LOL Cat (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-25-12)

Ruffin It – While this is a little out of the norm, I would like to start off today by paying a compliment to my fellow writer, Josh Ruffin, on his column last week. In case you missed it, Josh took a break from his typical leftist drivel to share some of his favorite B-grade horror movies. I sincerely enjoyed the piece, and I’m looking forward to watching some of his choices. Specifically, “The Horde”. Speaking of zombies…with the final debate coming within the deadline window of the Spirit, I suspect that Josh will be back to his socialist rants. I can already see it in print… pithy comments about bayonets, aircraft carriers and the 1%. Blah-blah-blah. Personally, I think the Democrats better get hustling– there’s only two weeks left to blame Bush! Hey, I just thought of something…Josh, whether you are writing about the Democratic Party or a B-grade horror movie, it’s kind of the same subject, isn’t it? Who’da thought?

iPad (smaller) – First, and not unexpectedly, the iPad Mini was introduced this week. It’s pretty much what you would expect when you hear the words “iPad” and “Mini” mashed together. Its height and width make it slightly larger than the Kindle Fire, sporting a 1-inch larger screen. It is also about one-third thinner and one-third the weight of the Fire. Three memory configurations will be available, and the pricing starts at $329. Tack on another $130 for 4G. The screen is an upgrade from the iPad 2, but it’s not a retina display. Facetime, yes, but I haven’t heard anything about Siri. I’ve got to believe she’s on board as well.

Unexpectedly, Apple also announced the fourth generation iPad, seemingly to replace the “new” iPad released earlier this year. (So does this make it the “new, new” iPad?) This iPad features about double the processing power, Facetime HD, the new Lighting connector and some additional LTE support. Preorders for both devices start on Friday, and Wifi only versions should start showing up on November 2.

Windows 8 – Amongst all the Apple hoopla, we don’t want to forget about Windows 8. General release is on October 26. I’ve heard a large number of good reviews, but honestly, I think the jury is still out. We won’t know the impact until we see the hardware specifically designed for W8. If it looks like a current desktop, that’s all it will be. But if something like the HP Evny X2 lives up to its promise, The W8/tablet/laptop combo could be a very marketable product. Of course, the big advantage is that it runs desktop software. It’s the same App store whether you are on a tablet or a desktop. For that matter, the tablet is the desktop! Time will tell…

Beer and Bytes – I need to apologize to Eric Parker for missing the Beer and Bytes event last Tuesday at Metro Coffeehouse. Yes, I promised that I was going to attend. I really wanted to hear the talk on Tor and Online Privacy. Unfortunately, Amy (our editor) started saying crazy stuff about replacing my picture with a gorilla butt if I didn’t get my column in on time. I understand there was a pretty good crowd, and that several folks got a start on their next Hackaton project. An aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Williamson this week, one of the CSRA leading robot hobbyists and a founding member of CSRA Makers. Chris promised to build me a ballbot. I’ll let you know when he is done so you can stop by the store and see it.

BTW – In case you’re missing it, a significant group of innovators in the Augusta area have started to form around Hack Augusta. The next big event is the Innovation Festival and Hackathon for Education on November 2-3 at ASU. For more information, visit Also, see  for more information on HackAugusta.

And finally, Amy, here’s my column. Now you can go back to the surfing the internet for LOLcat.

Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker


Baby Goo

Baby Goo (Reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-18-12)

Emergency trips out of town are never fun. But that’s where we find our hero this week, walking amongst the 50 million people traveling through Hartsfield International on Sunday night. I’m not one that has to live as a hermit to maintain my sanity, but some crowds generate too much stress. Sunday in the Atlanta airport is one of situations.

Fortunately, there is one place you can always find a bit of solace when the crowds become too thick. And so your hero sits in his 3’ x 8’ stall, quietly regaining his wits. If they only didn’t make the toilet paper so darn thin…

Time to venture out. First of all, it’s almost time for the flight. Secondly, my stomach is signaling that it needs attention. Typically, I eat light when flying, usually a small TCBY will keep everything on an even keel for the 2 hour flight. Checking the concourse directory, it looks like a Ben & Jerry is the best we could do. Oh wait, it’s three concourses away. Time for plan B. So what’s close?

As an aside, have you ever noticed the number of kiosk’s in the airport? It seems that you can get anything via a drive-by purchase. Most of the kiosks are staffed, but a growing number are fully automated. For example the Best Buy kiosk contains any gadget accessory that you would typically leave at home. This trip, I saw a couple of new kiosks that probably won’t make it. While I admire the ingenuity, I cannot envision the set of circumstances that would lead me to purchase unattended kiosk sushi.

BTW – I’ve decided that moms like to travel. With kids. Sometimes, with a lot of kids. God bless the mom that has to move her 9, 5 and 3 year old from Atlanta to who knows where. My wife and I used to transport our twin girls when they were younger, and every kid under 5 needs at least two adults to travel: one to supervise the kids, and one to keep the first adult calm. Frankly, I don’t know how these moms navigate a Sunday night at Hartsfield. Maybe Jenny can explain it to me sometime.

Running out of options, your hero swings by a Starbucks, grabbing a sweet roll and Sprite for dinner. Off to the gate! Last minute, sporadic travellers don’t often enjoy the seat selection of the road warriors. Not surprisingly, I find myself in the last row sitting next to…you guessed it…a proud mom, her 1-year old and three duffel bags of baby support gear. (I assume she was traveling light.) No worries. After all, I have twins. Tuning out a singleton for a couple of hours should be a piece of cake.

So I open up my laptop and connect to the onboard wifi, Delta’s Go-Go Air network. At first, the connection was looking pretty good. The speed test was consistently providing 256 kbps up and down, plenty enough to support a single remote desktop or published application. The connectivity must be splotty, though. (yes, I meant to say splotty.) RDP sessions kept hanging, and downloads of any length simply stopped after a while. Ultimately, I had to resort to downloading documents and edit local. But it sure was nice to stay up on email and browse the web while in the air.

