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Until recently I was happy with an old-school phone-only phone. Now I have some time on a phone-that-does-more-than-calls smartphone. It is a unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
First impressions are that this is great fun - a lot of opportunities to waste time of course. And it also can make and receive phone calls, but that seems like an minor side feature nowadays.
Unfortunately, the whole experience is not yet completely satisfactory. Lot of minor and major glitches abound, and it took a while to get some simple essential tools enabled.
My goal was to get the 16GB device to work mostly over Wi-Fi and use it as an offline MP3 music and .avi/mp4/flv video player. And to play long audio books well, with bookmarking capability.
Not so simple, it turns out!
After over a year with Fedora 13, I updated my home desktop system to Ubuntu 11.10
Some 10+ years ago I hoped installing Linux would get easier over the years and one day I would be able to recommend it to non-tech family members. No such luck - getting ubuntu 11.10 up and running took too much time, and required too many difficult fixes.
My home machine runs a web browser. It is used for some minor video processing, GIMP image editing, digikam photo management, and is a host for a KVM/QEMU virtual machine that runs a web server for some specific tasks.
When installing a new operating system, I keep existing partitions so /home, etc is left unchanged. / is on its own, so can be completely cleaned and used by the new installer.
Most partitions are in a volume group, so LVM is necessary for booting.
There is always something interesting wherever you go in New York.
This weekend, waiting for the #1 downtown train at the 59th St station, the subway travelers were treated to a really incredible singer. She was on the opposite side platform, so the snippet Video of the Unknown 59th St Singer is a bit dark and noisy, but the singer's voice comes through quite nicely. A snapshot grabbed from the video.
The video is of Mad World, Google search says it is by Gary Jules (Mad World), also on Donnie Darko Soundtrack. And covered by many other singers as well. But this unknown singer on the subway, she was the best, and she had the best stage too!
And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying, Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very very
Mad World, Mad World ...
The lyrics fit the haunting voice of the singer very well, but she was even better in a previous song she sang,
Simon And Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair.
Really, really, great to hear such nice singing, in the busy underground world of NYC subways. To whoever that singer was, thank for your singing this weekend [2011-Nov-12].
This is about an interior fence in Arlington that is so revered by the Russell Place Condo Board, that they can think of absolutely no change that can be done to it, whether small or large.
Is this a border or boundary fence, you might ask? No, it isn't.
Is this a structural fence, you might ask? No, it isn't.
Is this protecting an important section, guiding peoples' passage, you might ask? No, it doesn't.
It ends up a pretty funny story and shows the absurd logic of the Board in defending their "No" answers regarding any change to the wooden fence.
The web is filled with the stories about crazy things that Condo Board of Trustees do. Most stories are nightmares, such as the Home Sweet Hell news report, and an entire blog devoted to Condos Nightmares And Other Enigmas.
The links above have quotes like "... That meant they controlled what condo fees everyone in the three-unit building paid, what would or wouldn’t get done to the property’s common areas..." and a description of what happens to normal people when they have to deal with a board of trustees - you enter the world of Rights-Deprived Citizens in America!
The articles above suggest that very small condo associations are a problem because a small number of people can gang up and completely control what goes on in the entire condo complex.
And that larger groups are much better, because no one small group can dictate their terms over all.
It sort-of makes sense, but turns out that does not turn out like that in practice.
2012 July update: After months of not using Reliance, I tried it again for a few times this month and it seemed to work fine for a couple of times. But then, it failed again - after 5 minutes into the call, the audio got cut-off, but the connection was still alive. So this is still not usable, all that has changed is it takes longer for the audio to cut out.
Starting in the middle of 2011, the calling card from Reliance GlobalCall has been a disaster to use. Every time I connect from the US to some number in India using their local access numbers, the audio abruptly cuts out. And there is just silence on the call at my end, and lot of static at the other end. This happens anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes into the call. At peak times on weekends it is really bad and cuts off in under 10-30 seconds.
For years, using Reliance to call India from US worked fine. Starting sometime in 2011, it has been touch-and-go, most of the time the conversation gets cut off even though the line is still connected.
So Craigslist is making it hard to post ads for real posters who care about their privacy (Craigslist Wants Your Phone Number) and simultaneously letting very easy-to-spot scam postings totally fill their vacation rental pages!
New York, and London - just look at the vacation rental pages on craigslist. So easy to spot the scams - when you see the same pattern of ad repeated many times, it is a scam. In addition to scams, craigslist is now filled with useless Airbnb postings which are just noise and do not provide a contact email address or phone number. The Airbnb automated postings are for Airbnb members only - craigslist should not allow them, they are just ads for Airbnb.
