Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Dell’s local supply chain technician called me yesterday morning to set up a time to replace the parts on my laptop that seemingly blew up. They didn’t have the parts yet, but were expecting them later that day so they’re going to call me back this morning to arrange a time to do the repair.

I brought my laptop to work, and the tech’s office is actually just around the corner from mine, so that way he could do it whenever and when I take it home tonight it’s fixed.

I turned to my co-worker James and said “hey, do you want to see my screwed-up video card?” he came over and I turned the laptop on…. and it worked! WHAT THE HELL??

I’ll mention it to the repair tech, but I’ll still have him replace the parts. Save him a trip out again later, ESPECIALLY if he can replace the GPU with another, non-f’d up one.

Update: Well it must have been it's final hurrah. when the technician arrived, it came up with the BIOS logo screen, but then died. He began to disassemble the laptop to replace the system board (that's the motherboard in Dell-speak) and unfortunately it has the same GPU chip on it as the one being replaced. Ultimately he had to stop and make arrangements to come back tomorrow because--get this-- he couldn't get one of the screws out and has to get a different screwdriver. I have one that's the perfect size for laptops, but unfortunately I left it behind on Vancouver Island last week. He's coming back tomorrow to finish it. It's a darned good thing that I'm a huge nerd and have three other computers at home I can use until this one is back up and running.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009 08:57:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Microsoft | Windows#
Saturday, 17 January 2009
Ahh the joys and risks of running beta software.
This morning I fired up an xvid video that I downloaded and partway through the video, the audio stuttered and then froze and the screen froze. The screen went black. then it came back, then went black again. i tried to hit escape, out of full screen so maybe i could catch it and click close, but before that happened, I got a Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). No big deal, they happen from time to time and it IS beta software.
The problem was when the computer restarted, I didn't get the Dell logo screen. I didn't get the Windows logo startup screen. I didn't get a login screen. What I got was a series of lines running top to bottom mostly on the left side of the monitor... multicolored but slowly becoming all white. The rest of the screen slowly started showing vertical lines until eventually the whole screen turned white. Not good. What the hell? How could a crash physically damage hardware? I tried turning it off and on again, same thing.
Watching closely, I could see and hear the BIOS POST (Power On Self Test). After a minute or two, the hard drive activity light blinked out. On a hunch, I entered my password and hit enter. Hard drive activity resumed and it logged me in. Of course, I couldn't see anything so all I could do was shut down gracefully.
Using my other computer, I checked Dell's support site and did the diagnostics they suggested. Turns out my LCD monitor is fine, but the video card is hosed. How on earth did watching a video cause a crash in the driver that resulted in not only a BSOD but a physical corruption of the card itself? That's unheard of!
In hindsight, I think it was a combination of things. My laptop has the nVidia GM8400 video card in it which is known to have a major design flaw. This affected Dell, HP, even Apple's MacBook Pro laptops that had this chip in it. Ultimately Dell extended the warranty of every system with this chip in it for free. The combination of a flawed video chip and a beta driver for a beta OS was a recipe for disaster.
Ultimately I had to call Dell. The NEXT major obstacle is that I bought this laptop through my corporate account... through Dell Latin America. I'm now in Canada and have to have the system transferred. I called the Dell XPS tech support line (XPS has it's own tech support department, which is one of the nice things about paying a premium for a product) I got through to a technician with a slight FRENCH accent, which leads me to believe the call center is here in Canada, rather than Panama for Dell Latin America or India for Dell US and A.
I explained what happened, and what steps I had already taken. (Having dealt with Dell Tech Support for issues for the hundreds of systems I had at my last job, I learned how to work WITH them rather than them having to rely on their flowcharts) I also told him that since this was the known-bad GPU, that I'd prefer to have a technician come on-site and replace the GPU rather than send my laptop in for depot service. You just never know if you're going to get your own computer back, with a freshly-installed OS and no data, photos, emails, contacts or anything else on it. They said no problem, got my address and-waitasecond. This address isn't in Grand Cayman.
Uh-oh. He processed the dispatch for me and then said he was transferring me to customer care to update my records, since tech support has read-only access to customer records. He gave me the case number and transferred me to Customer Care reception. I gave them my case number and said I needed to transfer from Latin America to Canada, and he put me through to someone. Someone else picked up right away (I think I spent less than 2 minutes on hold this whole time so far) and I explained my situation to him. This person, who DID have an Indian accent told me that it was purchased through a corporate account and would have to be dealt with by the corporate sales department, not customer care and would transfer me. I tried to stop him, and he listened to what I had to say and then repeated his script and transferred me... to an automated message saying that the department I was trying to reach is currently closed, and please try again on the next business day. ARRRRRRRGH! I hung up and the call was 19:44 seconds.
I re-dialed the XPS number, and again got a technician, Robby, who sounded Canadian. I said I had just called a few minutes ago, spoke to a tech, got a case number and then was transferred to Customer Care who sent me down a rabbit hole into a dead end. He apologized, asked for my case number, re-confirmed my name, address, email and phone number. Then he said he would re-submit it to dispatch and could he put me on hold for 3-5 minutes. He came back on in about 3 minutes and told me everything was set, he gave me a dispatch number and told me a technician would be calling me sometime early next week (because it's 5:00 PST on a Saturday) to schedule the best time to come and replace the part. Just like that. I asked him if they were going to replace it with the same GPU, the nVidia 8400 that's known bad or were they going to replace it with something that wasn't borked by the factory. He said he didn't know, it would be up to the technician. If they had a better solution at the time of install then yes they would replace my GPU with a different one.
SO. Windows 7 beta: out. nVidia GS8400m: out. Dell XPS tech support: big thumbs up. The worst part is going to be getting through the next week or so with only my desktop, Laurie's desktop and Laurie's netbook in the apartment :)

