October 30, 2011
Okay, Lisa has already found the stash of images at Flickr, but I've been meaning to mention this for awhile. I've been working my way (glacially) through Make: Electronics by Charles Platt. On any given weekend, I may or may not have the time to run one of the experiments from the book, but when I do, I haul everything from the den into the dining room and wire up another experiment from the book.
It's pretty cool, and I've been snapping photos of some of the experiments and inlining comments on Flickr. I'll probably regret that, as Flickr will die an ignominious death one day, and all my careful comments will go down the memory hole with it. In any case, browse if you care.
May 29, 2011
Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
Back in February, Jean, Renee and I went to an all-day Robotics Tournament at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. I took my P&S camera, and took scads of photos. I finally got around to uploading the better images (mostly in focus), and the banner is a sample.
December 05, 2010
Almost since the day we bought Jean's four-door sedan, a Honda Civic, she has had trouble with it. For the most part it's been electrical, what with alarms and check lights and the like. They never really could fix all that. Most recently, she took it in for a check engine light and they made some minor repairs and told her that the light was most likely spurious.
The day after we retrieved it from the dealer, it began a mysterious whining, which would come and go, but was clearly engine-related. Well, having had troubles with it almost from the start, we started saving for its replacement, and have been putting money away regularly, almost ten years now. So I told Jean to just go ahead and find a replacement. She did a lot of looking and decided to get the Minicooper. We ordered it and about two days before it was to arrive, her Honda simply crapped out on the road to work.
Fortunately she was still close to home, and was able to limp back in fits and starts. Happy ending, we took delivery of her new car, and got rid of her old albatross.
As an after-note, I still have my Honda Civic Hatchback that is over ten years old, and use it every day to commute to work. We also used it for the trip to Cannon Beach. So this is not a diatribe against Honda, just a particular Honda.
August 26, 2010
Today's banner is one of the handful of shots I took of Oregon State University's Solar Odyssey solar-powered car. They brought it to my workplace over lunch, so I strolled over and snapped a few. Enough of them turned out okay that I decided to make a photoset out of them.
The photos I took at Alan and Pia's wedding were not nearly as crisp, so I'm hesitant to put any up, but I'll look 'em over this weekend and see if any are passable. My only excuse is that I've been lazy about practicing with my new camera, and flubbed the settings. Sorry!
June 12, 2010
Renee was trying to print some homework that she had entered into Quark Express, one of Jean's tools left over from her days as an editor. The printouts kept coming out sepia-toned. We've had that problem in the past when the printer drivers go wonky, so I was prepared to reinstall printer drivers if necessary.
But first, Jean took a stab at adjusting the palette of the document in Quark (she's a wizard in that layout tool). When she was done, the doc printed in nice, crisp black. She told us, "I just created a fake color called real black." I had to repeat that back to her so she could appreciate the contradiction.
April 28, 2010
Just a quick note. I have my phone back after several days without it. I had given it to Renee since I don't want her without one, and she had managed to destroy hers. So now she has her replacement, and I have mine back.
There was a risk I might have to replace mine as well, since she is on her third phone since we signed with Verizon, while Jean and I are both still using our original ones. This time, she somehow contrived to completely break off the antenna (one of those ones that is molded into the damn body of the phone, fer chrissakes). The new one has no external antenna, so here's hoping...
February 06, 2010
Lovely New Faucet(s)
We finally had the plumber over to do a handful of "fix this annoying leak/squeak/rattle" and had already gone out and purchased new taps for the hallway and basement bathrooms. The banner shows the new hallway faucet, and you can see before and after pictures in this Flickr set.
An unforeseen (by me) consequence of nice new taps is that Jean is now set on redoing the entire bathroom! Fear for me!
January 23, 2010
Domain Live for Another Five Years
pairNIC has an absolutely clunky payment interface, which among other things warns you to not click finish multiple times, as your credit card may be billed over again, but then rejects your submission several times on trivial nitpicks, such as not listing the name of the bank issuing your card! Who does that, really? And I have my card from Discover.com, the issuer. They are not a bank. Are you going to reject my payment after you see that I listed Discover.com as the bank to get your stupid form to accept my input? Really? Or are you just going to try charging my card multiple times, once for each FAIL you created?
This is not the first computer failure I've experienced today (it is the third, after trying to do some online stock option manipulation and failing [they wanted my employee id number, fer crissakes], and then trying to import bank history into Moneydance and seeing all accounts duplicated and intermingled). So yeah, figured I'd gripe.
But if the basics go well, I get to hang onto terebi2.org for five more years.
January 12, 2010
For any friends who are on Twitter, I've opened an account, @dpwakefield (since I can't get the account ThePhin, which was taken). I don't plan on 'tweeting' much, if at all, as my main reason for starting one was to get a discount on a money management package that I'm thinking of switching over to from Quicken...
December 06, 2009
Have You Tried Turning It Off And On Again?
Our household has been plagued by printer problems for months. So much so that Jean and I have even considered purchasing a new printer, though without any assurance that this would help, so I've procrastinated on that approach.
Anyway, in case anyone is Googling for help with printer problems which are similar to ours, I'll describe the problems and the solution which worked for us. Your mileage may vary, local laws may apply, etc. etc...
Our setup consists of two Mac OS X computers, one a rather old PPC in the dining area with an Epson Stylus Photo R260 inkjet printer attached via USB (printer sharing enabled), the other a newer but still 'mature' Intel version in the den.
The first problem was that the den computer could not always see the printer, even when the dining area computer was awake with the printer turned on. Over the months, attempts to get the den computer to 'see' the printer had resulted in multiple listings of the same printer in various print dialogs. Selecting any one of these printers was a coin toss, and the job could either get printed, or disappear into the ether, never to be heard from again. The print queue tool might indicate that the job was printing, the printer unavailable, or busy.
