31 December, 2008

Zune 30 GB Crash

Per Microsoft, the problem should resolve itself around noon on January 1'st.  We shall see.

More information can be found here:  http://forums.zune.net/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=408989

Dan Reams previously wrote:
    Holy crap!  My Zune crashed!  I wonder if my experience is related to everyone else's.


20 December, 2008

Snow Thrower - The Stages of Becoming a Man

In the beginning, there was the mitten
The child learned to push snow this way and that
In for hot chocolate to avoid being frost bitten
Slush clogging his kid boots and hat

When he got his first apartment he took a shovel
To help him dig out his old beater
To passers by he'd look quite agile
But he'd run in to sit on the heater

He bought his very own condo
Remembrances of his old apartment
Inevitably came the first snow
So down to Ace Hardware he went

Snow Throwers all so new and shiny
The man said "The big one's the rage"
Their price tags were not so tiny
So he said, "I'll just take the single-stage"

The first snowfall was just North of one inch
He stripped off the plastic, filled up the tank
It blew off the sidewalk and didn't flinch
He said, "Hey I just made my first snowbank!"

A week later a blizzard did come
The lil' shooter was valiantly run
When it got gummed up in the slush he felt dumb
"My mama didn't raise her no idiot son"

Grabbing the emergency credit card he returned to the store
Said "Man I can't take this no more
My back aches like a man three times my age
Here's my card please deliver me a dual-stage"

Tuning one's HDTV with the 'Video Essentials' DVD, Sound Meter at Radio Shack

A letter to my pal, Jason, regarding tuning my HDTV.  We bond this way.

-------- Original Message --------

I tuned the new TV last night using my used $6 copy of 'Video Essentials' that I'd picked up at CD Max [Brookfield, WI.].  Of course, the difference was night and day, but the process left me feeling somewhat empty.  Like you, I am a stickler for detail, when making technical adjustments, so it was disconcerting to me that the old 'Video Essentials' was not really cut from a mold to properly fit my monitor.

For example, the monitor refused to "blossom" the gray box or cause the straight line to curve when adjusting the contrast.  While this should indicate that my monitor does a great job with its brightness, I was left with a feeling that perhaps the paradigm is different with an LCD HDTV than for a tube monitor for which the DVD was designed.  Similarly, the Sharpness control, when raised to the maximum, did not distort the resulting picture much at all, although at its highest level, there were noticiable new boundaries around objects.  When viewing the sample pictures, on the DVD, they actually looked BETTER with the sharpness cranked to maximum.  Conversely, with the contrast all the way off, the images became blurry.  Because the middle position of the Sharpness setting is zero, I opted to set it there.  At least this did not contradict the DVD, which advised that some monitors' Sharpness controls tend to wash out images at the lowest settings, so I was okay with leaving it at zero.

Fortunately, the color and tint were nasty screwed up, and adjusting them made all the difference in the world.  Indeed, setting the blues ended up being a compromise; I could get the right one perfect, or the left one, but not both simultaneously, even with back-and-forth between color and tint controls.  I found a happy medium -- subtle anyway -- and then ended up watching an hour of 'Revenge of the Sith' just...because.  Of course I first tracked down all the automatic adjustment settings and turned them the hell off.

Thanks forever for turning me onto the disc.  I'll likely pick up the HD version if I see it used somewhere.  My monitors have saturation and hue settings, for all the colors, and I had to leave them alone, not knowing what adjusting them would do to my experience.

I know it's time for me to pick up a sound meter, in preparation for my new sound system.  I had considered going with the ole classic Radio Shack model, that you have (and as featured in video essentials), but I might pay the extra $5 and get the digital readout model.  Both can be seen here:  http://www.radioshack.com/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=sound%20meter&origkw=sound%20meter&sr=1

Hoping all is well with you,

- Dan

[Postscript: I ended up buying the Blu-Ray/HD version of 'Video Essentials', from Amazon, later in the day.  As of this writing it can be found at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Video-Essentials-Basics-Blu-ray/dp/B000V6LST0/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1229823036&sr=8-1

04 December, 2008

Snow Thing

To the Tune and Cadence of "Wild Thing", by Ton Loc

Let's throw it
Workin' all week drivin' home on empty tummy
Rollin' down the street I made to turn into my driveway
I turned my wheel and got the feel of my car a slippin slidin
I hit the brake but it didn't take and I landed in the garden
Thought 'Of course I'm stuck, it's just my luck, I do this annually'
So I locked the door and grabbed my pizzas to feed my fam-i-ly
I told my wife and then my kids that Daddy didn't git far
My wife said, "Man, one of these years, you're gonna hit MY own car"

Snow thing (Say What?!)

Diggin' out my tires kneeling down and sweepin' snow
My puffy pants and face mask on I'm a gangsta Eskimo
Straightened my tires rev'd up my four and put it to the floor
Shot into the street I parked it neat and turned to work the pow-der
I sauntered up the drive and I opened the third bay
I topped off the tank & hit the starter... I didn't want to wait all day
The garage's red and green and white lights didn't remind me none of Spring
I thought "Man I'm warm and cozy and I kind of dig this crazy Snow thing"

Snow thing
I love to do that Snow thing
Snow thing
Shoot it far and wide

I blew the drive I blew it hard I went on the attack
I even got the stuff that the plow guy had put back
Crisscross I went like a frosting drizzle in a grid pat-tern
Up and down and in and out, Man I was nurturing the burn
I went up to the neighbor's damn they'd already been blowin'
Good thing their little putt putt hadn't done much more than sidewalk rubbin'
I cleaned 'em good like I should my lines true and straight and long
And when I finished I cocked the chute and shot the rest on their front lawn

Snow thing
You can't keep me from chillin'
You're comin' down and I'm comin' up
And I'll meet you in the middle

Goin' down to Joey's place I see something awry
There are thrower tracks on the sidewalk all the way up to MY driveway!
I'm used to blowin' ALL the walk to ease his access-ing
'Oh no!' I think, I'm quite disturbed, Joey'd fired up HIS Snow thing!

