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End of an Era
9/20/2012 was my 8 year anniversary at Deloitte. Today, two weeks later, is my last day. There are many reasons for leaving, but I won't go into them here. You are free to ask in person if you are interested.

Provided below is an infographic that I created and sent to all my co-workers. Many have asked how I got the data. It was simple in theory, but required a lot of data cleansing (one of the many things I do at work, so somehow fitting). The hour estimate I provide in the graphic is probably low b/c my brain is kind of frazzled from working on it until 4am for the last few nights.

I keep all my travel invoice emails so I exported them from Outlook as CSV. I did some manual parsing and clean up, then imported it into Excel for analysis. These steps were repeated about a dozen times before arriving at good clean data. It was especially hard getting anything from before 2005 b/c we weren't required to book travel on-line at the time so my records were poor. However, I manage my bills electronically so I have a full record of all AmEx activity, which I then cross referenced to fill in the missing pieces.

And so I present my farewell message (click for larger image)

click for larger image

Posted 10/05/2012 05:05 PM in Ramblings, Work
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Blogging Fail
Ugh, I can't believe that I've been so bad at blogging for the last several months. And don't get me started on my pictures... i've got hundreds of pictures I still have to organize, some dating as far back as last November! When I'm a year behind, I know there's something wrong. Maybe I need to take a vacation just to catch up on those things.

Part of it is work which keeps me busy and makes me want to do nothing but veg out at night. Part of it is that random inconsequential rambling is much easier on Twitter, which also makes me less verbose with it's 140 character limit. I mean, look at this post! I was planning to write two sentences and now I've got two paragraphs and it's still pouring out! Must... stop... typing...
Posted 08/04/2009 06:28 PM in Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Work
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My crazy travel schedule
The rest of this month is going to be a busy travel month and I'll be away from home for three weeks straight at some point, with tons of other events too. The main cause is a last minute work schedule change along with a wedding. So here is what my travel schedule will look like starting next week, which involves traveling somewhere every 2-3 days:
  • 7/20 Fly from Chicago to Hartford for work, staying at the Sheraton East Hartford
  • 7/22 Fly from Hartford to Philadelphia for work, staying at the Residence Inn in Plymouth Meeting
  • 7/24 Fly from Philadelphia to Washington DC for a layover
  • 7/24 Fly from Washington DC to arrive back in Hartford
  • 7/24 Rent a car and drive from Hartford to Manhattan, staying at the W at Union Square
  • 7/27 Drive from Manhattan back to Hartford, staying at Sheraton East Hartford
  • 7/30 Drive from Hartford to Brooklyn, staying at Hewson's
  • 7/31 Drive from Brooklyn to Jersey City, staying at the Westin Jersey City (attending a wedding and dining at Le Bernardin)
  • 8/02 Switch to W New York Tuscany to be closer to CT for the morning drive
  • 8/03 Drive from Manhattan to Hartford, staying at Sheraton East Hartford
  • 8/06 Fly from Hartford back home to Chicago
  • 8/10 Fly from Chicago back to Hartford for work (typical week)
  • 8/13 Fly from Hartford back to Chicago (typical week)
  • 8/17 Fly from Chicago back to Hartford for work (typical week)
  • 8/20 Fly from Hartford back to Chicago (typical week)
  • 8/21 Drive from Chicago to Lafayette, Indiana for the Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) plant tour and test rides on the Subaru test track, staying at Courtyard Lafayette
  • 8/22 AutoX event at SIA plant, then drive back to Chicago
  • 8/24 Back to my typical travel schedule again

Posted 07/14/2009 10:37 PM in Ramblings, Travel, Work
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G1 Power User Group Journal Entry 5
App Updates:
  • Touchdown | Uninstalled | Free Trial expired and I can't justify spending the money for Exchange connectivity.
  • Toggle Settings (Cupcake) | Updated | I discovered that the new version can put a shortcut into the status bar which means that changing settings can be accessed anytime you can see the status bar instead of having to go to your home screen.

