Strike Two – Double Fail!

As a blogger, I completely failed April and May. The best excuse is no excuse.

I am still very much into this tech blog thing, and I foresee a much more productive June. Just going into my WordPress dashboard and clicking publish on all my drafts would provide plenty of content.

I have a lot of fun new stuff to write about, and it is an exciting time to be living in the Techie Meadows. Send me some inspiration through some comments.

I almost single-handedly redesigned Windows 8.1 Update. Think of what this blog could do next!

Blogging is hard. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it is easy. Consistency pays off–it’s about the only thing that does. Don’t hit delete or save. Click that publish button.

Don’t forget to include an image!

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Windows 8 Ain’t That Great :(

This article started as another Today I Fixed It piece, but then morphed into a rant about why Windows 8 sucks, and how Google helped to make it not so bad.

When my Toshiba Satellite took a dump on me, it was a total bummer, but some good has since come from it.  This PC was the first time I had ever used a laptop as my primary computer. I have always made my desktop number one. Working on the go changed that.

My primary laptop recently became useless for a while. I used to give Toshiba high marks, but this recent experience has left a sour taste in my mouth that was already spoiled by having to stomach Windows 8. It failed when something went wrong with Windows, so I went to do a factory reset, but for some reason, Toshiba’s built-in software just wiped the HD clean.

I thought that this fault could be a good opportunity to put Windows 7 on my Toshiba because I did not enjoy Windows 8 and sadly, 8.1 wasn’t good enough for me either.

To my surprise, Windows 7 drivers for my network interface controllers simply do not exist. I probably could have used some tech trickery voodoo to make it work, but I’m not a kid anymore, hack job PCs are unreliable at best. It is the same reason I don’t root my mobile cloud device or jailbreak phones.

I was forced back to Windows 8.1! I could not even find my existing license key (it shoulda been a sticker on the computer), so I am using a 3-month trial of 8.1 Enterprise.

I tried to like the new Windows. The context menu from right-clicking the start button is nice, but meh. Some of the hidden menus and control panel items have nice new quick access features and have been redesigned with a more visual friendly interface. Some new features are nice, but I want a start menu to access applications and shortcuts–that’s how I like my PC to work. This new tiles interface is GARBAGE! I started using Windows at version 3.11 and that is the User Experience Microsoft has gone back to. Typing this makes me hit the keys hard because I’m angry about it. MS went back over 20 years! Take a look:

windows 311 ss01VS

Windows-81-new-Start-Screen-Customize-feature

Microsoft got rid of the way that I wanted to access their software, so Google stepped in and fixed that for me. Thanks Google! The new Google App Launcher sits right on my taskbar and displays web apps that I can launch right from the desktop. It would be nice if I could put shortcuts for my local applications in the launcher, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. By taking away my start menu, MS opened the door for Google to step-in and allow me to more easily launch Google Documents than it is for me to run MS Office.

I Moved to the Cloud

The Cloud is here to stay, and I’m moving there!

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I have recently had some technical issues with different laptops, which made my ability to work on-the-go more difficult to maintain. I was quick to realize and take advantage of the benefits of storing work, documents, preferences, and settings in the cloud.

The timing of this change in the way I work is very appropriate because I also recently upgraded my main communication device to a Motorola Moto G by Google. I am in love with my new device, and I am grateful that Google released it before they sold off Motorola to Lenovo.

Acquiring the Moto G gave me two strong incentives to become more Cloud Based. The ability to primarily use cloud telephony through Google Voice and an extra 50 GB of space on my Google Drive. Thanks big G!

Dealing with PC fails made me learn to sit down at any laptop with an internet connection and be able to pick-up where I left off on a different computer. Before flash drives were everywhere, I was in the habit of emailing documents to myself or keeping files stored on an FTP server. Without using cloud services, keeping documents and folders synced across multiple devices is a challenge and a hassle. Too many times have I loaded my work documents on a flash drive–only to discover an hour into working that I forgot to include one important file.

In addition to the way I work and store documents, moving to the cloud has greatly improved my ability to communicate. I am not embarrassed to say that I was a very late adopter of smart devices. I was just never really impressed with anything that was out there. When I got my Motorola, I did not migrate my number that I have had for 13 years. I kept my dumb-phone and its number, and I now use that as my home phone. I connected my smart phone to my Google Voice number that I have had for over 5 years. Google Voice is great, and inspired me to refrain from calling my Moto G a ‘phone’. I refer to it as my Cloud Device because that term more accurately describes the way I use it. It has a phone app (Google Voice), but I don’t even use that as much as the other features.

My favorite thing about using cloud telephony is the way my number follows me from computer to computer and device to device.  Whenever I am logged into Google and someone calls me, it starts ringing on the computer first. I can answer it on the computer, or wait a few more seconds for it to start ringing to my mobile device. The same works for video chats through Google Hangouts. Between a standing desk, multiple laptops, a tablet, and my new smart cloud device, Google Voice makes it easy to manage my calls.

