Archive for the 'gadgets' Category



01
May
09

Planning my future audio/visual/computer setup (Part 1)

I recall a number of months ago, the pastor at our church talked about how the things you daydream about tell a lot about your priorities. I don’t remember much about the rest of the sermon because I was daydreaming about computer case designs… Time has moved on and now I’m on to new daydreams, though still involving computers. These daydreams are really expanding on a previous post, this time extending the vision to multiple computers and a whole home network. In a subsequent post I’ll talk about how TVs, DVRs, and video players might fit into the equation.

Continue reading ‘Planning my future audio/visual/computer setup (Part 1)’

24
Jan
09

Computer case designs are foolish

I had to open up my computer case again today. It is a task that I loathe because I am forced to clean it out pretty much every time I open it. While I dislike this particular case, I basically dislike the design of just about every computer case I have ever seen. They generally don’t handle air flow well and, worst of all, they actually contribute to the premature failure of components.

Continue reading ‘Computer case designs are foolish’

09
Nov
08

Planning a future computer purchase

Our main desktop computer is now over 5 years old. It’s a P4 2.4GHz with an 800MHz FSB and 1.5GB of RAM.  It’s adequate for much of what we do, but it’s definitely showing its age when it comes to more demanding tasks, like processing my RAW photos, which I shoot in Pentax PEF format but convert to Adobe DNG during import.

So, at some point in the not-too-distant future I’d like to upgrade and I’ve been keeping my eye on what’s in the pipeline…

Continue reading ‘Planning a future computer purchase’

08
Nov
08

Pumpkin 2008 and the Arduino Project

I guess this is becoming somewhat of a tradition.  Last year for Halloween, I carved the Pirates logo into my pumpkin.  This year, I decided to spend less time on the carving and more time on the lighting:

After the break, I have some info on the Arduino project and how I got involved.

Continue reading ‘Pumpkin 2008 and the Arduino Project’

08
Sep
08

Ridiculous AT&T Commercials

Over the last few months, AT&T has aired a series of commercials trying to convince the American public that they should use AT&T as their wireless carriers so they can avoid having “no bars” in Belgium, Finland, France, Spain, and, presumably, by extension, Europe in general (and Hong Kong). When I first saw these ads, I couldn’t help wonder how effective these ads could be given that the average American doesn’t go to Europe very often. Any person who decides to go with AT&T on the off chance they wind up in Europe and want to use their American cell phone there has just made a very foolish decision.

Continue reading ‘Ridiculous AT&T Commercials’

29
Aug
08

Another project complete

I had been having trouble figuring out where I could fit exercise into my routine. The problem is that I’m lazy and unless I make exercise really easy to work into my schedule, I won’t do it. I had tried a set of workout tapes we have but working out with Elizabeth around is really difficult. Plus, she has a routine of watching a show on TV starting at 7am, so if I wanted to use the TV without her around, I needed to wrap it up before 7am. The tapes are about 35 minutes and by the time you factor in a few minutes for me to wake up and get dressed I’d basically need to wake up at 6am, which just isn’t going to happen. However, I have an exercise bike and I like reading news websites in the morning, so I thought I could combine the two. After some planning, some purchases, and a lot of sweat (Really. It was really hot in our apartment.) I have a finished product.

Continue reading ‘Another project complete’

15
Aug
08

iPod upgrade

I got my iPod Mini in early 2004 and it’s been pretty solid since, though its relatively small storage capacity has been a source of frustration from time to time.  In the last year, however, the battery life really tanked.  Not only did it not play for long after being charged, but if I charged it up on Friday and didn’t use it all weekend, it would be totally dead on Monday morning.  That got pretty annoying.  So, I had been thinking about buying a new iPod.  I wanted something that had good battery life and large enough capacity to store almost my entire music catalog with some room to spare.  However, I didn’t like the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new iPod when my current iPod still basically worked.  So I decided to upgrade my Mini. Continue reading ‘iPod upgrade’

13
Aug
08

Back online

If you’re one of my, say, 3 regular readers, you probably noticed that the blog was down for the last few days.  On Thursday morning I flew to Pittsburgh for some meetings but before I left, I checked my server machine to see if it seemed safe to leave on for about 5 days with no one home.

