Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best new iPhone accessory

Hero of the day... (or how to tether your Droid to Ubuntu)

Hero of the day ... is Shannon VanWagner  - Another long haired geek.  His post and mostly his script to tether a Droid to an Ubuntu laptop is awesome.
And this is why Linux / OSS wins every time.  The best I could do prior to this required me to A) use windows and B) Spend $30 on software.

Find his posting HERE

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On Vacation

Ninjahippie is on vacation this week so it's not likely there will be a GTOW.  Maybe some random crap - semi lucid thought though is out of the question...

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Friday, July 16, 2010


Diagnose your connections like a geek:

A couple of tools that every geek should know how to use.  These are the bread and butter of troubleshooting network issues.  These of course require that you are at least moderately comfortable with the command line on your system.  If you call your ISP or your IT department armed with info from these commands you will not only greatly speed up the solution you will also garner geek points and win a lot of favor - and probably a lot less attitude - from the person on the other end of the phone.

First up - ping.  Ping does two useful things.  First - it will do a dns lookup for the host you are having problems with.  If you type in  "ping"  it will first return an IP address.  If it does not and you get an error this narrows down the problem to one of three things 1 you don't have an internet connection at all. 2 your DNS is miss configured or 3 your DNS server is down or un-reachable.

If ping is successful at a DNS lookup it does the second of it's usefull things.  It sends a request (ICMP Echo) to that host to echo back the packet it sent.  If the other host does - you know you have a good connection.  If it does not respond that DOES NOT necessarily mean that you can't reach the system in question.  For example most firewalls will not return pings, and most servers on the internet are behind a firewall.  If you are trying to reach a server on the same network - on your office network for example and it does not return a ping - chances are good that either 1 the system is down or 2 you have no network connection.

Next up - nslookup.  This command is misunderstood and not used often enough.  Nslookup is useful in several ways but mostly to verify that there is a DNS entry for a host.  The two most useful ways of using nslookup are to find the IP address of a host or to find out what the DNS entry for a host is (reverse lookup).  To verify that there is an entry for a host enter the command nslookup with the fully qualified name of the host.  For example:  'nslookup'.  On your office network it may be tempting to just enter the name of the host by itself but this will only work if you have DNS on your workstation correctly configured with a default search domain AND the host is on the same domain you are.  So to reiterate:

'nslookup myserver'  - WRONG   'nslookup' - Correct.

To find the DNS entry for an IP address - or what is called a reverse lookup you do the opposite:  'nslookup'  This will return the DNS entry - for example.

Nslookup also works interactively.  That is if you just type 'nslookup' without anything else it will tell you what server it's currently using (which will by default be the first server configured on your workstation) and go to a prompt where you can try as many queries as you like just by entering the server name or ip.  There are a bunch of other options for nslookup.  It's a pretty powerful tool in the right hands.  If you are interested I suggest reading the man pages for it on *nix or by typing 'nslookup --h' on windows.  (by the way you hit CTRL-C to exit back to a system prompt)

Finally the most useful tool for testing where your packets are going... 

Traceroute, or tracert on windows systems.  When traffic moves accross TCP/IP networks it must pass through routers.  Routers are devices that work alot like telephone exchanges and make sure the packets go where they are supposed to.  Sometimes the instructions (called routes) on these systems get deleted or are miss configured.  To a network engineer the output of a traceroute will tell him precisely the path taken by traffic from your computer and lead him to the router with the faulty or missing route.

Let's say you can't get to but you can get to  You attempt a ping and it gets an address but none of your packets are returned.  You have just verified that you have an internet connection (you can get to yahoo and a ping successfully got an answer from your DNS server) so you try a tracert  As you watch it goes about 12 hops and then you start getting lines that look like:

13 * * * * * * *
14 * * * * * * *

Cut and paste this output into an email for your tech support and they will immediately love you.

Output like this usually means that the routes have gone off the rail or that you have gone as far as anything will answer.  Again most firewalls will not respond but if your network engineer looks at it they will know what systems answer and what do not.  Or they will know who to call that will.

