Religious Orders

Handy Boy!

Posted: Friday April 19 2013 @ 5:12pm

Religious Order: Toys

Okay, I'm not very handy at all, but I've always wanted to keep some sort of multi-tool in my pocket, preferably as part of a keychain. But everything I've tried has either been too heavy and bulky or was lacking in tools. Then I saw this Instructable about converting a Leatherman Micra into a wee little pocket knife. Damn, that's cool! I could maybe do that! The only tool you lose are the scissors. Who really uses the scissors anyway? Can't a knife fit the bill most of the time?

So I looked around for the Leatherman Micra I thought I had. Didn't find one. (Perhaps I have an off-brand clone somewhere. Perhaps not.) Luckily, I've recently become addicted to Amazon Prime and a new Micra was in my hands shortly thereafter. (Cost me a whole twenty bucks with free two-day shipping.)

Following the instructions, I took it apart. I didn't have the world's greatest locking pliers, so it took a bit of time and effort, plus it nicked the bolt-heads up a bit. Good quality locking pliers would make it fairly trivial to do. Here are the pieces with which I was left:

(Actually, that shot is missing some stuff, but nothing that's needed for the rebuild.)

Putting them together wasn't too difficult, taking me around 20-30 minutes. Frankly, it was easier than futzing with the awful Switch knife I bought off of Quirky. (Really sweet concept. Abominally poor execution.) The only piece I added that wasn't in the original Micra was a small o-ring to provide some friction to hold the tweezers in. The instructions suggest a small washer, but I had some teeny o-rings and one worked perfectly. Be sure to put the tools in the same order as the instructions, to ensure there's room underneath for the tweezers. Or leave the tweezers out. I don't care.

The end result is a really nice wee pocket knife that is small and light, providing the exact correct amount of heft for a keychain, while also providing a wide array of tools. Here's what it looks like:

Honestly, this was easy and the results are great. If you have a couple of decent locking pliers, really, drop a twenty on a Micra and give it a shot.

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Well, that sucked!

Posted: Monday February 18 2013 @ 7:45am

Religious Order: Toys

Long ago, I bought a Nintendo 3DS, primarily on which to view 3D photos I took. But I did buy a few games. One was Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. It sucked. The fighting from the console versions was replaced with a sort of a duel, similar to the duels in the Lego Harry Potter games, only it was every fucking time you fought someone. I think. I haven't played it in awhile. Anyway, it was obnoxious enough that I never played it again.

A couple weeks ago, my wife was replacing some of her Wii Lego games with PS3 versions. (The PS3 versions look nicer and can be updated online. With the Wii, you're stuck with any bugs, some of which are show-stoppers.) I saw that Lego Batman for the 3DS was only $20. The console version rocks. It's a thing of joy to fly through an open-world Gotham. Wouldn't it be even better in 3D in the palm of your hand?

Well, things started out fine. The levels play pretty much like they do on the console. They're simplified a bit, but still harken back to the fuller version. The dreaded dueling stuff from Pirates was gone. Sweet!

When I finally got to play as Superman, things fell apart. Can he fly? Well, sorta. He can fly about 6 feet off the ground. That's all. There are certain areas where he can fly up, namely wherever Batman could use a grapple. But free-flying? Forget it!

Well, maybe that limitation is only in the levels. Maybe the open-world Gotham is better. Wait... what? There's no open-world Gotham? There's just the levels? Fuuuuuuuuuck!

It's true. There is no wandering around Gotham, looking for wrongs to right. That sucks! Should I have been expecting it? Well, the back cover boasts Discover Lego Gotham City. I guess it didn't say Explore the open world of Gotham City.

Nor do you get to find and fight all those bad guys. What you do get to do is collect sound clips of them. Instead of finding and fighting Sinestro, you find a Sinestro sound clip which you can later play to hear what he said in the console game. It's like they wanted to shove the limitation in your face.

I guess, overall, it isn't horrible when viewed solely on its own. Still, a Superman who can't really fly? WTF?

