Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

I forgot about bad DVDs look

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

What is it about Christmas that makes you want to watch the same movie over and over again? Whatever it is, it hit the wife and I over the weekend and we watched one of our Christmas favorites, The Family Man.

The thing is that it has been so long since I watched one of the 100 DVDs I own, that I forgot how bad they look. I truly found it distracting how dull the colors were and how bad the contrast was. I tried to ignore it, but my obsessive compulsive nature just couldn’t let it go.

The funny thing is that when I think back over two and half years when I reviewed the first HD DVD player, I don’t remember being that impressed. In fact I said, “my biggest fear is that some people won’t be able to tell the difference.”

It really is funny how once you get accustomed to a certain level of quality, how difficult it can be to go back to what used to be the reference.

Netflix’s motive for its download model

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Recently I wrote a letter to the editor in response to an editorial in Home Media Magazine. To my delight they decided to publish it, so click through to the digital edition.

10 reasons for a geek to be optimistic about the new president

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Sure Obama might make Iraq and the economy worse — assuming it’s even possible — but there are plenty of reasons why a geek should be optimistic about his presidency.

  1. Joe Biden won’t be able to vote for the DMCA again — unless there’s a tie in the Senate.
  2. There could be presidential addresses via Twitter.
  3. We may not ever have to fill out another form at a doctor’s office.
  4. He wants a playoff system in College Football, like any football geek would.
  5. Our pipes should stay free thanks to his support for Net Neutrality.
  6. Our kids might be saved thanks to Stem Cell research.
  7. The broadband speeds should increase thanks to his communications infrastructure plans.
  8. His plan to reform the patent system could lead to more innovation.
  9. He may save our life — or the life of a loved one — by modernizing the Public Safety Network.
  10. He’s sure to use the web to run the country, the way he did for his campaign.

So if my new president will stick to this and at the same time leave my guns alone, leave my money in my pocket — yeah I know, fat chance — then we’ll get along just fine.

Why Netflix is such a great deal for the movie watcher.

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

On a recent podcast, a guest made a very interesting point. Jon said that Vudu is a better deal for him because some months he doesn’t have time to watch movies. So in other words, the pay as you go plan works best for him. I started to wonder about my own usage, as I’ve been known to go a month without watching a movie. So I decided to take a look at my usage history on the Netflix’s site.

To my surprise I’d watched 76 movies in the past 12 month. Now don’t ask me where I found the time to watch that many movies in 12 months, because I just don’t know. It feels like I watch one a month, but the numbers don’t lie and although I rent the occasional movie for my wife and daughter, not very many. But just to put it into perspective, that is over 6 movies a month or 1.5 movies a week.

Now the reason I say that Netflix is such a great deal for me is because even with the new $1 Blu-ray tax, I’m still only spending $252 a year. If I was using Vudu or Apple TV, I’d be spending almost twice that at $455 a year.

But if I really want to get into rip-offs, then I’ll look at my FiOS TV bill. Sure it offers some great quality and at about 100 HD channels, a great selection of HD, but my bill is about $800 a year. So if I don’t count all the time I spend watching OTA HD programming for free, the amount of time I actually spend watching FiOS TV is way less than the 3 hours a week I spend watching Netflix Movies. So yeah, I’m wasting my money.

The bottom line is as soon as football season is over — gotta have ESPN and the NFL Network for the games after all — I’m dropping FiOS TV, but not to do the trendy downloads thing, I’m going strickly OTA HD and Blu-ray via Netflix.

Personal accountability

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

This is a philosophical post that pretty much explains where I stand on the economic crisis. I believe that while in many scenarios more than one person is truly responsible, ultimately we are all responsible for our own actions.

So for example, a drug addict is to blame for their drug problem and not the dealer. A student is usually to blame for bad grades and not the teacher. The person who pulled the trigger is guilty of murder, not the seller of the weapon or ammo.

So understanding this about me, it should make it obvious that I blame we Americans for the mortgage crisis in our country right now. I blame myself because too, I have an ARM on my rental property and I didn’t put down 20% on my home.

I am part of the problem, and refuse to blame Wall Street — or Washington for that matter. Sure, without the banks willing to give us bad loans, it couldn’t have ever happened; but ultimately it is our crisis to bail ourselves out of and in a way the biggest mistake Wall Street made was to trust that we would all pay our loans back. Now personally I’ve never missed a payment on any of my mortgages, but I made the same mistakes that others have, it’s just that up until now, my mistakes haven’t caught up with me. The good news is that like many others, I learn from my mistakes and honestly believe that while this important lesson is going to hurt for now, in the long run it is going help us.

ESPN’s new iPhone site is great

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Not sure how new this is, but with the first NFL pre-season game kicking off this weekend, I wanted to quickly check who was playing, and to my surprise the useful — but ugly — was replaced with a down right cool website. I wasn’t sure if this was iPhone specific, so I checked on a co-worker’s Blackberry and it didn’t look the same. This might work out better for checking scores than SportsTap, either way I’m happy to have another option.

Life is too short to wait for iPhone games to load

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Don’t get me wrong, I love the new iPhone 2.0 software, but the games are terrible. Sure they are fun after you wait 30 seconds for them to load — when they don’t crash — but the entire point of a game on your mobile device is to fill in the gapes in life. To make things worse when you get a call, or for whatever reason need to do something else on your iPhone, you have to wait for them to load all over again, this makes them almost completely useless.

The other really annoying thing is the music. Do these companies really think I want to listen to their generic game music instead of my own? How can there not be a setting that lets me choose to listen to my own music — or an Podcast in my case?

