Thursday, November 19, 2009

Spell checking in VIM

Today I learned that VIM has spell checking if you're using version 7 or newer. I added the following lines to my .vimrc

set spell
set spelllang=en

You can then use the following keys to manipulate spelling:

zG - Add the mispelled word to the global spelling file
zuG - Remove the just added word from the spelling file
z= - View spelling suggestions for the word

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Droid and Verizon, oh my.

My last entry was a scathing rant against AT&T and, to a lesser extent, Verizon in which I concluded that I would suffer through AT&T's shortcomings and purchase a microcell. Days later I visited a local AT&T store where I received deplorable service.  It was then that I realized I should not be paying a company additional money for sub-par service - doing so gives them my permission to continue on this pathetic path.

Days later I began seeing advertisements for the Motorola Droid offered by Verizon. I was excited to see an Android device on Verizon's network and my interest was peaked yet again. I decided to give Verizon another try and purchased the Droid the morning it was released.

Physical Design
For me, the physical design of the Droid is a welcome change. The phone has straight edges and a wonderful weight. The display is absolutely brilliant, responsive to touch, and a pleasure to use. Overall the hardware feels far superior to its plastic brethren.

I was glad to see a physical keyboard yet I was worried that the design would be lacking. The slide mechanism feels solid although it has opened slightly in my pocket on a few occasions. The number keys were removed and several meta keys are re-arranged in comparison to my HTC Dream Dev 1. My typing started painfully slow but improved after a few short hours. I still find the key layout to be somewhat disappointing. The keys are vertically aligned, unlike a normal qwerty keyboards that are slightly angled, which may be attributing to my annoyance. I have found that I prefer to use the on screen keyboard since the display functions so well.

I have read several complaints about the battery door and I have to agree that this is a terrible design flaw. If you are removing the phone from a tight pocket or awkward position you will are likely to detach the door too. I have done this several times, mostly in the car where the battery door went flying under my seat.

The battery life has been fine so far; however, I already have a habit of keeping a charger in my backpack and charging every night. I have put the phone through some serious use and it seems to last throughout the day.

Many people were excited to see a 5MP camera on the phone - I am not one of these people. I will always prefer a real camera (especially my D-SLR). It is fun to see a phone that has a higher resolution camera but it's still a camera phone. The optics seem sub-par and the software compression adds a great deal of noise. This camera will work fine for scanning barcodes or uploading quick images to Twitter but that's about it.

Android 2.0
The latest release of the Android operating system, eclair, is a pleasure to use. This release continues to polish the user interface and provide a consistent feel throughout the phone. Many software packages were added, or updated, and pack a ton of usability.

My phone is tied to my personal account but I have a plethora of data associated to my work account as well. My favorite change to the operating system is the ability to sync multiple accounts. The multiple account sync allows you to sync contacts and mail from numerous accounts but you're still limited to a single calendar which must be the primary account for the device. This really bothers me because I want to use my personal account for everything but my calendar. Why not share it? Well, my work account has a restriction that I may not share my calendar to another domain. Why not use your work account as the primary? I would but there are too many features (such as latitude) that use the primary account and cannot be changed.

One of the biggest features added to eclair is Google Navigate. The few times I have used the application the experience far surpassed my Garmin GPS unit. Sadly I still have to keep my GPS unit since Google Navigate requires a working data connection which I have been without on numerous occasions.

The browser has also been improved greatly. By default you are now presented with a full view of the page and you may tap to zoom. The open windows interface was also cleaned and allows for easy access and closing. Bookmarks now allows you to see a thumbnail view of your sites but I am very disappointed that you still cannot re-arrange them (without downloading an app).

Overall I am extremely happy with the Droid and Verizon's service. I am impressed with the improvements made to Android but the community still amazes me. It's not surprising that many applications broke with the new hardware and operating system; however, every popular application had a note regarding the issues and were fixed within days of the release. Most of these applications are free and maintained in someone's free time. The passion and commitment of the developers it what makes this operating system truly special.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Midtown Arts Show

Today Jenna and I went to the Midtown Arts Show to support our friend Joie. It's a small exhibition held at an Atlanta self-storage facility. It was great to see Joie and I purchased two paintings from Jhon A. Restrepo while there:

I really like the style of the paintings and can't wait to hang them up. I posted better photos of each painting here and here. The show continues tomorrow, November 15th, from 12pm - 5pm for anyone interested.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can you hear me now? Sort of?

