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Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and a happy St. Stephen's Day to All

I hope everyone had a blessed and merry Christmas day yesterday.

In the secular, commercial world, Christmas is over. Now is the time for all those after Christmas sales that the retailers have. It's time to clear out our Christmas stock and get ready for Valentine's Day, even though Valentine's Day is over a month and 7 weeks away.

No, Christmas is not just a day, but a (whole) season. During Advent, we have spent over 4 weeks preparing for Jesus to come into the world. When he came into the world, he humbled himself and took on our human nature, being born of a virgin, Mary, Mater Dei (the mother of God). He did this because he loves us, "For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting". [John 3:16]  Now that he has come into the world, it is our duty to spread the Christmas message that today, a savior has been born for us.

And now on to the feast day of my patron saint, Saint Stephen. St. Stephen was a deacon who was active in the church during the first century. He was the first martyr, the first of those who suffered at the hands of pagan Rome for his belief in Christianity and in Jesus Christ. Now, granted, it takes guts to stand up for one's faith, even if it means martyrdom. As Christians, we are all called to profess our faith, even if it's unpopular. The early church martyrs understood this and were willing to stand up for the faith rather than give in to the commands of the oppressor, even though it meant death for all of them.

Now, I do realize that some of you out there think that all of this martyrdom stuff is old and done with. Well, at any time in history, there have been those, connected with the State, who persecute Christians for upholding the faith. It happened with the first Christians at the hands of pagan Rome. It happened in England when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church to establish the Anglican Church. It happened in Soviet Russia to Orthodox Christians (and Eastern Catholics) at the hands of Stalin. It happened in Nazi Germany because the Catholics and other Christians stood up to Hitler. Today, it is happening in China, where those not loyal to the state Catholic Church have been forced underground.  Here in America, we have the freedom to worship as we choose to, with no interference from the government. However, the idea of separation of Church and State has 2 ends. One ends says that the government cannot establish a religion and your choice of religion cannot disqualify you from activity in the public square. Then, we have the other end, which says that the government can't interfere with your religion and how you practice it. These days, we have too many people that, while they may not agree with Christian traditions and celebrations in public, are easily "offended" by the practice of the Christian faith in public and have gone to the courts to stop them, which have ordered that these Christians NOT carry out their traditions and religious practices in public. A good example is the ever popular Nativity scene. Various judges here in the US have said that those people cannot put up the Nativity scene because it might "offend" non-Christians. A more mature and charitable approach by those people that are "offended" is to simply ignore it, but don't rain in on someone else's parade just because you don't agree with it.

In today's gospel reading, Jesus says "Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans." [Matthew 10:17-18]  While Catholics and other Christians are not physically persecuted in America today, other methods of persecution are happening today such as failure of the government to uphold legal measures such as the Defense of Marriage Act and the conscience clause of the health care law. With the health care law, there is a religious exemption which says that a religious institution can be waived. However, this is only the case if the institution only serves a majority of people which hold the same beliefs as the institution. This is a problem for the Catholic Church (and other non-Catholic institutions like them) because the Catholic Church provides care no matter who or what you are. This law means that these institutions only serve Catholics or be penalized. With the conscience clause, a health care worker does not have to do a procedure if it violates his or her morals and religious beliefs. Failure to uphold this means that the health care worker has to take part in the procedure or risk losing their job. This cannot be tolerated.

As we go in our daily lives, let us bring the joy and the message of Christmas into everything we do. In today's gospel reading, Jesus also says that "You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved." [Matthew 10:22]  May God grant us the courage to be ready to profess and defend the faith, no matter what the circumstances are. May you all have a Merry and Blessed Christmas season this year.

If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them in the comment box below, or you can send me an e-mail at I welcome any and all thoughts on the subject. You can also follow me on twitter as well (username is @rctechgeek).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Reminder about the Microsoft Apportunity Contest

I would just like to remind everyone that the deadline for the Microsoft Apportunity contest is steadily approaching, so get your entries into the contest in as soon as possible. Any app published between October 15 and December 31 will get you an entry (for each app you publish).

You have about 1 week left to submit all entries. Again, I would like to make it clear that this contest is open to anyone (age 18 or older), not just students.

To submit your program to the Windows Phone Marketplace, either click the picture above or go to :

and enter the code:


I wish everyone well in this contest. If you don't have the SDK already, it's a little late (but not impossible), but you can download it at: Students can get Visual Studio, needed for development, through Dreamspark.

On a side note, I hope everyone is doing well as we draw ever closer to Christmas.

To help you stay tuned for further announcements, you can subscribe to my rss feed or follow me on twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Even More Contest Fun from Microsoft

Introducing, the Microsoft Big App on Campus Student Competition. If the Microsoft Apportunity contest wasn't enough incentive to develop apps for Windows Phone, Microsoft is partnering with the band The Gracious Few to create an amazing experience for ten (10) students in Austin, TX at SXSW:  a private concert, backstage passes, a private dinner with the band, and being interviewed on national radio about their apps.

Now, I personally don't know much about this band, but I am sure there are those of you out there that do. Also, the fact that Microsoft secured an opportunity for you to be interviewed on national radio about your app is a pretty big feat, allowing for more people to know about your app and (hopefully) buy it or use it a lot (if it's free).

If you aren't too keen on the band part, I might mention that there are also $15,000 cash prizes (one for the top free app and another for the top paid app) for the two apps which will be named “Big App on Campus.” That's a lot of money and can enable you to pay off those pesky student loans you have faster.

BAOC is open to any US college and university student who builds apps for Windows Phone.  Each application created from August 1st, 2011 until February 14th, 2012 can be entered and students can submit multiple entries.

I would imagine it is also possible for a "double entry", that is, (if inside the same timeframe as the Apportunity contest) you can enter the same app in both the Apportunity contest and this contest as well.

Anyway, all entries have to be in by February 14, 2012. On February 15, 20 semi-finalists will be chosen from those entries. On February 23, there will be public voting to select 10 finalists from those 20. On March 1, 2012, there will be public voting to select the Big App on Campus.

For those who are wondering what Microsoft is looking for, here's the judging criteria :
  • Innovation (40%):  How innovative is the idea?  Does it do something new or does it accomplish something in a new way?
  • Experience (40%):  Does it feel seamless and like a native experience on Windows Phone?  Does the app have a polished feel?
  • Potential (20%):  Does the app have potential in the market (lots of users, making money, both) or not?
Public voting will be done via a combination of downloads of the apps + “Likes” on Facebook.

 To enter, you must first be entered into Dreamspark and from there, get an App Hub membership (both are free of charge for students) at Create a program for Windows Phone. Programs may either be free or paid (your choice). After that, Visit and complete an Official entry form, including submission of your name, email address, App Hub ISV ID, approved APP ID, contest category (free or paid), and App name.

I hope everyone has a good time with this contest. You can subscribe to my rss feed or follow me on twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Windows Phone camp in Pittsburgh: Part 1

So far, I am having fun at a Windows Phone camp in Pittsburgh, PA.  After the introductions, everyone started out with a talk on monetizing your app. From this, I learned that sometimes, making your app free, but with ads in the app, might be a better option  for more revenue intake for any apps that I publish than perhaps making my app paid.

After that, we started the programming with a look at Silverlight (for beginners). As a programmer for Windows Phone, I am already pretty familiar with most of the Silverlight basics (I only say most because I haven't had to use some of the more advanced silverlight concepts in my programs yet). We talked about the various controls and view models available in Windows Phone. However, we didn't learn how to create a custom control (but I already know how to do that).

After the silverlight part, we moved on to XNA. Here, those multi-variable calculus concepts which I (sort-of) despise came back to haunt me. As a programmer, I really haven't tried my hand at making games much (with any language or framework), so this part looked a little scary at first. We used a "Cheese Roller Game" as the XNA tutorial material. I think I came out of the XNA part unscathed.  However, I think I really need some more practice with these concepts before I try my hand at making a game to sell in the marketplace.

