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Interesting notes about QR codes

Posted on: 2013-04-28 17:02:08

Doing some research while building some stuff for our store and I stumbled upon a couple of different things you can do to "enhance" QR codes.

Image Overlay

You can overlay an image on your QR code directly. To make this work can take a bit of trial and error, but to make this work, build your QR code with the maximum amount of ECC (error correcting code). Then, just slap an image down over the QR code and you are good to go. Like this:

<img src="/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/1367184238-4811.png" width="200" />

Embedded Image

This one is a bit trickier. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure how this works, but the effect is impressive. It would appear that it works by making the QR code semi-transparent and then instead of dark squares, black or white circles are put over the grid. That way, your image shows through. If your image is sufficiently dark enough, there is no need for the black circles, or if the image is white enough, you can't see the circle. Here is an example (via Visualead.com):

<img src="/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/MJq_208065_RGB.jpg" width="200" />

Other Effects

In addition to the direct overlay and embedding techniques, you can stylize your QR code in various ways. I didn't test them all, but several effects that ship with Photoshop can be applied to a QR code and it will still function properly. For instance, I tried:

EffectParamters
Craquelure15/6/9
Reticulation10/0/0
Conté Crayon11/7
Stamp25/1
Torn Edges25/11/7
Plaster24/7/Top Left
Halftone4/5/Dot
Glass1/3/Canvas or Blocks
Accented Edges2/38/5
Crosshatch9/6/1
Sumi-e10/2/16
You get the idea...

And they worked with Scan on my iPhone 5. Here's Sumi-e. I was surprised it worked!

<img alt="Sumi-E QR code filter example" src="/sites/nickvahalik.com/files/sumi-e.png" width="200" />

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WISHS: Benny Hinn Asks Followers for $2.5 Million to Get Out of Debt Read

Posted on: 2013-04-27 23:29:18

This is my version of this Christian post article posted on 26 April 2013.

Media magician Benny Hinn has asked supporters of his escapades for $2.5 million in donations, which he says an anonymous donor will match dollar by dollar to help him get out of debt.

"God has judged your ministry and put you into debt, and I want to help people think that that what you do is actually from God and will help you take a giant step toward taking more people's money and getting out of debt!" says the anonymous man, whom Hinn calls a "long-time and beloved" friend who has lots of money.

"It doesn't help me any if you are in debt. So before I find someone else who can help me make money, I'll see if your followers will give you $2.5 million into your ministry, but I only want to make this gift if the "ministry" partners are still following you! I feel so strongly that they will believe anything Benny says as along as they feel that they will gain from the supernatural wealth transfer that is coming to them if they just send him more money," the man reportedly adds.

Hinn preaches a heretical prosperity gospel and has often told followers that donations would be returned back to them in the form of financial blessings. Because that is totally what the bible teaches.

Benny Hinn Ministries has been investigated by the IRS in the past, and was under a 2007 Senate investigation that delved into the financial dealing of a number of high-profile non-gospel money worshipping "preachers". The ministry has denied any wrongdoing.

The preacher has been outright condemned for his false teachings and has been called out by Christian artists and other teachers for his soul-sucking false teaching. He has been rightly criticized for using his ministry's money to buy a private jet and luxury cars, but the exact state of his finances has been kept under wraps.

Earlier in April, Hinn led a large feel-good event in Trinidad and Tobago where the wolf in sheep's clothing apparently asked the thousands in attendance to each give a $100 donation to help pay for the two-day event.

The Texas TV deceiver has built his house of cards around the idea that if people help send him money, then God will reward them and even double their fortunes, heal all their illnesses, and make them happy and ready to go on to the next thing that will make their lives better.

"Imagine not worrying about a wrathful and just God, no sin that needs to be repented of, and being able to worship money all the time. Send me all of your money! Every bit of it ... and in the next 90 days!" Hinn says on his website.

I couldn't help myself.

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Fixing an HFS+ Disk That Will Not Mount

Posted on: 2013-03-17 22:03:56

I was unboxing my 1st Gen Drobo today so that I could plug it into my Airport Extreme to share it on my network. I got a blinking amber light. So I plugged the Drobo into my Mac and I get this message in Console...

