Archive for May, 2006

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No lung cancer from smoking weed!

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Digg just turned me on to a Scientific American feature this month on smoking and cancer, and it looks like there were some surprising results in a study to determine the correlation between marijuana smoke and lung cancer. The surprising result it that it does not appear to cause cancer at all unlike cigarette smoke. Scientists are unsure of why marijuana smoke would not cause lung cancer but other types of smoke would.

Good news for all the health conscious stoners in the world!

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Memorial for a day off

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Well here I am, Sunday on Memorial Day weekend and I am pretty content with myself. Dom helped me do a deep clean on my place yesterday, I have two days left in the weekend to enjoy myself, and I am actually feeling pretty good aside from some minor gripes with my allergies.

On the work front things are still going rather well. I’m still frustrated with the politics surrounding one of the projects that I’m working on, but am having a lot of fun and learning tons about how to be a PM ninja!

Also on a somewhat work related topic I’m finally playing with Vista. It’s still only the beta2 and still has some bugs (mostly UI, UX, and performance), but I’m quite impressed with it. It will be interesting to see what Apple brings forth with Leopard in a few months to counteract some of the wow factor that Vista’s glass UI thunks down on the table.

I have Vista installed on my work laptop and am frustrated at times with it. I don’t have the best driver coverage yet so it’s slow and annoying. I’m impressed that it’s still stable enough that I can pretty much do my days work on that laptop.

I also installed it on my Media Center. It’s much more impressive on the MCE, and with the 128Mb graphics card I have in there I can actually get the glass UI. With only 512Mb of RAM the Media Center is a bit laggy, but I was able to help that by adding 1Gb of EMD memory via Readyboost to increase the RAM cache and improve indexing. The Media Center application itself still needs some polish, but I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen so far and can’t wait to see the finished product.

Aside from work I’ve been playing a lot of Oblivion, and spending a lot of quality time with Skype. He’s frustrated with how long I’m gone during the days at work, so I try to spend extra time playing with him at night and on the weekends. I wish it was sunnier outside today rather than drizzling because then it would be a lot more fun to go to the park with him.

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Seamless pictures

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Screenhead just pointed me at some amazing pictures by Rob Gonsalves. His pictures are beautiful, playful, and really screw with your head with their gradual transitions. I’m going to stop blathering about then and just tell you to go check them out.

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A week later

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Wow – life has been hectic and I’m almost surprised that I’ve gone an entire week without posting. I’ve been busy with two things primarily: working, and OBLIVIATION.

Work is going well, I’m in the thick of things and getting to work on some interesting technical challenges, as well as some rather unique political battles. I guess it’s all part and parcel of being a borg.

Oblivion (and by relation, my Xobx 360) are amazing. The game is wonderfully open ended and one of the biggest time sucks to ever exist in the world. I’m barely two weeks into owning the game, and I’m already over 30 hours invested into it.

Aside from that not much else is new. I’m getting ready for work now so I should get back to it, I just wanted to throw up a post before everyone thought I was dead!

Not bitter at all

Tuesday, May 9th, 2006

Today I had to take my car in to get the bumper re-painted because of a color mismatch and had a rather unpleasant experience. University Volkswagon unfortunately ran out of loaner cars, and made good on their promise to get me a ride to work by getting me an Enterprise Rent a Car. I am glad they got me a car, but bitter that I got a Hyundai Accent, one of the worst cars possible. The Accent is gutless, slow, ugly, and uncomfortable. It has no keyless entry, and feels unsafe at any speeds above 55 mph.

Luckily I don’t have to feel too bad about the whole situation – I have my Xbox 360, E3 trailers, and Jason to keep me company tonight. I’m kind of envious watching the E3 trailers because if not for my new job I would be at E3 right now soaking up the sites and blogging for Gear Live. I guess I will have to console myself with Oblivion and pizza I suppose.

Also: tired from work. Today was long, and very brain-drainy!

