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More, Hey Siri!

So no more map posts this month, but some good stuff anyway.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post titled Hey Siri, which had all kinds of tips and tricks to using Siri, the personal assistant on the iPhone.
I’m back with more.  In fact, I think this very well may be the definitive guide to what you can get Siri to do or answer for you.
Everything from posting on Twitter to getting directions to converting miles into meters.  Siri can do a lot of amazing things for you and all via voice command.  We live in an age of miracles.  And, over at Hey, Siri! What can you do for me?, they’ve collected pretty much everything you can think of in one, searchable, website for you.  It’s nothing short of miraculous.
Want to know how many seconds are in twenty-three years?  Just say, “Hey, Siri, convert twenty-three years to seconds” and you’ll know.
Want to know how many days until Christmas?  Just say, “Hey, Siri, how many days until Christmas” and she’ll tell you.
Want to add milk to the grocery list? All the commands you need are at Hey, Siri! What can you do for me?
Seriously, they’ve got everything you might want to do. Go look!  But, I’m not responsible for your co-workers getting annoyed at you talking to Siri all day.  That’s on you.

And, again, for those of you who don’t have Siri, you can still enjoy Shit Siri Says, which is funny no matter who you are!

Aerial View

One more aerial view thing next week and I’ll have an actual theme for the month.

Once upon a time, I used to watch a lot of the food and restaurant related reality television that seemed to run on the more obscure cable channels.  One of my favorites was Bar Rescue.  And, one of the coolest things I saw them do was setup a kind of “virtual window” system in this one bar that had really uninspiring night views.  Basically, they were huge monitors that looked like windows and would loop these gorgeous displays of apparently live views from around the world.  I loved that!  And, ever since, I’ve kind of been looking for a way to recreate it.

Well, I still haven’t found a way, really, but I think I do have a very nice substitute.  A developer by the name of John Coates whipped up a cool screen saver for Apple TV called, Aerial, which he offered up for free on the open source source code sharing site GitHub.  And, that would be spectacular, if I had an Apple TV, which I don’t.  Luckily, thanks to Mr. Coates releasing this code under an open source license, another developer, Dmitry Sadakov, reworked the code into the Aerial for Windows screensaver.  It’s awesome!  Installation is a little hands-on and manual, but the link, which is also to GitHub, has both the download and installation instructions.

So, go, grab it and enjoy your weekend!

 

 

Wallpaper From Above

Or, better living through data mining satellite imagery.

Seriously.
I’m not a big fan of the goofy, “Web 2.0”, startup-app naming convention that drops vowels out of words to make domain names, but, in this case, I’m going to make an exception.  Mostly because it’s free, but also cool, in spite of the name.  Besides, since WLPPR relies on freely available satellite imagery gathered by scientific agencies funded by the U.S. government, I figure we all have this one coming.
What it is, is a website that gathers up some of the most beautiful, and pretty abstract, images shot from far, far above the Earth and crops them to the right size for you smart phone’s wallpaper.  (That’s where the vowel-less name comes from; WaLlPaPpeR, get it?)
The site gives you the previews and there’s a link to the app for your iPhone, with an Android app in development.  The iPhone app is free, too, by the way.

So, hey, why not check it out and pretty up your phone with government data your tax dollars already bought?
And, have a great weekend!

Cuteness Palate Cleanser

So, I’m a fairly apolitical guy and I need a mental palate cleanser after all the political convention coverage lately.

And, outside of unicorns, I can think of no better mood enhancer than endless streams of adorable animals brought to you via Tumblr. So, here you go:
Kittens & Puppies
Cute Puppies and Kittens
dogs and cats
Emergency Cute
BFF Animals
and, finally, Unlikely Friendships

That’s it.
That’s all I’ve got this week for you.
Enjoy!

Amazon Price Tools

Our streaming-only television plans may have failed, but I’ve been enjoying the Amazon Prime membership we got for it.

There’s a part of me that’s a little terrified of Amazon, because that much power in the hands of one commercial organization is scary, but there’s another part of me that really likes the incredible variety of products they sell at amazing prices.  So, while I do shop there, taking as much advantage of our Prime subscription as possible, I still think I’m right to be a little suspicious of them and vigilant.  For instance, I think it’s better if I can comparison shop and make sure that Amazon really does have the best price.  That’s not always easy to do.  But, a new-ish set of tools on a website called CamelCamelCamel.com can help.  Among other things, they have trackers that help you find the best price and watch for price drops, not to mention tools that show  you the price history of a particular item.  And, they have a browser add-in called The Camelizer that help you do all that right from your favorite browser.  If you sign up for a free account, you can set up notifications for price changes or even set a target price notification so you can snag what your heart desires at the best price possible.
And, if you have the problem my wife and I always seem to have, and need to fill in just a couple dollars worth of something to get the free shipping, there’s the handy website FillerItem.  All you need to do is hit the site, put in your minimum dollar amount and FillerItem will serve up a list of things from Amazon that will tip you over the limit.  It’s pretty clever.

So, there you go, some tools to help your conspicuous consumption this weekend.
Enjoy!

 

Evernote Add-Ons

I’ve become a huge Evernote fan since I started using it for the Getting Things Done a couple months ago.

