Friday, July 31, 2009

Early adopters get screwed, Part Three

Two words: cell phones.

That is all,


Early adopters get screwed, Part Two

Early adopters get screwed. Still not convinced? I'll bet you are, but let me elaborate more, this time using the mp3 as an example.

What is an mp3? An ultra-compressed audio file. Actually, I don't think compressed is the right term--it's reduced (sound thrown away) and compressed (bytes shrunken through magic). I don't know if anything lossy could be properly referred to as just "compressed."

My first real experience with an mp3 must have been in 1997, because I remember the first mp3 I ever downloaded. It was Sheryl Crow's theme for the movie "Tomorrow Never Dies," downloaded from some site giving it away free as a promotion. Note, I wasn't big into Sheryl Crow or anything, I just clicked the first link I saw so I could see for myself what an mp3 was.

Previous to this, if I wanted to find a song online, it would most likely be in Real Audio format. Real Audio was the "canned sound" of the early digital age. It sounded good for the file size, but not good overall. It was the best option when the majority of people online were on dialup, though.

I had seen mp3s mentioned many times before downloading this file, but I skipped over it just as I skipped over midi's, a file type also more prevalent back then. Finally I did a real investigation of mp3s, found out what it was, what it claimed to do, and downloaded that song. It sounded really good for 5 MB. I started collecting mp3s. I still have that first mp3, by the way.

Now, for a kid in a small town, I didn't have any money or any real source of CDs. I resorted to piracy. This was over a decade ago mind you, the climate was a lot different. We knew it was ilegal but it wasn't like you could be put in jail for it. Today we have bittorrent sites. A few years ago peer-ro-peer file sharing was king. In 1997, if you wanted an mp3, you had to wade through dozens of crappy FTP sites.

FTP--file transfer protocol, was a device invented by the devil himself (probably) to make the internet less fun. I'm not going to go into ratios, or the obligatory banner-clicks in order to get passwords. No, I'll just say that you had to spend hours to find one song, forget about entire albums, and then you had to spend hours downloading it.

I'm going to digress for a moment, to a time a year or two before I discovered mp3. Our family bought a new computer, with a one-point-something GB hard drive. My dad told my older brother and I we could each have 250 MB for games and files. I asked "What if we need more than 250 MB?" My dad and brother, they laughed at me. What could possibly use up 250 MB, my dad asked. "I don't know, a game." That would have to be some game, he said. See any games sold today smaller than 256 MB? Maybe on the Wii.

So back to my FTP days, imagine my shock when Napster came out, and I was the last to know about it. It would have been my senior year in high scchool, probably fall of 1999. I felt cheated. I'd been going on mini scavenger hunts for music, and now all these late-adopters barely had to type in the name and they could download much more than I ever found.

Now we have Bittorent. And the next big system will hopefully have bittorrent's resource-utilizing capabilities matched with inpenetrable (from outside) security.

Now I'll switch gears to ripping CDs. Ripping CDs to mp3 used to take hours. My newest PC can rip and encode a CD in 5 minutes. It's sickening.

Shameless bragging--I'm the first person I know who had all his CDs in mp3 form. This was before mp3 players (I think). After CD burners, but before I could talk my parents into getting one. I used to make mixed cassette tapes with mp3s. I'd play the mp3s in Winamp, plug my brother's radio broadcaster (for playing your cd player over your car's radio) into the PC's speaker-out port, tune into that station on my dad's boom box, and record to a blank cassette tape. Seriously.

Eventually I bought an external hard drive. I don't remember how small it was. I can't even remember what it looked like. I actually had to re-encode all my mp3s from 256kbps to 192kbps because I was running out of room. On average, doing this to 3 albums made room for 1 more on the hard drive. Look at your 1 TB hard drive and think about that.

My first digital music player wasn't an mp3 player, it was a minidisc player. It was actually pretty cool. It looked cool, it got attention, and the damned thing still works, sort of (won't record anymore, put plays all my old discs). I'm not even going to go into minidiscs, or anything else, for that matter.

One thing to be thankful about is that my first choice for codec, mp3, is still the most widely used today. I looked at ogg vorbis, I did blind tests, and I did find it to be superior to mp3 at lower bit rates. The difference wasn't good enough to convert all my old files, and even today it's hard to find mp3 players that support it.

That aside, I think I've made my point, for now.


Early adopters get screwed, Part One

I posted on twitter two days ago that I've never used, or even owned, a dual-layer dvdr disc. This is on my mind because I'm going to have to start using them in the near future, expanding my DVD authoring skills.

As I explained, I've never needed a DL DVDr. I've always bought the biggest USB drives I could find, and I use a media center PC to play movies, not a DVD player. This means I've never needed to burn 8GB on a disc, I could just throw it on a thumb drive, and I could play videos off the thumb drive on my television just fine.

However, looking at these thumb drives, I'm reminded of a rule of thumb, especially in regards to technology: Early adopters get screwed.