Saturday, 17 January 2009 17:17:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Gadgets | Microsoft | Windows#
Friday, 09 May 2008
As long as I can remember, I've been looking for a way to watch tv on the go.
Three years ago I installed a Slingbox at my parents house in Vancouver and then connect to it and stream their tv channels to me down here in Cayman, or on my laptop in a hotel room when I'm on the road (of course, I make sure to check in to a hotel that has free high-speed internet) :) it works pretty good. The main reason I did it was to watch Canucks games, and it works OK for that... My parents' upstream speed is just 512kbps and I find I can get about 489kbps fairly consistently. The lower the bandwidth, the slower the refresh and the blockier the video gets. Not ideal for watching something fast like hockey, but watchable. Upgrading them to the 'extreme' cable modem speed would double their upstream to 1024kbps for $10 month more. I always meant to do that, but never got around to it. Now that I'm moving back to Vancouver it's kind of a moot point. The only drawback is that it's "live" tv. if I wanted to record or time-shift anything, I'd have to buy, set up and configure a TiVo at their house. Slingbox supports a TiVo right down to the remote, but it's another expense and another device to manage.

I've been filling in the blanks with torrents anyway. Widescreen HD streams (although they're shrunk and compressed, they still look better than regular TV) and then watching on my laptop or desktop took the place of watching stuff on TV on someone else's schedule.

Last year when I picked up an Xbox360 and then did the fall update to support XviD, we started using that to stream the tv shows over the network to the TV. Wireless just didn't have the balls to do it though, so I went with a pair of Linksys powerline ethernet devices which promise up to 480mbps throughput. Using Windows Media Connect, it worked great. The only problem that remained was watching this sweet, widescreen, pseudo-HD videos on a shitty 21" TV (at least it has component input) with a nasty overscan.

Not anymore... just after lunch today I took a swing by my US freight/mail forwarder and picked up a new bulb for the tv we got our grubby little mitts on. Tonight, we dine in HELL! OK maybe not... but tonight we watch on an HP 65" DLP HDTV! SO THAT problem is solved, that just leaves.... mobile watching.

When I picked up a PSP a couple years back I had visions of watching tv via WiFi dancing in my head. It never materialized. Sony released the Location Free TV which had a PSP client, but it was $200, and then the client for the PSP was another $30, and then the inevitable nail in the coffin was of course no one knows what the IR codes are for the WestStar custom tv boxes. If you have a learning remote, you can program it to control your WestStar box, but that's it. I went so far as to use PSPVideo9 to automatically convert and sync every video that came down to the PSP, but with a 1gb Memory Stick it filled up pretty quick. I was hoping to be able to watch a show or two on my lunch break the next day, but it never worked very well. Consequently, due to my impending departure in august, I'm selling my PSP. The details are at the previous link on eCay Trade, the free classified ad website down here.

Last year I picked up an iPod Touch and stopped using the PSP for watching video on the plane. Yes, I'm on planes enough that this was something that needed to be addressed. It's an hour and five minutes from Grand Cayman to Miami, which is about 45 minutes of time when you're allowed to use your electronic devices. As it turns out, a 60 minute tv show minus it's commercials is about 42 minutes. Coincidence??? I now had 16 times the amount of storage that I had on the PSP in a device a lot smaller and with an almost comparably sized screen. The iPod's screen is way crisper than the PSPs somewhow, even though it's .1" smaller and slightly less resolution (I think).

It turned out I still had the same issues though, I had to plan ahead and convert videos using Videora's Ipod Touch converter which takes practically real-time to convert from xvid avi to an iPod compatible MP4. As of today, that's no longer a problem. Today I read an article on Lifehacker called OrbLive Streams Live TV to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Excuse me? JACKPOT!

I clicked over to Orb's How-To page and gave it a quick once-over. It seemed easy enough, install the streaming server on your computer and then whatever clients you choose can stream your data (videos, tv tuner, webcam, photos, documents, games, music and even youtube and other online video sites) including the Xbox360, PS3, Wii, Sansa and the iPod and iPhone. They went a step further in that if you have a jailbroken iPhone or iPod you can download a native app to connect to the server rather than a web-browser based interface. Slick.

I used Remote Desktop on my lunch break to log in to my computer at home and download the server. I installed it and created a username in about five minutes and pointed it at my Incoming folder.

Then on my iPod I went to the installer app, updated the sources list and then from Multimedia selected OrbLive. It downloaded the 1.8mb package and then installed it and restarted. After that I had a new OrbLive icon on my screen. I clicked it, entered my username and password as I had set up on my server and... it connected! I clicked Video, and then Folders and there it was: E:\Incoming-BT I clicked that and it brought up a list of the videos in that folder! Slick! I clicked on jPod S01E10 and after a few seconds of Connecting... and Buffering... there it was! it was streaming the video from my computer, over the internet to my iPod via Wifi! SWEEEEEEEEEEEEET! Everton and I then went to get a bite to eat at Cimboco and where we were sitting was within range of one of the C&W Hotspots of which I now have a working username and password. I tried streaming from there and while it worked, it was kinda chunky and stopped to buffer a lot. It was kind of like trying to watch ANYTHING on Real Player (buffering...) I switched to Photos and clicked through the stack of photos to some baby pictures of my brothers and I that Steve had going on a loop at the guestbook table at his wedding. Nice.

