Even though Wikipedia is a great thing, the concept of letting anybody edit the pages surely has its drawbacks. Of course
Today I woke up a bit earlier than usual and as I didn't want to go back to sleep, I was listening to the latest Heti Meteor podcast (Weekly Meteor, Hungarian) in bed. The bedroom window faces west and I was gazing at the trees on the other side of the street as the Sun was rising behind the house. At one point I realized that something was flashing erratically on the big pine tree, without following a pattern. Being a city boy I don't know much about nature, but I remembered when I first read (typically in a graphic novel) about a bird that stole shiny objects and when they finally found its nest, it was full of medallions and other small family treasures. Leslie was about to leave to work, I asked her to check it out and she confirmed that it must be a crow's nest, I've even seen the black bird commuting in that area while I was wondering about the phenomenon. A light breeze must be moving the branches. I can't stop thinking of what kind of treasure the crow (or raven, magpie) must have piled up there... :-)
It was in last October when I moved to the USA on a K1 visa, we had 90 days to get married and start all the extra paperwork that eventually gives me a state issued proof of residence - also known as a Green Card for immigrants. Despite the predicted 5 months turnover I'm still waiting; along with many other people I'm sure. This isn't a serious issue, we have been waiting a lot while dealing with government offices, crossing all the t's and dotting the i's to please Uncle Sam to the max, some more waiting is not the end of the world. However, it's funny to think back to the guy talking behind me on the plane a couple of years ago, how he would forget to go home from Florida the next time he goes there. Yeah, right… If you are thinking about being an illegal immigrant in the USA, let me give you a handful of advices:
- Don't do it.
- Don't even think about it.
You probably heard about the Social Security Number, without that you practically don't exist, you can be a tourist for maximum 90 days and that's it. You may think that you can spend 90 days here four times a year, but not only would it be stupidly expensive (unless you 'commute' near the border), once I came here five months after an earlier, nearly 90 days visit and the immigration officer was rather cross, advising me to get some sort of visa the next time, or else. Anyway, without a proper visa you can't get an SSN and that's the end of it.
With my K1 visa I was eligible for an SSN, it wasn't hard to apply for it and get it. Several years ago it was enough to deal with a lot of things here, these days it's just one of the many necessary forms of identification required by the USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym they desperately tried to find matching words for and which drives American citizens crazy ever since it has been issued.
These days you need several forms of identification for everything that goes through The System. One is a state issued proof of residence which is the driver's license for most Americans. For me it would be the Green Card, because I couldn't even get a driver's license without that. They may also ask for your birth certificate, a utility bill or tax records to prove your address, anything they want. It's not a bad thing on its own, but it makes doing paperwork harder and in my case it makes living on my own nearly impossible. Not that I would like to, but there are certain limitations that affect my life, too.
- You couldn't rent a home and couldn't deal with the utility providers and bills.
- You can't have a driver's license, not even a learner's permit. If you had a driver's license from another country, that would become unacceptable after 90 days (or just pray you don't get caught driving).
- You couldn't open a bank account on your own.
- You can't get a cell phone with subscription. Prepaid plans work.
- You can't leave the country during the whole Green Card procedure, unless you apply for a special permission.
However, there are some things that you can get without a Green Card, but with having an SSN:
- You can get a work permit which allows you to get a job.
- You can get a joint bank account with an American citizen or resident. (No SSN needed.)
- You can get a prepaid credit card, where you give the bank the credit limit and you can spend and refill that, for a small monthly fee. It's good for building your credit record and credit score which is 0 for you by default. With a bad credit score you can't get any credit card, bank loan, cell phone subscription etc
So... If you think it would be fun to stay in the USA illegally, think again. Doing it through the legal channels (if you are eligible) takes a lot of time and money. Luckily I can cope with it and I'm happy here, even while waiting for my Green Card to arrive.
I don't use my phone too much these days to make actual phone calls, so going for a monthly paid subscription would be wasteful for me. I got a prepaid SIM card from AT&T a couple of years ago and I've been using it ever since. Last year I added a data package on it so I can be online away from the house too, for smaller things like Twitter, WhatsApp and Foursquare. Back then the best option was $15 each month for 100MB data. For $5 you got a pathetic 10MB, while $25 gave you 500MB. As long as you renew this each month, your data balance rolls over so you can build up a nice amount to use.
