I've been working on a little evenings and weekends project for the last 10 months called PlaygroundBuddy. It's an app for finding nearby playgrounds to explore with the kids. And what a good learning experience it has been and fun.

Good experience, because I've had the opportunity to have an active role in the process from start to finish and an opportunity to be involved in every step of the development. This was especially interesting as we're making the clients: a native android app, (now available) and a native IOS app (coming sometime this fall). The native apps are interesting from a coding standpoint, because they are in languages that I'm not terribly familiar with and involve a lot of learning.

Fun because, I've got a great co-creator who is continually pushing the project on to completion. What a difference it makes to be able to work on something together with someone, I've realized that for me working in isolation means that I'm significantly less motivated.

The project has also given me a lift as I see the Playground Buddy project as a project with such positive potential outcomes. To encourage parents and kids to get outside, just seems like such a good and right thing to do. That's a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling that I'm enjoying.

It's amazing to me that I've been working on the project for 10 months!! Wow, that seems like a long time and it is. And it's amazing how long things can take when all the time available are just the empty corners of the day. I would love to put more time into the project, but right now, it's just an hour here and an hour there, unless I stay up really late!

Posted Wed 20 Aug 2014 07:57:55 PM PDT Tags:

So I'm in the process of selling a bunch of stereo equipment. In the hopes of getting some new gear. And at present my mind is bent towards getting a soundbar.

Why?

  • Doesn't require a separate amp, with all it's associated wires and complicated remote
  • Versatile, play TV or music

What I want in my soundbar in order of importance

  • Good sound quality for both music and tv
  • bluetooth enabled
  • don't break that bank ($120-300 range)
  • Looks good, it's going to be in the living room
  • hdmi port ( I can't exactly see why I need this, but it just seems like a good idea)

So, what are the options

  • Sharp HT-SB60 (Too wide, no bluetooth, no hdmi)
  • Vizio S4221w-C4 (Strong Contender..., although the reviews on the music are making my thing twice, no hdmi),
    • after looking into this option further I find that I actually can't get this model in Canada, at least not easily.
  • Sony HT-CT260H (highly recommended by Cnet and others, I don't love the look of the panel, but that was my-4th- priority and fits the bill on the other options)

So tomorrow, I'm planning to go and pick the Sony up and I'll report back on how it works for me.

This post makes it seem this was a pretty easy decision, I've been weighing the options for ages.

Posted Sat 15 Mar 2014 02:47:44 PM PDT

Drink left and drink right drink low and drink high Oh, the drinks you can drink up If only you try! -with apologies to Dr.Seuss

Half the challenge on an all inclusive vacation is figuring out what beverages to ask for. Thankfully, there was a sample tray put out some nights which gave me some ideas. Here we go! Being inexperienced in regard to many of the choices I made an effort to expand my knowledge.

  • Gin and Soda - Always a nice light choice, unless of course it is half and half.
  • Rum punch - Punch in this case reminded me a little of the hawaiian punch drink, pretty sweet.
  • Singapore Sling - Another nice light choice
  • Kryptonite - A hint of mint liquor, interesting but I wouldn't drink more than one.
  • Mudslide - Delicious, chocolate milkshare slurpee
  • Dirty Monkey - This was a fun mashed up banana drink, feels healthy on account of the fruit.
  • Pina Colada - Delicious classic.
  • Blue Hawaiian - Too sweet for me, although one of our friends raved about them.
  • Miami Vice - Also too sweet for me.
  • Magarita (Lime and Strawberry) - More classics, love the salt rim
  • Tequila Sunrise - This one depends on how good the orange juice is.
  • Rainbow Shot - Nicely colored not to strong tasting.
  • Tequila Shot - Here's hoping this is good tequila.
  • Mojito - I love mojitos. and of course the Cerveza
Posted Sun 02 Mar 2014 11:12:31 PM PST Tags:

Usually when I read a book, I really read it. I read every word. But this time I read every word for the first 50 pages, and then... well I just couldn't do it any more, so I started skimming and went and watched the movie. The movie you can find over on YouTube. At 18 minutes long, it is a good taste test for the book. In fact it covers exactly the same examples used in the book.

The concept is reasonable, start with WHY (which although never said, I believe is generally known as the company mission statement) make sure it is grand enough to be something people can identify themselves with. Then keep the company focussed on that WHY (mission/purpose) while they go about the business of whatever it is you do.

I'm sure this is way to short a description of the general gist to satisfy supporters of this idea. But that's what I'm walking away with.

Having read/skimmed the balance of the book, there were some anecdotes of specific companies and situations that I found very interesting and informative. This was the kind of a discussion that I tend to have trouble with, where the lessons are all taught at 15 000 feet above the nuts and bolts level and while there are examples from other companies and other situations, there wasn't really a framework laid out for how to apply the ideas to a new company, so as to create trust and loyalty, a brand that sticks and isn't transaction based, or even how to identify if that would be an asset for a particular business.