Go try out these commands.  You wont hurt anything.  Stick them in your toolkit and become the darling of your IT department.  Ok at least you won't feel stupid when you call.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Top Secret Moto-Camping Tips

This being the week of the BMWMOA national rally - and simply rally / camping season in general for most motorcycle adventurerers I thought I'd throw together my list of motorcycle camping tips.  Stuff that no-one tells you straight up and you learn the hard way.

  1. Never wear cotton underwear on the bike if your trip involves leaving city limits.  Your butt will be pressed up against a leather seat in 90 degree heat for hours.  Cotton will get soggy with sweat and you will be miserable with the adult version of diaper rash.  Invest in a pair or two of underwear made for motorcycling or bicycling.  Both work.  I really like the products from LDComfort.  Also Anti Monkey Butt Powder sounds like a joke - but it works for the same reason that baby powder works.  I never travel without a can.
  2. Get a chair.  Anyone that's spent any time camping or back packing will tell you that one of the things they miss the most is a chair with a back on it.  Having a comfortable camp chair will raise your campsite comfort level immeasurably. I have one of the famous Kermit chairs and never leave without it. There are several other popular models that fit on a bike but whatever you do - get one with a back on it.  And preferably a drink holder.
  3. Pack light.  You don't need all of those clothes.  Find clothes made from material you can wash in a sink or even in the shower. I'm fond of coolmax - the fabric found in running and bicycle gear.  Wash it in a sink. Wring it out. Put it back on.  One pair of jeans. One pair of shorts.  One long sleeve shirt.  Buy T-shirts at the rally.  Take old underwear - wear it and then throw it away.  If you need something there are WalMarts everywhere.
  4. Invest in a single versatile jacket.  Mine goes from waterproof/winter weight all the way to mesh.  The liner works as a wind breaker.  See #3.
  5. Get a bike cover.  Beyond the obvious protection for your ride - it will also make a nice tarp for your gear at the campsite while you are out having those adventures.  Makes a passable emergency shelter and is really nice for keeping prying eyes away from your bike when you wuss out and rent a room for the night.  Wake up to frost on your saddle once and you will wish you had taken this advice.
  6. Coffee.  If you are a coffee drinker - don't even think of relying on the free "stuff" at the rally.  Work out your system at home before you leave.  Remember - you will be cleaning with limited water in camp.  The two systems I've used with great success are, my current favorite - the Jetboil coffee press and my second favorite - simple paper filters.  In most camping supply stores you can get a package of filters with holes punched in the sides and a little stick.  You use the stick to suspend the filter in your mug.  When done you just throw the filter away.
  7. The pee bottle.  Every experienced (male) camper has one.  No one talks about it.  Basically the worst thing about tent camping is having to extract yourself from your tent in the middle of the night or race to outhouse in the morning.  Get one.  Don't be embarrassed.  I personally recommend the smaller size laundry detergent bottles.  Nice flat bottom and a good handle to avoid any accidents...
  8. Water bag/bladder.  Get a water bladder - even one made for a hydration pack.  Fill it with water before bed.  In the morning you have your coffee / cleanup water and probably enough to even wash your face without a trip to the pump.  When done just roll it up.
  9. Baby wipes.  They can be a miracle when a shower isn't possible or just to get the crusty sweat off your face before grabbing lunch on the road.
  10. Air mattress.  Yes the kind you inflate.  I suffered with a Thermarest for years.  They are great for back packing but hey - you aren't carrying the weight here - your bike is.  Plus they pack smaller.  Get a good one and a pump you can run from the bike battery.  I'm currently testing the Aerobed Pakmat.  I'll let you know how it sleeps and holds up.
There are the 10 that came instantly to mind.  Have a safe ride and have fun at the national.  I can't be there this year but I'll be thinking about you all.

Friday, July 09, 2010

GTOW (Geek tip of the week)

Post photos online like a geek.

This can be a hugely complex subject.  My reccomendation:  Sign up for a Picasa account and then download the Picasa software for windows / Mac or even better get that Ubuntu pc I have been touting and use Fspot.  There are direct and simple "share" or "export" options in these programs that will automatically create albums and resize photos for you.  Also the default Gallery app on Android 2.1 and higher has awesome integration with Picasa. 

