autographedcat: (Default)
I agree with the commenter who said "I don't know what I'd do with it, but I want one."

It's so *cute*!

Four-inch computer has more ports than you'll ever need | DVICE
Small computers aren't anything new to write about. Xi3 Corporation's new little computer, however, is unique. It has more ports crammed into as little space as possible that we've seen in recent years.

For such a tiny box, it doesn't skimp out on accessible ports. The Xi3 has six USB 2.0 ports, DVI, two eSATA ports, audio in/out, DisplayPort, ethernet and special 'Xi3 Port." Who else besides professionals need two eSATAs and six USB ports? There are three CPU options are available for the Xi3 — 1Ghz, 1.8Ghz and 2.2Ghz. Sorry Intel, but these dwarfs run on AMD Athlon processors.

All of this is crammed inside a small 4-inch aluminum cube. Take that Mac Mini! The interesting thing about this tiny PC is that it's case also serves as a heatsink. Yeah, pretty cool stuff.
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Bids start at $35,000 for this street-legal Tron lightcycle | DVICE
No need to wait for the release of Tron Legacy in December — now you can turn science fiction into science fact with a street-legal Tron Legacy lightcycle. Built from the exact specs of the movie props, there will only be five of these in existence, all lit up with LEDs and neon that will certainly be the envy of all the other motorcyclists.

Powered by the buyer's choice of a 1000cc gasoline engine or high-powered electric motor, the bikes will have custom-built 22-inch hubless wheels, and the builder even promises to include an authentic Tron helmet. You'll have to put together that lit-up fire suit yourself, a small price to pay for this dazzling authenticity.

Each of the five one-of-a-kind collector's items will have a different accent color in either red, blue, yellow, green, or orange, and the famed custom motorcycle builders at Parker Brothers Choppers say they can put this monster together for you within a couple of months. Order now — bidding starts at $35,000 — and by the time the movie hits theaters, you'll already have been riding your new lightcycle for a couple of months.

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This is awesome. I want one. Old to New: Typewriters
Last week I stumbled upon the USB Typewriter etsy shop and my jaw dropped! Jack Zylkin has invented a Typewriter Convertor process that turns any manual typewriter into a keyboard for your computer! He sells ready to purchase typewriters or you can buy a kit and do it yourself! I think these would be awesome for hotel/B&B lobby computers or electronic guestbooks at a shop... something memorable to catch your eye! Or if you're a modern Angela Landsbury, use it for writing a book the semi-old school way!
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Weekend before last was a fabulous and fun trip up to Massachusetts, about which I really ought to talk about in a separate post. But what I really wanted to talk about was driving.

Oddly, despite the number of trips I'd previously made to New England, I'd never once been a driver there. I'd always been picked up by someone, or relied entirely on public transportation. (Or, y'know, hired a stretch limo, but that was a one time thing.)

Despite the legendary reputation of Massachusetts drivers, I really had no troubles at all. Of course, one of the reasons for this is that we have a GPS unit, specifically the Garmin StreetPilot c550 that I bought [ profile] kitanzi for Christmas. Aside from a couple of odd bumps, it's been an awesome little gadget, and one I'm glad to have in our possession.

Recently, I updated the software on it, and in the process downloaded some extra voice packs. So now we can have the GPS give us directions in an English or Australian accent, and we had fun playing with it. Now, I'm hardly the first person to think "Gee, there should be celebrity voice packs." But it occurred to me that there's really only one actor who I'd want to be powering my GPS...William Daniels. Why, I bet you could make a fortune if you could put the voice of KITT (not to mention the voice of John Adams...As you miss a turn, it could exclaim "What in God's name are you waiting for?")

Well, it turns out that someone else already had that idea:

The Knight Rider GPS can be customized to speak your name from a list of 300 popular names. Once you've selected a name, the voice of William Daniels will greet you with a random selection of phrases such as "XXX, where would you like to go today?" or "XXX, I'm really looking forward to this." Your selected name replaces the "XXX." Then, the Knight Rider will instruct you, for example, to turn right at 500 feet, but won't pronounce the street names.

Based on Mio's Moov 300 series, the Knight Rider GPS has a 4.3-inch screen, a 20-channel SiRF Star III receiver, measures 5.51 by 3.15 by 0.76 inches and weighs 6 ounces. The case has been redesigned to accommodate the flashing LEDs, and the Moov interface is "skinned" with a color scheme that seems appropriate for Knight Rider.