The second problem was that even when the printer was visible, available and printing jobs from the den, they would invariably print out in a muddy sepia tone, i.e. a monochrome shade of brown. I should also mention that Jean says that even the dining computer, attached directly to the printer, had problems printing photos with any sort of faithful color.
The Solution (So Far)
This weekend I resolved to solve the problem or prove that we needed outside help (paging Apple Store Genius...). After a bit of Internet browsing and multiple forays into the Apple Help menus, I resolved to do the following:
- Delete all printers, print queues and configurations from both computers
- Download and install the latest drivers from Epson for this printer onto both computers
- Reestablish printer sharing from the dining room computer
- Re-add the printer to both computers' printer lists
- Test printing several color documents from both printers
After this full system teardown and rebuild (hence the title of this article), I found that indeed, for now, the printer is visible, active and available to the den computer. Any given document printed from both computers appears to be identical in color and layout.
So for now, problem solved. I'll be watching for degradation in performance over the next few weeks/months.
October 10, 2009
I usually try to wait longer than two years to recycle a gadget, and with rumors that the iPod Touch would eventually get a camera, I thought about waiting at least until next summer, but truth to tell, I've built up such a large music library between twenty-five years of CDs and however long I've been on eMusic, and there's not enough room on my original iPod Touch. So I broke down and got a 64GB one today.
Renee inherited the first one, which was a 16GB G1. She surrendered her nano (also inherited from me), so that I could get the 10% discount. That was my price for giving her my old unit.
One observation I'll make is that while the iPod Touch still doesn't do some of the things I used to use my PalmPilot for, it has come along far enough that I don't use the Palm at all any more. It sits in a drawer in the den.
The other observation I'll make is that I've always had a habit of naming my computers, including PDAs, after anime characters, usually female. I haven't watched an anime show regularly for several months now, so I'm out of options. Instead, I decided to name this one after my penpal Nami. Hi, Nami! We got the shirts you sent, and Renee is going to wear one of them. Surprise, even a Japanese XL is too small for me.
September 23, 2009
I'm posting this from work because I can't post it from home. For the third morning in a row, I fired up the computer and no Internet access! If they follow the pattern, when I get home tonight, everything will be fine.
So what I'm observing is that when I get up at 6am, there is no Internet access, and no amount of rebooting or resetting of computers and/or routers makes any damned difference. Since I have maybe an hour on the mornings when I drive Renee to school, and I try to get in early on mornings when I don't, that eliminates the idea of calling tech support, which is usually at least an hour of frustration. Besides, what would be the point? There's nothing wrong on my end. The damn connection is back up all by itself in the evening.
I suppose it could be something weird like a temperature drop causing a cable short, which is corrected as the day warms up, but I'm reaaaaaally skeptical. Maybe, if I have no Internet on Saturday morning, I'll postpone my crowded day to deal with some drone forcing me to walk the same old tired diagnostic menu and try to find out what's really going on. But for now, I just want to go on record: Verizon Sucks!
P.S.-If there were REAL competition, I'd have a choice other than Comcast, whom I am assured by all my friends sucks even more.
P.P.S.-In the end, it was Jean who donated an hour out of her hectic day to walk the telephone tree, and then the drone's diagnostic menu ("have you tried turning it of and on again?"). The final verdict: "there seems to be a bit of a problem with our server. I've reset it". So still magic, still sucktastic.
December 20, 2008
Matroska is an open standard [...] primarily used by Free Software-loving hippies [...]
Cut down to the essential part, since I find MKV files annoying as hell...
January 31, 2008
Just for its amusement value, I thought I'd type a short entry on my new iPod Touch. Don't expect that to happen every day. This one little message has taken a few minutes to hunt and peck on the software keyboard. But we do what we can. Like the time I used my laptop computer and Skype over PDX's wireless network to call home when I had a perfectly good cellphone. Well, this has gone on long enough. Forgive the typoes, and the run-on paragraph. This experiment is over. Goodnight!
January 23, 2008
Music and More
Two brief items.
One, I used my Christmas money and some allowance to buy myself an iPod Touch. It's pretty neat.
Two, I found out that Dance Raja Dance is available on Amazon's MP3 store, and bought it. I've had "Aatavu Chanda (Dancing Is Beautiful)" for years, and to finally find the rest of this album available is pretty neat. Funny thing, when I searched for it on eMusic, I couldn't find it, but Googling just now, one of the last links on the first page was to the eMusic offering of same. Guess I'll have to look more carefully in future.
The album is good, though I have to admit that the first song, the one I've had forever and which is available for free from Last.FM, is still the best.
And I forgot to mention the name of my new iPod Touch: Toa
December 17, 2007
Win Some, Lose Some
On the flip side of gadget recovery, Renee's cellphone borked out Friday night. It would seem to turn itself off, but when you held down the power button to try turning it on again, it just buzzed angrily for as long as the button was held down.
I called Verizon Wireless (after hunting all over my bill for the number), and the guy I eventually got through to was very helpful. We have a new phone in the mail, supposedly scheduled to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. With my employee discount, it comes to ... free.
So if the phone arrives in a timely fashion, and works, and neither of our other phones goes toes up in the next month or two, I'm satisfied with the resolution of this one.
Minimal Geek Repair
I've on my third hard drive for my ReplayTV, and my second remote control. The first one became unusable when the Select button refused to work. Think of it as the Enter key on your keyboard. I gussied up to the Internet and found a replacement, forget how much. And now the replacement has been getting wonkier and wonkier on the Select key. I could just pony up the dough for a third remote, but with the recent sale (second time around) by DM Holdings to DirecTV, I wasn't sure how much more money I want to put into this rig.
So instead, I fired up Google, which got me to this page. Two possible solutions: open the sucker up and clean the contacts, or reprogram the keys.
