It’s Pretty … But SRYSLY?!?

Less than a week to go before my first sprint triathlon. I’ve done the distances on my own but am getting a bit nervous about the hustle-bustle of race day. What if I forget to pack something in my “wet bag”? What if I blow a tire? Should I carry a spare? Should I get fenders or would the weight just slow me down? All these worry voices (as Alisa calls them) remind me that I tend to be a worrier in new situations. So I’m trying to focus on just relaxing, or ignoring the pending race.

One worry voice I’m having trouble ignoring though is the one yelling in my ear “Hey, you’re going to die due to extreme weather!” The forecast is for rain, and a dipping in temperatures towards the weekend. Then there’s the whole risk of snow. Seriously? Snow in March?

So this was an unwelcome “gift” this morning – though it is certainly pretty.

A New Year, A New Gadget – Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet

Welcome to 2009 – the year I began by setting myself free  I’m free!  At long last I’m free from the ‘i’ overlords, be they iPods, iTunes, or iDon’t care anymores!

Back in March 2005 I bought my first personal music player – an iPod.  At the time I thought the 40GB would be more than enough.  I honestly don’t think I expected it to last almost 3 years.  And it is still ticking along quite nicely – the battery has held up well as I typically have it charging via the FM radio attachment or the dock.  But my library … she has grown too large!  And so I cast about for alternatives, and came to settle on two devices: a 120GB iPod Classic or an Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet.

This was back in September, planning for a certain gift-giving holiday in the months to come.  At that time the Archos did not support ogg or Flac encoded files, and thus it had no real advantage over the iPod Classic.  It was more expensive, and it didn’t come with a lot of the things the iPod did, like a dock or AC charger.  Sure it could connect to the Internet via a wireless connection, but that was just a gimmick.

Then I abandoned my search, as nothing really pleased me.  Why didn’t I want to stay with an iPod?  Here’s a partial list:

  • Apple continues to use DRM to support their business model.  I don’t want to support anything that relies on DRM.
  • Apple continues to make changes to their players in each generation, ensuring that anyone not running their “free” iTunes software could not use their device.  I did not want any part of this software lock in.  I also can’t run iTunes as I do not run Windows.  This meant that I had to wait for hackers to reverse engineer each new device as they came out, to add support for the device in Linux.  Why would I want to give money to a company that obviously does not want to listen to my needs?
  • The iPod continues to not support anything but the tired old MP3 standard and the Apple DRM’d files.  I want to support a manufacturer that looks to open standards rather than software lock in.

As you can see, most of the reasons are quite ideeological in nature.  But there were some dark, distasteful reasons to buy the 120 GB iPod:

  • I already have spent $70.00 on an FM transmitter/charger that only works with iPods.  I could continue to see a return on that investment if I again bought Apple.  Yes, I know this is a classic sunk cost falacy, but I’ve never claimed to be a rational thinking person, have I?
  • Apple stole my idea of providing a guided playlist maker for their newest generation, calling it the “Music Genius”.  Whatever, I’m not bitter, but the feature is a serious draw for me.  A dynamically built playlist based on recommendations is a great way to just load up music and listen.  No other hardware device offers that functionality right now.

So I decided to just let it sit.  I had a few gigabytes of space left on my iPod and I could delete some of the podcasts to make space if needed …

Then Archos updated their player to support ogg and flac.  And then I started to drool, as the devices were on sale for boxing day.  And then I decided to splurge, to trust my gut, and to put my money where my mouth was.

Man am I happy I did!  I don’t want to gush, I don’t want to sound materialistic.  BUT THIS THING IS AWESOME!

I had no idea that having a wireless connection to the Internet, and also my internal network, would actually open so many interesting doors for me with this device.  I’ve spent a lot of my free time the past week just figuring out how this thing can integrate with my existing devices.  I’ve figured out how to have any of the television shows I’ve recorded get automatically transcoded into a format the device supports.  I’ve figured out how to manage my server using the web connection.  I sit on my couch and browse the most recent photos I’ve uploaded to my long term storage space from my camera.  It’s just an entirely new way of working with my network systems.  And frankly, I’m geeking out here!

I plan on posting a few tidbits I’ve gathered through research on how to best set things up, so I don’t have to keep it all on paper around my office.  If you’re interested in the device look for that.

So I’m starting 2009 with a new gadget, a new zeal for technology and “convergence”, and a spring in my step.

Yes, I’m ashamed of my carnal attachment to a technology gadget.  Yes, I’m embarrased by just how excited I am about it all.  And no, I don’t regret it for a second.

Well That Was Fun … Disaster Recovery For All!

Imagine if you will a Thanksgiving that kept on giving for weeks after the day’s events wound down.  I’m not talking about leftover turkey either – I’m talking some serious giving …. or is that more likely spelled ‘givin’?

Thanksgiving, around 1 hour before our big family dinner, the power went out.  Over the next 3 hours the power went out two more times.  Now, we managed the dinner just fine with a little “gravy on the BBQ” action.  But my server?  Ah, it did not do so well.  Sure, the surge protector did its job and protected my precious from the surges, but it couldn’t help the silly hard drive and its silly reading head from somehow crashing into a platter.  What’s it all mean, you ask?  Unbootable hard disk, and immediate disaster recovery.

