Mr. Lee’s Cat Cam

Mr. Lee CatCamHave you ever wondered what you cat did all day?

Where he went? Maybe he’s got some friends you don’t know about? Both our cats are now indoor only, but our last cat Vern, a rescued stray, could not be made to stay indoors under any circumstances. We caught the occasional hint of what he was up to from comments from neighbors or glimpses caught of him when we headed out on errands. But you never *really* know what cats are up to, do you?

Well, I spotted Mr. Lee through Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” blog and I thought it was clever enough that I wanted to comment on it too. Some guy in Germany put some thought into this and he’s got some amusing galleries that highlight what his cat is up to while out of the house. Even better, if YOU are wondering what your cat’s up to while out and about, you can now apparently, purchase your OWN cat cam! Too funny!

From the look of it, your cat probably needs to be pretty big to operate normally with this around his neck. But if he can manage it, I’m sure you’ll be in for some interesting surprises from your cat’s “other” life…

Free Video Trimming Software

I wanted to grab some clips of some larger videos that I could put onto my iPOD to show some friends. I first tried to use XP’s own “Windows Movie Maker” but found that it only saves clips in WMV format which my converter for my iPOD chokes on.

In searching I found this article from USATODAY.COM that pointed me to exactly what I was looking for. I ended up downloading and using “VirtualDub” which lets me simply and easily pick a start and end point (use the cursor keys to find these points and use the “Home” and “End” keys to choose which is which) and then I save the clip as AVI.

Be warned that the output file is HUGE but as I’m only using it as an intermediate file to get to my iPOD this is livable. In one case about a 20 minute clip from a 500 Mbyte AVI clip yielded about a 9 Gbyte AVI file. But after processing with 3GP_Converter I ended up with a more reasonable 135 MByte MP4 file and then deleted the intermediate file.

Great iPOD video converter

3GP_ConverterI can’t remember now where I found out about this great tool but I use the 3GP_Converter to convert just about any file format that I can play on my PC on my iPOD. All I need to do is drag and drop the videos onto the converter and, when it’s done, they are waiting for me on my iPOD.

It’s a good idea to pick a storage folder for the output videos in advance (I just called my “My iPOD videos” in my “My Documents” folder).

Remember to delete the videos from the folder after you’ve removed them from your iPOD. If you delete something from iTunes and you *don’t* get that warning dialog asking if you want to send the file to the recycle bin then you’ve either disabled that dialog (re-enable it now!) or the file is still on your system.

My Box in a Box for You

I originally posted this on January 9, 2007 but I found the link was bad when I went to check it out. So I’m reposting. Unfortunately, since WordPress munges up this kind of embedded content I’m using “Deepest Sender” which doesn’t allow me to backdate the entry to it’s original place. Ah well.

Original post:
On the heels of the other viral “X in a Box” videos is this offering, “My Box in a Box for You” on CollegeHumor.com. It’s pretty well done and good for a laugh if adult themes don’t make you uncomfortable.

There is so much indie creativity out there I’m seriously considering getting rid of my DirecTV subscription.

Laser Magician

In this era of special effects it’s getting harder and harder to tell reality from fantasy. Now, you not only have to evaluate the evidence but you need to render a judgment as to the trustworthiness of the folks providing the evidence.

But some things, I suppose, you just have to take on faith. In this case I’m willing to bet that the magician is just pretty skilled at his craft and that there was no help from the photographer.

I also LOVE how folks can embrace new technologies and then take them that next step forward…

Electric Guitars and Lunch do NOT mix

I don’t really understand what it is with restaurants lately. Maybe they are trying to stand out from the crowd, maybe the manager is away and whoever’s left is trying to assert themselves, I can’t really say. But I eat my lunch at pretty modest to upper-modest restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of music with guitar in it. I’m a closet Prince fan, I like Pink Floyd and my exercise playlist has some very lively music in it. But when I’m out at lunch at a restaurant like Applebee’s I just don’t think that the music should be noticeable to me.

My definition of “Noise” is sound that stands out from the environment. That can be anything from the person who doesn’t understand how to use their cell phone (hint, let the phone pick up your voice and transmit it, you don’t have to get it to the listener all by yourself) to the kid crying from boredom next to me at a $40 a meal restaurant. It’s just not part of the expected ambiance.

When I go out for lunch I usually want to talk to the person I’m with and maybe I want to wiggle my toes to the beat of some pleasant music. What I DON’T want to do is have to wait for breaks in between guitar solos to try to ask how my companion(s) like their meal.

Let’s save the hard core stuff for uber-trendy restaurants that cater to the 20 somethings or the Emo crowd. If I want to stare at my companions with no hope of conversing, I’ll go to a club in Buckhead fully anticipating and expecting that this will be the environment that I will enjoy.

But, and I think I speak for most folks in my demographic (30-50’s, middle class, 9-5 job) that, if I never hear another guitar solo at lunch, it will be far too soon. 😉

Renovation update 06/12/2007

Things are definitely tapering off. For the past few work days there hasn’t been much to see, prep work doesn’t show too well. Plus we’ve had Tommy and Larry do a bunch of smaller things that have been on my “to do” list for ages. But it’s hard to show you the great improvement that shoring up (and properly sealing) the window air conditioner on the gym makes. Or how much nicer the outside of the house looks now that it’s been powerwashed and that scuff on the garage door frame and the fading chimney cap have been painted.

