Black Viper

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-05-13

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May 132012
 
  • At airport: Phoenix, AZ. #
  • On plane for Denver, CO. #
  • Landed: Denver, CO. #
  • On plane for Medford, OR. #
  • Landed: Medford, OR. #
  • At Medford, OR airport heading to Oceanside, CA. #
  • On plane for SFO. #
  • Landed: SFO. #
  • On plane for San Diego, CA. #
  • Landed: San Diego, CA. :) #
  • At hotel: Oceanside, CA. #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-05-06

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May 062012
 
  • http://t.co/FKh5dItL Update: Yreka, CA School Target of Thousands In Damage To Special Education Classrooms http://t.co/b5131brX #
  • All donations sent to me for the month of May 2012 will be directed to helping rebuild these classrooms:… http://t.co/O8nmBCZA #
  • At Medford, OR airport for travel to Phoenix, AZ. This time, vacation and not for work. :) #
  • On plane for Denver, CO. #
  • Landed: Denver, CO. #
  • On plane for Phoenix, AZ. #
  • Landed: Phoenix, AZ. #
  • At hotel: Phoenix, AZ. #

Yreka, CA School Target of Thousands In Damage To Special Education Classrooms

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May 012012
 

Siskiyou County Office of Education classrooms in Yreka, CA dedicated to those children with special education needs, were vandalized Sunday April 29, 2012, the second time in April. This hits a part of me directly as my wife was a teachers assistant for these children, in these particular classrooms in 2006-2007. My wife says “They were the best classrooms in Yreka” and now they are destroyed. Tens of thousands of dollars in damage to electronic equipment as well as flooding the bathrooms and many other hateful acts. Curriculum’s and other books were destroyed as well. Even though no person directly deserves such acts of hate and rage, these children especially are hurt by this senseless crime. Disconnected from their classroom for, who knows how long, they do not understand why this happened… and neither do I.

Update 02MAY2012: One adult, one juvenile arrested in Jackson Street School vandalism.

Update 03MAY2012: Vandals Trash Classrooms (Video from local TV station)

For the entire month of May 2012, all donations sent to me via this link will go directly to help rebuild the classrooms in Yreka, CA. I will also match 10% of all monies received and contribute to the cause as well. I thank you, in advance, for your support.

Update 02JUN2012: Generous support of my kind readers generated donations of $70! I thank everyone that helped remedy this matter.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-29

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Apr 292012
 

I Remember When… Black Viper’s Top 72

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Apr 222012
 

Hover over the links for more back story.