Social Apps
  • Droid Twitter | Installed and Uninstalled | This is a bare bones TWitter client that just provides a tweet form and your lastest post. When entering tweets, it doesn't count your characters and the last tweet display only shows about 50 characters. The app is described as being focused on quickly submitting tweets however it fails because the app does not automatically log you in so you have to hit login every time you start the app (though it does remember you login info). It is also ad based so at the bottom of the screen there are always ads. Lastly, the splash screen is always showing up when you do things which is annoying. I think that an app can be speed oriented but still follow good usability concepts and I think this app fails at it's own purpose.
  • Twitta | Installed and uninstalled | A simple, pleasant looking app for reading your latest tweets and submitting a new tweet, all conveniently located on a single screen. Once you log in, it saves your information and brings you to your main page. From there You can reply, direct message or visit someone's Twitter page as well as open in-line links in a browser and quickly link to in-line @ replies. My complaints are that the tweet form is very small making it difficult to see everything you've typed and the button is tiny making it hard to submit. The display screen is attractive but apparently downloads a ton of historical tweets and doesn't provide a scroll bar to quickly navigate or tell you where in the list you are. In settings you can customize the polling interval and notifications of new tweets. The one downfall of this is that it notifies you when YOU have submitted a new tweet as well which is a bit silly.
  • Twit2go | Installed | Another pleasant looking app for Twitter. Once you log in, it saves your information and brings you to your main page. From there you can reply, direct message or visit someone's Twitter page. It does not support direct browser links nor does it automatically link @ replies. In settings you can change font size and set up notifications for any replies or direct messages, but it does not notify you of regular tweets. The strength of this app is the tweet form which shows your whole message and character count, but also supports URL shortening and picture tweets. These features alone may make it worth keeping, they just need to add in-line support of @ replies and browser links.
  • Twidgit | Updated | I got this new version and it seems to be much better than the old widget which was unstable. Now, if you attempt to launch it, it tells you how to add it as a widget instead of showing an error. It now shows your last 10 tweets, instead of just the last one and handles connectivity issues much better. The tweet form is simple but done right; it's attractive, shows your entire message, counts your characters and has nice big cancel and submit buttons. I think this app will be the one I keep b/c it's handy having a widget on the home screen instead of having to launch a new app.
  • Pintail | Installed | This is a nice locator app that will allow you to track where you phone is if you lose it. You choose a PIN and if you text the PIN to your phone, the phone will respond with the location determined by Google Maps. Alternately, you can give your friends the PIN and they can text you to find out where you are. The main problem with this is that if GPS is not activated, then it can only give you cell tower accuracy, so when I tested this, "1,956m from Windsor Locks" isn't that helpful if you're trying to locate a lost phone.
  • Google Latitude | Installed | This is not an Android app per se, but Google Maps on Android supports Google Latitude which is a locating application you can sign up for from Google Labs (or on your iGoogle page). When combined with an Android phone, it allows your friends to see where you are on Google Maps based on your phone's GPS or cell tower location. Google Latitude allows you to control who sees this information so random people can't use it, only you friends that you've given permission to.
  • FaceBook Lite | Installed | A simplified version of the FaceBook page with fewer options and javascript based functionality.
  • FaceBook Sync | Installed | This app logs into your FaceBook account, compares your friend list to your phone's contacts and for any matching names, it downloads their FB profile picture and saves it as the contact picture on the phone. Allows you to conduct an optimistic search so matches dont' have to be exact. Optimistic search can results in many false positives and you don't have the option of reviewing/approving the matches. Decent app, but you only need to run it once, then you can uninstall it, not a very good model for customer retention.

Travel Apps:
  • Where | Installed | I decided to try this app after reading good feedback from other power users. I like this application alot as it gives you quick access to things that are available near you, whether it be Starbucks or ZipCar or Yelp restaurants or just your local Yellow page listings. I like that it gives you weather as well.
  • Places Directory | Installed | This is Google's answer to Where. It's a little similar and not sponsored by specific vendors, it just gives you straight local listings from Google based on your location. Not as slick as Where, but the results should be a little less biased.

Posted 06/15/2009 09:13 PM in Geek Stuff, Reviews, Work
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G1 Power User Group Journal Entry 4
  • Android 1.5 Cupcake Update | Installed OTA
    • After installation, home screen was blank and SIM card did not work. Had to re-start the phone again before it behaved normally.
    • Phone now multi-tasks when on a call. Before, you couldn't access your contacts or apps while on a call, but now you can.
    • New auto-rotate and UI improvements such as transitions are nice, but you have to activate some of them and some apps and functions don't support it yet
    • "My Downloads" in Market doesn't register some apps correctly so apps that I already have are shown as "Free" instead of "Installed." As a result I updated several apps and I don't think they changed.
    • Camera response is faster, which makes for better pictures and video is now supported. Have not tried any of the direct upload features yet
    • Support for widgets (mini apps that run directly on your home screen) is nice but right now they are mostly all calendars and weather. Hopefully there will be more creative widgets soon once Cupcake is fully rolled out. To add a downloaded widget to your home screen, press and hold in a blank area or hit menu on the home screen and you can add
    • Voice search is nifty, you can speak into the microphone instead of typing
    • In certain apps, if trying to move through text you've typed, it accelerates the scroll ball and starts scrolling through words instead of letters when scrolling quickly.
    • Support for folders on the home screen is nice since I'm running out of space. Press and hold in a blank area or hit menu on the home screen and you can add a folder, then drag shortcuts into it.
    • I noticed that Google Talk is now separate from IM and looks a little better
    • I heard that the new Rogers (Canada) Android phone will have MS Exchange ActiveSync support, but it will not be coming to the G1, which means we would have to buy an app for it. Boo
  • QSearch | Uninstalled | Not needed with Cupcake soft keyboard
  • Toggle Settings | Uninstalled | Non-Cupcake version would crash every time I opened it
  • Toggle Settings (Cupcake) | Installed | Free | Much nicer looking version with color icons, works pretty much the same but you can now add a shortcut to the notification bar so you don't clutter your home screen. It also supports profiles like "Home" or "Work.". Individual profiles are not customizable yet but you can set rules that say "If battery is less than 30%, use 'Low Battery' profile"
  • Nesoid Lite (NES Emulator) | Installed & Uninstalled | Free | Demo version only comes with a Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers ROM to showcase how well the emulator performs. This was enough to convince me to buy the full version.
  • Nesoid (NES Emulator) | Installed | $1.99 | Allows you to download and use any NES ROM from the SD card. Has ZIP support so you can directly use zipped ROMs without having to unzip them. Found Super Mario Bros, Contra and Ninja Gaiden ROMs on-line and they work pretty well with some occassional degradation or lag in sound. Overall pretty impressive although using the keyboard to control isn't as nice as a dedicated game controller.
  • Bio Lines | Installed and uninstalled | A puzzle game that requires you to connect 5 in a row to clear the board, but there are always more coming. It's kind of slow and can get boring so I got rid of it.
  • Twidget | Installed and Uninstalled | Widget to display the latest tweet from your feed on your home screen and quickly send tweets. This widget seemed to freeze a lot since I was in a bad reception area and travelling alot. The refresh's didn't seem to time out so it would say "Loading" all the time. It eventually crashed and affect the Android system as well. Even after I removed the widget from my home screen, I would get errors so I had to uninstall it.
  • Binary Clock | Installed and uninstalled | Simple clock displayed in binary, except that it displays each digit separately, (e.g. 15 is displayed as 1 and 5, each in binary, instead of 15 in binary). Uninstalled due to this.
  • Binary Clock Widget | Installed | Widget that replaces the standard home clock with a binary clock, good for confusing people (there are only 10 types of people after all, those who understand binary and those who don't). Unlike the Binary Clock App this one can display binary for each digit or for the whole number. It does seem to slow the phone a little bit though.

