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Home theater lighting project complete

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Lutron Maestro IR SmartSwitch pre-installCompleted Lutron panel

That day has finally come – my Lutron smart dimmers arrived, have been installed, and are now hooked into my Logitech Harmony home theater automation remote with great results. With a little help from Brien the dimmers are installed, and the wiring is now again safely hidden away behind nice looking wall plates.

The Lutron Maestro IR smart dimmer intelligently fades the lights up and down to preset levels at the touch of a button on my Harmony remote. With the track lights dimmed properly and pointed away from the TV screen it bathes my movie goers in soft warm light while avoiding distracting reflections on the TV.

Next up: painting the living room a darker color to help reduce light bounce around the room. The question has become deep midnight blue, or rich royal red?

Adult lighting project – 99% complete

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Track lighting 1Track lighting 2
Track lighting 4Track lighting 3

I’m a week late with the post, but better late than never. My adult lighting project has finally made a major splash on my living room. The new track lighting offers beautiful even lighting for the seating area without casting reflections on the TV screen thus bringing my home theater one step further to completion (thanks Brien!).

Sadly it’s still not 100% complete – I’m still waiting on Seattle Lighting to deliver on the Lutron Maestro programmable dimmer switch that I ordered. Without the dimmer switch the lighting is somewhat unusable as the full on setting is almost blindingly bright. Once the dimmer switch arrives I can hook it in to the rest of my home theater automation and allow the lights in the house to dim when I go into movie mode with my Logitech Harmony programmable remote.

While on the topic I have a mixed review of Seattle lighting – they have an amazing selection and access to some equipment nobody else in Seattle can get, but on the flip side they have horrible customer service. I placed my order in late December and was told that my whole order would take 2 weeks (3 tops) to arrive. Nearly 3 months late the bulk had arrived, and now over three months later the last dimmer switch is still pending. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but they did a terrible job of managing my expectations – constantly telling me it would be ‘just a few more days’ every time I called in for status updates.

Oh yeah – and the transformer they sold me was bad. Good for them that they replaced it quickly, and not really their fault; but with bad taste in my mouth from the weeks of getting jerked around by their customer service it was really the arsenic and ass icing on the cake.

AppleTV/Hairspray review

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Yesterday Apple released the AppleTV Take2 software update. Of course upon getting home I immediately installed it and started playing with some of the shiny gooey goodness and I have to say I’m impressed. I really liked the first version of the AppleTV and they really have knocked it out of the park this time.

The entire user experience is re-envisioned to be more flashy – much more fun to use. The fact that the AppleTV can now independently sync podcasts, buy music and TV shows on the iTunes media store, and rent movies makes for a most delectable icing on an already moist and delicious media cake.

For some strange reason I decided upon Hairspray as test of the new HD rental service. The rental experience was a breeze – two clicks of the remote (plus a one-time password entry) and the HD movie was playing with surprisingly good quality within two minutes.

I went into Hairspray with low expectations and came away impressed. The movie is fun, engaging, and oddly thought provoking. Don’t get me wrong – it’s completely campy and over the top, but really well executed. The music and choreography is well thought out and the cinematographer did a great job of showcasing some of the dance moves without distracting the viewer with too much camera movement.

Featuring fantastic performances by John Travolta, Christopher Walken (it had been so long since I’d seen the Weapon of Choice music video I’d almost forgot how good a dancer he is), and new to film actress Nikki Blonsky who leads the film with confidence and flair.

For the record: John Travola in drag is just plain wrong, but wrong in the kind of way that I can get behind. Travolta in drag for President 08!

Tase me bro!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

When going to CES one expects a rough week involving countless interviews, hour after hour of writing, and defending oneself from PR reps from round the world. One thing you don’t expect is to get the living daylights shocked out of you. First and foremost watch the video below for a chance to see me get tasered. After all, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to see some poor sot get tasered – particularly when they signed them self up for it (full waiver and everything).

Yes I’m OK. Yes I was a little numb for a while. And surprisingly I’m actually more pro-Taser than I was before this whole thing started. It’s effective at dropping you for sure, but really doesn’t leave lasting harm, and assuming you don’t have any weird medical problems it’s surprisingly safe from what I’ve read.

Oh yeah – and you can get the file here if you really want it. A longer version with far more details including what lead up to this will be posted to Gear Live in the next couple of days.

Update: The Gear Live video (which is over 7 minutes long and has a lot more lead up, comedy, and wonderfulness) has gone live. check it out, or better yet give it a digg.

