Category Archives: Computer Stuff

Marketing is Insane

Despite my technophilia, until this year we still did not own any flat-panel televisions. Using some clever logic (combined with a Christmas bonus), I talked Amanda into getting one for our bedroom. It worked out pretty well… getting the existing TV / stand out of the doorway, and saving our shins from countless bruises. Being a well-informed consumer, I was concious of some of the pitfalls to avoid when buying something like this, but I was amazed at how much I was influenced, or at least tempted by crazy marketing strategies, even after the purchase!

Continue reading Marketing is Insane

A nod to the spammers

I was digging through the comment archives on here. 99% of them are SPAM and caught by one of my filters, but I noticed quite a few that were seemingly innocuous… and didn’t even have any links on them. It made for some good reading!

I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?

Free theme! Seasons 3.2 right now (though it’s a bit dated. I’ve had it for a couple years… though on the theme-to-post ratio, it’s doing pretty well…)

Thanks for sharing. What a pelsurae to read!

I’m so glad you aprpecaite it!

What a joy to find someone else who thnkis this way.

This reminds me of a shirt a friend of mine had in high school. It simply said: THNIK!

I’m not wtrohy to be in the same forum. ROTFL

Nope. No, you’re not. Especially since this isn’t a forum.

There’s a secert about your post. ICTYBTIHTKY

So, please don’t tell me then…

I quite agree with you. By doing nothing we learn to do ill.
I understand you. It is better to wear out than to rust out

That’s pretty insightful. I’m not sure what they agreed with, but I will ponder this.

Reviewing the results of google I stumbled on this page. I really liked it, and certainly I will fly my friends.

I don’t think your friends will appreciate that.

Finally a person that puts some real work into a blog. I do like what you have done with the blog.

Well, thanks. You do know I only post about 3x a year?

After reading both of your blogposts I staleness say i pioneer this specific one to generally be top cut. I hold a weblog also and necessity to repost a few snips of your articles on my own blog place. Should it be alright if I use this as retentive I own comment your web journal or create a incoming attach to your article I procured the dress from? If not I realise and could not do it without having your approval . I score fact noticeable this article to twitter and zynga story conscious for reference. Anyway appreciate it either way!

Stop… you’re too kind. Actually, seriously, stop. No, you can’t repost snips of my blog if you’re going to use that kind of grammar.

What is ‘Scrambled’ ?

Scrambled Mind of Benjamin FlessnerThe Scrambled Mind of Benjamin Flessner is an intentionally non-flashy website that is essentially a giant ‘About Me’ page.  I made its first incarnation shortly after creating in the late 90’s.  I like the very simplistic nature of raw HTML, and since I consider myself more of a web ‘programmer’ than a web ‘designer,’ I never added much for styling. There’s very little CSS in use, and the random sprinklings of JavaScript are more for fun than function. In fact, I installed MultipleIE in an XP VM and was impressed to see that most of my site renders just fine back in IE3.0 (though the Javascript doesn’t work until a couple versions later).

I certainly don’t expect it to be an immensely popular site… in fact, Google seems to have refused to index it properly, and I’m trying to figure out why. In any case, I do it mainly for my own enjoyment, but if you’re trying to figure out anything about me, you could do worse…   If you feel like digging or sharing or whatever the kids are calling it these days, feel free. I’ll probably tweet any significant updates to the few followers (8 as of this writing!) who might or might not care.

In any case… each letter stands for a page with some information about me or something that interests me.  Though they sometimes change, they’ve been stable enough over the last year or two that I can write about them with confidence.

S – Songs I like –  It used to be Lyrics under L, but I was concerned about copyright violations and decided to play it safe.

C – Computers and other gadgets I own

R – Ramblings – Sort of like Twitter, only spread out over a few years

A – Archives – Where old letters go to die when I replace them

M – Me – A brief bio of yours truly

B – Book Reviews – a collection of books I’ve read over the years and my thoughts/reactions to them (It used to be Bus Stuff, but that got a bit static… though my bus pages are still pretty easy to find.)

L – Lists – This has gotten pretty random as well, but it includes Benwords and my own, small version of the 555-LIST.

E – Entertainment – Mostly favorite comics and game site links, but I’ve been expanding it a bit lately

D – Decisions – My most recent fun adventure! I’ve made unique pages for over 100 words that start with D. Your job is to guess them and enjoy the results (and try to find all of them, though, of course, there’s a trick to it!). It even keeps score, if you allow cookies in your browser (and who doesn’t, these days?).

That’s it! Well, there are a couple of hidden Easter eggs, including a guest book (which, actually, isn’t too hidden if you read the changelog), but it’s full of content, and I actually update it every once in awhile (more often that I wrote blog posts, to tell the truth).

