Monthly Archives: July 2011

Deathly Hallows Part 2 Hits $1 Billion Worldwide

Yesterday, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 become the top grossing Harry Potter film and is well on its way at breaking other records as well.  Death Hallows 2 already had a record opening weekend in the US, but with the release of the film in other countries, including China, a week away, the number is only going to climb.  Will Death Hallows 2 break Avatar’s record for highest grossing film of all time?

It seems appropriate that this happened the day before J. K. Rowling’s (and Harry Potter’s) birthday!


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Mac OS X Lion Review

I decided to push my review of Lion back a week so it could be post number 100!  So, here it is….POST 100:

Apple released Lion on July 20 through the Mac App Store for a reasonable $29.99.  There are some who have complained about the lack of a disc option, but Apple is planning to release USB flash drives with Lion for $69.  Clearly it is cheaper to purchase the OS through the App Store, but not everyone has high speed internet and the file was a hefty 3.75GB.  That being said, the download is worth the wait as Lion’s features are a more noticeable transition from Snow Leopard then the Leopard to Snow Leopard upgrade in 2009.  Where Snow Leopard was a rewrite of the OS, Lion focuses more on end user features.  Apple has publicized this as iOS meets Mac OS X, but has it worked?  Lets find out.

Multi-Touch Gestures

Many people are probably wondering why this is such a big deal.  Apple already used Multi-touch with the Mac, but the experience has been taken to the next level.  Users using a MacBook or iMac with a Trackpad will find multi-touch very useful.  From swiping between desktops/full screen apps, pinch to zoom, short cuts, the user experience has been greatly improved with these simple gestures.  While there are many gestures available, users can customize gestures and can even view short demos in System Preferences>TrackPad.  The one annoying change Apple made is scrolling.  You can still use two figures, but it is the opposite of what we are used to.  They claim it is more natural, but I hate it.  Luckily, this can also be disabled in System Preferences.

Full Screen Apps

This is one of the simplest features of Lion, but also very useful for power users and those using 11″ or 13″ MacBooks.  All of Apple’s built in Apps have a new button at the top right corner of the screen to open the app in full screen mode.  When an App is place in full screen, its enters its own space.  Using a simple 3-finger swipe, the user can swipe between all open full screen apps and desktops.  This makes switching between Safari, Mail, and iTunes (the apps I use most) very quick.  What has amazed me is how fluid the system switches between apps.

Mission Control

Before Mission Control there was Expose and Spaces.  Mission Control combines these features along with Full Screen Apps to give users quick access to all open programs on their machine.  Again, a multi-touch gesture can be assigned to access Mission Control or by pushing F3 on the keyboard.  No only does this show all open apps, but you can add more desktops and arrange the apps between these desktops, much like Spaces.  What is annoying, however, is that I cannot rearrange full screen apps.  They are arranged in the order you opened them or the system will also order them by the number of times you use the app, but you cannot drag them around.  I hope this will be a change Apple will make in one of its early updates to Lion because I want to order the apps by my priorities.


Launchpad is the most obvious carryover from iOS.  The iPad/iPhone like layout allows users to organize apps and place them into folders.  Again, this is accessible using multi-touch gestures, but I find the whole idea to be pointless.  What is wrong with the Dock?  Most users will probably skip this option….I know I have.


Resume is one of the most clever and useful of the changes in Lion.  It is probably one of the most simple as well.  How many times has your computer asked you to restart after an update and you skipped it because you were working in an app?  Of course, if you had restarted you would have lost where you were.  That is no longer the case with Lion.  Resume does two very important things.  First, it remembers where you were and what you were doing in an app.  If you were writing a paper in Word and quit, when you come back later, Lion will take you back to where you left off.  It will even remember your preferred screen size and layout.  The second thing feature of Resume comes when you are asked to restart or simply shutdown the computer at the end of the day.  When you turn the computer back on, all apps that were running when you shutdown are reopened and brought back to where you left them.  Both Apple and Microsoft had a feature where you could assign apps to open when you started the computer, but they would always default to the opening screen.  Resume carries out these two functions very well and it can do them both at the same time!  This feature is built into Lion and will work with any app, including third party apps.