Despite the fact that I totally love the idea, I feel sorry for the people with unusual first names, as they will once again be left out of the customized product business, just like the keychains they sell at the county fair. But I think it's incredibly cool that someone has done this.

The product is apparently available in stores as of last moth, and you can find out more info at their website.
autographedcat: (Default)
So I've now had my iPhone for about a week, so it's time to start talking about it. Because that's what you do when you buy Apple products, don'chano?

What I Like

  • Apple has always been the king of the user interface, and this is no exception. The navigation of the phone is extremely intuitive, and for the most part things are where you expect to find them. I probably spent the first hour just jumping from app to app and being really happy with how everything looks, how responsive it is, and how easy everything is to use.
  • The switching of my number from T-Mobile to AT&T was painless and quick. When we left the Apple Store, they told me I could make outbound calls right away, but it might take up to six hours before I could receive calls. We drove home to pick up Larissa's mom and go to breakfast at J. Christopher's. While we were placing our order, I got a text message from AT&T telling me that the port was complete. After the horror story that was [ profile] eloren's iPhone adventure, this was a very pleasant surprise. (I admit I feel a little bit guilty, as T-mobile has offered me very good service over the years and I had no complaints with them to speak of. But that's the nature of the exclusive hardware contracts, I suppose.)
  • There is a Pandora Radio app for the iPhone. This delights me.
  • It makes a perfect good iPod. Since my iPod recently took a swim in the washing machine and didn't survive the experience, it was nice to have my podcasts back in the car.
  • The App Store is full of many free, if often pointless, little utilities. It also has some useful ones, like UrbanSpoon, which helps locate nearby restaurants, and Showtimes, which does something similar for nearby movie theatres.
  • I can continue my practice of having pictures of my sweeties as phone wallpaper, which makes me happy every time I turn it on.
  • The web browser looks *fantastic*. Easily the best implementation of a web browser on a phone I've ever used. Reading and posting to LJ is extremely easy.
  • The phone is very slim, but it has a nice heft to it. It feels like a substantial object, and not a tiny plastic toy.

What I Don't Like

  • There is apparently a bug when the most recent version of the iPhone OS and Windows Outlook with syncing. (I had to actually buy a new copy of Outlook, as my previous copy was from 2000 and refused to talk to the phone at all.) If left to sit and peculate, it will eventually finish syncing, but it takes far far longer than it should. This is being widely discussed on the various forums, so it's obviously a software side problem rather than simply a problem with my setup.
  • With all the apps that are out there, there's nothing that can be used to cycle the wallpaper at set intervals between a set of defined photos. This seems like it would be pretty basic (I have such an application for my computers.
  • The camera interface is awkward. (This is, to me, a minor gripe, since I don't particular need a good camera phone. But on the off chance I do use it, it's a bit clunky.)
  • No IRC client. Really? I'm somewhat stunned by this, honestly. There's a couple of apps in development that may be solving this soon, but for the moment...c'mon guys, it's one of the oldest chat protocols on the net. There's no excuse.
  • No backgrounding. An app is either on or its off. You can't run, say, AOL Instant Messenger in the background and have it make noise at you when a message comes in. It appears that there's going to be some mechanism to simulate this with the new "push" features, but for the moment, its either foreground or off.
  • I can't get the SSH client I purchased to work properly.
  • It seems to be that if you have the headset plugged in, and the phone rings, it only rings in the headset. I find this somewhat peculiar behaviour, since it means I can't just leave the heatset plugged in and the phone nearby on my desk, because I may not notice it vibrating. (Probably time to replace my bluetooth headset.)

All in all, I'm very pleased with the purchase. What I don't like are mostly minor gripes, and several of them will probably be solved by future software releases.


Aug. 17th, 2008 11:49 am
autographedcat: (Default)
Following the herd into the Apple store, I have purchased myself an iPhone. So far, I'm loving it, but there's always the slight frustration with a new phone of getting everything set up the way you want it. I managed to import most of my contact list, but in the process seem to have lost most of the postal addresses. So I started moving those over by hand, and realized that I don't know how many of them are hopelessly out of date.

So.....please leave me a reply here with the following information, so I can make sure I'm all up to date:

Home Phone
Mobile Phone
IM contact information

Along with anything else you think I should know. Comments are screened, but you can also send me e-mail if you'd prefer that route.