So this story explains how I have moved to the cloud. When I want quite time, I can set all my communication programs to send to message, and anyone who wants to get in touch with me can use my home phone.

//insert clever cloud welcome mat greeting here

Today I Fixed It – Compaq Presario R3000 Laptop

For about four years, I have been keeping alive a semi-vintage Compaq Presario laptop. It is able to run Windows 7 just fine, and it has some high-end networking components in it. It is a hand-me-down laptop from my mother, it makes a great backup PC, and it has proved itself useful on multiple occasions. I replaced the hard drive and DVD player, upgraded the memory, and one time I had to open it up to re-seat the graphics card and solder a broken contact point for a USB port.

When my dad gave me the computer, the battery in it was no good, so he had rigged a zip-tie to keep the power cord plugged into the laptop. I used it as a stationary PC for a while, but I eventually got tired of needing it to be tethered to its charger. I purchased a new battery for cheap from Amazon and then I was able to use it without having to keep it plugged in.

After I had a battery that could hold a charge, I started having problems with the charging cable. Having the power cable and connector zip tied to the computer at an awkward angle for over a year put stress on some of the internal connections inside the cable. It got to the point where it would not charge the battery unless the connector was at the perfect angle, with a precise amount of pressure, and it could not be disturbed until the battery was recharged.

The faulty connector was annoying, but I dealt with it for over a year. One night a couple months ago, I got frustrated when I couldn’t get a good connection, so I yanked on the power cable and distinctly felt something give inside the shielding. The connector was completely broke now.

I thought about giving-up on my mom’s old laptop, but I decided I could just buy a new charger for it. After putting-off buying the charger for a couple weeks, I thought, “Why buy another charger when I am perfectly capable of fixing this one?” How complicated could it be? Just a broken wire or solder point. I got my exacto-knife out and carefully cut back the shielding around the connector and found the center wire connection had completely separated. Opening it up also caused the ground connection to separate.

To make a long story short, I’ll briefly summarize it and let you fill in the details. I brought-out my soldering iron and then went crazy for an hour while looking for solder. I did not find any, so I used copper pins and electrical tape. This fix worked for a couple days, but I ended-up crossing the connections while I was fiddling with it–small sparks. I needed a more permanent solution, so I found some solder. I tried to restore the original contact points and succeeded while also making a mess of the hot glue and plastic shielding. This fix lasted about a week until one of the solder points became loose. I tried to adjust it while it was still plugged in, and I received a mild shock with more sparks.

The electrical shock was harmless but shocking enough to put the project down for a week.

Today I decided to fix it properly. I tapped a new pin into the center connection, soldered new wire to the pin, soldered the new wire to the old wire, and put down a solid solder point with new wire on the outside ground connection.

Now the connector on the charging cable is solid and not easily disturbed. I should have done it right in the first place.

WordPress Wednesday from the Road

Today I find myself using the WordPress app on my device while a travel over the mountain to Sacramento.

I feel compelled to write about the way the user experience paradigm for technology has shifted to an app-based, mobile preferred model. This observation is true for casual tech users who primarily enjoy the benefits of staying connected, but power users still require a full keyboard and large display.

As I write this, I do not feel like I am composing a proper post with links and pictures and references. Typing with my thumbs greatly limits my ability to view the entirety of what I write, and it is a process to include links and media.

The keyboard takes up most of the screen, auto-correct is messing with me, and did I mention that typing with my thumbs is awkward? This app is useful to do stuff in WordPress other than composing a new post.

Also, there is no word count when composing in the app, so I am just going to end here because I have already lost one draft of this post. The app does not do a good job with auto-save. This rant is mostly to avoid strike 2 while doing a light review of the WordPress App. I already got Strike 1 last month.

Thoracic Bridge to Health

Today I discovered a great new way to stay healthy while working at a computer. It is called the Thoracic (Thor-ass-ick) Bridge, and it is a pretty basic stretch that takes less than a minute.

I have previously written about Standing Desks and How Working w/ Tech Impacts Health. Today for WordPress Wednesday and to makeup for missing YouTube Tuesday yesterday, here is another health tip. In the future, watch for an article about how to protect your eyes from too much technology.

This is the video that I found via @Facebook via @lifehacker via @YouTube via Max Shank via Ambition Athletics.

Craig–Friend to Freelancers

Happy Freelance Friday Friends!

A valuable tool that I use as a freelancer and an entrepreneur is Craigslist.

I’m no wizard at using Craigslist, but I am learning quickly. I’m probably better than most. I wish they would put some R&D into User Experience and update their platform. Maybe a nice Public API regulated by the GNU Community would help to clean the site up and get rid of some of the 50% that is scammers and schemers.

