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Mythical Spectec MicroSD Now 802.11n

November 15th, 2008

Perhaps the delays of the Spectec SDW-823 are related to adding 802.11n support.

Since late 2006, Spectec has been touting their MicroSD wi-fi card for Windows Mobile devices, and it has always been billed as 802.11b/g compatible. Of course, that was two years ago and the SDW-823 has not yet arrived. In fact, it’s been so long that the much faster 802.11n has become the standard for new wireless devices, and Spectec has apparently been busy adding it to the product.

Was 802.11b/g

Spectec SDW-823 802.11g/b

The old product page listed the specifications as Network Standard Support: IEEE 802.11b/g; Network Architectures: Infrastructure, Ad-Hoc; Data Rates: < 802.11g: 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbps; < 802.11b: 1, 2, 5.5, 11 Mbps; Modulation Techniques: BPSK, QPSK, 16QAM, 64QAM, CCK, OFDM, DSSS; Receiver Sensitivity < 802.11g: 73-91 dBm; < 802.11b: 89-97 dBm; Power Consumption: Receive: 188 mA avg; Supply Voltage: I/O: 3.0 - 3.6 VDC; Operating Temperature: 0 °C to +70 °C, <95% humidity; Host Interface: SDIO Now! 1.0; OS Support: Microsoft Windows CE 4.X-5.X; and Package: 23.3 x 11 x 0.7 mm.

Now 802.11n

Spectec SDW-823 802.11n

As you can see, the new card is longer and unlikely to fit in the typical MicroSD bay of a Smartphone device.

The new product page has the specifications as follows, with changes in bold. Network Standard Support: IEEE 802.11n; Network Architectures: Infrastructure, Ad-Hoc; Modulation Techniques: BPSK, QPSK, 16QAM, 64QAM, CCK, OFDM, DSSS; Receiver Sensitivity: 85 dBm; Power Consumption: Receive: 150 mA; Supply Voltage: DC 3.0V – 3.6V; Operating Temperature: -45 °C to +85 °C; Host Interface: Micro SDIO; and OS Support: Windows Mobile 5.0 / 6.0.

Still not available

It’s great that the card now supports the faster, longer-range 802.11n specification. The only problem with it, and this is just nit-picking, is that it is still not available yet!

Tags: Gear

Dialing Letters on a Blackjack

November 8th, 2008

How Do You Dial 800-FLOWERS On A Smartphone?

Since the Samsung Blackjack and other Smartphones have QWERTY pads, they lose the standard letter-number associations that have been on phones for decades. Many phone numbers are published as letters, such as 1-800-FLOWERS, or 1-800-LIVE-LOB (Lobster Gram), which makes them easy to remember. However, that does you no good if your phone doesn’t have the letters printed on the right keys.

There is also the problem of having to enter a name to navigate a phone directory in a voicemail system. It will ask you to enter the first several letters of the name of the person you wish to reach on your keypad. How can you do that if you don’t know which numbers map to which letters?

Dialing Letters on a Smartphone

There are several approaches to this problem.

One solution is to memorize which letters go with which numbers. ABC=2, DEF=3, and so on. This is great, except that it gets a little tricky with 7-8. 7=PQRS, 8=TUV, and 9=WXYZ. It really isn’t too bad:

The letters start at 2 (abc) and continue with three letters per number until the last row, where 7, 8, and 9 are a symetrical four, three, and four letters each.

Another solution is to save the information as a wallpaper or background image for the dialing screen, or to print out an image and keep it handy.

Phone Keypad Letters

And yet another possibility is to download and install software like Alphadial. I have not used this and can not vouch for it. Use at your own risk. Etc etc. One downside is that you have to run it separately, so it isn’t really all that handy for entering letters during a call.

QWERTY is Great, But It’s Still A Phone

It’s nice to have a QWERTY keypad, but the primary function of the phone is to function as a phone. Phone manufacturers are welcome to add features, but in the process they shouldn’t take away other, important features. Dialing for flowers or lobsters is not that critical, but navigating a phone directory is, or at least it can be.

Tags: Gear

An American Carol Review

November 5th, 2008

Pro-American comedy An American Carol hits Hollywood hard.