Oh, wait, it completely crashed once, too. Luckily just after saving some data, so no harm done. Still, sloppy.

I bought Lego Lord of the Rings yesterday. Since no one flies in the console version, I won't be disappointed by the lack. Also, the cover boasts Explore the open world of Middle-earth[sic]. So I better fucking be able to do so!

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Another Test Post

Posted: Saturday November 10 2012 @ 3:07pm

Religious Order: Toys

Yeah, here's another one.

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Test Post

Posted: Saturday November 10 2012 @ 1:05pm

Religious Order: Toys

Just a test post from my new toy.

(A Nexus 7 tablet.)

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Audacious or Ridiculous?

Posted: Wednesday May 16 2012 @ 6:59am

Religious Order: Toys

I'm not sure what to make of the Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative project on KickStarter. It's Interactive Fiction, also known as a text adventure. (Insert fond memories of Infocom here.) It's set in Colonial Williamsburg, during colonial times, of course.

So, who the hell wants a text adventure set in Colonial Williamsburg? Well, me, for one. I live near Williamsburg and I loved text adventures. Apparently there are also 53 other people for whom the thought scratches a particular itch.

The goal is a modest one, only $1,500. And he's 90% of the way there. And he still has 18 days to get that last chuck pledged. But I'd hate to see this not happen. So, head over there and pledge five goddamn dollars, if only to see such an oddball idea come to fruition.

(Truth be told, if it gets to the deadline and he's still a bit short, I'll increase my pledge to get him over the hump. I mean, c'mon, it's a Colonial Williamsburg text adventure!)

Personally, I love KickStarter and have backed several projects.

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Recumbent Tadpole Trike Pros and Cons

Posted: Thursday September 08 2011 @ 11:06am

Religious Order: Toys

So, I've had my new trike for less than a week and I've ridden it about 20 miles total. So now I'm an expert and can list some pros and cons:



Well, the list of cons looks longer. But the cons are all minor things. The pros are major things. So far, I absolutely love this trike. I'm getting a much better work-out than I ever did while walking, without any of the side-effects of riding a normal bike. No, it was neither cheap nor easy to buy. But it was well worth the time and effort to do so.

I should also thank the fine folks at Mt Airy Bicycles for the considerable amount of time they spent with me, both in person and via email, ensuring that I made an informed purchase.

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Tommy Has a Trike!

Posted: Tuesday September 06 2011 @ 10:31am

Religious Order: Toys

Yes, I bought a trike. No, not a kids trike. I bought a recumbent tadpole trike. Yeah, I know, weird.

See, here's the thing. I've been wanting to get more exercise, in order to get my weight back down. (It's not up in the fat-boy range, but it's higher than I would like.) But I can't really walk fast enough to really get much of a work-out. I could try running, but I have bad knees and I'm duck-footed. (Duck footed is the opposite of pigeon-toed.) So running would probably end in injury. I wanted to get a bicycle, but there are problems with that. First off, I have some nerve damage in my hands from back when my blood sugar was out of control. Leaning forward on my hands is really not something I should be doing. Second, I did not want to revisit numb-crotch. (I did some long-distance biking in my youth. While numb-crotch would always go away soon after I got off the bike, there's no guarantee of that for a diabetic in his mid-40s.)

An alternate would be a recumbent bicycle. But that still requires some balance and I'm very clumsy. Plus, I'm on some meds for my kidneys that can lower my blood pressure. Combined with the small, but real, chance of low blood sugar while exercising, I was looking for something more stable. If I get light-headed, I'd rather be on 3 wheels, 9 inches off the ground, than balanced on two a couple feet up.

Meanwhile, my dad, now in his 70s, bought himself a trike. He was always an avid cycler, but time and shoulder surgeries made a traditional bicycle a non-starter. And he really loves his trike. So, I went shopping for one.

I did some online research and determined which makes and models interested me. Unfortunately, the nearest dealer was 4+ hours away. So we headed up one weekend and I tried out a number of different trikes. Then I went home and thought about it a bit. Because, y'know, these damn things start at a grand for the lowest of the low end. Figure two grand for a good mid-line trike. And three grand and up for the really good stuff.

