January 2010 Archives

January 27, 2010

The iPad: First Impressions: REVISED

This has been a very long time in coming.  For the past 3 years it has been rumored that Apple will revive the MessagePad, and this time base it off of the iPhone multitouch technology.  It was rumored to be called the iPod Slate, iSlate, iPad, and various other references.  Lots of suggestions and comments were made, wishlists were created, including my own.  Now that I have seen Apple's presentation that was made today about the iPad, I want to go over my list:

  1. Reasonable Price:  This was number one, and I think Apple hit it on the head.  At $499 for a 16GB WiFi only device, it's killer.  It's $130 more for a 3G enabled device, which has unlimited use on AT&T for $29.99.  If AT&T would let VoIP work on it, I could replace my cell phone for something far more valuable to me.  Yes, I'd say it's a good price.  ^_^
  2. Multiple Apps At Once:  This one wasn't even touched on, so it most likely didn't happen.  That's a shame, because a lot of education buyers will want a book that would keep their place while they switch to their document, and then switch back.  No smile for this one.
  3. iWork:  Woohoo!  The interface looks killer, and the programs are priced well.  You can get any one of the three iWork apps for $9.99, so it's a total $30 for the whole suite.  And it's a full suite, not a watered-down version.  That's killer.  ^_^
  4. Voice To Text:  We will have to see if the Dragon Naturally Speaking app will work for this.  With a built in microphone, it should, or at least with a microphone jack, so I'm giving it a smile until proven otherwise.  ^_^
  5. Bluetooth:  This one I'm not going to assume works, though I really hope it does.  Bluetooth is built into it, but there is no indication that one can tether anything to it, nor any mention of a bluetooth keyboard option.  Instead, there is a dock with a keyboard.  Well, we will see. It's been confirmed by PC World that a Bluetooth keyboard can be tethered. That's a great step in the right direction. ^_^
  6. Open 3G/4G:  Yes!  It's immediately open using a GSM microSIM card, and is unlocked!  Anyone can use any service they would like, if they get the 3G model, as long as the service is compatible.  I would say that this is a very good thing, because while I don't have any personal problems with AT&T, I don't want to be a slave to any one price structure.  Though, at $30.00 a month for unlimited use, it's a hard price to compete with.  ^_^
  7. Display Port:  There isn't a display port, but it's claimed you can hook it up to a projector.  My guess is, it's through one of the docks that was presented, though The coverage I read didn't specify that.  I'll have to verify that to be sure, and find out how much the docks will cost.  Also, will the keyboard dock work on an iPod Touch? The display dock is $29, and the keyboard dock is $69. I think those are pretty reasonable prices.
  8. Access To Stored Files:  The assumption is that iWork files are accessible, and could be shared with versions of iWork on the Mac.  That's what the presentation said, but didn't explain how.  Is it synced?  Do you have access to your stored files?  I don't know, and until I do, I'm going to keep this one with no smile. It's Smile Time! It's confirmed that there will be a central, mountable file store that even third party apps will be able to access. ^_^
  9. Full iTunes:  I don't think we have a full iTunes, though it almost looks like it.  I wonder how it will compare.
  10. Video Conferencing:  That's a big, fat, no.  Pity.
  11. FM Radio:  With 3G this wouldn't be too big a deal, but it still would have been nice.
  12. GarageBand for Podcasting:  I guess I'll just have to look for an App for that.
  13. Battery Life:  I didn't have my hopes up for this one, but boy was I floored with a whopping 10 hours of battery life!  I figure it will be a full day's usage, which is at least twice more than I get from my iPod Touch.  ^_^
  14. iBooks:  This one has me intriqued...  Will it be a part of iTunes?  Or will it be another application entirely that I can get for free from Apple and use on my Mac as well as on the iPad?  I'd like to be able to add any ePub books I already have into the iBooks reader.  If I can't, then I think I'll stick with Stanza as my default reader, which should look killer on the iPad.  ^_^

So, those are my takes on what was presented.  A lot of it comes from my focus on what I wanted.  Gaming looks awesome, but I'm not a big gamer anymore.  But the thing is, this device is so cool and powerful, I could easily imagine a version of World of Warcraft coming specifically for the iPad.  That would be cool.  But the best thing that came from this device is easily the price.  It's priced right there with a Netbook, and does just about everything I would want from a mobile computing environment.