If I had a TV tuner and an input going into my computer I could stream Live TV to my Ipod or watch recorded TV in addition to everything else! In addition to the cool-as-shit iPod/iPhone app, the web interface is pretty cool, too. It looks like MediaMonkey and allows you to stream anything you've set to stream to another computer via the web interface, which then invokes your default players when you click play on something. And for some reason it's all free? It would be worth it at TWICE the price!

Friday, 09 May 2008 13:34:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Gadgets | Gaming | Wireless | WWW#
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Part of me wishes it would function as a JBOD array rather than the automatic protected storage system, but I'm sure that when a disk goes bad I'll be glad it's protected
Tuesday, 11 March 2008 20:03:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets#
Saturday, 02 February 2008
Nothing sucks quite as hard as having to move... I suppose the blessing in Cayman is that 99% of rentals are furnished so you don't have to rent a truck and move all that heavy shit around. Still, all that packing and unpacking is a pain in the arse.
Saturday, 02 February 2008 15:36:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Movies | Scooter | Tech | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft | Wireless#
Sunday, 18 November 2007
I realized that the biggest gripe I had was the memory size; 16gb. Then I realized that I had been making do with 1gb on the PSP, and had even stopped carrying the PSP with me on the plane because it was getting too be too much to carry around. The only plus for the PSP was that it also played games, but I haven't used it for that in over a year.
Sunday, 18 November 2007 13:14:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless | WWW#
It turns out that I'm being actively blocked from downloading any content from XBL Marketplace because my IP address identifies me as residing outside of the US and A. That's right, region coding. "This content is intended for US residents only".
Sunday, 18 November 2007 12:43:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft | Wireless#
Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Monday night after my meeting with Noble House, I stayed on the Dolphin Expressway, passed my hotel by and went to the Circuit City in Doral. HALO 3 was on sale at midnight, but I wasn't going to stick around for that, that's crazy! I did want to pick up an Xbox 360 Elite and thought there might be a run on them, so I went in early to do that. I also wanted a second controller and the VGA HD cable (since I don't HAVE a TV to play it on, I'm going to plug it into my Acer 22" widescreen monitor). I spoke with a sales rep and he told me he couldn't sell me the game before midnight. Duh. I was going to get the console and then go back the next day to get the game.

The sales rep told me the "event" started at 10:00, and it was 8:45. "Ten? What happened to midnight?"

"Well, the event runs from ten until two A.M." Well that's a whole different ballgame... I asked him if he could put the console aside for me, and he hemmed and hawed, and finally he printed some receipt tape and wrote "Reserved for Mark" and took it in the back. I headed across the (flooded) parking lot to Chili's and bellied up to the bar to have a bite to eat and a couple drinks and wait for 10.

At ten I wandered back over to Circuit City and there was a healthy lineup outside the door, along with two tv station trucks and a radio station doing a remote. What I DIDN'T realize til about 10:30 was the "event" started at ten, but they still weren't letting people in til midnight. They had raffles and came out and gave away some swag throughout the next two hours. The tall dorky guy next to me won an Elite console and the game! Two numbers off my raffle ticket! Argh! At midnight opened the doors and let people in about ten or so at a time, then as people exited, they let more people back in. I got through in about 45 minutes. When I got up to the counter, I asked if they had any Elite consoles left, and the kid at the register laughed at me. Seriously, he laughed right at me. The other dorkasaurus next to him asked what was so funny, and he said "he asked if we had any Elite consoles left" and he laughed too, like it was all a big joke.

"Do you have one in the back that says Reserved for Mark?" They both instantly stopped and said "ohhh we were wondering what that one was doing back there" and dork #2 went into the back and brought it out. w00t! It's good to be the king!

I was exhausted and it was about 115 when I got back to the hotel room, so I just dropped everything on the kitchen counter and went to sleep. Last night when I got 'home' from work and dinner, I set about connecting the 360 to the 37" LCD tv in my room and tried it out.

Wow.

I'm not sure what the resolution of this TV is, but I assumed it was 720p, so I set it for that and man, even the Xbox360 splash screen is gorgeous! I played the first couple levels on normal difficulty, just to get the feel for the controller and the new buttons and weapons, and I have to say, it's pretty cool. Once I get back to Cayman I'm going to have to re-up my Xbox Live subscription and start getting schooled and teabagged by 12 year old trash talkers again! Next stop will be putting a big widescreen LCD on the shopping list :)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007 20:08:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Gadgets | Gaming | Microsoft#
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
If you've never used multiple monitors before, try it. It's like going from a Honda Civic to a, well.. a Honda Accord. :) Within fifteen minutes (if it even takes that long) you'll wonder how you ever got along without it for so long. I have a single monitor at home, it's an Acer 22" widescreen, but at work I recently switched to a pair of 17" LCDs and the productivity increase is staggering.

Then there are crazy setups that take it to the nth degree. Rich has a setup with an Apple 30" Cinema widescreen flanked by a pair of Samsung 21" widescreens in portrait mode for something ridiculously crazy like 3600x1200 resolution. More and more people (developers mostly I guess but also flight sim enthusiasts) are setting up monitor rigs like this now that the prices of LCDs are coming down down down. Dell makes a 30" widescreen that actually beats the Apple Cinema in the specs department, yet is marginally cheaper (and if you throw something like techbargains.com into the mix for Dell discount coupons it gets even better).