I grabbed my older, clearly broken remote, and busted it apart, cleaning the contacts thoroughly. Put together again, I found that the Select key now responded, if somewhat fussily. It would still be a little too annoying to use. However, now that I could get any response out of the key, I could reprogram the remote to use the Enter key instead of the Select key (can't do the reprogramming if you can't tell the remote which keys to switch around). And now I can use my old remote, albeit by reprogramming my fingers to press a new button now and then. I'm putting the newer remote in a drawer, sans batteries, against the eventual need for another rejuvenation ballet.
November 11, 2007
I seem to have neglected to mention that our living-room television, that we've had nigh on ten years, finally gave up the ghost. This was a few weeks ago. On Burr's suggestion, we put it up on craigslist, clearly marked defunct. Within the day, someone claimed it, and hauled it away. I should try that more often.
So as a stopgap, I took a 20" television that I had in storage and moved it into the living room. Downscaling from 32" to 20" didn't bother me as I watch most of my programs in the family room downstairs. But Renee watches most of her programming upstairs, and she complained that the 20" made her "eyes hurt".
Jean and I have been budgeting money for a new television for awhile now, as we knew that the 32" was on a downward spiral. So this weekend, we made the tour of Costco and Fry's, and settled on a flat-panel that was in our price range. It's a Samsung, and I put it in the family room today. Then I moved the 27" from the family room upstairs to the living room. My buttocks still ache.
After getting the hookups correct on both televisions, I noticed that even though we'd downgraded to 'limited basic' cable, the new television downstairs was picking up several digital channels that were not listed in the package. This includes a handful (NBC, CBS, PBS) of HDTV channels. Renee watched a football game between San Diego (?) and somebody else in HD as a result. She roots for the San Diego team because her best friend is from there.
I mostly won't benefit from this arrangement, as I do all my viewing using the ReplayTV, which only records standard definition television. But Jean and Renee both do live television viewing, so they may in fact become HD fans. Time will tell...
October 28, 2007
The Robot Monk
September 16, 2007
Jean is around five feet tall, and often dissatisfied with the scale of the furniture around her. This summer, she and Renee went to Michigan to visit Jean's parents, and while there, she saw a chair that her parents had bought that she liked. As for the Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear, there are three sizes of this chair available, and yesterday we went and tried all three out, at Elegant Interiors, in Lake Oswego.
The chair Jean eventually settled on was this one, appropriately enough, the Mama Bear size. Jean is indulging her penchant for light colors by getting the Pearl Grey leather upholstery, and humoring my need for some darker tones by getting the Teak Stained base.
We'll take delivery in a few weeks, as the color combo was not in stock, and needs to be sent to Norway. This gives us plenty of time to plan out the placement in our family room. I'll post a picture once we have it.
July 09, 2007
I got to see a heavy-duty rooter in action today. Late last week we began to experience repeated overflow/backwash from the downstairs shower, following clothes washing, dishwashing, toilet flushing, pretty much any big water disposal event. By Friday, we really couldn't use any water appliance without nasty flooding.
Jean called Canby Plumbing, and they recommended the Drain Doctor. Their guy came today, so I came home from work early to meet with him. The big electric motor cranking out cable tipped with a rotating shredder head was pretty cool. Took about an hour, and now we are working our way through a backlog of dishes and laundry.
First Internet outages, then water. I guess cable is next! Bring it!
January 16, 2007
Jean has traditionally been the member of this family engaged in an uneasy truce with technology. She has frequent troubles with our computers, watches seem to break for her pretty consistently, you get the idea. But now it seems to be my turn.
I decided this weekend that I wanted to move from my 'bulky', nearly three year-old third generation, 15GB iPod to a smaller iPod Nano, so I picked one up (now christened Lum) and gifted the 'fatty' on Renee. She spent the weekend, MLK Day, and this morning, listening to The Pillows and Maaya Sakamoto. But today, her 'new' iPod was unresponsive, just four days after I gave it to her, after using it for nearly three years myself. After many attempts to revive it, I have concluded that it is a brick. Guess who has asked for an iPod Nano for her birthday?
Item Two: We bought Renee a rhythm game for Christmas, Taiko Drum Master. It's for the Playstation 2, but my PS2 doesn't read it. That's only the second time in my PS2's long history that a disk was unreadable.
Item Three: Stupid electric blanket! I've been using it as a regular blanket for donkey's ages. But now, the evening I decide I want a warmer nest, I plug in the heater control, and it flashes 'FF' at me. Borked, plain and simple.
Is this to be my lot from now on? I'm the tech geek in the family, so everybody better hope not!
January 13, 2007
The Metric Office
I was reading an article on Slashdot revisiting the never-ending resistance to the Metric System in this country, and read a comment from a British reader stating that most people in his country do not use the Metric System (they use miles, pounds, etc.). I got to thinking about it, and I started wondering about the odd measurements of paper (odd to me) 'over there'.
I read quite a few technical papers in my field, and many of them come from Great Britain. A lot of those papers are a pain to format for printing, because we use 8.5 by 11 inch 'letter' paper, and the articles are formatted for A4, which is narrower than letter, but longer, by about 0.7 inches (more precisely, 210 mm × 297 mm, or 8.3 by 11.7 inches).
So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and found that A4 is indeed a Metric standard size. The standard is ISO 216, and specifies a whole range of paper sizes, with the basic stipulation that the dimensions of each sheet are width-to-length a ratio of 1 to √2. Then, any two sheets of one size laid side-by-side will exactly overlap a sheet of the next size up. To quote the article: "This simplifies copying two A4 sheets in reduced size on one, and copying an A4 sheet in magnified size on an A3 sheet or copying half an A4 sheet in magnified size on an A4 sheet."