Not just a phone

When is a phone not just a phone? Even my previous ‘dumb phones’ could play my audiobooks and let me check out google/facebook (albeit with a bit of a hassle), but a smart-phone can carry your whole music library, access any website you need, be a portable gaming system/camera/watch/calendar/mailbox, and loads of other things all at once! Here are a few things beyond the obvious: Continue reading Not just a phone

HTC Desire rooted and modded = AWESOME!

I took the plunge and rooted and modded my phone. I guess my warranty is void (until someone releases US Cellular’s RUU files), but if nothing’s gone wrong in two months, I’m probably good. I still haven’t figured out all the things I can do with this, but so far, it feels like I have a brand new phone!

First things first: rooting is not the same as modding.  Rooting gives you access to the entire system to do fun things like change the CPU speed, backup your entire phone image, access the system partition (remove bloatware!), and install mods. A mod changes your phone, usually by installing a custom operating system. I rooted, changed my partition tables, AND installed CyanogenMod 6.1.

Root Programs (that I use, there are obviously others, like screenshot programs, cache clearers, etc.)

  • setCPU allows you to over- or under-clock your phone. Since the HTC Desire is awesome anyway, I use it to underclock when the phone is not in use (or not doing anything heavy). The result – better battery life!
  • Titanium Backup – Can back up not only applications, but their data too. This means you can restore an app to a previous version, or just restore your phone EXACTLY the way you had it before, without relying on every app’s unique (if not nonexistent) import/export functionality. This comes in handy when you’re wiping your phone to install a new mod.
  • AdFree – block ads across your phone (examine your conscience, as some developers rely on these ads for income… better yet, buy the donate version of apps you really like)
  • Terminal Emulator – who doesn’t want a terminal on their phone???

Partition Tables (Highly specific to the HTC Desire… don’t bother if your phone has 4/8gigs of internal memory)

There’s not much to say here… except when I first received my phone, I had just over 100mb for installing apps. After following a slightly modified version of what’s been come to known as Firerat’s cMTD method, I had 280mb free for apps. That coupled with Froyo will keep me going for awhile!


If you love compiling your linux installs from scratch and figuring out every little hardware detail… you’re free to roll-your-own Android install. For the rest of us, there are custom mods pre-built, and one that’s guaranteed to work on the HTC Desire is CyanogenMod. It’s essentially a customized Froyo ROM, so in addition to getting the Froyo upgrade early (we US Cellular customers are still waiting…), you get a few extra bonuses. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Unlock via the OJ (optical joystick) – coming from an iPod Touch, this is a very welcome feature
  • Torch – use the flash like a flashlight (standard Froyo, I believe)
  • Freely tether your internet via USB, wifi, or Bluetooth
  • Dismiss meetings from the snooze alert
  • Notification bar themes / settings
  • 270 degree rotation (finally!)

There are a few other features that do similar things that I get from Tasker, and the default launcher is ADWLauncher, a worthy alternative to Launcher Pro (though I still prefer the latter). Since I was already using Launcher Pro Plus, I don’t especially miss HTC Sense, though I had to find a replacement dialer (Dialer One is excellent).

Ready to make your HTC Desire even more of a super-phone? This thread has all the details in an excellently-laid-out guide.

How many phone numbers are too many?

Geek & Poke - 3 Phones
I thought this summed up my situation well

So I recently revealed I have over 10 e-mail addresses I check regularly. Did you know we (the family) have 5 phone numbers as well? Actually, there are 8 ways to reach us via phone, but three don’t really count (okay, most don’t really count).

  • Amanda’s Cell – Pretty obvious. If you know us or are her Facebook friend, you have this.
  • Benjamin’s Cell – Ditto (it ends in BEN, isn’t that neat?)
  • Benjamin’s Work – Really only Amanda needs it, but it counts. Technically you can call the front desk, so that’s 2 numbers, but my direct dial should generally be the only one used.
  • Flessner Home – This one’s new. We’re still trying to get the kinks worked out, but soon enough we’ll reveal it to family members. It’s just a Google Voice account that rings both of our phones… if you’re in our contact list. Otherwise it just goes to voice mail. And the number’s really cool* (in my nerdish sort of way).
  • Benjamin’s Google Voice – For a long time, I had a GrandCentral-then-Google-Voice number that I only used for SPAMish purposes (registering for free cars in malls and whatnot) and then more recently as a voicemail replacement. Then we got the ‘Flessner’ number, so this one was a little superfluous. Then I found out that using Google Voice as a real forwarding number AND as a voicemail replacement doesn’t always work (call cell, voicemail forwards to GVoice, forwards to cell, which forwards back to GVoice… :shudder:).  So now my cell phone’s voice mail forwards to my private Google Voice number which always goes to voice mail. As an added bonus, this is the account I setup on my Android phone, so I can send text messages for free from it (so it’s worth knowing if I ever text you). Oh, and I got a new number, too: 515-DIGIBEN 🙂

I also have a VoxOx number as a text/voice forwarding number because Google Voice doesn’t let you link a cell phone to multiple accounts. It doesn’t work so well, though, and unless this fall’s upgrade improves things, I may be looking for something else (any ideas anyone?). In any case, now that my Google Voice app connects to my private Google voice account, there’s not much need for this anymore.