Now, we are going to break for lunch, so I will be getting part 2 to you later on today. After lunch, we will have some time to play around with what we have learned, and later, we will have a contest to see who can make the best app. Stay tuned for more. I will have some photos available for your viewing pleasure later as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

I would first like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. For Catholics, this really isn't out of the ordinary at all. At Mass, we always have Thanksgiving Day. The word "Eucharist" comes from the Greek, εὐχαριστία, which means "thanksgiving". Granted, today is a day set aside to give thanks to God for all he has given us. This includes the gift of life. After all, we wouldn't exist if our parents hadn't given us life. For us in America, this also includes the freedom to worship as we wish without harassment by the government (although in the future, this freedom of religion could be challenged, but this is another issue altogether that I will leave for another day).

And now for a word on Black Friday and its encroachment onto Thanksgiving. Black Friday has been the Friday after Thanksgiving in which shopping for Christmas begins and many stores have really great deals on merchandise. This year, there are retail stores which have started black Friday specials as early as 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. on Thursday (for those of you which keep 24 hour time, this is 21:00 or 22:00 on Thursday). To me, this is really sad because Thanksgiving Day is a day to spend with family. If you have to leave your leave your family on Thanksgiving Day evening just to go buy stuff, you might want to rethink your priorities and leave the shopping for Friday. There will still be deals at the stores later, so why rush it? Family is much more important than shopping will ever be. You will always have the chance to shop, but you will only have your family for a time, so make the most of that time.

On a side note, the new Mass translations for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite go into effect this weekend. I hope everything goes well with the execution of the new changes to the words. I am writing a Mass setting for the new translations which, unfortunately, is not completed yet. When it gets closer to completion, I will post a preview on this blog.

If you have any questions or comments on this, I would love to hear them. You may either send them via the comment box below or via e-mail at, and I will answer any e-mail I get at the end of my next article. You can also subscribe to my rss feed or follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Update on Microsoft APPortunity Contest

Well, for everyone who has entered the Microsoft Apportunity contest, the folks at Microsoft have smiled upon you. I have a couple of contest updates that you will like. If you haven't read about the contest before, you can read up here.

The first update concerns those of you who use Azure in your programs. If you use Azure in the program that you publish in the Windows Phone marketplace, not only do you do you get your normal 1 entry, but you also get 1 EXTRA entry into the contest as well just for using Azure in your Windows Phone app.

The second update concerns students and Computer Science professors. If a student publishes 3 programs to the Windows Phone marketplace, he or she gets a FREE phone. If you are a student and you don't have a device yet, this is your chance to get a device for free. If you are a student and you already have a device, this gives you an extra device that you can use for testing your programs out.

Students: this is your chance to shine and make an impact on the mobile world. If you have a great idea, now is the time to really develop it and let the world know about it.

Computer Science Professors: this is a great way for your students to develop that great program idea they have and get some real world experience from it. You could even integrate this contest into your classes by making it a class assignment or for extra credit.

I would like to make it clear that this contest is open to anyone (age 18 or older), not just students.

An important reminder that this contest runs from now until the end of the year, December 31, 2011.

Again, to submit your program to the Windows Phone Marketplace, either click the picture above or go to :

and enter the code:


I wish everyone well in this contest. If you don't have the SDK already, you can download it at: Students can get Visual Studio, needed for development, through Dreamspark.

If you are participating in the contest and/or you would like to hang a contest poster at your work or school to promote the contest, you may download it below (clicking on the image opens the poster pdf in a new window):

To help you stay tuned for further announcements, you can subscribe to my rss feed or follow me on twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wanted: New Developers for Windows Phone Mango

If you haven't noticed yet, Windows Phone 7.5, codenamed "Mango", has been out for a while. However, you might have noticed that compared to Android or iOS, Windows Phone hasn't been given much love when it comes to development for it. It's sad because Windows Phone is a platform that delivers. However, you can change that.

Windows Phone needs new developers and new programs to help it to grow and mature. If you have been thinking about developing for Windows Phone, but haven't done it yet, now is the time. If you are new programmer, this is a good time for you to get your program ideas out there and established in the world of technology. Windows Phone mainly uses Silverlight for graphical user interfaces. Silverlight is similar to html, so if you've done any html coding, you should have some idea of how some things works since the structure of XAML, which is the markup language that Silverlight uses, is similar to html. For the internal guts of the program, you use either C# or Visual Basic. If you've programmed in Java before, the concepts are mostly the same, with a few minor differences between java and C#. It is possible to use C# (or Visual Basic) for modifying the graphical user interface of your program in addition to Silverlight. This is useful for situations such as adding components to the user interface on the fly.

To give you an incentive to develop for Windows Phone, Microsoft has launched the APPortunity Contest. You could win one of five Samsung tablets. Each time you publish a program to the Windows Phone Marketplace (for Mango), you get an entry into the contest. If you publish 5 programs to the marketplace during the contest, you get FREE ADVERTISING for ANY program of YOUR CHOICE. The free advertising will run on the Windows Phone Application Network for around 60 days and includes 25,000 impressions.

This contest runs from Now to December 31, 2011.

Important:  To submit your program to the Windows Phone Marketplace,either click on the picture above or go to :

and enter the code:


I wish everyone well in this contest. If you don't have the SDK already, you can download it at:

There are more details in this contest to come. To help you stay tuned for further announcements, you can subscribe to my rss feed or follow me on twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Update (1-14-2011): I have some important updates to the contest that you will like, especially with students. The link that was here is currently down, but I will have it up in an hour or so.

Update (1-21-2011): I have finally fixed the page with some contest updates that was messed up. You can see the update here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Windows Phone Mango: How it Compares to NoDo

The much awaited Mango update for Windows Phone is out. With this new update, many new features have been added. However, is Mango really better than its predecessor? Since most of us have all had a chance to play with mango for a bit, let's see which is better.

The first part is probably the most important, the Phone. If this part is horrible, than what is the point of getting the "phone" anyway? Microsoft has added a search feature that lets you search your call history. The sad thing about this is that you can only search by contact name and not by phone number. Nothing else really needs to be added to this, except for fixing the search to include search for phone #.

The second part I will cover is the web browser, Internet Explorer. Microsoft has moved the url bar from the top to the bottom of the layout. At the same time, a consequence of this is that the features that were buttons at the bottom of the screen have been hidden under menu. In order to get to your tabs, you have to open up the menu and then choose the "tabs" menu item from the menu, but the good news is that you don't have to be in just portrait mode anymore to find the tabs option. The same treatment given to tabs has also been given to the "favorites" and "add to favorites" as well. On the plus side, Internet Explorer mobile now has hardware-accelerated browsing. Another thing where I think Microsoft went wrong was the elimination of the forward button for mango, so you can only go back in web navigation, not forward.

The third part is Contacts. A big feature added with Mango is the ability to create groups of your contacts so you can organize your contacts better. Search has also been added so you can search your contacts for someone.

The fourth part is e-mail. Not much has changed here. For the buttons at the bottom, the folders button has been taken away. Searching e-mail has also been more apparent for those with phones lacking a physical keyboard.

As far as the calendar goes, it really hasn't changed.

The marketplace has also changed. When you bring up an program in the marketplace, instead of having all of the information about the program, like the overall rating, program description, reviews, and screenshots, all on one page, everything is now in "tabs", meaning organization is better. Marketplace search has moved from pressing the search button, to a button in the menu bar. In mango, if you are in marketplace, and you press the search button, you will get the normal bing search screen.

