Steve Jobs is Watching You!

Wow! Turns out the iPhone and 3G iPad have been secretly logging everyone’s GPS location in a local unencrypted database file ever since the release of iOS 4. The file is backed-up locally every time you sync your device with your computer, so it persists even if you replace your device. You can read more about the details on O’Reilly Radar.

Out of curiosity, I downloaded the app that uncovers this data, and sure enough, you can see nearly everywhere I’ve been for the last year or so.

Big Brother is Watching!

The funny thing about this is I’m the type of person who would probably opt-in to a program that tracked my travels. I like being able to visualize the map above. However, the fact that Apple did this in secret, without my permission, clearly crosses into unethical behavior, whatever their intentions were/are.

The moral of this story is Steve Jobs is watching you!

There is something you can do though! You can join (or donate to) the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). The EFF is the leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the information age.

Bloggers' Rights at EFF

Apple’s response should be pretty interesting.

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TIL Moray Eels have a 2nd jaw inside their jaw!

The Moray Eel’s 2nd jaw is called a pharyngeal jaw. They use it to pull down prey captured in the front of their mouth, further down into their esophagus. It’s creepy, and it’s true! Check out this video of the jaw in action.

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What good shall I do this day?

My Fancy Wallet

My Fancy Wallet

For about 4 years now I’ve been rocking the Hipster PDA.  I carry a stack of blank 3 by 5 index cards in my wallet (see the pic to the right on exactly how that works) and use them for to-do lists and discardable notes. I also cary a full-size hardback Moleskine for notes I intend to keep, though not necessarily for journaling. I typically only write jornal entries when I need to dig myself out of a rut. But I digress.

Benjamin Franklin's daily schedule

Benjamin Franklin's Daily Schedule

I recently started listening to Benjamin Franklin‘s autobiography. I admire Franklin and I’d like to imitate certain aspects of his character. One thing that really struck me was his outline for a perfect daily routine. He mentioned that he himself was terrible at sticking to the routine as he must “mix with the world” and “often receive people of business at their own hours”, but one idea I really liked was the first thing he had on the schedule: ask yourself “what good shall I do this day?”

This is basically the creation of a to-do list for the day. Big deal. I’ve been writing to-do lists constantly for 4 years. But what I really liked about this notion was the phrasing and the ritual. I typically write a to-do list only when I feel overwhelmed, to help add order to my life. But Franklin’s outlook is not “make a to-do list when you feel overwhelmed” it is, every day consider what good you will do. In addition he sugests every night evaluate the good you’ve done that day.

Small Moleskine Journal

Small Moleskine Journal

So, in an effort to be more like one of my role models, I’m moving my to-do list from index cards, that I quickly discard, to a more permanent small paperback Moleskine, that I’ll cary in my pocket. By keeping my daily to-dos together in a book, I’ll be able to flip back on previous days to find items I’ve forgotten about or neglected. And, at the beginning of everyday, instead of writing “to-do,” I will write “what good shall I do this day?” I hope that by writing this it will put me in the frame of mind to not only consider my daily minutiae, but also what I can do that is truly good.

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How to create a Twitter account that tweets your DonorsChoose search criteria

One of my favorite non-profits is DonorsChoose.org. For those that aren’t familiar with DonorsChoose.org, It’s a website that allows teachers to request items they need for their class that their school hasn’t budgeted for. Depending on the wealth of the school these items could range from books to iPads. As a donor you can choose which projects to donate money to. You might choose to donate to classes in your area, or maybe based on the subject being taught, or the need of the class.

I prefer to donate to classes in Austin, but I also like to search for projects that are only a few bucks from completion and finish them. To aid my effort in finding projects that are near completion I created a Twitter account, called @AlmostCompleted, that tweets when it finds a project that needs less than $20. I have Twitter send these tweet to my phone via SMS so I know about it immediately. Why? Just for fun. I can’t afford to complete every project that needs less than $20, but you have to be fast if you find a project near completion that you want to donate to.

Creating this Twitter account was very simple. I’ll detail the steps here so you can create an account with your own search criteria. For example, you could create an account that only tweets project in your state that need less than $20. Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Create a new Twitter account.
  2. Go to the DonorsChoose.org projects listing page and use the filters on the right hand sidebar to find the projects you’d like to tweet about.
  3. Once you’ve got your search criteria figured out, look at bottom of the project listings. On the left hand side you’ll see a drop down menu that says “Add to your website or feedreader.” Click on that drop down menu and select “RSS 2.0.”
  4. A new tab will open up with an RSS feed of projects that meet your search criteria. Copy the URL of this RSS feed found in your browser’s address bar.
  5. Next you must create a FeedBurner.com account.
  6. After you have a FeedBurner account, login and where it says “Burn a feed right this instant. Type your blog or feed address here:” put your RSS feed you copied in step 4.
  7. Next, in FeedBurner, go to the “Publicize” tab and select “Socialize” found in the left hand column.
  8. In the “Socialize” section you can connect the Twitter account you created in step 1. In the options, for “Post content,” you’ll probably want to select “Title and Body,” and you’ll definitely want to make sure you checkmark “Include link.” Other than that, you’ll can play with the other options however you’d like.
  9. Finally click the “Save” button in the bottom left hand of “Socialize” section.
  10. That’s it! You’re Twitter account should Tweet every 30 minutes or so if there are new projects that meet your search criteria on DonorsChoose.org.

In FeedBurner you might also want to turn activate “PingShot.” I understand that should make your Tweets update faster, but I’m not sure how well it actually works. To activate “PingShot” under the “Publicize” tab, select “PingShot” found in the left hand column, then click “Activate.” That’s it! Enjoy!

Please give @AlmostCompleted a shout out on the Twitter! 🙂

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TIL The Uncanny Valley

TIL (Today I Learned) about the uncanny valley while talking to a couple of my friends about Tron 2. Apparently some of the computer animation in Tron 2 falls into the uncanny valley, aka the CGI humans are creepy looking.

The uncanny valley is a term used in robotics and computer animation when a robot is so humanlike people begin to judge it more like an inadequate human, and less like a impressively humanlike robot. It’s at this stage when the robot or CGI begins to look creepy or repulsive.

The reason we find almost, but not quite fully humanlike robots creepy is unknown. However, one theory is that at this stage of realism, our animal instincts kick in and ask, “what is wrong with this person!? Stay away from them! They might be diseased, dangerous, or at the minimum, incredibly socially awkward.” However, human caricatures, such as the humans in the movie the Incredibles, are obviously not real humans, but have humanlike qualities. This allows our imagination to fill the gaps with what qualities these characters would have, were they real.

That’s the gist of the uncanny valley. For a better synopsis, check out this short video on the subject and how it relates to video games.

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