Pretty neat, actually. And it explains the odd millimeter measurements, especially when you take into account that the 'central' sheet size is B0, which has dimensions of 1000 mm by 1414 mm.
January 09, 2007
iPhone and Jeff Han
Today, Steve Jobs gave a presentation of a touch-driven interface for Apple's new iPhone. He mentioned that they'd taken out a lot of patents. I wonder if the touch interface was one of them, and if Jeff Han might have something to do with this?
December 02, 2006
I decided to try out the Photo Booth application the new iMac comes with. It's a gimmick, no doubt, but I suppose it would be nice if I wanted a webcam. Anyway, feast your eyes.
July 18, 2006
End of an Era?
Around October of 2000, I used an unusually large bonus to buy myself a treat, the ReplayTV digital video recorder I've been using ever since. At the time, I paid for a 'lifetime subscription' to Replay's online programming guide, which is really what makes the thing so useful. By the way, 'lifetime' translates to 'lifetime of the unit' (or more ominously, 'lifetime of the original management of the company behind the programming guide'). Still, it's paid for itself in years of timely programming with little commercial interruption. I don't ever want to go back to traditional network-scheduled television.
When I first got the unit, it had a thirty hour disk, which means thirty hours at the lowest quality recording level ('Extended'). Around fifteen at 'Medium' (a level somewhat better than VHS), which is what I preferred, but I stuck with extended. After a few years, it started behaving flakey (freezing, failing to respond to button presses on the remote) and I found online that this was a symptom of a failing hard drive. According to one post from a repair site I found, the Replay manufacturers used a lower-grade hotter-running consumer disk that was prone to block errors over time.
So in 2003, I decided to do it myself and replace the hard drive, upgrading to the maximum size disk while I was at it. This worked beautifully, and gave me over sixty hours at Medium quality -- a capacity I've never filled up.
Now it's three years after that project, and the box is acting all sick again. This time, it's much flakier still. It's been hanging repeatedly on various shows for the last few weeks. Last night, I tried to watch an episode of The Venture Bros and had to perform 'magical workarounds' that effectively skipped over frozen sections of the program approximately every minute. That will not do.
So this evening, after clearing my queue of Venture Bros programming, I performed triage. I tried Refresh Partition, with no results. Then I did a Reset to Factory Settings, which erased everything, from recorded shows to recording times for upcoming shows to preference settings. Waiting for the unit to phone home, download updates and programming guides takes awhile, so I spent the time on my laptop computer IRC'ing with Adam up North and logged into work checking my email.
So I've done all the triage, and the ReplayTV is now happily recording a show. I plan to let it record about a week's worth of programming, after which I'll watch them and look for glitches. Cynically, I expect that this will be a failed attempt, in which case the next stage is to try putting in another hard drive. Online sources say that 95% of all video glitch problems are fixed by putting in a new drive (but then, 95% of statistics are made up).
Unfortunately, Burr sold his PC, and the RTVPatch software is Wintel specific. Rather than hunt down another friend who meets the very specific requirements:
- Windows or Linux PC with two available IDE bays
- Close enough that I can drive over with the ReplayTV
- Patient enough to let me open up their box and run alien software with foreign hard drives attached.
I decided this time to find one of those plentiful online merchants to do it for me. If I need to go there, I'm gonna pay a premium of $40 over doing it myself, but given the extra effort and impact on friends, I think this is an acceptable way to go.
If I go that route, and that does not fix it, do I go Tivo? They gouge the bejeebers out of you over the online programming guide (they don't even have a lifetime subscription option anymore), so I'm really hesitant, but I surely don't intend to go back to watching television live, so I've got my fingers crossed on resuscitating my little ReplayTV...
June 14, 2006
The Nintendo DS Lite came out on Sunday, I went to work on Sunday, work is a two minute drive from Fry's Electronics... Can you see where I'm heading here?
I thought about waiting until there were more color choices than frost white, but I don't really care, it goes with my ratty old iPod. I already had Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. I bought The Age of Empires: Age of Kings and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time to round things out.
But first I have to get out from under the huge wodge of tasks piled on me at work. Then I can play...
After multiple visits from AAA Heating and Cooling, each to engage in a slightly more aggressive treatment of our central air conditioning, it finally became clear that it would cost more to fix the poor beast than to replace it. So tomorrow, Mr. Freeze comes to visit. The unit weighs a ton or so, so it will take a couple days to install. Of course, it's pretty cool right now, but I've spent a few rather uncomfortable muggy nights waiting for this day...
December 31, 2005
No More Ads
With the dawn of the new year, I've ended my experiment with Google Adsense. I never expected to earn any revenue with it. I was curious to see how it worked, how well the ads meshed with my content, and if there would be any click-through at all. The ads were frequently about food, no surprise there, and occasionally about television and other topics. But no anime ads, no Asian movie ads, not really any videogame ads either. As I wrote about all of these things, albeit less than food or family lately, I'm a little disappointed that they never made the cut.
Oh, and in the several months that I had this experiment running, there were exactly four click-throughs. Very amusing.
So to you few friends, family and regular readers who patiently put up with my little geek game, thanks for your patience. The slightly less cluttered Terebi2 is back.
December 30, 2005
About the time I was watching King Kong, Jean was taking delivery of a new clothes washer. We'd been without one since Thursday or Friday, when the agitator on our twelve year old washer gave up for good. Christmas Eve morning, I drove over to the mall, found the parking lot nearly empty, but Sears staffed with many helpful clerks. In less than half an hour, I'd ordered our washer, to be delivered that coming Tuesday. The date was set, but not the time. I figured they'd be done before I left for Kong.
