Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New CFL Light Bulbs

It's more popular than ever to be green. GE today unveiled a new compact fluorescent light bulb that is the size and shape of a traditional incandescent light bulb. Click through for a picture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Windows Mobile 6.1 SMTP Patch

If you ever have trouble sending messages on your IMAP or POP3 account on your Windows Mobile 6.1 device, check out this patch from Microsoft.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Farewell for now, Straw Man

The presidential election is over, cleanly and decisively. I tried my best this year to avoid the pundits in entirety and instead listen to the candidates themselves. I haven't watched any of the 24-hour news channels in years. Somewhere along the way I realized that the pundits create more drama and perpetuate an "us versus them" mentality. I hear it in the media and from my friends: people attack not the candidate but the caricature of the candidate. This is called the straw man logical fallacy; rather than argue against your opponent's position you state a superficially similar and easier to attack position and credit it to him. You then attack the caricature.

Two great examples are that Obama wanted to spread the wealth and that McCain was just another Bush. Neither of these statements faithfully represent either of the men, but they are widely held as truths by many.

If you only listen to the pundits of "your" side, then you come to accept their straw men as reality. I saw it today in friends' Facebook statuses: Now begins America's slide into Socialism, Welcome to the Soviet States of America, etc. This is a reflection of the caricature, not the man.

As I listened to candidates, I came to see that I liked a lot about both Obama and McCain. Either way we would have had a new, strong leader and a break from the past eight years. A chance to revitalize our country's image on the world stage. A fresh start by an intelligent, dedicated man. Sure, there were differences in how they wanted to achieve their goals, but they both wanted the best for the country.

This year I voted for Democrats, Republicans and Greens, because I listened to the candidates and not "my" side's caricature of "the opponents." I'm proud of myself for staying out of the fray and voting for the people, not their parties, and looking for the good in the individuals. It's a good day for America, and I'm looking forward to the future.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

HTC Diamond

I just picked up an HTC Diamond from Sprint. It's by far the best mobile phone I've owned. The display is just jaw-dropping. It's pretty speedy, and the TouchFlo 3D interface is a nice step forward. It's not as good as the iPhone, and every now and then Windows Mobile 6.1 rears its ugly stylus-head, but most things tick along with just my thumb.

A few tweaks I've made:

  • Remove the Sprint Music link from the music player. Frees up more screen space for album art. Also while you're editing that XML file, delete the Sprint TV. There's no need for that in the quick-launch.
  • A few registry tweaks. Turn on a geo-tagging camera (though I've only had it report 0,0 in flickr...wonder if they turned it off for a reason?).
  • Of course I installed S2U2 to lock the screen. Also remapped (#31) the "Manila" (internal name for TouchFlo 3D) home key to have a "Lock" softkey.

Economics

From Wikipedia:

As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth -- not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced -- to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery. [Emphasis in original.]

Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants. In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.

-Marriner S. Eccles, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Chairman of the Federal Reserve from November 1934 to February 1948, detailed what he believed caused the Depression in his memoirs, Beckoning Frontiers (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1951).

Monday, September 22, 2008

North Shore Century

Yesterday I rode my first “century,” or 100-mile bike ride, on the Evanston Bike Club’s North Shore Century. Before this ride, my longest ride ever was 50 miles. As you can imagine, it was extremely challenging. We started in Evanston, IL and rode to Kenosha, WI and back. I was on the bike for 6h37m, on the course for 9 hours. My Garmin reported that I burned 5800 calories (about 2.5 days’ worth of food, or (since fat contains 3500 calories per lb) roughly 1.6 lbs of fat). My average heart rate over the time on the bike was 143bpm (excluding rest time). Average speed was 15.5 mph.

This morning when I turned on a computer the first thing I did was make a list of what hurt. For my own future reference, here is my list. An *asterisk means that the pain is more that what I’m comfortable with, i.e., it might pushing from hard use into injury.

  • Neck and shoulders, from supporting the posture. Especially left side between shoulder and neck.
  • Forearms and hands are stiff. Lower back is mildly fatigued.
  • Butt is very sore. Swelling at seat-contact points.
  • Glute is sore & fatigued.
  • Bottom 1/3 of quads is especially sore & fatigued. Especially medial.
  • Hamstrings are stiff and sore.
  • Right lateral knee pain from IT band. *
  • Both IT bands are stiff and sore.
  • Top-back of calves, up into the knee. Left one feels strained, especially on the medial side connecting into the tendons under the knee. Certain strains produce sharp pain. *
  • Knees and the muscles that move them are very fatigued. Getting into the bathtub was a challenge.
  • Feet and ankles are somehow okay.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Escape from Alcatrez

Check out this blog entry from a guy that just did the Escape from Alcatrez Triathlon. The course looks grueling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Get a Grip Cycles

I recently bought a new bike, an Orbea Onix TDA. But this post isn't about the bike, it's about where I bought it.