Music and video has definitely received a change. The buttons that control playback are now larger.  Repeat and shuffle buttons have been made more obvious by appearing to the side of the album art instead of having to tap the album art and then pressing the repeat and/or shuffle buttons. Now, you can create playlists from what's in your now playing list. However, there is a catch. You cannot move items in a playlist around to a different position. This can be a bother when you add a whole album or all of an artist's songs to a playlist, but you want to change the order that those songs are in. If you have the youtube plugin installed, the youtube site interface has changed for the better. However, youtube videos are no longer shown in the media player history. Fortunately, I intend to correct many of these ills when I release the media player program that I am working on right now, Mobile Media Manager (it's not in the marketplace yet, but there will be an announcement when it has been put on the marketplace).

For Microsoft Office, one of the biggest changes is the ability to (finally) edit documents, spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations saved on your skydrive account. So if you want to work on a word document on your phone that is stored on your laptop's hard drive, all you have to do is upload your word document to your skydrive account. I might add that in order to edit a document from your skydrive, it must be in it's xml document format. In other words, either .docx, .xlsx, or .pptx, the default formats for Microsoft Office documents since Office 2007. If it's in Office 2003 or earlier format, like .doc, .xls, or .ppt, you can still open and view the file, but you have to save it as its xml document format before you can edit it on the phone.

In pictures, access to your photos taken with the phone's camera is right on the start screen when you access pictures, instead of going to your picture albums, and then selecting "camera roll".

In Xbox Live, there is now an option for you to get gold level access if you currently have silver level access (which is free). I do not know for sure, but I have a hunch that Microsoft will eventually build features into Xbox Live on windows phone that only gold level members can access.

In messaging, Microsoft has built Windows Live Messenger support into mango, so you can now chat with your windows live messenger buddies right from your windows phone.

In Maps, you now have landscape mode in addition to portrait mode. The maps program has a new feature that allows you to find nearby businesses (like restaurants) and nearby attractions. I can certainly see this as being handy while on the road or on vacation somewhere.

And last in my article is the settings. Things here are mostly the same. In the settings screen for the switch for your cellular data connection, if you're in airplane mode and you try to turn your cellular data connection on, you will be asked if you want to want to turn airplane mode off or not. The biggest new feature in settings is the Battery Saver. If this is enabled, it disables some services such as push e-mail and programs being able to run in the background. You have the option to enable battery saver to run now, or to run when the battery is low (and yes, you can disable battery saver mode if the phone currently has battery saver enabled). Another big feature is the ability for programs to run in the background (if the program supports it). For wi-fi, you can now see a list of all the routers your phone has connected to.

To close it off, Windows Phone finally gets multitasking. The way this works is if you are in a program, press the start menu button to go back to the start menu, and open up a second program from there, you can go back to the first program by holding the back button and then swiping left or right with your finger until you get back to the program you want.

So overall, I do think that mango is worth the update and is better than nodo. Microsoft did do a good job with it as far as updates and new additions go. However, it's still missing a few things like bluetooth keyboard support and bluetooth a2dp audio streaming support for videos as well as audio (a2dp audio streaming for video was available on windows media mobile in Windows Phone 6.5, so it is possible). As a programmer, I also wish that Microsoft would open up the SongCollection, Playlist, MediaQueue classes (and any other similar classes) so that those of us who are programmers (like myself) can make custom playlists in our programs.

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them. You can either use the comment box or send them to me via e-mail at, and I will answer any e-mail I get at the end of my next article. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Tribute to Steve Jobs

We all have recently been given the sad news that Steve Jobs, one of the co-creators of Apple Inc., has died. I have decided to take this article and make it a tribute to Steve Jobs by giving a summary of his legacy in the technology world.

 Steve Jobs, along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, created Apple Inc. in 1976. In 1984, the company put out its first personal pc and advertised it during the super bowl with its "1984" commercial. In May 1985, Steve was fired from Apple. Steve said that being fired (from Apple) was the best thing that could have happened to him.

From here, Steve founded NeXT Computer Inc. in 1985. The computers made here ran a version of Unix with the NeXT desktop environment.

While he was with NeXT, Jobs bought Pixar from  Lucasfilm's computer graphics division. When Toy Story came out, it made Pixar very popular. After Toy Story, Pixar put out many popular and well-received movie. When the contract between Pixar and Disney was nearing it's end around early 2004, there was a failure in trying to negotiate a new partnership, forcing Jobs to look for a new partner with which to distribute Pixar's films. In 2005, Bob Iger replaced Michael Eisner and things were quickly back in order between Disney and Pixar again.In 2006, Disney bought Pixar and gave Jobs a seat on the Board of Directors.

Eventually, Apple bought NeXT in 1996. After Apple CEO Gil Amelio was ousted, Steve took over the post of CEO. Jobs also changed the licensing scheme for Mac OS, killing off any hope of legal "macintosh clones" and making Mac OS X run only on macintosh computers (made by Apple).

Jobs was the one who came up with the idea for the iPod, which first came out in 2001. At first, it was for Mac OS X systems only and Windows was not supported due to the fact that iTunes was only made for Mac OS X. Eventually, Apple decided to make a version of iTunes for Windows and this made the iPod available to more people.

In 2007, Apple came out with the first generation of the iPhone. This changed the idea that smartphones were for everyone and not only for their original target audience, mainly professionals and software developers/technology geeks. Unfortunately, this also started the phenomenon of people buying smartphones from cell phone carriers and later complaining that the smartphone is "too advanced for me".

Steve Jobs was also an advocate for recycling e-waste. He responded to poor e-waste recycling programs by saying that any Apple store would accept iPods for recycling for free. Later, in 2006, this was expanded to any customer who buys a mac as well.

In August 2011, Steve resigned from Apple due to health problems. He still kept a post on the Board of Directors for Apple, and his influence on the company was still well and alive. On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56.

Let me now close with some thoughts of mine: The company that Steve helped to found, Apple, is still alive and going strong and will probably be going strong for many years in the future. Even if you don't like Apple, you must admit that Steve was one of the ones that really impacted the landscape of the world of technology. I wish Steve's family well in this sad time in their lives.

Steve Jobs, rest in peace. Réquiem ætérnam dona eis Dómine; et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Requiéscat in pace. Amen.

Edit: I found an obituary that Bloomberg (mistakenly) published (and quickly rescinded) about Steve Jobs back in 2008. Perhaps you will find it interesting. Here's the link:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why Facebook Updating is getting ever so Annoying

If you've been active on Facebook for over the past year or so, you will notice that the developers that make Facebook have added numerous updates to Facebook, whether you liked it or not.

Some of these changes have been welcome. One of these is the consolidation of chat and private messages into one, meaning that your chat history is saved and any private messages you send to someone can be opened by them in a chat window with you. Parents, even though the kids may be past the general age of parental consent for most things on the internet, 13, have a mechanism to watch their kid's chat messages.

Now for some not so good changes. Recently, a Facebook update was put out that allowed you to use rss feeds to subscribe to a person's facebook to see status updates. Facebook has also stopped sending you e-mails for every kind of event you allow Facebook to send a reminder e-mail about and will instead only send you "important e-mails". If you like this, you can revert back to this in the settings. For me, I like the fact that my e-mail inbox does not get filled by reminders saying that my friend tagged me in a photo (and other similar reminders). However, I'm not comfortable with the fact that someone that hasn't friended me on Facebook can subscribe to my Facebook feed and see my updates. Luckily, I can limit or totally disable this in the settings so that random people can't easily see my Facebook information.

Today, we get news of a "timeline" feature that you can use to see what an old friend has done to his profile over time. This feature is both good and bad. We sometimes find old friends on Facebook that we haven't seen or spoken to in ages and the memories start coming back. The timeline feature can be used to see where that old friend has been. This is also a double-edged sword. For example, if you are applying for a job, chances are that the potential employer will use this feature to check your Facebook to see where you've been. Another good reminder why you should only post on Facebook what you would be comfortable showing others in public.

As always, you have those who complain about every update and say that they want the old interface back. There, you have 2 options: you can either deal with it or not use Facebook. Software is always evolving according to what will work best for the users. I think that Facebook is updating too fast. New features are good, but people need time to get used to the changes you just made before you can introduce new features. Overall, I think the changes made to the Facebook interface has been useful and implemented well, with one exception. Facebook should alert its users en masse about any changes made to the Facebook interface in a way that is easiest for everyone.