However, Monday came, and I sent an email to Tom, Alan and Dan confirming that I'd be there for the movie. Mere minutes later, we got an automated message that the washer would be delivered between 6:15 and 8:15 pm Tuesday night. I was reluctant to cancel my movie date, especially after such a late confirmation, so Jean agreed to handle it herself. Thanks, Jean!
So now we've worked through the backload of laundry, we've got clean sheets again, and my dwindling closet of clean clothes never got down to the really old, ugly stuff that doesn't fit any more. Yay!
October 11, 2005
Last night my Palm m500 went toes up. A soft reset brought it back to life briefly, but it died again, then again. The final time, it made a pretty pattern on the LCD before giving up the ghost completely. It's now unable to synch, unable to start, nada.
Unlike my friends who used one, and have since outgrown it, and unlike the buzz on the 'net, where everyone and his brother proclaims that we will all just use PDA/cellphone combos (ugh), I'm not ready to depart the PDA club. So I went to Fry's over lunch and bought a Palm Tungsten E2.
A couple of years has passed since I bought the m500, so it's entertaining to me to compare some of the specs:
|screen||160X160 mono||320X320 color|
|processor speed||33 MHz||200 MHz|
|memory||8 MB||26 MB|
Of course, the E2 is a higher end model, and I have to say that it's fit and finish is cheaper than the m500's. Still more horsepower than I need. It's charging as I write this. I have no idea if it will be satisfactory, but I wanted to note it here so I'll be more aware of the exact lifespan of this unit.
August 13, 2005
Last weekend, Alan was tellling me about a program he was using called Multiplicity. It's a commercial product for Windows computers, which lets the user share one keyboard and mouse with multiple computers. I understand that it does much more than this, but that's the kernel. He mentioned that there was also an open source tool which duplicates this basic functionality, called Synergy. I'd meant to look and see if either supported Mac OS X, but forgot about it.
Then recently I was reading Engadget, a geeks gadget weblog, and what did they have, but a tutorial on using Synergy on Macs. So tonight I downloaded Synergy, and after a few false starts, got it working with my iLamp and my iBook. I can now sweep my mouse cursor off the right edge of my iLamp's desktop, and it shows up on the left edge of my iBook's desktop. Then I am able to type things on my laptop using my desktop keyboard. It's pretty cool.
The documentation seems to indicate that this functionality is platform independent, using the network and a client-server communications model to let one computer be the server and the other the slave, so I'm gonna try compiling Synergy for my Solaris box at work and see if I can't use my work keyboard and mouse with my laptop. There are times when I want to use my laptop at work, such as when I need to read Windows .doc files, and this would make things so much simpler!
More evidence of my geekishness. Stay tuned...
August 09, 2005
You'll notice a column of ads to the right (unless you're reading this in my RSS feed). Relax, it's an experiment. I'll be truly surprised if I earn a penny off this service, but I was curious to see if anybody actually clicks on these things. If you're a regular reader, don't try to do me any favors by arbitrarily clicking on ads, as this might be misconstrued by Google as a violation of their terms (I'm not supposed to encourage or offer incentives to click) and get me kicked off the island. Even harsher, I'm not allowed to click on any of the ads myself, absolutely. I understand this is to prevent me from inflating my own numbers, but if I see a relevant ad, I'll have to copy the url and go there separately.
Which brings me to the interesting feature of this program. The ads are supposed to be appropriate for the content on the site. The first batch all seem to center around food (recipes, restaurants) which is appropriate given how much I've been writing about it lately. I'll be interested to see if they ever offer ads for anime or Hong Kong movies, or maybe DVDs for Firefly or Dr. No.
August 08, 2005
Not Norwegian Wood
Pilvet Karkaa, Niin Minakin is the theme song from Kauas Pilvet Karkaavat, a 1996 film by Aki Kaurismaki. I'd forgotten all about this Finnish director, popular in Japan, until I received an email from someone whose name appeared to be a string of random letters. I remember remarking to Jean that it looked like Finnish. At first I thought it was spam, but a closer look revealed it was from my friend Nami! She was sending me a message from her cellphone. Her email address on her cellphone is a reference to the song, and the director whom she introduced me to, many years ago. Those wacky youngsters and their cellphone email!
May 22, 2005
We've been saving money on long distance since we switched to the new Verizon plan: $4.95 per month, plus seven cents per minute within the United States. Unfortunately, Verizon doesn't even try to maintain that rate if you call to Canada, where my Dad is currently staying. Just moving my calling destination north a hundred miles brought my per minute rate up to $0.78! That's better than ten times my base rate! What are they thinking?
So after seeing my last bill, I decided to try an experiment. I stopped by Fry's and bought a Plantronics D-SP400 USB headset. This is a combo of headphones and microphone that plugs into a USB port on your computer. Then I visited Skype and purchased 10 Euros worth of SkypeOut, a service that lets me dial ordinary phone numbers from my computer. Then I called my Dad in Canada. There were a few false starts while I got everything set up, but eventually we settled in for a long chat.
Quality is not on a par with true dedicated phone service. Sometimes I could hear my own voice echoed back to me. Sometimes my Dad reported hearing odd noises. There was a fractional second lag that led to some conversational toe-stepping. And unlike my wireless phone handset, I'm tethered to the computer for the duration of the call. But once I got used to the irregularities, I was able to settle in to natural conversation.
What did this slight compromise cost me? The per minute rate using SkypeOut amounted to $0.02. Much better than $0.78. In fact, it's even somewhat better than my regular Verizon National calling plan. At this point, I'm planning on using it for calling my Dad whenever he's in Canada, which is only a few months each year. I also plan to take the headset down to Anime Expo with me. Then I can try calling Jean using Skype, rather than use the inflated hotel phone rates (two years ago I made a call from a phone that had a credit card swipe built into the side).
