Oracle, Are You Really Hurting for Cash This Badly?

Saw this just now via MacRumors – a wonderful note that our friends at Oracle have decided to bundle the toolbar (an invaluable tool if there ever was one) with the Mac version of Java (as they’ve done with the Windows version for some time)…

For years, Oracle has been bundling an search toolbar with Java for Windows, relying on what some call deceptive methods to get users to install the add-on to their browsers. Now, the company has extended its adware strategy to Java for Mac, according to ZDNet.

Thanks Oracle, now this is another thing I get to think about next time I have to install Java on something. The question is – are you really hurting for cash so badly that you need to bundle things like this in? And for that matter, are large companies really getting that much money from this stuff.

Wait… of course they are… otherwise they wouldn’t do it. Oh what a stupid sad maladjusted state of affairs. Friendly PSA folks: Watch your install wizards closely!

Professors Take Note: VLC Is Back on iOS

Why should professors care that VLC is back? Because it’s awesome for playing back video files on an iOS device – making it invaluable if you teach by projecting your device using a cable or by AirPlay to an Apple TV or AirPlay server. The best part? Simply connect your device to your computer, go into iTunes and choose the device, and then navigate to VLC in the apps list. You can then add/remove video files directly, making it a breeze to load up several clips for one lecture, then remove them and load up several more for another lecture. I prefer this over the built-in tools (i.e. Videos, Music, Podcasts app) since I’ve found all of those to have sync issues at times. Plus it’s nice to isloate your teaching content from your personal content.

FiftyThree’s Pencil Stylus

Thinking of picking up one of these this weekend, to add to the stylus collection I have. It’s funny how pencil and paper work so well for what they do, we’re still trying to find a good replacement in the electronic age. It’s very surreal when you consider that we spend upwards of $500 to replicate an experience that costs about $0.50 to create on it’s own. Yet I do, and millions of others are as well. Paper may be versitile, but it is messy, unfriendly to trees, and easy to lose. However, we’ve yet to find something quite as easy as a good old pencil and piece of paper. Just last night I grabbed a scrap piece of paper to make a note rather than enter it into my phone. Then I went home… and entered it into my phone when I had more time!

Adonit Customer Service Rocks

Over a year ago I bought an Evernote Jot Script stylus by Adonit, and while it had excellent build quality, I could never quite get it to work right. I chalked it up to the fact that I must be holding it wrong or some other issue, and it slowly fell into disuse. Prompted by a friend I recently pulled it out and found evidence online that a very small number of users actually had the same problems that I did, and that there may have been a manufacturing defect in a small number of first-run units. I had pre-ordered my Jot Script the day it was announced, so I figured I’d look into it.

Long story short, after an email of troubleshooting and a video I made with my phone to show the problems I was having, Adonit’s customer service sent me a new stylus that works PERFECTLY AS ADVERTISED. I’m pretty psyched! Thanks Adonit for covering something even after the warranty period had technically expired. I’ll be a repeat buyer now for sure!

Information on Geek Squad Badges From An Insider!

As regular readers of this blog know (Hi Nate… and maybe 1-2 other people who’ve stumbled in the door from time to time…), I collect badges, including name, store security, and Geek Squad varieties. About a year and a half ago, I posted on a counterfeit Geek Squad badge that I’d come across, and at that time I invited former or current Geeks to fill me in on anything interesting going on in the world of Geek Squad badges. Today a reader sent me some interesting information, and a few photos I’d thought I’d share.

First, before I share some interesting badge info, I’ll share the new badge finishing process. If you look at my badges, you’ll notice I don’t show the back of them. This is because… well… it’s the back – who wants to see it?!? But it turns out the backs tell an interesting story. Here is the back of an old style badge, the Pre-2012 Blackminton badge that is well known to collectors.

Now take a look at the counterfeit badge back

It’s hard to see the differences, but you can tell a slight lack of countour, due to the lower quality. Interestingly, a few months after my article, a Twitter user tweeted myself and Robert Stephens taking credit for the fake, claiming he had made it using a CAD tool. If that’s the case, it may be that his fabrication process, not being based on a mold, had some imperfections.

Anyway, as I’ll detail below, post-2012 badges have a radically different back:

Quite a shift from the Blackminton style, although given the wear scenarios discussed in some of the internal documentation provided to me, it makes sense since overall Geek Squad appears to be favoring a “pocketed” badge more than a worn. The flat back design is popular with LEOs who will carry their badges in a case as opposed to on a uniform. 

