Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader - Gone Before Your Time

I love RSS, a technology that brings content to me so I don't have to remember to visit hundreds of sites to see if they happen to have new posts. Google Reader made RSS work for me, it kept track of if I had viewed content much like an email client. It allowed me to use it from any number of the computers I happened to use that day.  In any given week I use Google Reader more than ANY other web service I use.

When I got the news that reader is going away, my first reaction was the world was going to end.  How could Google take away such a beloved service? I took a little time to debate things and come to realize that reader is just a content consumption platform.  Google Reader did what I needed it to do, but it itself had nothing to do with the content. Switching from Google Reader to another platform would be comparable to switching from one media player to another, you still could watch the same video.

Going with the idea that its just a platform, means there can easily be other platforms that can do the same thing, maybe even better.  I found two of them I want to test out and see how they work.  The first one I found was The Old Reader, but looks like it might work and similar to reader of past years, not sure about Android support.  The second one that seems interesting is NewsBlur.  NewsBlur seems fairly modern and has an Android app so it might win out in the end if I don't come across anything else.

In the end I'm still sad, but I'm willing to move one to a new platform.  Switching to new platforms is just something that happens from time to time in the computer world.  Maybe in the process I might come across something even better than Google Reader.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Netflix on Arm Chromebooks

One of thing things that made the arm based Chromebook less desirable to me was the lack of Netflix support. Thanks to some work by the Chrome Team, Netflix and Microsoft, this problem has been taken care of.

Read more over on Engadget if your interested.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Standing Desk - Week One

The past several weeks I've been dealing with back/leg pain.  At some point along the way sitting has become a challenge.  Sometimes I can sit for a little while, but often its only a few minutes before it becomes uncomfortable.  I have a job that often leaves me at my desk sitting, but with sitting being painful I needed come up with a backup plan. My backup plan was setting up a stand up desk.

My stand up desk consists of an old server sitting on my workbench  with my laptop, a couple monitors, and a keyboard and mouse.  The server on the bench brings my work height up to 44 1/2"  from the floor.   This height seems to be a really good height for me, as it is close to the height of my elbows from the floor when standing.. The monitors might be a touch low, but in my case the overhead cabinets would start to interfere if I went much higher.

So what can I say about using the stand up desk? I do like walking up to my desk and having everything at my height and not having to sit down to use my computer.  It makes it nice for those moments you need to walk up to your computer, do something and walk away.  It also keeps me moving more which has some definite health befits.  The bad part of the stand up desk is I'm sore at the end of the day.  My body and my feet are not used to standing all day. With that said I'm in enough pain that I can't sit anyway so I can't say all my pain is from standing.

I've read that for some people it takes weeks for their body to adjust to standing desks.  Based on my pain that forced my into a standing desk I can't really say much about the short term beside standing is still more comfortable than sitting right now. I think in the end I'd like to find a balance between sitting and standing.  I'm still working on just how to achieve that in my normal work area and hopefully lead to a couple health benefits that come with reducing my sitting time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

3D Printing Slicers

Over at the Solidoodle Blog you will find some testing of different slicers used in the 3D printing world to create the gcode for printing.  There is some good info, one thing that might be a take away from this is currently there is not one slicer to rule them all.  The good news is you have multiple choices and as time passes, slicers are getting better.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Effective IE Fix

Found on the Cheezburger Network, an effective way to fix internet explorer 

Friday, March 08, 2013

Chrome OS survives Pwnium 3

Just a quick note that Chrome OS survived the Pwnium 3 contest where hackers could attempt to compromise a Chrome OS laptop and be rewarded with prize money, You can read more about it over on TechCrunch if you want more details.  The Chrome team regularly rewards people for discovering and reporting security flaws, this method seems to be working to help maintain security for the Chrome browser and Chrome OS.

Ultra-Ever Dry

My brother shared this video with me of the spray on coating called ultra ever dry.  It looks awesome at repelling liquids and dirt.  Check out the video or find more info on the website. Reading about it the coating doesn't last forever, and it isn't cheap, but its cool!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Octo Print (and RPi)

Over the past couple weeks I've started to hear about the OctoPrint web interface for controling 3D printers.  OctoPrint can help me fill a personal goal that I have been working on. My goal is to limit power hungry computers running on my house. I installed OctoPrint on my Raspberry Pi, for me this qualifies as a low power computer that I don't feel bad about running 24/7.  The goal has a second part of the goal deals with my Chromebook usage. One thing that I've never been able to do before is manage my printer from my Chromebook.  The Chromebook helps me fall in line with reduced power usage, so I generally try to use the Chromebook as my preferred platform.