Take thumb drives. I paid maybe $20 for a 256 MB drive in the early 2000s. $90 for a 4GB, $60 for a 8GB, $90 for a 16GB, and last $90 for a 32GB. My next purchase will also be a $90 32GB, but it will be eSATA compatible. Tested at about 60 MB/s. That's fast. I also bought most of those on sale, and the transfer rate is in the gutter.

Also look at hard drives. 2 terabytes, that's 2,000 GB, for $220, external USB/eSATA. I could find it cheaper than that without the eSATA, or just buy an internal and put it in an enclosure. 1 TB 3,5" drives came out in early 2007, at $500. Not you can get them for under a hundred. 2TB 3.5" drives just came out in January of this year (2009). WD just announced the first 2.5" (laptop-sized) drive, 1TB. It was announced three days ago and is expected to sell for $250.

Now think of the first laptops, that cost more than the most expensive laptops today, before anyone believed a GB herd drive would be possible or necessary. See, early adopters get screwed. More on this later,


PS - Don't even get me started on minidiscs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Early adopters get screwed, EXCEPTIONS

Of course I've been using hyperbole. Early adopters pay more at first, and get less convenient technology for that money, but they also reap the benefits of the most recent develpments. Hell, they're partly responsible for the increase of technology.

There are no absolutes. Sometimes early adopters come out ahead. For instance, web domains. If you looked ahead and snagged, or, etc, you probably made some nice cash on the re-sales.

Certain cars are worth more now than they were originally, but not many. A lot of old vinyl records could probably be sold for more than was originally paid for them, as could be said about anything nostalgiac.

And phone numbers. Try getting a phone number that spells anything nowadays. I just tried, with my Google Voice account. No luck. So if you've got a good one, congratulations.

Of course, the last people on the bandwagon, the people who sneered at the idea of the personal computer originally, can now afford with one week's pay a laptop hundreds of times more powerful than those bulky first PCs.

There are some exceptions, but they're few and far between. Then again, the benefit of early adoption is inherent. The commands, "cut," and "paste"? Those terms used to refer to physical actions. When there were no word processors, you'd type on a typewriter, then white-out, cut, paste, and re-copy your documents. The first computers may have taken multiple floppy disks to hold one document, but they were way better than the alternative. Early adopters only seem to be getting screwed when looking back from the convenience of the present, never when contrasted against the only other options at the time. This is the way technology works, and it's the way it always will be.



There may be an infinite amount of time, but there's a finite amount of patience. I'm pretty good about diving into graphics work for hours at a time, 12+(in one sitting) at my longest. The less time I have however, the harder it is to actually sit down and work on just one thing. I don't think I've gone to bed once this week without getting up shortly after to work, either because I've gotten another idea, or because I just can't sleep.

At least I'm making good, if not punctual, progress.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nerd alert!

The power of sudo

So when I'm not working, or playing with my blog, I've been puttering around with Arch Linux on my eeePC 901. It's something to do while I'm waiting for my work computer to finish rendering out whatever it's working on. Well, I've been deluding myself into thinking I could run as root all the time.

Sure, every time I open Thunar (I'm in xfce), or try to compile something, I'm warned I shouldn't be in root. However, this is a non-essential computer. I'm planning on imaging the drive once I get everything set up so I can replace it down the line if I feel like it, or in case I really do screw something up. I have XP on another drive, I can always use that in an emergency. I must say, not having to type "sudo" every other line was a breath of fresh air. Working in root was in it's own odd way like being on vacation. I'm root. I can do whatever the fuck I want.

However, VLC doesn't run in root. That's right. Why I don't know, but it was the slap in the face I needed. I need VLC, most of my videos are in uncompressed DVD iso format, which VLC is the best at playing. Within 30 minutes I had my proper user set up, everything re-configured, and yes, I now consistently forget to use sudo. Ah, the pains of responsibility.

It's running well now. I ditched Dropbox in favor of SpiderOak, as SpiderOak installed and was set up the fastest. DropBox is cool, but the reason I went to it in the first place was for cross-platform compatibility. It runs fine, but to get around nautilus (which xfce doesn't use) I would have had to become a third level voodoo priest. SpiderOak ran right out of the box, er, the AUR. I found out Puppy Linux, in itself a pretty fine distro, is also the best recovery disk you could ever want. Even supports ntfs with no tweaking.

I also found out my 901 will never, ever boot up as fast as my 701 did. 5 seconds just to get to the bios screen. Tell me about it. 33 seconds to xfce desktop, I think I can get that down to 20-25. My 701 might have done 10-15. I still need to get hibernation working, but I'll have to switch out my install partitions (move arch to where xp is and vice versa), and that's a task for another weekend. When I get a free weekend.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Well I'll be damned!

