April Fools Day 2011


I do like a good April Fools prank and so am going to keep a little list of my favourites today. Here we go:

Royal Charging:

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Control Google Mail with your Body!!!

How it works

Gmail Motion uses your computer’s built-in webcam and Google’s patented spatial tracking technology to detect your movements and translate them into meaningful characters and commands. Movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels.

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Google have helpfully made a list of common actions and phrases to help you get started with this GROUND BREAKING new method of communication:

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Already they’ve got the next implementation of this lined up – Motion in Google Docs:

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For more information and Health & Safety tips, visit:

http://mail.google.com/mail/help/motion.html

Google AutoComplete:

Google’s innovation keeps on coming…now they’re making AutoComplete even better…

The role: Autocompleter

Are you passionate about helping people? Are you intuitive? Do you often feel like you know what your friends and family are thinking and can finish their thoughts before they can? Are you an incredibly fast Google searcher? Like, so fast that you can do 20 searches before your mom does 1?

If, like me, you’re thinking this job sounds pretty brilliant, your enthusiasm may be tempered by the required skills. I think only a few great people will be up to scratch for this:

Responsibilities:
  • Watch anonymized search queries as they come in to Google.
  • Predict and type completions based on your personal experience and intuition.
  • Suggest spelling corrections when relevant.
  • Keep updated with query trends and offer fresh suggestions.
Requirements:
  • Excellent knowledge of English and at least one other language.
  • Excellent knowledge of grammatical rules (e.g. parts of speech, parsing).
  • Understanding of the search engine space.
  • Proven web search experience.
  • Good typing skills (at least 32,000 WPM).
  • Willingness to travel (in order to provide local autocompletions) or relocate to obscure places like Nauru and Tuvalu to develop knowledge of local news and trends.
  • Certificate in psychic reading strongly preferred: palm, tarot, hypnosis, astrology, numerology, runes and/or auras.

New Domino’s iPhone App:

NEW ‘SM-APP’ RELEASES PIZZA SCENT WHEN ORDERING

“The new ‘sm-app’ from Domino’s uses the latest in aroma technology to release a small amount of pizza scent from the iPhone when customers place an order. The ‘scratch and sniff’ page within the new sm-app, is displayed after the ordering section and simply by rubbing the iPhone screen, the mouth-watering smell of a Pepperoni Passion wafts straight out of the phone”

The new sm-app is compatible with all iPhone models. For more details on how to download it, visit Domino’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DominosPizza

Linkedin

Check out the “People I Might Know” section on LinkedIn:

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Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard, one the world’s most successful gaming companies, are also pretty great at April fools…here are the FOUR they hit us with today!!!

Horadric Cube:

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To learn how to make your Angry Birds become ninjas, and more, fly to:

http://us.blizzard.com/diablo3/media/horadrapp/

Tomb of Immortal Darkness:

Bringing true realism to WarCraft and using “Deep Dark” technology, the world of “Omgsogoth” is almost completely pitch black…all the way through:

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As the tagline says, In the dark, no-one can hear you scream!

To see more (pun intended) head over to:

http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/game/dungeon/tomb-of-immortal-darkness

Crabby, the WarCraft Helper:

The World of Warcraft can be a cold, lonely, unforgiving place and wandering the lands alone can be a daunting prospect. So having someone to keep you company and help you in your quest would be good right? Blizzard certainly think so…say hello to Crabby:

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See more at:

http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/game/dungeon-helper/

Future of StarCraft…with Kinect Support!

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Perfectly optimised for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect system, you can use gesture-based controls to direct your forces and out-move your enemies. Wave your arms in the air like you do, in fact, care.

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To see the video of this in action, jump to:

http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/games/console/

Google App Inventor for Android


Google App Inventor for Android could be one of the coolest things they, or anyone, has brought out.

I’ve got a Google Android phone and I love some of the apps that are available for it. They make things so much easier/quicker/more enjoyable etc and are truly what a smart phone should be full of.

I’ve also got ideas, lot of ideas. Ideas that involve Twitter, Blogs, GPS, football, music, places, t-shirts and more.