What's even more exciting is the possibilities made available for the Autism community.  Here is a device, much like an AAC device, and yet it's not in the $10,000 range.  Therefore it's possible to use the already killer AAC software available on the iPod Touch on the iPad, and have it be more functional.  That, to me, is a huge benefit that will probably never get mentioned.

January 21, 2010

OSR#1, Chelation, Supplements, And the FDA

On the 17th, the Chicago Tribune posted an article on OSR#1, a "supplement" that is supposed to help autistic children.  Many have claimed it works, and give the compound to their children regularly.  The maker, Boyd Haley, claims that he takes it every day with no side effects, and has been actively marketing it as a method to cure autism. 

The Tribune queried carefully into the supplement, and found the compound was originally developed as an industrial chelation compound, which separates heavy metals.  It was used in the mining industry, and is now being marketed to our little children as, essentially, a vitamin. 

Haley has made claims of safe testing on rats and 10 people, but has failed to produce the studies to prove these tests, either to the Tribune or, interestingly enough, the FDA, which would require such information for the supplement to be sold. 

Now, for those who follow my posts, you know I have a theory of autism that does NOT center around vaccinations, mercury, or heavy metal poisoning.  So chelation in general, being a very risky and dangerous procedure to begin with, is a huge red flag for me.  The second red flag is that the FDA has NO SAFETY INFORMATION FOR THIS SUPPLEMENT!  This just screams scam, snake oil, and even criminal action.  To market a potentially lethal compound to children, CHILDREN, purely for profit warrants at least a good tar and feathering. 

So why am I so enraged by this treatment?  Because the science in the study of Autism has already disproved any claims of mercury as the cause of Autism.  Instead, 22 genes have been identified with Autism behavior.  Autism, true Autism, is genetic, not caused by evil conspiracies within big business to poison our children, and covered up by Governments in all countries for the benefit of these businesses.  That's just absurd to even suggest it. 

Can the results claimed by parents in anecdotal situations be explained then?  Sure!  It's called the Placebo effect.  I'm sure if you gave these same parents sugar pills, told them they are OSR#1, they would see the same "improvements".  Until true clinical trials can be offered in the success of any drug for autism, I reserve the right to tell everyone and anyone to avoid it at all costs.  Don't be taken by snake oil salesmen. 

Oh, and Mr. Haley, shame on you.

January 15, 2010

Book Review: The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry

First off, I want to point out that I like mysteries, and ancient mysteries are great. There are few organizations in history that have taken the imagination of the world like the Templars, a 200 year old fighting brotherhood that rose quickly, and declined almost as fast. Fascinated with where the story would go, I kept reading.

The writing was great in a lot of areas, but a little, um, forced in others. jumps in logic needed to be made, and sometimes obvious decisions were ho-hummed by the characters for so long it became tedious. There were also some inconsistencies in the way the characters were thinking. Some characters even started to blend in together, and when not specifically identified, were difficult to tell apart. Also, the standard epic formula was pretty transparent, though I admit I look for it in every book I read.

And then the religious agenda was thrown in, questioning the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. Regardless of your personal beliefs, attacking a religion isn't good form in my book. This was a personal aversion to the obvious bias of the author, and not a reflection of the literary abilities of the author.

But the good parts of the book were fabulous! I loved the historical references, the focus on the past and the future. And the knowledge that each location in some form or another exists today was great. The author clearly did his research. This book kept my attention about 2/3rds of the time, if not one hundred percent of the time.

January 13, 2010

Apple Tablet or iPod Slate Rumors

With Apple's planned presentation January 27th, there is a lot of speculation about the rumored iPod Slate, the tablet PC that has been highly anticipated for years (at least 3 from when I started blogging about wanting one).  The "details" are trickling in with everyone throwing their expectations and prognostications out there.  Well, I've posted a lot on my end on what I would want in such a device.  So now, in the 11th hour, let me review with some minor changes what I would want out of this iPod Slate tablet.