All three also make quick work of resizing and emailing photos. For other sites like facebook and that other Yahoo,  Fspot and the Android gallery are just as simple as they are with Picasa.

Simple and sweet.  Have a great weekend - go out and support some live music wherever you are and post your pictures.  If you do send me the link!  I'd love to see em.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Review - The Droid as a Motorcycle GPS and Entertainment device

A couple weeks ago I took the droid in place of my beloved Garmin 2730 on about a 600mi round trip.  The verdict.  It's ok.

Google Listen for podcasts and Slacker radio (cached stations) for music worked beautifully.

Since I don't like the idea of ripping my ears out in a sudden "get off" - I initially attempted to use a Motorola bluetooth "pendant" to allow me to use my custom ear molds and not be tethered to the bike.  I got almost 2 blocks before it started acting up and I just plugged the headphones directly into the phone.

I got a usb-12v adapter to keep the phone charged and put the phone in the map pocket on my tankbag.  It worked just fine with one big exception.  You cannot control the phone without stopping, taking off a glove and pulling the phone out of the tankbag.  Also - in rural WY and CO there is no 3g and often no service at all.  Navigation becomes useless out here.  However truth be told I rarely need navigation on the highway though.  Once in cities that changes rather drastically - right along with the 3g service conveniently. 

If you have a smart phone like the Droid and have not made the plunge to purchase an on-bike GPS or music setup the phone will work until you do.  However if you have gear - I'd wait until someone comes up with a hack to allow at least control of the Droid on the fly... Stick with the traditional GPS and music gear for now.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Review - Jetboil w Coffee Press

Jetboil Flash PCS Java Kit with French Coffee Press

In a nutshell - this thing ROCKS!  I used to carry a butane stove AND a tea pot  AND  a coffee filter gizmo - AND a coffee mug.  Plus a pan, bowl etc.

What I noticed is that during bike trips I normally eat most of my meals in a restaurant or at the rally site.  When I do end up cooking at a primitive campsite I normally just need boiling water for a freeze dried meal, to heat a can of something and to make the all important morning coffee.

The Jetboil is perfection.  The entire stove, fuel can and coffee press stow in the cup.  It's about 9 inches long.  It boils a quart of water in under 2 minutes (that's almost 3 times as fast as my 1000w microwave) and you can eat / drink directly from the unit.  It also self ignites so you can even leave the lighter / matchbook at home.

Here's how it works for me.  I heat a full container of water to boiling - then I take the black plastic cup (see photo) that doubles as a guard for the heat exchanger on the bottom of the container and use it as a bowl for two packs of instant oatmeal.  The remainder I turn into a large (American size) cup of coffee and drink directly from the cooking container.

A quick rinse when I'm done and the whole thing packs back up.  There aren't even any worries about rust if you don't get the unit totally dry as the unit is made from titanium. Many people ask about the coffee press and how hard is it to clean in camp.  In short - not hard at all. With the proper technique. The cool thing about the Jetboil coffee press is that it comes apart so that it all fits in the container.  There is a threaded rod that comes in two parts and the filter basket has a threaded hole in it's center where you attach the rod.  Because of this threaded hole, you can use the press basket upside down.  Huh?  Stay with me.

When you have your boiling water - instead of adding your coffee and then pressing the grounds to the bottom - do the opposite.  Put the basket on the rod upside down and press it to the bottom of the container.  Then add your coffee.  When ready simply pull the grounds up and out of the container and flip them in the trash.  Season to taste.

The container was apparently designed with back packer style freeze dried meals in mind as it makes about a quart of boiling water.  It's also just the right size for a can of Dinty Moore to fit and heat in a hot water bath.

I've had my unit for about a season and a half which makes me a fairly early adopter.  Jetboil had a problem with the gas valve on early units and organized a recall.  My unit was included.  The Jetboil company sent me a notice both electronic and snail mail of the recall.  I responded, and they sent me a pre-paid box to pack my burner / valve unit in and return it.  Less than a week later I had a new unit at no cost.  Great service.

