Category: Reading


2022 Week 37 – Phone Phreaking

Last week I stumbled upon an old article on Altas Obscura, initially published in 2018, that brought back some fond memories. What if I told you that once upon a time (the late 60’s), you could take a cheap plastic whistle that you dug out of a box of Captain Crunch and blow it into a mouthpiece telephone to call any place in the world for FREE? The 2600hz tone the whistle produced was the same tone used by phone carriers to signal an open line on their once analog phone systems. Once you had an open line, you could dial any number you wanted free of charge.

Cap’n Crunch Bo’sun Whistle

Phone Phreaking “hobbyists” created a little “blue box” that reproduced the same tone, and the world would never be the same. A story about blue boxes was published in Esquire in 1971, and after reading, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (yes, the boys from Apple) were all over it, creating a business selling such a device. See, kids, we DID know how to have a good time before the Internet!

Blue Box

I was a little late to the phone Phreaking party, but I remember reading about it as a kid and “playing” around with phone lines using my Apple IIc computer in the 80s, and tiring known hacks on random pay phones I would come across. Since I’m unsure of the statute of limitations for such questionable activities, I’m just going to leave it at that.

2600 Magazine Winter 2017-2018

Years later, I discovered the infamous 2600 Magazine, launched in 1984 and still in publication today, and I got the bug again. For some unknown reason, I used to have the quarterly issues of 2600 delivered to my office vs. my home (poor attempt at privacy, I guess?), but I do remember expensing an annual subscription for “research” while I did a stint as a programmer in the early 2000’s. Inside each issue were stories of hackers doing some crazy things, like taking over the intercom system at K-Mart to accessing the terminals at Best Buy to get discount codes. The back cover was one of my favorite things about the 2600 magazine. It featured a picture of a working payphone from some random place around the world, something rarely seen in the United States these days.


Speaking of phones, Apple Insider just released a report titled “A secret tool lets police conduct mass surveillance using app data,” and it’s a little unnerving that data sold by Fog Data Science LLC to target ads based on a person’s location and interests is being accessed without a warrant.

Even if there is no crime scene, Fog boasts in marketing materials that it can offer police “predictive analytics” that claim to predict future hotspots of crime. The company says that it can provide real-time data on the daily movements of people with their trackable smartphones.

Apple Insider

This is another reason to audit your phone settings and adjust your security regularly.


And finally… If you use Emoji’s, you might have wondered how popular the one you’re about to send is. Well, wonder no more with this real-time Emoji tracker that shows the real-time emoji use on Twitter. Warning: a LOT is going on, and it might overwhelm those subject to issues with flashing things.

2022 Week 35 – Indy Today

Back in October of 2021, I reviewed the new iPad Pro. I’ve had just about every iPad version throughout the years but never went the Pro route. I didn’t know what I was missing. I’m happy to report it’s still used daily, and it’s been the best iPad I’ve ever owned. The Apple keyboard case I purchased with it is super portable and makes it like a mini laptop (although I always forget it has a trackpad on it). In fact, I find myself using it just about exclusively on weekends and after work. I’ve written countless blog posts for this site using just the iPad tethered to my iPhone as a Hot Spot. The battery life is amazing, so I’m never looking for an outlet, even after hours of watching videos or reading. I hardly use the Apple Pencil at all, so that purchase is something I could have skipped. I should have learned my lesson from the previous iPad with the first generation Apple Pencil that never got used.


IndyToday Logo

A coworker of mine forwarded an article from Indy Today, and I had to subscribe after checking out their webpage. It’s written by locals for locals and contains all kinds of news and information about upcoming events in the area, as well as foodie news. Check it out!


Since 1881 people have been making a ton of royalty money off of Listerine. The Hustle had a very interesting article detailing the over 100-year-old contract that still pays people, and organizations, today.


And finally… This video from over a year ago shows the Royal Marines using an actual JET SUIT to move from an inflatable Zodiac to a Ship. It looked a little dodgy (to use a British term), but he made it. I think the Civilian version of this is still a ways off…

2022 Week 32 – Beta Fun

white and pink gasoline station near ocean

Although I’m no longer employed in tech, I’m still a tinkerer. So when the latest Beta versions of the next Apple operating system became available to the public, I was already in line & ready to download. Furthermore, since my Mac is no longer my work machine (I moved to Windows 11 on a smoking fast HP Z-Book in June), I can play around with the beta software and not be too impacted if I encounter a bug or two.

