Pleh

I will smack you like a bad bad donkey, ok?

AppleTV / YouTube Trick

Posted by pete on June 23rd, 2007

This isn’t some super nifty trick or anything, but it’s kind of nice if you are sharing an AppleTV with multiple users. Now that the 1.1 update is out and you can view YouTube on your AppleTV, create a dedicated YouTube account for your device. Log into this account on your AppleTV, then on your computers. When one of you wants to share a YouTube video with the other or you would rather view the clip on your TV instead of your computer, save it to that account’s favorites. These favorites can be accessed on the AppleTV. Viola! Simple YouTube viewing on your AppleTV.

See? Told you is wasn’t anything special, but at least you don’t have to type in a YouTube URL into your AppleTV. What a pain that on-screen keyboard is.

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Finally

Posted by pete on May 27th, 2007

Finally got my first ride in today. It’s been a loooong time since I was out on the trails. They’ve done a lot of work over at Wakefield since then. I rode some of it today, but I was taking it easy and my allergies were not, so didn’t get to all the new stuff yet. I hope to get out a time or two more this coming week (depending on how quickly I can do my laundry :) ) and check out the rest of it.

So far, I feel pretty good. We’ll see what pain tomorrow brings, though.

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That Was Easy

Posted by pete on May 26th, 2007

The Wordpress 2.1.3 -> 2.2 upgrade was pretty easy. All done.

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Gee, That Was Quick

Posted by pete on May 26th, 2007

Last Wednesday, I finally got around to getting time for a ride. I got home fairly early and started getting ready right away. As I was getting into some riding clothes, G found out I as leaving shortly and started crying. After talking with Lis a bit, we all decided to head to Wakefield, where G will play while Lis watches her and I’ll ride. Now, time was running short, so we hurriedly gathered our stuff and headed out to Wakefield.

We slowly made our way through traffic and I tried to get into a good state of mind for riding. I’m always nervous before my first few rides of the year, but I was eager to ride. When we got there, Lis and G headed straight for the nearby playground. I went around to the back of the truck, got my bike down, then started putting on my shoes. Left foot… front strap… done… middle strap… done… top strap… snap! Crap! What the heck? The clip that holds the strap to the other side of the shoe broke. Hmmm… Well, the other two straps are holding pretty well. I guess I can just fold the strap back and left it flap loose.

OK…. Next…. Helmet…. Helmet? Awwww, crap. Forgot the helmet.

Well, game over. I can ride with a broken shoe, but not without a helmet. Turns out I also forgot my gloves and a wipe-down towel for after the ride.

G played for a few more minutes at the playground, then we wandered around “exploring” for a while, then headed home.

Maybe I can get my first ride in sometime soon. Just gotta see about getting some new shoes first.

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What’s An Extra $25 Here Or There?

Posted by pete on April 26th, 2007

Kiva - loans that change lives It turns out that it can be quite a lot when aggregated with $25 for other people. It can also mean quite a lot when loaned to businesses in developing countries.
I just finished watching a Frontline/World report on microfinance. I was sitting here at my laptop, watching this report on our TiVo and I saw how much a few hundred dollars loaned to a small business in a developing country can mean. Best of all, this was all done via the Internet and around banks. (I have a deep distrust and dislike of banks and most financial institutions.) It’s so simple to go to a site like Kiva and drop a few $25 loans. I figure that, with the repayment rates they’re seeing (currently, 100%, but normally greater than 96%), I’ll probably get the money back, then re-invest in some other business that needs it. If I don’t get it back, oh well, it’s only $25.

It’s nice to know that an amount that means so relatively little to me can make a big difference to someone else.

It also helps that the first entrepreneur they talked with was named Grace. :)

So, if you’ve got it (and if you’re reading this, you probably do), check out sites like Kiva or some other Internet-based microfinance site and see what you can do to help make a difference in somebody’s life. (And, yes, in this case, I am the boss of you.)

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Awww Man….