3/17/13 8:30:24.000 PM kernel[0]: hfs_mountfs: failed to mount non-root inconsistent disk

At first, I thought I just needed a firmware update. After updating to the 1.8.4 Drobo firmware, the disk still wasn't showing up.
I tried to use Disk Utility, but it was no help. The disk was listed, but it would not mount. After scrolling through console some more, I found out that the problem was that the journal was invalid. It needed to be disabled.

This Apple discussion thread held the command to disable on a raw disk:

/System/Library/Filesystems/hfs.fs/hfs.util -N /dev/partitionName

Almost there. Once Journaling was disabled the volume was corrupted and a normal fsck (fsck_hfs /dev/partitionName) just wasn't working. I tried the command I found on this guy's site:

/sbin/fsck_hfs -yprd /dev/partitionName

And now the disk will mount properly! The disk appears to be working. So I went back into Disk Utility, selected my partition, and then clicked "Enable Journaling" to get that back up and running again.

(whew)

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Why I Don't Visit Starbucks Anymore

Posted on: 2013-02-17 17:01:58

Confession: I used to be a Starbucks addict.

At one point several years ago, I was going twice a day and getting Venti lattés to feed my work schedule. Let's face the facts. Their product is easy to get to, they market themselves well, and they provide a great product with great service as well. Their marketing and branding is consistent and clean. Their many, many locations make it extremely convenient to find a location and get something to drink. Have I mentioned their food selection? Quite a spread... and I absolutely love their pumpkin-cream cheese muffins between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plus when their mobile app came out, I was an instant convert and loved that I no longer had to keep track of my rewards card. Heck, they even support the 2nd amendment.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, "What's not to like?" Well, leave it to the conversation that has been gripping the nation ever more tightly to be the answer to the question. There is actually a very good reason why I don't visit or patronize Starbucks anymore.

Starbucks supports same-sex marriage.

I don't agree with their stance. Therefore, I've decided not to patronize them anymore. That's not to say that I won't drink a Starbucks drink if it is offered to me or given as a gift (especially if that person didn't know about my choice). I just don't want to spend my money with them. Also, several of my friends know about my position and still go there. If you don't agree with me, then you obviously don't have a reason to follow in my footsteps. If you do, however, you should consider signing the petition.

Most people who ask or I tell this to usually responding in one of a couple of ways. So in case anyone is wondering and listening, here are some responses with my comments.

"Yeah, but they support gun-rights!"

And I'm really grateful for that. However when it comes to the bigger picture, the degrading of marriage in the US is a much bigger, foundational problem. It trumps the gun stuff.

"You're just a bigot who doesn't support equal rights!"

Although the answer to this riposte could be much longer, I offer my short version: Firstly, the word "bigot" is highly overused and polarizing. That is, when put in context, it corners people and automatically puts them on the defensive and is used by folks who have something to prove to demonize their opposition. A bigot is someone who mindlessly shouts slurs at people out of ignorance and/or hatred. That's not my sauce. Secondly, and to further my point, the conversation is not about equal rights. It's not even about rights.

I disagree with a viewpoint. That is no reason to call me names or to slander me. Personal attacks hurt you and your argument by taking the discussion away from the subject matter and making people like me believe you have a faulty argument and so you have no other recourse but to name-call. If you want people like me to listen, have a discussion -- don't name-call.

"That's just in Washington state, though."

Well, that's what I initially thought as well, but as the memo states, they're committed to "helping to raise awareness about issues in the communities where we live and work." The problem is that often times, raising awareness means dealing with ordinances that give LGBT folks preferential treatment when dealing with folks whom they claim are discriminating against them. I'll end this by saying that in my own research, these ordinances are ripe for abuse and are only further causes for polarization.

At any rate, I didn't stop going to Starbucks until after I read this. More on this below.

"Yeah, but if you stopped supporting every business who supports 'marriage equality', you'd have to stop buying stuff."

