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Robots and Education February 3, 2014

Posted by regan222 in build, Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, DIY, Educational Ranting.
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It has been a long and tiring first day.  The TCEA 2014 conference is well and truly underway.  I take here a moment to organize thoughts and ideas sparked by what I saw.

First, we need to promote the robot class within the community.  We have a good start with winning third place in the Region X contest but we need to promote the course and its students to the school board as well as the younger classes.  We need people to continue.  We need to generate interest.  We especially need to promote the technology aspects to girls.  They stabilize and moderate the class.  Plus, they travel in pairs.  Like going to the Ladies’ Room; if you can get one girl you will get two.

Next, we need to secure all the funding sources we can find, especially in the community.  We need tech. industry contacts to help with grants and sponsorships.

We need to expand out from Lego, particularly in the direction of DIY (Arduino, Parallax, STAMP,or whatever).  I need to find out what is most useful in industry and what offers the best chance for employment success for my kids and emphasize that.  We need to be relevant.

Finally I need supper and a nap.  I am pooped and over stimulated.  It’s like going to Vegas; fun for a while but soon you get that headachy muzzy feeling that comes from too many people and too many conversations going on at once.  Tomorrow we do Smart Board Content Creation.  See you then.Lego puppy

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Technology Addiction and how to deal with it… December 11, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, General Ranting.
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I have just spent the evening, after grading papers for what seemed like hours, connecting every single piece of software I have to every other piece. I can now see google email, calendars, and contacts, school exchange server, email, calendar, and contacts, Hotmail calendar, email, and contacts, as well as my school website share point server in Outlook. I have also connected Microsoft Word to my blog site in order to use it to edit and post blogs entries (if I ever get to write another real one). Having spent a good deal of time and effort tying all these loose ends together I have come to a conclusion. There is NO magic cure for organization. It can’t be done. I use MS OneNote to document my daily activities in class. I faithfully post assignments, notes, and lessons to the school web site. I do everything I can to keep up with myself and I am coming to the sad realization that it is all futile. I will never be organized. I STILL forget things. All my calendars are tied to my phone, Kindle, and iPad as well as my home PC, school, PC and laptop and I STILL let things slip. This is really starting to bug me. Just needed to vent. Also I am going insane from being in the house for 4 days straight. I feel much better now. Good night all.

And Finally…Here’s something we hope you’ll really like August 24, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
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This is the final edition of Regan’s Rant on Internet Safety and Security. I would like to warn you about the fastest growing crime in the world – Identity Theft Fraud. The anonymity of the Internet is its biggest appeal. You can be whomever you think you are and no one can gainsay you. This situation, however, makes fraud as simple as introducing yourself to someone. People on the Internet, even good people, are not ever who they say they are. It’s hard enough to get to know a person in person. If all you hear are their ideas and thoughts, without body language, or facial expression, or life behavior context to back them up, then you do not have an accurate picture of the person. Much research is currently being done on the Internet by bringing two or more people together, allowing them to get to “know” each other online, and then introducing them in real life and getting their opinions. They are almost universally surprised when they do finally get to know their “friends”.

Identity theft is defined as assuming the identity of, or representing yourself as, another person for some personal gain or reward. There are any number of reasons for people to do this but the most common is to defraud government benefits. Social Security, welfare, HUD Housing, or any government agency that provides support is vulnerable to this sort of attack. In a recent case in Yakima, WA a man using the identity of a deceased Texas resident was able to get welfare for YEARS before any noticed.  Recently a ring of 5 Russian nationals was indicted for conspiring to sell 160 MILLION credit card numbers.  There are only 200 million or so people in America.  And finally, from our “How Romantic is THIS” file; A couple financed their Disney Engagement trip with money scammed from Seniors online and in person.

Someone goes through your trash and gets a credit card application. They are sent out all the time. They fill it out with a bogus social security number and mail it back with a PO Box instead of the home address. Nine times out of ten they will get a credit card with YOUR name on it registered to YOUR home address. They will max the card, you’ll get the bill and then when it gets declined, find a new “patron” and start over. It is much easier than you think to get a credit card because creditors are desperate to get all the customers they can and don’t often check the applications as carefully as they should.