On a Friday about a month ago I decided to go bike shopping. I went to five stores: Get a Grip, Mission Bay, Kozy, Cycle Smithy and Performance Bicycle.

Each store had a certain vibe to it. Get a Grip was all about getting the right bike with the right fit for you. They don't just sell you a bike, they put you through a 2- to 3-hour fitting process. Adam Kaplan gave me a great talk on materials and had three tubes of different material so that I could rap them against the floor and feel in my hand how they transmit (or in the case of carbon, don't!) vibrations. But he was hard to nail down on makes and models. He wanted to find my fit first and then find a bike to work with my fit and budget. This bugged me a bit as I didn't know what was in the market. But I did really appreciate his level of expertise and his willingness to just talk and explore the subject with me.

Mission Bay was next. He was all about materials, components and prices. This helped me understand the marketplace better and what differentiated the price points.

Kozy wanted to move their inventory. "Here's what's in stock, and LOOK, it fits you, let's get you on it." Cycle Smithy and Performance were better than Kozy, but still, they were more about moving their inventory than service, and they didn't know or weren't able to articulate the differences in price points.

Now that I better understood the market, I called Adam back at Get a Grip the next day. We spoke about models that they carried and I felt comfortable that after going through the fitting process, I would walk out a bike owner. So, I scheduled a fitting and mentioned that I was hoping to get a new bike in time for the Triathlon. They set me up with a loaner bike (a Cannondale Six13) merely on the promise that I'd go through with a fitting.

The fitting rig lets you adjust everything: all of the angles and all of the lengths. It's hooked up to a computer that draws graphs of your power output as you pedal. They did video analysis and showed me some tweaks. It was a very cool process.

When I picked up my bike 2 days later (normally they order a bike and then customize it in about ten days, but this was in stock and they rushed it for my race), it fit me like a glove. I sat into it and I wasn't stretched out, I wasn't compressed. My feet were positioned correctly to get the best power. And to boot, the bike was on end of season clearance, so I got a great price. Adam told me the fit was "within a centimeter" and to schedule an hour with him in a few weeks to get it "within a millimeter." Very cool.

I can't recommend this place highly enough. No where else in Chicago will you find such a level of expertise, professionalism and passion. If you're in the market for a new competition bike, start your shopping at Get a Grip. I'm proud to be a member of their community.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Progress

Check this out.

In March of 2004, I blogged about my achievement of running two miles continuously.

In July of 2006, I blogged about running 3.6 miles continuously.

In May of 2007, I blogged about running The Relay, 3 legs totaling 15 miles in 36 hours.

In August of 2008, I blogged about completing an Olympic Distance Triathlon.

What's next? Seems like all I have to do is set a goal and then make it happen.

My Tri Times, as a percentage of the Pros

Pro Me %
Swim 19 34 179%
T1 0.5 5 1000%
Bike 57 80 140%
T2 0.5 5 1000%
Run 32 56 175%
Total 108 180 167%

Sunday, August 24, 2008

2008 Chicago Triathlon

I finished the Accenture Chicago Triathlon today! I wanted to write up some details of the event for my learning purposes. Some may find it interesting, others will not :)

Overall Stats

These numbers are not "official," but they reflect my stopwatch and the real-time SMS alerts they sent. Updated with official numbers and Olympic distances.

  • Total Time: 2h59m51s (broke the 3 hour mark!)
  • Swim (1.5km/0.93mi): 34m20s (includes the 1/4 mile trot into T1)
  • T1: 4m55s (39m15s)
  • Bike (40km/24.8mi): 1h19m55s (1h59m10s)
    • The bike is (more or less) four lengths from Monroe Harbor to Foster. The wind was out of the North at about 10mph.
    • Avg Speed: Overall, 18.6mph; L1, 17.1mph; L2, 21.9mph; L3, 17.8mph; L4, 20.9mph
  • T2: 4m58s (2h04m08s)
  • Run (10km/6.2mi): 55m41s (2h59m51s)
    • The course went South from Museum Campus and back North. I broke it into two lengths, out and back.
    • Avg Pace: Overall, 8:58/mi; L1, 8:38/mi; L2, 9:27/mi.

