Sunday, June 30, 2013

Farewell, My Queen

This could have given us new insights into Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV, the French Revolution, or France in the late 1700s, but alas, it did not. It is the story of Ms. Antoinette and one of her readers, but be careful not to read the description on the DVD label because it gives away the story. In fact, there are two stories: The 90 minutes of people moving around the court and the last 10 minutes which is the only point of the movie, but a point that makes for little thought or concern. Topping it off, it's in French with sub-titles. Good costumes though and nice wigs.

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1753813/?ref_=sr_1

Thursday, June 27, 2013

MLB.TV [Final Word]

It's a great idea and it would be a great product if it worked. Unfortunately, there are so many glitches with it that it can be very frustrating. For example, the hide/reveal scores function might not work without a USB firmware upgrade to your television, the first inning might not play, the 13th inning might not play, and so on. Also, email customer support is non-existent and telephone customer support can take an unbearably long time. They are good about allowing cancellation however. I cancelled.

Keyboard With a Number Row PS

Hacker's Keyboard is a pretty good free option for a keyboard with a number row. It lets you either add a full row of numbers or, if that makes the keys too small for you, puts the numbers in the top row of letters that can be accessed by pressing a key instead of tapping it. It also lets you go 4-rows for portrait mode and 5-rows for landscape mode.

Amazon Cloud Player

Amazon has a free cloud player that neatly organizes all your music from all sources. Cloud Player for PC detects and adds new music to your library even if you bought it from iTunes or ripped a CD. Your music library will always be organized and up-to-date. Cloud Player for PC lets you automatically export your Amazon MP3 purchases to iTunes and Windows Media Player.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=pe_391340_30744030_pe_1ssbutton/?ie=UTF8&docId=1001067901

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Keyboard With a Number Row

If you find it annoying that the keyboard on your phone or tablet does not have a numbers row, so you have to click a switch switch to go from alpha to numeric, you have two alternative. Search for "keyboard with number row" in iTunes or Play and you will find alternatives, all of which unfortunately have shortcomings, or switch to a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Advice Giving

This is an excellent piece from the WSJ (6/25):

Link: http://www.readability.com/articles/exkzkwem

Samsung Galaxy Note 2: Best Smartphone by Far

The Note 2 is by far the absolute best smartphone ever. Even if it didn't have the S-pen capability, the huge screen, and the keyboard with a number row, and all the other features that make it unique, it would still be the best ever.

Description: http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynote/note2/index.html?type=find

Demo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bm1U7KjZBs

Ultimate Desktop Utility

Rainmeter is a free desktop customization tool that lets you put any number of widgets and gadgets on your Windows desktop that can provide a constant feed of everything you might want to know.  Rainmeter displays customizable skins, like memory and battery power, RSS feeds and weather forecasts, right on your desktop. Many skins are even functional: they can record your notes and to-do lists, launch your favorite applications, and control your media player - all in a clean, unobtrusive interface that you can rearrange and customize to your liking. Rainmeter is at once an application and a toolkit. You are only limited by your imagination and creativity.

Link: http://rainmeter.net/cms/ 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Keyboards for Smart TVs

Some smart TVs come with remote Qwerty keyboards. Others do not and many sources, including the TV manufacturer, likely tell you there is none for your model. Well, if your TV has a USB port, and it most assuredly does, just plug in a remote keyboard/mouse (they cost under $20 and they are what many of use and find terrific with our computers) and you've got a remote keyboard/mouse for your TV.

Dots and Loops

Dots for the iPhone and iPad and Loops for Android devices are the simplest, newest, funnest, and addictivest games:

Dots: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dots-a-game-about-connecting/id632285588

Loops: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bonfiremedia.dots

Monday, June 24, 2013

New Yorker Subscription Pricing

Warning you that your subscription will be expiring soon, the New Yorker will begin sending renewal requests with supposed special pricing of $89.99 for the year (47 issues) months before your subscription expires. Then, with three issues to go, you will get a special cover with a Savings Card saying this is your last chance to renew at that special price. But, if you look closely at the card that might fall out from between the pages, you will see that filling out that card and checking the box marked Best Deal, you will get the same 47 issues for $69.99, plus you get the "exclusive New Yorker Weekender Bag--Free! [color in the original] This rivals the NYTimes for the prize for curious pricing, where the NYTimes gives you a free digital subscription if you get Sunday delivery of the NYTimes, but charges you more for the digital subscription alone if you do not take Sunday delivery.

