Saturday, October 28, 2006

Really liking Windows Vista, but...


Gadgets. I think we need a better selection. Yea, they have the clocks and the calendars and the calculators and the CPU meters. I'm realizing that at the end of the day, the gadget sidebar is long and mostly empty when you are done filling it with what you actually want.


Mine has the clock, calendar, weather, and CPU items, shown below.  To fill in the void at the bottom I threw in a basic RSS feed.


What is a gadget's task? It should be simple, with no interaction required. Most of what the gadget does should simply be to passively convey information (such as a clock) or provide access (such as an RSS feed list).


Here is my initial thoughts on what I would want:


1) A Favorites list so I can quickly open a web page or hard drive location of interest. This may be my first gadget attempt.


2) Yahoo email integration. Hey, we have a Google gadget. Lets get yahoo in there. Show list of unread mail.


3) TIVO, baby. Get a Tivo gadget to show your box's to do list.

Mike Cane talks electronic ink based Sony Reader

A few months back I posted about the Sony Reader, a portable ebook device not based on an LCD display, but using eInk's revolutionary electronic ink displays that appear much like the surface of a book.

 

There are two advantages to the eInk displays:

1) They look like paper.  The contrast is not as white as paper.. think of the background as a bright gray.  The display is based on balls/spheres containing both white and black ink.  A charge is applied causing the black pigment chips within a sphere to push towards the user (and appear as a "pixel") or away (resulting in the white pigment chips being visible and "hiding" the pixel as the paper color). Hence eInk displays are actually opaque and ink-based just as paper.

Both paper books and eInk displays are of course easy to read and have little eye strain, unlike LCD products with active lighting behind them.  paper also offers bright contrast and readability in direct sunlight as well as by very little indirect lighting such as on a plane.

 

2) These displays do not require power once they are changed.  In other words, if you "turn the page" on your Sony Reader and then power it off, the display still has the text in full view.  Battery life is incredible, then, as no juice is needed to constantly refresh an active display such as those found on PDAs.

 

Well, with that being said,  Mike Cane is an avid reader and blogger and has some nice things to say about his experiences with the reader:

 

http://mikecane.wordpress.com/2006/10/26/sony-reader-part-4-of-4/

Friday, October 27, 2006

Windows Live Writer blog authoring tool

I'm trying out Microsoft's free blog authoring tool, currently in beta form.  It seems to work with blogger and live spaces just fine, and is infinitely easier to do data entry, which is why I post so little.  It has very nice preview, normal, and layout modes along with picture manipulation and spell checking.  All the while it shelters you from goofy HTML constructs.

Below is a screen shot of the tool in action

Writer

Unfortunately at this point Blogger (blogspot) will not allow you to upload posts with pictures.  You can download and edit existing posts that contain pictures, but the automatic publishing to blogger will fail if you have added pictures (pre-existing ones are fine).  You will still need to use the blogspot picture uploader web page to get this content onto your posts.

However, if you were to be able to control pictures on your blog through this tool you have a lot of photo effects you can apply directly within the application, however this part of the beta is delicate.  On vista it tends to crash.

It is very hard not to like this tool.  It saves draft posts, allows me to compose thoughts offline on a nice desktop application (as opposed to the small little URL data entry boxes on the blog sites) and publish at any time.  Actually, you don't even need to visit your blog much anymore as all of your blog posts are accessible right through the tool.  You can view, edit, and delete any posts from any of your blogs you configure with live writer.

So just how easy is it to configure a blog with live writer?  Well for starters, you don't have do do anything with your actual blog site.  You simply add a blog to the live writer using an add account wizard.  It wants the URL of the site, and your account and password.  That's it.

Here is the official blog site for the tool.  Download it and try it out.  I think you will like it.

Live Writer blog site

 

-d

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Thats spicy water!"

Another funny kid quote. This one from a friend of my oldest son when she accidentally tasted sprite thinking it was water (and had never had it before).

-d

Saturday, October 14, 2006

New religious channel's kids logo: Super Fn Guy

You can't make this stuff up!



The FN (Family Network) channel has a new hero in its children's programming. Super FN Guy. At first I thought my tivo had snagged something off of adult swim. Then I realized it was serious. Are they that pure and untainted at the FN channel to not know what abbreviation is suggested? I just had to snag and preserve the logo for what has got to be a short-lived marketing blunder.


