Saturday, November 29, 2003

Enjoying the post Thanksgiving holiday.

My GradParty 2003 video went over well. I feel this was my best editing work. I am glad to have this finished. I am planning on distributing all of my family videos to family members around the country this Christmas. I'll need to dupe about a half dozen or so.

Catching up on computer maintenance. I installed the latest Adobe Album 2.0 upgrade. Also installed the recently received Serif Page Plus 9 software.

Recently, I saw a news item that Microsoft and Computer Associates were offering free antivirus and firewall software for download. I generally dislike antivirus software because I am behind a hardware router so I have some immunity. In addition, I keep the Windows update current. So, I've never really had a problem. I have tried several anti-virus programs over the years. Panda Software was truly awful. Trend Micro's PC-cillen was just okay. I've used Computer Associates antivirus in the past and found it to be competent and unobtrusive. In fact, Computer Associates was the vendor for anti-virus at Microsoft when I was there. What's surprising is how little coverage this offer has received. It seems like a great offer.

I am still thinking over my new motherboard purchase. I updated my wish list at to the Abit IC7 Max3. This looks like a killer board. Still thinking about if this is the right time to make this purchase.

New digital camera purchase is on hold. Too many choices. I can't make up my mind.

On a whim I bought a new CD/DVD/SACD player for my tube based living room audio system. I bought the Philips DVD763SA from Music Direct who I have bought from over the years. They had it for $125 which was pretty attractive for the features. So, I ordered it. About the time it arrived, I saw an ad in a PC Connection catalog for the same unit for $89! That was quite a difference in price so I called up Music Direct and after some discussion they agreed to give me a store credit for the difference. I posted the $89 dollar link on Audio Asylum.

So how does it sound? I think some break in is still needed. SACDs sound the best. CD playback seems to be okay but maybe a little harsh. I may play with cables to see if this has any effect. Break in is probably the answer. I did put some spongy rubber feet on the bottom I had lying around. Maybe this will help? I am tempted to open this up and take a look around inside. Supposedly, these cheap units have horrible switching power supplies. I don't know if there's much one can do from an upgrade standpoint. This unit also purports to play MP3 based disks. This would be useful for casual background music listening. Well after much testing and burning of various test disks I have determined that this feature is broken on this unit. It will play a few MP3s but then get lost and either stop or get stuck and require a reboot. Additionally, sometimes for no apparent reason the MP3 sound output will be soaked in a harsh digital distortion. The distortion is intermittent and appears at random times. I have tried many different ways of burning MP3 compilation CD-Rs and none of them work successfully with this unit all the time. This must be one reason this unit is being discontinued. Oh well, it would have been useful but the important bits, SACD and CD playback, seem to work fine. Curiously, I cannot find any mention of the Philips MP3 problem on the Net. I can't believe I am the only one to encounter this.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Okay, in the category of technology in search of a purpose, I see that Microsoft's Spot seems to be dead on arrival according to this story by the Register.

Spot was supposed to be this radio delivered news service for geeks wearing stupid watches. I don't even wear a watch! Apparently, neither does Steve Ballmer which may be the most telling. It always amazes me the stuff that gets green lighted at Microsoft. What is so compelling about this product? Don't we already have pagers, cell phones, text messaging, etc. If anything I want to be out of contact as much as possible.

My prediction is Microsoft Spot will never ship. Now, that's an easy one. Sheeesh!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Well I finally got motivated again to work on my latest family video. This one covers the graduation of my nephews and nieces from college and high school. I shot the principal video at their graduation party in June. I had worked out an approximate storyboard in my mind that would begin the video with the minute thirty bit of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance. I would use this as bed for "Ken Burn's Effect" panned still images of the actual graduations. I had a lot of fun making cuts based on musical beats. I think people will be impressed. I then fade to black and do an abrupt change to the actual party. Overall, I've got about 9 minutes so far. I want to go back to the video to see if there are any more choice bits I can include. Once, the editing is done I can render to DVD Mpeg 2. Then all I have to do is prepare a new DVD menu graphic and write the new DVD with the previous "films" I've made. The whole thing gets that big debut on Thanksgiving. It's become a bit of a tradition to debut a new video every Thanksgiving.

I am thinking of sending copies of the completed DVD to other family members around the country as a Christmas gift. It might be fun.

I've been using Sonic Foundry's Vegas 4 for my video editing. This is another fantastic piece of software and is performing very rock solidly for me. For a quick check, I rendered straight to a VCD to look at on my TV. I wasn't expecting much quality wise but I was very impressed that things looked so good with this format. The DVD should be even better.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Oh, I also tried out my new leaf blower on Saturday. Now that I have so many more leaves, raking just wasn't going to cut it. The leaf blower worked really well. I just put in my ear plugs and fired it up. I got a real nice pile. Hopefully they will get picked up in the next week. I figure I've got at least one or two more leaf roundups to go.
I recently had a problem again with my Linksys Wet-11 Wi-Fi bridge. One day all of a sudden it was dead and the wlan and ethernet leds were dead. I fiddled with it but could not get it to respond. I don't know if this was a result of recent sun spot activity or what?

