Preventing unwanted calls (spam, unknown, telemarketers) on android and apple cell phones

I don’t tend to freely give my cell number out (or if I do, I give out my google voice number).  However, I still get annoying calls from vendors who legitimately do have my contact information (Dish, TimeWarner, etc) as well as random telemarketer or recruiter calls at mostly inconvenient times.

I decided this week that it’s time to take a page from Alice Cooper’s book, and I now repeat the mantra “No more Mr Nice Guy”!

There are a lot of apps out there for both Android and IOS phones which do caller blacklisting and the like, but I really didn’t want that.  What I wanted to do was to block any incoming calls from callers who are not on my contact list.  My presumption is that if I bothered to make a contact list entry for them, then they have some significance in my life and I may want to receive a call from them.

If somebody I know calls me now my phone rings, but anybody else goes right to voicemail.  So, when somebody new calls me, I don’t lose the call forever, but have a chance to review the voicemail and perhaps add them to my contacts if I want to continue communication with that individual.

Blocking on your iPhone

Let’s deal with IOS first.  This requires NO APP at all and simply uses the built in “do not disturb” functionality.  Tap Settings, then Do Not Disturb, and you will see this screen:

What I did here is to manually turn on the feature (though you can schedule it if you want), and I also selected “always” at the bottom as I really want blocking to occur even if I have the phone unlocked.  I set “Allow Calls From” to “All Contacts”. That’s all there is to it! 

Blocking on your Android

Android requires an app to accomplish this goal.  The one I chose is called aFirewall.  This app is a bit obscure in it’s usage, but it’s quite a versatile program. I’m only using a small portion of it’s functionality to restore my sanity and support my new mantra. I installed the program, then went to the “Scheduled Rules” tab.  I modified the default rule (the first one listed) to “Accept Contacts”.  Done!

If you are curious about some of the other interesting things this program can do, please see the author’s FAQ here.


Altering Windows’ right-click “edit” and “view” actions

This used to be simple to do, a few releases of Windows ago, but now that windows has been improved, it’s not so simple.  You can fairly easily change the default action for “open”, but edit?? Not so simple.  Perusal of net.wisdom on the subject usually yields registry hacks and the like.  Big fail for Microsoft for removing this ability.

However, all is not lost!  Enter Default Programs Editor – yay!  This little program is really great. It does a lot and is easy to use. It’s your one stop shop for customizing things the way you want them to work.  I downloaded it, ran it, changed the edit functionality I wanted for a specific file type, and then tossed off a donation to the author because it’s so nice to see a simple solution with no adware or other junk, and a decent user interface.

Give it a try!

Default Programs Editor: File Types page

Blackberry android – PRIV – Bring out your dead!

Blackberry has announced a new android-based blackberry:


Android? Really? Blackberry’s one claim to fame has always been the security of their devices. Now they offer a new improved one with the most insecure operating system available for mobiles?  Interesting strategy.

This reminds me of a scene from Monty Python in which a man brings a cart around to pestilence ridden villages ringing a bell and proclaiming loudly “Bring out your dead”.  John Cleese has this old sick guy with him and tries to give him to the cart man.  The sick guy keeps protesting “but I’m not dead”.  Cleese says that he’s almost dead and to just shut up and get on the cart.  The cart man won’t take him because it’s against regulations.  After some quick negotiation for a favor, the cart man bashes the sick man in the head and loads him up on the cart.

Doesn’t anyone have a stick to put Blackberry out of their misery? 

They lost their market edge due to inability to compete with all of the feature-laden consumer grade products.  Now, they are struggling and clawing to try to regain some relevancy in the marketplace.  They are trying to leverage their BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) product, expanding it to handle non-blackberry products in an attempt to own the MDM (Mobile Device Manager) market.  They recently purchased Watchdox, a really decent enterprise file share product.  This purchase caused Watchdox to drop from the top-right of the Gartner magic quadrant, down to the lower right quadrant (not such a good place to be).  This reflects a perceived inability to execute on product/feature delivery.  Now they have released an android phone.  Perhaps it’s just me finding this humorous and perhaps a little sad.

Bring out your dead!

Solar Impulse – flying around the world on solar power only

This is very cool.  It’s an aviation first and hopefully will pave the way for more electric powered flight.  The flight started from Abu Dhabi and will circumnavigate the globe, ending in Abu Dhabi once again. As I write this, this leg of the flight is a very long stretch over open water, so very little margin for error.  Takeoff was June 20th in Japan (after being stuck there for weeks due to weather) and will land in Hawaii 5 days later.  The aircraft uses 26kw of power during the day, with 25kw additional power being used to charge the batteries.  At night, the aircraft cruises on batteries until the sun comes up again.