I’m sure some people don’t care about this, but I’m not a big gamer, I just want to enjoy the occasional game of Tetris or solitaire while I wait for the elevator to arrive, sheesh.

The iPhone 3G launch: It was so much better last time

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

I understand why Apple changed the activation process with the 3G iPhone, and if given the choice to wait in line with other Apple Geeks for 4.5 hours or pay $600 for a 16G 3G iPhone, I’d most definitely choose the wait; but man it’s amazing how much faster the line went last time. The good news is I made some great new friends while waiting and without much fuss was out of the Apple store in about 30 minutes.

Anyhoo, although I love the new iPhone, the real killer new feature is the applications, but with only 25% of them free and no trial period, it’s too easy to burn through all your iTunes credits on crap. So here is my list of iPhone applications, highs and lows — Thanks for the idea Richard.


  1. WeatherBug – Free and easy access to radar maps and weather cameras, but no animated loop. Wouldn’t mind paying for a weather app if it featured animated loops.
  2. eBay – Free, but not super fancy, but still faster than using the web browser.
  3. Remote – Who doesn’t like this?
  4. Tetris – $15, much better than the free Jailbroken version, but takes a long time to load and has crashed on me during games a few times. But very impressive implementation using the touch screen. Definitely worth the money, but I’ll be looking for an update to make it more stable.
  5. SportsTab – Free, very quick access to sports scores, seems easier than, but we’ll really see when football season starts.
  6. vSnax – Free, like YouTube but more useful, because there is actually recent news and other corporate content.
  7. Talking Spanish Phrases – Free, this is a great little phrase utility that includes the pronunciation of spanish phrases as well as to speak them out audibly.


  1. iLoveControl – Free, even at free, this thing is completly useless and even if I did have a Crestron HA system, it doesn’t look like it’d be that cool of a way to control it.
  2. Super Monkey Ball –  $10, this game is impossible and you have to look down at the iPhone to even play it. Not much fun at all.
  3. Texas Hold ’em – $5, not a bad deal for $5, but the game is like 150MB and the game play is too slow.
  4. NetNewsWire – Free, I’m a long time NetNewsWire fan, but I have to say that Google’s Web reader for the iPhone is better, much better.

The rest of the apps I tried that were just all right were, Cro-Mag Rally, which isn’t as much fun as Crash’s race game. Blip Solitaire which isn’t bad, but takes too long to load and isn’t as good as the free version I was using on my jailborken iPhone.

Overall I’m happy, but I wish Apple had an RSS feed that would make it easy to keep up with new apps and udpates.

The ISY-99 is the best thing that ever happend to my automated lights

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008


About two years ago I moved into a new house and discovered that when I park in my detached garage at night, I can’t see where I’m going because the light switch is in the house and I’m in the garage. So I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if when my garage door opened that my alley, garage, and porch lights turned on for a few minutes so I could see where I was walking. Two years later and now I have about 16 automated switches in my house, but unfortunately it came with lots of headaches. The problem is that I choose to use Insteon Lights from Smart Home and although they feature some very advanced grouping configurations, there was no easy way for me to configure it. I tried a few open source projects, as well as three Insteon plug-ins from my current Home Automation controller provider Main Lobby; and I even tried Smart Home’s software HouseLinc. Upon evaluating mControl and discovering it couldn’t master Insteon either, I was telling my new friend Ted Singh from Embedded Automation that I was thinking about ditching Insteon altogether — and the over $1000 I had invested — for something that actually worked. Ted recommended that before I do, that I try out a device from Universal Devices called the ISY-99i. Basically it is a small embedded Insteon controller — they have plans to support UPB and Z-Wave as well — that has a very useful management utility. At first I was reluctant because of the cost. The ISY device I was interested in was $339 and also required me to buy a Ethernet adapter for my Elk M1 Gold alarm system for about $200. So while I was trying to figure out if it was worth another $540 to make my over $1000 investment actually work — more if you include the cost of the Elk — I added up how much it would cost me to switch to Leviton’s Vizia RF and as you might have guessed, it was way too much.

Over the weekend I installed the ELK M1EXP and let me tell you, I should’ve of waited so long, the Ethernet interface is so much better than the serial I was using and well worth the $200 on it’s own. But the real magic happened last night when I received the ISY-99i. In about 4 hours, I achieved lighting bliss and created groups that I’ve fought with for 2 years and never accomplished. The device is an absolute joy to use and besides a few hiccups that UDI’s support was quick to respond to, I couldn’t hardly go to sleep last night because I was so excited about what I’d accomplished — yes, I’m that much of a geek. You have no idea how many hours of heartache I have invested in trying to get even the simplest group created and the ISY can do it in minutes and perfectly every time. Smart Home should bundle this with every Insteon PLM as it makes their hardware an unbelievable solution.

Now for the only problem. As great as the ISY device is, it isn’t very useful if I can’t integrate it with the rest of my system. It integrates pretty well with my Elk, which is my number one priority, but it also needs to integrate with my controller and since Cinemar makes their own plug-in for Insteon — you remember, the one that doesn’t work — I’m not sure I’ll get much help from them. Luckily their architecture is pretty open and my friend Dave has written a few plug-ins already, so with a little help and a little research of the UDI WSDK, I should be in business.

How not to put Recorded TV in alphabetical order

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Not sure why this bothers me so much, but why is it the Vista Media Center Recorded TV list, has shows like “The Office” with the shows that start with T’s instead of the O’s? One of my first jobs when I was still in high school was working at a video store and while I wasn’t kick’n back behind the counter watching The Hunt For Red October for the 100th time, I was putting movies back on the shelves, and I can tell you one thing for sure, at The Reel Place, we didn’t do it that way.