Posted by pete on April 5th, 2007

A few weeks ago, I went to make sure I’d be getting MLB Extra Innings package from Cox. It was one of the things I needed available when I left DirecTV. They told me that InDemand (the service that provides MLBEI to Cox) and MLB couldn’t come to an agreement and they weren’t offering MLBEI this year. Bummer.

For 2006 MLBEI subscribers, they were offering to rebate the $90 subscription price to MLB.tv. It’s a nice deal, but not as nice as MLBEI. I was annoyed, but this took some of the bitterness out. Meh.

Now today, I read that InDemand and MLB came to an agreement and they’re offering MLBEI immediately. Woot!

I waited until I got home to call Cox about it. After all, just because InDemand’s offering it now, doesn’t mean that Cox will be. I also wanted to make sure they were still honoring the rebate offer since I’ve already purchased MLB.tv. The Cox rep I talked with said that they were and, yes, they are offering MLBEI now. It’s about $160, but that’s not that big of a deal spread out over the season. Double woot! Set me up.

Wha? No cablecard support?!?! Aw man… I love baseball and love being able to catch most Yankee games, but there’s no way I’d give up my S3 TiVo. Looks like for me, it’s free MLB.tv and those games on ESPN. Pleh.

At least I’m saving $160.

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Whoot!

Posted by pete on April 2nd, 2007

Looks like I’m going to get much better acquainted with EMI’s catalog come May. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for DRM. This can’t bode well for eMusic though.

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Apple TV

Posted by pete on March 25th, 2007

Right after it was announced — and I mean right after – in January, I bought an Apple TV unit. I’ve been occasionally playing content from my MacBook Pro on the big screen, but it was awkward. There was no way I was showing Lis how to do it and she has stuff she’d like to display there and play on the home theatre sound system too.

After about a month’s delay, it finally arrived this past Thursday. The setup was dead simple. Plugged the component video and optical audio outputs into my receiver, where I linked the two together as one device. Turned on the TV, then powered up the unit. Not including the run out to Radio Shack for an optical cable and dinner at Friendly’s with G, the setup probably took five minutes at most. And, yes, it works fine on our seven-year-old HD (1080i) capable, 4:3 screen. (Side note: the initial boot on our 4:3 screen had the Apple logo a bit distorted as it was assuming the TV would be running in a 16:9 aspect ratio. After you go through the setup, though, the problem disappears.)

The Apple TV allows you to sync on iTunes to the device itself. Other (Windows or OS X) computers that want to display iTunes content on the screen will have to stream to the device. There’s a five streaming device limit. I have no idea why.

Our home network as two access points. One’s an open 802.11G AP. The other device is a closed Airport Extreme that does 802.11 (pre-)N. To avoid a performance hit on the pre-N network, we keep both devices running. Lisa’s first-gen MBP, without (pre-)N talks with the G AP and my second-gen, (pre-)N capable MBP talks with the Airport. The Apple TV also talks with the Airport as it’s also a (pre-)N device.

Since Lis will be the one most using our TV and is connecting over the slower of the two APs, I set her up as the sync source. I sync to the Apple TV. (Well, my MBP does. :) )

Overall, I like the Apple TV. Here are a few thoughts I have on it:

  • I’m a bit concerned about the 40GB hard drive on the device. We’re only about 1/3 used now that all of Lisa’s content is synced over, but I can see this growing quickly. From what I’ve seen on the inter-tubes, though, this might be not-too-annoying to swap out.  [Update: Well, hey-ho-howdy, here's one.]
  • The interface feels a bit slow. It’s not terribly slow, but it is a bit.
  • It crashed at least once on me. On the plus side (or worrisome — depending on your perspective), it has a watchdog timer that auto-rebooted it after it locked up. This is a 1.0 device, though, so I’ll give it some leeway, as long as it’s not very frequent.
  • Entering a 50-character, random character string as the WPA2 key using their sluggish on-screen keyboard interface is a pain in the ass. Entering it a second time after you have a brain fart is even more of a PITA.
  • I was surprised that the device doesn’t aggregate the iTunes sources that it’s configured for. You have to explicitly choose the source iTunes DB that you use.
  • Apple’s remote-enabled devices (such as Lisa’s and my MBPs and the Apple TV) allow you to pair with a specific remote, which makes the device ignore all other Apple Remote signals. As far as I can tell, they will respond to any Apple Remote by default. This is really fun when you’re sitting back on the couch with two MBPs and you hit play on the remote; all three devices respond by playing different things. On the plus side, the Apple Remote has a very wide range of coverage.
  • Speaking of the Apple Remote, it’s a very simple device. It’s got six buttons: up, down, left, right, play/pause, and menu. Using this remote to watch Lost on my laptop’s screen with Front Row was easy, but, for whatever reason, I’m having issues controlling playback with it on the Apple TV.
  • Streaming is surprisingly smooth, from both of our MBPs. It thought it might get a but chunky with Lisa’s over the 802.11G network, but it’s not.
  • Good Lord, I really don’t like that default Ken Burns effect in the slide show mode. I need to find out how to turn that off.
  • I had some DRM (grrrr!) issues trying to get some TV shows from my MBP to stream to the Apple TV. Eventually, I read on the Apple forums that I had to de-authorize my MBP, then re-authorize. After this, there was no problem.
  • I was also surprised that, while you get lots of previews of songs, movies, and TV shows from the Apple TV interface, you can’t directly purchase anything from that interface. How long do you think until that’s enabled? I can’t see Apple not making it easier for people to buy from their store.

Anyway, I like the Apple TV. It’s got a lot of potential, but it’s still got some rough edges. Still, it’s a good, useful device now. I think it’d give it a 4 out of 5.

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Baseball Schedule

Posted by pete on March 15th, 2007

Actually, it’s the Yankees‘ 2007 schedule, not baseball’s, but, hey, baseball’s nothing without the Yankees…. :) Anyway, I went looking for the full NYY 2007 schedule in a Google Calendar format yesterday and couldn’t find it anywhere. I found the weekday day games. I found the west coast games. I found the Yankees’ and Mets’ (shudder) day game schedule. I found 2006 schedules and results, but I found no 2007 schedule.

“No problem!” thought I. “I’ll just find an online source, find the right format, some magic happens, then, *Poof!* schedule.”

I created a new gCal, made a few entries, then exported it to iCal (VCAL?) format. Looked around the internets and found a good schedule on the ESPN site. A little cut&paste later and I had a nice, one-game-per-line entry for the month of April. Wash, rinse, repeat for May through September.

Looking through the iCal, I could make out the parts pretty easily. Some of the fields were a little odd, but they didn’t look like anything I needed to bother with. I decided to repeat them verbatim. I whipped up a Python script, knocked out a couple silly bugs, then produced the full, iCal-formatted file. Google Calendar didn’t like importing it.

“No problem!” thought I. “I’ll just tweak some of the vcal…. There.”

“What? Still not importing?”

“Hmmm, OK, I’ll tweak this vcal…. There.”

“What?!?! Freaking vcal! I wonder if Apple’s iCal can read it.”

“Oh, nice. iCal reads it but gCal won’t. Heeeeey…. iCal has an export function…”

And that’s how I wound up — more or less — with a fully public, shared 2007 New York Yankees game schedule.

I think the problem was that every line in the Google Calendar-compatible file needed to be terminated with a ^M (ctrl-M). I still haven’t figured out how to get Python to print a literal ^M character. I thought it involved raw strings, but that didn’t help any. I figure I might have to try Unicode strings and embed the hex value of ^M in the string, but I didn’t know the right value and didn’t want to spend too much more time on the issue, especially since I already had my gCal set up.

Oh, and that program I wrote? I found out later on that I could have just manipulated the schedule files I got from ESPN and saved them as a CSV and imported them. Much less work there. Oh well. Live and learn.

