8 November 2009 - 8:33pmMotorola Droid

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At 8 AM on Friday morning, Joelle and I were at the Verizon store in Camillus checking out Verizon’s two new Android-based phones: the Motorola Droid and the HTC Droid Eris. Joelle got me the Droid as an early Christmas gift and, at the request of Ryan, I’m taking some time to post here about my initial experiences with the phone.

The Home Screens

home_screen_2 home_screen_1 home_screen_3 locked_chargin

These are the home screens on the Droid. There are three available and you switch between them by dragging your finger across the screen. You can put shortcuts to any applications you like anywhere on these screens as well as widgets that serve various purposes. You can see that I have a few shortcuts on my middle home screen (which is the main one) and on the top of each screen is a widget.From left to right: the Facebook widget which shows status updates from your friends, the Power Control widget which allows you to switch wi-fi, bluetooth, GPS and syncing on and off, as well as adjust the screen brightness (this is one of the best widgets I’ve found since these are otherwise buried in the settings menu, this is included by default as part of the OS), and finally the Weather Channel widget (which I have recently replaced with the Weather Bug widget). I’ve read elsewhere on the internet that having a lot of widgets can slow the phone down considerably and can also be a battery drain so I’m going to try to stay away from using them too much. The last picture on the right is a shot of the phone while locked. Touching and sliding the unlock symbol to the right will, obviously, unlock the phone. This screen looks slightly different if you have a security code set. In that case you would see a 3×3 grid of dots which you have to connect in the special way you picked in order to unlock your phone. You can also put the phone on silent by touching and dragging the speaker to the left.

The Phone

phone phone_call phone_answered call_ended

Next is the phone application itself. The dialer is easy to use and the tabs across the top of the screen make it easy to view your call log, choose from your contacts and access your favorites. The second picture is what the screen looks like when you’re receiving a call. To answer, touch and drag the green button to the right (to ignore, do the opposite). While you’re in a call, the screen shows who you are talking to and gives you options related to the phone call. You can easily add a person to the conversation using the “add call” button (a feature I have not tested), end the call, go to the dialpad (to enter DTMF tones at an automated menu, I assume), mute, and go to speakerphone.  One thing that’s really sweet is that the phone automatically turns the screen off while it’s touching your face (meaning you’re talking on it) and turns the screen back on when you pull it away from your ear (so you can end the call or whatever else you need to do). This prevents accidental button presses and works very well in my experience.  That last shot is just what the screen looks like after you end the call.

Miscellaneous Menus

settings storage apps market

These are just a few screen captures of random menus and such on the Droid. The settings menu obviously contains any setting you could ever hope for, including the SD card and phone storage settings. That shot shows how the Droid is limited to storing applications on its internal memory rather than utilizing the included 16GB SD card. This is an odd restriction but doesn’t seem to be a big deal so far since I have 10-15 apps installed and have barely used any of the internal memory. The apps menu lists out every app you have installed. Shortcuts can be dragged off of this menu and onto the home screen for easy access. That last shot is of the Android Market where you can search for applications to fill your every need.

The browser and other stuff

browser battery_usage text

Here’s a shot of the browser in landscape mode. As you can see the entire width of the website is visible and you can zoom in by double tapping on the screen. The next shot is of the battery use menu which shows what applications/services are using your battery. As you can see the screen is the biggest culprit (I’ve since been trying to keep the screen brightness way down) with wi-fi being a close second. The last one here is the text messaging interface which is pretty simple but displays your texts in a conversation format, which is a big step up from my Windows Mobile phone.

Bonus Material

Those are most of the key things I’ve discovered so far. Below you’ll find a gallery of pictures with all the ones I’ve showed you so far with a few more I didn’t. One thing I didn’t take time to mention was the Barcode Scanner application which is capable of scanning normal barcodes found on items in the store (as seen in my picture where I scan the barcode on my propane canister and then have the app look it up on Google) as well as special 2D QR codes which can contain other data such as a URL. Below is the QR code that links to the Barcode Scanner on the Android Market. Scanning this code with the app will give you the option to open that application’s page in the Market. Edit: to download this application, search for “barcode scanner” in the Market; the application is named exactly that and will show up in the search results.