I did two typing tests cold, one on my eee901 (9" netbook) and one on my desktop's full keyboard. Both were at 65wpm (words per minute). On the desktop, I made 6 mistakes, on the 901 I only made 2. I haven't been typing much lately, so I'm sure if I worked at it I could get to the upper eighties, if not 100 (on either). My touch-typing has been obliterated by switching between two very different sized keyboards. I'll probably try in the future to stick to the 901 for typing. Believe it or not, it's actually more of a strain now for my hands to move around the bigger keyboard, I'm more used to the smaller 901's. My fingers have gotten lazy! Yay fingers!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

If Inkscape crashes...

Here's a quick FYI, if Inkscape crashes in Windows 7 (and it's doing a lot of that, too), it saves a backup (it has every time for me, but some people say it only occasionally creates emergency backups) in this location: C:\Users\YourUserName\ . That directory, with no extension. If you haven't saved it yet, it'll save as "New Document.David

Friday, July 24, 2009

I always get it right after...

So in a recent post I said how much easier it would be, given my crappy internet connection, if I could edit Wordpress posts without going back and forth between proofreading the post as it is on the page (something I insist on doing--I always find more mistakes that way), and the editing the text in the Dashboard. Just this instant a better method occurred to me that I can follow right now. I simply keep the Edit page open in one tab, and the post open in another. No loading and re-loading, I just switch tabs to edit the text as needed.

Works for me,


Is Asus losing it?

Asus really took the world by storm with the eee PC 701. Everyone was talking about them. They piqued everyone's interest in offices and coffee shops. I have one. The netbook is something I've been desiring for a long time, long before they existed. I think the desire started back as a kid watching the cartoon "Inspector Gadget." Penny had a computer book, a portable computer mostly used to hack into any electronic device in the area. Imagine my disappointment when I asked for one some Christmas, and was told by my mom that they don't exist. Despite the fact that it was imaginary, the idea was still planted in my head of how cool it would be to have a computer--smaller than a laptop, bigger than a PDA, that I could take everywhere with me.

I bought a laptop, I think it was 13-15 inches. Bulky and heavy, not something I was ever comfortable carrying around with me all the time. I tried a PDA and an internet tablet, but those were lacking in functionality. Going through all these devices did help me to realize what I really wanted in a mobile computer, though. I wanted to write, so that meant a keyboard--a real keyboard, not buttons on each side of a screen, or a touchscreen's on-screen keyboard. A few USB ports, so I could plug in a bigger keyboard or a mouse if needed. Wifi. The larger hard drive the better. The more battery life the better. A touch screen would be optimal, but not necessary. I expected such a device to run on a mobile OS, not realizing how powerful mobile processors were becoming.

When I first saw the eee 701, I must have felt something akin to what Arthur Pendragon did when he first saw Excaliber. Yeah, I'm being dramatic, but I mean it. Regardless of the small screen, the tiny keyboard (not too tiny for me), it was my dream portable device. I worked my ass off, working lots of overtime in order to scrape together enough money for the 701. I got used to the keyboard fast--I can type 60 wpm on it, probably more, I last tested it within a few months of owning it. It really did open a new world for me. I could take it anywhere. I could write anywhere, without lugging a backpack full of files and papers around with me (my previous method), and it ran Windows XP--most any program I was currently using I could run on this, just smaller and maybe slower.

Luckily I saw the 701 after it was released, so I didn't have to wait for it, nor did I experience the letdown when it ended up costing twice as much as originally advertised. Regardless, I knew Asus were onto something. I thought they knew that, too.

Then the 901 came out. Not as pretty as the 701. I hate glossy finishes on hand held devices. Cars get away with it, because you rarely touch their glossy exteriors. A laptop should have a flat finish. It's not a big deal, just something that I think should be common practice. I also liked the 701's sharper, angular design better than the rounded look of the 901, but I knew the 901's larger screen would be worth it's 'inferior' look. Once again, I didn't have to worry about delays or prices, because I was happy enough with my 701 at the time. I knew I would buy a 901 eventually, but I wasn't in any rush.

Well, I eventually fried my 701. I tried to run it on a third-party car charger. Usually I just charged an external battery and used that to charge my 701, but one day I decided to try charging it directly. Big mistake. Smoke came out of it. I was heartbroken. Once again I worked overtime to earn enough money, this time for a 901. The 901 is great. I use it all the time. The bigger screen helps a lot, and the multi-touch pad comes in handy a lot more than I expected it to.

I love the 9" netbook form. It's the biggest I need for most daily activities. I am looking forward to see how it grows, with higher resolution screens, bigger SSDs, national wireless plans, and the eventual projection glasses that renders screen size obsolete. I look forward to the day that something nearly identical to my 901 sits in my bag, communicating wirelessly with my OLED glasses and bluetooth earphones, using who knows what for input (Fingertip sensors? Wired jeans I "type" on). For troubleshooting, you could pull it out, open it up and use it's keyboard and built-in screen. This will be a ways off though. For now it looks like the next step is the T91.

