Wednesday, July 30, 2008


This week we're both trying to finish a bunch of items on our TO DO lists so that we can go off on our road trip on Saturday with nothing left outstanding. At work I knocked out revisions to a journal paper that's been in review since last October. Hopefully those were the final revisions, before those of the editors', that is. That and a couple of other things are on the verge of completion. Meanwhile tonight I knocked off a couple of tasks around the house. It seems a bunch of things have decided to go and break at the same time. The truck is in the shop with some faulty security feature gone awry. At home, I replaced the reservoir in the fridge. There's a series of tubes (no, not the internet) in the fridge that keeps the on-demand water cold. Unbeknownst to us, this large plastic twisty tube has been collecting some kind of black grunge in its folds. Lately this crap has been spewing out into our drinking water. Quite gross. I bought a replacement from my favorite online appliance parts store and managed to swap the thing out without breaking anything or causing a major flood in the kitchen. Am now enjoying a clean, cool, glass of water. Finally, my last task of the evening involved the bee suit you see me wearing. It was time to get rid of what I suspect is a gigantic yellow jacket nest sitting in our driveway island. At least I imagine it to be quite large. We'll see tomorrow. I sprayed Sevin dust in there and stuffed an SOS pad saturated with the stuff right down the entrance hole. That worked a couple of years ago when they stung me in the forehead a couple of times during my retreat. This year, I saw 'em coming, heard 'em buzzing, but they didn't get me! I hope they do what they did two years ago and vacate the patch of ground they've dug themselves into.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


My V-Drums arrived on Saturday. Yet another eBay purchase. eBay is pretty good for musical instruments. Maybe cause musical instruments tend to get bought and sold fairly frequently. The TD-20 drum kit I bought is used, but that saved me about $2,000 from buying new. The TD-20 is Roland's flagship electronic drum kit, their top of the line. It has the largest diameter snare and what would normally be floor toms (PD-125s, so 12" heads), and it has the most realistic hi-hats on the market I think. Same with the crash and ride cymbals: they're heavy, rubberized discs with two triggers each: top and edge. They can also be hand-choked, which is pretty unusual for electronic cymbals. The ride cymbal has a third trigger for the bell. Meanwhile, the drums' mesh heads have probably the most realistic feel of any electronic drums. Playing them feels like playing acoustic drums. But only a fraction of the noise of the real thing, so I can play these fairly freely at home. The TD-20 drum module ("brain") has a bunch of pre-programmed drum kits on it and can model various aspects of a drum (shell diameter and depth, mic position, etc.). My old Pintech electronic kit with the Alesis DM-5 drum module is going to another home in trade for the Tama Rockstar kit that I play on with the rock/80s band I'm in. The V-Drums kit is my 4th kit.

I have to say I think I've been pretty lucky with my eBay purchases. Of the six TD-20 kits I was watching, I paid the least for my kit. One thing I was worried about with the used kit was the kick pedal. Felt beaters tend to rip the mesh head for some reason, although the manual states that plastic beaters should be used. Although they didn't say so on the eBay auction description, I think they sent me a new KD-120 kick drum. In its original box. In fact, three of the drums looked like they were brand new. About the only component that was in the worst condition was the actual rack stand. It seems a bit rickety, but after setting it up and tightening the nuts it seems solid enough. I also bought a DW 7000 double bass pedal with DW 5000 hinges, so it feels as solid as the DW 5000. Playing this kit sounds and feels great, really close to my acoustic kits. Once I bring the manual home I'll start goofing with the TD-20's modeling features.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

