iPad 2 Announcement Bingo Card

March 2, 2011

No one else would, so I did. Here’s a Bingo Card you can use to follow along with Apple’s big announcement tomorrow, which is almost certainly going to revolve around the “iPad 2” (if indeed they call it that). Big thanks to teach-nology.com for their Bingo Card Maker. If you want a random card with these rumors just put these values into their tool and hit shuffle till you like what you see.


Rear-Facing Camera


No Home Button
NFC Chip
Retina Display
Random House Added to iBook Store


Dual-mode CMDA and GSM


Narrower Bezel
SD Card Slot
Steve Jobs Appears on Screen
Adobe Flash


Price Reduced (< $499)


Flatter Back
Apple Announces New iPad
Steve Jobs Appears on Stage
Dual-Core CPU


Free Mobile Me


Front Facing Camera
Base Price Reduced (< $499)
Smaller iPad (< 9.7
White iPad Announced


Available in < 2 weeks


Larger Speaker
iOS 5 Previewed
USB Port (micro or normal)
“A5” Processor

Gift Ideas for Mac Users

February 8, 2011

Today someone asked me to suggest Mac software for a person with a new Mac. Somehow I got the impression that they wanted to give said Mac user a gift to help them get the most out of the new Mac, and hence free software (as in price) was not what they meant; but I could’ve totally misread that. Anyway, after stammering for a bit I got to typing and ideas flowed much more smoothly.

I’ve used some of these myself, others just get rave reviews from every single person that ever talks about them. Furthermore I was trying to think of things with broad appeal, not games, geek toys, or professional rendering software.

BusyCal and BusyToDo are very highly spoken of amongst Mac-using professionals, even though the Mac comes with a calendar program (iCal), and to-do list (integrated with Mail and iCal). I haven’t used these, but then again I don’t use iCal or Mail’s to do list either. Apparently they greatly improve on their standard Mac counterparts in the areas of syncing and compatibility with Google Calendar and other calendaring software.

Rogue Amoeba makes several useful audio utilities, but the one I paid for and love is Airfoil. It lets you send audio from your Mac to speakers attached to any other Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, or Airport base station. This is similar to the functionality built-in to iTunes, but works with any app, and more devices than just Airports.

Smile Software makes several useful utilities, but one standout is Text Expander. It lets you type abbreviations anywhere and have them expanded to whole words, sentences or paragraphs. I couldn’t have made it through high school without it, seeing as I did a ton of typing back then.

Circus Ponies’ product called Notebook is a great note-taking app, letting you collect video, audio, and text-based snippets of data together in virtual notebooks. Good for organizing thoughts.

Very similar to Notebook but equally highly praised is Yojimbo from Bare Bones Software. While it doesn’t look like a notebook visually, it allows you to store, organize and search all kinds of bits of data.

This one’s hardware, not software, sosumi. Data should always be backed up. Mac OS X has excellent backup software called Time Machine, the only thing missing is somewhere to store the backup, so get an external hard drive, Time Capsule device, or NAS, and flip the huge Time Machine on/off button in System Preferences. If you want to use a NAS or other network share, see these instructions at Engadget.

For offsite backup consider Carbonite. You can backup an unlimited amount of data to “the cloud” for $55 a year.

Speaking of cloud services, the best cloud storage for Mac is still Dropbox. Dropbox comes with convenient sharing and remote access features, and is indispensable if you need to move documents back and forth between an iPad and a computer. You can get a 2GB account for free but you can upgrade to 50GB or 100GB for fairly reasonable rates. Dropbox also keeps 30 days (or more, if you pay) worth of history on all files so you can go back and grab a copy of your project from before you accidentally did a “Select All,” “Delete,” and “Save.”

Super Bowl Prop Bet Game

February 6, 2011

I found a nifty list of Super Bowl prop bets organized as a party game where you can challenge your friends to see who picks the most correctly. Since it didn’t come with the promise of an answer key I’ll be posting one here. In the mean time, if you happen to see this before game time, get the PDF here and fill it out, then check back periodically to see how your doing.