Application of knowledge is, of course, the engineers focus. So I'm always after the means to take learning and apply them to my situations (or at least identify if I should attempt). With this book I felt after my abberviated read, there was a missing section and that missing section was the workbook portion where there is a set of excercises to help identify a company WHY and then some significant teasing out methods to drive that purpose through the various aspects of a company. But reading through the book, what I ended up walking away with, is that, those secrets are what the successful executives of leading companies have mastered.

I started this book with HIGH hopes, maybe a bit too high to have even the best piece of work focussed literature satisfy them. And there were plenty of interesting anecdotes along the way, but I didn't find this book opening the doors to significantly greater understanding of how to make a business great. At the end, I feel like I should go and read the biographies of some of the successful executives that are revered in this book.

Posted Sat 01 Mar 2014 01:54:00 PM PST Tags:

Vacation time is a good time for reading a couple books and even with Violet vying for attention during most waking moments I had a chance to read through yet another Star Wars Book, this time Darth Plagueis. It was an interesting read, largely because it filled in a bunch of details about how the Emperor (Palpatine) in Episodes 4-6 came into power. So even though it is ostensibly about Darth Plagueis, it seems like a lot of the focus is really on Palpatine.

It didn't capture my attention the way the Darth Bane series did, but I still powered through it in 4 days. For me there was a lot of political aspects to the book which are frankly, something that I always find a little hard to follow. The machinations where we do this, which makes them think that, which causes some one else again to take an action, that completes a process which we've been hoping to have happen for years. That kind of stuff has always been somewhat beyond me, and as it turns out that is exactly what Palpatine is really all about. Not exactly a lot of crazy light saber battles, a lot more back room negotiations.

Anyways, I still enjoyed it, and it filled in a big gap in my Star Wars knowledge, as I finally actually learned where the bad guy in the old movies really came from.

Posted Sat 01 Mar 2014 09:53:31 AM PST Tags:

My asus running debian ceased to print to my printer sometime in the last 6 months. At the time, I was thinking I was moving to a new computer pretty soon and so I just left it. Today I took a few minutes and fixed it.

The symptom was that everytime I would go to print the hplip would somehow pop up a dialog saying that the plugin was missing. I would follow the steps install the plugin and try again and still no luck, it would just tell me that the plugn was missing and prompt me to install. Repeat ad naseum.

So finally I read the syslog to see what was going on, and what did I find...

Feb 22 16:47:21 helmcken hpcups[9257]: common/utils.c 69: unable to open /var/lib/hp/hplip.state: Permission denied
Feb 22 16:47:21 helmcken hpcups[9257]: common/utils.c 119: validate_plugin_version() Failed to get Plugin version from [/var/lib/hp/hplip.state]
Feb 22 16:47:21 helmcken hpcups[9257]: common/utils.c 157: Plugin version is not matching 

So, I checked the permissions on the /var/lib/hp/hplip.state and sure enough the permissions were set to 744 so that seemed okay. BUT the permissions on the /var/lib/hp folder were also 744 so a regular user couldn't access the file, why oh why wasn't the directory set to 755 so that the average user could read the hplip.state file? No idea. So change the permissions and I changed them on both the folder and the file for good measure.

~$ sudo chmod 755 /var/lib/hp
~$ sudo chmod 755 /var/lib/hp/hplip.state

And it worked! Hurray!

The gotcha, that got me, was that I was repeatedly installing the driver, and that process was resetting the permissions, so presently I imagine that I will have to reset the permissions next time I update the hplip-plugin.

Posted Sat 22 Feb 2014 05:32:13 PM PST

So a few months ago now, I finally deocmmissioned my home server which was a big beast of desktop. And the house has been silent at night ever since. That felt good I was mostly just using it for serving a few websites anyways. Nothing to serious. But I do still have a few uses for a home server so I'm looking at getting some kind of low power always-on machine. I may need two machines. Let the discovery process begin!

Current Requirements. - Serve hledger - requires network, linux distribution install - git annex bare repo (or maybe just a NAS would be all I need) - network, linux, external storage - play music - hdmi or audio out. - play netflix - network, hdmi out, this basically requires android or ubuntu with wine

So the last two items require the machine to physically sit close to the TV. Which means wireless as the router and all that is at the other end of the house.

My other idea is to try and get my router to run the NAS and a web server, since the web serving is going to be VERY minimal.

So after a bunch of research, that I have now not documented at all. It looks like I can/should get the NAS connected up to my router. Then to play music and all the other stuff. In the end I'm deciding to make better use of my existing stuff.

Phone can do the hledger stuff in a debian chroot.

Router can do the NAS

Phone can do music and video and netflix. Once I figure out how to get hdmi mirroring working on it.

