Archive for June, 2007

More xkcd @ MIT Videos

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

Exploring the xkcd forums with some down time I discovered that I missed Randell Flying a kite with a ridiculously long string over Boston while I was on my trip. I would have likely missed it even if I wasn’t on the trip as I don’t check the forums, well at all, but maybe I should. I definitely think I would much enjoy meeting some local xkcd fans, as I really need to meet more people around here. Images from the kite are in.

Anyways I found a link from the forum of some more, but still not complete videos from the xkcd @ MIT talk.

Destination Outback

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

Outback Steakhouse Unfortunetly Google could not calculate driving directions between Boston and Alice Springs, NT, Australia. So Josh and I settled on an Outback Steakhouse in Connecticut to settle round 2 of our Red Sox/Yankees bet. The Yankees won both May and June series, although swept neither. That means to Sox are still 1 game up in the head to head record. Anyways this entitled Josh to a free meal. It was a good time, but both the Sox and the Yankees lost their games that day.

Also of note, on the way there (~150 miles) I got an average 47.0 mpg, the highest yet. Feeling that I could make it to 50mpg, the 2007 EPA number if I just drove @65mph on the way back (instead of ~70 as I did on the way there). Alas, I only got up to 48.0 (and just barely) on the way back. In any case thats 3 mpg higher than the 2008 revised EPA numbers. This is the first time I have beaten that number. I drove this same route at ~42.5 mpg two months ago, at similar speeds, so I attribute this higher number to a nice dry summer day — It was raining and ~50 deg. F. on the previous trip.

That’s a nice looking car.

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

My 2007 Honda Civic I was at The Best Gas Station in all of Massachusetts! today; filling up just 4 days short making it one month on a single tank (~480 miles!), when a stranger complimented me on my ’07 Honda Civic Hybrid. I parked in slightly the wrong place, so when I opened my door it hit the little pillar, not hard, and not enough to leave a mark. I immediately checked which may have tipped off the stranger on the other side of the pump that I care about the car and try to take care of it well. Much more so than my previous car, and I thought I was trying to take care of it as well, although my dad may disagree — I’m going to call it, good practice. Anyways the exchange went like this:

Stranger: “What kind of car is that?”
Me: “Its a Civic… its an ’07.”
Stranger: “The civic used to be such a plain car. That is a nice looking car.”
Me: “Thanks!”

It made me happy, although maybe not my day because of the computer purchase decision. In any case it was nice and unexpected.

New Computer

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

It is unfortunate but I will soon be availing myself of Seagate’s wonderful 5 year warranty on one of my 500gb media hard drives. It has not failed completely yet, but it is having read/write errors when I put it under the stress of doing video compression. This is, as we say in the OMG my data is not backed up business, a bad thing. Luckily, these errors are being recorded into the drives error monitoring hardware, so it should be easy to prove the drive is malfunctioning and get an in warranty replacement.

Of course first I need to back up the data on the drive. The drive is 1/2 of my 1Tb media partition which has ~750Gb used on it. Because of the way its setup i have to back up all of the partition without using the other 500gb drive, a tall order that my ancillary drives simply cant handle. They total only 493Gb. So I need to buy new drives, thats ok, 750Gb’s just dropped to $200 and 500gb’s dropped to $100. So I’ll just get some more $500’s as thats a $0.066 price per GB difference (which adds up). Problem is that I haven’t gotten a new computer since the Athlon XP went out of style. That was before the rise of SATA over PATA. Now I could buy 2 500gb PATA drives and use them in my current system, but that path prevents me from future upgrades and locks me into the old stuff. As it turns out older stuff gets more expensive, so thats a bad thing. So that means that now is the time to upgrade and start buying SATA drives. So I’m building a new system, dual core, and all. The components:

ECS KA3 MVP Motherboard MSI NX7100GS-TD128E GeForce 7100GS AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+(65W) Windsor 2.0GHz 2 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM2 Processor

Crucial Ballistix 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Seagate 500GB Serial ATA/300 16MB Buffer ST3500641AS-RK Seagate 500GB Serial ATA/300 16MB Buffer ST3500641AS-RK

Update: @ 10:30am 6.25.2007 Aww, still in Philadelphia.

On My Taste in Music

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Boston is a haven for music people, or at least that’s how it seems. I need two hands to count the number of friends I have here who play an instrument (with high school band not counting), or are “avid” fans. Avid meaning obsessively concerned with quality or owning more CDs than I’ve got movies. Anyways, “what kind of music do you like?” has become an increasingly common ice breaker question; one that I’m not to prepared to answer, and I’ve always found my taste in music to be very wishy washy.