You’ll also find a couple bonus pictures in the gallery of my favorite novelty application so far. If you’ve watched any Star Trek you’ll recognize it as a Tricorder. It uses realtime data from the phone’s various sensors to fill the screen with all sorts of graphs and numbers, which is pretty awesome. Another application I really like is Gmote. Installing this application on your phone, coupled with a server component running on your computer, gives you full control of your desktop from the comfort of your living room couch. It has built-in compatibility with VLC (unfortunately, not Media Player Classic) and has the ability to control the mouse and keyboard of your computer using the screen as a touchpad and either the phone’s physical keyboard or the onscreen keyboard.

I am very impressed with this phone so far. It’s fast, easy to use and a lot of fun to play with. The only thing I haven’t liked so far is the battery life, but I have a feeling that will get better once I’m not playing with the phone every minute. If you have any questions please post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. Now, the gallery.

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, Technology

23 October 2009 - 10:15pmThe Big 2-2

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Today I turned 22. I have neglected this blog for quite some time and figured today would be as good a day as any to post.

There are two main reasons for today’s post.  The first is that I have been trying to come up with an idea for a new project to work on. I’d like to do something web-related but can’t think of any good ideas that I see a need for. After our wedding I thought perhaps a universal gift registry site would be neat.  A place where items from any store/website could be added with some sort of system for keeping track of what has/hasn’t been purchased.  That idea didn’t last long since a quick Google search revealed several similar websites (none of which I particularly liked, but that’s beside the point).  So I decided I’d post my desire for a project here, perhaps one of the 5 people that reads this blog has a good idea for a web application that I could work on.  On a side note, I was recently taking a look at the Yii Framework for PHP development and I thought it might be interesting to try employing it in whatever project I take on.

The second reason is that I’ve been thinking of trying to take this blog in a more technical direction and possibly trying to post on a more regular basis.  It seems that the technical problems I run into and solve on a weekly basis at work would be good content for blog posts and may possibly draw others here who are facing similar issues.  Some of the topics I’ve considered include kernel compilation, ethernet interface bonding using the bonding kernel module (including an overview of the different bonding modes offered), hardware watchdog, diskless booting over a network, creating an automated install procedure using a Linux-based boot CD, and probably some others that are escaping me at the moment.  Some of those are less advanced than others, but each represent a different task/problem I’ve run into at work over the last few months.  If you are reading this and you have any ideas, please let me know in the comments.

The third reason (did I say two?) is to promote the COSI IRC server.  If you’re a COSI member, past member, wannabe member or otherwise you should definitely check out comm.cslabs.clarkson.edu.  Take a look at the wiki page for information on how to connect and say hello.

The fourth reason is to say you should check out openinternet.gov.  There are several Internet Service Providers in existence that are experimenting with internet plans that restrict access to certain lists of websites, charging customers more for further or unrestricted internet access.  Take a look at the website and educate yourself on Net Neutrality and how it may impact you.

That’s all I have to say about that.

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, General, Programming, Technology

7 August 2009 - 9:29pmFacebook Settings

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Following is a (only slightly edited) note that I just sent to my sister on Facebook.  The settings available on Facebook are a mystery to many users, so I tried to give her a quick overview of what’s there along with some recommendations.  My sister isn’t super computer-savvy, so I figured she might like some help.  If you know someone like her who could use some Facebook help, feel free to pass them this same note.

Hey Jess, you’re on Facebook!

(This turned out to be really long, if you read through it, you might want to print it out so you can follow along with it while you read and get all your settings straightened out. you can print it by highlighting the text, right clicking and choosing copy and then opening word and right clicking and choosing paste, then print)

I was just looking at your page and saw that you have a lot of leftover stuff on your “boxes” tab from when you used to use Facebook. I thought you might want to get rid of a bunch of it, since it’s the reason you stopped using Facebook before.

Hover over Settings at the top of your page and choose “Application Settings”. From there, use the drop down menu to show different categories of applications (“recently used”, etc.). You have three options:

  1. if the application is something you don’t want to have at all, just click the “x” to the right of its name.
  2. If you want it, but don’t want it to show up on your page, click “edit settings”… a popup box comes up and you can click “remove” next to “Box” to get rid of it from your “boxes” tab.
  3. If you want it and want it to show, you may want to edit the “privacy” settings on the edit settings box. Making it so that only your friends can see your stuff is probably a good idea.