Yesterday I was scanning through some of my rss feeds in Newsgator Online and there was a post by Scott Hanselman on his site about multiple monitor setups for developers. Usually most of the stuff on his website goes straight over my head, and I cherry-pick the little tidbits relating to HTPC, Xbox 360, PSP, Torrents and things like that but the one absolute GEM that I took away from his post yesterday about multiple monitors was for a little app called Ultramon. it "fixes" Windows (ie does something that Windows should do built-in) to let it better deal with multiple monitors. If only for allowing one wallpaper to stretch across both (or x-) many screens it would be a neat utility. The dealmaker though is the taskbar. It stretches the taskbar across all your screens, and whichever windows are open on THAT screen show up on THAT taskbar. There are some other cool tricks it does, but within seconds of installing the trial version and seeing the new taskbar on the other screen, that's worth the $30 price of admission right there.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007 06:39:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Tech | Gadgets | WWW#
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
From American Pie:

Jessica: You've never had an orgasm? Not even manually?
Vicky: I've never tried it.
Jessica: You've never double-clicked your mouse?

Now everyone can double-click their mouse without shame!

UPDATE! :
SECOND best mousepad, ever!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007 08:16:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Gadgets#
Friday, 29 December 2006

2006-12-26 Boxing Day At Home 012Boxing day sales are for chumps. Aside from spending all of Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the kitchen, I didn't have TIME to go out and brave the crowds shopping for things I don't need and can't fit in my suitcase anyway.

Tony got a Nintendo Wii a couple weeks ago when they came out. He paid someone to stand in line for him for 13 hours and got a Wii, Zelda Twilight Princess and an extra controller. He brought it over on Boxing day and we all took turns playing Wii Sports (the game that comes with) There are five sports on it: Baseball, Tennis, Golf, Boxing and Bowling. I didn't have the patience for baseball and only played a couple games on it. Tennis was fun but requires more practice. Golf was good, boxing was good (and worked up a sweat) but bowling was the best of the bunch. I went about nine rounds in four bouts with progressively tougher opponents (although the toughest guy I fought had a skill level of 250 of a possible 2000).

Bowling was the best for multiplayer though. We bowled a few frames in four player mode and had a really good time with it. You can maneouver your bowler back and forth on the boards, and then also vary your angle down the lane. Because of the accelerometers built into the Wii remote, you can also put spins on the ball as you follow-through. By moving a couple boards to the left, aiming for the far right corner of the lane and putting a spin on the throw, I was making the ball dance across the boards, Munson-style! On the second game of the night, I hit two strikes, then an 8-pin split, then four more strikes, and then another 8-pin split and then two more strikes and then I tanked the 10th frame and got a (family) record 196 points. Every time I threw a curving strike, I would throw my hands up in the air, Munson-style. When I got the Turkey for a triple strike, I grabbed my brother's piece of pizza off his plate and took a bite. My other brother, who "got" the reference to Kingpin started laughing his ass off and singing "Stayin Alive" by the Bee-Gees. I tried to do a front-split after that, but got about half way before it felt like I was going to burst my baby-making equipment and fell over. We were all laughing so hard we couldn't continue for about ten minutes.

As cool as Oblivion looks on the Xbox360, and with all the 1080i hi-def glory of the PS3, I think the Wii is going to blow both of them away because even though it's "only" 480p low-def graphics, the games are FUN to play. A gorgeous hi-def game that sucks is still a sucky game and that's what Sony and Microsoft got wrong with their consoles (aside from the blu-ray drive and the EXTERNAL HD-DVD drive for the 360).

I just sold my Xbox system with all the controllers (including the karaoke mic that plugs into the controller, too) just before xmas and I'll probably get a 360 later this year when Halo3 comes out. Hopefully by then the Xbox "preimum" bundle includes the HD-DVD drive internally and not as a clunky external. If I had the chance to have two consoles, I'd definately get the Wii just for the playability of the games, and the ease of just "picking it up" and playing when having friends over. It's just that easy.

We installed the Opera browser beta on the Wii and connected to the internet through my wireless network here and were surfing YouTube and making the videos full-screen on the TV. The relatively low-resolution made the videos look OK at such high screen sizes, and the text input was soooooooo much easier than on the PSP which practically works against you. My dad was able to pick up the Wiimote and play baseball and boxing with us, that's how easy it is. It's how things SHOULD work.

Friday, 29 December 2006 22:16:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
He asked me if I wanted to put it on my account instead. Wha? Sure, ok. (that way it comes out of my account AFTER payday this month!) Next he asked me how many months I wanted to spread it across? "You can do that?" I blurted? "yes, you can pay for it on one, two or three billing cycles".
Tuesday, 12 December 2006 18:35:58 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Gadgets | Wireless#
Saturday, 09 December 2006
I started my search right here locally on Cable & Wireless' website. I'd looked at their lineup a few times, but didn't like anything they carried. I don't particularly like Nokias, and I loathe the Motorola OS (including the dogshit OS and UI on the RAZR) so I immediately discounted them.
Saturday, 09 December 2006 19:24:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Gadgets | Wireless#
Saturday, 11 November 2006

Wizmo is a neat little utility written by Steve Gibson, the guy who wrote Spinrite and Shields Up!. He's doing a podcast called Security Now! on the TWit network and while sometimes it's a bit dry, I'm usually able to listen to the whole thing through.