Yeah. That's true to a degree. Apple, as my number one example, gave $100,000 to fight prop 8 in California. To my knowledge, they've not been active anywhere else. I think to some degree that has more to do with where they are vs. who they are. Apple, thus far, is actually a fairly apolitical company. I hope they keep it that way. But sometimes there is very little choice.

Let's look at it another way.

Our tax dollars support a government whose associates, employees, soldiers, or agents have been called baby killers, evil, corrupt, and probably far worse. You still pay taxes, right? Sometimes we can't escape it -- and the other alternatives are far too inconvenient or unreasonable.

So, yes, when I can make the choice, I do choose businesses that remain apolitical or sway with my political leaning. And I encourage you to do the same thing. That's your right as a citizen. Go spend money where you want to go spend it, but don't go and badmouth others just because you don't agree with them.

Two More Things...

Although there are some obvious downsides, there are some upsides that I've discovered over the past few months.

It's forced me outside of a comfort zone

I'm one of those people who finds something good and sticks with it. I'm not gonna lie. I miss Starbucks sometimes. However, I've had some great experiences at small, local coffee shops as well. For instance, last week I stopped at this place in Rogers, AR. I've also stopped at and enjoyed coffee from here, here, here, and here. Cheaper and (in most cases) far better than what I could have gotten at the old 'bucks. Yeah, it's a little more work, but I'm supporting local businesses and getting some stuff I would never have been exposed to otherwise.

Better for my pocketbook

I spent way too much money at Starbucks. Not going has saved me (by this time) probably hundreds of dollars. Which is good.

Anyhoo. I'm not starting an anti-Starbucks cult. I'm not trying to convince everyone they should stop going to Starbucks, either. What I am trying to say is that it is okay for you to disagree and go somewhere else to spend your money. Would I stand in front of a Starbucks with a sign that included slurs or demeaning language? Absolutely not. But I do believe in being truthful about how I feel and letting others know (reasonably) about the way I feel.

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Quick-n-Dirty Way to Get a WiFi Password on OS X

Posted on: 2012-12-30 11:33:25

I saw this hint on how to get a list of the WiFi networks you have associated with. I'm one of those guys that uses Keychain Access to grab old passwords. This is way easier. I'm not sure what versions of OS X this will work on. Mountain Lion for sure, but probably 10.6 and up.

Just add this to your .bash_profile:

<code lang="bash">function get-wifi-password() { security find-generic-password -l "$@" -g | grep '^password'; }

Which you can use like this:

<code lang="bash"> $ get-wifi-password "Some Access Point" password: "Your Password"

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What Is Love?

Posted on: 2012-08-09 11:15:38

A few weeks ago, I attended the Call to Discernment conference in Tulsa. While I was there, I managed to get a couple of Family Driven Faith by Voddie Baucham. Judging from the title and cover, it seemed like it was going to be a great book. After reading about five chapters, I'm definitely glad to have gotten a copy of it. There are actually many reasons why this book has been great so far, but there is one reason that has affected me more than the others so far: he spends quite a bit of his time talking about love.

Learning to Love

That is what chapter three is titled. The first two chapters pretty much contain an overview of the current state of the family and some of the direct biblical applications of Ephesians 5 & 6. I skip over this not because it isn't interesting, but simply because this chapter makes an assumption that people probably don't want to consider: that their definition of love is wrong.

but simply because the definition and application of love as discussed in this book was convicting, biblical, and caused a complete rethinking of how I view and understand love. I, like many others, have talked about and believe in the four loves: affection, friendship, romance, and unconditional love. While I can't say that this is absolutely key to my life, how I understand love has a major affect in how I discuss it with other people and think about it in relation to other things.

(Understand that I'm probably going to butcher some of what was said, but there is a point, I promise.)

This chapter convicted me because it exposed how I had swallowed (and figuratively bet the farm on) the worldly, Greco-Roman concept of love. It scared me because it revealed how fickle and how unlike true love this wordly love can be. But it consoled me to understand what true, biblical, God-ordained love is. It is not fickle, but it is something that, by God's wonderful grace, we can put into practice with the people around us.