Go-Go Air Tip #1 – Check the different price plans and flight availability. When you buy the ticket, Delta pushes the all day Internet pass for $12. As it turns out, you can purchase single leg passes for $5 each. Go-Go is not available on every flight, so you might do considerably better buying individual instead of all day passes.

So I know you’re wondering, what happened with the baby? Well, your hero had the pleasure to sit next to one of the cutest, most well-behaved little girls ever encountered. The only incident occurred while I was deep in thought. Out of nowhere a sippy cup flew across the aisle, landing on my MacBook Air and splattering baby goo all over the keyboard. While this may have upset some, your hero possesses the secret knowledge that baby goo comes from the same stuff that forms fairy dust, cupcake sparkles and Pegasus ponies. Namely, love.

Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker



Innovation Festival

What IF? (Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 10-11-12)

– Recently I came across the thought, “In a society driven by innovation, challenges would be seen as opportunities.” From this perspective, it’s not difficult to believe that we live in one of the most opportunity rich times in our history. No matter where you turn, it seems that another obstacle has been placed in the path to our own personal utopia. It’s easy to whine about it. But other than keeping Austin on the radio, what does whining really accomplish? The more challenging path, the road less travelled, is to start turning all the crap that’s going on in the world into the possibility of doing better.

The secret is innovation. Innovation is about creation…the creation of new ideas, of new ways of doing things, of new ways of looking at the same tired old stuff. If we can’t create something new or envision taking a different path from time to time, we’re destined never to accomplish a thing. Innovation and creation both have their roots in imagination and in being able to think outside the box. Imagination is being able to step outside of your current life and say, “What if?”

Fortunately for Augusta, we do have a group of people within our town that are masters of asking “What If?”, and with a single-minded determination, they are pulling Augusta into the world of “What Could Be”. If you count yourself among the creative, please block out November 3rd for the CSRA Innovation Festival. The application of innovation and creativity greatly impact our lives. One of the primary goals of the CSRA Innovation Festival is to showcase success stories in Augusta. Events at the festival will include,

  • Innovation Competition – build something around the concept of improving mobility
  • Hackathon – Hack for Education (Nov. 2nd @ 6 p.m. to Nov. 3rd @ 12 p.m.)
  • Innovation Business Showcase – display of innovations by organizations in the CSRA
  • Innovation Academic Fair – display of innovations by students in the CSRA
  • Coding Day Camp – learn to program simple code; an event for all ages
  • Deconstruction Derby – take apart devices to see how they work
  • Live Entertainment

Many thanks to Tony Robinson, Eric Parker and the crew over at Hack Augusta for championing this festival! Hope to see you there!

Making a List

– Retailers have started putting Christmas decorations out, so it must be time to start making your Christmas list. If you know my wife, please pass along that I want the new G-Drive Slim external hard drive. This external drive is the latest in a trend of ultrathin USB 3.0 portable drives. While you can use this with any computers (you just need to reformat NTFS for Windows), this 500GB drive complements the Mac in form and function. Plug into any Mac running OS 10.4 or later, and the drive just works. The drive supports Time Machine, and the USB 3.0 performance via the Micro-USB 3.0 port was comparable or better than competing drives. That’s all fine and dandy, but I want it because it just looks cool sitting next to my MacBook Air!


– Just in time for Halloween, The Walking Dead season premier this Sunday! (Finally!) Check out their website for Season 3 webisodes. Happy Haunting!

Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker

Was That a Neutrino?

Was That A Neutrino? (Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 10-4-12)

– The year was 1949. The world was still in transition after World War II. As the only country in possession a nuclear bomb, the United States started flexing its muscle as the world’s sole superpower. In August of 1949, with the help of a network of Atomic spies operating in the US, successfully detonated its first atomic weapon. A few months later, Chairman Mao and the Communist took over mainland China. These events lead the White House to exclaim a collective “oh, sh**”, and after a letter from President Truman to the President of DuPont Company, the Savannah River Site was born.

Or at least, that’s how Walt Joseph, the Executive Director of the SRS Heritage Foundation, tells it while speaking to the Rotary Club of Augusta this past week (well, not exactly…I added some stuff). The Savannah River Plant (aka the Bomb Plant) played a crucial role during the Cold War era. The Savannah River Plant is one of the few places in the world that manufactured weapons-grade plutonium and other nuclear materials. The site provided this service for nearly 40 years, and today the site continues to be our country’s source for tritium.

The Savannah River Site is also a great source for trivia!

Quick Party Fact – What was one of the primary reasons that lead to the selection of the current site for the Savannah River Plant? It was not, as some speculate, its proximity to the James Brown estate, although I do understand that many commuters from Columbia County enjoy listening to the Godfather during their daily commute. In reality, the Atomic Energy Commission desired a location that was out of the range of Soviet bombers.

Another Quick Fact – In order to establish the site, approximately 6,000 residents and 6,000 graves were relocated from the incorporated communities of Ellenton and Dunbarton and the unincorporated communities of Hawthorne, Meyers Mill, Robbins, and Leigh. While these residents scattered throughout the CSRA, many moved into the new town of New Ellenton.

Quick Fact #3 – Being on the leading edge of nuclear technology in the 1950’s, the Savannah River Site attracted the world’s leading nuclear researchers. The most significant research performed at the site (that we know of) is the discovery of the neutrino in 1956 by Fred Rienes and Clyde Cowan. The neutrino’s existence was predicted by theoretical models, but had never been detected during an experiment. Almost 40 years later in 1995, the pair received the Nobel Prize for their accomplishment.