I love this product!  Get one!

Aerobed Pakmat Review

Note:  With the warm months upon us, this will be what I hope to make a continuing series of posts about motorcycle products. camp craft and maybe adventure / overland travel in general.  

AeroBed® PakMat Sleep System from Aero The Pakmat is a new product from Aerobed.  Having slept very comfortably on a full size version for 6 months I have been pretty impressed with their products.  Also I've been trying to find that perfect match-up of size vs comfort for my motorcycle sojourns.

Previously I've used a large Thermarest coupled with a closed cell foam pad underneath.  Pretty comfy but the resulting bag is HUGE and rack space on the bike is very limited.  Add to that, I'm a side sleeper so my hips tend to press through the pad and my legs end up getting more sleep than I do...

I started to consider standard air mattresses but the idea of carrying batteries or a pump that runs off the bike battery seemed un-attractive.  The Aerobed seems purpose built.  The mattress stores inside it's own pump (the tube looking thing in the photo) and it's relatively compact.  The whole thing packs up to just a bit larger than the 3/4 length Thermarest I use for backpacking.

I have yet to spend a night on it so consider this my preliminary review.  So far, on the living room floor it performs as advertised.  The bed itself is comfy and my hips come no where near bottoming out the mattress. (For reference - I'm over 6' and tip the scales a little north of 200lbs)  The dimensions say that the pad is 24" wide.  I thought it was going to be too narrow but it seems to be plenty wide enough. It seems to "sleep cold" just like it's bigger brothers which is fine as I will be using it during the summer when I normally roast anyway.  With the included pump it's possible to make the mattress so firm that it becomes somewhat uncomfortable.

So far I'm not sure about the construction of the case/pump.  There are two one-way valves near the handle.  twice I've had one pop off.  Once when I removed the packaging and again when I put the mattress back in the container.  I think I'll be looking for a way to make sure I don't loose these.  Second there is a short "nozzle" that pulls out and clicks into place on the bottom of the storage tube/pump.  When the mattress is in the tube it pushes this nozzle so that it sticks out of the bottom.  Third, the pump works but it's not an airtight affair.  It takes about 2.5 times as long to inflate the bed as you are expecting given the obvious volume of the pump.  This may be in my pumping technique though.

The unit comes with a 2 year warranty so I'm hopeful that if problems do develop (like loosing one of those valves), I'll be able to get replacements easily.

I'll update this post after I've used the bed on an actual trip...

Update:  I've now had about 5 nights on the Aerobed.  It sleeps well.  Holds air better than the other two more traditional mattresses on the trip.  It is narrow however.  There is no simple rolling over.  One must resort to the old "lift and twist" method or you end up on the ground.  I give it a solid B+

GTOW (Geek tip of the week)

My tip this week is "handle your phone like a geek".

If you are still paying for long distance and actually find the phone book useful - this is for you.  It will require some serious paradigm shifting though.

First of all - phone stress and how to deal with it.  If you get so many calls that it makes you crazy or if you check your v-mail more than a chain smoker coughs it's time for an intervention.  STOP the INSANITY!  Stop checking your v-mail.  That's step one.  Step two - if you don't recognize the number, let it go to v-mail.  Even better - learn how to instantly send those calls to v-mail and stop your phone from ringing. 

V-mail rules. 1) Check your v-mail no more than twice a day.  When you do - handle the whole inbox in a batch.  2) Never return a call that just asks you to call back.  3) Return calls asking for your expertise no earlier than 24 hours later. 4) Your immediate family, closest 2 friends and your boss are/can be exempt from these rules. 

How does this work?  If you are getting enough calls to make you crazy - you are either a Paris Hilton wannabe, a bad manager that doesn't trust your employees or an overprotective parent.  If you are a consultant / sole proprietor answering your business line, it's time to outsource your phone calls to an assistant or answering service. This isn't as expensive as you think.  In fact if you are in this boat - go read "The 4 Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss.  It will revolutionize your thinking.

