The finale of 2001

Posted in General at 5 pm

Well this is it, the end of 2001. We still don’t have HAL, we still don’t have personal hovercrafts. I can burn video to optical discs and play them, but the discs are still 5 inches wide, not two or three like they ought to be. And the optics are 2 dimensional, not 3d hologram like they need to be.

We’re still using inches and not centimeters. I’m going to put a base 12 (or perhaps base six) numbering system for everyone to use.

Europe has the Euro coming online, and that’s a good step, but personal money is not completely electric yet. I can *buy* everything electronicly, but my debit card can’t have money added to it just as easily.

I’m still not running OS X. I will, but the Mac Interface/UNIX underpinnings thing should have been ready to go in 1996/97, not 2001.

Laptops are good. They’re finally getting very good. My next Mac will be a laptop I think. But it’s not solar powered. A lot of things are still not solar powered. Some of it’s wind powered. That’s a good step, but Distributed Power Generation still isn’t here.

Computer displays are stil stuck in the sub-100 dpi area for the most part. I *really* hope MacOS X’s display engine being vector based will be able to scale up to higher dpi monitors. My flexible display, like a sheet of electronic paper, still isn’t here.

No PDA is as good as the NewtonOS.

Pen interfaces suck, and voice interfaces suck even worse. Someone better get subvocal voice recognition working soon, or there will be hell to pay.

I still haven’t learned French. That was my only real resolution from last year. I think I can start putting more effort into that now. I’ll get French films with English subtitles and English films with French subtitles. That will be easier now that we have a DVD player, and it should provide me with a better submersive experience.

I do have a very cool portable digital music device, which actually was a very old ‘To Do List’ item that had been resolved by the MiniDisc player. Well screw that. MP3s Forever.


Apple has something planned for Macworld. Something big. *No one* knows what it is. Steve Jobs *is* Willy Wonka. I wish I had got off my butt and finalized my plans for going down there, but considering the Keynote is Monday, I don’t think it will happen.

I don’t have any big plans for next year. Holding onto my job seems to be a big goal in the New New Economy.

All I can look forward to politically is that George W. Bush will be one more year closer to the end of his presidency.

And the film of the second book of the Lord Of the Rings Trilogy: Two Towers will come out. Much goodness.

Happy 2002. Let’s hope it’s better than ’01.


Fun with Video

Posted in General at 11 am

A while back I made a decision to start learning about DVDs and video production to support it. Well, that goal has been given a real boost over the past week. First off, Amy bought us a DVD player. Till now I had simply been using the DVD that’s built into my Blue & White G3, which is fine (mostly) but the computer is not oriented to be watched from the couch. (Though with that new cordless optical Logitech mouse I got, this became easier.)

So the stand alone DVD player has been a real boon. The 7 or so DVDs that we own look great on this DVD player. However, this isn’t just any DVD player. It’s one of the cheapest available. It also happens to be one of the most flexible hackable players available. Called the Apex AD-1500, it can play “DVD-VCD-SVCD-CD-CD/R-CD/RW – MP3s – NTSC and Pal” formats. At this point I’ve tried DVDs, Audio CDs, an ISO 9669 disc of MP3s and a VCD. All worked great except for one track of MP3 audio, but that may have been the source, not the player.

I’ve already found firmware upgrades that will disable the Macrovision copy protection and eliminate the Region 1 limitations. I haven’t applied the firmware yet, but I have burned an ISO 9660 CD-R with it, in case it disappears from the Web at some point. I figure I’ll only apply it once I actually run into one of the above limitations. The limitation I’m most likely to run into is the Macrovision blocking.

Is Ross turning video pirate? No, I’m turning Video producer. You see the second purchase that has advanced me towards my DVD wizardry goals was Toast 5 Titanium. T5 can burn regular CDs, Video CDs and DVDs. But Ross, you have no DVD Recorder. No, but I can burn CD-Rs and Video CDs. T5 will take regular QuickTime movies and create VCDs on the fly. There’s an encoding process that takes about 15 minutes for each 1 minute of actual video on my 400 MHz G3, but that just means if I have a lot of video that I let it crank overnight or while I’m at work.

