Google Doodle Honors Zamboni

Zamboni Doodle

Today, Google honors Frank Zamboni with a really cool video game doodle. From where I sit, the weather is freezing rain and cold so this doodle seems very appropriate on a day like this. The doodle is reminiscent of the old Atari arcade games, except the graphics are a little better. The premise of the game is pretty simple. An ice skater comes out and messes up the ice. It’s your job to operate the Zamboni machine to resurface the ice. There is a catch though, you have to make sure you don’t run out of gas. Each level presents a little more difficulty. It’s not a bad way to pass some time while you are bored.

So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Zamboni? For me, hockey came to the top of mind however, for many, it may be ice skating that comes to mind. That’s OK because Zamboni has been honored by both sports by being inducted in the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 2006 and the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. Zamboni’s ice resurfacer was actually patented with his name and like Coke is to the soft drink world, Zamboni is the name most associated with all ice resurfacers, even if it’s a different brand. Zamboni also developed technology to clean indoor turf and to remove paint stripes from turf too. The Zamboni family still runs the company he started in the 50’s. The company has sold over 10,000 ice resurfacers.

If you would like to learn a little more about Zamboni, play today’s doodle and at the end of the game you will see a little magnifying glass symbol. Click that symbol and you will be taken to all kinds of facts about Zamboni from Google.

[Editorial] Aaron Swartz, Uncommon Crusader for the Common Man

A federal case involving an unrelenting prosecutor and a brilliant  young prodigy has ended in tragedy. 26 year old Aaron Swartz, the subject of the federal case, has taken his life and a bright star’s light has gone dim in the world. If you’re like me, you may not be familiar with the name right away, but the impact this young man had on the world during his short life merits our pause and reflection. He was humble and shy and the federal case against him has mostly been overshadowed by mass shootings and political malarchy over the past couple of years.

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons of which he was a champion)

The Making of a Genius

Aaron Swartz was born in Chicago, Illinois in November 1986. His father was a computer programmer and founder of his own computer company. Thus, the early spark of interest for all things computing was born in Aaron. By the time he was 13 years old he was recognized for his technological achievements by winning the ArsDigita Prize which recognized young people for developing “useful, educational, and collaborative” non-commercial Web sites. As a result of that win he was able to visit MIT to meet some dignitaries of the internet. By the time he was 18, he was working on the team that developed RSS 1.o. For those who may not be familiar with that term, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is a standard used by many news organizations and blogs to send news feeds to their readers. He also played a strong role in the founding of Creative Commons which seeks to make creative works accessible to the public.

In more recent days, Swartz championed the cause of free information. It is probably safe to say he is the Robin Hood of information as he pressed for the free flow of information to the public, particularly the academic journals which are housed in large University databases that require fees to access. He co-founded a group called Demand Progress whose efforts are attributed to stopping the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) from passing. Below, you can watch a keynote address Swartz gave at the F2C: Freedom to Connect 2012 event in Washington, D.C.

Criminal Mind?

Swartz unfortunately, found himself on the wrong side of the law back in 2009 when he downloaded a massive amount of documents housed in the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts’ database, PACER. The PACER system houses the electronic documents of the courts and users of the system were charged 8 cents per page to access these documents. This did not set well with Swartz and his colleagues, so using a free trial license that was being offered to University libraries back then, he downloaded nearly 20 million pages before the government shut him out. The FBI investigated the issue but he was never charged.

In 2011, Swartz found himself the subject of a much more serious case as a result of him “fraudulently” downloading 4 million academic journals from the JSTOR database. He apparently gained access to a utility closet at MIT and attached a laptop computer to their network. He used this computer to download millions of academic journals with the intention of making them readily available to the public before MIT police caught him in the act. This made him the target of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz who along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Stephen P. Heymann and Scott L. Garland, pursued him fiercely. Many in the academic arena felt the case against Swartz was blown out of proportion and that the laws Ortiz was citing in her case were meant to be used against cyber bank robbers and the like. Swartz didn’t set out to gain anything from his actions but rather, allow free access to University research,  much of which is publicly funded. Even JSTOR, the alleged victim in this case, “regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge”. You can read their full statement regarding Aaron Swartz here.

