Tuesday, 3rd of January 2012
As a geek, I’m sure you’ve read books that you found really spoke to you and your interests as a geek. I’ve run across several and I’m listing my favorite below, in no particular order.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
- Cryptonomicon - Neil Stephenson
- A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
- Dune - Frank Herbert
- Lord of the Rings - Tolkien
- Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman - Richard Feynman
- Fermat’s Enigma - Simon Singh
- Cosmos - Carl Sagan
- Ender’s Game - Orson Scott Card
- Ready Player One - Earnest Cline
So, was your favorite on this list? Was there something on the list that should not have been? Let me know where I messed up in the comments.
Friday, 30th of December 2011
If the folks at Raspberry Pi have their way, the future of educational and personal computing could soon look a lot different. Their version of the next great educational computer (seen in the picture here) is a miracle of modern technology that combines all of the basics of the modern computer on a silicone board the size of a credit card.
Before talking about why this could be the future of educational computing, let’s talk about what you get.
There are two models of the RasPi (as fans have come to call the Raspberry Pi device); the A model and the B model. The things that both have in common is the core processor which is a 700MHz Arm processor, HDMI out, one USB 2.0, one SD card slot, one analog audio out, and one analog video out. Both models will require the use of the SD card slot to boot into one of three varieties of officially supported linux: Debian, Fedora, and ARCHLinux.
Where the models differ is in the amout of RAM and the presence/absense of a network connection. The A model does not have a network connection and has 128MB of RAM. The B model comes with an ethernet connection and has 256MB of RAM.
So, after seeing the setup of the small device you might be wondering what makes this so important. Well, simply put, it’s the price. For the A model the price will be $25, and for the B model the price will be $35. Which, once the value of the components and the flexibility of the device is considere, is quite a bargain. Especially considering the orginial target for this device is as use as an educational device. Picture a school that needs one hundred new computers to begin teaching programming to their students. The school could try to find a several thousand dollars to by a cheap PC, or they could spend a $3500 dollars on 100 RasPi devices. This is where the real importance of this device comes through.
Another great feature of the RasPi is not just the device, but the community that comes with it. There are alreay hundreds of people actively participating in the forums on the RasPi web site. Everything from what programming language is the best to learn to how to create a home theater device using the RasPi is being discussed. This for a device that people haven’t had a chance to use yet. Once these devices are in the hands of the smart and creative people that await them there is no telling how the community will take off.
So, if your interested in what could be the new future of educational and personal computing, head over to RaspberryPi.com and check it out. The device is not available for purchase yet, but if you sign up for their newsletter you will be alerted as to when it is available. At last word, that appears to be at the very beginnig of 2012.
Wednesday, 30th of November 2011
If you know what Klout is you’ve probably read some.of the articles that have been written about it. Some people like it and some people really dislike it. The most common reason that people dislike it is due to the fact that, until recently, the method used by Klout to calculate your score has been completely obscured by the company. There was no hint as to how it was calculated.
Another reason sited by those who dislike the service is that the only way you can get a high score is to be one of the popular people on the net with a huge following on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking services. It’s kinda like the popularity contests that we all hated in high school. Either you were popular or you weren’t, and if you weren’t there really weren’t many ways to become popular. You either had to work really, really hard at it, or have something really big happen to get you noticed. Klout is pretty much the same way.
This makes it hard for the average user to creep our way up the ranks. Combining that with the fact with no one is entirely sure how the score is calculated is enough for some to say they don’t care about Klout and that it is worthless. Well, I agree with them. I don’t need a number that some algorithm formulates to tell me that I’m not an internet rock star. Who cares? I’m blogging and trying to get people to read my stuff, and maybe, eventually, I will have some folks who follow me and appreciate what I’m doing.
On the other hand, I really appreciate what Klout does for me. I am able to use it as a form of motivation. When I post or tweet something and i get some activity on it and my Klout score goes up even a point I’m excited and it gets me to want to do it again. That motivates me to find something new to post or tweet about and see if I get any response, and thus more Klout. I can then use this to see what my audience is engaging with and what they aren’t, which helps me to put out more of what my audience wants and less of what it doesn’t, and that should be the goal of anyone that is producing content on the web.
So, does Klout matter and should you worry about it? In the end, I don’t think so. However, if viewed through the correct prism it can be a great source of motivation and scorekeeping to see how you are doing with what you are posting on the web. So keep checking your Klout score, keep posting, and don’t let it make you too happy or too angry when your score moves.
Wednesday, 23rd of November 2011
If you’re like me, you use MS Excel quite a bit. I love Excel. I personally think that it is the greatest piece of software ever created. In my position with my company I get a chance to use it quite a bit, and often find myself reusing the same bit of VBA script or the same formula for many different projects. I get really tired of rewriting the same script, recording the same macro, or trying to remember exactly how I built that last formula before I can use it again. If this ever happens to you, you will understand the frustration.
Well, a couple of years ago I stumbled upon a great tip that has saved me considerable time and frustration, and has even made me look like a hero several times. The magic lies in a small, somewhat hidden folder within the Microsoft Office installation folder called “XLStart”.
"What’s so magical about this folder," you may ask.
Well, that’s what I am about to show you.
First, let’s focus on those often used macros, scripts, and formulas that you have saved in many other Excel workbooks, text files, Post-It Notes, and other divers sources. Round all of the little nuggets up and save them to one work book. Make sure that your macros and scripts do not make references to specifically named sheets in the original source. If they do, I have found that it is best to either change them to the generic “Sheet#” naming that Excel uses by default. You can also have the script prompt you for the desired sheet name if you like.
Second, try to find a way to organize all of the formulas and macros in a way that you will be able to easily find them. I find it very useful to put the name of the formula and/or a small explanation of it just above the cell you are saving the formula in. You should also have some sample data for the formula to use, just so you can remember exactly what it does, just in case you don’t use it for a long time.
Next, save the workbook you have just populated to the “XLStart” folder. If you used the default installation, the folder should be located using the following path:
C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\XLSTART
Just remember to name this something beside Book1. I named mine “MacroBook”, just to make things obvious for me.
The last and my favorite part of this is to hide the workbook so that it doesn’t get in your way every time you open Excel. To do this, just go to the menu bar and click “Window” and the “Hide” and select the workbook you saved. Now, close Excel. It will ask if you want to save the changes you made to your workbook. Click “Yes”.
Now, every time you open Excel, this new workbook with your great macros and formulas will be opened in the background and ready for use. To use a macro, simple click on the macro button like you would to run a macro as if you just made it in your current workbook. The macro selection box will pop up and you will see all of the macros listed for all open workbooks. They will show up in the format WorkbookName.xls!Macroname. Simply select it an run it. To use your formulas, simply go to the toolbar, click “Window” and then “Unhide”, select your hidden workbook and it will appear. Then, simply copy and paste the formula you would like to use into the workbook you are working on. When done, simply re-hide the book you had hidden.
This may seem like a long way to go save some simple formulas, but trust me, if you have any complicated formulas or macros that you find yourself re-creating very often, you will quickly come to love this little tip. So, give it a try and let me know how you like it.
Sunday, 13th of November 2011
I strongly believe that if all may computers randomly (and often) informed me that I had 5 minutes of battery power left I would get twice as much done each day. I am SO much faster at whatever I’m doing when I’m racing the battery.