Archive - May 2009

May 31st

More about QR Codes

Now that I’ve gotten my cellphone to successfully process QR Codes, I figured it was time to start exploring a little bit more what I could do with QR Codes. An obvious example is putting your QR Code on the back of your business card. However, if you are going to do that, why not find other interesting places to put QR Codes.

One site focused on making removable bar code tattoos. What I was thinking would be better would be if a person could go to a website, design a QR Code and then have it printed on a shirt, or something like that.

Sure enough, someone else has already thought of that and actually, executed it nicely. Snappr.net allows people to create a wide array of QR codes and buy them on a collection of interesting objects.

They provide three different categories of QR Codes. The first is Classic QR Codes. These include URLs, phone numbers, vCards and plain text. For social network enthusiasts they provide ‘Social Codes’. You select a social network, enter your id on the network, and the provide a QR code for the URL pointing to your id. They also provide a bunch of other specialized codes, but they didn’t do much for me.

When you have your QR Code designed, you can add some text to appear around it or take one of their layouts and then buy a shirt, cap, tote bag, bumper sticker, or other items with the QR Code printed on it.

I created a vCard QR code which I displayed on my computer. When I took scanned it with my cellphone, the phone took me to a webpage of my vCard. It provided an option to download the card, and I downloaded the card into my address book on my cellphone. It worked very nicely.

As I thought more about it, I thought about how QR Codes might be a nice addition to the old Yellow Arrow art project. I also wondered if I could create a QR code to send a message to Twitter.

This code sent the message “Testing QR Codes and Twitter”. Since my phone number is associated with a Twitter account, it came up nicely. Add in some hashtags, and you could have some real fun.

The United State lags in the use of QR Codes, but with a little work, I think we could do some really interesting things with it.

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May 30th

QR Codes and the RAZR V3xx

For the longest time, I’ve been trying to successfully install an application on my Motorola Razr V3xx that would allow me to process QR Codes from my camera. This evening, I finally had success. Let me run through the steps that I did in hopes that it will help others.

First, let me start off by explaining QR Codes. QR Codes are two dimensional bar codes that contain information that can be used on cellphones. Typically, it will include a URL, a phone number, text or an SMS message. As an example:

is the QR Code for the URL of this blog.

You can use Kaywa’s QR Code Generator to create different QR Codes. Kawya also has a QR Code Reader. Their reader doesn’t list the Motorola V3xx as a supported phone. However, it does support the Motorola V3x which I hoped would be close enough. However, I could never get that reader to work. It always complained about not being able to access the camera.

i-nigma also has a QR Code generator and QR Code reader. I downloaded their QR Code reader had and the same problem accessing the camera.

This afternoon, I spent a little time looking around and found comments about it perhaps being a Java problem. Various searches led me to the need to replace the j2me_domain_registry.sm with a less restrictive j2me_domain_registry.sm file. A thread on the Midpssh forum pointed me to a zip file of this file:

http://www.logichigh.com/files/j2me_domain_registry.sm.zip

I downloaded the file and searched around to find the right place to install it. To do this, I used PKCommander. The best site I’ve found about loading and running PKCommander is this: Motorola RAZR V3 - Install P2K Commander - Step-by-Step (Pictures).

With PKCommander installed and your Razr connected to you computer, you want to go to the P2k:/a/mobile/certs/root/x509/kjava/ directory. You should find a file that is around four thousand bytes. Copy this file onto your computer as a backup. Then, copy the j2me_domain_registry.sm I described above from your computer into the directory I described above.

I don’t know if it is necessary to restart the cellphone when you do something like this, but I always like to, just in case. The cellphone started up fine and I went to the i-ningma application. It worked like a champ. I check and this also fixed the Kaywa application as well. I don’t run much for other applications on my cellphone, but I thought I should check a few others as well. One that I run is a free Tetris application which ran fine. The next application I tried was Google Maps.

One of the things that always annoyed about the Google Maps application on the Razr V3xx is that it would always ask for permission to download data from the Internet. I could specify Yes, for this one time, or No. I did not have to option to permanently grant access. The new j2me_domain_registry.sm allowed me to specify Yes, always grant permission, and things work much more nicely for this application and for Gmail.

I haven’t found any applications that don’t work because of the upgrade, but there may be some.

So, now I’m running with a slightly more modified Razr which is working nicely and allowing me to access QR Codes. Perhaps I will try some other applications soon as well.

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Ice Cream Blogging

Last night, after dinner, my eldest daughter asked if we could go out for ice cream. She has just gotten home from college and it seemed like an appropriate celebration, so we set off towards one of my favorite ice cream shops here in Connecticut.

First, we stopped at the community gardens, where we have a small plot and the corn and watermelons have come up. Then we stopped by a local reservoir to look at a guardrail put up because of civic engagement. Then, we finally made it to the ice cream shop.



Eating Ice Cream, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Our family is very serious about all the food we eat, and try to seek out the best places we can. Rich Farm Ice Cream Shop in Oxford, CT clearly has earned its place on this list. It is fresh ice cream made on the farm. I had ‘Razzmataz’, or something like that. Essentially, it was vanilla ice cream with a raspberry swirl and chucks of fudge. It was very good.