It only took me a few days to decide. Riding them was a blast. No, really, a recumbent tadpole trike is just stupid fun to ride. They handle like go-carts. And you're so low to the ground that everything feels faster and sharper. (If you've ever driven a Honda CRX, it's the same sort of thing.)

So I ordered the one I liked best and waited. For a few weeks. Because they make each one by hand, pretty much as ordered. And then we borrowed a pick-up truck and drove the 4+ hours each way to bring it home.

And here it is:

Catrike Trail Front Three-Quarter View

Catrike Trail Rear Three-Quarter View

I went for the Catrike Trail, which is a good solid mid-line trike.

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How to De-iOS-ify OS X Lion

Posted: Thursday July 28 2011 @ 11:30am

Religious Order: Toys

Don't upgrade to Lion.

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New Phone!

Posted: Thursday March 31 2011 @ 6:23am

Religious Order: Toys

It was finally time to upgrade my phone. I had been using an LG enV touch for the past two years. It's a decent phone, with a good clamshell keyboard. But the touch-screen was horrible.

I decided to jump ship from Apple and get an Android phone instead of an iPhone. Picked the brand-spanking new HTC Thunderbolt. So far, I like it. It's a nicer phone than the enV, albeit a crap-load bigger. And I'm liking it better as a PDA compared to my iPod touch. Here are just a few things I like better about it, so far:

And, a few things I don't like:

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Why the Mac App Store is an Evil, Evil Thing

Posted: Sunday January 23 2011 @ 10:37am

Religious Order: Toys

(This is a rant. I hammered it out right before bed last night. And I'm not in a mood to really edit it down. So take it as is, realizing that I may be wrong about the details. And I have nothing against the particular developer I quote below. I'm not mad at him. I'm mad at Apple.)

The Mac, as a computing platform, has just started its long decline into becoming a toy. It's sad. The things are Unix workstations with nice GUIs. Techie geeks love them. Normal folks love them. The world is about to get better for the latter group. It's about to suck for the former. I'm part of the former.

Here's why: The Mac App Store.

The App Store is going to turn Macs into toys, just like iPhones and iPads are.

What? iPhones and iPads are toys? Yes, if you do anything remotely technical in nature, they're just fucking toys. Maybe you can do real work on them. But I can't. I can't code. I can't do XML. And I can't automatically sync arbitrary third-party apps when I sync the damn thing. (Something that Palm PDAs could do pretty much from the get go.)

Does the syncing matter? Damn straight it does. Without providing hooks into the syncing process, third-party apps either have to make you manually sync each app separately and wirelessly, or else have to provide and maintain an online syncing service. Either way sucks.

The bottom line is that my stuff is never in sync. Passwords in sync? Nope. ToDo lists in sync? Nope.

Unless iTunes handles it, it doesn't get synced easily. If it doesn't get synced easily, it doesn't get synced. And if I don't have updated data in my PDA, it's just a fucking toy.

Honestly, look at what you do with yours. I mainly check email/Facebook/Twitter, occasionally view web sites, and play stupid little games. It's a toy.

And it's a toy because you don't get to decide what you can put on it. Apple gets to decide that.

And that's okay. I knew that when I bought one. But now that attitude is infecting the computer platform.

There's an App Store for the full-on computers. And developers are gonna jump at it. Why? Here's what one said, after I complained that his switching to App-Store-only distribution makes me cry:

It's true that customers get shafted a bit with slow updates. For indie devs though, it's a freaking godsend.

And he's right. It's great for him. For now. And it's great for a reason, because it's the only way to get him to sign onto a schema that will destroy the platform, turning it into an infantilized version of a real computer. And, for normal folks, that's fine.

But it's going to leave behind folks who use their computers to get serious shit done. It's going to drive away serious users. Why? Because the App Store approach sucks:

1) Authorization Sucks

Honestly, every third time I sync my iPod touch, it demands I authorize my computer. And then it tells me that it's already authorized. I put up with it, because my iPod touch is just a toy. Do you think I'm going to cede authority to run real can't-earn-my-keep-without-them apps to Apple, given that? No, I'm not.

