Tag: geekery

More video-chatting

I’ve had my iSight camera on my iMac for a few years now, but have been getting a lot more use out of it lately, doing chats with strausmouse. And then last night, a 45 minute chat with Andy, who was sitting in what was once his Yankee room, but is now his home office. He and Mandy are about to give birth to a baby girl in a week or so. In fact, toward the end of our chat, I saw Mandy in the background. Good to be able to see them both, as they are both in L.A. and I don’t get to see them as much as strausmouse or vickyandnorm.

Now if kruppenheimer would get a camera, we’d have a quorum.

Apple slashes the price of an 8 GB iPhone to $399

With the release of the 6th generation “touch” iPods, Apple has slashed the price of an iPhone to $399. And that’s for the 8 GB phone! Why couldn’t they have done this 28 days ago!?

Hey, mabfan, if a $200 “discount” isn’t a good reason to get an iPhone, I don’t know what is. 😉

There are some cool new features that will be available, such as purchasing music wirelessly from your phone/iPod. Ah, well, I’m still happy with my iPhone so I guess I can’t complain.

Alright, let me have it…


So today, we did an “analogies” test. Carmen is studying to take the Miller Analogies test and Ben and I were teasing her a bit yesterday about how she came up with some of her answers. So she challenged us to answer 40 questions and see who did best. This grew into about 5 of us, where the losers all have to buy the winner a drink at a happy hour in September. I did not come in last, thankfully. I scored 27/40 and that includes the three that I skipped. For those interested, the questions (along with my answers) can be found behind the cut.

Practice Analogies Test

Call me a hypocrite!

Well, there’s no point in beating around the bush so I’ll just come out and say it:

I am the proud owner of a new iPhone.

I feel rather like a hypocrite. I have said on many occasions to numerous people that as cool as I thought the iPhone was, I just never wanted to be that connected. The truth is circumstance and practicality conspired against me. Let me explain:

Three things made this a practical decision. First, I’ve been wanting a new phone for a while. My RAZR, while nice, is getting scratched up, bumped up, and let’s be honest, old technology. I’ve looked around at various phones, but held back. Second, I’ve been wanting a PDA. Recently, I’ve been looking at PalmPilot’s, Blackberries and various tools that I could use for managing contacts, calendars and lists on the go. Third, as I mentioned, I’m re-reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done with the idea in mind that I’m really going to give his methods a try this time. They worked pretty well for me the first time around, but I didn’t implement the whole system. Now I’m giving that a shot. Part of the system is a mechanism for keeping your calendar and “action lists” available with you. Thus the PDA.

Well, carrying 3 different devices is ridiculous. I don’t want to lug around an iPod and a cell phone, and a PDA. That’s crazy. Also, at home at least, I completely converted to the Mac back in 2004, so I needed something that would work with Macs. The answer was the iPhone. For the price I would have paid for a new PDA and a new cell phone, I got the 8 GB iPhone. It took 8 minutes to activate and I’ve already made a call with it. It is connected to my wireless network. I’ve downloaded some music and videos to it. I’ve already tried reading email on it and it works like a charm. And, its integration with AT&T’s EDGE network is included in the monthly fee, so even when I’m not on WI-FI, I can still read email and browse the web.

In fact, I’ve done about everything with it I can thus far, except post to this blog. But believe me, before the week is out I’m sure I will have done that too.

So call me a hypocrite. I deserve it. But I have my new little toy and I’m happy with it.

A revamped home page

Following on the “back to basics” theme, I spent a few hours this morning retooling my website, simplifying it and cleaning it up. It is still a work-in-progress, and while it is not as bare-bones as my reading list, I have tried to keep it simple.

I was excited to be able to add the new bibliography section. It’s nice to be able to list a publication for which I have been paid!

Expect some more changes and a little more content over the next week or so, but not a whole lot. I really am trying to keep this stuff simple and stable so that I don’t have to spend much time maintaining it.

Back to basics!

Back in January 1996, I had a simple goal of reading 1 book per week, or 52 books a year. It’s funny how simple things evolve. Not long after I set my goal, I decided I needed a way to capture the list of books that I read. I started, naturally enough, using an Excel file, which worked fine, but it had it’s limits. For one thing, at least back in 1996, it was not easy to post my Excel file on the web and I wanted to share my progress. So I switched to HTML. Of course, that led to ever more creative ways for managing the list. My HTML evolved into delimited list files, processed by a set of perl scripts. There was still quite a bit of manual work involved, but this worked well for a while. Years later, it seemed that the thing to do was to convert all of the perl scripts to PHP and store the lists in a relational database–which I did on my local machine. I then wrote scripts to upload changes to my website each night. This worked pretty well, too. Finally, I evolved an elaborate SQL database and a collection of massive PHP scripts all of which was hosted at my ISP.

But there was always a problem: I never had the time to fully develop the interfaces to these applications to make them easy to update and maintain. So while I had the scripts and the pretty HTML lists, I still was essentially typing SQL commands to update the database.

Over the last several months, I haven’t been updating my reading list the way I used to and it occurred to me that if after 11 years, I could not come up with an easy system for maintaining the list, I would never come up with it. These days, I have neither the time nor the inclination to do it, so today, I gave up and went back to basics on a number of levels.

First, I went back to a slightly more elaborate (and better designed) version of my original excel spreadsheet from back in 1996. It’s more elaborate only in that I know a lot more about Excel now than I did then and am able to do some things more elegantly. But it is incredibly easy to maintain. It takes me less than a minute to add a book to my list!

