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Europe 2013

posted Aug 2, 2013, 6:56 PM by Chris Temples

I have gotten several questions about our recent trip.  I figured it would also be easier for everyone if I compiled all of it into one easy spot. 

Itinerary


 DatePlace Country
 July 5th British Museum England
 July 6th Tour around London  England
 July 7th Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge England
 July 8th Kensington, Victora & Albert MuseumEngland 
 July 9th  Edinburgh Scotland
 July 10th Hampton Court Palace England
 July 11th Paris France
 July 12th Kew Gardens England
 July 13th - July 15 Cruising 
 July 16th Gibraltar U.K.
 July 18th  Marseilles & AixFrance 
 July 19th Florence & Pisa Italy
 July 20th Rome & Vatican Italy
 July 21st  Ajaccio France
 July 23th Seville Spain
 July 24thLisbon & Aquarium  Portugal
 July 25th Santiago De Compostela Spain
 July 27th Buckingham Palace England

Pictures


London

Cruise


Video

Fun facts

  • We went to 8 different countries
  • On average we walked 3.87 miles each day
  • On average I earned 3k fuel points, 13% more then normal



Bionics

posted Aug 29, 2011, 5:06 PM by Chris Temples

After watching this video I started to think about bionic humans.  The question I have is if we have bionics like they do in Deus Ex, or any sci-fi movie, would you voluntarily have a limb replaced with a bionic one? My initial reaction was yes! After I thought about it though I was tempted to change my mind.  The thought of having a always one HUD or a super awesome arm is very tempting.  At the same time hacking off a perfectly good arm just seems wrong.  One thing that Science Fiction has taught me that there will be the bionics vs the all natural humans conflicts.  I can perfectly understand why you would get a bionic part if you lost the original one.  However, one intriguing part that they glossed over was the fact that we might be able to regrow any lost parts, think cloning.  Would you then really have a need to get a bionic part? 

What do I need to get?

posted Jul 13, 2011, 3:34 PM by Chris Temples

Your local electronics store is a little crowed these days.  There are desktops, laptops, netbooks, chromebooks, tablets, smartphones, eReaders and the trusty old iPod/Touch.  Choosing between them all can be a very confusing task even for the technology inclined.  Worry no more a this handy guide will help guide your decision.  

