Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category
A week ago tonight, Elvi and I attended the Montreal launch party for Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360. Held in La Mouche on lower St. Denis, the party had free drinks and four playing stations (but no Playstations).
Kinect, of course, is Microsoft’s answer to the Wii, taken a step farther. The Kinect uses video and infrared sensors to detect the motion of your entire body. Through your motions, you control what happens on the screen.
We were able to try out a number of games. I shook my booty to “Funkytown” in Dance Central, which is the sort of game that benefits from the technology. The Kinect accurately tracked my smoov moves despite the gawkers around me as I tried and mostly succeeded in following the fly girl’s moves. Tremble mortals, and despair:
Another success was the beach volleyball, part of the Kinect Sports game. We got into it, and it was a blast to jump up and spike the ball, even if it sent my iPod flying out of my shirt pocket and skidding across the floor.
Unfortunately, there are deficiencies. The tracking was occasionally wonky. There may have been a finer resolution than the Wii, but it was less reliable overall. You need to stay in front of the Kinect; with the Wii, you have more freedom to roam.
Kinect’s biggest drawback is its allegedly best feature: the lack of a controller. It sounds freeing, except it’s actually more limiting. When playing Kinect Joy Ride, you had no way to brake or accelerate the car, the way you could with buttons on a controller. You could initiate a temporary speed boost by pulling back and pushing forward on the imaginary steering wheel but that felt awkward, like you were trying to induce whiplash.
And if you do buy Kinect? Forget Kinect Adventures. That was dull.
Bonus moving and shaking:
Child Three’s guinea pigs seem to fight quite a bit, with lots of shrieking, but Groucho recently took to flailing around on his back and shrieking. The vets tells us they have mites, which burrow under the skin and cause severe pain. They’re halfway through the course of two injections and we expect them to recover completely.
You love Google’s Chrome browser but dread using it to look for PDFs because it won’t display them? Hate having to download the PDFs as files and looking at them in Acrobat Reader or Preview or whatever?
Open Chrome and type “about:plugins” in the address/search field (also called the omnibox). Greyed out at the top of the list of plug-ins is the disabled “Chrome PDF Viewer”. Enable it and you can view PDFs right in Chrome. The function has no progress bar, so if you try to load a large PDF, it may look as if Chrome has frozen or given up. Be patient.
I still don’t have a cell phone but I do have an iPod Touch that goes with me everywhere. What a boon to aging minds!
Apple released the latest software update for iPhones and iPod Touches (iPods Touch?) this week, called iOS 4. The update brings new functionality to the devices, including multitasking (running more than one app at a times), the iBook reader, and app folders.
I decided to update my second-generation iPod Touch last night. It took a lot longer than I expected.
Previous updates have been painless, like a long sync. My download of iOS 4 went smoothly, but something interrupted the installation. That was my first clue that the process had gone wrong. iTunes gave me a host of error messages that told me my songs could not be found. iTunes itself played the songs well enough so I knew it was an iPod problem.
The rest of the iPod seemed to be in shape. The apps were there and iOS 4 was in place. The problem I tried to open some apps and not all were working. I tried again, and again it stopped in the middle and warned me of the errors.
I took a bold step and tried to restore the iPod, which resets it to pristine condition. . The restore function erases all data and reinstalls all apps, music, and what have you. You lose passwords and accounts and game scores, but that’s not a big deal. The big deal was that the restore did not fix anything.
At that point, I noticed that Last.fm’s Audioscrobbler had been trying to scrobble (i.e. record for posterity) the songs I’d played on my iPod since the last sync. I figured that was interrupting the installation so I closed Audioscrobbler, and synced yet again. The apps were working but iTunes told me there was no room left on the iPod for more than 24 songs. Looking at the capacity diagram of my beloved Zapp Brannigan (my iPod’s name), I noticed that 5.89 MB of the alleged 8 MB total (which for some reason is only 6.83 MB) was taken up by Other data. That’s why there was no room for songs. (Huge chunks of Other data is normal for jailbroken devices, but mine’s regulation.)