  1. I remember when I purchased a book with instructions on how to get rich for $19.99 by simply writing a book and publishing it.
  2. I remember when phones had cords.
  3. I remember when more than one PC game was released annually at retail stores.
  4. I remember when $20 to fill an 18 gallon gas tank was expensive.
  5. I remember when “apps” were keyed in by hand from a magazine and magnetic storage media was not financially feasible.
  6. I remember when song skipping was an extremely advanced option on car stereo cassette decks.
  7. I remember when Mtv actually played music videos.
  8. I remember when Mtv was better than VH1.
  9. I remember when 64KB of RAM was a lot.
  10. I remember when PC Gamer Magazine was 457 pages.
  11. I remember when www.blackviper.com was only 1 HTML page.
  12. I remember when people could “dislike” things as well as like them.
  13. I remember when sharing was giving access to physical objects with whom you did not wish to give that object to.
  14. I remember when a hard cover dictionary was the only spell checking option available.
  15. I remember when receiving one email per week from my website visitors was a success.
  16. I remember when receiving 250+ emails per day from my website visitors was a failure.
  17. I remember when 99% of all statistics were completely made up.
  18. I remember when I bought my first new car.
  19. I remember when I wrecked my first new car after only 3 months.
  20. I remember when people used to interact in person.
  21. I remember when I actually looked forward to Christmas.
  22. I remember when cars did not talk back.
  23. I remember when cars started talking.
  24. I remember when pay phones actually existed.
  25. I remember when the world was going to end December 31, 1999.
  26. I remember when the world did not end January 1, 2000.
  27. I remember when connecting to the internet required effort.
  28. I remember when modems actually made noise.
  29. I remember when displaying text as an image on a website was bad.
  30. I remember when displaying text as an image on a website was good.
  31. I remember when Transformers did not suck.
  32. I remember when console game controllers only had one button.
  33. I remember when my car insurance was just as much money per month as my rent.
  34. I remember when being a geek was not cool.
  35. I remember when The Bard’s Tale was released on C-64.
  36. I remember when 16 color graphics was great.
  37. I remember when Diablo was released on PC.
  38. I remember when 640×480 resolution was high res.
  39. I remember when I refused to buy a cell phone because people could call me at any time.
  40. I remember when I broke down on the side of the road which led to a purchased cell phone.
  41. I remember when a small battery installed in a game cartridge to enable saved games was phreaking awesome.
  42. I remember when I read the Dungeons Masters Guide at my leisure.
  43. I remember when Dungeons and Dragons was the root of all evil.
  44. I remember when I bought my first optical mouse and never looked back.
  45. I remember when #wordswereseperatedbyspaces.
  46. I remember when I could write some really good one liners.
  47. I remember when my whole life was in front of me.
  48. I remember when portable music players were 50+ pounds.
  49. I remember when people protested for a reason.
  50. I remember when entire brick and mortar stores were dedicated to PC Gaming.
  51. I remember when movies were only produced in two dimensions.
  52. I remember when I updated my daily diary in 1986 at the age of 14 with weeks of “Boring day” and did not make it to March.
  53. I remember when a 20 mile daily commute from Rosamond, CA to Edwards AFB took one CD worth of music to get there.
  54. I remember when a 30 mile car ride from Corning, CA to Chico, CA and back was an eternity every Saturday.
  55. I remember when a 60 mile car ride from Corning, CA to Redding, CA and back monthly was more punishing then being “sent to my room”.
  56. I remember when a 620 mile U-haul ride from Rosamond, CA to Yreka, CA required only one pee break with cats squalling in their carriers every two seconds.
  57. I remember when video game violence was actually blown out of proportion.
  58. I remember when songs on the radio did not have to censor every other word and those words were actually cuss words.
  59. I remember when robotics was science fiction.
  60. I remember when Stephen King novels were not allowed as high school book report options.
  61. I remember when a 13″ color TV was huge.
  62. I remember when a 21″ CRT computer monitor was gigantic.
  63. I remember when my kitties fit in the palm of my hand.
  64. I remember when Google was only a search engine.
  65. I remember when AltaVista was better than Google.
  66. I remember when people actually retained knowledge instead of just googling it.
  67. I remember when people actually retained incorrect knowledge instead of just googling it.
  68. I remember when I enjoyed using ICQ.
  69. I remember when printers cost more than the ink contained within them.
  70. I remember when a map purchased from a gas station was a better option then asking Siri.
  71. I remember when after work naps were longer than nighttime sleeping.
  72. I remember when I used to be funny.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-04-22

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Apr 222012
 

Run-What-You-Brung, 21APR2012

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Apr 192012
 
Black Viper Tie-Dye Car #72 for 2012 Season

Black Viper Tie-Dye Car #72 for 2012 Season

On April 21, 2012, the first race of the season is scheduled to occur at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka, CA, I will be performing in an exhibition race in number “72″ with other street cars in a series called “Run-What-You-Brung”.

Speedway Location:

Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds
1712 Fairlane Road
Yreka, CA 96097

Gates open at 1PM with races starting at 3PM!
Other classes appearing are:

  • McDonald’s Mini-Stocks
  • O’Reilly’s Modifieds
  • Super Stock
  • JSSTA Trucks
  • Dwarfs
  • Run What You Brung

Prices: (full admission and gate fees)

Adults: 8$ – Seniors $6 (over 55) – Kids $5 (age 6-12) – FREE Kids (age 5 and under).

The more people in the grandstands, the better! Great fun for the whole family!

I will see you at the track!

