8 November 2009 - 8:33pmMotorola Droid

, , , , ,

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

, , , ,

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

5 February 2009 - 6:35pmMore Subversion

A few months back I posted briefly about how I set up a Subversion server on an Ubuntu virtual machine.  That virtual machine was set up using Virtual Box which I’ve since decided is sort of a pain to use.  As a result, I uninstalled Virtual Box and removed all of the VMs created under it (losing the Subversion server in the process).

For COMM 444 I had to create a Fedora VM for “learning” on.  I decided to give VMWare Server a try and have been mostly impressed with the quality of it.  Setting up a Fedora installation was pretty painless and it runs so well on my machine that I’ve been using it to do schoolwork and such on (as opposed to using polaris, which has some annoyances).  Today in class, Tino mentioned that if we were responsible developers we would probably be using some sort of version control system while we write our compiler.  That way, when we finish building a piece of it and get it all working, we’ll always have the code at that particular moment so that next week when we break it beyond repair (or accidentally delete everything) we can go back to the way it was.

So I took his advice and spent some time after class getting a Subversion server set up in the Fedora VM I already have set up.  To get it going, I used this article on the COSI wiki and this post on my blog (which references a few other articles).  I should note that using the version of WebSVN from their site (as opposed to the one available in the Ubuntu repository) means that the sweet theme I worked so hard to find last time I set this up is included as the default.

There is still one fairly obvious issue and that’s the fact that, though I’m committing all my changes to SVN, they’re not really being backed up to some other location.  Both my working copy and the SVN revisioned one are on the same hard drive.  That means that if my computer bites the dust, I’ve still lost everything I worked on.  I’ll be trying to figure out some form of backups soon, but until then at least I have revisioning under control.

1 Comment | Categories: COSI, Technology

1 October 2008 - 11:05pmMainframes

, , ,

So today I completed parts 1 and 2 of the IBM Master the Mainframe Competition.  All total it took me about 4 hours to complete.  I’m hoping I got all of the part 2 answers right and that I finished within the first 60 (the prize is $100).  Some of the content was completely different than last year’s, but about half of it was pretty much the same as it was last year (too bad I didn’t take time to document the exact procedures from last year).

Since I’m not at school this semester while I do my co-op, I’m thinking I may take time to work on part 3.  The five people to have accumulated the most points in part 3 tasks by December 29 win an MSI Wind Laptop running Linux (the top two of those five get a trip to the Mainframe lab in Poughkeepsie, NY).  A laptop would be a sweet prize so I figure it might be worth the effort to work on part 3 (not to mention the fact that I’ll probably learn a lot from it).

Leave a Comment | Categories: COSI, General, Technology

21 June 2008 - 9:49pmMy First WordPress Plugin

, , , ,

I just wrote my first WordPress Plugin! You probably just saw my post about it… I decided to do a formal post to document the plugin (which I can use for the plugin’s URL on the WP Plugin site) and then post afterwards to announce it to the masses.

Anyway, it’s called Google Calendar Feed Parser and it does basically what the title implies. You give it the URL for a Google Calendar feed and it parses and displays the feed for use in a sidebar to show upcoming events on your calendar. There are still a lot of improvements that I’d like to work into it, but version 0.1 has some pretty solid core functionality and should work well in any WordPress theme.

Try it out on your blog and let me know what you think. I’m excited about it and I plan to continue working on adding functionality so suggestions are very welcome.

Leave a Comment | Categories: COSI, General, Technology

21 June 2008 - 9:40pmGoogle Calendar Feed Parser

, , , , ,

Update: Version 0.2 was released today (4/19/2009) which allows configuration of a timezone offset that can be customized to force start and end times from the XML feed to be displayed in the desired timezone (see documentation of the option below).

Update: I’ve added a screenshot of the plugin in action on a blog I administer.  You can view it here.

Google Calendar Feed Parser is a WordPress Plugin designed to facilitate incorporating a Google Calendar XML feed into your WordPress blog.  I wrote this plugin after being unable to find an existing plugin to provide similar functionality.  I intend to keep this plugin up to date, compatible with the most recent releases of WordPress, as they occur.  If you have suggestions, comments, advice, etc. or you would like to help me develop the plugin, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.  Any help is appreciated (especially since this is my first WordPress Plugin).  Please let me know if you have any timezone related issues, I had some odd problems getting the times to appear properly.