Posted Sat 20 Jul 2013 06:40:26 AM PDT

Wow, so I've always been wanting to start doing some mapping, but never really known where to start. Now being on vacation it is the perfect time. I downloaded the Mexico map with osmAnd which is great for offline maps for travelling on android phones.

At home I was always looking for unmapped roads to map and finding none, now as a traveler here I suddenly see that mapping points of interest is wildly useful. So, while my trips to Mazatlan seem to be about 10 years apart I'm finding it fun to map the hotels and restaurants that we visit. And hopefully this will make things a little easier for other travelers (or at least my next visit in ...2023!)

My process is now:

  1. Start osmand in offline mode on my phone and create points of interest at any hotel or restaurant that I don't see on the map. I don't fiddle with the node type or anything, just type in the name and move on, I'm usually walking with my family so there's no time for fiddling around
  2. Upload the points of interest to openstreetmap.org when I return home and have wifi
  3. Log into openstreetmap.org on my laptop and find the change set by viewing the history
  4. Start editing the changeset using the potlatch editor and use the Bing tiles to move the nodes to a better/more accurate location, make the nodes the appropriate type (hotel, restaurant, etc) by adding the appropriate tags (this is done in advanced mode on the ptlatch editor by adding a tag such as tourism:hotel), and add any other details I can then,
  5. Save the changeset and close it (by pressing "C", not sure why that feature wasn't included in the potlatch editor.)

Not sure if there is a better way, but if there is, I'd be pleased if someone let me know.

Just for fun my first edits were to put my hotel "El Cid El Moro Beach" in as well as a bunch of other hotels, a few restaurants.

Posted Wed 06 Mar 2013 02:33:21 PM PST

Being a stay at home Dad, it feels to me that it is suddenly my responsibility to keep up on the latest book on parenting. While no one recommended the book to me, quite a few people recommended it to my wife. And I started seeing it around at some of our friends houses. So I read/skimmed:

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

This book is a kind of research/personal reflection on raising kids in Paris by the author, a journalist.

The parts I found interesting were the french techniques for getting your kid sleeping through the night, ideas on helping kids behave appropriately, and a look at the parisian day care situation. There were a bunch of other parts that were more... womanly related to being pregnant, breast feeding, and social norms in Paris that I just skimmed/skipped because, they just didn't seem all that applicable for my situation.

I think the overarching principle that I took out of my reading was that babies, even infants are little people quite able to understand, control themselves and even empathize with what a situation requires if given a chance to try and parents are adults who have a duty to give their kids an opporunity to do these things. It seems to me that much of the stuff about sleeping and behaving is related to expecting the kids to be able to sleep and behave, explaining to them the importance of these things to them. And boy to they start this process very early, like one month in, but it seems to yield good results on the sleep and behavior front.

Another item that book brings up is the idea of giving the kids freedom within structure. There were some really helpful examples of how Parisian try and achieve this.

The last thing that I thought was interesting was the idea that seemed to come through the book that in general the french don't let their children make them into harried parents (they have a social system that very much supports them in that) and I think that is a point to be noted, that parents need to give plenty to their kids, but they also need to retain a sense of self happiness, confidence and enjoyment.

Posted Tue 19 Feb 2013 02:42:49 PM PST Tags:

Finishing a book is a good feeling that I haven't had in quite some time. So when I bought an e-book reader I had to admit to myself that I would need to change some habits to actually be able to get soem use out of the machine. Luckily being a stay at home Dad allows some time for book reading.

Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig This was an interesting book that I read to get a better idea about the copyright laws and the changes to them that are going on in the USA. I've been an interested follower of the creative commons licensing and understanding how and why it has come about and how it is being used.

While the book is separated into sections for me it really boiled down to two sections the initial portion was the issues with the existing copyright system, and the later section being the court case to try and change the laws and then, given the outcome, the creative commons licenses.

The first section was a great read outlining what is lost in American society as a result of the copyright laws being what they are. As a Canadian reader I was constantly wondering if the same things were true here in Canada, I know that our laws are different, and have recently just changed with the introduction of Bill C-11, it seems like from a personal use standpoint if someone is caught infringing the damanges can only be stutory damages adding up to a total of $5000, which is good. I liked the fact that through this book there was a distinction drawn between legal activities, like making a mix tape/cd or backing up your stuff and illegal activities, like downloading mainstream movies and the like. I think any copyright discussion really needs to draw that distinction, at the end of the day it shouldn't be the case that any creator should be unable to make money (even a lot of money) by selling their work and not having it stolen via the great-copy-machine (the internet).

The second section, the court case was a little less interesting to me, just because now it was not so much principles that I could apply back to my own country but the specifics of the American court case. I read it all the same, but it was a bit of a slog for me.

All in all, I think the book is well worth reading if you're interested in copyright.

Posted Tue 19 Feb 2013 02:12:12 PM PST Tags:

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