David Zucker’s new film, An American Carol, is a comedy about a bumbling, anti-American documentary film maker named Michael Malone. In this unapologetically pro-American film, Malone leads a protest movement to ban the Fourth of July, but is visited by ghosts of great Americans (and the Angel of Freaking Death) who try to save him before it’s too late.

The Trailers

There are several hilarious trailers available at the American Carolers website. The “Pinheads” trailer is embedded below.

Check out another trailer for An American Carol, featured here earlier.

Great Cast

The movie stars Kevin Farley as the fat, obnoxious Malone in a near-perfect portrayal of Michael Moore. The rest of the cast is also superb. The ghosts are played by Chriss Anglin as John F. Kennedy, Kelsey Grammer as General George S. Patton, Jon Voight as George Washington, and Trace Adkins as the Angel of “Freaking” Death.

The cast also includes James Woods as Malone’s agent, Leslie Nielsen as the narrator and himself, Dennis Hopper as a judge, Geoffrey Arend as Mohammed, Gary Coleman as a slave, Robert Davi as Aziz, Simon Rex as himself, Paris Hilton as herself, Bill O’Reilly as himself, and Trace Adkins shows up as himself too.

Movie With A Good Message

The United States of America is not perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world, and it is under attack not just by liberals, but by terrorists who have been at it since at least 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked. In An American Carol, Malone and the audience are taken back for a look at the smoking ruins at Ground Zero as a reminder of what we’re fighting.

At one point, the movie has Bill O’Reilly interviewing Malone and Rosie O’Connell. As O’Reilly shows clips of an insane “documentary” on 9/11 produced by O’Connell, a still unrepentant Malone begins to grow uncomfortable being lumped in and interviewed with the truly unhinged O’Connell.

Pro-American movies are an endangered species, but An American Carol restores some hope that things could get better. This is a movie that I didn’t leave feeling ripped off, or that I had just paid ten bucks for some liberal brain-washing drivel.

There’s an interesting review at NewsMax:

To hear David Zucker tell it, making a Republican-friendly Hollywood film is like plotting a coup: You plan it in secret meetings, quietly recruit conservative actors, and launch before anybody realizes what’s happening.

“You sort of feel like you have to hide it,” says Zucker, director of the new film, “An American Carol,” which opened in theaters Friday. “When you meet, you give each other a secret look — ‘Are you a Republican too?’

Probably Not For Little Kids

An American Carol is rated PG-13 for “rude and irreverent content, and for language and brief drug material.” I’d say PG-13 is about right for the movie. Keep in mind that David Zucker is the man behind hilarious but irreverent and vulgar comedies like Airplane!, the Naked Gun movies, the Scary Movie series, Top Secret!, and My Boss’s Daughter. Funny, but not for little kids.

In fact, the people who most need to see this movie are those in their late teens and college years, as they are the most at risk of anti-American indoctrination.

Bottom Line: An American Carol is a great movie, so go see it.

Besides, it’s got zombies in it.

Tags: Reviews

Left-Align Lists With Margin Bullets

October 25th, 2008

Left-align lists with bullets in the margin

Though Firefox allows you to move bullets out of the list’s div, Internet Explorer does not. In IE, bullets are clipped if they are moved out of the box.

However, by including an image at the beginning of the list items, then using CSS to align the remainder of the list item to the left margin works just fine.

Of course, that’s kind of ugly.

Enter jQuery

However, javascript can be used to do this automatically, and jQuery can further simplify this work.

HTML

For the HTML, simply tag the unordered list with a unique classname, in this case, “test”.