What I don’t have is any knowledge of Java, other than an awareness that it exists! I’ve got some rudimentary VB skills and a bit of Javascript so I looked in Java but it appears to need much more time devoting to it than I can give it. That means all my app ideas have been languishing around and I thought they would forever more.

Aber nicht.

Mais Non.

Pero No.

Google’s App Inventor has the power to change all that!

What is it?

A WYSIWYG tool allowing you to create apps without ANY programming knowledge.

How does it work?

It uses “blocks” of pre-written code that cover most actions you could want in an app and lets you drag and drop them together.

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When I first saw this I assumed it would be very basic and that all the cool functionality would be missing but that’s not the case:

“There are even blocks to talk to services like Twitter.”

“App Inventor provides access to a GPS-location sensor”

“You can even have the app read the incoming texts aloud to you”

“use App Inventor to write Android apps that talk to your favourite web sites, such as Amazon and Twitter”

These quotes from the Google App Inventor site show that it can be used to create some really cool, funky and innovative apps…and that is exciting!

More Info:

The App Inventor site is:

http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/about/

The sign up form (which requires a Gmail address) is:

https://services.google.com/fb/forms/appinventorinterest/ 

The tutorials are here:

http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/learn/tutorials/index.html

The User Group is here:

http://groups.google.com/group/appinventor

 

I’ve requested access to the beta and am really hoping I get allowed on…this could be really great for me and my phone, others who may want my sure to be awesome apps (joke!), the Android community as a whole and Google in general.

Go sign up!

Bringing together the Android-o-Sphere


I’ve recently moved over to the Android mobile platform and I’m pretty happy with it…it’s full of cool apps, e-book readers and fancy widgets. However, the biggest problem is fragmentation of the Operating System…there are currently 4 different Android OS releases in the market:

1.5

1.6

2.0

2.1

The big thing is that certain apps only work on certain versions, and that, my friends, is disappointing! One of the major apps that attracted me to Android was “Google Goggles” but, 4 months later I still haven’t used it 😦 Goggles is an Android 2.0+ app and my phone, the HTC Hero, is an Android 1.5 device. I knew that when I bought it but I had also been led to believe that an upgrade was imminent…like before end of 2009 imminent. It was then “sometime it January” and, after a period of silence, it was “by the end of March”. It’s now being reported by MSN & Engadget that HTC will roll out the update to 2.1 on April 26th in Taiwan, with the rest of the world following shortly after. I hope that happens as I think then, Android will truly realise it’s potential…and I’ll get to have all kinds of fun 🙂

It’s not just Goggles…other apps I’m missing out on include:

Flyscreen (1.6+) (adds apps to lock screen)

Gesture Search (2.1…now backported to 1.6)

Google Earth (2.1 only) <—This is a proper WTF decision…why isn’t Google Earth available to ALL owners of Google phones?!?!

and I’m sure countless more.

However, according to Engadget, Google are on the case…by splitting the OS up even more. At first I was like “What the WHAT?!” but having RTFA it does make sense:

Google “will start by decoupling many of Android’s standard applications and components from the platform’s core and making them downloadable and updatable through the Market”

This means that one wouldn’t be at the mercy of the manufacturer (HTC etc) or the carrier (AT&T etc) when new shiny bits were released for Android…you could just go and get it. That would be brilliant 🙂 This seems to be codenamed “Froyo” and then a later version will “Gingerbread”.

I’m not a great fan of Google but I do think that Android is the best Mobile OS currently available, and this appears to be a good solution to a very annoying problem. So 1) Hurry up HTC and get me onto 2.1 and 2) hurry up Google and implement this to prevent such disparate lag between users & devices.

Read the full scoop over at Engadget here.

Exchange Online & Android


The other day at work I was asked if you can connect Android phones to Exchange Online…so I went off to investigate.

Microsoft’s page gives a list of devices and supported OS’s:

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http://www.microsoft.com/online/mobility/exchange-activesync.mspx

I’ve got the HTC Hero and so does the person who asked, so that’s the route my investigation took, I opened up the “Mail” section on my phone and went to work.

