Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pages 1.4 for iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone

Yeah, I know there's an update for Keynote and Numbers. I don't care about those.

I have an 3rd Generation iPod Touch that I often use for content generation while I'm waiting in a line, leaning on a shopping cart or laying in bed just before I drift off to sleep. It goes everywhere with me. Those scant moments amount to hundreds of words toward my projects every month.

Pages being on my iPod Touch is a big deal for me.

First thing I did is have it pull down one of the novels I've written; 76,000 words worth of text. It pulled it from my iDisk account without a hitch, kicked the usual formatting it didn't like (little stuff) and rendered it on the screen.

Good Stuff:

- New file management options. Folders! Hallelujah. Create new files and import files from iTunes, iDisk and WebDAV.

- Even on the 3rd Generation (late 2009) iPod Touch it's snappy and the edit to zoom function is great.

- The usual spell check, word count, guides, rulers and document set up options you're used to with the iPad version of iWorks.

- You can share via iWorks, sent to your iTunes account, copy to iDisk, copy to WebDAV and Airprint documents (doesn't like my Brother Duplex Printer). Oh, you can email the document to someone if you want.

- Bluetooth keyboard pairs and functions fine, for those silly enough for such things.

Pretty much what you'd expect.

Bad Stuff:

The application functions in portrait orientation only. There is no landscape soft keyboard or viewing option. This is a deal breaker for me. My hands and thumbs are too large to type quickly on the soft keyboard in portrait.


I'll be using PlainText to generate text with my iPod Touch. The decent text editors on my Windows Phone 7 has the same issues. Portrait editing/viewing only. Am I really the only person that uses their iPod Touch to generate odd bits of content in this way?

Maybe I am.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fighting with the Police

Last week, the Indiana State's high court ruled that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes -- eliminating a common law right dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215. The Tea Party and several other folks are moving quickly to fight against the ruling stating that they believe their Fourth Amendment Rights have been gutted. I've seen this issue pop up in several online forums of late with angry voices and gnashing of teeth.

I'm weighing in on this because I have a different perspective than most.

Common Sense

That common law is extremely dated and doesn't take into account certain modern elements of law enforcement that did not exist back in the day. Resisting police action back then was a completely different matter than it is now. There may have been a chance of preventing an unlawful arrest back in 1215. Modern law enforcement agencies are trained to meet violence with greater force until they prevail.

The entire police department and adjoining LEO agencies will come to your house if necessary to take you down.

If the police unlawfully enter your home and you surrender, there is a chance you'll get roughed up. If you resist, you'll turn that chance into a certitude that includes being beaten, tazed or shot. I don't know about anyone else, but those things seriously harsh my mellow.

Civil Rights

Choosing when to resist the police in this fashion puts the burden of determining legality of such action squarely on you. If you're wrong and the search is deemed legal, you've just committed a felony. It's not worth going to prison over. It's basic economics, exercising one right at the cost of all your freedom is simply a bad plan.

I agree with the Indiana Supreme Court. People have numerous opportunities to defend themselves in both civil and criminal court. I've heard people say they don't trust the court system or the police and believe a person's 6th and 7th amendment rights are infringed before they step into the court. I'm a paranoid guy, but if I believed any of that I would be arranging to live elsewhere.

President Obama's predilection for detaining or ordering the deaths of US Citizens without the benefit of a trial are far more concerning to me. I hear Sweden is nice.

If you are going to fight the police, do it in a courtroom with a lawyer. Even if the system is broken, it's a far better outcome than fighting with the police in your living room. There is no point in having a right that you can neither defend or enforce when you've others at your disposal that make a lot more sense. Making changes to our Police Departments to make that right defensible would aid criminals far more than it would the common person.

Police Officers

Most of Law Enforcement are regular people with just enough true sheepdogs (natural born protectors) among them to keep things real. Like a garbage man, accountant or burger clerk, Police Officers just want to go home at the end of their shift. Regular people doing an extraordinarily difficult job.

Most folks when attacked, will do what they can to flee the situation or defend themselves without hurting their attacker. They just want out of those unpleasant circumstances as quickly as possible. Police Officers rely on their training to survive those situations and will fight harder and seek no retreat as a consequence.

Police Officers are trained to believe that there are innocent people behind them and that getting taken out gives a bad guy access to the weapons they carry on duty. Their fellow Officers and innocent members of the public are counting on them to make sure that doesn't happen. Sun Tzu figured out the subtleties of this in every word he wrote about armed conflict.

"Nothing is harder than armed struggle."

If you attack someone with weapons, even seemingly unarmed yourself, be prepared for that person to fight you to the death. Ever wonder why unarmed crowds who charge dangerously close to armed police or military personnel are fired upon? Often, I think it is the fear of losing control of their weapons.

This is the risk any government takes fielding armed personnel on the ground to control their own populations. Does this excuse firing on unarmed civilians? Sun Tzu didn't think so, and neither do I. He states many times that military forces should receive orders from a civilian authority and never be deployed against their own people. I don't consider peace officers a "deployment" in that capacity.

"Using order to deal with the disorderly, using calm to deal with the clamorous, is mastering the heart."

Final Words

Given Indiana's track record, it'll be interesting to see if the ruling stays in place. Yes, I understand that for many people this is about principles, but I'd like to see them put those principles into practice. In the end it won't change anything. When the police unlawfully enter a domicile, smart folks will get a lawyer and their day in court. Mouth-breathers will fight the police and acquire dire consequences.

