Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Alternatives to Mt. Gox

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

As I type this, Mt. Gox is offline.  Again.  This has happened more times than I could ever count.  It’s giving Bitcoin a bad name, because people tend to associate Bitcoin with the exchanges.

To be clear, I am not recommending any of these companies. I am merely offering a list of alternatives to Mt. Gox, in order of popularity.  Caveat emptor.

So, here it goes:

There are a few others, but their volume is so small that they would be difficult to use on a reasonable scale.

So, check them out and decide for yourself who you want to do business with.

If anyone has comments about any of the above exchanges, I am all ears.  Please leave a comment.

Bobsled: It Could Have Been Awesome

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

I’ve been a happy customer of T-Mobile for over a dozen years now, well before they were called T-Mobile. I’m writing this blog post because what I want to point out is a little too long for a tweet, and because I’m dying to hear from the ‘powers that be’ at Bobsled regarding their design decisions. I’m a huge fan of T-Mobile, and I want to see them succeed.

When I logged in to check on my usage today, I saw a reference to a service called Bobsled by T-Mobile. It seems to be divided into two separate pieces: “Calling” and “Messaging”. The voice stuff didn’t interest me, as I’m already a very happy user of Google Voice, but the Messaging product claims to synchronize SMS conversations across devices. That sounded really, really awesome. I usually carry two phones when I travel, and I travel quite often. It also claims to offer a Group SMS feature that really works — that is, any participant can ‘Reply to All’ and everyone else will successfully receive the responses.

So, I downloaded the Bobsled Messaging app, and patiently let it do its syncing thing. I then logged into their Bobsled web interface, and all of my SMS conversations showed up. So far so good. I sent a test SMS message from the web interface to a friend of mine, and he got it. Great.

Finally, I turned my phone off, sent a test SMS message to myself using Google Voice, and waited for it to show up on the Bobsled web interface. No bueno. It never arrived. As it turns out, your cell phone has to be turned on and have cell signal in order for Bobsled to function and be aware of new text messages. This seems really odd, given that T-Mobile is my carrier, and Bobsled is a service created and operated by T-Mobile.

In order words, this is how Bobsled works:
1) An SMS is sent to my cell phone number
2) T-Mobile receives the SMS on my behalf, since they are my carrier, and routes the SMS to my cell phone, wherever it is on the network.
3) If my cell phone is turned on and has service, the Bobsled app on my phone then forwards the SMS *back to T-Mobile* to be included in their Bobsled platform.

WTF?

This is how Bobsled could and should work:
1) An SMS is sent to my cell phone number
2) T-Mobile receives the SMS, copies it to their Bobsled platform, and routes a copy to my cell phone.

In the latter scenario, my cell phone would not have to be turned on in order for Bobsled to work properly. So, when I’m out of the country, I’d still be able to send and respond to SMS messages sent to my primary phone. That would be INCREDIBLY AWESOME.

But, alas, that’s not how the Bobsled system was designed and built. Instead, T-Mobile must first tell my cell phone about text messages and wait for my cell phone to tell T-Mobile what they should already know. It’s inefficient and silly, but it also prevents functionality that would be a true game changer in the mobile communications industry.

So, my question for T-Mobile is “Why?”

T-Mobile, as a carrier, is in a unique position to offer this kind of functionality, unlike Google. If T-Mobile were so inclined, they could easily create a Google Voice Killer. Think about it. Today, Google Voice can receive SMS message regardless of whether your phone is on, off, in, or out of service. That’s great, but it’s annoying not being able to use your primary number, and its frustrating trying to get other people to text you on the right number at the right times. (ie, When I’m stateside, call me at this number but text me at this number. When I’m out of the country, call me here and text me here.) With Bobsled, I can use my primary T-Mobile number for all my texting — even online — but my cell phone must always be turned on, have signal, and contain my T-Mobile SIM.

If T-Mobile would just copy my inbound SMS messages to their Bobsled platform, without relaying them through my phone, it would be over for Google Voice, at least for myself and hundreds of thousands of other people. I’m not saying that everyone would immediately switch, but I’m confident that this functionality would eventually cause hundreds of thousands of people to switch to T-Mobile from other carriers. I know I’m not the only one who travels, and I know I’m not the only one who avoids using Google Voice for SMS because of the confusion that two phone numbers causes.

I’m tweeting a link to this post to several Bobsled staffers. I would be thrilled to hear their thoughts.

Why I Might Donate to Obama

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Many consumers aren’t really privy to what goes on behind the scenes when people use credit cards.

Well, let me tell you, it’s not pretty. Virtually any time you use your card — regardless of whether it’s a credit card or a debit card that you’re using like a credit card — the merchant gets hit with a substantial fee. There is usually a fee made up of a flat, per transaction fee on the order of $.25 to $35, plus a portion of the transaction, which can be as high as 7% in some cases. (Usually it’s closer to one or two percent, however.)

It’s extremely unlikely that Obama’s campaign is not subject to these fees. So, if someone were to, for example, visit Obama’s donation page, and make a “donation” of one cent, it would actually cost the Obama campaign something like twenty-five cents.

According to their website, each individual is allowed to donate a total of $5,000 per election cycle. (That’s $2,500 for the primary, and $2,500 for the general election.) So, for example, if one were to write a script that “donates” $5,000, one cent at a time, it would result in a net loss of $125,000 for the Obama campaign.

I haven’t done it… I’m just sayin’…

TiVo: Review, Links and Resources

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Okay, I know that TiVo has been around for a long time, But…

I was recently looking for a way to watch certain video podcasts on my TV. For the life of me, I couldn’t find a hardware set-top-box that will just play video podcasts on my television.