<ul class="test">
<li>item 1</li>
<li>item 2</li>
</ul>

Javascript

function styleList( cls, imgwidth, imgsrc ){
	$("ul." + cls + " li")
		.css("list-style-type","none")
		.css("text-indent","-" + imgwidth);
	$("ul." + cls + " li")
		.prepend("<img class=\"listitemimage\"" +
			"src=\"" + imgsrc + "\"/>");
	$("ul." + cls).css("padding","0").css("margin","0");
	$(".listitemimage")
		.css("position","relative")
		.css("left","-" + imgwidth)
		.css("top","-2px");
}
$(document).ready(function(){
	styleList( "test", "9px", "/code/bullet01.gif" );
});

Basically, styleList takes a CSS class name that identifies the unordered lists to style. It sets list padding and margins to 0. Then, for list items, it sets list-style-type to none to remove the default bullet and sets a negative text-indent to compensate for the space taken by the bullet image. To each list item it prepends the bullet image. The .listitemimage class is styled to relative positioning, given a negative left shift equal to the width of the bullet, and bumped up a bit.

Demo

Check out the demo of left-aligned lists and margin bullets.

Tags: web design

An American Carol Trailer

October 1st, 2008

Finally A Pro-American Movie From Hollywood

Leave it to David Zucker, of Airplane! fame, to produce a movie that takes on the liberal insanity that’s been on parade for way too long. An American Carol looks great, is long past-due, and is in theaters starting October 3, 2008.

Starring Kevin Farley, Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Leslie Nielsen, Trace Adkins, James Woods, Robert Davi, Geoffrey Arend, and Jon Voight.

Also, check out American Carolers website for more.

Tags: politics · Video

WriteMonkey Text Editor

August 11th, 2008

WriteMonkey is the new king of full-screen distraction free text editing.

For simple, distraction-free text editing, I had at first settled on Darkroom for Windows. It was pretty good but seemed somewhat unfinished. Then I found Q10 and decided it was the way to go.

Then a reader, Arch1k, suggested that WriteMonkey was the best editor in this genre. I’d never heard of it, but after finally downloading and trying it, it’s clear that my prior choices were inferior; WriteMonkey is much better. By a long shot.

WriteMonkey has some unique features.

Besides well-executed text editing, WriteMonkey includes features that set it apart from others such as Q10 and Darkroom.

Progress Bar – a thin line on the screen edge grows downwards as you type, indicating how far along you are towards a document length goal. The default is 3000 characters but can be set to any number of characters (with or without spaces included) or words. In the image above you can see the progress bar—it’s the thin line in the upper left. Click to view the larger image.

Jumps – pressing alt-J will bring up a list of locations within the document to which you can quickly jump. The list includes bookmarks, headlines, and paragraphs.

Repository – pressing alt-R will toggle between the edit display and a text repository, where you can keep snippits of text, URLs, etc. Essentially a scrap of electronic paper.

WriteMonkey executes typical features well.

Well-executed from front to back, WriteMonkey has yet to get in my way or make me grumble about some bothersome aspect.

It supports most of the normal things you would expect from a full-screen text editor: customizable fonts and colors, typing sounds, text statistics, spell checking, find and replace, and so on.

Notably, find and replace supports wildcards and regular expressions. Also, it seems to handle multi-monitor setups well.

Another nice feature is its support for zooming; control-scrollwheel zooms the text size and editing width, shift-scrollwheel zooms the text size, and alt-scrollwheel zooms the editing width.

WriteMonkey is the best full-screen text editor. So far.

So, for now, WriteMonkey is the best option I have found for distraction-free, full-screen text editing. It has more features than either Q10 or Darkroom (or others for that matter) and gets the job done better than either.

Check it out.

Tags: Reviews · Software

Distraction-Free Text Editing

June 23rd, 2008

Write Without Distractions

Modern computers are chock full of features and widgets and icons and gizmos, but when you’re trying to focus, it is all just noise. There is something to be said for an old green or amber monitor, showing nothing but your immediate task.

Update: Distraction-free text editing has a new contender. Check out my review of WriteMonkey.

Dark Room for Windows

Over a year ago I was impressed with Dark Room, a simple, full-screen text editor for Windows. It is a full-screen text editor with no distractions. However, though it serves its purpose and is nice in some respects, using it is a chore. The biggest problem is that it feels slow. Wait, the biggest problem has to be that it lacks find-and-replace functionality. Seriously, though Dark Room works, it feels like it’s an unfinished project.

Dark Room Editing

Dark Room Preferences

Distraction-Free Text Editors

So Dark Room is a decent choice for Windows users looking for a simple, full-screen text editor, but it has some problems.

