Reversing a String in VB.net

The following code snippet shows how easy it is to reverse a string in Vb.net:

Dim originalString As String = "Some text here"
Dim reversedString As String = originalString.Reverse.ToArray
'reversedString now equals "ereh txet emoS"

As you can see, this is very easy to do, however, most of the examples I found online were overly complicated. So, I thought I’d post my nice easy way.  Happy coding!

Free Helvetica Font Alternative

People like Paula Scher despise the classic font Helvetica, but to my untrained eyes, it is a fantastic font for clean headings. Unfortunately, the many variants of Helvetica are not free. Linotype and Adobe both have their implementations, but they cost around $25 per variant. That’s just too much to pay for a font. What to do?

Today, I was working on a project where Helvetica would have came in very handy, so I did a web search and came upon a FREE decent alternative released under the GPL by Red Had a few years ago called Liberation Sans, designed by Steve Matteson. Obviously, it’s not exactly like Helvetica, but it’s close enough to fool the average (read: non-typesetter) person. Besides, it looks a lot better than Microsoft’s ripoff Arial. Check out the sample below that shows all four variants that are available:

liberation_sans_sample

For me, this is an excellent find. Very importantly, it is released under the GPL so you can use it for anything you like, as long as you promise to allow others the rights to always use it too.

If you like Liberation Sans, click here to download it. Many thanks to Red Hat for allowing this great font to be freely used and distributed.

How is Mike Bryant Going to Reduce Taxes While Still Balancing the State Budget?

Some people have questioned exactly how Mike is planning on reducing the burden on the taxpayers while at the same time raising money necessary to balance the state budget. This is a perfectly valid question. Anybody trying to decide who to vote for should be asking this question.

The answer boils down to simple economic principles involving the number of taxpayers and how much each taxpayer must pay. Currently, most politicians view the number of taxpayers as a constant. In this scenario, the only way to increase tax revenue is to increase the amount of taxes each taxpayer must pay.

Mike’s solution is to increase the number of taxpayers. If you increase taxpayers, then each taxpayer is responsible for less. How do you increase the number of taxpayers? Provide jobs. When you get more people working, you can raise more money with each person paying a smaller percentage of their earnings. Consider the following simplified illustration:

Illustration of Mike Bryant's Tax Plan

The best part of this is that Mike’s promise to bring jobs into KY is anything but lip service. As a private citizen, he has been working to bring jobs to the area since he left Atlanta to move back home. Despite his struggles to find steady work upon returning to the mountains, Mike continuously gave work to local people whenever possible. Whenever Mike benefited, so did those around him.

To scale his efforts to bring work to KY, Mike has several strategies that will certainly lead to employment opportunities for thousands of Kentuckians. Firstly, Mike will take measures to make KY, and especially Eastern KY, an Information Technology (IT) powerhouse. The low cost of living means that IT professionals living in the area can make a good living while providing their services at a cost significantly below the national average. What this means is that work that used to be done in Cincinnati or New York will be done in KY.

Secondly, Mike will travel far and wide to court any and all types of businesses who may have an interest in coming to KY. All companies willing to employ folks, both foreign and domestic, will be aggressively sought out. Over time, high school and college graduates will no longer have to leave home to find work: Instead, they can find a job close to home.

Thirdly, Mike will work to reform existing tax laws such that small and medium-sized businesses can more easily expand. Mike ran a small contracting business for awhile and he knows all too well that taxes severely limited his expansion potential. Businesses are no different than individuals. If there are more businesses paying taxes, each will have to give less to the government but the government will still have the same amount of money to perform its functions.

Mike’s strategies aren’t a magic bullet. They will take time. Perhaps more important to realize is that they will take hard work on the part of legislatures and citizens alike. However, the strategies are built on solid reasoning and are doable. One thing’s for sure, Mike’s not afraid of hard work, especially since helping eastern Kentucky prosper is one of his life-long dreams.

America Needs a Better Common Enemy

“From the day we were born, we were all meant for this moment. Today, we will put an American on the moon” – Gene Kranz speaking of July 20, 1969, as seen on Moon Landing: The Day We Put a Man on the Moon, Discovery Channel – March 1, 2010 @ 9pm.

A guy I have come to admire is Gene Kranz, who was the NASA flight director on several Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 (moon landing) and Apollo 13. I’ve been watching him on the History and Discovery Channels giving his accounts of the historic events he had a part in at NASA. Kranz is the epitome of the can-do attitude that allowed the United States to reach the moon first. (I’m not going to argue with anybody about whether or not we actually made it to the moon. I think we did. If you believe otherwise, complain somewhere else.)