2012 Google Doodle Roundup

2012 Google Doodle

Can you believe it is the last day of 2012? It’s amazing the difference 365 days makes isn’t. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how it went by so quickly. For many, New Year’s Eve is a day of reflection and a time to reminisce. Google has created a way to help you reminisce with its 2012 doodle. The doodle looks like a party. The cool thing about this doodle is that each element of the doodle represents a previous Google doodle from 2012.

Star Trek Doodle

In the first picture above, you will notice what looks like a painting of the Star Ship Enterprise hanging on the wall. If you click that picture, you will be taken to the page pictured directly above. This shows the 46th anniversary of Star Trek doodle that was done back in September. If you missed this doodle, you have to go to Google today and try it out. It is an absolutely hilarious doodle. Probably one of the most memorable of the year for me. Take some time to click through the individual elements on the Google doodle to see other interesting doodles.

The best part of today’s doodle is that you actually get the doodle artist’s take on what they were thinking when they created the various doodles throughout the year. It is really interesting and sometimes comical to hear what they have to say. There is also an interesting link at the bottom of the doodle that will take you to Google Zeitgeist. This page will show you the top trends people were searching for world wide. Take a moment to watch the video below.

[Video Link]

2012 had its share of ups and downs. I especially hope that 2013 will be a year of peace for our world and that humanity learns to value the short time we have here on this earth. As you reflect on the year ahead, I hope you find peace and prosperity in all that you do. Happy New Year! Thanks for reading Techie Buzz.

Possibly the Largest Black Hole Discovered

Astronomers led by Remco van den Bosch, from the Max-Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany have discovered a massive black hole at the center of a galaxy 250 million light-years away. The black hole has a mass equivalent to 17 billion of our sun. It is quite possibly the largest black hole ever discovered and is turning galaxy evolution models on their side.

ngc 1277
Image credit: NASA / ESA / Andrew C. Fabian / Remco C. E. van den Bosch (MPIA)

Picture above, you can see the disk shape galaxy NGC 1277 that was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. At the center of this galaxy is the black hole that scientists are saying accounts for 14% of the galaxy’s weight. To put the size of this black hole in perspective, our own milky way galaxy has a black hole equivalent to the mass of 4 million suns. NGC 1277 has the mass of 17 billion suns!

It has typically been thought that the mass of a galaxies black hole correlates to the mass of the stars in a galaxy. After this discovery however, it seems that theory may not be true. The ratio of this black hole to the mass of the stars in its galaxy are way off the typical charts. Small disk shaped galaxies typically have much smaller black holes that usually account for less than 1% of their mass. Finding one that accounts for 14% of its mass is truly rare. Black holes of this size are usually found elliptical galaxies.

It appears after further examination that this phenomenon isn’t as rare as once thought. Other black holes with similar characteristics have been found since NGC 1277 was discovered to contain a super massive black hole. According to a article, Remco van den Bosch is quoted as saying, “You always expect to find one sort [of a phenomenon], but now we have six of them,” van den Bosch said. “We didn’t expect them, because we do expect the black holes and the galaxies to influence each other.” It appears now scientists will have to determine if this phenomenon only exists in the early universe and how this information affects our theories of galaxy evolution.

For more information, visit the journal Nature.

Review: Notability Note Taking & PDF Annotation App


If you use an iPad and are looking for a great app for taking notes and annotating PDF files, then look no further than Notability. Notability is by far one of the best note taking apps I have seen and is the only one that has taken some of my attention away from Evernote. Unlike Evernote, it is not free however, it is only $1.99 and it is packed full of features.