You know you have become an adult when…

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

…you spend more than $1k on lighting equipment for your home. I’ve made a few big home improvement purchases and yesterday added lighting to the fray. I’m replacing all of the lighting in the living room with theater style lighting as another step towards my eventual home theater living room. All this home improvement is very adult, very unlike me.

The new lighting will arrive in 2-3 weeks and consists of track lighting over the couch, decorative accent lighting for near the screen, and Lutron Maestro home automation switches to let my Logitech Harmony programmable uber-remote control the lighting for home theater macro’s.

Lightstik

Best part of it is this light, the Lightstik. The base is electrified (very weak current – you can’t feel it with your fingers) and the LED sticks just sit in there. The moment they make contact with the base unit they light up.

Launching

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Yesterday brought 12 hours of production issues, troubleshooting, and delayed launches. I hate days like that and really can’t wait for the weekend now (2 days left). We have another busy day of launch activity ahead of us today, but hopefully we will complete everything and be ready for a nice relaxing Friday.

On the plus side I picked up an Airport Extreme to replace my slowly dying Linksys Gigabit-N router. The Airport Extreme has blown my socks off – not only is it drop dead simple to configure, but my Macbook Pro Lanshark connects at 300Mbps and gets 21MB/sec actual throughput at 1.4ms latency. Impressive!

Your Apple ID requires harvesting?!

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Harvesting?!

While at the Leopard launch last night Mike picked up an 8Gb 3rd generation iPod Nano for his daughter. While over at their house this morning I was amused to see he was having trouble registering the Nano. Every time he tries to sign in with his Apple ID he gets the puzzling error “This person record requires harvesting.” (click the image above for a full sized view).

While I’m sure it has a valid technical meaning it’s a strange message to show to an end user. It almost makes me wonder – what kind of harvesting is Apple talking about here, a kidney or a crop?

Life’s little pleasures: Leopard, IMAP, and Puzzle Quest

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

The past 24 hours has brought a number of great things into my life. Yesterday night I went to the Bell Square Apple Store for the Leopard launch with Mike and picked myself up a copy of the shiny new version of OS X.

The launch event itself was an interesting experience. Apple really does know how to work a crowd, and the energy and passion it’s employees (retail and engineering alike) bring to work with them makes for a really positive experience for Apple’s customers.

Leopard itself is a neat little upgrade. The upgrade itself actually works really well – I didn’t lose any of my documents, settings, or preferences. Aside from Quicksilver being stuck in my dock (not the menubar where it really belongs) everything works flawlessly on Lanshark – Photoshop even stayed fully activated. Leopard is nothing revolutionary, but it really does add a lot of polish to OS X and makes for a worthwhile upgrade.

For the first time ever I actually kind of like the Finder. Quicklook (the ability to preview just about any document without the overhead of opening it’s parent application) is handy and makes confirmation that you have the document you are looking for brain dead simple. Spotlight is vastly improved featuring much faster searches, operators, and network search abilities.

Aside from the Leopard launch I was also thrilled to find out my Gmail account finally got IMAP enabled. The IMAP implementation is well done, and it makes Gmail’s iPhone experience as slick as their browser experience. Being able to have Mail.app cache my gmail account is handy as well for having my webmail searchable via the OS just like the rest of my personal knowledge store.

The final great thing to enter my life yesterday was Puzzle Quest for the DS. Puzzle Quest is a fun little RPG/Puzzler game that a couple of friends had suggested and it’s quite fun. It offers quick-in, quick-out gameplay – a fun addition to my go bag.

Gutting my baby for the better

Friday, October 26th, 2007

Last night I had the opportunity to experience the joy of Applecare. iChoad finally finished dying so I took him to the Apple Store (again) to drop him off. Unfortunately the University Village Apple Store is closed for renovation so I had to fight traffic up to Lynnwood. Luckily for me it was a reasonably pleasant experience. After a little diagnosis they agreed that the motherboard and video card had issues, and ordered the parts to replace them. I’ve had a few stuck pixels for a while so they also agreed to replace the LCD screen. All in all I should be getting him back early next week, with pretty much every component replaced.

The traffic I faced last night was in stark contrast to my ride in to work this morning. Some asshat scheduled an early morning meeting on a Friday so I was driving in at 7:10 – with practically no traffic. There is something weird about driving at 60mph in the dark on a freeway I rarely get to accelerate past 20 on – it felt forbidden and exhilarating.

Leopard launches tonight. Excitement!

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