Sep 14, 2011

Aug - 31 2011 | By

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Glenn was in the studio, Paul called in from the UK.

Paul said the new convenience for air travelers will come when they're allowed to store their boarding pass on a smartphone, making the process paperless.

That led he to talking about QR codes (Quick Response codes), aka 3-D bar code,
– They don't require a laser scanner <like at a grocery checkout> to be read. Just a picture of it with a smartphone camera can decipher its meaning.
– Up to 256 characters can be stored in 1 QR code rectangle.
– When used as a boarding pass, they can be quickly scanned at the gate.
– Though the QR code is patented, it has been released to the public domain.
<Something to think about before scanning a QR code here.>

Paul did a Google search for "QR code" and came up with a Wikipedia link and a link to a site that will generate a code for you.

There are various apps for smartphones to read QR codes. The one Paul is using is called Beetagg. He said it works with iOS 3 on the iPhone.
– The QR code can store different types of information and a prefix tells the reading app the type of info that follows. <E.g. if it says the following info is a web address, the app can tell the phone to go to that web site with no further input by you — ergo, Quick Response>.
– A typical use is to put a QR code on your business card that contains the same info that's printed on the card. Someone can then scan the code and the info on the card would go directly into their contact list.
– Paul directed listeners to the Wikipedia article, which has many interesting links.

Glenn said he tried using an app called "The UP Code". That got Paul talking about the UPC code used in merchandizing.
– The UPC only represents a number. That number is linked to a universal database. The meaning of the number is stored in the database and manufacturers have agreed to each number's single universal meaning.
– There is a 1 to 1 relationship between that number and a particular product.
– On the other hand, the QR code is a self-contained packet of information and doesn't need a database. As a result, it doesn't have the universally agreed-to meaning like a UPC code, though a UPC number can be stored within a QR code, as a special case.
– There are QR code apps for Palm Pilot, Android and Blackberry, too.

Dennis called in and said there are also EAN & the similar JAN bar codes used in Europe & Japan. He also said that QR code boarding passes are already being using by United Airlines.

Dennis then asked if there's a Windows NTP <Network Time Protocol> server that can be used on a local network. Unlike a NTP client that gets a time signal from the internet and sets your computer's clock, the server provides the signal by which other computers would set their clocks.
– Not knowing the answer, Paul asked listeners for suggestions. <But see below for a solution>

Glenn said he's using T-Mobile now as his phone & data provider. He has an unlimited voice, txt and data plan. The plan limits data to 200 meg at 4G speeds but it's unlimited at 3G speeds, though it's throttled down after 200 meg.

Paul said there's a study showing that even hands-free use of a phone in a car, though legal, significantly increases risk.

Paul related a bit of history about one of the tunnels under the Thames River in London. It was built at a time when horses were used. The tunnel was built with some turns in it such that a horse would not see the light at the end, and thus bolt for it, until it was quite near the exit. He speculated that some US freeways, especially in the Midwest, were built with arbitrary curves to relieve driver boredom.

Ed called with a suggestion for an NTP server. It's an older program called AboutTime.

An attempt to standardize time across all time zones gave us UTC or Universal Time Coordinated, said Paul. It's an average of many atomic clocks <and it's adjusted to the nearest second using leap seconds>. UTC is different from the older GMT <Greenwich Mean Time>. Paul said that though GMT provided a common time that all clocks can agree with, it was not well synchronized with celestial events.

The guys mentioned that wristwatches are falling to disuse because people can now get the time from their cell phones.

James called & asked if the guys have heard about a unit of time called the chronon. Neither had, but looking it up, Glenn said it's a unit of quantum time <apparently different from Planck time>.

While looking up chronon, Paul found an online stopwatch.

Jim called. He had done a backup with TimeMachine on his Mac but when he lost his desktop (none of his files were there) and tried to retrieve the backup, the operation was not completed because TimeMachine said the files were "already there". This happened after an upgrade to the Lion operating system.
– Before trying to restore the backup, make sure that data is nowhere on the machine. Open finder and look underneath "Users". You should see an account with a recognizable name (like your name), If there is another account or profile, look in there and you may find your missing files.

Jim asked, if worse came to worst, could he do a clean install and then retrieve the backup.
– Yes. But be sure TimeMachine had backed up the latest files <or you may be restoring old data>.
– Before you do that, try to find the missing files as suggested.

Paul said that Apple already includes software for scanning & printing in their machines and that it's sometime better, especially with HP printers, not to install the manufacturer's software. He said there's no harm (on the Mac) plugging in the printer/scanner without installing the product's software. He suggested checking online for further info. <I find the forums at the manufacturer's web site pretty useful, as well as a Google search>

Gary called in. He has an approx. 6-year-old Toshiba laptop and it's gotten painfully slow. He took it to Staples and they tested it & said the hard drive will die soon. He wondered if he should buy another hard drive or just get another computer.
– 1st back up your data.
– Glenn disagreed with Staples and thought reloading Windows would help. He said it's been mentioned before that reloading Windows, maybe once a year, will keep it running efficiently.
– Before doing that, Paul suggested using some cleanup programs like Crap Cleaner (CCLEANER) & Registry Cleaner (EUSING Registry Cleaner or NTREGOPT registry optimizer).
– Another approach is to replace the existing hard drive with a clean one and install Windows on it. Glenn chimed in to say that serial <SATA> hard drives are reasonably priced, but older 2.5" IDE drives cost "serious bucks". Paul said to look for used drives if this computer is just for casual use.

Another James called in wanting to know if there's an easy way to remove Mozilla Thunderbird's "all mail" file.
– Google mail tends to store a lot of messages there if you use IMAP.
– Go to Tools -> Account Settings -> Synchronization & Storage then click the Advanced button and uncheck the "all mail" folder. That will prevent it from synchronizing the huge bulk of email.

Kathy called. Her daughter's laptop had a bunch of viruses and she had someone do a restore and an upgrade to Windows 7. When she went to restore her data from the Carbonite backup service, "everything froze up". Apparently Carbonite had Vista's files.
– Win7 & Vista use the same file locations but the file structures are different.
– Start Win7 in safe mode and create a different account on it.
– The answer is to restore the data to a folder of your choosing, not where it came from. E.g. restore to a folder on the desktop then manually drag the individual files "onto the new machine".
– Apparently Carbonite has not updated their software to handle such a situation.

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Last Updated: 11:50 PM 9/14/2011