To install Google Calendar Feed Parser:

  1. Download the zip archive and extract it to the wp-content/plugins directory.
  2. Go to the “Plugins” page in the WordPress Admin interface and click the “Activate” link for the Google Calendar Feed Parser.

To configure Google Calendar Feed Parser:

  1. Go to the “Settings” page in the WordPress Admin interface and click the link for the “Google Calendar” page.
  2. Set the URL for the calendar feed and other settings as desired (see below for full explanation of all options).

Options:

  1. Feed URL: This is the URL of the feed you wish to incorporate in your blog.  It should be of the form:

    http://www.google.com/calendar/feeds/userID/public/full?param=value&param=value…

    • For a listing of available parameters, see the Google Calendar API documentation. I found the following query string to provide desirable results:

      ?orderby=starttime&sortorder=ascending&futureevents=true&singleevents=true

    • Note that the max-results parameter should not be specified here as it will be handled by the setting below.
  2. Static URL: Use this option if you want to have each event link to a single URL (e.g. have each event link to a page where you’ve embedded your Google Calendar).  If you leave this set to “No”, the plugin will use the link provided by the feed for each individual event.
  3. Max Results: Use this to set the maximum number of events to retrieve and display from the calendar.  If left blank, the plugin’s default is 4.
  4. Timezone Offset: Change this value only if you are having issues with times from the feed displaying correctly. The value supplied in this field is a number of seconds added directly to both the start time and the end time for each event. The default for this value, if left blank, is 7200 seconds. Note: In a future release of the plugin, this option will be replaced with a more comprehensive timezone customization feature.

To Use Google Calendar Feed Parser:

  1. Include a call to the function gcal_parse_feed() at the spot where you want the feed to appear.  I use the feed in my sidebar but you could use the feed wherever you want.
  2. Include style rules in your template’s stylesheet to customize the look of the feed.  A single event outputted from the plugin would be of the form:

    <div id=”events”> <div class=”event”> <h3><a href=”http://some-link-here”>Event Title</a></h3> <p id=”event_time”>July 12, 2009 from 9:00pm to 10:00pm</p> </div> …more events here… </div>

Donations:

If you like this plugin, please consider donating.


Changelog:

Version 0.1 (first):

  • Ability to set feed URL.
  • Choice of whether to use event URL from feed or static URL for each event.
  • Ability to set max-results parameter.

Future Functionality:

  • Ability to customize query string from the Admin interface in WordPress.

90 Comments | Categories: COSI, General, Technology

31 March 2008 - 11:28pmOh, April Fool’s Day

, ,

April Fool’s Day was welcomed just 18 minutes ago (EDT) and already there are a wealth of pranks littering teh intarwebs.

First, I present to you the Global Internet Maintenance Organization (GIMO). The GIMO is the organization responsible for the cleanliness and upkeep of the intertubes and has designated April 1st as its annual “Internet Cleaning Day”. The GIMO’s very own Alexander Gotham sent out a mass emailing just today announcing this to all internet users. For more information, visit their website.

Second, Google released a brand new service today called gDay. Powered by MATE technology, gDay seeks to provide the user with tomorrow’s search results today. Check it out here.

Third, the author’s of XKCD, Questionable Content and Dinosaur Comics have teamed up to present what I find to be the most humorous April Fool’s Day prank I’ve seen. Take a look at their respective websites, keeping in mind which you’re clicking on. I think you’ll find the results quite amusing. Of course, this will probably no longer be valid after April Fool’s Day is over.

Fourth, heeding the requests of the aforementioned Alexander Gotham of the GIMO, P-Dub of pdub.net has brought his site down for spring cleaning.

Fifth, Zach and Ryan officially announced the end of the Clarkson Open Source Institute. All hardware is either being sold or donated with proceeds benefiting the K12 Program and the MCS Department here at Clarkson.

Sixth, I saw this link at the top of my Gmail screen last night, but at that time it didn’t actually go anywhere. This morning, however, it leads to a new feature in Gmail known as Custom Time. Check it out for yourself.

What a funny day. I will probably update this list as I become aware of new pranks, so stay tuned.

Leave a Comment | Categories: Clarkson, COSI, General, Life, Technology

21 January 2008 - 4:46pmStuff

, , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been far too long, blog.

This post is dedicated to new news. I will discuss this news in several categories. Enjoy.

My life: I miss home, Joelle, my family, and my dog. I’ve been back at school for almost 2 weeks now, just trying to slip into this semester’s routine and stay on top of my work.