Auto Save

Another simple and very useful tool in Lion is Auto Save.  After the initial save, you never have to tell the system to save the document again.  There are several new options you have with this feature.  The most useful of which is quickly duplicating the document.  This allows the user to save a locked version to use as a template.  You can also lock the document when you are finished with it and no longer wish to make changes. All these options are found in a new menu located at the top of the window next to the document’s title.  For now, Auto Save only works with Apple’s iWork and Text Edit document editors.  Third party developers need to be sure they take advantage of this feature.


Along with Auto Save comes Versions.  As the system auto saves, it also keeps a log of the changes made to the document.  If the user needs to pull a previous version of the document out, they get a simple, Time Machine like, interface that allows them to restore any version of the document.  As with Auto Save, this only works with iWork and Text Edit for now.  Microsoft says their next update to Office will take advantage of these features.


One of the apps that received a major overhaul was mail.  Not only can it be viewed in full screen mode, but it is now more iOS like with threaded messages and a more convenient reading pane.  Those familiar with Apple’s mail service will be comfortable with the button layout at the top of the screen, but with the messages on the left and the optional folder bar to the left of the messages, the new mail is even more user friendly.  It also is great for managing multiple email accounts.

Air Drop

Air Drop is a great new features for businesses using Macs or for a household with multiple Macs.  Air Drop allows users to quickly and securely share files between computers.  Air Drop is locoed in the new Finder and will search for all Macs on the local WiFi network.  You can then drag-and-drop files between Macs.

Other new Features

Many of the favorite apps from Snow Leopard remain and work better than ever.  The Finder has been updates and Spotlight search is now more inclusive.  Safari has a built in Reader option to save articles from websites and takes advantage of multi-touch gestures with pinch-to-zoom and two figure swipes to go back and forth between sites.  Dashboard has been placed in its own space to the left of the desktop in Mission Control.


After using Lion for nearly two weeks, I have found very few bugs.  The release is remarkable stable.  It is obvious Apple has worked hard to bring all these new features to Mac OS X, but what is most surprising is how well they work together.  Individually, they are impressive features, but what is important for any OS is how all the features work together, and that is where Apple has always succeeded.  Apple has proven yet again that when an Operating System and the hardware are designed by the same people, they work together seamlessly.  Lion has already sold well over 1,000,000 copies and is truly the greatest release of Mac OS X yet, and at $29.99, Lion is a no brainer.

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Vote for Cunningham Park in Joplin!

Coca-Cola’s Live Positively program is currently giving away grants to parks around the country.  There are many parks in the running, but only the top three get grants.  First place gets $100,000, second place gets $50,000 and third places receives $25,000.  One of the parks destroyed by the Joplin tornado, Cunningham Park, is in the running.  As of July 29, the park sits third in votes!  While $25,000 would go a long way, this would be a big boost to the people of Joplin.  Please click the link below and vote for Cunningham Park in Joplin, MO.


Cunningham Park following the May 22 tornado

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Joplin Update

It has been two months since an E-F5 tornado destroyed approximately 30% of the city of Joplin, Missouri.  In the last month, the death toll has, sadly, risen to 160 as one more victim died in an area hospital.  The city of Joplin took a major step forward in the rebuilding process this week, however, when the city announced it was going to begin issuing building permits.  After the tornado, the issuance of building permits was put on hold for private property in many residential areas until the cleanup efforts reached a substantial phase.  The Joplin Globe reported this week that 80% of the debris has now been removed.  This is due to the extraordinary efforts of the Corps of Engineers and thousands of volunteers who have put in countless hours over the past two months.  There are still a few issues to be worked out, the most pressing at the moment being how to handle the upcoming school year since several of the elementary schools and high school were destroyed.

Friends and family have told me that the transformation in Joplin over the past two months has been unbelievable.  As the rebuilding process moves forward, the citizens continue to work together.  Joplin is well on its way to recovery.


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The End of the Space Shuttle Era

Last week marked the end of the historic Space Shuttle era of exploration.  Over the past 30 years, the Space Shuttle is responsible for the launch of countless space probes and satellites that have broadened our knowledge of the Universes.  Many of these probes and satellites are functional today and are providing NASA with massive databanks of information.  It is hard to believe that the program was ended, but its accomplishments have been extraordinary.

