March 1, 2017

Emoji on the Command Line

In today's environment, Developers and QA engineers quite often have to log in to a remote AWS server that has virtual servers to perform tasks. Sometimes they are busy and may forget which server they are monitoring. One way to fix this is to use the emoji name in the Macintosh prompt. This way you know that your back on your computer and not on any production AWS server.

You will need to use Apple's Terminal app to add Emoji to the prompt, as iTerm doesn't really have good emoji support. This isn't an issue since your not going to be using emoji all the time.

Enable Emoji at the Command Line

Open Terminal app and use nano to modify the .bash_profile file:

nano .bash_profile

Tech Note: This will not work using BBEdit. This functionality appears to be an exclusive functionality of the Terminal app.

Add a new line like the following:

PS1=" "

PS1 is the Bash variable for Prompt.

Now pull down the "Edit" menu and choose "Special Characters", then select "Emoji" from the special character menu

Find the Emoji you want to use in the shell prompt, I would suggest an Apple or the House. Then drag & drop it into the PS1=" " line so that it's contained within the quotes.

Save the .bash_profile change with Control+O then exit out of nano with Control+X

Open a new Terminal window to see the emoji as the prompt

Bash Login

What is Nano?

nano is a small, free and friendly editor which aims to replace Pico, the default editor included in the non-free Pine package. Rather than just copying Pico's look and feel, nano also implements some missing (or disabled by default) features in Pico, such as "search and replace" and "go to line and column number".

Bash Generator

If you want more out of your Bash Prompt, check out the Bash Generator where you can create a productive Bash Prompt.

March 2, 2017

Coconut Grove Night Club Fire

In 1942 one of the world's worst nightclub fire happen in Boston. On the night of November 28, 1942, 491 people died at the Coconut Grove nightclub. This is still the worst nightclub fire in History.

Grove Street View

Twelve things that I learned about the nightclub fire:

  • The official cause of the Cocoanut Grove fires is being "of unknown origin"
  • Most people died because of inadequate exits and toxic smoke
  • One person killed himself at the hospital when he found that his wife died in the inferno. Official records count include this death in the records - 492 deaths as a results of the nightclub fire
  • 160 people were injured in the fire
  • The nightclub was zone to hold only 460 people.
  • The main part of the fire was put out within 30 minutes of it starting.
  • Buck Jones, a famous Movie cowboy star, died from injuries sustained from the fire
  • Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital treated burn victims
  • At one point patients were arriving at Boston City Hospital every eleven seconds.
  • Burn Hospital Victims were treated with penicillin the first time for the civilian population
  • Barney Welansky, the owner of the club was convicted of manslaughter in connection and sent to prison for 12-15 years.
  • Barney only served four years of the prison term.

As results of the fire

  • New safety codes require all revolving doors must have regular outward-swinging doors nearby.
  • New innovation to help burn victims
  • New Legal rules on building owners on maintaining safe conditions to the buildings.

Piedmont Street Today

Today the site of the former nightclub is a parking garage and a large empty lot. The area of the original main dining room is now a new street called Coconut Grove Lane.

In 1993, on the 50th anniversary of the fire, a memorial plaque was placed at the original location of the nightclub. The plaque is placed on the sidewalk near where the revolving door was located. (Many of the victims died as a result of the rush to the revolving door.)

The plaque reads:

Erected by Bay Village Neighborhood Association. In Memory of the more than 490 people who died as a result of the Coconut Grove fire on November 28, 1942. As a result of this terrible tragedy major changes were made in the fire code and improvements in the treatment of burn victims no only in Boston but across the nation.

"Phoenix out of the Ashes"

This plaque crafted by Anthony P. Marra, Youngest Survivor of the Coconut Grove fire. You can see a map of the nightclub on the plaque, and the revolving door

Anthony P. Marra was a Cocoanut Grove Club employee who escaped the fire.

Coconut Groveplaque

Location of the Plaque

The plaque is located at the corner of Piedmont Street and Coconut Grove Lane, (17 Piedmont Street.) It located just underneath the lamp post sign.

March 3, 2017

EUASOO Mouse Mice Z-7900 on MacOS

Last week I purchased a new gaming mouse EUASOO Mouse Mice Z-7900 4000 DPI Metal Base MMO/FPS High Precision Optical Gaming Mouse from Amazon. I have been looking for some replacement for my Logitech Mx 518 mouse. The mouse is several years old and I wanted to see if there was another mouse that might be more comfortable to use.

There's two reasons's why I wanted to investigate a new mouse:

  • Logitech Mx 518 is old, it first shipped on August 2, 2005.
  • The Logitech Gaming Software is very limited and doesn't have the ability to assign commands to the keys.

Why Use a Gaming Mouse on Daily bases?

A gaming mouse has a couple of advantages over the standard "Magic Mouse" that ships with every Apple product:

  • Game Mouse are better Ergonomically fit - If your doing a lot of work on the computer, you want something that feels comfortable to hold all day.
  • Extra Buttons and functionality - Gaming Mouse have extra buttons to do more work. In the 1990's having a two button mouse was good. Developers today have a need to simplify their workflow and a two button mouse just doesn't cut it. Yes, the "Magic Mouse" has various swipe settings, but who wants to remember if it the functionality is 3 swipes or 4?

Computer Mouse3

Initial Impression

The mouse does have a nice soft feel whereas the Logitech MX 514 mouse doesn't have a soft top.

The light on the top of the mouse is pretty cool.

There are no drivers or MacOS software that comes with Z-7900. The standard mouse functions will work out of the box, but you'll need to purchase a third party driver to use the extra mouse functions, speed and acceleration.

The mouse is seen as a "USB Gaming Mouse," Vendor ID: 0x04d9 (Holtek Semiconductor, Inc.)

Here are some options and my experiences with getting the extra buttons to work on the Mac out of the box:

USB Overdrive

  • Only Supports the extra Button 4 and Button 5 (Buttons in front of the thumb and behind the thumb)
  • Ability to assign AppleScript to key clicks. (Which meets my needs)

Keyboard Maestro

  • Only Supports the extra Button 4 and Button 5
  • Awesome ability to assign functions to the extra buttons.

Better Touch Tool

  • No control over the extra buttons.
  • Can only control the main click and double click.

SteerMouse

  • Can control 4,5,6,7 Buttons. (Those are the buttons around where the thumb is.)
  • Doesn't have access to the buttons at the top of the mouse.
  • No support for assigning command keys

ControllerMate

  • Can control 4,5 Buttons.
  • Very complicated to use and learn, it may have more power than Keyboard Maestro. I may re-visit in the future.

Driver Hack

I have read that there is a way to hack the driver to get all the buttons to work. This will involve me reinstalling Parallels to get it working. I haven't installed the application since my computer crashed last month.

I'll be sure to post my experience soon.

March 4, 2017

Dealing with Peer Pressure as an Adult

Meeting new people is part of everyday life and is important not only for our "grown up" socialization but also for making connections in the professional world. Sometimes, making friends as an adult can be just as challenging as it was as a teen.

