UCLA Head Football Coach Jim Mora @ the Microsoft Store in Century City – July 26th, 11:00AM-2:00PM

July 20, 2012

Two words:  Go. Bruins.

image

Summary:

For anyone interested, UCLA Coach Jim Mora will be appearing on July 26th @ 11AM-2PM at the Microsoft Store in Century City. (http://content.microsoftstore.com/store/detail/Los-Angeles-CA)

Coach Mora will be coaching fans/customers on NCAA Football ‘13 for Xbox 360. There will be a presentation on Coach Mora’s “Count on Me” Family Foundation (http://www.countonmefoundation.org/) followed by an open Q&A. There will be raffles, food and lots of UCLA laptop/Xbox 360 ‘skin’ giveaways.

Event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/447855625248999/


VIDEO: A explanation of “Collusion” & the Rampant Problem of Behavioral Tracking on the Internet

July 19, 2012

I’ve always hated the overused quip, “Your privacy is an illusion.”  But while it paints with a broad stroke & over-generalizes the issue, there is a hint of truth to it.  This is a TEDtalk that addresses this matter and is one that everyone should to see.  The problem of Internet behavior tracking is very real, affects everyone, and without precautions, is absolutely out of control.

“As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. Web tracking is not 100% evil — personal data can make your browsing more efficient; cookies can help your favorite websites stay in business. But, says Gary Kovacs, it’s your right to know what data is being collected about you and how it affects your online life. He unveils a Firefox add-on to do just that.

Gary Kovacs is the CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, where he directs the development of Firefox.“

ORIGINAL PAGE:
http://www.ted.com/talks/gary_kovacs_tracking_the_trackers.html


LeapFrog Connect Coupons for FREE Alphabet Stew & The Book of Super Awesome Stuff

July 15, 2012

I was searching the Internet coupon sites and I stumbled upon these two coupons for the LeapFrog downloadable content catalog.  If your kid owns a LeapFrog Explorer or a LeapPad, you’ll wanna check these out as they’re both free and easy to redeem and download.  (As of 7/15/12 they still worked.)

  • imageimageFREE: The Book of Super Awesome Stuff (Ebook, 11MB, $7.50)
    Code: 5813 1140 1518 1413
  • FREE: Alphabet Stew (Game, 2MB, $7.50)
    Code: 5813 0790 4610 4973

Instructions on usage:

  1. Open LeapFrog Connect
  2. Click on “App Center”
  3. Click on “REDEEM CODE” button on the right.
  4. Enter in code.  For example:  5813 1140 1518 1413 to get the Book of Super Awesome Stuff.

You’ll get the item for no charge and the download will begin automatically to your PC which will sync the next time you connect your LeapPad or LeapFrog Explorer to your computer.


LeapFrog Connect: Can’t install Adobe Flash on Windows 7 x64?

July 14, 2012

imageOnce again, Adobe Flash has me baffled.

This time it’s with the LeapFrog Connect, the software that is required to configure & upload software to the “My Own Leaptop”, “LeapPad”, the “LeapFrog Explorer”, among other LeapFrog electronic products for young children.

THE ISSUE:  LEAPFROG CONNECT WON’T RECOGNIZE MY INSTALLATION OF ADOBE FLASH PLAYER
So the LeapFrog Connect software requires Flash.  Fine – during it’s installation it says that it needs to execute the installation.  The only problem is that once the software states that Flash Player is required, it opens up Internet Explorer & sends you to http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer and has you installing Adobe Flash Player 11 or whatever.  After verifying that the player works within the web page by displaying some sort of Flash animation, it returns you to the LeapFrog Connect software…

image…and the LeapFrog Connect software promptly says, “Adobe Flash failed to install properly.  LeapFrog Connect cannot continue.”