So, are there any other options? Yes, there are.

jDarkRoom

jDarkRoom is a Java-based alternative. Since it’s Java-based, it will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Its feature set is limited. Also, at least on my Windows XP system, there was a serious problem with distracting graphical artifacts, which kind of defeats the purpose of distraction-free writing.

jDarkRoom Editing

jDarkRoom Preferences

jDarkRoom Help

WestEdit

WestEdit is a Windows application. It works, but to me it feels too lacking in features to use or recommend.

WestEdit Editing

WestEdit Preferences

WestEdit Help

Q10

Q10, a Windows application, has built-in spell checking, font selection, find-replace, a note feature, configurable document statistics, a writing alarm, adjustable typing sounds, auto-correct and “quick text” word expansion, and several other nice features. Very nice.

Q10 Editing

Q10 Preferences

Q10 Help

Writeroom

Writeroom, from Hog Bay Software, is the original distraction-free editor for the Mac. It costs about $25, though you can dig around and find an older version for free. (Oh, well, I did the digging for you. See the Writeroom Releases page for old versions.)

Since I don’t have a Mac handy, here is a wee screen shot from the Writeroom website. As you can see, it features a hip, shiny look. So it is a superb choice for shiny Apple customers.

Writeroom

Writer

Writer is web-based, and for what it is, not too bad. However, there are a few problems with this concept. First, web-based storage: I know it’s hip but letting someone else store my documents seems foolish. Second, it is not full-screen, so you’re left with the browser and anything around it to distract you. (However, you can get around a lot of this with a full-full-screen mode on your browser. A Firefox Addon called Fuller Screen works well, removing all browser chrome and making the website truly full-screen.) Writer does, on the other hand, have some handy features; send to email or a content management system (here again, you give them your userid and password—yikes!), download as text or PDF, and print. Interesting, but not compelling for any but the most trivial writing.

Writer Editing

DarkCopy

DarkCopy is another web-based text editor with a full-screen mode and the ability to save as a text file. There’s not much more to this editor, so it might suffice for the odd job, but unless you can’t use anything else, I don’t see a compelling reason to use this one. The full-screen mode doesn’t work so well for me, but nothing about DarkCopy makes me want to figure out what the problem is. Not bad, but no big deal.

DarkCopy Editing

Which distraction-free text editor is the best choice?

For Windows users, Q10 is the way to go. It’s fast and feels solid. The other choices work but are outshined by Q10.

For Mac users with cash left over after buying their overpriced systems, Writeroom is the standard-bearer; for those left indigent by Apple, the free JDarkRoom should work okay.

Linux users can use JDarkRoom or one of the web-based alternatives like Writer or DarkCopy.

Tags: Reviews · Software

Spectec MicroSD Wi-Fi Update

April 26th, 2008

Spectec Micro SD Wi-FiWill Wi-Fi Ever Be Available For Phones Like The Samsung Blackjack?

Unless things change, the answer is going to be “no,” at least for this Blackjack owner.

Spectec Announced In 2006

Around October 2006—more than eighteen months ago—Spectec was promising their SDW-823 MicroSD WiFi card.

At that time, Spectec told me the product would be delayed until August 2007. Since then I have heard nothing about it, other than questions from readers asking about it.

Last week a Spectec sales rep told me that it is not ready due to the chipset maker needing to modify software. It will take 3-4 months. Sorry to keep you waiting. So that puts it out to July or August.

No SDW-823 Wi-Fi For Now

So, for now, there is no Wi-Fi for devices like the Samsung Blackjack. In fact, by the time the Spectec card is available—if it is ever available—I may have decided 3G or Edge is good enough or simply moved on to another phone.

Tags: Gear

YouVersion of the Bible

April 20th, 2008

Hey Look, Yet Another Online Bible Study Site.

Promising to fill a gap left by sites like eBible and BibleGateway, a new Bible reading and study site is online, called the YouVersion. It is being created by lifechurch.tv.

Like eBible, the YouVersion offers up a modern feel with highlighting and tagging. Unlike eBible, the YouVersion opens things up a bit by allowing users to attach multi-media content to passages.