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Video blog how to

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Bre from I Make Things just asked me to write up a short post on my workflow for creating Flash video blog posts using only free tools available for Apple’s OS X for We Are The Media and as always I’m more than happy to share the knowledge wealth. After I finished this post I was informed that the ultimately awesome Jake had also posted a write up on the same topic on the same day. I need to give good credit to Jake for turning me on to some of the tools I use in this tutorial.

The only things ayou will need to create your video blog post (be it for a personal blog, political manifesto, or sharing your cool new technology hacks with the world) are a digital camera capable of capturing AVI’s, a Mac running OS 10.3.9 or higher, and a website or blog with FTP access to post your creation to. We are going to install a free open source tool called ffmpegX that will help us with converting the video into Flash’s FLV format. You can get ffmpegX here.

The first thing you will have to do is “capture your moment”. Use your digital camera or camcorder to record a video of whatever you want to post to the internet. I recommend using the highest quality settings possible for your video – 320×240 is a minimum resolution, but use a higher setting if you can. As with any digital camera or camcorder good lighting always helps – make sure your environment is brightly lit, and your background is not brighter than you are to ensure that your face is neither too dark or bleached out. You might want to experiment a bit with lighting to find a balance that looks good before you move on to the next steps of posting your video to the internet.

You can then use iPhoto or the finder to transfer your video to your Mac’s hard drive. If you use iPhoto to pull your video from the camera you will want to drag the file from iPhoto to your desktop or another location on your hard drive to make it easier to find for the next couple of steps. At this point you are free to use iMovie or other tools to edit your video if you want, but for this tutorial we are just going to assume you want to post your video just like it was when it came out of your camera.

Now that we have the video file open up ffmpegX. If you have not installed it yet click here to get it, and follow the instructions on the website to install this fantastic video file format conversion tool.

Once you have opened and installed ffmpegX drag your AVI video onto the window to select it as the source file. Then in the “Target format” pane of the window select “FLV” as the format to encode it to. Once your screen looks something like the below you should be good to go – click the “Encode” button to start the encoding process.

Summary

FfmepgX will generate a yourfile.flv that contains your video. The next step is to put this file and a Flash enclosure (a .sfw flash executable file) onto your website. Open up your FTP client and open a connection to your website. If you need a great free FTP client check out Cyberduck. I can recommend a great Flash standard Flash enclosure you can download this one (control click or right click on the link and select to save the target to your hard drive). Both this file and the .flv file will need to be on your website (and note the www accessible URL for the next step).

The final step in our tutorial is to put the HTML code on your website. Below is the code you will want to use:

<center><object width=”320″ height=”240″>

<param name=”movie” value=”YOUR WEBSITE HERE/flvplayer.swf?file=YOUR FILE PATH.flv&autoStart=false;”>

<embed src=”/videoblog/flvplayer.swf?file=YOUR WEBSITE HERE/flvplayer.swf?file=YOUR FILE PATH.flv&autoStart=false;” quality=”high” wmode=”transparent” width=”320″ height=”240″type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” pluginspage=”http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflashplayer”></embed>
</param>

</object></center>

You will need to change that code to reflect both the URL to the flash player and the filename for this particular video for each movie you want to post to your website. Once you save your file and view the page in a web browser you should see something like the following (although hopefully with a less haggard host):


There you have it!

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Welcome embrace of oblivion and the horrors I went through to get it

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

So I finally broke down yesterday and did the very bad thing: I put an Xbox 360 on my credit card so that I could play Oblivion. About 18 hours later and I have to admit: it was the right thing to do.

Unfortunately my consumerist experience was not overly positive. While downtown with Brien I stopped by EB Games to pick up a 360. I was dismayed to discover that Microsoft is still having their supply chain problems and it’s rather difficult to find an Xbox 360 – the EB Games in downtown gets in a weekly shipment of 23, and has a 1-2 week waiting list.

So after getting home Brien and I started calling around. We were lucky enough to find a place that had one, and unlucky enough to have that place be the Renton Wal-Mart. After a long drive to the 7th circle of hell I got to experience first hand the horror that is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart can’t even survive in Seattle proper. The nearest Wal-Mart to my house is the Renton one and I now see why. The parking lot was teeming with white trash hillbillies with pimped out cars and food stamps. The Wal-Mart employees inside were even worse – they seemed to be the least educated and worst spoken customer service people I’ve dealt with in a long time. It really does make me wonder how Wal-Mart has managed to become the nations largest retailer – they suck.