Desktop
    The Desktop is the staple of the computer world.  Desktops were the number one selling type of computer until 2005, when they were finally beat out by laptops.  This doesn’t mean that desktops are on the outs, though.  They are still very popular and have some distinct advantages over other forms of computers.  The biggest advantage desktops have over other forms of computers is they are easily upgradable.  If you can’t play the latest games all you need is a trip to your favorite computer supply store, and you can have a all new system.  A downside to this upgrade-ability is the fact that desktops are large.  Depending on your setup, a desktop can be very loud.  Due to their size they are not portable.  Prices for desktops start at around a few hundred dollars and go up from there. Usually a desktop is cheaper then comparable laptop. 
    Right now the desktop is aimed at the PC enthusiast who likes to  tinker.  However, if you have no real reason to use your computer outside the office a desktop is one of the better ways to go.
Laptop
Laptops are the up-and-coming computer.  They can be just as powerful as a desktop, but have the added benefit of portability.  A laptop’s portability comes at a price.  Laptops cannot be easily upgraded.  If you laptop starts to get a little sluggish the only you can do is go get a new laptop.  The portability of a laptop is limited by it’s battery.  Current laptops seem to average about 4 hours of moderate use.  The amount of battery life you have varies greatly.  Typically the more powerful the laptop the smaller the battery life.  Extra batteries can be purchased and carried but that is just more weight.  The weight of the laptop is also something that must be considered.  a 8lb laptop doesn’t sound that heavy, until you start to lug it around everywhere.  Laptops can also suffer from a lack of ports.  Which means you might not have enough USB ports to plug in everything all at once.  
Despite all of their downfalls the average comptuer user will be perfectly happy with a laptop.  Laptops provide a good balance of performance and price.  While they can’t be upgraded, a good laptop will last several years.  
Netbook
    Netbook’s are baby laptops.  They first launched in late 2007 as ultra-portable, cheap laptops.  Netbooks typically have screen sizes between 5” and 12”.  In order to cut costs netbooks run on a different type of processor then other laptops and desktops.  Netbooks run on Atom processors.  Atom processors very power efficient, meaning that netbooks get substantially better battery life, then normal laptops.  However, this battery comes with a trade off, Atom processors aren’t as powerful.  Netbooks work well enough for light web browsing and email checking.  Office works well but because of their small size it might be hard to see enough.  The one thing a netbook will not do is, high quality video.  Their Atom processors just do not have enough processing power to play most videos.  YouTube will work but only at the lower quality settings.  Netbooks are a great couch or note taking computer.  Their small size and long battery life are great for times when you will be far away from power plugs.   One thing to keep in mind is that a netbook is not a primary computer.  They are just not powerful enough to make them a primary computer.  They can make a great secondary computer, as long as you understand their limitations.
Netbooks are the laptops younger brother, as much as he tries he will never be able to all that his older brother can.  But, that doesn’t mean he has no uses.  Netbooks are small laptops that have great battery life but lower performance.  Netbooks are great companion PCs.  
Chromebook
    The Chromebook, a newcomer to the PC market.  Chromebooks were originally developed by Google.  They a netbook that only runs Google Chrome, Google’s web browser.  Side note, if you haven’t tried Chrome yet you really need to.  The best way a Chromebook can be described is via this video. A Chromebook is basically if you took your current web browser and put it in full screen and only used that.  While this may sound crazy at first, the web has evolved and expanded and there really isn’t much you can’t do on the Internet.  Most of the popular email services(Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail)  have great web interfaces.  Microsoft and Google, and others, all have online office suites.  So far the only major limitations of only using the web are, code development, video and photo editing.  However, to the average consumer, only using the web will not be a problem.  I digress, back to the Chrombook.  Chromebook share many of the same benefits of netbooks, such as size and battery power.  They are still running on Atom processors but, are on the latest dual core Atom chips.  This means that Chromebooks will be able to play higher quality video then a netbook.  Chromebooks boot up in under 8 seconds.  That means you can open your computer hit power, and by the time you are ready to sit down the system is on.  That 8 second boot time is only from a complete shutdown.  Chromebooks can be put into a standby state.  The time it takes to turn on from standby is instantaneous.  Since Chromebooks were designed from the ground up they are more secure then you standard computer.  Each time a Chromebook is turned on it runs a check to verify that the system has not been compromised.  If the system has it will automatically download the a clean version of the system and update itself.  This means that you are a lot safer from viruses and spyware.  While Chromebooks have a lot of advantages their are some very serious drawbacks.  Since they are running Chrome there are some files that they simply will not be able to open.  Zip files are one example of this.  There are can be some tricky situations, where a file must first be downloaded then re-uploaded to work.  In other words, you may have to download that email attachment then go to Google Docs and upload it. The biggest flaw with Chromebooks is no Internet means you can’t really do anything with your Chromebook.  While Google has promised offline Gmail and Google Docs as of this writing the don’t exist.Right now there are only 2 manufactures of Chromebooks, Samsung and Acer.  They range in price between $350 and $500.  
Chromebooks are just the web.  They offer super fast boot times and all day battery life.  But, may have trouble with some websites and file formats.  Chromebooks are the perfect family computer.  They allow multiple people to use them without having to worry about losing your data.
Tablet
    Ahh, the tablet.  Something that didn’t exist, in large numbers, until April 2010.  Now the most well known tablet, the iPad is now a bigger business then Macs.  Tablets are at their hearts just big Smartphones.  That can be both good and bad.  Right now there are 2 main competitors in the tablet market, Apple and Android. Note: Blackberry has a tablet but unless you have a Blackberry it is useless as a standalone tablet. The Playbook doesn’t have native email or calendar applications.  Apple has the iPad2 and Android, to name a few, has the XOOM, Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Transformer.  The Android tablets are mostly identical with few difference.  The full comparison is beyond this post.  Both the iPad and Android versions have 3G and wifi models.  Unless you plan on doing a lot of travel with your tablet a wifi model will work just fine.  The good thing is most of the 3g tablets have pay-as-you go plans.  Back to why you would want to spend half a grand on a slab of glass. Tablets are the perfect couch computers.  They are primarily consumptions devices.  Yes, you can write up an email or two, but do not expect to write up any papers.  I typically use mine when I am watching TV to look up things or get in a quick game of Angry Birds.  Tablets also work surprising well for watching movies(Netflix).  The major tablets have 8+ hours of battery and can last a few days on standby.  Over tablets are a great companion device.  However their price can be the problem.  Tablets start around $499 and go up.  

