Posted by darren on Thursday, June 23, 2011
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So, here's the problem: the clock is ticking on my master's. I had wanted to finish by August.

That's not looking so good. Most of the work I did in 2006 is lost/useless/forgotten.

Fall 2011 is the last possible term to complete by the seven year deadline.

While I don't really think I can finish in four weeks, if I can write the first two (or three) chapters by mid-July, I'll be in good shape.

Summary of the problem:

  • Won't be home until August
  • No books
  • No access to online university library
  • No desk
  • No office supplies except for a blue pen and a pad of Post-its

  • San Jose City Library Online Database of Journals
  • Books via Kindle
  • Purchased a few other books not available on Kindle
  • Zotero for pdf's and citation organization (use Firefox & Word plugins)
  • SugarSync & Dropbox for files
  • Evernote for random notetaking on articles
  • Acrobat for notes directly on pdf's
  • Starbucks & Library are now my study hall

I've got until July 13.

Posted by darren on Saturday, February 26, 2011
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My Ipod has taken a lickin' but keeps on tickin'.

I remember standing in the electronics department of Kmart, staring longingly at mp3 players when they first came out. Oh, attention Kmart shoppers.

It wasn't until 2005 that I received a first gen Ipod Nano for Christmas.

Flash forward almost five and a half years later and I'm still using the same 4 gb player. It does everything I need it to do. Sure, I'd probably prefer a smartphone.

The battery life was greatly decreased though, two hours which meant it wouldn't last through the day.

Ebay and 8 bucks got me a new battery and some blue, plastic tools to pry the case open. Youtube videos got my confidence up for the job.

I used the "Think System" at first. The battery sat around the house for a few weeks while I thought about changing it.

Then the click wheel started acting up. It wouldn't respond. I could turn the Ipod on, but then it would get stuck, I could reset, but nothing else. I thought that perhaps the battery was finally so low that it was affecting operation. It was time to act.

I very carefully removed the old battery, used a soldering iron to take the leads off the circuit board and then connect the new ones with the same solder.

I cleaned everything with a Q-tip and alcohol and snapped the case back into place.

Presto! It all worked!

For about a day.

Then the problems with the click wheel started again. Battery life was fantastic, but the click wheel was awful. I'd turn it on, it would reset, then it was unresponsive. I could reset it, but it wouldn't respond to controls.

I googled around and read all sorts of misleading ideas for fixes.

I opened it up again, tried to clean the back of the wheel with a Q-tip & alcohol again, put it back together - same problems.

Then today, I happened to read about a guy who cleaned his click wheel by cleaning around the edges.

So I took a post-it, shoved it in the crevice and ran it around the edge.

Some dirt came out, I reset the Ipod.

And it works perfectly. Fixed with a Post-it.

I am an Ipod mechanic.

Posted by darren on Sunday, November 21, 2010

Being a benevolent hacker seems to be how I've spent most of the last 10 years. Not a hacker in the computer/software/programmer sense, but by benevolently hacking the system to make it work. Smooth out the rough edges of the bureaucracy; make a better world.

About a month ago, the IT powers that be, began blocking url shorteners.,, tinyurl, etc., all became unusable.

I sent an email requesting that be unblocked.

It's been three weeks and I haven't heard anything. Yea or nay. It was clear: I couldn't wait for salvation from IT.

I needed an alternative.

I was able to find a few, small, unknown link shorteners. But who knows how long they would last? There was no customization. Besides, who were these people? I didn't feel as secure as with the big boys.

I wanted a solutions that I had control over.

I hit upon, a php script that allows you to set up your own url shortener. I just needed a domain and somewhere to host it.

Amazon Web Services was my first thought, but it seems like hosting really isn't a possibility. I'd have to pay for something. At any rate, it was too complicated.

Then I thought, perhaps it can be run off the side of my studyology Wordpress server. But, if this would work, there's obviously two problems, (1) it'd have to be installed in a subdomain and (2) this would make it very long for a url shortener:

Not ideal.

Then, I recalled that GoDaddy has free hosting accounts with domain purchase. It runs an annoying baner ad on top, but all I need is the server space.

As it turns out, GoDaddy already has Yourls as an application for one-click installation with its free, linux hosting.

