Category Archives: Technology


Aw hell, guys, I got a smart phone!

Well, Nate got it for me ‘cause he’s TOO NICE, but now I’m not stuck with my old slide phone thingy. The new phone is not an iPhone, but a Samsung Galaxy S6. There are no iPhones with the plan that works best up here for me (unlimited US texting so I can talk to my mom, plus unlimited data). But this phone is pretty awesome! I tried taking a picture of it so that you could see the pretty dark blue color of it, but I couldn’t get it to show up very well. So here’s a picture (from here) of a phone where you can see the color.



I may die.

Edit: Customized it so that it’s super ostentatious.




DUDE, the new iPhone is the best ever and I want it.


I’ve wanted an iPhone for quite some time now, as you all know. However, I haven’t really enjoyed the trend of them getting larger with each new model. Like, by the time we get to the iPhone 10, it’s going to be the size of a surfboard at this rate.


The iPhone SE is awesome. Why?

1. It’s tiny. Well, not tiny, but smaller than the iPhone 6 monstrosities.


2. It’s shaped like the iPhone 4. I LOVE THE SHAPE OF THE IPHONE 4.


3. It’s way more up to date software-wise than my iPod. Which is a pretty easy thing to be, considering my iPod is from 2012 and the software stopped updating like a year and a half ago. Yeah.

I want it. But the company I’m planning on using once I finally upgrade to a smartphone doesn’t have iPhones as options. And the phone itself, without a plan, is $700.

So that’s not happening, unfortunately.

Fitbit vs. iTreadmill

Yo, people! So as I mentioned on “Fake Christmas” day, My dad got me a Fitbit ‘cause he knows I’m obsessive about tracking stuff (also I think he got one for himself, too, ‘cause he used to have a Nike one awhile back that’s probably dead by now).

Anyway, I decided to go for a walk today and compare what Fitbit said to what my iTreadmill app said.

So here we go!

iTreadmill: 11.00
Fitbit: 11.01

iTreadmill: 24,240
Fitbit: 23,473

iTreadmill: 175 minutes
Fitbit: 207 minutes

Calories Burned
iTreadmill: 702
Fitbit: 2,420

The mileage and steps aren’t too different from one another, which is surprising, ‘cause I can’t calibrate Fitbit to my stride (but I’ve done so for the iTreadmill app). The time for the Fitbit is longer because it doesn’t shut off when I stop moving. The iTreadmill app does (which I kind of like better, ‘cause then I know how much time I actually spent moving rather than just standing at intersections, in line at the grocery store, etc.). The calories are the biggest difference, but that’s because the Fitbit tracks “resting” calories burned as well, so the 2,420 is what it thinks I’d burned up until the walk, and then on the walk itself (I don’t think I burn nearly that many calories in a day. My body doesn’t manufacture it’s own heat, dude).

But the best part about the Fitbit is that it tracks your heartrate, which is something the iTreadmill can’t do. So if I’m not going to use it as my “official” tracker for steps/mileage, I can at least use it to track my heartrate.




We went far enough back in time that Apple forgot how the year worked.


Where’s April and May, Apple? Where’s April and May? And why does February have 31 days?



The only thing I really know in ASL, apart from about 5 signs, is the alphabet. This app is a cool way to practice recognizing the letter signs in a QWERTY layout, even if you don’t need to send any sign language messages. It’s also got a few word signs as well.

I’d really like to learn ASL to the point where I could have a conversation with someone using it (at least, a conversation in which I wouldn’t have to look ridiculous spelling out every single word). I CAN spell relatively quickly, though; I think that comes from the fact that when I’m walking and listening to music, I like to try and sign the first letter of every word in the song as it plays.

Because what else am I supposed to be doing with my hands when I’m walking?

In This Blog: Nate and I Break the iPad Calendar

Things we didn’t know until we played with the calendar app on my iPad:

  • There is no upper limit on this thing. It will go until you get a blister on your scrolling finger.

image (17)

  • It will also go pretty far into the past.
  • Once you get past 1 A.D., you go into B.C. mode, in which the months are all shifted and December doesn’t exist. (That’s 810 B.C. in the picture)

image (16)

  • B.C. Leibniz was born on a Sunday.

image (15)

New idea for a webcomic: a comic about the European Enlightenment, had it occurred in B.C. times rather than A.D. times. There’s a priority dispute between B.C. Newton and B.C. Leibniz over who discovered fire.

It’s a good thing I can’t draw, or this would totally happen.


I got a new computer. BEHOLD!


His official name is BIG COMPY THE REDUX 2015 EDITION XXL MEGA BIG AWESOME-TRON, but I just call him Big Compy for short.

This is actually the first time I’ve ever bought a desktop computer for myself. Old Big Compy was my mom’s from like 2008 or so; it somehow survived about 8 moves around the continent before crapping out on me, forcing me to get the new guy.