With tablets great battery, beautiful screens and plethora of applications they are great computers.  Their price can be a barrier to entry.  However once the sticker shock wears off tablets are really a compelling device.  

eReader

eReaders are digital version of paper books, or well a library of books.  The two main eReaders are the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.  Each of them have several different models for you to pick from.  The big choices are 3G vs wifi and e-ink vs color.  E-ink is a special type of display that mimics paper.  E-ink is designed in a way that it will not cause eye strain in the way that LCDs will.  But, e-ink can not do color and has a slow refresh rate.  The low refresh rate means you will have a black flash in-between pages, since the screen has to be re-drawn.  The color versions of eReaders do not have this problem but they are just like looking at a computer monitor.  The e-ink versions of the eReaders have several weeks of battery per charge.  This is because e-ink doesn’t need power to maintain itself once it’s drawn.  Once a page is on the screen no power is used until the page is changed.   eReaders do one thing and that’s it, read books.  While they may have web browsers using them is a lesson in patience and perseverance.  While there is some debate on if they have a purpose the fact that Amazon and Barnes and Noble have both sold millions of them says they have a purpose.   Personally if you want to get a eReader skip the color ones and get the Kindle or Nook with e-ink.  If you really want a color eReader get a tablet.  



Is having access to the internet a right?

posted Jul 12, 2011, 3:20 PM by Chris Temples

After reading this article it got me to thinking is having access to the internet a right? Until I read that article I would have said no.  The internet is a very powerful tool. When something is made a right, we as a people are making the assertion that the right cannot be denied to anyone, for any reason.  By making access to the internet a right that is placing it on the same level as free speech and freedom from religion.  That's a pretty high bar.  Now I can understand why someone way think the internet is a right.  The internet lets you do ,well anything.  It's hard to image what to do with a computer that isn't connected to the internet.  After thinking about it the internet is more like power or water.   Something that should be available to everyone but can still be taken away if abused.  