So, do you like the new changes to Facebook? If you don't, why do you like the old interface more? I would like to hear what you think via the comment box below or by e-mail at, and I will answer all recieved e-mails at the end of my next article. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Windows 8 at BUILD: Part 1

If you didn't know, Microsoft's BUILD conference is going on this week in Anaheim, CA. This conference, geared towards (desktop) Windows development, has much news in regards to Microsoft's next version of Windows, Windows 8.

I have reported about this on my blog before, but Windows 8 is getting a big change to the graphical shell interface. This change brings in elements found in the Metro UI of Windows Phone, and integrates them to create a user interface which looks similar to the Metro UI found in Windows Phone. The good news is that if you like the old Windows interface that you are used to in Windows 7 more than the new one, you are in luck because you can choose which interface you like best.

Along with this, we have word that with Windows 8, Microsoft has announced it will have an app store for Windows 8, which will sell programs with the older interface and programs with the newer Metro interface. If you have a Windows Phone device, chances are that this Windows 8 app store will be similar to the Windows Phone app store.

Next, we have news that the old stigma associated with upgrading to the latest version of Windows has been eliminated. With Windows 8,  you won't have to upgrade your hardware (just) to get great performance. Evidence of this has been show, with Windows 8 having been shown running on a Lenovo IdeaPad S10, which has an early-generation Atom cpu. Microsoft says that you will only need about 1gHz processor and 1 gigabyte of ram to run Windows 8. I'm not sure if this is with the older interface or the newer interface, but either way, the low amount of system resources needed to run Windows 8 is good and reassuring. If I can get a hand on a developer preview of Windows 8, I will run it on my eeepc 4g (one of the first eeepc models that Asus made) and see how it handles itself.

I mentioned being able to download a developer preview. The good news is that if you're curious about Windows 8 and you have a spare machine + space to install windows 8, Microsoft has said that you are able to download a developer's preview some time next week. If you are able to be at Microsoft's BUILD conference however, you can get access today, and actually, everyone who went to the BUILD conference got a free computer running Windows 8.

As today is only Tuesday, the conference and there is still more news to go around concerning Windows 8, so stay tuned for more. If you have any thoughts on Windows 8, let's hear them via the comment box below or you can e-mail them to me at, and I will answer them at the end of my next article. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Porn Sites can now get .xxx Domain Names, Parents and Network Admins Please Watch Out

The door has now been opened so that those in the adult content industry can now, until October 28, register their trademark to avoid having their trademark being taken by another entity. It is predicted that a somewhat-large amount of entities will use this opportunity to establish a home on the .xxx domain extension. I'm sure that the porn industry is absolutely thrilled about this one. Some have made the argument that this domain can be used to easily identify adult websites to protect children from adult content, but is this totally the case?

It is true that this can be used to easily identify adult sites. Parents and network admins can configure filtering software to keep adult content away from children and keeps workers from wasting work time browsing this kind of material. However, the weakness with this approach is that of voluntary acceptance. Even with the establishment of this .xxx domain extension, porn sites can still use .com domain names or domain names with other domain extensions for their content. There is no forcing of pornographic sites to move to the .xxx domain. This means that parents and network admins must still stay on their toes to shield the young from this material, although this job does get a bit easier by being able to filter out any .xxx website. Companies and organizations can (and should) do their part by opting their trademark domain name out of the available choices for .xxx domain names.

This is a good indicator on how our society is (still) fixed on pornography. Some say that this is a win-win for those looking for adult content and for those wishing to shield the young and others from it. I say that this is a lose-lose situation. As a reminder, we all have the mandatory moral and ethical obligation to shield the young from this sinful content. This kind of content should not exist on the internet to begin with, but the establishment of the .xxx domain is a good step in the right direction. Without forcing pornographic sites to move to the .xxx domain extension, however, this doesn't have as much strength and those wishing to shield the young lose due to voluntary enforcement. For those who willingly look for this kind of content on the internet (no matter where the content is), I would also like to remind you that this is a MORTAL Sin against the 6th commandment because pornography is a form of lust and it violates the dignity of women everywhere, diminishing them to mere sexual objects instead of respecting the human dignity of women.

So what are your thoughts on this? Please make those thoughts known via the comment box, or you can e-mail them to me at You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All is not well in Cell Phone Carrier Land

There has certainly been a lot of news recently about the cell phone carrier business here in the United States.

First, we have a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. I can certainly see the reason why the Justice Department filed that suit. The proposed merger would lessen the competition between carriers which use GSM for their networks. Currently, the biggest carriers in this area are AT&T and T-Mobile. If the carriers were to merge, with perhaps some small carriers somewhere in the US, it would essentially create a monopoly. There is also the uncertainty of those who currently have a contract with T-Mobile. Would AT&T honor the terms of those contracts, or would AT&T make those customers sign on to AT&T contract terms? AT&T has honored the contracts of those companies which it has acquired in the past. However, this time, it could be different due to the amount of customers that would be affected by this merger. T-Mobile currently allows features on its plans that AT&T doesn't such as using your phone as a mobile hotspot without paying for tethering (if this is incorrect, please let me know). A feature like that could have a big impact on the performance of AT&T's (data) network. There's also arguments about quality and price. Some think that T-Mobile delivers better service than AT&T for a better price. If the merger would go through, many of those people would probably switch over to Verizon or Sprint, based on whatever is best in their area.

Second, we have news of Sprint doubling its upgrade fees. This is certainly fed by the rumor that Apple is looking to spread its iPhone to other carriers. If you are due for or eligible for a phone upgrade, I would suggest you get it before the upgrade fee gets increased on September 9. There is also news that Sprint is also set to change its early termination fee to ~$350, based on how much time you have left in your phone contract.

Today, we get news that Sprint has filed a lawsuit to stop the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. The alleged charge of the lawsuit is that it violates Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which, in this case, deals with the potential merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. According to the press release, "If the transaction were to be allowed, a combined AT&T and T-Mobile would have the ability to use its control over backhaul, roaming and spectrum, and its increased market position to exclude competitors, raise their costs, restrict their access to handsets, damage their businesses and ultimately to lessen competition." "With today's legal action, we are continuing that advocacy on behalf of consumers and competition, and expect to contribute our expertise and resources in proving that the proposed transaction is illegal."

From here, we can see that many parties are opposed to the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. Sprint's lawsuit was unexpected and will definitely delay the merger if it is not stopped by the time that the issue between AT&T + T-Mobile and the Justice Department. I, for one, even though I am an AT&T customer, do not that the acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T would help the market and it would only make the cell phone carrier market move closer to a monopoly. Rather than trying to acquire T-Mobile, perhaps the effort would be better spent trying to improve services and prices.

If you have any thoughts on these events, please let them be known via the comment box below or e-mail them to me at, and I will answer your e-mail at the end of my next article. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Small Summary of Some Changes to expect for Windows 8

Well, after preparing for college and being without in internet connection in my dorm room for a few days, I am finally back in school (and on the blog too). Anyway, It's been a while since I last put out an article about Microsoft's upcoming operating system, Windows 8, so I figured I would give you a quick summary of some of the new developments.

The first one is the integration of virtual storage into Windows 8. This means that you can now mount an iso file as a cd or dvd drive or use a virtual hard disk for storage in explorer without any addon software. This can be especially helpful if you use console emulators or have converted some of your data cds/dvds to iso files.

The second change I will mention is all cut, copy, and paste operations are now all shown in one place. Before this, you could have a bunch of explorer windows each showing just 1 copy or paste operation. Now, you just have one window that shows it all.

USB 3.0 support is high priority and you shouldn't have any problems with it in Windows 8. Drivers have been integrated into Windows 8.