But this is also the second computer I’ve bought this year, which is a little stressful (recall I had to replace my laptop back in February).

Actually, this whole year has been about most of my stuff finally breaking/falling apart/becoming unusable. Hopefully my iPod will make it to the end!



Heyyyyyyyyy, what’s up, fools?

So remember Project Euler, that site that has hundreds of programming challenge problems? Well, I haven’t had much time for it lately (blame school), but today I decided to log back in and see if there was a problem I could try. And I found one!

This is the problem:

Passcode derivation (Problem 79): A common security method used for online banking is to ask the user for three random characters from a passcode. For example, if the passcode was 531278, they may ask for the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th characters; the expected reply would be: 317.
The text file, keylog.txt, contains fifty successful login attempts.
Given that the three characters are always asked for in order, analyse the file so as to determine the shortest possible secret passcode of unknown length.

This is one that I was able to solve by hand pretty easily, but since it’s a coding challenge site, I figured I ought to give it a shot using R. It took me a bit to get my code just right (there was one particular thing I was trying to do and I couldn’t figure out how to do it in R, so I had to modify things a bit), but I finally got it right!

Anyway, I’m not going to share my code here (it’s discouraged to share solutions outside the problem forums, each of which can only be accessed once you’ve input the correct answer for a  given problem), but I thought that this was a super interesting and fun question to try. It’s easy to do by hand, but in my opinion a bit harder to do with code.

If you like this type of stuff, try it out!

Also, happy birthday, mom!

More R stuff

HOLY CRAP I love teaching people R. My office mate Charles is wanting to learn so he’s been reading some books and picking up the basics, but he’s told me that a lot of the books he’s looked at are reasonable for the first few chapters and then start getting too hard too fast or explain things really counter-intuitively.

So today I spent ten minutes or so teaching him how to write functions in R and he said that the way I showed it to him was way easier to understand than how the books explained it.

So now I want to write a (new) R booklet thingy. I still have that one I wrote a few years ago, but that was before I knew loops/functions/shortcut-type stuff.


Well, hell.

UGH so today was eventful.

Last night, Vaio was acting kind of strange, giving me a bit of trouble and just running really glitchy-like. This morning it was completely dead. Basically, it was acting like it did back last May when we had to take it in and wipe the hard drive and basically start from scratch.

So I considered a few things:

  • Fixing Vaio last time, when I was in the States, was pretty damn expensive. It would probably be at least 125% as expensive up here.
  • After the first hard drive incident, I looked up the problem online and it sounds like such a thing was fairly common with that model of Vaio. In fact, there were some people who said it had happened to them up to four times with one computer.
  • I have a huge project due on Thursday and don’t have time for screwing around.

I made the decision to use my teaching award money to get a new laptop. I took the bus to a Best Buy on the other side of town and got myself a new shiny! It’s an hp with a touchscreen and a 1 TB harddrive. It’s pretty. Hopefully it will last me a long time!

Now I have to name it. I can’t call it “Vaio” ‘cause it’s not a Vaio, and just calling it “hp” sounds dumb.

I shall think on it.


Idea: someone should make a pirate-themed R how-to book and call it R Matey. There would be a little cartoon parrot throughout giving little hints and tricks.

*squawk* “Close your brackets! Close your brackets!” *squawk*

Sleep deprivation is fun.

Conduct of Code

OH MY GOD this looks like fun.

From the site (and in case you don’t want to click the link for whatever reason): “Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems. The motivation for starting Project Euler, and its continuation, is to provide a platform for the inquiring mind to delve into unfamiliar areas and learn new concepts in a fun and recreational context.”

The problems look fairly challenging (at least, challenging in R, which of course is my programming language of choice, I mean c’mon), but at least it will give me a good excuse to practice!

Edit: hahaha, I’ve done like five of them already. But the rest look super hard!

The Selfie of xXxDorianGray2000xXx

I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I planned on getting a smartphone once I got up here. I haven’t yet for reasons I don’t want to get into (loooong story), but every time I’ve mentioned getting a smart phone, I’ve implied that it was going to be an iPhone.*


I was watching the news last night and they announced that Blackberry (which is apparently a Canadian company…did not know that) is coming out with a unique new smart phone called the Blackberry Passport. It looks like this (source):


It’s called a Passport because it’s almost exactly the same size as a passport—a feature that’s either getting praised or slammed, depending on who’s reviewing the specs of the phone.

It’s got a physical keyboard that also responds to swiping/scrolling and the unique size allows for a square screen and more reading room than a “normal” smart phone. It also supposedly has a super long battery life.

It’s being marketed mainly to businesspeople/CEO-types, but even still, a lot of reviewers are wondering if it’s “clunky” size will be a turn-off for a lot of people.

