Hard Drives Still Beat Solid State Drives on Price for Storage

June 27, 2009


“You can buy a $50 HDD with 120GB of storage. A 120GB SSD will set you back around $250-plus,” said Jim Handy an analyst with Objective Analysis Inc.

“This a good time to consider buying a higher-end HDD that should deliver more-than-enough performance – and plenty of room to grow – while you wait for SSD prices to drop further,” writes Lucas Mearian at ComputerWorld after a careful analysis. For the complete article, go here. Recommended Reading.

Add Google Analytics to your WordPress site with Ease

June 27, 2009


Easily add Google Analytics to your WordPress site by using Yoast’s plug-in appropriately named Google Analytics for WordPress.

This plugin adds the possibility to tag and segment all outgoing links, so you can see whether a click came from a comment or an article. You can choose where it tracks those links too! It also adds the possibility to track just the domain, instead of the complete link, so you get a better view of how much traffic you’re sending where. I also have an explanation of how to extract your outbound click and download stats from Google Analytics.

— from the Yoast site

Artisteer — Create and Configure Themes for WordPress, Drupal, & Joomla!

June 27, 2009


Artisteer2 looks like it is interesting software allowing you to create and customize professional looking themes for WordPress, Drupal, HTML and Joomla! Support for Blogger coming soon! I’ve viewed their demo and overview: color me intrigued.  Note: this is Windows only software. Possible Mac version in the future. (As a very wise man once told me, anything is possible. But is it likely?

Artisteer2 features full customization with 1,000’s of options. Included are built-in color schemes, clip art, backgrounds, buttons, menus, tabs, blocks and more. If anyone reading this has any experience with this software, let us know what you think about it the comments.

22 WordPress Hacks from instantShift — List Most Popular Posts, Twitter Hacks, Create Picture Galleries

June 27, 2009

Here’s a nice set of preformated code snippets that you can use to modify your WordPress site from Anders Ross over at instantShift. They call them mixed quality, perhaps not referring to their coding but to the signifigance of their function. Like displaying random images on your blog’s header? I’d label that not in the top 10 most important revisions to your site. Also by Ross is this piece with 10 Twitter Hacks for Your WordPress Blog.

There’s also a link to an interesting article, 21 Reasons Why Readers Don’t Like Your Blog by MsaNkadI. Lots of them are obvious like don’t have pop-ups on your blog, don’t have a one-hour Flash intro, don’t use blinking text. But I’m sure I’m guilty of one or two of these errors myself.

However, admonitions like “Don’t use center aligned text, maybe use it for headers” is absurd.  A long, center aligned, scrolling jumble of unsupported claims, conspiracy theories, slander, personal invective and complete absence of logic or reason is the perfect way to express an extremist rant.

Like those insane people urging us into a War Against the Cows. (It’s madness, I tell you. They’d wipe us out in a week! It’d be the Cedar County Cow War of 1931 all over again).

Looking at the vicious beasts! Disgusting. Photo © 2003 Dennis Flood. Click for larger image.


Using lots of ALL CAPS SENTENCES, exclamation points!!!!!!!! and -ooh- different colored type, is also recommended to make certain you come across as a loon.

Or how about this reason people don’t like your blog, “Don’t force your readers to open a dictionary, they wont [sic]” ? But we think so highly of our readers, bright, intelligent and good-looking, most of them.

Can Dogs Talk? The short answer: No. But They Study Your Behavior All the Time.

June 24, 2009

Scientific American ran a piece recently, Fact or Fiction: Dogs Can Talk. The answer that’s obvious to anyone with even a little knowledge of canine anatomy is certainly not, they don’t have the lip and tongue control to form the sounds necessary for human speech.

This makes them ‘dumb’ animals, a phrase I frequently hear misused. People tell me about complex behaviors they observe in their dogs and comment at the end of their story, ‘And they say that dogs are just dumb animals!’ This confuses the meaning of the word ‘dumb’ in the sense that dogs are speechless, not stupid. Verbal communication skills are so ingrained in our expectation of intelligence that it’s a very common mistake.

Think about all those ads you’ve heard over the years for improving your vocabulary. The implication is that your intelligence is being judged every time you speak, which is probably true. The appeal of these ads is to your intellectual insecurity as well as the quick-fix mentality of so many Americans. You can sound just like a graduate of an Ivy League school without having to complete the crushing amount of course work or pay the enormous tuition costs.

However, an extensive vocabulary does not always equal intelligence. We’ve all known people who are extremely glib and well-spoken but not especially intelligent or insightful, they just sound like they are. This is common among those for whom public speaking is a key part of their job, like politicians, teachers, preachers and salesmen.

