Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Walden.

A friend complained that I’ve taken too long to post anything new here, so here goes.

1.  It’s true, I haven’t written in a while.  Work is still busy.  Also, I haven’t been posting as much since I started writing in my moleskine pocket journal.  In the month of May, I became very sick and didn’t want to bother with computers or technology.  I completely withdrew from television and print media.  And something strange happened.  I started having cinematic, vivid dreams.  Sometimes, while I was awake.  Sure, you can blame the medicine, but I think the absence of media consumption forced my brain to return to its imagination.  It was straight out of Thoreau’s Walden.

2.  I am starting to grow weary of New York City.  I went home the other day, and as the historic downpour continued, I realized how beautiful it was out on the island.  Suddenly, the rain turned from something to resent into something to relish.  You could smell the earth, the trees, and all of the vegetation.  Everything was so green.  All I smell in New York is car exhaust, garbage, fetid steam vents, overly burned meat on a stick and the farts of the guy just up the street.

3.  More than anything, a lot of the excitement of New York seems to have left.  Ever since the economy tanked, the energy is just not there.  The massive layoffs in New York have affected everyone, including the still-employed.  Bars are morose, parties are muted.  I, for one, don’t like partying as much knowing that many of my friends are in debt, unemployed through no fault of their own, and hoping to ride out the storm.  There’s just less to celebrate these days.

4.  I just went to the Beyonce concert last night.  Man can she sing.  I don’t think that there is any female artist today who even comes close.  Our children are going to be hearing stories about her, the way people talk about Ella, Tina, and Aretha now.

5.  I am obsessed with building a home theater PC, or HTPC.  I know all the parts I want, but I just can’t settle on a case I like.  It is ridiculous to me that Time Warner can charge 100 bucks a month for cable TV, when Hulu is out there pushing content for free.  The entire business model of Time Warner is going to change, and I think they know it, which is why they are trying to promote bandwidth-use caps.  Unlike Netflix, which is attempting to craft creative solutions to its soon-to-be-obsolete business model, Time Warner takes an opposite approach, similar to the one taken by the MPAA and RIAA, and one that is destined to fail.  The HTPC will be a symbol of that failed business strategy, as hopefully I will be able to view all video content that I currently watch on cable through my HTPC, for free or near-free.  Soon, episodes of shows will pop up via RSS feed, allowing you to watch right then and there.  I expect the back-end to be sleeker than Google Reader, so that it is a video-friendly interface that automatically downloads and updates the shows you select.  I think Boxee already does this.  If you are interested in a similar project, I recommend you read up on the forums at AVSForum and Silent PC Review.  In case you are wondering, I am thinking an E5200, 4GB ram, 1TB WD Green, LG Blu-Ray, and either the Zotac 9300 (mini-ITX) or the Gigabyte 9400 (mATX).

6. Speaking of media, this preview for “The Pacific” gave me chills.  It’s the sequel to Band of Brothers, and it looks incredible.  I can’t wait.

Mother#$!@$ Panasonic.

My downward spiral continues. This Saturday, my $2600 TV blew out. I have a PT-50LC13, a Panasonic LCD rear projection unit. Apparently, I am not the only one with this problem, because there was a class action litigation regarding defective units such as mine. They even have a slick webpage – tvlampsettlement.com. Anyway, you have to have your lamp blow 3 times in order to be eligible for (1) a $1000 rebate towards a TV $1500 or greater, or (2) a replacement set, using DLP technology (I have heard it is a 56″ DLP set). Well, thats special. Problem is, I have a problem with my ballast. Supposedly this is the thing that supplies adequate and controlled power to the lamp. Mine is blown, and its gonna cost me like $500 bucks to fix it. And I don’t think it’s covered by the settlement. I am not entirely sure whether or not the settlement, which was made in a state court in California, and of which I wasn’t properly notified of, is binding upon me. So I might take Panasonic to small claims court. Get ready, Bitches.

If you aren’t using Google Reader yet, you should be.

Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love RSS.

Do you want to stay current with the news that matters to you? Of course, we all do! But who has the time to check all those tedious websites? With everything that’s been going on at CES, and the fact that I have um, A JOB, it’s been nearly impossible to keep track of everything! Google, answer to so many of our society’s ills, has come up with a solution that you must have NOW. Without boring you with too much technical mumbo-jumbo, let me tell you what Google Reader is, and why you need it.