One amusing bit. Jean wandered by while I was talking to my Dad, so I motioned her in to say hi. She put on the headset, and immediately became agitated. She was laughing nervously and commenting on how weird it all was. In short, talking to someone over a headset creeped her out. So I guess it's just me for now.
Anybody I know is welcome to set up a Skype rendevous computer-to-computer. They are even cheaper than SkypeOut, i.e. free...
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:05 PM
January 21, 2005
The Eye of Ra
Just thought I'd add a link to a gallery of photos of endodontists training on their honking microscopes. I swear the objective lens was as big as a saucer. Of course it was about two inches above my mouth, and hence hovering next to my eye.
Dr. Lampert must consume no caffeine. He's chattering with his nurse about measurements in the 1-3 millimeter range and using his hands as guided by this humongous microscope, and not a twitch. If I had to do what he does, I'm afraid I'd only be able to do 'group' root canals.
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:33 AM
January 17, 2005
I took Kelly to her Irish Dance class tonight. It's in one of those 'warehouse business park' affairs (just North of Durham Road in Tigard), really just units that are big insulated garages. The teacher rents one out and holds her dance classes in the big open space. Really no spectator spaces for parents, so you either go run errrands or sit outside in your car. Since I don't like leaving Kelly without 'emergency transport', I sit outside.
This evening, I thought I'd be clever, and take my laptop, so I could watch the first half of the Appleseed movie (the class is one hour long). I suppose there's a miniscule risk of being mugged for my laptop, as this is a parking lot in a business park, but it seems fairly busy with parents coming and going, and isn't otherwise a pedestrian traffic zone, so I took the risk.
After dropping Kelly off with the teacher, I settled in, fired up my laptop, and noticed that the wireless icon was giving me 1 to 2 bars (about 25% to 50% signal strength). I checked the connection, and I was hooked up to a network named 'linksys'. Since this is the name of a company that makes wireless routers, I realized I was looking at a wireless access point that had never been taken beyond its default configuration.
One of the nice things about the iBook is that when its wireless card is turned on, it looks for open networks, and if it finds them, it just joins them. No fuss, no hunting. So I'm on the Internet! In addition to watching the first 45 minutes of the movie on my laptop, I also spent fifteen cruising Slashdot and all my usual browsing haunts.
I do love my technology!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:41 PM
June 27, 2004
Before the trip to Disneyland, I bought a Belkin iPod Media Reader. It's a device which attaches to the dock connector on new iPods, and allows you to copy the contents of various media cards (CompactFlash, in the case of my D70 camera) to an iPod. My plan was to move images from my camera's memory card onto the iPod, then delete them from the card, allowing me to take many more pictures than the 96 or so NEF files that the card can store. So instead of having to buy multiple cards, and stop photographing when I run out of them, I'd just fill up the iPod. With my current free capacity on my iPod, that gave me a headroom of 1200 photos. Never going to hit that on a single trip!
So I packed the iPod and it's power adapter, and the media reader, as well as my camera an it's battery charger. First day at Disneyland I filled the card up before noon, and stopped back at the hotel room to copy the images over. Plug things together, and the iPod says "no card inserted". Fiddle a bit, the card shows up. I push the button to start the copy, nothing happens. Push again. The "no card inserted" message reappears. Fiddle, fiddle. This goes on for ten minutes, until finally I get a copy started. It is slow. The connector is Firewire, but the transfer doesn't seem nearly up to that protocol's speed limit. Another gotcha: although the media reader uses AAA batteries, the iPod must still power it's hard disk for the copy (which I knew), and this puts a big drain on the iPod's built-in battery (which I didn't). By the end of the transfer, the iPod is ready for a recharge.
Every stinking time I needed to do a transfer at Disneyland, I had to go through the same drill. Fiddle, fiddle. Detach reader, reattach reader. Remove card, reinsert card. Reboot iPod to see if that helps (it doesn't). Eventually get a connection, begin the slow transfer. At the end, plug the iPod back in for a full recharge. Man, this sucks, I thought.
When I got back home, I resolved to hunt up the receipt and take the sucker back, at least for an exchange. This weekend I located all the relevant documentation, and set things up for a test run, so I could actually show the store how the device failed. It didn't. I tried several times, even taking it to a different location, and the card was recognized every time. It's still Godawful slow, and the iPod still chews through it's battery, but it works. So I'm keeping it, but am wary. We'll see on the Chatanooga trip if it continues to work.
So for anyone Googling on the Belkin iPod Media Reader, here is the summary:
- I experienced severe unreliability during one trip, fearing at several points that it would simply stop working and I would be left with a full memory card and no place to move the photos.
- Even after the reliability problems cleared up, it is slow.
- An unavoidable consequence of using it is to nearly drain the iPod battery when transferring large numbers of NEF files.
- This is the second unit I've had. The first one had a broken battery door. Their design has tiny locking tabs, and in the original unit they'd simply broken off (plastic, weak).
So caveat emptor, baby.
April 26, 2004
I bought an iTrip FM transmitter to go with my iPod, so I could listen to it in my car. I wanted to test it out, so I was looking for an FM radio in the house which I could use. The 'retired' clock/radio in my room that I use for a reference (garish red LEDs show up great in the dark) is retired for a reason. The radio gave up the ghost about ten seconds after I tried to use it.
Then I remembered that I had an old Sony Walkman cassette tape/FM radio that I use occasionally for walks. I grabbed it, turned it on, and it was dead. I tried a fresh battery, and no go. The darn thing died sometime after the last time I used it. And I only found out when attempting to test the new portable music box I had just bought.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:02 PM
April 25, 2004
I made the first of two somewhat pricey purchases today, all part of my nefarious plan! What did I buy? A 15GB iPod. I blame you Tom!