Logistics

  • Prepared everything the previous afternoon (done before dinner). Mentally rehearsed transitions and how to pack them so that it would be brainless.
  • Wake: 3:55am
  • Out the door: 4:15
  • Set up transitions per my brainless plan. Note that when I arrive to transition at race time, I work with what's on top of the stack first. Whatever's on top, pop it. T1:
    • Mesh bag hanging under bike
    • Bike
    • Helmet upside down. Inside the helmet:
    • Cycling Gloves
    • Gu & Alleve (wrapped in Saran and taped to Gu)
    • Shoes - socks in one shoe, sunglasses in the other
    • Hand towel on top, everything buckled into a tidy bundle
  • T2
    • Running shoes
    • Extra socks and Gu in one shoe
    • Orange water bottle (to aid identification) and race number/belt in the other
  • Transition closed at 5:45
  • Eat: 6:00
    • Turkey sandwich
    • Fruit Smoothie
    • Coffee (prepared the night before and refrigerated)
    • Water (see "mistakes" below)
  • Race start: 7:41.

Mistakes

  • Over-hydration before the race. I drank 1.5L of water, plus coffee, plus one of those fruit smoothie drinks. I felt bloated and had to relax my swimming pace four times to relieve myself. That's hard to do when people are swimming on top of you. Another consequence of the bloating was that the wetsuit was tighter than usual, meaning it constricted breathing a bit. I also relieved myself at T2. Next time I'll drink less before and drink more on the bike. If I do it right, I should be able to do the whole race without a bathroom stop.
  • Ate a little too late. I just sat with my stuff at transition to make sure it would be in a known state and drank water. I should have started eating 30 minutes sooner than I did, or eat a little less.
  • What else could I improve about transitions? Not much. Dealing with all the gear was slow. Ride sockless? Do like the pros do and leave my shoes clipped into the pedals? Have Gu on the bike so I wouldn't have to stuff them in my pockets? Don't wear gloves?

Pain

  • My right knee is pretty sore. It's the same inflammation from a tight IT band that I get all the time anyway—fixing this needs to a top goal next spring. I tried self-medicating with 3 Alleve along the way to prevent inflammation. I don't know if it helped.
  • I got a blister on my left arch on the run. I want to blame the shoes, but since I only got it on one foot it must be a combination of my form and the shoes. A fellow Triathlete suggested double-layered socks. I think I'll try 2 pairs of thin socks next time I go for a long run. Or correct my form :) I wonder if fresh socks after the bike would have helped, as 2.5 hours in one pair left them pretty damp.

Impressions

  • When the race kicked off and I was watching the first waves of people swimming, the water looking like it was boiling from all the splashing...I gasped...it hardly seemed real. "I can't believe I'm about to do this," I thought to myself.
  • The swim was a blur. I was in such a daze surrounded by 150 other white-swim-capped people that I hardly realized what was going on. All of the sudden I was in the water, and all of the sudden I was exiting and people were helping us out and up onto the steps. I held my front crawl form really well—I usually switch to breast stroke to catch a breath every now and then, but this time I didn't let that be an option.
  • T1 was flawless. I sat down in the grass to remove my wetsuit, which helped avoid the cramps I've experienced from time to time in my calves. Everything was in order and went according to my mental rehearsal.
  • The bike was more engaging. I was on a brand new bike (got it Thursday—nothing like breaking it in on race day!). Between checking my cadence on the Garmin 405, shifting gears for the hills, avoiding potholes, avoiding debris (like dropped water bottles) and passing at 25mph on Lake Shore Drive, the bike finally woke me up.
  • T2 was pretty good. My area was a mess—there were bikes I had never seen before on top of my stuff. But I was able to find someplace to stash my bike, identify my running shoes and change into them. I didn't change into the dry socks, though I might next time.
  • It was weird setting everything up in the dark. I didn't recognize where the transition area actually was until I picked up my gear in the afternoon. I just followed the herd this morning...moo.
  • The run was long and tiring. I tore out of T2 and when I checked my pace it was 7:30. I laughed and slowed down to a more comfortable 8:30. In the end, I really started running out of gas at the turnaround. Twice I walked while I took some water (at most 30 seconds of total walking, but still). The middle 4 miles of the run were lonely, as the spectators fell off.
  • Running under the final underpass 1/4 mile from the finish line...people clapping and cheering and the echoes down there...I got goose bumps all over.
  • I'm really proud of myself for doing this. I signed up over ten months ago! I have to say, one of the best decisions I've made in my life was making physical activities social. I have to especially give a nod to Mike Wood and Adam Wengert for the great camaraderie along the way and constant chatter about our training. I honestly don't know if I would have gone through with it by myself. The social spirit made it possible. Congratulations to you two, and to all of my fellow athletes!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Where to find me

