Sunday, March 28, 2010

More free stuff

Here is another list of free software you can pick up. For most people, this takes care of 90-100% of what you want to do with your computer, so there is not a need to buy anything at all after you invest in the hardware and an internet connection. Of the twenty packages listed, here are the ones I use or are familiar with:
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Filezilla
  • GnuCash (I've just played with it a little to see if I can avoid buying Quicken)
  • Audacity
  • GIMP
  • OpenOffice
  • VLC
  • Notepad ++
  • 7-Zip
  • Ubuntu
There are a couple here that I may be looking at more carefully. I hadn't been aware of Calibre for e-book management, but I gave it a test spin and was very impressed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick likes to bop

If you like to bop your head without having to pay for it, you can listen to Wolfgang's Vault playlist for St. Patrick's Day.

  1. Thin Lizzy | Emerald
  2. U2 | Sunday Bloody Sunday
  3. Rory Gallagher | A Million Miles Away
  4. Van Morrison | Streets Of Arklow
  5. Eddie Rabbitt | Song Of Ireland
  6. Lindisfarne | Poor Old Ireland
  7. Mahavishnu Orchestra | A Lotus On Irish Streams
  8. J.F. Murphy & Salt | Silver Horn
  9. Jethro Tull | The Swirling Pit
  10. Papa John Creach | Londonderry Air

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Plants are the Strangest People

I don't have enough energy to read this on  a regular basis, but if you have questions about house plants, or just want to be amused and educated for a bit, go visit Plants are the Strangest People. If nothing else, the title is worth the price of admission.

Keep on biking

This is one I have been waiting for. Biking directions have been added to Google maps.

Right now they are covering 150 cities, so most likely yours is in there. To get an overview of good bike routes, put the name of your city in the top search box at Richmond, Long Beach, Minneapolis, and Rancho Cucamonga all have been mapped. You can see color-coded streets that show which ones are best for two wheel travel. When you want to plot a route, just use the Get Directions option to set the drop-down menu to bicycling. (Other options are by car, walking, or public transit.) Google has a little video to help you get started.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Calculate your life

If you want to look into the future, head over to the Life Expectancy Calculator. It is a fun way to look at your lifestyle and its implications for how long we can expect to see you around. Some things you can't change -- such as your gender, or diseases in your family -- but other things you can, such as smoking or wearing a seat belt. As you go through the exercise, each parameter updates your odds for living, so you can see immediately the consequences of what you are doing. It is not foolproof, of course, but it has some science behind it. Not only is if fun, but it might motivate you to change your evil ways. Besides, I like having you around.

Monday, March 1, 2010

This is your brain. This is your brain on NPR

There were two interesting stories on NPR this morning, one about the brain of the teenager and young adult, and the other about the brain of those of more advanced years. In other words, something for everyone.

I thought there were several interesting things to remember from the broadcasts.
  1. The nerve cells in a teenager's frontal lobe are not fully developed, leading to difficulty in creating the association between actions and consequences. 
  2. Young adults can learn easily and quickly, since their chemistry is tuned to be responsive to their environment because the cells are so easily excitable. This also makes them more easily susceptible to addictive drugs, which have a longer impact on them than they do on older adults. Young people perform poorly on tasks long after the actual drug experience is past.
  3. You can learn while you sleep. Rather than cramming all night for a test or staying up to prepare a presentation, it is better to read the material, then get a good sleep. The brain will process the material and you will wake up knowing it better than when you went to sleep.
  4. Aging causes that frontal lobe to slow down, making it harder to retrieve information and slower to respond to it.
  5. However, aging also improves the analytical ability of the mind, allowing it to engage in much more complex reasoning, as well as the ability to emphasize with others.
  6. Brain cells can continue to grow all through one's life. Growth is encouraged by physical exercise and by engaging the mind in challenging work, such as working on puzzles or working with a computer.
I recommend listening or reading both broadcasts from NPR. You will have to excuse me now. I'm going to go exercise my brain and play some computer games.