Music for a Mood Change

There are times when I get down, or quiet, or just generally “off”. I can almost always turn these moods around with a solid shot of loud intense music. Today it’s delivered while sitting at Panera and working on some server changes.
The track I’m listening to? “Spocks Beard“, doing “I Am The Doorway”. Never heard of ’em? Think a modern day Yes (in fact the bass player sounds almost identical to Chris Squire).
So what’s your “Go away world, I want to be in my head for a while” music?

The Photographers Rights

P2250049.JPGI found this handy PDF while surfing around last night. It describes the rights a photographer has to take pictures out in the Real World. All too commonly, even the police don’t know the law.
In short, in most cases, “If you can see it, you can photograph it”. This rapidly approaches 100% if you are on public land. It is perfectly legal to take pictures of private land FROM public land. Under no circumstances is it legal for a private entity to demand your equipment or film.
If you take pictures out on the streets, print that PDF and keep it with you.

Wanted: Real Bluetooth Audio Management

Okay folks, I’m looking for help here.

I’m looking for the Right Bluetooth Setup. It consists of two setups:

  • Bluetooth Headphones
    I had a set of Blueant X5 headphones for a while, trying to get them working with my Treo 650. While that experiment failed, it set the tone for what I was trying to do. So, first, I need a good set of BT headphones + unobtrusive mic. Stereo headphones with A2DP support to talk to whatever streaming device I have. Which brings me to:

  • Bluetooth source devices
    I’d like the headphones to be able to take multiple BT sources. For instance, allow me to listen to music streaming from my iPod, but interrupt the music stream to answer my cell phone call, listen to that, then go back to streaming from the ipod. If that’s not possible, I’ve come up with a sort of hybrid arrangement, that has a number of very strong advantages…

  • Bluetooth HFP for Laptops
    If I can’t necessarily switch between Bluetooth feeds, why can’t I have my laptop act as a ‘Bluetooth Audio Manager’? Install a bluetooth HFP profile into the bluetooth stack on the laptop, so the mic and headphones I attach to the laptop become my wireless headphones for my cell phone. Now, before you laugh too hard about this, think. When I’m sitting in Starbucks working away, listening to Radio Paradise via my laptop, what happens when my cell phone rings? A lot of times, I miss the call – even with vibrate. But if I do get a call, I have to take off my headphones, answer the phone, and try to be heard over the general clatter of the coffeehouse. Why not have the laptop pop up a “A call is coming in”, and then I tap [Answer], and the mic in my headset (or on the laptop) goes active, my audiostream switches to the phone call, and the music pauses. I can have my conversation, then ‘hang up’, and RadioParadise returns.

I’ve STFW’ed for this, and apparently there is no HFP profile for Windows or for Linux. I’m sorely tempted to finally break down and buy a Nokia N810, which has quite capable bluetooth support, and see about rigging up an HFP profile for it. Listening to music from the Nokia, and having it switch over to handle my phone calls, then switch back at the end of the call, would be just about perfect. In that case, I wouldn’t need the wireless headphones at all, the N810 would act as my ‘communications client’ to my audio devices.

Any suggestions? I just gotta geek more!

This morning I slept late

Now, why is this remarkable?
Because I am at Arisia, and for the last 6 years or so, I’ve been running (or helping to run) registration. This means getting up very early Saturday morning to set up and run CONGO for the days registrations.
This year I’m not running reg. Oh, they’re still using CONGO, but a few weeks of tunning, fiddling, and refining, and the system is now startable by mere mortals. I was still ‘awake’ at 8:45 (registration opened at 9), and I was waiting for the phone to ring with a problem… but it didn’t ring. All went well, and I happily slept in until around 9:30.
In some ways, it’s awfully nice. In others, I’m sort of mystified. What am I supposed to do with my time now?