The T91 is a sleek-looking netbook/tablet from Asus. 9", even though Asus has said many times they want to move away from 9" netbooks, making 10" their smallest (way to drive away your new user base, Asus). It opens like a standard laptop, but the screen swivels around and folds down over the keyboard so it can be used solely as a tablet. One of the biggest downsides is that it's got an internal, non-removable battery, but it has a broad enough feature set for that to be overlooked. It's got a multi-touch interface, digital tv tuner, GPS reciever, and 3G wireless connectivity. Oh no wait, that's not exactly right.

The first released model of the T91 has single touch interface, and none of the other aforementioned features (tablet form factor is the same). They may be made available later. Ok, so I'll wait for the model with all the features I want, right? Wrong. You see, Asus has decided that if they don't sell enough of the first model, then they won't bother releasing the later, beefed-up models. This puts the consumer in an awkward position.

I don't want the crappy watered-down version. I want the 3G, TV tuning, GPS receiving, multi-touch powerhouse. It feels to me like if I don't buy the only currently offered T91, they'll never release the one I really want. And isn't that crappy logic on their part? Hey Asus! The fact that the current T91 may not sell very well has less to do with how many people want it, and more to do with the fact that you've been boasting a much better version of it, only to refuse to sell it at the last minute. While still saying you might eventually decide to sell it. This device is already much more expensive than the average netbook. If I'm going to pay a lot more, I'm going to want the really premium model, right?

I know it's expensive to release a new product, much less 3, because there were/are 3 models of the T91 planned. And it's even more risky the more time passes, because technology is improving so quickly now that almost as soon as you buy a device it becomes obsolete (8 months, give or take, between the 701 and 901's release in the US, for example). Asus is causing it's users to feel more and more jerked around. They said they would never release a touch screen device (probably due to XP's eventually recanted restriction). Then they said they would release one with all these cool features. Now they release it with significantly less features.

Luckily I'm not in the market for a new netbook just yet, although if the top-line T91 were released I probably would have made an exception. Asus has some time to win me and many other fans back. They could start by just being dependable. They've had problems in the past with advertising one thing far in advance only to deliver something else, differences ranging from the overall price range of a line to the battery capacity of a particular model. This has happened since the beginning of the eeePC line, which is as long as they've been on my radar. I know a lot of companies do this, believe me I know, but Asus was "my" brand (I even built my last desktop using Asus components), so I'm more sensitive to it from them.

They could keep updating their current lines. How about an update to the 901, same price or slightly more expensive, with updated components? It's been 14 months since the 901's release in the US, almost twice as long than the time between the 701 and 901. SSDs have gotten faster and cheaper, better mobile processors have probably come out, as well as higher capacity batteries, etc. I've heard rumors about an OLED netbook, circulating around both you and Apple. That would be awesome, as my third most frequent use of my 901, after writing and web surfing, is watching videos.

Asus literally helped me realize a long-held dream--a fully functional PC I could carry around with me, and one I could easily afford. It pains me to see their prices go up as they simultaneously seem to lose touch with their eeePC user base. More and more other companies are releasing competing netbooks. I want to stick with Asus, but I won't if they keep giving me reasons not to.


PS - I do go on, don't I?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Google Voice First Impressions

This has probably been done better in other places, but here's my experience with Google Voice, after playing with it for a few hours.

Google Voice, in case you don't know, is a somewhat-new phone service (previously known as Grand Central). Basically, they give you a number with which all your other phones (mobile, landline, work, etc) can be reached. You give everybody this number--friends, family, work associates, etc. Then you can set preferences (which of your phones will ring) specific to individual contacts and groups of contacts. Your family and friends can ring all your numbers, where as a business associate might only ring your work phone, for example.

I only have one number, so forwarding isn't that big of a deal for me. What I think is cool are the voice mail settings. Nothing new, but it's Google and it's free. They transcribe your voice mail and can text and/or email you with it. You can manage all your voice mail online, as you currently manage your email. You can record custom outgoing messages for each contact.

You can block numbers (gives an "out of service" recording), you can mark a message as spam. You can, I think, set up a white list, so only your known contacts' calls get through. Best of all, you can listen to a voice mail as people are leaving it and decide whether or not to "pick up" the call and talk to them.

When someone calls my Google Voice number, the call is forwarded through I don't know where, but it still shows up as you'd want it to: Their picture shows up, recognized by the caller id. The easiest way to make an outbound call through your Google Voice number seems to be to keep your phone's browser open to your Google contacts page. Just select a contact and click on "call." Google calls you, you answer, opening the line, then Google calls them. A conference call, sort of. The other way to do it is to call your Google Voice number (also how you check your voice mail), put in your pin, dial 2, then dial the number you want to connect to. This requires you to know the number, so I guess you'll be juggling your contacts screen and keypad (if you have a touchscreen keypad like me).

