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Archive for October, 2011

Using Windows 7 when my hands are tied

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Lately I’ve found myself wanting to read/watch something on my Windows 7 computer and I have my baby son in one hand and his bottle in the other. Controlling the computer using the keyboard or mouse without using either of my hands was becoming a difficult juggling trick. So a few nights ago I turned on Windows Voice Recognition, trained it for my voice and have started using it to control my computer. Thus far I am impressed with the results. I can easily browse the internet, start programs and dicatate emails. I haven’t tried writing code with voice recognition and I don’t think that I ever will, but perhaps it is good at that. Using my voice is not as fast as navigating with either the keyboard, or the mouse, but it is better than nothing. Dictating emails is interesting because the voice recognition needs to hear half sentances; so my thoughts come together very slowly. So far the only actions which have tripped me up are that the baby’s crying is interpreted as “home”, and when I tell it to close the tab it will close the whole browser. But for the most part it has been a positive experience. I have been impressed with how I can say random links on the screen and so far it as always figured out what I was going for.

So keep it up Windows team. I hope that the voice recognition will improve and become even more usefull in the future.

Mango has Tasks!

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Windows Phone 7 now has Tasks; but they’re not called Tasks (like they are with Exchange and Outlook) they are called To-Do’s. To use the new To-Do’s go to the calendar, swipe right and there they are. There is also a setting for the calendar to view To-Do’s in the calendar, and I recommend that setting. I am excited to getting back to using Tasks. Having my personal device help me remember the things I need to do is very useful.

Dinosaurs is still an insightful watch

October 20, 2011 Leave a comment

ABC’s Dinosaurs first aired in 1991 and ran for three years. I remember watching it as a kid and really liking it. It was fun to see live action dinosaurs doing entertaining things and things which I knew must be funny (even if I wasn’t old enough to get the joke). I recently re-watched the first two season and was surprised by its intelligent humor and how they addressed modern day issues. The show obviously had what most would consider a liberal message (or as my Mom put it “is very democratic”), but the way Dinosaurs was able to portray their messages is very entertaining (and hopefully thought provoking) for pretty much everyone.

One issue which Dinosaurs hit on a lot was the corruption which exists in large corporations. Since corporations do exist to make a profit (which inherently isn’t a bad thing), leave them to their own devices and they’ll take actions which are destructive to society as a whole. The plot device for the show is that Dinosaurs had decided a few years earlier to stop being wild animals, build homes, get married, settle down, and build civilizations; as an “experiment”. So entities like government, businesses and schools were all very new and a work in progress. The other key to the corporation plot device was the WeSaySo corporation (took me a while as a kid to get that one). WeSaySo was the biggest corporation and had its hands (or claws) in everything. Everything was built, manufactured, torn down, or sold by WeSaySo. The audiences primary interaction with WeSaySo was the carnivorous Triceratops Forman B.P. Richfield; who is larger and meaner than all of the other dinosaurs. He sat behind a disk, was in a state of constant anger and was always disappointed when he couldn’t eat anything which was bothering him. WeSaySo embodied all villainy and corruption that the shows producers perceived existed in our modern day and age.

Another clever running gag was the puppet show. In Dinosaurs there’s a kid show of sock puppets that baby occasionally watches. The protagonist (Earl Sinclair) finds it entertaining and “really works on two levels”; where as his wife (Fran) finds it to be a silly kids puppet show. It’s obviously a reference to how some critics would view Dinosaurs, and addressing that criticism in that way was smart.

If the show was being made today there would have been at least one episode dealing with big finance and big banks. I don’t know how Dinosaurs would have gone after the injustices they obviously would have seen, but I know would like to see it. Even without an episode like that most of the episodes are still very relevant and quite entertaining.