It feels like I haven't posted here in forever. Follow me on Twitter, I'm pretty active. Most of my free time has been focused on wrapping up my training for the Accenture Chicago Triathlon this coming Sunday. For example: today I biked 50 miles and swam a half mile. In total, around four or five hours of cardio (there was some resting on the bike ride). Good stuff. I also went to the Chicago air show yesterday...pictures will show up on Flickr and/or Facebook soon.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Touch Diamond

Rumor has it that the HTC Touch Diamond is coming to Sprint this month. I've had my eye on this phone for a while now...fingers crossed!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Windows Mobile 6.1 Upgrade

I just upgraded my HTC Sprint Mogul/PPC6800 to Windows Mobile 6.1. Before I upgraded, I took down a list of the key software that I needed to reinstall. In no particular order, I present my key Windows Mobile utilities:

  • S2U2 - an iPhone screen locker clone. Search to find the latest version in the XDA developers forums.
  • gpsVP - Open source/Garmin Research project for GPS. Works with most (all?) Garmin GPS maps, and best of all, it can be used offline (no active cell/data connection required). Save trails, import & export waypoints, etc. Very cool.
  • Live Search - Good for turn-by-turn driving directions and location-based services (like, show me bars near where I am right now).
  • OneNote Mobile - Take your favorite notebook on the road. You do use OneNote, don't you? Install from OneNote on the desktop: Tools / Options / OneNote Mobile.
  • SKTools - Utility for cleaning up the Notifications Queue on Windows Mobile. If you have ever experienced the "phantom alarm," this utility can clean that up.
  • Google Maps - Good for driving directions and "where am I right now." Not as feature-rich as Live Search, but more user-friendly. Depends on what I'm after.
  • VisualGPSce - Another GPS utility. Just gives raw data from the satellites.
  • TouchPal - The best on-screen keyboard I've found. I have stopped using the hardware keyboard on the Mogul in deference to this.
  • Streaming Media - For playing streaming media, especially from m.youtube.com.
  • Remote Desktop - Sprint removes Remote Desktop from their firmware. Why? I add it back in.
  • Total Commander - Replacement for Explorer, and also a registry editor.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cold

I have cold today, and I think I've used about half of a box of Kleenex. Sheesh. Every time I sneeze, I have to blow my nose, which is like every two minutes. Oh well, I'll get over it in time. Vitamin C and Echinacea, do your work!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to make URLs clickable in Office Communicator

Edit: This is the lame. All it does is make links that you send clickable. All incoming URLs are still plain text.

Source.

  1. Open registry editor and go to the following registry entry:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Communicator
  2. Add the following key to above mentioned entry
    EnableURL (Type:DWORD), value can be either 0 (URL will appear as plain text) or 1 (makes URL clickable)

Now close the registry editor and restart Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, URLs should now be clickable. Administrators can control values of this feature via group policy settings.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WMP Keys

WMP Keys, a Media Player plugin to let you assign global keyboard shortcuts. Pretty handy to not have to alt-tab or jump to the mouse to perform common WMP functions.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Use an iPhone Headset for VoIP

Edit: ShowMeCables.com has started making this adapter commercially available. This came about as a result of a conversation between them and me.

The minimalist design of the iPhone headset appeals to me, and I wanted to try using it for VoIP applications on my PC. The iPhone uses a 4-connector 3.5mm headphone jack, but my laptop has two separate female jacks: one for the microphone and one for the headphones. So, I ordered a connector and busted out my soldering iron. The finished product is below—click through to see the pinout diagrams for reference. I cannibalized the male connectors from a previous headset (which was clunky and bulky, by comparison to the iPhone headset) and exercised quite a bit of trial-and-error to get it right (tested by holding the wires, soldered, realized my mistake, unsoldered, retested, soldered, tested). The jack in the pictures was purchased online, part 30-705.

iPhone to Standard adapter

Sideshow for Windows Mobile

I'm a few days late with this one, but Microsoft has released a Sideshow application for Windows Mobile. Download link for the Developer Preview.

Friday, June 06, 2008

OutSync - Sync Outlook Contacts with Facebook Pictures

The title says it all. OutSync: a little utility you run that logs into Facebook and syncs the profile pictures of your friends with their contact in Outlook. Fun!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thoughts on Bluetooth Headsets

Bluetooth headsets are tools, not fashion accessories. Wear it when you are actually using it, and take it off when you are done.