Google Android Contest: As I’ve mentioned, a group of us from the lab have set out to build an application that will run on Google’s new Android platfrom (part of the Open Handset Alliance). Progress so far is very good and we’re actually hoping to have two separate submissions for the March 3rd-ish deadline.

Classes: They are going well. Most everything has been fairly straightforward so far but I’m expecting the workload to get somewhat heavier as the semester progresses. One thing I’m looking forward to is an idea Pat and I have for a project for our Computer and Network Security course. I’m not going to delve into too much detail here because I don’t want to leak information about it to anyone on the Clarkson campus (it could affect the results of our little experiment). If you don’t go to Clarkson and would like more details, let me know.

COSI: Maybe I should finish the time server project I started last semester. Hmmm…

K2CC: For those of you who don’t know, I’m a member of the Clarkson Amateur Radio Club. The club does a lot of neat projects, a few of which I get involved in here and there. Check out the wiki I set up. There’s a license exam coming up on February 2nd and I’m considering upgrading to a General Class license. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My Website: Recently added on the right hand side of my blog’s home page is a link to a calendar that shows my schedule. I’ll try to keep this thing as up to date as possible so that if you want to know when I’m available or what I’m up to you can check there. Also, I’m working on a photo browsing application (using some AJAX) that I hope to put up here at some point, I’ll let you know when that becomes available (it will probably be password-protected, so you’ll have to know me to check it out).

Clarkson: Is a mess. There’s construction vehicles all over and it’s become one huge mud/snow pit. Due to the abundance of dirt everywhere, maintenance has decided to use dirt to coat every slippery surface on campus. Not only does this make the surface somewhat less slippery, it contributes a great deal to the mud collection here at the University. This is as opposed to using salt which would effectively melt the ice and actually prevent a muddy mess, and that would be terrible.

Potsdam: It’s cold here (sorry, that’s not new news). This morning my computer informed me that it was -1. -1 is cold.

Snow and Mud

I think that will be all for today. I’ll try to post more often, I promise. :)

Leave a Comment | Categories: Clarkson, COSI, Life, Radio, Technology

14 December 2007 - 11:43pmYay for break

, , ,

I’m writing this post from my bedroom… looking forward to a good night’s sleep in my bed. :) Arrived home safely today around 1 and am very happy to be finished with school for a couple weeks.

Thought I’d update you all with an addition to the things to do list for break. Some of us from COSI have decided to participate in the Google Android Contest. We have a few pretty sweet ideas and work is to start over break with the hopes of having a basic prototype done by the start of the semester. If you’ve never heard of it, check out the site to see what it’s about. Should be a lot of fun.

Anyway, it’s late and I’m tired.

Leave a Comment | Categories: Clarkson, COSI, Life, Technology

22 November 2007 - 1:21pmHappy Thanksgiving!

, ,

Hello everyone, hope you’re all having a great Thanksgiving! It’s good to be home enjoying the holiday with my family and spending time with the girl I love.

An update on classes… instead of COMM341 (which was a question mark anyway), I’ve registered for COMM440 – PHP and MySQL. I’m just hoping that it will be at least slightly entertaining and challenging, I would really like to learn something in that class. Everything else is the same, this 5 class line-up shouldn’t be too bad for next semester… the only class I’m a little concerned about is CS344…

In other news, I want an Ipod Touch and a MacBook Pro. Enough said, I think.

VMWare Server 2.0 Beta was released just recently (check it out here). I downloaded and installed it on my Windows Vista desktop and have been very pleased so far. The biggest difference I saw right away is that the application is web-based. All the management functions and VM usage occurs inside your browser. I’ve found two issues I think I should point out:

  1. I first tried running it in Firefox… this worked fine until I went to the VM’s console tab to view my VM as it booted. The program told me I needed to download a plugin for Firefox, so I clicked the link and the plugin wouldn’t install properly (it gave an error about not being able to write to something). So (using IE Tab) , I tried it in Internet Explorer. The plugin installed fine and I’m now able to view my VM’s console.
  2. The first thing I noticed after installing VMWare was that it asked me to login. What was I supposed to login with? Good question. After doing some hunting online, I found that I was supposed to use the existing user account on the system. But my user account wouldn’t work. Upon further investigation it occurred to me that it probably wanted the administrator account. I had to go through the process of enabling that account and setting a password and I was instantly able to login to the VMWare Infrastructure Client.

With that, I’ll be off for the day. It’s time to pay more attention to the football game at hand. Again, I hope you enjoy your holiday.

Leave a Comment | Categories: Clarkson, COSI, Technology