javascript, home comments edit

I have, like, 1,000 of those little keyring cards for loyalty/rewards. You do, too. There are a ton of apps for your phone that manage them, and that’s cool.

Loyalty card phone apps never work for me.

For some reason, I seem to go to all the stores where they’ve not updated the scanners to be able to read barcodes off a phone screen. I’ve tried different phones and different apps, all to no avail.

You know what always works? The card in my wallet. Which means I’m stuck carrying around these 1,000 stupid cards.

There are sites, some of them connected to the phone apps, that will let you buy a combined physical card. But I’m cheap and need to update just frequently enough that it’s not worth paying the $5 each time. I used to use a free site called “JustOneClubCard” to create a combined loyalty card but that site has gone offline. I think it was purchased by one of the phone app manufacturers. ((Seriously.)


Enter: LoyaltyCard

I wrote my own app: LoyaltyCard. You can go there right now and make your own combined loyalty card.

You can use the app to enter up to eight bar codes and then download the combined card as a PDF to print out. Make as many as you like.

And if you want to save your card? Just bookmark the page with the codes filled in. Done. Come back and edit anytime you like.

Go make a loyalty card.

Behind the Scenes

I made the app not only for this but as a way to play with some Javascript libraries. The whole app runs in the client with the exception of one tiny server-side piece that loads the high-resolution barcodes for the PDF.

You can check out the source over on GitHub.

vs comments edit

I installed Visual Studio 2015 today. I had the RC installed and updated to the the RTM.

One of the minor-yet-annoying things I found about the RTM version showed up when I pinned it to my taskbar next to VS2013:

Confusing icons on the taskbar


Luckily it’s an easy fix.

Windows 7 / Server 2008

First, unpin VS2015 from your taskbar. You’ll put it back after you’ve fixed the icon.

Open up your Start menu and right-click on the “Visual Studio 2015” shortcut in there. On the context menu, choose “Properties.” Click the “Change Icon” button.

Click the 'Change Icon' button

VS2015 actually comes with a few icons. They’re not all awesome, but they’re at least different than the VS2013 icon. I chose the one with the little arrow because it’s, you know, upgraded from VS2013.

Pick a better icon

Click OK enough times to close all the property dialogs. You’ll see the icon in the Start menu has changed. Now right-click that and pin it to the taskbar. Problem solved.

At least you can tell which is which now

Windows 8 / Server 2012

If you haven’t pinned VS2015 to your taskbar yet, do that now so you can get a shortcut.

Open up the taskbar icons folder. This is at C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar.

Copy the “Visual Studio 2015” shortcut out of that folder and onto your desktop.

Unpin VS2015 from your taskbar. The shortcut in that TaskBar folder will disappear.

Right-click on the “Visual Studio 2015” shortcut you copied to your desktop. On the context menu, choose “Properties.” Click the “Change Icon” button.

Click the 'Change Icon' button

VS2015 actually comes with a few icons. They’re not all awesome, but they’re at least different than the VS2013 icon. I chose the one with the little arrow because it’s, you know, upgraded from VS2013.

Pick a better icon

Click OK enough times to close all the property dialogs. You’ll see the icon on your desktop has changed.

Right-click on the icon on your desktop and pin that one to your taskbar. A new shortcut with the correct icon will be added to that TaskBar folder and will appear on the taskbar. You can now delete the one from your desktop.

At least you can tell which is which now

gaming, xbox comments edit

I tried playing a couple of Xbox 360 Kinect games with my four-year-old daughter, Phoenix. We had less than stellar results.

The first game was “Sesame Street TV.” Basically it’s interactive Sesame Street. We picked it up from the library to try it and I’m glad it was free.

Problem 1: She’s very small compared to me. If the Kinect sees me, it somehow stops seeing her. And vice versa - if it sees her, it stops detecting me. There seemed to be a sort of very small “magic area” in the room where it’d find both of us.

Problem 2: The interaction for that game isn’t constant. It’s more like: they sing a song, then you have a small bit of interaction, then they tell a story, then there’s a small bit of interaction. She’ll watch or she’ll interact, but she loses interest in interacting once you switch to watching.

Problem 3: Slight misrepresentation of the game on the box. The concept behind the game is like you going into the TV and being on Sesame Street. There is a picture on the box to illustrate the concept. Phoenix wants that to be the reality. It is really hard to explain that the box just shows an idea of what it’s like, that you don’t really transfer yourself into the television.

After a bit of Sesame Street, we tried “Kinect Adventures.” I did this thinking that the constant interaction would keep her engaged.

We still ran into the problem where there was basically the small area where it recognized us both, but then it was compounded with a couple of new problems.

Problem 4: Many of the games aren’t obvious to four-year-olds. In particular, the game where you have to walk from side to side and jump to control the raft - that was entirely unintuitive to Phoenix. She was far more concerned with whether or not the avatar on the raft actually looked like her, which then led to a half-hour diversion where we had to set up an avatar.

Problem 5: Auto jump-in/jump-out. The ability to jump in and out of the game quickly is great for folks that “get it” and when you have a properly sized room without the “magic area” where you’re recognized. However, every time Phoenix accidentally stepped out of the “magic area,” her avatar would disappear because it thought she was jumping out of the game, at which point I’d have to try to convince her to come back into the area - but not too close to me - so we could continue.

In the end, we decided it a better idea to just go watch some Looney Tunes cartoons we picked up at the library. Which, now that I think about it, is sort of the opposite of what Kinect is trying to get you to do - get off the couch and be active. Hmmm.

Over the years I’ve posted about my home media center developments. Back in 2008 I posted a summary with links to articles, then I did another roundup in 2014.

The problem with this sort of periodic summary is that it’s hard to get an accurate picture of how things are working right now. I might forget to blog it, or I’ll take some notes on something I found and forget to post it, or whatever.

I was keeping my media center and home networking notes in a personal wiki on PBworks but I figured it was time to make things a bit more official.

My media center and home network documentation is now live at

Diagram of my home network

This is the place I’ll add notes or tips on how my media center setup works. I’ve got everything from the hardware I use to my process for getting video content into the system. I’ve got my plan and analysis for how I cut cable including cost breakdowns and options. It’s all on this site.

My biggest problem in getting my media center going was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Information about all this stuff - hardware, software, how to get things done - is spread out all over the place. I never found a complete guide to help me on my way.

I hope this documentation can help you jump start your media center or improve the one you have. As things change in my system, I’ll be keeping the documentation here up to date so it should always have the latest info.

home, media, music, movies comments edit

We finally did it: We cut the cable.

On Friday, we took all the cable boxes back to Comcast, cut off the cable TV and the phones, and we’re down to internet service and mobile phones only.

I have to say, I know I’m only a few days into it but I haven’t really noticed it. Aside from calling my various financial institutions and utilities to change my phone number with them, it’s pretty status quo. We were already watching most of our stuff on demand or through online services anyway.

If you’d like to know what I did or how I did it, I documented the whole plan. I’ll do a blog entry later for the official release of my media center documentation site, but you can read over there about my cable cutting plan: what we did and the equipment/services we use.