Social Security numbers on the Internet and the names they belong to go for about $5 apiece on black market web sites. Blue Cross policy names and numbers are more in demand. They run about $600 per number. Quite often you will never know that you are victim of identity theft until something goes wrong. You could be a resident of, and voting in, another state for years and never know it because there is no requirement for any official ID at any voting facility in any federal election. Sometimes all it takes is a library card. If a felon can only get a utility account established in a small town somewhere using your name, then they are set for life. A current utility bill is usually enough ID to establish an account with a “rent to own” facility (you should not use these) and then once they have established themselves as YOU, the sky’s the limit. You will start receiving collection calls from people and companies you have never heard of. Your utilities may be disconnected and various items may be repossessed. Your income tax refund or paycheck can be sequestered. All in all, a bad day.

Security measures to prevent this sort of thing are simple. Invest in a cheap Office Depot cross-cut shredder and use it. Keep things like credit card offers, utility bills and receipts, old bank deposit slips, in fact ANYTHING with your name and address that could be used to do anything needs to be shredded. DO NOT JUST TOSS IT IN THE TRASH. There are fortunes to be made for persons with no morals and little hygiene. If you are willing to crawl through a little garbage at the dump then you can find all SORTS of useful things. It is VERY common for thieves to drive around in front of the garbage truck rounds and check out dumpster to find whatever documents the household may have thrown away. As most trash rounds are during the business day, you will never know they were there until you start getting bills.

Don’t post anything online that a friend of a friend might see. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Recent research has shown that a great majority of people respond to friend requests on social media almost automatically. Everyone I have asked has at least SOMEONE on their friend list that they really don’t know. “It said he was friends with a friend of mine” is the common response. Never do they realize that the goal of a fraudster is to get a friend relationship with one person and use that person’s friend list as their fishing ground. Facebook goes so far as to SUGGEST people for new members to friend. Talk about making life easy for the crooks. Be SURE you know who your friends are. The best online friends are people you already know.

Disinformation is still your best tool. Don’t give out your real birthday. Don’t put addresses in your profile. Don’t even list your home town. The less you give thieves, the harder it is for them to work. Choose an online name and make sure it is not traceable to your real name and address. TURN OFF geo-tagging in pictures that you post. Do you really WANT to tell a predator that your toddler plays at a certain park in a certain area, every Tuesday? If you are going to post a trip destination online, make sure you are already home first. Then you can tell everyone how great a time you had and not worry about someone taking that opportunity to clean out your house.

These are just some ideas. You can most likely come up with many more on your own. Research identity fraud on the Internet. Know exactly WHO your kids associate with online. Be aware that, just like anywhere else, the Internet is a place where hazards are. Now you know…an knowing is half the battle. (Does anyone remember that commercial or is it just me?)

OK So Now What Do We DO About It? August 22, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
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Yesterday I began a diatribe on the dangers of the online community. I think it only fair then if I offer some advice about handling the perils of the cyber-world. There are many different strategies that can be effective. What I suggest is just a compilation of the most common and useful.

The first and foremost strategy is the universal mantra of any system of self-defense. Be Aware of your surroundings. You can’t go wrong if you pay attention. Are you on Facebook? There are certain ads or offers you need to avoid. Are you posting an image? Is it one you want your Gran’mother to see? Are you making a brilliant political observation on Twitter? Would you mind if your boss read it? Pay attention to where you are and what you are doing. You wouldn’t walk down a dark city street without looking around. Why should you do that on the Internet.

Rule Two says, “They don’t need to know everything about you.” Would you consider yourself a Facebook customer? Guess how Facebook considers you? You are INVENTORY. Just like those cheap plastic dish mats at Wal-Mart or the cheapie low budget DVD section at Hastings, YOU ARE PRODUCT. What are they selling you ask? Why, they are selling YOU. Your name, address, phone number, likes, interests, web browsing habits, shopping habits, spending habits, credit history is ALL for sale. One of the fastest growing industries today is data mining. Facebook is classified by the Federal Government as a data mining company, NOT a communications service. Every time you add a movie that you liked or enter your job or education level into your profile you are paying them. They take this information and sell it to people like Amazon or any other online marketing presence so that they know what to sell you. Have you not noticed that when you buy something on Amazon, the ads of Facebook immediately change to whatever it was you last bought. Advertising is being targeted at you based on your life. Search for something on Google and see if they don’t start targeting those items to you in the ads on Facebook or Twitter. Its a network. They are all connected and the sole purpose is to get you to spend money. As far as it goes, this is not a bad thing. However, if you are looking for a job and your prospective boss purchases information about you it can directly impact your chances. According to the Bureau of Nosy Statistics, 67% of employers have passed over a candidate THIS YEAR alone for information they obtained online without that party’s knowledge. The upside is that a like percentage of employers have hired people because they were impressed with their online presence. If you are posting pictures of your latest drunken spring break shenanigans in Mazatlan, which group do you think you will fall into?

