No more free LogMeIn – Some alternatives

Well, I just saw that LogMeIn free is going away.  I suppose I should be grateful that I was able to use this service without any charge for that past many, many years.  Thanks for that.  However, I still don’t want to pay for this service… as I only use it a couple of times per year.  So, like you, I am on a search for a free alternative that isn’t complicated to set up like purely utilitarian options like VNC.

Here are some possibilities:

If you want to explore further, consider this fully sortable list of remote desktop software.  Good luck.  Let me know what solution you decided upon.

Getting Started with the Arduino

Lately I’ve been getting really interested in small electronics projects.  I’m finally making a real push to actually begin to understand electronics.  It is slow going, but I am making progress.  My first project is getting an Arduino to run indefinitely using solar cells and a battery.

For this project I am using the following items:

I hook everything up and let my Arduino run a small sketch to flash LEDs and it ran for about 4 days.  I ran it 24 hours and had the solar panel just inside my kitchen window where it received about 5 hours of rather direct sunlight per day, if it wasn’t cloudy.

Because this didn’t work, I disconnected the Arduino just to see if the panel could keep the battery charged on it’s own.  So far, after a few days, the battery has remained steady at 12.75v, so I think that is a good sign.

Why has Firefox become such a nanny?

Firefox has been bugging me so much lately with its “nanny” behavior.  It seems to constantly shut down add-ons (plug-ins) “for my protection”, sometimes without any obvious way for me to turn them back on again.

The latest annoyance for me occurred when Firefox recently shut down THE MOST USEFUL plug-in I have ever installed: The Camelizer.  This plug-in will allow you to see the price history of any product on Amazon.com.  I but from Amazon a lot, and the prices fluctuate.  It is incredibly valuable to me to know whether or not the price of an item has recently increased or decreased.  You can even use their website to alert you when prices drop below a selected threshold.

So Firefox updated itself recently… AGAIN.  By the way, what the frig is up with all of the Firefox updates?  Has your user experience ever changed for the positive after a Firefox update?

Firefox now tells me that The Camelizer is “not compatible” with the latest and greatest version of Firefox that looks and acts no differently from the last version.  Under the “add-ons” menu I can see that Camelizer has been disabled for my protection, and there is no way to reactivate it.

Well I found a way.

Here is how to reactivate any plug-in that Firefox claims is not compatible with Firefox.

  1. Type “about:config” in your address bar and hit Enter.
  2. Bypass the warning screen.
  3. Type “compat” in the search bar.
  4. Locate the setting called something like “strict add-on compatibility mode”.
  5. Double click the default value of “true” to set it to “false”.
  6. Your installed add-on will instantly come back to life.

I did this with The Camelizer and it immediately started working without any issues.  It is perfectly compatible with Firefox.

Almost makes me want to start using Chrome.

Please say NO to new gun legislation

Crime rose during the Clinton assault weapon ban, and it dropped (and keeps dropping) since the ban expired. Historically we see crime rise when stricter gun controls are put in place.

Yes, a lot of people die in gun related incidents, but a lot MORE people die in vehicles.  If Obama and Biden believe that action should be taken immediately if it means saving even a single life, then I look forward to their legislation and executive orders for:

Bad things happen and no amount of regulation can change that.  Newtown was tragic, but it will happen again.

Criminals don’t care about new laws.  Gun laws only serve to disarm law-abiding citizens.

“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed one.” – Thomas Jefferson’s “Legal Commonplace Book”

For every Newtown and Columbine, there are PLENTY of these stories you don’t hear about:

So many facts directly oppose the need for new gun legislation, they are simply too vast to detail here.  Just look it up.

Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen

I just funded my first Kickstarter project, and I’m not supposed to see a “return” for 2 years!  I just couldn’t resist pushing Chris Roberts’ “Star Citizen” game along.  This is the guy who created the Wing Commander series as well as Freelancer.  I first played the original game on a 386 PC in 1990.  Back then I loved pretty much everything published by Origin, including Wing Commander.

If you loved Battlestar Galactica, you will probably love this Star Citizen trailer.  Remember, the game doesn’t come out for another 2 years!

Everything about this looks (and sounds) awesome.  However, being me, there were a few things that stood out to me as worth arguing about within this fictional world.