Dear FOSS Developers

I’m speaking specifically to FOSS developers who are involved GUI / Human Interface type development and design.
There’s apparently a percentage of ya’ll who seem to think that the proper way to execute a program represented by an icon is to just click on it.
I have one thing to say to that. Or. Several things. With the same message…
Every once in a while someone seems to think that it’s proper to make it so if you click on, say, a Firefox icon, it means ‘Start Firefox RIGHT NOW’. This is ridiculously, painfully WRONG. A desktop contains objects. If you touch something, it doesn’t mean “EXECUTE THIS RIGHT NOW, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS”.
Imagine if this were taken on in the real world. Your car would start whenever you touched your keyring. If you touched the handle on your sink faucet, water would come gushing out immediately.
This pattern has been cropping up in KDE on occasion, though I’m assured it will not be the case in KDE4. Gnome is rife with it. And Puppy Linux, an OS that can run via LiveCD, will happily start up a 60meg program (Firefox) if you happen to touch the Firefox icon on the desktop. Just touch it. A process that can take 4-5 minutes in LiveCD mode.
So, in conclusion. No. For the love of all that is sane, do not do perpetuate this bad design.
Warm regards, me.

Snowy Porch


Originally uploaded by eidolon

A quick pic before I go out and assault the walkway and the driveway. We’re in the middle of a January snowstorm here, and stuff is piling up outside. There’s been various forecasts of anything from 6″ to 14″. It keeps fluctuating. We’re at about 6″ now, and it’s still coming down.

Why the XO Laptop is better than the Classmate

There’s been some awful FUD flying around the OLPC world in the last few days, with misquotes, misinformation, and flat out lies being propagated left and right. Even Engadget, one of the better geektech blogs out there, got it completely wrong regarding OLPC CTO Mary Lou Jepsen’s departure from the project.

Fortunately, there’s good resources around that tell the story from the people who really do know what is going on. First, there’s the interview with Mary Lou Jepsen on Groklaw. In it she explains the real reasons behind her choice to move on to Pixel Qi, and her ongoing relationship with OLPC. Astute readers will note that her commentary there bears little or no resemblance to some of the FUD flying around other news sites.

Of particular interest is this tasty quote. There’s been lots of noise about OLPC squashing competition (in particular, the Classmate PC), and making unreasonable demands from Intel. That’s complete hooey. Competition should be between competitive products. So how does the Classmate stack up against the XO?

Classmate is more expensive, consumes 10 times the power, has 1/3 the wifi range, and can’t be used outside. Also, the Classmate doesn’t use neighboring laptops to extend the reach of the internet via hopping (mesh-networking) like the XO does. So not only is the XO cheaper than the Classmate, the XO requires less infrastructre expenditure for electricity and for internet access. In Peru we can run off of solar during the day and handcrank at night for an additional $25 or so per student – this is one-time expense – the solar panel and the crank will last 10 or perhaps 20 years. Just try running electricity cables up and down the Peruvian Andes for that cost while making sure it’s environmentally clean energy. The Classmate isn’t as durable as the XO, and its screen is about 30% smaller, the batteries are the type that can explode and only last 1-2 years and can’t be removed by the user and harm the environment. The batteries are expensive to replace: $30-40 per replacement. The XO batteries last for 5 years and cost less than $10 to replace. Finally, the XO is the greenest laptop ever made, the Classmate isn’t – this matters a great deal when one proposes to put millions of them in the developing world.

Given that comparison, why would any country, any organization, pursue the Classmate over the XO? Answer? Underhanded dealings, lies, and unfair practices. That is not to say that aggressive competition doesn’t happen in the marketplace at large, but OLPC is not trying to compete in a marketplace. It has a mission to do some good in the world. It’s purpose is not to broker back room deals to increase stockholder value. It’s goals are far more noble, something that carries far too little weight in the world today.

Back on the clarification train, we have the inimitable Ivan of OLPC giving the full details behind the whole ‘Microsoft Dual-Boot XO Laptop” spiel. Unsurprisingly, it’s nothing like what the blogs and the news sites are characterizing it as. I’m rather disappointed that the tech community seems to be aggressively looking for a reason to bash the OLPC project – looking for schisms, problems, and interpreting every change or update in the project as a sign of it’s imminent demise. While it’s certainly common to see this all the time in mainstream media, I had, perhaps naively, hoped the geek world would take a broader, less sensationalistic approach to reporting on this project. Sad to say, that’s doesn’t seem to be the case.

Doesn’t matter. The project is a success, and continues to be so. And I for one am glad.

Escapism and the Big Screen

Viewing setup - After

I get into these funks in winter, where I just want to curl up somewhere and escape for a few hours. For me this is where my love of movies comes to the fore. I’ve built enough of a setup that I can watch movies at night without disturbing my family, while enjoying good sound, good video, and a comfortable listening area.

Sure it’s escapism. But it’s escapism I understand – therefire I can embrace it and revel in it.