That is all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cardo S-800

Last week I picked up a Cardo S-800 bluetooth headset. There are plenty of reviews on it floating around on the Internet, so I won't get into detail. I will say that it does one thing particularly well: it supports pairing and easily switching between two devices. Double-click the wheel and it's switched. I have it paired with my cell phone and my laptop, making it blindingly easy to use one headset for cell and VoIP calls. It also charges off of USB (Micro-USB, unfortunately, not Mini-USB, but at least all I have to carry is a cable and not a power brick). Highly recommended if you find yourself with a similar need.

Hyper-V

This weekend I added a second hard drive to my Toshiba M9 laptop (in the CD-ROM bay). I then was able to install Windows Server 2008 on a second partition on the primary drive. After that was up and running, I set up Hyper-V with the goal of migrating my primary Vista installation (the one on the first partition) to a virtual machine. The process was easy enough: in the Hyper-V Manager, create a new VHD and tell it to clone a copy of the existing first hard drive. A few hours later, I now had a VHD on my second hard drive that was an exact clone of the first drive. I mounted it in a virtual machine and booted: to my surprise, there were my boot options, Server 2008 and Vista. And Vista x64 started right up (amazing it didn't blue screen during boot with all the hardware changes; also amazing, a 64-bit guest OS). But, here's the rub and the deal breaker: I couldn't install the "virtual machine additions" (I forget the correct Hyper-V term), as they aren't supported on 64-bit Vista. Performance was quite good, and I was able to share both physical CPUs inside the virtual machine. Here's to hoping they fully support 64-bit Vista as a guest!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Barefoot

Yesterday I picked up a pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSOs and am already in love with them. They are basically socks with soles and separated toes. The theory behind barefooting is that traditional shoes put your feet on a flat platform and muscles that would otherwise be involved in walking atrophy. If you wear shoes with a lot of arch support, you're enabling the muscles that support your arch to continue to be weak; going barefoot forces the muscles to get stronger. Shoes are undoing 4 million years of evolution. Or consider walking on uneven terrain in traditional running shoes—your ankle twists and bends to absorb the differences, as opposed to your toes and feet wrapping into the differences.

I went for a short (very short, 400m at most) run yesterday in my KSOs and felt muscles on the underside of my toes engaged. I went for about a mile walk today and felt the whole underside of my foot start to fatigue from my feet actually gripping the ground. I'm sold on the theory of barefooting, and (as my physical therapist cautioned me) will very very slowly ease back into it. I haven't run barefoot since I was like 4 years old.

Here's a lengthy article in New York Magazine on barefooting. I actually also ordered a pair of VivoBarefoot shoes (think slippers with 3mm kevlar soles that are designed to look like socially acceptable shoes) from Amazon, but the only pair they had in stock of the model I wanted turned out to be one size too small...NB, try on shoes before you buy them.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Media Center Upgrade

About two weeks ago, I gutted my Media Center box and rebuilt it so that I could take advantage of optical HD media now that the format war is over.

New components:

  • Motherboard: EVGA NF77 with nForce 630i and a GeForce 7150 GPU built-in. Onboard HDMI with HDCP* plus optical and coax digital out/in (respectively). Supports RAID 0/1/0+1/5.
  • CPU: Intel Q6600 (Quad Core 2.4GHz).
  • RAM: 4GB DDR2, 800.
  • PSU: Rosewill 400W. (I needed a 24-pin and 8-pin power connectors for this new motherboard. I was sad to introduce a fan, but the one big 12cm fan is silent for all intents and purposes. Plus, the way the heat sink lies right up against it means better CPU cooling, too. I am very happy, though I didn't think I'd be.)
  • Optical Media: LG Blu-ray/HD DVD ROM plus DVD/CD/RW, SATA.

Reused components:

  • Hard drives: 2x160GB hard drives in RAID-0/Stripe for 320GB storage.
  • Heat sink: Silverstone NT01V2. I still love this thing, and was ecstatic that it was still compatible!
  • Case: Silverstone LC10 in Silver. I still love the VFD in front showing me media information. It makes it look like a real theater component, not just a hokey home-built computer.