Second, I have fought a constant battle of page design, trying to keep up with various trends in look and feel, RSS, AJAX and all of the rest of the stuff that makes the web look so good these day. It’s a losing battle for me. I do this stuff constantly at work and I simply don’t want to do it at home anymore. So I decided to eschew all ornamentation and go back to basic, circa 1996 HTML. No style sheets. No fancy formatting. But it’s clear, easy to read, and presents the information without an effort on my part.

I’ve consolidated my new reading list into one single page, rather than a page for each year.

To make up for this retro look and feel, I’ve added some new things. First, I’ve reinstated my favorite books page, which went away several years back. This is a page that lists my all-time favorite books, books which I have given 5 out of 5 stars. Second, I update the FAQ for the list. Last, but not least, I developed a consolidated statistics page and packed it with all kinds of new information that I’ve never posted before. For people who are interested in that kind of stuff, it’s pretty cool.

These pages are easy to update from my master spreadsheet and so I don’t anticipate them getting stale again. I also don’t anticipate any fancy interface updates. It’s plain vanilla, but it works. And best of all, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

A visit to Albany, day 1

Yesterday, after dropping Zeke off at the vet, I got on the road to head up to Albany to visit strausmouse and rmstraus. I was on the road by 8:20 AM and made surprisingly good time. In fact, I’d covered the entire 360 mile drive in under 6 hours and arrived at Eric and Ryane’s at about 2:15 PM. The new GPS worked great. I didn’t use Eric’s directions, and instead, followed what the nav unit told me and it got me to their house without trouble. There was no traffic at all, which helped.

Once there, I met little Damian for the first time, and what a cutie he is! He is energetic, but quiet. He smiles and laughs. All told, he is very much the way Eric describes him. I got to see Cali, too, who was her usual calm self. Ryane and Damian and Cali and I hung out until Eric got home from work. Once Eric was home, I helped him out with some computer-related stuff (like setting up his webcam) and then we headed out for dinner. We went to a Vietnamese place that they like and it was terrific. I don’t remember the name of what I ordered, but it was the same thing that Eric had and it was great! Especially the spring rolls and the sauce that they use. It was also way more than I could eat so there were plenty of left-overs.

We have about half the day to hang out today and then I head down to Stony Point, New York, to spent some time with vickyandnorm.

Errands and toys

I was up at 8 AM this morning and headed up to IHOP for a quick breakfast. From there, I headed to Saturn to have my car services (it was time for it’s 108,000 mile service, but since I’m driving up to Albany tomorrow, I wanted to make sure everything was in good working order anyway). My appointment was for 9 AM and I brought the car in at precisely 9 AM. I was very surprised when the car was returned and ready for me to take (having been washed and everything) by 9:25 AM!

From there, I headed to Circuit City. It’s been 2 years since my car has had a radio, the last one being stolen while the car sat in my driveway. I figured enough time had passed for my frustration to subside, and I caved in and bought the cheapest Pioneer radio I could find. It’s got a removable face plate, CD player, but best of all, has an AUX plug for my iPod so I can plug that right into my car stereo. It’s also nice that there is no longer a gaping hole in my dashboard.

While there, I also bought myself a little present and had that installed in the car as well: a Garmin StreetPilot C550 navigation unit. It’s pretty cool. It’s got a great color display, detailed maps of the entire U.S. and Canada, it’s voice activated, has BlueTooth built in so that I can make phone calls through it while I am driving, and has traffic alerts as well. I’ve wanted one of these for a while, ever since I got my handheld GPS unit for my birthday a year and a half ago, from vickyandnorm. This compliments that one. This one is perfect for the car. That one I can take with me when I travel. Of course, I can test the new one out driving up to Albany tomorrow to visit strausmouse and rmstraus.

After that, I headed over to the Hair Cuttery to get a haircut, which I desperately needed. And now, I am back home, going through the instruction book for the new nav unit. I still have a few more errands to run, but the major ones are done.

Choppy video?

The other evening, I wanted to watch a movie. It so happens that I had a few movies on my iBook that I purchased from the iTunes store: Rocky and Rocky II. I settled down to watch Rocky (which I have seen several times before) and, much to my dismay, the video was choppy. No matter what I did with various settings, it remained choppy. There were moments of smoothness, followed by seemingly longer moments of choppiness. It was very frustrating. So I did what any geek would do, I did a google search for choppy video in iTunes. I came up with lots of hits, most of which were complaints about iTunes 7, none of which suggested practical solutions. (More memory, some suggested. No more memory, others insisted.)

Well, I had fooled around with just about every setting I could think of. I was attempting to watch the movie in bed and so I started to think about anything that I hadn’t tried yet. I was about 30 minutes into the movie, when I noticed that I had about 1 hour of battery life left. That made me curious. Could the problem be that the onboard video card was not getting enough power? So I plugged in my iBook and resume the movie and the choppiness went away.

In fact, after that I experimented. When the laptop was plugged into the AC, there was no choppiness in video playback, but when it was not plugged in, the choppiness was obvious. What I thought was strange about this was not the difference in power provided by battery versus AC, but the fact that this solution wasn’t reported on any of the searches that I did.

Can anyone (perhaps kevnyc) explain why I’d get smooth video with the iBook plugged into the AC and choppy video when it was not plugged in? I’m curious…