I spend about 25 percent of my day looking at a computer screen. I also spend about 37.4 percent of my day fighting luchadors. One of those statements is false, but illustrates the unique power of the Internet. In the past decade, all different types of media have been finding a digital counterpart to be distributed online, causing changes in the fabric of human interaction that have never been faced before. The Internet gives platform, although a very different kind, to anyone who wishes to speak, regardless of what they have to say.
Take knowledge for instance. Never before have so many people had access to so much free information through a little device in their pocket. Hyperlinking has become the new way of hyperwarping through different thoughts and ideas.
But as a computer science major in the year 2013, I can’t help but wonder what effect technology will have on people’s knowledge and understanding. Some claim that relying on technology to instantly and effortlessly answer questions makes people dumber. In a recent talk by Ken Jennings, the reigning jeopardy champion, he shares about how he feels when IBM’s supercomputer named Watson rendered him obsolete.
However, despite the images of robot apocalypse and other futuristic ideas portrayed by movies and novels, the future doesn’t have look like that. Technology is not something that should be feared, but understood.
Technology is fluid in the sense that it is always changing, and the person who understands how to use it has an advantage over the person who doesn’t. Being tech savvy means knowing how to creatively use technology to build new platforms and present new perspectives. Being tech savvy then, by definition, is a tendency to bend the rules, and even break them under some occasions. It means adding a whole other dimension of thinking and communication to life, one that is virtually limitless.
Of course, that means that people must remain knowledgeable enough about technology so that they can use the technology instead of the technology using them. Google shouldn’t be seen as a life force, but merely a supplement. The moment that people assume that technology is smarter than them is the moment that we resign ourselves to a place of servitude.
The only way that technology will make people dumber is if people use it as a substitute to learning instead of a supplement.
If you’re anything like me and come across talks on YouTube that are hours long on a regular basis, speeding up playback is a great way to get through them faster and have greater focus.
I like to watch videos at 1.5x speed, which is slow enough so I can still understand (usually), but fast enough so my mind can’t get distracted.
Enabling variable speed control on YouTube requires you to enter their beta HTML5 player trial, which you can find here. Keep in mind that your browser will need to meet certain requirements, and the video player may feel slightly different after you enable it.
After you’ve signed up for the HTML5 trial, clicking the little gear button on basically any video will bring up a selection of choices for playback. You can choose to play videos faster or slower.
Surprisingly, I found that when I started listening to talks at 1.5x speed, I ended up comprehending more of the talk than I did at slower speeds. I’m no cognitive expert, but it seems that playing the video faster causes me to pay much more attention.
What do you get when you cross a high-contrast e-ink display with a touchscreen device running android? A cheap, light, readable Nook Simple Touch.
By default, the Nook can’t do much besides read books from the Barnes and Noble ecosystem and perhaps a couple of PDFs that get downloaded to the device. But after a short rooting process, it can read Amazon Kindle books as well as Google Play books. Additionally, it can be configured to read emails, Google docs, or run practically any other application available on Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. It’s only limited mainly by a lack of audio capabilities, and a slow-refreshing screen, so don’t expect to be able to watch videos or play games and music on it.
However, the lack of media capabilities, in my opinion, makes it an extremely valuable distraction-free productivity tool. Evernote on the nook is quite impressive.
Possibly the best $100 android tablet.
After coming across an extremely positive review of these Monoprice earbuds on one of my favorite blogs, I decided to order a pair.
At $8.40, these earbuds are quite impressive. The bass is not extremely powerful, but the mid-range and highs are very crisp. The extremely large drivers produce a much louder sound than standard earbuds. I had to turn the volume on my devices significantly lower while using this pair.
It takes a while to get used to, due to the large driver and somewhat awkward shape, but they aren’t uncomfortable at all. These earbuds come in a cloth cord and straight connector, which is not something you’ll find in earbuds under $10 very often.
They aren’t your shure earbuds, but for $8, they’re quite impressive. Click here for the Amazon product page.
Basically, if you are unfamiliar with either service, both provide a way to manage mailing lists by allowing people to subscribe/unsubscribe to email updates whenever you send them. Phplist, while it got the job done, just wasn’t very friendly to the average user.
Phplist is an php application which needs to be installed on a server, because phplist only provides the application, and not the server.
Then I found MailChimp. Finding MailChimp was like finding the perfect match to what I was looking for. It allowed me to create a custom subscribe page and easily manage and email subscribers.
