Head-Slap morning

Boy, nothing like realizing that one of your sites has not been serving up content for almost 2 months. The site is ‘up’, but any queries into it returned nothing. Very useful for a lookup/reference tool. :-/
One of these days I’ll get a monitoring system in place that’s more advanced than “Is the server up?”

Self-Portrait, cam and all

Self-Portrait, cam and all

Originally uploaded by eidolon

And, as promised in my final change jar post, I transferred the Coinstar number into an Amazon gift certificate, and went shopping. The amount I got from the change jar was just enough to get my dream Digital SLR camera, the Canon 400D, aka the Digital Rebel XTi.

It arrived yesterday, and, after fishing a spare CF card out of my parts bin, I’m happily taking pictures with it.

It has pointed out, however, that my Camera-Fu is seriously lacking, and I need to do some studying up. This camera has more settings, more fiddlings, more details than anything I’ve worked with before I have a lot to learn.

I took this picture last night while playing around with the mirrors a bit (was looking to take a picture of the camera itself, but ended up with this arrangement.)

One thing I hadn’t really considered. The images on the camera are something like 11meg each, and Flickr has an upload limit of 10meg. It means I can’t save the raw images I take directly to Flickr as my primary archive. I need to reconsider how I store / sort / upload pictures now.

But… Yay new camera!!!

Oh why must they taunt me so?!

This evening saw me visiting the New and Improved [tm] [reg us pat off] Natick Mall here in sunny Natick, MA. There’s been a major rebuilding going on over there, and seeing as this thing is only about a mile from me, and the fact that I had an evening free, I felt it was time to go take a look.

First, the original mall was of average size and layout. Natick Mall has always been slightly ‘upscale’ compared to others, but with the other biggies nearby like the Burlington Mall renovating and upscaling, some developer it was time to upgrade the Natick mall

And boy howdy did they.

I don’t want to get into a review of malls, but did you know that there are Wikipedia entries on malls? Weird, eh? But the entry for the Natick Mall does have pictures of the inside of the renovated space. According to the article:

This expansion project includes the renovation of approximately 100 new stores and the addition of two new anchors, (Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus), making Natick Collection the twelfth largest in the country, fourth largest on the East Coast, and the largest in New England.

Now, in this vast space, you’d think I could find something interesting.

Think again.

The newly expanded space has nothing of interest in it. It is huge, to be sure, well decorated, elegant to a fault, and simply drips of sophistication. It is, however, populated with… clothing stores, perfume stores, and luggage and pocketbook offerings. Many were outlet names, but it was simply store upon store upon store of clothing. A vast wasteland of chrome, steel, glass, and fashion manikins.

Until… in the midst of all this rampant hoity toity consumerism, I see one beacon of elegance that does not involve silk, tweed, or leather.

Apple has opened a store within this vast new space. Yes, it is similar to all the other stores, with the genius bar, young hip store attendees, and ranks of elegant hardware, but now they’ve gone and done it. They’ve put this store in my back yard.

So, naturally, I went in.

Those who have been in an Apple store need not hear the details of what the store was like. It had by far the most customers I’d seen in that entire bleak landscape for the mall, but wasn’t crowded, and it only took me a moment to find a free iPhone and start playing with it.

This was the second time I had touched an iPhone, and while there were no clear revelations from my first exposure, I was again impressed by the design, elegance, clarity of purpose, and all around “rightness” of this device. I left the store after a brief chat with one of the employees, and went in search of food, visions of well designed hardware and software systems dancing in my head.

I chanced by a Verizon store and had a chat with the folks there. My aging Treo 650 is on a Verizon plan, and I had recently heard about a possible offering for ‘tethered mode’ modem operation for $15/month. That might be handy, thought I, and went to ask them about it.

Oh no, not so fast. Sure it’s $15 a month. On top of an ‘unlimited’ data service plan ($49/mo). Oh, and it won’t work with the Treo 650, you’ll need to upgrade to a Treo 700p. “Oh, that should be fine. I’m within my upgrade window now, I should get a big discount” *flipflipflip* “Yep, you are, you’ll get a $150 discount on a new phone.” “So, if I wanted to upgrade from my 650 to a 700p, how much would it be?”

The sales person actually walked around and started referencing various displays, and said “$450, minus the $150 credit you’ll get.”. I glanced down at the display for the 700p there, and a brand new service, with the 700p, would run me $345. “But that sign says $350 if I buy a Treo 700p now, why don’t I just apply the $150 to that?” “Ah, that’s just for new subscribers.”