Rule 1 sets it up so that you batch process your messages.  You set aside time to return calls and don't let them interrupt or rule your day.  If you have a call that meets rule #3 - put the callback reminder into your calendar for the next day as you process the calls.  Call back the ones from yesterday with this batch.  If you already use an assistant or service - call them at pre-arranged times only.  This makes the best use of your time and insures they are prepared for you.

Rule 2 - If all they do is ask you to call back it's not important / urgent.  They don't need an answer and often just want to talk.  The people in rule #4 are usually the biggest offenders.  Call them when you have time to waste.  Co-workers that do this are simply self important douchebags. They are the same ones that always use the speaker phone.  Your time is too valuable - if it is truly important they will call back and leave a real message.

Rule 3 - This may be the hardest.  The truth is that people are good problem solvers but they are also lazy and impatient. This rule takes advantage of those tendancies.  Most people will try asking an "expert" for help first. i.e. getting someone else to solve the problem (you).  When that fails to work immediately they will call someone else or finally work to solve the problem themselves.  If the latter is the case then they will have educated themselves in a way that they will no longer need to call you for that problem.  When you call back the next day they will appreciate that you called but 99.999% of the time the problem will have been resolved.  Managers: If you have the right people working for you - there is no such thing as an emergency.  Let your people do their jobs and stop being the mother hen.  Parents:  You will need to wean the kids.  Start by taking an hour to call back - then three etc.  If you aren't instantly available all the time, the kids will learn to plan ahead and have their ducks in a row when they do call.

Next - the only people that actually pay for long distance service are medium to large business and anyone that still wishes they could go back to rotary dial phones.   If this is you - call your local cable company or any of hundreds of VO/IP providers like Vonage.  (tip: Magic Jack sucks and is not what you want).  Better yet - get an all inclusive cell plan and ditch the land line / home phone altogether.

Even if you are a small business - call the cable company or your ISP and talk about phone service.  Normally one flat rate will get you all the services you have now plus long distance and Internet service - and probably more. 

Lastly - I cannot recommend Google Voice highly enough.  Now that it's open to the general public go sign up and take advantage.  I won't attempt to list the possibilities as they are nearly endless.   Personally I give out my GV number to everyone - only certain circles of people know my direct cell number.  I use it exclusively as my voice mail and take advantage of the automatic transcription feature all the time.  I hate nothing more than re-playing a message over and over trying to get one chunk of information.  Having GV route calls is also a godsend.   If you have an Android based phone GV is wonderfully integrated.

That's it for this week.   Sorry it took till Friday.  Have a safe holiday!

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

Kindle for Android

Kindle for Android

Being an unabashed Kindle lover AND an unabashed Droid lover - the two together makes me happy in a way that only those with a serious geek affliction would understand.

I’ve had a couple of days with the new kindle app and there are things I like and some warts.  

Things to like:
  • All of your purchased items are available.
  • The screen will rotate just like any other Android app
  • You can change the background/text color from black on white to black on sepia or white on black. (this is terrific for reading in the dark)
  • Your “last page read” is automatically updated so you are always in the right place no matter which device you open your book on.

Things that I don’t like or could use improvement:
  • Brightness does not follow the OS settings.  You must manually set the screen brightness in the app.  If you are trying to read in the dark - be prepared to be blinded while you fiddle with the settings.
  • If you have books on your Kindle that you have loaded via USB or even documents that you have mailed to your kindle address - they are not available on the Android app.
  • Books take a long time to download - even on wifi.  This is really odd and I suspect that there is actually a format translation going on somewhere.  On WiFi getting a book will take several minutes at least.  The one I pulled down on 3G took almost 10.
  • You must enable wireless on your Kindle for the “last page read” sync to work - not really any other way to do it though.

Overall it’s terrific.  I’m sure Amazon will fix the screen brightness issue over time.  I wish there were a way to tag USB / email loaded items for synchronization.  I often get books from sources other than Amazon and I’d like to have them appear in the Android app.

Good job so far - Thanks Amazon!