I was very curious how SMS messages would be handled. It's not as seamless as calling. You get a text from a strange number, and your contact's name precedes the message in the actual body of the text. You can directly reply to this text and it reaches the original sender. I only tried with two different people and only over a few hours, but each text from my sister came through on one number (always the same one), and texts from my friend came from another number (also always the same number). Pretty decent, and my phone keeps all my old texts so I can send new messages to those numbers quite easily. Hopefully if I text this number in a week I'll still reach the same original person. If not I can just sent the text, once again, from my phone's browser to set the ball rolling and reply via actual texting once I get a reply. Data plans--worth their weight in bits, thank you very much.

Now the question on everyone's lips: how's the voice mail transcription? Passable at best. Better if you're reading it online, because the text is different colors based (I'm assuming) on the assumed accuracy of the transcription. Black text is always right, grey text is iffy. If you get this transcript texted to your phone you don't get these colored hints, so you can't really be sure about it's accuracy unless you look online in a browser. All the messages I got were from friends.

Two things I dislike. One, call recording must be manually turned on for each call. The service audibly says "Recording call" or something similar when engaged. Not a big deal, but I was hoping to be able to set up all my calls to be recorded automatically, and I also don't want to have to keep explaining why the calls are being recorded. It's not for legal purposes, it just that I'm neurotic and like to go back and double check what time I was supposed to be somewhere, or what a certain address was, stuff like that. I live in Kansas, which is a one party state--as long as one of us (me) knows the call is being recorded, it's legal. I know it isn't legal in all states, so Google probably doesn't want to be liable for any laws being broken.

Another thing I dislike is something that Grand Central did but Google Voice doesn't. With Grand Central you could choose your own ring--the sounds people would hear when calling you before you picked up. Not essential but still kind of cool. However, it can get annoying when people choose awful music that's distorted or obnoxious. Once again, they can't have people using unlicensed music, so perhaps they felt like that would be a liability as well.

That covers my experiences so far. I'll probably post an update in a few weeks to say how it's all going.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wave goodbye to productivity!

For the rest of the day at least. I finally got an invite to Google Voice. I'm waiting for my friend to get off work so I can test some of the features. Most anxious to test the voicemail transcription and SMS sending/receiving. Wonder if there will ever be a Google phone a la Skype phones, where you have a dedicated mobile just for your Google number.

First impressions--it's cool. I signed up for an invite, then wondered if I'd ever use it. looking at all the features though, this service is worth the trouble for the collation of all your phone data on your pc.

However, I can only access Google Voice's mobile site, unlike Google Search it won't let me choose or go back to classic. I have a smart phone, I can use Google Email on my phone, the non mobile version (I just confirmed). Oh, never mind, looks like I can only choose from the basic html version or the mobile version, not the "full version." Hopefully there will be a Voice app for WinMo in the near future.

Will get back when I've tested it more,


Thoughts on Google Wave and Wordpress

Wow, I sure am talking about Google a lot lately. I guess everyone is. Anyway, I've been reading a little more about Google Wave, and something just occurred to me. Wave is designed so you can embed it into your website, making your comment section itself a Wave.

That considered, what if Google gave you the option to slap your own domain on a wave, add robust theme support, and made a Wave publicly available to read (with one or more admins who could edit)? Then you'd have a pretty cool blogging engine. I'm on Wordpress right now, and I like it a lot. However, my internet connection at home is SLOW. Navigating the Dashboard just to post is fine, but after typing a post I go through a process of proofreading it (2nd time), editing it again, publishing it again, proofreading it AGAIN, and then if there are no problems I'm done. Hitting Edit and waiting for the Dashboard to load, then waiting for the post to re-load can get pretty time consuming. This added to the amount I spend anyway obsessing over any particular post means blogging can eat up a lot of my time. How much cooler would it be to be able to change the text on the same page I'm viewing it on? Meaning, this actual text you're reading right now. If I've just posted, then my site knows who I am, why should I have to keep returning to the Dashboard to edit?

Well, one reason would be, what if I leave my site open and I accidentally hit some keys, editing the post? There's a lot of different ways that could happen. What if, instead, the edit button on my site activates 'edit mode,' but doesn't take me to the Dashboard? Instead, I edit it there, as it appears, and save it, closing the mode. Ideally Wordpress should also save revisions in case something does accidentally happen. When an admin is previewing his or her site, the post could have two options side-by-side: Edit (on screen), or EiD (edit in Dashboard). Sound good to me.

Too bad I don't have the time, money or skills to make this happen.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Sick of it!

This stupid external hard drive keeps disconnecting on me and I'm sick of it! I have shit to do, and I'm stuck waiting for the last application of super glue to dry, so I can tape the SSD up and start copying my files over. Why God, why??? WHY MEEEEEEEE!!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!???!??!???


Why it's generally a good idea to stay in bed all day

Here I sit at my computer, barely up for the day, and I've already corrupted some important files and gotten super glue in the Micro USB port of a solid state drive (SSD).

I'm only up for a short bit anyway. I went to bed late, I woke up with an idea, and I'll probably go back to bed in a few hours, after this is done. Yeah, I'm weird like that.