[N.B.: Both subscription cards give two options: "bill me later" or "payment enclosed." No instructions are given as to how to "enclose" the payment (the subscription card is a fairly flimsy postcard). Stapling a check is risky given the information it discloses and taping on cash runs the risk of someone removing it. So, it would seem advisable to choose the "bill me later" option.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

MLB.TV [Corrected]

This post corrects some inaccuracies of yesterday's post on the topic:

For about $25/month, you can subscribe to MLB.TV. This will allow you to see MLB games on your computer, on your tablet, on your phone, and on your TV (assuming you have a smart TV or through your DVD player), and you get to pick whether to watch and listen to the home team or away team broadcast. It will allow you to see all out-of-market games in HD except those that are blacked-out as a result of national coverage. The feeds have DVR-type functions. Except on the computer, while you can stop the live-feed, shortly after the game is over, you will not be able to access the feed again until 90 minutes after the game is over, so if you have paused during the game for any appreciable time and not caught up, you will have to wait 90 minutes to see the end of the game, and you can jump from the paused point to the live feed, but you will be able to access the game on your computer to see how it ends without waiting the 90 minutes.The other problem with watching on TV is you cannot split-screen to see watch something else on TV at the same time, but you can work-around this by watching the MLB feed on your tablet, phone, or computer while you watch television on your TV, although then you might want to mute one of the shows. Their telephone support is pretty good. Their email support just produces a response 2 days later saying to call telephone support.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Alternative to Ear-Buds

If you find ear-buds uncomfortable, definitely try over the head headphones. While you can spend a fortune on high quality ones (just as you can on high quality ear buds), the Panasonic RP-HT21 over-the-head headphones with XBS are available on the eBay for under $6 (free shipping) and have gotten quite good reviews from CNET and others. If you order from the seller linked below (who has sold 111 of them already and still has more than 10 available), they arrive in 3 days:

Seller Link: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180869521202#ht_1799wt_982

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Free E-Books

Here are some of the best places to download free e-books online:

Project Gutenberg - Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century. For the first time, books became available to the masses. Now, his legacy lives on at Project Gutenberg. Here you'll find more than 42,000 free e-books. There are also plenty of audiobooks, MP3s, sheet music, videos and pictures. Books and other files come in several formats. You'll be able to find just the right one for your computer or device.

Feedbooks - Thanks to the Internet, anyone can publish a book online these days. Tomorrow's Charles Dickens could be uploading masterpieces to Feedbooks right this second.
That's because Feedbooks offers original works of fiction and non-fiction in addition to classic literature. You can even purchase bestsellers from this website. There are more than 100,000 books to choose from.

Books Should Be Free - When a book's copyright expires, it becomes part of the public domain. That means everyone in the world owns it, including you and me! Download public domain books at Books Should Be Free. These include some of the all-time greatest works of literature in history. You can find e-books and audiobooks of any genre in most popular formats. Download and read or listen on iPhone, iPod, computer, Android and e-readers.


Free-book Sifter - If you have a Kindle, you have the world's best-selling e-reader. You also probably purchase books from Amazon.com, the world's largest bookseller. But you don't necessarily have to spend! You can find tons of free books there if you know where to look!
Free-book Sifter can help you find them. It rounds up thousands of free books available on Amazon. These work on Kindle or the Kindle app for computers and mobile devices.

425 Free eBooks - Looking for some newer works? If you're feeling thrifty, public domain isn't your only choice. There are newer works of popular fiction available from big-name authors.  Just as the name suggests, you'll find 425 free e-books in several formats. These include some classics, but also newer works from David Foster Wallace, Philip K. Dick and Paulo Coelho. 