I'd heard about Wizmo before, read what it does and then moved along. It's a Swiss Army Knife for Windows. You run wizmo.exe either from the command line or as part of a desktop shortcut. After Wizmo.exe you put what they refer to in the notes as "action verbs". There are a bunch of action verbs available, and I believe that it's extensible, so you can write your own action verbs if you want. There's Wizmo Blackout which blacks out your screen (it doesn't turn it off, just blacks it out like a screensaver), wizmo blank starts your currently selected screen saver, wizmo standby to send your computer into standby mode (if it doesn't have a suspend button or it's not a laptop). Other commands are hibernate, logoff, exit, reboot, shutdown which are all self-explanatory, monoff which shuts your screen OFF into standby mode and gravitron, the GRC screensaver with all it's own settings.

The reason I was looking at it again was because my new monitor, my Acer AL2216WB 22" widescreen didn't always shut itself off. I don't know if it's something in the system tray, or maybe one of the Yahoo Desktop Widgets preventing it, but if I was laying in bed watching TV (either from my AverMedia Ultra300 USB tuner or uhh, recorded shows) I'd have to get up and push the button to shut off the monitor and go back to bed. How 1980...

I started searching Google for some way to programatically send a "standby" command to the monitor and two or three links down was Wizmo. WTF? Cool! I went back to GRC.com and downloaded it and configured a shortcut on my desktop to shut off the monitor. Now when I'm done, I fire up VNC, double click the Shutoff Monitor shortcut and close VNC and it's nice and dark and off I go to sleep.

Saturday, 11 November 2006 11:47:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Microsoft#
Friday, 27 October 2006

Rip Curl has announced their H-Bomb wetsuit that has two "powered" heating packs built into it! It uses two polymer lithium ion batteries (I have an old Dell laptop battery now that mine's been replaced in the recall... could I use THAT too? :) )to power two heating packs that sit sort of over your kidneys to keep your core warm. Two settings, Keep Me Warm and IT TASTES LIKE BURNING. Nothing on the Rip Curl website yet, just their E-Bomb and F-Bomb suits so no word on price. More importantly, no word on whether it's suitable for use in a SCUBA application, or if they're just 'wet-resistant' for surfing and kayaking and things like that. I also don't know what thickness of neoprene it is. If it's only a 4/3mm suit, then it really wouldn't be warm enough for temperate diving anyway, heating pads or not.

Friday, 27 October 2006 08:23:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Gadgets | Underwater#
Thursday, 07 September 2006

When I came home from work today, I decided to go for a walk around the Safehaven golf course. It's 3800 meters, or just under 2.5 miles and takes me about 45 minutes. I end up getting back home just as the sun is setting, and after a quick rinse in the shower i'm ready to cook or go get some dinner.

To pass the time, I generally listen to my iPod while i'm walking. I have maybe a half dozen podcasts subscribed, and usually I listen to them while I'm working, but I find concentrating on listening to what people are saying, rather than just music, takes my mind off the exercise. I was listening to This Week In Tech tonight, which is four days old, but whatever. Usually they're right about on an hour long. I got home, and I looked at the iPod to see how far along I was so I could ffwd to there on iTunes and finish listening here while I checked my mail and whatnot.

What I didn't know that iTunes did that I instantly thought "now that's cool" is when I stuck the iPod in the dock and then double-clicked on the podcast, it started up at 52:13 automatically, right where I left off!

I just thought that was kinda cool and didn't know that iTunes did that. Now you know :)

 

Thursday, 07 September 2006 16:16:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Wednesday, 06 September 2006

New monitorSweet mother of resolution! OK, Ok, it's not a full 1920x1200 HD resolution, but it's darned close. This is the new Acer AL2216W 22" widescreen monitor. I've been lusting after a 24" monitor for about a year now, since I saw Rich's monster 24" Samsung and then Dell dropped the price on their (then) 2405FPW to around $800. Then they came out with the 2407FPW and the lowest I've seen that drop to was $750 with free shipping. About two months ago I saw a post somewhere talking about this new 22" from Acer with some nice specs that was MSRP'd at just $399 US. That's practically pocket change!

I sold my 32" CRT TV and put the money aside for oneof these bad boys, but no one seemed to have it in stock or even know what I was talking about. Finally I found a listing for it at Insight so I called up our rep who takes care of our corporate orders and he looked into it for me. He called me back about 10 minutes later and said that they had 2000 of them in a container, but it hadn't been delivered yet. I gave him my CC# on the spot and it finally arrived on Monday. Bliss. It's big enough that when angled like it is in the picture, I have a big widescreen TV display when I'm in bed. Ignore the messy desk. :)

Wednesday, 06 September 2006 14:23:01 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Friday, 30 June 2006
I've been carrying around a USB flash drive for a couple years now, and I've gone through three of them. I bought a 1gb USB2.0 flash drive two years ago at Kirk Office Equipment and it set me back $260CI. That's close to $350US. It lasted about a year or so, and then I forgot it was in my pocket and put it through the washer and dryer. Miraculously, it still worked... sort of. It was definately on it's way out though and sometimes took three or four insertions before it would show up and read all the data. It was time to replace it.
Friday, 30 June 2006 07:51:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Gadgets | Travel#
Saturday, 25 February 2006
Notes on installing the Slingbox Media Player
Saturday, 25 February 2006 10:30:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless | WWW | Travel#
Thursday, 29 December 2005
In just 12 months, the RAZR has gone from vapor to release to ubiquitousness. Three times.
Thursday, 29 December 2005 08:36:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Gadgets#
Saturday, 17 September 2005
long technical post about my media streaming stuff. skip if this sorta thing gives you headaches
Saturday, 17 September 2005 08:43:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Wireless#
Monday, 05 September 2005

Seb's going on vacation for a few weeks on Wednesday, and his birthday is in a week or so, so we (I) decided we should go out for a few drinks tonight (as opposed to tomorrow night, as getting up at o'dark hundred to catch a flight still drunk or just starting a hangover is no fun). I asked him where he wanted to go, and he said let's go to the Triple Crown Pub, which just opened up along the beach.