This was the case this morning when I encountered an issue when I pressed the Alt-Tab key to switch to another app. It just didn’t work. I was scratching my head & immediately thought something was wrong with my new MX Keys keyboard. After some troubleshooting, I realized I had a 3rd party app that makes the Alt-Tab command on the Mac work better (it shows minimized windows). Unfortunately, it was crashing with the latest macOS beta. After a brief search on Reddit, I discovered I wasn’t alone. After I disabled the app, all was well again in the Alt-Tab world (but I was missing the features the utility provided).

Such is life when you test Beta software. You’ll encounter little bugs along the way, but you also get to see some of the latest and greatest features before the general public. You also need the patience to work on figuring out issues as they pop up.


If you’ve put fuel in your vehicle this summer, you might disagree with the following article, but in the big scheme of things, the U.S. has some inexpensive gasoline prices compared with the rest of the world. Nowhere as cheap as $0.20 a gallon in Iran but less than the $8.50 a gallon price in the U.K. The Hustle Issue #220 had an interesting article titled “Why gas is actually cheap in America.” The section detailing traffic deaths based on fuel price was fascinating, in my opinion too.


And finally, it’s time to get a little nerdy and discuss the differences between what we in the U.S. call vegetables vs. what they’re called in the U.K. True Food T.V. has a fun video explaining it all.

2022 Week 29 – You Chicken?

meat sandwich on black surface

I’ve only used delivery services like GrubHub and Uber Eats a few times and was disappointed each time due to lukewarm food, ridiculous fees, and price markups. They are nothing like the excellent, albeit limited, service you get from ClusterTruck. I’m super fortunate to be able to order from ClusterTruck from home and the office downtown. Out of 50+ orders, I’ve only had one issue: they delivered my food to the wrong location. However, they re-did the order and credited my account as soon as I reached out. That’s great customer service!

Amazon Prime members can now get 12 months of GrubHub+ for free! GrubHub+ is usually $10 a month and gets you $0 delivery fees applicable on orders with a $12+ subtotal (before tax, tip, and fees). After signing up, I looked at the restaurants on the GrubHub app and found quite a few I didn’t recognize in the area. After a little Google Maps searching, I discovered all the “new” places were Ghost Kitchens inside existing restaurants. Evidently, this is quite common & Chuckie Cheese is even in on the action with their Pasqually’s Pizza listing. It’s worth doing a little research if you’re unsure of the pace you’re ordering from.


If you’re a subscriber to Apple News+ and a foodie, you might have noticed Cooks Illustrated (CI) is now available to read on the service. CI is one of those magazines I subscribed to for years. It always seemed pretty skinny with no ads, but it’s actually fat with content. It features articles from the Americas Test Kitchen and Cooks Country staff (shows you can find on PBS’s “Create” sub-channel), product reviews, and some fantastic seasonal recipes. So if you’re looking for an unpretentious cooking magazine, this is the one to check out! Apple news replaced the Texture App, and I was a little unsure about that at first, but it’d turned out to be a better platform with a LOT more content, all for $10 a month. I can’t tell you the last time I read a physical magazine (except for Consumers Reports which I get as a yearly subscription from my father).


And finally… You can’t escape it. The Chicken Sandwich is one of the top-selling items at America’s fast food restaurants. And with good reason, they’re delicious! CNBC had an interesting piece about How Chicken Became an American Obsession.

2022 Week 21 – Born of a Need

body of water photography

We’re in the second half of May and the City of Indianapolis is abuzz with activity leading up to the ”Big Race” on May 29. The Indianapolis 500 is about the only Indy Car race I watch. I’m more of an F1 fan so the Monaco race on the morning of the 29th will be my focus that day.


I subscribe to the Hoosier History Live newsletter (and podcast) and recently they had an issue focusing on the creation of the Geist & Morse Reservoirs. Both articles were interesting reading and a nice history lesson about the two local landmarks.


Another short post as I have a busy week ahead of me. Big announcement coming in the next post. I’m looking forward to that one!

2021 Week 50 – Kindle Upgrade

I’ve been an Amazon Kindle user ever since V2 was released in 2009. That version had a keyboard and built-in cellular modem that allowed you to transfer data and download books anywhere, anytime.

Amazon Kindle V2 in 2009

The Kindle e-reader does one thing and, in my opinion, does it very well. It provides a distraction-free reading experience. OK, two things, you can carry a huge number of books with you at any time. This is handy when you want to read a couple of books at the same time, depending on mood and energy. It makes no noise, it has no pop-up messages, and it’s already ready to pick up where you left off in your last reading session.