Chrome OS and the CR-48

posted Mar 6, 2011, 6:12 AM by Chris Temples

I've had the CR-48 since December last year.  I finally think I've had it enough to write a real review of it.  The short version is I love it.  The speed of which it boots up the minimal interface is very nice.
Hardware
To start I will talk about the hardware.  Yes I know that it's only there to show off the OS, but I feel that the hardware will have a effect on how the OS works.  The overall feel of the system is amazing.  I love the black color, and the shape of the laptop.  The feel of the laptop is very nice as well a soft touch plastic, it is very similar to the DSi.  The keyboard is OK. While it is a full size keyboard, I have never had any problems with smaller keyboards, so that doesn't really matter to me.  They keys seem to be your standard laptop keys.  As everyone knows they removed the caps lock key and the function keys, yay?  I never used either so not having them has no effect on me.  What they replaced them with are as follows:  a forward and backward key, reload, full screen, alt+tab, brightness up and down, mute, and volume up and down.  For a laptop especially one based on chrome these new keys make a lot of sense.   They also removed the home, end, page up and down and delete key.  Thankfully they replaced them with shortcuts.  The other nice choice on Google's part was to make the left ctrl and alt keys extra large.  This makes them very easy to hit.  They also made the right side ctrl and alt keys a lot smaller, but as I never use those it's not a big loss.  The arrow keys are in a odd arrangement as well.  The left and right are extra large but the up and down are very small and stacked in between the up and down keys.  Both the up and down keys combined are the same size as one of the left or right keys.  Not sure why this arrangement was chosen but other then a random up instead of a down, the layout hasn't caused a lot of issues.  Moving on to the mouse, I never had as many issues as all the other users seems to have had.  My problems revolved around right clicking, and the cursor randomly moving to a new location when typing.  The right clicking could usually be resolved by taping with my fingers spread farther apart.  I have yet to figure out why the cursor jumps around sometimes. I figure it's the gremlins.  The one USB port has only ever gotten use as a way to tether it to my Droid.  As the SD card or USB aren't officially supported yet I hiave yet to test that out.  I have gotten a chance to test the VGA port however.  It was a interesting experience.  There wasn't any configuration or options, just plug it in and now you are cloning the display.  I plugged it into a 21" Dell and it worked reasonably well giving the video card is a integrated one.  As far as the speakers go they are situated on the left and right front corners.  This creates a stereo effect where moving your head slightly to one side causes the sound to change.  The speakers are what would be expected on a low end netbook. The speed and power of the CR-48 was never an issue for me until I tried to watch streaming video.  It is slow, laggy and just plain bad.  Now this could be due to flash not being optimized or just a crappy CPU.  Either way it needs to be fixed before Chrome OS makes it to market.  The webcam and mic are pretty standard and work reasonably well.  The last thing about the hardware is the battery life.  The battery life can be summed up as Amazing!  Charge it once in the morning use it all day and there is even some juice left the next day.  I am easily getting a full days worth of use on a single charge.  Overall I really like the hardware, there are areas that need work but that's pretty standard on anything. 
Software
Moving on to the real review, the actual OS.  As an avid Chrome user I felt right at home.  It really is just chrome on a computer.  There isn't any start menu or program list, just tabs.  There are the same settings as on Chrome to control the search engines, new tap page etc.  The only main change is the addition to adjust the time and control how users log in.  One neat feature is the ability to add a guest account.  This is just a incognito tab that allows anyone to use the system without messing with any of the other users data.  Since it's an incognito tab  once they log out the owner can't look at what they were on either.  While you can have multiple users registered with the system you can only have one logged in at a time.  This can create issues if one user has some tabs open and another user wants to log in.  Chrome OS will recover the tabs but it would have been nicer to not have to worry about losing work.  One nice this is multiple windows can be opened.  This makes it really easy to organize whatever is being worked on.  The annoying part is your never know what other windows are open since only the main one can be see at a time.  It's easy enough to hit atl+tab or the shortcut key to cycle though them, but still would be nice to see what is open without having to do guess and check method. One of the nice hidden gems is if ctrl+atl+/ is hit a on screen keyboard will pop up and shows all the possible shortcut options.  This is very useful especially since they pulled the home, end an delete keys, as mentioned above.  As mentioned above unless I am watching video the browsing experience is very nice.  The pages load fast enough for me and are responsive enough.  I have heard people complaining about the loading speed and responsiveness of pages.  While it doesn't bother me I can understand why it might bother other people.  Since there isn't a task bar ChromeOS's answer is something called panels.  These are little windows that sit on the bottom of the screen, can can be popped up and interacted with.  GTalk is a good example, since chat would be something the user would want to access regardless of what tab they were on making it a panel is a great idea.  The panels stay at the bottom of the screen no matter what window is open at the time.  To make them pop up just mouse over them.  The only problem is right now it's very hard to know if a panel has a new message or not.  If I missed the instant message sound then the only way I would know there is a new message would be to manually check.  This defeats the purpose of the panels.  Media playback is a hit or miss experience.  There is the doc media player and a flag to enable a media player, but I found the best way was to either use a streaming service like Slacker or Grooveshark, or set up a home PC and put Audiogalaxy or Orb and stream it that way.  I haven't tried to do a lot of movie watching but might have to just to see how bad of an experience it is.  One other annoyance is how ChromeOS handles downloads.  Since there isn't a real file manger files just get dumped somewhere on the system.  I have no real idea where it is located, but since this is really web only device not a lost by this.  Another example of the clash between cloud and local is when trying to view a document.  Sometimes ChromeOS will be nice an try and open the doc with Google Docs other times I have to save it to my hdd and then upload it docs before I can read it.  This is annoying and will confuse the average user.  PDFs are a little easier since Chrome has a built in PDF reader but depending on how the site is set up more issues can arise.  Blackboard is a good example of this, when I try to view a document on Blackbaord ChromeOS will try and open it in Docs but since my docs account isn't my Blackboard account, Docs can't open it since it doesn't have permission.  This forces me to try and convince Blackboard to open the file up in a new tab, so I can save it and upload it to Docs.  It took me a good 30 mins to figure out how to get around this problem.  This will cause problems for the average consumer, but I am not sure what the fix is either.  Most likely it will require ChromeOS to change how it handles documents.  One other major lacking of ChromeOS is the lack of Java.  Yes Javascript is sported but without Java there are a lot of sites that simply don't work. The Android App inventor and time.gov for example. This brings up the bigger issue of plug-ins.  Unless ChromeOS makes it easy to support these there will be some sites that won't work and this will derail some of Google's plans.

