It’s been a while.

I know I have been neglecting this blog for a while. And with good reason. I have been busy moving to a new city, adapting to a new workplace and learning a ton of new tech.

I promise you though, I will be writing again. And some of the things I have learned, I am sooo eager to share.

 

Stay tuned!!

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Using spreadsheets for home economics.

I love spreadsheets.  With a few formulas you can calculate your budget, right down to the earth’s gravitational field.

They can also help you calculate the TOC of an operation, in realtime, and make more accurate analysis when doing logistics.

This is especially useful when you’re moving to another city. Especially if you’re someone who travels light, is a practitioner of simple living and just want to know just how much you have and how that will affect your personal economy.

Well for me, since I am currently moving to another city, I wanted to know how much moving in my new  place would cost.

So I did a new workbook and divided it into three sections. The first is belongings, the second is groceries and installation fees and the last is “Grand total”.

In the “belongings” sheet I put the item name, the quantity and the Cost and if I had already acquired it or not. In “groceries” I had put the same.

The two, I linked their totals to the Grand total sheet, that way each time I changed a value on either of the pages, I would be able to quickly know how much money it had cost .

While simplistic, this can help one to be organized and really help you erase the stress of moving, or at the very least see how much this is costing you and what adjustments you will need to make financially.

The very same can be applied to all kinds of home economic projects, I will include these links to other useful excel workbook templates;

http://christianpf.com/10-free-household-budget-spreadsheets/

http://exceltemplates.net/

http://www.spreadsheetzone.com/

And for the libre-office/Open-office calc fans

http://templates.libreoffice.org/template-center

http://www.kaaredyret.dk/openoffice_links.html

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Musings- Google’s eyeglass. The apple of my eye or a black eye?

As many of you have heard, Google has come up with the first borg implant called “Project glass”.

In a nutshell, it’s an augmented reality device, Google’s answer to Apple’s Siri.

In a small video promotion that demonstrates the basic use of it, reminds me of what if your life was a cheesy videogame (Think SNES “Lester the unlikely” or The Leisure Suit Larry series). It displays many features, including music, GPS, basic communications, is voice activated and gives even the capability to share the view of the built in camera.

The device itself, while lacking elegance, looks somewhat promising. However, it brings many concerns to my mind, mostly privacy and security.

Such a device is obviously light-years ahead of what’s found in your office and for one, The industry is still trying to figure out how to best implement security to tablets and smartphones which carry a ton of security issues.

The built in camera and visual recognition system is enough to be cause for concern. Never mind company meetings being leaked or company assets suddenly becoming public domain. And don’t get me started on the peeping toms who would immediately share their point of view.

From another angle, with the ever-nagging tendencies of late with governments wanting more and more control over the internet, now everyone with such a device could become a walking talking surveillance camera. What would stop a government from doing a man-in-the-middle attack and basically hijacking your POV?

You can see where this is going!!

On the flip-side, I can only imagine the great uses for this device or similar in the fields of medicine and engineering. As long they are secure and kept on an internal server uplink, I can see many benefits.

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WRIST WATCHES AS TOOLS OF LIFE MANAGEMENT

I love my wristwatch. It’s more than a timepiece for me, it’s a tool of time management and therefore life-management. If you can manage your time, then you can manage your life.

How so? Let’s look at the current wristwatch I have. It’s a  Timex T5K413 Ironman 30 lap. It comes with some really cool features that I find are underused: The Chronometer and the Timer.

What I like about these two features? I can measure how long something is happening (say like how long the laundry room washer and dryer take) and later on set my timer later so that while I am multi-tasking I can keep track of of it.

Now some people do this with their phones, or even there computers, but the thing it about watches is that they are not overwhelming unlike PC’s and cellphones. And it can be there with you at all times.

Now some watches have become far more sophisticated over the years,some including GPS and health monitors. In all these new timepieces I will list you 5 of my favorites and why.

1)      Casio Classic Calculator Watch

You can’t go wrong with a watch that enables you to make quick basic arithmetic. While lacking in the many features of the more modern watches, if you remember anything useful from your science and math class, this makes a good companion.

2) http://www.usbwatches.com/

This watch, with an analog faceplate, has usb memory inside. This is useful for those with medical conditions who want to have a copy of their [[http://www.medictag.com/|medical record]] on hand and you can even stuff it with some portable apps. You never know when you need some usb space or that tool you use.

3) I’m Watch.

It’s an android os watch. I am not making this up!! All the goodness (and gripes) you’d expect from a wearable android device. And it’s also a phone, an mp3 player. It’s basically an android phone that’s wrist-mounted. Calling Dick Tracy, Calling Dick Tracy!!

With a host of devices and sensors in it, all it needs is the timex’s Healthwatch system and a decent camera and you’d have the perfect augmented reality platform.