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to present calculated disinformation to the machine. Make up a birthday, for example. A prospective employer finds your profile at MadamSpanksalotsFreakyFetish.com but because he can’t recognize you behind that rubber gas mask and the birthday is different from what is on your application they can not use that against you. Don’t fill out ANYTHING with your correct name, birthday, place of employment, religious affiliation, or other things that can impact a person’s opinion of you unless you are comfortable with the consequences. This is ESPECIALLY important for children and teens. Predators of all kinds search social media constantly for personal information that they can use to get an inside track on your children. People who know you in person will already know what your birthday is and will likely not send you a card anyhow. Internet people don’t NEED to know. They are not going to send you a card either. People you have been chatting with for three months are NOT your friends. Don’t tell them that you are “at the movies” or any other status like that. What you are really posting is “my house is empty, please come and steal my stuff.” This is especially bad if you have your address or home town posted as well. Would you take out an ad in the local paper saying “We are on vacation and won’t be back for a while? Why would you do that online where people actually READ the stuff?

Rule Three is KNOW HOW TO USE WHAT YOU HAVE. This is VITAL for parents of teens with smart phones. You need to be able to pick up your kid’s phone and know immediately who they have been texting, calling, or posting to. You need to know EXACTLY what pictures they have posted and to what services, and you need to know what web sites and chat rooms they visit. Learn the lingo. If you are looking at your children’s text history and you see someone sending GNOC to your daughter, and her reply of CD9, you have a problem. He just asked her to get naked on camera and she, rather than screaming and throwing the phone in disgust, told him that her parents were in the room. This is not a good sign. This link will take you to a dictionary of common texting terms. It would not hurt to look.  According, once again, to the Federal Agency responsible for keeping up with stuff like that, 70% of ALL teens are involved in sexting.  (If you don’t know what that is, ask your teenager.  I promise that they will.)  51% of high school girls have sent a sexually explicit photo to a boy in their class.  It happens daily.  It happens in big cities and little country towns.  It happens in California and in the Bible belt.  The WORST thing you can do is think that your kid is not involved.  In many areas it is a rite of passage in MIDDLE SCHOOL for girls to send topless pictures to boys they have a crush on.  Other GIRLS pressure them into it.

Rule Four; if you choose to purchase online, buy from a reputable dealer.  If you buy from an individual, use a certified and reliable “go-between” like eBay.  I know that 1000 Megawatt laser on Wild Weasel’s Laser Emporium looked cool but if they ask you for a credit card and don’t send you to a secure site (https: and not http:) then you need to give it a miss.

Next, DON’T store password in your device, especially a phone.  They get lost all the time.  If someone finds it and browses to your amazon account, your stored password in a golden ticket to max out your credit card.  Don’t take online marketing sites up on their friendly offer to establish an “account” to make purchases easier.  You enter your payment information once and then you can “one click” purchase items.  This is a recipe for disaster.

You really don’t need me to tell you these things.  All you have to do is pause and think for just a moment before you post, blog, or buy anything in the virtual world.  Make sure your children a emotionally and mentally mature enough to handle the responsibility and temptation of Social Media before you send them out the door with a smart phone and unlimited data plan.  Remember that ANYTHING you put into a digital format of any kind and post anywhere is suddenly public domain.  There is no such thing as privacy.  By posting it you agree to whatever terms and conditions the website owner can dream up.  There are no rules.  It can be fun or dangerous depending on you taking responsibility for yourself and your family.  Tomorrow night we will discuss identity theft and geotracking in photos.  See you then.