Update: And the winner is Ethan! He got 16 of 26 prop bets correct, tying with Timothy, but winning by virtue of picking the total score exactly.

Question Answer Dad Ethan Michael Samuel Timothy
Which team will win the Super Bowl? Green Bay Green Bay Pittsburg Green Bay Green Bay Pittsburg
How long will it take Christina Aguilera to sing the national anthem? (over or under 1:50) OVER (1:54.5) Over Over Under Over Over
What will the result of the Coin Toss be? (heads/tails) HEADS Tails Heads Tails Tails Heads
Who will win the coin toss? Green Bay Pittsburg Green Bay Green Bay Pittsburg Pittsburg
What will the first play of the game be? (run or pass) PASS Run Pass Pass Run Pass
Jersey number of the first player to score will be? (odd/even) ODD (87) Even Odd Odd Odd Odd
Which team will be the first to score? Green Bay Green Bay Pittsburg Pittsburg Green Bay Green Bay
What will the first score of the game be? (TD or field goal/safety) Touchdown Field Goal/Safety Field Goal/Safety Touchdown Touchdown Field Goal/Safety
Team to commit first penalty Pittsburg (offsides, declined)* Pittsburg Pittsburg Pittsburg Green Bay Pittsburg
Who will be sacked first? Roethlisberger (PIT) or Rodgers (GB) Rodgers Roethlisberger Rodgers Rodgers Rodgers Rodgers
Which team will call the first time out? Green Bay Pittsburg Green Bay Pittsburg Green Bay Pittsburg
Which team will be the first to use their coaches’ challenge? Green Bay Green Bay Green Bay Green Bay Pittsburg Pittsburg
What will the outcome be of the first coaches’ challenge? (stand/overturned) Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand
Will any player do the Lambeau Leap after a TD? No No Yes No No No
Who will throw for more passing yards? Rodgers (304 vs. 263) Rodgers Roethlisberger Rodgers Rodgers Rodgers
Will Troy Polamalu intercept a pass? No No Yes Yes No No
Who will have more rushing yards? Mendenhall (PIT) or Starks (GB) Mendenhall (63 vs. 52) Mendenhall Starks Mendenhall Mendenhall Mendenhall
Who will have more receiving yards? Wallace (PIT) or Jennings (GB) Wallace (89 vs.64) Jennings Wallace Jennings Jennings Jennings
Who will have more receptions? Ward (PIT) or Driver (GB) Ward (7 vs. 2) Driver Ward Driver Ward Ward
Will there be a defensive or special teams TD? YES (Green Bay 3:20 in the 1st quarter) No Yes No No Yes
What half will there be more points scored in? First (31 vs. 25) Second First Second Second Second
Which team will score the longest field goal? Pittsburg, 33 yards Pittsburg Pittsburg Pittsburg Green Bay Green Bay
Which team will score the longest touchdown? Green Bay, 47 yards int. return Green Bay Green Bay Green Bay Green Bay Green Bay
Will either team convert a 4th down attempt? No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Will there be a score in the final 2 minutes of the game? No (last score at 2:07) No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Which team will score last in the game? Pittsburg Green Bay Green Bay Pittsburg Green Bay Pittsburg
Total Correct: 26 possible 14 16 15 14 16
Tiebreak: Total points scored by both teams combined: 56 44 (-12) 56 (closest, exact) 57 (+1) 55 (-1) 31 (-25)

* If you only count accepted (non-declined) penalties it’s still Pittsburg with a false start.

Dear Wolfram Alpha

July 25, 2010

Dear Wolfram Alpha,

Every so often I decide that I’ve found a query that Wolfram Alpha might actually be able to answer, and every time it fails. Tonight it was “What movies have both Mae Whitman and Michael Cera?” (Yes, I tried lots of terse and not-so-terse forms of the question.) Fortunately I found the IMDB page which supports this particular type of query. Here’s the answer.

I wonder if a more “exploratory” interface might be useful. For example, I start by querying for one actor, and with the basic results I get a list of related queries that I could try, one of which is “What movies has Michael Cera acted in?” (or equivalent). The resulting list of movies is accompanied by a list of suggestions for narrowing the list, one of which is “starring ?” (in addition to “directed by ?” and such).

