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January 2008

Written By: Gary on January 31, 2008 3 Comments

If you’ve ever helped anyone with a computer you’ll love this! This is can also be referred to as “The Medieval Helpdesk“.

This is in Norwegian, so you can probably turn the volume down, but it’s subtitled. I just watched this with a bunch of technology directors and we were all laughing out loud.

Written By: Gary on January 27, 2008 2 Comments

Why is Doing Taxes like Having An Orgasm…?

Because while I can do it myself, I’d much rather have someone else do it for me!

Written By: Gary on January 27, 2008 No Comment

So I was Burger King today and once in a while I’ll see one of the local homeless people in there (usually it’s when it’s really cold out), I think there’s 3 in particular that I recognize. Today, all three were in there (actually one was on the was out as one came in) which I thought was strange since I’ve been at BK a little more than usual lately and today it’s nowhere near as cold as it has been. Two are schizophrenic, not that I’m qualified to judge, and the other is kinda quiet. The one guy just seems to drink his coffee and step outside for a smoke and talks to himself, he seems to be the most well off, I’ve even seen him get a beer or two at the bar before (it’s possible this guy isn’t homeless). The quiet guy seems to have all his stuff with him (3 big bags) and he must have been there for a while, I saw someone ask him to leave after a while. The woman, I’ve seen her pull stuff out of the trash, and she asked me for my left over fries one time and I gave he those and some cash. Today I intentionally left my uneaten onion rings and my half-eaten Whopper on my tray at the table and she had grabbed it before I got out the door; I’m not sure why it’s a problem for me to just offer her a few dollars.

When I’m out of town if someone asks nice (even semi-nice) for some money, I’m easy to cough up a buck or two; and in some places, that’s every block or so. I always make sure I have some cash on me for that reason. But the local homeless, I never know how to deal with them, actually they’ve never asked for money at the Burger King but I’d be glad to give them some money, but I hate to offer and for some reason I’d hate them expect it from then on (not that it’d really be a problem).If I’m somewhere around town and someone asks for cash, I’m more likely to buy them a meal if there’s an opportunity, I’d rather spend $5-10 on a meal then hand them a few dollars cash if I can (especially if I can smell alcohol or see bloodshot eyes).

It’s when it’s the locals that I see often when it throws me. And I’m not sure why this keeps me so off balance…?

It all makes me sad and feel pretty ungrateful when I complain about stuff in the wonderful life that I have. I’ve got a nice paying job, no debt (other than my house) and I’ve been doing pretty good at saving for my retirement someday. I give money to the shelter when they are doing fund raisers and to school when they’re having auctions and other things when they are happening around town; I could do more I’m sure, but I could certainly doing less too.

Written By: Gary on January 27, 2008 No Comment

RCA gives away one song a day. Sometimes it’s new, old, from a soundtrack, rock, alternative, or instrumental. It’s different every day.

Here’s the thing: At some point in the future when some (hypothetical) legal authority searches my hard drive or MP3 player, how do I prove these songs are mine? In the past, with sampler CDs you had the CD to show ownership. With iTunes, they send you a receipt that shows you own the song even when it’s a free download. But with legitimately free MP3s on-line, how can you show that ownership someday if you need to…?

Written By: Gary on January 26, 2008 One Comment

My Apple TV has been one of my favorite technology purchases and I never expected that I’d like it that much. Actually, I’d been interested in it but it took a visit to Best Buy, after happy hour, for me to finally commit to the 40 GB version. I took it back a few days later but only because I knew I needed the 160 GB version, bigger is better after all…

Apple TV is pretty much an ‘iPod for your television’ and iPods are pretty much the standard to beat for portable media players (at least the standard for handheld audio players) so these should be selling much better. I’ve always been impressed with my Apple TV and had been surprised they hadn’t really caught on more than they have. The Apple TV interface is excellent, it’s as good as the TiVo (except it doesn’t record), you can buy videos (and music) on your computer to load it up, but that is a little inconvenient for some people. You can convert videos for it, but that’s not for the average user. I knew it was close to what people want but it wasn’t exactly there yet.