I have no idea what that other data was, but my only hope was to try to restore the iPod again, this time without Audioscrobbler’s interference. I wasn’t hopeful that this would work, since other than being full, the iPod was now working perfectly – but work it did. Finally by 3:30 a.m., I had a properly functional iPod Touch.
I can’t prove it, but it sure seems like Audioscrobbler screwed with the installation. Reports here and there online reveal some problems with iOS 4 installations elsewhere.
The irony? After all this consternation, I discovered that second-generation iPod Touches only benefit from iOS4′s mail threading and and app folders. The rest of the advances don’t work.
Bonus “Futurama” review:
No, not by me. Tim Surette of TV.com says everything I want to, so why repeat it? My brief note after watching the shows was that it has promise and a lot more nudity. To my pleasure, the new episodes match my taste much better than the DVD movies did.
I bought a cell phone for the first time more than a month ago. I’ve never had one – I still don’t, since this one was for Elvi.
Our California arrangement expired and we finally needed to shop for a local plan. Canada has just about the most expensive mobile phone service in the world and we weren’t happy with our options. We spotted an ad for Public Mobile, an upcoming service that offers unlimited talk and texting for a flat $40 total (no service fees) and no contract required.
You might expect something like that in your part of the world but here in Canada, that’s an extraordinary deal.
Because we signed up early, the company also offered us lifetime unlimited long distance in Canada and the US for an extra $5 a month (that offer is still in effect – tell ‘em I sent ya). The only downside to Public Mobile is that you have to buy a phone and, unlike the money-sucking mobile service companies, it doesn’t provide phones for free. I bought the most basic phone for $70.
We were all set for the roll-out of the service on May 15 but for undisclosed reasons, Public Mobile has pushed back the Montreal launch until June 26. To placate customers, the company is offering two free weeks of mobile service plus a $75 gift certificate for hardware. Not bad, but we’d rather have the phone working now.
In other tech purchase, we found these USB man four-port hubs on sale (see at left) for $3 apiece so we bought two, and shipping was reasonable.
Bonus world premiere:
Allow me to introduce Roadrageous. Yes, it’s what you think it is. I just couldn’t hold back any longer.
The second time I tried to import the old blog, everything went as planned, although all the embedded YouTube links have broken. Some image placements are slightly wonky due to a kludge I used at Blogger to get the vertical spacing the way I liked it.
My feed should be working now; let’s see if this shows up at Facebook.
All I have left to do is add my links, categorize my 740 posts (because I like making work for myself, apparently), and create a .htaccess file to 301-redirect the URLs of my old blog to here. That’s important because it tells the search engines that this new blog is the same as the old one only in a different place. I don’t want to lose my inexplicable Google rank for “early senility”, after all.
Anyone who links to the old blog can change the URL – or not. The redirection takes care of that, of course.
This WordPress blog seems to load a bit more slowly than the Blogger version but considering how bloated it is (beauty has its price), that’s not surprising.
I think I can live with the vertically offset legacy images.
101 is open for business!
Update: I finally got the .htaccess file working after 90 minutes of excruciating frustration. My problem? The file in plain text on Mac OS X uses carriage returns. Linux requires linefeeds. Once again, Tex-Edit Plus comes in handy. I’ve been using it since 1994 and I paid many times the recommended software price when I bought it back then. Thanks, Tom Bender.
With layout in place, I decided to move my blog from Blogger to this WordPress thing the kids are crazy about. That sounds hard, but it’s not difficult in theory. WordPress offers all kinds of import tools. The one that interfaces with Blogger, though, requires the blog to be in the new Blogger format, a change I resisted and continue to resist with all my Luddite mightiness.