But today there were some more dramatic updates. The wallpaper is now up in the guest bathroom

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and over the bathtub tiles

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and the lighting has been installed for over the mirror

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and the cabinets have been painted and new drawer pulls and cabinet door knobs installed

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We’re waiting on the counter, we’re told it should be ready for next Wednesday (6/20).

Below is the next day – I guess I’m getting lazy but the only very visible thing to see is that the medicine cabinet is now installed and the shower doors are back up (and CLEAN too!)

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DD-WRT alternative firmware for WRT54G

I do a small amount of Bittorrenting and find that it quickly overwhelms my WRT54G router. If I want to get proper performance from the router after any amount of time running Azureus (my bittorrent client) I need to reboot the router by pulling the plug for about 15 seconds and then plugging it back in again.

Apparently this is a known issue with the WRT54G using Linksys’ native firmware and they have simply never bothered to correct it.

I was also having ongoing issues with my home computers being unable to resolve each other’s DNS names and, not being an expert on network items, I wasn’t having much luck resolving this no matter how I configured my router. I’m an application guy really. I understand enough about networking to help me interface with it programatically but I certainly don’t know this stuff frontwards and backwards.

Anyway, bring in DD-WRT. I found this through Wikipedia’s WRT54G entry pointing to Third-party firmware projects. After installing the firmware (you want to be REALLY careful if you do this. Follow the directions closely) I am now able to assign “Static” DHCP addresses to my computers based on their MAC addresses. Basically this just means that they always have the same IP address but everything else is still treated as if they used dynamic addressing. So I don’t have to monkey around with manually setting DNS servers or any of that kind of thing.
This allows me to resolve my communication issue on my internal network via host files. Not my favorite choice but it sure beats my nightly backups failing because my desktop machines can’t find the server.

Also, the slowdown issue with my bittorrent client has been resolved. Here is what is needed. Essentially, the original Linksys firmware keeps track of your old connection for 5 days, you can now adjust that down to something much more reasonable as the nature of P2P traffic, especially a swarm technology like bittorrent, is to engage in a LOT of connections and this will quickly overwhelm your unaltered WRT54G Linksys router.

As a side benefit, the DD-WRT firmware also allows me to schedule regular reboots of the router which I’m now playing with as well. This means, even if there are any creeping buffer overflow or other cumulative issues they can at least be masked by these refreshes. And that is sufficient for my purposes in my home environment.

I’ll post again if there are any issues but so far things have been going very well. I installed the new firmware on this past Friday and have had no issues and excellent performance.

New Blackberry 8830

** Update 6/18/2007 11:30 pm**

Just got off the phone with RIM. According to the rep I worked with I will need to send any suggestions for my new Blackberry (they’re not really issues since it *is* operating as designed – at least as far as the brightness of the “pearl” is concerned) to bbsuggestions@blackberry.com.

1 – the “Pearl” (little control ball) is kept in lockstep with the screen and there is currently no way to disable the pearl lighting – I find this makes it difficult to see the screen unless I keep my thumb over it. I’ll be sending a note to bbsuggestions on this.

2 – The red LED indicator will flash for 15 minutes after it has been triggered. So if you are expecting your repeat notification to let you know you received a message while in the shower, just make it a short shower 🙂  I’ll be sending a note to bbsuggestions on this.

3 – I originally forgot to mention this issue below but the GPS doesn’t seem to work. Apparently RIM has an internal memo that discusses the fact that Verizon, by design, has not enabled the GPS in their devices for 3rd party apps (in particular I want to use Google Maps with this).

** End Update **

I am using a new Blackberry 8830 handled device so that I can offer backup support at work should there be issues with them.

Overall I’ve got a good handle on the device, nice screen and a lot of intelligent features. But one thing is just not working the way I think it should.

I have my profiles generally set so that only level 1 messages notify me when they come in. I allow all other messages to flow into the device but I check those when I have a free moment. I really do want to know about the level 1 messages as they arrive.
Sometimes I’m away from my phone (shower, workout, whatever) and, by default, the screen is off (new feature with this model that’s different from my old 7250). So in my profiles I have set it such that the LED will flash for these messages. But the LED seems never to be on even though I could have a dozen level 1 messages in my inbox. I assume that there is a finite amount of time for which the LED will flash but I have yet to find it, either by searching the web or in the Blackberry knowledge base. I suppose I’ll have to give RIM support a call tomorrow…

BTW, so far,
Pros:

  • REALLY nice screen, automatically changes brightness based on ambient lighting
  • Slim
  • I like the “Pearl” control – still trying to find a way to turn of it’s light. It’s a little distracting in low light.
  • The option key on the left side – was annoying when it activated voice dialing but after I swapped it to take me to my inbox I like it just fine.
  • Faster processor than my old 7250

Cons:

  • That silly LED issue
  • The keyboard is very awkward to use. I presume I’ll get used to it. But I pretty much have to stare at it, rather than the screen, when I’m typing.
  • Another ding against the keyboard is that, in low lighting, the keys are lit such that the letters are a very dark blue (keys are opaque metal). I honestly cannot read them at all. I type using my memory of where the keys *should* be, the only help from the lighting is to let me know that there is *some* key located there, not *which* key.