Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Promises, promises: getting the kids to trust me

I’ve been trying something for the past few months. Under some circumstances, when things seem appropriate, I will tell the girls “I promise”. I’m pretty careful about when I say this, and so far I haven’t been wrong (though I still owe Katrina a trip to a swimming pool).

I decided I want the word “promise” to mean something special. It’d be easy to treat it like most others do, but I thought a little extra investment could pay off big, and not just in the long run.

One example is from when they were watching a movie. It may have been The Princess Bride, which incidentally is not too bad for kids their age. Anyway, Katrina tends to get very worried about what’s going to happen to the characters. Really worried. Like, she’ll leave the room to calm down. At one point, I told her, “Katrina, I promise the princess will be okay.” I try to lightly emphasize “promise”.

Another example is when we had to leave a birthday party at a swimming pool early. This devastated Katrina because she was really having a great time. I told her, “I promise I will take you to another pool.” It’s been postponed, sure, but I didn’t specify a time, and we’ve talked about where we’ll go and who will go with us so she knows it will happen soon.

I’ve only used the word “promise” a handful of times. I want to be sure that whatever I promise will actually come to pass. That way, in the future, when there’s something they really need to know and trust, Dada saying “I promise” will be money in the bank.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

OS X keyboard layout for Windows

Do you like the Mac OS X keyboard layout, with its convenient mappings for things like true apostrophes and quotes (“example” and ‘example’), diacritics (for things like é and ü) and the cent sign (¢)? Do you wish you had something similar for Windows? One where you can use the same or similar keystrokes to get the same characters?

You are in luck.

I created a keyboard layout using the excellent Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator that duplicates (and in some cases extends) the normal OS X US keyboard layout. You can download its installer here. (This is an executable, and the keyboard layout itself is in a DLL. If you don’t trust me or the link—and really, who should?—don’t click it.) I’ve been using the keyboard myself for quite some time and decided to share it.

Normally the keyboard behaves like the standard US keyboard. However, when you use Alt+Ctrl or the right Alt by itself, also known as AltGr, you get the enhanced behavior.

With AltGr (click the images to embiggen):

The keys with gray backgrounds are “dead” keys. These are used in conjunction with other keys to get the desired behavior. For example, AltGr+E allows you to add accents to a number of letters to get á, é, etc.

With AltGr and Shift:

I also provide some extra characters (these are subject to change in future versions):

Not every font has the glyphs necessary for displaying the characters this keyboard layout can create, but many do. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Restarting my weight loss plan

When I got married, I weighed just over 180 pounds. By 2007, I’d gained around 45 pounds, and I decided it was time to correct things.

I called it the “Quit Eatin’ So Goddamn Much” diet. It wasn’t just smaller portions, though. I realized that I needed to eat much less of what wasn’t helping me at all, such as cheese. One book that helped me understand the importance of this was Eat To Live (Amazon Associates link), though I didn’t necessarily go as far as the book recommends.

Things were great. I got back down to the low 180’s and I stayed there. Over the next couple of years I gained a small amount back, but I felt is was acceptable.

About a year ago, I feel off the wagon. I’ve been eating too much too often, and I’ve known it. I’ve only gained around ten pounds or so, but those ten pounds appear to be quite important.

I’ve decided to start losing weight again. It hasn’t been easy getting started—I’ve been trying to get started for several months now. However, I’ve actually made it to Day 4, so I’m feeling pretty good about it so far.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The iPad’s most significant flaw

I have yet to see an iPad in person. (I almost went with a friend on Saturday morning to pick one up, but he decided a purchase like that can wait.) However, unless it gets as hot as my wife’s MacBook Pro with its dead fan, I’m pretty sure I already know its most significant flaw.

It needs a computer.

Some might argue that “needs” is too strong a word, but I don’t think so. It needs a computer just like computers need backups. Without a computer, you can’t back up the stuff on your iPad, and without a backup, you could be in trouble. You also can’t install OS updates without a computer, and who knows what great features are coming?

Some might not even think this is a flaw. If you think of an iPad as a big iPod touch, you might be right about that. However, Steve Jobs says the iPad is in a new category between laptops and smartphones where devices need to be better at things like photos and music, and without a backup strategy, you risk losing all your pictures and songs, and that is certainly not better.

Maybe you don’t think this is a big deal because you already have a computer. Sure, I’ll buy that. It probably isn’t a big deal for you. But what about the people who don’t want to bother with a computer? What about those that just want to do a few things but don’t want to learn about antivirus software or what cable goes where?

For example, take my mother-in-law. She’s a wonderful woman who doesn’t want to mess around with computers. There are things she’d like to use—email, the web, digital pictures, Facebook—and the iPad would be perfect for that. However, I can’t in good conscience tell her to ditch the computer and DSL in favor of an 3G iPad with a data plan and an overpriced dongle for her camera. Not until she could rest assured that if the iPad were lost, stolen, or destroyed, she’d still have everything.

Apple, please hear me out. Eliminate or modify activation so the iPad works out of the box. Add the ability to update the OS over the air. Most importantly, add a version of OS X’s Time Machine. Eliminate the need for a computer and you will win.