Also, you might want to look through the overall privacy settings for your account. Go to “Settings” at the top of the page and this time choose “Privacy Settings”. There are 4 categories here, they’re all important.

  1. Go to Profile and you’ll see that you can control who can see each of the things on your page. It might be a good idea to limit most things to just your friends plus perhaps your college network (certainly don’t let everyone in the world or the whole binghamton network see all your stuff). Also go to the “Contact Information” tab on this page and make sure you aren’t showing everyone in the world your screenname and email address. Make sure you click save changes on each page.
  2. Now go to the “Search” category. I’d recommend setting the dropdown to “My networks and friends” and then checking which boxes you think people that searched for you should see. Save your changes and then
  3. go to the “News Feed and Wall” category. Here you can set what types of things you do will show up in other people’s news feeds. Uncheck anything you don’t want to be broadcasted on everyone’s News Feed. Save your changes and then
  4. go to the “Applications” category. Click the “Settings” tab and you’ll see that here you can specify what parts of your information you’d like Facebook to make available to other applications (applications are all the annoying things that put boxes on your page). Uncheck stuff you don’t think you want an application to be able to use (you may want to uncheck things like pictures at least). Be sure to save your changes.

Now, if you go to Settings again and click on Account Settings, you can go to the Networks tab. Here, you should be able to join your college’s network so you can start meeting some people from your school. You’ll definitely want to be part of that network when you get to school. I think you just need your college email address. You can also go to the Notifications tab (after you saved your changes) and choose when you want Facebook to send you emails about crap. I have almost everything unchecked because I hate 12341209725 Facebook emails all the time.

Just trying to get you started on the right foot with this online stuff. I want you to be safe and not be exposing too much information about yourself to the wrong people. Also, always be careful what you post online. Chances are, someone can see it that you didn’t think about.

Hopefully it helps her at least a little bit.  I also offered to log in to her account and go through some settings for her, but I encouraged her to try it herself so that she can learn what types of things she has control over.

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, General

21 July 2009 - 9:48pmWedding and Honeymoon

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Joelle and I got married last weekend!  Those that were there know that the ceremony and reception went really well and that everything turned out great.  The day went by so fast that we don’t even remember it all that well.

On Sunday morning after the wedding, we flew to Colorado for our honeymoon.  We spent the week hiking and rafting in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The weather was perfect and we had a lot of fun.  We took a lot of pictures and posted them all online at http://picasaweb.google.com/bennettj1087. When we get them, the wedding pictures will probably get posted there too.  Eventually, maybe we’ll get ourselves a decent camera and start taking more pictures and posting them there as well.

We opened our wedding gifts and cards this past Sunday with our parents, sisters, a cousin, an aunt and a friend.  We got a lot of good things and a lot of money and are very thankful to everyone for the nice stuff they got us.

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to mention one particular gift that holds a special place in my heart.  Ryan and Pat purchased for Joelle and I a Blendtec Total Blender. This is one of the coolest things that I would never have thought I’d ever get as a gift. We bought some ingredients when we were out shopping last night and made S’more milkshakes.  The blender is pretty awesome and works really well.  I’m looking forward to making more things with it.

7 Comments | Categories: COSI, General, Life

22 June 2009 - 6:41pmStuff

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I haven’t posted in an eternity, I know. It’s been over a month since I graduated from Clarkson and just about a month since I started my job in Liverpool, NY. Things are going well so far and I’m trying to learn as much as I can about my job each day. Joelle and I are getting married in just under 3 weeks! We’re really excited about it, though we still have a lot of little things to figure out.  If you got you’re invitation in the mail, please fill out the RSVP card and get it back to us ASAP.  We need them by the 27th of June so we can let our reception location know how much of each meal we need and such.

On another note, I went for a bike ride around the neighborhood today.  I thought I’d be able to last an hour, but I was wrong.  I rode for about a half hour before I was basically dead, which amounted to about 3.2 miles of riding, according to Google:


View Larger Map

I mapped out the following route after I got back (comes out to about 5.8 miles) and I’d like to be able to work up to it over the next week or so. We’ll see how that goes.


View Larger Map

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, General, Life

10 May 2009 - 10:24pmBS in CS

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Today I officially received my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. The graduation ceremony, though a bit long, was very nice.  I especially enjoyed the bagpipe/drum marching band that led the processional into/out of the arena at the beginning and end of the ceremony. Remarks given by the various people in attendance were very well done and, though I thought it would be boring, I found the ceremony to be quite enjoyable.

