Monday, May 23

It Must Be Love, but Let's Be Sure

This idea is pretty dumb. If a couple is so immature that they think they need "pre-premarital" or "pre-engagement" counseling, they aren't prepared for marriage in the slightest.

To be honest, even the premarital counseling my wife and I went through while we were engaged was a bit unnecessary... but that was mostly because the counselor himself wasn't very adaptable. It seemed like he had a particular "patter" he used on every couple, and it just didn't fit us or our situation. In general, premarital counseling is a good thing, but only in the hands of a competent counselor.

I see why these people think "pre-engagement" counseling is a good thing. I realize that many engaged couples who go in for premarital counseling are so wrapped up in the "in love" feeling that any advice from the conselor probably won't even be heard. It seems logical to move the time of counseling to a point at which the couple is more level-headed and not quite so undyingly infatuated with one another.

But, if a couple cannot discuss these issues on their own and realize what they're dealing with before the guy goes out and buys a ring, they're too immature to even think about changing their lives so drastically. This new phase of counseling is basically asking a counselor to guide you along by the hand through the dating experience. Dating should bring these issues up naturally and not require external coercion.

Thursday, May 19

The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth

BBC's cutting-edge policies in both journalism and broadcasting are finally garnering them some attention.

I listen to the BBC almost daily via the Internet (mostly comedies on BBC7 and Radio 4), and I'm very impressed with their ability to not only broadcast radio over the Internet but to keep all recently-aired shows online for a week just in case they were missed. The Freeview idea (explained more fully in the linked article) is great, too, and it's helping Britain become a digital country long before America will ever have the chance. However, Freeview contains advertising, which regular BBC programming doesn't have. If American stations were to try to create something like Freeview and add *more* ads in order to provide access to digital TV, those without cable subscriptions might see more ads than actual TV shows.

And then there's the British sense of humor... a bit more refined, slightly drier, and often requiring a modicum of intelligence just to get the jokes. I love the BBC, and it's nice to see them getting their due in this article.

Wednesday, May 18

Update: My PDA Situation

Well, after all of my previous consideration, I ended up getting myself a palmOne Tungsten E2. It's a great little PDA, and it's basically a reincarnation of my old T2 minus the odd slide-out screen thing. There are a few other differences, of course; most notable are the fact that the case is plastic instead of metal and the minor changes presented by the OS upgrade from 5.2.1 to 5.4.

On the whole, though, I like it. PalmOS 5.4's Applications Launcher no longer allows me to flip through categories by repeatedly tapping "Home" (instead, a second tap brings me to a Windows-Start-Menu-like "Favorites" screen containing shortcuts to selected applications), but it more than makes up for this by allowing me to set configurable alarms on my "To Do" items. I was about to buy a third-party app called "ToDo2" for my T2, but thankfully I waited and have almost-as-good functionality built in to the E2.

I only have two accessories I'm considering: a new case/cover, and a USB sync/charge cable. I've already got some screen protectors (I bought them at Fry's along with the handheld itself), and I'm debating whether those plus the included flip cover are sufficient to protect the E2 as it jostles around in my left pocket along with my pocketknife and all that dust that inexplicably ends up on the screen. A more protective case would be good, but would increase the E2's size and weight. Also, since I use my Palm as an MP3 player, a fully-enclosing case would limit my access to the headphone jack. I'm still on the fence about this one, and I might just stick with what I've already got.

However, the sync/charge cable is not an option for me... I need it. The E2 comes with what palmOne calls a "multi-connector," which basically separates the connecting port at the bottom of the device into a "synchronizing" portion and a "charging" portion. It only ships with a separate charging cable and USB sync cable (no cradle, as was previously the norm), but I miss the ability to charge the handheld from the USB port. The sync and charge portions are close enough that one cable could easily connect to both simultaneously, and luckily a USB sync/charge cable has been made that encompasses both functions and retails at around $15.

Does anyone with an E2 have any experience selecting a case and/or sticking with the included flip cover? Please let me know about it in the Comments section of this post.

Monday, May 16

The gospel of Billy Graham: Inclusion

This is a great article in USA Today about Billy Graham and his ministry. It's written from a refreshingly God-fearing point of view that you don't often see in the news media these days.

No Wrong Answer: Click It

This article from Wired describes a growing trend in university lecture halls: mass polling of a class via wireless devices. These seem to be akin to the "Ask the Audience" gadgets used in "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?," and the instructor can use them to elicit opinions, quickly test knowledge, or any other use for which an answer can be given via multiple-choice or numerically.

Students at Brown University call the devices "clickers," and professors have found that using the gadgets actually boosts classroom attendance. It also gives students a venue in which to more freely share their opinions. "People that [hold unpopular opinions] will click," says Ross Cheit, an Ethics instructor at Brown. "But they might not raise their hand and say it."

Friday, May 13

Can Apple Stay on Top?

Apple Computer.

If someone had told me in college that I would eventually become a Mac user, I would have laughed in their face. Or at least chuckled derisively. I still maintain that pre-X versions of MacOS are completely inferior to 9x versions of Windows (well, OK, maybe not WinME), but I really like the way OSX operates.