And, as I find more and more things I can do through Evernote to keep me organized and efficient, I find I love it more and more. I’ve been focused on templates recently, both finding them and making them myself. But, as it turns out there are all kinds of add-ons for Evernote, too. Here are two.
First, for those of us who want to keep a map of the area around an appointment, or some other entry we may want to put into Evernote, there’s MapClipper, which will let you take a small slice of Google maps and save it into your Evernote notebook. And, if you’ve paid for one of the better-than-free subscriptions for Evernote, you can save these maps off-line, too, which can come in handy sometimes.
Then, if you want to improve your mind, but only in short, condensed bits, there’s Blinkist, which will give you non-fiction books summarized into a fifteen-minute executive summary right into your Evernote notebook. The free subscription gives you one condensed book per day, which they choose for you, but if you upgrade to one of the paid versions you can pick books and get more than one per day. I’m not a big fan of executive summaries, but for certain business or trendy books, I might prefer it.

So, there you are, two free add-ons for Evernote to make your life even better!

What Theme Is That WordPress Running?

Okay, so this may not matter to a lot of my readers who aren’t designers, programmers or WordPress enthusiasts.

But, it does matter to me.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a site and wanted to know what they were running.  Most of the time, I just go over to Netcraft and check to see what kind of server and content management system they’re running.  But, sometimes, when I see that they’re running WordPress, I often want to know more, like what theme the site is running or what plugins it’s using.  The problem is, while I can usually look at the code and see what theme they’re running, it’s almost impossible to get any of the plugins, too.
Well, the other night while looking for something else, I found the WordPress Theme Detector, which can tell me all of that information and a little more.  It’s a free service and all you need to do is put in the URL of the site you’re curious about to get the 411.

That ought to kill a little time while you drop your favorite blogs in there to see what they’re running!
Enjoy!

Fireworks Photography

Seems like I end up posting about this every year. Almost like a tradition.

For those of you outside the U.S., Monday is the day we celebrate our independence as a nation by barbecuing and carousing and having parades and, most of all, by firing fireworks. All across the country this weekend, there will be fireworks displays, both large and small, and there will be photographers at every one of them with tons of gear trying to capture that exuberant feeling of freedom in an image. My personal suggestion is to just go and enjoy the show, but, if you absolutely must take photographs, check out the links below for tips before you go!

First, and always one of my favorites, are the annual Ten Tips for Photographing Fireworks from Photofocus. For most of us, these are the tips that matter most.
But, also, check out How To Photograph Fireworks at Digital Photography School. They also have ten tips, but their tips are slightly different, so definitely worth a look.
And, finally, you can never go wrong with Fireworks Photography Tips from National Geographic. Even if you are burned out on fireworks photography tips after the first two links, it’s worth following this link for the inspirational photography, if nothing else!
Or, if you’d rather just watch a video tutorial, Photofocus has updated their regular guide into a How To Shoot Fireworks video on YouTube.

Just remember, being polite to those around you while you’re trying to setup your shots will go a long way to improving everyone’s enjoyment of the spectacle. Just because you have a camera doesn’t make your viewing experience more important than anyone else’s. And, of course, be safe! Don’t get so worried about getting a good photograph that you let someone sneak up and steal your camera gear in the dark or that hot ashes from the fireworks land on your gear, or you! Safety first!
But, most of all, enjoy the Independence Day holiday and festivities and appreciate the fact that, no matter how much the NSA listens to your phone calls, we still live in a free and glorious country!
And, most of all, have a Happy Independence Day!

Submarine Google View

Those who know me best, know my obsession with submarines.

I have loved submarines, especially the World War II era subs, since I was a kid growing up in Chicago and going to the Museum of Science and Industry.  There I would always want to make sure and tour the famous U505; a German U-Boat that was captured intact and towed through the Great Lakes to her final resting place in Chicago.  I’ve probably been through the U-505 more than a dozen times.  It’s incredible.
If I’m ever in a city where I can tour a submarine, I do my best to make it a priority.  For instance, the last time I was in San Francisco, I made sure to see the USS Pampanito, a retired U.S.N. submarine.  Similar in many ways to the German boats, but not quite as cramped.
I’ve read a number of books about World War II submarines, as well as modern subs, from both the Allies and the Axis.  I’ve never been aboard a Japanese submarine or a British submarine, but, now, thanks to the magic power of Google, we can take a virtual tour of one.  The HMS Ocelot has been pretty completely mapped by Google and you can get a really good look at what she was like.  Nothing replaces actually being in one, but this is about the next best thing.

Besides, it’s Friday and you’re probably avoiding work like most everyone else is, so why not have some educational fun and do a virtual tour of a piece of history!?
Enjoy and have a great weekend!

 

Uncle Walt’s Health Tips for Men

Seriously, health tips from Walt Whitman himself.

I think about health a lot, because I’m overweight.  My cardiologist would like me to lose at least 20 pounds, preferably more.  He just doesn’t quite buy that my wife, being a good Southern woman, expresses her love for me through food.  And, she really loves me.  Seriously.
I also tend to be a traditionalist, though, so when I saw that old Walt Whitman had written a 13-installment series of articles giving men of his day health advice, well, you can imagine how I became quite interested.  Maybe, finally, I’d have someone who was on my side for why I didn’t have time to lose the weight!  And why bacon can be served at every meal!

Sadly, it was not so.  Mr. Leaves of Grass himself said just what my cardiologist did; get up and walk.  Yeah.  And, he suggests walking outside, in the fresh air, and everything.
I feel betrayed.
You can read all his advice, which, I might add, is perfectly good for women for the most part, too, if you just follow this link over to the University of Iowa archives.  It’s actually a pretty good series of articles and, while he doesn’t say much about bacon, he does suggest that there’s nothing wrong with eating beef.  So I have that much.

Anyway, it’s Friday and you might as well read what else he has to say.

Enjoy your weekend!