Say WHAT?!?
That ain't right
Snow thing
Joey's job was tight
Yeah...that guy can throw the snow
He's got RANGE.....

Snow thing

So let me tell you playa with your shovel and your blower
That you're not supposed to drive home in the snow like you're in a big bull dozer
Not when you're driving a car of plastic that gets hung up on the edging
You might end up paying a guy with a truck to hook up and do his Snow thing

Say what?
I ain't payin' no towing
Yeah, I'm gonna keep diggin' it out myself, Man
I'm gonna push pull and tug on that thing until it moves
And then I'm gonna light up my thrower and make it right
Yeah Man next year I'm gonna make that turn, my wheels will bite
Bite this you crazy

Snow thing....

26 November, 2008

Calendar - Google Account - Use it for A LOT of things, not just email

The free Google Calendar is an awesome way to keep track of your events online.  Yeah, I know; having a physical calendar (in lieu of a PDA or PDA phone) is more convenient.  However, if you want to share calendar information, with someone else, it's a really neat way of doing it.  I've started putting my information, out in my calendar, because it helps me keep track of my [slowly increasing] social events, such as coffee with my coffee buddy, once-per-year coffee with my brother, more coffee with my coffee buddy, three-times-per-year movie with my neighbor, coffee with my coffee buddy, twice per year movie with a friend of mine, coffee with my coffee buddy, etc.  I also use it to schedule my "night out", and my wife uses it to schedule her nights out, and we control conflicts that way.

There are numerous public calendars that one can also access, overlaying their information onto your own, via choosing to view one calendar's data or multiple calendars.  For instance, I have football schedules, DVD release dates, and local events on mine; I had Disney World daily events but removed it after our trip.
The trick, with sharing one's calendar, is to not divulge information, to anyone, that you do not wish divulged.  Thus, it is best to a) only share calendars with super close friends, and b) only share that information which you deem appropriate, even with those with whom you share calendars.
For example, in Google Calendars, one can choose to allow individuals to see the following information:
  • See only Free/Busy Information (Hide Details) - This is the lowest access setting, best for allowing folks to plan events with you.  They can see if you're available, and when you're not available, but they cannot see what you're DOING in your events.  They cannot see the name of the events either.  This is cool, but note that, if you're on vacation for two weeks, it'll be pretty obvious that the item is a vacation item.
  • See All Event Details - This shows the entire event name and its details inside.
  • Make Changes to Events - This is as it says, and allows sharers to change event items.  This is really useful for a group calendar -- or a calendar in someone's personal account that folks use as a group calendar -- but has little usefulness for one's own account.  Personally, I wouldn't want anyone mucking around changing my events.  Even if I had a secretary (passe) I wouldn't let them do it.
  • Make Changes to Events and Manage Sharing -- Like the above item, useful for group calendars.
You can grant 'See All Event Details', to those in need, so they can monitor your calendar.  If they login to their Google Account, and go to 'Calendar', along the top, they can see your calendar as an option along their left-frame.

Using GMail instead of One's ISP's Email

Periodically people ask me why I use GMail.  I have posted here before, with tips about how to set up one's emailer application to use it, but I haven't posted much about why to use it instead of one's ISP's email account.  Below are some thoughts, taken from my other writings.

Email Account - Another Change - Tips from an opinionated S.O.B. (to my niece, May 19, 2008)

To me, your question is two-fold, Melissa.  I'll deal with the "How do I change the email address associated with the Yahoo! group?" question second, as the first question, the core question, really is more important.  That is, "What email address should I switch to using?".  I know you didn't ask that, but you should have.  Why?  Because you said it yourself:  "... What a pain, I hate it when people change their emails".

Free Email (GoogleMail, Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail, MSN Mail, etc.) versus ISP (ATT, Road Runner, Charter, whatever)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a blanket statement; no one should ever distribute their ISP-given address for use in their friends' address books.  Instead, one should use a non ISP-based address that one can have for life, such as G(oogle)Mail  (best), Yahoo! (second best), or MSN, AOL, or Hotmail (crap, crap, crap).  If you do that, you a) never have to publish an address book change, and b) have access to your online email cache anywhere, at any time.

Gmail has free POP access (Yahoo! charges for theirs).  This means you can tie your email application (Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Eudora, WindowsMail...whatever) to it and send and receive messages to your heart's content.  Or, simply use the web interface with the free 1 GB storage.

For my blog posting about how to configure your email application, for GMail, see http://waukeshawestside.blogspot.com/2007/03/googlemail-gmail-configuring-pop-email.html.  For a quick note about Gmail and BACN  (which is spam one actually WANTS), see http://waukeshawestside.blogspot.com/2007/09/official-gmail-blog-gmail-eats-your.html.