It looks like they tried hard to make it look like an authentic Irish pub, but at the same time make it look shiny and new and trendy. It was too bright in there to be too authentic, but they had a lot of wood and a lot of Guinness art on the walls. They also had some brickwork inside making two arches to “split” the bar into two halves. Judging from the brickwork and tiles, and the fact that the owner of the place is one of the guys from Edoardo's (good Italian restaurant) , if the whole Irish Pub thing doesnt work, they can re-decorate and re-open pretty quickly as an Italian/Pizzeria place.

The menu was quite big, and had your usual restaurant things, and they also had some pub standards. I had the bangers & mash tonight, which was pretty good. Jules had the steak & kidney pie which looked and smelled REALLY good and Matty & Renee both had a Chicken & Ham pie, which was in some sort of a crepe instead of pastry. Someone else ordered the individual beef wellington, and that looked and smelled real good, too. I don't know which one I'll try next!

We arrived just before 8:00, and the building that the pub is in (which is brand new and un-rented as yet, aside from the pub) had flashing lights coming from the second floor, and I said “Oh, maybe they've opened a disco up there or something?“ turns out it was the fire alarm. We went around the front and into the pub and it was business as usual. When you went to the bathroom, you could hear the klaxon still buzzing upstairs from the fire alarm going off, but we ignored it and carried on. Around 10:30- two and a half hours later -a fire truck pulls up in front of the pub, along with another emergency vehicle behind it. Four firemen climb down and start walking around. Five minutes later they come out of the kitchen and are looking around at the ceiling, and then they see it: a smoke alarm with a solid red LED. Above the bar where we were sitting. Apparently the smoke alarm was sensetive enough that people smoking in the pub set it off (smoking in an Irish pub? say it ain't so!) Worse than that was that it took the fire department two-and-a-half hours to show up?!

Seb really had no idea what was going on, he thought it was going to be me, him, John, Matty and maybe Zac if he was back from the Velvet Revolver concert in Miami (bastard) or not. John made a bunch more phone calls after I sent out the initial text messages to the four of them this morning and there was probably about 15 or so people there. Jules had the night off, so she came out. Peter & MJ (no im not kidding, his name is Peter and her's is MJ... we just call him Spidey), Paulie & Catherine, James & Lucy and a friend of hers named Megan, Martin & Jo came out, who we havent seen in months, Sharon came out (we still haven't scared her off for some reason) and then me, Renee, John & Matty.

Once everyone was there, we gave Seb a card from us guys, and we had a little package for him, too. Being the jet-setter that I am at work, I had a 1gb iPod Shuffle picked up for him, along with the sport case. He had one already (that I picked up for him in Miami back in March or April) but he killed it pretty quick by wearing it inside his shirt while working in non-air-conditioned environs and basically drowned it in sweat. I sent him a link from Hackaday on how to take apart a Shuffle and even brought home an X-acto knife to try it with. It's already broken, what harm can there be, right? Well he tore the ribbon cable that attaches the USB plug to the rest of it, so it was a lost cause. He was kinda moaning about it a couple weeks ago so I decided that I would get him another, along with the sport case which is more or less water resistant. The boys chipped in and I brought it home tonight and wrapped it up and put it in a gift bag. The next trick was how to get it out of the house and bring it with without arousing suspicion. I put a couple books in my backpack to make it laptop-weight and told Seb when he asked why I was bringing a backpack that it was John's laptop that just arrived from Miami. John's laptop is still in Miami (yeah yeah, im workin on it) but Seb knew that John was expecting it, so he had no clue...

I made sure everyone had a drink and then I stood up and got everyone's attention (including half the rest of the bar) and said that since it was your birthday, we had a couple gifts for you that you could really use... Matty & John started chuckling, but I had thought about what I was going to say earlier on today. I didn't write it down, but just remembered the bullet points. Being the king of $G(double-entendres) that I am... “We know you haven't had too much luck with the ladies lately, so me and the boys decided to get you something to keep you busy on those long and lonely nights. In fact, if you're discreet, you can even use it on the long plane ride to London on Wednesday... (the iPod) Seb didn't know what to expect at this point, and Matty just started laughing then. I continued... “But just in case youo find yourself in a situation that warrants it, we also got you some protection!” (the waterproof case) so with that I handed him the bag and dared him to open it in front of everyone. The poor boy thought we bought him a dildo or some other amusement or toy for self-gratification and a box of condoms, and he was like “no f-ing way Im going to open that in front of everyone” but we insisted.

When he pulled out the iPod he started laughing, and then I said “there's more in there...” and he pulled out the waterproof sport case he really started laughing, because one of those would have saved his old iPod. At that point, my talky bit was over so I picked up my glass and got everyone to raise em up and cheers him for his birthday (no singing $wiki(Happy Birthday) though, didn't want the RIAA all over our asses for royalties). After that we just got him really really drunk.

And I forgot to bring my camera.