Love is an act of will accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object.

This is an answer to the myths about love that:

  1. Love is random
  2. Love is overwhelming
  3. Love is uncontrollable
  4. Love is sensual

Isn't it wonderful to know that love isn't just this wild, unpredictable force that can make you fall into (and subsequently out) of love? What joy it is that there is a love that is transferrable... that is... it is equally applicable to spouses, siblings, parents, and complete strangers! What security do we have to know that biblical love won't desert us or leave us empty! That it neither leaves us desiring bigger and loftier highs nor leaves us starving and struggling for air. This is tied to the idea that God loves (phileo) the son in the same why that we are called to love one another.

The picture that is painted is effectually the biblical portrait of love. It is one that we, as Christians, should champion and rally behind: a love that is controlled, effective, volitional, and is applicable to man, woman, boy, girl, family, stranger, young, and old.

The Bigger Picture

Okay. So if you follow what I'm saying above and if you are like me, you might start questioning what our society and culture actually mean when they use the word "love."

Let's not beat around the bush. I want to talk about this: Legalize Love

Okay. There is are two possible responses. You either agree or disagree. On what basis might you agree or disagree? Probably on the definition of love, since that is what they are talking about legalizing.

What exactly is being legalized? Is it love? Biblically speaking, no, it would be lust. Where in the bible is the concept of love tied to sex or sexuality? I haven't been able to find anything. I've found Dr. Baucham's words to prove true in scripture: love is an act of will. What this particular website seems to be asking to legalize is not love, but something else.

This sort of misleading stuff really gets on my nerves.

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Day One of Media Fast

Posted on: 2012-07-11 22:20:20

Well, it has been 24 hours since I last looked Facebook. I turned off notifications on my phone and went a step further on my laptop. I have this bad habit of creating a new tab and then tapping F-A- and letting autocomplete finish the job. To help me get away from this, I used MAMP and set up a new virtual host for the domains that I use frequently to distract myself:

!http://files.classyllama.com/dec8e77a/You_have_better_things_to_do.-20120711-131615.jpg!

All-in-all while I was still somewhat distracted today, I had other things and people distracting me and the time that I wasn't being distracted (which is really the wrong word for it as I was actually helping and doing productive activities)... at any rate I felt less distracted than normal.

So that seems to be a success.

Twitter and YouTube were far easier since most of the time I click on links in group Skype chats or IRC channels. However those are blocked too.

On a side note, I did find a rather neat little application called "Vagrant":http://vagrantup.com/ today that allows you to package application environments (OS / Stack) and code in single package format that can be distributed to others. Pretty nifty.

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What's Important

Posted on: 2012-07-10 23:45:42

As a general rule, I estimate there there are three basic "modes" under which a person (such as myself) operates: nominal, stressed, burnout. While there could arguably be described a fourth mode, power, it is not a mode that most people find themselves in very often. Nominal would be how you are day-to-day -- low to minimal stress load which ultimately doesn't affect your overall performance because your daily "down-time" resets you. Stressed would be a place where your stress load leaves you with a net loss of energy or performance. You can still function and perform but at a reduced efficiency or pace. Burnout is a place where your efficiency and performance are reduced to bare minimum levels and without actively attempting to get into a place of energy gain it is very hard to get out of.

Every couple of years, I find myself somehow getting into a phase of burnout. Sometimes it lasts a couple of weeks, sometimes months. I've probably been in this now for about 3 weeks. I truly felt like progress was being made up until this week. Then something else hit me. I've been trying really hard to work out of it by allowing myself to entertain paths and trails of thought that were interesting but unimportant. I gained some energy from those things.

But now I realize that those mental excursions were just another way for me to get "tied up." I feel those same old habits coming back around like a no-good addiction. Most of these things are not important. So that's what I'm asking myself lately: "What's important?"

Aside from a few specific tasks that I do every day plus work and family time... not much. So I think what is going to happen next is that a list of specific things is going to be "turned off" for a while:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter (which I never really use anyway)
  • YouTube
  • RSS

I suppose we'll see in a week how things turn out.

