The oldest-model computer in my stable is a Lenovo ThinkPad T430 (pictured above). Released in 2012, it’s a business workhorse powered by a dual-core i5-3230M processor running at 2.6 GHz (suitable for writing TPS reports and even playing older 3D games) that’s still issued to worker bees at offices everywhere. I acquired mine in 2013 in lieu of payment owed to me from a deadbeat, and since then, it’s been performing yeoman service in its role as a backup machine for tasks that specially require Windows or Linux.
It came with a stock 4GB RAM, which has caused me to run into some limitations, especially with heavier-weight development tools such as Visual Studio and Android Studio, the video capture and recording tool Camtasia, and to a lesser extent, graphic design and audio tools. It was time for that most effective and universal of computer upgrades: more RAM!
The T430 takes two 1600 MHz PC3-12800 SO-DIMMs and supports up to 16GB memory. I ordered a pair on NewEgg for less than $100, which came with two-day free shipping. The DIMMs arrived via FedEx Friday morning, and like any geek with a new tech toy, I took out my set of teeny computer screwdrivers and got to work on installing them right after they arrived.
The first step was to remove the battery. ThinkPads from that era (I’m not certain about present-era ones) followed the old-school philosophy to batteries and kept them external and easily swapped out:
I remembered seeing a RAM upgrade on one of these computers years ago, so I knew that there was a RAM slot located on the bottom of the machine, just underneath the central panel…
…and only two screws stand between you and a RAM upgrade…
…and until you realize that there’s just one RAM slot there. Upon seeing this, I looked around, confirmed that there was only one RAM slot under that panel, and then checked the online specs for the T430. It says two SO-DIMM slots. Where’s the other one?
Here’s the interesting thing about adding RAM to the T430: its two RAM slots are in quite different places with different levels of difficulty to access.
The second RAM slot — where the factory-installed RAM goes — is under the keyboard, and getting to it takes a little more work. My guess is that Lenovo’s engineers expected most users to buy a single DIMM to expand their machine’s RAM, and that they’d install it into the easier-to-access slot at the bottom of the machine.
Even if you have no plans to add or remove RAM from the more easily accessed underside, you still need to open the central panel at the bottom of the machine to access the RAM under the keyboard. That’s because there are two screws inside the central panel that you have to remove in order to get under the keyboard:
These two screws anchor the keyboard, and if they’re in place, you won’t be able to access the RAM slot underneath it.
When you’ve removed those two screws, you can remove the keyboard. Pry it up gently, starting with the edge closest to the trackpad. I used a metal ruler to help me with the process, taking care not to scratch the casing:
Lift the keyboard. You’ll see that it’s connected to the motherboard by a short strip of ribbon cable. There’s a thin piece of dark, slightly translucent plastic to the left of where the ribbon cable meets the motherboard; the RAM slot is underneath it:
To make it easier to pop in the RAM, I disconnected the keyboard. You might not have to do it in order to insert the RAM, but it was pretty easy:
I flipped back the panel, where the factory-installed 4GB DIMM lived…
…and replaced it with the new 8GB DIMM.
With the RAM installed, I reversed my steps, fired up the ThinkPad, and checked my RAM the fun way: by asking Cortana using my voice. Here was her response:
Success! The ThinkPad is back in action, and ready for development work. In the short time with maxed-out RAM, I’ve found that Visual Studio, Android Studio, and Camtasia work wonderfully, and video performance is improved as well (my model has integrated graphics, which relies on system RAM).
If you prefer a video walk-through of the ThinkPad T430 RAM upgrade procedure, try this one:
…and draws cartoon eyes, nose, and mustache over them. It also uses smile detection…
…and the tilt of the subject’s head…
…to decide what additional cartoon features to add to the picture:
If the app is more than 80% confident that a face is smiling, it draws the pupils of its eyes as smiling stars.
If a head is tilted 20 degrees or more to the left or right, it draws a tiny red hat atop it.
The app I’ll present — and yes, I’ll give you the code — is an example of augmented reality, or AR for short. “Augmented reality” is just a highfalutin’ term that describes a computer spicing up real-world images with computer-generated ones. We’ll combine it with computer facial detection, which is nothing new for humans, but still pretty new for computers, never mind handheld ones.