Finally, I unplugged it and installed my spare SMC USB Wi-Fi adapter and continued on. A day later I plugged the Linksys back in and it starts working again. Weird. I beginning to think that since this runs continuously that maybe it locks up after so many months? I did download an updated firmware just in case. It seems to be working normally again.

I went to CompUSA today to pick up a 256mb SD card for my new Palm Tungsten E. I thought I would allocate this card to just music. The player on the Tungsten is not bad. This has been an unexpected surprise and really increase the usefullness of the device. Of course CompUSA was out of stock. There may be a truck this week. The price was attractive and there was no rebate involved. Hooray.

I finally got around to installing Sonar 3. This went smoothly. Sonar 3 is really a great program and the Producer edition comes with some great add-ons including the Lexicon reverb. I recorded a quick little guitar, drum, synth test and got some good results. I uploaded the song as Film Cue No. 44. I hope to do a lot more recording this winter. I certainly have the tools now.

I continue to analyze my new computer build. I seem to be swaying towards the Abit IC7-G Max II Advance motherboard. It's got everything and has gotten great reviews. This will be the first Pentium system in quite some time. I've come to the conclusion that it's too early to jump into the Athlon 64 stream. I've got the Antec Sonata silent case so I'll have to decide when to make the next purchase which will be most of the hardware minus the hard disc and DVD writer. This next stage will run about $700. Let's see how the market does?

I'm also still considering a digital camera upgrade. Over the summer I had pretty much settled on the Olympus 750 10x zoom. I see now it has come down and is now about $500 at J&R. Now I see that the Nikon 5700 has also dropped to $799. I'm not sure about the Nikon but it now becomes more interesting. Also, the release of the new Canon Digital Rebel at $999 has generated some buzz. Not sure I want to get involved in that system. There's no rush although it might be nice to have in Hawaii in February 2004.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Sunny and cooler today. Nice after all the rain. I've been sluggish lately. Need to get to work on some projects but I've had trouble getting motivated.

Listening to Rush. My favorite fill-in host, Walter E. Williams, is on today.

I was watching CNBC this morning and they had on the apparently wacko leftist Rep. Pete Stark from California. If this is representitive of Democrat thinking then it's going to be tough sledding in future national elections. He actually called President Bush a "facist". Unbelievable! The name calling that Democrats often resort to is degrading to their cause.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The more I read about Longhorn, the next Microsoft OS, the more baffled I become. Couple this with a projected release date of 2006 and I am even more puzzled. Meanwhile, I also read that Microsoft has all but given up standalone Internet Explorer development. Add that to the growing list of Microsoft abandoware such as Outlook Express and things are looking pretty grim.

I've now switched to Mozilla 1.5 for my browsing needs. The tabbed browsing alone makes this a winner. Of course I switched to OpenOffice years ago and the current 1.1 version is very usable.

While I got Windows XP on my Dell Laptop this summer, I can't say I'm at all impressed with this OS. I can't find one thing that says this a real improvement over Windows 2000. I wasn't that bowled over with Windows 2000 initially either but time and four service packs later have smoothed the rough edges.

With a new OS release three years out, some effort needs to go into shoring up Windows XP with a significant Service Pack. This should be priority number one. This manhattan project style programming effort for the OS is becoming very tedious. If Windows 2000 and Windows XP are so great in the first place, why do they need to be entirely rewritten and take years to update? I guess the whole continuing Windows security fiasco has really hit home, finally. Microsoft only starts to respond when real money is at stake. I guess push back from customers is starting to have it's effect. I do not envy the Microsoft shlubs having to sell this stuff. I got out at the right time! Life was so much simpler.

The quote about Windows being just a bunch of debugged device drivers (Andreeson) seems to be more relevant than ever.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Long time since I blogged. Lots going on.

My nephew and his landscaping company completed the buildout of backyard. It now looks stunning.

Making lots of purchases lately. New Dell 19" Flat Panel. MadDog Nvidia 5200 graphics card. M-Audio BX-5's for the upstairs system. I also picked up on sale the Antec Sonata quiet pc case. I am spec'ing out a new downstairs system. I am considering an Athlon 64 but it may be premature at this point. Intel's Pentium 4's are getting more price competitive so I may go this direction this time. I'm going to build up this system slowly - no rush. I probably will go with an external audio solution like M-Audio's Fireport 410 this time around.

Hope to get into a more regular posting routine as I spend more time inside. Incredible weather today. About 80! This can't be November in the Northeast?