The last change I will mention is a change to the graphical user interface of an explorer window. Does everyone remember the ribbon interface that Microsoft used in Office 2007 (and maybe Office 2010 as well)? Well, it is now the default graphical user interface used for the file explorer. See the picture below for a look at this.

Well, this is all for now. Stay tuned for some more changes coming to Windows 8. (photos taken from Microsoft Windows 8 blog)

Do you like Microsoft's refinements for Windows 8? Do you disagree with any of the changes made for Windows 8? Please let your thoughts be known via the comment box below or e-mail them to me at, and I will try to address them at the end of my next article. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back to School: Simple Things to Enrich the Prayer Life of Catholic Students

Well, it's about that time of year again. The time where the freedom of summer fades away and the shackles of school are once again bound to children. This being said, this is a great time to think about things you can do to nurture your prayer and sacramental life. Here, I provide a short list

  • Pray Daily
      I can't emphasize this one enough. If you don't take time out of your busy schedule for the day to pray, it is like telling God that you don't want to nurture and strengthen the relationship between you and him. Any time used for prayer works certainly does not go to waste.
  • Attend Daily Mass
      Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist (if you haven't committed a mortal sin) every Sunday is certainly good. However, we should try to receive the Eucharist as much as possible. Daily Mass allows us to hear the word of God and to receive Jesus in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist. In fact, who WOULDN'T want to receive Jesus everyday?
  • Pray the Rosary
       Having a devotion to Our Lady is highly recommended and something we should strive to have. The rosary is a powerful spiritual weapon, so powerful that "The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies." Satan obviously hates this and does all he can to derail it. One of the promises of Our Lady is "It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of people from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things." The goal of the church is the salvation of souls. In this day and age, we need to do all that we can to help with this. I am sure you can find some time in your day to pray the rosary, and it doesn't have to be the whole 5 decades (although the full 5 decades is the optimal goal). If you can only say 1 or 2 decades, say them. If you need more convincing, Our Lady has said that "Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its Sacred Mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life." and "Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the Saints in Paradise." (more promises of our lady can be found at, parts in quotes in this paragraph are also taken from this link).
  • Attend Adoration/Benediction when Offered
      Praying before the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful thing to do. With Adoration/Benediction, Jesus is out there and right in front of you, so you can talk with him. Actually, with prayer, you always talk with God, but this allows you to spend some personal prayer time with him. Spending time doing this will definitely strengthen your prayer life, and the prayer life of the parish community in which you are a part of.
  • Go to Confession
       Even if you haven't been to confession in quite a while, GO! Frequent confession helps us to stay in a pure state and renew ourselves with God, as sin (both mortal and venial) blackens the soul and makes the divide between you and God even bigger. Let us be reminded, that on the Dies Irae (or Day of Wrath), even 1(!) MORTAL sin can keep you out Heaven, Permanently. Confess your sins to the priest in both number (how many times you did the sin) and kind (basically, the type of sin, like sexual sins, for example), and be truly sorry for what sins you have committed. The priest will grant you absolution from your sins, and will most likely give you a penance to do. Part of being truly sorry for your sins is trying your very best to stay away from committing that sin (or anything that may cause you to commit that sin).

This is just a small list of things that students can do to strengthen their prayer life. If you are already doing all of this and want something a little more advanced, pray the Divine Office (a.k.a. Liturgy of the Hours).

And now, a final few words for students either going off to college for the first time or returning to college. Make sure that you continue to go to Mass even if it is the "unpopular" thing to do. Once you stop going to Mass, you sever a big connection in your prayer life between God and you. Prayer and attending Mass on Sunday (or even more frequent, like the suggestion for Daily Mass given above) help you stay "in sync" with God, and things can only get better.

So, do you already do any of these suggestions? Have I inspired you to start doing any of these suggestions? Do you have any thoughts or questions about this? Please make all known via the comment box below, or via e-mail (e-mail address is If you send it via e-mail, I will try to cover your query at the end of my next article (or maybe, perhaps, a post in the comment box). You can also follow me on twitter as well (username is @rctechgeek).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

BSA Eagle Tracker v1.0 is Released

Well, I am very happy to announce that version 1.0 of my pet project for the summer, BSA Eagle Tracker, has been released for your use on the Windows Phone Marketplace. It's taken all summer, but I finally got the first (public) version out there. A big thanks to my friend, Del Rio, for making the splash screen for this app.

Just to give you a basic overview of the program: BSA Eagle Tracker is a program that allows a boy scout to track his progress towards Eagle Scout. The program is meant to be an unofficial means to track requirements done for the various ranks. The official scout handbook is still the official way to record that a requirement was done, but this gives boys a way to track their progress so they can "pocket" it and take it anywhere. The program was designed for offline use and to be totally independent of the Internet, so boys can use it "in the field" where they might not have the scout handbook with them. All of the requirements contained in the scout handbook for each rank are found in this app.

When the program first launches, you are taken to a configuration page where you are asked for your name, your birthday, and your religion. The name is used for the home screen. The birthday is used to determine how much time you have left until your 18th birthday (shown on the home screen), which is the hard deadline for which all requirements for eagle scout (except for the eagle scout board of review) must be done before. The religion choices are generic for now, but they will be more specific later. The choice for religion is used to filter through the religion awards, so that you only see the religious award that applies to me (the awards feature will be added in the next major version, more on that is located towards the end of this article). After you have set the configuration (and pressed the "ok" button), you are taken to the home screen. When you launch the program any other time, you are taken directly to the home screen. If you're wondering what the "reset" button on the home screen does, it completely erases the settings and finished requirements (I originally put it there for testing purposes, but it can also be used for if the scout has reached the deadline or has "quit" and another scout can start using the program). Please do not press the reset button unless you really mean it (I don't provide an "are you sure, yes/no" warning beforehand).

 As this is the first version, there is more that I would like to include in it in the future. I hope to include the WHOLE boy scout merit badge requirements book in there, so boys won't have to purchase the merit badge requirements book year after year just to stay current (any yearly changes to the merit badge requirements will be included in program updates). I also want to add the awards, including the religious awards. The choice of religion you made on the configuration page will be used to filter through the religious awards to show only the awards that apply to you. For example, I am Roman Catholic, so I would only see the Roman Catholic award, Ad Altare Dei, and perhaps maybe the Eastern Catholic award as well. On the configure page, you can leave religion blank if you wish, but if you navigate to the religious awards, I will ask again for you to choose a religion. If you do not choose one there, you will see nothing in the religious awards, and I will ask again for you to choose a religion each time as long as the religion choice is blank.

As I said before, it is now available in the Windows Phone Marketplace. You can (currently) find it under the "Kids + Family" section, but I plan to move it to the "Lifestyle" section under the "Community" sub-section. The cost is only a mere 99¢, and I am sure that you will find great use for my program. If you like my program please give me a good and positive review in the marketplace so others will be more likely to use it. If you find any problems (or bugs) with the app, please contact me via e-mail as soon as possible so I can get a fix out as fast as possible. The e-mail address you can reach me at is You can also use the comment box below to let me know of any problems (or bugs) with the app. As this is for Boy Scouts of America, this program is only available for the United States market and Canada market (I left out Mexico by mistake, will be fixed in the future).

If you know of any ways that I can improve the program, please be honest and tell me so I can incorporate the suggestion into the next program version. This can be done via the comment box below or via the e-mail address given above. For those of you with devices running Android or iOS, I will be making ports for you once the Windows Phone version is a little more accomplished (Android first, and then iOS due to me not owning a Macintosh computer).

So what thoughts or questions do you have about my app? Which category in the Windows Phone Marketplace do you think a boy scout app like this is most appropriate in?  If you've tried my app, do you like it? Please make your thoughts and questions known via the comment box below or via e-mail (e-mail address is You can also follow me on twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Edit: The url for download is BSA Eagle Tracker on Windows Phone Marketpalace

Here is a picture of the splash screen:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What happened to the Leonine Prayers?