Posted 06/10/2009 10:42 PM in Geek Stuff, Reviews, Work
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G1 Power User Group Journal Entry 3
  • Moxier Mail | Uninstalled | Trial version expired. Not as nice as Exchange By Touchdown, missing simple things like the number of new e-mails received in the notifications. Otherwise, nice simple interface that is easy to use. I like how the message headers are hidden unless you open them. Unfortunately, the $24.99 sale price is simply outrageous. Since this isn't a Deloitte phone, I wouldn't pay much for corporate e-mail, maybe $10
  • CrystalFour 3D | Uninstalled | Needed the space, not that special of a game.
  • aBooks | Uninstalled | Needed the space and I'm too busy to read them anyway.
  • Chinese Recipes - 1. Soup | Installed | Simple recipe program with pictures and recipes. Pictures look nice, though the English names are in a very small, hard to read font. Recipe ingredients are listed in-line, separated with commas instead of in a list, making it a bit hard to see what you need.
  • Exchange by TouchDown | Installed | 5 Day free trial. Another Exchange client. It is nicer than Moxier with a better interface and more features although the menus are not well planned and seem overly complex with some options buried in sub-menus. $19.99 is a bit steep for an intro price and the $29.99 regular price is offensive, but I guess they are counting on business users who are more likely to pay full price on a corporate account. I found the calendar decent, though it is not easy to snooze items for a specific amount of time and if you simply close the alerts they will pop up again a minute later.
  • GPS 1 Click Directions | Installed | A basic navigation system. It's not as nice as a dedicated GPS navigation system and probably not as good as TeleNav (which is $9.99/month) but the low $2.99 price makes this app a good value. It uses Google Maps as the base and calculates directions for your destination. It allows you to save a home and work address, displays traffic and provides voice commands if you download Android TTS voice support (Free). The voice is a hard to understand and very robotic. On my drive from St. Louis to Chicago on I-55, it kept saying "continue on route 476 for X miles, then turn left onto I-55," even though I was already on I-55. However, having the directions and the ability to track your progress is good enough for me. I would like to see it provide trip statistics like current/average MPH and elapsed time in the future.

Posted 06/03/2009 05:37 PM in Geek Stuff, Reviews, Work
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G1 Power User Group Journal Entry 2
General thoughts:

  • Paperless Check-in | American Airlines allows paperless check-in and boarding passes at O'Hare (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX) and Santa Ana (SNA). Use your browser to check-in and have the 2-D barcode for your boarding pass sent to your phone. At the airport, you turn your brightness up and place it on the reader at security or the scanner at the gate and voila, you're in! The first time I tried at SNA, it worked at security but not at the gate, where they manually checked me in. The second time, at ORD, it worked in both cases. Overall it was pretty smooth and I hope AA rolls it out to more airports.
  • Soft-keyboard | I do sorely miss having an on-screen key-board so I can type one handed or without opening the keyboard. Hopefully I'll get Cupcake this week
  • Response Times | Every once in a while when I run certain apps or return to the home screen, the phone seems to slow down quite a bit. Sometimes I've had to wait 30 seconds for the icons to appear and I can go about my business. I know it's not a computer, and performance is about on par with Windows Vista... but never having slowdown is always a nice thing to strive for.
  • Camera | I'm a bit disappointed by the camera in the G1. Even though it's 3 mega-pixels, the quality isn't that good. I would have loved it if the G1 could replace my point-and-shoot so I would only have to carry my DSLR if desired, but I guess I have to keep both my cameras.
  • Misc Pic 1 | This is a picture of me using Google Sky Map at Griffith Observatory over Thanksgiving. I used it to identify three abnormally bright stars in the sky. To the upper left of the phone is a bright bluish star and a bright white star just above it, to the lower right of the phone is another bright (blurry) star. Sky Map told me those were not stars, they were Venus and Jupiter on the left and Mercury on the right!
  • Misc Pic 2 | Here is the custom phone holder I built to mount my G1 to my windshield with my Garmin suction cup kit. I built it out of scrap wood and painted it black. The G1 is a bit tall so I have to tilt the mount downward to remove it. I cut a hole in the bottom of the holder to allow the USB cable to plug in. Speaker phone works fine, but I have to cut another hole in the bottom so the mic isn't obstructed.