And, what happens when I buy a new computer and still want to keep using the old one? Can I move selected apps from one to the other? From what I've read, the answer is nope. It's all or nothing.

I don't want a third-party telling me what I can and can't run on my computer!

2) Delayed Updating Sucks

Oh noes! Your app has a major bug that you missed? Well, tough shit. You gotta wait for Apple's approval. How long will that take? No one has any fucking clue.

Do I care? Not if it's some dumb-shit game. But, if it's an app I use to get my real work done, I sure care! And I have no patience for developers who signed onto the App Store approach who then complain about the delays. You had a fucking choice! (At least today, you did. By signing on now, you're dooming your ability to choose later.)

I don't want a third-party delaying a developer in fixing a flaw that's preventing me from getting my business shit done!

3) Steve Jobs' Judeo-Christian Morals Suck

Does your app have a strong political or sexual component? I have strong political and sexual views. I'm not interesting is having what I can put on my computer limited by Steve Jobs' sense of morals. (Which is really bizarre considering that Jobs doesn't really have much in the way of ethics. Go read up on his treatment of Woz int he early days. The guy is a major asshole.)

I don't want a third-party's morals filtering what I can put on my computer!

4) Apple's Aversion to Competition Sucks

Apple makes a lot of apps themselves. Sometimes they're great. Sometimes they're bearable. Sometimes they suck. If my business is dependent on a non-sucking replacement, I don't want to worry about Apple deleting my apps because they're worried that the app is competing with one of their own products.

I don't want a third-party forcing me to use their own crap apps in lieu of better competing alternatives!

5) Disorganized App Storage Sucks

I don't know this for sure, but I think that the App Store just dumps every app you buy into your Applications directory. That's horrible! How are you supposed to find what you need?

One of the great things about OS X is that you can organize apps into directories. Very few apps demand to be directly in the Applications directory. (Oddly, most of them are Apple's own apps.)

And if you're a serious user, you have a lot of apps. I have a ton of graphics apps, and I don't even do much graphics work. I keep all the graphics-oriented apps in a Graphics directory. So, when I need a seldom-used graphics app, I can find the damn thing fairly easily. Ditto for coding tools, or music apps, or games, or utilities. Organization is important!

I don't want a third-party dumping everything in one directory!

6) Cruft Sucks

What is cruft? Cruft is, partially, all those old programs you installed but then didn't use a whole bunch. And so, they sit there, taking up space. And, when you upgrade to a new computer, you reinstall what you actually need and leave the cruft behind. Hooray!

Unless you're buying your apps via the App Store. Then, I think, they'll all get reinstalled. There's no escape!

I don't want a third-party reinstalling everything!

All these things are going to drive serious users away. And Apple won't miss us at all. They don't want to be a computer company anymore. They want to be a gadget company. There's more money to be made.

And that's going to eventually screw serious app developers. The guy I quoted above makes a really nice ToDo app. But he should realize that nothing I do on my iPod touch results in things being added to my ToDo list. It's the real work I do on a real computer that generates real tasks that end up on my ToDo list. Turn my computer into a toy and I'll turn to something else on which to do real work. And then I won't need his app. Apps like his are only needed on an iPhone or iPad because owners do real work on real computers that drive the need to keep track of this stuff on a gadget.

And we'll go over to real computers to get that real work done. And then they'll all be stuck making variations of Angry Birds for the rest of their lives.

I know. This is all contingent there not being an alternative to the App Store. The thing is, soon there won't be. The App Store is so potentially lucrative for developers that they'll abandon traditional distribution methods, even if Apple's still okay with it. The developer above has done that. And, given the sales he'll get via the App Store, he won't miss my leaving at all. Well, he won't miss it today. But when Macs become fucking toys, he'll miss the business then. When serious users have gone back to Windows or Linux, he'll be left with gadget users. And gadget users don't need serious ToDo tracking software. They don't need him.

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