Overall: very happy, A+ system. The motherboard/CPU combo is my best yet, and it takes about 33% CPU to play a Blu-ray title (with all four cores humming). All of the Media Center functionality moves better, too (like pulling up the guide and filtering by category, which used to strain the system, is instantaneous now). I subscribed to Netflix to, as a friend said, "have some pretties on my TV." Between Netflix and the HDHomeRun, I (finally!) have more HD content than I can consume, even with just local channels over Clear-QAM

HDCP

*I have to point out the importance of HDCP (if you're considering Blu-ray on Vista, take note): without it, Vista downgrades the video quality over digital outputs (like DVI or HDMI) to 480i/p. The intent is so that you can't rip a pure digital, HD, unencrypted stream of video from the wire and pirate movies. HDCP keeps the content encrypted from the source (disk/network) through the Vista video stack, out the video card and over the wire, where it's finally decrypted by the TV just in time to be displayed. This is called Protected Media Path. Further reading. If you want to play Blu-ray (or future HD formats from Hollywood), make sure your video card and display/TV support HDCP. (HD titles you download in XviD/MKV/etc aren't affected by this since they're not encrypted.)

TripIt

A work friend of mine introduced me to TripIt last week (I started traveling for my current engagement—back on the road!). It's a really great service. You forward all of your confirmation emails from travel agents/airlines/car rentals/hotels/etc, and it parses the data and builds a cohesive view of your travel schedule, complete with confirmation numbers and checkin/checkout times. Their mobile site gives you one-click access to flight status, too. The iCal feed lets me integrate it with my Outlook calendar and merge them into one view with the overlay mode. This is a BIG step up from manually entering every flight into Outlook (it's a good thing, too, since I seem to screw up time zones more often than I care to admit), and the process couldn't be easier: CTRL+F, CTRL+Enter. Done.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Efficiency

I was watching Car of the Future on PBS (in HD, of course) and this struck me. Internal combustion engines run at an average efficiency of about 20% (compared to theoretical Carnot limits). Add to that the fact that we get into a 2,000 pound machine to move a 150lb human. Let's make the math easier and say we weigh 200lbs. If it takes 1 gallon of gas to move just a 200lb human at 100% efficiency x meters, it takes (2000/200)*(100/20) = 50 gallons to move 2,000lbs at 20% efficiency the same distance.

50X more resources than needed.

Meanwhile, a minister led a pray-in at a Chevron in San Francisco asking God for lower gas prices. We shouldn't be campaigning (or praying) for lower gas prices—we should be demanding better fuel economy and smarter means of transportation.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Life at 27

I was in San Francisco last week for The Relay. After the run (which was awesome, btw: 4.5 miles flat @ 8 min/mile, 5.8 +250ft altitude gain @ 10, and 3.1 +1100 @ 12), I spent a few nights with friends and family that live in the Bay area. Free accommodations, sure, but it was really healthy to spend time with some people that I don't get to see as often as I used to. It's so easy to take friendships for granted when they're convenient.

Anyway, I celebrated my 27th birthday while I was out there. One girl that I was talking to, she and I went to high school together. We were talking about reunions, etc, and she said to me that her life "just keeps getting better."

Perfect.

I couldn't agree more. My life just keeps getting better.

When people tease me about getting old or whatever, I just pause, lean back, smile and say, "You know, my life keeps getting better. And if at 27, my life is the best that it's ever been, then, you know what? I'm pretty damn happy to be 27."

May your life just keep getting better. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

reCAPTCHA: Stop Spam, Read Books

I just discovered this site, http://recaptcha.net/. They do the regular "image verification" stuff you see to prevent spam on web sites, except they use scans from real books. They present two words: one for which the result is known and a second for which the OCR had low confidence. If you match the known word, they assume you're probably right on the unknown word, too (and they verify it multiple times to improve confidence). I think it's a great idea: as a side effect of preventing spam, they're digitizing old books. Cool.

Friday, April 04, 2008

HDHomeRun, or, 1080i QAM in Vista Media Center

The Office Screenshot 1080

Last night I installed a new HDHomeRun. It's a unique device, a network-attached ATSC and QAM HDTV tuner. Setup was a little kludgey (some steps about making sure that the call letters that it detects match up with Zap2It's listings, and you have to ignore a warning from Vista that you're using digital cable listings when you "don't" have digital cable), but wasn't too bad. After that, it was smooth sailing. And now—AT LAST—I have HD content in my Vista Media Center again. I'm SO HAPPY!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Haw-Hawked Copule

This scene in The Simpson's made me laugh so damn hard. Episode setup: After Bart convinces all his friends not to go to Nelsons birthday party, Marge forces him to attend. After the party, Bart becomes Nelsons new best friend and under Nelsons protection no one dares to mess with Bart. Theres only drawback to his newfound friend/bodyguard he can no longer pal around with Milhouse.