  • BreakTheBlocks Lite | Installed & Uninstalled | Nice simple Arkanoid style game but the free version doesn't have very many levels and I wouldn't pay for a full version
  • Dyno Might | Installed | This is an in car performance meter, but it is in extremely early stages. At this point all it does is automatically start when a large g-force is detected and it records the max g-force, total time and total distance traveled in meters. At this point it doesn't offer much but I'm hoping that it will evolve quickly.
  • Robo Defense | Purchased Full Version | This is the first app that I paid for because I liked this game so much. I've submitted some suggestions to the developers, who seem to be pretty quick to respond so I'm looking forward to additional features in the future. I've wasted a lot of time playing this...
  • CTA Tracker Lite | Installed | This app tracks Chicago Transit Authority bus routes. Looking up the old 56 Milwaukee that I used to take, it says there is a 15 minute wait for the stop near me old apartment. The UI is a bit lacking and the long list of routes and stops are a bit clumsy, but I'm sure it'd be handy if I needed a bus in the city.
  • PdaNet | Installed | A tethering app to use the G1 as a modem. I've used it a couple times but it seemed a bit slow and sometimes it would drop the connection to the phone and sometimes it would just stop responding. I'm hoping they will release some updates to improve performance but for now it's handy if I need it in a pinch. Since it installs on PC first, the G1 makes a great jump drive so I can install the app on any computer.
  • PhoneFlicks | Installed | A NetFlix queue manager that provides basic queue editing capabilities. I wish it had context sensitive menus instead of making you click on every title and opening another page in order to do something with it, but it might be handy to quickly add something to my queue in a snap.
  • My Coupons | Installed | Essentially a coupon blog with direct links to images of coupons that you can print and use. Coupon clippers and deal seekers may find this app pretty useful, though I'm not sure yet.
  • PAC-MAN | Installed & Uninstalled | Classic Pac-Man implemented by NAMCO itself. A fun throwback to the 80's but I found the touchscreen, trackball and accelerometer controls all to be clumsy and not that enjoyable so I uninstalled.
  • Labyrinth Lite | Installed & Uninstalled | This is a balance game where you roll a ball through a maze by tilting your phone. I liked it but the trial version only has 10 levels which I easily beat and I don't think I'll pay for the full version.
  • PapiJump | Installed & Uninstalled | Silly game where you try to help your little smiley pink ball bounce higher and higher by tilting the phone. Simple fun that gets boring pretty quickly
  • Abduction! | Installed & Uninstalled | Similar to PapiJump with better graphics and more features, but still gets boring after a while.
  • Bonsai Blast | Installed & Uninstalled | A puzzle game where you have to shoot like colored balls in order to pass a level. Pretty fun and I like that it was a decently sized game for free. I played it until I won it on all three difficulty levels and was a bit disappointed that there wasn't some kind of ending.
  • Brain Genius Deluxe | Installed & Uninstalled | Kind of like Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, it exercises your mind with activities and puzzles, but I found it kept repeating a small set of activities and I wasn't entertained enough to keep it.
  • The Weather Channel | still installed | This app is the best app for weather, but just like weather.com, this app constantly reminds me how much I despise The Weather Channel. This is the slowest app I have by far and today it crashed three times attempting to display the current radar map. Not to mention that The Weather Channel can't seem to get the current weather correct, let alone tomorrow's or next week's weather. The one redeeming factor is the high quality video they offer, which is pretty nice.

Posted 05/25/2009 11:55 PM in Geek Stuff, Reviews, Work
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G1 Power User Group Journal Entry 1
General thoughts on the G1
  • Cupcake - Where is my Android 1.5 (codename: Cupcake) update? It's got a bunch of nice features to help bring it in line with the iPhone. People on-line have reported receiving their updates over-the-air (OTA) and tons of apps in the Market have been updated to support the new features. Unfortunately, I haven't seen anything yet. T-Mobile, I want my Cupcake!
  • E-mail & Chat - I have Gmail, Yahoo and work e-mail set up now, along with AIM, Yahoo IM and Google Talk. I have different sounds set up for them too, so I can hear immediately if work needs me... I tried setting up work e-mail using the default e-mail client with POP3 and IMAP but couldn't get it to work since I didn't know what ports to use. That could be a set-up issue or Deloitte may not allow those protocols. Instead, my work e-mail is set up through Moxier Mail (see app info below).
  • Accessories - I ordered a slightly larger 1400 mAh Seidio battery (OEM is 1150 or 1200mAh) and that helps by boosting battery life 10-20% while fitting in the same space. This makes it much easier to go an entire day with moderate use, without charging. I also picked up a thin, rubberized hard case from Seidio. It's only about 1mm thick, which is thin compared to most hard cases. It has a nice matte rubberized surface (similar to the matte finish on the black G1) that gives me a little extra protection without being too intrusive. I also have a screen protector.
  • GPS - I've basically retired my Garmin Nuvi because of the G1. It doesn't have good turn-by-turn navigation yet but I'm sure it's coming.(one company offers it but wants to charge a monthly fee which is absurd). My main issue is how to mount the G1 in the car. I could buy a kit on-line, but since it uses the same power source as the Nuvi and I already have the Nuvi mounting kit I figured I'd just make my own attachment. I'm planning to finish that this weekend.
  • Crashes - I've noticed about once a month, my phone has a hard crash and I have to remove the battery before it will restart. Even worse, almost once a week I'll have a soft crash where the hardware/BIOS stays on, but the Android O/S restarts, requiring me to re-enter my SIM card PIN. Hopefully Cupcake will fix that.
  • Android Market (on phone) - There are tons of apps coming out nowadays and trying to browse through them on a phone can be tough. Also, you can only browse apps by most popular and most recent. What if I want an app that is medium popularity and not that recent? Search is useful, but only if you know what the app you're looking for is called. It might be nice to separate free apps from pay apps as well. I know there are some Market updates in Cupcake but I'm not sure what they are
  • Android Market (on web) - The Android Market website only features the top apps, though it does separate free and pay apps. Ideally I'd like to be able to search the whole app inventory on the website and read reviews, then I can search for it on my phone when I know what I want to download.