But now I have my answer, I like exclusively music that I’ve heard before. This has really become much more noticeable now that I’ve stopped listing to the radio all together. That of course eliminates a large source of music which I’ve heard before and makes smaller, easier to track sources like movies, and iPods at house parties, ect… more noticeable. This increase in traceability has allowed me to use some pseudo science to arrive at this conlcusion. Lets say I like the movie (Almost Famous) a song (Elton John – Tiny Dancer) is in. I don’t run out and find the sound track. Some time later I hear a song from it at a party, I instantly think, oh this is a good song, without recalling consciously that I’ve heard it before. Subconsciously though it has been attached to something I like, the movie, and so I like it. Movies of course are just one example, it happens with people, and events as well.

Now, this isn’t entirely uncommon and strange, but I think that I am an extreme case. I’ve seen this happen where a CD, in this case by Radiohead, happens to get played in the background of a dinner party, twice, non consecutively in one night. I thought nothing of the music the first time around, but the second time I again had that wow this is good thought. Now the real test would be if that same thing happened to a really awful CD. This of course makes me a record studio’s dream customer as I’ll like pretty much anything they can associate with something else I like. Luckily I’ve never been too enamored with any particular pop radio station, and now I’ve got all these musicy friends to keep me a socially acceptable music taste track.

Ocean’s 13

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

No spoilers to follow, I would not do that to you. Oceans 13 got 2 thumbs up from Richard Roper and whoever was filling in for Ebert this week. Man it suck Ebert’s been off the air for more than a year now with health problems, here’s hoping hes back sooner rather than later. Anyways I also recommend Ocean’s 13. It is way better than the second one; not as good as the first of course, but worth seeing. It was little faster and more straightforward than I would have liked, Roper described this as “tight” and a good thing. It was good to have it set in Vegas again; that and other things brought back a lot of the feeling of the first one. I agree with Roper that Al Pacino’s character could have been a lot darker. There was one cheesy part where they put up neon lighted numbers next to everyone’s heads; there had be a better way to do what they wanted to do than that. In the end it made me want to goto Vegas, and it made me want to watch the movie again, possibly in slow motion just to catch everything, definitely the same effects as the first movie.

Lazyness wins over Evil

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

I read a very enlightening story on /. yesterday. The story was about watching Video on Demand (VOD) which other people nearby had selected. It turns out that comcast is not nearly as sinster as I would have made them out to be. I’ll summerize the important and non voyeristic results of the story and my testing below.

Before yesterday, I had always assumed that because they could cables companies would intentially obfuscate all signals carried over thier wires with the exception of the 50 or so channels which must be carried in over the air (OTA) format for all those legacy cable ready TV sets. Since they say that you need a cable box to recieve any other channels, I assumed that they were technically correct. It would not be difficult to slightly modify any existing transmistion protocol to the point were only “in the know” cable boxes could decipher the signal and display it. You don’t even have to eyncrypt the content to prevent its display; although, that is certainly a more fulproof method. Given how much cable and content companies are spending on DRM these days I took it as a mater of course that I was out of luck getting HD (or any digital) signal off of my cable wire without the appropriate $5-10 a month box.

But I was wrong! Comcast, at least in the DC (see above story) and Boston areas, is much more lazy than they are evil. They transmit HD signals for your normal OTA channels in the clear along side the the analog OTA channels, over their cable in a format called QAM. Now, it just so happens that my new HDTV has a built in QAM tunner. At the sugestion of the story I tired it out, hooked a cable straight from the wall to my TV, and told my TV to search out the channels.

It found ~120 channels. Now, that includes the 50 or so analog channels as it also has a normal analog NTSC tunner in it. (To round out the info the tv also has a ATSC tunner which is the format for OTA HDTV). That number does not inlcude the sub, dot, or hyphen channels depending on what you want to call them. A digital tv singal can contain some number of sub channels it appears at least 14. The available bandwidth is split between these channels so you can say run 1 subchannel at 1080i resoultion, but you could run say 4 at 720p resoultion, or even more if you intended to only display standard 480i content you could run 14 or something nuts like that.

Most these subchannels above channel 80 were broadcasting black, not no signal — actually broadcasting black. Three of these were actually broadcasting video. One of them was playing V for Vendetta, another some unkown movie, and third one was playing something with an MTV on Demmand logo in the lower right — confirming that these are the on demand channels as described in the story. There is little reason why we would want to watch this stuff, but its interesting that we can. I am paying for digital cable so non of this should be content for which I am not already paying. Anyways, I am quite excited about the OTA HD channels coming on the cable because it means I won’t have to futz around with an antenna.

Blast from the Stupid Past

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

I just got hit up with a hoax email forwarding scheme, this one to be exact — talk about 1998. I must say with all the spam the flies around I thought this kind of thing at least was dead and gone. The oldest date on the copy I got was April of 2007, but snopes says this has been going around since 1997, with the text taken from a 2004 email (the text is exactly the same). I know that we may not always be able to trust snopes, but come on. In 1998 we didn’t have snopes, so realizing that the claim is ludacris took some kind of technical knowledge but today all you have to do is read.