Note that having a GMail account is not just having an email account.  Like Yahoo! Mail, it also plugs you into their system.  But with Google, there's more fun stuff, like the ability to create Word docs, Excel files, and other files, in the system, and work on them out on your account...and then choose to share them with others.  It's a very neat way to collaborate on documents among friends and colleagues, all for free.

24 November, 2008

Clean your Windows Registry, Delete the Temp files, Anti-Virus, etc. - Glary and AVG

Since my laptop is over four years old and running like crap, and it'd been years since I used a registry cleaner (finds orphaned files and entries and deletes them) or \Temp folder cleaner, I spent a little time last night working on it.  I found "Glary Utilities", at CNet (at http://www.download.com/Glary-Utilities/3000-2094_4-10508531.html?tag=mncol&cdlPid=10901284), and it sped up my old dog quite a lot.  You no doubt do not need to run it yet on your new laptop, but if your other PC is more than a year old, you might benefit from it.  You can have it run a scan before it changes anything, and it'll back out changes if something goes wrong.

That, coupled with the free AVG Anti-Virus, another download (http://www.download.com/AVG-Anti-Virus-Free-Edition/3000-2239_4-10320142.html?tag=mncol&cdlPid=10891365) and you're ready to go.  AVG found spyware that my McAfee and SpyBot hadn't even found.  Cool.

08 November, 2008

Watch Select SciFi Channel Shows' Full Episodes and Some Other older SF shows via these links

Current SciFi Channel Shows: http://www.scifi.com/rewind/

Older Shows, such as Classic Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, TekWar, Night Gallery: http://www.scifi.com/drivein/

Gears of War 2 on SciFi Channel and a note about Resistance 2

Sci-Fi Channel aired an HD 'Sci Vs. Fi: Gears of War 2', and all the hype reeled me in...and then I realized it's a Microsoft game.  Dammit.  I've only got a PS3, PS2, PC, and a Wii.  I'm outta luck.  This simply means I'll have to put Resistance 2 on my Christmas Gift list.

Anyway, GOW2 it looks fantastic.  Aisha Tyler, the actor formerly on "Ghost Whisperer" (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0878768/ , age 38) loves it, as does "Chuck" himself, Zachary Levi (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1157048/).  Not that celebrity endorsements are all that important to me, but it's fun to watch them rave about video games.  The show is funny and really cranks one up for the game.

Some links for ya:

Gears of War 2 vs. Resistance 2: A Scifi.com review:  http://fidgit.com/archives/2008/11/-resistance-2-and-gears.php Fair and balanced I'd say.

Preview of the show: http://www.aeropause.com/2008/11/gears-of-war-sci-fi-channel-tv-preview/

Another preview: http://video.aol.com/video-detail/sci-fi-channel-presents-sci-vs-fi-gears-of-war-2/1794923802/?icid=VIDURVENT06

I couldn't find the complete episode available as a download or stream, but here's SciFi's Near Future Airings of the show:

02:30 AM
01:00 AM
01:00 AM
08:00 AM
01:30 AM

05 November, 2008

Monitor your kids' texting activities

My kids don't yet have phones, but this is an interesting posting regarding an $11/month tool to monitor kids' mobile's activities: http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/hughes/35016

I've always thought the GPS trackers, that one can get in a kid's phone, is a cool parenting tool, but this one...I have to side with it being a positive gizmo, although the Orwellian implications are not to be poo-poo'd.

31 October, 2008

Bought a GE reverse osmosis water filtration system

On my way home from work I went to Home Depot, as part of my "journey of due diligence," prior to planning on going to Menard's to pick up the aforementioned (prior post) water filter system.  I ended up buying a GE model, $8 more than the other one I looked at, because I liked the faucet better (the handle can be made to stay on, versus having to hold it in the on position) and the tank is two gallons larger (10, versus 8).

My friend J.R. recommends this one:  http://www.wattspremier.com/watts/showdetl.cfm?&DID=15&User_ID=1674513&st=3089&st2=88742876&st3=-45564152&Product_ID=25&CATID=1

Next up: Installing it this weekend.

I also bought a single-stage filter for the refrigerator's ice machine, for $32.  I bought GE since it was right there and had a easy-on/easy-off filter, which seems like I might be able to place it in a location where I won't have to roll the fridge in and out to change it every six months.  Dunno.

29 October, 2008

Clean Water at Home - Soon....

Somewhat bothered by the amount of Radium, in my community's water supply, and generally digging the whole "clean" water thang -- buying the cheapie bottled water cases whenever they're on sale -- I started looking around at under-the-sink units.  After much reading I found a reverse osmosis unit (RO2000 Series B), made by Omnifilter (http://www.omnifilter.com/).  On sale for $157.98 locally at Menard's (home supply store), it looks relatively easy to install, per the manual (http://www.omnifilter.com/Owners%20Manuals/ROSystemManual2006.pdf) I downloaded from the site.  It has a separate faucet that I'll need to install, next to our standard faucet.  I'm actually looking forward to doing it.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

SyncBack - Free Synchronization Tool

For quite a while I have been using GoodSync (made by the fine folks at RoboForm) to sync my RoboForm files between my USB flash drive and my primary desktop PC at home.  I would then manually copy files between my flash and my home laptop.  Tired of that, and understanding that I could easily make a mistake, I decided to look for a free sync tool that functioned like GoodSync but wasn't as pricey.