Those are my general thoughts on the G1 today. On to the apps!
  • Moxier Mail | Installed | Free Beta Version - MS Exchange Mail Client, missing contacts and calendar sync, otherwise it's a nice clean e-mail reader that supports all basic tasks. Supports ActiveSync push mail via Outlook Web Access (OWA), variable pull and "business" mode that pushes during business hours but pulls at night. The app notifies you way too often when these modes are invoked. New mail notifications do not list the number of new messages, which would be nice. So far, recommended for a simple e-mail client but will need to compare with some of the other pay apps out now.
  • BreadCrumbz | Uninstalled | Good idea but I don't go anywhere interesting enough to make use of it.
  • TTS | Installed & Uninstalled | Text-to-Speech codecs. Shows promise, would like to see it integrated with a GPS system to provide turn-by-turn navigation
  • Speaking Pad | Installed & Uninstalled | Notepad interface to utilize TTS codecs, but not really needed without any real functionality
  • SimStapler | Installed & Uninstalled | Virtual Stapler, purely for fun and the author knows it (though some reviewers don't seem to get it). Would like to see it make use of the accelerometer though.
  • Ruger-SR9mm, SchottGunn and AK-47 | Installed & Uninstalled | Virtual weapons, just for fun. The shotgun supports pump action reloading, the AK-47 fires in automatic mode when you shake the phone, the 9mm plays the sound of empty casings falling to the ground.
  • Punch-O-Meter | Installed & Uninstalled | Measures the G-forces of your punch, but it's just asking for you to accidently throw your phone across the room which would be no good
  • Wrath of the Fungi | Installed & Uninstalled | Simple multi-player puzzle game, entertaining but too simple after a while
  • CrystalFour 3D | Installed | Essentially 3D ConnectFour with decent graphics. Good time killer, but probably won't stay.
  • Mini Android Defense | Installed | Tower defense game. UI is ok, but a bit drab and controls could be tweaked to be a bit more responsive. Nice challenge but I probably won't keep it long.
  • Robo Defense FREE | Installed | Another tower defense game, but I like this one much more as it's more real-time and provides multiple upgrade paths as well as achievements (e.g. finish a level without damage) to gain additional bonuses. I might actually pay for the full version of this.

Coming up next week, more MS Exchange clients, MS Office apps, DynoMight in-car dynamometer (for measuring vehicle performance) and probably more games.
Posted 05/15/2009 06:04 PM in Geek Stuff, Reviews, Work
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G1 Power User Group
My company has an internal initiative where they are trying understand how the latest generation of PDA-Phones are used, with a focus on downloadable application usage. Three user groups have been formed for three major platforms: the Apple iPhone, the G1 with Android and the BlackBerry Storm.

I've been selected to be a part of the G1 team. In exchange for a $25 stipend, my responsibilities are to download and use any applications that interest me and to keep an electronic journal of my thoughts.