And I wonder why Amanda thinks I’m crazy sometimes. 🙂

*Flessner Home – It’s 4242-Flessner (don’t count). It’s pretty much the best cross-Ben/Amanda thing we could come up with. I figured you could laugh about it (HA-HA-FLESSNER) or because I’m the baby of the family, perhaps GA-GA-FLESSNER. It wasn’t until later that I realized it included the answer to life, the universe, and everything twice!

One Week With Android

Now that my wife is posting regularly, perhaps I should resume my technobabble-related ramblings. I’ve been the happy owner of a US Cellular HTC Desire for a week now and am loving every minute of it. Being back at US Cellular with all the related perks has been awesome as well.

Let’s get the gripes out of the way early… I really have only two, and they’re common to many Android users: battery life and storage space. I sometimes have trouble making it through the day, but I still have some tweaks to try and really, the iOS4 already prepped me by killing my iPod Touch’s battery life. Plus with USC, I can get a new battery for free anytime I want! Storage space for apps is atrocious, though only compared to what I’m coming from (having all 32gigs available to me). I patiently await Froyo 2.2 to alleviate this concern.

The great stuff? Being off Apple will be a nice relief. Most of my gripes with the iPod are taken care of by default. And despite earlier posts, having data available everywhere has already proved very useful (and not just for Pandora, which has become my default music-listening option). Plus I now have a decent camera always available as well as GPS for the occasional trip to unknown locations (and perhaps a new family geocaching hobby that may or may not take off). What really makes it amazing, though, is everything it can do that iPhone can’t:

Tasker – ~$6 ($5 direct from developer)

As one of my coworkers this thing makes your phone a true “smart” phone. With so many options a programmer would love, I haven’t even begun to figure out everything this can do for me, but here’s a start:

  • Automatic silent mode during meetings (driven off calendar) and during church (fixed time)
  • Insert headphones = popup instant menu of media apps (actually this popup menu thing can also be used as a much nicer implementation of folders)
  • Auto-enable GPS when loading maps (or any) app; disable it when done
  • Auto-lower volume when a certain high-volume family member calls
  • Custom Alarms (I actually did this just to get the permanent alarm icon off my notification bar, but you can play any song, support advanced snooze/shutoff/etc.)
  • Auto-updating battery status widget
  • Read aloud messages received while driving
  • Tons more!

LauncherPro – FREE ($2.99 upgrade option)

Sense is pretty and all, but do I really need a clock taking up half my home screen? And that’s really all it is. LauncherPro lets you customize the way you launch apps and organize your home screens, but it’s so much more than that.

  • Hide apps in the drawer – why list them there when they’re on your home screen or bloatware pre-installed on your phone? If you really want one back, search is your friend.
  • Custom dock: 5 shortcut keys to do whatever you want. Basically like the iOS  dock except you can put any Launcher shortcut in there. Oh, and have two actions for each icon. (I click on phone, it takes me to the dialer. I slide across the icon and it loads my contacts.)
  • Activity shortcuts and Profiles – more programming wizardry, but you can create a dock or homescreen icon to take you to a particular settings page in any app. And with profiles (I haven’t even checked this out yet), you can create automated scripted tasks, too.
  • Resizable Widgets (upgrade) – Minimal use but cool when applicable. I have a 4×1 power strip with 6 toggles on it. But I can shrink it to 3×1 or even 2×1, and it still works fine!
  • LauncherPro Widgets (upgrade) – The best things about sense (except the ugly clock.. yet), but being actively developed and with multiple size options. I like the agenda view mainly, and am looking forward to the friendstreamesque (facebook+twitter) widget next week.

Google Voice

US Cellular has free incoming texts, but I don’t want to pay for a texting plan. But in Android, I can text from any app that hooks into text messaging by using Google Voice instead of the standard messaging app. The drawback is my Voice # shows up, but realistically, the only person I ever text is Amanda, who already knows it. Also, with an app like

Google Voice Callback, I can essentially call for free (because, oh yeah, US Cellular has free incoming minutes, too). I probably won’t use that too much unless we get close to our minutes, since we have a pretty low plan for now. (They text us when we get close, too).


While this app is not quite as full-featured as Stanza on iOS, it still lets me download free books automatically. And change the hardware brightness (oh wait, iOS doesn’t let you do that). And add book-shortcuts to your homescreen. And turn pages with the volume keys (apps get banned for that by Apple).