At first, I was skeptical that something like this would be easily integrable with a custom-designed existing website. But after the initial registration process, I found that it was very possible to integrate it with a custom html page with a simple php form action. I also found the page customization feature on MailChimp very easy to use.
I was a bit confused when I saw the term “campaign” used instead of something more clear, like “message” or “update”. But after I figured that a campaign was simply an email update to all the subscribers on a list, I quickly began playing around with the settings. The campaign editor has a huge variety of designs to choose from, which can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have a particular color scheme in mind. The built-in email WYSIWYG editor is very coherent and easy to use.
This feature of Mailchimp impressed me the most. It gives you realtime, constantly updated statistics as to how many people have opened and read your campaign, as well as the statistics of clicks on links you may have provided in your campaign. This data can be very valuable for determining the reach and popularity of each of your updates.
MailChimp is definitely a very powerful, polished web-application that helps you maintain and stay connected with a group of subscribers. It’s got great features and a smooth interface that is unobtrusive and easy to use.
Since one of my most viewed posts to date has been about finding a laptop for college, I have decided to write a post about my own setup.
I use a Lenovo Thinkpad R400 for traversing the Internet and being productive on a daily basis. The computer is about two years old, but I have been constantly upgrading hardware and software elements to keep it running in top shape. I have upgraded the RAM a couple of times, as well as equipped it with a Solid State Drive.
Hardware Specs: 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 8GB RAM, 256GB Crucial m4 SSD, 500GB Toshiba HDD
Personally, I’m a fan of the Thinkpad series for a variety of reasons, including their durability, “upgrade-ability”, comfortable keyboard and trackpoint, among other things. The ability to have a dock is also notoriously useful. When I’m at home, I generally will dock my laptop into the dock, instantly connecting it to my dual monitor setup, keyboard, mouse, tablet, printer, and other peripherals. That way, it feels almost like a desktop computer when I’m at home.
Being an older thinkpad model, it isn’t the lightest nor thinnest computer out there, but it’s manageable in terms of size and weight. Battery life runs about 4 hours on average off of my 6-cell battery pack, so not terribly impressive there either.
In terms of software, I use a combination of Windows 7 and Ubuntu depending on the task at hand. Windows is used for the more casual emailing / chatting / browsing, while Ubuntu is dedicated to the programming side of things. (Who doesn’t love the linux terminal?)
What are you using? Feel free to comment if you have any questions.
You read that right. If you want a website done, and you have no idea where to start and don’t want to have to get too technical, here’s how I can help.
I am willing to design / redesign a website completely free of charge. Domain registration and hosting will also be on me if you don’t have these already.
To apply, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title “Website” (without quotes) and the following information:
- Your Name
- Purpose of the website
- Website description
- Website audience (number of hits, visitor demographics, etc)
I will pick one winner Sunday, July 1st. Feel free to tell your friends and anyone else you know who is interested in getting a website done.
I often hear people saying that waiting for the laptop battery to reach 0% before recharging will prolong the lifespan of the battery. The sad reality is, regularly discharging lithium-ion batteries to 0% will not necessarily make your battery last longer.
This used to be true when batteries were made of Ni-Cd, due to the memory effect of such chemistry, but Li-Ion maintenance is different.
Generally, keeping lithium-ion batteries charged between 40%-80% is the best for the battery.
The real killers of battery life include keeping it charged at 100% for extended periods of time (weeks or longer) and / or exposing the battery to hot temperatures: Batteries should be kept in a cool, dry place for maximum lifespan.
But no matter what you do to your lithium ion batteries, they will die in a few years no matter how you treat them, so there’s no need to be too uptight about your charging habits.
Check out this link for more information.
To Lynbrook High School Students: Sometimes, you may just be sitting at school, perhaps stuck in class, and you’re itching to get on facebook. After all, your class isn’t really doing much and all your senior classes are wasting time anyways. I mean, who really expects seniors to do any work? So you might as well just kick back and use your University-To-Be’s VPN to access facebook.
I mean, everyone knows there are other ways to get past the iprism filter, such as the extremely trashy piece of software known as “Hotspot Shield”, but seriously, if you want to avoid glares of judgment from the highly technologically savvy individuals, don’t do it. Please don’t ever install that flaming piece of uselessness on your computer.