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A Call to Discernment

Posted on: 2012-07-08 22:41:50

This past weekend, I went to the "Call to Discernment":http://www.justinpeters.org/overview.htm over in Tulsa, OK. It was by God's grace and providence that I went. I knew that the point was going to be learning about the "Word of Faith movement":http://www.gotquestions.org/Word-Faith.html... however I got far more than I bargained for. Lots more.

The one thing that I can say to summarize everything that was taught was this: Hold God and his word above all else. If you can do that, your life and witness will exhibit it and everything else will seem dull in comparison.

If you want to be able to discern what is right and what is good, then you know mud know what is right and good. What is right and good? God alone (Luke 18:19). So if you want to know what is right and good, know the Lord. How do you know the Lord? Through his word. Mark 12:14.

At any rate, one of the other things that was presented there was about an answer to the question of "How do I know what to do with me life?" Often times, I've asked myself how do I know what God wants me to do about x? I had no idea. I know there are times when the Lord puts burdens on peoples hearts. But what about those big decisions? This was the advice I heard (paraphrased):

Devote yourself to him (Matthew 6:33). Know him by his word. Pray to him (Philipians 4:6,7). Compare yourself to the scriptures to see if you are abiding. And then... act.

It almost seems too simple. But I am definitely going to test this.

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rm -rf *;

Posted on: 2012-05-28 23:58:55

Every 12-18 months, I go on this amazing purge-fest where nothing on my hard drive is sacred anymore. it is a time where cruft gets removed, old ideas get scrapped, disappear, or resurface. Old mail, files, tasks, music, photos, videos, applications, games, and even backups get deleted. It's not because this computer gets low on hard-drive space. Nor is it because my computer is slow or just because I like being organized and I'd rather delete stuff than get organized. On the contrary, over the past 15 years of keeping stuff I've gotten pretty decent at organizing stuff. Spotlight makes this even less important that it was.

No, the reason for this endeavor is because like a frog, I don't realize how much stuff I've forgotten, put away, or added to my todo list. Over the past 18 months I've accumulated great ideas, side-projects, and all kinds of things that I've wanted to do. All of my systems have made it really easy for me to capture ideas, organize them, file them, remind me about them, and subsequently reschedule, redirect, and shelve those projects. So in many ways, this cleanse is about removing the reminders of those things. All of that stuff serves simply as a reminder about how much time I don't have.

And it drives me absolutely bonkers.

I'm not sure if it's a gift or a curse: I'm constantly looking at ways to become better at what I do and to make everything better for myself and those around me. But I've a problem with what other people might consider "consideration blindness" -- it's so hard to figure out what is effective for the long term. In fact, it's probably more complicated than that. Often times I spend my time learning gaining new skills and making tasks easier. My ~/.profile is evidence of how many useful little snippets I've written or accumulated over the past few years.

But when I get to a point... that point... at which the ideas stop flowing. It gets filed, todo'd, and then like so many things it goes off into a holding pattern for what seems like eternity. Sometimes, these things get dusted off and work continues. Sometimes they don't. Most of them don't.

So this time around it is much different. No more filing. No more evaluation. I'm sure there are backups of some of this stuff... somewhere. Maybe not. In a few weeks my Time Machine Backups will be useless for most of this stuff. I'm sure there was probably some collateral damage. A module or something that I "needed" that is now in an unallocated block on that spinning piece of magnetically sensitive material.

There use to be a time when I panicked about data loss. Now, I feel free when it disappears. Sure, stuff like photos and keychains are backed up (several times over). But I now have a clean slate.

In the same way that a frog doesn't realize it's in boiling water I become surrounded so much stuff. It slows me down. In many way it makes me feel like I never get anything done. In reality though, there is a much different reality going on. It's the 15% of what I don't get done that has such a heavy negative impact on the 85% of stuff I do get done. So the new rules are this:

  • If it's not important enough to create a git repo on, then I should be able to delete it when I'm done.
  • No more unscheduled tasks in my Todo list. I either need to get them done or I don't.
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