Before we recognize the accomplishments of the program, we must honor those lost as a result of it.  The crew of Space Shuttle Challenger were lost January 28, 1986 when the shuttle exploded 76 seconds after takeoff.  The crew consisted of: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.  Following the Challenger disaster, the Space Shuttle program was put on hold to investigate the disaster and ensure the shuttles were safe for future missions.

The crew of Challenger

The second incident occurred February 1, 2003 when Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed on reentry due to damage to heat resistant tiles during the shuttle’s launch.  The crew consisted of: Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, and Laurel Clark.  Again, NASA halted the program to ensure the shuttles were safe.  Many believe this led to the end of the Space Shuttle program.  Many felt the shuttles were beginning to show their age and the funds necessary to revamp the shuttles was not available.

The Crew of Columbia

The Space Shuttle program was successful in many other aspects of space exploration.  Here are some facts and figures from the past 31 years:

-System length: 184.2 ft

-Orbiter length: 122.17 ft.

-External Tank length: 153.8 ft.

-Solid Rocket Boosters length: 149.16 ft.

-System height: 76.6 ft.

-Orbiter height: 56.58 ft

-Orbiter wingspan: 78.06 ft.

-Gross take-off weight: 4.5 million lbs.

-SRBs(2): 3,300,000 lbs. Thrust each in vacuum

-Main Engines (3): 393,800 lbs. Thrust each at sea level at 104 percent

-Cargo bay: 60 ft. long, 15 ft. diameter

-Enterprise – NEVER FLOWN

-Columbia – 28 missions, first launched: Apr 12, 1981

-Challenger – 10 missions, first launched: Apr 04, 1983

-Discovery – 39 missions, first launched: Aug 30, 1984

-Atlantis – 32 missions, first launched: Oct 03, 1985

-Endeavour – 25 missions, first launched: May 07, 1992

There are simply too many accomplishments to list!  From the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope to the countless missions to the International Space Station, the Space Shuttles have been at the cutting edge of space eduction.  There are still missions within NASA to get exited about, such as New Horizons mission to Pluto, but there will be a big gap without the occasional launch of a space shuttle.  We will be able to enjoy these marvels of technology, however.  NASA announced that each Space Shuttle would be sent to a new home in its retirement.  The shuttles will be sent to:

-Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida

-Endeavour: the California Science Center in Los Angeles

-Discovery: the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia

-Enterprise: the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York (moved from its current location at the Smithsonian)

The Space Shuttles will likely not be moved until 2012, but it will be exiting to see them in person.  The launch of a Space Shuttle is one of the most awesome spectacles that I have ever witnessed (never in person, unfortunately), so I leave you with an image of a rare, but spectacular, night launch.

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Filed under History, Space

The Retirement of Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis reentering the atmosphere yesterday morning.

Yesterday the Space Shuttle Atlantis landed, returning from its final mission into space. This marks the final flight for NASA’s Space shuttle program.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launched for its final time July 8, 2011. It returned to Earth yesterday and will retire at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. The Atlantis had an illustrious career. Here are some interesting facts about Atlantis:

-Construction began on March 30, 1980

-Atlantis was nearly 3.5 tons lighter than Columbia

-made 33 flights into space

-first Space Shuttle to dock with the Russian’s MIR

-Deployed the Magellan probe bound for Venus in 1989

-Deployed the Galileo interplanetary probe bound for Jupiter in 1989

-Deployed the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in 1991

-flew the final servicing mission the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009

-Michael Massimino became the first person to use Twitter in space in May 2009 aboard Atlantis

Atlantis will be missed by me and many other space aficionados, as will the entire Space Shuttle program. I leave you with a picture from Atlantis’ final launch, the last Space Shuttle launch ever, from July 8.

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Filed under History, Space

One year ago today…

It was one year ago today that I began this blog.  The intent of the blog was to keep friends and family updated and informed about my move to Virginia from Missouri to begin graduate school.  Since then, however, it has become much more.  I began to expand the types of posts in September and since then the blog has really taken off.  Posting on a wide variety of topics, I have been averaging over 20 hits per day, and in the last year, the blog has been viewed more than 4,000 times!  The diverse topics have expanded from being about the classes I am taking, to sports, technology, and, my favoirte, the preservation of the SS United States.  I can honestly say that I have grown as a person over the past year and this blog reflects that.  I enjoy writing this blog and look forward to what the next year brings!


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