And Now for Something Completely Different August 21, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, News and politics, Religion, Science and Technology.
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My hovercraft project is on hold for the moment. I would like to rant about something else near and dear to my heart. I spent the day having information thrust upon me in the form of Teacher In-Service Training. Every teacher in Texas gets a certain amount of it each year before school starts and usually it is viewed as an interruption to the all-important job of getting the room ready for the new year. This day and this particular training were the exception.  We, the faculty and staff, were addressed by a fellow named Mark Seguin from TBG Solutions.  He is a risk management consultant who specializes in Internet and Social Media.  To say the least I was impressed.

Ordinarily I feel pretty comfortable with Social Media and my involvement in it.  I am aware of the risks more than most people because of my interest in and affinity for all things technical.  I have been in the computer business for 15 years and the software development trade for 5 years.  I do my best to stay abreast of new developments simply because I enjoy technology and electronics.  When I say I am aware of the risks it is because I have conducted similar classes myself for various and sundry groups.  I am not sure if it was his presentation style or some bits of new information presented in a way that really made me think but this, I feel, was NOT the usual waste of time that I ordinarily view corporate training sessions as.  Having said that, I would like to share a bit of what he presented for the benefit of my readers.

If you are reading this then it is likely you are at least moderately familiar with technology in general and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Istagram, Linkd-In, et al.) and its use.  Firstly, know that I am a fan and advocate of Social Media and I believe that like all technology, it is neither good nor bad, but merely a tool to be used or abused.  Social Media can bring worlds together or it can tear worlds apart and all with the click of a mouse.  If you choose to involve yourself then you should know how to protect yourself and your family from the people who would abuse it.

As Americans we have an often misplaced faith in the world around us.  For a country so determined to leave religion behind we take a great many things for granted.  We believe that bad things won’t happen to us.  After every hurricane we see people in Florida on the news programs who are amazed that their homes were just destroyed by a storm.  It happens every year and yet people are still surprised.  People in Southern California can’t believe it when an earthquake or mudslide devastates their town.  Meanwhile people still keep building houses on Florida beaches and California hill-sides.  We have built a huge and very fragile web of interconnected pieces that can come crashing down with the slightest ill wind and yet we are still surprised when it happens.

The Internet and cyberspace are no exceptions.  Everywhere we go, in the cyber-world or the real world, there are people who are willing and able to exploit some aspect of our lives for their own gain.  Be it money, sexual gratification, or just some twisted sense of superiority, some people will try anything to take advantage of others.  The anonymity of cyberspace makes it a particularly tempting target.  You can be whomever or whatever you want.  Wanna be a werewolf or an elf or your favorite anime cat-girl, there are places to do that online.  If you are ordinarily a shy and withdrawn person, the Internet is a place where you can be wild in the extreme.  Cyberspace is the last frontier and possibly the last bastion of freedom in America.  You can be a preacher, a teacher, or a writer using nothing but a network connection and your own ability to share information.  However, you can also be a racist, a pervert, or a thug and it is very difficult if not impossible for the consequences of those actions to come home to roost.

The Internet is often compared to the Old West in American History.  Civilization was a long time in coming to the western half of the country and people were obliged to fend for and defend for themselves.  Some thrive in this environment and become more than the sum of their parts.  Others see this as an opportunity to exert power over the people around them.  Everyone was expected to carry a gun and if you carried one you best know how to use it.  There were often no police or public services to depend on.  If you had no food you starved.  I will not be drawn into a discussion of survival of the fittest but suffice it to say that people were expected to be responsible for their own lives.

In our real world today, personal responsibility is a dirty word.  We trip over our own feet and fall down in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Do we brush ourselves off, laugh at our own clumsiness and get on with life or do we sue everyone from the owner of the parking lot to the construction company who paved it to the street light vendor who made their lights too bright?  Pedophiles, alcoholics, rapists, drug addicts…no one is too blame for their condition.  It is society, the school, the church, the police, the government,  SOMEBODY ELSE!  We are pampered and policed and politely herded through life like sheep until we go online.

Have you ever gotten an email from someone purporting to be an African banker, British Solicitor, or French Lottery Official?  They want you to contact them about an inordinately large sum of money that you have received.  They only need a bank account and routing number to deposit untold riches in your name.  You have received those emails.  I have received them.  Everyone you know, with an email address, has received them.  Guess what???  If it didn’t work, people wouldn’t keep sending them.  Has anyone ever created a Facebook or Twitter account in your name and then said mean and hurtful things to your friends while disguised as you?  It happens thousands of times a day, every day.  Girls from 9 to 90 (well maybe not that old but you get the idea) are being persuaded to post incriminating pictures of themselves to online suitors who promise faithfully that NO ONE will EVER see it but them.  Yeah Right!  And then they are amazed when those pictures show up at school or at their work place.  Are you beginning to see a pattern here??