That’s not the end of the world, since Blogger lets you export the content all your blog posts as one XML file, which you can then upload with WordPress. WordPress reads the code and reassembles the posts. Unfortunately, WordPress will only do that for the new-style Blogger blogs.
Not all is lost. Google provides a little Web-based engine that will convert the old-style Blogger XML file to WordPress format. WordPress should import its own format.
Still, with some perseverance, I got the thing to work. I watched my Blogger posts get imported, but some of those posts weren’t mine. Somehow, my XML file was infected with blog posts from Jennifer’s Just a Stray Junior Mint. I don’t understand how or why either, but it happened in the conversion process.
I had to manually delete Jennifer’s posts from my archive and in the process I discovered that the import process only snagged my posts up to the end of 2008. WordPress documentation tells me that I can rerun the process without duplicating those posts that were successfully imported.
I’ve talked about LogMeIn before.
I still use and love it. My only qualm is that it is vulnerable to a second user. I have LogMeIn installed on my user on my Mac, but I have also set up a user for my kids. If the kids user is the active on on my Mac, I can’t use LogMeIn to access my user on the Mac from my PC laptop, say.
The free version of LogMeIn does not allow you to transfer files between the distant computer and the one you’re using in front of you, so what I have done if I need to get a file is e-mail it to myself on the distant computer and retrieve it locally in Gmail.
Recently, I discovered a fantastic service that works in tandem with LogMeIn to provide a complete experience. Dropbox is a combination of network and software. It acts like a folder on your hard disk, but in reality it is free FTP space that’s as easy to use as a folder on your hard disk. You can share files with anyone you choose – and of course that includes through a Web interface, yourself on another machine, even on your iPhone or iPod Touch.
You get 2 GB with every free Dropbox account. You can pay to get more.
I’ve used it to transfer PDFs to my iPod and to share episodes of House with my daughter. Combined with LogMeIn, I have a fantastic and free communications tool that does just about everything I need for a home network or during travel.
Does anyone have experience with Megaupload or similar services that appear to be easing torrents out of the picture?
September was slow. I had little work, lots of sleep at unnatural times, and little motivation to write.
I’m back, baby.
I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or cause, but at the same time jobs are falling out of the sky. I nearly pulled an all-nighter Tuesday night to get my work done.
It started with computer-consulting work for a new client, converting his (very) small office from Windows XP to Macs. That’s technically not work I’ve ever done before, but I carried it out smoothly, only losing iTunes playlists and the attachments from the curs-ed Outlook to Mail.
That’s a huge pain, that Outlook. In order to overcome Microsoft’s proprietary e-mail-storage format, you have to first use Thunderbird in Windows to import te Outlook mailboxes, then export, transfer those exported files to the Mac, and import in Mail. Wheee.
My client loved his Mac so much after one day with it that he bought another for his wife.
A second job I caught involves research for a publisher. This publisher, as publisher s are wont to do, published a self-help book along with a marketing brochure. The book is fine, but the consumer affairs division of a first-world country is suing the publisher because whoever write the brochure was careless with paraphrasing and accuracy. That’s fun work, trying to rationalize with research the claims of the brochure.
There’s more potential work on the horizon – Web copywriting for a tech product. We’ll see if that pans out.
The best of all news is that I hung on to win my second consecutive Irrational League title. It was close, and with the benched pitching staff I had, I wasn’t going to hang on much longer. I won by half a point with a total of 57.5.
.286 batting average (1st)
188 HR (9th thanks to off years by all my sluggers)
974 RBI (2nd)
137 SB (4th)
4.12 ERA (6th)
1.30 WHIP (4th)
96 wins (1st)
74 saves (tied for 3rd)
My preseason estimates can be seen here. I topped my expected batting average but fell short by 75 home runs. On a team with Beltran, Ludwick, Berkman, and Zimmerman/Wright, Matt Kemp lead the team in home runs with 26. That says it all.