I found SyncBack (http://www.2brightsparks.com/).  It works basically the same, allowing one to exempt files and folders that one doesn't wish to sync; in my case, I exclude *.rfo files (which means any files that end in .rfo), due to them being RoboForm license files that must stay on the PC to which they belong.  To ensure SyncBack's file exclusion filter actually works, I first copied both folders -- one from the flash and the other from my PC -- to two temporary folders, then synced them up.  Sure enough, the *.rfo files did not move...did not over-write each other in the other folders, and all was well.  I then repointed SyncBack, to the real folders, synched them, and I was happy.

Give it a shot if you need to sync files between two folders.  It works great between a local PC and a network folder too.

23 October, 2008

The Fermi Paradox

When reading SF over the past couple of decades, The Fermi Paradox has often been referenced.  For a brief overview, check out its related Wiki article.

This is philosophy I like, meaning, like with laser beams and sh_t.


Financial Turmoil in Years Past

With the current economic situation what it is, more and more of us are getting a better idea of not only how our own money works, but also how money markets and governments work with respect to money.

Now that we are equipped with such knowledge, tales of yesteryear are just plain more interesting.

The Panic of 1907 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1907

At the bottom of the page linked above, see 'Banking panics in the United States: 1797  · 1819  · 1825  · 1837  · 1847  · 1857  · 1866  · 1873  · 1884  · 1890  · 1893  · 1896  · 1907  · 1910-1911  · 1929-1939  · 2008'

Also see 'Stock market crashes:

1819 panic1869 black FridayGrunderkrachParis 18821884 panic1893 panic1896 panic1901 panic1907 panic1929 Wall Street crash1973–1974 stock market crash1982 Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash1987 Black Monday1989 Friday the 13th mini-crash1997 Asian financial crisis1997 mini-crash1998 Russian financial crisisDot-com bubble crash of 20002002 stock market downturn2007 Chinese correctionGlobal financial crisis of September–October 2008'

Other Links:


18 October, 2008

Favorite Thunderbird Emailer Add-Ons

...in alphabetical order:
  • Duplicate Contact Manager - Shows side-by-side duplicates and allows one to save whichever of them one likes, with an opportunity to edit information first, including copying and pasted from the soon-to-be-deleted item to the item-to-be-saved.  Sure, you could do it yourself, but this is easier.  Kind of slow search, though, so do other things and come back to it, as it works, and you'll be fine.
  • EagleEye (beta as of this writing) -- A neat way to keep an eye on your contact list.  Allows you to set filters to keep track of folks you have not contacted in a while, or ever, along with enormous other filtering opportunities.  Check it out and have fun with it.
  • Enigmail - Free OpenPGP encryption for your Thunderbird.
  • Lightning - A Calendar in your Thunderbird
  • Provider for Google Calendar -- Integrate your Google Calendar with your Thunderbird Lightning calendar (see above).
  • Quote Colors - Add colored quote text to your emails.  This adds functionality similar to Outlook's own.
  • Zindus - Synch contacts with Google and Zimbra.

Have some of your own?  Post a comment to this blog entry.

04 October, 2008

U3 Applications on USB Flash Drives - Indispensable Tool


Since December, 2007, I've been addicted to using the U3 concept from my secure, encrypted, USB flash drive.  I have found it an indispensable addition to my technology arsenal.

The idea is simple (yet brilliant).  A U3 capable flash drive differs from an ordinary flash drive in that it contains two volumes (drives), one of which being a read-only ISO 9660 volume, emulating a CD-ROM drive, and the other being a standard FAT volume.  The ISO volume contains the 'U3 LaunchPad', which, if Autorun is enabled on the PC, will launch and allow the user to launch applications (from a hidden folder on the FAT volume), and will also allow the user to encrypt (password protect) all the data on the drive.

Several companies produce U3 compatible versions of their software, and other folks modify applications to run from U3 compatible drives.  SanDisk created it but now licenses it to other vendors.

U3 is currently only compatible with Windows-based PC's (Macs and LINUX-based PC's cannot utilize them).

A real world example

I have both Firefox (web browser) and Thunderbird (email client) installed on my U3 drive.  When I insert my U3 flash drive into any Windows-based PC, the U3 LaunchPad starts (if it doesn't, due to local Windows settings, I simply navigate to the 'CD' partition and launch it manually).  I can then launch Firefox, Thunderbird, or any of my other U3 applications, from the LaunchPad, and use them.  Any settings changes I make, such as adding new bookmarks, or adding new email accounts, downloading email messages, deleting email messages, etc., all get saved to the flash drive, and not to the local PC.  Thus, when I move to another PC, all those changes come along for the ride.

Very slick.

Encrypted Files and Synchronization

Although many flash drives offer file encryption, both at the 'entire drive' or 'individual file' levels, it is worthwhile to note that, on a U3 drive, the security is all handled via the 'U3 LaunchPad' application.  Thus, with just one password, one can quickly enable access to both the U3 applications and the file system.

Again, a real example of this could be as follows:

  1. Insert U3 drive and enter the password when prompted.
  2. Use Firefox and add a new bookmark.
  3. Run a third-party sync tool to sync my U3 Firefox bookmarks with my local Firefox bookmarks.
  4. All done.
I use the above philosophy to synchronize my RoboForm files (search for 'roboform' at this blog's search window for more information).  This allows me to ensure that any password file changes, that I make in RoboForm, are reflected on both my U3 drive and my local PC.

