review

I Just Tried Windows 8

I just tried Windows 8, and to be honest it's pretty awful. It looks like it's meant for running on a touch screen but if you are a desktop user it's horribly awkward to use. I'm not sure if it's a bug but getting the task bar thingy (what's it called?) to show up on the left-hand side of the screen is very difficult. I seem to have to hover on the top-left corner and wait for an icon to appear, then move downward, then the whole task bar thingy will appear. Now that I am in the Maps App, I have to go to the bottom-left corner and a "Start" thingy appears but I have to move very fast to it before it disappears (and for some reason, clicking on it right now doesn't do anything, so I seem to be stuck in the Maps app). Ok, I seem to be able to get the Start menu button to appear at the bottom-left but clicking on it doesn't always work.

There does seem to be an app called "Desktop" but it doesn't seem possible to launch any apps from it. It just has a Windows Explorer and an Internet Explorer icon. The menu in Windows Explorer also seems horribly complicated (I guess this is the whole "ribbon" thing). Shudder. It's just awful.

All the apps seem to be full-screen, at least all the apps accessible from the "Start screen" (is that called "Metro"?). Not really sure what the deal is with that. How are we supposed to work with two applications at the same time? I can't seem to launch apps from the "Desktop" I have to launch them from the "Start screen".

I didn't think it was possibly to make something worse than Ubuntu's Unity, but it seems that Microsoft has managed to do that. BTW, I am starting to like Unity more and more (although at the moment I am taking a short break and using KDE4 instead).

Muse in Seattle 2007

Finally a review of Muse's September 2007 concert in Seattle! Now I'll give my own pseudo-review:

I drove down to Seattle to this concert to witness the amazing UK band called MUSE. Many Canadians have not heard of Muse and many would be surprised to learn that they are #4 on Last.FM's weekly play charts and have been there for quite some time. They have been around for a long time, but are so far only well-known in Europe. I downloaded just handful of their top songs about 1-2 years ago and was drawn to them because I thought a few of their songs sounded a bit like Radiohead. The more I listened to them I realized how different they are from Radiohead (at least the Radiohead of OK Computer, which is the only album I listen to). After more and more listens I grew to like them more and more and eventually I had to have all their albums. They have become somewhat of a Pink Floyd to me, where almost every song is awesome and worth listening too and I almost never skip a track. So back to the concert...

We drove down to Seattle for this concert because they aren't playing in Vancouver this year and I couldn't pass up on this opportunity. When they started with Knights of Cydonia a few guys two rows down stood up and blocked our view. Some people were telling them to sit down but the guys refused and told everyone to stand up. Eventually the entire section was standing up and getting into it and singing along to the chorus. Unfortunately I didn't write down their songs, nor did I memorize it. Invincible was particularly awesome and gave me goose bumps for some reason. City of Delusion (one of my favourites) was awesome of course. Starlight (the top Muse song on Last.FM) was also great. I actually get somewhat tired of the recorded version of Starlight but hearing it live was so much better. Butterflies and Hurricanes included the piano solo near the end which I love. Sadly they didn't play Space Dementia which also has some awesome piano. I also enjoyed the Feeling Good cover (another great piano song). Mostly it was a guitar and drum show though with some pre-recorded electronic stuff with a little bit of piano. They just can't play a bad song.

Matthew Bellamy was amazing and totally owned the show. Didn't talk at all, was totally focused on what he was doing. He went from one amazing song to another, playing piano, singing, and playing guitar. Their bass player and drummer are also amazing of course, but Matt kind of steals the show.

Palm TX is a Piece of Junk

I got my wife a Palm TX in December 2005. It worked for almost a year, then just as the warranty was about to expire the power button started getting all flaky and only working on 1/3 presses at best. It never really worked great to begin with, often requiring one to hold down the button for a second or two until registering that you pushed it. It seems that others had the Palm TX power button problem as well:

"My second device has worked flawlessly until just a few days ago when the power button problem returned. With a little research (Google: power button problem palm TX) it seems this is a very common problem. The problem is that the button is only soldered onto the board and no other mechanical connection is used. As the power button is used the solder deteriorates and the button eventually becomes useless. Any other button will turn on the palm and there are ways to power it off without the button but I still find this unacceptable. With a broken power button a hard reset is also impossible."

The power button was deteriorating and eventually became completely unbearable and as the warranty period was almost over we decided to return it in December 2006 before it became completely broken.

So we got a new Palm TX in the mail sometime in January 2007. No major problems until May 2007 when the wifi suddenly stopped working. It can't even try to connect anywhere. Anytime the radio is turned on, the Palm locks up. The only cool thing about this was watching the LCD fade slowly to white as the TFTs in the display leaked off charge allowing the backlight to shine through. I'm never seen a Palm lock up so badly that it completly disabled the LCD electronics. A hard reset reset was not able to fix this problem so it is clearly a problem with the hardware itself.