Writing an app like FaceSpotter used to require serious programming chops, but with the libraries that you’ll see in this presentation, you can whip up an app like it in an afternoon. You’ll learn how to:
Incorporate the Face API into your own apps
Programmatically identify and track human faces from a camera feed and get their location and size
Identify points of interest, such as eyes, ears, nose, and mouth on tracked faces
Draw augmented reality text and graphics over images from a camera feed
Build a Snapchat Lens-like app that draws cartoony features over faces it detects in a camera feed
What to bring: You don’t really need to bring everything, but if you want to follow along (I’ll have a starter project that you can play with), bring a laptop with Android Studio, and your Android device!
If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you often check the reviews before you buy something, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar establishment. I always see what the reviews are before buying something at Amazon, usually check the reviews for restaurants and hotels that are new to me, take the temperature of a film on Rotten Tomatoes, and even at the local craft beer pub where Tampa’s monthly Ybor Tech OpenHack get-together (New World Brewery; 4.6 stars on Facebook, 4.2 stars on Yelp), I’ve pulled out my phone to check reviews when faced with a menu of unknown ales and stouts.
I’m not telling you anything new by saying that in a world with nearly ubiquitous networked computing, reviews are crucial to bringing in new business. What might be new to you are the numbers behind reviews, but you can discover them in Website Builder.org’s User Reviews are the King, which collects data from 30 sources and brings them together into a single infographic.
Here’s a preview of the infographic. Click it to see the whole thing:
Those of you familiar with the Game of Thrones TV series will recognize the guy in the photo above: he’s Tyrion Lannister, one of the most-loved characters, if not the most-loved character on the show. A good part of his charm is his ability to get results by forging unlikely alliances and winning over people despite some very long odds.
If you look online, you’ll find many tributes to Tyrion’s genius. Here’s one of my favorites: Charisma on Command’s video, Why Tyrion Will Win the Game of Thrones. It’s just under 15 minutes long, but it’s fun to watch, and you’ll find some tips that you can use in your working life:
If you’ve got another 11 minutes to spare — hey, watch both during lunch! — here’s another Charisma on Command video showing Tyrion’s ability to take control of a situation:
There’s a reason for all this Tyrion Lannister preamble: I’m here to tell you that I’m the Tyrion Lannister of tech. And I’ll do it by citing examples.
Winning over an free software / open source crowd at a student conference and trolling Richard Stallman
I was the most “corporate” speaker there, as a representative of not just Microsoft, but Ballmer-era Microsoft (it was 2009) .
The audience was made up entirely of university engineering and computer science students with a strong preference for free software and open source, who also invited Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman to speak.
You’d think that I shouldn’t have been the breakout speaker of the event, but that’s how it turned out.
First, there was my presentation. I won over the crowd by opening with the unexpected — an accordion number — and then proceeded not to talk about Microsoft technologies, but about finding ways to harness your love for technology to create a great career and great life, telling amusing stories along the way, and appealing to the collegiate sense of humor. (You can watch the entire presentation — it’s the video above.)
If the presentation established me as a trusted and liked speaker, my actions the next day cemented my status as a CUSEC “One of Us” and got me invited to subsequent conferences. It’s what happened when I, as a Microsoftie, attended Richard Stallman’s talk the following day, participated in his auction for overpriced (especially for students) Free Software Foundation trinkets, won the auction for the stuffed GNU (mascot of the Free Software Foundation), and uproariously paid for it with a Microsoft credit card, much to the audience’s delight.
The story spread, so I won over not just the conference audience, but a whole new audience of developers who wouldn’t have paid attention to anything that Microsoft did as word of what happened spread, established Microsoft Canada as regular CUSEC guests, and until later incidents with a pair of rented chaps and a gong, made one of Microsoft Canada’s strangest expense reports.
Getting Microsoft to sponsor an Android conference when Google wouldn’t
In October 2010, Toronto’s AndroidTO conference needed a couple of big sponsors to help ensure that they could hold their day-long, hundreds-of-attendees event without losing money. I’d heard that Google wasn’t going to sponsor them, and asked: Why doesn’t Microsoft sponsor them instead?