I eventually upgraded to a newer version and then another. The low $100-125 price and ever-increasing screen resolutions and lighting options made the upgrades worth it. We lost the cellular modem years ago, but with WiFi being so accessible, it’s something you really don’t miss. I typically like to read in the evenings where it helps me unwind. On occasion, I can use my phone to finish a chapter or launch the Audible version of a book where it syncs with the text copy for easy switching between the two.

My last Paperwhite was starting to get a little sluggish, and I realized after 5-years of ownership I was no longer getting updates with some of the newer software features. After doing a little research, I found that I could trade my old unit in for a new one and get a 20% discount as well as a few dollars for the unit I was turning in.

2021 Kindle Paperwhite

The 2021 Kindle Paperwhite (as reviewed by Wired) is the best Kindle e-reader to date. The screen is larger, and the screen resolution looks like you’re reading a paper book. Backlight options include a warmth mode that tints the screen to ease eye fatigue at night. It’s all automatic based on the sunrise/sunset in your area. You don’t really notice the screen color until you turn it off.

Now that it’s getting cold out, and dark early, I’m spending a lot more time reading in the evening, and I’m really enjoying this upgrade.


I wrote about the Grammarly app in Week 42, and I’m happy to say after the 90-day initial trial, I renewed for another year. It’s been beneficial in my personal and professional life. You might have noticed some improvements in the blog posts too. I was missing some necessary punctuation in my writing. Some obvious (bad editing) and some not so obvious. They just released a new Desktop app for the Mac that allows it to work in ANY application. It was previously limited to its own app outside MS Office apps. Now it works right inside my email program and makes editing on the fly much smoother. At $150 a year, it’s not cheap but, if written communication is an important part of your life, it’s worth checking out to see if it can be helpful to you.

And finally… The limited series show “True Story” on Netflix was a surprise hit. Kevin Hart was excellent in his role, and the story moved very quickly through the seven episodes. Each episode is only 30-minutes, so it’s a pretty quick watch & easy to binge on a rainy day.

That’s it for thie week. Christmas is less than 2-weeks away! I should probably start shopping or something…

2021 Week 48 – You ARE Being Watched

I took some time over the long holiday weekend to finish a book I had started a few weeks ago and promptly start another related one.

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden is an eye-opening tale centering around a late 20-something NSA contractor who exposes the US Government’s mass surveillance system created after 9/11. Love him or hate him he brought to light the vast data collection of US citizens by their government.

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald starts up with his interview of Snowden while he hides in Hong Kong before his trove of documents is released to the public by various medial outlets. Meanwhile, Laura Poitras films a series of interviews for her documentary Citizen Four. It goes into incredible detail about the surveillance systems in use around the world, by many countries, and details just how far they have gone to invade your privacy.

If you have any interest in this kind of stuff it’s well worth your time to seek out these books or at least watch the full documentary (available on YouTube with Ads (that will track you, haha)). It will chill you to the core and make you think about what you do online going forward.

As I wrote earlier this year everyone needs to be using a Password Manager application. My favorite continues to be Bitwarden. The free version is more than enough for most people but the $10 paid version adds some advanced features and helps support the development. Getting started with a Password manager is NOT difficult and is NOT a good excuse for NOT using one. Bitwarden for Beginners is a great place to start.

NordPass just released their annual Top 200 Common Password list. It shows what people are actually using to secure their private data as well as how long it takes to crack and gain access. If your password is on the list you should assume your accounts have been compromised because you probably use the SAME password in multiple places. The benefit of a Password Manager is that you can use a different, unique, password for every account and only need to remember ONE (secure) master password/phrase. The tool generates and documents the login details for you.

Another security tool you should consider using, especially if you use your devices in public, is a personal VPN account. This tool encrypts your traffic and protects you from anyone wanting to access your data. Sounds a little overkill but it’s not uncommon for someone to sit on a public network and watch for unsecured traffic to exploit. In fact, as far back as 2013 AT&T and Starbucks encouraged it! My personal favorite is Private Internet Access (PIA) which works on all devices including your phone and tablet. An annual subscription is $39.99.

I think that just about wraps things up for this week. It’s hard to believe 2021 is 90% over & we’re getting ready to settle down into the winter months. At least I have a stack of books to go through while hunkering down inside for the next 3 months. See you next week!

2021 Week 34 – Keto Update

white handbag

I start my 3rd-week with the “Low Carb” diet this week, and I can honestly say it’s going very well. I’m getting a little tired of the limited food choices, but I found a few cookbooks over the weekend that should help mix things up a little.