My experience was further compounded when I tried to buy a copy of Oblivion and was told that because their system was reporting it as “do not sell” they couldn’t give me a copy. Luckily I was able to pick up a copy at Fry’s on the way home (with MUCH better customer service), but I’ve never even heard of a company having a stack of a product sitting behind the register and yet refusing to sell it.

After arguing with the clerk, the customer service manager, and then finally the assistant manager I gave up and tried to pay for my Xbox 360. They ran my credit card and then asked to see my ID. Unfortunately my credit card says “Sparky” and not my legal name, and I had not brought my Legal Alias paperwork with me. This is the first time I’ve had a problem with that, and hopefully it will be the last.

Most retailers are more than happy to sell you a product regardless of your credit cards name. I guess Wal-Mart has to deal with the lowest dregs of society often enough that it’s worth their time checking ID’s to help prevent fraud. I can’t even fault them for it – what I can fault them for is what happened next:

Brien graciously paid for my Xbox 360 and told me to write a check. Given that they had already run my credit card I asked if I could get a cancelation receipt. To my shock THEY REFUSED, yet assured me that they had canceled the transaction.

Xbox 360 in hand Brien and I went home so that I could let myself sink into Oblivion. Sadly shortly after I had gotten home I got a call from Visa fraud protection asking me about my “recent big purchases”. This is about when my fury erupted – Wal-Mart charged BOTH my credit card and Brien’s credit card for the console.

Needless to say I’m going to be having a chat with my bank on Monday, and then if necessary calling a lawyer to prevent them from trying to double charge for the console.

I have never experienced worse customer service, a seedier retailer, nor more fat uneducated trashy American’s in a single location. I knew I would feel dirty buying something from Wal-Mart before I even got there, I just had no idea how horrible the experience would be. They lied to me, refused to sell me a product they had in stock, and then refused to cancel a credit card transaction or provide me with a receipt.

* * *

Luckily I feel much better now (allergies aside). I have my Xbox 360, I have Oblivion, and I’m spending a lot of quality time getting myself embroiled into Tamriel’s tragedy and the open-ended masterpiece of Oblivion.

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The end of the second week as a borg

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

Although not quite as literal a Borg as I’ve been in recent times. I am now finished with my second official week as a Microsoft vendor and I’m pleased to say that I feel like I’m pretty much ramped up an part of “the team”. It’s been very interesting to see the other side of software development and all of the planning and fore-thought that goes into deciding how software should work and accounting for the fringe cases in any process.

PM work is actually far from what I had expected. Most of my days are spent in various meetings discussing the users experience and how to accomplish business goals while staying within the timeframes assigned to the development phase of software creation. I’m also spending a lot of time working on Visio diagrams, workflows, and documenting functional specifications.

Much of the work I’m doing with the functional specifications and documentation could be considered “grunt work” for a Program Manager, but it’s great experience. Every single day so far I’ve come home from work and not merely felt like I’ve accomplished something, but also that I’ve learned something.

This is really the biggest way that my newfound career differs from my old recruiting ways. I feel like I’m making a difference, even if that difference is for Volume Licensing software rather than consumer software (which is my long term goal).

On a less work related topic I’m suffering from incredible allergies today and really am in a rather bad mood because of it. Now that I finally have a weekend to relax (Mind Camp 2.0 was wonderful, but didn’t really give me a chance to take a load off) I’m taking full advantage of it and catching up on my personal life. I’m blogging, watching movies, and spending some quality time with Skype.

Speaking of quality time with Skype I’m off to take him to the dog park. Ciao!

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Dance Dance Assimilation

Thursday, May 4th, 2006


Or, “Borg of the dance” DANCE BORG, DANCE!

Did I just ruin my social life forever by posting this? Will I become the next Star Wars Kid and have to sue my friends? You be the judge!

(cross-posted from Gear Live)

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