It seems like such a simple concept, right? It’s just a matter of checking an RSS feed, downloading a video, and playing it. Miro, and several other podcast players, can do it just fine. Why aren’t there any set top boxes out there that are capable of such a seemingly-easy task? I searched high and low to no avail.

That is, until I learned that the new versions of TiVo support video podcasts. It was on. I immediately went out an bought two — one for my living room, and one for my bedroom. (Video podcast support wasn’t the only reason, read on.) They were less than $100 each from Best Buy!

(more…)

Code Bounties: An Explanation

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

For many years, I’ve told myself that if I ever had the money, I’d start creating bounties for the purpose of improving the software available to the Open Source community.

That day has come, and for this just purpose, I’ve created a new “Bounties” section of my blog.

My posted bounties will always be reachable at: http://bounties.chrisbrunner.com/

Here’s how it works:

1. I have an idea for a piece of software, or if I find an annoying bug that I know affects others.

2. Rather than waiting around, and doing nothing to improve the situation, I will create a bounty. Bounties will be posted in this new category, and I will probably also tweet them.

For example, I may post something like, “$200 to the first person who can fix this bug,” along with a link to the bug report.

3. If you see a bounty that you would like to take on, post a comment to let myself and others know that you’ve started working on it.

4. Once the piece of code, application, or bug fix is complete, I will immediately send you the money and announce in my post that the bounty has been awarded to you.

Watch bounties.chrisbrunner.com closely or subscribe to my Bounty RSS feed for the first bounty! Good luck!

Livestation: For people who want real news

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

First of all, I’d like to note that all news sources, including these, are biased to some degree.

With that said, it’s often nice to get views of what’s going on in the world that aren’t directly influenced by the US government.

For that, there is Livestation.

It free, and it’s cross-platform. So, it works just fine on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Livestation carries the following channels (among others), each which offer a new take on world events:

  • Al Jazeera English
  • RT
  • Press TV
  • BBC World Service
  • France 24
  • CNN International

It’s worth checking out. You should go download it.

Encyclopedia Dramatica and One World Government

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I have no idea how I stumbled upon this, but I found it very interesting.

For the sake of context, Encyclopedia Dramatica is, without question, one of the top five least-sane websites on the Internet, in terms of its content. Figuring out exactly what it is, and why, is an exercise that I will leave to you.

Anyway, this is the blog post I found. It’s by Joseph Evers, the founder of ED.

For those unaware, Encyclopedia Dramatica has been in a lot of trouble in Australia lately. First ED was placed on the ACMA blacklist, a “secret” list of websites to be censored throughout Australia in their upcoming internet filter. After this list was leaked to the public, we all laughed about how we were put on a blacklist with “Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions, Christian sites, and even the websites of a tour operator and a Queensland dentist“. Meanwhile, Australia Communications Minister Stephen Conroy called for the arrests of Australians publishing the list.

So here’s the deal. This is an initial investigation into charging me, personally, with the violation of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act. While I act in complete compliance with both the civil and criminal codes of the United States of America, and am assured the right of free speech according to our Constitution (which, if not the greatest political document in the entire history of law, is certainly on the top five) I can personally be jailed and fined for the violation of this law. Check out the court precedent they cite, Dow Jones & Co Inc v Gutnick, where a United States paper had to pay 580k for publishing an article about a globalized company headquartered in Australia and its CEO whilst completely in compliance with United States civil precedence. This isn’t a far-fetched legal theory, they have used it before. Welcome to the one world government, folks. Is this what you wanted? Is this what you had in mind? Cause this is what you’re gettin’.

Encyclopedia Dramatica will never be censored in any way. We will keep publishing this content and our Australian users will be able to view it up until the point that your God-forsaken government blocks it with their soon-to-be-implemented secret list of banned material. ACMA’s child pornography blacklist is only one half child pornography. The rest is religious and political speech. You really want Soviet-style communism as your future? I know some people that had to escape from the GDR. Many of your children will be in that position. The house of cards is about to come down, and they’re making sure your mouths are taped shut first. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My counsel has advised me that I can never under any circumstances visit my family in Sydney again, nor otherwise make any appearances on Australian soil. Here’s to the hidden cost of freedom.

Scary. I’ve only been to ED a few times in my life, but their content has nothing to do with the issue at hand. I applaud Joseph for refusing to censor his wiki site, and I find this trend of global cooperation among pro-censorship bureaucracies incredibly chilling.

Ubuntu Linux External Display Issues on the ThinkPad T410s

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I had a hell of a time finding a solution to this, so I figured I’d post the solution I found here for anyone else who happens to want to run Ubuntu on a ThinkPad T410s with an external display.

Symptoms:
– If you manage to get your external display working at all, it matches your laptop’s internal display resolution

Solution:
1. Upgrade your BIOS
2. In your new BIOS settings, change it to always use Discrete Graphics
3. Boot back into Ubuntu
4. Run nvidia-xconfig (assuming you’ve already installed the proprietary drivers)
5. Reboot

That’s it. Should work fine now.

As simple as it sounds, that took almost all day to figure out. Good luck.

After you do this, you may discover that your external display goes blank when you shut your laptop lid. The solution can be found in this thread on the Ubuntu forums.

Gmail Compose Bookmarklet

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

If you use Gmail for everything, as I do, you probably wish you had a way to create a “Compose” button that saves you from having to go to Gmail in a new browser tab, and let it load, before you compose a new message.

There is an easy way to do this.

Simply drag this link into your bookmark toolbar:
Gmail Compose

Credit goes to hackaddict.net.

Schedule Email to be Sent Later with Gmail

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Ever wanted to schedule an email to be sent at a later time or date?

Gmail doesn’t support this natively, but a Firefox addon called Boomerang adds the functionality.

UPDATE: I’m not sure how long this will last, but here’s a direct download link so that you don’t have to wait for an invite code. Click here for Firefox and here for Chrome.