My original goal was to do this for 2 weeks, but I’ve been so pleased with the results I’m going to keep up with it for a while. I’ll admit I’ve had a few cheat meals, but just being conscious of what I’m eating vs. just eating to bet full has been truly eye-opening. Also, the energy I’ve gained by drastically reducing carbs (and sugars) makes this all worth it.

Dining out has been a little tricky, but it’s doable. I’ve found most restaurants have a low-carb option on their menu, although it’s not always called that. Asking for things without bread or adding a green vegetable over fries or other starches helps keep the carbs down. Now on to our regular programming…

I decided to refresh the look of the site over the weekend & turned on a new theme called “Kvarken”. It’s an older theme and might not be supported in upcoming releases of WordPress but it was time for a refresh. I still haven’t found the “perfect” theme for the site, but as time goes on, I keep getting closer. Unfortunately, there are so many themes to choose from, and many of them are not backward compatible with what I’ve been using, so I’m a little limited in my options.

I downloaded the Grammarly app over the weekend, and I’m in the process of testing it out both personally and at work. Grammarly is a real-time spelling and grammar checker with a huge list of features available (when you pay for a subscription to access them). However, the free version is also very useful and might be what I fall back to after my 90-day subscription ends.

Finally this week… The NY Times had an interesting article about the “issues” created when switching from plastic bags to cotton “totes”.

Goodbye Pocket, Hello Instapaper!

apps-pocket-iconAlways looking for interesting online content (and a place to capture it) I’ve been using the Pocket application since 2012.  I even upgraded to the Premium version for around $5 a month which gives you some nice auto-tagging, searching, and archive functions.

I was actually preparing to return to the free version of Pocket because I wasn’t using the advanced features as much as I thought I would.  I save the articles I want to keep long-term in Evernote so the archiving features were not a benefit.  I’m still trying to adopt the whole tagging concept too so that was another feature that was wasted on me (I’m a Folder organizer, always have been)…

instapaper-logoThen Instapaper decided to eliminate the cost of their Premium services… (Whoah, game changer right?)…

Well I had to at least try it out.  I’ve seen the Instapaper icon as a “save for later” option all over the Internet for a while now.

I’ll have to admit I’m pretty impressed with how Instapaper works.  It does a MUCH better job saving articles in their original format than Pocket did and it beats Evernote hands down with inline videos and graphics.

Other features include “Speed Reading” where each word flashes on the screen at a speed you select.  It’s a little awkward at first and causes me to read out loud, for some reason, but it does what it’s supposed to.

Another option I just discovered allows you to tilt your phone to auto-scroll the article you’re reading.  The more you tilt the faster the scrolling rate.  It takes a little bit to get used to but works great when you’re sitting in your favorite chair relaxing.

If you’re a fan of offline archiving/reading of online content you should really check out Instapaper.  You can even import your Pocket library into Instapaper and not miss a beat.  It’s a really solid product and you can’t beat the price!

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below…

What We’re Reading in August

Circle_4-704x528Found an interesting website earlier this month called Historic
Indianapolis
.  I think I ended up there after a post on the Facebook Group Indianapolis Long Ago, which I’m a member (lurking more than contributing).  Lot’s of fun facts about the great city of Indianapolis at both locations.  I’ve really got the bug to get out of the suburbs and give “city life” a try in Downtown Indianapolis.  Not sure I’d make it there more than a few years without wanting to get back to the Urban Sprawl but it would be a fun experiment.

Really nice travel article in the NY Times called From Montreal to Minnesota, by Inland Sea by Porter Fox.  He spent 6 days on a cargo ship crossing the Great Lakes and checking out the sights along the way.  Evidently this is a totally legit trip and cargo ships offer this in limited quantities.  Probably going to be booked for a while after this article gets circulated.

Keeping on the maritime theme this morning the NY Times wrote about the only floating Zip Code in the US.  It’s a mail boat that meets up with cargo ships, like the ones in the previously mentioned article, and delivers mail, packages and supplies.  Sounds like a great summer job for someone a lot younger than me.

hostess-deep-fried-twinkiesFinally, in the food department, Hostess is rolling out Deep Fried Twinkies in a Walmart frozen food aisle near you.  Preliminary reviews have actually been positive piquing my interest just enough to maybe try in the near future.

Have a great week out there & like it or not Fall will be here Thursday, September 22.  Get those outdoor activities planned!

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