My eldest daughter had peaches and cream and run raisin and my youngest had cookie dough. My wife had been working late so we brought home a pint of German Chocolate Cake ice cream for her.

As we sat outside on the farm, eating our ice cream, I suggested that my daughters might enjoy helping me research a comprehensive study of ice cream shops in Connecticut. People don’t often think about ice cream as one of the great products of our state, but they should.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau has a website encouraging people to get involved in politics to Save Dairy in Connecticut. While I applaud their efforts, in this case, a more hands on approach of finding the best local ice cream shops in the state and encouraging folks to visit them regularly is a much more enjoyable form of civic action.

So, if you care about the State of Connecticut, or if you care about ice cream, please join me in enjoying ice cream the farms of Connecticut, especially Rich Farm Ice Cream Shop in Oxford, some of the Best of Connecticut.

(Cross posted at Roxy's Best of ... Connecticut.)

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May 29th

Tinkering with Students’ Lives



Lauren Doninger and Mary Beth Tinker, originally uploaded by Aldon.

In December 1965, a thirteen year old student wore a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam war. It was a small act, and did not lead to any immediate de-escalation of the conflict in Vietnam. She probably didn’t expect her arm band to end the war, but she also probably didn’t expect it to change her life, and the life of others that way it did.

Four years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the school violated Ms. Tinker’s First Amendment Freedom of Speech when they sent her home for wearing that armband.

Last night, she spoke at the ACLU of Connecticut’s Milton Sorokin Symposium, “Students and Schools Pushing the Limits of Free Speech”. The evening started off with Justice Richard N. Palmer presenting the 2009 First Amendment Essay Contest winners. These students had written essays on the topic, “In what circumstance should a school be able to punish students for their speech off campus?”

The evening was moderated by Laurie Perez of Fox 61 News who has written about the Doninger case and noted that this case is the most searched item on the Fox 61 News website.

Many lawyers seemed star struck to be in the presence of a plaintiff of such an important Supreme Court case. What sort of message would Ms. Tinker deliver? How had the event changed her life? What were the influences that led her to wearing the arm band on that fateful day, and what had her life turned out to be like forty years later?

Ms. Tinker spoke about her father being a Methodist minister and how she had been brought up with the exhortation to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. She spoke about moving out of one town because of her father’s involvement in the Civil Rights movement and dinner time discussions about her parents’ experiences going to register voters in the south in 1964.

She commented that “That’s the sort of person I want to be, to stand up for what is right”, and spoke about the importance of telling stories not only about Cinderella, but also about brave people who stood up for what they believed in.

Clearly, her parents’ simple acts of courage had a hand in shaping her life, as did her experiences with the famous lawsuit. She became a nurse and works mostly with trauma patients; gunshots, knifings, and accidents. She spends her free time going from one event to another, trying to help students find their voices, to stand up for themselves, and to lead the way to a better world.

She spoke as a nurse, recognizing that one of the most important things a student can do for their long term health is graduate from high school. She spoke about advocating for ‘democratic schools’ and noted that a punitive approach to education, especially regarding what happens beyond the school yard gate drives students away from schools. She talked about the problems with the school to prison pipeline.

In many ways, her talk could be summed up in the simple words she often tells students, “You are going to make history with your small actions or inactions”. As she spoke, I thought of a different quote from Robert Kennedy:

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Her parents sent forth a tiny ripple of hope, it crossed the ripple of hope she and her fellow students sent out, it now crosses the ripples of hope sent out by the students whose lives she has touched as she goes around the country encouraging students to speak up.

After she spoke, Patrice McCarthy, Deputy Director and General Counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education spoke. It must be following such a powerful speaker, but Ms. McCarthy held her own and her remarks and the question and answer period deserve their own post.

So, I put up my blog posts and wonder what sort of effect my small actions might make. I wonder about the actions of other bloggers I visit online. We may never see the effect of our actions the way Ms. Tinker has, but we should all keep to our little actions and our hopes for a better world.

May 28th

What Kind of State Are We?

Hartford – Thursday afternoon, the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association held a press conference with Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking, and Randy Steidl, the 123rd Death Row Exoneree. Many of the standard points about what is wrong with the Death Penalty were raised. It doesn’t work. It risks the lives of innocent people. It is not an effective deterrent. It is too expensive. It is unevenly applied. There is racial, economic and geographic disparities in how it is applied. It is applied with impermissible arbitrariness. Yet the real question is, what kind of a State are we?

Mr. Steidl talked about how less than one per cent of murderers are given the death penalty and how it is nothing but revenge. Revenge is a hate crime, and we have laws against hate crimes in our country. He called on Americans to wake up. This isn’t Russia, China, or Afghanistan. This is the United States of America. We are better than that.

Sister Helen Prejean brought the message even more closely home. She lives in Louisiana. She noted that 80% of the executions in the United States come from former slave states, but that Connecticut isn’t a state driven by vengeance and hatred. She applauded the wisdom of our legislators and challenged the Governor to embrace the same wisdom.

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