One Interface To Rule Them All

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Apr 032012
 

Introduction

This is an opinion piece to express my discontent for the feeling that “interfaces” should be consolidated and have one “look” and feel. This is utter rubbish and I will try to convey this distaste with a few examples. One should feel warned that if you do not enjoy reading opinion based content, you should stop now. This rant spawned from Microsoft’s push to force upon us a failure waiting to happen. So I will start with the tunnel vision of Microsoft, the success of Android and the failure of other interfaces on devices that I have used recently or shopped for.

Computers, Tablets, and Phones Oh My!

Microsoft is currently in a push to “unify” devices with the up and coming Windows 8. As a person that has had the displeasure of using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a desktop as well as a laptop, I can tell you with certainty Microsoft will fail that goal. Let’s not forget that Windows 8 is not “new” in the tablet genre. Microsoft had “Windows XP Tablet PC Edition” as well as Vista and 7 running on tablets and “Windows Phone” running on phones. Granted, when XP came out, the tablet scene was not ready and the price of said tablets were beyond what people were really willing to pay. They also had an easily misplaced stylus as an input device requiring users to seemingly take a step back to pen and paper. As such, “tablet” systems have not taken off with Microsoft as its OS… and for good reason. Face it, Apple did several things right with the release of the iPad build around their iOS that spawned initially from portable devices. Unfortunately, Microsoft is going the other way and all new PC users will suffer as a result. Microsoft wants you to use Windows on your phone, tablet, laptop and desktop and it is not going to work. The only thing they are going to really accomplish is diminish market share and raise Apples stock price. Each of those devices do not need “the same” interface.

Windows 8 has the “Metro” interface (an uncomfortable replacement for the start button) that is big square and rectangle tiles (oddly enough, most are two colors) instead of icons, presumably, easier to “touch” with a touch screen computer or tablet. That is all fine and dandy if said tablet did not have any “other” functions that one comes to expect from a Windows PC, such as using Explorer to wander around the file tree. Said Explorer actually drops the Metro style full screen view and dumps back to the standard desktop that we have all come to enjoy (or at least put up with). In its current version, I cannot imagine actually using Explorer on a tablet as the interface just does not follow that type of interaction. What is even worse is that two different versions of IE are in use in Windows 8. One that is full screen if activated from Metro with the address bar at the bottom, and another one if on the desktop and opening up IE from there with the address bar at the top. How is this going to win over desktop users as well as tablet purchasers? Having the address bar at the bottom of a tablet makes a certain amount of sense… touch keyboards often appear from the bottom and it would be easier to glance right above the keys to the address bar to see what is being typed, but with the insane push of “apps” that are just short cuts directly to a website and the long standing bookmark feature, I find it hard to believe the address bar will be used often, but it still does not need to move from North to South for the average user. It makes for a confusing experience and just scratches the surface of how users will lash out at the OS and should not be taken lightly. I may expand more on this later, but off to my point.

Microsoft is all too familiar with epic failures in the past (Windows ME) and most recently with the release of Windows Vista. Vista was (and still is) a bloated OS that took a speedy XP on modern systems and brought them to a crawl. As far as the end user was concerned, it was just a pretty interface that caused this slowdown and consumers wanted answers. That answer was to give Vista users the opportunity to go back to XP, further advancing the overall opinion of the OS in a downward spiral. Oddly enough, people will probably bash Windows 8 for not being pretty, just as I did, but also discredit the usability factor on desktops… Microsoft’s current bread and butter. Why piss off your absolutely largest audience just to capture a small percent of users that are already very happy with the great alternatives available? Thankfully, Windows 7 fixed many of those nagging Vista performance issues and has resulted in a great OS that I use daily and I will guarantee that after only a short period of time, people will be screaming to get Windows 7 on their new PC’s shipped with Windows 8. Unfortunately for Microsoft, I also use other OS’s daily and they are not Windows based.

Android Success, WebOS Fail

In all honesty, I have not used any Apple portable products, so I cannot comment on ease of use, but I can comment on Android. With the release of the Motorola Droid, I was propelled from wanting a “netbook” as my movable computer of choice to just using a smartphone. The Droid did everything I wanted: email, surf the web, GPS navigation, Netflix streaming and a dizzying amount of other functions I use all the time. The interface was built from the ground up (just like iOS was) from a touch screen/portable perspective. As such, I feel it is pretty easy to use and highly functional for what I need to do as well as intuitive enough to pick up and not have to “figure out” how to do the simplest of tasks. Oddly enough, “tiles” are not a part of the interface. Multicolored icons are throughout and easily identifiable as such, not so with Metro.