Even when we feel self-assured and independent, we still want to fit in (who doesn't want to be accepted?). Peer pressure doesn't end in adolescence and even if you think you have the ability to say "no," it may be more difficult than you think.

According to a study published in Developmental Psychology, resistance to peer pressure decreases between the ages of 14 and 18 but remains unchanged until the age of 30. Therefore, it's safe to assume that many young adults continue to struggle with a bit of peer pressure.

Why Do We Care So Much About What Others Think?

As adults, aren't we supposed to feel comfortable in our own skins, stand strongly behind our opinions and decisions, and not care what others think? In a perfect world, yes, but there's the inherent need for approval and to feel part of a group. Unfortunately, negative peer pressure can steer us in a different direction.

Negative Peer Pressure

Experiencing negative peer pressure as an adult may be a little different than when you were a teen, but it can still be challenging. For instance, rather than being pressured to drink alcohol for the first time, you may be pressured to stay out late, have "just one more drink", drive while under the influence, and other risky behaviors.

You may be compelled to partake, particularly if a business contact is in the works or if you have a chance to catch the eye of someone you want to date. No prospective job or relationship should depend on whether or not you stray from your established, healthy routine.

Surrounding Yourself with "Good" People

If you spent a lot of your adolescence or early adulthood drinking heavily, smoking cigarettes, or even dabbling in drugs, you may be trying to steer clear now. Even if you are confident in saying "no," it can be exhausting when you feel the need to explain or defend yourself. Negative people will shame you, make you feel guilty, and not offer any support.

When you seek out or make connections with people who are supportive and respect you for who you are, it's easier to stick to your goals and be true to yourself.

Standing Your Ground

When you meet new people you want to make a good impression. You may find that you have a lot in common with someone who pressures you negatively. Does that mean you can't be friends? No, but you need to stand your ground. If the pressure is too toxic or too overwhelming, you'll need to recognize when to move on. Here are some tips to help you deal with negative peer pressure:

  • Be Assertive. Say what's on your mind and if your difference of opinion isn't valued, it's not worth the trouble.
  • Be Prepared to Have Critics. Do you hate criticism of any kind? You need to decide if you will allow criticism or avoid it; either way, you'll probably encounter some.
  • Celebrate Diversity. Having a diverse group of friends may help you through social challenges and feel less affected by peer pressure.

March 5, 2017

Best Open Office Design

The "Open Office" concept seems to be very popular office layout. No more large cubical walls, or executive offices.

I am not a big fan since I don't like being distracted by seeing people moving around the office.

However, this type of open office concept is something that I would certainly consider:

aquarium_cubicles

This is from Freshwater Software company office in Boulder, Colorado. Great use of open office space!

March 6, 2017

Disney Spring Entertainment Tokens

If you have an off day on your Disney World vacation, there's nothing like spending some time at Disney Springs to do some shopping and enjoying the beautiful Florida day. (Around here we still call the place Downtown Disney)

Disney does offer some entertainment around the shopping area for the kids, such as face painting, Lego area and a place where you can enjoy music by the water.

There are a couple of popular attractions that kids seem to gravitate to when they walk by:

Marketplace Train Express

Miniature train ride for small children to enjoy. Little ones pay $2 to ride, parents are free.

Fun Facts

  • Number of Seats: 15
  • Number of cars: 6
  • Average Train Ride: 3 minutes

Marketplace Carousel Tickets

The Marketplace Carousel is much smaller carousel than the one in the Magic Kingdom. There is no special "Cinderella Horse" to find. You can usually find this attraction by the popular music that is played instead of the traditional organ music.

Fun Facts

  • Height Requirements: Children under 42" tall, must be accompanied by an adult
  • Number of Horses: 19
  • Average Length of ride: 3 minutes

Ride Tokens

To go on the Train or Carousel you need to get a ride token. You can buy them at each attraction, but they work at either ride. Each token cost $3.

When you arrive at the Carousel or Train, your much better off getting a couple of tokens instead of the one. You save money when you buy more than one coin.

Typical scenario:

You visit the Marketplace Train and your child wants to go on, so you buy a token for a single ride. After the train ride, your child sees the carousel and tells you that it's their favorite ride. Now you buy a second token.

In this situation you end up spending more for the single purchases.

What if you buy coins and don't use them?

You can keep them for a future trip. Optionally you can give them to a parent that you meet in Disney Springs or as a gift to someone you know that is heading to the DisneyWorld. (Remember you went to Disney Springs for Shopping?)

Would have been nice to know

I wished we knew that the tokens worked at both entertainment venues, as we would have saved some money and time. After all, once you have a token, you can bypass the token line and get right on.

I found this out by asking the person working the Carousel if they would accept Train tokens and they said 'Yes!'

March 7, 2017

Immaculate Gluten Free Cookies

One of the disadvantages of eating gluten free is that you can’t make a quick batch of cookies. All the instant dough making products, such as Pillsbury Cookies, are not gluten free.

Immaculate Gluten Free Cookies

Immaculate Cookies

We just found out about Immaculate Gluten Free Cookies, which are available in the Gluten Free refrigerative section of Wegmans. They are exactly like the quick oven bake cookies that you find in the dairy aisle. They come in three flavors:

  • Chocolate Chunk
  • Double Chocolate
  • Peanut Butter

They don’t have any seasonal special cookies, like Easter Eggs or Christmas trees. However, it’s awesome that we can now make a quick batch of cookies whenever we want. So if we want some cookies to enjoy with a movie, it’s super easy.

Storage Tip

Frozen Cookies

The cookies are available in the refrigerative section, but the directions on the packaging does indicate that you could freeze them and bake them from frozen.

Cookies will last 6 months in the refrigerator. We put our packages in the freezer. It was very easy to break apart the dough when they were frozen. I put the bags in several Ziplock bags and back in the freezer.

So, How are they?

Cookies were yummy. It took about 17 minutes to cook. However, they appear to be slightly undercooked in the middle. Perhaps a few more minutes would have made them perfect.

In our taste test, we found that the Double Chocolate was the best tasting of all of them.

Immaculate Gluten Free Cookies are available at Wegmans, Market Basket and Target.

March 8, 2017

Bashmarks

When you SSH to a remote box do you change to the same set of directories? Wouldn't it be great to bookmark the locations to make it easy to get to? You can with Bashmarks!

Bashmarks gives you the ability to create simple bookmarks to any location on your server. Now you can jump to whatever directory you want wherever you are on the box.

As my former boss would say, "Now your cooking with gas."

Bashmarks

Setting up Bashmarks

Bashmarks is simply a shell script that performs actions.

Download bashmarks.sh from GitHub. Put the file someplace where you won't accidentally delete it. (~/bin is a safe place, Macintosh users may want to keep it in /usr/local/bin)

If it isn't easy to move the file, simply copy and paste the contents of the file into a new file on the server that you want to use. (The file size is small.)