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The Animals

Posted by pete on March 10th, 2007

How on earth did animals survive without Diego to help them? Apparently, they’re completely incompetent and can’t do anything without him.

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Crash on the Waterfront

Posted by pete on February 25th, 2007

Today, I did a double feature of movies Lis didn’t want to see. The early show was Crash. I really enjoyed this movie. It was amazing how easily and believably these characters could slip into racial stereotypes, both in believing and being them. Nobody was spared. Yet, at the same time, all the characters were believable and, mostly likable. I especially liked Michael Peña as Daniel. Another flick to send back to NetFlix now.

The late show was On the Waterfront. This movie felt a bit dated and simplistic to me. The acting was mostly good, but a lot of actors were given cliched parts and could only do so much with them. Everything just felt too neat and tidy. The romance felt forced unlikely. Come on, Edie was all torn up about her brother just being killed, but, “Hey, he looks cute…” Edie makes one critical comment to Father Barry, then he suddenly decides to take up social activism? I don’t know. Maybe in the context of its contemporaries, On the Waterfront was a great movie, but now… to me it’s only eh. Still, I was glad the TiVo picked it up and that I had the chance to watch it. I am also sure that Lis won’t be upset with me for having deleted it.

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CYA Security

Posted by pete on February 22nd, 2007

Here is another good post by Bruce Schneier on why we continue to poor so much good money into broken security and why those broken systems continue to persist. It makes complete sense to me: it’s not stupidity, it’s lack of… backbone and there’s no incentive for public officials to do otherwise.

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Server Work

Posted by pete on February 21st, 2007

Our server will be down on Sunday, Feb 25th, from 10am EST to around 6pm. It might be up earlier. How early depends on how you define “up.”

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A-Peel-Ing

Posted by pete on February 17th, 2007

I’ve been looking for this application for so long and I never knew it. Peel rocks! I love having browser-based feed readers, but there were just some feeds that I only read on my MBP, because that’s where I keep my music. Now, I can keep my music feeds in Peel and other feeds in Google Reader. Plus, Peel makes it a bit easier getting those juicy MP3 into iTunes, adding them directly as I download them. It’s still a beta release and will cost $15 when it’s officially open, but, man oh man, this is good stuff. I’d pay for it now if I had the chance.

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EXTREME Networking

Posted by pete on February 11th, 2007

The other day I was over at the Apple Store picking up a replacement power support for Lisa’s MBP. (I have no idea how she managed to fray this one, what with the mag-safe and all, but she did….) Anyway, while there, I saw the Airport Extreme and, well, it was too powerful.

The next day, I plugged it into our home network. It’s a pretty nifty little box. Nicely designed and packaged. I’ve never worked with one of Apple’s Airport base stations, so setup was a complete mystery to me. I knew what I wanted, but I wasn’t sure how difficult it’d be to do. I’ve already to a Linksys WRT54GS v2 running OpenWRT. This is my main gateway device and sits connected to our cable modem. I still wanted the WRT to serve as our non-802.11n AP and do all the normal stuff it’s been doing, but I wanted to be able to connect to the Airport Extreme with all 802.11n devices, such as my MBP and the soon-to-arrive Apple TV. In other words, I wanted it to run in bridge mode, with WPA2 PSK encryption, MAC filtering, and no beaconing.

While in the process of trying to set up the Airport Extreme, I messed up the WRT. It seems that I missed the recent release announcement, so when I updated the packages on it, things got all hinky and the wireless part stopped working. Luckily, I had the Extreme, so I quickly replicated the WRT’s wireless settings and Lisa was back online wirelessly. I waited until she was done, then went about applying the appropriate updates to the WRT. After it was back online, I, once again set the Extreme up the way I originally wanted it.

Of course, this is when I notice that the Airport Extreme has support for profiles. Had I known ahead of time, I could have put our default config in one profile and a “mimic the WRT” config in another and switch them back and forth. Easy-peasy.