In the picture below, you can see how Notability allows you to organize your notes into nice note books called categories and tabs called subjects on the left side of the page. In the top bar you have a simple set of tools. The “Edit” button allows you to rename, delete, and reorganize your notes and notebooks. The right pointing arrow button to the right of “Edit” will allow you to share a particular note. Notability will connect to your email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, WebDav, printers, iTunes, and even other apps on your iPad. The second arrow button in the top right corner will allow you to import documents, PDFs, pictures, etc… from these connected services such as Dropbox. The final button in the right corner is used to start a new note.


Stylus and Finger Friendly

One of the few frustrations I have with Evernote has been the lack of an ink note on the iPad. An ink note will allow you to use a stylus, or your finger, to write on the tablet. Notability works great with a stylus. In the image below, notice the different colors of handwriting that was used as well as, the colorful sketches that were done. The ink in Notability is smooth as silk. If you press and hold on the pencil icon at the top of the note, you get several options for pen thicknesses, styles, and colors.

Ink Pen

Media Rich

Notability has the ability to insert a lot of media into a note. Below, you will where I inserted a picture of an apple pie I made. You will also see the little “plus” sign menu dropped down showing the different media available to you in Notability. Notice that I have a purple triangle inserted as a shape. I used the “figure” option to draw this into my note. You can also insert “Stickies” with all sorts of different paper colors and lines available. Another really cool trick is the “Web Clip” option they put into Notability. You can browse out to a web page and clip a picture of it into your note. This would be great if you were working on a website design team or if there is some important information on the web that you don’t want to lose. You will also notice the microphone icon at the top of the note. This allows you to make voice notes. This is excellent for those of us who work in construction and we want to give ourselves reminders as we walk through the initial stages of a project.

Media Rich

The Good:

For a $1.99, this app is fantastic. This app is fantastic for $10. It works very nicely with a stylus and it adds flair to your notes that a lot of other note taking apps just don’t do. For instance, the fact that you can pick lined or grid paper, or have color paper instead of plain white are great examples of the thoughtful additions Notability offers. It connects to most major cross browser cloud storage apps like Dropbox and Google Drive. You can also send you note in a variety of formats such as PDF.

The Bad:

Notability will let you create text boxes that you can type in and move around, but they are a little buggy at times. Sometimes selecting and deselecting the boxes is difficult and they will move around on you as well. It doesn’t integrate with QuickOffice so you can’t import a spreadsheet in as a spreadsheet. It wants to convert it using Google Drive. It is currently not available for Android.

All that being said, those very small flaws are the only reason I can’t give this a perfect score, but it is pretty darn close in my mind. Notability is a must have app for the student, project manager, or someone who likes to keep up with good notes. I am confident that they are working to add better capabilities to this already wonderful app. It’s a 4 star app going on 5 soon.


Review: Lenovo Thinkpad Twist Ultrabook

I recently had the good fortune to get my hands on a new Windows 8 Ultrabook manufactured by Lenovo. I have been playing with Windows 8 since it came out in developer preview so before I dive too deeply into this review I have to say that if you are considering a Windows 8 computer, YOU MUST get a touchscreen or your selling yourself short. Windows 8 with a conventional mouse is one clunky beast. The new Lenovo Thinkpad Twist however, is not.

Pictured above, on my somewhat messy work table, is the Twist. If you are familiar with the Thinkpad brand, you will recognize the design. It has the signature red mouse “nub” seated inside the keyboard area.  The first thing I noticed when getting this thing out of the box is that it feels really nice in your hands. It is made of a magnesium alloy that grips really well. It also has an outer texture that resists fingerprints which is very nice. It probably isn’t the lightest ultrabook on the market. It weighs 3.48 pounds. I will say that it is very thin and just feels really natural in your hands, so I don’t think the weight is that big of an issue.


The screen is extremely bright and incorporates battery saving features. For instance, it will dim pretty quickly if you aren’t actively using it. Pictured above, you can see that the Thinkpad Twist lives up to its name. That screen will go in just about any position imaginable. You can turn it completely around, fold it up and sit it like a tent on the table, lay it completely over the keyboard to form a tablet, and use it like a regular laptop. This makes it extremely versatile and useful in my opinion.