Oct. 4th, 2007 08:42 am
autographedcat: (Default)
Thinkgeek FTW:

Doctor Who Dalek Webcam

So full of want. :)

DVD Update

Sep. 12th, 2007 11:43 am
autographedcat: (Default)
After the gaming group went home (and a report on that will be coming later for the three of you who are actively reading the exploits of our merry band), I dug our Playstation2 out of the closet and hooked it up to the TV. I'm pleased to report that it was able to play the movies that the JVC was unable to recognize.

I'll be searching to see if there's a firmware upgrade for the JVC, but in the meantime, I have a workaround. I really should use the Playstation more, anyway. We originally only bought it because [ profile] rslatkin and [ profile] vatavian introduced us first hand to the aerobic joy that is DDR, but we had stopped for a while, and when we moved I didn't bother hooking it back up, though I'm glad I took the time to carefully pack the various parts of it into a box.

Maybe I'll play some of the other games I picked up for the thing but never played. In my copious spare time.
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So now I have this perfectly functioning laptop with wireless capability, thanks to [ profile] baiku, who thinks I was doing HIM a favour by declutterling his house during move-time. One of the reasons I've avoided just outright buying a laptop is that frankly, they're too expensive for what you get out of them, for as little as I actually *need* one for travel. It's not as if my job is frequently sending me hither and yon to the point that I need a portable computer at all times. It's a luxury, and as luxuries go, there's only so much I'm willing to pay for one. As it is, I've put about as much actual money into this unit as I'd like.

But frugality aside, I'm still a gearhead, and that means I want to trick out my gadgets with as much mojo as I can muster. And there are a variety of upgrades I could perform on this unit that would make it even more spiffy. And people are always saying "So, what would you like for your birthday/Christmas/etc.", and I always say "Oh, I dunno.", because usually, I don't.

So here's, for my own reference and the reference of anyone interested, a list of what I'd like to upgrade on my Dell Inspiron 4000, should anyone want to contribute towards it. (I don't expect anyone will, but just in case people who are prone to giving me presents (or who happen to have spare parts lying around that would suit -- I don't require new, just good working order) are reading this.

  • A couple of new batteries
    The battery in the unit will hold a charge for about an hour to 90 minutes, which is OK but not stellar. There's room in the unit for two batteries at once, with a theoretical run-time of about 8 hours, give or take.
  • A larger hard drive
    The drive thats in there now is a 5GB drive, which will hold the OS with enough room left over for some minor file storage. But if I want to, say, offload con photos on it, it'd be nice to have a bit more room on it.
  • More RAM
    128 MB once seemed like so much RAM, but it's hardly that much these days. The unit will take up to 512MB (2x256 PC100), and I'd love to max it out some day.
  • A portable optical mouse
    I have an old fashioned USB ball mouse plugged into it right now, and that lets me work easily. (Both the touchpad and the eraserstub pointers are somewhat annoying to use.) But an optical mouse would work better on odd surfaces, so I'd like one eventually.

I'm sure there's other nifty stuff I'd like to have for it eventually, but those are the main things. Mostly, I'm just happy that I have a working machine. Thanks to everyone who donated old parts (especially [ profile] baiku, [ profile] tarkrai, and [ profile] katyhh) in my quest for computer mobility. :)


Jun. 4th, 2006 12:00 pm
autographedcat: (Canadian Borg)
For quite some time, I have desired a portable Internet device that i could carry when I traveled, as I admit to being such a hopeless Internet junkie and I much prefer to have my own computer for such activities. (My PDA/Mobile is an Internet device and useful in a pinch, but it's not really the best application for serious websurfing or journaling.) Using other people's computers is like using other people's kitchens. You can get done what you need to, but nothing is where you expect it to be and you have to rummage about to find anything.

[ profile] tarkrai kindly donated me a couple of ancient, but working, laptops from his collection of derelict computer parts, but for various reason neither was able to transform into what I really needed. Then [ profile] baiku announced his intention to divest himself of a similar crop of old tech for anyone who'd be willing to come take them away. Since I had a DVD full of 2006 Doctor Who episodes for him, we made arrangements to meet up and he handed me two Dell Inspirons of unknown status. Neither of them turned out to work, but I figured it was worth the $30 that Ginstar would charge me to find out what it would take to repair one of them. So the Inspiron 4000 went into the shop, was determined to have a bad motherboard, and completely repaired for $200.