I  always seem to get poor cell reception when I am at home. This has been a problem in Acworth, Kennesaw, and Smyrna across numerous providers including AT&T, T-Mobile, and now Verizon. 

After several unsuccessful attempts to call Jenna on my way home I decided to stop by my local Verizon store. I walked in, added myself to the electronic queue, and started to browse phones. I received service extremely quickly and I was pleased with the entire experience. I purchased the Samsung Smooth, a relatively cheap phone, with the expectation of upgrading to an Android device once available. The Smooth is a CMDA phone and has four possible bars of reception.

I placed a couple of calls after leaving the store - each of which were perfectly clear. I only had three bars; however, my hopes were getting higher. In contrast my AT&T phone did have perfect signal outside of the store.

Once I arrived home the new started to feel just like the old. My signal dipped to 2 bars and then started dropping to one or zero at random. I placed another call which lasted about 15 minutes and it sounded pretty clear. There were a few small issues, what I can only describe as sound artifacts, but nothing major. While the call quality was ok it's not enough of an improvement for me to sacrifice my Android device, pay $200 for a low-end phone, and still deal with poor signal.

Tomorrow I plan on going to my local AT&T store to purchase a MicroCell device which I only hope improves things. It will, of course, be returned if it fails.  My Verizon account will be cancelled within the next couple of days as well.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No more online classes.

Over the past 8 weeks I have been taking Calculus I as an online course from Kennesaw State University. Throughout the entire course I have complained about the structure, content, and complete lack of instructor interaction. Tonight I decided to withdraw from the class.

This course has been a burden and overwhelming source of stress. I expected the course to be challenging when I enrolled; however, I did not expect it to consume nearly all of my time outside of work. Every night I came home to eat and work on assignments. This really reduced the amount of time I could spend with Jenna or Logan. All of this and I still do not feel I have a true understanding of the content.

I have watched numerous videos that did not fully explain the content, read cryptic passages in my text, and completed homework tasks that would make sense but not form a complete picture. I feel cheated that I had to pay an additional $100 per credit hour to take an online course that resulted in a professor answering a few emails and grading 3 tests - one take home and 2 given by an assistant.

I am very disappointed that I was unable to complete the online course but I cannot dedicate the amount of time required for now. I am already preparing to register for next semester so I may take the course on campus.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quickcam Fusion Linux CLI

Today I wanted to setup a QuickCam Fusion webcam to capture snapshots from the command line (Ubuntu Hardy 8.10 specifically). I tried several programs such as luvcview and streamer but both gave me problems. Finally I came across uvccapture and it works perfectly:

uvccapture -x960 -y720 -oimg-`date +%Y%m%d%I%M%S`.jpg

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dragon*Con 2009: The Mad Scientist Ball

This weekend I spent the majority of my time at Dragon*con thanks to an extra pass from Will. The dealer room and art show seemed very similar to years past; however, my main focus was the Mad Scientist Ball. The event consisted of three performances: One Eyed Doll, ArcAttack, and Rev. Ivan Stang.

I decided to actually dress up this year since I had an idea of what to expect from the ball. It was a lot of fun walking around with a lab coat, TI-86, glowing tubes, pens, and welding goggles.

My primary interest was ArcAttack because I had the chance to see them last year. The show was bigger and better than before. They managed to obtain a larger room which allowed for bigger Tesla coils and more electricity. Since I recently purchased a Flip Ultra HD camcorder I took several videos of the performance which are available on my YouTube channel.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Switching to Blogger

I use my server for hosting demos, testing, and other content. For quite some time I also hosted a wordpress blog for myself. I got tired of worrying about uptime and patches for my blog so I finally moved it to Blogger.