iPhone Annoyoance #2, #3, #4

Syncing/recharging, no Delicious app, and no Flash! Sometimes all I want to do is charge the iPhone. I thought several years after buying the Razr, battery life would have improved substantially. Not really...the iPhone appears to have to be charged overnight, just like my old cell phone. Ok, I can live with that, just means remembering to plug it in before going to bed, whether it's at home or on the road. But when to sync and with what machine? I initially had the USB cable hooked up to two Macs, one at work, the other at home. The home Mac has more songs on it, which might be nice to put on the iPhone occasionally, seeing how it's basically a phone and an iPod. But the school Mac has other songs on it as well...and now Apps. Well, the trouble is that when you "purchase" apps on one Mac, sync to the iPhone, when you plug in to the other Mac, your apps get removed, even though they may have been free! I've had this happen several times now. Some apps, like eBay, like to record your user id, which is fine, they should be doing that, but if my home Mac nukes the app, I have to re-install and re-initialize. It's an annoyance. Syncing among multiple computers just doesn't work very well, mainly due to copyright paranoia I suppose. But apart from music, why bother syncing at all? The apps can be downloaded by the iPhone directly, so why bother having to get them via a sync at all? I dunno... I think my strategy will now be to not bother with music on the iPhone, sync to only one machine, and just plug it in to power at home so it recharges at night. In other words, don't bother syncing. (iPhone screenshots are obtained by holding the home button and pressing the power that off the web somewhere, neat trick!)

Speaking of apps, we wanted an app that could store our DVD info so that we could consult it when looking at DVDs in the store. So that we don't buy duplicates... We've been using Delicious Library at home for a long while now to hold all of our DVD collection. If we didn't have any Netflix vids to watch, just peruse the library to see what we had and pick from that. With the advent of the iPhone SDK, you'd think that the folks over at Delicious Monster would have written up a simple database-like app that could sync to the main library on the workstation. Indeed, the Delicious Library 2.0 web pages suggest that viewing your library on the iPhone is possible. Thus far, it's not via an app, but rather via iPhone's browser. Delicious Library publishes your entire collection to the web, which you can then view on the iPhone. Several problems with this: privacy issues (everyone can view your collection), sluggish download due to image files associated with each DVD title. It's slow on our DSL connection at home, slower on the iPhone (via wifi), and I imagine dog slow via an EDGE connection. A local app on the iPhone would be way better...even in plain text. I've got 13G free on the iPhone, I don't think a plain text database file would consume a lot of space...

Finally, no Flash? WTF? The only way to view YouTube vids is via the YouTube application. Because this allows viewing videos in H.264 encoding. But what about all the other web pages out there that show videos in Flash format? I didn't know this till just now, but for the moment, iPhone doesn't support Flash. Adobe claims they're working on it, even though Steve Jobs says the iPhone doesn't need Flash (concern for battery life?). On the one hand, it is a phone after all, so being able to view web pages is kind of a bonus to begin with (I never viewed web pages on my old phone). On the other hand, if you're going to provide a kind of mini network appliance, I suppose it should support everything, no? I suppose we'll see more of this kind of stuff showing up in software updates...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

iPhone Annoyance #1

Having recently retired the Garmin iQue 3600 (the battery that I replaced died a quick death—I thought it would last longer than 3 months, sheesh!), one reason for buying the iPhone was its iCal calendar app. I've grown used to (somewhat dependent on) Google calendar and I use it for various on-the-go info such as flight times and numbers (when I travel), hotel addresses, and the like. I used to manually re-enter this kind of info on the calendar on the Garmin, in a somewhat redundant manner. It was a pain in the butt actually. So with the iPhone I thought hey, I should be able to access Google calendar with the phone and there'd be no need for data re-entry. And yup, that's doable, whenever I have a connection to the net. But what about when out of range of either cellular or wifi signal? I found out that Mac's iCal could "subscribe" to Google calendar, basically syncing itself whenever the Mac it was on was connected to the net. So far so good. And this works for any calendar entries one makes on Google ("in the cloud" as it were). The "upward" sync is a bit of a problem, however, since you can't get iCal to transmit its calendar entries up to Google. But for now that's ok. What I really needed was the calendar data on the iPhone. The iPhone has its own iCal app, and that is supposed to be able to sync up with the iCal app on the Mac (hey, why not with Google directly?) However, here's the glitch: for some reason it doesn't sync with these "subscribed" entries. What gives? The only thing I've been able to find thus far is this knowledgebase article on Apple's web site. It basically says "Yeah, we know". And? I guess they'll address it in the next software update (hopefully).