You can see me holding the Lenovo Thinkpad Twist in its tablet form above. I have rather small hands and it wasn’t cumbersome for me to hold at all. The screen rotates around to whatever orientation you are holding it. However, it does have a little button on the side that will allow you to lock the screen orientation if you don’t want it to move.

The Good

It’s fast. The one I got my hands on had an Intel i5 processor and it was zippy. It has a lot of nice ports including mini-HDMI and USB ports. It also has a media card reader to support your camera’s memory cards. The screen is beautiful. Battery life is pretty good too.

The Bad

The speakers are horrible. I have had AM transistor radios that had better speakers than this thing. This was a real disappointment for me because the screen is just so nice. I was really hoping to get an outstanding multimedia experience and that just didn’t happen.

With Black Friday coming, it appears this ultrabook will be available for around $699. If you are seriously thinking about the Microsoft Surface, for $200 extra you have to give this a look. It has the full version of Windows 8 which doesn’t have the limitation of the RT version of Windows 8 that is on the surface. Plus, it is just so much more versatile than the surface. Anyone wanting to venture into Windows 8 should seriously give the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist a look.

The Deodorant You Eat???

You can file this away in your “I’ve Seen It All” file. It appears you can now have your candy and come out smelling like a rose all at the same time. No I am not kidding. The product is called “Deo” and it claims, ” Science and nature have come together to make a functional food that leaves your skin with a beautiful rose fragrance.”

Deo Edible Deodorant

So is it perfume candy, or is it a health and beauty product? To be honest, I am not sure where this product will wind up if it ever hits the aisles of a major box store. Beneo Group announced this new innovation on its website. Beneo seeks innovative solutions that “cater to the growing health awareness among their customers”. The ingredient manufacturer developed a relationship with a Bulgarian company, Alpi. Together they are marketing this “rose-scented boiled sweet” which they claim not only tastes sweet, but will “transmit an attractive rose fragrance through the skin”.

The active ingredient is a natural anti-oxidant called geraniol. Geraniol is a colorless liquid found in plants like roses, lavender and vanilla. They call this product a nutri-cosmetic because it leaves the body through the pores of the skin which in turn, leaves behind a sweet rose smell. According to their website,, four pieces of the candy are considered a serving. A serving size will be most effective for people up to 145 pounds. Wim Dries, Area Sales Manager for Beneo said, “Many people like garlic, and it’s especially popular in European diets, but the tell-tale smell lingers for some time after a meal. Deo is the perfect antidote.”

Deo has already sold out on and they are working to replenish their stock. To keep up with new developments, visit their website at or visit their Facebook page.

French Sculptor, Auguste Rodin, Honored with Google Doodle

Today, Google pays homage to Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor who defied the conventional art of his time. He is best known for his contemplative sculpture called “The Thinker”.

The Thinker

Rodin would be 172 years old today. He was born to a working class family in France in 1840. He received his early training at Petit École, a school that taught decorative artists. He received a strong background in French 18th century art. After several attempts to gain entrance into the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts, Rodin settled into a career of making architectural embellishments and ornamental sculptures. This was definitely a set back as gaining acceptance into the École des Beaux-Arts wasn’t particularly difficult to do. It is thought that he was snubbed due to the fact that he didn’t fall into the Neoclassical style of sculpture.

The path that Rodin took was not an easy one. He served as an apprentice for many years to French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. He would follow Carrier-Belluese to Belgium after an economic downturn due to the Franco-Prussian war. From there he traveled to Brussels and then on to Italy. In Italy, he was inspired by Michelangelo. The Bronze Age, pictured below, is one example of his Michelangelo inspired work.