Categories: Entertainment

The Three Musketeers Movie, isn’t

October 8, 2011 1 comment

“The Three Musketeers”, produced by New Legacy and Impact Pictures, set to be released 21 Oct 2011, looks like an exciting adventure movie, but it isn’t The Three Musketeers! There are flying airships, super assassins, tremendous explosions, and our hero’s aren’t saving France, they saving Europe! I think the movie was started by a producer who wanted to create a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, without it being too obvious of a copycat. I realize that original story lines are hard to come up with (don’t want to make Hollywood writers work too hard), and that they wanted to make something really exciting, but they don’t need to call the movie something it isn’t. Copy the Three Musketeers story line, no problem; while it bugged people that Avatar was Dancing with Wolves in Space, audiences were still happy to go and see it. I also find offence that they mention Alexander Dumas in their adverts. Keep his good name away from this film!

I’m sure this will be an exciting film and that audiences will flock to it, but couldn’t they have given it a different name to avoid confusion? They could have called it “Extreme Musketeers”, or something like that. I’ll let the flying airships go, I’ll let the fact that Lady D’Winter has become Black Window or Laura Croft slide, the National Treasure-esque puzzles will be entertaining, but if you’re going to change everything give the movie a different name! Half makes me en-angered enough to demand government oversight of offences to our cultural heritage. Ahhh!

Categories: Entertainment

Requesting Remote Assistance

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment

If you find yourself in need of computer help and the person who can help either needs to see what you’re looking at, or needs to ‘drive’, what you need to do is Request Remote Assistance.

First, if you don’t have Messenger running: find Messenger (type ‘Messenger’ into the Start menu), and sign in with your Windows Live ID.

Finding Messenger

Find the person you want to assist you and start a chat with them. The option to Request Remote Assistance is in the menu bar, which by default is hidden. To find the menu bar select the more options button (two left arrows) at the bottom of chat window and select “Show the menu bar”.

Show Menu Bar

With the menu bar showing, find the actions menu and select “Request Remote Assistance”.

Request Remote

More information about Remote Assistance can be found at Windows Remote Assistance: Frequently Asked Questions.

How long to Sleep vs. Hibernate a computer

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

In Windows 7 there are two general ways to send a computer to a low power state when it is not in use: Sleep and Hibernate. For more details on both see Sleep and hibernation. I’ve always favored hibernation, but lately have felt that if I’m planning on using the computer again in less than eight hours to sleep it instead of hibernating. Eight hours was just pulled out of the air, no real science behind it. The other day I was talking with a friend and he felt that eight hours wasn’t long enough. He asked if I knew how much power the computer was using when sleeping, and I said I did not. So to find out for sure I purchased a Kill-A-Watt and have ran some tests. I wanted to know how much power sleeping my desktop took.

  • Computer on, low CPU:113 Watt
  • Sleeping: 15.5 Watt
  • Time to resume from sleep: 6 sec
  • Time to Hibernate: 33 sec
  • While hibernating: 13.4 Watt
  • Resume from Hibernate: 38 sec

Hibernation isn’t supposed to take any power, and it doesn’t. The power usage for when the computer is hibernating is the same as when the computer is off. But when I ran these tests I left the speakers on and in between everything else plugged into the power strip, that’s what the power consumption is. I figured this configuration would result in the most worthwhile numbers.

During both going to sleep and hibernating, as well as resuming from both, the Watt usage is higher than when the CPU is idling. It generally fluctuates between 130 and 150 Watts. I don’t have the resources to calculate exactly how much power was being used at any given point, so I’m going to have to assume that power consumption for resuming from both are the equivalent.

So with my rough calculations I get that the extra overhead of sleep is 6 sec * 130 Watt = 780 Watt seconds. Cycling through a Hibernation is (33 sec + 38 sec) * 130 Watt = 9230 Watt seconds. The difference between the two is 8450 Watt seconds. 8450 Watt seconds / 2.1 Watt = 4023.8 sec = 67 min.

Looks like my eight hour gut feeling was pretty far off. The point where hibernation begins to consume less power than sleeping is a little over one hour. Of course there are other things to consider like:

  • the Watt usage during any given second of resuming from hibernation is probably higher than resuming from sleep
  • The cost of my time to wait for resuming
  • Resuming from hibernation is “harder” on the system than resuming from sleep

So I don’t think I’m going to change my eight hour guideline. Now at least I have an educated guess as to when hibernation makes more sense than sleeping does.