4) MTM BLACK HAWK™

You can’t go wrong with military watches. They are big, ugly, and resiliant time-pieces. And they have added features, that can be useful for the common civilian who doesn’t want a watch that will crap out on them.

The blackhawk has several features that I like. It’s got internal and external lights (pretty useful if you need to find something in the dark), Lithium Ion battery (guaranteed for 10 years) and a neat recharging system that I like. A “electro-magnetic Induction” system. Nice.

5) Portable astronomical ring

Ok, so it’s not exactly a wristwatch, but you got to love the idea that it will never run out of battery power, and that it will last a lifetime. Also, imagine the fun learning how it works and that sense of controling your time.

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The hammer – There is nothing simple about Simply Accounting.

In IT, you must encounter many types of software. Graphic rendering software, desktop publishing software, Audio-Visual software. Those are all softwares that are high-end, and programmers are willing to join companies to help bring about the next best version.

And then, there is accounting software. Accounting software while being the lifeblood of the financial department, suffers from having software that utterly stinks from an IT point of view.

Case in point: Simply Accounting. To put it mildly, it’s a horribly designed program. Oh don’t get me wrong, if your company’s financial department consists of one person who uses it, then it’s no trouble at all. It will work, and it will work nicely.

But the minute you have to network that puppy, it will bring about grief, frustrations and bewilderment. In other words THERE IS NOTHING SIMPLE ABOUT SIMPLY ACCOUNTING!!

Here are my three biggest gripes with Simply Accounting;

1) The connection manager. Let’s start with simply accounting’s most irritating feature; the connection manager. This program has to be installed if you want SA to function on a server. It installs itself as a service (in windows) and like any good service on a windows server, you have to tweak it so it doesn’t misbehave.

At least in theory.

Of course, that is fine and dandy if you are using windows, but what if your server is *nix based? Tough luck buddy. They “have” a version of the Linux connection manager. But it suffers from a major problem. SA’s priorities are as such that it doesn’t particularly care if your servers are Linux as it’s connection manager isn’t all that well supported, and it seems to be for Red Hat systems and that’s about it (and development is somewhat dismal).

That’s too bad, since Ubuntu, a Debian based distribution of linux ranks slightly above Red Hat as far as the Linux server edition in use.

How to remedy to this: Just build up a window server dedicated to that task. It will work with Win 2003, which can reduce costs. Not much of a solution, granted, but in the light of this poor support, one can’t do much with it than grin and bear it.

2) There is a lack of backwards compatibility. Simply Accounting forces you to upgrade, and when it does, rather than run the file you were using, it forces you to upgrade it to the latest version of the format. Why is this even necessary? In an office suite, you have less problems opening files from the former version of the software and it’s a key point in business software: Compatibility. It’s what it makes it so that you can recover old files and enable you to work with them and update them.

No such luck with Simply accounting. It will force you to upgrade the format, and if you didn’t make a backup copy and it corrupts, you will be stuck calling customer support.

How to remedy to this: Make several backups. Backup regularly, and when it’s time to upgrade, you won’t have to worry about the potential loss of data.

3) Total disrespect of the customer. You want to see a clear example of a company that practically mocks it’s consumer-base, look no further than the support forums, where you will see a festival of customer frustration!!

How to remedy to this: Other than not buying that product? If you absolutely have to deal with that software, document everything, Have the client numbers and serials in your technician’s handbook and a hidden bottle of Scotch. For every functional solution you find on that forum, print it to PDF and then a hardcopy to your IT Handbook. They will save your neck!

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The Cat’s Meow – Raspberry PI

I have a fascination with small things. I like small vehicles, I salivate over micro-housing and well, last but not least, I got a sweet spot for tiny computers.

Enter Raspberry PI, the smallest computer you could own for 25$-35$. The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to offer two versions, priced at US$25 and $35 (plus local taxes). The Foundation started accepting orders for the higher priced model on 29 February 2012 The Raspberry Pi is intended to stimulate the teaching of basic computer science in schools.


And it’s powered with Linux. No Microsoft here, and there is talk of Android support!! Of course, It’s not rocket science to figure out the other applications what this brilliant little device could bring. Considering it’s got HDMI built-in, this is the most inexpensive upgrade for your big screen TV (And finally have a browser that doesn’t suck ass!!). Just throw in a wireless USB adapter and a wireless keyboard/mouse combo and voila!! You have a smart TV.

And considering it’s small size and low voltage, its perfect for a robot’s brain too. It would be neat if someone who revamp an old HERO-1 robot with the Raspberry PI as the brains. Toss in VNC , a webcam and wireless and you have your own very robotic drone on the cheap. This could open a lot of opportunities for home made CNC’s as well.