During the HP fire sale of the TouchPad device, I was able to acquire one. Hey, it was only $99 and I wanted to experience the “tablet” type of device and see what I was missing. Come to find out, I was not missing much as the single most important function that I wanted a TouchPad for was to stream Netflix on a device larger then my phone while away on business. After purchase, I quickly (20 minutes) discovered that no Netflix application supports WebOS. I tossed the TouchPad on my desk and left it there for several weeks. I even tried to pawn it off onto family members that wanted to try a tablet out, but they knew that if I am dumping technology, it is for a reason… or lack of purpose.

One faithful night, I decided to see if I could make my TouchPad useful. I rapidly discovered CyanogenMod as an alternative ROM for the TouchPad. Usually used to “root” and get rid of the default flavor of Android on a device, this is installed along side of WebOS. First I used CyanogenMod 7 (Android 2.3) but recently, CyanogenMod 9 (Android 4.0) has hit “Alpha” stage and I gave it a shot as well. The TouchPad now completely rocks. I use it often to stream Netflix via wireless networks where ever I may roam. Not only does Android have a successful interface on a phone, but Ice Cream Sandwich is great on a tablet. I could not be more happy and looking forward to the advancements the CyanogenMod team does.

It should also be worth noting that I use a WebOS powered phone for work. Yes, it does what it needs to do, but since HP dropped support for the devices, they won’t be advancing any time soon. The marketplace for WebOS is a ghost town and not many applications are available. The interface works, however, as the way it zooms out and swipe to scroll left and right through open applications is great. Just a flick to the top closes an application from the zoomed out view. Somehow, I wish that feature was available for ICS… oh wait… it is. Hitting the app selector button brings up a thumbnail listing on the left hand side of all applications running. A quick swipe to the right closes the application. Good innovations do live on, even in an alternative form.

The Death Of The PS3… How I Miss Thee!

Not to long ago, my PS3 that I purchased new upon first release died. Best that I can come up with is that it had a heat related issue and I did not wish to pay for it to be fixed. After all, for the past several years, the only thing I have used the PS3 for was to play optical disk movies and stream Netflix. I can come up with a replacement… I think. I do not have the money for a new PS3, so I had to figure out what I could do with what I already had.

I am well known for doing silly things with old hardware. At one time, more then a decade ago, I had a computer hooked up to my TV to watch DVD’s as I did not have a dedicated DVD player. I used a wireless mouse for controls and all was well and good. It worked for what I needed it to do. So, I decided to take one of my old laptops with a DVD player, put Linux on it and hook it up to the TV so I can stream Netflix. After several hours of banging my head against the big screen TV, I found out that Netflix only supports Silverlight on PC’s and it is not available for Linux due to DRM. What?!? Okay, I get the fact that Silverlight is a MS flash wannabe, but my thought of using a Linux PC for streaming Netflix was busted and I was pretty pissed. Even though it is technically possible, I looked for alternatives that, once again, I already had.

I turned to the XBOX 360. Unfortunately, the XBOX 360 requires a Live subscription to stream Netflix that I was not willing to pay for. Another unfortunate aspect of this adventure was that I updated the XBOX with the latest version available and the GUI turned into a strange, 3D avatar infested mishmash of… you guessed it, two colored tiles. Want to experience the prequel to Metro? Look no further then the kiddy interface on the 360. Another chink in the XBOX’s armor is the fact that mine does not play Blu-Rays, but more importantly, I wanted my Netflix back, so I turned to the Wii.

The Wii does not play Blu-Rays either, but at least I can stream Netflix without any additional cost. I should mention here that I don’t use the Wii. It was purchased for my wife, so I have not had the displeasure of using the motion controllers much. I did play Tetris by plugging in an old-skool style controller to the Wii wrist strapped uncomfortable bricks, but didn’t use it often enough for me to remember why I hated it. Oh, look! A bunch of square tiles! At least these had rounded corners! I then downloaded Netflix, activated it and off I go. I actually used this motion interface for a week before throwing the controller across the room. I cannot stand the Wii controllers and I could not even search for movies or browse for more. This sucks.