I figured I might as well share my thoughts here while I'm at it, so first up is an inventory of the apps I already have. It's pretty long and so far, they've all been free. The list is in alphabetical order.
  • aBooks - Open source Android book reading platform. I've downloaded a few public domain books like Alice in Wonderland but have yet to read any. The pages are a little small.
  • Barcode Scanner - I prefer Shop Savvy or Compare Everywhere but I keep this since it's the only one that supports 2D codes, even though I have yet to scan one.
  • Bistro Math - Quick handy tip calculator
  • Bread Crumbz - Allows you to take pictures and associate them with GPS geocodes so you can leave interesting trails/routes on-line. Haven't used it yet.
  • Bubble - A nice bubble level for checking level and plumb when hanging pictures and such
  • Chess - It's chess, what else can I say? Decent UI, ability to undo moves, different levels of AI
  • Compare Everywhere - Barcode scanner to compare prices on products while shopping. I like the search results on this as well as the ability to contribute descriptions for unknown items.
  • ConnectBot - Handy Telnet/SSH client for logging into Linux/Unix server shells when on the go.
  • ConvertDroid - Ability to convert various units, e.g. knots to MPH, but not really needed since Google does it all very quickly.
  • Depth of Field Calculator - Handy reference when shooting with a SLR camera to check focal distances and depth of field based on camera and lens combos.
  • Doom - Classic PC First Person Shooter ported to show Android's power. Provides a framework for other game designers to create their own FPS games as well.
  • DroidFTP - FTP client in the event I need to transfer files to a webserver on the go. The older version was missing some features and I haven't had a chance to test the new version yet.
  • Dungeon Quest - Silly little Role Playing Game that interfaces with FaceBook and the iPhone. Very little action and is ad/spam driven if you want to advance far, but still entertaining if you like RPGs.
  • Fast Local Search - local restaurant and event searcher, but not any better than google maps
  • Flashlight - Plain, simple, white light. Does what it says, does what I need.
  • HotSpot Locator - T-Mobile app to locate T-Mobile WiFi hotspots, but I never use it with 3G
  • Kanji Flashcards - To help me learn Japanese hiragana, katakana and kanji, but I'm not a big fan of the UI and don't use it much.
  • Linda File Manager - Handy file manager to explore your SD card and phone memory.
  • Magic 8-Ball - simple app to answer your questions, works by shaking, just like the real thing.
  • Metal Detector - neat app that uses the electronic compass to detect changes in magnetic fields due to proximity of ferrous metal objects (it's a metal detector). Unfortunately, it has a lot of false negatives and false positives.
  • My Account - T-Mobile account app to quickly see account statistics like minutes used
  • Orienteer - Simple compass app.
  • QSearch - Provides an on-screen keyboard that can be used for google search, google maps or youtube searches, but will be rendered obsolete by the keyboard coming with Cupcake (Android 1.5)
  • QuickList - A to do list that accepts typed input but also allows you to write notes with your finger which is handy when you don't have two hands free.
  • QuotePro - To keep up to date with stock prices in your portfolios. A little too simple though, I'd like to see the ability to enter your purchase price so you can see how it's doing overall, not just today.
  • Restaurant Search - Boo Rah local restaurant search tied to their site with reviews (Boos or Rahs). Not that special, Boo Rah site is small and doesn't have as much info as google
  • Screen Crack - Joke app that locks the phone and makes the screen look like it's broken in case annoying people want to play with the phone
  • ShopSavvy - Another barcode scanner. I don't really like the menu interface, but I do like that it gives you more space on the camera screen to scan barcodes.
  • SkyMap - One of my favorite apps. Go outside at night, point it at the sky and it will use the time, GPS and compass to determine what you're looking at. It helped me identify Venus when I was in the mountains in California
  • Solitaire - Nice simple solitaire app that supports Spider and FreeCell as well
  • Sudoku - Nice little Sudoku app with multiple levels of difficulty. Unfortunately it is ad driven and sometimes I hit those links and it kicks me out to the browser.
  • Terminal Emulator - Emulator to allow command prompt access to Android, useful for poking around the file system. Defaults to limited access but you can easily give yourself temporary root access. Permanent root access is possible as well, but requires some Linux know-how.
  • Tetroid - Nice little Tetris app that allows you to customize the screen dimensions
  • The Schwartz Unleashed - Light saber app. Totally pointless but a must have for any geek.
  • The Weather Channel - Handy app for checking the weather. It seems a little slow to me but the radar and video options are nice. Too bad the Weather Channel can't even get the current weather correct, but that's not the app's fault.
  • Toggle Settings - Quick access to commonly used settings (e.g. GPS activation, airplane mode, screen brightness)
  • Trap - fun little game where you try to trap floating orbs to get points.
  • Twilight - Handy app that provides sunrise and sunset information in your area and any other area you choose.
  • Yellowbook v2 - Local copy of the yellow pages. I've never used it though.
  • Zombie, Run! - Silly game that uses GPS to simulates a radar for zombies in your area. If one is too close, you need to physically run away or your player will be killed. I tried it out but canít bring myself to run for no reason in public.
Now that work is subsidizing me, I'll be looking at downloading a couple productivity apps:
  • MS Exchange Clients for e-mail/calendar/contacts - TouchDown, RoadSync, Moxier
  • MS Office Readers/editors - QuickOffice, DocumentsToGo

Posted 05/12/2009 06:34 PM in Geek Stuff, Reviews, Work
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Recession Rentals
With the economy dragging along and the auto industry teetering on the edge, rental car companies have been hit hard as well, which is starting to show in my travels. With cars sales next to nil, rental companies cannot sell their used cars, let along buy new ones, resulting in older cars becoming quite common.

In previous years, rentals were usually sold when they had about 25k miles. I used to get about half of my cars with less than 10K miles and it was pretty rare to see cars with more than 25k, let alone 30k but this year the mileage on rental cars has definitely been creeping up. The vast majority of cars now have 20k or more miles and that number continues to go up.

The reason that rental car companies sell cars around 25k is because that's when things start wearing out. One interesting thing to see is how well rental cars with more mileage have been holding up. Imports such as Toyotas or Hyundais seem to hold up well, but it's quite apparent that domestics still can't keep up in quality.