I am not an advocate for Internet censorship but I DO promote responsibility for your own actions.  If it sounds too good to be true, it IS!!  If you are not 100% sure of something DON’T DO IT!  That is the first rule of the Internet.  What’s online is just that….public…online…out of your control.  If you absolutely MUST post naked pictures of yourself then expect them to be seen by everyone you know and many more people you don’t know.  If someone promises to send you a million dollars by electronic transfer to your account, don’t be surprised when your debit card is declined the next time you pull up to an ATM because there is no money in your account.  You wouldn’t give that information to some stranger on the street but you were more than happy to email it to someone from Nigeria just because they PROMISED they were on the level.  P.T. Barnum said “there’s a sucker born every minute.”  I am beginning to think he underestimated. <to be continued tomorrow>

 

The Great Social Network Debate…or “Excuse Me but your hash tag is all over my twitter feed” August 11, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Religion, Science and Technology.
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I would like to change gears tonight. A debate is raging across the ecumenical landscape of America today. It has to do with the appropriateness of Social Media as a witness tool. The old-line traditionalist says “Twitter is of the Devil and has no place in church work. Anyone who uses it is doomed to spend eternity tweeting weather conditions from the pit of Archon.” On the other hand, the post-modern wire-head believes that Facebook is the only way to contact the lost and that most likely Jesus would have had a better reception for his Sermon on the Mount if James and John had run a live commentary podcast while it was being delivered. Who is right???
The Bible tells us that salvation comes by grace through faith but begs the question…
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
Without a contact of some kind there is small chance that someone would believe. Cognitive thought is based upon the framework of language. One may be emotionally lifted by a moving melody, or inspired by a beautiful landscape but in order to believe, we must have a template to hang our faith on. I would go so far as to say that without some frame of reference to hang the abstract construct of belief on, there could be no belief. Language provides the framework.

Christians have been using Social Media for many years and likely most did not realize it. Have you ever handed out a tract? A short presentation of the Gospel in some format that people can read and understand. How is this different from a Facebook post or tweet or blog entry? The only difference I can see is that a paper tract reaches only a few people at a time and most likely ends up taking up space in a landfill. A Facebook post or blog entry may reach thousands if it is shared and it requires no effort at all to create. Social Media does indeed have a place in evangelism.

However, and you knew there was a however, right…The impersonal nature of social media and its isolating factor can be a huge hindrance to the work of the Lord. We post spiritual missives and trite platitudes and never consider the human condition of our audience. Part of the power of the message we preach comes from relating our own personal experience. That’s why they call it witnessing. We are telling others what happened to us, what we saw or felt or experienced. This is the most powerful message we can bring. It is hard to be truly passionate about something second-hand. Social Media can take away the personal touch and passion that helps others know that what they are hearing is the truth. When we believe others can hear it in our voice and see it in our eyes. It gives the message credibility.

In short we must reach a balance when dealing with Social Media as a witness tool. It can spread the Gospel to many people at a time and it can inspire and uplift but it can never project the sincerity of a believer sharing his experience with the Lord. Every tool in a toolbox has a task. We must make sure we are using the right tool for the job and we should not judge others on their choice of tools. We are known by our fruit. The Lord’s word will never return void or empty. A word spoken for the defense of the faith is never wasted but neither should we cut ourselves off from the world. Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners. His message was always delivered in person. We can’t afford to let that aspect of ministry slip or we will be less than what we could be.

From Enterprise to Endeavor May 8, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, News and politics, Science and Technology.
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Click Here to view the presentation

Make sure you check this out, the pictures alone are pretty cool.

Nasa Space Shuttle Program :

Nasa Space Shuttle Program From Enterprise to Endeavor By Regan White Senior Astronomy Whitesboro, TX

Overview :

Overview Nasa’s Space Shuttle Fleet, officially known as the STS or Space Transportation System, is the latest in the United States Fleet of space craft. The STS vehicle is launched vertically, aided by two solid rocket booster engines (SRB) and is recovered as a glider, landing on a runway like any other high speed aircraft. The shuttles are designed to carry up to 7 crewmen comfortably but have carried as many as 8 based upon the needs of the mission. A shuttle can carry up to 50,000 pounds of cargo into low Earth orbit.