It has let me catch up on movies that I’ve owned for quite a while, but never actually got around to watching. Over the last week, I’ve gone through a handful of titles…

A Scanner Darkly

Just watched this one tonight. I’ve never read the original story by Philip K. Dick, so I had very little information on what I could expect to see. I knew about it’s odd filming style, but nothing else, not even the cast beyond Keanu Reeves.

It was good. It seems this was Robert Downey Jr. at his most neurotic, and because of that, his acting style initially repelled me. But then I realized he and Woody Harrolson were perfectly cast. By the end I was totally involved in the story, and found it engrossing, poignant, and emotional

Spiderman 3

Boy I’m sure glad I didn’t spend money on this one. What a disappointing end to a trilogy. I’ve heard folks say “Don’t bother, go watch 2 again” and I have to agree with them. What a stinker. Visually has some moments, but there’s several scenes toward the middle of the film that had me seriously considering turning off the DVD and giving up, they were so ludicrous.

The Bourne Identity

I’ve never actually seen Identity all the way through, from beginning to end. I’ve seen bits and pieces in various cable surfings, plus the non-stop previews. It was very good. Engrossing, mystifying, and all around fun. Many folks have called it What Bond Should Be, and I can see that. Matt Damon gets a lot of flack for his simplistic acting approach, but he was perfect in his role. And, of course, there’s the ever wonderful Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame.

The Bourne Supremacy

If you’re going to take the time to start in a series, why not see as much of it as you can. The sequel to Bourne Identity was certainly as good as the first, with recurring roles and appropriate references to both the first movie and modern day events. One thing I did not expect was the outstanding performance by Brian Cox (he who played William Stryker in the X-Men movies and Nathan Waldman in Long Kiss Goodnight). He had a good strong role in Supremacy, and played it marvelously.

I haven’t had a chance to pick up the Bourne Ultimatum yet, but judging by how much I enjoyed the first two, it’s now gone onto my wish list.

Our house, taking shape!


Originally uploaded by eidolon

I’ve been pretty lax on the posting front lately. Certainly not for lack of content that I’d like to share with ya’ll, but primarily from lack of organized thinking time.

One banner of light in all the nuttiness is receiving regular updates on our house, currently under construction at Mosaic in Berlin. On Sunday we had the opportunity to go on-site and see the work up close. We had a rep from the builder with us, who did a great job of answering all the annoying technical questions we had.

On the Mosaic side, only one building is fully framed, and that happens to be… OURS! Cat and I have the right most side in this picture, a large three bedroom unit. We’re looking at the ‘back’ of the building here. The left side has 2 1 bedroom flats in it, one of which is already sold to our current roommate. Yay!

Zach got to actually go inside the building (there’s no ramp up yet, so the builder-guy just lifted two of the kids up inside). I was able to hang on the rear window frame for a while looking around our living room, getting a feel for the size and space. Models and drawings are great, but actually seeing the space for real, and looking around… it was a pretty emotional moment for me.

It was the first really warm day in weeks, and of course that meant mud. Some folks fared better than others (one of the kids unfortunately ended up face down in a puddle), but all in all, we had a great time.

Zach and his XO

Zach and his XO

Originally uploaded by eidolon

After waiting almost 6 weeks, the XO laptop came via Fedex today. I had been rabidly refreshing my browser watching for tracking information, but didn’t actually see it in the system until it showed up on the doorstep.

Zach has latched onto it with quite a bit of excitement, and is happily writing stories in the word processor now. He fiddled around with the web browser (getting it onto the wireless network was a piece o cake), and played around with the Turtle application (very similar to Scratch), and is now just writing stories.

I’m tickled pink by how attached he is to it. We’ll see if it settles into a long term happiness, but I think this is the perfect combination of teaching toy, game machine, internet tool, and all around handy machine for him right now.

Thank you OLPC and the Give One Get One Program.

Calculating coinjars revisited

Last year I tinkered with figuring out how much money was in a coin jar by weight. The numbers I came up with were reasonably close – within 10-15%.
Some folks have come up with an online coin calculator that does something very smart. You weigh the total pile, then pick a handful of coins out of it, randomly. Count the number of coins in your hand. That’ll be a statistical sampling of the rest of the coins in the pile, and the page extrapolates based on that sample to the total weight.
Quite accurate, and pretty durned smart.
Thanks to BoingBoing for the link.