A few weeks ago at MacWorld they announced movie rentals for the Apple TV. $2.99 for old movies, $3.99 for new ones and $1 more for HD quality. Plus, you can buy music (and music videos) on-line and view/subscribe to podcasts (for free). They changed the interface, I personally think it’s a little more complicated, but since you need to be able to browse an infinite number of music and movies I can understand it (and maybe I’ll like it too). This new interface is free to original Apple TV owners and should show up in a few weeks (I keep checking).

I heard all this when they announced it and I’ve been mulling it around in my head, but I finally just watched that part of the keynote from MacWorld (on my Apple TV, of course) and now I really think this is getting even closer to being the media box for your TV.

  • If I can start watching a movie in about 30 seconds, why am I going to rent something from the store? (there is a 30 day wait after a DVD release)
  • Why am I going to subscribe to Netflix? (all the movie extras and plus for TV shows you I get multiple episodes on one DVD)
  • If I can purchase a song the instant I need it, why am I going to run out and buy the album? (at least I think I can purchase a song, I saw Steve purchase a music video).One of the biggest shortcomings of this (and all digital video rental systems out there) is that you only have 24 hours from start to finish. It’s just not long enough, if I start it at 8 tonight, I need the ability to finish it tomorrow at 8 or 9 in the evening. Because of that, I think 30 hours is the minimum I need to seriously consider this as a way to watch movies (at least for me). As you increase the time to 36, 48 or even 72 hours it makes this a much better option, especially for the impulse buy. I know “they” don’t want bunches of other people to borrow it and view it so they longer the time, the higher the chance of this. Maybe they can do something to cripple it, maybe after 24 hours any viewed portion is not viewable any more, that’s slightly complicated but it makes it a little more fair and might make the movie companies a little happier, IMHO…

    But TiVo has had these features for a while now: music and photo streaming from your computer for years now, podcasts (very limited menu selection) for a few years too and recently they’ve added movie / TV rentals from Amazon Unbox (but you wait hours for it to download). I wonder if there are more TiVos than Apple TVs out there??

    I’m confused about a few things:

  • Can you buy a movie from the Apple TV interface?
  • Can you push HD movie rentals down to your computer or iPod? (I don’t think they said that specifically for HD).

    Things I’m not confused about, but I’m wondering:

  • How long until I can access media from my Time Capsule?
  • How long until I can rent TV shows?
  • How long until I subscribe to TV shows at a reasonable rate?
  • How long until I can dump my cable package?
  • How long until the cable internet and DSL providers complain about the bandwidth that is being used up? FYI, where the Apple TV requirements list a “broadband connection” it also says “(fees may apply)”.
  • Is the hardware in the new Apple TV exactly the same? I know the software is going to be the same, but I don’t think they said it was exactly the same either.
  • How long until the 30 day wait before renting (after new releases) is removed and I can rent as soon as it’s out? (they don’t have a delay before music purchases).

    Complaints about the Apple TV:

  • I need a video playlist option. I want to have a way to link these video podcasts and music videos into my own personal non-stop “channel”.
  • I need a way to find this tiny remote when I misplace it. It’s so small and light.
  • It needs a regular video-out and S-video out for people who don’t yet have TVs with component video or HDMI.
  • They still don’t have a use for the included USB port.
  • I think I’m gonna need a bigger hard drive!

    Also, they announced a price drop of $70 for the Apple TV.

  • Written By: Gary on January 26, 2008 No Comment

    My remote start has been broken on my car for ages (12-18 months) I finally went in today to get it replaced at Circuit City, it was going to be close to $300. They just called me and they were able to fix it!!! I’m pretty sure that there is no charge for that, so I just saved a few hundred dollars! I have no idea why I procrastinated this long, I could have had it working for ages now…

    I have to say it’s really nice to have the remote start in the winter, but it’s just as nice in the summer to have it start cooling the car (especially when I’m wearing a tie or a suit). Mine didn’t really have much of a range but it was enough to start it from inside at work and that’s when it’s outside the longest so that’s when I need it the most.

    Let’s hope it really works as well as the guy said, he said to give them about a 1/2 hour to put it back together (I’m at the Border’s across the street) so I’ll find out soon.