This post is about my experience on Craigslist. I would love to read about experiences from other people if they’re willing to read mine and give me some notes on it.

Posting an article on my blog helps to start the conversation with myself. Then I start researching and reading about whatever topic I’m writing about. In this case, I just posted 2 more ads on Craigslist before I finished writing that last sentence.

CL is a great way to organically connect with the local community to make deals with strangers. The site uses old school, simple technology to replicate the old school, simple industry it replaced–newspaper classifieds. The main competitors for CL are thrift stores and eBay. Earlier this week, I sold an old Vizio tablet through CL. I did a factory reset on the device, met the guy at the library, he checked it out and gave me my full asking price–CASH!

If you have a side gig or do a freelance business, you should always be posting ads on Craigslist. It doesn’t cost you anything, you can post ads in any city you want, and the more clever you are when writing your ads, the more people you’ll get to respond.

What’s your Craigslist experience?

I Live in the Techie Meadows

I have heard some talk around town toying with the idea of being something like the next Silicone Valley. I forget where I read it, but I agree with someone who wrote that would be a bad idea because Silicone Valley ain’t that great. Sure they are the crucible of tech, but they gotta lotta problemas too. We don’t want to be the next anything or even the next thing. We just want to be our own thing.

Reno is a not so well kept secret. It has often been the punchline of bad jokes, but it is also the topic of many inside jokes. With the downfall of gambling in the Biggest Little City, Reno’s small town culture has had an opportunity to grow and blossom into a vibrant scene of art, outdoors, food, drink, events, entertainment, and technology.

Reno has never been a small player in the tech game. IGT and computerized slot machines kept Nevada near the top of the tech industry for over a generation, and the University of Nevada has been pumping out highly educated engineers and scientists for decades. Microsoft Licensing has also been a strong part of the local tech community along with many others. The IBM Smarter Cities team coming to Reno was a hugely significant boost. Apple is on its way. Google would be wise to get here while the gettin’s good! Google Fiber, heya?

The Reno Collective is a modern co-working space that creates a center for tech culture in Reno. The Generator is a great Maker Space in Sparks, there is the C4UBE incubator, and we have a 1 Million Cups in Reno. Paul Kline recently wrote a great article about being a Community of Hackers. We are on the right side of the hill. Hacker Hill is it?

With a recent economic shift and a highly favorable environment for start-ups, Reno is now in a very strong position to become a top spot for tech. Access to open inexpensive land, being in a freeport state with its position on the I-80 corridor, and the recent addition of I-580 gives Reno a unique edge in attracting a new tech generation. A lot of new tech talent would rather avoid Cupertino and Mountain View. San Francisco is way too overcrowded. Portland and Seattle are just too far away from everything, while Denver and Austin are much more expensive than Reno.

I really like the grassroots, organic effort of Startup Row, which is happening downtown on 1st Street. Renovation is a cool term that I’ve heard tossed around, but that is what they called the World Science Fiction Convention that was held here in 2011.

I want another moniker for Reno that can include the entire metro area. Techie Meadows really describes what the Truckee Meadows are on track to become and what many people would like to see happen. I’m inspired by all that’s happening in Reno to create an economy 2.o in Northern Nevada, and I’m working to become a part of it. Techie Meadows is my (our) campaign to create ‘Tech Awareness’ in the Truckee Meadows and reach out as far as the Amazon in Fernley.

Techie Meadows is something that everyone can use, something that can describe the new crowd of people here, and it is something that we can present to the rest of the world. Call it a community tech coalition, a badge for new ideas, or a simple play on words. When I write about Reno, I am going to call it Techie Meadows.

YouTube Tuesday

Today for YouTube Tuesday, here are some videos that I’ve been watching on YouTube:

This first one needs no introduction. I just wanna say that I am really looking forward to this production.

This next video is about something that I have been interested in for a while. It doesn’t really have anything to do with tech, but I like coins, and this is a well put together video about the tragedy of the US Penny.

I’ve written before about The Future of Streaming Online Content and about how quality art will be able to be produced and distributed to a large audience without the need for major corporate network studios. This next video is a perfect example of the new era for online entertainment.

Finally, here is the latest video for one of my favorite independently produced and distributed YouTube shows, comic book girl 19. She talks about some important stuff affecting artists who utilize YouTube as their main distribution platform.

#ohnos – Strike 1

It happened. The thing that I said would not happen when I launched this blog. I have let over two weeks lapse since my last post. This blog was started to help myself and others be more connected with tech and stuff, but it fails at its purpose if it sits static.

Should we fold-up this blog and call it quits since we can’t keep a constant stream of fresh content? Let’s call this absence strike one and get some new momentum going.

Comments and input are greatly appreciated and help encourage the creative process.

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