The auto-detect feature doesn’t work with Exchange Online (or so it seems) so it’s on to manual setup, which asks for:

  • Email Address
  • Server Name
  • Domain
  • Username (Same as the email address)
  • Password

Apart from a couple, they’re all pretty self explanatory but there’s one that could trip you up:

Server Name:

There are 3 different server URLs depending on location:

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but it just wasn’t working for  me, so I called Microsoft BPOS support. After a bit of a false start, they were very helpful and gave me a call to work through the issues.

I navigated to OWA through my browser (mail.microsoftonline.com)but couldn’t log in. I then found it was resolving itself to the “red001…” address, which clearly wasn’t right as I’m in the UK, so I cleared all my bookies, cache etc and went back to the setup screen.

I tried again and still no luck, but then I tried one last thing…entering the server URL without the “https://” and the start. To be honest, I’m not sure why I tried that (although I’m equally sure that someone more techie than me would have tried that first!) but it worked! Entering simply “red002.mail.emea.microsoftonline.com” worked a charm and BOOM, I could see my emails on my Android device. A quick check revealed that the calendar and contacts were syncing too…brilliant 🙂

I hope that helps anyone wondering if this can be done and/or having trouble getting it working 🙂

Microsoft & The Nexus One


I know the Nexus One is Google’s new phone but I’ve been most interested by the reactions of various ‘Softies.

As an item, I don’t the the Nexus One is anything special, the camera is the same as most other similar level phones such as the Droid and the Hero as are it’s supported formats, SD expansion, GPS etc. The software is great as Android is a brilliant mobile OS…but the software isn’t specific to the Nexus One so you can get that on the Droid and the Hero (once it’s updated to 2.0). This chart over on Gizmodo is a good comparison point:

http://gizmodo.com/5442459/nexus-one-vs-iphone-3gs-vs-droid-vs-pre-the-definitive-comparison

The fact that it’s a phone being released directly by Google is the most noteworthy thing about it but even that isn’t huge news, certainly not to general users.

The release of this device obviously draws comparisons to Microsoft and Windows Mobile 7, especially as a “Microsoft” phone has been rumoured for quite a while. There has been quite a lot of activity on Twitter regarding the Nexus One, much of it from Microsoft people and that’s has made me think a little…

Steve Clayton has a post over on Geek In Disguise with some of his thoughts on Google and Android. Usually I agree with Steve but I think this post, rather than defending Microsoft, actually highlights the biggest problem in the Mobile Device wars that are heating up.

He has a cartoon from Hugh McLeod:

googleis

and he says:

“Though people do still get excited about whether a phone has a 2mp or 5mp camera but the real differentiator these days is software”

and

“this battleground is software based I feel. We have a lot of to do. Software is our bread and butter.”

The main issue in this battle is, in my opinion, that the Windows Mobile software is not as good as Android (or Apple’s iPhone OS) and that is why Microsoft are losing. So, as much as I like Microsoft, pointing out that you’re a “Software Company” when you’re losing in the software stakes, maybe isn’t the best idea. I think a lot of people will look at this as:

“If Google aren’t even a Software Company and they can make something as good as Android, that puts Microsoft and their efforts with Windows Mobile in an even poorer light”

That’s certainly a thought I’ve had and I’m a big MS supporter. This seems like the kind of thing that people already Anti-Microsoft will latch onto big time…in a Google vs Microsoft “Mac vs PC” style.

The Future

Windows phone

Microsoft recently released Windows Mobile 6.5 but it hasn’t really made any difference to the balance of the market; thus most people are looking at Windows Mobile 7 as their last chance to take the mobile market back and make it theirs.

We know that Windows Mobile 7 is due “late this year (2010)” and LG confirmed at CES yesterday that they’re working on Windows Mobile 7 handsets this year. The rumours suggest that something Windows Mobile 7 related is going to be announced at Mobile World Congress next month in February so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on that"!