Now that I’m finished with college it’s off to the real world, I suppose. Joelle and I are getting married in 2 months so we have several planning-related things to take care of in the next several weeks. In addition to that, I will be moving to Baldwinsville, NY at some point in the next week or two.  Joelle and I found a pretty nice apartment there that puts me about 15 minutes from my new job in Liverpool, NY.  I’ll be working for Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors as a Systems Engineer. I’m nervous and excited at the same time. I just hope I’m good at whatever it is they’ll be expecting me to do. Joelle will be moving in with me after we get married and hopefully she’ll be able to find a job also. There are definitely many more opportunities in the Syracuse area than there are here in Binghamton.

Also, I got a sweet present for graduation. My parents bought me a Garmin Nuvi 760. It’s a really nice widescreen GPS for the car and will come in really handy when Joelle and I are trying to find stuff in Syracuse and also while we’re in Colorado for our honeymoon.

With that, I’m done for now.

1 Comment | Categories: Clarkson, COSI, Life

22 April 2009 - 7:13pmVersion 0.3

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I’ve just released version 0.3 of the Google Calendar Feed Parser.  This update was a quick one but definitely deserved a new version number.  Since I wrote the plugin I’ve received feedback from many users indicating that PHP’s file_get_contents() would not work on their hosting provider.  A few of these users posted alternative code that used cURL instead and that fixed the problem for everyone.  Today, the author of onigoetz.ch left this comment on my blog about some work he did to the plugin.  Specifically, he mentioned a function called wp_remote_get().  I wasn’t able to find that function in the documentation for WordPress, but searching for it led me to what I think he may have meant: a function called wp_remote_fopen().  This is essentially a wrapper function for retrieving the contents of a file from a URL and will first try using fopen() and, if that fails, fall back on using cURL.

I’ve updated the code to use that function which should come as a relief to many who were forced to hack at the plugin’s code to get it to work on their hosting provider.  A big thanks to onigoetz.ch for making me aware of that function!

6 Comments | Categories: COSI, Programming

19 April 2009 - 2:58amVersion 0.2

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I just released version 0.2 of my Google Calendar Feed Parser plugin for WordPress. The new version confirms compatibility up to version 2.7.1 of WordPress and also adds one new pseudo-feature.

When I originally wrote the plugin, I had some trouble with the start and end times for events displaying in the correct timezone.  To solve the issue (just for EST), I added a hard-coded number of seconds to each time.  This presented a problem when daylight savings time changed since now all the times were displaying one hour off.

To temporarily fix this problem, I’ve added an option to the administrative interface for the plugin that allows the user to directly set the offset (in seconds) that gets added to the start and end times for each event.  This way, a user can test different values to see which one produces the desired result for their timezone.  I call this a pseudo-feature because I hope to replace it with a more comprehensive timezone configuration section at some point in the future.

Version 0.2 can be downloaded from the WordPress Plugin Directory.  Users with version 0.1 installed should be prompted to upgrade from the plugin section of the WordPress admin interface (I’m excited to see if that just works without any effort on my part).

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, Programming

7 April 2009 - 10:44amUpdate: Google Calendar Feed Parser

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I was just looking through some old posts and came across this one that was a follow up to my release of the Google Calendar Feed Parser plugin for WordPress.  At that point (about 2 weeks after the release), I’d had my plugin downloaded 50 times.  I thought that was amazing and it felt pretty neat to know that people were actually using something I made.

Inspired by reading that just now, I decided to check and see the status of my plugin as of today… about 10 months since the release.  I’m really excited to report that it has been downloaded 1,315 times.  Maybe this summer I’ll have some free time to do some more work on the plugin (add a few missing features and fix some bugs).

5 Comments | Categories: COSI, General

1 April 2009 - 9:06pmCOSI’s April Fools’

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Here are some pictures I took of the April Fools’ prank Ryan, Pat and I did in COSI.

COSI Prank 1

COSI Prank 2

COSI Prank 3

We also taped small squares of paper to the bottom of all the computer mouses in the COSI lab (rendering them useless) and Ryan modified some of the text on Planet ITL. :)

1 Comment | Categories: COSI