THE PROBLEM:  WRONG FLASH PLAYER INSTALLED
I went through and uninstalled, and reinstalled, and then did what Adobe calls a FULL uninstall through a special Adobe Flash Uninstaller program.  But ultimately, it turned out that:

  • I’m running Windows 7 64-bit Edition
  • Windows 7 64-bit Edition has TWO versions of Internet Explorer available.
        • Internet Explorer 9.0 32-bit (x86)
        • Internet Explorer 9.0 64-bit (x64)
  • LeapFrog Explorer uses Internet Explorer 9.0 64-bit & Adobe Flash Player x64
  • 99% of the world uses, by default, Internet Explorer 9.0 32-bit

When a browser opens up, it opens up a 32-bit version of Internet Explorer 9.0 and installs the 32-bit version of Adobe Flash Player.

When you return to LeapFrog Explorer, it is using the 64-bit version of Internet Explorer 9.0 and requires the 64-bit version of Adobe Flash Player.

So naturally, the software thinks the installation of Adobe Flash failed since it still can’t see Flash.  It’s not that Flash hasn’t been installed however… it’s just that the wrong EDITION has been installed.

THE SOLUTION:  MANUAL INSTALLATION OF ADOBE FLASH PLAYER x64
You basically have to manually pop out to the desktop and run Internet Explorer 9.0 64-bit Edition manually and do the installation of the Adobe Flash Player for x64 manually.

  1. Click START BUTTON –> All Programs –> Internet Explorer (64-bit)
  2. Type http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer into the Address Bar of Internet Explorer when it comes up.
  3. Follow the instructions during the installation. (But be sure to not install Chrome or you’ll take 4x as long to complete the installation all just to get browser you don’t really need for this exercise)
  4. You may need to close the Internet Explorer 9.0 64-bit window at some point during the Adobe Flash Player installation (it’ll tell you on the screen) to allow the Adobe Flash Player installer to finish.  This is normal.  Once completed, a browser window should open with an Adobe Flash animation that demonstrates that Flash is now working within IE 9.0 64-bit Edition.
  5. imageGo to the desktop and double click on “LeapFrog Connect”.  LeapFrog Connect should have put a shortcut on your desktop to allow you to run the software.  If it’s not there, go to START –> All Programs –> LeapFrog Connect –> LeapFrog Connect

The software should now run and no longer give you the message that Adobe Flash Player needs to be installed.


WARNING: Fisher-Price Fun-2-Learn Computer Cool School… only kinda Windows 7 incompatible.

July 6, 2012

imageShort and sweet: 

The “Fisher-Price Fun-2-Learn Computer Cool School” is not technically compatible with Windows 7.

The Computer Cool School device is a learning tool for Windows XP/Vista for children 3 & up.  It’s got amazing software and over 6 expansion modules that are purchasable separately.

SUPPORT SAYS: “NOT COMPATIBLE WITH WINDOWS 7”
Despite searching every search engine known to mankind, there’s virtually no record of any statement about an incompatibility between “Computer Cool School” & Windows 7 on Mattel/Fisher-Price’s web site or in any support documentation.  There’s nothing on any consumer web sites or school tech support sites either.  The only entry documenting this that I could find was on Amazon’s customer comments:

“I was going to buy the product, but I called Fisher Price Customer Relations Dept. first to ask if the product is Windows 7 compatible. According to them, it is NOT. So the product is only compatible with XP or Vista!”
http://www.amazon.com/gp/community-content-search/results/ref=cm_srch_q_rtr/?query=windows+7&search-alias=community-reviews&idx.asin=B0015KVW56

I’ve read a variety of issues about this toy, and still – it’s so frickin’ cool with it’s rich software set, interactive games & sounds – that I really just had to suck it up, pick up a unit, and try to get this thing to work. 

THE PROBLEM:  POINTING DEVICE CONFLICTS
The software itself works – and it works really well.  Better than anything I’ve seen to date.  That’s not a problem.  The Computer Cool School software loads right up on my son’s computer and looks great, automatically changing the resolution, audio comes in clearly, no problems from that standpoint.

The issue for me is that keyboard/tablet accessory that comes with ‘Computer Cool School’ malfunctions.  The mouse pointer rapidly JUMPS all over the screen uncontrollably & the problem appears to be some sort of severe incompatibility with the driver for the Computer Cool School “Tablet” and the built-in touch pointer on my laptop which happens to be a Intel Core2Duo powered HP 8430 using a Synaptics touchpad..  Yes, it’s way overpowered for this kid’s scenario but it’s a spare machine so that’s what I’m using.