My SanDisk Cruzer drive's 'U3 LaunchPad' came equipped with a native email SYNCING client (at least on SanDisk drives) called 'CruzerSync' (which updated itself in Sep, 2008).  It allows one to synchronize email content, from a PC-based email application, with its own on-board (USB) email application, and it also allows one to define which files, on a local PC, should auto-sync (or manually sync) between PC and flash.  However, although CruzerSync recently upgraded, I have not returned to it, instead preferring my methods described elsewhere in this section.  I find that utilizing an on board version of Thunderbird to be more consistent with my standard user experience than switching between applications.  Also, CruzerSync's 'DMailer' application is only compatible with Outlook and Outlook Express, which means it will not sync my PC-based Thunderbird email.

Related Links

For more information, see the following sites:

Official U3 Site at SanDisk:  http://u3.sandisk.com/home_en.asp

Wikipedia Entry:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U3

07 September, 2008

Recent Gaming Activities

I've been console gaming since my brother's original Pong game. Yep. Sounds cliche'd, but there it is. Got my Atari 2600 around 1981, an Apple ][+ the following year (getting me into the world of PC gaming), and I'll skip all the stages since then, but culminating with my current assortment of PS2, PS3 (personal favorite), GameCube, Wii, NintendoDS, and my dual-core PC.

Currently playing...

PC: HALO: Combat Evolved (original but patched), Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Second Life (if one can even call it a game)

PS3: Warhawk (Just started last night), Splinter Cell: Double Agent

Next Project...

Now that I've got all my router ports configured for the latest games, and an MTU adjustment to prevent my router from dropping packets, I'm going to turn my attention to getting HALO2 to run in XP (designed only for Vista). I hear it can be done.

The Gamecube and Wii belong to the kids, and aside from an extremely rare occurrence when we play together, I play nothing on them. Cool boxes though.

I've got an old-school DS, pre-LITE, and I don't use it. I'm thinking of selling it...but it's tough, cuz I won't get much for it, and the trade-in value, for a DS Lite, is not really worth it...unless I can convince myself I'd use the Lite.

That's about it from the gaming scene. So, a shout-out to all you fellow gamers, and I'll see you in-world.

Related Links
http://www.microsoft.com/games/PC/halo.aspx - Description of the game and related links.
http://www.microsoft.com/games/halo/downloads.aspx - You can download a functional demo of the game.

06 September, 2008

Mini-Review of Genesis: When in Rome

I checked this out on MHD..or whatever it's called this month...oh yeah, Palladia Network.  MHD is now Palladia.  Okay.  Whatever.


Genesis: When in Rome

The concert was well shot, but the song list was kind of strange.  I didn't recognize two of the songs, so they were either brand new or super old.  Either way they were extended album cuts.  Decent, but in this modern age of ADD I lost interest in the stuff I didn't know, as the music itself was not unique enough, from the stuff I do know, to get me to pay attention.  Perhaps there was more stuff, on the real DVD, that the network opted not to show...checking...yeah.  The set list, from the DVD, is as follows.  Much to my chagrin, "Home by the Sea" was not on the broadcast version, which is stupid, since it's a great tune.


  1. "Duke's Intro" (Behind The Lines, Duke's End)
  2. "Turn It On Again"
  3. "No Son Of Mine"
  4. "Land Of Confusion"
  5. "In The Cage Medley" (In The Cage, The Cinema Show, Duke's Travels)
  6. "Afterglow"
  7. "Hold On My Heart"
  8. "Home By The Sea"
  9. "Follow You, Follow Me"
  10. "Firth Of Fifth"
  11. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)"

Regardless, the musicianship was, of course, top-notch.  Mike Rutherford and Milwaukee's Daryl Stuermer traded guitar and bass roles constantly.  Chester Thompson handled the drumming when Collins was off singing...or when he was playing the drums (typical dual mode, fun to watch).

I recommend a one-time viewing if for no other reason than the film-makers get it right and actually show them handling their instruments, versus just showing their faces.

Gaming a bit again - Original 'HALO'

Work is a challenge, in that there's so much to do right now.  All kinds of stuff going on!  Great stuff and great colleagues, so I don't mind it at all, but it can be mentally draining.

To alleviate the stress, I dug out my copy of the original HALO game, loaded it up, played it for an hour -- after only having played it twice before, about 8 months ago -- threw up a server, and had my pall Kirby connect.  We played for about an hour and a half, and it was a blast.  We set it for "five kills makes a winner", and Kirby hosed me the first few times out (HALO vet).  I soon got my legs, and we ended up swapping matches throughout the rest of the night.  He and I did a lot of Ghost Recon, back in the day, and I'd consider us equals, with either of us able to trounce the other when we're "on".

Since then I've configured my router to pass Windows Messenger audio to my gaming rig so that we can taunt each other.  I tend to "play blue", so I apologize in advance for any naughty words he hears in-game.

I highly recommend it as a way of letting off some steam.  One can usually find it at the used game stores for $9.99, or shell out $19.99 for a new copy.

19 August, 2008

I've finally abandoned Outlook (in favor of Thunderbird)

Yes, yes, I know.  I'm "Outlook Guy".  "Mr. Outlook ."  "The Outlook Meister".  No more.  It served me well these past 12 years...but it's time to move on.  Passed time.  It's simply too cumbersome and high powered for what I need to do.