iPhone 2.0

Fanboy picked up his iPhone on Friday and there was much rejoicing! It's a pretty slick device, I have to admit, a dramatic improvement over my old cell phone, which basically was just a cell phone. The iPhone is my introduction to smartphones. I waited about a year before getting in on this, skipping iPhone's version 1.0 to be rewarded by its 3G and GPS additions in version 2.0. The GPS chip and Google maps is a brilliant combination: it pretty much showed my location on the deck. Well, not quite at that resolution, but you can make out the house and driveway on the display. This ought to work really well in a big city. Surprisingly enough, Clemson (the city and campus) has 3G service already. I wasn't expecting that. However, at home and on campus I use the wifi connection and for data I think that'll be the way to go at airports as well. Of course, at the house, no actual phone service, d'oh! We're in some kind of AT&T dead zone. I get maybe a single bar's worth of signal strength at the top of the driveway but that's about it.

The phone came in this brick-like box, along with a power adapter, USB cable, and the white headphones, of course. One of the cooler features of the phone is the SDK and the apps that are now available for it. Reminded me of the large number of apps for the Palm pilot (anyone still using these?). I downloaded a few of the free ones; some seem to just be conduits to web pages, making them somewhat redundant. What's interesting is that most rely on connection to the network and a few make use of the GPS location. This is quite different from the old Palm pilot apps which could only rely on the host computer's web connection and occasional sync'ing with the handheld device. I'll probably post more about the iPhone as I discover its features and annoyances. Of the latter, some netizens have complained about the 2 megapixel camera, considering it too wimpy. I dunno, it seems much better than my old Razr's camera. I took the box picture above with the phone. It's a little grainy I suppose, but not too bad I think.

Friday, July 18, 2008


It's Friday, lunchtime, and I just finished off a bunch of work to get ready for meetings next week, Finland next month, etc. I also just found out that my iPhone got delivered (22 minutes ago!) to the AT&T store where I ordered it last week. I'm starting the countdown to our upcoming road trip to the Keys. Corey sent me the link to the Hog's Breath Saloon and its bar webcam from which I grabbed the snapshot at left. There happened to be a guy in shades there along with a blonde and brunette. A positive portent perhaps? That table's now free and ready for us to take our seats! Watch for us in a few weeks...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wow, that didn't take long!

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Parousia that Wasn't

Whoever thought that a global rollout and subsequent simultaneous activation of a network appliance (basically what the 3G iPhone and other "smartphones" are becoming) was a good idea, must never have heard of a Denial Of Service, or DOS, attack. In this case, it appears to be self-inflicted! The 3G iPhone's second coming didn't quite materialize as depicted in the above framegrab from Jib Jab's 2007 animated skit In 2007 (one of my favorite Jib Jab clips, which interestingly enough could very well be about 2008; not much seems to have changed, although I can't wait to see what Jib Jab makes of the 2008 election). Instead, numerous problems have sprung up and have already been documented on the web, ranging from activation errors, software glitches, and other gripes. D'oh!

iPhone unavailable

That's about as close as I got to the iPhone this morning. Stood in line for about an hour but it turns out I got there about two hours too late. I got there at about 8:45 and they ran out of the 8G iPhones just a few people after the guy who got there at 7:00. The 16G iPhone reportedly went sooner than that! (Mind you, I kinda have my doubts regarding whether they ever had the 16G iPhones there in the first place; my inner conspiracy theorist suspects that the 16Gs never shipped, at least not to this, our closest dippy little store.) Seems like AT&T (and Apple) got slammed with the demand. They ran out of iPhones in about two hours and they had trouble placing "Direct Fulfillment Orders" for all us suckers who stood there as it turns out for no reason (computers were not responding of course). Well, the end result is that yes, seeking direct fulfillment, I too placed my order, meaning that AT&T took my money, but I'll have to wait about two additional weeks before getting my clammy little hands on the coveted piece of black plastic. Hopefully they make good on the two week delivery. The apologetic rep said this was the fastest route to getting the iPhone as all the AT&T outlets were quickly running out of stock (i.e., "don't bother driving around to other stores"). I suspect that this all pretty much played out as Apple wanted it to: shipping out a small quantity of devices to get a better estimate of the actual demand. Why overproduce, right? This also makes for a more exciting press release: "Whaddayaknow, iPhones sold out! `Unprecedented' demand, bla bla bla."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Windows Update