What ever happened to the reciting of the Leonine Prayers after Mass?

To give you some background on the Leonine Prayers:  Back in the days where the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (a.k.a. Tridentine Mass) was the only form of the Roman Rite, Pope Leo XIII asked that the Leonine Prayers be said after every low Mass. When the Novus Ordo came out, the imposition (in other words, forcing) of reciting the Leonine Prayers was suppressed, according to Inter Oecumenici, a document put out by the Consilium of Sacred Congregation of Rites. This means that the Leonine Prayers were not required to be said after Mass.

However, there is spiritual benefit from reciting these prayers. Certainly, with Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum, this tradition has come back for low Masses in the Extraordinary Form. Believe it or not, these prayers can still be said after what would be the equivalent of a low Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (a.k.a. Novus Ordo). I would certainly say that those prayers SHOULD be said after the equivalent of a low Mass in the Ordinary Form. Those prayers contain some big spiritual gems.

If you don't know what the Leonine Prayers actually consists of (I give the Latin, with the English in parentheses): the sequence of prayers consists of 3 Ave Marias (Hail Marys), 1 Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), 1 Saint Michael Exorcism Prayer (short form) (a.k.a. Prayer to Saint Michael), and 1 Cor Jesu. If you want the full text of these prayer (either to get started or as a guide), I have the full text of all the prayers uploaded, with Latin on the left side and English on the right side.

Leonine Prayers download:

I've started the tradition of saying these prayers at my parish after daily Mass (since daily Mass is the closest thing to a low Mass). The amount of people I get varies, but there's always 1-3 people that always say it with me every time without fail. Another thing: If the Latin version of the prayers is an impediment for (full) participation for many people, do the Leonine Prayers in the vernacular. We should be doing anything and everything to make it easier for EVERYONE to participate, so if the vernacular is what gets the most people to do it, use the vernacular instead of the Latin. If the people aren't comfortable with the Latin and you are using the vernacular, you should probably wait AT LEAST a few months before engaging the people to make the suggestion to recite the prayers in Latin.

With all that is going on in the world, we certainly need extra prayers, and this is one way to get them. The St. Michael prayer is exceptionally good because with Satan and his many temptations these days, we really need God's help through the intercession of Saint Michael.

So, with that, do you already recite the Leonine Prayers in your parish after every low Mass-equivalent? Are you interested in getting this started at your parish? Do you have any other thoughts on this? Please let them be known via the comment box below. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek) or e-mail me (e-mail address is

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Everyone wants to make an Operating System Now

If you thought having Microsoft's Windows, Apple's Mac OS X, and Linux for operating systems was enough, you were wrong. So now it seems like everyone wants their own operating system. Google has Android and now Chromium (which uses the linux kernel as its core). On the handheld and mobile phone side, Samsung has their BaDA operating system.

To make things even more confusing (and nerve-wracking for both developers and consumers), now Mozilla is looking into making an operating system for mobile phones and tablets. Word has it that for this new operating system, Mozilla has decided to use Android's kernel and drivers as its base instead of Linux kernel and drivers as its base.

As a developer, this makes trying to make a program that will have a version for every mobile (and perhaps desktop too) operating system more of a pain. Personally, I like Firefox, but I think Mozilla should just work on trying to perfect Firefox more (especially in the "ram used" area) before trying to venture in the world of operating systems.

From a consumer's standpoint, this makes things complicated. Do I want a tablet running Windows, mobile Mac OS X (a la iPad), Android, or Mozilla's new os? Do I want a phone which runs Windows Phone, Android, mobile Mac OS X (iPhone), BaDA, or Mozilla's new os? This also has the potential for the many who do not do their homework before buying an expensive item like a laptop, a tablet or netbook, or a mobile phone to buy something they doesn't fit their needs and/or something they later regret buying.

Now I'm not totally opposed to Mozilla making an operating system, but I do think this is a bad time to do so. If Mozilla does go through with making an operating system, as soon as they release something like an alpha or beta version, expect the patent war to begin again and for all of the patent lawyers to start a suing frenzy, which brings me to another point.

In the world of user interfaces, it is certainly possible, but I don't thing you can make a graphical user interface shell these days without running into a patent issue. It seems like many of those companies (yes, I especially mean you, Apple) will file a patent for just about anything. When another company builds on what that patent entails and either creates something similar, but different or creates something better, the patent hounds are released and they go to war with each other. I know that companies want to protect their intellectual property, but if anyone from said companies are watching, please consider which patent lawsuits are worthwhile to pursue and which ones are not worthwhile to pursue. Frivolous patent lawsuits clog up the courts and waste hard-earned time and money.

That's all I have to say on the issue of operating systems for now. If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions on this whole operating system mess, please make them known via the comment box below. You can also follow me on Twitter as well (username is @rctechgeek).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Musical Keys and their Uses

With all these posts I've been doing on Technology and Catholicism, I thought it might be nice to take a break from all that and talk about music.

Anyway, through my study of music, I have found that each key that can be used in a key signature has a nature to it (and maybe feelings too) that warrants a certain key more suitable to convey a certain setting or situation than other keys. Here are some examples of what I mean. Please note I am referring to mostly the major keys and some of the minor keys, but not any other keys (like G Lydian). I will start with C and proceed through the circle of fifths.
  • C: This key is more of a plain key and generic
  • C#/Db: can be somewhat calm
  • D: solemn, but can also be sweet
  • D#/Eb: sweet
  • E: another solemn key
  • F: dreamy, and also good for a march
  • G: glorious (in a way)
  • G#/Ab: a mix of plain and strong
  • A: solemn, could also be good for big bass sound??
  • A#/Bb: majestic, good for a march
  • B: fast moving??
Now for some minor keys (starting with A):
  • A: sad and sorrowful
  • A#/Bb: cool, good for jazz
  • B: ?
  • C: mysterious
  • C#/Db: ?
  • D: sorrowful or scary
  • D#/Eb: cool, also good for jazz
  • E: cool, good for jazz
  • F: scary
  • F#/Gb: ?
  • G: Medieval
  • G#/Ab: ?
Am I the only one who has ever thought along these lines? Have you ever thought about this or something similar to this? Do you agree with my choices or do you have a better suggestion for any of the keys (major or minor) I have chosen? If you could help me fill in the blanks that would be great. Please let it all be known via the combo box below. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Digital Books vs Physical Books

If you didn't get the news, has apparently slashed prices for renting electronic books for its Kindle reader by as much as 80%. This sounds like good news for those of us who have a Kindle or use the Kindle reader on a computer or pocket pc/smartphone. However, the renting sets a time limit on how long you can use the ebook before it becomes unusable. Printed books (new or used) don't have this problem at all. But is it worth choosing an electronic copy of a book over a physical copy of a book?

The argument for electronic books is a simple one. Who really wants to carry a backpack full of books on his or her back all day? With electronic books, I only have to carry around my ebook reader in my backpack and all of my books are stored in my ebook reader. However, like everything in life, there is a proper time and place for electronic books.

Books having to do with math and the sciences have little use for electronic books. For these books, you will often find that people may write notes in these books to help them to study and remember concepts. With electronic books, the software may allow you to enter page notes, but unlike physical books, you cannot position the notes on the page where you want them. Also, many of these books are kept for reference, as the next level of a subject matter builds on the previous level. For these kinds of books, you are better off buying a new or used physical copy of the book.

I can see electronic books working for areas like literature. For these classes, you will have to buy many books which you will use in class. For most of these books, you will probably not need them again in your lifetime, so a rental of that book for a period of time makes sense.

Computer Science/Computer Engineering is another area where electronic books can work. With the way technology grows and gets completely outdated, it's only a (short) period of time before a book on a particular topic gets outdated. If you get an electronic version of the book, you take it to learn the concepts and you can grow and build from resources outside of it (like the internet). For those books that teach basic, universal concepts, however, those books should be physical ones.