Want to buy one? Go to Premier Farnel or RS Components, although you may want to wait a bit, they have a hard time keeping the supply up, since so many are interested.

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Cat’s Meow – My Favorite Open-Source Replacements.

The Digital Cat's Meow

In my line of work, I get often asked if I can give them a copy of “XYZ” software, for home use. It’s the problem that many IT pro’s face, it’s the idea that you can be milked for free software, and who can blame people, software is ridiculously expensive.

Of course, there is the issue of licensing and other workplace “no-no’s” that come into play, but I have found a wonderful way to remedy the matter.

And for this I must thank the open-source movement for providing IT pro’s a myriad of tools that can be giving away for free without fear of the licensing hordes coming knocking on your door with pitchforks and torches.

But of course, I faced another problem. That one of compatibility. Sure a OSS (Open Sourced Software) that does the same function as a popular software is nice, but you have to be able to share your work with others? It has to be compatible with what they got!!

And that is one gripe that many users are confronted with. They would switch to a OSS, heck they would switch to a OS operating system (Linux) but the dark specter of compatibility rears it’s thrice cursed head and what seems to be a wonderful idea, turns into yet another headache for the helpful IT pro.

But I found a way around it. Well, not exactly. I found a method that works in coping with that unfortunate fact.

What I do, is find the OSS that comes the closest in look and feel and compatibility with a “commercial” software, and I make sure in can save in file formats that are universal. PDF’s are a good example. I haven’t seen an OS that adobe reader didn’t like.

Still, over the years I have found a few favorites, that fit the bill and that brought a twinkle to my client’s eyes, and my own.

 

Open Office/Libre Office

This M$ office clone is the OSS personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.

I use it both at work and at home. I actually recommend it to everyone who wants it at home. It’s perfect, it never failed me when I needed something done and I didn’t feel like using M$.

My only gripe with it, is that they haven’t found a way (yet) to be compatible with M$ ACCESS. It would be nice though. But as far as the three basics are concerned (Text, Spreadsheets and presentations), it does a job an a half.

 

The GIMP

GIMP stands for  GNU Image Manipulation Program. It’s roughly a “Photoshop clone”.  Which has some good strengths, it’s got the same tools, the same capabilities and then some.  With some of the extensions I was able to batch-process a whole wackload of cliparts that were in WMF format (photoshop didn’t recongnize them somehow) into PNG with no loss.

The interface takes some getting used to, and those missing Photoshop can use the “Gimpshop” modification, which enables you to have gimp ‘look and feel’ like Photoshop.

 

Dia

A M$ Visio clone. As you will see on the site, it claims that is roughly like Visio. I will say this. It reminds me a whole lot like Visio 2003, only a whole heap better.  It’s a handy tool to have around if you want to remodel a kitchen or want to build a dungeon for a good ol’ fashion game of dungeons and dragons.

 

Thunderbird

I am not a big fan of M$ outlook. I find the 2010 version is confusing, and suffers from a case of user-friendliness deficiency.

So I recommend highly Thunderbird. It’s like outlook 2003 in “general” appearances, hence a little less confusing and, therefore,  less prone to generate headaches while using it. With extensions to enhance it and customize the user experience, it makes a great replacement for outlook.

 

Finally, if you need a specific software, but don’t know how to “replace” it, I can recommend osalt.com

It’s a nice way to learn about what’s out there and save a few bucks.

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Old ideas with new tools

 

As an IT professional, I am often confronted with the question of productivity not only at work but also at home. With the trend of telecommuting coming into play, and the advancements in technology, it’s all in seeing the computer as a set of tools and not as “just a magic box that gives us the internet”.

Let’s use an analogy;

If you think of your computer as your “workshop/workbench” the tools you will have at your disposal are near identical to what you’d find in scrapbooking or even your basic arts and crafts;


SCRAPBOOKING

COMPUTER EQUIVALENT

Table

Computer

Scissors

DESKTOP PUBLISHING SOFTWARE

Glue

Photos

 CONTENT

(pictures, videos, mp3, i.e MEDIA!!)

News articles

Keepsakes

 

Now from there, we can easily see the computer as not only the tools, but also the receptacle of media. This in turn can help you in your day to day life. How? Here are some examples;

1) You can have your home computer email you some documents to your smartphone. You’re on your way home and members of your family need you to do a stop at a grocery store? Presto! Here’s the shopping list!

2) You can create some spreadsheets for home use, such as for planning meals, personal finances and sport pools

3) Use QR codes to track your home inventory (especially useful if you’re moving)

And those are only a few examples. People have computers at home, but they have no idea how they can enhance their lives with it, with a few simple tools.

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The Basics


10 CLS

20 PRINT “Cybudo is the way of cybernetics.”

30 PRINT “A way to balance worklife and homelife,”

40 PRINT “using technology!!”

50 END