Update the .bash_profile with the following line:

# Make sure the directory and filename is correct.
source ~/bin/bashmarks.sh

Exit out and log back in the server.

Type:
bookmarksshow

If it's installed correctly, you should get back an empty line.

Using BashMarks

It's super easy to use BashMarks. When your at a directory that you want to bookmark simply type in:

bookmark staging

Where "staging" is the name of the bookmark - Tip: keep it simple and short.

When you want to go to that directory simply type in:

go staging

If you want to see all the Bashmarks that you have installed, type in:

bookmarksshow

Additional Notes

Currently Bashmarks only works with directories and not applications. However, you have the bashmarks.sh source file and it should be easy to manipulate it to do what works best in your environment. For example, you could shorten the word 'bookmark' to simply 'book.'

Enjoy playing around with Bashmarks!

March 9, 2017

Irish Famine Memorial

The Irish Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. As a result of the Famine, the country population drop 25%.

The famine was caused by mold that was growing on the potatoes. Many Irish depended on potatoes as the food source due to strict land regulations. In addition, years of oppression on the Catholic Irish caused people to live just below the poverty line.

Boston was seen as a beacon of hope, and many Irish emigrated to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to escape the rough conditions in Ireland.

The Irish suffered job discrimination with people putting up signs in store windows which read, "Irish need no apply." People saw the mass migration as a threat to the skillful workforce.

In 1998, Boston dedicated a memorial to the Irish Famine.

Irish Statues

Things that I learned about the Irish Famine Memorial

  • Cost $1 Million to put together
  • Located on the Freedom Trail, across from the Old South meeting House
  • The original idea for the memorial started in 1991, but never amounted to any real project
  • Original location was to be someplace near Faneuil Hall
  • Thomas J. Flatley took ownership of the project in 1996 and made the memorial a reality.
  • More than 7,000 people attended the dedication on Sunday, June 28, 1998.
  • Dedicated as part of the 150th anniversary of THE GREAT HUNGER.
  • Cardinal Law visited the site after the Dedication Ceremony and blessed the memorial with Holy Water from Ireland.
  • Robert Shure, of Skylight Studios, made the two statues.
  • Robert Shure also created the statues at the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial which was dedicated on November 17, 2007.
  • Robert Shure also did the Boston Marathon Memorial (!996) and the Massachusetts Fallen Fireman Memorial (2007).
  • The two statues are Bronze on granite base.
  • Thomas J. Flatley, Committee Chairman, was an immigrant who arrived from Ireland in 1950 with $32 in his pocket.
  • Thomas J. Flatley, died on May 17, 2008 with an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion.

What are the statues of?

There are two statue monuments in the memorial.

  • One of the statues show a family suffering from the Famine. ( It looks very similar to an 1849 depiction of Bridget O'Donnell and her two children during the famine.)
  • The other shows a family doing well.

Some people say that the two monuments demonstrate how the potato famine impacted the poor and the rich.

The Eight Plaques

There are eight plaques around the memorial which tells the cause and effect of the Irish Famine:

  • Dying of Hunger - Starting in 1845, a virulent fungus devastated the potato crop....
  • AN GORTA MOR - The Great Hunger of 1845-50
  • The People were Gaunt - Starvation and disease spread across the Irish landscape claiming 1 million lives
  • Boston Sends Help - On March 27, 1847 Boston sends a ship of supplies.
  • Crossing the Bowl of Tears -Two Million people fled Ireland in vessels that were called Coffin Ships.
  • Arriving in Boston - In 1847, 37,000 Irish arrived in Boston...
  • The American Dream - Today 44 million American claim Irish ancestry
  • Lest We Forget.- The conditions that produced the Irish famine...still exist today.

Memorial Location

The memorial is located on Boston's Freedom Trail at the corner of Washington St. and School St. It's right between the "Old Corner Bookstore" and the "Old South Meeting House."

The memorial is not an official site on the Boston Freedom Trail.

March 10, 2017

TurboCollage 6

Turbo Collage6

Every day I send out a collage of photos to family and friends featuring my daughter. I have been doing this for six years now. When I put together the collage, it needs to be quick and simple.

What is TurboCollage

TurboCollage makes photo collages, mosaics, photo piles, grids, greeting cards, mood boards, polaroid collages, contact sheets, and more! Their website says that they have more than 55,000 active customers.

TurboCollage doesn't have any photo touch-up capabilities. You will need to touch up photos before using TurboCollage. This is fine for me because I have several applications that do an excellent job with fixing up photos.

Collage Style

There are seven built in Collage styles:

  • Regular Pile - Pictures on top of pictures
  • Advanced Pile - Pictures can be set to custom shapes (Hearts, Circle, Triangle etc…)
  • Picture Grid - Grid of pictures (Like the Brady Bunch Intro)
  • Mosaic - pictures are arranged in grid by different sizes
  • Center Frame - Mosaic layout with a large center picture
  • Zig Mosaic - Non-rectangular Mosaic layout
  • Photohive - photos arranged in beehive pattern.

Turbo Collage6

Templates

TurboCollage comes with templates broken into eight different categories. The templates are just a simple starting point to learn the capabilities of TurboCollage.

Basic Patterns, Picture Piles, Picture Grids, Mosaics, Center Picture, Zig Mosaics, Photohives, Instagram, Facebook Cover, Twitter Header Photo, Greeting Cards, Postcard.

What makes Turbo Collage Different

  • Very easy to create a collage with a custom layout size
  • The Picture border style adds a nice effect to final design
  • Easy to adjust the layout of the images.
  • You can create any layout size you need for print or web

TurboCollage vs Posterino

Both Applications do a great job making collages. I feel that for smaller collage, TurboCollage is the way to go. It’s very easy to put together a collage when you have only a few pictures to deal with.

Posterino is a great solution when you have a large set of images and want more control. You can read my review on Posterino from August last year.

TurboCollage vs PictMonkey

For years PictMonkey was my go to application for creating collages. Recently I encountered issues with my collage looking slightly out of focus. My workaround was decent but it was time to look at other solutions.

I really like how I could auto adjust pictures in PictMonkey, simplify right click and boom I can edit the picture and see the final results in the collage.

What I like about TurboCollage

I like how quickly I can generate a really good looking collage. I don't have to mess around with different settings or styles. I just add my photos, set the layout, make some visual adjustments and then export the image. It's fast, easy and I get a really nice clean picture.

TurboCollage 6 was last updated on September 28, 2015. It's available in the Apple App store or on their website.

March 11, 2017

Traveling Overseas? A Few Considerations You Should Make

E_ B I G B E N

Traveling overseas to other countries and regions of the world can be a thrilling experience. Upon receiving their passports, most American travelers eagerly await their travels over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Depending upon your final destination, the length of stay, and travel plans can determine some of the requirements necessary before you leave your hometown. Making sure you are fully prepared and equipped with necessities to ensure you safely reach your vacation spot is extremely important. Poor planning can lead to a headache and potentially a dangerous situation when travelers reach their overseas destination.

