All posts by Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Miami Blue Butterfly Receives Federal Endangered Species Status

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have designated the Miami Blue Butterfly as an endangered species. The sad news was announced via a press release on April 5, 2012.

Miami Blue Butterfly

This small butterfly used to inhabit an area stretching from the Florida Keys up to Daytona. It isn’t a migratory butterfly like the Monarch, so it has pretty much been confined to these areas. Many human factors such as agriculture and development threaten the butterfly. Environmental factors such as climate change have threatened it as well.  It appears now that the population has shrunk so much that they are only found on a few remote islands in the Keys.

The U.S Fish & Wildlife Service press release states:

Under the ESA, it is illegal to kill, harm or otherwise “take” a listed species, or to possess, import, export, or engage in interstate or international commerce of a listed species without authorization in the form of a permit from the Service.

Hopefully through conservation efforts, more can be done to save these little butterflies and their habitat. Just as humans can be a threat, we can also be good stewards and do more to conscious of impact our choices make on the environment as a whole. If you would like to learn more about conservation efforts visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife website at http://www.fws.gov.

Never Forget a Delicious Moment with Evernote Food

One of my favorite apps is without a doubt one called “Evernote“.  There have been several articles about it on our site and for good reason. Evernote is like having your brain accessible on your smartphone, your tablet, or your computer. Now the makers of Evernote have produced a companion app called “Evernote Food“. It is designed to help you remember great dining experiences.

Evernote Food

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had a wonderful meal and later wished you had looked more closely at the ingredients? Maybe you’re like me and you traveled somewhere on a trip and had the most wonderful restaurant experience and later could have kicked yourself for not writing the name of the restaurant down. Evernote Food is a great way recollect such experiences.

Evernote Food was released about four months ago and at this time has only been released as an iPhone app. Recently, they added new features at the request of some of their users. The features they highlighted on their blog were as follows:

  • Meal Search – “so that you can quickly jump to that amazing brunch you had”
  • Location Search – “We’ve added the ability to search for restaurants and points of interest by city and name. So, no matter where you are now, you can find the location you were back then.”
  • Date Selection Screen – “set the date of a meal”
  • My Places – “create your own favorite locations”
Take a moment to check out their YouTube video so you can see it in action for yourself.
Unfortunately, this app is only available to iPhone users. Hopefully the Android version will roll out soon. If you are interested in learning more visit their website at http://www.evernote.com/food/.

[Review] CouponCodes4U Seeks to Be Your First Stop Before You Shop

With the recent global economic meltdown, many of us are looking for ways to stretch our dollars as far as possible. One popular method to do that is with coupons. Today coupons can come in many forms. You don’t have to be stuck carrying around a load of little clippings out of a newspaper nowadays. Grocery stores now allow you add digital coupons directly to you shopping cards. You can even get them on your Smartphone and show them to the cashier for a discount. Today I would like to show you another method of coupon and review a website that specializes in them. Coupon codes are quickly becoming a popular way to get discounts at many websites. CouponCodes4U.com is a website designed to make finding them a breeze.

Main Page
www.couponcodes4u.com Main Page

The first thing I noticed right away is there is a lot of information on this site. For scattered brained folks like me it is almost too much to look at. However, it is fairly simple to navigate. When you break it down it looks like they have designed it to give you multiple avenues to getting to their content. The main page is pictured above. You will notice that they have broken down different categories with tabs across the top of the page. They have a rotating graphic right below that featuring special deals and seasonal promotions. They also feature 3 columns of categories such as “The Top 50“, “The Expiring“, and “Exclusives“.

One of the first things I noticed was that there was a Facebook connect link at the top of the page. I clicked that and got the following dialog box pictured below.

Facebook Connect
Like their Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/couponcodes4u

They appear to keep their Facebook page pretty well updated with special promotions. I think this is a great idea as I would rather see things like this in my Facebook feed than jam up my inbox. However, there is an option to sign up for their mailing list if you prefer that method.

The next thing I tried was the “The Top 50” link at the top of their page. I was impressed with the sheer amount of stores and variety. There were many stores I hadn’t heard of. This has to bode well for the creators of CouponCodes4U.com as I am sure many stores would love new ways to get their name out there. Below, you can see a screenshot of their “The Top 50” section.