My first reaction is, “Well, then kill the tablet.  Have him learn to use a mouse.”  Nope.  Not possible.  The software requires that the keyboard and tablet be plugged in because there are ancillary buttons that are no on a traditional keyboard.

ATTEMPT #1:  COMPATIBILITY MODE
I’ve tried installing the software using Compatibility Mode for Windows XP SP2 & SP3.  (As in – I actually ran the SETUP.EXE in Compatibility Mode to present the appropriately emulated  installation environment to the installation software)  I’ve set compatibility variables for 640×480, disabled high-resolution scaling, run as admin… everything.  Nothing worked.  The mouse cursor jumps around randomly, I assume again due to some sort of conflict with the existing pointing devices.

BTW: I also tried shuttling the native resolution of the screen down thinking that the pointing device conflict had something to do with mapping to absolute screen coordinates

ATTEMPT #2: WINDOWS XP MODE FOR WINDOWS 7
My next attempt was going to be to run the thing in Windows XP Mode or “Virtual PC 2007” in a virtualized session of Windows XP SP3.  Not the greatest solution but it’s better than it not working at all.  I started to download all the appropriate software – some 500MB of virtual machine data along with 2 software packages (whew!) and here’s what downloads were involved:

  1. Windows XP Mode for Windows 7: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=8002 (469MB)
  2. Windows Virtual PC for Windows 7:
    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=3702 (16.3MB)
  3. Update for Windows 7 (KB977206):
    http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=3248 (3.7MB)

I won’t bore you with the details except to say that this DID NOT WORK.  The issue is that Windows XP Mode/Virtual PC does not support Human Interface Devices (HID) over USB – and the Fisher Price Computer Cool School keyboard/tablet is a HID over USB device.  I learned this only after having installed all of this and then doing research on Virtual PC’s USB redirection support.  Trust me… I was not a happy camper.

ATTEMPT #3: DISABLING POINTING DEVICES
I decided to try disabling the Synaptics Touchpad driver & plug in a small mouse – the Microsoft Notebook Mouse to be exact.  So I tried this by going to Control Panel –> Device Manager –> Mice and Right Mouse clicked the Synaptics pointer and disabled the device.  I plugged in a new mouse and got the driver loaded for it & I rebooted … and lo-and-behold, the Computer Cool School tablet pointer appeared to be behaving & both the mouse & the tablet worked in harmony.

Or was it?

When the tablet was used, it made the mouse pointer shake VIGOROUSLY.  Yes, there’s no longer any jumping around the screen but the pointer ‘jiggled’ rapidly and annoyingly making precision difficult.  When the mouse was used, shaking sometimes occurred.  GRRR.

ATTEMPT #4: Oracle VirtualBox
Remember how Virtual PC/Windows XP Mode doesn’t support USB redirection of HID devices like the Fisher Price Computer Cool School keyboard/tablet?  Well Oracle VirtualBox does in fact support HID over USB.

So I downloaded VirtualBox and installed it, along with a copy of Windows XP. 

  1. Oracle VirtualBox
    https://www.virtualbox.org/

I originally tried to have it boot up the .VHD file from Windows XP mode which is supposed to work but I never got it working.  Anyway, I’ll make this short and say that the experience I had in the VM was identical to the experience I had under Windows 7.  Only slower since it was in virtualization.  Yes, that was a lot of work for the exact same results.

ATTEMPT #5: Using the mouse, shuttling down pointer speed, and ‘hiding the tablet pen’
This might sound stupid but basically I decided that instead of wiping the entire machine and installing Windows XP Professional (which I was prepared to do) maybe I could salvage this by simply getting the mouse stable, keeping the keyboard plugged in, and just letting my son use the mouse.

So I hid the pen.  I move the pen and cabling to behind the keyboard and just stashed it there away from the tablet and a weird thing happened:  The mouse pointer stopped wiggling and everything seemed stable.  It was as if, since the pen was away from electromagnetic fields, everything stablized.  If I even put my hand near the pen however the mouse pointer started acting wonky.