Are you traveling to a foreign country this year? What are some of the most important considerations one must make before they embark on their journey? Below we will outline a few of the most important things to ensure you are checking off your list before traveling.

Currencies

The American dollar can have a much smaller or larger impact in foreign countries where the exchange rate may be higher or lower. As a result, it's important to carefully consider the cost of common goods like food, and lodging before you even consider getting on the plane. Some areas of the world, such as Dubai may require large amounts of money in order to purchase necessary goods and services. You may be surprised how common items like a toothbrush or deodorant can greatly differ throughout different regions of the world because of exchange rates. Furthermore, some goods may be much more expensive because of the production process required for the product's development. The cost of goods may be much higher, resulting in a more expensive product.

Frugal travelers should consider traveling to places where exchange rates are much lower. One of the most budget-friendly places to travel that allow American travelers the ability to dine, shop, and relax is Thailand. Here, one US dollar is the equivalent to 35 Thai bahts (as of March 10, 2017). With this in mind, a typical hotel night can cost an American traveler anywhere from $12-$30 per night. Talk about getting a lot for your money!

Similarly, in countries like Australia, the American dollar is the equivalent of 1.33 Australian dollars. Though the exchange rate may be very similar in Australia, it's important to consider the costs of common goods. Are they similar to the cost in the United States, or are they more expensive because of their geographic region? This is where the importance of extensive research comes into play before planning your travels.

Safety

Traveling across the globe is enough to make first-time travelers nervous. Commuting on a plane for an extensive amount of time can already be enough to scare away those traveling to a foreign country for the first time.

Once travelers reach their final destination, it's important to consider the safety levels in the area. Will you be able to adapt to the cultural differences presented in the region? Making sure you are aware of what is considered respectful, and what is not is extremely important.

Its also important to consider your safety when traveling throughout different countries. When traveling to regions like the UK or Australia, drivers must quickly become adjusted to driving on the opposite side of the road in which they are accustomed to. As a result, this can cause a dangerous situation, especially if it's the first time doing so. When paired with sightseeing, and traveling to different restaurants and places of interest in foreign countries, driving on the opposite side of the road can be a distraction in itself. Paired with any slight consumption of alcohol can create a hazard for yourself and many other motorists on the roadway.

Creating a Pre-Travel Itinerary

Before considering any travel arrangements, consider important factors before embarking upon your next journey. Traveling to a foreign country is not only exhilarating, but it's an experience that lasts a lifetime. However, extensive preparation, research, and planning should be a part of any preliminary travel itineraries. Avoiding any potential dangers, unforeseen conditions, and problems should always be at the top of any travel plans. Make an itinerary far in advance, and plan for any unexpected issues that could arise. But most importantly, have fun and enjoy your trip!

March 12, 2017

Usenet Oracle

The Internet/Usenet Oracle was a way to collect humor by answering what seems to be a simple question. People would send questions in to get an answer. However, to get a response you must answer someone else's question.

This is a classic exchange that I found in my internet collection, this is from October 23, 1996.

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

Oh supremest Oracle whose supremacity cannot possibly be suprimized --

My horoscope says 'Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it'.

Now, what insignificant deed should I do?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

Do you recall the old story about the man walking in the woods who tripped on a tree root? The tree shook, dislodging an acorn, which fell to the ground and was carried off by a squirrel. When the squirrel sat down to eat the acorn, it startled a butterfly which flew up into the air. The tiny gust of air caused by the butterfly's wings interacted minutely with a passing low pressure front, turning what would have been a minor squall into a violent thunderstorm. The lightning from this thunderstorm struck a kite being flown by an elderly gentleman who was experimenting with electricity, thus touching off the entire sequence of events that eventually resulted in the creation of Microsoft.

The Oracle does, of course, know about the insignificant deed that your horoscope mentions, but in the interests of averting a similar historical disaster, has no intention of telling you what it is. I will give you a hint, though: stay away from cars, bananas, and strange dogs.

You owe the Oracle some silk thread and a key...

March 13, 2017

Laundry at POP Century

It tough to do laundry on vacation. Nobody wants to do it. More often than not it's done out of need.

Tips on Doing Laundry at a Disney Resort

First buy and pack up a large laundry bag. It takes up almost no space and weight in your luggage. I personally liked this one that I purchased on Amazon a week before the trip:

Laundry Bag

Pack up laundry supplies - At least pack up Dryer Sheets. They take up zero space. You'll save $2. Pack up some detergent and not only will you save more money but you'll have better quality detergent than what's in the vending machine.

You'll be happy to have the better quality laundry supply when you need to get that BBQ stain off the shirt.

Also the vending machines are a mix bet. I ended up having to "buy" two boxes of dryer sheets because the machine didn't take my first transaction correctly. (There's no 'refund' request for the vending machine only for the washer and dryer)

Laundry Time

When you need to do laundry throw all the dirty clothes in your laundry bag.

Make sure to bring a credit card and your wristbands with you. The laundry room doesn't accept cash and most laundry places require a wristband to get in.

You will need a watch with you too if you don't plan on hanging around the laundry room while your clothes are getting washed. Plan on

When you get to the laundry room, simply dump the bag in with the clothes. That way you have something to carry the clothes when they are done.

March 14, 2017

Wegmans Shopping

Looking for the best supermarket that offers the most Gluten Free products? Your best choice is Wegmans. They have the best selection of refrigerative and general grocery items than any other major food chain in New England.

In particular, we have found that the Wegmans store in Westborough has the best selection. Every time we go we find something new! Then have plenty of Van's Gluten Free French Toast, which is impossible to find at Stop and Shop. There's a great selection of gluten free bread and breakfast goodies.

Wegmans Gluten Free

Asian Bar Gluten Free Options

There are plenty of good Gluten Free options at the Asian Bar. My daughter likes the salad and some of the gluten free foods. She has never complained about the food offerings and doesn't always finishes her meal.

She likes that the store has a kids seating area with a TV that is tuned to Nickelodeon.

Store Location

The Northborough Wegman's is location at 9102 Shops Way, Northborough, MA.

We find the best time to visit is just after dinner hour on Saturday and Sundays. We would grab a bite to eat at the Asian Bar. Then we do our weekly shopping.

March 15, 2017

Directory Cleanup via Bash Script

I Mac Terminal

This is a simple BASH script that I used to sort a folder that has a lot of images. I wanted to put photos in a folder based on the date it was created.

This script will work in any environment, but I wrote this specifically to handle a large set of photos in a folder on my Macintosh.

#!/bin/bash
for f in *; do
dir=$(stat -f%SB -t%Y-%m-%d "$f")
echo $f '->' $dir
[ -d "$dir" ] || mkdir "$dir"
mv "$f" "$dir"/
done

What this Script Does

When you execute this script in any directory, it will use the UNIX stat command to check on the time stamp on the file. It will then move the file to a folder with the same. If the directory doesn't exist then one will be created.