If you want more information on this fn guy, go here:
http://sub.familynet.com/kids_club/inner_tree_house.swf

-d

Friday, August 18, 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

Daddy, jello rubbers in my mouth

Occasionally my oldest son will say something classic. He is getting to the point where he can carry on a pretty involved conversation. Sometimes though he knows what he wants to say and reaches for a word or two he thinks will work. Its fascinating to see the gears turn inside a child as he learns language.

Anyway, today he tasted jello and tried to describe its texture by proclaming that jello "rubbers" in his mouth. I thought that was actually very clever of him, but it still made me laugh.

I wish I wrote down all the cute phrases he has come up with. Ill add them to this blog just to keep a record.

-d

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Year of the 4-seat hardtop auto-retractables

You have got to love these!

All are 4-seat hardtop autoretractable convertibles just hitting the market. The prices float between 25K and 35K, and with options the Volvo in particular can creep above 40K, which makes them reasonably affordable. I have them listed by my current preference. Once I gather pricing and specs Ill post a more complete matrix. Things that I am keen to observe include the reliability of all those top-folding moving parts, usefulness of the back seats, wind noise, and interior ergonomics.


To see just how impressive (and maybe delicate) some of this is, look at this video of the EOS at the Chicago Auto Show this year.
Volvo C70
Volkswagen EOS

Pontiac G6

Peugeot 307CC

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Smartest Man Alive


Its not every day someone can lay claim to the title "Smartest Man Alive", and certainly not looking like that. But here we are, aren't we?

Meet my idol, Philip Winikoff, who actually went door-to-door and offered free breast exams.... succesfully. Now of course part of his sales pitch was claiming to be a doctor, but in actuallity he drove a shuttle for a car dealership. To his credit however, both jobs require sensitive hands.

His dream job came to an end when he started to perform genital exams without rubber gloves and a customer decided to file a complaint.

You can read more about it here:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060420/od_nm/breasts_dc_1

Also, for any females out there wanting free breast exams from a legitimate fake doctor, send me an email:
atomic_superman@yahoo.com


-d

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New eBook readers that use paper as their display

For those of you not familiar with eInk, it is a company spun out of MIT research. They have technology for creating displays made literally of balls of ink to form printed pages that change on the fly.

Read about it here:
http://www.eink.com/

The good news for readers waiting for a quality eBook device is as follows:

1) The display looks like a printed page from a book. It is not backlit, which can cause eye strain, and is as easy to read under direct sunlight as it is by the bed. The MIT ink/paper system has a high enough contrast and resolution to mimic a printed page.

2) Battery power is only needed to change the display, not to maintain a static image such as text. Therefore as you read a page no power is used to refresh the image (as would be the case with LCDs). Batteries are only used when "turning" the page.

3) The display is thin and light-weight, making the new eInk-based readers the size of a paperback.

Sony's new reader based on E-Ink display technology is going to be out this Spring. Borders is expected to sell them as well as coupons for downloading books. I have some concerns about Sony and DRM, but we will soon know if it is a good system or not. I really would love to keep my entire library handy. I would love to have several books for long plane trips or hotel stays.

Sony also added the ability to show any PDF, and via a PC tool you can sync up blog and web page content for later reading. It can also play MP3s, but of course then you are draining your batteries faster.

Read about Sony's Reader here:
http://products.sel.sony.com/pa/prs/?DCMP=reader&HQS=showcase_reader

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gosh I need a new computer

I'm sweating it out with an old Pentium desktop salvaged from a dot-com layoff in the area about 5 years ago. The problem is I am so surrounded by computers and technology during the day that I fight the idea of bringing it home. My wife wants us to get a laptop and do away with the old hand-crank.

Her thinking is we can move it freely out by the pool or in the kitchen and watch the kids. Seems like a nice idea, though Im not sure anyone needs email that badly. I shut down any resistance to the idea and began to study the laptop landscape. If there is one thing I like to do its to prepare smartly for a technology purchase. The real problem is it wasn't until two years ago that I finally got rid of my 1980 RCA television -- I just fight the purchase to the last moment.

So I set out last year to make sure I can get a laptop that will become our home PC for the next 5 years or so. I narrowed it down to this:

* Must be built well:
This means no 100% plastic cases. The Dell Lattitudes, the IBM Thinkpads, the Apple Macbooks are all built well with lightweight metal alloy frames or skeletons. I believe Alienware is in the hunt as well.

* Don't let cost be an issue:
I will spend upwards of $2.5K for a good machine that can last 5 years. I prefer this approach over frankenstein boxes that you upgrade periodically. This way your machine dies gracefully :) The cost amounts to be about the same anyway.