Upon inspection, I discovered that the power supply fan had died.  The computer was still working but the fan in the power supply had given up the ghost.  It wasn’t too surprising, actually, since it had been chirping on and off for probably 2 years.  In fact, I had bought 2 replacement power supplies in July of 2006 just in case the existing power supply would fail – an occurrence that actually took a lot longer than I expected.  In any case, I discovered this problem about 15 minutes before the taxi was supposed to pick me up, so I had to just shut everything down.  After returning late on Monday night, I spent some time on Tuesday trying to get things fixed.  However, things weren’t quite as easy as I expected. Continue reading ‘Back online’

26
Jun
08

Electronics going belly-up

My receiver/amplifier has been acting strange for the last few months.  Sometimes, if it’s been on for awhile, the sound just cuts out completely and we have to turn it off and then back on in order to fix the problem.  Sometimes, it seems like the volume just randomly changes, though I can’t tell if that problem is related to the receiver or the crappiness of MIT cable (which has been out all week!).  So, a replacement is in our future but I’ve been holding off because once I graduate we’ll have more money with which to buy a proper A/V setup and I don’t want to buy something now only to find that it won’t work with the other components we plan to upgrade.

To exacerbate our A/V woes, this morning I awoke to the annoying news that our DVD player wasn’t working.  Heather thought she had just pressed some button or something and that maybe I could fix it easily.  I fiddled with it for awhile and I’m now pretty sure that it’s busted.  Bear in mind, this isn’t some cheap $50 no-name DVD player.  This is a $200+ Sony 5-disc changer.  We got it in 2003 as an anniversary present, so I suppose it’s had a good run.  It replaced a Sony 5-disc CD changer which had gone belly-up for the 2nd time (my parents had paid for repairs on it after it died the first time).  Looking back, I think my CD player had an initial life of about 5 years, which was stretched another 2-3 years with the repair.  So, maybe 5 years is a reasonable life expectancy for one of these things.  I don’t know.

Anyway, I looked into getting it repaired.  Rather than having me bring it in somewhere to get a quote, they told me I could just get a replacement.  I give them my busted one and they give me a new or refurbished one and it costs me about $105.  That seemed reasonable.  Then I decided to look at what that $105 would buy me if I bought new.  It turns out that Sony has a single disc HD (1080p) upconverting DVD player with component and HDMI outputs for $80 or a 1080p upconverting 5-disc changer (also with component and HDMI outs) for $130.  So, for $25 less than the replacement cost, I can get a single-disc upconverting player and for $25 over the replacement cost, I can get an upconverting 5-disc changer with HD outs.  I’m pretty sure I’m not going to pay for the replacement.  I just have to decide if it’s worth $50 to get the 5-disc changer.  In any case, I hate the idea of this thing just going into a landfill.  So, I may see if I can just give it back to Sony so they can refurbish it and give it to someone else.  If they won’t take it, I’ll try to give it away at MIT.  Perhaps someone here can fix it, or, failing that, use some of the components that still work for some awesome project that may get them arrested at gunpoint at the airport.

19
Jun
08

A note for those looking for Wii Fit

In about mid-May, I decided to buy Wii Fit for my wife for her birthday.  She had indicated that she wanted to be pretty aggressive in trying to lose her baby weight and from what I had read about it, Wii Fit seemed like a good way to kick start and keep track of weight loss progress, so it seemed like a good, um, fit.  However, I knew it would be tough to find.  I thought about going out to try to find it on launch day (May 21st), but that was my daughter’s birthday and we had a whole day of activities planned.  The following day it was sold out everywhere.  Furthermore, the more I read about it online, the more it became clear that it wouldn’t be easy to find.  I had looked on Walmart.com and used their inventory reports to see availability at brick and mortar stores and while they sometimes reported that they had units in stock, when I called, they inevitably told me that they had just sold their last unit.  Plus, the nearest Walmart is not very near, so this wasn’t a great solution.

On Monday, I decided to step up my game.  I did some more digging online and I found the following two sites: WiiTracker.com and WiiAlerts.com.  These two sites have scripts that trawl all the main retailers and can report their inventory status nearly in real time.  WiiAlerts allows you to enter your cellphone number so that when a product is in stock, you can get a text message telling you so.  It paid off for me this morning.  I got a message shortly after I got up telling me that Circuit City had Wii Fit in stock.  I quickly ordered it and about half an hour ago, I got a shipping confirmation from them.  So, if you’re interested in getting Wii Fit without having to pay extra on sites like eBay or Craigslist, check out the two sites above.  They worked for me!  (Queue cheesy smile and thumbs-up gesture.)




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