Homer is driving Bart to the party. "Dad, don't make me go! I'll give you a backrub!"
"Ohhhh, your elbow's like an angel's kiss. But you still have to go!"
"Why?"
"Son," [laughing], "we all have to do things we don't want to! Like, have jobs and families and responsibilities and" [turning angry], "having to be Mr. Funny all the time! You think I wouldn't rather be living nude in the forest, like some ancient Pagan, just dancing around playing the pan flute!" [tone returns normal] "And here we are."

Can anyone recommend some good video editing software so that I can cut that clip out?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sprint HTC Mogul ROM Update

This is the one we've been waiting for: an upgrade to the radio for EVDO Rev A and GPS. Downloading now! http://www.america.htc.com/mogulupdate. (Edit: Fixed the link.)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

SSTP VPN

Now that I have Vista SP1 on my primary machine, I wanted to set up my Windows Server 2008 box to act as an SSTP VPN endpoint. SSTP essentially tunnels a PPP VPN over HTTPS. What's great about this is that port 443 is almost always open, increasing the odds that I can connect to home from anywhere. I actually bought an SSL certificate (see?) from GoDaddy (it was $15/year). I had a couple issues installing the certificate and making the VPN work. First, I had to install the certificate on the command line, as the UI was giving me an error (ASN1 bad tag value met). Second, I had to remap the certificate to port bindings. I believe that my setup was incorrect because it had only ever been bound through the IIS UI. Again, using the command line fixed it.

Further Reading:
Detailed post of how SSTP works.
More blog entries on SSTP.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Mom is cute

This is how she ended an email she sent last night:

How do you feel about the Blu thing?
Love,
Mom

She has some little tidbit of tech news and decides to bounce it off me. So cute.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

uTorrent

After the aforementioned upgrade, I was going to install Azureus, but instead decided to try uTorrent. I have to say, it's pretty slick. Super light and fast, and the UI is very familiar-feeling for an Azureus convert. But the best part is that it doesn't have any of that Vuze content crap that I don't want. Just a lightweight BitTorrent client—you know, like Azureus used to be.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Upgraded

I had a little down time this morning as I upgraded from Server 2008 RC0 to RTM. The upgrade blue-screened, so I ended up wiping the boot partition and reinstalling from scratch. A little more time consuming, unfortunately.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I heart Wikipedia

I looked up an address on Google Maps and noticed that the bridge over the River at Wabash was under construction, so I wikipedia'd the bridge's name, Irv Kupcinet Bridge. The first result: Perfect Strangers (TV series). In that article, I learned that the opening shot is of them going under the bridge in question. I also learned that Family Matters was actually a spinoff from Perfect Strangers: the mom, Harriette Winslow, worked in the elevator. Wow. Who knew?

Now if only I could find out about that bridge being under construction. :)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Ford + Sync + iPhone

Saw a commercial on TV: buy an '08 Ford, get a free upgrade to Sync, and get a free iPhone. Microsoft and Apple, together at last! Thanks, Ford!

Buy a Ford, Get Sync, Get an iPhone

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Relationship Management

I'm taking some training for work right now, Delivery Management at Avanade Part 1, and we had a module this afternoon on customer relationship management. They showed some admittedly cool ways to visualize and track business relationships, but the idea of quantifying it in Visio and Excel didn't quite sit right with me. So when we were asked for "any final thoughts" on the last slide I chimed in:

"In this world of headcount and resources and FTEs, it's important to remember that people...are people first...and professionals second. I think you can do a lot to foster relationships by just being friends with people."

Throw your Excel Scorecard away, folks, and just answer this: Are you friends with your stakeholders? If your answer isn't Yes, then you have work to do.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Workout Routine

My proposed weekly workout cycle:

Day 1: Upper body.
Day 2: Legs.
Day 3: Core (or Pilates).
Day 4: Upper body.
Day 5: Cardio (swim/run/cycle).
Day 6: Yoga.
Day 7: Rest.