I’m really really really done with Verizon.

It looks like AT&T’s plans have FAR better data services, as well as a platform I’m interested in supporting. (The Verizon droid basically said I should ditch the Palm platform and use a Windows device. Not in my game plan, thanks)

There are only a few things stopping me from running pell-mell for iPhone land…

  • Initial cost is high. Even with the $200 price reduction, we’re still talking $400 out of my pocket (I’d get the 8gig version. Just makes sense). I don’t have that sort of cash right now, not to mention the new service activation with AT&T. My phone number SHOULD port. Will it?
  • Bluetooth limits. The iPhone is not a full bluetooth device. It supports only the Hands Free Profile (HFP) and the Headset Profile (HSP). No support for data access, OBX, A2DP, any of the cool things that Bluetooth can do. My biggest whine would be the lack of bluetooth keyboard support. I can get a mobile bluetooth keyboard that’s quite functional, and about the size of my Treo. But I couldn’t use it with the iPhone. Will Apple update this? A huge unknown.
  • The jump to Apple. I’ve avoided purchasing Apple products for me personally. It’s a slippery slope, but I cannot ignore that Apple’s designs are fantastic, and their support policies are the best in the business (see a recent post by a self-avowed Windows adherant). Should I make my first real foray into Apple land an iPhone?
  • Last but not least, do I really need it? In all honesty, the answer here is no. My 650 is working fine for me for now, though it’s aging, the Palm platform is most likely dying, and it’s twice the size and heft of the iPhone. I don’t need to change devices now.

So, I haven’t bought an iPhone yet. But durn Apple for putting a store right in my back yard. It’s a plot I tell ya.

So, remember that coin jar?

A month or two ago, I posted about calculating value of change by weight. The proof needed to validate this napkin-scratching figuring would be validated by dumping the change jar into a Coinstar machine, and seeing what happened.
Well, today I did just that. I hauled all 58lbs of coins to the local Stop n Shop and spent 20 minutes sending fistfuls of coins rattling into the machine’s clinking, calculating innards.
When all was said, done, clattered and kachinged, the display happily reported $673.00.
Originally I figured 52lbs of coins would be $544. I underestimated just a little bit, but it wasn’t that far off. One push of the “Pay me please!” button, and the machine happily spat out an Amazon.com gift certificate (and didn’t take anything ‘off the top’ for that, so now I’m off to go camera shopping. Woohoo!)

The Monitor Dilemma

I’m in a quandry.
Up until recently, I had 3 17″ 1280×1024 monitors on my desk. On the right, the monitor for clipper, the laptop. In the center, the nice Dell monitors, used for yawl, my primary looky-atty one. And on the left, the ‘spare’, which was used for various projects.
Well, the one on the left just went away to be part of Beth’s desktop. Which leaves a hole where there used to be a screen.
I’ve been considering upgrading my main monitor for quite a while, and tonight I sat down at my old T40 Thinkpad and marvelled at it’s 1400×1050 resolution. Pixel density was obviously an issue – a 15″ screen at that resolution will look finer than a 1280×1024 17″ monitor.
The thing that bothers me is that ‘high resolution’ monitors, (which nowadays are almost exclusively LCD), don’t seem to be catering to resolutions over 1280×1024, or more directly, 1400×900 (‘HD’ format displays). These resolutions are no improvement over what I have, and the monitors I do have are almost 2 years old.
I understand that LCD monitors are driven by the consumer and basic business market. It’s much harder to make 1000 high resolution LCD monitors (out of the million ‘normal’ monitors) than it is to crank out 1000 high resolution CRT displays, but dammit, it’s frustrating to see 19″ 1280×1024 monitors going for $170, while it’s nigh on impossible to find monitors that have a higher pixel density. Sure they have wider resolutions. Common ground is 1400 or 1600 horizontal resolution (Depending on if it’s ‘widescreen’ or not) and 1050 vertical resolution (yay another 26 pixels?), but nothing higher until you start talking $500 for a 24″ monitor.
“Nice whining, but what is it you really want?”
I want a dependable, high contrast LCD monitor that has a resolution of 1600×1200, or durned close to it, and I don’t want to fork out serious cash for something like the Apple Cinema displays. This was easy to find in the 21″ monitor CRT days, though the challenge THEN was finding a video card to drive it, a problem easy to solve with current video boards.
Any suggestions?
Update 9/9/07 Jonah, the dark and sinister influence on my life he is, points out that Dell actually has a decent 20″ monitor for $309 that has the specs I want. Hmmm.