A few notes
One thing about ChromeOS is right now no internet means your CR-48 is useless.  There aren't really any "apps" offline this includes the Google Suite, of docs, gmail, and calendar.  If Google wants this to be a mainstream OS it needs to have some sort of offline capability.  Yes wifi is all over the place, but there are some places where wifi won't be, my work for example.  I know this will be fixed in the future I just hope it's sooner rather then later.  As far as traveling goes traveling with the CR-48 is a very pleasant experience, as long as there is wifi present.  The battery life is great and the CR-48 is light and portable.  Since all the data is in the cloud there isn't any worry about not having the right file etc.  I am looking forward to taking my CR-48 to Google I/O this year to see how well it really does on travel.  
Summary
ChromeOS has some oddities but that is to be expected in a radically new OS.  The OS isn't quite ready for the average user but it is getting close.  Once the video playback and file issues are resolved I do think that ChromeOS could easily be people's primary PC. Until then it will have to be the relegated to the same spot as netbooks.  

Technology Blinders

posted Jun 25, 2010, 5:18 AM by Chris Temples

The people in the technology scene have a problem.  We think everyone is like us.  We think that people always want the newest gadget.  That they actually know the difference between gigahertz and gigabyte; and aren’t actually wooed by the fancy labeling and numbers on every electronic gadget in the store.  Sadly we are mistaken.  The evidence of this is seen all over the place.  Take the Kin for example everyone that is tech savvy has discounted it said it was worthless.  Just for a second look at the Kin from someone who still thinks having a Hotmail account is cool.  It takes all of your friends from Facebook and Twitter and gives you a super easy way to keep in touch with them.  Then to sweeten the deal you can access everything about your phone online.  For someone who grew up with Facebook and Twitter this has got to be the closest thing to Nirvana they will get.  While I still think the Kin will fail, mostly due to price, the concept behind it is pretty good.  A second example of the blinders is the Apple vs Google smartphone war.  Read a few blogs and in no time you will be convinced they both the leaders in the smartphone world.  However a quick look at the most recent survey shows that RIM has them beat. To the gadget nerd it makes absolutely no sense, they have a horrible browser, hardly any apps worth having and have that stupid trackball.  However, to a normal person this makes perfect sense. Blackberrys are great at getting people their email and have awesome keyboards which is all they really care about.  So next time that new must have product comes out take some time to look at it from a “normal” person’s view.

How to travel with Electronics

posted Jun 25, 2010, 5:16 AM by Chris Temples

Let’s face it we’ve all had to leave our homes where all our gadgets are only a short outlet away from their life-source.  The road is a dangerous place.  There are few if any outlets, long times between battery charges, and then there’s always the fear of the blinking battery light.  Been in this situation before?  Fear not- here are a few tips on how to survive the wild unknown.

Every travel situation is different.  For example, a long road trip has very different challenges than a plane ride; however there a few general tips that work well for both situations.  The most important thing when traveling is to make sure that all the proper chargers make it on the trip.  There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when your phone or laptop is dying and the charger can’t be found.  