I don't know if it's my Targus USB dock or a fluke in the WD Passport, the drive keeps disconnecting randomly. It also seems to disconnect any time I plug or unplug other items into the USB dock. This is what corrupted a bunch of my files, luckily it's for work so I keep everything backed up. I'd plug the Passport drive directly into my case's front USB port, but my mobo doesn't seem to supply enough power for it, thus the reason for the USB dock in the first place. I only need 8-12 GB for this project, so I decided I'd do a full scan of my 32GB Corsair Flash Voyager USB stick, which has been giving me problems lately. Well, tests show that the Corsair is full of physical errors, and probably too old to get a new one under warranty--not that it would make a difference, I need something NOW. I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up, remembering the 16GB Runcore SSD I bought for my eee901, which I later replaced with a 32GB one. It has a micro USB port on it, so I can use it as an external storage device. It's also lightning fast. The main problem is the flimsiness of the micro USB port. I used the 32GB one externally for a while, and the port eventually became loose, the solder coming off at the one of the connections. I decided I'd use this SSD, but first I'd reinforce the port and it's solder points with some super glue. I've done this before with USB stick drives that bent back and forth a little too much for my tastes, and it works great. This is what made me get up--I decided to glue it right away so it'd be dry and ready for wrapping with electrical tape later this afternoon.

Unfortunately, I neglected to remember the way Micro USB ports work. There is a hole on either side of the port that glue got into, which if I let dry would keep the cord from entering the socket at all. I got out a needle and a utility knife and slowly worked most of the glue out before it could dry. The cord still fits into the socket, no harm done, and I'll be more careful during future applications. It did occur to me that I could just glue the cord into the socket. I won't do it due to the law of unintended consequences. Who knows, as the glue dries it could warp the socket, breaking it off the board or something. No, better to continue applying thin layers (the needle helps with that too) until I have a nice solid shell around the delicates.

One more coat and I'll probably be ready to hit the sack again.

Till then,


Friday, July 10, 2009

More thoughts on Google Voice, and phone numbers in general.

It's been brought to my attention that Skype offers a lot of features similar to Google Voice's. Skype also allows Skype-to-Skype sending of files, even from a mobile phone. That's cool. The problem is, if I go with either Google or Skype, I get one number I'm supposed to have all of my current contacts use. What if I want to switch services? Do I have to start over with a completely new number?

We're almost past needing area codes, aren't we? I know a lot of people that keep their old cell numbers even after moving to a new state (as I'm sure I will) because it's easier that way. Maybe everybody should be assigned one permanent number, and we get to choose how and where it's used. I can see problems with that, privacy and all, people you want to get away from always knowing your number. Then again, Google Voice will probably eventually have blockers for telemarketing and other undesired calls, if it doesn't already. You could still have alternate numbers, you could still keep your number private, and you could always use a incoming whitelist or blacklist, whatever you prefer. No, wait, the idea of one permanent number is stupid.

Here's a real bright idea: phone numbers should be more like web domains. I own a domain now, (duh), which I registered. I 'own' it until I let it lapse, at which point it's available for anyone else to register. I can set up any email accounts I want through this domain, provided my host allows it. I can change hosts a hundred times, but I'll still own this domain. That URL is perpetually how you'd locate this information, and that email address should always go straight to me.

The identifier (URL) is separate from the service provider (web host). That is how phone numbers should be. I realize that by law you are now given the option to keep the same phone number if you change cell phone companies, but that's not quite the same thing. There should be a registry that we go to in order to apply for phone numbers. Once approved, we then 'own' the applied for numbers until we let them lapse. When we sign up for phone service, they would use the number (or one of the numbers) we have already registered. Or they could register a number for us, as some hosts do with domains.

It's simple, and it's flexible. The only problem I see is that it would probably cost money, as registering domains does. It probably already does cost, but the phone companies handle it. People would start being directly confronted with these costs, so they'd think it's a step back. They'd complain, regardless of how much easier it makes their lives. Or my life, at least.

Oh well, people always need new things to complain about.

And another thing

Thinking about Google Voice, I wish I knew someone in the loop that got invites and could give me invites. Had to wait for Gmail to become public, I'll never get a membership to the country club, and the local union won't give me journeyman status. Life is one big party that I'm not invited to.


The second coming...of phone freedom

I remember hearing a while ago about this cool new service called Grand Central, that gave you a lot more control over your phone, be it cell phone or land line. Basically they gave you a number, which they forwarded calls from to your actual number. Coolest feature I was aware of? You could listen to messages as people were leaving them, and choose whether or not to "pick up" and talk to them.

I finally switched to Sprint last year, and thought it would be a good time to give Grand Central a try. Alas, Grand Central wasn't accepting any new customers--it was bought out by Google, and they were only maintaining current customers. Well, it's almost back. I just read reports from a few people who got invites to Google Voice, the service that once was Grand Central. I just gave Google my name and email (here) so that when it becomes available, they'll let me know.