This just after one week! Give me a couple months and we’ll really see what this thing can do!

Alternative Input Methods

I haven’t played around too much with this, but you can replace the keyboard with different systems including Swype (which I hear is awesome…if it ever comes out of closed beta). Plus just tap a key on the keyboard and speak what you want to say. I guess there’s some speech recognition for iOS but it’s no good if the iPod Touch doesn’t have a microphone.

Like I said, I’ve just scratched the surface, but already I can do so much more than just browse the Internet on my phone. Exciting times are ahead!

How many e-mail addresses are too many?

Most people would probably say more than one or two are enough, but I have very specific uses for the almost dozen addresses I use regularly. The problems come when people who know me enough to know more than one, but not enough to know which one…or the fact that most of them will get to me one way or the other. When a certain worship director at our church starts sending me 4 copies of an e-mail, I know I have a problem. So let’s review my addresses and decide which ones I can do away with.

  • Work address. This hasn’t caused too many problems. Nobody outside of work knows it, and the occasional personal e-mail I do receive, I politely redirect to one of my other addresses.
  • – This was my original site from college days. I put the addresses on my website for all the world, including spambots, to see. For the most part, I’ve retired all of these addresses, but we still maintain flessner@ for a few people who seem to still have it. But if you do, please switch to one of the next ones (since it’s getting enough SPAM to warrant serious deletion consideration).
  • – After getting married, my wife and I wanted an address for “us” rather than something tied just to me. We ended up with FlessnerFam, but then we made three addresses: one for her, one for me, and one for “us.” This actually works well, since we each have regular subscriptions that the other person doesn’t care about, and it’s nice to not have that cluttering up our individual mailboxes. It does make for difficulty when checking them all and keeping them in sync across multiple computers (we don’t use IMAP because we don’t want to mark something as “read” if the other hasn’t read it). It also confuses people when they don’t know which one to use (answer-just pick one; we’ll get it. Just don’t pick all three; we’ll get three copies!).I also maintain what was originally a spam account for rewards programs, but ironically, it gets very little spam. So it’s exclusively for rewards programs and purchases on not-quite-mainstream websites (where I also use a virtual credit card number). (Update: the version of this address recently got on a spam list… so I’m going to start creating new alias address for each site I’m unsure about. Not that you care about that… move along now…)
  • – Here’s where I start getting into trouble. I only have a single address here, and I maintain it for working on the church website. Sometimes I send emails from it when I ask questions related to the website, but then people (like the aforementioned worship director  (-: ) think that’s my main email address and start using it for non-web-related stuff. Or worse… a FMSC auto-generated signup e-mail gets me on someone’s “forward random-but-useless crap” list.  :shudder: Action plan for this one: don’t send ‘normal’ email from it.
  • Gmail – Who doesn’t have a gmail account these days? I have just one, but I haven’t come up with a really good use for it. Since I have a more appropriate (or more targeted?) FlessnerFam address, I don’t need to use this one as much. But it’s still used if I email something from Reader or log into a site with my Google account…
  • Hotmail – My wife has a hotmail account. I think I probably had one or two related to my WWT-Live shenanigans, but I haven’t logged into them in ages. I wonder if they’re still around.
  • – Um… I think I have one here, but it just forward to my regular address. No one knows this one… not even me.
  • – Now I’m just getting crazy. This was my old dial-up address that is way expired at this point… though it might be referenced somewhere on the scrambled mind

Most of those are old/unused address, but the truth remains that my iPod has 7 different mail tabs that I have to actively swap between (looking forward to OS 4 to fix that!), and that’s not counting the 3-4 active addresses that forward to one of those 7. Is some intervention in order?

10 Displays

I have 10 different LED/LCD displays in my office at this point, and it’s not even because I’m that nerdy (i.e. I don’t have a beautiful 4-display layout like a certain coworker of mine).

  • Standard 2-monitor workstation (Widescreen + Standard)
  • Laptop 15″ display
  • Digital Picture Frame (see… who doesn’t have one of those these days)
  • Cisco IP Phone (alas, not the touchscreen variety, but I can have a cutesy message like my hotkey to home: “The Beautiful Amanda Flessner”)
  • Labeler – we got these free when we surrendered our file cabinet to the ways of ‘Getting Things Done’ (though I still have useful hanging files; sorry David Allen!)
  • Cell Phone
  • iPod Touch
  • Pager (this one’s only with me one week out of every couple of months, but it helps bring the total to 10 today)
  • Watch (not just an LCD display; a Casio databank with phonebook, timers, stopwatches, etc. Just no calculator)

Okay, so maybe I am a little nerdy. But if I were a real nerd, I’m sure I’d have many more than 10 computerized displays…