Personally, I think it’s REALLY FREAKING COOL. It’s definitely unique, weird, and not for everyone.

My type of phone.

And yes, I know I don’t need a smart phone—in fact, a smart phone would probably be bad for me. But it would be nice to be able to check my email without lugging out Vaio.** Also, if I ever get lost on one of my walks, I would feel better having easy access to the internet to look up directions/find a bus route if necessary, rather than relying on my iPod picking up some store’s wifi.

*An iPhone 4, specifically. They’re free with a plan now, plus I like the shape of the 4 better than the 5.
**Haha, the fact that using a laptop is no longer the most convenient way of accessing the internet now is both awesome and scary.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dial-Up

This is…creepy but beautiful.

But creepy.

My computer knowledge is about as close to zero as it can be without actually being zero, so I’m not going to even attempt an explanation of all these components, but if you’re interested in what’s what in the dial-up noise, check out this pic.

(And here’s a video showing what sounds correspond to what parts of said pic)


Dancin’ Pants

So the dude at VGH put in a new hard drive and reinstalled windows, so now Vaio III lives once again. Except he’s empty.

And now I’m paranoid that this is going to happen again, especially since no one knows exactly why the hard drive failed. Just watch: as soon as I get to Calgary, BAM! Dead Vaio.

I reiterate from yesterday: it’s a damn good thing I’m paranoid about things like this happening. Three backups in three different locations across Moscow = good.

Also, props to the super nice VGH guy who could probably tell I was in panic mode and stayed nice and calm and congenial. Thanks for all your help, dude!

R.I.P. Vaio III

Well, it’s a good thing I do monthly backups of all my important files, ‘cause Vaio III just bit the dust totally out of the blue. Apparently the hard drive crashed but no one knows why.


Back up your crap, people.

Edit: DAMMIT I lost the order for all of May’s songs (hadn’t backed that up ‘cause it’s not June yet). I guess I’ll just list them alphabetically rather than by date acquired this month. BUGGER.

Again: back up your crap, people.


So I have this program on Big Compy called IOGraph which tracks your mouse movement as well as how long the cursor sits still in one place. So since it’s spring break and I have no life, I decided to track my mouse movements doing various tasks, each for approximately a half-hours’ worth of time. Note that the black dots are “pause points” with bigger dots = longer pause time.


Here’s 23.2 minutes of playing Half-Life.

IOGraphica - 23.2 minutes (from 22-00 to 22-23)


Here’s 26.7 minutes of formatting one of my archived blog years in Word (2007 – 2009; one of these days I’ll be done with that project).

IOGraphica - 26.7 minutes (from 22-30 to 22-57)


Here’s 32.6 minutes of playing The Sims 3 (creating a family).

IOGraphica - 32.6 minutes (from 23-58 Mar 22th to 0-31 Mar 23th)


Here’s 36.1 minutes of “doing whatever.”

IOGraphica - 36.1 minutes (from 23-17 to 23-53)

Interesting, huh?



Midnight Planétarium from Van Cleef & Arpel’s Poetic Astronomy series.
One of the comments on the video: “In addition to telling time by way of a shooting star that rotates along the outmost area of the face, the watch more prominently features an accurate rotation and representation of the Earth and the five other planets visible from here around the sun—Mercury in 88 days, Venus in 224, Earth in a year, Mars in 687 days, Jupiter in 12 years and Saturn in 29. It’s a very complex watch and a true display of supreme watchmaking. But as complicated as the piece is—with 396 parts to the movement—it’s also beautiful.”


I really need to get a book (or two) on watchmaking, ‘cause these things are becoming a bit of an obsession.

Shouldn’t a minor in geology be a “miner”?

So Megan and I were talking this morning (“What?” you say. “Social interaction??” I KNOW, RIGHT?!) and we concluded that if there ever were a time where time travel was invented and we were able to drag someone from like the 1600s to the present time, the first thing we would show them would be a vacuum cleaner.

Because that’s probably the most futuristic-looking thing we’ve got.

Seriously now. If I were to bring someone from 300 years ago into the present time and say, “we’ve developed technology that allows us to launch ourselves into space,” and ask them which of the following two objects is the thing that allows us to do so, which do you think they would pick (ignoring scale)?


I’d be tempted to pick the second object. It would roll along a runway like an airplane and then launch once it hit a certain speed.

Fun fact: the Saturn V Rocket was a Dyson in disguise.

[end of pointless blog]

Random iPod things

I guess it’s one of those days where it’s snowing upside down.


(This is what happens when I just barely start my walk to the bus and my iPod battery bites it ‘cause I hadn’t charged it in forever.)

Yes, I took that picture on the 26th, not on the day I’m talking about it in my blog. Deal with it.


Matt, these shoes reminded me of you, so I thought I should bring them to your attention.

That’s all for today.