The interface, the ease of use, the stable Unix underpinnings... it's quite a package. I'm still in the early stages of figuring out how to directly use Unix through the Terminal, but since it's back there OSX is now able to run all kinds of software geeks have made for personal use over the years. Part of the reason I used to be a staunch Windows user was the availability of freeware and shareware, but OSX now has a similar volume of free software.

And there I went on a tangent again. I keep going on about my past as a Windows user and my semi-newfound Mac affinity. Let's start over.


Apple computer.

Everybody's favorite company, but on the other hand its inexplicable business and legal dealings just might be a major downfall. For more specifics, just read the article to which I've linked. My interest in this topic has waned in the half-hour or so I've been trying to write this, so I'll let Joel Johnson of LAPTOP magazine do the rest of the talking.

Anil Dash: Pay By The Hour

I found this interesting tidbit from blogger and onetime freelancer Anil Dash about deciding on a price for freelance work:

  1. Slap the client in face.
  2. Tell the client your hourly rate.
If the person looked more shocked, horrified, offended, hurt, saddened, or wounded by the slap in the face, then you are still pricing yourself too low.
He goes on to say that "eye-poking may be substituted for slapping in some states." Though this is obviously tongue-in-cheek, I think the main points are these:
  1. Don't give the client a price you think they want to hear
  2. Don't undervalue your own work
  3. To hell with politeness! This is business!
Disclaimer: Following this procedure is not recommended to anyone hoping to get repeat business from their clients.

Thursday, May 12

Firefox 1.0.4 Released

After a major security vulnerability was discovered earlier this week, Firefox developers put their collective nose to the grindstone (or maybe their hand to the pizza box? mouth the beer keg?) and came up with a new version. Download and install it today!

I've noticed a lot of visitors to my blog use older versions of Firefox, and while the functionality is much the same this new version is by far the most secure. Anybody who is careful about the security of their computer should get this (or, for those who are ultra-careful, I bet you're already using Firefox 1.0.4 right now).

Wednesday, May 11

Quote of the day - May 11

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.

- Thomas Pynchon, writer (1937- )

Tuesday, May 10


Geocaching looks like a lot of fun. It's basically a game, played by leaving packages in discreet locations in backwoods areas and publishing GPS coordinates of their locations (some people even make puzzles to find out the GPS coordinates using letters and numbers from signs geocachers might see along the way to the find).

Since my wife has a GPS device (she's an environmental scientist, and she likes geeky gifts like that), this looks like something we might try in the future. If we do, you can be sure to read about it here.

Friday, May 6

My PDA situation

My Palm Tungsten T2 is on its last legs. I've worn it into the ground. It won't hold a charge anymore, and it has hard-reset itself and lost all data at least 6 times in the last couple of months (including in my pocket on the way to work this morning, which is what has prompted these thoughts today). I've gone through the various options I have, and presented below is the thought process I have gone through.

1. Fix my Tungsten T2
2. Get a new Tungsten E2
3. Get a new Tungsten T5
4. Get a new Treo 600
5. Wait until the Treo 650 comes out for Verizon, and buy it

1. The T2 will cost at *least* $150 to fix, and it will still be used. This old piece of hardware has been used and abused for almost two years, and there's no way it'll ever be as good and reliable as it was when I first got it. It would be good to get a new one, and have this one as a "testing ground" to play with new software so that the newer one wouldn't get bogged down with all of my playing around.

2. The E2 has no real bad points, but then again it has no real good points either (other than the fact that it's the cheapest). It's basically a slightly less sleek, and much bigger, version of the T2 I already have.
Price from PalmOne: $249
Lowest price found (shipping included): $219

3. The Tungsten T5 is a great-looking handheld. It has the fastest processor of any Palm OS-based computer, and it's got a really big screen (the "writing" section is actually a part of the screen that can be minimized to allow the screen to expand). It's got the most memory of any handheld as well, and it can be operated in "drive mode" to act like a USB flash drive. The only drawback to this option is that I would have to get a new phone as well, but then again the "Upgrade" pricing from Verizon might make the new phone free or nearly free.
Price from PalmOne: $399
Lowest price found (shipping included): $319

4. The Treo 600 is an option, but the negatives far outweigh the positives. Sure, it's a smartphone, but the PDA part of it has much fewer features than even the Tungsten E2. It runs an older version of Palm OS than any of the other handhelds I'm considering, it has a low-resolution screen, it has no Bluetooth wireless sync capabilities, and its version of Documents to Go only allows viewing (no editing) of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. Also, it does not have a non-volatile file system, so the memory will all be erased if the power ever runs all the way down. All other options have NVFS, Bluetooth, OS 5.4, a high-resolution screen, and the ability to directly edit Office documents. The only good points of the Treo 600 is that it is a single device with both phone and PDA capabilities, and it has a built-in QWERTY keyboard. With the slowest processor speed of any new handheld I'm considering, I'd rather have even an E2 and a separate phone than get this contraption.
Price from PalmOne: $299