Script Execution

Create a file with the above content. I call my file sort.sh. Move the file to any directory that you want to clean up. To execute, simply type in:

./sort.sh

In a few minutes you'll see the contents of the folder be replace with a bunch of date folders. (Yes even the sort.sh file will get moved to a folder.)

March 16, 2017

Charles F. Hurley

Charles Hurley

Charles F. Hurley was the 54th Governor of Massachusetts and is the first Irish Governor of Massachusetts. He only served one term from January 7, 1937, to January 5, 1939. He represented the Democratic Party.

Since tomorrow is Saint Patrick's Day, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about Massachusetts first Irish Governor.

Things I learned about Charles F. Hurley:

  • Graduated from Boston College in 1913
  • Was the Massachusetts State Treasure for three terms and was the first to step up from that position to governorship.
  • He won 47.62% of the votes in the Massachusetts Governor Race in 1936.
  • Under Gov. Charles F. Hurley the state budget was $70,117,030
  • Has three Daughters Nancy, Ellen Sarah, Betty and a son Charles F. Jr.
  • As Governor he received a kidnap threat against his daughters.
  • Two days later Edmund E. Farrell was arrested for sending the letters. He admitted to sending the letter.
  • Was one of the few Democratic Governors to have concerns about the "New Deal" by President Franklin Roosevelt
  • He authorized a minimum wage for women and children
  • The Fair Trade Laws were passed - which allowed manufactures to set the minimum retail price on goods.
  • He was that the dedication of the Paul Revere statue in the North End.
  • Inherited a forty-acres estate in Ireland by his Uncle Timothy.
  • Lost at a chance for a second term to former Governor James Michael Curley in the gubernatorial nomination.
  • He died on March 24, 1946

Charles F. Hurley Building

Obviously was named after the former Governor. It is the only monument/building to honor the former governor.

  • Designed by Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott.
  • Constructed by the Vappi Construction Company
  • Building also known as the "Health, Welfare and Education Service Center for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"
  • Opened in 1971
  • The front of the building was used in the movie 'The Departed' as the entrance to the Police Station.

Charles F. Hurley Painting

Charles Hurley Pano
The painting in the hallway of the Massachusetts State House.

You can see the painting of Charles F. Hurley, and other Massachusetts governors at the Massachusetts State House. Charles F. Hurley painting is on the third floor between the Secretary of State office and the State Library. You have to go up the stairs and all the way in the back of the building.

I learned that the sitting Massachusetts Governor can put any hallway painting in the Executive Office. They decorate the office with paintings of past Governors that they admire.

March 17, 2017

Irish Icons from Xicons.com

A few years ago, the folks at Xicons.com created some really cool icons. They ran frequent contests for people to submit their icons and people would vote for their favorite.

The site isn't the same anymore, it's now part of InterfaceLift and it appears that the main focus of their business is with Desktop Wallpapers. They still have an active icon area, but it doesn't seem to be as vibrant as it once was.

Back in 2002/2003, I grab a bunch of their icons. Seems appropriate to share some of the Irish theme ones.

IrishCollection.jpg
Click on image to download the IrishIcons zip file.

Irish Icons

In this collection by Dustin J. Craig contain these icons inspired by Lucky Charms:

Clovers, Diamonds, Hearts, Horse Shoes, Lucky Charms, Lucky You., Moons, Neon Clover, Pot of Gold, Rainbows, Red Balloons, Stars

Lucky Charms

These icons by ceruleanjen contain all the marshmallow shapes in the Lucky Charms cereal:

Clover, Heart, Moon, Shamrock, Spade, Star

As noted in the Read Me file: A few icons to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and make your Mac feel a bit Irish.

OS X Flag Icons

This icon collection contains 194 national flags and 7 Organizations, including Ireland.

AFRICAN NATIONS:
Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Congo (Zaire), Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethipoia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

AMERICAN NATIONS:
Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela

ASIAN NATIONS:
Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen

EUROPEAN NATIONS:
Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Belorussia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia & Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican City

OCEANIAN NATIONS:
Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu

ORGANISATIONS:
European Union, IOC, NATO, Red Crescent, Red Crescent & Red Cross, Red Cross, United Nations

March 18, 2017

Concord Police Reverse 911

This audio clip is from 2003. It demonstrates how the Concord police stays ahead of criminal activity.

Listen to what the residents of Concord, Massachusetts heard in early September 2003:

There was no follow up in the local newspaper on if the people were caught.

March 19, 2017

Irish Music Playlist

This past week I was put in charge of background music for a Saint Patrick's Day dinner and dance.

I was surprised on how difficult it was to come up with a good selection of Irish music. After some searching through Itunes and Amazon, I came up with the following playlist:

Days of Elijah Robin Mark Revival in Belfast
Ireland's Call Celtic Thunder The Very Best of Celtic Thunder
Galway Bay (Single) Bing Crosby Top O' The Morning / His Irish Collection
The Irish Rover The Irish Rovers The Best of the Irish Rovers (Remastered)
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling Bing Crosby Top O' the Morning: His Irish Collection
Orinoco Flow Celtic Woman Celtic Woman
Whiskey In the Jar The Dubliners The Best of the Dubliners
Molly Malone (feat. Ronnie Drew) The Dubliners 50 Years
A Nation Once Again The Wolfe Tones The Wolfe Tones: The Greatest Hits
The Galway Girl Celtic Thunder The Very Best of Celtic Thunder
Whiskey In the Jar The Dubliners The Best of the Dubliners
The Irish Rover The Irish Rovers The Best of the Irish Rovers (Remastered)
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling Bing Crosby Top O' the Morning: His Irish Collection
Riverdance Celtic Roots Riverdance & Lord of the Dance

Total playlist time is one hour, which is perfect for my needs. This playlist has a nice blend of classic and POP songs.

Last Year I put together some other playlists for different events:

March 20, 2017

KidCot at Epcot

One of the ways that Disney makes Epcot World Showcase fun for kids is Kidcot.

Kitcot allows children to track each country that they go to by getting a stamp at each country in the World showcase. In some of the countries, the cast member may draw a picture on the back of the paper.

Kid Cot Sign
Sign at the Kidcot at the American Adventure

Tips and Tricks about Kidcot

  • You can start Kidcot in any country, simply look for the Kidcot sign and let them know that you wish to start the Kidcot program.
  • If your planning to get every country, your better off starting at Mexico or Canada - it will minimize the walking that you have to do,
  • Many of the countries have the Kidcot in a store in the country, typically in the back so that people can explore the country before getting a stamp.
  • If you are unsure of where the Kidcot is, simply ask a cast member or another family that is also doing the Kidcot program.

The best part of Kidcot is that you have a very personalized souvenir of your Epcot trip.