With each refinement of the results the interface could update the query to reflect the new parameters so users could learn to write the “magic bullet” queries that will yield these advanced results.

I hope you’re way ahead of me on this.



July 4, 2010

I’m preparing to help with my church’s children’s camp this week and I notice that some of the materials use the word “preteen” to describe the kids that attend, which obligates me to fire off a quick rant.

I think a lot of adults have an obsession with teen culture and adolescence, and thinking of elementary school students as “preteens” betrays their opinion that what’s important about being 12 or under is that you haven’t yet experienced that life-changing rush of hormones, dating, breakup, social-alignment (my Dad calls this “Choose Up Sides and Hate”), and academic pressure that comes with today’s stereotyped teenage experience. Yuck. (This camp’s age group is 3rd through 6th grade, BTW.) Perhaps we should call the teenagers “post-children” or “kids who used to be cute.”

Sure, pubescence is a significant watershed in one’s development, but calling kids “preteens” implies a preference for kids on one side of it, and a devaluing of kids on the other. Kids will grow up whether we want them to or not; no need to rush it.

Review of Rock Slyde

July 3, 2010

Rock Slyde is a comedy about private eye Rock Slyde. I had to watch this because the role seemed just right for Patrick Warburton, whose wry, clueless delivery was hysterical in the short-lived super hero series The Tick, and steals the show in his current TV series Rules of Engagement. As it turned out though, Warburton’s character in this film lacks the witty writing and assertive personality that make his other roles so hysterical. Instead Slyde is a listless divorcé who can’t seem to be aroused to anger or passion by anything.

The movie’s most inspired humor is found in the villainous “Bart” played by Andy Dick. Bart is the founder of “Bartology,” a cult which brainwashes its converts with spiked cookies while cleaning out their bank accounts. Despite global ambitions Bart is fixated with taking over Slyde’s office space so he can control the entire office building that houses his headquarters.

I got through it and had plenty of laughs along the way, but the slow pacing and emptiness of the title character, especially during act one, almost had me reaching for the fast forward button so I could get to more Bart scenes.

I give it 3 out of 5… pediatricians.

Cell Phone Blockers For Safer Driving

April 29, 2010

I left this as a comment on David Pogue’s review of some smart phone apps that detect when you’re driving and disable most or all of the phone’s features. Then I remembered that I have this neglected blog and my comment was long enough to constitute a quick post. Come to think of it I leave a lot of long-ish comments on web articles; maybe I should put more of them here. But I digress.

I’m guilty (not in the legal sense) of using my phone too much while driving, but these “solutions” are too expensive and flawed. And good luck with making an iPhone version, even with iPhone OS 4.0; I just don’t think Apple is going to allow one app to inhibit others. Maybe they’ll let it change the pass code temporarily so you can’t get past the lock screen?

A better solution would involve the car manufacturers working with the cell phone makers, but the best solutions, I think, are those that make it possible to perform the distracting operations hands- and eyes-free: voice control, audio feedback, text-to-speech, even speech to text. Granted this may still distract and may even increase the temptation to play with the phone for some, but I think it’s a net improvement and an easier sell than telling someone to pay to brick their phone.

By the way, I’m excited about Apple’s purchase of Siri today (ok, it was just barely yesterday). This will lead to far better hands-free functionality, if only to spare us having to type as much on a tiny touch-screen keyboard.

Tim Burton Makes Sense of Wonderland

March 8, 2010

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is worth seeing, but keep expectations low. Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen was the highlight. The graphics, particularly in 3D, were a great bonus. The writing and plot weren’t especially terrific; I mean, the plot made way more sense than the books, but the books were NONsense so it wasn’t exactly faithful in that regard.

Johnny Depp was entertaining but not memorable as he was in Pirates. I liked the choice of voices for the caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat (Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry) but their parts and performances weren’t really that interesting.