I'm pretty close to doing this now, but I haven't actually taken a yoga class yet. I think it would also be beneficial if I had a more strict routine. I'll revisit this cycle as The Relay (April 19) and the Chicago Triathlon (August 24) approach, shifting to more cardio and less strength training.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

TouchPal

I just discovered TouchPal, an on-screen keyboard for Windows Mobile optimized for fat-fingering. I'm pretty happy with my Mogul, but one of my biggest gripes is the delay when I slide out the hardware keyboard (and it switches from portrait to landscape mode), and the on-screen keyboard requires a stylus (or the corner of a fingernail). This little freeware utility has nice finger-sized buttons, predictive input and an easy way to be precise (tap on the big QW key and then slide right to pick W, or left to pick Q). If you share my gripes, check out this utility.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

DirecTV and Media Center

Engadget has a scoop on the DirecTV tuner for Media Center. The best news is that it doesn't appear to have the OEM certification restrictions like CableCard.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

FLAC to WMA Lossless Script

Requires Windows Media Encoders and FLAC.

foreach ( $file in dir *.flac )
{
	# Prep input and output filenames 
	$shortName = $file.Name.Substring(0, $file.Name.Length - $file.Extension.Length);
	$wav = $shortName + ".wav";
	$wma = $shortName + ".wma";
	
	# Decode FLAC to WAV
	& 'C:\Program Files (x86)\FLAC\flac.exe' -d $file.Name

	# Encode WAV to WMA Lossless
	cscript "C:\Program Files\Windows Media Components\Encoder\WMCmd.vbs" -input $wav -output $wma -a_codec WMA9LSL -a_mode 2

	# Cleanup
	del $wav;
}

Thursday, January 03, 2008

HD DVD and Blu Ray Combo Drive

Saw this at NewEgg for $299, a HD DVD and Blu Ray combo drive. I've never taken a side in the format war and I don't really want to. The correct solution is HD-video on demand over IP, but we all need more bandwidth for that.

What stinks about this drive and my media center box is that I need an HDCP-compliant video card and a processor upgrade (which would require a new motherboard and new RAM)—in other words, I would need a new system save for the case, the hard drives and the tuner cards. Maybe I should hold my breath for realistic CableCARD support, instead?

QAM, or, How I Overlooked HDTV on Basic Cable

I was looking at my cable bill today, which included a price list for all of their services. I noticed a section about HDTV and it said that HD broadcast channels were available with the bare minimum package that I had. I had been living with just basic cable (25 channels) since I cannot get over-the-air reception where I live (too dense with buildings).

So I plugged the cable into my HD tuner card in my PC, ran a channel scan on the OEM software that came with my FusionHDTV 5 tuner card, and lo and behold, I had HDTV. All the locals, coming in with perfect clarity at 720p. Unreal. How long have I been missing that?

Unfortunately, back in Vista Media Center, I cannot tune these unencrypted QAM channels, despite the fact that the card can actually tune them. Apparently another tuner does it (search his blog for QAM for more info), but it's an unreliable hack. If another card does it reliably, it is quite likely that I'll upgrade.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yikes!

After the first drive in my old file server died, I made a backup of all of my photos...or so I had thought. But actually, I didn't get them all. For some reason NONE of my Africa pictures got backed up!! YIKES. I discovered this tonight when I wanted the original image for the header on this web site. I checked the original card in my camera, my external hard drive..., the copy I had made on the new file server...nothing. A few minutes later I remembered that I had at one time burned other copies: one I sent to my Dad so he could view a slideshow on his DVD player, and another that I kept for myself. Thankfully, I found my copy in my "box 'o pictures" and have recovered all of the photos...PHEW.

It goes to show you: even when you make a backup (or even when you have an implicit backup with a RAID), you could make a mistake and unknowingly miss something. Be proactive in making backups, ESPECIALLY with irreplaceable things like photographs.

I would have been a sad little boy if I had lost all of those pictures. Imagine how it would make you feel if you lost all of those digital photos you have of your kids/grandkids/friends/whatever. Consider even burning another copy and sending the CD/DVD to someone else.

(Now that this blog is online, I may devote some time to that Amazon S3 application I've been wanting to write for encrypted off-site backups.)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Back Online

Hi, everyone. I'm back online after a pretty catastrophic file server crash. I built a new file server (Quad Core Q6600 (2.4GHz x4), 4GB RAM, 3x500GB hard drives in RAID 5 for 1TB storage) and then wrote a new blog engine. There's more than meets the eye to this engine, as it supports an extensible typing system at its core (I'll be able to create a Restaurant Review type with extended properties for the name, the type of cuisine and a 0-5 star rating, for example) that is strongly typed, indexable and searchable, yet transparent to the data access layer. More on that later. It also supports tagging and nicely designed URLs (courtesy of Intelligentcia's URL Rewriter). I was able to recover about half of my existing blog posts from the Live Search API's cache and Google's Cache.

Some links have changed, yet I'm doing a 301 Moved Permanently for all legacy URLs, so you're probably reading this as a result of that. Regardless: RSS. Home page (unchanged). Feels good to be back! Stop by and check out the new layout, while you're at it.