In the old days, Outlook was the best game in town for handling multiple email accounts and having a calendar, built-in notepad, and journal.  Since the 90's I've always worked for companies that use Microsoft Exchange email servers, and it made sense for me to be able to configure Outlook (full-blown, not Outlook Express) to connect to them.

Now, with other remote mail options at my disposal, and my own utilization of GMail, as my primary email address (versus my Road Runner email), I am no longer tied to a single PC to access my information.  Thus, I really don't need a local email client at all.  That is, composing email on my PC is still easier, allowing me to copy and paste images, etc., but I don't have to do it locally.  My Google calendar not only gives me access to my events, online, but it also lets me share my events with friends and family (as they let me see their events).

So, my Thunderbird client pops up, gets the job done, and utilizes far fewer system resources while doing it.  Bells and whistles?  A couple.  Ease of use?  Just fine.

So long, Outlook .  It's been a good ride.

16 August, 2008

Update to 'GPS Systems - Quick Tips..' - The Bluetooth Phone via GPS Concept

Back in April '08 I wrote that I thought the ability for a GPS to pair with a Bluetooth phone was not one of the most useful GPS features available.  In the interests of full disclosure, I deemed the feature "dumb".  In August, '08, I bought my wife a Garmin c550, which has this ability. For someone who doesn't like the Bluetooth headset concept, a Bluetooth speakerphone is the better option than holding one's phone up to one's ear. The c550 displays the caller-ID, on the GPS' screen, making it simple to easily see who is calling, without having to scramble for the phone.  It also makes the phone's (an LG Dare, in this case) contact list, recent calls, and other information available via the GPS unit's screen.

 As of this writing I have paired it with her phone, and tested it indoors, but we have not yet road-tested the feature.

I still stand by the idea that playing music, through a portable GPS' speakers, is useless to me, but I stand corrected about Bluetooth phone use.  Time will tell whether the caller/callee, on the other end of the connection, will actually be able to hear us, but I may be willing to sacrifice that, for quick calls, in the interest of driving safety.

For a full listing of the Garmin c550's feature set, see the TigerDirect link where I bought her unit, at http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?Sku=G145-0068 .

New Phone - LG Dare

After a year or more of "riding" my Verizon account, after our two-year contract expired, I started poking around, looking at phone upgrade options, to utilize the "free phone (or discount) with two-year renewal" offer. After a month of him-hawing (tech term), I chose the LG Dare, equipping it with the 500 min-month outgoing (free incoming) text package and the unlimited Internet usage. I really dig this phone. I could yap about it, as is my way, but instead I'll just point you to the two links that ultimately swayed me.

Dare Demo from Verizon: http://estore.vzwshop.com/dare/

Dare Review at CNET: http://reviews.cnet.com/cell-phones/lg-dare-verizon-wireless/4505-6454_7-33070218.html?tag=prod.txt.1

15 July, 2008

Frustration (but ultimately successful) Registering my Starbucks Card for AT&T WiFi Access

Being a Starbucks freak, I decided to register a Starbucks card, online, to utilize the Rewards Program's benefit of a) free 2 hours/day WiFi access, and b) unlimited coffee refills. I registered a card, at home, and weeks later actually decided to use it. This is my story...

It was a frightenly sunny and hot day. I closed my moon roof and windows, cranking the A/C, making sure to open them all, when I'd pull into parking lots, so I would appear green-friendly, to any passing eco villians. It was my weekly "night out", and I was ready to read a novel and do a little "netting", at my favorite Starbucks.

I bought a cup of joe, with my Starbucks card, and booted the old, decrepit, some-memory-is-dead laptop, and connected to the AT&T site. It asked me for my Starbucks.com login information. 'Hmm..,' thought I. 'I don't think I have one.' I checked my RoboForm (secure identity software) logs. Nope. I don't have one.' I went to the Starbucks web site, and the link to check card balances was clearly visible...but there was no sign of a signon prompt. [Note that AT&T, at a Starbucks, will let one get to the Starbucks site, the AT&T site, and the T-Mobile site, but that's it.] I checked my card's balance and all was well with the card.

I created a Starbucks.com login, then tried to register the card, to the account. It said that the card was already registered. Ughh! I poked around, on both the AT&T and Starbucks sites, and there was no help as to how to handle this situation. So, I read through all the FAQ's, at Starbucks, and found there was a way to transfer the balance, of one's card, to another card; one has to do it live, at Starbucks. 'Uh huh, Baby! Woo!'. I took the card to the register, got a new card, and had the barista transfer the balance. I then logged into the Starbucks site (having found the page to do that via a link from the AT&T site, because I could not find it at Starbucks site itself), and then used the 'Add a card' option, at Starbucks, to add my new card. I then went to the AT&T WiFi login page, entered my Starbucks.com login information (although there was no visual indication there that this process would work), and presto, I was on the Internet.

And by "Presto" I mean afer over an hour of screwing around.

Long live rock. Oh yeah, and rock has nothing to do with this experience.

I have now become the "crazy, bothersome regular" who accosts folks, who have the same problem (known by their cussing), and help them with the issue. Yet another way for me to control events, so I kinda dig it.