So we have to work against our prejudice that spoken words are the lone indicator of intelligence. To me it’s clear that dogs are intelligent, though mute. Dogs are trainable, cats are not. I invite any cat lovers to inundate the comments section with tales of cats rescuing people by alerting them to danger, or the existence of drug and/or bomb sniffing cats, or guide cats for the blind, etc. I think you can make a strong case that cats are not even truly domesticated animals, certainly not in the way that dogs are.

One important fact that most dog owners seem to overlook is that they are constantly being studied by their companion animals. Dogs are alert to the inflections in our voices and every movement we make.

Most of us don’t realize how much information we are sending to our dogs by our posture, our tone of voice, all of our physical actions. This leads to behavior that some would like to construe as “psychic”* like a dog “knowing” when its owner is about to arrive at home. For example, I have a 7 year old Labrador Retriever who seems to “know” when I’m leaving the house whether or not I’m taking him with me.

When he’s coming with me, he follows me to the door and waits for his leash. When I’m not taking him, he goes and lays down in his crate. From my perspective, I’m not doing anything differently in either case until I am near the door and grab the leash. But long before I get there, he’s already made his determination about whether he’s coming or not.

I’ve puzzled over this for a very long time. While I love my dog and feel a deep connection with him, I can’t accept the theories about non-material communication. I’m convinced that I am doing something subtly different that cues my dog to my intention, non-verbally.

I’ll give you another example that supports this contention.  When my older dog and our new rescued dog are curled up in the floor in my office, every time I change my position in my chair, Luna, the younger dog, leaps to her feet in expectation that I’m getting up and that this action concerns her. Are we going outside? Are we getting a treat? Will you be paying attention to me, instead of that stupid glowing screen on your desk? Huxley, on the other hand, has been around longer and knows better. He won’t move until he actually sees me get up from my chair.

Luna at 3 is certainly more reactive, in general, than Huxley at 7. It will interesting to see if, over time, she begins to understand that every move I make at my desk is not predictive of a walk, a treat or a romp outside.

I’ve had the privilege of working with several dogs (my own and fosters) with the great trainer Ken Picciuto, who says that training is always going on between you and your dog. The question is who is training who? If your dog begs at the table and you reward her with a scrap off your plate, she’s learned that begging works and this reinforces the behavior. She is training you.

So asking whether or not dogs can talk seems to me to be the wrong question. Intelligence and communication are clearly going on with our dogs, despite the fact that only we can talk.

To turn this around, every dog owner believes that they can tell you a great deal about what their dog is thinking or feeling, all based on non-verbal cues. Huxley, for example, prefers sitting in front of the fireplace watching a fire than watching anything on Showtime, Bravo or HBO, hi-def or not. For my money, that’s a good argument for his intelligence right there.

*Full Disclosure: I’m a long time skeptic about all paranormal subjects (including religious belief) and complimentary and alternative medicine. If you’re going to worship a god, how do you choose among the thousands that have been worshiped throughout history?  Why is the Judeo-Christian God more likely to exist than Thor or Zeus? For the best available discussion of this, please see Richard Dawkins’ excellent book The God Delusion.

The evidence does not support UFOs, Ghosts, Accupuncture, Astrology, etc. despite all the programming on the History Channel. The plural of anecdotes is not data. There are no haunted houses, just haunted people as James Randi says.  And, of course, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, in the late Carl Sagan’s words.

So I hereby issue a challenge to all ghosts, spooks, space aliens and interdimensional beings of all stripes: come on down! I don’t have to list my address here, surely you’ll all know how to find me. I promise I will faithfully report to my audience your arrival and whatever wisdom or warnings you bring with you. I do however, object to any anal probing you might wish to perform. I already have a gastroenterologist who does that for me every 3 to five years.

Extreme Variation of Anatomy and Behavior Unique to the Domestic Dog

June 21, 2009

Extreme variation in anatomy and behavior is unique to the domestic dog. If humans were an equally anomalous species, we’d weigh between 20 and 650 pounds and range in height from three to 10 feet. In dogs, adaptations change with such speed that scientists suspect there may be a clue in the canine genome that could reveal how evolution works.

— from Jane Brackman, PhD, “Can DNA Decipher the Mix? Unraveling the genetic tapestry provides clues to breeds and their mixes” The Bark

2002 Mac switch Ad – Ellen Feis “The PC devoured my paper. It’s kind of . . . a bummer.”

June 16, 2009

OK, this is just silly but it (below) came up on TWIT this week and I figured it was a good a spot as any to recommend the TWIT (This Week in Technology) podcast hosted by Leo LaPorte. Y’know, man, I had like totally forgotten about this little-aired TV spot, part of Apple’s  Switch campaign.

