Archive for Geek Stuff

Canada Day Ramblings, Part 1

Don Cherry busting some rhymes in Rock Em Sock Em Hockey Vol. 5A constant source of Canadian awesomeness and pride is the depth and quality of our music. Forget Cleveland, it’s Canada that really rocks. The gang over at CBC Music obviously has the same thing in mind today, and they have started a month-long series of The 100 Best Canadian Songs Ever. 25 songs each week through the month of July, with links to songs and videos and a bit of perspective on each piece from fans and musicians alike.

As is natural with music the list is incredibly subjective, and there will be stuff that doesn’t really turn your crank … that’s part and parcel of living in such an incredibly diverse nation. But I do have to take issue with Jack Scott, a bona fide seminal genius, being buried in the bottom 10 of the list. Get a grip, people.

NOTE: Despite the photo, the Rock Em Sock Em Rap from “Don Cherry’s Rock Em Sock Em Hockey Vol. 5” is not on the list. Also, you probably shouldn’t click on the link in the previous sentence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Glassholes, Indeed.

A gentleman displaying the standard "Im wearing Google Glass" facial contortion.If you have ever asked yourself “What kind of a tool would walk around wearing a Google Glass?” you might need to stop and rephrase your question. The more appropriate query to boggle your mind might be “What kind of a tool would pay 1500 bucks to walk around wearing 80 dollars worth of silicon?”

Yep. The $1500 retail price of the Google Glass is courtesy of a 94.6 percent markup on the actual cost of components. Fairly hefty markups in the personal electronics world are not a new thing … but “fairly hefty” usually means something in the area of 60 to 65 percent. Items like the iPhone 5S ($228 component cost, $649 retail price) and the Galaxy S5 ($244 component cost, $700 retail price) fall nicely into this range. But ninety-five percent? That takes the Google Glass up into the stratospheric realm of Women’s Designer Clothing, long considered the untouchable holy grail of blatant retail gouging.

Kudos to Google, I guess, for being ballsy enough to do this … and it certainly puts a whole new spin on the word “glasshole”. Who would have thought that wearing a Glass would’t actually be the stupidest part of owning one?

NBC’s Bullshit-Laden Entirely Contrived Panic-Inducing “Sochi Personal Electronics Hacking Exposé” Is A Journalistic Embarassment

Sorry about the rather unwieldy headline, there. But really, there was no other way to approach this. Brian Williams of NBC – who used to be a real journalist and should definitely know better – put together this breathless report from Sochi that shows personal electronics being remotely compromised with malware and accessed by crackers within minutes of landing at the airport in Sochi. In the video you see a phone being “automatically” being taken over as soon as they turn it on, and two brand-new Macbook Pros being compromised just by turning them on at the hotel and leaving them running for an hour.

It’s the kind of thing that is frightening for average computer users and will get lots and lots of clicks and links and shares and oh my god this is awful what will we do?!?!

Except that the entire thing is a self-created and purposely staged sham, verging on a complete fabrication.

If you watch the unedited video, the whole thing is actually laughable
. Instead of the phone “automatically” downloading malware, the reporters followed an URL to an unknown site and then installed the linked software themselves. Whether or not it was even (as claimed by their security “expert”) malware is debatable, since they never actually said what the linked file was. And the Macbooks that were “remotely accessed while just sitting there”? They manually opened a file that was attached to an unknown email. And bypassed the system warnings telling them not to open it.

The whole thing is a farce. But you will see dozens and dozens of links to it today. Because that is what tech “journalism” has been reduced to. Fabricated bullshit laced with fear, in a sad and desperate attempt to get a few clicks.

Shame, Brian Williams. Shame.

Hearthstone’s Open Closed Beta

If you are looking for some more gaming fun (hey, it’s Christmas, why not?) then you will be chuffed to know that the closed beta of Hearthstone – the Warcraft-themed online collectable card game from Blizzard – is now closed in name only. If you want to get an invite to the beta all you have to do is sign up before January 7th.

Signing up is easy: Head over to Blizzard’s BattleNet site and create yourself an account … it’s free, and you don’t need to provide anything beyond your basic info and a valid email address. Then hit up the Hearthstone page and opt in to the beta. Hint: It’s the big purple button. Sometime between now and January 7th you will get an invite to download the game and start dicking around, and (unless you want it to be otherwise) it’s free free free.

As far as the game goes, I think they really have something good here. The tutorial is excellent, and even if you have never played any sort of collectable card game before you will be up and having fun in no time. The artwork is fun and engaging, you don’t actually need to know anything about Warcraft to play (but there is enough Warcraft lore to delight people who are already fans), you earn new cards and packs at a steady rate, and the game itself is one of the best examples of the genre that I have seen.