* Must be functional, but also portable:
Im not interested in a 17" desktop replacement laptop. They are loud, hot, and awkward to move. After using a 15" laptop for work for a while now I've come to the conclusion that a 14" widescreen is the best form factor that gives you a usable screen and keyboard, is light, and is easy to carry or pack.

* Must be fast:
To be a functional machine 5 years from now, you can't skimp out. I have targeted a 2.0 GHz Core Duo as the minimum, with 1 Gb RAM minimum. Also must have a GPU capable of 3D graphics. To be future-proof, Vista (the new Windows) uses a GPU for visual effects. The word on the street now is a GPU with directx 9, pixel shader 2.0 (used to be 3.0), and the new Windows driver model for Vista (ie: can't use XP drivers).

* XP vs MAC:
Not a fan of OS X. If you know XP, it can be both easier and more configurable. However Apple hardware is very good and with the ability to dual-boot (or get rid of OS X all together) I would seriously consider getting one of these. Nonetheless until I hear that Vista boots natively on the box with full support of their hardware I have to stick with a known PC vendor.


So where am I so far? I was disappointed with a Gateway laptop. I bought a high-end one and they canelled the line entirely, deciding to ship to me a different laptop. Jerks. I returned the laptop and will never get another from them.

I am now looking at the Dell Lattitude D620, and also waiting to hear about the rumored new Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro (pending more XP support).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Charlotte Observer's Blunder-o-Fun

This is an actual ad from the Charlotte Observer back in the late '80's. From what I gather some employees (teenagers) were playing around substituding words in several ads as a joke, intending to remove them before print time. They forgot one.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

So what do you TIVO? My list of shows

In no particular order, these are my main season passes. I recommend any of these if you have not seen them.
  • Battlestar Galactica (Gritty, realistic, complex)
  • Lost
  • The Daily Show
  • The Cobert Report
  • Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1 (comedy in space)
  • My name is Earl (Hilarious. Its "Raising Arizona" meets Seinfield.)
  • Medium (Kolchack meets Kojack)
  • House (A fun show: genius doctor hates people, people hate genius doctor)
  • South Park
  • Nova, Frontline (haven't seen a new one in a while)
  • CSI (the original one. The spinoffs are particularly awful)
  • The Simpsons

Most of the above dramas (except Medium, Galactica, and Lost) follow a formula. Take CSI for example. You know when they have a suspect in hand and its not the final three minutes of the show then it's the wrong guy. House has this problem too. He comes up with a crazy diagnosis and unless we are in the final three minutes of the show, the diagnosis is wrong. They are still great shows though.

Medium depicts a neat hyper-realistic family life that reminds me of That Speilberg classic Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and even Poltergeist. Those movies captured the feeling of a normal, chaotic home filled with children, toys, and TV despite the otherworldy storylines.

Here is an article on upgrading your TIVO's recording capacity: http://spaces.msn.com/dougsblog/blog/cns!4B6D7A9716A8E96!150.entry

Friday, February 03, 2006

My "serious" blog

"Doug's Blog of Righteous Chocolate" is the name of my review site:

http://spaces.msn.com/dougsblog/

Lots of engineering projects and reviews. Don't ask me why but it gets a lot of hits and rss subscribers.

Thats my boy!

I'm a great dad. Probably the best. Surely I'm in the top 5 of all time. If there was a dad hall of fame, I would be a first-ballot member.

Anyway, one of my great dad things is messing with my kid's mind. Every day before leaving for work I give him a hug and a kiss (he is 5, so its legal in Florida -- but no photos of it, that would be wrong). So being a great dad, I decided to charge him one penny for every hug. After all, why should he get something for nothing? Teaches him the value of money, and that love is purchased not earned. Besides, with the savings I could send him to college. Ok, city college. Well, maybe mail order degree. All right then, UNC-Charlotte. But that is as low as Ill go.

Well I ask him for a penny every morning and he gives me that long sad "I just want a hug" look, so I give him a freebie. For weeks he has been getting off of paying me my hug dues.

One morning my wife overheard me ask him for my hug penny and said "That's why he is charging me a dollar for every kiss!".

Heh, true story. Little bastard was getting rich off of my scheme. At this rate he can go to NC State.

-d

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Doug's Blog of Righteous Chocolate is in the House

Hey, this theme is "No 565". Not sure what that is, but its damn important.