It seems that every time I sit down at my Windows machine to do some work (after considerable procrastination) I get stuck (for hours!) updating one thing or another. Probably a reason in itself for my avoidance of this particular operating system in the first place. Windows Update is annoying enough already, but when it screws up, like it did this time, it's even more so. It continues to warn me about installing the Security Update for SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 after I've tried installing it countless times now. Clearly a bug in their own installation scripts/records/whatever. But then again that's something I've grown accustomed to with Microsoft. And Windows Update is something I do quite often, as I believe that it should be done quite often to keep, well, up-to-date with the latest patches. I just wish they'd make this process much less painless: (1) make sure that if the patch doesn't work, either explain the workaround or stop bugging me to keep doing it, and (2) don't make me reboot after every update! Most annoying.

Today, however, the major irritation unexpectedly came from Adobe. Having released Adobe Reader 9 recently, I decided I may as well update from the last version I had running (8.1.2). Internet Explorer kept crashing whenever I tried installing Reader via the HTML interface. Buffer overflow problem, as reported by my virus scanning software. Eventually what worked was downloading and saving the executable install program, instead of going through the browser. And a reboot in between removal of 8.1.2 and installation of 9.0. And then again an update of 9.0 after its install. Luckily no reboot after that one.

Maybe some of this stems from being an early adopter...trying to get Adobe Reader 9 before it was actually good and ready to download? Well, at least I've managed to avoid Vista. I seem to be doing ok with Apple's OS X Leopard, and tomorrow I'll try to get my hands on the 3G iPhone. Which presents a bit of a quandary: is getting the 3G iPhone on its first day of release early adoption? It feels like it, but really it's "iPhone 2.0", so it seems like it should be worth the risk. Who knows...I don't even know whether I'll be able to get one—the line at the AT&T store might be forming already...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

4th of July

Here we are on our "floating beach" on the 4th of July. The fourth is one of a dozen official holidays that we get at Clemson. The university holiday schedule is atypical, where we work through the usual holidays, but we make up for it with spring and fall breaks. You'd think they could schedule the holidays in better consecutive order, but we'll take what we can get. For this fourth, one of the "normal" holidays, I went out and bought a Magma kettle grill for pudgy. You can see it installed over Corey's right shoulder.

The idea was to sit at anchor all day, and possibly well into the night with the hopes of catching a glimpse of some fireworks. As far as I know there are no official fireworks on Lake Keowee like there are on Lake Hartwell, but I was told that some lakefront homeowners often shoot them off. We were to use the grill to cook up some steaks while waiting for "dark-thirty", the time when the fireworks usually go off. We set anchor at the same little island that we found last time. The grill passed the initial knockwurst test, when we cooked up three of the fat little weiners and munched on these Euro-style hot dogs. Tasty! We were about to settle in when the wind kicked up and out of nowhere a pop-up thunder cloud came up and chased us off. You can see the cloud off in the distance. So instead of hanging out on the boat, we transferred our 4th of July operation to the deck at home. Once the rain passed by, the sun came out again and we spent the rest of the day at home. It was just as well, since we we could round up the cats before the fireworks went off. Harley doesn't like them and so she spent the evening under our bed before emerging after all the revellers quieted down.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Recruiting Video

A couple of weeks ago I was approached to film a student recruiting video. Being a bit of a ham (on occasion :) I thought why not? If I'm going to get a YouTube-like video out on the net, might as well be something potentially informative as well as something I've prepared for. So given a template of what was expected, I wrote up a script and rehearsed it a couple of times. We shot the video in about 2-4 takes. There are still a few "um"s and "ah"s even though I was reading the script, but what the hey. The person encoding the vid did a nice job splicing it together so I thought it was fit for internet consumption. Above is the video, explaining in a nutshell what it is I do around here. It's hosted by a company called Brightcove. If they ever go under I'll have to recreate the video as I just received the source footage.