Luckily there is a simple solution to this- make a travel bag.  The travel bag is a easy concept- first, round up all the “must have” gear that comes on every trip.  Then take the spare chargers and place them in a small bag that can just be grabbed on the way out.  If a spare charger is no where to be found- there are couple of options.  The easiest, but potentially the most expensive, is just to go get a extra one.  If you are one a first name basis with the people at the ticket counter this is probably the right choice.  Your second option is to try and get a few universal chargers, like this one.  Since most phones and half the other gadgets are powered by USB ports now, a universal USB charger and a cheap cable will go a long way.  Lastly you can just hope to remember what to bring- i.e make a list.  

Once the travel bag is packed you will have everything you need once you get to your destination.  What about the ride there?  That is where something like the Black and Decker Pocket Power comes in handy. This little beauty can charge your devices via USB, which we know you are carrying because of step one, or via the standard 110V plug.  This spare battery has saved more then one dead battery.  It even has enough power to give your laptop just enough time to save what you are doing.  

Now you have power when you get to where you are going, a spare battery for the long rides without power, but why use your batteries when you can plug in?  The last tip is mostly for airports but could be used anywhere.  Locate and mark power outlets.  A few ways this can be done is via the Tips section in Foursquare, or using Google Buzz.  With Foursquare’s ability to check-in to every gate at an airport, you can just check-in and note where, if any, power outlets there are.  Not only with this give you a little reminder when you travel it will also help your fellow travelers.  

These tips should help you keep you happily chugging along with even your most power hungry devices.

Logitech G500 Gaming Mouse

posted May 11, 2010, 6:35 PM by Unknown user

I recently upgrade my mouse from a Logitech MX Revolution to a Logitech G500.  I loved my Revolution but it was just time for a change.  Within about 5 minutes of opening the G500 I was hooked.  It is so much smoother and responsive then my Revolution ever was.  The G500 is incredibly comfortable to hold and has some nice texturing on the sides.  This might bother some people.  I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first, but the more I use the more I love the feel.  The texturing provides great grip when holding the mouse.  The G500 also has removable weight cartridges that allow you to customize the weight of the mouse.  To me this is really just a cool feature and not really a deciding factor.  The weight cartridge has slots for 6 weights.  The mouse comes with six of each 1.7g and 4.5g weights.  The weight cartridge slides into the bottom.  As for buttons the mouse has the standard left and right mouse buttons.  As well as a back and forwards button on the thumb area.  There also is a third button in-between the back and forward buttons.  The next extra buttons are two plus and minus buttons located right next to the left mouse button.  The last non-standard button is a button to toggle the click-scroll and free-spin options of the scroll wheel.  With the included Logitech software  all of the buttons can be programed to either a set of built in functions, such as forward and backwards, or to a user defined macro or a simple keystroke.  The mouse also has built in memory that can hold a configuration.  This means that if the mouse is taken to another computer without the Logitech software the mouse will continue to function just as it did on the host system.  The mouse can be configured on a per-application basis as well.  So for example the center thumb button could be set to Alt-F4 by default, but if Chrome was selected then the same button would do Ctrl-W instead.  Overall this mouse is my newest favorite gadget, except my Droid.  

Last Week

posted Apr 19, 2010, 5:41 PM by Unknown user

In keeping with the plan of updating once a week I figured I would give a short summary of last week.  There were a few big things that happened one was that Guild Wars has started a new campaign called the "War in Kryta" it is suppose to bridge the gap between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.  They also threw in some new costumes.  I think it's a pretty good plan for Guild Wars, but I fear that the people that haven't played in a while will have difficulty getting back into the game.  The other big MMO news was that patch 1.9 for Aion is coming in May.  There are a short Q&A with Kinslon here and here.  Those where the biggest things happening in my world last week.  

Again?

posted Apr 12, 2010, 7:07 PM by Unknown user

Giving this whole blog thing again, only with goals this time.  The current plan is at least one post a week.  

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