But, I wanted a really short url, something tiny, something really puny. So I bought and installed Yourls there.

I made some changes to the config.php file to allow duplicate urls. Waited about 12 hours for GoDaddy to update (Not sure why this step took so long. It seemed like the DNS update was much faster.).

Now I have my personal url shortener. Currently immune to filtering:

Yours benevolently,

Posted by darren on Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What does one do while in the Silicon Valley? Spend some time learning to program, of course - something I should've done 20 years ago.

So I've grabbed an electronic book from the library and begun slogging through it. Who knows, maybe I'll even have the next big start-up.

A middle-aged internet wunderkind.

Posted by darren on Thursday, June 17, 2010


Technology is full of them.

The Tyrell Corporation and Massive Dynamic are currently starring Facebook. Gordon Gecko makes a good Mark Zuckerberg, or vice-versa, or whatever.

The amalgamation of personal data that Facebook was beginning to control and their cavalier attitude toward using and abusing it was mounting daily. It became increasingly frustrating to keep up with the ever-changing privacy features, removing some of their famous granularity, placing it back, making some information public by default or making it impossible to keep private.

They turned my interests into pages, meaning that I had to make them public or delete them altogether. They could never be completely deleted, however. Each time I logged in to FB, I was asked if I wanted to add back these same pages.

With the introduction of Instant Personalization, in which personal data was made available to third party websites and Facebook about my internet usage I finally decided it was time to either reconsider Facebook or quit altogether. The problem was, of course, that there was an entire ecosystem in place which was difficult to leave. There were relationships that were maintained only via Facebook. Though I used other social media tools (Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.), Facebook is the only site used by most people. It's where everybody is.

No, I didn't make the ultimate leap and delete my account, I merely deactivated it, leaving friends and family behind, only to wonder why I'm no longer on their list of friends. Perhaps they think I've unfriended them.

It's been five weeks. Life is good. Perhaps I'll reactivate soon. I don't know. Meanwhile, I've found other outlets for my social media, especially Google Buzz - even if I have few friends on those. It could be the beginning of something bigger, though.

Posted by darren on Sunday, February 14, 2010
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Total bill for domestic VOIP calls in January - $0.68

Total bill for international VOIP calls in January - $6.00

Charge for local Mexico City DID number for month of January - $3.45

Total Landline Charges January - $10.13

Posted by darren on Sunday, January 31, 2010

Last year I began a blog about technology and education called West Linn Tutor. Obviously, there was a local aspect about it. After six months, I decided to ditch the local part and rebrand it, focusing on how to use technology to be a more productive student.

Since the original blog was hosted on, I wanted something more flexible. Blogger has been my goto free blogging solution for some time now. I've found it superior to in terms of flexibility, customization and growth potential. But since I had been fooling around with hosting the blog elsewhere I started trying other software.

I had already been working with the Wordpress software installed on my computer (running locally with XAMPP installed). I'd thought I'd try something else out before making a decision.

So, I gave Joomla a spin. Joomla is an open source Content Management System (CMS) for websites that produce lots of content. I installed Joomla and gave it a try. I wrote a few test posts, tried some free templates. It seemed great, but I soon realized that my blog would not be producing enough content to justify Joomla. Also, there are some really beautiful templates, but the best ones all seem to cost $30 - $50 and I wasn't willing to spend any money just yet. On the plus side, everything is completely customizable with html and CSS. My CSS knowledge, however, is shaky at this point, so I need some training wheels to start out.

That took me back to Wordpress.

After the installation, it became a matter of looking for a template and choosing plugins that were needed. I ultimately decided on the Atahualpa Theme because of it's elegance and the ease of customization. I installed plugins to allow 125x125 ads (just in case), Google Analytics and Feedburner.

Next, I exported all the posts and comments from WestLinnTutor and imported them all to the new blog. Once everything looked kosher, it was time to get my hosting plan ($5/month at GoDaddy), by my domain (, ftp all of the files and "Bob's your Uncle," a new blog is born.

OK, so maybe it wasn't quite that fast.

This whole process took the better part of a Saturday. The good thing was my wife left in the morning and didn't come back until 10:00 at night.

I'm still working on some of the finer points. I need to customize the photos, change the favicon and a few other tweaks. But in the next few weeks, it should look like I want it.