Case in point, the Dodge Caliber I received last week. It had 31k miles on it and it had a host of problems. First, the car just sounded bad when I started it. It had funny wheezing and whining noises. Something seemed to be wrong with the power steering which whined loudly anytime you turned it. If you turned it while moving, it was accompanied by a rough grating noise, which I guessed to be a bad CV joint or wheel bearing (which the attendant also guessed when I turned in the car and described it). When driving on the highway, there was a faint flapping noise as well, which I would guess was a torn CV boot (it's a rubber seal that can lead to a damaged CV joint if it's torn)

On top of that, the transmission was slipping like crazy. Usually when you press the gas, RPMs rise while the speed rises, but in this car, the RPMs would go straight to 4000 or so and the speed would slowly creep up until the car reached the appropriate speed for that RPM. Basically, the transmission was slipping about 90% of the time. Then, during braking the car would occasionally squeal as if one of the brake pads was nearing its wear indicator. In one instance, I think a brake failed as well as I felt a sudden loss in braking at a stop light.

That's a lot of problems for a car with 31k miles, even for a rental. It must be because it's a Dodge, which I've felt has been lagging in quality even more than Ford or GM.
Posted 03/30/2009 07:19 AM in Cars, Ramblings, Reviews, Work
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Karoshi is a Japanese word that basically translates as, "death from overwork." It's not a specific disease but rather a phenomenon of heart attacks and strokes that are generally attributed to excessive stress, especially shocking when it occurs among younger workers with no previous history of health problems.

The phenomenon of Karoshi is most apparent and recognized in Japan due to their strong work ethic post WWII. Statistics have suggested that the average Japanese worker works two hours of overtime per day, often not paid. I don't know the exactly numbers but since a typical Japanese day is probably 9 hours a day and often times a half day on Saturday as well, that could easily mean 60 hours of work in a normal week.

Hey, wait a minute... why does that work schedule sound so familiar?
Posted 03/26/2009 07:21 PM in Japan, Ramblings, Work
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Hartford Forever
As an update... there is currently a 50/50 chance that I'll be working in Hartford until the end of this year. If that happens, that will mean a full 2 years here, which would be my longest time ever in one location for work (aside from Chicago). So far, it looks like this will be my second year where I'll be away from home more than I'm at home. Crazy.
Posted 03/11/2009 09:49 PM in Hartford, Travel, Work
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I'm such a geek/nerd...
I haven't done any real coding in 2.5 years. I mean, I've done minor PHP stuff on my website, but I don't consider that coding, it's more like scripting and can be done using telnet or Notepad. I'm talking about programming an application, in my case, using Java.

My plan is to start coding Google Android applications, starting with a simple application that contacts the Bible Gateway Web Service to read and display their daily Bible verse. Depending how that goes, we'll see if I can think of something else to code after that.

Since I've gotten a new computer and lots of things have changed since I last coded, I have to go through a fairly extensive setup process:
  1. Removed an old Java Runtime Environment (JRE) that was on my computer from standard web browsing. Also, I cleaned up some old programs and defragged my hard drive.
  2. Downloaded and installed the latest Java Development Kit (JDK) which includes the latest JRE and weighs a hefty 176MB.
  3. Downloaded and installed Eclipse, the most popular open source Integrated Development Environment (IDE) which provides a robust environment to program in (the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the remedial Notepad). This was a slightly smaller 167MB.
  4. Downloaded and installed the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) which comes with an Android phone emulator and foundational components. That comes in at a slightly momma bear-ish 91MB.
  5. Downloaded and installed the Android Development Tools (ADT) plug-in for Eclipse, which allows easy Android application configurations with a mere 2MB download.
The total download for all these components was 428MB and total installation time (including troubleshooting) took about 2 hours. Sounds awfully nerdy and geeky, but I have to admit that when I finally decided to do this last night, I couldn't sleep b/c my mind was busy getting geared up to code again. Hence the title of this entry...
Posted 12/05/2008 10:48 PM in Christianity, Geek Stuff, Work
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Better than a Pot Belly Sandwich?
Chopsticks of Pleasure Several locations in the Midwest
Rating: Chopsticks of Pleasure
They have great sandwiches, but their breakfast sandwiches are even greater!

What could possibly be better than a tasty, spicy, toasted Pot Belly's sandwich? That's easy. A tasty, spicy, toasted Pot Belly's BREAKFAST sandwich.

Breakfast sandwiches are delicious by definition (at least the ones with bacon are). Pot Belly's toasted sandwiches with their lovely combination of lettuce, tomatoes, ultra thin pickles sliced lengthwise, mayo, brown mustard and hot giardiniera are also delicious. Put them together and you have the best of both worlds.

Maybe I should write to CERN and tell them that they didn't need to build the Large Hadron Collider. They just needed to have a Pot Belly breakfast sandwich to see what happens when two great things collide.

There's just one tiny little caveat which is that not all locations serve breakfast. Luckily, the one right across the street from my office does.

Posted 11/17/2008 08:14 PM in Chicago, Food, Geek Stuff, Restaurants, Reviews, Work
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HP Sucks 3
A couple weeks ago, my laptop started acting up. The keyboard would randomly stop registering key strokes and then suddenly register dozens of key presses at once. After some trial and error I found that the problem occurred most often when my palms were resting on the laptop while typing instead of hovering in the air (as recommended by most ergonomics guides, though I personally disagree).