5. The Treo 650 is almost as fast as the T5, but it still has the smaller screen and a smaller amount of memory. On the plus side, it has a QWERTY keyboard, and it would be easier than ever to keep phone numbers updated in the phone because of the synchronziation capabilities. It also has a removable battery, which is a nice feature, but I kind of doubt that I'd ever get a second battery. The Treo 650 does not include a carrying case or any sort of protective cover, so that would have to be purchased separately. Also, it's cool that the PDA and phone features are combined, but if the PDA ever acts up I'll have a phone that doesn't work either. The Verizon version of the 650 doesn't even exist yet, and as such I don't even know how much it will cost. Treo Central thinks that they'll have one for about $369 after all of the mail-in rebates, but I don't know if the Upgrade credit from Verizon would make that end up any less.
Price from PalmOne (but not for a Verizon version, obviously): $449

1. Refurbishing the T2 would probably not completely fix my problems with it.
2. The Treo 600 would be a big step down.
3. The E2 would lower the status quo slightly (as compared to a fully-working T2, that is).
4. The Treo 650 would be a minor step up in PDA technology (though it would be great for consolidation of two gadgets I've always got around).
5. The T5 would be a big step up (and would even be a minor consolidation of gadgets, since it can act as a USB flash drive).

1. The Treo 650 would likely be the most expensive option.
2. The Tungsten T5 would probably be less expensive than the Treo, but still fairly pricey.
3. The Treo 600 would be relatively cheap.
4. The Tungsten E2 would be the cheapest new PDA, but not the cheapest option.
5. Refubishing the T2 would be the cheapest.

1. The Treo 650 is not yet available to me.
2. Refurbing the T2 would take some time, during which I would be without a handheld.
3. All other handhelds are immediately available.

Total scores (from adding up the relative merits discussed above):
Refurb: 1+5+2 = 8
E2: 3+4+3 = *10*
T5: 5+2+3 = *10*
T600: 2+3+3 = 8
T650: 4+1+1 = 6

It looks like the E2 and the T5 are tied as the front-runners, if equal weight is placed on the three factors I'm considering.

Ignoring availability, all options stack up the same way.
Ignoring price, the T5 gets the highest marks.
Ignoring technology, the Refurb and the E2 are tied.

If I put the highest weight on price by tripling all its numbers, the middle weight on technology by doubling its numbers, and the lowest weight on availability by leaving its numbers alone, the E2 comes out on top:

Refurb: 2+15+2 = 19
E2: 6+12+3 = *21*
T5: 10+6+3 = 18
T600: 4+9+3 = 16
T650: 8+3+1 = 12

But if the highest emphasis is on technology (with price second and availability third), I see the T5 as the best:

Refurb: 3+10+2 = 15
E2: 9+8+3 = 20
T5: 15+4+3 = *22*
T600: 6+6+3 = 15
T650: 12+2+1 = 15

If anybody has any personal experience they can share with me about the relative merits of the Tungsten E2 and the Tungsten T5 (or, really, anything I've talked about here), please discuss with me in the Comments section. Thanks!

Update: Welcome, readers! I had no idea my article discussing the comparative merits of the currently available PalmOne handhelds would generate so much traffic from another site. Thanks for coming; feel free to stick around.

I think I'm going to go with the E2. The main differences between it and the T5 are processor speed, memory, and screen size; these features are cool, but they're ultimately unnecessary. (Also, my wife would much prefer me to get the less expensive one...)

Quote of the Day - May 6

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

- Galileo Galilei, astronomer and physicist (1564-1642)

More food for thought. I think I may be leading up to something, but who knows?

Thursday, May 5

Quote of the Day - May 5

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.

- Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)

That's all. Good night!

Tuesday, May 3

Ivory encore for dead piano greats

This is pretty awesome... Scientists have been able to develop technology to recreate performances from recordings on MIDI-enabled player pianos. This technology is available in a very rudimentary fashion to consumers, usually being unable to capture more than one note of music sounding at a time. The fact that this new incarnation can decipher entire piano pieces is amazing, especially because it has been able to use "scratchy mono recording[s]" as its starting point for the audio-to-MIDI conversion.

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) creates sound by telling a tone generator what notes to play with "note on" and "note off" messages sent sequentially. The upshot of this is that a MIDI file contains within it all of the instructions necessary to translate the song it contains into human-readable music notation. It also allows the size of the files to be very small because it does not need to contain all of the information needed to produce the sounds... it only needs to instruct another device to do so.

The problem comes in the public's perception of MIDI files. Most people who just play MIDI files on their home computers get the impression that they play sound with horrible quality, but it is actually their computer sound cards (acting as the tone generators) that are at fault. MIDI is an impressive technology, and it is very undervalued in today's tech culture mainly because of poor understanding of its intricacies.

The ability to translate audio recordings into MIDI messages has been long in coming, and hopefully a consumer version of this technology will be developed sometime in the near future.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author (use the link above).

The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.