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, 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).

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.

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

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!!

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.