The Enterprise: Boldly Go Where No Man has Gone Before :

The Enterprise: Boldly Go Where No Man has Gone Before

The Enterprise: First in Flight :

The Enterprise: First in Flight The Space Shuttle Enterprise (OV-101) was the first Space Shuttle Orbiter. Construction was begun in 1974 and was complete in 1977. Several key components (re-entry engines and heat shields for example) were not included in the craft and so it was incapable of space flight. It was, however, extremely useful in landing tests being launched from a Boeing 747 at high altitude. It was originally to be named the Constitution but a write in election unanimously pushed through the name USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) of Star Trek fame. When the Enterprise was unveiled several characters from the original TV show were on hand.

Columbia: OV-102 :

Columbia: OV-102

Columbia :

Columbia The Space Shuttle Columbia (Ov-102) was the first mission capable space shuttle in NASA’s fleet. From its maiden flight on April 12, 1981 until its tragic destruction during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, the Columbia completed 28 missions. It deployed 8 satellites including one Hubble repair mission.

Challenger: Tragedy from the Start :

Challenger: Tragedy from the Start

Challenger :

Challenger Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) was destined for tragedy from the start. It first reached orbit in April of 1983. Challenger performed 10 missions, including carrying Sally Ride, the first American woman, into space, as well as hosting the first untethered space walk. On Jan. 28, 1986, just 73 seconds into the flight of STS-51, the rubber O-rings used to seal the solid rocket boosters failed due to low temperatures. The craft exploded just above the launch pad with a loss of all 7 crew members.

Discovery: A New Beginning :

Discovery: A New Beginning

Discovery :

Discovery Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) is currently the oldest orbiter in the fleet. Shuttle Discovery’s main claim to fame was the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope. Its first flight was August 30, 1984. Discovery completed 38 missions. It docked once with Mir and eleven times with the International Space Station. Discovery landed for the last time April 20, 2010. It was scheduled for launch with mission STS-62A but this mission was canceled.

Atlantis :

Atlantis

Atlantis :

Atlantis Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) was first launched on Oct. 3, 1985. Among other missions, it completed 7 trips to Mir and 11 dockings with the ISS. Atlantis flew 32 missions and deployed 14 satellites. Atlantis landed for the final time May 26, 2010.

Endeavor: The Last of its Kind :

Endeavor: The Last of its Kind

Endeavor :

Endeavor Shuttle Endeavor (OV-105) was the final addition to the shuttle fleet. Its first mission was May 1992. Endeavor was built to replace the lost Challenger. This choice was made instead of the original plan to refit Enterprise with engines and heat tiles. Endeavor flew 24 missions including deploying 3 satellites, 1 Mir docking, and 11 trips to the ISS. It is slated to fly the final shuttle mission in April of 2011 to deliver cargo to the ISS.

The Future :

The Future The final mission for any shuttle will be a cargo run to the International Space Station in April of 2011. After this, the vehicles will be decommissioned and mothballed. It is probable that the vehicles will be sent to various aerospace museums around the country to be put on display. The shuttle Enterprise is currently on display at the newly built Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, where it is the centerpiece of the space collection.

Syndication for the Really Simple May 3, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, General Ranting, News and politics.
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The family gathers around the wireless

           The Internet is rapidly transitioning from a text-based to a media based venue.  One of the most popular methods today to share information on the Internet is to establish an RSS feed to share your message with the world. 

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  It is a set of Internet protocols (or rules) for spreading information in the form of audio and video media.  It allows for devices other than PCs to download and save the content of the feed in question and allow it to be viewed/listened to.  Things like iPads, iPods, tablets, PCs, and even newer model car and home radios can access the information, most commonly through the Apple iStore.  The feed files are downloaded behind the scenes and stored on board the device until it is accessed.  The  feed is easy to set up, the media is easy to generate, and the  connection is completely reliable.  Along with social media outlets like twitter.com and facebook.com, the RSS feed is a perfect way to present information, promote a business or site, and generate steam over an issue.