The rumour is that Windows Mobile 7 will contain the Zune software and that would be a brilliant move. It’s cool, sleek and graceful and will open up the Zune Marketplace to people all over the world…or at least it should! If it does, it will make WinMo 7 equipped devices the best iPod alternative going…something that MS, and I, would love to have 🙂

The other big thing that Microsoft’s next mobile OS simply MUST have is a huge Marketplace full of cool, smart, web 2.0, neat apps…easily available. This is one of my favourite things about Android and it’s clearly proved very popular for Apple and the iPhone.

Another change needs to be the “Consumerification” of Windows Mobile. Version 7 needs to be smoother, sleeker, cooler, faster and more fun than ever before. HTC have done a great job with their TouchFlo on WinMo 6.1 but it’s needs to be done from the ground up, all the way through the OS. If they can make Windows 7-the greatest desktop OS of all time- they should be able to make Windows Mobile 7 what it needs to be!

I really want Windows Mobile 7 to be awesome and hugely successful and for me to rejoin the Microsoft Mobile fold with my next phone…but it has to be right.

As Steve Clayton says:

“The game is moving fast though so it’s time to write some of the smartest 1’s and 0’s of our lives. “

Go get ‘em Microsoft!

My move to Android AKA Android vs Windows Mobile


Android is faster, more responsive, more intuitive, looks great and the app marketplace is amazing! I really wanted to get apps for my Windows Mobile 6.1 device but it was SO difficult! Within 14 hours of having my Android phone I’d downloaded multiple awesome applications which we’ll cover later 🙂

One of the biggest problems I found with Windows Mobile is that I felt constrained, there were so many things that I wanted to do but couldn’t…the big one (for me) was an e-book reader. There are so many times that having a book to hand would be great:

  • On the train
  • Waiting in receptions
  • Visiting the in-laws 😉

are just a few of them.

When I got Windows Mobile 6.1, I had a look online and saw there was indeed a Microsoft E-Book reader available. I downloaded it but couldn’t use it as it wasn’t designed for 6.1…bit of a fail! There is a support forum thread dedicated to this where a fix was mentioned about 2 years ago, but as far as I know, it never materialised. So for the 18 months I had that phone, I either had to carry an actual book around or lay off the reading!

The first day I got my Android phone, I downloaded a brilliant app called Aldiko which sorted all that out 🙂 See more below…

Marketplaces

For me, this is a huge revelation…the Android marketplace is amazing 🙂

I know Microsoft brought out the Windows Mobile Marketplace but, let’s be honest, it isn’t very good is it? I often had trouble signing in…sometimes I couldn’t connect from my device and other times it’d be the desktop version that wasn’t working. Once I was in it wasn’t plain sailing either…I found the entire thing clunky and difficult to navigate. Also I was never 100% sure if I was downloading a free app or a trial and I just didn’t feel comfortable as a user.

It’s possible that it’s just a personal thing that I don’t get on with the Windows Marketplace and that it’s a pleasure for everyone else…but I doubt it 😉

On the other side of this fence is the Android Marketplace…

It’s easy to navigate, it’s quick, it’s clear, it’s full of brilliant apps, it’s fantastic:

This brings me nicely onto:

Apps

This was probably the hardest part of being a Windows Mobile user; seeing all the iPhone users with their fancy apps…compasses, games, programs for work etc…and then Android came along and allowed people to do the same thing…not on at all! Finally Microsoft brought out the Windows Marketplace but, as I say above, it just didn’t seem very good.

I’ve had my new HTC Hero:

for about 3 weeks and am finding new apps almost daily. So far, these include:

Advanced Task Killer:

This is a great and very handy app for quickly and easily shutting down all the processes still running in the background. Great for making sure you don’t run low on memory!

 

Aldiko:

Aldiko Book Reader: Download and read thousands of books right on your Android smartphone.

 

and it’s already loaded with:

  • Art of War
  • The Prince
  • Hamlet
  • Othello
  • Macbeth
  • The Iliad

and more…giving me great reading material whenever & wherever I want it; something Windows Mobile could never give me.

