Archive for January, 2007



Here’s a couple of good news/bad news pairs that will update you on the last few days…

Bad news: My computer took longer to get running than I had anticipated because the fan on my graphics card died after I cleaned all the dust out. I looked for a replacement at a local store and was told by an employee that I would have to order it online and it would cost $25. This would be on top of the $90 I had already spent on the new hard drive I bought.
Good news: I finally got the computer up and running. Instead of trying to repair my graphics card, I got a new one for $35. I still haven’t transferred all our old data over, but most of the core functionality has been restored. In the end, I spent more on this project than I had intended, but I also upgraded the hardware substantially, so it shouldn’t need any further work or upgrades for a while.

Bad news: Last night, Elizabeth slipped in the kitchen and bashed her face on the floor. She cut her lower lip and blood got all over the place, including her clothes, my clothes, the floor, the phone, and the ice tray.
Good news: She handled the situation really well. We took her to urgent care and the doctor said he thought it was pretty minor and didn’t require any stitches. She should be all healed in a couple of days.

Good news: It’s almost the weekend.
Bad news: I haven’t accomplished very much at work this week.

Good news: I have new-found motivation to work on the computer I’m trying to set up to run MythTV. I also have some new sources of information (thanks, andyl) on how to get it working, which will hopefully make the process easier and less frustrating than last time I worked on it.
Bad news: If, for some reason, I can’t get it all working quickly and easily, I’ll probably wind up wasting a number of hours of my life in frustration and bitterness.


A Wii post everyone can enjoy

This video comes courtesy of Ben Kuchera at, which is a website I frequent with, well, great frequency. It’s basically a poorly shot video of someone getting a hole-in-one while playing golf in the German version of Wii Sports. The German expression for “hole in one” is “das Einlochen mit dem ersten Schlag” (courtesy of, which doesn’t exactly have a great ring to it (even for German speakers). So, the game developers used a different term to note the achivement, which you’ll see at the end of the video.

And now, to the video.

Finally, after watching the video, to ease your bewilderment, a translation.


A disturbance in the force

Just a heads up for those of you who can’t live without my blog – it’s going to be intermittent at best over the next two days. Today I began the process of reinstalling Windows on my home computer (rechner). Actually, I was going to reinstall Windows on my machine, but in the end, I bought a new, larger hard drive and I’m installing Windows on it. Anyway, I normally use wireless to connect it to the network, but the wireless isn’t super reliable, so while I’m in the process of downloading service pack 2 and the myriad other security updates, I’m going to use wired ethernet. Unfortunately, we only have 1 ethernet port in our apartment and it is normally used to connect imladris (which hosts this blog) (Update: used to host this blog) to the network. So, while I’m in the process of installing stuff, I’m going to have to disconnect imladris from the network so I can use the ethernet port for rechner. This means my blog will be down until I get all that stuff finished. Sorry. I hope to have most of that work done by tomorrow evening. However, that’s not all. They’re shutting down our electricity on Monday in order to replace a transformer nearby, which is going to mean that the computer will be offline again for part of Monday. I think the power shutdown is only going to last an hour, so I’ll try to get the computer back up and running as soon as possible once the power’s back on. Anyway, I hope you’re all having a nice weekend.



Tonight, I pulled our computer desk away from the wall to investigate a funny noise emanating from one of our computers. I had known for a while that there was quite a bit of stuff under the desk, but I had avoided looking in detail because of the fearsome dust bunnies under there. However, since I had already pulled the desk out, tonight I decided to brave the dust bunnies and liberate all the stuff that had been under there. Here’s the list of items recovered:

  1. Creative Zen Nano Plus (MP3 Player)
  2. My old National City ATM card (Elizabeth likes to play with it)
  3. My old AOK Krankenkasse (HMO) card from Germany (see above)
  4. “Klear Kloth” Lint-free polishing cloth (in wrapper)
  5. A plastic ball (Elizabeth’s)
  6. A soft cloth ball that looks like a hacky-sack (ditto)
  7. A plastic donut (ditto)
  8. A rock Elizabeth brought in from the playground
  9. A penny
  10. Another penny
  11. A third penny
  12. A guitar slide
  13. A small barret
  14. A small container of Playdoh
  15. A huge Crayola marker
  16. A yellow highlighter
  17. A large Crayola crayon
  18. A small piece of a broken large Crayola crayon
  19. A hexagonal crayon of unknown origin
  20. A SD card holder
  21. A UConn Huskies baby bottle (missing lid)
  22. One stale teddy graham
  23. The lid to a marker of unknown whereabouts
  24. A card showing Noah’s ark (part of a children’s game)

While it was great to find all these things, I now have the onerous task of finding their correct locations. And, I still haven’t figured out exactly where that noise is coming from.


Hacking the Wavebird

My apologies to my readers who are not interested in the Nintendo Wii – this is another Wii-related post.

