on competing photo sites.  In addition to flickr, I tried smugmug, picasaweb, photobucket and dotphoto.  All of them have problems.  In fact some of the obstacles were so insurmountable I found myself pleading with Apple through their soon-to-disappear mobile me feedback page to extend mobile me idisk and galleries beyond June 30, 2012. (1/15/2012: some updates follow...)

Network Attached Storage Roundup - Christmas 2011

Over the years I've used almost every brand of Network Attached Storage (NAS).  I've tried Buffalo, Iomega, Seagate, Western Digital, Apple, LaCie and most recently Synology.  Two major players I've missed out on are Drobo and QNAP.  

Here are some comparison points to help you decide if you are considering NAS.  There are several factors in choosing an NAS.  One is media performance.  Some units brag about DLNA* while others ignore it.  Sone units come with disks which seems more convenient but is actually a LOT worse if you ever experience problems.  The best choice is a unit where you have to put in your own disks.  Why? If the thing breaks, do you trust Seagate or WD with your data?  Do you think they will send you the same one back with your files on the thing?  Even Apple doesn't do that.  So spend a little more time and money and buy your own SATA drives and a NAS unit that accepts customer installed disks.  It's the best way to go to protect your data.  

 

*DLNA is a media standard to support streaming audio video and photos from a NAS drive to a DLNA aware internet TV, BluRay player, computer or even an iOS or Android device.  I'm considering Apple TV someday but I already own a DLNA ready TV and a DLNA ready bluray player so I decided to focus on DLNA as one of the requirements for my NAS drive.  I don't think I should have to leave one of our Macs running iTunes just to stream stuff around the house since iTunes generally makes my Macbook's fans run.

In the ratings that follow, I've included links to manuals for each unit.  You can tell a lot about a unit by reading the user manual before you buy.  If the manual goes on for pages about how to type a URL into internet explorer, you know the device is aimed at a novice user but you also know the setup should be quick and painless.  If the manual is 200 pages long then you know the unit has a lot of features but you might be in for a long session figuring it out and setting it up just the way you like it.

***** Synology: Good quality, medium to difficult setup, above average cost, fast DLNA performance, fast network performance, no transcoding capability, can be set to power itself back on after a power failure, very low power 6 to 18 watts, extensive setup screens in a browser, apache, php, mysql web server, root shell access.  DSM 3.1 manual (pdf) 5 stars.

**** QNAP: Good quality, purchase drives separately, high cost, no DLNA support, fastest network performance, turbo nas manual. 4 stars. (not tested)

*** Apple: Medium quality (except near 100 pct failure for first gen Time Capsules), drives included, medium to slow network performance, no DLNA support, moderate setup screens in airport utility, OS X and iOS update caching if you use your TC as your router. setup guide (pdf) 3 stars.

* Buffalo: Medium quality, drives included, slow network performance, does not power back on after power failure, 1 star. manual (pdf) (used an older model over 5 years)

** LaCie: Medium to good quality, drives included, medium to slow network performance, powers on after a power failure, firmware update may require factory reset to recover, moderate setup screens in a browser, 2 stars. manual (pdf) (used over 1 year)

* Iomega: poor quality, drives included, loud fan noise, high power consumption, runs hot, poor network performance, poor setup screens in a browser, 1 star. manual (used over 2 years)

* Seagate: medium quality, drives included, slow network performance, full capability requires annual subscription, avoid this brand, no power up after power failure, 1 star. manual (pdf) (brief testing)

** Seagate Blackarmor: medium quality, drives included, medium network performance, 2 stars. manual (pdf) (not tested)

**** Drobo: good quality, high cost, purchase drives separately, 4 stars. manual (not tested)

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