The other purchase is staged over the next couple of weeks. I'm planning on buying a Nikon D70 digital SLR body. I'll use my existing lenses with it, and work on getting familiar enough with it to turn out decent pictures when we go to Disneyland this summer for Kelly's birthday. This is the second time we're doing this, and as last time I used a Olympus Stylus Epic with Disneychrome -- pardon, Fuji Velvia -- I decided to see if I couldn't do something different. True, my old Nikon Coolpix 950 produces images that are adequate to put up on the web. But I want to be able to do that and get some nice-sized prints.
So the plan (a.k.a. rationalization) for this hardware is to take pictures with the D70, download 'em to the iPod while at Disneyland, then process them all back at the ranch. This plan may fall apart at the first sign of trouble, but I have hopes anyway.
April 06, 2004
I dug around on the Internet and found some example code for a way to lock down comments in bulk. With a few changes it worked for my weblog. I'm not turning off comments entirely. Any new post will be open. But the comment spam parasites seem to choose old posts by default, so this will rein them in until MT3.0 gets out. Then I'll probably reverse the closing of comments to allow those rare articulate strangers their voices.
April 05, 2004
My Blog Has Fleas
I really dislike the word 'blog' as a stand in for weblog, but it fit the title, so be it.
I'm sick of the parasites. Sick I say. I allow comments on my weblog so that friends and family can add something to my posts. I even get useful posts from strangers now and then. Unfortunately, the overwhelming mass of comments are what is known as 'comment spam'. This is when someone posts a comment with a link to a commercial site. The comment itself is not related to the post, and is often total jibberish.
Why would anyone advertise their site on a little known weblog? It's Google's fault. Google rates the popularity of web pages by how many other pages link to it. This is the Pagerank algorithm. So spammers post comments on thousands of weblogs, and try to trick Google into believing their websites are popular.
I get between one and five of these faux commments every day, and it's very irritating. I've contemplated closing all comments on my website, but for now, the balance is still in favor of leaving them open. One comment from a friend, or a comment which leads to a new friendship (hi Pascale! hi Ky!) is worth a hundred of these flea bites.
That may not always be so. The frequency of spam comments is slowly increasing. Yesterday I upgraded my site to MovableType 2.661, which implements Comment Throttling. This prevents multiple comments from the same IP address more than once a minute. But of course since the comment spammers use virus driven PCs, the comments come from all over.
MovableType is coming out with a 3.0 version 'soon', which will allow comment approval. Then the only person who will have to see the spam is me. And I will have the satisfaction of denying the spammers access to my weblog entirely. Until then...
My Blog Has Fleaaaaaas!!!
February 11, 2004
Transformer Instruction Archive
Because I know James would dig this site, here it is. Tom, please forward?
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:14 PM
November 26, 2003
Da Craw, Da Craw!
Damn I love the Internet! I went down to check the ReplayTV for tomorrow's television sloth (hint, no football), and discovered that due to a glitch it had cleared all the program guide data (not my recording requests, just the 'TV Guide' menu).
Now I already knew about this but had to go to the site again to look it up. All ReplayTV boxes have a secret menu, named humorously by it's developers the "Clawfoot Portal". Just start viewing live television, and enter 2-4-3-Zone. Bingo! Secret Menu. Then I used this to force a phone connect and had my program guide updated in less than twenty minutes.
Did I mention that I love the Internet?
November 05, 2003
Keep your broadcast flag out of my property. Innovation hating, fair use fearing, morons...
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:46 AM
October 17, 2003
Raffi Krikorian (author of Tivo Hacks) posted an article to PVRBlog listing the top ten Tivo 'Season Passes', i.e. shows folks have set to auto-record. I looked at the list, and I don't watch any of 'em.
Guess ReplayTV users march to a different drum
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:45 PM
September 02, 2003
I am interested in the evolution of robotic appliances. We have a few, of the assisted variety, but then most people nowadays do. Ever heard of a dishwasher? Still, the Roomba is another step along the path. It doesn't empty itself, or charge itself, but in between, it apparently does a decent job of vacuuming by itself.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:55 PM
August 01, 2003
How To Be A Player
It's just two months shy of three years since I purchased my ReplayTV, so it's appropriate that I now feel free to open it up and tinker. The newer models come with more disk space, networking capabilities and enhanced display features, but mostly, the only thing I crave is more space. This is less to add more programming than it is to record at a higher quality setting, but since I'm now recording a couple of shows that Jean and I watch, as well as my usual fare, having extra space for those shows as well is likely to be a bonus.
I've gotten into the habit of recording all my shows in 'extended' mode, which is sub-vcr quality, and shows noticable digital artifacts, when the action is heavy. The benefit is that my 30GB disk can support around 30 hours of programs. Going up to 'medium' quality would cut that to 15 hours, and 'high' would bring it down to 10 hours.
So I was reading Matt Haughey's excellent PVRBlog (Personal Video Recorder weB-LOG) and followed his link to the ReplayTV FAQ. There I learned that it is possible to upgrade the disk drive of your ReplayTV, just like Tivo owners have always been able to do. The catch is that you have to have a Windows or Linux box with IDE cables to carry out the enhancement.
Now I have a few friends with Windows boxes, but only one of them also owns a ReplayTV unit. That's my work buddy Burr. So I floated the concept of the project to him, and he agreed. We did the first pass over lunch on Monday, me buying a 160GB Western Digital drive at Costco and taking it to his townhouse. It's a good thing his friend John was visiting, because he had some helpul tips that got us unstuck a couple of times.
Unfortunately, I got a little greedy, and tried to use the 'copy programming' option of the cloning program to preserve all the shows on my original disk. It didn't work, and we had to try again today. This time I skipped that step. It worked like a charm, and the whole process took less time, to boot! Granted, there was no programming on the drive when I booted it up, but the ReplayTV OS worked fine, and all my preprogrammed shows were in the 'to record' listing.
