darkemeralds: Old black and white portrait of DarkEm at the age of three (Little Me)
There are whole communities for this stuff. "Theming." It's a thing. You buy an Android phone and you make it TOTALLY UNIQUE AND PERSONAL through the medium of extremely finicky, detailed customizing apps. We're talking nudging things around pixel by pixel and copy-pasting eight-character color hex codes into font settings. And stuff like that.

What I really want is JARVIS, you know? Never touch the damn thing, just speak my wishes and desires and hear the answer. Failing that, I like a homescreen with almost nothing apparent on it.

Theming. Because I have the time. And the inclination. )


Aug. 3rd, 2014 11:57 am
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
As desperately as I believed I wanted an oh-so-shiny, thin, sleek, sexy ASUS Zenbook, as imminent the failure of my beat-up old Dell Studio, and notwithstanding my having saved up for a fancy new laptop, the universe said, "Whoa, Nelly."

'Listen to your heart and what it has to say.' )

And bingo, I'm back in business. Total cost: $100 and an afternoon. I feel like I've saved a failing marriage or something.

Moral of the story? You tell me.
darkemeralds: Photograph of the seal on King Tut's tomb, with the words "What do you see?" and "Wonderful Things!" (Wonderful Things)
How many motors do you have in your house?

Kevin Kelly, in What Technology Wants and on his blog, talks about how the most successful technologies disappear. They start as major innovations, then become increasingly invisible and ubiquitous. (Douglas Adams pointed this out, too--Kelly quotes him at the link.)

Buckminster Fuller called it "ephermeralization," doing "more and more with less and less until eventually you can do everything with nothing." (Note that he says can, not must or should. I don't think he, or Kelly, or Diamandis or any of the Techno-Evangelists actually advocates for banning old technologies. There are still people producing illuminated manuscripts, buggy whips, and flint arrowheads.)

Kelly cites electric motors as one example of massive ephemeralization. When they were new, electric motors were huge and expensive. Entire factories were adapted to run off a single large motor. As they got smaller and cheaper, they were adapted to a million uses that weren't originally anticipated. They became ubiquitous and invisible.

How many do you have around you? Think about everything you own where you push a button and something moves. There's a motor in there.

It's a longish list. )
darkemeralds: (catastrophe)
Late last night I was up on my stepladder, sticking glowy-stars to my bedroom ceiling, when my brand-new Nest Protect smoke and CO detector first flashed yellow, then turned red and started shrieking at me.

"Emergency, emergency," it said (yes, it talks). "There is smoke in the room."

The Next Protect smoke detector

Spoiler: there wasn't. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
In the last couple of weeks I've been obsessively geeking out over customizing my Android home screen. Not sure what triggered it.

Big phone geekery with pictures. )
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Proud Member)
Thanks to [personal profile] vampirefan, I've been testing the by-invitation beta version of Aviate, a new launcher app for Android (phones only--not yet optimized for tablets).

What, you ask, is a launcher app? Well, maybe you don't ask, but I did. There are dozens of them in the Play store, and most of them offer ways to customize your home screen--different icon sets, widgets and themes, that sort of thing.

Aviate is a different order of being. It aims to present what you'll probably need when you'll probably need it, and it learns, both from you and from the wider user base.

First, it replaces your busy icon-and-widget-filled home screen with something much simpler.

Pretty! )

Aviate: intriguing, promising, and attractive. I have five invites available if anyone's interested. Just PM me with an email address.
darkemeralds: Image of an open book whose pages are turning into wings and flying away (Winged book)
I'm testing Spreeder, a browser extension for speed-reading online content. It's awesome. You highlight some text, right-click and select Spreeder, and it plays the text one word (or two or three words) at a time, fast.

First I did a quick test of my speed when reading conventionally, and came out at about 290 words per minute. So I set Spreeder at 300. That felt really slow, so I tried 400, and finally settled at 500.

screen shot of the Spreeder browser extension showing two words and a speed of 500 words per minute

I tried it on some fic, a New Yorker political article, and a post on BikePortland. I'd say my comprehension of each was at least as good as it would have been reading conventionally. That's an instant 70% speed increase.

The average American never surpasses speech-speed in reading, about 200 words per minute. We subvocalize--read aloud in our heads. Spreeder helps force you past that limitation. Apparently most of us spend about 30% of our reading time "regressing"--re-reading and checking back. Obviously Spreeder eliminates that option altogether.

What's lost, of course, is rhythm and cadence and the other auditory qualities of text that, in speed reading, you're actively trying to get rid of. There are times when you want those, and that's when you'd put down the toys and techniques and go back to 200 words per minute.