Anyway, as you may or may not know, the Wii is backward compatible with the Nintendo GameCube. In fact, this backward compatibility is real, not emulated. So, when you start playing a GameCube game, the system stops functioning as a Wii and no longer responds to the Wii Remotes. However, you can still play your GameCube games wirelessly if you buy the wireless “Wavebird” controller originally released for the GameCube. This consists of a controller with a built-in transmitter and a separate receiver that plugs into a GameCube controller port on the Wii. Unfortunately, this is the only wireless controller for the GameCube – all the others require you to plug the controller directly into the controller ports. However, yesterday it occurred to me that I might be able to hack the Wavebird so that I could plug other wired controllers into it and use the transmitter in it in order to use other controllers wirelessly as well. This would be particularly useful in that it would allow me to use my “DK Bongo” controllers from the comfort of my couch.

Here’s how it would work:
I assume that, internally, the Wavebird contains a GameCube controller like any wired GameCube controller. However, instead of the controller output going directly to the console over a wire, it is connected to the wireless transmitter. It seems to me that if I can open the controller up and splice a switch and a female controller port in between the controller and the wireless transmitter, I could make it possible to plug other wired controllers into the Wavebird, effectively making them wireless.

There are a couple of obstacles to this plan right now.
First, in order to confirm my assumption about the internal wiring of the Wavebird, I need to open it up. This requires a small tri-wing screwdriver with a long shaft. While I could head over to Microcenter and pick up a set of specialty screwdriver bits, actual tri-wing screwdrivers are tough to come by. Unfortunately, in this case, a bit set won’t work because some of the screws are recessed in holes that are both deep and narrow – too narrow to accommodate bits from a bit set. Does anyone have any suggestions on where I could buy individual tri-wing screwdrivers?

Second, providing that my assumptions about the internal wiring of the controller are correct, I need to find a source of female GameCube controller ports. I guess I could try to buy broken GameCube consoles or something but I’d like to keep my costs as low as possible.

If it turns out that the hack is easy and the necessary parts are plentiful and cheap, I might consider selling these things. There are a number of non-standard controllers for the GameCube, like the “DK Bongos” and the “Action Pad”, so people who are interested in using these controllers but have their home entertainment centers set up in a way that precludes plugging them directly into the built-in controller ports would probably be interested in a product that enables them to use these controllers wirelessly. This seems like an elegant solution because it also mimics the model used in the Wii Remote which offers the ability to plug peripheral controllers into the main wireless controller.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions, please pass them along. Also, it’s very possible (even probable) that someone has already done this hack. If you know of such a hack, please pass along the link. I won’t be offended.


SLR Photography Revisited

For Christmas Heather got me a binder filled with pages for organizing and archiving negatives.  So, yesterday, in an uncharacteristic show of enthusiasm for slow, tedious tasks, I put all my negatives into this binder, segment by segment.  When I got that done, I decided to put all the corresponding prints into an album we had been given for our wedding but never used.  Flipping through my pictures got me excited again about photography.  I find it easy to get discouraged – I’m not an experienced photographer and I tend to be highly critical of any creative output I might venture to produce.  However, looking through these pictures got me energized about taking photographs.  I had been meaning to put together an album on my photo gallery of all my favorite SLR shots, but I got bogged down at some point and gave up.  Fortunately, with all the prints in an album, I found the task of picking favorites much easier than trying to do so looking through pictures online.  So, I present to you, my favorites.  I have this gallery broken up into 4 sub-galleries: people, places, things, and events.  I hope you enjoy them.

Below is one of my absolute favorites, from the Ringling Bros. Circus visit to Boston in October, 2006:


The computers of Middle-Earth

This post will pretty much out me as a huge nerd, though I’m guessing that all my previous posts have probably taken care of that already.

Yesterday, I registered my fourth static IP address and hostname with MIT. I needed a fourth because I now have 3 computers and a Wii at home, all of which access the network using static IP addresses. Yesterday’s new hostname also marked the third The Lord of the Rings-related hostname I’ve registered. The hostnames I’ve chosen are as follows (in chronological order):