On top of that the battery was starting to die. At 100%, the battery would only last 40 minutes, and that's with wireless turned off and the brightness turned all the way down. If I use the internet, that time drops to 30 minutes and if I used the DVD player that time drops to about 20 minutes. I got the battery in April when I last had computer problems but it may have been used so it could be 2 years old (when they rolled this HP Compaq nc6400 model out) but I suspect it to be younger than that. Even if it was 2 years old, it shouldn't die that quickly.

So I went to IT to see if I could get it fixed and the guy decided to give me yet another laptop shell (all shells have an identical setup so they swap hard drives and usually they're done in less than 10 minutes). That makes this my fifth laptop since February. Pretty pitiful.

I got a new battery too so hopefully that will last a decent amount of time. I heard two other people requesting new batteries as well so I asked the support guy if it was a common problem. His response was, "I think 100% of these batteries are going to die early." Good job, HP. Good job.
Posted 09/26/2008 03:00 PM in Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Work
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My eyes are about to fall out
Normally, I spend the whole day at work staring at a computer screen. For that last two weeks when I go home or to the hotel, I also stare at a computer screen reading food reviews for all the places I'm visiting. There's so much info out there and so far I've found at least 150 different places that come highly recommended.

I have no idea how I'm going to choose between all of them and I'm starting to wish I could spend more time in Istanbul and London. I called AA and they said it would cost $900 to change the last leg of my return ticket, even though my entire 4 leg round trip only cost $1000. However, I can skip my morning flight in London and get on the standby list for a later flight without penalty. On top of that, most flights from LHR to ORD aren't full so that looks like a good option so I'll have time to check out Borough Market in London.
Posted 09/17/2008 11:32 PM in Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Travel, United Kingdom, Work
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Recently I've noticed myself running my mouth off a lot more frequently. I was having dinner with a new team member in Hartford and I found myself constantly talking about this and that and no doubt boring her in an attempt to reduce any awkward silences. Even after I realized I was doing it, it just kept coming out, like word vomit.

Even since then I've noticed it a few more times with other new team members. Why am I doing that? Am I starting to like the sound of my own voice? I don't think so. And I realize that I may be saying things that people don't want to hear. Am I trying to draw attention or trying to make myself known instead of being a wall-flower? Maybe...
Posted 08/30/2008 02:57 AM in Ramblings, Work
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New Xbox 360?
My company started rolling out the new version of Web Outlook. As I was looking through the options I found the Zune theme which I didn't like that much. Then I noticed the Xbox theme which makes checking my work webmail almost seem like fun.

Posted 08/15/2008 10:16 PM in Geek Stuff, Work
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Go Karting
We went Go Karting after work today. We had three heats. My best time on the first heat was 42.107. After that I set a goal to get to the 41's. In the second heat I managed to make it to 41.447. For the third and final heat I hoped to break 40. Alas, my last and final run resulted in a 40.003, a scant 4 thousandths of a second short of my goal. That's as quick as it takes a zebrafinch or European starling to contract and relax their vocal muscles, 100 times faster than it takes for humans to blink an eye.
Posted 07/30/2008 10:42 PM in Ramblings, Who knew?, Work
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HP Sucks 2
Less than two months ago my work laptop crapped out. Well, it happened again with a similar problem: the battery would not charge. So I took it to IT services again and they gave me a new battery. That didn't help so they swapped out my shell again.

Unfortunately, that didn't solve the problem because my power adapter started behaving strangely. Sometimes you can hear power adapters buzzing from the electricity but this one would occasionally do it loudly in a pulse. It actually sounded like it was beeping and during these times, it would not supply power. So I had to go to ITS for a third time to replace that as well. So I got a new battery, a new shell and a new power adapter and it finally worked. unfortunately, my new privacy filter is missing a tab, but I guess I can live with that. HP/Compaq. Blech.
Posted 04/08/2008 08:02 PM in Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Work
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HP Sucks
Last November I talked about the AT&T/Cingular aircard that I got through work. I liked it because it was small and stuck out of my laptop a mere 1/2" so I could leave it in my laptop when I put it in my bag. Or so I thought. Just after Thanksgiving, the aircard was smashed in my bag and stopped working. Luckily it was free through my company so no money was wasted. Besides, the AT&T card was removed from my company's authorized list.

So I ordered a new aircard, this time from Sprint. I installed it but my computer kept trying to recognize it as a "Real Time Clock," and couldn't find the drivers. I took it to IT support and they had to give me a new (used) shell (the laptop hardware without the hard drive which they just switch over).

The Sprint card successfully worked in the new (used) shell but I discovered several dead pixels. Then when I took it home I realized that the battery wasn't working. So today I was in Philly and went to ITS again where they discovered that the shell was not charging the battery. They had to swap my hard drive to yet another shell and it started working again.

I had a few more small hiccups with the new shell. My computer thought it was 1980 and for some reason it couldn't connect to any wireless networks (maybe b/c wireless wasn't around in 1980?). But I finally got it working so my laptop is back to normal. And I'm back in Hartford again.
Posted 02/11/2008 10:56 PM in Geek Stuff, Ramblings, Work
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