Anyways, I have no idea what we will do now. My wife can live without wifi and in fact did not really use it much before. But she'll be working somewhere this summer where there is no computer although there is probably wifi available nearby. It would be handy if she could send/receive email through GMail on her Palm TX. More than that though, we feel a bit ripped off as (at the time at least) the Palm TX was significantly more expensive than comparable models, largely because of the wifi. We are unsure whether the replacement model they sent us is under warranty (it would suck if they didn't reset the warranty for a reparied devices). It is doubtful that Palm would send us a different more reliable Palm model either, but we'll try anyways.

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LibraryElf: Library Overdue Book Reminder Service

I am constantly late at returning library books. While studying at the University of Waterloo I racked up huge fines, often just by being one day late (they would send me an overdue notice the day after they were due, thus incurring $1 per book, before I could renew). I eventually wrote a little python script that would log on to the University of Waterloo's library website and renew books for me (the script ran automatically every night). That worked great for the last year that I was at Waterloo.

When I came back to Vancouver I was also late at returning books to the Vancouver Public Library. I stumbled on a site a while ago called Library Elf that sends me reminders when my books I have taken out from the VPL are almost due. It supports many other libraries as well. It automatically logs into any libraries that you add to your account and you can receive notification up to one week in advance, or every week, by RRSS and/or email. It has worked great for me, except for one time when it didn't send me any reminder. Perhaps GMail thought it was spam, I'm not sure. I might add the RSS option, just in case.

Another neat feature is that in the reminder email, they will suggest a book that they you might be interested in, based on the books you have borrowed. It just recommended a great authentic Mexican cookbook to me that has a 5-star rating on Amazon on 13 reviews!

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Recipe Matcher - Find Recipes Based on Ingredients You Have

Recipematcher.com is a recipe website where you enter in all the ingredients you have and you can then search for recipes that use those ingredients (the results are sorted by which recipes require you to buy the least numbers of ingredients). It's a great idea. Too bad that updating the list of ingredients you have on hand is a major pain in the ass. I filled it out quickly and for some things I checked off the box even though I didn't have it because it's something that I have no problem buying or having extra around. Like onions, tomato sauce, or chicken breasts. I don't any of those around right now but I have no problem buying them because they will easily get used up.

The one great thing this website could be useful for is finding recipes that use ingredients I want to get rid of. It is always satisfying to get rid of an ingredient that I've had in the cupboard for months. There's no way I'm going to update this website's list of ingredients I have on hand though. I may just tweak it by adding some ingredient that I want to get rid of and then using their search option that finds recipes that MUST contain a specific ingredient. I am not so sure how useful this is as Google can pretty much too the same thing and probably has access to more recipes than this website does. I have used this Cookin' With Google form in the past. There's also Google Base Recipes, which currently contains 1.12 million recipes.

Flickr Uploading Tools in Linux: juploadr and kflickr

I tried two applications for uploaded photos to flickr in Linux. The first is juploadr-1.0, which crashed many times for me and after an entire day of trying I just couldn't get all of the 500 photos I wanted to upload, uploaded. I had much better luck with kflickr-0.6. There seems to be a trend of quality KDE applications (amarok, KDE itself, k3b). Not so many Java or Gnome ones, but I digress. Originally I liked the way of editing descriptions and tags in kflickr but then I realized that neither of these applications compared to flickr's organizer feature, so it didn't matter. kflickr did crash on me if I right-clicked anywhere on the imported images.

kflickr would pop up a dialog box if there was a network timeout and stop uploading entirely whereas juploadr would skip that file and then try the next file. Why it doesn't just retry that file again, I'm not sure. This "feature" turns out to be more of a bug because after it has skipped about 1 out of every 20th photo in my 500 photos, it ended up crashing at some point. So I had a big swath of photos that had not yet been uploaded, but I also had some other photos that had not uploaded because they were skipped. Finding out which photos were skipped would be impossible.

kflickr basically worked on the first try. I got the timeout dialog a few times and thus had to click "OK" and then hit the "Upload" button to resume but in the end it did finish up. For now my flickr uploading application of choice is flickr.

One that I really want to try but have not had luck with is flickrfs. It looks really neat, but I had problems mounting my flickr account on a local directory.

Updated (2006-08-12): Another advantage of kflickr over the competition (juploadr) is that it loads thumbnails lightning fast. With juploadr I was waiting forever for all of them to load whereas flickr took less than a minute for 500 photos.

Updated (2006-08-15): So the problem related to jUploadr timing out is apparently fixed, simply by adding -Xmx512m (for example), to increase the amount of memory available to the Java VM. This will be fixed in 1.1 which is in Beta right now. The other advantage kflickr has over jUploadr right now, however, is the ability to set the title or description for one picture and then to easily move to the next or previous picture, just like you can do in flickr's Organizer. On the other hand, this is a "feature" for jUploadr because it is dangerous to have too many features like this in the client. If the client crashes or your computer crashes you will lose all the captions (for example) that you created locally on your hard drive. This is why I prefer using flickr's organizer. For a small number of pictures, doing all the titles/descriptions in the client quickly can be handy... Another thing, kflickr remembers the tags you used previously (for autocompletion) which just prevents typos in your tags more than anything. Both clients provide a good batch editing mode.

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