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”, and it is designed to allow students to access the Internet from anywhere as if they were browsing from the physical location of the VPN server, in this case, your university. Now, you’ll have to double check to ensure that your university has a VPN, because it may be different for each school (UCs all have a VPN).
Go ahead and Google the steps to set up a VPN with your school, going through whatever authentication is necessary.
UCSD’s can be found here: http://blink.ucsd.edu/technology/network/connections/off-campus/VPN/index.html
After you get that set up, you should be able to connect to an unfiltered Internet connection anywhere you go! Not only is this useful for bypassing Internet filters, it is also recommended to use a secure browsing whenever you are connected to a public network, such as libraries, coffee shops, your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, or the random “linksys” you find on the side of the street.
Feel free to contact me if you need help setting up a VPN!
Buying a new computer can be an extremely daunting task if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Buying a new computer can be equated one of the Navi picking their flying partner mate. Secretly inside, I like to judge people by the kind of laptop they use. I have a category for each type of person with their computer organization habits, hardware and software choices. To those of you completely lost to the technology world, here is a somewhat comprehensive guide (hopefully) with personal suggestions as well.
When it comes to a laptop, here are the major things to take into consideration:
- Price (probably the most non-negotiable for some people, more on this later)
- Size and Weight
- Battery Life
- Screen Quality (and Resolution)
- CPU and RAM
- Hard Drive Capacity (and speed)
- Graphics (Mainly for gamers)
- Ergonomics (How the computer feels)
- Peripherals (CD Drive / SD Card Slot / USB Ports / Expresscard Slot / Docking Station / Bluetooth / Webcam)
- Operating System (If you’re not confident changing it yourself)
I suggest thinking about all of these elements as a whole, and deciding which ones of these you need and which ones you don’t. That way you can narrow down your list. I am not going to go into detail on what these do if you don’t know some of the more technical details, so do a Google search to figure those out.
The following is my general opinion for a computer that will last you four years in college. Since you’ll probably need to be somewhat mobile, the weight should be 4-5 pounds at most. As for the processor and RAM, I would recommend nothing less than an Intel i5 with at least 3-4 GB of RAM. As for hard drive space, you’ll probably want at least 500 GB or so of space, although this will vary depending on what you plan to do with your computer. The rest of the items on the list above should be up to your judgment.
Also, be sure to check out a variety of computer manufacturers, and be wary of their often misleading advertising. Don’t look down on a computer just because it’s labeled a “business” computer, or any other advertising of the sort. Here is a list of major computer manufacturers, not an exhaustive list. (starred are companies I recommend checking out, and some of my personal opinion):
- Apple* (You’ll be stuck with a different OS than everyone else)
- Dell* (Generally the cheapest option, somewhat decent build quality)
- HP (Overrated in my opinion)
- Lenovo* (only the ThinkPad line, with super durable and high quality build)
- Samsung (They make some super sleek computers, quite expensive)
Now that I’ve listed out parts and companies, here is how you actually go about buying a computer:
The Easy Way: (Making one purchase for a complete computer)
According to trends and statistics, it has been noted that computer prices are the cheapest around March and April. So if you’re on the hunt for a new computer, now is a pretty good time to be looking for one.
Be sure to look around at as many stores and retailers as possible to find the cheapest price. Check the manufacturer’s website, Amazon, Newegg, Fry’s, Costco, etc.
Also, as a note, be aware for coupon codes and promotions that can save you some money. A friend of mine saved nearly $500 on his laptop by applying 5 different coupon codes during checkout to purchase a computer for $300, and now he happily uses an i7 equipped laptop (he actually mixed this with the suggestion below as well).
The Cheap Way: (Finding the best deals on individual parts and assembling it yourself, saving up to $400)
This is slightly more difficult to do, as most laptop manufacturers nowadays will not allow you to simply buy a laptop without a hard drive and RAM. A laptop without certain hardware components is called a “barebone laptop”, which you can generally get for a significantly low price. Unfortunately, many of the barebone laptops that I am finding currently are not from the top manufacturers. The other way you could do this is buying a computer off of ebay / craigslist, although there will always be risks associated with buying computers second hand. You could try contacting a manufacturer by phone to order a barebone laptop.
After getting your barebone laptop, you would have to scourge for cheap hard drives, memory, and whatever else you need to get your computer functioning. I won’t go too much into detail because I know that few people will actually do this, but if you would like to assemble your own laptop to save a couple hundred dollars and learn a little something about computers, feel free to contact me!