According to their site, Google Voice boasts call recording, management of multiple phones, voice mail to text so you can read voice messages, and of course it also enables you to listen to voice mails as people are leaving them. Their web site says it should be open to the public in a few weeks. I'm very excited.



Don't think I haven't noticed there haven't been any sleep updates lately. I know you all are dying to hear all about it. Well, here's the thing...

Notice how I was posting 1-3 times a day for a while, and now I'm lucky if I get 1 thrown up every few days? I've been busy with work. Really busy. I've been staying up working until I couldn't stay awake anymore. My bedtime has been pushed back, from 10pm to 12am to 2am to 4am to 6am, etc, DAILY. I'm still awake right now from the night before, at 10am. I probably won't be going to bed until this evening, in a weak attempt to get on a somewhat normal schedule.

I evaluated my reasons for wanting to get up at regular times, and right now it's much more important that I finish my work than it is to be consistent. It's odd, but I still only sleep 7-8 hours at a time, I'm well rested, refreshed, ready for more work when I get up. I actually think this is how my body is wired--my sleep schedule usually creeps forward like this when I don't have to get up at a certain time each day. I'm fine, it's the world that's messed up.

Back to work...


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oh, and

A lot of recent games detect your computer's hardware in order to determine the highest video quality your pc can handle. Before I fixed my drivers, Fallout 3 kept crashing when auto detecting my hardware, or it would leave the fields blank and refuse to run. Once it was fixed, it auto detected my hardware. Then it said:

Your video settings have been set for Ultra High Quality

Which means, my pc can beat up your pc. Or at least it can handle whatever Fallout 3 dishes out. It's nice to be told, especially nice when I consider how little I spent building this system. It also runs Prototype beautifully.

Just felt like bragging,


Windows 7 problems...

Anyone regularly reading my posts on twitter (still not comfortable with 'tweets' instead of 'posts' for some reason) might have noticed two odd ones back to back:

I take back every nice thing I said about Windows 7. My ATI drivers won't install, so I can't play Fallout 3. Dealbreaker, back to XP.

And later:

I take back everything bad I said about Windows 7. Got Fallout 3 working after all, a driver issue, which I suspected, VERY hard to fix.

I've been busy playing Fallout 3, and also trying to squeeze some work into the empty spaces, so that's why I haven't posted in a few days. Short story long, I broke down and put the Windows 7 RC on my primary desktop with the hopes it would solve random hangs and restarts it's been having with XP. Under Windows 7, I couldn't get Prototype or Fallout 3 to work, even with all the drivers installed.

Well, on 7 I kept getting errors on startup about certain (ATI) files not being compatible with my current version of Windows. I also couldn't access the 3d settings on my ATI control panel. I narrowed it down to either .Net 2.0 framework or my ATI drivers (duh). I ultimately decided .Net framework 2.0 was working properly, it just wasn't showing up as installed. Moving on to my ATI drivers, it took several uninstalls and runs of Driver Sweeper to get rid of whatever files were causing the problems. I didn't seem to be making any ground. I gave up, posted on twitter that I was going back to XP, rebooted my computer, and tried the ATI drivers one last time. The XP cd is still in my CD drive, (I used nLite to slipstream my mobo's SATA drivers). To my surprise I got no errors on startup, the 3D section of the ATI control panel worked, and lo and behold, so did Prototype and Fallout 3.

The Prototype problem I was having, btw, was the black or grey box in the upper-left hand corner of the screen, and then a message would come up: "Prototype has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience." If you're having that problem, you might try to clean out and re-install your graphics drivers.

Oh, one final note, the first ATI installation was stopped by a blue screen of death (in Windows 7), prompting me to inspect my graphics cards. I'm running 2 ATI Radeon HD 4830's in CrossfireX mode. I swapped the card's PCI positions and seated the Crossfire bridge on the second available tab instead of the first. I haven't had freezes or BSODs since. (Well, I had two freezes when playing Fallout 3, but only two crashes over the course of playing that whole game is really good, judging by what I've read online). Something probably just needed to be re-seated. After the BSOD I re-ran the ATI driver installation and had no errors shown, but the Fallout 3 install said the .Net 2.0 installation couldn't be completed, thus my distraction. I'm assuming the BSOD corrupted a driver file, the following installations ignored the fact that it couldn't overwrite said file, and once it was fully removed a fine time was had by all (me).

All in all, Windows 7 gets my seal of approval regarding gaming. I was worried there'd be some odd problems, this being a new OS and all, but the fact that 7 is built on Vista, so Vista drivers work on it helps a lot I'm sure. Vista drivers also work on XP SP3, but it's kind of a pain in the ass.