To me, this really is brilliant 🙂 When the Christmas gatherings got too much, I was able to easily chill out and read Othello…nice!

I love how it’s home screen is laid out like an actual bookshelf…it might be gimmicky but I like it!

It looks great, works quickly and smoothly and has a brilliant selection of books. I’ve only downloaded the free books, ‘cos I love the classics, but you can also purchase O’ Reilly and MS Press books on there too; making them a truly portable aid.

Bonsai Blast:

A brilliant, fun and very addictive game where you simply need to get 3 coloured balls in a row:

I repeat, this is very addictive and will quickly take up a whole bunch of your time! Great for passing a few minutes or longer in queues, on public transport, waiting for the kettle to boil etc…but those few minutes will almost certainly stretch into 15-20 with a few cries of “just one more go” 🙂

CaveDroid:

A cool retro style 1st person game where you fly through a tunnel avoiding obstacles and collecting points. I can’t find any pics but I’ll keep trying.

Evernote:

Evernote is a pretty well known note-taking app and is very handy to have…I haven’t had cause to use the audio note yet but I can imagine that being pretty useful.

It’s very easy to use and will get a fair bit of use at partner events, seminars, that kind of thing.

OI Shopping List:

This app is brilliant. I’m a little upset that I’m this happy and excited about an app that lets you make lists but it really is very good.

It let’s you put in an expected/known cost for each item and then gives you a total for the list…the best bit is that, if you add in the costs as you go, it gives you a running total of what’s in your trolley/basket/arms. Very useful 🙂

Another great feature is that once you’ve list an item and cost once, future lists will pull that info out automatically…again, very useful! A recent update has given it a “Quantity” column too, which makes it even easier to use.

I’d definitely recommend this app for anyone that buys more than 1 thing from shop 🙂

There are plenty more apps that I’ll detail in future posts. If you’ve got any of your own you’d like to add in, let me know in the comments.

Summary:

I’ve only had my Android phone for a few weeks but I really am truly impressed with it…much more than I was when i got my WinMo 6.1 phone. I am a BIG Microsoft supporter and not particularly a fan of Google at all…however, with Android, they offer the far superior product so that’s what I, as  consumer, chose.

If you’re looking for looking for a cool, stylish, fun, helpful, useful, “check it out mate” phone…DEFINITELY go with an Android device. I’d still recommend Windows Mobile before anything else for a work device, but for a personal mobile device, Android is the top dog in my opinion.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please, leave a comment and let’s get a discussion going 😉

Google Goggles


Google Goggles is here. No, not the Google Labs project from 2008 that Gmail would check your sobriety levels using maths puzzles before letting you send an email (see Telegraph here)…but true Visual Search. That’s searching with pictures as in:

“What’s that a statue of?”

“Dunno mate”

“Tell you what, I’ll take a picture of it on my phone and Goggle it”

“*snap*…*upload*…*search"*…”

“Oh…it’s Winston Churchill”

“What, the dog off of the adverts bruv?”

”Dunno…seems a bit big innit?”

That conversation went a bit “chavvy” there…funny but probably not representative of the demographic that will mainly be using this 🙂

What is it?

If my awesome transcript above isn’t enough, Google have some examples over at:

http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/#landmark

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Does it work for everything?

Google are quite upfront that it “works better with certain types of queries”. They say that

“books & DVDs, landmarks, logos, contact info, artwork, businesses, products, barcodes, or text”

all work well while it’s not currently hot on “animals, plants, cars, furniture, or apparel”.

Can I haz Goggles?

Only if you’ve got an Android 1.6+ device 😦

C3PO from the film Star Wars

This might be the first time that users of Windows Mobile devices, Blackberries & iPhones have all come together in a show of solidarity usually reserved for invading aliens in hollywood movies 😉

Anymore Cool features?

Actually yes, yes there are!