During the transition I found Wordpress2Blogger to convert my exported Wordpress WXR file to a Blogger XML file. This tool converted my text content perfectly but stumbled on images. I was pleasantly surprised that it even imported comments. Hopefully I will have all of my posts updated in about an hour - not a bad amount of work for performing a clean transition.

Logan has arrived.

Logan Matthew Schrier was born on Aug. 16, 2008 at 7:57 PM. I posted numerous tweets during the progress but I have been extremely busy and not had time to write about the experience.

Jenna's doctor planned to induce labor on the 15th; however, the hospital was full so we were delayed until 4am the next morning. Jenna was immediately placed on medication and her water was broken four hours later. Sadly she had to endure contractions for approximately eight hours before the doctor decided to perform a c-section.

I was allowed to stay with Jenna throughout the entire operation. I had never witnessed surgery before, especially on someone I care about as much as her. While it was difficult to watch my wife be cut open it was still very interesting and I handled myself well. It was shocking and amazing to watch Logan emerge from her body - I snapped numerous pictures but I doubt I will be posting them. It was an amazing feeling to hear Logan cry for the first time. Approximately an hour later Jenna was stitched up, Logan was doing well, and we were headed for recovery.

Once we were in the recovery room all responsibility for Logan was given to me. I'm not sure why but I expected the nurses to be slightly more involved than they were. Nurses were in the room every couple of hours checking Jenna and, to a lesser extent, Logan. We stayed in the hospital for four exhausting days. Jenna recovered better than I ever expected and was walking Tuesday and showering by Wednesday.

We were ecstatic to return home. Even though we were alone and responsible for Logan we felt much more comfortable. Our routine is improving each day and Jenna and I are enjoying the time together.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Beginning Eclipse

Vim has been my editor of choice for quite some time; however, I recently started investigating Eclipse for my development. Eclipse appealed to me because of it's support for GWT and AppEngine but is still difficult to use at times.

I installed Eclipse 3.4.2 (Ganymede) and found myself rather disappointed for file types other than Java. HTML and CSS are poorly handled by the default text editor. I immediately started searching for a plugin and stumbled upon Project Amateras. Amateras provides a nice environment but I have had numerous problems with soft tabs and indentation.

I spent a bit of time fighting with formatting because of these problems; however, I was able to write nearly all of the CSS and base HTML for MealTicket. The first bit of code has been checked into my SVN repository and will hopefully improve each day.

Peter Manis pointed me to Aptana which I hope to try tomorrow. The product looks a bit more polished so I'm hopeful that it will excel past Amateras.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

New project: MealTicket

Preview of MealTicket
I started working on a new personal project today called MealTicket. The goal of the project is to help arrange group meals (at restaurants) by providing a simple voting structure similar to Google Moderator. I am using this as my first real attempt to work with Google Web Toolkit (GWT) and plan on documenting the process.

Today I created an initial design of the user interface in photoshop. I only worked on it for a couple of hours since it's a holiday and I wanted to enjoy some time outside. There are numerous features that I have to create which may, or may not be, evident from the mock up:
  • Support single day and re-occuring events
  • Event invite since events will be private (maybe add public events eventually)
  • Ability to mark a restaurant as visited with the option to not re-appear for X days, months, or ever
  • Integration with Google Calendar
  • Possible Yelp integration
  • Resturant suggestions based on your history (and maybe based on other users)
I am comptemplating a rating system where each member could rate, and potentially comment, on the visit. If a particular user does not rate the restaurant well then it will not show up in suggestions. This could also improve the suggestion for other users but may be a conflict with the Yelp integration.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Vacation: Hilton Head Island

Last week Jenna and I went on vacation at Hilton Head Island, SC. We decided to take the trip as a last attempt to relax before the baby arrives in August. The trip was a success and very relaxing since the majority of our time was spent walking on the beach and lounging at the Mariott hotel. The island is obviously known for its array of golf courses but neither of us are interested in golf so this was not a big deal for us.

We decided to stay at the Mariott because it was one of the only hotels with a true ocean front room available on I think this was an excellent decision because we had a wonderful view and a near constant breeze coming from the ocean. The hotel also had hammocks and lounge chairs which we frequently used. Our only complaint was our rather pitiful air conditioning unit which was bothersome at night when we closed our patio door.