The heart of an RSS feed is a document written in a format called Extensible Markup Language or XML.  This markup language allows for the entering of text that can be described like an entry in a database.  The layout is similar to HTML in that it uses tags and brackets to designate your tags.  Instead of using tags like <bold> and <center> todemark text, XML uses tags to describe what the text stands for.  If you are making a list of books, for example, you might create a tag called <author> to describe who wrote the book.  When viewed in a browser, the tab is not visible but the text is.  More importantly you can then use various database operations on the text file to search and analyze the data without having to create a database of the information.  The tags let you manipulate the data. In creating a syndication feed, only a few tags are needed in a very simple layout.  No special software of any type is needed.  I do most of mine in notepad.  XML documents must have  a proper header.  I am not going into the creation of every tag in a document but I will show you the most important ones.  You can download the example I am using, it is the XML document that feeds the news tag embedded in this page.  Right-click HERE and select “Save target as…”  Tell it to save on your desktop and you can open it in notepad and examine it at your leisure.  You can also use it as a template to make your own feeds.

The tags determine if the feed is of proper format.  If not, the browsers and devices will not be able to read the feed.  That is why it is called a protocol.  The word means rule or procedure.  If you don’t follow the rules, the feed won’t work.  Since this feed concerns audio mp3 files, we need to create tags that associate with that kind of media.  The first thing we need is a tag to designate the title fo the file.  We use the really imaginative tag <title> to designate the title of the file.  When we read the feed in a browser, the tag won’t show up but the title will be there and it will act as a link to the file.  On a PC you can click and listen.  On an iPad or iPod the file will automatically download if it has not already downloaded.  That is the great thing about RSS.  The feed only gets things you don’t already have. 

Each file needs a text description that is visible in the feed so that we know if we want to listen to it or not.  The tag we use is (once again very descriptive and imaginatively)  called <description>.  Remember, each tag must have a closing tag that relates to it.  For each <title> there must be a </title> and so on.

Download and use the file above as a template for your own RSS feed.  You will need an Internet server to host with.  Godaddy.com is a combination of best, easiest, and cheapest and I use it exclusively.  You don’t have to establish a web site but you need a directory that is accessible to the Internet.  Put your XML file and all your media into this folder and use the folder/domain name to acces it via the Internet.  If you are not familiar with registering a domain or setting up directories and links google something like “setting up a domain and web site” and you will get everything you need.  Once you have the feed set up and connected, be sure to set up an account with Apple’s iTunes so you can use it to distribute your feed.  You can also put links into every page you own or can talk to owner into.

If you own a business or publicize via social media or have any message to present to the world, you would be hard press to find an easier way to reach more people.  The iTunes app does all the promotion for you.  Just remember to get the tags right and be sure you have an iTunes account and you are on the way.  If you choose, you can forgo the iTunes completely and just publish and promote the feed yourself but iTunes is free and it is a shame not to take advantage of it.  You will need some special tags for the feed to be iTunes compatible but they are already in place in the template I have provided you.  Happy Podcasting – nite all.

And Now…The Rest of the Story April 15, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computers and Internet, Film and Television, General Ranting, Generate Wealth, Movie Madness.
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3 comments

When last we met, gentle reader, I promised you a moderately smooth path to wealth and fame (or at least some spending money) made online.  Today I will share my revelations with you.  The process is simple.  Generate content.  Create media.  Write something, film something, or play something on an instrument.  The Internet is a big hungry place and if you can create something that no one else has a claim to, you can sell it.  It does not have to be a work of art.  Allow me an example.

Have you ever heard of a movie with the pretentious title of Awaken the Dead?  How about a little gem called The Zombie Apocalypse?  Both of these films were shot in a few hours on a low-end pro-sumer video camera with minimal production values for next to no budget.  In a word…They are AWFUL.  However,  they are also available on Netflix for rental or instant streaming.  Someone is getting paid royalties every time a Netflix customer gets drawn in by the cool cover art and clicks to rent or clicks to instantly stream on of these two cinematic enemas.  It doesn’t matter that 3 minutes into the movie the viewer violently vomits and clicks over to a different movie and never returns to finish what they so foolishly started.  Someone gets MONEY every time one of these monstrosities even partially plays.