11 April, 2008

GPS Systems - Quick Tips for Buying and Finding Reviews

A friend of mine got to use a GPS for the first time, while traveling, and fell in love with the Garmin.  She is interested in buying a unit, so I sent her a few tips.  Thought I'd post them here, to keep up with my previous GPS-related postings here.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dan Reams
Subject: Re: GPS Systems

One more thing!  If you see a unit you like, please either a) ask me about it, and I'll research what folks say about it, or b) check out the user reviews -- available at both places mentioned below -- and see what they say.  Also, there is no better online review site than www.cnet.com (http://reviews.cnet.com/gps/?tag=cnetfd.dir ) for seeing short little 1 or 2 minute movies reviewing electronics.  I have used them for this for at least a decade.  You can also compare units side by side.  If you're interested in GPS units, you can easily lose yourself in rapture, at CNet, for a good 45 minutes, just clicking around watching the little movies.

On Fri, Apr 11, 2008, Dan Reams wrote:

Buy.com usually has good deals.  See http://www.buy.com/cat/portable-gps/17017.html .  TigerDirect also usually has good deals.  See http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/category/category_tlc.asp?CatId=2372&name=GPS-Navigation .

Whatever you do, buy your item online!  You'll save anywhere from $30 - $80 dollars, even with shipping, over buying it at a box store.

I own the Garmin c340.  I love it, but it doesn't seem to have the latest maps available, at least, it doesn't come with the latest maps.  I think I can add them in, but I have to check.  However, its features are top notch, in that it has the very best GPS feature -- announcing road names.  Oddly, this feature is not on all GPS units.  You want the device to say, "In 200 feet, turn right on Franklin Ave.", versus "In 200 feet, turn right."  Why?  Because in an area where there are lots of little streets and parked cars, you don't want to have to look at your unit.  So, whatever you buy, get that feature.

Other features, of some GPS units, include
  • Bluetooth capability, to act as a speaker phone using your cell phone.  Personally, I think it's a dumb feature; that is, using a speakerphone, in a car, is a nightmare to the person on the other end of the call.  I much prefer using my Bluetooth ear piece instead.
  • A chip slot so you can play your MP3's through it.  Again, a very stupid feature.  Why play music through a GPS' little tinny sounding speakers when one has a car stereo system with nice speakers?  I just don't get it.

06 April, 2008

Indexing Network Drives - Yet Another Option - Nero (of all things)

The history of my fetish regarding wanting to search, via indices, my network drives, has lead me on quite the merry roads over the years.

LookOut was cool, but it was absorbed into Microsoft and then emasculated.

Google Desktop is okay, but it will not search network drives...period.  Too many odd errors.

I had basically steeled myself to accept that I would not be searching, via indexed search, my network drives.  Then I bought a new DVD burner, with a copy of Nero 7.  Nero installed a search indexer, pretty much like Google Desktop, but it indexes network drives like a dream.  I instructed it to ignore my local drives -- I'll let Google Desktop continue to do that -- and I point it only at the network stuff.  Very slick.

21 February, 2008

Don't bother with a proprietary DC Charger for our Mobile Devices - Use a USB equipped DC Y-Adapter Instead

I wanted to buy a DC (car) charger for my Microsoft ZUNE media player, but the only ones I can find, in retail stores, also include an FM transmitter, and they run from the upper thirties to the lower fifties, in dollars. Instead, I went to Wal*Mart and bought a DC Y-Adapter plug that also includes a USB port. So now, I can charge (or run) any USB device, assuming I have the device's USB cable with me. It's a cheaper solution, than buying a proprietary charger designed for just one species of device, and you get to charge any device you wish.

They also make Inverters of about the same size, but I already have an inverter and I didn't want to double-up. Besides, the Y-Adaptor is convenient anyway, as I can run my GPS, charge my cell phone, and power my Zune all via the one device.

The price: $9.99.

Side Notes:

Ø An Inverter changes DC power over to AC power, providing a standard "wall outlet(s)" for one's AC device(s). Inverters are rated in Watts, which directly relate to how many gizmos you can power with a given Inverter. A 140-watt model, with one wall outlet and one USB port can be seen here (assuming the link has not retired as you read this from the future). Most such devices list the sorts of devices you can power with them, and mostly, they are honest about it. Me, I just do the math: Look on your devices (or their manuals), for how many Watts (or if you're lucky, peak-Watts) they use. Add up all the Watts you'll need, and buy your inverter accordingly, rounding up enough for wiggle room. Example: You add up your needs and you find that your devices, in the aggregate, should use 148 Watts. Don't buy a 150 W inverter, in that scenario. Instead, buy a 200 W unit. Wiggle room.

Ø I didn't want an FM transmitter because I haven't had good luck with them, in my car, so I instead use a cassette adaptor; my car stereo has both CD and cassette, and I'll certainly never put a cassette in there, so I might as well use it as a port for my media devices.

Ø My ZUNE's "Travel Kit" came with an extra USB cable, so I readily have one with me, which means I do not have to take the one, off my PC, that I use for syncing. Oddly, the travel kit did not come with a DC adaptor…but it did come with an AC adaptor. This makes it nice for getting somewhere, not traveling to one's destination. Thus I think they should rename it "ZUNE Destination Kit".

29 January, 2008

I'm feeding my HDTV with DISH Network

I opted for DISH Network to feed the HDTV. Why? It pretty much came down to three factors.


1. The DVR/Tuner is the superior unit on the market today, with regard to DVR storage space and HD quality.

2. The one DVR is accessible via two rooms.

3. They offer a lot of HD channels with their intermediate (America’s Top 200) package.

Now let’s break it down.