Now I also have a critique of the cycling of textbook versions by college professors. Before you decide to switch to a newer version of a book you are using, please review the new version first and compare it with what you are using now. Many times, the newer version of a textbook is only slightly different from the version that you are using now in your classes (some examples of differences are organization of the book, different page numbering, etc.) From a student's standpoint, it's not worth buying the newer version of a book if I can find a slightly older version of the book for less money than the newer version would cost if all of the concepts taught in the newer version of the book can be found in the older version of the book.

I know it's still the middle of the summer, but perhaps this will give both students and professors/teachers some time to think about this in preparation for the fall semester. Personally, I prefer my math and science books to be physical ones, while my literature (and other arts classes, except for music theory) to be electronic ones, but that's just one man's opinion. If you have any thoughts on this, please let them be known via the comment box below. You can also follow me on Twitter too (username is @rctechgeek).

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Reminder to Vote for Your Favorite Imagine Cup Team

Well, in the course of the Imagine Cup, things are (almost over) just beginning. Yet, everyone still has time to make a difference as to whom this year's winners are. I am speaking, of course, of the People's Choice Award. This is the one time where the decisions are out of the judge's hands and into yours. Go ahead and vote for which team that YOU think is worthy of this award. Time is running out though, because you only have until 21:00 GMT on 7-12-2011 (you can use this to figure out what time this is for you) before the voting is over and the results are in. Don't delay, VOTE NOW!

Link to Voting: Imagine Cup People's Choice Awards

If you want general Imagine Cup information (if you want more information or want to get ready for next year's competition), you can find that here.

Do you have a favorite team? Do you have any thoughts on any of the teams and their projects? Let me know via the comment box below. You can also follow me on Twitter too (username is @rctechgeek).

Update (7-12-2011): I was wrong about the timing of the Imagine Cup. The Imagine Cup actually started on the weekend and continues throughout this week. However, the deadline of 21:00 GMT on 7-12-2011 is correct and still in effect. Get your vote in before time runs out.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Another Update on BSA Eagle Tracker

BSA Eagle Tracker is not dead in any way, shape, or form. What has been taking a while is a couple of ui redesign issues after talking with a few of my friends in boy scouts. Anyway, I am happy to report that a countdown algorithm is now in place. After asking you for your birthday when you first set up the program, the program uses the given birthday to tell you how many days you have until the hard deadline, a scout's 18th birthday.

Here are some more screenshots (of the program's current state) to go around:

The Setup screen that comes up the first time you run the program

The Home Screen (with updates since the last screenshot)

And now some decisions to make: The following 2 pictures are some ideas I have for the requirements checklist

Now, do you like the first picture or the second picture more? For the first picture, to get to the full requirement text, the user chooses the requirement from the dropdown and presses the button. For the 2nd picture, to get to the full requirement text, you basically click on the text part of the checkbox.

Also, my idea for the merit badges

That is for the star rank, and I only have the eagle required stuff on there for now. You basically choose a merit badge from the list of available badges. Once a merit badge is "taken" it won't show up on another dropdown's list of available merit badges. And yes, in case you are wondering, I did put support in there for the eagle-required "choice" merit badges.

Depending on the response I get from you, the readers, I might be giving the interface an overhaul (so stay tuned) and is due to change. For now, I would like to know which of the 2 pictures above would be better. Please let me know what you like better via the comment box below. I am always open to new ideas and comments so I can make this program better. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Some Windows 8 News and Thoughts on Windows on ARM

It has recently been made known that Steve Ballmer plans to include some new information about the next version of Microsoft Windows, Windows 8, in his keynote address at the 2012 International CES Conference next January. With Windows 8, the shell gui is getting a makeover, integration with social networking and Xbox Live is being added (with, what I am guessing, is the death of the "Games for Windows" line and integration of those titles into Xbox Live), and a version of "mainstream" Windows is being made for ARM processors.

It looks like the new look of the Windows shell is here to stay. If you still use the traditional keyboard and mouse, you are going to have a fun time with the new interface, which is designed for touchscreens. I am still hoping that Microsoft will not throw the whole hard keyboard + mouse combination out the window while trying to design the shell gui and add in some options that will make the new window manager still easy to use with keyboard + mouse.

It is also noted that Windows 8 will be available for computers with ARM processors. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft has designed Windows for ARM processors. ARM processors are usually associated with embedded hardware, with the main method for (permanent) storage usually being flash rom and the os is flashed to a "rom chip" which upon booting, is "unpacked" either to ram (for smaller embedded systems) or to flash rom (which is the usual method used for embedded hardware). This is because embedded systems most have weaker processors than a desktop or laptop, but they also use less power.

Desktop Windows has always been designed for laptops or desktops, using a hard drive (or ssd) for storage and loading the os from the hard drive. Embedded systems do not usually have a hard drive in them, and even if they do, it is slower than booting from a rom chip. Microsoft does have a version of Windows for embedded systems (Windows CE for lower-end devices and Windows Embedded for higher-end device), so I imagine they will take some tricks from the 2 versions of embedded Windows for speed and processing. I am guessing booting will go something like this (similar to how booting to Linux works): after you turn on the system and you see the bios screen (if the device has one), Microsoft will have some sort of "ram disk" which contains some basic parts of the operating system (like the kernel) and some needed utilities to get the system started flashed from the rom chip to ram, and then loads the rest of the whole operating system

If you are hoping to run your old Windows programs on your new ARM tablet, I will say you are out of luck. This is because for native programs, they are compiled for only one type of processor, and will only work on that type of processor. The only exception is if Microsoft takes the "compatibility emulator" they are putting in Windows 8 for (x86 systems, at least) that allows you to run programs designed for earlier versions of Windows and modify it so it can run x86 code on it. Emulators allow you to run code code compiled for one architecture on another, but the system you are running it on must have enough processing power (and speed) to do this effectively. Programs which require a runtime environment (like the .NET Framework) to run will
be able to get past the processor limitation, because those programs are usually "write once, run anywhere", provided the other system has the needed runtime environment and libraries for your program.

Other than this, there hasn't really been any new Windows 8 information in a while. I imagine that we will be getting more information on Windows 8 as we head into the Fall and in Winter too. As far as Windows on ARM is concerned, I think it is a good addition to Windows. However, Microsoft should not forget that not everyone owns a tablet or a computer with a touchscreen and that many people still use the traditional desktop or laptop with keyboard and mouse/touchpad. I would just like to remind everyone that since this is still in the (programming) labs, things are due to change.

If you have any thoughts on this latest information on Windows 8 or Windows 8 in general, I am happy to hear them. Please make them known via the comment box below. You can also follow me on Twitter as well (username is @rctechgeek).

Edit: If you didn't see my older article on Windows 8, you can find it here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Selene: A Game about the Moon

Are you a parent and your kids are just sitting around the house, bored over the summer? Are you a kid between the ages of 9 and 17? Are you an elementary, middle school, or high school science teacher and you are looking for something fun to add to your curriculum this year? Are you an educational researcher looking to see what effects video games can have on education? If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, Selene is what what you have been looking for!

Selene is a game which challenges kids to learn about how the moon was formed. Players can construct the Earth’s Moon, then blast it with projectiles to form its surface and flood it with lava to create what you best think that the moon looks like.

For you educators, you will be happy to know that Selene meets AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and NSES (National Science Education Standards) National Standards, as well as many state curriculum standards, including the game's home state, West Virginia.

In order to play the game, you will need the latest version of Flash, an up-to-date web browser, a broadband internet connection, and a computer with a good graphics card. The game works with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. You can get away with using Integrated Graphics, but gameplay is much smoother (and faster) if you have a dedicated graphics card.

Because the game is part of a study, kids cannot directly sign up to play themselves. Rather, an adult, someone like a parent or teacher, must sign up as a “recruiter” first, and then the recruiter can generate access codes that kids can use to access the game. Any size group is welcome to sign up.

To get started, please visit to find out more and sign up.