When I got it back, I ran diagnostics and found that the hard drive had bad sectors, so I pulled the hard drive out of the still non-functional 3500, and found it was perfectly ok, so I transplanted it into the 4000 and installed Ubuntu Linux 5.10 on my now fully functional Death Star laptop computer.

I have to say that Ubuntu has impressed me greatly. I'd already been using it for sometime on my workstation at the office, but given the horror stories I'd heard about getting Linux working on laptop computers, I was unprepared for how utterly seamless it was to install. I didn't have to recompile any thing, hunt for drivers, twiddle with my settings. It installed, brought up the X display, let me log in, and *everything worked*. Well done.

Having gotten the laptop up and on the network, there was one last critical accessory to make this laptop perfect. I wanted to install a WiFi card. Even with the tremendous ease that I got the base OS installed on the machine, though, I wasn't expecting this to be easy. Everything I'd read about getting wifi to work on Linux laptops led me to anticipate a lot of fiddling ahead.

I got some advice from [ profile] fleetfootmike and [ profile] rinioth, who said that my best bet was a card with a PrismII chipset. [ profile] rinioth also sent me a great chart with pretty much all the cards that were on the market and the state of drivers for each of them. So I printed that out and headed down the local Best Buy. Unfortunately, none of the cards they had in stock were PrismII cards, but I did find a Netgear WG511T, which uses the Atheros chip and which the chart said had a good driver. Knowing I had 30 days to try it and bring it back if I couldn't make it work, I decided to take a chance.

Brought it home, plugged it in. Booted up. Ubuntu recognized the card immediately. Is that supposed to happen? Interesting. Looked up the commands for configuring the card. Attached to my AP, got an IP from dhcp, and was surfing. Just like that. I didn't have to install any drivers. I didn't have to struggle or swear or do anything at all. it just plain worked the way it was supposed to. I even found that the GUI Network Configuration tool in Gnome already knows how to talk to it and feed it its necessary configurations.

I believe the appropriate word is "squee!!"

I now have a working wireless laptop. I am a happy cat.
autographedcat: (swear word)
This weekend was the weekend of unexpected expenses.

It began on Friday, while I was at work. My group has inherited the MIS functions of the local office at work, and towards the end of my day, I was underneath a desk setting up a new computer for one of the VPs. Being slightly unable to reach the spot I needed to plug in one of the cables, I rolled slightly onto my side, on top of the carry case of my phone. Unfortunately, the case has one of those ball-in-socket clasps, and it concentrated all of my weight onto a single point. I heard a muffled crack, and my heart sank. A quick check of the phone revealed that yes, the screen had cracked.

Now, my phone is more than just a phone. It’s also my PDA, and a remote Internet device, and it’s something that I really rely on for work. Being able to get on the net from anywhere, anytime I need to, being able to track my meetings and task lists, all in a handy single place. It’s my portable brain, and I feel somewhat adrift without it. Unfortunately, phones that can handle all these functions well tend to be relatively expensive. I had been previously using a Sidekick II, which served me well, but had a variety of annoying features.

I did a bit of research and determined that the best option for what I really wanted was finally available from T-Mobile. Long ago, I’d wanted a Treo 600, until I actually got my hands on one. I didn’t care for the way it felt in my hand, and though the keyboard was too small. The Sidekick had the substantial feel i wanted, but was hamstrung by a non-extendable OS and some very peculiar design choices that were frustrating. But finally, someone has made the all-in-one PDA Phone that I’ve always wanted, and it’s name is the T-Mobile MDA.

The MDA is a Windows Mobile device, which means that there are are a huge variety of 3rd party apps for it, and it has built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for the maximum amount of networking capability. Some of the reviews criticized its phone performance, but I had an hour-long call with [ profile] catalana last night and it seemed clear and strong to me, even with only 1-2 bars of signal. I’m still playing with it and figuring out its idiosyncrasies, but I think that I’ve found the perfect (for me) phone/pda/portable brain.

Saturday, another unexpected expense bit me. [ profile] kitanzi and I were playing a bit of City of Villains, when suddenly my computer froze and the monitor switched off. When nothing I did seemed to be getting it back, I powered everything down, then back up. All I got was a white screen with pink pinstripes spaced about an inch and a half apart. Muttering profanities, I shut everything down, opened the case, and poked my finger about for a bit. (Note to my female readers: guys do this with computers, appliances, and automobiles whenever they break. It doesn’t accomplish anything, but we don’t want to admit yet that we have no earthly idea what’s wrong.)