Top 50
Top 50 Page

I also noticed the section labeled  “Exclusives“. This is where I saw a lot of businesses that I hadn’t heard of. That wasn’t necessarily a negative thing in my book as I am always looking for new ideas. These coupons are pretty much what the category states, exclusive only to CouponCodes4U.com.

Exclusives

They also had a seasonal category with coupons centered around Easter. They had everything from clothing, to jewelry, to chocolate coupons.

Easter

Below each Coupon is a green arrow with instructions to “Click to get this code” written on them. When you click them it opens the website that the coupon corresponds with. I found this part to be slightly confusing. For example, I clicked a Macy’s coupon code. The Macy’s website opened up in front of the CouponCodes4U.com window. It wasn’t until I clicked back on the CouponCodes4U.com window that I noticed the coupon code was revealed. See the image below.

CouponNotice that once I navigated back to the CouponCodes4U.com website, the code “RELAX” was revealed. The way this works is when you select a product at Macy’s website, you will have the opportunity at checkout to enter a coupon code to receive a discount. So in this instance, the code “RELAX” should get me a 15% discount. You also have the chance at this point to give feedback regarding the coupon. Notice in the picture above that there is  a checkmark and an “X” in the lower left corner asking if the coupon worked. This helps the site keep things up to date as retailers can cancel coupons from time to time. You also have the ability to share these discount codes with friends.

In a nutshell CouponCodes4U.com appears to be a pretty thorough collection of online coupon codes. The design needs a little work in my opinion. For instance, there were a few broken images scattered throughout the site, but from what I can tell the coupon codes do work. I believe for those of us who use coupon codes that this site will make finding them a lot easier. It also doesn’t seem to be full of some of the annoyances that many other coupon sites have like loud pop up ads. I believe if you are a bargain shopper that this might be a great place to start.

Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored review, the views in this post are of the author and have not been endorsed by the sponsor.

Grim Outlook as Blackberry Maker RIM Gives Up on Consumer Market

Waterloo, Ontario based company Research In Motion announced its first quarterly loss since 2005 yesterday. This announcement comes shortly after the resignation of longtime Co-CEO and board member, Jim Balsillie.

Jim Balsillie
Jim Balsillie (Courtesy of Bloomberg News)

Below are the highlights from the quarterly report.

  • $2.1 billion in cash, cash equivalents, short-term and long-term investments at the end of the quarter, which increased by approximately $610 million in the quarter
  • Cash flow from operations of approximately $1.1 billion, up from approximately $900 million in Q3
  • Revenue of $4.2 billion, down 19% from the third quarter
  • GAAP net loss in Q4 of $125 million or $0.24 per share diluted; adjusted net income of $418 million or $0.80 per share diluted
  • BlackBerry smartphone shipments of 11.1 million in Q4, down 21% from Q3
  • RIM to discontinue providing specific quantitative guidance
  • RIM provides update on organizational changes

Current CEO, Thorsten Heins, is looking to change RIM’s focus as the company mounts up against continued pressure in the marketplace. Despite the grim report, Heins tries to put a positive spin in the report by saying, “I have assessed many aspects of RIM’s business during my first 10 weeks as CEO. I have confirmed that the Company has substantial strengths that can be further leveraged to improve our financial performance, including RIM’s global network infrastructure, a strong enterprise offering and a large and growing base of more than 77 million subscribers.”

It appears that Heins will be making organizational changes as it was announced the COO, Jim Rowan, and its CTO, David Yach, would be leaving. The company will also leverage its resources toward the corporate marketplace and steer away from the consumer market where it has lost ground against the likes of Apple and Google.

Heins definitely has his work cut out for him. The short term outlook for RIM does not look good as they have a stockpile of devices sitting stagnant on the shelves. They also are supposed to roll out a new line of Blackberry 10 in the near future. It remains to be seen what partnerships the pride of Canada can muster in its bid to recover. It may actually be a good investment in the long term but I wouldn’t bet the farm.

Discovery of 3.4 Million Year Old Partial Foot Proves “Lucy” Walked with Cousins

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History announced yesterday the discovery of a 3.4 million year old partial foot from the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region of Ethiopia. The discovery proves that there was more than one prehuman hominid that roamed the earth at the same time as the infamous “Lucy” or Australopithecus afarensis. Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, was the lead author and project leader of this magnificent expedition. His analysis will be published in the March 29th edition of the Journal Nature.