1. Google Reader puts all of the websites you visit in one place, and tells you when they have been updated. As they put so succinctly, “It’s like your inbox, for the web.” Before Google Reader, I would individually visit sites like Engadget, Gizmodo, Uncrate, the Times, and others. This was a huge time-waster, and what’s more, I would be visiting these sites multiple times a day for new stories. With Google Reader, all of the most recent articles from the news websites and blogs you visit are in one place. You can jump from one to the next, or read each article in succession. More importantly, Google Reader tells you when there are new stories on your favorite sites, so you don’t waste time checking them throughout the day.

2. Google Reader reduces clutter in several ways. First, I was able to remove many bookmarks on my bookmarks toolbar, which means a much cleaner Firefox interface. Second, it reduces email clutter, since you no longer need to subscribe for many mailing lists that also employ RSS. Third, it reduces life clutter, since I no longer have to keep track of multiple sites. Everything is aggregated for me on one page.

3. Google Reader has an excellent interface with multiple viewing options. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. Google Reader’s multiple viewing options allow you to view many items at once or fewer items with more detail. The expanded view is useful if you want to view all the pretty pictures at once, while the list view allows you to scan many headlines and focus on the ones you want to learn more about. In both views, scrolling down automatically loads subsequent pages, so you never have to click “next page” or “previous page.” This is especially useful for very prolific sites that have many posts in a single day. Click the images below to see the different views and the auto-scroll mechanism.

gr-list.JPGgr-expanded.JPGgr-constantscroll.JPG

4. E-mailing, Sharing, Starring and Trends. Google Reader is feature-rich. With it, you can:

Email. Google Reader integrates seamlessly with Gmail (my preferred personal email account), allowing you to easily send news stories to your friends.

Share. When you share an item, it is collected with other shared items on an elegant Shared Page, which is publicly accessible. You can also email your shared items list to your friends with Gmail. Google Reader automatically creates an RSS feed of shared items which you can put on your site, and also provides code that you can use to put a clip of your shared items on your site if you don’t have RSS integration

Star. Much like Gmail, Google Reader allows you to star items, then puts those items in your starred folder for later retrieval.

Trends. Google Reader tells you how many stories you have viewed on each site, with percentages and other nifty stats.

5. Google Reader integrates seamlessly with Firefox. It is simple to add sites to Google Reader. If the site already has RSS built in, you will see a little icon in your address bar like so:

rss-firefox1.JPG

Click it, and it will prompt you to add to Google Reader (among others).

rss-firefox2.JPG

But wait, there’s more! You can set it to automatically select Google Reader as your news reader of choice.

6. You can access Google Reader from anywhere. Unlike standalone RSS programs, Google Reader is web based. That means you can access your subscriptions from anywhere, including from a mobile phone or blackberry. The ability to view on any computer or mobile phone is probably one of the best features of Google Reader.

So there you have it. Go and get it now!

How to Back Up a DVD, Part II.

A few months ago, I found a tutorial on how to back up a DVD and posted it here on VO. However, a few developments make that tutorial obsolete. Recently, my boss asked me to teach him how to back up a dvd. New encryption techniques have made the previous method obsolete, so here is my updated tutorial:

Here is my tutorial. First, you need the following programs:

Ripit4Me
DVDShrink
DVDDecrypter
FixVTS
ImgTool
1. Rip.� First, download Ripit4me. Install Ripit4me, then go into the menu. There is a “Downloads” menu linking you to the support programs that Ripit4me relies on (FixVTS, etc). Download all necessary programs and you are all set in terms of software.