Monday, 05 September 2005 21:19:46 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Food | Gadgets#
Tuesday, 16 August 2005
What's up with ALL alarm clocks sucking so hard?
Tuesday, 16 August 2005 20:57:59 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Rants | Gadgets#
Tuesday, 05 July 2005
The Cayman Islands' government has issued a Hurricane Watch as of 10pm Local tonight.
Tuesday, 05 July 2005 19:22:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Hurricane | Links | Gadgets#
Friday, 27 May 2005
Hello? who? Cable & Wireless? Sure, hang on... "HEY C&W, it's for you, it's the 21st century calling, they wanna know why you're still in the last century"
Friday, 27 May 2005 06:52:34 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Cayman | Links | Rants | Tech | Gadgets#
Monday, 23 May 2005
The continuing stoooooooooory of a quack, who's gone to the dogs...
Monday, 23 May 2005 19:50:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Gadgets | Travel#
Wednesday, 11 May 2005
...or how I learned a lot more about Linksys internal workings than I ever thought I'd want to.
Wednesday, 11 May 2005 16:57:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Linux | Wireless | Gadgets#
Wednesday, 30 March 2005

So I'm off to Miami tomorrow. I started making a list of things I need to do (starting with DONT FORGET YOUR PASSPORT THIS TIME, SCHMEEB) with a reminder at 6:30am. It has things like “stop at Tiger Direct” pick up HD in it's details, stop at Circuit City and try and find a 1gb Shuffle for Seb, Fix so-and-so's machine, pick up time card blanks, check/set IP address on photocopier/printer, G's laptop IP address and “check on computers in Ft Lauderdale” with various reminder times to help keep me on-task and maybe get back here tomorrow night on the last flight. (im taking my toothbrush and an overnight bag, just in case though)

I then remembered that I'm a card-carrying übergeek and to put them into Outlook which (since it's connected to an Exchange Server), will be available to me via Outlook Web Access anywhere I happen to be) but that won't do me any good in the airplane, in immigration or in a rental car. Wait! I have a smartphone! I'll just sync the tasks to my phone (and since the phone is unlocked, I can use it with a Cingular SIM card in Miami and retain my contacts, emails, etc on one device). I went into the registry and turned off the “force guest mode” and then set up a new partnership to my phone so I could sync my tasks list to it when I plug it in for charging here at work.

Except that it didn't sync my tasks list to my phone in the Options screen, and there was no checkbox next to tasks as if it were unsupported or something. A quick Googling turned up that Activesync 3.7.0 did not quite support EVERYTHING in Outlook 2003/Exchange 2003, but that 3.7.1 did. Next stop: Microsoft Download Center. Right there, smack in the middle of the screen, without any searching: ActiveSync 3.8.0. I downloaded it, installed & upgraded my 3.7.0 installation, selected tasks and synced them over.

Good to go.

Wednesday, 30 March 2005 12:33:22 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Gadgets | Microsoft#
Thursday, 17 March 2005
If you don't know what the title is, you don't have to read on, you won't understand it. This post is so I'll have a permalink to use to refer to this document in the future. :)
Thursday, 17 March 2005 07:34:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Linux#
Friday, 11 March 2005
Yes another one, also unrelated bits and pieces from the week.
Friday, 11 March 2005 06:07:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman | Links | Gadgets | Gaming | WWW#
Monday, 21 February 2005
Consider yourself warned, this article is long, and Im going to try very hard not to swear.
Monday, 21 February 2005 08:13:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Gadgets | Travel#
Wednesday, 16 February 2005

Saturday was the five month “anniversary” of Hurricane Ivan tearing through here. Last week I thought I would do a post about what's been fixed/bulldozed since then, and also what HASN'T been done in the last five months. It turned out to be a lot more involved than I thought. I started to go through some of the 2200 pictures I have from the aftermath of the storm, and identifying things that would make good “after and after-after” shots, and then carrying my camera around with me to take those shots, and what exactly to say. I took some shots this morning, and I've been making some notes about what to write. Hopefully I can get everything together in my head and “on paper” and get something out in time for March 12th, the six-month marker. I'm also trying out Microsoft OneNote for this, so I'll also post about that in the future, too.

Richard has a post on his website about his hardware racks. Yes, racks. Plural. If I'm the übergeek, then I don't think there's a word do describe the ultra-geekiness of having not one, but TWO data relay racks in your house. He found these double-sided rackmount power-strips and I've asked for a link or a name so I can find em myself (we're in the process of designing and putting together multiple cabinets/racks in various locations throughout the company) and in doing so remembered a product I heard about a few months ago and had to go looking for. They're called Liberators (no, not THAT Liberator) and they're six-inch “extensions” that allow you to plug in your transformer/wall-wart without blocking the other outlets on your power strip or UPS. It's one of those things that makes you think “Geeze, I should have thought of THAT! I could have made millions and be kicking back on a tropical island with a fruity drink in my hand” except I'm already here. Well except for the fruity drink in my hand. (it's gotta be 5 o'clock somewhere, but it's 10:15 am here, so I'll settle for a cup of tea)

Someone in the office was asking me this morning if I knew of a website that would allow you to “track” a flight, where it was, it's altitude, speed, etc and preferably show it on a map. I asked her if she also enjoyed watching paint dry, but she did find a site called Aeroseek which does exactly what she was asking me about. If you have friends who are travelling, or you're waiting for someone to arrive, it could come in pretty handy. You might also want to do screen-grabs every minute, save it, and turn it into a stop-motion animation and then play it back in a vacation video or something, and you can have a “travelling by red line” sequence just like $imdb(Indiana Jones)!