Kranz was a fighter pilot during the Korean War prior to joining NASA as Flight Director.  As such, he understood risks. He knew that every mission, even down to the training exercises, could result in the flight crew dying. Kranz wasn’t alone in this knowledge: All the astronauts and everyone at Mission Control knew they had a sizable chance of not making it home…

In spite of this, 400,00 people (the estimated number of people involved in the Apollo missions) pushed forward day-in and day-out to make sure an American set foot on the moon first. It was a matter of pride. The United States, in all its turmoil of the 1960s, came together to rejoice as Neil Armstrong delivered his famous line, “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

In addition to thanking the brave souls that braved the dangers and made it happen, I would like to thank the USSR for being the beautiful communist bastards that they were. They were truly an excellent common enemy. The USSR was cunning, had some of the smartest scientists in the world, and wanted to get to the moon as bad as we did. A scientific and engineering exercise was elevated to a contest of philosophies: capitalism vs. communism. Sure some people died, but the overall goal was to prove superiority. (No. I’m not saying the USSR was a good thing. But if you want to have a common enemy, here’s the one you would want.)

Today, America has one of the stupidest common enemies you could ask for: fundamentalist terrorists. It’s impossible for me to describe how much I despise these people without getting too profane, so allow me to articulate my disgust as tactfully as I can. These ignorant knuckle draggers blow stuff up, trying to kill as many people as possible in the process. This is so unimpressive. Humans have been killing one another for as long as there have been humans. You can literally beat somebody to death with a rock. So, these terrorists utilize modern weapons they aren’t even smart enough to invent to reek havoc. (I’m not going to debate that creating weapons is good or bad for anybody to do. Again, take it somewhere else.) Let me be very, very clear: I HATE fundamentalist terrorists SO MUCH!

With a common enemy like that, it’s no wonder this country can’t (or doesn’t want to) do something awesome. I think there are plenty of brilliant young engineers in this country, but what’s missing is the masses cheering them on from behind. How much pride can we get from killing more terrorists. Creating a weapon that kills more terrorists is so uninspiring. The terrorists don’t even care if they die as long as they can take out a bunch of us. The sense of competition is missing. Whether or not we like to admit it, humans crank out better stuff when there’s a competitive edge to whatever we are tying to do.

This is very much a rant against uninspired terrorism, but my point is that we do need an imaginative enemy to defeat. Either that, or a frontal lobotomy. I can’t decide which.

Handbrake 0.9.4 Encoding Settings that Work with a Blackberry Curve 8310

Through a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out what video encoding settings in Handbrake 0.9.4 produce video that will play on my Blackberry Curve 8310. Here’s the settings I used to produce working video, broken down by options or the tabs in Handbrake:

  • Container
    • MP4 File
  • Picture
    • Width:320
    • Checked Keep Aspect Ratio Box will automatically set properly proportioned Height.
  • Video
    • Video Codec:MPEG-4 (FFmpeg)
    • Two-Pass Encoding box checked (to improve quality)
    • Framerate:24
    • Average Bitrate radio button checked @ 768kpbs
  • Audio
    • Audio Codec: aac (faac)
    • Mixdown: Stereo

Any options I have not listed were left to the default settings. The video produced by this is perfect quality for a screen as small as a Blackberry. I’m not a videophile, though, so your mileage may vary. As far as speed of the encoding, a 44 minute episode of  House ran through a Two-Pass encoding in about 9 minutes on this system.

Vote Mike Bryant for KY State Representative in the 91st District

I’m super excited to announce that my very good friend Mike Bryant is running for KY State Representative in the 91st District. Mike is a conservative Republican, but most importantly to me, he’s a great guy. I’m going to vote for him because I think he will fight tooth and nail to make things better in Breathitt, Estill, and Lee Counties. I can’t possibly do justice to how awesome Mike really is: You’d really just have to hang out with the guy. That being said, let me try to explain some of the reasons I think Mike is an excellent choice to represent us all.

I met Mike about four years ago at a Kiwanis meeting. He told me he was a software developer and I told him about my CIS background. He, for whatever reason, decided I might know what I was doing as a web developer and asked me if I wanted to do some programming work for him. A week later, I walk into his office, he briefs me on the project, and I was off to the races. And lucky for me, I was good enough, because Mike kept bringing me aboard for more and more projects (which we completed quite successfully I might add). The important thing here is that Mike believed in me and gave me a chance. Mike is willing to give anybody a chance if they are willing to work. He has literally employed six local guys to work with him on projects in the short time I’ve known him! How could you go wrong with a guy like that?