A couple of really valuable aids for reading online material the conventional way:

Beeline Reader: colors the text progressively, making it easy to follow from line to line. A very good aid for focus. (Hat tip: [personal profile] ravurian.)

Clearly, a browser extension associated with Evernote, and Readability, an independent browser extension. Both present text in the font, size, and page layout of your choice, without ads or distractions, thereby aiding both focus and poor eyesight.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
Comcast sent me a letter today telling me that on December 2 my cable modem will stop working. I need to buy a new one in order to receive their blazing snail's paced no competition internet signal.


So I go searching online and every model that Comcast says they support has at least a few one-star reviews saying that it doesn't work with Comcast in some areas. All the reviews talk about hours spent on the phone with customer support getting the modem set up. I dread that kind of thing.

Has anyone else on Comcast done this around the Pacific Northwest--replaced your own cable modem? I really don't want to rent from them; they get too much of my money as it is. I'd welcome some guidance.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
Gosh, it's the third of September, which makes me three entries behind in my putative Post and Read Every Day In September plan, which I told no one about and only vaguely hinted at to [personal profile] ravurian. I guess it will be make thirty posts in September, a slightly different commitment.

So, thing the first: Google+ Hangouts. Really cool. My sisters and I have been using Hangouts for a few weeks now. We all live in the same town, but getting together in person is a big production number. We're working on manifesting improvements in our lives (me: remodeling), and we like to meet to share our progress. Hangouts work perfectly.

What I like:
  • The interface is reasonably intuitive
  • It's free
  • It easily accommodates several people and switches focus seamlessly to whoever's talking
  • The sound quality is good, and the system eliminates cross-talk and echoes amazingly well
  • You can start a Hangout on your phone, then switch to your tablet or computer, also seamlessly

What I don't like:
  • It's a wee bit glitchy and isn't 100% reliable on all devices and operating systems (yet).
  • It's a bit of a shock seeing myself as if on live TV. But I'm getting used to that. I'm figuring out makeup, lighting and angle.

It would be really cool if the geniuses of technology could figure out one thing: how to make it so that when I'm looking at you on the screen, I look like I'm looking at you. As it is, I have to gaze interestedly into the tiny pinhole front-facing camera on my device in order to look like I'm listening to you--and then I miss the nuances of your expression. Someone get on that, please.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Around 35 of the apps on my mobile device are there by choice. Here are the ones I like, use and recommend the most. What are yours?

The Top Dozen )
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
...that I love the internet?

Recent studies show that young Americans are losing interest in driving, and are actually preferring mass transit and active transportation over car ownership.* Of the many reasons suggested for this decline in driving, my favorite is that when you take transit you can amuse yourself with your mobile device the whole way.**

Eleanor O being in the shop overnight, I was riding the #8 downtown this morning, enjoying this very benefit. I was reading the many emails flying among [personal profile] vampirefan, [personal profile] sffan, [personal profile] llaras and me speculating about what the hell is going on in Teen Wolf, when [personal profile] ravurian pinged me from the end of his workday in London. I ended up chatting with him all the way to work. (Swype works quite well as an input method on a bouncy bus).

Is it just me, or does that still feel like magic? Sometimes--seriously, at least once per day hour--I am simply awestruck with delight at the global brain and what it has wrought.

* This shockingly un-American trend has sent a panicked auto industry into an advertising blitz, some of which targets the uncoolness of riding the bus, riding a bike, or walking. You know it's real when they're that desperate.

** Yes, you can do this while driving, but please, please don't.
darkemeralds: Photo of espresso with caption "Straight Up" (Espresso)
This is so cool! I'm standing here at my work desk and I feel like I'm across the street at my favorite downtown coffee shop.

It's Coffitiviy, "Ambient sounds to boost your workday creativity".

I've read in a bunch of places lately (most recently this Smithsonian article) that creativity is boosted by cities, by metaphorical friction among ideas, by noise. The ambient sound of a coffee-shop, studies are suggesting, is just right.

I'd like to spend creative time at caf├ęs--and god knows I live in a place with plenty of them--but several limitations have made this impracticable: my laptop is just a hair too big to cart around, and there's no slimmer computer in my near future. Keyboard+tablet has yet to equal actual fast typing for me.

Also, my creativity-hours and my caffeine-hours don't usually overlap. Or when they do, I'm still in my jammies with crazy-hair.