This is what the backside of the KidCot sheet looks like:

Kid Cot Paper White

Bonus Fun

When we were doing Kidcot, I had my daughter ask how to say 'Thank You' in that country language. It was a great way to educate her on the different languages each country had. In England and Canada, the cast member talked about local traditions that they would do.

March 21, 2017

L.A. Burdick Pastry

If your looking for some awesome Hot Chocolate in Bostons Backbay, the best place to go is L.A. Burdick. You can find all sorts of yummy treats to enjoy on a cold day.

Nothing goes better with L.A. Burdick Hot Chocolate than their famous pastry.

Gluten Free Pastry

In the L.A. Burdick store are several Gluten Free Pastry options, including:

  • Luxembourger - hand-piped meringues layered with all-natural buttercream, ganache, and fruit jam.
  • The Burdick - Layers of Japonaise (Almond meringue cookie) and dark chocolate ganache with a hint of rum.
  • Hazelnut-Orange Cake - A moist, flourless cake with hazelnut and citrus flavors, enrobed with a generous layer of hazelnut gianduja chocolate, topped with candied orange peel.

Burdick Pastry

L.A. Burdick location

You can find L.A. Burdick at 220 Clarendon Street in Bostons Back Bay. They are located about a block from Copley Square. The front of the building has a distinct brown awning with Chocolate on the fold.

You can enjoy your afternoon treat in the store, or if its not too cold out, it's a short walk to Copley Square.

La Burdick Boston

March 22, 2017

Grep

Grep is a great powerful tool that print lines matching certain patterns.

Some example Regular Expressions using Grep:

Remove BOTs from the website access.log file:

grep -Ev '|spider|slurp|yandex|bingbot|majestic12' access.log > access2.log

Show only City/Towns in Massachusetts that have at least 19 charaters

grep -x '.{10}' MassachusettsCityTowns.txt

Highlight the Search Results

export GREP_OPTIONS='--color=auto' GREP_COLOR='100;8'
grep '.{10}' MassachusettsCityTowns.txt

Using Grep in Bash Script

This is a script that I wrote a long time ago, that I used to check to see how many times a certain error would appear in a log file.

grepcode

#!/bin/bash
itoday=$(date +"%d/%b/%Y")
todayerrors=$(cat grep $itoday /server/debug.log | grep $itoday | grep "Exception" | wc -l)
echo "# ------------------------------------------------------------"
echo "# Number of Errors Found on $itoday : $todayerrors"
echo "# ------------------------------------------------------------"
echo "# Raw data"
grep -C 10 "Exception" /mnt/$i/server/debug.log

This script will count out the total number of errors that were generated today. Then display the RAW lines. This is useful to have handy to see if a particular error is occurring quite often.

Quick RegEx Table

This is a quick regular expression table that I found many years ago. It's quick reminder of some of the common grep commands:

#######################################################
# RegExpression Table
#######################################################
Reg-expr   | Description
-----------+---------------------------------------------------
.          | Matches any character except newline
[a-z0-9]   | Matches any single character of the set
[^a-z0-9]  | Matches any single character not in set
d         | Matches a digit,                   i.e., [0-9]
w         | Matches a alpha-numeric character, i.e., [a-zA-Z0-9_]
W         | Matches a non-word character,      i.e., [^a-zA-Z0-9_]
metachar  | Matches the character itself,      i.e., |, *, +
x?         | Matches 0 or 1 x's, where x is any of the above
x*         | Matches 0 or more x's
x+         | Matches 1 or more x's
x{m,n}     | Matches at least m x's but no more than n
foo|bar    | Matches one of foo or bar
(x)        | Brackets a regular expression (this is a bit of a lie :-)
b         | Matches a word boundary

March 23, 2017

Boston Spring

Spring has officially arrived and pretty soon things will get busy in the City of Boston. Here are some notable openings that pretty much guarantee that the warmer weather is here to stay for a while.

February 25, 2017 Sullivan's at Castle Island
March 22, 2017 Duck Boat Tours
March 25, 2017 Greenway Carousel at The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove
April 3, 2017 Red Sox Opening Day
April 17, 2017 Boston Marathon
April 30, 2017 Christian Science Center Reflection Pool

Visual Graphic

Boston Spring
Download a higher resolution chart

Missing Anything?

Is there anything that I am missing that you think that should be mention here? Let me know in the comments.

March 24, 2017

Biff App

Biff Logo

I became interested in the Biff app when I saw it included in a couple of Macintosh Mega App deals. I wanted to find out more about the application.

Here's a description of what Biff is from their website:

Biff is a Vector Graphics application. It makes creating graphics for your Website, Poster, or anything else really easy. Biff helps you create Amazing Logos, App Icons (Biff comes with the Templates you need.) with simplicity, without sacrificing powerful features like full path editing and boolean operations.

The developers of Biff are huge Back to the Future fans and the App name is in reference to a character in the movie. There are several references to the movie throughout the App.

Initial Impression

This is a good app to learn some of the fundamentals of Vector Graphics.

It lacks a lot of features that you can find in other vector base applications. While it talks about creating "Amazing Logos," other Applications give you a lot more power.

The application is expensive and sell for $59.99 on the App Store. However it is currently on sale for $39.99 on their website.

Some missing features

True EPS import - You can open up EPS files in biff, but you loose the vector aspects. Basically, you get a rendered EPS file. So if you purchase something online from DepositPhoto you can't modify vector components.

Limited Tools - When you click on the circle or rectangle shape it automatically creates one for you. You don't get to define the size of the shape on creations. The rectangle tool appears on the bottom right corner, and it took me a while to figure out that when I clicked on the rectangle icon a shape was appearing in my image. In addition, there is no pen tool, which is essential for any vector application. There is a free shape tool, which seems to only draw a line.

Training - There is some tutorials on the start up screen: Decorations, Intersecting Shapes, and Text with Image Fill. Other vector base apps have more detail information about the various tools.

WYSIWYG Font - There's no WYSIWYG font option, Biff just uses the system font picker when you need to change the font of a text.

Application Features

biffstartupscreen

There is a Library pallet with 18 Objects that you can use as a starting point. You can also build the library with your own Biff Objects. This is useful if you plan on reusing certain buttons or shapes.

There is a Style pallet with 14 styles to spice up any selected object. It's a good way to see the power of the application and makes it easy to see the object in different designs.

Lots of Shapes! Everything from standard circle and polygon to trees, people, and even an iPhone. A total of 53 shapes.

Skew Dialog box - In the transformation tool is the skew dialog box which gives you the ability to preview the skew shape that you wish to perform. This is better than most of the skew functionality that is in other apps, where you have to play around with the tool to figure it out how it works.

The Boolean Operations box in the Objects area is a neat way to learn the way multiple shapes transform when you use the different operations.

Cool Feature

The Repeat/Title Tool is better than what's in Affinity Designer. You can set the repeat amount and offset and see your object get transformed.

Repeat Title

Bug: When I clicked on the Repeat/Tile the print dialog appears. Very strange!