Fourth Metatarsal
Fourth Metatarsal from the Partial Foot (Courtesy of Cleveland Museum)

It appears that this particular hominid was a tree dweller judging from the big toe of the foot. While “Lucy’s” toes were pretty much aligned like modern humans, this species had an opposable big toe. This was definitely an unusual find. Co-author and project co-leader Dr. Bruce Latimer of Case Western Reserve University said, “These fossil elements represent bones we’ve never seen before. While the grasping big toe could move from side to side, there was no expansion on top of the joint that would allow for expanded range of movement required for pushing off the ground for upright walking. This individual would have likely had a somewhat awkward gait when on the ground.” Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie explains the find in the video embedded below.

(Video Link)

This discovery puts to rest the long standing thought that there was only one prehuman species that existed between 3 and 4 million years ago. Unfortunately, scientists cannot assign a species to this partial foot because an associated skull has yet to be found. Research in the area will continue in hopes that will find a matching skull.

For more information  about the Woranso-Mille Project, visit the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s website at http://www.cmnh.org/site/Index.aspx.

Study Shows More Girls Are Born in Adverse Times

Proverbs 17:17 says, “a brother is born for adversity”, but new research suggests that he won’t be born in adversity. Shige Song, a demographer and sociologist at Queens College of the City University of New York published a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B which found that during a great famine the ratio of boys being born took a sharp drop.

Baby Boy
Baby Boy - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Studies have shown that some animals alter the sex of their offspring during times of famine but, it has been hard to document that in humans. Song studied birth records of 300,000 Chinese women dating from 1929 to 1982. During the period dating from 1958 to 1961, Mao Zedong, political leader in China, unveiled the “Great Leap Forward” campaign. It was meant to be a means to bringing China from an agrarian society to an industrial society. It was an abysmal failure and created a famine that killed many Chinese people. About a year after the Great Leap Forward began the ratio of boys being born compared to girls took a sharp dive. In 1960 there were 109 boys being born for every 100 girls. By 1963 there were only 104 boys being born for every 100 girls. As famine conditions eased up so did the ratio of boys increase.

Song told Live Science that “investment on male children is a high-risk, high-return game, so you want to do it only if you are in very good situation”. Song compared the situation to non-dominant male lions living in a pride. In this scenario it is not  likely that non-dominant lions would be able to pass on their genes even once in their lifetimes. From an evolutionary standpoint, this lion was a bit of waste. “In good conditions, invest in sons; in poor conditions, invest in daughters,” he said. “The evolutionary argument goes that anybody who can do this survives, anybody who cannot, they go away”, Song stated.

There are still some considerations that need to made before this theory is widely accepted. Some skeptics point that  famine conditions might not be the only factor to consider here. There were a lot of physical and psychological stressors that may need to be considered as well.

James Cameron’s Amazing Journey to the Bottom of the Ocean

Award winning film director, James Cameron, took an incredible voyage to the deepest point on earth, the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep. Such a journey hasn’t been taken in 50 years when two men explored the trench for a period of 20 minutes. The dive was a joint effort between Cameron and National Geographic. Below is a brief video describing what Cameron saw and a glimpse of exciting things to come.

(Video Link)

Cameron took the journey in a torpedo shaped sub he helped design called the DeepSea Challenger. In it he descended to unimaginable depths nearly 7 miles deep. He hoped to see new life adapted to life in the deep. What he saw was more like a barren wasteland.  According to National Geographic Cameron said, “The impression to me was it’s very lunar, very isolated. I felt as if, in the space of one day, I’d gone to another planet and come back.”

Cameron hoped to explore the depths for six hours but unfortunately a hydraulic leak, which impeded his view from the sub’s window, cut the trip down to about two hours. The hydraulic leak prevented him from collecting any biological samples but he was able to get a partial sediment core sample. Scientists are hoping the partial samples might reveal some new life previously unknown to man.

Though the trip was cut short, Cameron seemed upbeat about the whole thing. He emphasized that the sub is a “prototype” and that there are things that need to be ironed out. He stated, “The important thing is that we have a vehicle that’s a robust platform—it gets us there safely, the lights work, the cameras work, and hopefully next time the hydraulics will work.”