The YouVersion blog does a decent job of highlighting new features as they appear.

The Good Stuff

  • More Bible is a good thing, however you slice it.
  • Attaching links, images, and video—in addition to text notes— to passages is a nice step forward.
  • The layout is nice enough and uncluttered.
  • Though not available yet, a Groups feature will allow groups (what else?) to study Scripture together.
  • Also not available yet, a Favorites feature will allow you to mark Passages to appear in a list of your favorites.
  • It nice that they opened the website when the Reader was ready and did not wait for everything to be available, but… (see below).
  • Uploading images and videos is restricted to online sharing sites. Good because it probably will filter out a lot of unwelcome nastiness.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

  • The Bible Reader always starts with Genesis 1. Likewise, no matter what you’re reading, refreshing the reading page always starts you back at Genesis 1. The last passage you were viewing should be remembered.
  • Once you’ve added content, the Reader still shows a “Discover the relevancy… Currently, there is no passage selected” message. Once you select a passage, Community content for that verse is displayed. I would expect that my content is displayed first. Clicking on My Content shows a list of content, with no indication of which is relevant to the current verse. Very unhelpful.
  • The Dashboard shows a bunch of stuff but nothing relevant to your own reading and content. The dashboard should first and foremost show what’s relevant to the user, starting with the user’s own work. The Community is secondary, and once groups are available, tertiary.
  • There are still some layout bugs. For example, if your browser window isn’t huge, content links wrap back on themselves, creating a strange jumble. There seems to be a blank column at the end of each entry.
  • The missing features leave big holes in the YouVersion concept.
  • Uploading images and videos is restricted to online sharing sites. Bad because it forces you to use yet another website.
  • There needs to be at least an option to render Jesus’ words in red.
  • A sans-serif font is not so great for extended reading. An option to switch to a serif font like Georgia would ease reading. See below for a comparison of this.
  • Apparently, there is no public API into YouVersion for developers to build on YouVersion. ESV and eBible both have APIs.

Georgia On My Mind

Reading for a while in the YouVersion reading pane is visually tiresome for me, so I opened Firebug and changed the Scripture font from Arial to Georgia. Much better!

Though font preferences differ among readers, but there is some evidence that serif fonts provide superior readability than do their sans-serif cousins for longer passages of text. I mostly agree and feel that YouVersion (and eBible, for that matter) should include an option to change the text font to a modern serif font like Georgia. (Of course, titles and headings can and should remain in sans-serif.)

Below are two clipped screenshots of John 15 in YouVersion. The first is set in Arial, followed by the same text rendered in Georgia.

Sans-serif (Arial) – click for full image

Serif (Georgia) – click for full image

Your mileage may vary of course. Just asking that we have a choice.

Features and Screenshots

YouVersion Dashboard and Profile

The Dashboard displays some welcome messages, a daily reading, recent Community contributions, new users, an entry from their blog, a search box, and some links to various areas of the site (most are “coming soon”). Does not show anything directly relevant to the user. The profile feels perfunctory, but also shows who you’re “following,” who’s “following” you, your contributions, and what you’ve tagged and starred.

YouVersion Bible Reader and Community Content

Though always returning you to Genesis 1, the Bible Reader has a nice enough layout. Clicking on a verse displays community content rather than your own content.

YouVersion My Content and Adding An Image

Clicking “My Content” shows a list of content you’ve added with no indication of which is relevant to this verse. Adding content is pretty simple. Fill in the form and point it to a Flickr, Picasa, or Photobucket image. Pretty much the same for

YouVersion, Shared Content, and Community Bible Study

Making the Bible available to more people and providing them with more tools with which to study it is a great thing. Once it’s completed, I can see some Bible study groups making great use of YouVersion and its community and group features.

The obvious purpose of YouVersion is to apply the latest web technologies to an online Bible study application. Much of the “latest web technologies,” though, is nothing more than hype and fashion. Ajax and Javascript are nice incremental points on the long timeline of technology, but let’s get some perspective. The first post in their blog seems to equate Web 2.0 fashion sense with the invention of the printing press and, presumably, lifechurch.tv with Gutenberg.

Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450. Four years later, he printed the first copy of the Bible using this new moveable type system. This accomplishment began what is known as “The Age of the Printed Book.” Over the following centuries, this technological advancement revolutionized the surrounding culture by making it possible for the Bible to be accessible to nearly everyone.

Currently, we are in the beginning of another revolution that is defined by the ability for almost anyone to publish content and quickly distribute it worldwide using the Internet. This revolution is at the center of what is called “Web 2.0.”

A revolution on par with the printing press? That’s a bit much.

Unfortunately, though lifechurch.tv may be well-intended, I get a sense that something deeper is missing in YouVersion. Maybe that will change as the project nears completion.

Shared Content and Community

The ability to link Scripture to other content and share notes is interesting and will benefit to some Bible study groups and individuals. Tagging and starring passages provide helpful organizational tools that some will find useful. These features can make YouVersion a great asset to study and reading, particularly if the interface is improved to highlight the user’s own work first and by default.

In Summary

LifeChurch has done a decent job with YouVersion, and aside from nagging problems, it is a promising work-in-progress that may be a valuable tool in the future.

However, something is missing. Whether they work the kinks out or not, YouVersion seems to have started with Web 2.0 talking points and worked backwards to work them around the Bible. Tagging? Got it. Starring? Check. Community? Yep. Shared content? Oh, yeah. Flickr, Picasa, Youtube, MySpace? Got it. This Ajax thing? You betcha. DHTML and highlighting? Yes sir. The focus seems to be all that rather than on the Bible itself.

Tags: Christian · Reviews

Upgrading to WordPress 2.5

March 30th, 2008

WordPress 2.5 Arrives

After months of testing and teasing, WordPress 2.5 is finally available. It has changed dramatically.

Oh, What the Heck

Throwing caution to the wind, I blindly upgraded this site to 2.5. So far, no problems have cropped up. In fact, at the moment everything seems fine (of course, let me know if you discover otherwise).

A Simple WordPress Upgrade?

After the tedious upgrade to WordPress 2.3, I fully expected something to crash and burn, particularly since 2.5 is such a significant change. Thankfully, it was boring and quick. Clicked “Upgrade WordPress,” then “Continue,” and it was done.

So What’s New in WP 2.5?

The changes are covered exhaustively by the WordPress team and countless others, but these are the things that I noticed after playing around with it for a few minutes.

  • The redesigned admin interface is different and much improved.
  • The Media Gallery is a snazzy way to add images, music, videos, etc. That is, if you like doing it that way. I tend to shy away from these automated code-creator gizmos in favor of hand-coding things.
  • The Dashboard looks great with its new design. The important stuff is arranged in a more intelligent, top down fashion.
  • Smoother WYSIWYG editing is included, as far as I can tell. Normally I don’t use this much but it’s nice to see it improving.
  • Full-screen editing is just a feature of the editor, but deserves an item of its own. It’s a nice touch, though I wish it was available in the plain HTML editor. Dark Room style editing, sans brick-a-brack, is great.
  • Permalink display is handy. At the top of the post the permalink that will be created is displayed, and an inline editing feature is included. One bug, however, is that once you edit the permalink, you are stuck with a manually-edited permalink. I.e. if you subsequently think of a better post title, you will have to manually edit the permalink to reflect the new title.
  • Tag entry is still a pain. There should be a list of existing tags from which to choose (by clicking on them, preferably).
  • Category entry has taken a step backwards, in my opinion. To enter a new category, you have to click “+Add New Category,” enter the category name, then click another Add button (or hit Enter). Kind of picky but it’s one more fussy thing getting in the way.
  • A Gallery of sorts is supported. Upload images, include a [ gallery ] tag, and your images will be linked… or something like that. I am feeling underwhelmed, but maybe that’s just me.

WordPress 2.5 Screenshots

If you’re curious, here are some screenshots of the new WP 2.5 Admin interface.

Overall Impressions of WordPress 2.5

Well, compared to version 2.3, this looks quite a bit better. Best thing since sliced bread? No, not so much. But, amusing diversion for a couple hours? Sure.

Tags: Reviews · Wordpress