Now comes install time.  I wanted to change SD cards in my Raspberry Pi, so I started with a fresh Raspbian install and updated it.  The OctoPrint Github page has instructions for getting OctoPrint up and running on Raspbian fairly quickly but I ran into a couple hiccups  My problem was around python-pip, for some reason python-pip requires python 2.6 and OctoPrint wants python 2.7, a quick search leads me over to the Raspberry Pi forums where somebody else had the same issue. Here are slightly modified instructions:

cd ~
sudo apt-get install python-setuptools git
sudo easy_install pip
git clone
cd OctoPrint
sudo pip install -r requirements.txt

Everything installed and launched fine, and I was able to open up the browser and was good to go.  Next I wanted to try to connect to the printer and I ran into a another small little hiccup.  My user didn't have proper permissions to use the serial port my printer was connected to so I had to fix that and now I was able to connect to the printer and get temps.
chmod a+rw /dev/ttyACM0

It was now bed time so how will it works while doing a print is to be determined but everything looks promising. I also look forward to seeing if I can get my webcam working to remotely watch prints.  OctoPrint does help fill a need, but it does still require me to use a regular computer for slicing models into gcode so its only one step closer to my end goals.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Chrome OS and Chromebook Pixel

I have been a Chromebook fan since day one. When I'm at home, the Chromebook gets most of my computing time.  I happened to receive one of the beta CR-48 devices, as far as Chromebooks go, it has minimal specs. Even with minimal specs it handles most things well enough. When the first Chromebooks came out with a price tags of $500 to $600 I was a little torn over the pricing. I found it hard to recommend paying full computer pricing for a computer that wasn't a full computer.  Pricing wasn't enough for me not to be a fan of the Chromebook.  Time has passed and the list of things you can't do with a Chromebook is shorter, and a second generation of cheaper Chromebooks hit the market.  The combination of these two factors meant to me that I would strongly consider buying a Chromebook at some point to replace my beloved CR-48.

Chrome OS has greatly improved in look, feel, and usability over the last two years. One of the great things about having a Chromebook is how Chrome OS is silently improving in the background.  I don't have to worry about service packs or going out to buy the next version of an OS.  Chrome OS does it's best to make you forget its there, and let you focus on using your device for what you want to do. Chrome OS is basically zero maintenance, from a systems administration standpoint, this is a big win. Chrome OS is inherently designed to be secure and by design it's not as prone to the typical virus attacks that Windows machines are.  Chrome OS also doesn't have Java so that also removes one big attack vector that has been causing problems lately.

I like my CR-48, I still use it almost daily, and odds are if I didn't use it, it was because I didn't use a computer while I was at home that day. Hardware wise there are three things about the CR-48 that I would have really liked.  I wanted a faster CPU, more RAM, and a back lit keyboard.  I tend to have a lot of tabs open, and the limited CPU and RAM doesn't leave a lot of resources extra tabs. Any other Chromebook that can be bought have a faster CPU so I don't have to worry about that a lot.  In the RAM department, 2GB is rather standard, with one model having 4GB.  The only down side was the one for 4GB of RAM was also $200 more than the models with 2GB of RAM.

Getting past RAM and CPU, I tend to use my Chromebook in lots of different areas, and many times I wish I had a backlit keyboard.  None of the Chromebooks offered a backlight on the keyboard so no matter how much I wanted it, I wasn't getting it.

A couple weeks ago now, Google announced a premium Chromebook called the Chromebook Pixel. The Pixel is clearly a high end power user Chromebook.  The moment I saw the pictures and specs, I wanted one.  I was ready to buy and figure out how to pay for it later, but then I got to the price tag and had a little bit of sticker shock.  I was hoping for less than $700 and it turns out to be $1300.  For me I can't justify $1300 on an impulse buy, but the Pixel does have everything I want in a Chromebook plus a few more things.  I would be perfectly willing give up the high resolution touchscreen in favor of a much more average panel without touch if they could take $700 off the price.

This really does leave my torn between envy and budget. It seems like new Chromebooks are hitting the market on a regular basis so for now I'm just going to wait and see how long I can make the CR-48 last.  Hopefully the perfect Chromebook for me will hit the market before my CR-48 dies. If my CR-48 dies, I'm defiantly going to replace it with a newer Chromebook, at this point I just have to wait and see if it will be a device currently on the market or some new device that meets my demands with a price tag I can justify.

Will 3D Printing Change the World?

I saw this video over on Frankie Flood's blog and thought it was worth passing on.

Will 3D Printing Change the World?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Automagic Gmail Cleanup

I have a bad tendency to not delete emails and keep my mailbox clean, but with a combination of a couple tools, my inbox has a cleaner future.

The first tool is to help manage subscriptions. is mostly a smart filter that recognizes bulk email subscriptions you signed up for.  Messages are archived so they skip the inbox and the label is applied. At any time you want to view these messages, you just have to pull up the label in gmail. also collects a list of your subscriptions and helps you unsubscribe from mailings.

My next problem is messages that I want to keep short term, but are no longer relevant after x number of days. For example tiger direct sends me the deals of the week, I like to keep that message around for a few days just in case, but odds are I'll forget to go back and delete it. Most of these messages are now caught by so they became easier to find and cleanup, but still required a manual step on my part. Today I saw an article on lifehacker about google app scripts that can do things to messages based on age.  This is perfect, now once a day it cleans out messages from my label that are older than 30 days.  I setup several other labels to auto clean also thus removing the need for me to go back and delete or archive messages.

I'm still a long way from inbox 0 but this will really help keep things under control.

Tire Testing

Testing tires in the name of science.