I still haven't processed the pictures from Monday's dive. I have one of the most beautiful pictures I think I've ever taken underwater in that batch. Considering I was shooting with a digital camera without any offboard strobe, this picture came out poster-quality. I'll probably post it on it's own tonight or something, as well as put it on Flickr.

Wednesday, 16 February 2005 07:29:23 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Hurricane | Links | Underwater | Gadgets#
Tuesday, 18 January 2005

I spent the last two hours writing a BRILLIANT post about MP3 players. Mine was apparently dead this morning, and Creative's support site was no help at all. Eventually I found an answer that led me to my own solution over at Nomadness in their FAQ section.

When I clicked Post To Weblog, my login expired and it bonked out. Since all the text had been entered in a form, it was gone. Two hours of writing & link research down the drain. Grrr.

 

Tuesday, 18 January 2005 09:00:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Gadgets#
Monday, 10 January 2005

Back in the day when I was a strapping young lad making my way through the dating scene in Vancouver, I always had a little litmus test in my back pocket. Whenever I'd pick a girl up (or after dinner on the way home, or whenever we were heading to the car) I would, like a gentleman unlock her door and open it for her. Once she was in, I'd close the door and head around the back of the car to my side which would give me an unobstructed view of the interior of the car. It would also give me a grandstand view of “The Test” to see if she would make it to first base that night, or if she would get a crack at a second date (and possibly beyond first base).

The Test of course, was to see if after she was in the car, if she would lean over and unlock my door before/as I got there. Some girls didn't and their story ended pretty quickly after that. Other girls did, and some even went so far as to OPEN the door a crack after unlocking it. I have fond memories of those girls. :)

This served me well when I was sixteen and was driving an '80 Camaro. (No I didn't have a mullet then, or wear nylon track pants pulled up over my calfs with soccer boots). I moved up to an '87 Golf after that, and it had regular old door locks as well, and I drove that car until I left for Cayman when I was 25. After a year of getting around on a bicycle (which really hampered the social life, as you can imagine... “hey, you wanna get on my handlebars and go back to my place?”) I landed myself Betty.

Betty was an '86 Suzuki Samurai, baby blue with pink racing stripes on it. Betty was a chick magnet. Being a soft top, I never locked the doors, so there was no need for “the test”. When Betty finally said goodbye and went off to that big, blue & pink puppy farm in the country, I picked up a sweet little Acura Integra. It had regular door locks as well. The Acura floated away during Hurricane Ivan and I was back to biking and thumbing rides until I got my current ride, a Jeep Wrangler. Again, a soft top that I don't bother locking. I also drove Brad's pimpmobile for a few weeks while I was waiting for my Jeep to arrive on a boat.

In the mid 80's cars started coming with “central locking” which as you all now know opens ALL the doors when you unlock one of them from the outside. It was the natural progression from the ultra-chic power locks of the 70's. Then the 90's came along and the next step (on your average car, not just really expensive imports) was remote keyless entry. Quite possibly one of the best innovations in automotive technology since cruise control, or anti-lock brakes.

This presents a quandary to the young male on the dating scene. Approaching the car, he palms the fob and unlocks BOTH doors at once. He steps aside and holds the door open for his lovely companion, sees that she's seated comfortably , closes the door and proceeds around to his side... where the door is already unlocked!

How is he to know if she is the type of person who WOULD HAVE unlocked his door for him, or even opened it a crack, or if she was the type to take that moment alone to let a little gas pass through her dainty little cheeks? Or even worse, the type who makes a mad dash for the vanity mirror?

Technology... man's saviour... and his downfall.

Monday, 10 January 2005 21:33:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Rants | Tech | Gadgets#
Tuesday, 12 October 2004

OK, so some of you were checking here (either by RSS or old-fashioned web surfing) in the days leading up to, during, and after the storm, looking to see if we'd all made it through. I won't beat any dead horses about lack of coverage of the Cayman Islands in the news, because it's moot now.

A few days ago I posted an article about how I had figured out a way to get Mobile Web working on my Motorola MPx200 SmartPhone, and mentioned how handy it would have been to have that during the storm, as Cable & Wireless' GSM network did not go down through the hurricane (you just sometimes had to go to places where the signal was strong enough to make a call) unlike other providers who took up to six or seven days to come back up.

With that setup, I would have been able to surf on over here via the built-in version of Internet Explorer, log-in, and post a “we're OK” message. Probably not much more, because typing a long message with a cell-phone keypad is probably the same sort of sensation as masturbating with a cheese grater: slightly amusing, but mostly irritating.

I've now taken it one-step further by figuring out how to access my email from the phone. It wasn't hard, it was just one of those things that I never got around to setting up. I can now download headers of my email and if something is important, download the message and respond to it right away. Other than that, it won't automatically check my email and download anything, because I only get ONE MEGABYTE of data per month, and then I get charged PER KILOBYTE after that. In an emergency, I would use it, but not for casual emailing.

Not only can I check/receive email on the phone, but I can send it out as well. I've also configured my website to accept posts from me via email. I can write an email (see above about message length) to the website and it will show up here as a new post automagically! Wicked-cool, huh? (OK, it's cool if you actually own a propeller beanie)

So NEXT TIME a Category Five Storm-Of-The-Century comes along and happens to hit Cayman right in the nose, I'll be able to post a message while sitting on the roof behind the chimney to stay out of the 225mph+ winds! (except we werent sitting on the roof, and no one HAS chimneys down here... who the hell has a fireplace in the tropics? Besides Barrie & Leslie that is)

Tuesday, 12 October 2004 12:14:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Hurricane | Gadgets | Microsoft | WWW#
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