This isn't about rights, it's about reality.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ubuntu 11.04, Low-Tech Review

For those who read this and don't know: Ubuntu 11.04, AKA Natty Narwhal is a Linux Based, totally free/open sourced operating system for desktops, laptops and netbooks. Earlier last week I went ahead and loaded it up on my Netbook I lovingly call "Samus Aran". For reference Samus is an Asus 1015PEM-PU17 upgraded with 2GB of RAM.

I'm writing this primarily for folks who are currently running a Microsoft Windows product on an aging laptop or netbook and wondering if there are any option out there. If you already use Linux, skip this review and head to Ars Technica for a more comprehensive review of Natty Narwhal's features. On a related note, Microsoft says it will end support for Windows XP in 2014. Anyone running that OS should probably buy a supported copy of the Windows OS or seek another option like Linux before that happens. Thinking about jumping ship early? Keep reading.

Ease of Use

Learning to use a new operating system is exciting for me. I'm in the minority though, and most folks would prefer to just stick with what they know. Fortunately, Ubuntu doesn't depart from the basics of the cursor driven operating system that most people know as Windows or Mac OSX. Most people familiar with either will pick up Ubuntu in a few minutes and be able to access most of the basic services they expect from their computer.

The stock configuration includes a dock along the left side with a global menu bar along the top that changes when you switch applications. In the dock you will find the Ubuntu Software Center application that allows one to download and install more programs. There is no "Start Menu", but there is an Applications button on the Dock that you can click and use to search all the loaded applications.

If you want something to stay in the dock, loaded it up, right click it in the dock and select "Keep in Launcher". Left click and hold to move a particular program up or down on the dock. If the number of icons is longer than you dock, the bottom shrinks up accordion style to give you a partial display. When hovering over the dock you can use the mouse wheel to scroll up or down or just move the cursor toward the top or the bottom to navigate.

This dock, called "Unity" is pretty slick and intuitive. I think casual users will figure it out pretty quickly. I think the Workspace Switcher would probably be confusing at first. Most folks will figure out that clicking the program icon in the dock will take you to the application regardless of which workspace it is in.

Clicking the Ubuntu icon opens a search window.


If you spend the majority of your time playing games on your Windows machine, Linux is not for you. While a few really nice titles have reached out to Linux (Spiral Knights!), your selection will be severely limited otherwise. For me, I'm endlessly entertained by DosBox, but your average power gamer will not be so easily amused.

If you use your computer to browse the Internet, check email, chat, Skype, create documents and similar you'll find that Natty Narwhal performs all these tasks. If you use Microsoft Office extensively I'd head to the LibreOffice site and make sure it will do all you need it to. If you need something to organize contacts, a calendar, recipes, photos and similar there are a number of applications for the Linux platform that will do the job.

Most are pre-loaded as part of the installation.

Because the programs on the Linux platform are free, they often aren't as nice looking or have as many features as something you pay for on the Windows or Mac OSX platforms. That being said, it's hard to beat free. Even being used to Photoshop, I could use the GIMP Image Editor in a pinch, especially if I was on a budget.


None to speak of. You can try Ubuntu 11.04 without even loading it to your machine. All you need is a thumb drive and the ability to follow simple instructions. You've really nothing to lose by trying it. Go here to check it out.

My mom uses a Toshiba laptop that's old enough to come from an era when Toshiba made a really nice machine. It will likely last her into 2014 and beyond, it is a seemingly unstoppable tank. However, her copy of Windows XP running on it won't. Sometime before then, I will have to do something so she has a functional and secure OS running, hence my investigating Linux.

Given what I've seen Ubuntu 11.04 will run best with 2GB of RAM and you need a Video Card capable of 3D graphics for the Unity Interface. Worst case scenario, it'll prompt you to run something called "Gnome" instead which is more like a start menu/taskbar interface and just as easy to figure out. Almost any machine manufactured in the last 6-8 years should run Ubuntu like a champ.


Installation is easy. The Ubuntu site pretty much holds your hand through the process with clear instructions. That being said, anyone that has a Windows Recovery Partition on their hard drive should take special care not to delete those partitions on accident. When I wiped my Netbook, I killed all the partitions because I had no desire to use Windows 7 Starter... ever. This may not be true for someone trying Linux for the first time.

Samus Aran

For the most part, my Samus netbook runs Ubuntu 11.04 like a champ juggling multiple applications and similar. On slower machines Ubuntu gives no indication that what you've just asked the computer to do is actually happening. Be patient and don't mindlessly click an icon just because the first click didn't make anything happen at first. Click once, and wait a moment or two.

Samus gets well over 8 hours of battery life running Linux at default screen brightness. This is short of the 13 hours it allegedly gets running proprietary software with the Windows OS. For me, 8.5 hours of battery life is plenty. Also, the battery life displayed by Ubuntu seems to be very accurate.

My only complaint is that the trackpad doesn't shut off while I'm typing even though there is an option in the settings for this. For heavy typing you'll probably want an external mouse and to turn the trackpad off. Yes, the majority of the FN buttons along the top of the keyboard work fine in linux including Screen Brightness, Volume, WiFi On/Off, etcetera. I wasn't so fortunate with previous distributions of Linux even though they ran a little smoother.