Must Have's

  1. Reasonable Price:  This often is lost on a lot of people.  The thing needs to be reasonably priced for what I get out of it.  If it's nothing more than just a glorified iPod Touch, I'll keep my touch, thank you very much.  Also, if it's priced well within a laptop range, i.e. $700+, then I would even think about getting a laptop instead of the tablet.  It needs to be priced well for the range, about $500 to $600 would be reasonable, in my mind.  I would prefer less, but I could live with something about that price.
  2. Multiple Apps At Once:  I haven't posted about this before, but I would like to see more than one app at a time run on the device.  For instance, I would love to have, say, Skype run in the background while I surf the web or open a document or email relevant to the discussion.  I'd also like to have chat windows open while working on a document.  Make the thing a great mobile device for work, and I'm happy. 
  3. iWork or MS Office:  Not sure if MS Office will be likely given their current legal issues, but a version of iWork would be great.  I'm not talking about something for hardcore development, but something that will allow for quick edits and a presentation. 
  4. Voice To Text:  I realize that this is available through the new Dragon Naturally Speaking app for the iPhone, but it's not there for the iPod Touch, so I want it understood that I would want this on the Tablet.  I don't want it as the only option for text entry on the tablet, but it would be a convenient method for those on the go trying to write a book without actually having to sit and type. 
  5. Bluetooth:  Yes, both the iPod Touch and the iPhone have Bluetooth, but they are horribly scaled back.  Open it up!  Let me sync my Voyager Bluetooth headset with it, and a Bluetooth keyboard while I'm at it.  Don't restrict the Bluetooth on the device, other than turning off discoverability by default. 
  6. Open 3G/4G:  I don't like being bound to any one company when I make that big of a purchase.  If I'm going to have something that will use a cellular network, I want to decide which network and which plan.  This isn't anything necessarily against AT&T or any other network, I just want to be able to shop around.  Of course, this means a lot of different issues that Apple may not want to get into, at which time I would say give me the option of not needing a network.  That alone would make me happy. 
  7. Display Port:  I need a way to attach the thing to a projector.  While there are a number of projectors that use the standard iPod jack, I'd prefer to have something less restrictive.  A display port would make that easy.  After all, this is a device I intend to use in class for presentations.
  8. Access To Stored Files:  Right now on the iPhone and iPod Touch, apps keep their individual files within the App itself.  If iWork and a number of other apps are to be of any real use, they need to start sharing files.  Even if it's just a single Documents folder or Home folder, that would be fine.  Something that the Dropbox app and similar apps would be able to utilize for quick file syncing through an Internet connection.

Now for the "Nice To Have's"

  1. Full iTunes:  I would love to have a full version of iTunes, letting me make playlists while out and about, delete songs, etc. without needing to sync with a computer again.
  2. Video Conferencing:  This would be cool, if for nothing else than to have a truly portable video calling device.  It was rumored, but others have said that the rumor was just that.  We'll see.
  3. FM Radio:  There is an FM radio receiver in the iPod Touch, which could easily be activated with software support from Apple.  I'd like that enabled with the Tablet.
  4. GarageBand for Podcasting:  The tablet would be a killer way to perform mobile podcasting, making it easy to record your audio (and video, if there is a camera), do some quick edits, and upload it while on the road. 

So, that's about it for the tablet.  What else would I like to see come from the presentation?  There's a whole host of things that I would like to see, though most are not likely to be coming. 

  1. FM Radio for iPod Touch:  Just turn it on already!  I want to listen to NPR while on my way to work.  I'm getting a lot of reading done, and I do some writing, but that early in the morning, I'd like to listen to some news rather than my neighbor's family issues being discussed loudly on their cell phone. 
  2. Open Bluetooth for iPod Touch:  Open the Bluetooth to allow me to connect my headset to my iPod Touch, with microphone!  It's a pretty easy thing to do.  Also, enable Bluetooth microphones for the iPod Touch.
  3. Open Network iPhone:  An open iPhone would be nice to have, one that could go to the network of my choice. 
  4. Playlists for Videos on Apple TV:  Most likely not going to happen (if at all) until October and the Christmas season, it's still something I've wanted for a long time.  Please, make it possible to play a playlist of TV shows and Movies.
  5. Games on Apple TV:  Allow gaming on the Apple TV.  Do you want to increase sales?  Have console gaming built into the Apple TV.  It's a simple concept, and one that could even tie into some of the apps available for the iPod Touch. 

So that's it for my list.  Apple, I hope you are listening.  Some of these things I am willing to wait on, but others are critical.  I've already resolved to wait and see what the price tag would be before I decide on buying a tablet.  Just be warned, if it's the same price as a Netbook and a Kindle combined, I'll probably keep my iPod Touch and get a Netbook (thank you free Kindle app for iPhone).