Final Thoughts

Hard to recommend Biff when there are a lot of other good options out there. I would certainly suggest looking into Affinity Designer, ArtBoard, and Autodesk Paint as good alternative applications. In the long run, you'll learn some core fundamentals of vector programming.

I highly encourage you to download the Biff app from their site and use the 30-day trial.

Cross Application Note: When I copied an object from Biff and pasted it into Affinity Designer the object shows up as image and not as a shape or curve.

March 25, 2017

IJMC - The Final From Hell

I J M C Mockup

The International Junk Mail Clearinghouse (IJMC) was a popular humor mailing list. Just about every day you would get a funny story in your mailbox.

It started on March 13, 1995, and the last issue was on August 26, 2001. I subscribed on July 6, 1995.

This is a sample entry from April 9, 1997:

IJMC - The Final From Hell

I am almost certain that this is a rerun for the IJMC. But I can't find it anywhere in the archives so I'm sending it anyway. Hopefully most of you haven't seen it yet. Also, if anyone passes it, see me for a job. I don't know how I'll pay you but I know I couldn't afford not to! -dave

FINAL FROM HELL.

Biology: Create life. Estimate the difference in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years prior with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

Health: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected.

Languages: 2,500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

Psychology: Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment and represented frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Apfrodisias, Parnses II, Gregory of Micea and Hammurabi. Support your evaluation with quotes from each man's work. Translation is not necessary.

Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

Business Policy: Define business. Define policy. How are they related and why?

Management: Create a generalized algorithm to optimize all managerial decisions. Assuming an 1130 CPU supporting 50 terminals each terminal to activate your algorithm; design the communciations interface and control programs.

Engineering: The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk, the instruction manual printed in Swahili. In 10 minutes, a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate.

Poli Sci: There is a red telephone on your desk. Start World War III. Report at length on it's socio-political effects, if any.

Economics: Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace possible effects to the following areas: Cubism, the Donati controversy, the wave theory of light. Devise a method for preventing these effects. Criticize from all possible points of view.

Logic: Take a stand for or against the truth. Prove validity of your position.

Philosophy: Sketch the development of human thought. Estimate significance. Compare with development of any other kind of thought.

General Knowledge: Describe all you know in detail. Be both objective and specific.

Yet Another E-Mail Sent By The International Junk Mail Clearinghouse (IJMC).
Unless otherwise specified, distribute freely. All questions, comments,
submissions and requests should be directed to Dave at eatheror@netcom.com

   IJMC Mailings - email majordomo@netcom.com with "info ijmc-l" in body
                   IJMC WebPage - http://www.ijmc.com

This is Mac.                                            \\|////
He wants to travel the world.                           ( O   O )
Please add him to your .sig and help him.          ---oOOo--U--oOOo---

March 26, 2017

Get the Phone

Phone Call

According to the The Federal Trade Commission:

If you receive a robocall trying to sell you something (and you haven't given the caller your written permission), it's an illegal call. You should hang up. Then, file a complaint with the FTC and the National Do Not Call Registry.

In the case of businesses who are operating offshore, they don't really care that it's illegal. Being offshore puts them in a position to be exempt from any FTC action. They have raked in millions of dollars with schemes like the business loan scam. The recorded greeting says something like “Congratulations, your business has been approved for a $250,000 loan."

Since these fly-by-night businesses don't care about the FTC rules around Robocall. I say it's fair game to scam the scammer! At least that's my feeling about it.

The next time you get a call, and here the 'BLEEP' sound. Know that you're about to be scam. Turn the tables on the caller!

The Beep Sound

Try Improv!

If you have the time, take your time with the caller. Improv being the absolute best customer that the caller has ever encountered. Make it sound that your very excited for the opportunity.

Some tell tale signs that you won the ‘Dial-A-Scam’:

  • Introduction says the word ‘Congratulations’ within 5 seconds of the call
  • You have been pre-approved for a business loan
  • You have been selected for a federal grant
  • You hear the dreaded beep sound before anyone talks

March 27, 2017

Penny Machine in DisneyWorld

The Penny Machine at Walt Disney World is a very popular place to get a custom souvenir. You can find them scattered all over the parks and hotels. In some gift shops, you can buy penny and quarter holders. However you can find some pretty creative ones on Etsy.

The key to having a good quality press is using the right penny. The best penny to get is one that's dated between 1962 and 1982. Those pennies have the most copper which will help produce an excellent design.

Penny Machine

Things we learned on a previous trip

  • You are not likely going to find old pennies at the parks. You best bet it to look through your change drawer at home. Surely you have a stack of pennies someplace in your home.
  • Its going to take a while to find the pennies, so the early you start the better.
  • We found using a magnifying glass help with some of the pennies since the dates can be hard to read.
  • Depending how serious a penny collector you are having 30-40 pennies would be ideal.
  • You can spend time cleaning the pennies, however, we have not discovered any difference in pressing quality.
  • The quality of the machine plate can make a difference in how clear an impression that is made. So if the penny doesn't look good, it's probably the machine.
  • You can use an M&M mini container to carry the pennies. You can prep up the Penny Machine amount ( 2 Quarters and a Penny) that way you know when you reach the daily quota. It will make visiting each machine a pleasurable experience. Instead of spending a few minutes fumbling for change, you can just get the next set out of the M&M container.

Frozen Ride

At the end of the Frozen Ride you walk through the souvenir store with lots of goodies. In the store is one of the parks newest a penny machines. This machine actually doesn't take pennies and you can use your credit card to get 5 pennies.

Just be careful of this machine and read the instructions. It took a couple of tries for us to get it to work and I am pretty sure that we got charged extra.

It's pretty cool that it's automatic but I think that it loses the appeal for kids since they like to crank their own souvenir. (At least the younger ones try.)

March 28, 2017

Uncle Cheung's Restaurant

Uncle Cheung's Restaurant is a nice small family restaurant located on Route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts. They are the “home of authentic Chinese Food.”

This is my daughter’s favorite Chinese restaurant, and the owners know us so well because we order the same dish every time.

Uncle Cheung Food Header

What Makes this Place Special?

There are a lot of Chinese Restaurants in the Metro-West area. In fact, there are about 20 in an 8-mile radius of downtown Framingham.

So what makes this place better than all of them? Ming Cheung

Ming, the son of the owner, is a dietitian at Beth Israel Hospital who specializes proper care of gluten free foods. On weekends you may find Ming waiting on tables at the restaurant. He has raised over $12,000 for various marathons.

Uncle Cheung’s has a special area of their kitchen where they process their gluten free foods.

Excellent Gluten Free Options!

Just about every dish on their menu can be made Gluten Free. There are some limitations, with the exceptions of some appetizers can’t be made gluten-free. (Egg Roll are not Gluten Free.) Simply let the server know you wish to eat gluten free and they will work with you.