Keep in mind:  The Fisher Price keyboard MUST be plugged in and the tablet/pen interface MUST be connected in order for the software to run.  That’s why we have to keep it plugged in and just “deal” with the tempermental tablet/pen.  In any case, I had my son come over and ignore the tablet/pen and simply use the mouse.  After about 30 mins of using the compromised configuration, I came to the following conclusion:

  1. This will work!  It’s clear that he can learn to use the mouse at the age of 3.
  2. Need to get a smaller mouse.  (I eventually got a microsized mouse for his little hand – http://www.amazon.com/IOGEAR-Optical-Mini-Mouse-GME222A/dp/B000AL7A0C/)
  3. Need to slow down the mouse pointer speed since his motor skills are still weak.  Move the slider for pointer speed to almost the slowest rate.

CONCLUSION:
So that’s what I did to try to get this to work.  I’m sorry if this was a lonnnnng winded way of explaining that the tablet/pen interface has issues in Windows 7 and that the best resolution is to simply move the pen aside and just use a mouse instead… but it was a lot of work and I wanted to a least document everything I did to test these scenarios.

Oh… and one more thing, my dear reader: 
If you made it this far, I have a little surprise for you.  If you’re reading this, you probably have the Fisher Price Computer Cool School purchased already.  If you look online, you’ve probably noticed that there are 10 add on learning packs available in the form of separately purchasable CDROMs including lessons from Dora the Explorer, Super Why, Kai-Lan, Sesame Street, Wonder Pets, Clifford, Super Friends, Scooby Doo, SpongeBob, and Leo’s Dinosaur Adventure.  These are being priced at outrageous prices, mostly $40 each but some like Super Why, as high as $200… but I found someone that will sell them for only $10 each.  So you could purchase all 10 expansion packs for just $100.  Click this link to go there!  (In case the auction disappears, his name is Richard Foster.  His email is djsycoATmsnDOTcom & he goes by the name twidlebug on eBay.)


My Top 10 Reasons to go to Las Vegas – #9 Barhopping & Mixologists

July 5, 2012

I’m a 20 year Vegas veteran and I’m always amazed by people that “hate” Las Vegas or “can’t stay there for more than 3 days”. This puzzles me to no end & I think part of it has to do with the fact that they don’t know what’s there.

So here’s my top 10 things to do while in Las Vegas – with #9 being Barhopping & Mixologists.

image9. BARHOPPING & MIXOLOGISTS
Besides the bar scene being just laughably entertaining & intriguing, (I met my wife at a bar in Vegas – no joke) it isn’t all about mingling, flirting, and getting drunk.

There are few places on the planet with more skilled bartenders & mixologists than Las Vegas.  Here’s my list of favorite bars in Vegas in no particular order, with a quick explanation as to why I love them.