Overall the trip was fun but we had to be mindful of our budget. The liquor at the hotel was overpriced as expected; however, there was a liquor store a couple of miles away. I purchased a bottle of rum and some pineapple juice which kept my camelbak well supplied. There are several resturants to choose from on the Island including chains and unique family owned resturants. We opted to sample the family owned resturants and one resturant in our hotel, Blu.

I also used the trip as an excuse to play with the 50D some more. It seems that the more I use the camera the more I love it. I didn't take as many photos as I had expected but that was probably because I was afraid to take it onto the beach with the frequent wind gusts which left my mouth tasting like sand. I have posted a few photos on flickr but they are mostly sunrise and sunset scenes.

This is a great place to visit if you are looking for a beautiful beach, golfing, and a relaxed atmosphere and you are willing to deal with high prices of a very tourist driven economy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New photo equipment

A couple of weeks ago I decided to sell my photography equipment and start fresh. I sold my 20D and a couple of lenses to one of my co-workers, David. After selling the 20D I ordered a Canon 50D and 17-55mm IS USM lens.

I did quite a bit of research before ordering the 50D and feel that it was the best choice for me. I was debating purchasing the Canon T1i upon its release; however, there were many features removed (or reduced) from the 50D that I wanted:
  • 1/8000 sec shutter speed
  • 6.3 fps burst
  • Pentaprism view finder
  • Scroll wheel for quickly changing settings
  • Top controls with LCD
  • Larger body which feels better in my hand
Those were the features which mattered to me (and that I can recall) but dpreview has a great side by side comparison of 50D and 500D. The HD video (1920 x 1080) almost lured me to the 500D but after reading that it is limited to 20fps I lost all interest. The fact that the 50D uses the BP 511-A battery was also a huge plus since I have an extra battery and battery grip from the 20D.

So far I absolutely love the 50D and I feel that it has rekindled my love for photography. I'm forcing myself to make time for photography; however, I also have a lot of plans such as school, the baby, and home improvements that may impact my ability to shoot as frequently as I should.

I also moved to flickr in hopes to post more photos and gain additional exposure.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

HTC Dream Accessories

Every Googler received an HTC Dream as their 2008 holiday bonus. Officially called the Android Dev 1, these devices are very similar to the T-Mobile G1 but without many of the boundaries. I was excited to finally own an Android device and wanted to protect my shiny new toy.

I started researching and speaking with co-workers about protection and cases. I quickly focused on Zagg's invisibleSHIELD and Naztech's Gladiator II case.


invisibleSHIELD corner
Zagg's invisibleSHIELD has become one of the best known protective methods for cell phones and other electronics. I purchased a whole body shield on Christmas day and it arrived twelve days later. I would normally be upset with a nearly two week delivery; however, this was bearable considering it was the holidays. I read the installation instructions and spent approximately an hour installing it on my Dream. My installation went well but I could not perfect the corners using the palm or thumb techniques. A couple of the corners never made full contact to the device; looking back I wish I had used a blow dryer as well. If the corners begin to peel away I may contact Zagg and request a replacement under their lifetime warranty.

The invisibleSHIELD gave my Dream a completely new texture. When I first installed the shield my phone bordered on tacky but after a few days I realized that it had subsided to a clean and barely noticeable feel. I really like having the whole body protection but I recommend the screen protection at a minimum. The shield does not impare the visibility of the screen and, like the body, it has a wonderful feel now that it has broken in.

A few days after installing my shield Zagg released a how-to video for installing on the G1. I did not realize how liberally I should use the installation spray until after installing mine and reviewing the videos. Considering the amount of spray that comes with the kit you can be extremely liberal as long as you avoid the open ports.

Gladiator II
I ordered a Naztech Gladiator II case from onlyg1 on the same day that I ordered my invisibleSHIELD. It took nearly a month for it to be delivered. I would be more understanding of the delay if the company had contacted me to inform me of a shortage, when the package actually shipped, or anything. They charged my credit card almost immediately after I purchased the case which is unacceptable considering it didn't ship for an additional 20 days. Around this time I contacted the company by phone to learn where my case was which was successful after approximately 25 minutes of being on hold. After a bit of digging I learned that OnlyG1 is part of the onlyphonenetwork, is associated to EliteXtreme, and has horrible consumer reviews overall. Thankfully my encounter with OnlyG1 has absolutely no reflection on the Naztech case.