It is fascinating to see to footage coming back from this trip even if it is a little lifeless. It just shows you how much more of our world there is left to explore. Cameron plans to make more dives in the coming weeks and hopefully will be able to capture 3-D footage from the ocean deep.

If you would like to read more about this expedition visit National Geographic’s website at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/03/120326-james-cameron-mariana-trench-challenger-deepest-lunar-sub-science/.

Record Breaking Hailstone Falls in Hawaii

This year has been record breaking in many ways across the U.S. We have seen record highs and destructive storms all across the fruited plain. Even the state of Hawaii hasn’t been immune to the freakish weather. Officials there were summoned on March 9th to investigate a claim of “super size” hail and it turned out to be a record breaker. The stone fell in Oahu. You can see the hailstone pictured below, with a ruler to give some perspective of its size.

Record Hailstone
Record Setting Hailstone - (Courtesy of NOAA)

“The final measurement of the hailstone was 4 1/4 inches long, 2 1/4 inches tall, and 2 inches wide,” said Michael Cantin, warning coordination meteorologist at NOAA’s National Weather Service in Honolulu. The previous record dated back to 1950 and was only an inch in diameter.

What makes this find particularly interesting is that typically Hawaii doesn’t have the type of weather needed to support the creation of such a large hailstone. For this type of hailstone to be made takes a specific type of thunderstorm called a supercell. Supercells are the very severe type of thunderstorms known to produce tornadoes. Conditions in Hawaii generally do not lend themselves to the creation of such storms. Warm and moist air must rise to meet cold drier air as well as, shifting winds which move the moist air high aloft. March 9th just happened to be one of those perfect days to produce such a storm.

If you would like to learn more about supercells and hailstorms, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations’s website at NOAA.gov.

 

 

Geek & Sundry Seeks to Captivate Geek Culture with Premium YouTube Channel

It looks like it may be a new haven for Geeks worldwide. Actress Felicia Day, along with the producers of the hit web series The Guild, have joined forces to create Geek and Sundry. This website will feature original content aimed at the “geek culture”. To quote their website they “will present the very best of indie geek culture with shows exploring comedy, gaming, comics, music and literature that are sure to captivate audiences every week.”

Geek and Sundry Page

The website will consist of 6 original series. They will be delivered via a premium YouTube channel. On the main page of the website, pictured above, there are links you can click to get a description of the original programming they will be delivering. It looks like it will be a very eclectic and entertaining mix of programs. One in particular that I am curious to see is called “Written by a Kid”. The premise is to take the horror stories of 5-10 year olds and make a movie short out of it. Below, you can see a trailer describing it better.

 

There really seems to be something for everyone on this website. Dark Horse comics will premiere a motion graphic comic starring some of their popular characters such as Hellboy,The Goon and The Umbrella Academy. Felicia Day will host her own video blog called “The Flog” which looks like will be great fun. There’s also a book club, and a show kind of like “Celebrity Poker” called “TableTop”.

For more information, check out Geek and Sundry’s website at www.geekandsundry.com.

IBM Researchers Make Quantum Computing a Reality

IBM announced in a press release yesterday, that they have made  “major advances in quantum computing device performance that may accelerate the realization of a practical, full-scale quantum computer.” Such a computer would run circles around any supercomputer in existence today.

IBM made their presentation at the March meeting of the American Physical Society. Quantum computing has been a dream scientists have been chasing for years. The problem is that when you hear the word “quantum” you’re dealing with atomic and subatomic particles. These particles have a tendency to be unstable. IBM researchers have made huge strides in getting these tiny particles to stabilize. The practical applications for quantum computing are seemingly endless. The reason is because quantum bits can be made to exist in several states at once where traditional bits used in today’s computers have basically two states, on and off. These multiple states will give computers the ability to compute millions of simultaneous computations. Check out the video below to see the concept explained by IBM researchers.

The exciting thing about this announcement from IBM is that the quantum computer is not as far away as we once thought. What was once thought to be 50 years off is now possibly 10 – 15 years away. Having this kind of computing power will help us with predicting weather, unlocking mysteries of the human genome, and even help secure computers with massive encryption. It’s like the future is now!