Keep in mind that 90% of the menu items can be made gluten-free. This is what we order every time we go:

  • Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • Vegetable Fried Rice
  • Boneless Spareribs

We prefer to eat in instead of taking out. The Sweet and Sour chicken has a nice glaze on it, whereas if you do a take out they separate the chicken and glaze. It just doesn’t taste the same.

If the restaurant is very busy they may place a limit on what can be made gluten free because many of their gluten free dishes are made to order and require more attention than a standard order.

Oh, and eating Gluten Free isn’t a penalty here. You don’t pay more because your eating gluten free.

Uncle Cheung's Restaurant Location

Uncle Cheung's Restaurant is located at 266 Worcester Road (Route 9 East Bound) in Framingham, Massachusetts. They are open every day, except Monday, for Lunch and Dinner.

unclecheung2017

March 29, 2017

Say Terminal Command

Unix Header

The Terminal 'Say" command is a utility that converts text to audible speech. This is the same speech technology that MacOS uses when you select a text and ask to speak.

With this command and some voice files, you can create some unique audio clips. The MacOS comes with over 48 speech files.

Simple Execution

To run the command, you tell "Say" the voice you want to use and then what text to speak:

Say -v Bruce "Hello World"

Instead of entering a text at the command line, you could reference a text file by using the "-f" command.

Say -v Bruce speech.txt

If you which to output the speech to a file use the "-o" and the name of the file. If you don't include a file extension, the file format will be AIFF which is basically no audio compression - and you end up with a very large sound file. The best format to use, at least in my testing, is m4p.

Say -v Bruce "Hello World" -o hello.m4p

Bash Script Example

You can sample all the audio clips by using this simple Bash script:

#! /bin/bash
array=("Agnes" "Albert" "Alex" "Alice" "Alva" "Amelie" "Anna" "Bad News" "Bahh" "Bells" "Boing" "Bruce" "Bubbles" "Carmit" "Cellos" "Damayanti" "Daniel" "Deranged" "Diego" "Ellen" "Fiona" "Fred" "Good News" "Hysterical" "Ioana" "Joana" "Jorge" "Juan" "Junior" "Kanya" "Karen" "Kathy" "Katya" "Kyoko" "Laura" "Lekha" "Luca" "Luciana" "Maged" "Mariska" "Mei-Jia" "Melina" "Milena" "Moira" "Monica" "Nora" "Paulina" "Pipe Organ" "Princess" "Ralph" "Samantha" "Sara" "Satu" "Sin-ji" "Tessa" "Thomas" "Ting-Ting" "Trinoids" "Veena" "Vicki" "Victoria" "Whisper" "Xander" "Yelda" "Yuna" "Yuri" "Zarvox" "Zosia" "Zuzana")

for i in "${array[@]}"
do
   say -v $i -f stock.txt -o $i.m4p
done

What this file does

This Bash script will loop through each speech file and output the speech to an M4p file. You can then listen to each clip and find the perfect audio for your needs.

There is an individual file for each sound so you know the name of the voice that you are listening to.

Just make sure to put this script in a place where all the audio files are going. The folder size will be 279 MB.

Halloween Scary Fun

Some Macintosh users find the Whisper voice to be creepy. Whisper doesn't come by default. You will need to install it. Simple Install Instructions

  • Go to the System Preferences
  • Select Accessibility
  • Look for the Speech icon
  • Next to System Voice, select the pull down and select Customize
  • Under the 'English (United States) - Novelty' select Whisper
  • Click 'OK'
  • Note: Downloading the Whisper will also update the Samantha and Alex voices to higher quality.
Once you have it installed, Try this example:
say -v Whisper "We are watching you"

More Voices Available

If your really into Text-To-Speech, check out the collection of voices at CereProc. They have a rather large collection of voices in various accents and languages.

The voices cost ~ $30, however right now they have a sale for 50% for personal use. The voices are really cool and very natural sounding. There's a demo on the top of the page to try it out.

March 30, 2017

Newport, Oregon sign in Kenmore Square

Fenway park opening day is April 3rd. Fans traveling to Fenway via Kenmore Square will see something new this year:

New Port Sign

This past winter the City of Boston put up the unusual sign in Kenmore Square to signify the length of Route 20.

Things I learned about Route 20

  • Route 20 is the longest route in the United States.
  • Route 20 didn't connect both coasts until
  • According to Google Maps, it would take 48 hours to travel between Boston and Newport, Oregon. The best route isn't Route 20, but rather I-90 W and I-80 W.
  • In Sudbury, Henry Ford paid for a bypass road when trucks would go down the road really fast and caused structure issues at the Wayside Inn.
  • Route 20 makes a slight disappearance in Yellowstone National Park.

Finding the sign

The sign is a little small and may be hard to spot. The sign is located at the corner of Kenmore Street and Commonwealth Ave. It's located near the MBTA bus station at Kenmore Square.

If your driving into Kenmore Square, your better off seeing it coming in via Commonwealth Ave. The sign will be on your left just before you get into Kenmore Square.

If you're taking the Green Line to Kenmore Square, you'll want to use the Beacon Street Exit. Once you're at street level, head to the lights at Kenmore Street, away from the Citgo Sign, then cross the street. You'll see the sign as you look back towards the Citgo sign.

March 31, 2017

Image2icon

Early this year I blog about how easy it is to setup a MacOs Folder icon maker using Affinity Designer.

I decided to check out Image2icon a bit more and find it to be a good piece of software and certainly worth investing.

Why Use Custom Icons?

Custom icons make it visual quicker to find things. You can quickly sort folders and attach an icon for a quick visual of what's in the folder.

What makes Image2icon better?

I didn't do much research into icon making software, I found the app in the App store and thought it would be worth investigating.

It does take a bit to understand how to use the app. Once you get used to some keyboard commands, you can see that it works really well.

In no time at all you'll be replacing boring icons with nice color ones.

Image2icon Capabilities

You can create twenty different icon types. There are popular types from folders to disk drives.

I mostly use the folder icons, but the disk drives come in handy when I want to customize USB flash drives.

In Image2icon, you can pick from 3 different folder types:

Fenway Folder Icons

Once you have the design set, simply drag a folder on the Image2icon window and BAM the icon is applied to the folder.

This makes it really easy to apply an icon to any set of folders.

Export to 9 different Icons: Folder, ICNS, iOS, Android, Favicon, Iconset, Windows ICO, PNG, JPG

Image2icon Weaknesses

The tool to manipulate images is a bit weird. I have a hard time getting the image settings correct using the slider to fix the shrinkage or alignment.

There has to be a better way to adjust an image to make it look good.

This isn't a show stopper but if your trying out the app, you should get familiar with how that works.

Red Sox Opening Day Folder Icon Collection

Fenway Park opening day is next week. To celebrate the season, I put together six icons. Use these to highlight photos or trip notes on your next Boston trip.

Boston Icon Collction
Download the Boston icon Collection

  • Fenway Park
  • Red Sox Logo
  • Swan Boats
  • Citgo Sign
  • Entering Boston
  • Back Bay Buildings