Terrific Bug Zapper

The Stinger Portable Bug Zapper is a light plastic racket you swing at a flying bug while holding down a switch on the handle that puts 3000 volts of electricity through the strings. The result: a satisfying pop and a sizzle and one less mosquito in the world. It’s fun to use and gives children something useful to do during backyard parties. And should those children inevitably use the zapper on themselves or on others, as children are wont to do, the tiny shock they get does little more than give them a moment of frisson.The top of the rubberized frame is squared off so it can be effectively used along ceilings and in corners where particularly pesky bugs can take refuge.Powered by two C batteries, the gray and yellow zapper racket costs about $13 at Walmart, Home Depot and a number of online stores.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Smart TVs

If you're buying a new main television, the prices on decent size (60" or above) smart (inter-enabled) televisions are so good that it is nuts not to get a smart TV. While they undoubtedly will get better and easier to use, the stuff that can be downloaded and watched right now makes them worthwhile. For example, with a smart TV, you can watch every Phillies game (or any other team's games) and choose whether to listen to the Phillies announcers or the other teams' announcers or even switch back and forth during the game. And of course you are just a click away from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, and so much more.

Finding a Lost Android

SMSAlarm is a free, simple app that helps you find your phone when you have lost it on silent mode (or on low volume) by sending a custom SMS to the phone which activates a loud alarm.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Monitoring Your Google Account Activity

Your Google account is responsible for giving you access to more than just your e-mail nowadays. Your Google account provides you with access to a wide range of Google services, including Google Music, Google Drive, and Google+. It also allows you to log in and set up devices, like Android smartphones and tablets.
To help you keep an eye on your Google account, Google tracks your recent account activity and allows you to review them from your Google Dashboard. It's similar to the Gmail "Last account activity," but includes more than just your Gmail activities. To view your recent Google account activity, click on your Google profile photo, then click Account. In the left column, click on Security, then Recent Activity. You can also go directly to https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Country, My Country

This was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2006. The only explanation is that it must have been the only documentary made that year except the documentary that won the Oscar. It has something to do with the first elections in Iraq after the United States invasion.Two questions not raised by the movie but where one's mind might drift during the boredom of watching it: (i) Which war was more stupid ... Iraq or Vietnam; and (ii) what wars have actually changed the course of history as opposed to merely changing the timing of when the same events would have unfolded anyhow?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Free Calls and Texts

Line gives you free calls and text messages. There are no limits on the amount of messages you send or how long you talk.  It's available for Apple and Android devices.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness Overview

This presentation covers some of the basics of breast cancer:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFnX39m6N3I

Getting a Faster Boot Time

Glary Utilities V3.4 has many useful features for keeping a computer running faster and better. One of its features gives you a read on how long your computer takes to boot up and provides a Startup Manager to allow you to control what is loaded on boot up. My computer now boots in 15 seconds, which according to Glary, is faster than 97% of all Windows computers.

Link: http://www.glarysoft.com/glary-utilities-3/

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rebooting Kindle

If a download to your Kindle App on your tablet doesn't work (e.g., the Sample of Ben Hogan: An American Life), no matter how many ways you try to do it, you can call Amazon for help. Or even easier, uninstall your Kindle App and re-install it. That should solve the problem, and time, because that's what Amazon Tech Support Level One will tell you to do anyhow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Comparison Shopping for Medical Procedures Made Easy

Healthcare Blue Book is an app that helps you gather all the information you need regarding fair prices in the medical world. Whether you're having major surgery or a common procedure like an MRI, this app will tell you what you should pay. The app takes your insurance information into account and breaks down the procedure by cost in an easy-to-read chart. There are also resources on how to negotiate prices, save money and other quality information about your procedure. With Healthcare Blue Book, you will know a fair price for your treatment and have peace of mind. The app is free and available for both Apple and Android devices.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Happy Accidents

Is it possible to make a bad movie with Marisa Tomei (at least when Micky Rourke is not in it)? Can a movie miss when it has Marisa Tomei and Vincent D'Onofrio in it? Unfortunately, yes it can ... when it's a totally stupid story, that runs too long, is too slow, and is like way predictable. But if you believe in time travel, or have a special, unholy fascination with Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, by all means, you should see Happy Accidents.

IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/find?q=happy+accidents&s=all

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Monitoring Your Internet Connections

Bot Revolt is basically a software firewall for your PC.  Its strength, though, is its continually-updated database of more than a billion untrustworthy IP addresses, which means it can automatically block connections to web sites and other computers that are known to host malware or be part of a botnet.
Bot Revolt claims to block both incoming and outgoing connections.  And yet, because anyone with a permanent internet connection will probably be accessing the internet via a router, and because that router probably has a built-in firewall that blocks incoming connections, those connections will never reach the PC and thus never be picked up by Bot Revolt. 
Still, the program remains a useful tool.  Fire it up and it'll keep you continually updated with all the connections that take place across the internet between your PC and other machines.  The "Verified" column indicates that the IP address in question is not one of the billion or so that it deems unsafe.  
As a way of finding out just how many other systems on the internet your computer is continually talking to (such as auto-update systems, product activation servers etc), the Bot Revolt program is fascinating, and well worth trying out.  And if your computer does get infected by a botnet virus that attempts to "phone home", the program will block it.  But bear in mind that, assuming your router and firewall are set up correctly, much of the dangerous traffic that Bot Revolt claims to be able to block will actually never be encountered by the program anyway.

Link: http://botrevolt.com/home.php

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Best of Breed in 10" Tablets

Other than its poor battery life, if you're fine with wi-fi-only, Sony's Xperia Tablet Z is the best 10" tablet. It is an Android, will work under 3 feet of water, will serve as a TV remote control and channel guide, is super-thin (thinner than an iPad) and super-light (lighter than an iPad), and has very high front- and rear-facing cameras. It is $499 for 16GB and $599 for 32GB.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Getting a Good Seat on Southwest Airlines

One of the most anxiety-inducing moments you'll hear a Southwest customer talk about is the process of checking in as close to 24 hours before a flight, hoping to see a boarding priority number prefaced with an A. The lower the number, the sooner you get to board the plane and pick a seat of your choosing.
A new service, originally covered by Lifehacker, will automatically check you in at exactly the right time, ensuring that you are on the elusive A-list. The name of the service: Southwest A-List.
Here's how it works:
  • After booking your flight with Southwest, you'll receive a confirmation e-mail containing an itinerary number.
  • Forward this e-mail to sw@to.andyjiang.com.
  • Your e-mail will be scanned, the important information will be pulled out and the server will set a time to check you into your flight. You'll also receive a confirmation e-mail from the service outlining all of your information and giving you the time the service will check you in.
If all goes right, you'll get a boarding pass in the A group. But as the developer, Andy Jiang,pointed out this morning, the service is in its infancy, and there are going to be issues. So with that in mind, you should be ready to check yourself in should you not get an e-mail from Southwest with your boarding number immediately after the 24-hour mark.
Also, there used to be a service based in Phoenix that did this for a $5 fee but Southwest was able to get an injunction to shut it down. I would not be surprised if Southwest did the same to this service. In any event, don't forget, you can always go the Early Bird route for $12.50.


Here's a blurb on the history of this thing: http://andymjiang.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/welcome-to-the-a-list/

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jumping Cursor Problem Solved

If you have a laptop your cursor keeps jumping around while you're typing, you're likely hitting the mousepad. One solution is to be very careful not to hit it. Another is to go to Control Panel/Mouse/Pointer Options and check the box that says "Hide cursor while typing." Also, you can try updating your mousepad driver. Finally, try the Touch Freeze download.

Link to TouchFreeze download: https://code.google.com/p/touchfreeze/

First Love

This is not just another chase-the-perfect-wave surfer movie. Nor is it just another Hawaii-is-so-beautiful movie. Nor is it just another coming-of-age movie. In fact, while it focuses on all of that, it's actually a documentary about three Australian teenagers whose idols are the world-class women professional surfers and their first love is surfing. As one interview summed it up, "Hawaii is so beautiful but there's nothing to do except surfing. If there weren't surfing, I'd probably live somewhere else and go to college."  Put another way in the stirring conclusion: "Surfing was my first love, and you never forget your first love."  Put one other way, the music was terrific, the movie--not so good.


IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1657885/?ref_=sr_1

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Perfect Family

If you saw Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and your reaction was, "This is like so far behind the times, I can't believe they actually made this movie now," then you haven't seen anything yet until you've seen The Perfect Family. One word of caution: Don't! Not only doesn't it have any Tracy's or Hepburns or Poitier's or Ross's in it, and it wasn't directed by Stanley Kramer, and particularly if Body Heat still resonates with you, you don't want to see Kathleen Turner in this or any one else in the cast whose names never will be remembered. How they got this onto the big screen when Lifetime TV likely would have passed on it is a complete mystery.

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1650058/?ref_=sr_1