But right this minute, with Coffitivity playing in my earphones, I'm feeling oddly looped in, yet not chafed, engaged but free-floating, comfortably alone in my head but surrounded by a sense of people. It's surprisingly pleasant!

Try it and let me know what you think.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Chrome to Phone is a one-click extension that sends the web page you're looking at on your computer to your Android device. (It requires a free app on the Android side.)

I have a single use-case for it: fanfic.

Here's how I use it:
  1. Find a story on the AO3 using my nice big computer screen
  2. Click the Chrome to Phone extension icon
  3. Go to my phone and open the page I just sent
  4. Use the Download/Mobi option to get a Kindle-compatible ebook version
  5. Move the .mobi file to my Kindle app
  6. Read!

(Chrome-to-Phone has a dozen other use cases--basically, any time you want to make something from your big web browser immediately available on your little mobile screen.)
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Chart)
If you have two and a half minutes to spare and would like an uplifting view of the world from fact-based reality, you could do worse than to watch Hans Rosling's The River of Myths.

screenshot from the video showing Hans Rosling standing behind multi-colored data points that appear to be floating in the air.

(Sorry--no embed code)

Rosling's the guy who developed the dramatic animated data modeling software that remains one of the most popular presentations on TED. Using massive data sets from the United Nations, he demonstrates how in several important measures relating to child mortality and family size, the world is actually getting better.

This new video updates the data and improves on the presentation, and it's really cool.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
One of my most-used Chrome browser extensions is Clearly. You install it and it puts a little button at the top of your browser window.

Then, when you come across a page like this:
Webpage of a local newspaper, cluttered with ads,

you click this little reading lamp:
Icon for the Clearly Chrome extension

and you instantly get this:
The local newspaper article completely uncluttered

I like it better than ad blockers because a) sometimes I do want to see ads, but get them out of the way for serious reading, b) as far as I know, the web page still gets an ad-hit for my click, and c) Clearly, besides removing extraneous crap from the page, renders the main content in a font size and line width I can specify for my own reading ease.

ETA: Oh, and a page rendered in Clearly usually doesn't display comments--believe me, a huge boon when reading anything about bicycling in any local press anywhere.
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
The trouble with the Daily Posting commitment is that...well, there are bound to be some posts of virtually no substance.

Ahem! First of all, I bought one of these off NoMoreRack a couple of weeks ago.

A pink USB flash charger

It was on my desk just like that a couple of days ago. Norm walked up and after observing it, asked--very hesitatingly--"Um...what is that?"

LOL. I resisted the obvious crack and said, "It's a USB flash charger." Which it is. Very handy little device. You charge it, it charges your phone. Seems like it might save the day on a long flight.

Second of all, also in technology, my 83-year-old mom just got her first smartphone and is learning how to text. This is a major breakthrough for the I Heart Bell Telephone generation. Personally, I find text messages as heartwarming and welcome as letters in the mail used to be--and I hate talking on the phone; it will be interesting to see whether they make my mom feel more connected or less.

Third of all, as a follow up to the brain-cascade and migraine events of the past couple of weeks, it has taken several days, but I'm feeling "normal" again, whatever that is.

PS: NoMoreRack is the tumblr of bargain-shopping-porn. Don't go there unless you're feeling strong.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
In his article Using Metadata to Find Paul Revere, Duke University sociologist Kieran Healy takes a time machine back to 1776 to show how powerful the collection of impersonal data can be.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear... )
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
  • IF you're stuck in an annoying and irrelevancy-filled two-hour meeting with Norm, and
  • IF you sit at the far end of the conference table, and
  • IF you have a smartphone, and
  • IF you have either wifi or a data plan you don't mind using, and
  • IF you're near retirement and really don't give a damn that you don't look very engaged in the subject of the meeting
THEN you can accomplish a remarkable amount of research on your novel rewrite.


Mar. 5th, 2012 11:43 pm
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
It took the better part of eight hours, but I'm now the curious and interested owner of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, "Precise Pangolin" (the P entry in Linux's longstanding alphabetical animal naming scheme--my previous O/S was Lucid Lynx so I've skipped M, N and O), and my backups are restoring now. The microphone and recording problems are fixed! Everything works again! \o/

The new operating system takes some getting used to, but it's extremely good-looking and quite fast. There's really very little left in Ubuntu that's uber-geeky (though I did have to do a couple of command-line operations this afternoon), and for the first time I can imagine Linux as an OS for everyday home computer users.

Now to treat myself to an episode of Lewis (thank you, [personal profile] emungere, for tempting me into it--because I needed another show to watch!).

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