My first foray into this was creating a Video CD of a Depeche Mode video (“Freelove”) that I got off of some Akamai server. Lots of artifacts, poor quality sound, but the source material for the 4 minute music video was only 30 Megabytes (Mebibytes). Even if the quality isn’t wonderful there’s one advantage that it has over VHS tapes hands down: durability. This VCD will stay nearly perfect for a long time to come, regardless of the number of times we play it. The VHS tape of DM Television Appearances has some definite wear showing. Audio drop outs being first and foremost. Once I can get that VHS tape captured on one of our machines, I’ll burn it to VCD and we’ll have it for much longer and actually be able to watch it without worrying if it will be the last time we can watch the shows.

So now, I’m diving into VCDs and getting a handle on that format. This will prepare me for the day when I get a new Mac (middle of next year?) that has a DVD-R drive on it, Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro. Till then I can play with iMovie, Toast and whatever video sources I can scrounge up. Right now I have at my disposal:

400 MHz G3, CD-R burner, Toast 5 with support for VCDs, a DVD player; The ability to make Quicktime movies from 3D programs, download Quicktimes from the Web, and possibly capture video with the old ATI card (that has video-in) that Bob lent me a long time ago. To that I can hook up my toy tapeless/wireless video camera. I may need to borrow a VCR with video out. (Ours is built into our TV).

My Web Design/Development hobbies my be curtailed a bit while I’m exploring this arena, however, if you want a copy of what I produce, let me know. A CD-R may be in the mail.



Posted in General at 11 am

It finally makes sense. All those years of Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwartzenwhatever, and Clint Eastwood have finally sunk in and the American people are ready for action.

Those in-flight action films? They were Suplemental Training Material.

Hollywood has been training the American Public to be Terrorist Resistance Cells for 20 years. The Industro-Entertainment-Military Complex has simply been putting out these films in order to give us, the average Joe and Jane the ability to fight back in incredible situations.

When it comes to that point in your life, one question will stick in your head:

“What Would Bruce Do?”

Kick ass.


I'm been translated

Posted in General at 4 pm

A few of you may remember my article on A List Apart in regards to the Flash Aesthetic. Well now someone has decided that it was worthy of being translated into Bulgarian! Check it out! Wow!

At least I think it’s Bulgarian. They’re using the Cyrilic character set and the TLD, .bg, is Bulgaria.

I’m going to start going by the Cyrilic version of my name: Poc.


Internet Shopping Tips

Posted in General at 9 am

Culled from the TidBITS.com TidBITS-talk list:

From: tidbits-talk@lkm…ch

What I really find useful about http://www.epinions.com (New Window) is that they let you rate the resellers, too. I will pay more to buy from a reseller with positive feedback, and I won’t buy from resellers with no or negative feedback.

From: TXPubs@Softh….net

In doing my research, however, I found an invaluable site that compiled reviews (both on and off the net) and rated numerous items. It also rated the quality of the reviews and provided links to them when they were online. I had already thoroughly researched what I wanted and was surprised to see that this site found everything I had (& more) & assembled all of the information much better than I had.

You might want to check it out – it is http://www.consumersearch.com (NW)

From: Alan.Full…@motorola.com

I would recommend <http://www.audioreview.com/> (NW). This site specializes in audio equipment and the reviews are by people who own or have owned the equipment. All the reviews for one component are on one page so there’s no flipping back and forth between pages (just scrolling up and down). The reviews are (for the most part) well thought out and well written.

There’s <http://www.pricescan.com/> (NW) for comparison shopping. Not as slick as mySimon but very useful.

From: ace@tidbi….com

<http://www.activebuyersguide.com/> (NW)

Overall, I’m really quite impressed – they run you through a set of questions and tradeoffs about a given product (they even do it with dog breeds) and then present a number of choices that fit your answers. Very nicely done and well worth it if you aren’t sure what model or brand of something you might want.

From: gerber@iNi….net

Another Internet site worth looking at is http://www.consumerreports.com/ (NW). For just $5/month, or $25/year, you can get excellent reports on the quality of all kinds of merchandise, as well as ratings of merchants (online and off). It’s a great place to double check that what you’re getting is something that will be enjoyed for a long time, and not thrown in the trash a few months later. Their ratings of Internet shopping sites are also excellent and can help you find a site with the information you need, and avoid getting bilked.


Christmas Gifts

Posted in General at 11 am

I waslucky this year. I’ve gotten not only my Christmas Cards finished (still got to get stamps on them) but I’ve also finished most of my Christmas shopping too. As for me, some people have been having a hard time figuring out good gifts. And really one of the best things to do is to get a Gift certificate for the price of something that you think the person would want and then give them the certificate. Perhaps it doesn’t have the ‘flavor’ of a present being unwrapped undert he Christmas tree, but it sure hits the mark.