    Later: It works great!!! They didn’t charge me anything! It was a fused fuse in a spot that wasn’t user-replacable…

    Written By: Gary on January 26, 2008 No Comment

    This is so cool! An orchestra composed of fresh vegetables for instruments!! They show the shopping, the making and the playing…


    I found this over at Mrs. Who’s blog.

    Written By: Gary on January 23, 2008 One Comment

    So the second season of Torchwood has started up. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s a semi-secret organization with the job of finding (and removing) aliens and acquiring their technology to better protect Earth.

    “Torchwood: outside the government, beyond the police. Tracking down alien life on Earth, arming the human race against the future. The twenty-first century is when everything changes. And you gotta be ready. ”

    It’s actually a spin-off of the new Doctor Who series (2005), but it generally doesn’t have much to do with the Doctor, although the title does, here’s your anagram trivia for the day: Torchwood is actually Doctor Who rearranged.

    Back to Torchwood, the first season was not your normal Sci-Fi show, lots of sexual innuendo, lots of sex implied. I think all of the main characters hooked up with one of the other team members, an alien, someone of the same sex (or all three) at some point in season one (the show was created by Russell T. Davies who created Queer As Folk). Wait, I did say it was SciFi didn’t I? There are generally aliens, generally doing bad “take over the world” kinds of things and they usually stop them generally (but not always) saving lives in the process. When I first watched the show I didn’t realize it was a Doctor Who spin-off, I actually thought it was some kind of supernatural British cop show, but this was better…This season season I’ve read they’ve pushed it even more and I must say from the first two episodes it seems like it so far. Episode one of the second season there was more kissing than I’ve ever seen on a SciFi show in my life (maybe all sci-fi shows combined). Episode two is definitely a little edgier and a bit more intense (and violent) than last season, I really had no idea where this episode was going the first fifteen minutes of the show (had I paid attention to the episode title). I can’t wait to see where the rest of the season goes…

    It’s on BBC America on Saturdays at 9 PM and on BBC Two on Wednesdays at 9 PM (GMT).

    Written By: Gary on January 21, 2008 One Comment

    So I’ve mentioned this movie a few times before, mostly back in the summer of 2007 when I saw the unnamed 1-18-08 preview. I think I was pretty accurate in my original description when I originally referred to it as “Godzilla meets the Blair Witch Project“, that’s exactly what it was (except the creature wasn’t Godzilla). Lots of action, really awesome special effects. The jiggly camera action bothered some people, I was okay with it but I certainly understand why it’d be annoying…

    Cloverfield Matt ReevesThe plot needed a faster start at the beginning, they spent forever setting everything up. I thought the slow start was really odd since I thought the preview did a great job of setting everything up in about 30 seconds (rob,. party, going away, friends, explosion, monster, run) so I’m not sure why it took so long to set up in the film. I’ve got comments on the end too, but don’t worry I wont talk about those. I really enjoyed it, it’s pretty much what I expected (but with better effects) so I was happy.

    What I didn’t like was a few technical details: I thought at the beginning they specifically mentioned the video was specifically found on an SD chip, but throughout the movie it’s a “tape” and treated that way too, so I’m not sure why they bothered to set that up. And they didn’t seem to bother worrying about the camera battery as a plot problem, which I would have been okay with, except they did worry about they cell phone battery as a plot problem (and they way they handled it could have let them fix it as a camera problem too).Watch for this: At the beginning of the end credits, it looks like it’s overlaid on some (government?) documents / graphics with a 1969 date, I’m not sure what the significance of this was unless I really wasn’t paying attention to something significant during the movie (my one bathroom break wasn’t that long).

    They also showed a teaser of the new J. J. Abrams Star Trek movie, but it just showed the 1701 being built in the shipyards, not much else…

    Written By: Gary on January 19, 2008 3 Comments

    I found this little project over at Hilly’s (SnackiePoo).

