archive for July, 2004

Picasa

Jeremy suggested that I try out Picasa. Here’s a blurb from their website:

Picasa. Everything you need to enjoy your digital photos in a single software product:

  • Auto-transfer photos from your digital camera.
  • Organize and find pictures in seconds.
  • Edit, print, and share photos with ease.
  • Create slideshows, order prints and more!

Roomba Part IV

iRobot has announced a new generation of Roomba are available. We’ve been using our Roomba since February, and we are still very happy with it. Actually, my number one complaint with our current Roomba is that it tends to get hair wrapped around the axles on the brushes. I emailed iRobot, and they claim to have fixed the problem. There are other improvements including: faster battery charging, longer lasting battery, larger particle bin, automatic recharging, and dirt detector. I think we’ll upgrade.

The new Discovery model costs $250, so I’ll try to sell our original Roomba to help defer the costs. eBay is an obvious option, but I’ve never sold anything on eBay, so I’m worried that my lack of reputation will make it a harder sell. I also expect to see a flood of the original models going up for sale as people switch to the new models. If you know anyone who is interested in a friendly robotic vacuum, let me know.

MythTV Vs. TiVo

Mark is using MythTV and recommends it over TiVo. MythTV sounds more flexible and fun to build, but it could be more expensive if I’m going to build it from scratch. I’ve been thinking about getting DirecTV next month, and if I do I want to have a PVR. Here are the pros and cons that I can think of at the moment:

MythTV pros: no monthly fee, upgradeable, plays mp3s, fun to build. MythTV cons: hardware costs are at least $50 for a video capture card (it could be a lot more if I buy a new hard drive or even a whole new computer), bulky, noisy fans, hard to setup.

DirecTV TiVo pros: integrated with the DirecTV receiver, fixed costs ($99 for the box + $5 per month), easy to use. The cons are that it’s probably not as powerful, and there is that extra monthly charge.

It’s really hard to compare the two based only on cost. To build a MythTV box that can receive two signals at once (like the DirecTV TiVo) I would need at least two capture cards. Even if I could use all existing hardware except for the capture cards, it would cost at least as much as the $99 for the DirecTV TiVo. I would probably want to add at least a $80 hard drive which would make it more expensive than the TiVo even after a year of service. Once I got that far, there are probably a lot more things I’d want to add, so the MythTV could easily be much more expensive than DirecTV TiVo, even in the long run.

I’m going to do more research, but at this point I think I’ll go with TiVo, and possibly upgrade to MythTV when the hardware isn’t as expensive and it’s easier to setup.

Wedding Weekend

Last weekend my brother Mark got married. My other brother Kevin and his girlfriend flew down from Oregon, and together with Jesse we drove up to San Ramon for the wedding. The actual ceremony was nice, but it was even better to be able to get together with the family.

They Might Be Giants: The Spine

They Might Be Giants‘s 10th album The Spine is in stores today. Those wonderful people at Homestarrunner.com have created a wonderful animation to go with Experimental Film. The subtle little references to TMBGisms are great.

ApeJet Backup

I’ve just released a new tool called ApeJetBackup. It’s 1.0 right now, and when I say 1.0 I really mean “I think it works, but it’s probably super buggy.”

The goal of ApeJetBackup is to create an easy to use tool for automatically backing up selected directories (folders in MS jargon). I haven’t written any documentation for it because there isn’t any demand. If you have any questions about it, feel free to contact me.

No More Cavities… Ever

I first heard about a bacteria that will prevent cavity formation a while back. It looks like Oragenics is moving it into human trials.

Normal bacteria produce lactic acid which slowly eats away at your teeth, eventually causing cavities. This new, genetically engineered, bacteria doesn’t. It is however designed to get rid of the acid producing kind. If this works, it could be huge. I could easily imagine this cutting the recommended number of visits to the dentist in half. If insurance providers really believe in preventive care, they will be giving it away for free.

I still have some questions. How long will it stay in your mouth? Will the regular bacteria eventually evolve to fight for their turf? Will it do anything about bad breath? (Update: The FAQs indicate that it won’t.) Will it make it worse because people will stop brushing? How much will it cost? Since it’s patented, would it be illegal to swap bacteria with others? What are the possible side effects?

The real sparkle on this tooth is that arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) may, similarly, be caused by bacteria. In another 10 years, heart disease and strokes could be a thing of the past. Keep that in mind when you’re saving for retirement.

Photos

Today I finally made it through my Hawaii pictures, first selecting some of the more memorable and interesting ones, then cropping them down to 750×100 pixels for my banner above. I processed 60 new pictures, so I’m now up to nearly 200.

Gordon dropped a note in a mailing list talking about 1000words.net, a site with a new photo essay every day (at least, that’s the goal). I think I have several pictures that I’ve taken that are good enough to get posted. Unfortunately, I don’t have any essays to go with the picture. Oh well, maybe I’ll get inspired some day.

Mozilla Has Bugs Too

I’ve posted in the past about security problems with Internet Explorer, and how even months after problems with IE show up even after there is malware (evil software) using it, they still aren’t fixed.

Well, no software is impervious to bugs, but some developers deal with them faster. In this case, it took less than two days from the first information regarding the bug showing up until Mozilla was fully fixed with patches released and everything.

If you use Mozilla, there is no reason to panic. As far as I know, nobody is actually using this bug to do any harm, and they probably won’t now that it’s fixed. If you want to be extra safe download the patch here. It only takes about 30 seconds to install and is really a piece of cake.

Recipe: Strawberry-Rhubarb Ice Cream

Last weekend for the Fourth of July, I made some ice-cream. Last time I did this I went with a very complicated chocolate recipe. This time I wanted to make it as simple as possible. I found a recipe for Philadelphia Vanilla Ice Cream that called for 1 quart thin cream, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla. That is. Just mix and freeze.

For this year’s ice cream, I used 1 pint heavy cream, 1 pint regular cream, 1 cup sugar, about a pound of unsweetened strawberries, and 4 stalks (I think) rhubarb. I pureed the strawberries, rhubarb and sugar. Then I mixed in the cream and froze it in my ice cream maker.

It froze well, and looks and tastes great (if you like strawberry-rhubarb). The only problem I have with it is that it’s a little chunky/crunchy. Next time I’ll have to run it in the food processor a bit longer and then strain out the seeds and pulp. I might add a few tablespoons of the pulp back into the mix for aesthetic reasons, but overall it needs to be smoother than this batch.

There are two major problems with making ice cream that keep me from making it more often. One is that I make way too much. My current ice cream maker holds up to 6 quarts. It would be great for big parties with 10+ people, but for everyday use it just makes way too much. The other problem is having to add crushed ice and salt. For one, I don’t keep that much (rock or table) salt on hand. Same with the crushed ice. It’s also pretty messy and easily adds over an hour to the ice cream making process.

When I was a kid, we had a small hand crank ice cream maker with a cannister that you would freeze and use as your source of “cold.” It looks like they sell electric models of the same concept now. I wonder why, with the electricity available, they don’t just use the Peltier Effect to supply the cold. This would make making ice cream as easy as making rice in a rice cooker.

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