You can play against friends, against the AI, or random opponents … and if you go the latter route you are always matched up to play against people of your own rank so there is no worry about being hammered down by people who are willing to spend real money to get more cards than you. It’s based around fun more than cutthroat competition … but if that is your thing there are options for that too.

I think Blizzard is really onto something here, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. And yes, it’s worth repeating: It’s free.

What are you waiting for?

The Mac Power Cord Double Wrap

Damn. Like everyone else commenting on this … why did I never figure this out?

Enable Select And Copy In The OS X “Quick Look” Pane

If you have used OS X for any length of time you have probably used – and become dependent on – the “Quick Look” function: Highlight a file in the finger, hit the spacebar, and you get a quick-n-dirty peek into the file without having to open the associated app. All good … until you need to copy what’s in the Quick Look to paste it into something else, because to do that you still needed to open up the file.

Until now.

If you want to be able to select and copy text out of the Quick Look, open your Terminal and at the prompt enter this handy pair of commands (if you are new to the Terminal, remember to hit “return” after each one):

defaults write com.apple.finder QLEnableTextSelection -bool true

killall Finder

Spelling and capitalization matters here, so if you want to be sure you are doing it correctly just copy from here and paste them one at a time into the Terminal, remembering to hit “return” after each one. Once you are done and the finder has restarted (all of your icons and folder windows will disappear for a moment or two and then come back, so don’t panic) you will be able to select and copy from the Quick Look pane. Handy stuff.

An Actual Use For iBeacon. Who Knew!

One of the lesser announcements to come out of the iPhone 5c/5s media event was the launch of something called “iBeacon”. It was described as a way to deliver content to iOS devices based on extremely tight location-based notifications. I immediately assumed that all it would be good for was another wave of bogus advertising initiatives.

In other words, blah.

However, it looks like there might be something in play here that is both cool and can be monetized enough to make it stick. A pilot project at a bar in London is using iBeacon to deliver actual content to patrons’ iOS devices while they are at the pub. As long as you are within the confines of the bar you get copies of the footie magazine When Saturday Comes and the lifestyle paper Dazed and Confused for free on your i-device’s Newsstand. If this works out, it could be a win across the board: The establishment (pub, bookstore, coffee shop, whatever) gets you to stick around and buy a couple of more drinks while you read, the magazine publisher gets both the licensing fee and the potential for hang-on subscribers, and the patron gets some reading material that is tailored to their tastes. Much cooler than straight-out advertising, and much more likely to have some legs in the long run.

Fingers crossed that this one works out.

Eric Schmidt .vs. The Drones

Eric Schmidt has announced that drone aircraft need to be banned from personal use.

Translation: “We are super pissed off that Amazon thought of this first.”

The Ramen Rater .vs. God Of Patena

So I’ve long been a regular reader of “The Ramen Rater“. I have a serious soft spot for noodles in general, and I am all agog when I find some really primo instant ones. I’m also a huge fan of inexplicable Japanese TV – and the more unfathomable the show is, the better I like it. So when Hans the Ramen Rater was a guest on God Of Patena – on one of the strangest of all shows in Japan – I couldn’t stop watching.

The large and shouty Scandinavian-looking fellow in the pink helmet? Just a bonus.

BTW: The best thing about the Ramen Rater is that he puts the UPC number in every review. Makes it quick and super easy to look stuff up when you are at at the asian grocery and checking out the array of packages. Well done, sir, well done.

Amazon Prime Air

For those who missed, Jeff Bezos was on 60 Minutes last night and he was talking about Amazon’s new initiative: Amazon Prime Air. In a nutshell, it will use automated drones to deleiver your purchases by air to your doorstep in 30 minutes or less.

As fantastic as it seems, this is a lot closer to reality that you might think. Drone technology is widespread, relatively inexpensive, proven, and reliable. And if anyone has the resources (Warning: Brutal pun imminent) to get this off the ground (Hey! I warned you!) it’s Amazon. They have staggering amounts of revenue and have no need to ever turn any of it into profit – a perfect storm for developing pie-in-the-sky (Ha! Again!) stuff like this. And if you are the nay-saying type and wondering how far along from “interesting idea” to “making it happen” they are, take a look:

Obviously this would start in larger cities – and probably ones with pleasant climates – and spread from there. But I have to wonder: How long before people start scanning the skies for flying yellow boxes and shooting the things down for free loot? Or just following them to doorsteps and grabbing the boxes as they leave them? And do you get to keep the little bin? That looks like it would be handy for all sorts of stuff. Just saying.