But that was weeks ago, you say!  True, true.  It has taken me this long to finally piece back together the various aspects of my blog and image gallery.  I did manage to pull back all the data from the toasted hard disk, as you can probably tell (it’s all here, right?).  The real bottleneck has been those crazy things in real life that take up my time.  Two in particular: Marley and Cohen.

So expect a few picture albums going up by Alisa very soon.  Look for a few updates from the blog, all that good stuff.  It looks to be back to business as usual.  I still have a large degree of work to do to get things back to where they were before the crash, but I’m working through it in priority sequence, as it were.

So forgive me for going dark for almost a month.  I know you’ve all been going through withdrawal and all that.  So let’s get back to business here, shall we?  Let’s start with a new theme – this one looks like it will do!

Welcome Cohen!

Well, the timer has timed out, the family has grown, and Cohen has come into our lives.

Everything went well (enough) and we’re now back home resting up (when we can).  Here’s a quick picture of Cohen a few hours old.

Marley’s thrilled to finally meet her little brother.

His specifics are:

Cohen William Douglas Bridger
8lbs 12 oz
37.5 cm head circumference (nurses and doctors were astonished) and 53.5 cm long (again, astonished).

He has little feet that look big enough already to fit my old shoes and he’s a long, long little boy.

We’re thrilled he’s finally here, and are enjoying every moment we have together as a family of 4 (+2 pets).

Sony’s Playstation 3 – Luck or Strategy?

Now that we have an official “playroom” downstairs, the question of a second TV has come up.  Frankly I’m not really keen on having a TV out of ear and eye shot – call me old fashioned (or paranoid).

Anyhow, the thought occurred to me that we could set up a dumb terminal downstairs that would allow someone to watch DVDs and recorded shows from the DVR upstairs, but not have access to plain old cable.

I have started looking around for a small, quiet computer to put downstairs then – one that can connect to my DVR and play movies, DVDs, and music.  One that takes up almost no room, very little power, and doesn’t do much else unless you know what you’re doing.

I started looking at building one, but found that the components are just too big if I want to keep it affordable.  I couldn’t get a small form factor without paying through the nose.  Then I came across this new ASUS computer that looked like a great candidate.  Until I confirmed that it has no optical (DVD) drive.  Nuts, it looked good too.

Then I came across Sony’s little troumph – the Playstation 3.  Sure, sure, it is a game console.  But it can also serve as a high definition video and audio player.  It comes with a Blu-Ray DVD player (which retails for around $150.00 right now).  Sony was also smart enough to permit and encourage others to install alternate operating systems on the system.   So along comes PSUbuntu which will allow me to run Ubuntu on the PS3, which means I can run MythTV, which would give me access to my DVR shows.  So it has a DVD player, I can get my DVR shows, and I can control it completely like any other computer on my network as it will be running Ubuntu.  And it retails for slightly more than that ASUS PC I was thinking about.  Oh, and it plays games I guess.

So, where do I get one?

Sony’s decision to include an expensive home theatre drive in its game console was a great strategic move.  It has brought me to their table immediately, even though I am not a game console buyer.  It was either a great strategic move on their part, or they are just lucky.  The fact that Microsoft went with a similar idea but different DVD format makes me think it was strategic.  But I remember the uproar at the time as the Blu-Ray drive brought the price of the console way, way higher than most people were wanting to pay for a console.  Little did they know that Sony actually had a different vision for their little gaming system … one that involves my playroom.

It’s Quiet … A Little Too Quiet

So the last month and a half has been an interesting month at Goggs Avenue.  You may have noticed that my post frequency dropped, and we had a couple of days of complete blackout for theBside this last week.  OK, you may not have noticed it – I won’t hold it against you.

We’ve claimed ownership of our entire house!

Our tenant officially moved out July 31st, and since then we’ve been busy giving the downstairs a mini-makeover.  We’ve moved the den downstairs, including the electronics (which was why theBside dropped off the Internet for 3 days or so).  We’ve just tonight applied the first coat of paint to the old den, which will soon become Marley’s new room.  We’ve started making the large room downstairs into a playroom … the list goes on (and on and on).

In the meantime we’ve secured a coveted place at Peace Arch Hospital’s maternity ward for September 8th, so that will be our new baby’s birthday (unless the baby decides to come earlier than that).  The countdown begins!

So forgive my relative silence (if you felt you needed an apology).  There are many more things “to-do” before the baby arrives and I assure you there will be pictures to follow.

P.S. If you are ever in need of help understanding the tenancy rules and how to forcibly remove a tenant, I can now say that I might be able to give you some advice, unfortuntely, or at the very least some insight into the formal processes that can take place around it all.

Oops, He Did It Again

So two nights out of three we’ve had a camouflaged visitor come by.

This time he spent over a minute in the carport … or did he actually go into the back yard as well?

I spoke with the police last night. They offered to have someone drive over to watch the video, but it was 10:30 at night and I didn’t want to wait up. She asked that I call when I get home from work tonight so they can send someone over. I’m not sure she quite understood that it is a digital video, and that I could email them to her if she wanted me to.   Or maybe they want to be able to check out the equipment to make sure these aren’t fakes? I’m not really sure how many of these kinds of things they get, to be honest.