Marley’s New Hobby: Photography!

Marley’s best friend (BFF) Kendall gave her the neatest gift when Cohen arrived – her very own digital camera.  She has taken to it enormously, and is constantly taking pictures of pretty much anything that interests her.  What interests her?  Well, I’ve put together a little page of all the pictures she’s taken to date, so have a look.

Note that she had a little help with a few of them, but a few of her own solo compositions really stand out as really interesting … such as

Poppa catching a snooze at the hospital

Her very first self portrait

Some of them give us a glimpse into what it is like to be her height

Steep stairs

Under the table

A new talent has been revealed here – I’m really looking forward to seeing what her next 400 pictures look like!

Oh Look, Daddy smiling with teeth!

P.S. She’s been given absolute access to everything, and now that she’s taking pictures of these things we’re going to have to keep an eye on the appropriateness of some of her subject matter.  In the meantime, if you happen to see an inappropriate picture please notify me.  You can give me the picture ID by hovering your mouse over the thumbnail, it will be something like “IMG_0059.JPG”, for example.  Thanks for your diligence citizens!

A Good Yarn Improves With Age

In reading my daily dumb quotes calendar this morning I came across a brief story of Engineer Charles Steinmetz.  I’ll quote another site that has done a write up:

Here’s an interesting anecdote, as told by Charles M. Vest, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during commencement on June 4th, 1999. “In the early years of this century, Steinmetz was brought to General Electric’s facilities in Schenectady, New York. GE had encountered a performance problem with one of their huge electrical generators and had been absolutely unable to correct it. Steinmetz, a genius in his understanding of electromagnetic phenomena, was brought in as a consultant – not a very common occurrence in those days, as it would be now. Steinmetz also found the problem difficult to diagnose, but for some days he closeted himself with the generator, its engineering drawings, paper and pencil. At the end of this period, he emerged, confident that he knew how to correct the problem. After he departed, GE’s engineers found a large “X” marked with chalk on the side of the generator casing. There also was a note instructing them to cut the casing open at that location and remove so many turns of wire from the stator. The generator would then function properly. And indeed it did. Steinmetz was asked what his fee would be. Having no idea in the world what was appropriate, he replied with the absolutely unheard of answer that his fee was $1000. Stunned, the GE bureaucracy then required him to submit a formally itemized invoice. They soon received it. It included two items: 1. Marking chalk “X” on side of generator: $1. 2. Knowing where to mark chalk “X”: $999.”

Now other sites have him asking for $10,000, while others have him simply pacing around the machines for a few moments and figuring it out.  I prefer the quoted version because it feels the most real to me.

A nice little story about the value of knowledge.  Note that he lived from 1865 to 1923.

Dr. Horrible – New Media Experience?

Today I stumbled across a mini-movie that was right up my alley – “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog“.  It is a 3 part movie made by the fellow behind Firefly/Serenity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story and others – Joss Whedon.

It’s a super-hero story from the villain’s perspective.  It contains his usual sense of humour and some great performances by fairly well-known actors.  Oh, and it is a musical, kinda.  Oh, and it is being made free on a website until, well, I don’t know when.  The site says it is until tomorrow, July 20th, midnight.

In any event, it is quite entertaining.

It is also an interesting foray into a new way of delivering media online.  The little FAQ seems to indicate that he wants to “create more with less.”  I’m behind this all the way!


Nanaimo B.C. – Google Earth Capital Of The World?

Did anyone else know that Nanaimo, a small town on Vancouver Island here in BC, is leading the world in getting its city mapped?  Did you want to check out the downtown core in 3D, or see the exact lot size of a potential land purchase?  It’s all available in Google Earth.

Privacy issues cannot be ignored here, particularly when the residents don’t seem to be aware of these things.  But that’s the power of Google’s business approach.  Until recent years there has been a lot of information publicly available, but nobody knew about it.  Google lets its bots spider across all this data and mash it all into one place where suddenly people are sitting up and taking notice.  I can do research on cemetery headstones in Nanaimo today from my desk.  In the old days that would have been a trip to Nanaimo and some skulking about in the cemetery – all perfectly legal.  But now that people can do it anonymously … it seems to have changed people’s opinion of the entire thing.  Interesting.