Overall, I’m very happy with the Airport Extreme. It’s a nice, flexible base station. I don’t think its flexibility comes anywhere near that of the WRT54GS running OpenWRT, but as a stock base station, it’s the ginchy-ist and in the not-too-distant future, I can see us adding an external USB hard drive for easy backups.

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Ella

Posted by pete on January 31st, 2007

If you’re reading this, then the upgrade to WordPress 2.1 Ella worked.

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Smooth Sailing

Posted by pete on January 26th, 2007

After Saturday’s good results, we brought the bedroom things in Monday night. We let the bed warm up a couple days and Wednesday night, I slept in it. No bites in the morning, but my brain likes to play tricks on me. Last night, I slept in the bed again, but this time, Lisa joined me. This was a big test and, while I have been kind of used to sleeping in our bedroom since it got infested and used to being a “test meat,” she’s not used to it. It was a very tough night for her. I kept telling her that, if she wanted to, she could go back into the guest bedroom for me to test a bit more, but she chose not to. This was probably the right thing to do for the long run, but it’s gonna make for a few miserable days until she comfortable with the idea that she’s not going to be snacked upon during the night.

One thing the exterminators told us after the first fumigation was that we might get “hysterical bites”. Maybe the adjective is correct, but the word carries too many negative, insulting connotations. The day after we slept in our bed after the initial fumigation, we were bitten numerous times. The exterminators were initially telling us they were hysterical bites. It wasn’t until I had captured numerous bugs for them to see that these were not “hysterical,” they were just “ineffectual.”

It’s been over these past two nights that I’ve gotten a better understanding of what they mean by hysterical bites. I’ve woken a few times when I could swear I felt a bite. Never mind that I’ve never actually felt any of the real bites — this time, I know there’s a bug there! Quick, flip on the light, examine the bed, examine the area of the “bite” — nothing. The brain’s a funny thing. I think Lis experienced more than a few of these moments last night, suppressing many of them. I really want to help her, but I think I’ve done as much as I can. All I can do now is assure her that I understand how she’s feeling and, really, I don’t mind waking up for these spastic bed checks.

Overall, though, I think it’s looking good for signaling the all clear. We’ve allowed our hopes to get raised and subsequently dashed too many times for us to be truly excited about this, but with every bite-less night we spend there, I think the excitement is growing. Still, I think we’re both looking at each other, silently wondering when the other shoe will drop. When the bug hordes will be unleashed upon us, ambushing us in bed some night, long after we’ve declared victory?

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Movies!

Posted by pete on January 22nd, 2007

Lately, Lis and I have been on a movie watching kick. We even re-signed up for Netflix. We used to be members, but the movies just sat around forever until we finally sent them back, unwatched. Between the monthly Netflix fee and the amount of time each movie sat, it probably would have been cheaper for us to just purchase the DVD. This time, we’re trying to not let the movies sit as much and I’m trying to be more open minded about what I watch. I think Lis is too, which is cool for both of us.

Our recent movie kick has covered three different sources: “MirrorMask” from Netflix, “Almost Famous” from our DVD collection, and “Deliverance” from the TiVo. (Sweet, sweet TiVo….)

MirrorMask” was interesting. I’m pretty sure my interest in this wouldn’t have been enough to get me to the theater, but I’m glad we saw it. It was quite interesting visually. The story was about an artistic, adolescent girl, her mom, and how she deals with her mom’s sudden illness. Oh, and they’re a circus family. Very interesting visuals. Decent story. Maybe a 6.5 on a 1 – 10 scale.

Almost Famous” is a DVD I got for some birthday or Christmas in the past, but get lost somewhere along the way. I liked it so much, I asked for it again for this past Christmas. Lis finally acquiesced to watching it and enjoyed it too. The music is good and does all kinds of nice nostalgia things for me, although I was too young for the time period of the movie. 8/10.

Deliverance.” When I was in grad school, I lived for a year with some kayaking folks. The really seemed to love this movie. They were sick, twisted people and fun to have around. It’s a hard movie to deal with. I think this is mostly because some of the characters are pretty easy to relate to. There are lots of, “What would I do in that situation?” moments. Overall, a pretty gripping story. Also an 8/10.