TWIT comes out like clockwork every Monday and gives you an hour plus of diverting, informative and opinionated commentary on the tech news and trends that wash through our culture with each news cycle.

Leo is your affable host, regular guests include the real John C. Dvorak and Jason Calacanis (but never on the same show), Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, David Prager,  Andy Ihnatko,  Roger Chang, Alex Lindsay, Wil Harris, Molly Wood, Tom Merritt, and Veronica Belmont.

Famous guests on TWIT include Steve Wozniak, Kevin Mitnick, beloved American humorist John Hodgman, Lawrence Lessig, Roger McGuinn, LeVar Burton and Wil Wheaton.

If following tech is important to you, you should be listening to this podcast. Dvorak also gives tips sometimes on great wine buys at Costco as a bonus!

Mirror Neurons in your Brain and Prick-eared Dog Breeds

June 15, 2009

Speaking of Dogs

Your mirror neuron system may possibly even jump species. Think about domestic dogs. Dogs are highly social, intelligent animals. We have been able to integrate these deadly carnivores into our homes because evolution has endowed them with instincts for fitting into a socially stratified yet cohesive and cooperative pack. Now, if you look at one of those prick-eared breeds such as the German shepherd, it is amazing how much emotional expressiveness there is in those fuzz-covered triangular ears. Whether they are erect, relaxed, swiveled forward, tilted out or pulled flat against the skull, they are eloquent advertisers of the dog’s mood and inclination. A dog’s ear posture combines with its other facial and body language—mouth smiling or snarling; eye brow nubs set to convey helplessness, confidence, or innocence; neck high or low; tail wagging, up, flat or between the haunches—to express an impressive range of moods. Even a floppy-eared beagle can tell you what it’s thinking! Remarkably, we are able to read this alien body language with ease. After all, we are primates; our ears are totally immobile and purely ornamental. But thanks to our mirror neurons and homuncular flexibility, we easily become “bilingual,” if you will, in canine body language.

Now that you’ve read the above, I’ll bet you’re dying to know what mirror neurons are, aren’t you?  What exactly does homuncular flexibilty have to do with your daily life? To learn the answers to those questions and learn a great deal more, you’ll simply have to buy Sandra Blakeslee & Matthew Blakeslee book, The Body Has a Mind of its Own: How body maps in your brain help you do (almost) everything better

10 Years and $2.5 Billion Dollars Later: Complimentary and Alternative Medicine’s Epic FAIL

June 10, 2009

“No statistically significant benefit.”

That’s what a decade of taxpayer-funded research into Complimentary and Alternative Medicines has produced. And all it cost you was $2.5 billion dollars to prove that echinacea won’t cure the common cold and glucosamine and chondroitin are useless to treat arthritis.

Meanwhile, real medical science has made tremendous advances over the last decade in the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases. But that’s not news. Hard core science, along with advances in sanitation, nutrition and preventive care like vaccines, is the reason the average life span in Western nations has almost doubled since the Industrial Revolution.

“It’s become politically correct to investigate nonsense,” R. Barker Bausell, author of Snake Oil Science and a research methods expert at the University of Maryland.

“This is not science, it’s ideology on the part of the advocates,” Dr. Joseph Jacobs, head of the Office of Alternative Medicine, the smaller federal agency that preceded the creation of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine.

For the complete story by Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press Medical Writer, go here.

For another excellent investigative story by Marchione, this one on the dangers of unregulated supplements, go here.

For an explanation of why you shouldn’t take medical advice from Oprah Winfrey and the people she promotes (like Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Sommers), read Newsweek’s recent cover story,  ‘Crazy Talk: Oprah, Wacky Cures & You.’

To measure the true impact of McCarthy’s anti-vaccine campaign, go to the Jenny McCarthy Body Count site. Real science trumps McCarthy’s “mommy instinct” every time.

To understand how crazy McCarthy’s position is, read Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Dr. Paul A. Offit, MD.

“A definitive analysis of a dangerous and unnecessary controversy that has put the lives of children at risk.” — Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and Nobel Laureate in Medicine for fundamental contributions in Immunology

3D Dog Photography

June 8, 2009

This is Huxley, our chocolate Labrador, 7 years old, and Luna, a Lab-mix rescue, approx. 3 years old. Click on images for larger size.

Note: These are anaglyphic 3D pictures. You’ll need a pair of red-blue, or red-cyan glasses to experience the 3D. If you don’t have access to any, I’ll send you a pair free. Just shoot an email with a mailing address to cynodictis@gmail.com

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