Thursday, July 2, 2009


It looks like my recent purchase of Fallout 3 might have been a little bit hasty. This October, there's supposed to be a Game of the Year (GATY) edition that will include the full game as well as all 5 of it's expansion packs, set at $60 for consoles, $50 for PCs. Then again, I just paid $25 for a $50 game, and if there isn't any option to just upgrade to the new "expanded" version for less through Steam, I can just buy it for $50, the price of all 5 expansion packs today, and still have saved $25, right?

Maintaining me as the victor! YAY!


I love Steam...

Steam the service, not steam the water vapor. But it does have it's drawbacks. For instance, I broke down and bought Fallout 3. I own Fallout 3. However, I won't have Fallout 3 for another few days, until it's downloaded. Not Steam's fault, it's my crappy ISP, but still...

If you're using Windows 7...

This might be the first thing you want to do. Windows 7 automatically grants itself the option to restart itself without your confirmation after installing updates. It puts a little notification up over the status icons, but if you're like me you'll think it's asking to restart. I closed it, figuring I didn't tell it to restart, so it wouldn't. Nope, it was just telling me it would restart in 10 minutes, and since I didn't pay enough attention and choose to delay that, I lost a lot of changes I was making to an image for work. (Re: the link--I used the option to edit group policy from that page)

I don't know anything about the website I linked to, I'm not endorsing it at all, it's just the first result in Google and it had the fix I was looking for.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Speaking of screen doors

Thinking about my previous post, and Beloit, Kansas's courthouse having a screen door (which isn't a big deal by the way, just unexpected), I was reminded of my brother's future plans for his nursery.

They have four cats, I think, and just had a baby. To keep the cats away, but so they can still hear the baby, they are planning on putting a screen door on their nursery. That's actually a good idea, but that didn't stop me from remarking that it would be the most trailer trash nursery ever.

Phase 2 of their plan? Leaving the screen door on the child's room until he's 18. That's how Jesus would want it done.

Oh noes! I just realized that if my brother searches for "screen door" and "nursery," he'll come across my super-secret blog! I hope he doesn't see the picture on my "About" page, that'd really cement his suspicions that this blog is in fact run by...his BROTHER. (cue organ music)

Greetings from Beloit, KS

I am not in Beloit, this is something I wrote months ago, before I had a phone I could go online with (thus the obsession with wifi access). I just now stumbled across this and decided to post it for the hell of it.

Greetings from Beloit, Ks. I had to stop through on business, business meaning someone I know has paid me to drive to Beloit (they broke their leg) and I have hours to kill while they're in appointments.

I spent a little bit of time in the courthouse. Interesting fact about the Beloit courthouse--it has a screen door. Am I the only one who finds this strangely amusing? A courthouse with a screen door. I'm not sure, it may be the back door, but it's got steps and signs and stuff, it's a courthouse door.

Next order of business was to walk downtown and look for a diner-type place I could kill time. This was a spur of the moment decision and not a good one because A) I didn't think to bring my laptop with me, and B) I kinda had to go to the bathroom. I did a quick walk towards what looked like downtown, although I don't know where I am in Beloit it could be just a downtown-like area, a few blocks of independent businesses. I didn't see a restaurant or any business that really caught my fancy (that was open) and the walking really moved me deep within my bowels (wink-wink) so I went back to my car, got my netbook, then went in search of a bathroom in the courthouse. YES, I GOT MY NETBOOK TO TAKE INTO THE BATHROOM. Geez, what am I supposed to do in there? Your clothes go into the bathroom with you too, you know. Don't judge me.

A few more Beloit courthouse fun facts: The basement bathroom stalls don't have latches. Not a big deal though, because a midget could sit in one of these stalls and his feet would stick out under the front door. Very Larry Craig (JOKE OF THE DAY!!!). Also, the toilets are household-issue tank style. I pulled out my netbook (DEAL WITH IT) and checked for wifi. When I was done I looked in the toilet tank for drugs or a gun. Nope, but there was a brick. No wifi, by the way.

Earlier, I noticed a gas station half a block away from the courthouse. Done in the bathroom, I walked over there. As I walked up I noticed there were booths inside, which is what I was hoping for. Benches usually (sometimes) mean cooked food.

Yes, there was food. It was one of those weird do-it-all subs, burgers, pizza, salad places. I got a bacon cheeseburger combo. Burger, fries (buffalo seasoned, yum), and a 32 oz drink, for $5.15. The food was good, all cooked to order, and at 9am, too. The gas station's name is Ampride, and it does not have free wifi, the one downside to the whole affair.

So, the rest of my morning was spent sitting at this gas station and waiting for a call to go pick up my associate. Could be done by 11 at the earliest, in which case I'd get home by lunch time and have to go back to work : ( . My hope is that it takes until 3-4 in the afternoon, in which case my work day is practically over. Since there's no wifi, I can't post this from here, so I will know by then. ; ) .


Note: The winking were put there for my own amusement, I was planning on removing them before publication, but whatever. Also, had this article been written today, I would have taken pictures of the courthouse screen door, absolutely.

Oh, and I ended up leaving around 3-4pm. Whoo!