Mostly about my amusement

Month: August 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Titanic video and not by James Cameron

Science is cool and there is no getting around that. It’s also hard work but that’s how it should be. Here is a video taken from the crumbling Titanic that shows how cool it really is.

See it while you can. The Titanic is going the way of all things, which after so many years is not at all surprising.

While I don’t care for wholesale exploitation of the wreck (you know, selling trinkets for cash), this is a part of history. Hopefully something can be preserved in some form.

The other day I heard someone say “Scientists challenge and contradict God” (not an exact quote, I’m paraphrasing) and I thought to myself “What unmitigated bullsh**” (that one is a direct quote). It was in church, I heard it during the homily and I was with the kids. Not a good time to let celebrant know he’s talking nonsense. He was trying to talk about having humility and doing it badly. Forgivable, it’s not easy to speak in front of a lot of people.

I’ve never seen or read about anyone challenging God. What I have seen people challenge other people understandings. I have even seen and read about people behaving badly. It’s not the same thing. How can you challenge God anyway? I mean, didn’t these people read about Job?

People should be encouraged to challenge ideas and frameworks. It’s not disrespectful, it’s called learning.

Epson printers rock

Back in January I became the recipient of my brother Stefan’s Epson Stylus Photo R300 color printer. He no longer used it because he had a better one and the R300 inks would run. The printer was discontinued and replaced with a newer version.

So I bought inks and premium glossy photo paper. The problems he had? I just don’t see it. I’m on vacation and I’m printing up a storm. In Photoshop Elements 8 I can even print edge to edge and the results look fantastic.

I used to be an avowed HP Inkjet fantastic but Epson’s R300 has converted me.

Explosions for SCIENCE!

I should consider buying stock in the Discovery Channel. Not all their shows are hits, but they sure know the formula. They continue to create entertainment that me and the kids like to watch together.

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy fame is getting his own show. The patented Adam Savage “Oh My Gosh! ™” look when he pushes the button is great.

I hope this continues a trend; the kids get to learn and have enjoy watching. Science is fun. It’s hard work too, but that’s alright.

Going on a trip? Plan ahead for photos

Wednesday August 25th the family and I went to the Statue of Liberty.  The trip was planned weeks in advance and we took the Huntington Station line at 6:15 Am to get there nice and early before the crowds.

It was raining cats and dogs the whole time we were there.

I had expected to take lots of outdoor photos so I only packed my 18-200mm lens.  Since it was raining, we went into the museum. For museum photos, I consistently use my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens with a circular polarizer attached. When I do, I get photos like these.

You can see more from that set on my Flickr page.

With the 18-200mm the results are OK but not inspiring. Here’s a sample.

This was an OK picture but the ISO got bumped up to 3200 and the photos lacked a lot of sharpness. Also without the circular polarizing filter, reflections off the glass was a pain.

With the 30mm I get a nice prime lens that opens wide. With the circular polarizer I can dial out most of the reflections off of the display cases.

Next time I’ll plan better. We still had a good time, but I want to take better photos.

dd-wrt to the rescue (again)!

My Netgear WNR834B v2 has been showing it’s age and giving me grief lately. After a few hours of network usage, my Netgear would suddenly start rebooting itself and keep doing that every few minutes.

The only thing that would bring it back to life would be to pull the plug, wait a few seconds, and put the plug back in. The last firmware for my device is version 2.1.13 dated May 16th, 2oo8. This doesn’t fill me with confidence that the vendor can solve my problem. I don’t blame Netgear for that; they make money on the sale of hardware and not support.

I use a pair of these WNR834Bs to connect my second floor to my ISP in the basement.  It’s strictly for bridging a gap where I am not easily able to run a wire.

So I went to the dd-wrt website and picked out the firmware using their router database tool and put in my model. This lead me to their wiki page to read some instructions, and in less than an hour of playing with settings I had dd-wrt running.

The speed difference is pronounced. It’s not just my imagination, web pages are loading more quickly than before. I don’t think that means the Netgear firmware was defective, I do think that tuning additional options in dd-wrt helped improve the situation.

This is a low cost solution to extending the life of some hardware and keeps me from running cable. So far so good and I’ll just see how it goes.

Easy Twitter Button for WordPress

Twitter announced their own Tweet Button and have provided a page for creating a button on your web site. You enter some info and you get the HTML code to add.

Extending WordPress has always been easy. You can add what you want via a plugin, or you can put the functionality into your theme’s function.php file.

I wanted to play around with adding this to my blog, so I went to their page and created my button. I then used the generated code as a template for what I wanted to do.

There is no way I’m savvy enough to write a plugin, but adding a filter to my theme’s function.php file is within my reach.