I set it up this evening, and sure enough, at 6:30 pm it began recording 'King of the Hill', a show Jean has gotten me hooked on, just like she got me hooked on Lucky.
So how much recording space do I have now? At 'medium', just shy of 68 hours. So I can more than double my capacity while raising the quality of the image. If I continued to use 'extended' I'd get nearly 137 hours, but I doubt it will come to that.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:36 PM
June 25, 2003
More Newsy RSS Feeds...
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:58 AM
May 21, 2003
A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose
I got to thinking about the computer I'm about to retire, and realized that I ought to share the naming scheme in my house. I get to name all the computers since I'm the computer-literate geek. Since I'm also into anime, the computers tend to get anime names. You can sort of see the history of anime by the names of the computers in their order of acquisition:
- Powermac 8500/120 - Ryoko (Tenchi Muyou)
- Blueberry iBook - Ryo-Oki (Tenchi Muyou) ('cause it's smaller!)
- iMac (all-in-one) - Haruko (FLCL)
- iMac (iLamp) - Megumi (Cheeky Angel)
I wonder what show I'll be infatuated with the next time I buy a computer?
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:56 AM
May 20, 2003
The Long March
I just picked up my new computer!
It's a 17" LCD iMac. So far everything's good. I mainly have to resist the temptation to try to configure it entirely tonight. I really have a couple of week's worth of work, if I pace myself properly.
Anyway, I transferred all my iTunes music over from my laptop and have been listening while I work. Lotsa fun.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:20 PM
March 23, 2003
Fry's Got Greedy
Well, Fry's lost out on my business today. I was at work doing a little overtime and swung by the store on the way home to see if they had the Gameboy Advance SP yet. There was an endcap display stating that they had them in stock, but that they would only be sold in 'bundles'. "See a sales associate for more information." Yeah.
So I asked a salesthing what the deal was. Turns out they won't sell me a GBA SP unless I also pay for a bunch of accessories I don't want or need. A rather shabby looking case for the console, a car power adapter, a magnifying glass fer crap's sake! The list goes on, and of the items, only the headphones are something I'm likely to buy on purpose. Total price for the 'bundle', $130, only $30 more than buying the console alone.
I said, "what colors do you have?"
"We have both colors on hand, sir."
I picked up one of the accessory packs, turned it over, fingered the cheap magnifying glass, and said, "boy, you guys..."
"It's not my choice, sir. If it were up to me we wouldn't have included those."
"So who decided this scam?"
"Our buyers down in California."
"Hmm. Okay. Yah know, I think I'm gonna wait." It's bad enough they wanna gouge me for $30, but that they insult me by trying to pawn off a bunch of junk worth $10 or $15 at best to try to justify their greed... Take a hike, losers.
I walked out, went home, and called Toys 'R' Us. They're selling the consoles separately at $99 a pop, no nonsense. They don't have 'em in the store but hope to have more in stock tomorrow. Even if it takes awhile, I'm gonna wait. No way I'm going to put up with the Fry's Tax.
Posted by dpwakefield at 07:50 PM
March 21, 2003
I've had my ReplayTV box for about two and a half years now. I said when I bought it that it was a geek toy, a bleeding edge gadget that could stop working at any time, as the idea might not catch on, and the linkage to an online television directory, essential for it's operation, made it vulnerable to failure of the operating company.
Well, it looks like that day may have arrived. The current owner of ReplayTV, Sonicblue, has filed for bankruptcy. I've got my fingers crossed, as I still enjoy the box, but my outlook is skeptical. If it stops working, I won't be getting a replacement right away, as I (a) don't have the cash right now, and (b) think Tivo, the only viable competitor, could fold fairly soon after Sonicblue, if the market conditions affecting one hit the other.
So I may be playing a lot more PS2 games soon...
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:07 AM
February 11, 2003
God I love Usenet. I know it's not fashionable to like it. It's supposed to be full of junk and trolls. But I have a good newsreader (Gnus) and only frequent groups that have a high signal to noise ratio. One is comp.lang.python, for the Python programming language. The creator of the language, and Benevolent Dictator for Life , Guido Van Rossum, posted a Python Enhancement Proposal a couple of days ago, for a feature he is lukewarm on, saying "if you want this feature, this is your only chance. Vote and let me know."
This one post has generated over 700 posts by my count (which when I think of it, belies my claim of frequenting only groups with a high signal to noise ratio, so never mind), most of which I score down so I never have to see them again. But this post by Laura Creighton, is a quintessential classic post. In it she discusses various voting methods designed to guarantee a winner, and why they fall down when one of the choices is 'do nothing'. It is really interesting, at least to a guy getting minimal sleep!
Posted by dpwakefield at 06:19 PM
January 23, 2003
More Trackback Testing
This time, from my laptop computer, IE5 Mac OS X, to a specific article: TrackBack Development: TrackBack Spec Updated.
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:43 AM
Movable Type (the weblog tool I'm using now) allows a feature called TrackBack, which means that anyone using the same or similar tool can write an article on their weblog, referencing mine, and a link to their article will show up at the bottom of mine.
This works both ways, so if I wrote an article referencing someone else's article on their weblog, and they have TrackBack enabled, my weblog will 'ping' theirs, and their article will have a link back to mine.
I am just experimenting with this, so I'm not sure of the details, but I think the links only happen in archived articles, to allow a permalink. We'll see.
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:34 AM
January 21, 2003
Trying to explain to Kelly last night why sweat cools the body (or not, depending on humidity), I mentioned swamp coolers. I just found a site that has a rather good explanation, so here it is.
Update: To date I've received two requests for more information about swamp coolers from interested readers. To be clear, I don't have a swamp cooler and never have. The website I've pointed to is a good starting point for more information, or you can of course try Google.Good luck!