1. The DVR that comes with the package [currently] is the ViP722, which also serves as the satellite tuner. (Link to the full PDF is here: http://www.dishnetwork.com/content/our_products/dvr_receivers/index.shtml ).

a. PRO: It stores up to 350 hours of Standard Definition and 55 hours of HD content.

b. PRO: It can be made to be shared between two TV’s. I have used this feature and it works great.

c. PRO: Does have the ability to archive to external hard drive via USB. I have not played with this yet, although I may plop in my 4GB USB flash drive and see if that would work (for a small show, of course).

d. PRO: Can record two shows simultaneously. In such a case both TV’s would be locked into either watching the show, being recorded [on the associated tuner that the TV is using], or watching DVR content. Or they could go read a book or watch a DVD. J

e. CON: Cannot store shows into custom categories, which is something I have done for over four years on my ReplayTV DVR.

f. CON: No apparent way to access the device via the home LAN, to copy shows to PC’s. However, my need to do this, now that I have a DVR of such high storage capacity, is drastically reduced from my old ReplayTV days.

g. CON: No apparent Internet access to schedule shows remotely.

h. CON: Clunky channel guide that really should allow one to categorize or at least search for channels. I find myself having to go to the laminated hard copy channel listing to find channels, which is not fun if the lights are off. Perhaps I’ll get used to it.

2. The one unit can be shared, by two TV’s, in this fashion: TV1 is physically connected to the 722 via a cable (in my case it’s via HDMI to my HDTV). TV2 is connected, via the home coaxial network. Said coax was re-routed, by the installation guy, such that only the TV hanging on the other end, of that cable (via routing) can access the tuner’s coax output. TV2 then has an RF (radio) remote control that reaches out, to the tuner, and orders up the feeds. Note that no other TV in the house is on the same coax network any more, due to the point-to-point cabling change the installer made.

a. PRO: Sharing DVR content between two rooms is easy. I’ve started watching a show, on TV1, moved to TV2 and resumed from my previous stop-point, then moved back to TV1.

b. PRO: Sharing “live” TV between two rooms is simple. There’s a dual-mode, allowing the dual-tuner 722 to serve up two different live shows simultaneously, to two rooms. There is a single mode that allows TV1 to have picture-in-picture (and thus TV2 would “slave” off the 2nd tuner’s signal, simply acting as a remote monitor to whatever TV1 is watching on the 2nd tuner). It’s pretty easy to grasp the logic if one plays with it a while.

c. CON: What is not immediately apparent, when ordering the package online, is that the unit can only serve ONE HDTV and one Standard TV – not two HDTV’s. That is to say, the “Standard TV” could be an HDTV, but it would only receive a Standard TV signal.

d. CON: Although I pay $5 extra, per month, for my local channels, these channels are not the High Def versions of the channels. Buyer beware! DISH Network does not currently offer HD local channels, but I hear they are working on that. [I had to jury rig an antenna, which is another story….]

e. CON: Over-the-air tuned channels are only accessible via TV1; they are not passed through to TV2. This is a very minor ‘CON’ though, since the only possible over-the-air channels to tune are HD channels, and there is no need to pass HD versions of local channels through, to a Standard TV (TV2), via coax, when that TV is already receiving the Standard versions of those channels.

3. My ‘America’s Top 200’ package has a lot of HD sports channels, but many are devoted to sports that may not be playing at the time one goes browsing. Still, there’s enough there to hold my interest.

a. PRO: I have one HBO HD and one Cinemax HD channel free for three months. I may become addicted, which of course is their whole point in giving me free months free (an old drug dealer trick). Several other movie channels are included in the 200 package, such as Universal HD, TNT, and a few others.


Overall, I am pleased with the service. I still have to work out a few bugs:

· My HDMI connection to the TV keeps flickering. The unit only transmits in 1080i, and my TV has up to 1080p capabilities. This should not be a problem; the TV properly detects the signal as being 1080i and makes the adjustment. I’ll trouble-shoot it by dumbing my upconvert DVD player down to 1080i and see if I get a flicker there. Then I’ll swap the two HDMI cables and try it all over again. Then I’ll call DISH, who will probably refer me to my TV’s manual (okay, I’m mildly cynical). Until then, I’ll watch my TV with <gasp> component (RGB) video cables.

· I have to figure out a better HD antenna. The one I bought at Menards is horrible. The one I made out of a white-rubber coated speaker wire and a coax antenna adaptor works great, but the wife doesn’t like it hanging on the wall. Wives…. Yep, you guys know what I’m talkin’ about.

· When setting a recording of a show, I cannot figure out how to force the future recording to use a specific tuner. Why would I want to? Well, let’s say I want to record a show that is on during the time that my family all gathers to watch a specific show, on TV1. If Tuner1 is busy recording a show, TV1 cannot watch a live show on another channel. How to specify a tuner – or how automatic tuner selection, for recordings, works – may well be in the manual or available online, but I’ve not yet had time to look. I will though.

03 January, 2008

HDTV is on the way

Oh my. I bought my first HDTV and it’ll be here soon. What to wear? I’m so nervous. It’s my first time. Gotta make sure my hair is done. Is my breath okay? I’ll peek out the window…stop pacing! I hope it likes what I feed it. No HD signal yet; it’ll just have to munch on upconverted DVD’s. I hope it doesn’t expect me to put-out a full HD package from Time-Warner! Maybe after a few sessions I’ll consider letting it have a DirectTV football package, but I don’t want it to think I’m easy.

I’ll look out the window again. Gosh! Is it standing me up?