You can watch this LIVE – click here.  The cockpit video is really neat, and the “widgets” on the right hand side let you take a close (and live) look at everything from the state of the battery charge, to the state of the pilot’s “emotional charge” 🙂

Here is what the “energy” widget shows right now:


Real life hoverboard

Catalin Alexandru Duru has set a Guinness World Record for farthest flight by hoverboard!

Catalin needed to travel a minimum of 164 feet airborne to break the record — and in the end, he smashed it easily, travelling 905 feet and two inches at a height of around 16 feet at Lake Ouareau in Quebec, Canada.  The hoverboard was built over a one year period and is apparently very stable to ride.

Biplane with a Jet engine strapped on? YEA!!

Acrobatics pilot Jeff Boerboon flys a modified Waco biplane for Jack Link’s flying team (Jack Link’s of the always ready-to-eat beef jerky).  What makes this particular plane so unique is the addition of a Learjet engine attached below the traditional engine and propeller.

A replica of a 1929 Taperwing biplane, the Jack Link’s Screamin’ Sasquatch was built from the ground up by pilot and mechanic Dell Coller for stunt flying.

Jeff Boerboon

Coller says that when they first fired up the Sasquatch’s jet engine while the plane was on the tarmac, it burned a hole right in the pavement. “We’ve since learned to start it up only on concrete,” said Coller. They can also take off with just the prop engine and turn on the jet while in flight.

That engine, by the way, doesn’t just look cool, it literally supercharges the biplane. Without the jet engine, the plane’s propeller has about 1,500 lbs. of thrust. With the jet engine, it has 4,000 lbs. On prop power, the plane can fly roughly 110 miles per hour. With the jet on, it can do 250 mph.

That extra equipment gives the Screamin’ Sasquatch special capabilities. For example, it can fly up and then use the jet engine to almost hover in the air (with the nose pointed up) and then, jet off even higher. Coller told me. It’s a feat “the rest of them wish they could do,” he said.

Plane over Jones Beach

US regulations – regulating us into the 3rd world? We are behind in UAV race.

Lack of regulations could leave the U.S. behind in commercial UAV race
BI Intelligence estimates potential for $100 billion in global expenditures on unmanned aerial vehicles in the next decade, as commercial uses skyrocket. Meanwhile, uncertainty over U.S. regulation of UAVs has pushed investment and innovation to other countries, according to Patrick Thevoz, co-founder and CEO of Swiss-based Flyability. Reuters (3/8)

Here in the “land of opportunity”, it seems that opportunity fades with time.  We now have too many regulations; some governmental, and some imposed by nervous insurance companies.  The result is that innovation and testing is being done overseas.  That’s the only way to actually make progress.  Many products don’t even progress beyond the idea phase because development and testing would be impossible here.  That leaves innovation to other teams in other countries for the most part, except in the case of large companies who can finance a division outside the US stranglehold.

UAVs are not the only product where we’re slipping behind.  Flying cars and motorcycles are being toyed with here to some degree, but in other countries products are being developed in earnest.  This extends to other industries also.  Drugs is another good example.  The FDA is so slow and cumbersome that many people die each year here because medication that could help them is not approved.  Most don’t have the wherewithal to relocate to another country where such treatment is available.

Unless something is done about this growing problem, we are going to regulate ourselves into the 3rd world as far as the rest of the globe is concerned.  Once you get behind, it’s awfully hard to play catch-up, and the rest of the advanced nations show no inclination to slow their research and development.

Lumens vs Watts – what LED bulb should you pick to replace an incandescent?

I can never find this info when I need it, and I’m terrible at remembering numbers so I decided to post it here for everybody’s edification.  Incandescent bulbs are going away. Many governments are prohibiting their manufacture, so it’s only a matter of time.  Replacement choices are either CF (compact fluorescent) or LED.  These bulbs have a light output rated in Lumens, so it’s good to know what the Lumen equivalent is if you are replacing a 60W incandescent bulb and want the same amount of light.

  • 40-watt incandescent bulb = 450 lumens
  • 60-watt incandescent bulb = 800 lumens
  • 100-watt incandescent bulb = 1600 lumens

Many CF bulbs have a slow start-up time, so it can take up to 2 minutes for the bulb to reach full brightness.  If this is undesirable, then opt for an LED bulb as they are instant-on.  LED also is lower heat and has less power draw, but can be more expensive than CF bulbs.