Accolades For A Brother Product

In our current efforts to reduce the amount of clutter and “stuff” we have in our house, we recently traded in our old laser printer and scanner for a Multi-Function Copier (MFC for short).  You know, one of those machines that does it all: copy, print, scan, fax, etc.

After some research and figuring out what I needed versus what I wanted, I found and bought the Brother MFC-7820N.  Not only did it have (almost) all the features I wanted, but it was completely functional in Linux – a do or die criteria.

I have to say, I am impressed.  I’m able to not only print to this network printer, but anyone on my network can use it to scan, copy, print, and fax.  That’s right, I said scan and fax.  I walk up to the unit, specify what computer I want to send the scanned document to, and scan away.  It shows up on the computer via the network.  How freaking cool is that for a consumer-grade machine?!

I’m downright delighted with this machine – and that’s not something easily done.  So bravo Brother!  And give that support center fellow in Japan that I’m emailing back and forth with a little something from this Canuck – he’s doing a bang-up job.

For my reference, here are some resources I found useful when setting up the fax:

  • Test your fax’s sending ability for free – this site allows anyone to fax them something, and it will appear on the main page within a few minutes.  So I could fax something to them and verify they received it.
  • Test your fax’s receiving ability for free – this site allows you to upload a document (up to 3 pages, twice a day) and they’ll fax it for you anywhere in the US and Canada.  The free service pops a cover page on the fax with advertising, but for personal use who cares?  And they offer a premium service that removes the ads.  Just a really neat service.  I used it to fax myself something, to make sure I could receive faxes on my new fax number.

This was prompted by the fact that I just finished tonight setting up the fax capability after activating a distinctive ring on our phone line.  We have a fax number if you ever want to borrow it to send out a fax or if you want to send us something.

gstreamer Pipelines and VBR

Just to prove that I am still a tech geek (a badge I wear proudly in the right company), I’ve had to comb through the Intraweb for some specific MP3 encoding parameters I want to try using instead of the stock stuff. I wanted to document the pipeline here so I don’t have to write it down for future reference.

VBR (V=4) encoding pipeline

audio/x-raw-int,rate=44100,channels=2 ! lame name=enc mode=1 vbr=4 vbr-quality=4 ! xingmux ! id3v2mux

CBR (128 Kbps) encoding pipeline

audio/x-raw-int,rate=44100,channels=2 ! lame name=enc vbr=0 bitrate=128 ! id3v2mux

Run gst-inspect lame to see the parameters being used here. For example:

mode=1 – sets the lame encoding to use joint stereo
vbr=4 – sets lame to use the “new” VBR encoding algorithm, rather than the old
vbr-quality=4 – sets the encoding bitrate to approximately 165 Kbps, as per the lame settings.
xingmux – pads the MP3 and is only used for VBR settings
id3v2mux – adds the ID3v2 tags to the MP3 (I haven’t figured out a way to add both V1 and V2 tags other than by subsequently using Easytag on the files to add the V1).

Take His Tech – Please!

Ah, the spirit of simplification.  This website is set up to allow some person to give away the tech stuff he doesn’t want anymore.  Simple rules:  Leave a comment on any item you’re interested in.  Once there are 100 comments one of the commenters is randomly chosen to receive the hardware.


Plus the guy probably makes money with all the ads he’s running on the site … but someone has to pay his bills.

I’ve signed up for that wireless network antenna – I’m looking for one and free is just about the right price.

This One’s For Darcy

Darcy’s in the midst of enjoying the wonders of buying and selling real estate right now. With that in mind, here’s a great example of how data represenation changes how useful data presentations can be.

Here’s a typical graph of the sale prices for houses in the U.S.

House Prices Graph

Here’s another way of looking at it – like a rollercoaster track.

Data visualization is an interesting topic – presenting simple data in different manners allows different trends and aspects to be highlighted and exposed. This is just a fun example. Another good example would be Minard’s map of the advance of Napolean’s Grande Armée into Russia in 1812.

And here’s a project from IBM called “Many Eyes” that allows people to upload their data and and share different visualizations with others. Now how cool is that!