I used the event as an opportunity to showcase Windows as a great development platform for Android, by demoing an HP touchscreen computer set up as an Android development station running Eclipse (which at the time was the preferred Android IDE) and also showing the Windows Phone development environment, which looked a lot less confusing and more aesthetically pleasing than Eclipse (although that’s easy), and showing the C# language (similar to Java, so it seems familiar) and Windows Phone in the process.
Our unexpected presence there got us a lot of attention, and as with the CUSEC crowd, I got people who ordinarily wouldn’t give Microsoft any thought to take a closer look…and hey, if Google got shamed along the way, it’s only because I was quick-thinking enough to seize upon an opportunity.
Calming angry air travellers
The hours-long line at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, March 2011.
Air travel can be bad at the best of times, but when people from a several planes who’ve just debarked are stuck waiting in the hallway that leads to customs for hours, it’s downright terrible. That’s what happened in March 2011, as recounted in my blog entry, The Crazy Customs Line at YYZ.
The mood was getting ugly, and despite the fact that there was a bona fide rock star there…
…it was up to Yours Truly to lighten the mood…
…and not only did it help, but it made the news:
It’s not the only time that I’ve used the accordion to make delays a little more bearable, and memorable in the good way:
And now, I’m available to make my Tyrion Lannister-like powers to turn lemons into lemonade for your organization!
If you need someone with both technical and communications skills, who loves a challenge, can rally people, and knows how to turn disadvantages into advantages, you need me! Find out more:
Regular readers of this blog and my social media feeds will know that I’m currently looking for my next gig. This resulted in my magnum opus job application, which while filled with information, is a very long read. This is one of a series of posts highlights some of the bits you may have missed.
About ten years ago, people started asking me “Do you work in radio? Because you have a radio voice.”
Rather than go on about my vocal qualities, I thought it would be best to let you decide for yourself. Here are some video presentations that I’ve done in my previous roles, where you can hear my dulcet tones…
This 5-minute, 33-second video introduces IBM’s NICO service to the viewer. It explains how your network infrastructure could be costing your organization significantly more than it should, and how NICO can drive down your infrastructure and service costs, identify and fix system issues in your telecom system, and give you the tools and best practices to make the most of your network.
I was the “army of one” behind this video, which I produced when I was the Technology Evangelist at GSG, who are an IBM partner, and provide the software platform and assessment services that go into NICO. I wrote the script, did the narration, gathered or created its images, and produced it — all in the span of a couple of weeks.
Honeywell’s “Dark Mobile” webinar
This 13-minute, 12-second video is taken from the “Dark Mobile” webinar that I led for a division of Honeywell formerly known as Enterprise Mobile. “Dark Mobile” is a term that I coined the term during my time at GSG, and it refers to those parts of an enterprise’s mobile telecom environment that goes unobserved, unmanaged, and unknown.
In addition to coming up with the topic and title for the webinar, I wrote the script, hosted the webinar, and produced the video based on the recording and Honeywell’s slides.
GSG intro to MMS
This 8-minute, 19-second video was my first video for GSG. This one explains what MMS is — it’s short for managed mobility services or mobility managed services, depending on whom you ask. As with most of these videos, I’m the “army of one” behind it.
HTML5 and RIAs: Friends with benefits
When I was a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, a fellow Microsoftie had a problem: he was buried in work and needed a video comparing HTML with rich internet applications (RIAs) such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight. “Can you make one…by tomorrow evening?” he asked. “That’s when I have to show it to this group in Montreal.”
I got to work, and the result is this 5-minute, 46-second piece that summarizes the web world in the summer of 2010. I wrote, designed, narrated, and as the credits say, hastily produced this video, and my coworker was able to present it the following evening.
Here’s a 4-minute, 10-second video that I made during my time as a Developer Evangelist at Shopify. This one was aimed at developers, letting them know about the Shopify Fund, a $1 million fund to incentivize developers to build apps for the Shopify ecommerce platform. As with the other videos in this post, this was pretty much me, a microphone, and a laptop with Camtasia Studio and Audacity.
Why you should hire me
If your organization needs someone with a voice that your customers, partners, and investors will listen to, and has technical skills, you may be interested to know that I’m available and looking for work.