The other wrinkle is color temperature.  We’re all familiar with “cool white” or “warm white” bulbs, but translating that into LED or CF specs on the packaging can be daunting.  Here’s a handy chart that shows the Kelvin temperatures and the common vernacular equivalents.

As you can see, a cool white bulb is around 4200K, so when shopping for a replacement for a 100W cool white incandescent, you would want to buy a 1600 lumen 4200K bulb.

Outlook 2013 – restore some sanity to your inbox with a simple rule (spam filtering)

If you are like me, your company email is full of spam from vendors even though you have a spam filter system in place.  It’s difficult for spam systems to nail all of this because a lot of these emails are generated by conference attendance and other such things which makes it a bit of a gray area.  It’s not blatant spam, but you didn’t ask for it either.  So… what to do about this inbox which has important email from your colleagues buried in a morass of useless information?

I had the idea that I’d create a rule or rules that would take any incoming email which originated outside my company and move it into a different folder.  Then I thought it would be good to further hone that filter to only move things that were from people who weren’t in my contacts list either.  This should be simple, right?  WRONG!  Outlook doesn’t necessarily respond the way you think it will.

Let’s say that my company has “” as our email domain setup.  My first thought was to create a rule which looks for “” in the sender’s address field, and move everything EXCEPT that to another box.  The trouble is, for local users, exchange stores the user’s name (an active directory OU object), not their email address.  When you do a rule for you don’t get many hits.  To make along story short, it took a lot of fiddling to figure this out.  Let’s cut to the chase and I’ll tell you how I solved the problem!

I created a rule which looks for “@” in the sender’s address, and I had Outlook move those emails to the “non-corp” folder.  That worked like a charm!  Every externally generated email ended up in the “non-corp” folder.  I then refined it a bit by adding “except” with “” in the sender’s address (to catch some internally generated emails which come from systems reporting status, not from real users), and I added “except if sender is in Contacts address book”.

Now, my inbox contains only emails from co-workers and people in my address book.  I’m no longer missing important emails, and when I get time to go through the “non-corp” folder, it’s pretty quick to delete things because I know most of the stuff in there is trash (as far as I am concerned) so I don’t spend much time on it at all.


Some of the other folks in my company liked this idea but wanted the result to be the other way around.  They wanted a folder for “mycorp” which got everything internal, and they wanted to leave all the external stuff in “inbox”.  How do you do that?  Create a rule which looks for “/ou” instead of “@”.  This will match all internally generated emails and let you move them to your specified folder.  If you wanted everything matching your contacts list to go in there too you would need to create a second rule to do that because Outlook doesn’t have a way to do “OR” processing.  If you try to do both in one rule it applies “and” logic (moves emails matching /ou AND in “contacts” – which won’t match very many at all).

Solar Freakin’ Roadways

Scott and Julie Brusaw came up with a really novel idea. They designed hexagonal tiles that can be installed in parking lots, driveways, roadways and highways.  They call these Solar Roadways. 

These glass tiles contain solar cells, LED lights, and other circuitry.  If you haven’t seen the video, watch it now!  It’s actually kinda funny in addition to being interesting.  In part because of the fun aspect, this video has gone viral.  Another reason could be because of it’s eco-centric message.  Anything eco-centric is wildly popular these days.

I do think that the representations of road signage they have in their “artist concept” pictures (such as the one to the left) are a bit much. 


They have LEDs built into the panels but there are only a handful, scattered across the panel (see below, right).  In order to do high-res images such as depicted above, you’d need a LOT more lights (pixels).LEDs

But, I totally get it – artist concepts aren’t reality, they are just concepts.  I think fundamentally this is a very interesting idea.  One of the “features” of these hexagonal glass tiles is that you can replace an individual tile seamlessly.  This would be really great as repairing asphalt is a lot less than seamless, and is a temporary fix at best.  Potholes in asphalt are common and annoying.  It seems that this technology would solve that problem too.

Even if they never made it to freeways, deploying them to driveways, parking lots and residential roads would really give some great benefits.  They claim that in the winter, the roadway is heated.  This is not to make it warm but to keep the surface temperature just high enough that falling snow would melt as it hits.  It certainly would be nice not to have to shovel snow, or plow roads!

Check out this TED talk – it shows the history of the idea and where they are going with it.

Parking lot   Snow melt