The Ross Gift List for the holiday season has already been taken up by a bunch of stuff. I already got the iPod, and at work, my manager just changed handhelds and passed off her Palm VIIx to me. (“Seven ex” I think is how it’s pronounced.)

With the MP3 player and the good pda in tow, there’s not a lot of additional tech to get me, right? heh heh heh.

There’s always the Logitech Cordless Optical Mouse which is actually pretty cheap all considered. Getting that would allow me to bring my current optical mouse into work. This would be a good thing, because I think I’m getting some sort of RSI issue from the wheel on the mouse I have.

Always a good place to look is the TidBITS gift list which is always chock full of techie goodness. A DVD player is always good, and a Gameboy would really compliment my Palm and iPod.

And of course, there’s still time to get me stuff from my b-day list. Music is *never* a bad thing nor are books or candy.

Sure, I want world peace and goodwill towards all, and all this stuff, when it all boils down, is just stuff. But toys are fun and it’s nice to be able to have a little bit of extra enjoyment from the work that I’ve done this year.


Dr. Ashcroft

Posted in General at 12 pm

Dr. Ashcroft is what some have called him. When Attny. General John Ashcroft started going after Oregon’s Assisted Suicide law, it raised quite a ruckus here. After all, the people of the state of Oregon had voted to approve it once, then after their own state government shot it down, the people voted for it again, this time with *more* people voting for it.

Now steps in Sherrif Ashcroft, bringing his own wiley ways to bear on the right to die with some diginity. Amy sent me some great editorials on this, which I’ve put in the Read More section.

There’s the San Jose Mercury, The Boston Globe, and The Providence Journal
Read the rest of this entry »



Posted in General at 6 pm

This one’s for Bo. It goes along with his ‘Crawl Under a Rock‘ stories. The story comes from ThinkDink.com

“Mommy Is Going to Eat Your Fingers!” (Hit the link below to read the story.)
Read the rest of this entry »

What Art Are You

Posted in General at 5 pm

I came out as MC Escher’s Lizards from this quiz. How about you?

http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~mar/tests/art/ (new window)

Please add your painting alongside your name in the discussion area. I’d like to know how many different images there are.


Part Two iPod review

Posted in General at 9 pm

After day two a full 24 hours of usage has accumulated, and I’m sold more now than when I bought it. When I plugged it in, it launched iTunes and proceeded to ask me two questions: What do you want to name your iPod? (Columbia) and Do you want it to have a copy of all your music. (Yes).

9 minutes and 3 gigs of 160KBps MP3s (~400 tracks*) later, iPod was ready to go.

I did let it charge for an hour just to get the batteries going, but even that was an 80% charge. The full 10 hours requires 3 hours of charging.

Site have already popped up to support it: http://www.ipodhacks.com is the best of the bunch at this point.

Likely revisions to the product. I split them into near term (6 months) and long term.

1) Near Term: A remote control like the one Sony has for it’s MiniDisc players. The hardware already exists for it in the headphone jack.

2) Near Term: The screen’s high dpi screams out for more usage. First impulse: a ‘screen saver’ type thing that bounces to the rhythm. Second possibility: QuickTime playback. Imagine having your iPod sync to you Tivo.

I wet myself.

3) Near/Long Term: Larger Hard Drive. Obvious, but worth noting in the face of competition from 20 and 40 GB MP3 players. iPod has the largest drive in that form factor, about the size of a Type II PC-Card (PCMCIA). Toshiba expects to release a 10gb version next year. Pretty amazing for a single platter hard drive.

4) Long Term: Attachments. A Still Camera is a no-brainer. A Video Camera is a short leap. I’d settle for an Audio input/On the fly recording from a mic powered by the Firewire port.

5) Long Term: Apparently there’s legacy code that’s been disabled that allows the iPod to burn directly to CD-R. If CD-R, why not DVD-R?

Scenario: I take my iPod and slot it into my palm-sized video camera, grab my portable DVD burner. I go to the party/wedding/reunion/family-friends event/news story location/etc. I record the events and burn a DVD for all interested parties, at the event. The archival quality DVD-R means I can clear out my iPod and begin shooting again.

(* Depeche Mode tracks _only_. All eras except SoFaD and Singles 86>98.)

Oh and did I mention the music that I bought to accompany my new pal? The new load includes the Best Of’s for Renegade Soundwave, 808 State, Blur, Billie Holliday.