I then went to the local Walmart to get a standalone box to play optical disks as well as have the ability to stream Netflix. I landed on, what I thought, was a good deal and will suit it’s purpose and brought it home. It was a Sony player, so I figured that the interface would be compatible to the PS3 that I so miss. It was, sort of. It was slow as running through quicksand. I could not search or browse movies, only view my queue and streaming HD was not working. Even though YouTube was an option, I could not view the favorites that I have saved (music videos). I took it back and almost purchased a new PS3 with money I did not have, but I didn’t.

A friend of mine caught wind of my distress and offered up his Samsung player he was no longer using to take care of duties. It works, but not that well. The PS3 streamed wonderfully via wireless but the player does not have a wireless option. I now have a 50′ CAT5 cable running through my house from the player to the router. At least it does HD, but the interface for Netflix? No searching or browsing movies. Oh how I miss the PS3! The PS3 saves my point in my show watching and this player does, kinda. If I do not pause it in the middle of a program, it will randomly pick 1 of 100 episodes that I already watched and call that not viewed and I start from there. When a person is on episode 78 and it decides to pick 31 as its starting point… it gets annoying quick. After viewing a program, it gives the option of playing the next episode, but if you wish to wander back to the queue, not find anything worth viewing at the moment and jump back to what you just watched, the next episode is, again, a random pick. Crazy annoying crap, really. At least the interface on the player is basicly functional, which leads to my next point: “Smart TV’s”.

Smart TV’s?

Picture this: a college student is living in a 10′ by 10′ square (tile) and needs all the extra space and shed any electronic equipment that is not needed. That leaves me out. In the back of my mind, I want to get a TV to hang on the wall in the computer room. I want a TV that streams Netflix and can be connected to a computer at some point. No problem there, until I casually went to Walmart and discovered what I want was out of my price range (and more then a PS3). It has been (and still is) in the back of my mind, but I know that any “smart” TV that I get will have some crappy interface, slow as can be, and just be barely functional to even call it smart.

Enter Samsung. I was caught watching live TV when a Samsung commercial for their new smart TV’s came on the screen and I could not fast forward. It showed people standing in front of the TV and waiving their hand in front of them to move a cursor on screen as well as go from an open palm to a clenched fist to click. Are you serious? But wait, you can even talk to it. Uh, what? Yeah, I just laughed. I then looked up Samsung’s website to see what other craziness it can (or cannot) do. Come to find out, it has a bunch of built in features and has alternate input methods, such as a remote with a built in touch pad/microphone and a keyboard with a touch pad. Great, but I do not like touch pads either. At first opportunity, I plug in a mouse to my laptop to completely avoid using the touch pad at all. In certain Samsung’s propaganda videos, they even state that this new interaction is “fun”. Well, call me an old fart, but I do not find waving my hand around to be a fun way of messing with a TV or talking to it to make it do anything. Maybe that college student might enjoy it or a Kinect/Wii user, but I sure don’t. Oddly enough, the touch screen interface on a phone is just what the doctor ordered. I have no problems using it, via thumb. Oddly enough, it feels like a natural interaction vice a finger running over a touch pad. Depending on the actual size of the small remote control, it could be a usable alternative for me. If not, thankfully, a TV producer does have (acceptable) options available, such as the “like a Bluetooth mouse” from Panasonic.

Hey TV manufactures everywhere, I will give you what I think is the best option available: Bluetooth mouse. Let me connect a Bluetooth mouse to the TV so I can sit it on the coffee table and move it as I see fit. It is a tried and true method of interacting with desktops that, I feel, does not need “reinventing”. Granted, this option may not be great for everyone, but at least give the option. If you can engineer a camera on a TV that recognizes faces to “login”, you can let me connect a damn mouse to it.

Until that point… I will keep my dumb TV and only connect smart things to it… or at least try.

-Black Viper