Anyway, the climax was fun to watch in spite of the fact that it made way too much sense and was essentially just like the end of every other lets-go-to-a-magical-world-and-put-power-in-the-hands-of-the-good-witch-instead-of-the-bad-witch kid’s movie. I especially liked that the Jabberwocky was brought to life and looked very much like the original drawing from the book.

I See Blue People

December 23, 2009

I gotta say one thing for the movie Avatar, it completely immerses you in the lush green and phosphorescent world of Pandora and the culture of its enormous blue inhabitants, the Na’vi. After 160 minutes of flying through the Pandoran flora on the backs of banshees, and enough vine swinging to make Tarzan’s arms fall off, director James Cameron has made you forget all about those 3D glasses you’re wearing and believe there is a planet with nine-foot natives and floating islands.

So upon emerging from this mammoth of a movie I’m struggling a bit to remember what people and places in my world look like. It’s coming back slowly. The bottom line is I highly recommend seeing this movie in a theater in 3D; it’s incredible and I really hope this caliber of 3D catches on. (On the down side I feel my 2D TV becoming less and less impressive.)

As for the plot: I read the whole thing on Wikipedia beforehand and knew what to expect. Not that I’ve seen either of these, but it’s apparently quite similar to Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas. There’s the natives who’ve never heard of the seven deadly sins; they live in perfect harmony with nature, seemingly unmolested by disease, natural disaster, famine, animal attacks, harsh weather, or anything else that might inspire inventions like the wheel, fire, or rudimentary commerce. Then there’s the humans, who’ve destroyed Earth and now have their sights set on mining every last ounce of precious material from Pandora. They bring greed, guns and enough heavy machinery to build a parking lot over the entire planet. In case it isn’t obvious, they’re the bad guys.

But it looks great. So see it. As I heard from multiple sources beforehand, the 3D isn’t the gimmicky duck-before-the-low-flying-object-hits-your-face special effect we all know and hate, it’s a pervasive enhancement to the movie’s photography (and CGI) that makes each shot a little more real and convincing. I want more of that.

(Virtually) Picketing Cell Phone Powers

July 31, 2009

I’ve never been happier with my cell phone features than I am right now, but apparently that has just made me more demanding. Two issues have caught my attention lately and I decided to throw my support behind them. Here’s what I left on Apple’s iPhone feedback page regarding their recent rejection of the Google Voice application, which I would really like to use.

I am disappointed with the rejection of Google Voice applications from the iPhone App Store. I assume the rejection is rooted in the interests of AT&T or other iPhone carries since Google Voice provides alternatives to their services. AT&T has denied that they are responsible for the rejection, though I believe their statement is deliberately ambiguous and leaves open the possibility that they are indirectly responsible.

As a consumer I don’t really care who made this decision, but I know that Apple has to be involved in correcting it. The innovation provided by Google Voice applications will be available in cell phones sooner or later, and I really hope the iPhone isn’t late to that party.

-Michael Askew

This issue has generated such ire that the FCC is investigating. I’m not sure I want the government interfering on this one; all I really want is the features offered by Google Voice available on my iPhone, and integrated as seamlessly as possible. This could mean that Apple and their carriers implement their own version of these features, or they work with Google to make an application that adds features without circumventing too many of the carriers’ revenue streams.

The second issue was brought to light by David Pogue; he wants cell phone carriers to turn off the idiotic 15 seconds of instructions that play between outgoing voicemail messages and the beep that signals you to start talking. He solicited suggestions for a campaign motto and chose “Take Back the Beep.” Read his article for all the reasons why, but to put it succinctly this stupid message

  • Is obsolete
  • Wastes everyone’s time
  • Generates tons of extra revenue for carriers by using up your cell phone minutes

Something I’ve been pointing out whenever I post comments about this issue is that I don’t just want the option of turning off this message on my outgoing greeting, I want it off by default, on all existing and new voicemail accounts. Since people started being vocal about this issue Sprint has tried to placate its customers by telling them that they already have the option to turn it off, and Verizon has even lied about offering this feature (and subsequently back peddled and said they just meant you could turn of voicemail, lame!). This sort of pandering just makes me more angry.

So I’m cranky, and complaining about small annoyances. Join me if you want. That’s all.