January 11, 2010

Croquembouche: My Attempt and Observations

Because my birthday was not too far away, and because I was sick for it, I thought I would make a birthday cake that was a little unique.  My friend Joseph told me about his desire to make a croquembouche, and so I thought I would give it a try as well.  After all, what can be so difficult about caramel and cream puffs?  Right?

The Croquembouche is a French cake, used for weddings and other special occasions.  It's made of cream puffs (or similar pastries), and generally glued together with caramel in a conical shape.  There have been other interpretations, but this is the one I have found to be the most common.  Therefore, it shouldn't be that difficult to make and put together.

First off, I cheated with the cream puffs.  I have made them in the past, and I don't mind making them, but I didn't have the time to dedicate to making them.  Instead, I purchased them from Costco at $11 for 110 miniature cream puffs.  So that means all I had to do was make the caramel and then start sticking them together. 

The caramel was simple, being just 2 1/2 cups of sugar with 2/3 of a cup of water, boiled until a very light, golden brown.  Once done, I pulled it off the stove, and started dipping and sticking.  Simple, easy, and I sneaked a couple of cream puffs while I did it. 

One thing I did learn very quickly was to be very careful with the caramel.  It's HOT!  I burned two fingertips in the process.  The cone was not perfect, but then I was a bit distracted while I was putting it together.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.  But it did end up looking pretty good with the thin slivers of caramel I had decorating the sides. 

Then, after it cooled and we had dinner, I gave it a try.  The cream puffs were great, but the caramel made it way too sweet.  I wasn't too happy with the results, and so I may think about using another adhesive, like chocolate, on the next one I attempt.  Who says French cooking has to be difficult?  ^_^

January 5, 2010

Color as a Therapeutic Intervention for Autism: Study

The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Vol. 39, Iss. 5, P. 815-818) published an interesting article on the use of colored lenses and colored films to help an Autistic child with color and light sensitivity excel in reading and study.  The article outlined the work of one student, aged 10, who had trouble with bright lights, artificial lights, and other visual sensory issues.  His symptoms were severe in that he would have regular burn-out sessions every few months when he would sleep for days, and awake with a fever. 

Working with a psychiatrist, an educational psychologist, and a pediatrician, the parents helped their child by first using a filter of blue which instantly improved his reading skills, and then eventually giving him blue colored glasses.  his behavior improved, and his ability to concentrate increased.  Reading comprehension and speed increased significantly. 

The best thing about this article is the last paragraph, which states that this isn't a cure for Autism, nor is it ideal for everyone.  It was just found that this one patient, and two others, were able to better perform using the filters than without.  Therefore, before you spend the money on colored classes for your autistic child, have him tested with a psychiatrist and/or psychologist for a scientific approach for color filter treatment.  Perhaps this will help those with visual sensory over stimulation.  Anyway, it was a good article. 

January 1, 2010

Autism "Clusters" Found In Higher Educated Areas

The other day I was talking with the director of another department at the University about autism and people we know who are autistic or have autistic children.  She mentioned that her friends had an autistic child that had all the hallmark signs of autism with anti-social behavior and highly developed, focused attention and interests.  She quickly made the connection between the behavior of her friends and their child.  Her first suggestion was that the child was obviously much like them, being highly educated, focused, and being somewhat introverted.

Well, just recently, UC Davis has reported that Autism in the State of California has tended to cluster around the higher educated areas of the State where the higher educated tend to live, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, along with a number of other news sources.  What's interesting is the correspondence of these higher educated areas with those of Universities.  For instance, the cluster in San Diego is around UCSD (which, fascinatingly enough, I had intended at one time to attend for my Ph.D studies).

So does this mean that intelligent people will naturally have autistic children?  Not necessarily, for that would mean that intelligence is genetic, which is a claim I am in no position to make.  It would also suggest that autism is a natural extension of intelligence, which is another claim that I am not prepared to make.  But on the whole, it generally means that autism tends to cluster together in some way, and seems to have some correlation to higher educated societies and communities.  This is an interesting social study that I'm sure will be fascinating for general data, though not really useful in the education, development, or treatment of autistic children.

Still, like your average trivia, it's an interesting fact to know, even though it's as useful as knowing the first recorded recipe for hamburgers was Roman, or the first steam engine was invented by the ancient Greeks.  Interesting to know, not very applicable to the current situation.

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