There are many sites with information on scams: Rental Scams, and here's a guide to craigslist scams. And important to note that while it is easy to spot the scammers that are from out-of-town, there are also scams involving local people, as shown in NY Times - Renters Get Swindled and Scammed article.
The easy signs of a scam are poor English in the posting and in subsequent communication, too many postings that look the same with different rentals and different email addresses, "contract" does not contain dates (they want you to fill in dates which means they don't really care), you can change dates a lot and apartment will still be available, and sometimes - low prices (no way a NYC midtown 2-bedroom apartment is available for $200/day). And if you ask to see the apartment and the renting agent immediately (even just as a bait - ask this even if you are not in that town), they will make up a reason why that is not possible, and that indicates a scam.
I had not used for craigslist to post classifieds for a long time and had never run into this problem. But looks like now any posting to craigslist requires a phone number where they send a code which has to be entered into the phone authentication page.
They now want a phone number for posting a $10 ad about selling old chairs? Why on earth?
If this is supposed to filter spam, it certainly won't - spammers will find it worth their time to provide a phone number. And it has not cut down on spam at all - the electronics section is so full of spam - it is mostly spam - with text not matching the title and a big image on the page displaying a web site to go to for "deals". And vacation section pages are full of people posting from other cities and completely useless for actually finding a place in the local city.
So, craigslist has just made life difficult for ordinary citizens, who no longer have a phone or don't want craigslist to know their phone number. Another site gone to the dark side, what happened to all the free speech principles that founder Craig Newmark seemed to have started off with in the early days of craigslist. Now all gone by the wayside ostensibly for spam prevention but probably more of a corporate strategy to get more information about the posters. So sad.
craigslist is now completely useless for posting any ads. Need to find other online classified site that can use automated means to weed out spammers, and don't penalize real users of the site by asking for unnecessary information such as private phone numbers.
Providing assistance recently to a few people who started using Blogger, it becomes clear that while Blogger provides a wide range of tools, some key features are missing. The current feature set of blogger is somewhat confusing in terms of which target audience is actually fully covered.
Here are some things that are not easy to do in current Blogger - while some gadgets or widgets may be claim to provide the feature, they are not really easily usable. Though things do seem to be improving periodically, and there may come a time in the future when a decent, complete set of features is available.
The audience for these type of features is the low-volume blogger, blogging for personal use, and for friends and family. These features are very easy to provide in a hosted version of Wordpress, as a comparison point. It would be nice if Blogger could be used to build a social-media network for a small group, kind of like a friends-and-family network. This is something not doable right now.
Breckenridge, Colorado claims to be one of the largest and most-visited ski resorts in North America, but it is not easy to get much information on the mountain related to ski trail reviews. All the search engines spew out is sales info on condos and travel packages. Here are some usable reviews: NYTimes, Dom's Skiing Breckenridge, Epinions.
So, here's a collection of brief points and answers a first-time traveler might want to know. Mostly from the point of view of intermediate skiers, who may also handle a few of the black diamond expert trails.
Here's a (large PDF) Breckenridge trail map.
So my local library is using NetLibrary for renting out audio books.
This was working just fine, though the download process was a three-step thing - first download to local computer, play MP3 to obtain license, and then copy to portable MP3 player using Windows MediaPlayer. But - this process worked just fine, with no problems.
Then, in their infinite wisdom, the NetLibrary people have unleashed a separate stand-alone Windows program, called "NetLibrary Media Center" - which is supposed to make downloads easier. Good idea - but pretty bad execution.
Be warned - that program is nothing but grief. First of all, its user-interface is from the dark ages - windows that cannot be moved or re-sized, clunky buttons, no good feedback on actions or what it is doing.
But - it also deletes all files in folders without warning. Yes, here is a program that NetLibrary asks to be downloaded to make transferring eAudioBooks easier, and that program will clean out certain folders. If you go into Preferences, and point the folder to a different location, NetLibrary will delete all files without any warning. And with all this, it did not recognize the MP3 player plugged in - which Windows Media Player located just fine. So, there was no way to actually transfer the audio to the player.
This program belongs in the trash bin - it is one of the most poorly designed - and useless - utilities developed. And of course, now that NetLibrary has this new program, their old way of downloading a audiobook to the local disk does not work. The web pages claim it works, but it ends up in "Requested page could not be found" error. Thankfully, there is a way around this - in the Web NetLibrary account "Edit My Account" page, uncheck the Download Preference "Use NetLibrary Media Center". This should reset the download option, and show the link to download the CD-quality MP3 which can be copied to portable players.