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Good News?

Posted by pete on January 21st, 2007

Finally? Maybe. Most of our bedroom stuff is still outside, but we wanted to test whether the bugs were out or not before bringing the bed back in or buying a new one. No sense in worrying about the bed if that’s not where the bugs are.

So, with that in mind, Lis and I came up with an agreement. She would do her best to make something in the place where our bed used to be that is more comfortable than “floor and a pillow” and I’d sleep in it / sacrifice my body. A few extra comforters, some clean sheets, and a quilt, along with a spare pillow later, she had completed her part of the deal. I know from my previous experience, that when I do the “donate my body to the bugs”-thing, I have a hard time sleeping (for some reason or the other). I also know that I should check for bugs about two hours after I go to bed. This time, I figured I’d go to bed later so that I actually had a chance of falling asleep. No such luck. I got to bed a little after 1am, but could not sleep very well. Around 3am, Lisa came in (today’s her morning to sleep in, so she went out with friends) and we checked for bugs. (A fun couples activity if I ever heard one!)

Now, normally, this is where we find the bugs and I move back to the guest bedroom bed. Nothing. We found no bugs. I went back to (trying to) sleep on the pseudo-bed and Lis went to bed in the guest room. A few times during the night, I was sure I felt them on me, but when I turned on the flashlight and looked around, nothing.

I would seem that the bugs are gone. I feel itchy in a few places, but most of that can be explained by dry skin and the fact that my brain hates me. I don’t want to say for sure that they’re gone — the bites can take some time to appear — but it’s looking good.

The next step will be for us to bring back in the bed, night stands, and lamps and see if the problem comes back. We’ll probably bring them in a bit at a time to eliminate variables. Let’s see if the recent cold-snap has done it’s job and finished them off. I’d be sooo happy if the bug saga is over, especially if we can get out of this without buying more bedroom furniture or paying the exterminators any more.

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Quick Update

Posted by pete on January 18th, 2007

TiVo
The Cox guy, Joe, arrived last Wednesday with three cable cards. The first worked right out of the box. The second didn’t and neither did the third. He said that that’s about typical. There are two types of cards they carry: the “old” cards and “2006″ cards. The old card have about a 1 in 3 failure rate, whereas the 2006 cards a 1 in 20. A 5% failure rate is definitely better than a 33% failure rate, but still, 5% is higher than it should be.

With three cards down and one slot still waiting to be filled, Joe did something I really appreciated. I’m not sure it was because of a strong commitment to customer service or he just didn’t want to come by again. He called around to other Cox installers in the area to see if any of them have a spare 2006 cable card. He found one out in Centreville and went out to get it. He returned about 40 minutes later with the card, popped it in, and a couple minutes later, we had a happy second tuner. I’m very happy with him doing this. He did a good bit to pull my opinion of Cox techs out of the sewer.

So now we’ve had TiVo series three loving for the past week. How have we liked it? It’s been pretty nice. Compared to the Cox DVR, it’s a wild frenzy of lovin’. My only complaint about the TiVo right now is that the front display won’t stay at the “bright” or “regular” brightness setting after you set it. It’s normal setting (“dim”?) is too low for us to really see from the couch. After calling TiVo tech support, I found out that it’s a software problem that’ll be fixed in the next software release, which should be “in a few weeks.” Annoying, but if this is the worst thing we have to say about the TiVo, we’re golden.

Bugs
A lot of the bedroom stuff (bed, night stands, lamps, etc.) is still out on the back deck, shrouded in blue tarps. I’d like to give the bedroom a test run before bringing the stuff back in, though. I figure, while uncomfortable, it’ll help reduce some variables. If I get bit more, we’ll know that the problem runs deeper than the stuff on the deck and that buying a new bed will just infest that too. I really hope that it’s an uneventful night (or at least few hours) and that this extended stay in the cold outside will be enough to finally rid us of these damn bugs.

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