    Let’s make a band:
    Asbestosstrike1. The first article title HERE is the name of your band.
    2. The last four words of the very last quote HERE Is the title of your album.
    3. The third picture HERE, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
    4. Now take the pic, add the band name and title to it, then post it.
    5. Be sure to leave a comment so that I can check out your album…

    The title, “Asbestos Strike”, was not the first article I got, the first one was an actual music label but I decided not to use it in case that might upset them. The title of my album, “they had courage enough”, was from a quote by Thomas Fuller. And my photo came from here, I did square it up a little to make it fit.

    Tags: [, , ]
    Written By: Gary on January 19, 2008 One Comment

    I’ve been trying to filter out some of the “stuff” at my house that I don’t use any more, today was the clothes closet. Some stuff will be bound for Goodwill / Salvation Army, some for the trash and a few things for the vacation pile (clothes that I take on vacation but don’t bring back).

    What I really hate getting rid of is shirts with stuff printed on them for several reasons. One, I probably paid more for them. Two, I didn’t pay anything for them but they’re pretty unique. (But) Three, I rarely wear them. Some of it’s a mish-mash but today I noticed a bit of what I had in odd quantities:

  • Apple Computer T-Shirts (5): Most of these I got as promos or won at a conference but they’re all to small, it’s either all they had or it shrunk the first time I washed it. I keep hoping they’ll magically it some day, but…
  • Tori Amos (5): A few from concerts or that I found at a music store. I’ve got one that I got autographed at a concert.
  • Indigo Girls (6): Mostly from concerts, something from an on-line group and an autographed one that a friend bought for me at an fund raising auction.
  • Domestic Violence (7): I either purchased these at an event, they were given to me for volunteering at an event or came in a ‘thanks for donating’ package.
  • Costa Rica (1): I’ve been there 4 times and only ended up with one shirt from my first trip (from one of the Zip Line through the Cloud Forest adventures).
  • Blogography (3): Cool shirts that Dave from Blogography created.
  • Sandman related (6): Shirts inspired from the Neil Gaiman Sandman series (I think they all have Dream, Death or Delerium or some combination of them).
  • Tech Shirts (10+): Other tech shirts from vendors, tech conferences (part of registration or gift for presenting), organizations or something or another.
  • My job (6+): Shirts that one of the departments printed up for work or some kind of fund raiser event.

    I so rarely wear them out (in both interpretations), I usually just wear plain (colored) shirts. If I’m changing into something to wear after I come home and shower I’ll throw one on but wearing one out and about just doesn’t happen so often. Actually, other that wearing a music one to a concert I think the only ones I’ve worn outside in the last year is probably wearing a few of the shirts that Dave made.FYI, the counts are just estimates, I didn’t actually make a tally sheet.

  • Written By: Gary on January 17, 2008 One Comment

    So I went to the Social Security Office with my Mom today. There are just so many (too many) scenerios with all of it! It’s interesting how they talk about it, they think of everything as the number of checks you get, not so much as the money you get (months, not dollars). If you work more after you retire, they hold back checks, not dollars. It’s odd, but I guess every job has it’s own language.

    My Mother did make a decision today. As a bonus, it’s the same one I would have told her to do if she had asked me to make the decision so that worked out well. Without getting into too much of my mother’s details:

  • The decision we made today probably had equal dollar amount pros and cons between the two choices we liked best.
  • I think money-wise our choice will work out to be a little better or about the same dollar amount as the other.
  • If we made the wrong decision, I still think it was the one with the least amount of risk.
  • If it turns out to be less it’s probably just a little bit (and if we were way way wrong in the worst way, it’s still not a catastrophic dollar mistake).
  • One of the other reasons I liked this choice was that this decision pretty much causes no other decisions to have to be made in the future. A few steps need to be taken in the future (at times to be determined), but pretty much we’re committed to the steps in order now.
  • She’ll lose sleep tonight thinking if she made the right decision; I’m the opposite, it won’t keep me up since the decision is made (less choices = less stress).

    It’s an interesting thing to keep in mind that you can start collecting SS but keep working. I think once you start to collect SS, if you makes more than $13k a year they start to give you less money. For every $2 you makes over that amount, they give you a dollar less. So pretty much once you hit that dollar amount, your salary is cut in half (sort of taxed at 50%). I’d try harder talk he into working working to earn that much per year since you don’t get as much value but then she’d lose her health benefits and that’s got some value these days.