The front of the badge remains largely unchanged post-2012:

You’ll notice I’ve sanitized the image to protect the identity of my source (the images are used with permission, however I don’t want anyone getting fired!). Obviously this looks a bit less defined than the older style, but is more consistent with a pocket-able badge.

Now for some interesting information on the badges. Previously you had to be a Geek Squad agent in certain positions in order to get a badge. In 2013 and into 2014, the rules were changed along with the badge design. Responding to what was considered an “outdated badge process”, Geek Squad Management decided to change the requirements to: 18 cumulative months in a geek squad role to earn the first badge, and six consecutive months in a role for any subsequent badges. Given the high turnover in retail, these benchmarks make a lot of sense. 

Along with the changes come a massive reduction in badge titles. Gone are the “friendly” titles like “Double Agent” or “Deputy Counter Intelligence”. Now all badges will have one of 6 titles: Autotech Agent, City Agent, Covert Agent, Field Agent, Precinct Agent, & Agent Defender. This change was done to reduce the number of “one-off badge titles”, which should prevent employees (“agents”) in the same position having different badge titles. 

Further documentation provides justification for the newer look, addressing criticisms that the “new badge was worse quality than the current badges” by explaining the quality level is the same, the badges are die struck and have a “hand relieved antique patina”, and has jewelers lacquer applied to it for protection. New badges are 65% copper, 18% silver, and (ominously) 17% miscellaneous.

So there is your Geek Squad Badge update (for the 1-2 other collectors on the planet). I’ve noticed a few of the newer styles rattling around eBay as of late, and may pick up one or two at some point. I don’t want to get into a Pokémon style “Gotta Catch ‘em” all mentaility though!

Thank you to my source for providing the photos and information below (If he/she would like to be named, I’ll gladly put his/her information here)!

MobileViews: That Podcast I’m a Regular Guest On

For almost a year now I’ve been Todd Ogasawara’s regular guest / cohost on MobileViews Podcast (available on the web, iTunes, and wherever fine Podcasts are found). Realized I don’t really talk about this often on my own blog so consider this a friendly reminder. I may also start posting a link each week to our new episodes (when I remember). It’s a chance to hear Todd and I prognosticate on subjects we have large backgrounds in, as well as subjects we’re not entirely qualified to discuss but still do!

Dear Apple: Who Designed THIS?!?

you only see the lock if you select at the top the network users or network group

I’m going to rant about an Apple Design decision, but it has nothing to do with any i-device of any kind. It’s purely around the Mac OS X Server 4.0 App that’s used to configure a Mac acting as a network server. The app’s never been that great, but this really steamed me. 

A bit of background: On a computer, you have user accounts. These users are considered “local” because they only exist on that computer. Servers can provide “network” accounts, which can be logged into from anywhere. Apple provides this through an open source implementation of LDAP named OpenLDAP. 

When you go to administer users, you find the following screen:

Looks pretty easy – I should be able to click on any of those users and reset their passwords. However clicking on any user (local or network) and selecting the box at the bottom shows a variety of options (like Change Password” Grayed out). Hmm…
So I did some digging around and found the link that I quoted at the top. Apparently by some divine force you should just know that if you select “Local Network Users” from the drop down at the top (instead of “All users”), a magic little lock will appear that lets you authenticate as a directory administrator (i.e. the person in charge of network user accounts) and THEN you can access those options.

Now I get that you can’t access those options before you authenticate – but geez Apple – could you give us a frickin’ hint? Maybe a box that says “Authentication Required”, or the lock icon is gray unless we select a network user? Something other than a magical appearing/disappearing lock!

Never Got Game Programming? Check Out This Book!

This last spring and summer I was fortunate enough to work on a great project – I was the technical reviewer for a book by Arjan Egges – “Building JavaScript Games for Phones, Tablets, and Desktops”. As a programmer who never really “got” game programming, I was really excited to see how it was done with a language that I’m pretty familiar with. The examples throughout the book, and the finished demos that you create, are some of the most intricate and well planned apps I’ve seen come out of a “follow-along” type of book (Much better than my own!). If you’re thinking of jumping into game programming, want to develop something cross-platform, and know even the tiniest bit of JS, you’ll love working through the book.