As you may know, older dvds are dvd-5 (aka single layer, 4.7gb) and newer dvds are dvd-9 (aka 8.5gb, dual layer). This allows newer dvds to have much more information on them. You can shrink dvds with DVD Shrink, which automatically degrades the image quality to compress the whole dual layer dvd onto a single layer disc. Or, you can select what features you want to cut out of the dvd to improve the image quality of the main feature (such as removing extras, alternative audio tracks, and previews, etc). Alternatively, you could buy more expensive dual layer discs and simply do a 1:1 flawless digital transfer. I buy my discs from Meritline, and I think they offer the best prices on a general basis (though other places have better deals from time to time). For single layer discs, I use Ritek G05 inkjet printable DVDs. They make faster ones too, but they are pricier and I don�t have that fast of a computer. If I was going to go dual layer, and I didn�t care about labels, I would buy the Verbatims (though they are pricey, at 3.50 a disc). I’ve never tried the Ritek’s for dual layer but I’ve heard they have problems. Those discs are only $1.60 a disc though – you may want to try out a small batch if you are going the dual layer route.

The best place to learn about ripping dvds is www.doom9.org. Another great visual tutorial is at http://paininthetech.com/how_to_back_up_a_dvd. Also, Ripit4Me’s guide is pretty good. If you are going to use Ripit4Me (which I recommend, at first, since it is pretty simple and integrates all the other programs, make sure you are aware of whether or not it is going to force DVDshrink to compress the video. There is no point in buying dual layer discs if DVD shrink is just going to shrink it down to one layer (and it does this by default, so you need to go in there and make sure it is set to rip with no compression.)

2. Image and Burn. ImgTool integrates with DVDDecrypter to create an image of the folder you created and burn the disc.� Load ImgTool, browse for the directory you created by hitting the folder button on the upper right hand side (Ripit4Me uusually rips to C:\”Name of DVD”) then hit the disk button and imgtool will automatically create an output file (usually DVDNAME.iso) then hit image.� If you’ve properly integrated DVDDecrypter, it should automatically load and burn the disc.
There you have it!

25 of the best extensions for Firefox

As an update to my earlier post on Firefox, the following is a list of the best 25 extensions for Firefox. They have been classified into three board categories: those that add additional enhancements to the browser and improve a user’s experience, those that add additional enhancements to certain web sites, et cetera, et cetera. Do it.

http://lesliefranke.com/files/firefoxyourway/

Internet Explorer is for suckers

Part 3 in my series, Things for Suckers. Now, don’t get my wrong. I love me some Microsoft. They make Xboxes, they make sweet sweet Office, and I love XP. I put my money where my mouth is – I even own shares of Microsoft at about $24.50. BUT there is no doubt that Firefox straight up OWNS Internet Explorer and anyone that uses Internet Explorer is a complete sucker. The use of Tabs alone is reason enough to use Firefox over IE.

Firefox is customizable, and I customize the hell out of mine. Among the plugins I have:
Google Send To Phone – puts a little cell phone in the corner of your browser that you can use to send text messages.
TabSwitcher – pretty self explanatory
Autofill – fill in personal information into form pages.
Google Notebook – store little notes about webpages and such. You know you have made it when Google is making plugins for your browser.
SessionSaver – Sometimes Firefox crashes (pff, as if IE doesn’t!) and you want to remember where you were.
Stealther – I use this at work for obvious reasons
Gmail Space – Use Gmail as a hard drive. Sweet.
Firefox Extension Backup Extension. It backs up your extensions.

I also have MozBackup, for saving all my settings, bookmarks, and so forth so that I can put it on other computers or revert to an old setup. Finally, I also have GreaseMonkey, which has its own plugins. For Greasemonkey, I have: Remove IMDB ad column (sorry!), Linkify Plus (automatically link unlinked URL’s), UPS/FedEX Tracking Linkify (link tracking numbers in emails and such), Expedia Expanded Search, Gizmodo Hide Ads, Flyertalk Adremove, Hide Google Adsense Ads, IMDB Links in Netflix, Netflix Links in IMDB, and Remove IMDB a9 Search. Now, show me how to do all that shit in IE! I thought so.

I have a little Google bar to search on the quick, I have a bunch of frequently used sites on little buttons, and I have Gmail Notifier to let me know when I have email. My god Firefox is so sweet and owns everything out there. There isn’t even a close second.

So finally I had to write this page because I found a site which has all the best plugins. It is called “I want a Firefox Extension to…“, and it helped me find some of these plugins. I just got Performancing, and am using it now to make my first post directly from the Firefox Extensions list. I think I am going to name my first born Firefox.