The case is absolutely wonderful and I would suggest it to anyone. One of my coworkers, tgrey, originally suggested it to me and I am glad that I listened. This case is one of the most durable phone cases I have ever owned. The belt clip connections are metal which is a great improvement since I have destroyed many cases at that location. The case comes with two different belt clips as well, one for clipping inside a pocket and another for fastening around a belt. I use the clip that fastens around my belt and enjoy how secure it feels. Many people have suggested to avoid cases with magnets because it can cause problems with the Dream's compass; however, I rarely use that functionality and have not encountered a problem so far. This case may be a little bulky for some people but I'm glad to finally get my phone out of my front pocket.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Still expecting.

A few weeks ago I announced that Jenna was pregnant. We were extremely happy and started preparing; however, New Years Eve was devastating as Jenna and I believed she miscarried. I kept this pretty quiet and only made a single tweet about it, mostly because I didn't know how to handle it.

New years eve was spent at home playing games since Jenna did not feel up to attending any parties. Will decided to ditch his parties and join us. Approximately thirty minutes after midnight Jenna rushed to our bedroom without saying anything. I assumed that she just went to the restroom and after several minutes I decided to check on her. I walked into the bedroom to discover Jenna sitting on the floor crying, I knew what had happened without asking. Jenna had started bleeding heavily and was certain she miscarried. She said that she didn't even feel pregnant anymore. All I could do was hold her, I knew nothing that I said would comfort her.

After a few minutes I contacted Kennestone Hospital to see if we she come to the Emergency Room. I spoke with their oncall staff who, after informing me they could not provide medical advice over the phone, stated that if the bleeding was not severe and there was no fever then it would probably be safe to wait and contact her OB/GYN. I did a lot of reading online from my phone and after speaking with Jenna decided this would be acceptable. Jenna asked me to call her OB/GYN to make the appointment because she was still having a hard time handling what had happened. I called to make the appointment; however, Jenna's doctor was on vacation until January 12th. The receptionist spoke with one of the partner physicians and told me that it would be safe to wait until her doctor returned. I made the appointment for 9:30AM so we could met with her as soon as possible. I continued to monitor Jenna based on the conditions that the OB/GYN, Kennestone, and the internet suggested with the expectation of rushing her to the hospital if needed.

Jenna asked me to go with her this morning because she was unsure if she would be able to handle it alone, especially if a D&C was required. We arrived at the office and waited patiently, the doctor was running approximately 2 hours late due to a surgery. Once the doctor arrived she examined Jenna and believed that she had indeed miscarried. The doctor was hopeful that Jenna was able to handle the miscarriage naturally and did not require a D&C. They decided to perform an ultrasound to confirm that everything was progressing normally.

Jenna's sonogram
The sonographer started the process and uttered the words "there's a baby." Jenna and I both feared that this meant she needed a D&C. In a state of disbelief I asked if there was a heart beat. Jenna burst into tears as the sonographer told us there was a strong heart beat and proceeded to let us hear it. We were both in a state of absolute shock. We had been coping with the loss over the past couple of weeks and finally started to overcome it.

We returned to the examination room and were joined by the doctor who was as surprised as we were. She informed us that there was a slight separation from the uterus which probably caused the bleeding. This means that Jenna is now at a slightly higher risk for miscarring. This should not be a problem as long as Jenna reduces back her work schedule. The doctor was also concerned that her hormone levels may have dipped which would result in her feeling different and "no longer pregnant." They took several vials of blood and will have the results by Thursday.

Looking back on it I wish I had just rushed Jenna to the Emergency Room like my instinct told me I should. We are both elated and only hope that today is the end of our recent emotional rollercoaster. Thank you for everyone who has stood by us, sent condolances, and shared personal stories. It meant more to us than you can imagine and we truly appreciate it.