My starters’ health did not hold up, yet I finished first in wins, which surprises me. I did trade a closer (Chad Qualls) for a starter (Javy Vazquez, who nabbed 12 wins for me) early on, which is part of that. Chris Coghlan was a nice mid-season pick-up and the Matt Holiday gamble paid off handsomely.
So that’s me at this time. Happy Thanksgiving.
I’m having a comedy of events here.
Elvi spent the bulk of Father’s Day weekend out near Magog on a retreat with her lesbian choir, leaving me and the kids to fend for ourselves. I managed to get Child Two out with me for a shopping trip yesterday but spent most of the rest of the day in bed. I fell asleep around 5:30 p.m., woke at 8:00 p.m. and told the kids to eat, then went back to bed.
At 9:00 a.m. today, the kids told me they were making me food. I assumed they meant breakfast so I stayed in bed until noon when hunger drove me downstairs. I had to get my own breakfast (the last of the lasagna followed by a bowl of granola with extra coconut) because the food they were making turned out to be cheesecake (still not done) and almond meringue cookies (which are delicious even though they resemble almond meringue leather more than cookies). I should credit the kids: while the kitchen was an unholy mess this morning, they more or less cleaned up (OK, with my help).
The most worrisome aspect of my week is that my Mac has decided to start shutting down at random. It might be heat related, but that’s not a good excuse. After years of service, it’s time to move on from my souped up G4 and buy a replacement.
I checked eBay; used G5s are reasonably priced but it doesn’t make sense right now to get anything but a machine with an Intel processor – and those are no bargain on eBay, used or not.
I currently have a 21″ or 22″ CRT monitor that’s just fine.
I’ve looked at the options and here they are. I like the price of the Mini but I’m a little worried about the lower grade video, which is in everything but the Mac Pro. Flight sims and WWII Online are the most taxing thing I’ll use, along with the next Combat Mission release. I don’t know a whole lot about video cards, though….
Prices are in Canadian dollars after my educational discount and all orders come with a free iPod Touch (yum!):
1) MacBook Pro 15″ laptop: 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 250GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm; NVIDIA GeForce 9400M; $1900
2) MacMini: 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 320GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm; NVIDIA GeForce 9400M; $1185
3) iMac 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 640GB Serial ATA Drive @ ? rpm; NVIDIA GeForce 9400M; 24″ LCD monitor; $1700
4) Mac Pro 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon; 3GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 640GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA @ 3Gb/s; ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB; $2950 (or drop to a NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB for $225 less)
What I really need is the Mac Mini with the video card of the Mac Pro, but that’s not an option. Apple should provide a Mini Pro, but I’m guessing the company likes the profit on the Mac Pros.
Happy Father’s Day, all.
I’m writing this in Firefox as a test of the Zemanta plug-in I installed a few days ago. Zemanta takes your plain old blog post and recommends images, links, and tags/labels for inclusion in the post.
It took me a minute to figure out how to it works. It loads straightforwardly and it looks simple enough to operate, but the recommendations weren’t changing. I finally realized that you have to click the Update link to get the plug-in to reassess its advice. Maybe there’s a timer involved, but I’m too impatient to recognize that if it’s there. Oh, wait – there it goes. Yeah, there’s a timer.
You can choose to apply all recommended links, or any subset of them by clicking once per recommendation. I did that for “timer” at the end of the last paragraph. When you add a link with the Zemanta interface, the plug-in also appends the code to make that button at the bottom of this post.
That’s easily deleted if you don’t want it. I don’t use tags, and if I want a link, I usually already have it in mind, so for me the test of Zemanta’s utility is the image recommendations, and this post isn’t a good test for that. I’ll watch it for a week or two and report back.
NASA has installed a water recycling system in the International Space Station. In testing now, it will recycle all waste water, including and especially the astronauts’ sweat and urine. It’s the Stillsuit Mk I. (Hmmm, no Zemanta recommendations for “stillsuit”.)
I found some footage of early testing of ground-based prototypes on YouTube. Take a look.