Zubbles Mini-review

July 15th, 2009

Update January 14, 2010Zubbles are now available in individual bottles, .83 ounce tubes and even gallons! No new colors, yet, though.

Blue ZubblesI pre-ordered some Zubbles on June 24th and received them on Monday (after a four year two and a half week wait). They’ve been accepting regular orders for a while now, so the wait shouldn’t be as long for new orders.

Pink ZubblesIt’s dangerous, you know, having expectations on hold for so long. Ever since I read about Zubbles in 2005 in the Popular Science article, I’ve been anticipating their availability. So did I brace myself for disappointment? Read the rest of this entry »

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Zubbles are on their way!

June 24th, 2009

Zubbles - Colored BubblesI just placed an order for Zubbles. I can’t believe they’re finally available (shipping in two weeks). I first heard about them in 2005.

I can’t tell you how excited I am.

In case you aren’t aware, Zubbles are colored bubbles invented by Tim Kehoe. If you’d like to read more about their development, the Wikipedia article is a good place to start. Or read the Popular Science story from 2005.

There’s even a Zubbles app for the iPhone!

Do yourself or your kids a favor and order some today! A two-pack is $14.95 at the ZubblesStore.

UPDATE 6/26/2009: Here’s a new article from Popular Science that tells about the process of getting Zubbles to market over the last four years.

UPDATE 7/10/2009: The Discovery Channel News has a new brief article on Zubbles that mentions the chemicals used in the dyes.

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Windows Programming

April 8th, 2009

Writing software for Windows is a little like building a house.

In the beginning there was an API that consisted of two-by-fours and nails and such. A lot of work went in to getting the moulding to fit just right and to make sure the paint was smooth and sag-free.

Later, there came vertically-oriented pre-fabricated panels that you could use to throw together a house lickety-split. You gave up a little control over the details, but that was OK because you got so many more houses built.

Then a system of horizontally-oriented pre-fab panels was introduced that allowed you to create rooms with cabinetry with hinges on either the left or the right of the doors. And it accomodated chandeliers. But you gave up the ability to put shelving in the garage. And it takes so much sawing and bending and hammering and swearing to use the vertical panels and the horizontal panels in the same house that you’d have been better off using two-by-fours in the first place.

Windows Presentation Foundation has no NumericUpDown control.

Yes, I know there are solutions, but the opportunity for the correct one was missed.

I hope you’ll forgive this tortured analogy. It’s both a little fable and a rant.

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Privacy is an Illusion

January 8th, 2009

The Daily WTF - No More Paper! (cropped and more anonymized)

The Daily WTF - No More Paper! (cropped and more anonymized)

The Daily WTF posted an entry today that featured a picture of some mail that a bank sent out with some text on the envelope promoting saving paper. The joke was that someone received three pieces of it in two days.

In the picture, the recipient’s last name and address were blurred out but the barcode was left intact. One commenter pointed this out and another erroneously said that all it encoded was the Zip+4 and some check digits. I replied, indicating that the latter comment was confusing Zip+4 with POSTNET. The 11-digit POSTNET barcode, as shown, encodes the Delivery Point as well as the Zip+4. This is supposed to be unique for every deliverable address and is often the last two digits of the numeric part of the street address.

Using this page, I was able to decode the barcode and with simple Google and county property tax record searches, I was able to find out the recipient’s last name, address, phone number and pictures of his house (in a real estate listing). All this without resorting to any paid “private eye” searches or “hacking”.

Sample POSTNET barcode (decoded: 12345-6789-01-4)

Sample POSTNET barcode (12345-6789-01-4)

Privacy is an illusion, especially when you’re not aware of all the ways it can be violated.  While The Daily WTF is usually very good about anonymizing the stuff they post, this shows that it’s always a good idea to make your privacy your own responsibility.

Already in use is a new system called Intelligent Mail. It will become mandatory in 2011 in order to qualify for automation postage rates. The new barcode uses four symbols instead of the two used by POSTNET, for a much greater data capacity. In addition to Zip Code information, senders can encode such things as sender ID, item serial number and tracking numbers. The Postal Service has a privacy page especially for Intelligent Mail.

Sample Intelligent Mail Barcode

Sample Intelligent Mail Barcode

UPDATE 5/12/2009: They’ve done it again. This time The Daily WTF has published a letter with an Intelligent Mail bar code, which exposes the recipient’s full address, plus the sender ID and a serial number.

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Apple Announces Its New 17″ MacBook Pro

January 7th, 2009

chiclets imageAt Macworld 2009 yesterday, Apple announced the latest version of their MacBook Pro with 17-inch screen. It’s got the aluminum unibody design that was introduced last fall.

For some time now, the Macbook Pro 17″ has been on my wish list to be my next computer. However, the non-removable battery, the awful chiclet* keyboard, and (still!) no numeric keypad – despite plenty of space – are all definite minuses.

In spite of the necessity that the battery must be replaced by Apple at a cost of $179, the fact that it provides up to eight hours of run time, especially with such a large screen, is very impressive.

*Apple’s chiclet keyboards join such luminaries as the Tandy CoCo, TI-99/4, IBM PCjr and more recent inductees ASUS and Sony.

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Choose Regulation

January 3rd, 2009

referee shirt vs. prison shirt

Copyright © 2009 – Dennis Williamson – All rights reserved. This cartoon may not be reproduced for any reason without express written permission.
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Printifier for xkcd

December 18th, 2008
A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

If you’re a regular reader of the web comic xkcd, you’ve probably printed some of them out to hang in your office. Unfortunately, no way is provided to print them directly. You can print the whole web page, along with all the stuff you don’t want. Or you can display the image in your browser and print that. The problem with the latter is that the title of the comic (which is also its alt text) and the title text (which is used as a secondary punchline and often erroneously referred to as “alt text”) are not displayed.

In order to solve this problem, I have created the Printifier for xkcd. You can choose a comic by its number or randomly and select a couple of options. It’s a simple web page, so there’s nothing to install.

Give it a try and tell me what you think.

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Work Sharp Wood Tool Sharpener

December 18th, 2008

Being able to see through the grinding wheel as you sharpen a tool on the underside of the wheel is one of the coolest tool ideas I’ve seen in a while.

Work Sharp Wood Tool Sharpener.

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Google Apps: The Missing Manual

December 16th, 2008
Google Apps: The Missing Manual

Google Apps: The Missing Manual

The book that should have been in the box

What box?

The one under my desk with the network cable hanging out the back?

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