Mike is serious about bringing jobs to the area. He attends regional development meetings frequently. It can’t be said that he hasn’t tried to bring opportunities to the area: I’ve been in the room several times when he’s been on the phone with companies who are looking to relocate to Breathitt County. It’s true that none of them have actually relocated here (because of lack of effort from others involved), but the point is, plain-ol’-private-citizen Mike has been trying to develop the area since I’ve known him. I’ve literally witnessed his attempts myself. As a Representative of District 91, I guarantee that Mike wouldn’t rest until he brought jobs to the area.

Because I know Mike to be a genuine, hard-working person who honestly wants to see Eastern Kentucky prosper, it is without reservation that I hope Mike Bryant becomes the next KY State Representative in District 91.

Canon 270EX Speedlite = Awesome

Today, I purchased a Canon 270EX Speedlite for my Canon EOS Digital Rebel T1I DSLR. The camera itself is great for the price, but the built-in flash results in blown out colors, especially at close range. I bought the 270EX because its rotating head allows for bounce flashing. After playing with it for an hour, I think the 270EX will take my flash photography to a whole new level, as the bounced light provides lighting without the loss of subtle differences in color. I’ve missed several good shots in low light conditions since I got the camera because I have been reluctant to use a flash. I think those days are behind me, now that I have better control over the light.

Thus, it is without reservation that I give the Canon 270EX Speedlite the Jerry Travis guarantee.

Drungol the Dwarf Finally Gets His Horse

I play World of Warcraft. I’m not addicted or anything, but I find it a welcome escape from reality. My main character is a Dwarf named Drungol. One of the rules of the game is that a Dwarf cannot ride a horse unless he or she is Exalted with the Human city of Stormwind. Without being exalted, Dwarves have to ride rams.I hate riding the rams. The horses sound cooler and look cooler. Today I got incredibly pissed and decided to gain the 3,000 Stormwind reputation I needed to become Exalted with Stormwind…It gives me great pleasure to announce that Drungol finally got his horse!

Mud Slinging. Oh what Fun!

So, awhile back, I helped my buddy Mike with a website theme for TooKookyForKentucky.com, which is basically an anti-Rand Paul website. Rand (son of Ron Paul) is running for the 2011 KY gubernatorial US Senate in the upcoming 2010 election*. He claims to be a Republican but he seems more libertarian, so Mike, being the good Republican that he is, created the site to call Rand’s bluff. Mike warned me before putting a link to my site at the bottom of the theme that I would eventually be a target of Rand’s party. It took longer than expected, but it finally happened. In response to my post informing everyone that I liked my antique Snoopy book, some guy named Hightower^ had this to say:

What about your own Web-Master, Jerry Travis, who states in his entry of November 25, 2009, “(My vampire obsession goes a long way back, and doesn’t involve a single, boring, pasty-faced Cullen “… interesting, so the guy you used to assist you in your web site design is a admires drinking the blood of human-beings, and is self-admittedly “obsessed” with this? My my, you should be careful who you collaborate with.

That’s gotta be one of the funniest things anybody has ever said about me, especially considering the post was about my love of Snoopy!

This is a great example of context, and what can happen when snippets are taken away from said context. The poor sap probably doesn’t even know what my Cullen reference is talking about. Furthermore, Hightower probably didn’t click on the link for the text “vampire obsession.” It was a post from way back in July 2003, where I talked about how happy I was I got to watch a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer during that summer. He actually believes that because I like vampire stuff that I drink human blood. By that logic, I guess that means he likes to smuggle whiskey because he watches Smokey and the Bandit every other day.

If he’s going to sling mud at me, he’s going to have to do better than that. If Rand is anything like Hightower, he is Too Kooky for Kentucky.

*Correction: When I first posted this, about an hour ago, I mistakenly put that Rand was running for KY Governor in 2011. He is, in fact, running for the US Senate in 2010. Everybody’s probably going to have a field day with that :)
^Correction 2: The comment wasn’t made by Hightower. It was a guy going by the name Lycurgus.

Trav on Motivation

There are two reasons people do anything:

  1. They want to to it
  2. They are afraid not to do it

The thing that’s wrong with America is that nobody wants to do anything, and nobody is afraid of anything because consequences have been removed.

In education, the kids don’t want to learn and they have nothing to fear if they don’t. In society at large, nobody wants to work, and nobody is afraid of starving to death because of all the social programs we have. So, these two, simple little rules have managed to bring one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known to its knees.