Nearby Places Overlay:

This shows you local businesses such as restaurants, cinemas etc WITHOUT EVEN CONDUCTING A SEARCH! Point your camera forwards in Goggles mode, pan around and, once the GPS locks on and:

“you’ll see labels tagged to the nearby businesses, and a pin icon with a number in it at the bottom right corner of the screen. The number in the icon indicates the number of businesses nearby. You can either click the pin to see all places near you listed by proximity, or select a specific label to see more information about that particular business.”

Some nice augmented reality!

My thoughts:

I’ve never really been a fan of Google. I always used Google Search because, until Bing came along, it was the best but I was never interested in Google Mail or Google Apps. While things such as Google Earth and Streetview have come in very handy, I’ve never felt any connection with Google as a company; I don’t know them, they don’t know me and neither of us case about the other.

When they brought out Android, I was took a look but wasn’t bothered and the same goes for Chrome and Chrome OS. I’m a staunch Microsoft supporter, have been for many years and will continue to be so…BUT…

Google Goggles really could be awesome. For years I’ve said this should be the next evolution in search (ask anyone that sits near me at work!) and here it is…I feel a bit like the people in the Windows 7 adverts 😉

The number of times each day that people can see something but don’t know what it’s called:

“What kind of car is that?”

“Who’s that a statue of?”

“Which company has this logo?”

“What’s this building called?”

and there’s just no way to describe it to a text search engine, must be in the 100’s if not 1000’s.

It’s like Shazam for everything that isn’t music!

I’m a big fan of Windows Mobile (for all it’s faults) and I really believe that Windows Mobile 7 will be a HUGE leap forward. I’m due an upgrade to my phone very soon and have got my eye on the HTC HD2 with Windows Mobile 6.5…but this announcement has really made me consider jumping ship to Android…at least until WinMo 7 is released!

shocked.jpg

Having said all that though…my main thought is this:

”Will I ACTUALLY use it that much?”

As in, will I use it enough to make up for not having Office Mobile, for learning a new OS etc…and I’m not sure I will.

What I really want is for this to become available on normal, everyday desktop…no actually, what I REALLY is for this feature to come to Bing’s normal, everyday desktop search…that would be the best case scenario 🙂

I’m never sure how copyright/patents come into play with things like this…can Google patent this and stop Microsoft from developing essentially the same thing for Windows Mobile and Bing?

All in all, this is a great advance in the world of search and a good show from Google that they’re still in the game…but not enough to turn this user.

Google Search Suggestions


As you’ve probably noticed, Google has recently started to suggest auto-completes for your searches…at first this annoyed me but now I quite like it. Not so much because it saves me an all important 0.75 seconds when searching but because it’s a great source of amusement; seeing what has been searched for, and how many people have used that search is brilliant! Here are some examples:

google1

Not by using the internet!
Not by using the internet!
Looks like some people have watched Twilight too much!
Looks like some people have watched Twilight too much!

There are quite a few more just using “how to”…some surprisingly rude, (although with it being the internet perhaps not that surprising!) which I decided not to put up here.

This is another favourite of mine:

That bloomin' Matt!
That bloomin' Matt!

Is this the same “Matt” who keeps getting lost or does this show that all people called Matt are no good at being on time?!

One thing I find a little odd (what with it being the internet) is that “porn” doesn’t come up with any suggestions…I was at least expecting to see “How to become a porn star” but no! However, there are 54,000 searches for:

Cheap Transition metals...
Cheap Transition metals...

I’d love to see what great examples you can find 🙂

Google Mail Goggles


Google Mail Goggles is a new feature available through Gmail to help prevent those late night drunken emails to exes, co-workers, evil park keepers etc.

You can set it to be active at the times you’re most likely to be drunk in charge of a PC, and it will give you a few simple maths questions just to make sure you’re coherent and in charge of your faculties.

I don’t think I’ve ever sent a regrettable email due to drinking, but I don’t think this would stop me really as the questions are very easy!

Examples include:

69-38

11 x 2

2 x 5

and so on..I’m pretty sure even if I was so wasted I thought it would be a good idea to email all of America and say that Tina Fey sucked, I could still answer those problems correctly!

At least they tried right?!

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