  1. Can the pilots “scramble” their spacecraft any more slowly?
  2. There would be no need for a guy on deck to be waving a spacecraft into a parking spot within the hangar deck.  All of that crap would be automated.  In fact, the entire “landing” sequence would be automated.  Besides, the pilot wouldn’t be able to see the guy on the ground due to poor visibility… check the video and you will see.
  3. That far in the future there would be no need for such scatter-shot firing. Computers and AI would be able to predict the precise location of a moving object to a high degree of probability. If the blasters were mounted on powered gimbals, virtually every shot would be a hit.  It would just be a matter of powering through shields and armor.

    The visuals where the space around the capital ship is peppered with blaster fire is neat, but quite silly, wasteful, and completely unnecessary.

I hope there are beam weapons in this game.  I’ve always felt beam weapons were more realistic.  This is the type of weapon that turns on as a solid beam and sort of sweeps across the target, slicing through it and whatnot with a loud, deep, “BMMMMMM” sort of noise.  Cool stuff.

 

Found some old gaming friends in the closet

I found a box full of old games and manuals in my closet.  Boy do these bring back memories.  I could talk about these games for hours with anyone who would listen.

 

The Wii U has nothing for me

I am a long time gamer and Nintendo fan, but I see nothing interesting about the Wii U.  I guess I actually feel that way about a lot of new technology.  The Wii U assumes that you are a typical American techno-consumer.  It assumes that you subscribe to premium cable, have a Tivo, and actually watch a bunch of television.  Who has time for that?  There are so many entertainment choices available today, it seems strange to select the one medium that completely lacks interactivity.

Nintendo Wii U

One of the “ways you can use” the Wii U is to control the on-screen action by swiping on the display.  Ugh.  Why would I ever want to do this when there is an analog joystick one inch away?  Handheld devices use swiping and on-screen controls because there is no other choice… not because it is a better method of control!

And the whole thing is just odd.  Is it a hand-held?  Is it a TV remote?  Is it really much different than a Wii?  I can’t imagine anyone taking this on the train with them during a commute.  The only good thing I can see coming out of this is the probability that the Playstation 3 and the XBox 360 will drop further in price… enough that I might actually buy one and take advantage of the vast library of existing used games for those systems.

 

Using Amazon S3 for Personal Photo Storage

I’m always worried about storing our old digital photos.  I have some DVDs now going on 12 years old, and from my own experience, they begin to deteriorate and lose data after 10 years.  I have photos backed up on multiple hard drives, but they can fail very easily, and I have to constantly manage them.

I’ve been messing around with Amazon S3 for work, and I just decided to store our family archival photos up there in my personal account as the ultimate backup.  3rd party tools make it very simple to use.  I use Transmit on the Mac and S3 looks just like an FTP site.  You can even do folders and such just like normal.  They are actually abstracted IDs, but it doesn’t make any difference from the user’s point of view.

100GB will run you about $12/month, though I have less than 1GB up there at the moment.

Response to “Conservatives and Liberals” Chain Email

I just received the following email, which according to my research, has been in play for at least 2 years.

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very liberal, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn’t even have time for a boyfriend, and didn’t really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, “How is your friend Audrey doing?”

She replied, “Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She’s always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn’t even show up for classes because she’s too hung over.”

Her wise father asked his daughter, “Why don’t you go to the Dean’s office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.”

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father’s suggestion, angrily fired back, “That’s a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I’ve worked really hard for my grades! I’ve invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!”

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, “Welcome to the conservative side of the fence.”

If you ever wondered what side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one. If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat. If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels. Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church. A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and Jesus silenced.

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it. A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

I have recently become a very big fan of Reddit.com, a website that houses an amazing community of bright, young, liberal, tech-savvy, science-minded people.  I am often astounded at the brilliance and generosity exhibited by the best of this community in response to various challenges.

I didn’t know quite how to respond to this email, so I figured the Reddit community could help.  Being a good citizen of the net, I searched Reddit before posting my question.  Sure enough, threads about this exact email already exist… as do the responses.

Here are a few of the best responses that I found:

To the question of whether or not the original email contains logical fallacies, this was an excellent response:

The email starts with a loaded fictional scenario describing a strawman, then follows it up with seven additional strawmen. No argument is presented or supported. You could replace the whole thing with ‘Liberals want to control everything’ without any real loss in content.

Writing like this isn’t designed to inform or persuade anyone. It’s designed to entertain by way of stoking the coals of outrage in people’s hearts, and it’s only effective if the coals are hot to begin with.