  1. Center Bar (Hard Rock Hotel) – Watch the game & the ladies, play hand-dealt blackjack along the outskirts of the bar.  And listen as your voice is focused by the dome above you and transmitted directly across the bar – not a joke.  And I’m biased because this is where I met my wife of 7 years.
  2. Vesper Bar (Cosmopolitan) – Not well know, great, experienced mixologists here.  Give them some ingredients you like & they’ll use their wisdom to crank out a great drink for you on the spot.  I love this bar.
  3. Book & StageBook & Stage (Cosmopolitan) – Besides being relaxed, it’s home of ‘Jenny the bartender’ who has garnered some fame from the Five Hundy by Midnight Las Vegas Podcast as being an awesome & highly likeable person.
  4. Parasol Up (Wynn) – People watching.  RICH people watching.  Arm candy all over.  Very entertaining place to play either “just up or still up” or “pro or no”.  And they have a nice cocktail menu here in case you don’t want to make any hard decisions for the day.
  5. imageMIX Lounge (Mandalay Bay) – Best view in Vegas, bar none.  The cocktails aren’t bad and the vibe is middle aged or business.  But there’s still a lot of attractive people here to see & be seen.  And you can slide over before or after dinner there.
  6. Petrossian Bar (Bellagio) – Again, people watching.  RICH people watching.  And it’s front and center to the entrance which used to be famous for collecting working girls below the patchouli glass on the ceiling.  Oh yeah… and there’s CAVIAR to consume.  Just bring your black Amex cuz it’s gonna hurt.
  7. imageRed Square (Mandalay Bay) – With over 200 VODKAS available to try, it’s home of the 4-6PM “CaviHour” special: Buy 4 vodka drinks, get a free ounce of caviar w/ all the trimmings, on the house.  I visit at least once every trip.
  8. Nine Fine Irishmen (New York New York) – If you’re with friends and you like a good stout, this is your joint.  People singing, cold running Guinness everywhere, if I’m at NYNY, I’m here to rest, no quesiton.
  9. Insert Coins (Downtown) – Obviously this isn’t everyone’s taste but downtown there’s a bar that features 80’s stand up video games.  This is my officially designated replacement for Quark’s Bar which was closed when the Hilton shut down “Star Trek: The Experience”.  Bastards.
  10. Ghost Bar (Palms) – The famous & long standing bar atop the Palms Hotel & Casino is a casual lounge with a cool vibe.  Hard to meet anyone here but it’s at least fun.  And the glass floor 50+ floors up over the strip is a trip.
  11. imageMinus 5 Ice Bar (Mandalay Bay) – I poohpoohed this earlier and I was proven wrong.  Great photo ops, ice glasses, warm coats, reasons to snuggle: If you’re with friends, this is a ton of fun.
  12. LaGasse Stadium (Palazzo) – My most frequently visited bar.  Mostly because I stay at Sands Casinos but also because the food is AWESOME here.  It’s a combo bar, restaurant, lounge, sportsbook, whatever.

COMING: “Get a Life!” – William Shatner’s documentary on the passion of Star Trek fans, premiering July 25th on Xbox Live

July 4, 2012

I’m so looking forward to this.

William Shatner’s been working on a documentary about Star Trek fans, the Gene Roddenberry philosophy, and the passion that binds those that follow in his path. 

Named after the famous skit he did on Saturday Night Live, “Get a Life!” will will premier on Xbox Live on July 25th. (The first showing will actually be at the San Diego ComicCon on July 14th – but if you won’t be able to get down there, you can check it out on Xbox 360.)

“Get a Life!”–William Shatner’s Documentary about the Passion of Star Trek Fans

<rant>
On a personal note, I want to personally thank George Lucas for bringing into focus what geek camp I belong to. After years of lackluster Star Trek sequels & pent up demand for Star Wars-anything, Star Trek brought the hammer to the science fiction world with it’s reboot… all the while Star Wars dropped the hammer on it’s disillusioned fans .  Midi-chloriansJar Jar Binks.  NOOOOOOO.  Yeah.  I said it.
</rant>

In celebration of Bill’s documentary finally coming out, here’s the formula for my favorite drink from Quark’s Bar at the former “Star Trek: The Experience” in Las Vegas (R.I.P.) which I had once every year during COMDEX from 1996 until it closed.  If anyone reads this from Quark’s Bar, I LOVED YOU GUYS SOOOO MUCH, and I sat in a chair in the Hilton when I saw that it had all be torn down, and I cried.

LIQUID LATINUM (from QUARK’S BAR, STAR TREK: THE EXPERIENCE, LAS VEGAS, NV)

1 ounce – Midori Melon Liqueur
1 ounce – Blue Curacao
1 ounce – Spiced Rum
1 ounce – Alize Red Passion
Orange Juice
Pineapple Juice

To prepare:
Liquid Latinum is a colored, layered cocktail – so pour your liquors to layer your flavors in this order.

  1. Fill your serving glass with cubed ice
  2. Pour 1 ounce – Midori Melon
  3. Pour 1 ounce – Blue Curacao
  4. Pour 1 ounce – Spiced Rum
  5. Pour 1 ounce – Alize Red Passion
  6. Add splashes of orange juice and pineapple juice to taste
  7. Do not mix – The layers of favors will rest atop on another for a layered variety of tastes.