One more example…Drop by your local Hastings or Half Price Books or any other chain book store.  Walk down the “teen interest” aisle and stop at a random spot.  Close your eyes and take any book off the shelf.  There’s an 85% chance that you are holding a cheesy, over dramatic, and badly written vampire novel.  (The other 15% is divided up into werewolves and something by J.K. Rowling).  Now put the book down before someone sees you.  Close your eyes and get another one.  It is very likely you are holding a book with exactly the same story line, characters so similar that only the names have been changed to protect the guilty, and yet BOTH books will set you back about $10 each.  You could legally buy one, go home and change the names of characters, settings, and a few other details, and offer that baby up for publishing and it is very possible that you could get a best seller out of the deal.  Everything today is derivative (go over to google and look the word up if you don’t know what it means).  Everything is the same because the people who control what gets published and what does not, are bound by the idea of formula.  What has worked before will work again without much risk.  Anything new or original or different is risky.  It does not require talent to write something like that, just a decent memory and a thesaurus.

Want to be a rock and roll star?  Ever heard of sampling?  Today all music is made of music that was written yesterday.  Hip Hop artists sample other people’s songs and edit them together with canned drum beats to create a generic background noise for their latest rap.  Once again, originality is NOT a requirement.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  Is the path becoming visible.  Wanna make a movie?  You can buy a Canon XM-1 video camera on Craig’s list for next to nothing.  Pirate a copy of Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premier and you have the tools needed to create a movie that will pass muster and get a distribution deal.  Get some of your neighbors to play zombies or better yet, a slasher film that does not even require makeup.  Production values are not a requirement.  All you need to do is be fast and get the lighting half-way decent.  If you can get in touch with the right people and show them that you know the formula, you are well on your way to having a movie of your very own premier on Netflix and the Direct-To-Video section of Best Buy.  The really cool thing is that once you have a movie in production, the royalties come in every time it runs.  It doesn’t matter if the viewer hates it and shuts it off thirty seconds into the opening credits.  You get paid.  Do it again and follow the same formula.  You can get rich like this with a little luck.  Just ask Uwe Boll?  (You get LOTS of geek cred if you know who Uwe Boll is).  He finances his own movies and bases them on video games.  (Anyone remember House of the Dead)?  He is considered one of the all-time WORST directors and yet he has several motion pictures in rental and streaming distributions and yes, he makes WAY more money than you.  He knows the formula.

Books, movies, video games, music: if you know the formula and have a vague idea of how to put them together you can get rich.  The Internet is starving for material.  It does not judge on the basis of good or bad, it grades on how well you follow the formula.

Now if you want to do something good or original or worthwhile…THAT is MUCH harder…

Night all.

Some Helpful Advice for those who want attention… April 13, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Computers and Internet, General Ranting.
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1 comment so far

Seems like everyone today has an online presence.  Grandmothers are monetizing home video of their precious little poo-poos on youtube.  Housewives are selling crafts, kitchen products, and uh…whatever through web sites.  Toddlers are sending out social commentary on twitter.  Good Heavens!!  Who has time to read it all?  No one, that’s who.

If you are one of the millions who are running madly across the virtual landscape in some kind of cyber land-rush frenzy to stake your claim on a piece of binary property and communicate your way to millions in easy riches, I have some advice for you.  In a word, CONTENT.  Fresh stuff…(oops that’s two words).  It doesn’t really matter what you are producing.  It doesn’t really matter if its worth watching/listening to/viewing.  What matters is that you create new stuff and post it regularly.  (Yes I AM a hypocrite, now pay attention). 

The latest word from the Bureau of Nosy Statistics is that if you don’t have fresh content at least daily, your online presence will fizzle.  People visit a web site, if they like it they book mark it, and if, on their second or third visit, they don’t see fresh material, they never come back.  Some simple math for the simple among us… No People = No Money.  The Internet has been described as an information super highway.  It is more accurate to say it is a huge information vacuum.  Try this experiment.  Go to a major news portal like Fox or Yahoo or MSN or some other big-time page.  Read an article.  Take some text from that article, search for that exact text in google and see how many other sites are using the exact same article, word for word.  Sometimes they acknowledge the source and sometimes not.  Everyone wants fresh content but no one has time to write it.  If you can come up with something fresh, even a little original, and interesting/entertaining/useful/controversial then you CAN make money on the Internet.  When I have time to write again (after counting all my online millions that I make working for google as an unwed mother) I will give you a fairly clear path to follow to online promotion success.  Til then…Have you heard the latest about Lindsey Lohan??