    None of the above is to be considered retirement advice; I do not work in the financial sector nor do I portray someone who does. :)

  • Written By: Gary on January 15, 2008 2 Comments

    Apple MacBook Air MC233LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop Apple ComputerSo I like the new MacBook Air. But while it’s smaller and lighter than all the current MacBooks, and it’s one-third lighter than the 12 inch PowerBook, you give up a bit. You can’t have a spare battery, as a matter of fact you can’t even change the battery yourself. The hard drive space is limited, an (iPod?) 80GB hard drive that runs at 4200 RPM, or a pricey 64GB flash drive. It does have the cool new multi-touch-pad and the built-in camera. No internal DVD drive, mono-speaker, only one USB port and a few other things I’m sure I’m not thinking of. If you haven’t seen it, go watch the ad….

    It’s got these minuses (but it’s been a looonnnggg time since they refreshed a 12 inch PowerBook and and I’m definitely having “Air Envy”) I think if they take apart, slap it in a regular (or slightly smaller than regular) case with a changeable battery and a real hard drive (and maybe DVD drive) they’ve got what everyone has been waiting for.

    I really thought I was going to want to snatch one up but it’s just not what I was expecting (and I’ve seen others say the same. Maybe if I actually see one, but I think until they do my (fictional) upgrades, I might just wait until the next refresh. I’m guessing the MacBook 13 inch will have the new multi-touch pad and LED screen. I can get an awful lot of power for the same price (if I buy my memory somewhere else).

    Here’s an idea for something even smaller (no DVD though). Make ma a MacBook but chop the screen in half to the size of the keyboard and somehow have the trackpad slide out! It’s really be a “wide-screen” but it’d be tall enough for normal use.

    I really miss my old Apple Duo (or was it a PowerBook Duo?)….

    Written By: Gary on January 14, 2008 2 Comments

    I know everyone keeps their eyes open for good gas prices and will hit one gas station over another since it’s a few pennies different. I’m sure some people sometimes waste gas by driving a little farther. I know I’m always happy when I can save a few pennies per gallon (I usually fill up on Tuesdays since I’m usually over by some cheap stations). Here’s something to keep in mind, 6 cents more a gallon (if it’s around $3) is only a 2% difference (12 cents more a gallon is only 4%).

    Normally, when I eat at McDonald’s I get a number 3 meal (Quarter Pounder – no pickle, no mustard which includes a 20 oz soda and medium fry). At the McDonald’s by work (Plymouth/Beech, Redford, MI) it’s $4.77 (tax included); at the McD’s by my house (Michigan/Greenfield in Dearborn) it’s $5.36 (tax included). That’s a 59 cent difference! That’s 12% more at the more expensive McDonald’s. FYI, both the McD’s I’m referring to have been renovated in the last few years and the cheaper one has a playland.

    So keep in mind if your $3 gallon of gas was 12% more at a nearby location it would 36 cents more per gallon! Now it’s not cost effective for me to take the time (and gas) to drive home to save 60 cents, but maybe I should check out the other two nearby McDonald’s to see what they charge. Plus Kelly always refers to the Redoford one as an expensive one (that’s the one I say is cheap).

    When they talk about fuel price gouging, maybe we should consider all types of fuel…

    Written By: Gary on January 12, 2008 One Comment

    So my back and shoulder has been killing me all this week (stayed home two days). I really haven’t even been on-line much since sitting at a keyboard has been uncomfortable. You know if I haven’t been on-line it’s gotta be bugging me…

    I went to the OMT (kind of the opposite of a chiropractor, they do the muscles not the bones, Osteopathic Musculature/Manipulative Therapy?) twice this week but that’s not really fixing it. The drugs that really work knock me out, so that’s not a great option; I bet I’ve averaged 18 hours a day the last few days. So today I went to my “regular” Doctor’s office, but she wasn’t in (they rotate on Saturdays) but they guy who checked out took care of me, a few shots into the muscle seem to be helping.