Point being, there’s no point in responding. They forwarded this because reading it made them feel good, and pointing out that it doesn’t make sense won’t alter its affect on them because the feeling had nothing to do with making sense in the first place.

Another interesting response:

Among other things, it’s a false analogy. Grades are tokens which in and of themselves have no value – you could look at them as a measure of the knowledge imparted to the student. The knowledge is the item that has value – that knowledge will allow the student to do things in the world. When you redistribute grades, you don’t redistribute that value, you only redistribute an essentially meaningless token.

Money itself has value. A person with money can do things in the world. When you redistribute wealth, you redistribute the power to do things in the world, not just a token.

Also, taxation doesn’t literally take a pile of money from you, and give it to another person. It’s more complex than that. Taxes are used to build schools and roads, for example. These expenditures may have the effect of transferring wealth around, but it’s not equivalent to taking a point of GPA and giving it directly to another person.

The original “argument” is silly:

You could always just point out how ridiculous the analogy is.

Basic services to provide human safety and dignity in a wealthy and established industrial society are different in almost every possible way from college grades other than the fact that they are unequally distributed due to a combination of circumstantial luck and effort.

[it's like saying...]

“You like having two arms don’t you? Well you know some people don’t have two arms, shouldn’t we redistribute those? No? Oh, well then, conservatism wins!”

Further…

In the real world it isn’t the case that the harder you work, the more you get paid. The hardest workers are actually often (please note the qualifier) paid the least.

Those who make the most money often draw most heavily on public infrastructure to do so. The public highway system subsidizes their shipping expenses, the police/military mitigates their security expenses, and so on. Since they draw more heavily on these services and benefit so much more from them, it is only fitting they pay a higher percentage of their income to support them.

And finally, we can walk through a Day in the Life of Joe Conservative (from RationalWiki).

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance — now Joe gets it, too.

He prepares his morning breakfast: bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment checks because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the taxpayer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans.

The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved conservatives have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

Note: This was originally published (anonymously) under the title A Day in the Life of Joe Republican. But this is a misnomer. In the last 140 years, the Republican and Democratic parties have switched sides several times, with one being conservative and the other being liberal. But labels and party affiliations change. What doesn’t change are the underlying political philosophies of liberalism and conservatism, and the fact that the liberals usually turned out to be right and the conservatives turned out to be wrong. And so it goes.

Having posted all of the above, I must point out that I care very little about any of this.  I understand that voting under the current system of American politics has ABSOLUTELY NO VALUE.  Your vote has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to make no difference whatsoever.  I hate our two-party, name-calling, tribal politics.  Are we just a bunch of apes or what?  There are NOT two parties with two distinctly different sets of ideology.  There is a vast spectrum of opinions that do not neatly fit into only two teams.

I like some of what Obama offers, I hate other bits.  The same goes for Romney.  The only choice I have is to vote for the least worst of two poor choices.  Why do we put up with this?  Our system is clearly broken.  I don’t know how I get sucked into this political garbage that is completely meaningless.  It doesn’t matter who is elected, the same crap will happen either way.

However, let us not forget the amazing time in which we live.  Every successive modern generation believes that the world is going down hill, that things are getting worse.  It just isn’t true.

Magic Jack Customer Support Experience

Reader Jack reports on his Magic Jack frustrations.  This seems to be par for the course with MJ.

Magic Jack seemed to work for a short time; then all I got was a busy signal. I talked online to tech support countless times. Each time we seemed to have fixed the problem only to discover that as soon as I made one phone call it would revert back to a busy signal. I even had a technician “take over” my computer twice. The first time I had to restart my computer which obviously cut us off. No luck getting the same techie again even though I got right back with them again. The second time “Ivan” took over my computer and did his thing [as I watched] then he said “one moment please” and never returned. I took a shower, did some things and came back later to find that nothing had been done.

I am contacting the Better Business Bureau but there is neither a phone number nor an address for Magic Jack. They are very sneaky and underhanded, cannot be trusted. I would highly advise anyone to never deal with them. The pain and mental anguish one has to endure is not worth the money you would “save” by using them. And their service is terrible. We have had numerous phone issues in the middle of calls, especially long distance ones. Their tech support is only by computer and any issue outside of a computer cannot be approached. I am getting rid of Magic jack plus and going back to AT&T. Their prices may be high but their phone service quality is unmatched, and that is the purpose of making a phone call, to communicate with the one you are calling.