  1. rechner“: I chose this in the fall of 2003 when Heather and I got our then-new home desktop machine. It has nothing to do with Tolkien because I wasn’t into The Lord of the Rings at that point. Anyway, it simply means “computer” in German, which I think is pretty appropriate for a machine we use for general computing.
  2. imladris“: This is the machine that hosts this blog. Imladris is the Elvish (Sindarin) name for a refuge and home for the Elves in Middle-Earth, more commonly known as Rivendell. I chose this name because this machine would be my online home, hosting my family’s photo galleries and my blog. Also, I chose Imladris instead of Rivendell, because Rivendell was already taken… (Update: Imladris no longer hosts this blog. In fact, Imladris has been retired.)
  3. ainulindale“: I honestly have no idea how to pronounce this. This is the Elvish (Quenya) word for the song sung by Iluvatar and the Ainur that created the world, which is discussed in The Silmarillion, rather than any of the Lord of the Rings books. I chose this for my Apple AirPort Express, which I bought to stream iTunes music from my computer to my stereo. I have since retired my AirPort Express due to the unreliable nature of our building’s wireless network and its inability to stream audio sources other than iTunes. It has since been replaced by a Griffin RocketFM. When I got my Wii, I used this hostname for it, which is still somewhat appropriate given the ethereal music that plays on the Wii menu.
  4. orthanc“: This is the Elvish (Sindarin) word for the tower at Isengard, where Saruman lived. I chose this name because the corresponding computer is a black tower, just like Orthanc. I also considered the name “palantir” or “palantiri”, which are the so-called “seeing stones” in The Lord of the Rings, since it will be used for recording television, which itself means “far sight”. However, I haven’t fully decided if the long-term purpose of this machine will be for running Linux and MythTV or whether I will convert it to a Windows Home Server machine when that comes out. So, I thought it would be better to name it according to its appearance rather than its function.

Owning a copy of Robert Foster’s The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth helped immensely with the choosing of these names. Not only that, if you’re interested in reading any work by Tolkien, I would recommend having a copy of this book next to you at all times, so you can look up unfamiliar terms as you read. It will help you get a lot more out of his books than you would get without it.

Finally, lest you think I’m really strange, I would like to point out that lots of people choose names from literature (or other realms of knowledge) to name their computers. For example, my advisor has a policy of naming all the computers in his research group after characters from Dickens novels.


1 X Bad News; 2 X Good News

First, the bad news:

  • It is now officially cold in Boston. The warm weather was nice while it lasted

Next, the good news:

  1. I got a pleasant surprise recently when I logged into my eMusic account. After a few months on the eMusic Lite plan ($5/month for 20 songs) my subscription automatically upgraded to the Basic plan. Since the new pricing structure is in effect, I expected that it would only get me 30 songs. However, I was wrong. My account page says I have 40 songs to download. So, evidently, the fact that I remained a member with a subscription that was going to automatically upgrade to the Basic plan locked me into the old, better rate. That was a pleasant surprise.
  2. I got an envelope from some LA law consultants the other day concerning the bankruptcy proceedings for the now-defunct Independence Air. Normally, getting a large envelope from a law firm wouldn’t be a good thing, but in this case it was. My wife and I had bought two tickets for impromptu travel back to Boston after our car was written off during a trip back to Pittsburgh in the Fall of 2005. However, we ultimately decided not to use the tickets; we bought a car in Pittsburgh and drove it back to Boston instead. We couldn’t get a refund on our tickets but we did get flight credits with Indepedence Air worth over $300. When they went out of business, I figured our money was gone. However, this was an erroneous assumption. It turns out that we’ll be getting some of that money back as part of the airline’s bankruptcy proceedings. Unfortunately, we can only get back money that was for personal travel and since my trip was for business I can’t get a refund for my ticket. However, we can claim for Heather’s ticket, so we’ll be getting more than $150 back! That said, since these legal proceedings have a tendency to drag on and on, we might not actually get this money until after we retire.


While I’m not a Mac zealot and I don’t think Steve Jobs is divine, I have to admit that the new Apple iPhone is sweet.  It seems like it’s really well thought out and well designed.  It’s basically a:

  • widescreen video iPod with touchscreen controls
  • Quad-band GSM cell phone
  • PDA/Internet Communicator (running OS X) with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth

All this functionality is accessed through a sweet touchscreen user interface that doesn’t need a stylus.  It even has a 2MP camera built in.  Not bad.
In my mind, the major drawback to the iPhone is that it’s a phone.  I don’t need a fancy-schmancy phone and a 2-year contract with Cingular.  This is not saying that I couldn’t use such a phone or that I wouldn’t like having such a phone; I’m only saying that I don’t want to pay for it.  My wife and I have used a prepaid plan for the last 4 years and it has worked out well for us.  I’m sure I would love the level of integration the iPhone would bring to my email, contacts, calendar, etc., but I just can’t justify spending the money on it.  So, Steve Jobs, if you’re listening, make me an iPhone without the phone and I’m all over it.


It turns out that I’m 100% Pittsburgh

According to a survey I found via

You are 100% Pittsburgh.

Great job! There’s nooooo doubt about it. You’re from Da Burgh. You deserve a reward, so go have an Ahrn City or two. And GO STILLERS!

How Pittsburgh Are You
See All Our Quizzes

Unfortunately, I don’t have any Arn City on hand (you can’t get it in Massachusetts) – plus, I did the survey at like 7:15am, which is probably a little early to start drinking…


January 2007

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