This is from an idea I got when I read WP Beginner’s post on how to add post thumbnails to your RSS feed. I used his code to do this.

function tweet_button($content) {
        global $post;
        // Your Twitter ID goes here
        $twitterid = 'jan_dembowski';
        $tweetbutton = '<div class="tweet-button">';
        $tweetbutton = $tweetbutton . '<a href="" class="twitter-share-button" data-url="' . get_permalink() .'" data-text="' . get_the_title() .'" data-count="horizontal" data-via="' . $twitterid . '">Tweet</a><script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>';
        $tweetbutton = $tweetbutton . '</div>';
        // $content = $content . $tweetbutton;
        $content = $tweetbutton . $content;
        return $content;
add_filter('the_content', 'tweet_button');

You can download the code via this text file link.

It’s not exactly user friendly, but it gets the job done. I wrapped it in a <div> so I can style it later. If you want the button at the end instead of the beginning, then comment out line 9 and un-comment out line 8.

It’s a fun hack for me and I am sure that soon there will be a plugin to do this. If you do decide to do this then make sure you backup your theme’s function.php file. Any typo’s or mistakes will make your WordPress blog stop working.

Coraline child theme

Have I mentioned how easy it is to use WordPress child themes? I can’t stress it enough, never modify a WordPress theme. Create a child theme instead.

I just converted a blog from an old outdated Cutline theme to a SVN copy of Coraline.  This is the WordPress.COM replacement for the Cutline theme.  The old theme bugged me for a few reasons, mainly it was the lack of basic features such as Gravatar support. I had meant to clean it up but never got around to it.

It took me less than an hour to make the switch. I retrieved a copy of Coraline like so

$ cd wp-content/themes
$ svn co coraline

This keeps an unmodified copy of the Coraline theme.  Once it’s in the WordPress.ORG website, I’ll replace it with that copy.

All I had to do was create a separate directory and create a style.css file with the following:

 * Theme Name: Coraline for Stefan's Stuff
 * Description: Jan Dembowski's Coraline Child Theme
 * Version: 1.0
 * Template: coraline

@import url("../coraline/style.css");

/* =Asides
---------------- */

.home #content .aside {
 border-left: 1px solid red;

The old asides had a slightly different styling.  I made copies of the header.php and footer.php files into my child theme directory and added an archives.php template. I modified one line in each of the copies.

I tossed in a rotate.php script and copies of the random banner images and I was all set. I did need to resize the old banner images from a width of 970 to 990 but that was it.

Child Themes are cool and once again I can keep the parent theme up to date without worrying about my changes.

Android or iPhone 4?

Do I get an Android phone or an iPhone 4? I’m in no rush to get a new phone but I do periodically suffer from phone envy.

I am a fan of easy-to-use technology. I currently own an iPhone 3G with iOS 4.0.1 installed. My phone has been jailbroken not because I have a “SOFTWARE MUST BE FREE!!!1!” itch, but because I wanted to tweek my phone in ways that Apple doesn’t support for my hardware.

Cool Applications, not so cool app store

One of my favorite apps on my iPhone is Camera+. It lets me take photos, make adjustments, and share those photos online. All within the app and very easily.

The Camera+ developers came up with the idea of modifying the volume up button to be used as a shutter button. This re-mapping of the button would only be done while the user is in the app. It’s a great idea and makes using Camera+ easier.  But the idea was rejected by the app store, so the developers created a back door to enable that setting.

That’s a sensible work around because the app store was apparently afraid that re-mapping the volume up key while in the Camera+ app would create confusion. Since the end-user would have to access a specific application URL, they would have to know what they were doing.

But as expected the Camera+ app has been removed from the app store. Rules are rules, especially when they are arbitrary, imaginary, mostly made up, and not published.

Do I really want to continue using a product that fosters an environment like this? I know that the Android Market Place has it’s pitfalls too but the Apple App store is driven by incompetence.

Android is becoming more cool

I know two people who have Android phones from Verizon.  The first phone I’ve seen is the HTC Incredible.  The UI is easy to use and makes the experience fun.

The other phone is the Droid X.  The display portion alone feels like it’s bigger than my iPhone 3G.  It’s not a small phone in comparison but the display is fantastic. It’s not as slick as an HTC phone but it is close.

How would a Gorilla design a better Gorilla?

I’ve also seen the iPhone 4.  The display is phenomenal but it’s essentially a better iPhone 3GS. It’s more resolution, more memory, faster CPU.  But it’s still an iPhone and I already have an inferior version right now.

Why just get a better version of the iPhone 3G? Why not get a new phone and try out the other guys? If Camera+ existed for the Android phone, that would go a long way to hastening my decision.