    So since I was out (and not on the dizzy drugs) it seemed like a good time to run over to work to make sure some stuff that needs to run overnight was a-okay (you can’t upload if anyone is actually using it and it won’t run if you don’t upload it) but it looked like everything was uploaded just fine. Now I’m grabbing a Wendy’s Spicy Chicken, with free WiFi (Joy & Telegraph in Redford, MI), and then a quick stop at the grocery store…

    It’s not really such a busy day in general, but it’s pretty busy for lately…

    Written By: Gary on January 6, 2008 2 Comments

    What a great (non-productive) day! I computed, watched TV, did a little web maintenance, computed some more and got nothing practical done. Haven’t had a day like this (that I wasn’t sick) in a long time. I’m still in my sweats too.

    I also got to relax and drink Coca-Cola from a glass bottle*, that’s such a treat! I got a case of it for Christmas.

    Back to the regular work week this week, the number of people in the district where I work will jump from about 20 to about 4,000, so it’ll get significantly busier…

    It’ll probably be a long while before I get another day like this.* For those of you reading from other parts of the world, glass bottles for soda pop are pretty rare in the United States.

    Written By: Gary on January 4, 2008 One Comment

    There’s hope for me yet!!!!

    Tango magazine on-line has a fun article on why dating nerdy guys is actually a good thing….

    Two of the points made me laugh since they apply to me:

  • It’s just that a geek’s approach to life tends to be if-x-then-y.
  • They don’t get hints.
  • Written By: Gary on January 4, 2008 No Comment

    So last summer a copy of the “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was floating around the ‘net and I had a chance to see it. It was awesome, and ever since then, in my head, I’ve pictured Linda Hamilton playing the Sarah Conner part. But as they’ve been advertising it, I’ve realized it’s not Linda. I’ve recently had a chance to re-watch it, and I know when I first saw it I knew it wasn’t Linda, but since then I started thinking it was her…

    Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles  - The Complete First Season Warner Home VideoIf you haven’t seem it it’s great. I’m interested to see how they are going to turn the 47 minute pre-pilot into a two night premier. A few minor edits can really ruin a great show (I still can’t believe how they ruined the pilot to “The Big Bang Theory” with just a few edits, but I digress…).

    Thomas Dekker does an excellent job as John Conner, you’ve seen him as Zach the flying kid on Heroes.

    WARNING – Minor Spoiler below…And the beautiful, wonderful, kick-ass Summer Glau just gives me chills when she says the famous line “Come with me if you want to live!”. It makes me want to go back and watch Firefly and Serenity (as River Tam); you’ve also seen her on The 4400 as Tess (and on The Unit as Crystal Burns, but I must have stopped watching it before that).

    Written By: Gary on January 2, 2008 No Comment

    Hippo4Chrsitmas“I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is one of my favorite songs. And that’s what I got! As I present I got a certificate that I’ve adopted a Hippo at the Detroit Zoo. I’ve got a Hippo, a certificate and background (see the photo).

    I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas is a Christmas novelty song written by John Coctoasten and performed by Gayla Peevey (10 or 11 years old at the time) in 1953. Hippo1953You can listen here or at the iTunes music store.

    This is a favorite Christmas song of mine and I remember it being on a holiday Mix tape that Jim (a co-worker) made one year. It was a few years before it got re-popularized about 10 years ago (maybe from an Ally McBeal episode).

    Plus, it includes a trip to the zoo, which (once I go) crosses another item off my 101 in 1001 list

    Written By: Gary on January 1, 2008 One Comment

    So it’s the new year. And it’s gotta be better than the last one, or at least better than the last 1/3 of last year. That was just too stressful…

    I don’t do regular resolutions. They never take. I think the same goes for most people and their resolutions.

    I started doing 101 things in 1001 days, which means you make a 101 tasks/resolutions (manageable ones) and you have 1001 days to do it (about 2.75 years). I originally found this at Day Zero. This have worked for me, I’ve got about 9 months left and I’ve completed about 41 of them (by tonight I’ll have done one more). I’m guessing I’ll have about 60 of them done by the time list runs out, 70 if I’m really motivated. Not perfect but for everyone you know, how many complete 6 out of 10 of their resolutions?

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