After some checking of connections and the working-ness of fans, etc, I managed to coax it back to booting, but it was clearly an unhappy PC. I got a windows error that it blamed on the video driver, and some odd artifacts just after the boot-up was complete. Then it seemed to settle down. I checked e-mail, surfed a couple of web pages, then fired up CoV again. Within 10 minutes, the display with splotchy, then crashed the entire machine again.

At this point, I was reasonably certain that this was a video card failure. Its often hard to prove that, since you cant’ do a lot of troubleshooting on a PC you can’t see anything on the screen for, but it was the most likely of the three likely components to have failed (the other two being the motherboard or the power supply). So it was off to Best Buy to replace the vidcard and hope that I’d made a proper diagnosis. (Luckily, this isn’t House, or my first diagnosis would have nearly killed the computer and it’d have taken three more tries to find the real problem just before the last commercial break.)

Unfortunately, the replacement of the phone the day before meant that I really couldn’t afford the super gee-wiz-bang top of the line graphics card my gamer’s heart truly desired, because gosh they’re way too expensive still. I had been pondering upgrading said card sometime in the next few months when the price dropped down, but for now, I settled for a BFG GeForce 6200OC, which is still an upgrade on my old 5500FX, and means I don’t have a large powerful useless computer on my desktop, which would have made me very cross.

Unfortunately, these unexpected purchases put us back at least a month on our debt-reduction plans, and mean that it’s highly unlikely, barring a sudden windfall, that we’ll be making it to ConCertino. (It was highly unlikely we were going to make ConCertino anyway, but I was keeping out hope until the last minute, because, dammit, wanna....), and I’m not even really sanguine on ConCarolinas, which at least has the virtue of being local. We’ll see about that one. Meanwhile, back to the drawing board on the whole “paying off the debt” campaign. And the war was showing such promise!
autographedcat: (Default)
Ever since I officially got promoted to a more managerial position at work, it's has become painfully obvious to me that I needed some sort of external brain to keep track of all the things I need to be tracking. I can keep notes on paper, but its hard to keep everything organized, and my PC is easy to keep organized, but not portable. The solution was obviously to replace my long-abandoned Palm Pilot.

Back in 2001, i got a free Palm m100 when I bought my cell phone. It was a Best Buy promotion, and it was attached the phone I had already researched and wanted to buy anyway, so I regarded it as a curiosity. It was a useful address book and calender, but with only 2mb of memory it really couldn't do much. It was also large and bulky, and I eventually stopped carrying it around. Eventually, I gave it to [ profile] telynor, but soon after that it stopped syncing up and became officially useless.

[ profile] kitanzi and I had decided to get [ profile] telynor a replacement Palm for her birthday in time for her to take it to London with her, so I had already done a significant amount of research on what was available, and I ended up buying for myself the same one I selected for her: a Tungsten E. The T-E really does have the best price/performance ratio of any of the units out there. (If the Zire 72 had Wi-Fi in addition to it's 1.3 mp camera, it might have been worth the extra $100. But at $200, the T-E is hard to beat.)

I had everything working beautifully at home, but at work I had a small problem: I don't run Windows, and Palm doesn't officially support Linux. But all I really need to have working here is the Calender and Tasklist, and Evolution will do that. All I had to do was get my Debian Linux box to talk to the Palm, and I should be in good shape.

Step one was finding out that my current installation had no USB support. I still had the kernel source from when I had to recompile it to enable multi-processor support, so I figured it'd be a fairly simple process. (Especially since I had great instructions from [ profile] fleetfootmike on how to accomplish that). Unfortunately, the newest version of gcc appears to not like the 2.2.20 kernel source.

Well, I'd vaguely been thinking of upgrading the kernel anyway. Not that I had a pressing need to do it, but it was something I honestly had never really done, and horizons are for seeking. So I downloaded the newest non-development kernel, 2.6.6, and set to work.

I had a few rough spots, as I kept finding stuff that I had left out that I needed, but this morning I was able to boot, and a couple of recompiles later I got back networking and serial communication. :) Finally, after searching, I found a great website specifically aimed at demystifying what bits were needed to get my Palm device talking to Linux. One more recompile later and I was able to set up my Palm and sync it with Evolution. Yay!

I'm inordinately impressed with Debian's kernel management process. The last time I had do this, it was a much less painless procedure, which is one of the reasons I'd been putting it off for so long. Yet another reason I'm glad we're moving towards it as a platform for our work servers as well.

This was a pleasing way to start the day.


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