The Bronze Age
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Rodin received a commission in 1880 from the French government to design a portal for a Museum of Decorative Arts. Unfortunately, the museum never came to fruition. However, this inspired a lifelong work in Rodin called The Gates of Hell. For 37 years Rodin worked on this monumental sculpture. He would add pieces and remove pieces striving for perfection. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Rodin designed pieces that showed both the agony and ecstasy of man. Many of his famous individual pieces like The Thinker, actually began as part of this portal which he took off and used for individual commissions. Sadly, The Gates of Hell was never cast into bronze during Rodin’s lifetime. The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, PA has the first ever bronze cast made from the original Rodin cast.

For a better look at some of Rodin’s sculptures visit the Rodin Museum’s website at You can also learn more about his life at

Alligators and Crocodiles Have Acute Sense of Touch

When you hear the word alligator or crocodile, the last thing to come to your mind is sensitivity. However, a Vanderbilt University study shows that alligators and crocodiles’ sense of touch is vastly more sensitive than ours. Their study is published in the journal Journal of Experimental Biology.

Baby Gator
Baby alligator in an aquarium. (Michael Todd/Vanderbilt University)

It is easy to look at an alligator and think that their tough skin would be nearly impervious to touch. In fact, their skin is more like armor than anything. Amazingly, they possess these pigmented spots that look like tiny domes all over their skin. These spots are called integumentary sensor organs (ISO’s). For years, these spots were a mystery. Many believed that these spots produced some sort of oil to help protect the skin. Others believed that they were sensitive to electromagnetic pulses, or possibly were sensitive to changes in water’s salinity. A 2002 study at the University of Maryland however, showed that these spots were sensitive to ripples made by water drops. This intrigued Ken Catania, Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt, enough that he began studying the function of these ISO’s even further. Below, you can see a Vanderbilt University video featuring Duncan Leitch, a graduate student serving under Catania.

[Video Link]


It appears that these ISO’s are linked to a nerve bundle that is very similar to the ones we humans have called trigeminal ganglia. They are so sensitive that they can detect the ripple that a drop of water produces on the surface. They can also detect pressures that even the human fingertip can’t detect. This only serves to make them even better predators. The largest concentrations of these sensors appear to be around the mouth near the teeth. The same sensors that enable their deadly accuracy also serve the mothers as they gently assist their eggs in hatching as well as, carrying their young in their mouth without crushing them to death. Never let it be said that these fearsome creatures don’t have a softer and more sensitive side.

For more information, visit Vanderbilt University’s website.

Google Celebrates Bram Stoker’s 165th Birthday

Bram Stoker

Today, Google celebrates Bram Stoker with a doodle on his 165th birthday. Bram Stoker’s claim to fame is what many consider to be the first horror novel, Dracula. This imaginative and captivating novel introduced the world to the vampire, Count Dracula. Though vampire stories were nothing new, Dracula pretty much set the standard for the modern day vampire character. The story basically tells the story of Count Dracula’s intent to move from Transylvania to England. There is no telling how many sleepless nights and frightening nightmares have occurred as a result of reading Stoker’s great novel.

Oddly enough, Stoker wasn’t known as much as a writer in his day as was known for being an assistant to the Actor, Henry Irving, and for running the affairs of the Lyceum Theater which Irving owned. Through this association with Irving, Stoker quickly attained status as a member of London’s high society. He forged many friendships and ran the most successful theater of his day. He also traveled abroad, even visiting the United States. Another odd fact however, is that he never visited Eastern Europe during these travels which is the setting for his famous novel Dracula.

Stoker’s life is pretty interesting and inspirational. He was born in a small town near Dublin, Ireland called Clontarf. According to Wikipedia, he spent most of his early childhood bedridden. It wasn’t until he was seven years old that he made a complete recovery. No one is quite sure what illness he suffered from so long. It didn’t keep him down very long, however. He eventually became an athlete and did very well. Though he was most noted for the humanities, he actually graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from Trinity College in Dublin. He is the epitome of the well-rounded man. Take a moment today to go and click the Google doodle. Maybe you will learn something about this interesting man and his contributions to our world.