Recently they increased the amount of data you get for the same price: 50MB, 200MB and 1GB respectively. I had over 500MB balance by then and currently I use less than 100MB each month, sometimes less than 50 so I decided to do a risky experiment. Disabled the $15 (200MB now) data package and went for the $5 (50MB), hoping that they won't reset my data balance. Good news: they didn't, currently I have 570MB data to use including this month's 50MB, so everything looks nice so far. That's $10 saved each month and if needed, I can go for a higher option for a month anytime. The only bad thing is it costs at least $5 to keep the data balance alive, but I guess I'll survive that. :-)
It's worth noting here that you can check your account balance by calling *777# and similarly you can check your data balance by calling *777*3#, which will give you the amount in kilobytes. These calls are free, making it painless to keep track of things.
Have you ever seen this problem with a YouTube video? Messed up colors, just like if it was inverted, on all browsers... This seems to be a recent bug that comes out on nVidia video cards, when the flash plug-in is in use and the hardware acceleration is enabled. In theory switching to html5 mode solves this issue, but even though it was enabled on my IE9, some videos are just not displayed in that mode. The only proper solution is right-clicking on the video for the context menu, Settings... and clear the checkbox for hardware acceleration. It will fix the problem.
Being multi-lingual is great but it has its drawbacks when it comes to using keyboards. Switching between keyboard layouts is not a big deal, but if you type blindly, it can mess with your brain. I use a US English keyboard most of the time, but sometimes I need to write a few sentences in Hungarian and when I use its layout, the Y and Z keys switch places and other unwanted changes happen. After writing some longer text, I have a hard time switching back to the English layout – mentally. Adding a third layout for writing in Danish just further complicates everything.
To solve this problem I used the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator to make my own, which brings all my occasional needs onto one layout. When the Alt (right) is used, I can reach all the Hungarian keys without a serious mental switch, plus I can use Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, German characters and other symbols that I assigned to keys that feel logical to me.
I've been using this for a couple of years by now as my primary keyboard layout and it works nicely. If I have to write something really long in Hungarian, I still can switch to its own layout, but most of the time I don't need to. If you think it could be useful for you, go ahead – download it, it comes with an installer. Feel free to modify it for your own needs, the source file is included.
When Apple released the first iPad in 2010, I wished I had one but didn't want to jump into it, knowing that the next version will be much better. Indeed, the iPad 2 was more like it with the advanced chipset and increased RAM in a prettier body. For various reasons had to wait with the purchase, then tech rumors made it clear that the 3rd generation model will be much better for my needs with its high resolution display, as mostly I wanted to use it for reading... Still, I spent the past 6 months whining to Leslie about how much I want an iPad whenever we saw one in the store. Now the waiting is over, I ordered one shortly after it was released. It took a while for Apple to ship it here directly from China (while, as it turned out, I could have walked into Best Buy to grab one, unlike last year) but never mind.
I guess I got the ideal setup with a white 64GB Wi-Fi model, housed in a white CaseCrown faux leather case in the style I always imagined for my iPad. It's very pleasant for the touch and even if the device was too warm during average usage (it isn't), I don't feel it at all. I don't need a 4G model, mostly I use it around the house, or if I really have to, I can utilize my phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The 64GB storage feels like a bit of a waste right now, but it will come handy in the long run when I travel to Europe and carry movies and TV shows on it, while leaving my laptop home. Also, I don't plan to replace it for several years, unless something happens to it, so it should be somewhat future proof.
I work from my home, so my main goal was increasing productivity by moving all the usual distractions, such as news and blog reading, Twitter etc to this separated device which I don't bring into my office. Normally I leave it in the bedroom or in the living room, so when I sit down in front of the PC, that's dedicated work time. It feels like a good solution so far.
I love reading on the iPad, the screen is amazing, but as I can't really compare it to the previous generations, I just like it on its own. I was afraid that my monitor will look worse afterwards, but it's still lovely, no need to run to buy a new one. :) I use FlipBoard for RSS feeds, the only downside is that I had to set up Google Reader for it, but every desirable feed reader app seems to use that anyway. I bought only a few apps so far, like Garage Band and Solar Walk above the usually free necessities. I'm certainly not going crazy with checking out games and other stuff, meh... Somehow I just don't care much about them right now, but I bought some new Kindle books that I hope to read soon. I might be skeptical but I don't believe in iBook apart from being a nice PDF reader; I won't buy books from Apple. It's not their main profile and primary source of revenue (compared to Amazon) so they can say anytime that this experiment didn't work out, closing shop, nothing to see here... I believe in the future of the Kindle and Amazon can always bring out a better reader app for iOS. Not to mention that Leslie has a Kindle eBook reader and we share books, so it's kind of a no brainer anyway.
Perhaps the only problem I can find with the iPad is that it's bugging me constantly to redesign my website and support high resolution images, so it's definitely on my to-do list. :)
Just to let you know, I updated the TemperNTC Class Library article and the class library with a fix to the issue with the external sensor's sometimes unreliable initialization. Now it works splendid everytime you access the device.