 If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the combo box below. You can also follow me on Twitter (username is @rctechgeek)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Supreme Court Decision and the State of Video Game Ratings Now

On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the video games are protected as a medium of free speech (or expression) under the first amendment of the Constitution and that the government cannot pass laws restricting the sale of any video game to minors.

To give you a summary of the law (parts taken from the Supreme Court opinion):
The law "prohibits the sale or rental of “violent video games” to minors, and requires their packaging to be labeled “18.” The Act covers games “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted” in a manner that “[a] reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors,” that is “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community as to what is suit-able for minors,” and that “causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.” §1746(d)(1)(A). Violation of the Act is punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000. §1746.3."[1]

The law attempts to put violence into the category of obscenities. One of the main reasons that the state of California lost is because "it acknowledges that it cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors."[2] Using the definition of video games as free speech, the court said that "the curtailment of free speech must be actually necessary to the solution".[3] From what I can see, this law is separate from the ESRB ratings system that all (or most?) video games are judged by before they can be put on the market for selling. The ruling only affects any laws that a government has already made or could make.

To my knowledge, the standard ESRB ratings system is still in effect even with this ruling. Further, this ruling does not apply to a store's company policy if it has one. For example, Walmart (and a few other stores which sell video games) has a policy that that restricts the sale of M-rated games to those 18 (or is it 17?) and older. If a 12 year-old tried to buy a M-rated game (such as Grand Theft Auto), he or she would be denied because they do not meet the criteria in company policy for the sale of mature-rated games.

As Christians (and good people), we have an obligation to shield the young from obscenities and other harmful material. Parents are the ones that play the main role in doing so. Therefore, parents are the ones who should call the shots as far as which games their kids may or may not play. As the article says
"No doubt a State possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm, Ginsberg, supra, at 640–641; Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U. S. 158, 165 (1944), but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed. “Speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them.” Erznoznik, supra, at 213–214.3"[4]
 However, with the (sad) moral state we are currently in as a society, many parents do not take their job as a parent seriously. Many parents don't care about what kind of games their child gets into and/or do not know enough about video games that are out there. To help that, you have the ESRB ratings system which rates video games and helps parents make an informed decision as far as which video games their child is allowed to play. Parents, before your kids buy a video game, do your homework and try to find out what is actually in the video game (this can be done by methods such as game reviews, asking other gamers, or even asking the person who works at the video game store; much of the time, people who work at video game stores have knowledge of the games that are already out or going to be released) so that you can make an informed decision.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this, please share them with me and the other readers via the comment box below. You can also find me on twitter (username is @rctechgeek).

[1] Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assn., 564 U.S. 3 (2011)
[2] Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assn., 564 U.S. 14 (2011) 
[3] Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assn., 564 U.S. 14 (2011) 
[4] Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assn., 564 U.S. 9 (2011)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Some Games I would like to see be ported to Windows Phone

If you didn't know already, a Sonic the Hedgehog game was recently released for Windows Phone and is on the marketplace for your gaming pleasure. The much-anticipated Mango update Windows Phone is coming soon in the Fall, and is slated to be the best update yet to the Windows Phone operating system. Wouldn't it be great if some other games we know and love got ported to Windows Phone? With this, there are many games for other platforms that I would like to see a Windows Phone version of. Here are some of them, in no particular order of importance:

  • Halo
       I'm sure many fans of the Halo series have wanted a mobile version of Halo for quite some time. With Halo being part of Xbox Live and Xbox Live being part of the Windows Phone operating system, there is a potential for mobile to mobile playing and mobile with Xbox playing as well, with Xbox Live integration not being a problem.
  • Final Fantasy
       Who wouldn't want a few of the games in the Final Fantasy series being ported to Windows Phone? Final Fantasy I has already been ported to Windows Mobile, so we know it is possible, and some of the other Final Fantasy games deserve to be ported as well.
  • Pokémon
      Little needs to be said for this one. Unfortuately, with the Pokémon games being in the hands of Nintendo, I don't think we have much chance of seeing any native ports. Now if someone would make an emulator that can play them and Microsoft (actually) lets it go on the marketplace, that would work as well.
  • Duck Hunt
       This little gem from the Nintendo NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) caused people to spend endless hours playing this game. Now I know that you can't hook up a gun (if you didn't know, to play Duck Hunt on the NES, you used a "gun" controller to shoot the ducks) to your windows phone, but I can see touch input functioning as the "gun".
  • Orions: Legends of Wizards
       This game was a Windows Mobile gem, winning many awards for gameplay. It is a mix of a card game and real-time-strategy. I'm sure that those of you that had Windows Mobile devices remember this game. Unfortunately, the Windows Mobile version never got an update so you could play it on HVGA resolution devices (in other words, devices with 800 x 480 resolution). This games deserves an update, a port to Windows Phone, and maybe some more expansion packs.
  • Arvale
       This is another game (series) that was big on Windows Mobile. This one is sort of an RPG with dungeon crawler. Anyway, besides breaking the 4th wall much of the time, this game was enjoyable and I spent many hours playing them (the first full version that I actually played was Arvale: Short Tales; I just played trials of the Arvale games before).
  • (Super) Mario Bros.
       Again, one of those games that don't need much said about it. However, like the Pokémon games, I doubt we will be seeing a native port of this from Nintendo.
  • Angry Birds
       This great game is a hot seller on the iOS and Android operating systems. The only one out of the picture is Windows Phone. Many people have been asking for a port of this to Windows Phone for some time now, with me being one of them, and it is currently unknown (to me, at least) whether we will get a port of Angry Birds to Windows Phone or not.

I'm sure that I left out a couple of other games that deserve a port to Windows Phone. This is just a short list of some of them. I am curious to hear what games you think should get a Windows Phone port and if you agree (or disagree) with any of the items on my list. You can make your thoughts known via the comment box below.

Friday, June 24, 2011

'tis the Season to Imagine

Well, it's that time of year again. Summer has started and the Imagine Cup World Finals is just around the corner. Here, all the finalists from each country's own Imagine Cup competition will come from all over the globe to (this year) New York City to see who is worthy of winning the Imagine Cup.

In case you don't know what the Imagine Cup is, it is a technology competition with five categories, each with its own rules and objectives, tied to a particular common theme: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Design, Digital Media, and (with the advent of Windows Phone 7) Windows Phone 7. The goal of the Software Design category is to come up with a software (and maybe hardware if need be) solution that solves a big problem in the world today. The goal of the Embedded Development category is to build a hardware and software solution that solves a big problem in the world today using embedded hardware and software. The goal of Game Design is to come up with the best game for either PC/Xbox, the web (via silverlight), or for Windows Phone 7. The goal of the digital media category is to make a video that conveys your view of an issue or issues in society that exists today which is visually and audibly interesting and stimulating. The goal of the Windows Phone 7 competition is to make the best (non-game) program for Windows Phone 7.

The US finals were held back in April at MS headquarters in Redmond, with the winners of Software Design being Team Notetaker from Arizona State University and the winners of Game Design being Team Bloom from Tribeca Flashpoint Academy for Windows/Xbox and Team Big Impact Bear from University of Houston for Windows Phone 7 Gaming. You can find the rest of the US winners here.

The Worldwide Finals will take place on July 8-13 in New York City. The winners from all of the categories in each country will be judged there to see who will take home the Imagine Cup.

Now, your vote is needed for the People's Choice Award in each category. You can find the voting site here. Your vote counts!

Now after reading this, some of you might be inspired to start an Imagine Cup team at your college/university or high school. This is good. You can find everything you need to get started for next year right here and all the tools that you (might) need can be found on Dreamspark.

Would anyone reading this article who has participated in the Imagine Cup competition before like to share there experience with other readers who haven't heard of the Imagine Cup before or have been considering it, but haven't entered before? Do you have any other thoughts on the Imagine Cup you would like to share? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. I am also open to people following me on Twitter as well (username is @rctechgeek).